Did you know that I began my writing career by writing paranormal romance? It's definitely what I consider my roots—and my first love. I grew up reading Christopher Pike, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, so it's only natural that my heart lies with all things spooky.
And now, I feel it is only natural that I return to my first love. Thus, J. Jameson was born.
Come on in and stay for a... bite.
When I decided to jump into the world of serialized fiction, I knew that the vampire romance I'd been thinking about for the past few years was perfect for this venture. So now, my readers will get to read this book AS IT IS WRITTEN, and long before it ever gets published on retail sites. Isn’t that exciting!? You can be here with me throughout the entire process.
I have been uploading STONE PRINCE, Book One of The Vampire's Mistress Series, to Vella and Radish, but for those of you who do not want to read on reading apps, I've decided to share Victor and Grace with you on Patreon!
But first, how about the first three chapters FOR FREE? Read the start of their story, get a feel for Victor and Grace, and if you want more, please consider joining my Patreon.
Tier 2 subscribers will receive 3 chapters of STONE PRINCE per week, plus all the awesome stuff that Tier 1 patrons receive (like free chapters of my works in progress, early cover reveals, and more).
Are you ready? Let’s do this! Read on for the first three chapters...
(And if you're ready to join my Patreon for EXCLUSIVE content, scroll all the way to the bottom and click on the P for Patreon! Easy peasy!)
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Icy wind whips against my face. It seeps its way through the layers of my clothes, settles into my skin, sinks deeply into my bones. Clouds roil above, ominous and gray, like even the heavens have awoken to see this man lowered into the ground. The tempestuous skies remind me of the many reasons I hate this place.
I shouldn’t have come here, but I had to see for myself.
I tighten the scarf around my neck and tug my coat tighter in vain; there’s nothing that can truly keep out the cutting chill of a New England winter.
Not to mention the unrelenting cold of Stone Manor itself. Even in the dead of summer, the atmosphere of the estate and accompanying grounds has always felt hostile and dark to me. The longer I remained here, the harder it became to escape the chill in the air. Even with the sun high in the sky, on a mid-July afternoon, one might still feel the air bite at their skin, seep through their clothes. Thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine. I’m sure it was my imagination, but when I left, I moved to the hottest place I could find—as far west as possible without leaving the states entirely. I slide my hand into my pocket and squeeze the tiny souvenir bottle of sand to remind myself that this cold won’t last, and the warmth of the Southern California sunshine awaits me as soon as I get back on a plane.
I won’t even remain here one night. Arriving this morning with just a small weekender on my arm—essentials and a change of clothing in case of an emergency—I will return to the airport as soon as this service is over, leaving Stone Manor behind me one final, cleansing time.
Inhaling a deep breath through my nose, I focus on the man at the podium, careful not to let my eyes wander to the other mourners. Only one of them matters to me and he’s the last one who should.
I have returned to Stone Manor for one reason and one reason only: to see for myself, with my own eyes, this monster lowered into the ground.
We lower our heads in prayer, and then, finally, the ceremony is over.
The countdown to when I can slip away unnoticed begins.
Mourners stand and make their way to the table of roses, velvety red and perfectly plucked so the buds are tight and clean. By hand, no doubt, even though there are hundreds of them. With money and power comes a kingdom. The words float back into my mind, etched into my memory the way they were etched into the commissioned portrait hung high above the stairwell in the main house.
A portrait of my mother and this man she once loved.
Surely, it’s been replaced by now, updated with the visage of the latest Mrs. Victor Stone, Senior.
I’ll never know, however, as I will not step inside the walls of Stone Manor. I’m simply biding my time until I can slip away and return to the airport.
Gaze lowered, I wait until the soft whispers of those filing in line quiet down. Soon the shuffle of feet resides. The muffled sniffles move further and further away from me as, one by one, each person drops a blood-red rose onto the casket.
With a steadying breath, I gather my strength and rise to my feet, still careful not to look across the plot. Maybe he’s not even there anymore. Maybe he hasn’t seen me.
If only the pull of his gaze didn’t rest so heavily on me, I might believe my own fantasy. Knowing him as well as I do, he felt my presence the second I stepped off the plane. I won’t be able to leave unnoticed, just as there’s no way in hell I arrived unnoticed.
But one can hope.
He’s always known when I was near. The air changes, shifts, becomes charged whenever our bodies are within orbit of one another, as if even the earth wants us together.
And no doubt he expected me to come. He would know I need this closure.
I retrieve a rose from the table and instantly puncture my finger on a thorn. I hiss at the sharp pain, then chuckle softly to myself. Sucking the blood from my skin, I look down into the open grave. It’s poetic that he’s managed to hurt me even after death. When my crimson rose hits the casket, bouncing a few times before settling in with the others, I close my eyes. Among the scars and the broken pieces of my soul, I search for how I feel, but there’s nothing there. Just… emptiness.
I expected to feel something.
Pain. Relief. Anger.
