Authors: Kristen Painter
After seeing her maybe-mobster boss murder a guy, Delaney James assumes a new identity and pretends to be a mail order bride. She finds her groom-to-be living in a town that celebrates Halloween every day. Weird. But not as weird as what she doesn’t know. Her groom-to-be is a 400-year-old vampire.
Hugh Ellingham has only agreed to the arranged set up to make his overbearing grandmother happy. In thirty days, whatever bridezilla shows up at his door will be escorted right back out. His past means love is no longer an option. Not if the woman’s going to have a future. Except he never counted on Delaney and falling in love for real.
Too bad both of them are keeping some mighty big secrets…
Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town where Halloween is celebrated 365 days a year. The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better.
Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.
THE VAMPIRE’S MAIL ORDER BRIDE:
Nocturne Falls, Book One
Copyright © 2015 Kristen Painter
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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Gladys Gonzales Atwell and Leslie Wolf Barnes
– you two are always there when I need you. Thank you.
Strawberry was a possibility. Maybe raspberry. Although pomegranate had potential. Or did it? Pomegranate might be a little tapped out. Best to stick to a classic. So raspberry truffle filling. With a dark chocolate shell, because dark chocolate was everything.
And what on top? What went with raspberry? Something borderline savory. Something a little unexpected. Delaney James stopped dead on the sidewalk. A thyme sugar sprinkle? That could work.
Her phone chimed with an incoming text, but she ignored it to nod her head in happiness over what might be her best new truffle idea yet. She was kind of a whiz with candy, cakes and confections, but chocolate was a special passion. Someday, she’d be the Mrs. Fields of confections. She could see the boxes now. Mrs. James, best sweets in the world.
Well, it wouldn’t say
. James, would it? Because she wasn’t married, which was fine with her. And if she ever did find a superhero worthy of making her a Mrs., he’d have to be something special.
The name on her shop certainly wasn’t going to be Mrs. Betts, because Russell was a jerk. Definitely not superhero material. Hell, he wasn’t even qualified to be a sidekick. She should have known. A man without a sweet tooth was not to be trusted. She snorted softly. He’d be so sorry he’d cheated on her when she ruled the confectionary world.
Right now, however, she was a server and part-time pastry chef at Rastinelli’s Trattoria. Actually, she’d filled in for the pastry chef only once, but it was a start.
Rastinelli’s was also known as Brooklyn’s most potentially mobbed-up Italian eatery. She didn’t think it was really mobbed up. Well,
it might be a tiny bit. The crucifix next to the pictures of Al Pacino and Marlon Brando was a little on the nose.
Either way, the rumor brought people in by the truckloads and the tips were good, so whenever a customer asked about the possible mob connection, she just shook her head no while giving them a sly wink.
The thought of tips brought her to a stop again. Crap. She’s left her apron on the counter, and not only did it need to be washed, but her tip money was in it. She had no choice but to go back. It would add an extra fifteen minutes to her walk home, and Captain Underpants, her enormous black and white Maine Coon, would yowl his displeasure when Delaney got home. Captain Underpants did not like to wait for his dinner. She had originally named the cat Princess Buttercream, but as it turned out, Princess Buttercream was a boy. Delaney was a whiz with candy, lousy at guessing cat gender.
She headed back to the restaurant, wishing there were more hours in the day. It had been dark for two hours already, but her last deuce had lingered like they thought there was a prize for being the final ones out of the joint.
Even Mr. Rastinelli had given them the stink eye. He always treated his customers like gold, but on Thursdays he hosted a private, after-hours poker game in the restaurant’s private dining room. Another fifteen minutes and the Sandersons would have had to buy into the game or leave their tiramisu behind. (The tiramisu was good, but nothing like the tiramisu she made. It’s how she’d won Russell over, despite his lack of a sweet tooth. In retrospect, it had been a complete waste of perfectly good mascarpone.)
The restaurant was just ahead. Knowing that Mr. Rastinelli would be occupied with his poker game, she went around to the alley and crossed her fingers that the back door would still be open. It was.
She slipped in as quietly as she could. Her apron was right where she’d left it—on the counter next to the walk-in. She’d set it there when she was talking to Jose, one of the line cooks. She’d gotten wrapped up in a conversation about Mexican versus Madagascar vanilla while waiting for her table to check out.
