Posts Tagged ‘The Merzette Effect’

First Chapter Excerpt – The Merzetti Effect

Excerpt from

The Merzetti Effect

A Vampire Romance (Book 1)


Norah Wilson

Copyright © 2011 Norah Wilson

Published by Norah Wilson

All rights reserved.



Chapter 1


AINSLEY CRAWFORD STEERED her 1993 Crown Vic to the empty curb, wincing at the ugly crunching sounds her power steering made as she cranked the wheel. Great. Fluid must be leaking again. She needed another repair bill like she needed a bladder infection.

What she should do is dump the old boat and get something smaller, something easier on gas and maybe with a bit of warranty left so she wouldn’t have to pour money into it so regularly. Of course, if she ever wanted a new car, she was going to have to learn to keep her mouth shut.

Right. Like that was gonna happen. She’d pretty much sabotaged her prospects when she’d reported that handsome anesthetist who was dipping into the anesthetic agent, shortchanging patients in the process. Although the situation was dealt with promptly and appropriately, it turned out no one liked a whistleblower.

Well, at least she had a lead on a new job. A better paying one, even, and God knew she needed the money. Lucy and Devon were depending on her, maybe for their very lives.

Which was why she was here. Except here looked pretty creepy. She glanced around, reluctant to kill her engine or release her door locks.

Okay, not creepy, exactly. It was a respectable enough commercial zone; not a slum by any stretch of the imagination. And she’d lived here in St. Cloud, New Brunswick, long enough to know she was less than three or four blocks from the club district, which would be hopping even on a Wednesday night, so it wasn’t like she was in the middle of nowhere. But the quiet buildings gave off a different vibe once they were abandoned for the night. Beneath the streetlights, the empty avenue shone after the warm August rain.

Ainsley turned off the ignition and the engine stuttered and coughed to a stop. The tic-tic-tic of her cooling motor sounded overly loud in the ensuing silence. Then the rain started up again, drowning out other sounds. Raindrops pattered on the car’s roof and smeared her view of the urban landscape, intensifying her sense of isolation.

Before the cast of her thoughts could get gloomier, she grabbed her umbrella from the passenger seat and shouldered her door open. She fumbled with the umbrella a moment to get it open, then stepped out into the night. Closing the Crown Vic’s door, she peered around. Not a soul moved on the street. Though lights burned in the office building windows, she knew they were deserted.

Well, mostly deserted. Her prospective employer, Dr. Delano Bowen, waited for her in one of them.

She’d balked when he’d asked for an evening interview, and his warm-whiskey voice had cooled over the telephone line. He had a conference to attend in San Francisco, he’d informed her, and he intended to fill the position before he left, one way or another. Desperate as she was for the job, she’d agreed to the nighttime interview.

Of course, that hadn’t stopped her from checking him out. If the research sponsor, a major bio-medical company, hadn’t confirmed his claims, she’d have cancelled. But he had checked out. According to Bio-Sys Genomix, he was analyzing the DNA of individuals afflicted with a particular blood disorder in the hopes of unlocking a cure.

What he needed, he’d said, was a cross between a phlebotomist to draw blood, a research assistant to help with his investigations, and a secretary to deal with the paperwork.

She stood there a moment, rain spattering up on her legs as she contemplated her utter lack of experience in the foregoing areas. But dammit, eight years as an OR nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center had to count for something.

She pulled the folded piece of paper out of her purse and checked the address again — 420 St-Laurent Street — compared it with the number on the closest building, then headed west. Shouldn’t be more than a half a block.

As it turned out, it was more like a block and a half, which carried her closer to the club district than she’d expected. The rain fell harder and she picked up her pace, cursing. Her low-heeled leather pumps were going to be ruined. She dashed up the walkway to the building’s front door and tried to yank it open, but it didn’t give. Another tug. Locked.

Great. She glanced around for a buzzer, but instead found a note taped to the glass door from the inside.

Ms. Crawford. My apologies. Please use the entrance at the back of the building.

Freaking wonderful.