But I’m as numb to this loss as he was to how desperately I wanted him to accept me as his own. A little girl without a father, begging to be loved. The thought tightens a fist around my heart.
Ah. I can still feel.
I take a step back and retrieve my phone from the pocket of my wool trench coat, then attempt to open the rideshare app and my muscles go rigid. No service. Of course there’s no service when I need to get the hell away from here once and for all. I’ll have to walk back to the road. How far is—
I dare to lift my gaze and regret it instantly.
Dark eyes almost stormier than the swirling skies above meet mine from across the open grave. He’s watched me since the moment I arrived, his steady, unrelenting gaze like a thick coat of comfort on my skin, but this is the first time I’ve allowed myself to make eye contact. I knew what looking into those dark seas of midnight would do to me.
My breath stalls in my chest as I take him in.
My knees weaken.
My mouth goes dry.
Anger and desire war within his eyes. I could always read him, always knew exactly what he thought, how he felt, what he wanted.
Heat rushes south as memories of what lies beneath that perfectly tailored three-piece suit flood my mind.
There’s no way I can speak to him. I shouldn’t have come. Yearsand miles away from this man are completely obliterated in his presence, like none of the distance I put between us means a goddamn thing.
The elder Victor Stone may be dead, but his son and namesake is alive and well, and looking at me with so much fire in his gaze I may never be able to move from this spot.
But I can’t stay here for a second longer than I have to.
The risk is too high, the cost too steep.
He told me then that I’d lose my soul if I stayed. That loving a Stone would bring nothing but pain.
So I never looked back.
And now I can’t look away.
When I can finally force my eyes away from his, movement catches my gaze to his immediate left. A woman sits beside Victor. The light to his dark, her blonde hair flows in waves over one shoulder. Her lips are as crimson as the roses decorating the casket in the deep hole between us.
Hard and stoic, she watches me as if she knows exactly who I am.
More specifically, who I am to Victor.
Her eyes narrow for the briefest of seconds, then she whispers something to Victor and stands, leaving him to join a small circle of mourners gathered a few yards away.
When Victor stands slowly, holding my gaze as he fastens a single button on his blazer and drops his tattooed hands to his side, I steel myself with a deep breath. It’s too late to run, and frankly, I don’t think I could if I tried. I hold my head high and wait for him to come to me, smart enough to know that a walk around this perfectly rectangular opening in the earth on these shaky legs could tumble me into the grave with the man I’ve come to see buried—the son of whom now stalks toward me with a predatory look in his eyes that sends a rush of liquid fire through my veins.
Victor is even better than I remember, all hard lines and whispered promises. His black trench coat hangs open, exposing the long, lean hardness of his body. His suit was tailored to fit his frame, made out of the finest dark gray wool I’ve ever laid eyes on. The icy wind catches his cologne and brings it to me, as if I’m not already struggling to keep myself together. All this time and he still smells the same. A disarming blend of musk and vanilla mixed with something that always reminds me of bonfires on the beach…
Forgetting my carefully composed self-control, I breathe him in deeply. Victor’s scent reaches down until it tightens a fist of desire around my belly.
He stops just a foot away from me, close enough to touch if I only dared to reach for him. “Gracie,” he whispers, so softly it’s almost a sigh. “It’s been a long time.”
I swallow, fighting the urge to lose myself in those dark eyes all over again. Eyes that know my very deepest, darkest secrets, my wants, desires, regrets… I left him once and it was the hardest goodbye of my life. Will I be able to say goodbye to him again?
It’s doubtful, but I must.
“Victor…” I can barely say his name without imagining his hands on me, the memories so palpable and real they almost take over me now and drop me to my knees at his feet. “How are you?”
His jaw is tight, clenched like it always was. He hated his father nearly as much as I did. With a snort, he nods to his father’s casket in the ground. “Better than that old bastard.”
“I’m sorry for—”
“Don’t do that.” He frowns, crossing his massive arms over his chest. “Don’t say you’re sorry for my loss.”
A man steps up to us and squeezes Victor’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss, Mr. Stone.” He nods toward the coffin, then glances at me and inclines his head in greeting before returning his attention to Victor. “Your father was a good man.”
A muscle jumps in Victor’s jaw as he reaches out to shake the man’s hand.
His father was anything but good.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Reynolds. I assume we’ll see you back at the estate for bourbon and cigars?”
The man laughs. “Your father wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Gotta honor the old man’s wishes.” Victor’s voice is tight, but the other man doesn’t seem to notice. Victor offers him a tight-lipped smile. “I’ll be there right behind you.”
“Good, good.” The man gives me a curt nod as he turns and walks toward the road.
“Gracie, I… I’m so glad you’re here. We have so much to talk about, so much catching up to do.”
I meet his eyes, even though every time I do so, a new crack forms on my heart. “Please don’t. I didn’t come back here to rehash the past. I needed to…” I avert my eyes, focusing on his shoulder. There’s no way to finish that sentence without sounding cold.
Victor gives one curt nod. “You needed to see for yourself.”
