Masquerade

Coffee is heaven for Sophia. Alex is as delicious as his Midnight Mochas that he makes especially for her. Sophia keeps her distance because she is promised to another. However, she secretly lusts after Alex. 

 Alex desires Sophia, but he keeps himself away from her. He masquerades as an ordinary coffee shop owner, but it’s a ruse to protect his dark secret. Alex is a vampire who wants to claim Sophia as his own. There’s only one problem. Another vampire has set his sights on Sophia. Will Alex win her heart in time? Or will he lose her forever.


Excerpt from "Midnight Mocha"

I sat at the bar staring at the foam slowly destabilizing in my mocha cappuccino. Its dark, frothy consistency was everything I liked about the intoxicating drink. It tasted like chocolate and lingered on my tongue. Drew, my fiance, kept telling me I had to cut back on my caffeine intake, but every morning, the spicy aroma enticed my nose. I couldn't say no. The owner of Midnight Mocha was my friend and onetime savior. Every morning when I walked in, whether it was before sunrise or just a little after, he was there to greet me and hand me my coffee. He had a preternatural sense about when I'd come in and was never gruff with me. You would think he'd be cranky since he opened the little cafe at midnight and had to deal with his faithful customers. I had always admired the hours he kept but never had a chance to sit down and say more than a few words to him. I considered Alexander, Alex, one of my good friends because I know he would do anything for me if I had asked.

"No work today?" Alex asked with a voice as smooth as the coffee drinks he concocted.

I looked up into chocolate brown eyes. Pale, untanned skin made me wonder if he ever got any sun. Wavy hair, a shade darker than his eyes, fell down around his shoulders. He was broad-shouldered with a slight cleft in his chin. It was more like a dimple when he smiled. My cheeks grew hot as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on the counter. His smile was infectious and had me grinning from ear to ear in a second.

"No. No work today. I'm being lazy. What about you? Don't you ever take a break?"

Alex chuckled. "Someone has to run things around here. I only have Anne, and she fills in for me and helps out. I couldn't do it without her. Besides, it's almost closing time. The morning rush has passed."

I nodded. This was what was odd about the cafe. The hours were from midnight to eight in the morning. They were strange hours, but Alex brewed better coffee than the chain stores, which was why he had been open forever it seemed. "You have to get some beauty sleep sometime to maintain your fabulous complexion," I teased. Another reason I liked coming here was because Alex gave me big mugs, deep enough for soup, to drink out of. In the end, there was something about his coffee that had me intoxicated.

His smile lit up his eyes as well as his face. "I do, but only when it's needed. I don't think it's been necessary for at least seventy-five years now. Besides, my beauty goes beyond sleep. It's my special customers, like you, who keep me spry. So does Drew know you're skipping out today?"

My cheeks burned at what he said and not about Drew. He thought I was special. I looked down at the counter, letting my hand leech the warmth from the porcelain cup. All of a sudden, it had gotten very cold in the small cafe. I slid my gaze everywhere else except to Alex. There was no one else in the coffee shop save me. Outside the sky was starting to cloud over. The weather girl had predicted rain. The decor in Midnight Mocha was dark, purple-painted walls with pictures by local artists, a few black and whites of landscapes, and some canvases that I didn't understand. It was all very classy, not like the kitschy little mom-and-pop cafes where every little thing about coffee hung on the walls. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for that, but not in the city. You needed a small town in the mountains for that.

God, I can't believe I'm acting like a foolish schoolgirl. I ran my fingers through my hair and nervously played with my coffee cup handle before I took a sip. I just couldn't bring myself to look into the coffee shop owner's eyes. Alex knew me too well. We'd really only talked outside the cafe a few times. One time was when he had saved my life.

I hadn't been able to sleep. Luckily enough, Midnight Mocha is only a block away from my apartment, so I decided to go out and get some coffee. As I was about to get to the door, I was suddenly snatched away and dragged into the alley. My heart was pumping, and I felt the thin blade at my throat. The attacker demanded my wallet, which I didn't have. I just had my phone and my debit card. Somehow, Alex heard the scuffle. He told me later that he had been bringing out the trash. Before I knew it, my assailant was up against the brick wall with Alex holding him by the throat. I stood, stunned, when he threw the would-be thief against the dumpster, knocking the guy's head against the sharp corner. Alex had ushered me into his office and had given me my favorite coffee, trying to calm me down. I don't know what happened to the bad guy after that, but I was forever grateful to Alex for saving my life. I tried to invite him over for dinner, but he always politely declined.

