Sergen Reynolds was everything to Jerrico Simmons, except faithful. Left with a broken heart, she sets out for a new adventure thanks to her cousin Vivian, a high-fashion model living the glamorous life in Miami, Florida.
Ashley Covington, a handsome, charismatic acquaintance of Vivian, enters Jerrico's world like a knight in shining armor, and he is looking for someone to love him for who he is...an Alpha Wolf.
Now, weeks later, they are husband and wife. But Ashley's secret is waiting to rear its ugly head, leaving him in a dilemma. Should he tell his new bride the truth about himself and risk losing her? Or should he make her what he is with just one taste of her blood?
The trio ran through the thick forest as fast as lighting, howling. It was mid-night; a full moon guided their path as they headed up the hill toward the castle, a night of terror laid upon the human race. Their blood-lust was legendary. The trio had fetched a total of sixty hearts and forty livers between them, which wasn’t bad for a single night. They took from the young as well as the old, catching them unguarded. Their victims were traveling to and fro while others slept peacefully in their beds. Now, the deed was done as they made their way back to the dark river. At the edge, they threw the contents down and went into transition. Fur became skin, paws became hands as they returned to human form, shifting to an upright position. They then retrieved their clothing, which was hidden behind a tree a few feet away, along with an ice chest. They quickly dressed. The leader of the trio walked back to the contents and gathered them all. The second one opened the chest as the leader filled it. The third packed it all in. With the ice chest closed, they left the forest as men and woman.
SIX MONTHS LATER...
Jerrico gazed out toward the magnificent courtyard as she stood on the balcony of the colossal castle she now called home. Acres of land led up to the castle, which sat boldly atop a hill. A long, cobblestone driveway lined with willow trees greeted every guest. The castle itself was taken right out of medieval times, with a drawbridge made of ancient wood. When Jerrico first laid eyes on the castle, she found it intriguing with its uniform grey stones of various shapes. She quickly realized her life would never be the same.
Jerrico was now the wife of Ashley Covington, a man of great wealth and prominence. She had to pinch herself every now and again to ensure she wasn’t dreaming. He was a wonderful man, her real life knight in shining armor. A little girl’s princess dreams transformed into reality. But somewhere in the dark chambers of her heart, there was a fear brewing and she did not know why. Maybe it was just being in the castle itself that held a negative presence; yet Jerrico was fascinated by it. She had familiarized herself with nearly every cloistered room, of which there were many. Each one had a haunting feel. Even the walls themselves seemed to harbor ancient secrets of the past, and it was proven to her in a not so subtle way. Jerrico was told, in no uncertain terms by her new husband as well as the castle staff, of the rooms she was prohibited from entering. Jerrico recalled one particular day in the grand library, filled with hundreds and hundreds of centuries-old books. She had an unsettling experience with one of the castle’s staff. Although she had been warned early on not to remove even a single book from its shelf, temptation got the best of her. Jerrico took in the rich covers of the various books as her eyes scanned the shelves, but there was one in particular that caught her eye, a crimson-colored book. Unfortunately, the book was too high on the shelf for her to reach. A step stool would be needed in order to achieve her task. Jerrico’s eyes traveled around the room and landed upon one in the far corner of the room. She quickly sashayed across the room, grabbed the stool, and positioned it at the shelf where the book was stored. As she placed her right foot on the stool, the dead voice of Mr. John, the butler, filled the room.
“Mrs. Covington, I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”
Jerrico nearly jumped out of her skin as she took her feet off the stool and turned around to face him. Letting out a quickened breath, Jerrico said, “I just don’t get it, Mr. John. What good is it to have such an array of lovely books if they can’t be read by anyone?”
“Trust me, madame, it’s all for the best,” Mr. John said stiffly. He watched her closely with his dark, beady eyes. It was evident he wasn’t going to leave the room until she did.
Jerrico quickly came to the conclusion that the Covington Manor was filled with dark secrets and mystery; certainly, that included the other people who occupied its dwelling as well. Even though her new husband treated her like a true princess and was very attentive to her needs, it did nothing to ease her fears.