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I look across the grass as the first flakes of snow start to fall. How fitting that it snows the day we put that cold-hearted monster into the ground.
Victor clears his throat, bringing my attention back to him. His dark eyes are softer at the edges as he looks at me. “I have to tell you something, Grace. That woman I’m with—”
“Is none of my business.”
“Victor, honey, are you ready?” Her timing is impeccable, as if her ears rang to alert her to our conversation. I’m not surprised he has a girlfriend. He’s beautiful and dark, virile and masculine, tortured and strong… and now filthy rich. The perfect combo to attract anyone with a set of eyes.
I take a deep breath and look up at her as she approaches. She matches him in height, a good six inches taller than me—even with my heeled black boots. Her hair is so blonde it's almost white, and her eyes are sharp, crystal blue and watching me like a hawk watches prey.
She smiles, but her eyes don’t show even a hint of pleasantry. She either has an incredible botox dealer and her eyes never smile, or she knows who I am and already hates me. Do I tell her I’m not a threat? What happened between us was so long ago. A lifetime. I’m a different person now.
“Who’s this?” She slides her arm through Victor’s, and her body practically lines up to meld with his, like they’ve been perfectly matched, two pieces of a puzzle.
He tenses, but I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that, then motions to me. “This is Gracie”—he clears his throat—“Sorry, Grace. Grace Stone.”
“Stone?” she asks.
I extend my hand. “No, my last name is Glenn.”
Her eyes tighten as she shakes my hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Grace.” She looks back and forth between us, then settles her gaze on Victor. “You said Stone, my love. You didn’t forget to tell me you were married before me, did you?” She chuckles softly but the smile on her lips still doesn’t meet her eyes.
My stomach sinks slowly down to my toes, then slips further into the dirt, settling within the core of the earth. I look up at Victor, fearful of what her words imply even though it’s absolutely none of my business.
I didn’t expect him to be single, waiting for me to return after all these years, but the reality of seeing him with someone else, a wife, brings the pain of leaving him back to the surface, fresh and raw, and threatening to drop me to the ground at their feet.
A muscle in his jaw twitches as he searches my gaze. “We… I… I was trying to tell you…” His brows bunch and he gives his head a subtle shake. “Grace, this is my wife, Rebecca.”
Victor's wife raises her left hand, catching the light on her diamond ring and snapping me out of my stupor. My mind spins, but I force a smile. "It's lovely." I cough, fighting against the emotion tightening my throat. "How long... when did you two get married?"
She grins widely, placing her hand on Victor's chest, staking claim over her husband. "Just last week, actually. Victor's father wanted to be present for the ceremony, so we made sure to speed things up for him." She leans her head on Victor's shoulder, sighing happily as she watches me, then she turns to look up at him. "It was a truly an extravagant event. Your father was so happy that day."
I frown and meet Victor's gaze. Since when would he do anything for his father? I squint, trying to figure him out, but he doesn't give me the answers he must know I'm searching for in his eyes. Ten years apart and he's not the man I remember.
This information makes my heart squeeze with longing, but steels my reserve. I will be able to walk away from him today after all. And that's what I want. To walk away. That's what I do when the Stone Family is involved.
It's the best course of action... and the safest. Because Stone men are anything but safe.
Victor's eyes tighten as he searches my gaze, then he pulls his arm free of his wife's grasp. Placing his hand on her lower back, he motions with his free hand toward the line of cars still at the curb. "May we offer you a ride back to the estate, Grace?"
My gaze flicks to the row of sleek black town cars, then to the long road that leads to the main thoroughfare that leads to town and the airport beyond. This is it. This is my chance to run. A quick goodbye, and I can be at the airport in under an hour, leaving bothVictor Stones in my past where they belong. The one in front of me claimed my heart; the one in the ground tried to crush it. Neither of them has a place in my life now. I should have never come here, but I needed the closure.
With one of them dead and the other one married, it doesn't get more final than that.
And, if I leave now, I can pretend I made a much better decision and never showed up here at all.
But when I look into those dark gray eyes, my brain says run, and my heart says, "I'd love a ride. Thank you."
And now I wait for the world to crumble down around my feet. Because it most certainly will. Nothing good ever comes from saying yes to a Stone.
Victor's wife flashes a saccharine sweet smile. "I'm so pleased you'll be joining us for bourbon and cigars." She pauses, looking at me conspiratorially. "Mr. Stone's wishes, of course." Her phone rings and she raises one slender finger. "If you'll excuse me for just a moment."
As she steps away from us, Victor catches my elbow, keeping me in place. I swallow hard, close my eyes on a long blink, then turn slowly to look up into those hurricane eyes.
Victor holds my gaze for a long moment, then his lips quirk up just slightly to one side. "I'm glad you didn't run."
He's always known me too damn well for my own good—
I pull in a deep breath and give him a curt nod. I won't comment on that last little word. Again. There's no sense in arguing because I did run. Fast and far and without looking back.
Sometimes the princess saves her damn self.
And sometimes she allows herself to be lured back into the lion’s den…