She backtracked to the sidewalk and dashed westward, stopping at the alley running between Dr. Bowen’s building and the next building. The lane was narrow, barely wide enough for a single vehicle to pass. It was also liberally spotted with puddles. Her shoes would be ruined for sure if she slogged through that.

Maybe she’d be risking more than her shoes.

The thought sent a jitter of uneasiness through her. She glanced around quickly. Nothing moved on St-Laurent. She looked back down the alley. At the midway point, a single security light mounted on the brick facing of the adjacent building cast enough light to show the alley was empty. No nooks or crannies for an assailant to jump out of; no doorways, no garbage bins for them to hide behind.

So why were the hairs on the back of her neck lifting?

She chewed her lip a moment, then made her decision. She had Dr. Bowen’s phone number on the paper in her purse. She’d dash to the nearest bar and use a payphone to call him. If he still wanted to do the interview, he could damned well meet her at the mouth of the alley to escort her into the building. Or better still, in whatever warm, dry pub she found from which to make the call.

She turned to continue up St-Laurent, but a blur of motion caught her eye. She swiveled toward it.

A man, black clothing and a white blur for a face. Where had he come from? Before she could so much as gasp her surprise he was on her, pushing her into the alley.

She brought the umbrella down, intending to defend herself with it, but he was too fast. He squeezed her wrist in a grip that shot paralyzing pain up to her elbow. She dropped the umbrella. And then he was driving her deeper into the alley, bearing her along as though her resistance presented no more challenge than a feather.

Crackhead. Had to be. No ordinary man had that kind of strength. Fear surged as she remembered the one she’d seen in the ER last month. Out of his mind on a dose of crystal meth that should have killed him, he’d shaken off three cops like they weighed no more than dandruff on his shoulders.

She gathered her breath to scream, but again he was too quick. He clamped a hand over her mouth and slammed her against the unyielding brick wall. Tears leapt to her eyes, blurring her vision.


Resistance was likely to get her killed.

Reasoning was out of the question.

Cooperation… He probably just wanted money. For these guys, it was all about feeding the habit, buying more gack to snort up his nose or shoot into his veins.

Her right hand dropped to her purse, which was still slung over her shoulder. She pushed it toward him. “Take it.” She mumbled the words out against his palm, hoping he’d understand. “Money. Take it.”

His lips curved with real amusement, which stirred a far deeper fear than had his physical attack. For the first time, she looked closely at his face. His eyes gleamed an eerie yellow-gold under the security light. They were most definitely not the eyes of a hopped-up junkie.

“It’s not your money I want.”

Oh, God. She was going to be raped in a rainy alley while everyone huddled indoors where it was warm and dry. Where they wouldn’t hear her cries.

“No, sweetheart, I don’t want that, either.”

His lips parted on a smile and her gaze dropped to his bared teeth. As soon as she saw his incisors, she knew what he did want. Her rational mind rebelled against the truth, but her blood knew. Her pulse leapt into overdrive.


The word was smothered against his hand. He angled her neck and sank his teeth deep into her throat. She felt the pierce of his grossly elongated incisors like the hot stab of IV needles. Adrenaline arced through her, lending her strength as she fought him, but she might as well have tried to knock down the brick wall at her back.

On and on she struggled, but he clung to her, oblivious of her efforts. But he didn’t seem to be doing much more than just hanging on. Why wasn’t he sucking or otherwise working the wound? Wasn’t that what vampires did? Or did they tear throats out and lap the blood?

She shivered. God, she was so cold…

Cold. Blood loss. Shock!

Oh, shit, she was going into shock.

Goddammit, he’d pierced her carotid artery. He was letting her own thundering heart pump the lifeblood out of her. A bubble of hysterical laughter rose in her chest at the irony.

Seconds later, she sagged against the building, mirth — and strength — gone. Only his weight against her held her upright.

A violent tremor shook her. Cold. She was going to die here in this alley.

And her shoes were ruined.

Then, miraculously, he released her. She crumpled to the wet asphalt. Dear God, she was so cold. Was she dead?

