CHAPTER 1

Shalott Chase looked down at the ground below her feet. Way, way below her feet. She gulped. This was not part of her idea. It hadn't been a great idea, granted, but it was the only one she had been able to come up with at one o'clock in the morning. Shalott hadn't been sleeping well lately, and her best friend Rosalind had mentioned that sometimes she liked to go sit on the roof of her duplex to clear her mind and think. Figuring that the warm Las Vegas night, with it's subtle breezes, would be more relaxing than her sticky, restless bedroom, Shalott had slipped out. Jimmying the rooftop access door open had proven easier than she'd hoped. The apartment building was old, and the door had been broken open in the past; the lock had been poorly replaced.

The night air had felt lovely, balmy and clear. Shalott had breathed deeply, feeling her mind clear with each lungful. She had stood at the edge of the roof, elbows on the concrete lip, and had looked out. Her apartment tower was in the downtown development area and although newer complexes were all around, Shalott liked the character that the 1960's-era building provided. She was able to see the lights from Fremont Street to her North, and if she turned South she could see the Las Vegas Strip in all it's neon glory. The colors out there called to her, seeming to whisper her name on the breeze. The Technicolor wonderland dared her to let go, to forget all of her fears and stresses and leave everything behind but the pleasures it could offer. Shalott leaned over the edge, her eyes catching the glow of the city and reflecting it back into the night. Before she realized it, Shalott had levered herself up to the lip and was standing at the edge of the apartment rooftop, the tips of her toes millimeters from open air.

She came to her senses when a hot breeze brought the scent of tacos from the cart down the block to her nostrils. Suddenly realizing her death lay 14 stories below, Shalott froze. Her mind raced in a panic, desperately telling her that all she needed to do was hop backward and land the three feet onto the rooftop behind her, but Shalott's body was stiff as a statue. She had finally made up her mind to simply throw herself backward and hope for the best when a voice behind her took the decision away.

"Need a push?"

Shalott gasped and her body lurched. She was on the precipice, teetering forward when a cool hand wrapped itself around her wrist. She screamed, terrified, as she felt gravity begin to take hold. With the full weight of her curvy, 5'9" frame she threw herself backwards. The hand was joined by an arm, wrapping like a band of iron around her abdomen and attempting to balance her, but it was too late. The pull of gravity switched it's hold to her back side and this time it succeeded in pulling her from the apartment ledge. She landed in a heap, and she was not alone. Groaning, she rolled off of her "rescuer" and for the first time, Shalott got a look at the person who had nearly caused her untimely demise.

Long, silver hair surrounded a pale face with vibrant, sea green eyes set in a frame of striking bone structure and smooth skin. A straight nose, high cheekbones and refined jaw left the impression of beauty while remaining somewhat androgynous. A quick glance at his body, however, informed her brain that the intruder was definitely masculine. His chest and arms were lithe and muscular and his waist was narrow, but Shalott could see the abdominal muscles flexing as he rolled to his feet. His voice was also all male; a smooth baritone with a hint of an accent that she couldn't place. It set her already racing heart aflame.

"I saved your life and you nearly broke my neck. Real nice, lady" The mysterious man said angrily.

Cold water doused the flames on Shalott's heart. The tension and fear bubbled over at his reaction and tears started running down her face. Angry at him and at her own stupidity she replied with too much force.

"You're a moron! If you hadn't scared the senses out of me I wouldn't have fallen in the first place!"

His retort was just as strong. "You had no sense to begin with, standing up there like that! Or were you really going to jump?"

Shalott couldn't even reply. She sat down in a heap and let the tears come, feeling weeks of built up stress and anxiety break down the dam she had been using to keep them in place.

Azrael St. Sauveur had moved to the crumbling, smelly apartment building at the behest of his aunt. Millefleur St. Sauveur was a doddering old bat in Azrael's opinion, but she was still the family matriarch and her word was law. Azrael had found himself in trouble with his cousins in Paris and she had brought him here, he supposed, as punishment. Under her thumb for the next six months, running to her beck and call. It had only been one day and Azrael was already desperate for escape. He had been on his way to the elevator when he had noticed that the door leading to the rooftop was ajar.

He had noticed the girl right away; you'd have to be blind not to. She was standing at the literal edge of the building and his finely tuned senses easily picked up the sadness and desperation emanating off of her. What a waste, he had thought to himself. The girl was going to jump and then all of that lovely potential would be gone.

Unfortunately for Azrael, people sometimes just didn't do what he expected of them. The words that he had intended to impart a feeling of camaraderie and lighten the situation actually terrified to young woman so badly she overreacted. Azrael cursed mentally when he realized that she had never intended to jump at all, and he tried to catch her before she fell. She landed on him in an uncomfortable pile of sharp elbows and soft breasts and Azrael couldn't keep his discomfiture out of his voice.

When she yelled back at him, Azrael realized two things. One, she wasn't as young as he had originally estimated (he was exceptionally bad at guessing the age of women). Two, she was the most attractive human he had ever encountered. She was not small, in fact she seemed only a few inches shorter than himself, but she was willowy with curves in all the right places. Her hair was also not quite as long as his, falling mid-back in tangled strands the color of old gold. She had blue eyes, a dark stormy blue that currently shone with her angry tears. Her arms and legs were turned golden by the summer sun, but her face and neck were a mouthwatering peaches and cream. She had the classically beautiful features of a Botticelli painting. Watching her cry, the boiling in his blood began to take shape; it found a focus in the hunger that was quickly growing to match his desire.

"You need to leave."

Shalott looked up when she hear the ground out voice. His words were so rough, she would have believed that they hurt him. She thought she would be afraid but when she caught his eyes, all she saw there was a growing lust that quickly refueled her own internal fire. Still seated, she inched closer to the stranger.

Azrael watched in frustration as she closed the gap between them. He had sworn to his Aunt Millefleur that he would not put himself at risk as he had in Paris, but the hunger held him prisoner. As she got closer, he could smell the scent of her, a sweet musky scent that was like the ripe skin of an exotic fruit. Arousal that was almost pain surged through him and he fell to his knees and took her into his arms. The hunger gained control and Azrael let his fangs extend and pierce the smooth flesh of the column of her throat. Her sweet blood filled his mouth and with it came the knowledge of all that was Shalott.

She was young, only 25, but she believed that she had aged rapidly in the past year. Her father had passed away after a horrifying battle with cancer, leaving Shalott with no other family and few friends. She was just the type of victim he would look for, if this was Paris, but Aunty had been firm - no hunting. So instead Azrael projected back to her pleasure, and erased the memories of this painful night.

Yes - somewhere deep, subconsciously, she had considered jumping. Yes - she felt alone, overwhelmed and scared. No - she didn't want to die, she just wanted the pain of her father's death to leave. Yes - she had found Azrael very attractive.

When he felt her pulse slow and her blood pressure dip, he released her. He was satiated but a strange feeling of restlessness took the place of the hunger inside of him. Azrael picked her up and left the rooftop. He would return her to her own apartment (9E, from her memories) and go into the city. He had fed, but he still had other lusts left unquenched.

Author's Notes

I am trying something new. Yes, I am reusing my character Shalott, but this story is for fun, until I can think of something more creative. I appreciate any feedback, and I hope to update regularly. Thank you for reading!