Jerrico’s mind revisited their whirlwind wedding. Ashley wanted them married right away. It seemed as if there was no talking him out of it. She barely had time to fly her mom and dad out to Miami from New York. Her cousin, Vivian, served as maid of honor as well as her wedding planner. In just one week, she and Ashley were husband and wife. Although the wedding was thrown together so quickly, Vivian had done an exceptional job. Their wedding was deemed the wedding of the century. Over three hundred guests had attended. Everyone was elegantly dressed in dark designer suits and light-colored gowns. But there was something mystical and dark about all of them, even though their smiles appeared to be warm and normal. Maybe it was all in Jerrico’s head, she rationalized. But it wasn’t long before something else manifested itself, which validated her growing fears.
Just three weeks after her wedding, Jerrico began to notice some questionable things. The number three had been engraved in silver upon several of the doors throughout the castle. The castle’s staff consisted of three maids, three butlers, and three cooks. There were three gardeners and three pool attendants as well. Still, according to Ashley, the number three meant absolutely nothing. It was all just a mere coincidence, from where her husband stood. But when, out of the blue, Ashley’s mother, Cecelia-who, by the way, reminded her of Morticia from The Addams Family-informed her that she was expected to produce three babies within three years, she knew something unnatural was going on.
Jerrico didn’t concern herself much with Cecelia’s foolish wishes because she and Ashley had already discussed this very important subject on their wedding night. They weren’t going to start planning for a family for at least four years. Ashley wasn’t happy about waiting that long, but he went along with her request because he knew how important her career was to her. Jerrico’s journey of becoming a lawyer was challenging. She worked her behind off to pass the bar, and now she was supposed to throw it all away, just so she could appease Ashley’s mother? Absolutely not. It would be so silly of her and as far as Jerrico was concerned, her husband understood her position, and her mother-in-law would have to accept it as well.
Jerrico felt as if her head was still spinning like a merry-go-round from falling in love and marrying so quickly. Of course, she was as happy as any bride could be. But her gut was telling her that the ride she was on, as fantastic as it was, could get more completed than she ever imagined.
Jerrico felt the cool touch of Ashley’s hand upon her shoulder, drawing her out of her thoughts as she stood on the balcony. It was her favorite place, overlooking the green landscape as the soft wind ruffled through her hair with its light breeze. As odd as it was, she’d never heard Ashley’s footfalls as he entered or left a room, which was another thing about him that was quite disturbing. He made the cliché light on his feet true to a T.
“Honey, dinner is almost ready. You should come inside,” he said with a gentle squeeze.
Jerrico turned and peered up into his emerald -green eyes. As much as she loved the color of them, she found them strange for a man of African descent; not to mention how intimidating they could be at times. Ashley was a good-looking man with bronze-colored skin and a strong, muscular physique that showed through the silk designer white shirt he wore. Jerrico had caught herself a prize, and she was so in love with him. Ashley had a mysterious aura that intrigued her and, at the same time, sent a shiver of fear through her veins. But she was known to have a predilection for bad boys; such was the case with her previous boyfriend, Sergen, who was quite a riot.
Jerrico turned around, pulling him into her. They kissed long and passionately. Catching their breath, Ashley whispered, “Wow, I’m famished in more ways than one. ”Jerrico knew exactly what he meant.
“And so am I. But first, let’s take care of our hunger in the dining room.” She chuckled lightly, leading the way.
The couple made their way down the long corridor, which led to the exquisite dining room. Ashley’s parents, Zackery and Cecelia, were already seated at the long cherrywood dining table with a white Victorian style runner in the middle. Three sterling silver candelabras were lit, giving the atmosphere a formal glow. Zackery, the patriarch, was seated at the head of the table and his wife, Cecelia, sat to his right. Ashley, being the oldest of their children, sat at the opposite end of the table with Jerrico next to him. Winniford, Ashley’s younger brother, was free to sit in whichever of the remaining eight chairs he preferred. This was the etiquette of the Covington’s home. While Cecelia favored Morticia, her husband, Zackery, resembled the late actor Vincent Price, except for those emerald-green eyes. His voice was similar as well. It was deep and laced with mystery.
Jerrico didn’t like the way her father-in-law looked at her. His eyes seemed to devour her. She felt that if she was a steak on his dinner plate, she would have been gone in minutes. It wasn’t long before Mr. Hines the butler, a manas thin as a tooth pick walked into the room carrying trays of delicious food and drinks. As Jerrico received her food, she glanced over at Winniford, who was seated two chairs down from her. She had not noticed his arrival. It was an unsettling experience to have the seat completely empty one second and filled with a body the next. Her brother–in-law had his own issues that concerned her. She didn’t like his sidelong glances. They weren’t as intimidating as her father-in-law’s, but just as annoying.