No, not yet. If she were dead, she wouldn’t feel the cold rain or the hot abrasion of the asphalt on her hands and knees.

So why had he left her?

She managed to lift her head to peer through the driving rain, searching for her assailant. There, deeper in the alley. And dear God, he was locked in combat with another man! A man who must have pulled the creature off her.

She wanted to shout, to warn her would-be savior that he wasn’t dealing with your average thug, but her vision wobbled. Feeling oddly detached, she put a hand to her throat and it came away red. The rain quickly washed her hand clean, but a downward glance confirmed she was still bleeding. Her tan trench coat was streaked with red.

Oh, man, she was tired. More than anything, she wanted to lie down. She wanted to just curl into herself and let the hovering blackness take her. But the man who’d tried to save her … the Good Samaritan … if she didn’t get help, he’d die.

She pushed herself to her feet and stumbled toward the mouth of the alley, one hand pressed to her neck to try to stem her bleeding and the other pressed against the building’s wall to keep herself upright. She’d lost one shoe, so she kicked the other one off. Almost there.

Then the world started to swim. She blinked and blinked, but the blurriness refused to clear. She found herself on the ground again, felt the asphalt burn her already scraped knees. Then the same abrasive surface kissed her cheek as she pitched face-first onto the street.

Too late, Ainsley. As usual. You’re nobody’s savior.


Delano Bowen watched the beaten vampire’s retreat long enough to be certain the creature was really leaving. He expelled his breath. Thank God. It had been close. For a moment, he’d thought he was going to have to destroy it. Black-hearted devil hadn’t wanted to give up his kill.

Well, they’d soon see who killed whom.

And speaking of dying, he’d better see to the woman before she succumbed to shock. He strode to the mouth of the alley where she lay crumpled on the wet asphalt. Kneeling, he rolled her over, bent close and deftly arrested her bleeding. He drew away from her to find that her eyes had fluttered open.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ve got you. You’re going to be all right.”

The assurance seemed good enough for her, for she slipped back into unconsciousness. He gathered her into his arms and stood.

“Come on, Ainsley Crawford. We have work to do.”


Hot sex.

No, not just hot sex. Incredibly erotic, deliciously forbidden stranger sex.

Ainsley knew it was a dream. Knew it wasn’t really happening. But dear God, it was good. And it felt so damned real. She could almost smell him, musky and male and incredibly arousing…

A small sound tugged at her awareness, but she clung to sleep. She wanted to stay in the dream, wanted the stranger to keep on stroking and licking and sucking her as her hands clenched in his hair. She wanted him to keep his mouth on her intimate flesh, his hands on her body. Just a few minutes more…

Then the sound came again. A beeping. Familiar but wrong. Out of place in the dream. What the hell was it? It sounded like a … oh, hell, a monitor alarm!

She came awake with a start.

The first thing she saw was the bedrail on the left side. Then the IV pole with the suspended bag of deep red fluid. She glanced down to see an IV line disappearing into her arm.

Holy shit. She was in hospital. And the beeping was a monitor. It blinked at her from its position right beside the IV pole.

Glancing at her hand, she saw the pulse oximeter had slipped off her finger. She slid the clothespin-like device back on and the beeping stopped. A quick glance at the monitor showed her oxygen saturation was okay.

Oh, man, she was really in hospital? Being transfused?

She pressed her legs together beneath the blankets, and the last traces of arousal from her sex dream withered. Urinary catheter. Ugh. She was definitely being transfused. But why?

Omigod, the alley! Heart suddenly hammering, she struggled to sit up.

“Ah, you’re awake. That’s good.”

She yelped, more at the unexpected hand on her shoulder urging her back against the pillows than at the masculine voice from the right side of her bed.

“Easy. You’re safe now. I’m a doctor.”

Her gaze locked on him and she let out a gasp.

It was him. The man she’d been imagining, the stranger/lover.

Okay, she was still dreaming. She must be. How else could she have conjured him to look exactly like the man in her dream?

Then another thought struck her: maybe she was dead.

