Lifestyles of the Rich and UndeadKatie MacAlister
Thank you for purchasing this Pocket Star Books eBook.
* * *
Sign up for our newsletter and receive special offers, access to bonus content, and info on the latest new releases and other great eBooks from Pocket Star Books and Simon & Schuster.
C LICK HERE TO SIGN UP
or visit us online to sign up at
Critics and authors adore the paranormal novels of Katie MacAlister
“Smart, sexy, and laugh-out-loud funny!”
“Wickedly sensual and irresistibly amusing . . . graced with MacAlister’s signature sharp wit and fabulously fun characters.”
Pocket Star Books
New York London Toronto Sydney New Delhi
Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead
The Undead in My Bed – Bonus Material
Shades of Gray
Out with a Fang
Don’t forget to click through after
LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND UNDEAD
for an exclusive sneak peek at the sizzling vampire romance anthology
THE UNDEAD IN MY BED
with stories by bestselling author Katie MacAlister, Molly Harper, and Jessica Sims
Available from Pocket Books October 2012
“Which line do you want run as an intro? ‘Grayson Soucek has a penchant for redheads’ or ‘Grayson Soucek likes his women independent, intelligent, and not the least bit clingy’? We’ll run whichever one you prefer.”
Trudy Bennes, hostess of the Otherworld’s highest rated celebrity-watch show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead, glanced up from the mirror where she was critically examining a few lines that she had noticed just that morning around her steely blue eyes. Drat it, it was time to sacrifice another virgin, or whatever it was her makeup girl did to make her look as young as when she’d started hosting the show some thirty years before. “Does he really have a penchant for redheads?”
Ernst, a production assistant, shrugged. “No clue. Which line do you want run?”
Trudy considered her auburn hair for a moment before saying decisively, “The first. Are we ready to shoot the intro?”
“Just waiting on you,” Ernst said, nodding to the small, bustling group of sound and video people who had spent the past two hours setting up their expensive equipment outside a very formidable iron gate.
Trudy gave one last annoyed look at the wrinkles around her eyes, made a mental note to put in an order for another tub of Madame Liling’s World-Renowned Love Potion, Breast Enhancer, and Wrinkle Eradicator, and straightened her shoulders, her head held high and a smile affixed firmly to her face as she strode in front of the camera.
“Greetings, denizens of the Otherworld! I am Trudy Bennes, and tonight I’m in the romantic Czech Republic tracking down one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors. He’s dark, he’s tortured, he’s as angsty as they get, and he brings new meaning to the word ‘bloodthirsty.’ He’s Grayson Soucek, and if you haven’t guessed by now, Gray is a Dark One—that’s a vampire to you and me—and, ladies, he’s not only eligible, he’s also gorgeous. We’re talking six foot two and a pair of smoldering gray eyes (who knew gray could smolder?) that made this reporter reconsider her recent engagement to Otherworld News anchor Patton Alexander. Just kidding, Patton, darling! You know I only have eyes for you.”
Trudy gestured toward the gate, and another production assistant scampered forward to twist a massive key in the lock, simpering for a moment at the camera before catching Trudy’s narrowed eyes.
“As you can tell by the view through the gates behind me—locked to keep out the tourists—Grayson lives in a romantic old mansion. But lucky us, we have the key to the gates, courtesy of a very helpful real estate agent. Thank you, Manuela, that really will be enough. Stroll with me now, dear viewers, as we head to the house and see if we can’t find the dashing Mr. Soucek relaxing at home.”
The cameraman, with a Steadicam rig strapped to his torso, followed as Trudy tripped gaily down the curved drive, gesturing gracefully as she passed points of interest. Behind the cameraman, Ernst hissed softly to the producer, “Psst. James. You did get ahold of the vampire, didn’t you?”
James waved away the question. “Tried a few times, but he wouldn’t respond to phone calls or e-mails. Doesn’t matter, though. These sorts of fellows always fancy themselves heroes and can’t wait to have their mugs plastered all over TV.”
Ernst had other ideas about that statement, but with the welfare of his wife and their child-to-be uppermost in mind, he wisely kept his opinion to himself, and simply resolved to stay back several feet when Grayson discovered the film crew on his doorstep. It didn’t do to mess with a Dark One.
“To the right, you see what must have once been a dower house, but is clearly now disused,” Trudy chirped as she passed a structure that looked like it was about ready to implode. “To our left is part of the formal gardens that grace this lovely estate. And the house itself—well, you can see how grand it is, although one wing has obviously suffered some sort of a fire. We’ll enter through the double front doors into what I’m told is a spectacularly grand hallway. Manuela! Key! No, to the house, you stup—er . . . silly girl. Yes, that’s the one. Open the doors, please, so that we might take the camera inside. No, both doors.”
Trudy glanced over her shoulder to the camera, and gave a hopeless, “good help is so hard to find” smile when Manuela threw open the double doors with an awkward flourish.
“Follow me now, dear ones, into the opulent and gracious world of the rich and—oh, hello!”
