Max LeFevre, known to his fans as Max Fever, is on the hunt for a new mattress. Becoming the Pixie Prince means Max has inherited big gold wings that he must keep hidden. But the wings, and his sudden, unexpected sensitivities, have made it impossible for Max to sleep. His mattress leaves him bruised and that’s a bad thing for a guy who makes his living modeling designer underwear. So when the waiter at Max’s favorite restaurant tells him he knows about a special mattress, Max can’t resist trying it.
Bliss Wilde never expected to meet Max in her own club. The fact that he’s there to try out her mattress doesn’t matter. Watching the big golden pixie roll around on her bed sets her libido on fire. When Max turns up later that night, unable to sleep, Bliss invites him to her bed. During the sexual romp that ensues, Bliss and Max discover they are mates. But they both know people for whom bonding has gone wrong, making them cautious about the process. Still, their desire for each other rages high and with Max getting a new mattress, he figures maybe he should break it in with a bonding.
The Pixie Prince was previously released by another publisher. It has been revised and reedited in this version.
The mattress looked deep and thick and soft. Even the pillow top appeared lusciously thick and poufy. Max LeFevre eyed it skeptically, igniting a minifirestorm in his companion.
“Oh, c’mon, Max. For the love of—” Max’s best friend, Alexa Harte, broke off on a frustrated sigh. “We’ve been looking at mattresses all day. My feet hurt. Can’t you just pick one and be done with it? Why the hell does it have to be just right?”
He arched one brow at Alexa. “Because I’m like Goldilocks,” he murmured, carefully lying on the mattress.
Alexa sat down on the next mattress over and pulled off one high heel, rubbing her tiny foot vigorously. “No, you’re the fucking Princess and the Pea,” she grumbled, shooting a glare at him.
Max chuckled. “That is truer than you know.”
He wriggled around on the mattress, trying to get comfortable. Lying on his side, the mattress was great. It cradled his body softly. But when he turned onto his back, what had felt like a fluffy cloud became a bed of nails. And therein lay his problem. None of the mattresses he’d tried that day were good enough. They’d been to three stores before this one. He’d tried every mattress in each of the stores, searching for the one that would let him lie on his back, to no avail.
“That is a wonderful mattress, sir!” a salesman exclaimed enthusiastically as he strode confidently toward them across the sales floor.
Max winced at the man’s sales-pitch-toned voice. He glanced at his companion. Frowning fiercely, Alexa slammed her high heel on and stood up. She straightened her spine, bringing herself up to her full five feet one inches.
“You can leave. We don’t need a salesman. He’s just gonna try every mattress in this store, and if he finds one that he wants, we’ll come find you so you can have the sale.” She stared defiantly at the salesman, almost daring him to try his sales pitch on them.
Wisely backing down, the salesman threw up his hands. “Sure, lady. No need to go all pit bull on me. I’m Charlie. If he wants to buy a mattress, I’ll be over there.” He gestured vaguely to another part of the store and then took off in that direction, disappearing from view.
Max rolled back onto his side, feeling much more comfortable the moment he did. He propped his head up with one hand, his long hair flowing over his shoulder and down onto the mattress. “Pit bull. Hmm. You know, that’s a pretty good nickname for you, Alexa.” He gazed at her, allowing the corner of his mouth to turn up in a mischievous smile.
She sat back down on the mattress and pulled off her shoe again. “You ever call me that and I’ll deck you, pretty boy.”
Max laughed and rolled onto his back one more time. The mattress was comfy… for about thirty seconds. Then it dug into his back. He rolled to a sitting position and looked over at Alexa. Her eyes widened.
“Not this one too?” she groaned. “It’s the most expensive mattress in this store!”
Max shrugged. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter how much it costs. I just have to be able to lie on my back on it.”
Alexa put her shoe on. “I give up. We’ve been to the best mattress stores in town. No one has a mattress that suits you.”
Before Max could reply, a bright flash startled them both.
Alexa threw her hands up in front of her face. “Argh!” she exclaimed with a grimace.
Max saw the gleam of her fangs for an instant before she retracted them. Being the best friend of a vampire meant he’d gotten used to her fangs dropping every time something startled her. Max knew it to be a defensive mechanism, but other people often didn’t. Luckily, the salesman hadn’t seen them or he really would have thought she was a pit bull.
Alexa peered between her fingers, obviously looking for the poor soul who had been stupid enough to try to take Max’s picture. When she spotted the girl, she stalked over to her.