Maybe she never escaped the alley after all. Maybe her lifeless body lay there still in a blood-darkened puddle, and this vision, this whole hospital room encounter, was just the result of her oxygen-starved brain dying.

She closed her eyes for a second and reopened them. The man beside her remained unchanged. Shoulder-length black hair, glossy under the lights, sprang back from a widow’s peak. Behind the lenses of Italian designer frames, dark brown eyes glowed like banked coals under heavy, slashing eyebrows. Dark, intense, sexy.

She started to lift a hand, thinking to touch his face to test if he were flesh and bone, but — ow, ow, ow — was quickly reminded that her arm had been harpooned with an IV catheter.

Okay, so it looked like she hadn’t dreamed him, she wasn’t dead, and she really was being transfused. So she had to be in hospital. But oh, baby, if this was the ER, this guy was new to the rotation.

“Where am I?”

“You’re under my care, and you’re currently being treated for blood loss and shock.”

Blood loss.

She shivered convulsively. The alley. A creature straight out of her nightmares had attacked her, driven his teeth deep into her neck and —


Her mind shied away from the memory. Better to stick with the rational, the world she knew. Medicine.

Her gaze flicked back to the IV pole. “Whole blood?”


“How much have I had?”

“We’re coming up on 2000 mls.”

She felt her face go slack. “So much?”

“By my estimate, you’d lost almost forty percent of your blood, Miss Crawford.”

Holy Hannah. Her gaze leapt back to the unit of blood suspended from the IV pole, her brain ticking at a hundred miles an hour. “Then you wouldn’t have had time to crossmatch the blood…”

“It’s perfectly crossmatched.”

She blinked. How’d he manage that feat? With this kind of blood loss, they usually started pushing the O-neg while they waited for typing and crossmatching, switching to the precise match as soon as they had the info. In any case, if they’d pushed that much blood, her coagulation factors would almost certainly be out of whack…

She lifted her right hand — carefully this time — to her neck, only to find her puncture wounds covered by a dressing. She clapped her gaze back on the hunky doctor who sat so quietly at her bedside. The doctor who in her dreams had blazed a trail of kisses down her body…

She blinked the image away, cleared her throat and asked, “What about the possibility of a bleed?”

He lifted a dark eyebrow. “You know your transfusion medicine.”

“I should. I’m an OR nurse.”

“Indeed.” The corner of his mouth lifted in what might have been a smile, but he obligingly ran down the numbers — hemoglobin, platelet count and the rest. “Based on what I’m seeing, I don’t think we’ll have to worry, but we’ll keep monitoring the situation.”

Okay, so she seemed to be out of immediate peril. Time to tackle the hard stuff.

“How’d I get here?”

One beat, two, three, as though he were weighing how much to tell her.

“I brought you.”

You brought me?”

“Yes. I was there, in the alley. I saw the attack.”

“No.” The denial emerged on an exhalation. She wasn’t even sure what she was denying.

“Yes. I witnessed it. I saw that creature attack you.”

Her heart started banging again. A man fiercely grappling with her attacker. A black-haired man.

“You were there.” A statement, not a question. She remembered now. And she remembered something else.

His was the face she’d seen when she’d surfaced from that cold hell she thought was death. Then she remembered what had wakened her from that icy place — his mouth, hot on her bare throat, like a lover’s.

No. No way. It hadn’t happened. It couldn’t have. Just a dream, like the other one.

She wet her lips. “Where are we?” Lifting her head, she scanned the room. No nurses came and went. Nothing fit her experience with various wards at the hospital. “This isn’t the Regional.”

“You are in my home. But I assure you it is as well equipped as your hospital to deal with your particular emergency. Better equipped, in fact.”

This was his home? It looked more like a trauma treatment room. And how freaky was it that he’d brought her here to treat her? Scary-freaky. Fear warred with anger. By the slimmest margin, the latter won.

“I can see for myself that you’re well equipped. My question would be, why? And while we’re at it, why didn’t you call an ambulance to take me to the emergency room? That would be the logical response.”