Finally, I was able to meet his eyes. "Drew doesn't know. I called in sick after he left. I needed a day by myself. He means well, but sometimes he can be so suffocating." I thought about my fiance for a moment. We used to have a lot in common, but lately with him and I working so much and him getting obsessed with his cases, we were drifting apart.

"Then why?"

The bell jingling above the door cut him off. I glanced at my watch and realized closing time was upon us. Alex watched as a customer came in. His face transformed from happy coffee shop owner to something a little alien. Everything about Alex's demeanor hardened. Everything I knew about him melted away. I turned slightly, glancing between Alex and the newcomer to observe what was unfolding as I blew steam off my mocha. It didn't seem like the patron desired coffee.

"I told you never to come in here again," Alex growled to the newcomer. His hands were clenched on the counter. He was trying to keep his cool. I didn't know what the hell had happened between the two of them, but it was intense. The air quickly thickened as they looked like two lions circling one another, and I was right in the middle of them.

The customer didn't look like he could cause any harm. His black suit was a little rumpled, but that could have been from riding the subway or the bus. He wasn't out of breath, so he wasn't running off to work. Maybe he worked the night shift. The guy was handsome, athletic. I could see him running in Central Park every day to keep up his physique. Blond crew cut, pale skin, and sharp blue eyes made him of Northern descent. A staring contest ensued between the two men, almost like two predators claiming territory. Oddly enough, for a busy day outside, I was the only one in the coffee shop besides the owner. The blond looked over at me, giving me a smug smile like he knew something I didn't. I made it a point to stare at the wall, pretending to study the decor. I did particularly like one print of a lonely tree reflected in a lake with nothing else around.

"What are you going to do, Alex?" I let my eyes dart to the blond. I was liking him less and less by the second.

"Would you kill me right in front of this petty human?"

Petty human? Am I hearing this guy right? Does he think he's something besides a human being? Hello, this is not a fantasy movie. Alex is not some pointy-eared Martian. I shook my head and tried to keep a straight face as I sipped my coffee.

As I did, I noticed Alex had his dark gaze on me. His jaw hardened. "Roland, I really don't want to do this now. Not in front of her!"

A look of surprise lightened Roland's face, and then a wicked smile flashed across his lips. Alex motioned for me to head out back. Slowly, I began to slide out of my chair and head towards Alex's office, but I never made it more than a few feet. Suddenly, impossibly, Roland had moved across the cafe at an incredible speed. I was seeing things. That was it. There was no way this was happening. His hand was wrapped around my throat, choking me. I dropped my coffee the moment he grabbed me. The cup shattered on the ground. The coffee, mixed with the shards of white porcelain, created a dark brown puddle at my feet. Something sharp pressed against my flesh. I hadn't pegged Roland for carrying a knife. I tried to breathe, but panic had set in as I fought against my attacker. Roland held me tight and was stronger than his frame let on.

"Let her go, Roland," Alex demanded.

My gaze was fixed on Alexander as I let myself give up the fight. He had saved me before. He would do so again. As I watched him, his face slowly changed. His eyes lightened changing from dark brown to pale blue, almost as if he were blind. Two sharp teeth elongated from his canines. Well-kept nails grew long and deadly. I closed my eyes. I was not seeing this. I was not in the middle of a bad horror movie.

"Do you care for her? Is that it, Alex? Did I hit a nerve?" my captor purred. I was getting lightheaded from his grip.

'She's a customer, an innocent bystander. I said. Let her go. This is between you and me! I've already told you. This is my territory. I've had claim to it longer than you."

I tried to breathe, but Roland's grip tightened, squeezing the life out of me. Blackness was descending over my vision. I struggled to stay conscious, but the darkness smothered me more and more. Sending one final thought toward Alex to save me, I gave up struggling and let my consciousness fall into the shadows.


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