Max watched the scene in silence, slowly counting to himself. Whenever he and Alexa tried to do normal stuff like shopping, someone inevitably recognized him. Within minutes, a crowd of women would be following them. Eventually, some poor woman would take out a camera or a cell phone and snap a photo of him, sending Alexa into action.
She really is as tenacious and aggressive as a pit bull, he thought, still counting in his head.
At that moment, the scared girl, who stood a full head and shoulders taller than Alexa, handed over her cell phone. Twenty-two seconds. Max thought that might be some kind of record. Usually, Alexa had to argue with the offender a little bit. He watched as his best friend deleted the photo from the phone and handed it back, scolding the girl all the while about taking photos of people who might not want their photo taken.
As Alexa came back toward him, he stood. The crowd of women that had gathered let out a collective sigh of delight. Alexa gave him a sour look. “I’m done. You’ve already tried their best mattress. It’s not good enough, which means nothing here is good enough. Can we just go already?”
Max dropped his arm around her shoulder and steered her toward the door. “Sure. Let me buy you lunch for taking care of the photographer.”
“Steak at the Butcher’s Block,” she said promptly. “Aren’t you lucky I know how to deal with all these yahoos who follow celebs around?”
Max laughed out loud. “Why do you think I picked you to be my best friend?” he teased.
Alexa snorted in disgust. “You picked me? I picked you, buddy. You were nothing but an up-and-coming ass model when I met you.”
Her reference to him being an “ass model” always made him laugh. At the time he’d met Alexa, he’d just gone from being a no-name runway model to the ass that filled out underwear emblazoned with a very famous designer name. He’d been asked to be on a late-night talk show because his ass would be on billboards, bus stops, and print ads around the world. Alexa had been famous at that time for fucking the rock star known as Tremain, who’d been the musical act that night.
They’d been instantly drawn to each other when they’d met backstage in the green room…just not in any sexual way. Discovering that they both had a love of old black-and-white romantic comedy movies, Max had invited Alexa to watch the Thin Man series with him that weekend at his loft. Since Alexa had pretty much been done with Tremain by then, she’d agreed. That had been over five years ago, and she and Max had been best friends ever since.
In those five years, Alexa had dumped Tremain, basically the same week she’d met Max, and he had gone through a couple of semiserious affairs. Neither of them had much interest in having a partner, though. Every time either of them had more than a handful of dates with someone, that someone usually became jealous of their best friend bond. Both Max and Alexa refused to give up their friendship in order to slap the label of “relationship” on what essentially was regular sex with the same person. They’d remained best friends, single and not really looking for anything serious with the opposite sex.
Outside, Alexa put on a pair of dark, wraparound sunglasses and rushed toward the limo waiting at the curb. “Fucking sun,” she muttered as she slid onto the long seat.
Max chuckled. “Quit your bitching. The worst it ever does is give you a sunburn. You’re not the undead, after all.”
The limo pulled away from the curb, and Alexa pulled off the sunglasses, giving him a nasty look. “You know I hate all those Goth horror novels that depict vampires as the undead. Why’d you have to bring them up when you know they annoy me?”
“Cause I like it when you get all pissy. Your eyes shoot purple sparks at me.” Max wiggled his eyebrows at her, hoping to make her laugh. He knew quite well that Alexa hated any reference to vampires being undead. Ever since some crazy woman writer had published a whole series of books depicting vampires that way, Alexa had been really touchy about the subject.
She shot him a venomous glare and then gazed out the window. “People know quite well that vampires are just another species. There are no undead, yet everyone wants to be one now because of those stupid books,” she said in a low, angry tone. “It’s trendy and popular to run around with white makeup, red lipstick, fake fangs, and two fake red holes dripping fake blood down the side of your neck.”
Alexa crossed her arms over her chest, emphasizing her big breasts, as she continued her rant. “It’s demeaning to real vampires. And it’s annoying. Instead of the daytime talk shows focusing on interracial relationships between vampires and other species, they’re doing shows on the phenomenon of the undead. We’re a very old, venerated race, and these books have made a mockery of us.”
Max bit back a sigh. He truly felt bad for Alexa. He understood her point, but he also thought she was just a little too touchy about the subject. He figured it harked back to her relationship with Tremain, who’d been a fan of those books before they’d become popular.