Fed up with the look he was giving her, Jerrico said, “Winniford, is there something you need to ask me?”
Winniford smiled slowly, giving her a firm and intense stare. “Not at all, my dear sister-in-law. I was just admiring how lovely you look tonight. My brother is a blessed man.” Winniford grinned. His comment threw her. How could she come back from such a complimentary gesture?
So she smiled politely and said, “Thank you, Winniford.”
Obviously, Winniford wasn’t as bashful as her husband had said.
Ashley had told Jerrico that Winniford was shy at heart, and something of an introvert. He only had a handful of dates under his belt, but he was definitely interested in finding the right woman to become his wife. Given his good looks, he should have no trouble attracting women, Jerrico thought. Winniford was just as handsome as his older brother; a carbon copy, in fact. The only difference existed in height and color. Winniford stood a few inches shorter and was a shade lighter, but they shared the same emerald-colored eyes. Any woman in her right mind would have been delighted to be in his presence, Jerrico thought. Just like her husband, Winniford had a mysterious aura about him. It was an aura that said approach with extreme caution. Maybe that warning sign was the culprit to keeping that special woman away. Maybe she too should have paid closer attention to that flashing sign. But it was too late now.
Jerrico was very cautious of her mother-in-law, Cecelia. Jerrico’s eyes traveled across the table, landing on her mother-in-law’s face. Cecelia’s skin was extremely smooth for a woman of her particular age; her long black hair hung loosely over her shoulders and down the designer black dress she wore. Jerrico thought her whole wardrobe consisted of the color black. She never saw the woman in anything else, even at her and Ashley’s wedding. She wore a fabulous designer gown which was almost a carbon copy of what Angelina Jolie wore in the movie Maleficent. Cecelia also had a perfect set of white teeth. Jerrico wondered whether they were her own or an expensive set of veneers because they were so bright, you had to almost squint when you looked at her. Cecelia smiled brightly and often, but the sunshine smile never seemed to reach her eyes. Cecelia took a sip of her red wine and returned the silver flute to the leaf-shaped coaster. Cecelia interrupted her thoughts.
“Jerrico, why do you always look as if you’ve seen a ghost whenever Winniford comes to the table?” Cecelia asked, flashing that sunshine smile.
If your son moved around like a regular person, I wouldn’t look scared out of my wits, Jerrico thought.
Jerrico lowered her eyes from Cecelia’s blinding stare and said, “He moves like a fox. One moment, you don’t see him and the next, he’s here.”
Winniford gave Jerrico another sidelong glance she found annoying and said, “Correction, Jerrico, I assure you I am much quicker than a fox.” He chuckled.
Winniford’s eyes gleamed as he stared at her yet again. Jerrico turned her head, shunning his shifty eyes. She fixed her eyes onto her plate. She never looked over at him again. His very appearance made her uncomfortable. The same could be said of the other Covingtons as well, including her husband, Ashley.
The food tasted delicious, as always. They dined on baked chicken, rice pilaf, and fresh garden greens with a side salad that could be considered a normal meal on any given night of the week in America. What disturbed Jerrico was the fact that the family ate tons of raw meat. There was always rare steak or raw liver on the menu, no matter what else was being served. Jerrico thought of herself as a well-rounded woman, but never had she seen a custom such as this. Jerrico watched in awe as Winniford reached over with the fork he held, stuck it into the bloody piece of meat that was on a platter, and placed it on his plate. With the knife, he sliced off a piece and put it in his mouth. His eyes seemed to light up as he chewed. Ashley and his family conversed like your average family, sharing their typical day’s events, but Jerrico knew there was nothing average about them.
“Jerrico dear, it nearly slipped my mind but you had a phone call earlier today, when you were out.”
“Oh?” Jerrico responded with a raised brow. She placed her fork onto her plate and waited for her mother-in-law to continue.
“It was from Mr. Frost, from Taylor & Frost Law Firm,” Cecelia said, displaying just a hint of her blinding smile. “I believe you have an interview scheduled with them tomorrow.”