Those glowing eyes narrowed to dark slits. “And what would you have told them at your ER, Nurse Crawford?”

She lifted her chin. “That I’d been attacked by…”

“A vampire?” he finished.

“Yes! You know I’m telling the truth. You were there. You saw it.”

He didn’t move so much as a muscle, but for all his stillness, he emitted an odd leashed energy. It poured off him in waves so potent, she could almost imagine she saw an aura of energy surrounding him.

“Indeed I did witness it. But the ER staff who would have attended you weren’t there. They didn’t see it.”

“You could have hung around and explained.”

His lips turned up at the corners in a flash of amusement that was gone so quickly she wondered if she imagined it. “Yes, I suppose I could have given them the Readers’ Digest version of events, but I rather value my professional reputation.”

“Okay, yes, they’d be skeptical in the extreme, until they’d seen this.” She lifted a hand to her throat, where she could still feel the pain of her wounds beneath the bandage.

“Remove the dressing.”

She blinked. “What?”

He opened the drawer on her bedside table and extracted a hand mirror, which he offered to her. “Remove the dressing and have a look.”

Panic flared. Did she really want to view those puncture marks? She knew the attack had happened. She remembered it in horrifying detail. But to look on her wounds would make the proof of it incontrovertible. If she looked in the mirror, she couldn’t then decide she’d dreamed it. She couldn’t then conclude, for the sake of preserving her own sanity, that she’d had some kind of psychotic break.

“Not up to it? I see.” He started to return the mirror to the drawer.

“Give it to me.”

“Are you sure?”

Her answer was to peel the adhesive dressing away with one swift motion.

“So be it.”

She accepted the mirror from him, angling it to get a look at the puncture marks. Once again, her pulse skyrocketed. The skin of her throat was smooth and unbroken, with nothing but some faint bruising and some redness from the adhesive removal to suggest any kind of trauma.


She put a hand to her throat, running her fingers over the area to confirm what her eyes had already told her. Sweet Jesus.

“You see why the medical staff at the hospital might question your story?”

“But how? I was bitten… I can still feel the burn. Where did the puncture marks go?”

Behind the lenses of his glasses, his eyes seemed to blaze even stronger than before. “These creatures cover their tracks by infusing their victims with a substance that promotes coagulation. It’s similar to the MPH beads you might use in surgery to stem a bad bleed, but it also promotes ultra-rapid healing of the wound.”

She laughed, a choked sound that bordered on weeping, which God knew was closer to what she felt like doing.

“You’re telling me vampires walk around with Bleed-X in their pockets, ready to sprinkle it on their victims’ wounds afterward?”

“They secrete the substance at will.” He pried the mirror out of her hand and put it back in the drawer. “Of course, the victim of an attack like this typically expires from shock shortly after the evidence fades.”

“Well, that must give the Coroner’s Office fits on cause of death.” She heard her own words and marveled at how reassuringly sarcastic they sounded. Was she really having this conversation with this stranger about vampires?

He shrugged. “Occasionally. Though many victims are street people — drug addicts, prostitutes, vagrants, runaways. No one investigates too closely when one of them turns up dead.”

The truth of the latter statement was undeniable. She’d seen for herself the ease with which street deaths were accepted. She’d even protested it. Until the business with Lucy. Until she decided she couldn’t afford to make waves over something she wasn’t going to be able to change anyway.

She forced her numb mind to work. “I still don’t understand why you brought me here. Why not call an ambulance and let someone else worry about it?”

“Because, as you must be coming to appreciate, I have a special expertise in these matters that conventional medicine lacks. Indeed, I think it’s safe to say I’m alone in my field.”

Well, there was something she had no trouble believing.

“Besides,” he added, “had you not been coming to meet with me, you would not have suffered the attack. For that, I feel a burden of guilt.”

Going to meet him? Then he must be… “My God.”

A smile ghosted over his lips. “No, not God, Ms. Crawford. Though on occasion, I have been accused of harboring a God complex.” He offered his hand. “Dr. Delano Bowen.”


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