Trudy stopped suddenly when a figure loomed up out of the darkness. The cameraman only just missed bumping into her.
The man who stalked forward looked angry as hell. Ernst slid cautiously behind both the cameraman and the director.
“What the hell? Who are you? And how did you get into my house? The door was locked, I know it was!”
Trudy gave him her very best smile, the one she reserved for paparazzi. “Goodness, you’re every bit as gorgeous as they say you are. You are Grayson Soucek, are you not?”
“Who the devil are you?” he snarled, narrowing his eyes (which Trudy couldn’t help but notice were far closer to shooting ire than to smoldering in a seductive manner).
“I’m Trudy Bennes from Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead, and we’re here to feature you and your beautiful old house on this week’s show—”
“I don’t want to be on your show!” Gray’s expression went from suspicious to outright hostile.
“You can’t mean that,” Trudy said with a bright smile at the camera. “You’re just shy, and let me tell you that from a feminine point of view, that’s a very adorable trait in a man—”
“I’m not shy, I’m not adorable, and I don’t want you here. I don’t know how you got past a locked gate and locked front doors, but you can just take yourself out the way you came and leave me the hell alone.” As he spoke, he shooed them all toward the open door.
“You don’t understand,” Trudy said soothingly, putting one graceful, pale hand on his arm and upping the wattage in her smile until it must have almost blinded him. “We’re here about your woman.”
He stopped, looking startled. “My woman? What woman?”
“Your ideal woman.” She gave him a demure look, one that she felt conveyed to a nicety the possibility that he could, if he expended an appropriate amount of charm, steal her
away from her newscaster fiancé. “You are one of this year’s most eligible bachelors, Grayson.”
Now he looked downright appalled. “Well, stop it! I don’t want to be an eligible bachelor!”
Trudy gave up what was obviously going to be the less successful role of seductress for that of hostess, gesturing with grand movements as she spoke in a voice rich with emotion. “There are thousands of women out there, Grayson, nay, millions of women who are even right now watching this show and sighing to themselves over you. They want you, Gray. They want to know all about you, what your likes and dislikes are, what leaves you cold, and what makes you burn with desire.”
She paused, feeling obligated to offer him one last seductive look, but the expression of profound horror on his face left her grumbling to herself about men who didn’t know a good thing when it was standing right in front of them.
“I don’t want any woman! And I certainly don’t want thousands, nay, millions of them hanging around my neck, sighing and getting in my way. I will thank you to remove yourselves from my property and leave me alone.”
Before Trudy could do more than sputter a few protests, Gray pushed them all out the doors, which were then slammed shut with a finality that Trudy felt bordered on obnoxious.
“Well, I have never—” The words stopped abruptly as the door was wrenched open again. Gray glared quickly past Trudy to where the sun shone fully on the front door, and he sidestepped a stream of sunlight as it fell onto the floor.
Trudy blinked twice, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts. Should she tell him what she thought of his high-handed treatment? Should she point out that she was the hostess of the highest rated show on the Otherworld’s network? Should she scornfully point out just what he’d lost through his obvious stupidity? She considered all of those options in a fraction of a second, reluctantly discarding them when she remembered that next month’s most eligible bachelor wasn’t available for another three weeks. She smiled, somewhat tightly, to be true, but it was still a smile. “What keys, dear Grayson?”
“I’m not your dear, and I’d like the keys to my gate and house that you obviously pilfered from somewhere. Now.”
He held out a hand for them, yelping and jerking his arm back when the sun raised a couple of white blisters on his palm.
Served him right, the obstinate vampire. Trudy was just contemplating whether or not she could squeeze an interview out of him by holding his precious keys hostage when Manuela, with a rapt look at Grayson, hurried forward and handed him a big old-fashioned ring holding the keys to his house.
“We got them from the real estate agent,” Manuela told him, her eyes dewy with idol worship. “He said you wouldn’t mind so long as we didn’t go into the house. I told Trudy we shouldn’t go in the house. I told her we shouldn’t disturb you. I’m Manuela. I’m chock-full of blood.”
Gray looked more than a little startled now, a fact that Trudy took advantage of to push past him into the dark coolness of the hall. She’d have a word or two with that shameless hussy Manuela after she convinced the sexy—if annoyingly obstinate—vampire that it was in his best interest to be eligible and plastered all over the TV sets of the Otherworld. “Grayson,” she purred, closing the door behind her against the protests of both the producer and the cameraman outside, while covertly brushing a switch to the microphone pack strapped to her back. “I think we’ve gotten off to a very awkward start. Let’s start over, shall we?”
“No,” he said, but he didn’t throw her out, a point she counted in her favor. He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, an expression of annoyance on his face, clearly unaware that their conversation was being recorded by the film crew outside the door. She’d have to make sure they got some video to match the “interview” later.
“And it’s such a nice face, too,” she said to herself, smiling at the flare of surprise in his eyes as she allowed a hand to caress his chest for a brief moment. “You have a very strong jaw, Gray, but I like that in a man.”