Raised voices carried in from the private dining room, which had a side entrance to the kitchen. Mr. Rastinelli and his friends, no doubt. But the voices didn’t sound friendly. She snuck closer to the kitchen door to listen. It was wrong to be nosy, but everyone had faults.
There was shouting this time. Mr. Rastinelli was accusing someone of cheating. Her brows shot up. That wasn’t good. She nudged the swinging door open a crack, but that didn’t help. She grabbed her phone, brought up the camera and stuck the phone far enough through the crack so the lens caught it all.
She stared at the screen.
Holy fudgeballs. Anthony Rastinelli was holding a gun.
She tried to breathe. This was Brooklyn. Lots of people had guns, right? Sure, but it was still scary. She should go. But her feet wouldn’t move.
There were only two other poker players. A guy she didn’t recognize and Little Tony, Mr. Rastinelli’s son. The table in the middle held plenty of money—more than she’d ever seen in one place—but no cards or poker chips. Nothing to indicate there had actually been a game.
Some twisted sixth sense made her tap the record button.
The other man stood, hands out, face worried but earnest. “Anthony, this is ridiculous. I’m not holding anything back.” He gestured toward the money. “I swear on my mother’s grave, that’s everything I collected this week.”
Mr. Rastinelli pointed at the stacks of cash with his gun. “It’s two G’s short.”
Little Tony sniffed and jerked his shoulders. “Maybe more.”
Little Tony was one of her least favorite people due to his general smarminess and his excessive use of hair gel and cologne.
The other guy’s face collapsed a little, and he wrung his hands. “I would never skim, boss. I would never do anything to go against you.”
Boss? Skim? Sweet crispy crackers, that sounded
Mr. Rastinelli’s expression remained steely. “Benny, Benny. If you would never go against me, why did Lefty and Little Tony tell me they saw you talking to Dominic Ardito?”
Benny took a step back, his eyes wild and searching, but Mr. Rastinelli was blocking the only exit, unless Benny went for the kitchen door. “I never talked to the man.”
Anger bent Mr. Rastinelli’s mouth. “You telling me my
lied to me?”
Little Tony made a fish face. “You know I would never lie to you, Pop.”
Mr. Rastinelli glared at him. “Shut up when I’m doing business already.” Then he turned to Benny. “Well?”
“No…I mean…” Panic curdled the other man’s voice. He shot a look at Little Tony, but that putz sure wasn’t going to help him. Benny tried Mr. Rastinelli again. “I’ll make it up to you. The money plus whatever else you want me to do.”
She bit her lip. She needed to leave. Whatever was going on, it was
Mr. Rastinelli shook his head slowly. “You stole my money. You lied to me.”
Little Tony scratched his neck. “Don’t forget he besmirched my name, Pop.”
Huh, how about that? Little Tony not only knew a big word, but had used it correctly.
Mr. Rastinelli cut his eyes at Little Tony. “You talk too much.” He lifted his gun in Benny’s direction. “I need people I can trust in my organization. You’re not one of those, Benny. Not anymore.”
He pulled the trigger.
The pop of the gun covered her gasp as she jerked back, almost dropping her phone. Holy mackerel, Mr. Rastinelli had just shot Benny! And she’d recorded it.
Swallowing hard, she backed up. Benny was moaning. So, not dead. Yet. But
might be if she didn’t get out of here before Mr. Rastinelli or Little Tony realized she’d seen the whole thing.
She grabbed her apron, reached for the back door and opened it as quietly and as carefully as she could. She had one foot outside when her cell phone chimed
with an incoming notification.
If she lived through this, she was deleting Facebook.
“Who’s there?” Anthony Rastinelli shouted.
She jerked the door wide and took off. She was a baker, not a runner, but adrenaline fueled her feet. She raced down the dark alley and took the first right she came to, then another alley, then another turn. She zigged and zagged, doing her best to lose the tail she undoubtedly had.
There were more bars and restaurants ahead, but Mr. Rastinelli was well known in the community, and if he was really mobbed up, which seemed a sure thing considering, what would stop those owners from turning her over to him? He’d probably reward them! She avoided the bars and ducked down a small side street.
It was pretty dark, but one of the businesses looked like it might still be open. The blinds on the front window were closed, but bright light shone through the slats. The word
was painted in neat script on the door. Whatever that meant. She grabbed the handle and pulled, praying someone was working late. Thankfully, it opened.