She reached her long, red manicured nails into the china bowl and selected a piece of raw liver. Bringing it back to her dish, she sliced into it with the butter knife. She lifted the meat to her mouth, but paused to speak again.
“ I told them I wasn’t so sure if you were still interested.”
Jerrico watched with eyes stretched as Cecelia popped the liver into her mouth and chewed ever so slowly. Jerrico gulped. A wave of nausea washed over her, but she quickly recovered. Jerrico slowly began to steam after hearing the words that came out of Cecelia’s mouth. In her head, she pondered the best way to handle this: like the lady her mother raised her to be? Or should she go with her more aggressive side and beat her down like a bully in the street? She decided to make her mother proud. Taking in a breath, she spoke in the most level tone she could muster.
“Cecelia, why in heaven’s name would you tell them that? I am very much interested in the position. You do know how hard I worked to get this interview?” She struggled to keep the anger out of her voice.
Cecelia kept her cool. She placed the remaining piece of the slippery meat into her mouth, chewing slowly as if she wasn’t under attack.
“I am sorry, my dear, but have you considered the responsibilities you now have as a new bride, along with being a Covington? There will be charity events you are expected to attend, not to mention The Women Auxiliary Club, along with others. My dear, I believe your plate to be full,” she said without an ounce of remorse.
Jerrico dismissed Cecelia’s explanation. “I will call them back first thing in the morning and assure them I will keep the interview,” Jerrico said, letting out a frustrated sigh as she pushed her dish aside.
Cecelia’s comment and complete lack of concern caused her appetite to dissipate. But this wasn’t their first discrepancy.
Jerrico and Cecelia had butted heads right from the start. Cecelia had chastised Jerrico for everything, from the way she dressed to the way she spoke to her son. She was the perfect example of the mother-in-law from hell. And her husband had never even tried to defend her not once. This is too much, Jerrico thought as she peered over at Ashley. And sure enough, he continued to eat as if nothing had transpired between the two.
“I’ve had enough. I’m going to bed,” she muttered, getting up from the table with a jolt, which brought Ashley out of his trance.
“Jerrico, honey, come back,” Ashley said as he reached out and gently grabbed her by the arm.
“No, Ashley,” she said, wiggling her arm free from his grasp. “I’ll see you upstairs.”
Jerrico prepared for bed as Ashley showered alone. Rarely did they take showers together, even though they were still newlyweds. It was a pet peeve of Ashley’s which, of course, she did not understand. What natural born, red-blooded man would not want a naked woman in his shower? But her husband was a different man and she accepted his unfamiliar ways. All in all, thet loved each other and that was all that mattered. Jerrico still had to pinch herself as she looked around the luxurious bedroom. Thick red and gold carpeting covered the floor. The king sized bed with Victorian-style post in the middle of the room with rich, thick gold bedding upon it. Turning back the plush comforter Jerrico lay upon the golden cotton sheets. Letting out a tired yawn, she closed her eyes as her mind revisited the dialog during dinner. In spite of the appearance of enjoying each other’s company, she couldn’t help but notice a chill in the room that even the warm flicker of the candles couldn’t remove. But what Cecelia had said to her earlier warmed her up quite well.
The tiff with her mother-in-law lingered in Jerrico’s mind as she lay in bed. Cecelia knew she was trying to land a secure position here in Miami since she left her job back in New York. Was she deliberately trying to sabotage her efforts? Jerrico was doing her best to get along with her in-laws, but this was just another event that made it almost impossible.
Ashley stepped out of the shower wrapped in his signature white robe. She barely saw him completely naked in the light. Ashley preferred darkness when they made love. Even though she was still pissed, looking at her handsome husband dispelled the anger within her. Sexual hunger took over as she lifted her head from the pillow and met his eyes. Ashley removed his robe and slid underneath the covers. He placed a lingering kiss on her lips as his hand ran across the firmness of her breast, sending an electric spark through her body.
“Honey, I want to apologize for Mother’s thoughtlessness. She meant no harm,” he whispered as his tongue teased the tip of her ear and traveled down to the crevice of her neck. “I spoke with her and she apologized. She assured me she would never do that again.”
Jerrico knew Cecelia’s apology wasn’t sincere. But it made her happy to know that, for once, her husband had come to her defense.
“Apology accepted, Ashley,” she said breathlessly as she succumbed to the desires taking over her body.