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Harker's Journey
Book 1: Dalakis Passion
by N.J. Walters

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From the first moment Johanna Harker read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, her life changed forever. The book unleashed an obsession with vampires that was all the more compelling for the intensely erotic dreams that filled her nights. It wasn’t long before she was consumed with thoughts of the dark creature who returned to ravish her in her dreams again and again.

Abandoning any hope of finding a flesh-and-blood man who can fulfill her, Johanna resigns herself to pouring all her energies into her demanding job by day and her enthralling fantasies by night. But when her job takes her to the fabled Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania to meet her company’s largest client, she’s suddenly overcome by the thrilling sensual promise of the secretive and demanding Cristofor Dalakis, the very man who’s been haunting her dreams.

But Cristofor, the enigmatic and formidable patriarch of the Dalakis family, is harboring a dark family secret and makes it clear he will use his every skill to seduce and possess Johanna. And as Johanna realizes that her every fantasy may come true, she also makes the haunting discovery that it may come at a terrible price.

This is a revised edition of a previous published book.

Excerpt from Harker's Journey
©2005 & 2017 N.J. Walters

Johanna smoothed her hair back and prayed she didn’t have dirt on her face. Her makeup bag, which contained her compact and lipstick, was sitting back on the dresser in her room at the inn. She’d forgotten to transfer it to her briefcase. She never carried a purse when she was working. Men easily accepted a briefcase, but a purse only served to remind them that she was a woman.

Satisfied that she’d done all she could to repair her appearance, Johanna took a deep breath and slowly released it. She picked up her bag, got a good grip on it and squared her shoulders. She was as ready as she’d ever be to meet her reclusive new client.

An impressive brass knocker in the shape of a wolf’s head was set in the middle of the door. It was larger than her hand and was both scary and beautiful. She reached out and ran her fingers over the wolf’s head before she lifted the sculpted door knocker and let it fall. It made a loud, metallic bang when it hit the brass plate beneath it.

Johanna took a step back and waited, and waited and waited.

When no one answered, she decided they probably hadn’t heard her. The place was huge, an actual castle. No telling where the staff was. She figured more drastic measures were called for and banged on the thick wood panel with her fist. Five minutes later, she was still banging, but now she was yelling as well. “Hello! Anyone home?”

Her nervousness increased at the sun sank lower in the sky and shadows crept across the courtyard. She did not want to have to try to find her way back to the inn after dark. There were wolves and bears and who knew what other kinds of animals in the woods. If someone didn’t answer soon, she was going to try to find another way in, even if she had to crawl through a window. She was getting desperate.

The sun was just disappearing behind the mountains when she finally heard the clicking of a set of locks being turned. “It’s about time,” she muttered with relief. Now that she knew someone was home, she could admit to herself just how scared she’d been at the thought of having to tromp through the countryside on her own after dark.

The huge door opened slowly, the metallic creaking of the hinges sounding like something out of a bad movie. The light was dim and she couldn’t see anyone there. She squinted and could make out a stone wall and an old wooden bench just inside the entryway, but she still didn’t see anyone.

This was getting ridiculous. Enough was enough. She boldly stepped over the threshold and recited her favorite lines from Stoker’s book as she did so. “‘Enter freely and of your own will! Come freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring!’”

There was no one standing behind the door, and she still believed she was alone until a deep voice came out of the darkness. “Surely it’s not as bad as that? This is not Dracula’s castle, but Dalakis Castle. We are much more civilized here.”

Heat crept up her cheeks and Johanna decided that her only option was to brazen it out. Tilting her chin up, she summoned her most professional voice. “Johanna Harker from the Baxter Corporation to see Mr. Dalakis.”

Inwardly, she was thankful that it was only the butler, or whatever his title was, who had heard her. Hopefully, she’d have her papers signed and be out of here before Mr. Dalakis heard about her little opening speech.

“It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Cristofor Dalakis.” A tall, dark figure separated itself from the shadows and started toward her.

Johanna wished the floor would open up and swallow her whole. This was not only embarrassing but could also have a lasting impact on her career if Mr. Dalakis reported her less-than-professional behavior to her bosses.

She shifted her briefcase to her left hand and stuck out her right one, hoping to salvage the situation. “I’m sorry, Mr. Dalakis—” she began, but he interrupted her.

“Call me Cris.” The rich tone of his voice sent her senses reeling before his words registered in her brain. His heavy accent was very familiar. Her heart began to gallop and it got hard to breathe. She watched in growing horror as the man from her dreams coalesced in the light of the full moon flooding the entrance.

Her briefcase fell from her nerveless fingers and hit the floor with a heavy thud. Shaking her head, she tried to deny the evidence in front of her. It had to be a trick of the light. Her thoughts whirled and her brain frantically searched for a logical explanation as she watched him getting closer. Blinking, she tried to clear her fading vision, but it was no use. Her skin grew clammy and her stomach lurched.

He was real. It was her last thought before she felt darkness overtake her.