“I am not interested in—”
“Of course you’re not,” she interrupted, trailing a finger along his jawline. “Ooh, stubble. That’s so sexy. I particularly like it when it rubs against my thighs.”
A new light of sexual interest briefly lit his eyes, the light that she was used to commanding in men . . . and some women. Trudy was a believer in opportunity, and didn’t particularly care who offered it. If seducing this brooding vampire would ensure that he’d appear on her show, then she’d take one for the team . . . and enjoy every second of her sacrifice.
“Your chin is very nice as well.” She leaned forward, making sure her cleavage was amply available, and gently bit his chin. “Blunt, but manly.”
He pulled back, his expression now one of suspicion. Drat it, she’d gone too far. Obviously, he was one of those men who took a while to warm up to a woman. Unless he preferred his seductions with a more masculine tinge? Perhaps she should mention that Ernst was right outside, just in case his tastes lay in that direction.
“If you are attempting to seduce me to be on your blasted television show, you can stop right now. I told you that I’m not interested in being your eligible bachelor.”
“No?” She gave him a swiftly calculating look. “Pity. I’ll get Ernst, then.” There was a shout of protest from outside the door that she ignored, adding, “He’s the delicious young man you might have noticed hovering in the background. I’m sure he’d be happy to . . . talk . . . with you about being on the show—”
He stopped her as she was reaching for the door. “For the love of Christ, woman, I’m not a pederast!”
“Oh, he’s not a boy. He’s married, as a matter of fact—”
“Nor am I sexually interested in men!”
“No?” She turned back to him with a warm and tantalizing smile. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear that. All those ladies out there will be thrilled as well.”
“Trudy,” she corrected him, annoyance at the faint sound of laughter from outside making her voice more strident than was proper in a seduction. She fought to bring it back to the smooth purr that had been so very effective with other hesitant guests on her show. “It’s Trudy.”
“My apologies.” He made a little bow that thrilled Trudy to the tips of her pink-painted toenails. “The simple fact is that I am not interested in a sexual dalliance with anyone. And for the last time, I do not wish to be on your television show.”
“But all those female viewers—”
“Will just have to survive without me.” His gaze was on her, but she had the feeling that he wasn’t really seeing her. It was as if he was looking inward at some bone-deep sorrow. Trudy hated bone-deep sorrows. They never, ever translated well to the small screen. “I have nothing to offer any woman but possible death and endless torment.”
Great. Just what she needed—an emo vampire. At least he didn’t sparkle. “I understand you are reticent to appear as if you are shopping for a mate—what do they call Dark One mates? Believers?”
“Beloveds, and no, I am not searching for mine—not that I believe such a woman exists. More pity to her if she does.”
Again he had that inward-looking air. She hated it when men did that. She didn’t work out three times a week for men to ignore her when she was standing right there, tantalizingly close, within seduction range.
She paused, wondering if she’d taken the wrong tack with him. Maybe he really wasn’t looking for a sexual partner. There were other things vampires wanted. Gently, she placed her hands on his shoulders, leaning in until she caught a tantalizing scent that was a mixture of some exotic spice and warm man. “You look hungry, Gray. You look very, very hungry. Why don’t you have a bite, and then we can talk.”
To her pleasure, his eyes grew lighter. She’d heard once that Dark Ones had irises that reacted to strong emotions, and the fact that she had interested this man enough to cause his stormy gray ey
es to lighten to a brilliant silver gave her a little burst of feminine power.
“I’m not hungry,” he said, but she knew he was lying.
“No?” She leaned in closer, allowing her breasts to brush against his chest. This time, he didn’t pull back. She tipped her head at an angle, clearly offering up the smooth stretch of throat. “I don’t mind, Gray. Just have a quick bite. You know you want it.”
A shudder ran through him as his head lowered toward her neck, his warm breath sending little chills down her back. The thought of what she was about to do—allow a man, a stranger, a deadly, dangerous vampire to drink her blood—was strangely thrilling and filled with taboo at the same time. She knew she should be repulsed by the idea of him feeding on her, but the truth was much, much simpler than that. Feeding him would establish a bond between them, a blood bond, and everyone knew that a blood bond opened up all sorts of possibilities for control.
With visions dancing in her head of an entire series built around Grayson the reluctant vampire, she welcomed the brush of his lips against her flesh.
Perhaps, with the right amount of prompting, she could even turn him into a TV star. Not one of her caliber, naturally, but it couldn’t hurt her career having a tame vampire at her side—
“No.” Grayson brought her out of her pleasant reverie by pushing her back, his face hard. “I said I’m not hungry. Good day.”
She blinked in surprise as he strode off into the shadows of a side hallway, so flabbergasted by his rejection that she didn’t even protest his insensitive treatment.
The door creaked open behind Trudy even as she was composing a scathing retort to hurl after the disappearing figure of the frustratingly moronic vampire who dared, dared to turn down her blood! As if she were a mere woman and not the world-famous, much-worshiped Trudy Bennes!
“Everything OK in here?” her producer, James, asked as he peered in. Trudy chose to ignore the amusement evident in his voice.