Tremain, a real Acerbian vampire like Alexa, had opted to use the undead persona as his performance shtick. Angsty teens and obsessed women flocked to his shows. As his popularity grew, he began talking about the books he loved, and his fans rushed to emulate him. Suddenly, the books became just as popular as Tremain, and the whole undead trend was born. And Alexa had gotten really uptight about it.
The limo pulled up at Butcher’s Block, and Max jumped out, holding out his hand for Alexa, who hid behind her sunglasses again. Inside, the hostess led them to their usual table in the corner. A waiter came toward them and set a Manhattan in front of Max and a Pear Martini in front of Alexa.
They both gazed up at him. Young and handsome in a brash sort of way, his eyes twinkled at them with good humor.
Alexa smiled. “Hi, Marty! How are you?”
“I’m still breathing and still not interested in being the undead,” he replied with a grin.
“Good. It’s always better to be a living, breathing being. Trust me on this.” Alexa’s dark head dipped in an emphatic nod.
“She’s like a broken record on that topic today. Good to see ya, Marty.” Max grinned at the waiter.
“Good to see you too, Max. How’s your ass?” Marty’s emerald eyes danced with laughter.
“Worth a couple mil according to the insurance company,” Max quipped. He waved off the menus Marty started to hand him. “Just the usual for us. No surprises. It’s been a long day of shopping.”
Marty started scribbling on a pad. “What did you buy?”
Alexa growled a little, rolling her eyes in true snark fashion. “Nothing. The Prince here couldn’t find a mattress to suit him.”
Marty looked at Max in surprise. “You were shopping for a mattress? Aren’t they all kinda the same?”
Max sighed. No one understood his dilemma. “No. They aren’t all the same. I need something softer than the usual mattress. I just can’t seem to find anything that will work.”
Marty looked thoughtful for a moment; then he said, “Lemme think about that while I turn in your order.”
Alexa blinked, the expression on her face priceless. Max’s lips quirked. Once Marty strode out of earshot they both started laughing.
“That would be the weirdest thing ever, Maxie. Our waiter solving your sleep issue.” Alexa wheezed as she tried to stop laughing.
Taking a deep breath to push the laughter down, Max shook his head and reached for his drink. “I don’t care who solves it, as long as it gets solved.”
“I just don’t get why it’s so important.” Alexa rubbed her finger down the stem of the glass.
Max couldn’t explain it to her in a public place so he made light of the situation. “It’s important because I never get to be on the bottom.”
Alexa choked on her drink. “Max, you’re not even seeing anyone.”
He gave her an arch look. “If I meet someone today, I don’t get to be on the bottom.”
She rolled her eyes and groaned. “You’re incorrigible,” she muttered.
Marty returned with fresh drinks for them. “You know, Max, I may have something different for you to try. I’ll make a phone call and let you know.”
They stared at Marty’s departing back, then stared at each other blankly.
“Now, that’s just weird,” Max said, as he reached for his new Manhattan.
Alex gazed at him thoughtfully, still fiddling with the stem of her martini glass. “This whole thing is weird. I’ve known you five years, Max. You’ve never had an issue with a mattress or sleep in all the time I’ve known you. Why now?”
Max looked around at the crowded restaurant. He couldn’t tell her here. Someone might overhear. “Let’s just say I inherited something that’s causing a problem.”
Alexa’s dark violet eyes narrowed. “Inherited?” she asked softly.
He fidgeted in his seat, which caused her to gaze at him even more suspiciously. “Um, you know that little minivacation I just got back from?”
She gave him a clipped nod.
“Well, I… uh, had to go home. My dad decided to retire.”
Alexa’s perfectly arched brows shot up. “Pixies retire?”
Max fidgeted some more. Ever since he’d gotten the call to come home, he’d wanted to tell Alexa the truth. However, the subject of his heritage made him nervous. He constantly feared blurting out something he shouldn’t in public, only to find it splashed across the tabloids the next day.
“Well, you could call it retiring,” he said in a low voice. “I think the spirits play golf in the Afterworld.”
His best friend’s beautiful eyes widened until her whole face seemed to be all eyes. “Holy shit! Your dad died?” she whispered in shock.
He nodded, looking around the room casually, trying to see if anyone was listening in on their conversation. “Yeah. So I kinda inherited the title and…other crap,” he muttered.
Alexa started to grin. Then she began to chuckle. Finally, she muffled her laughter behind her slender fingers. “Oh my God. You’re the Pixie Prince now!”
“Shh!” Max frowned at her. “I get enough attention as it is without this getting out and making it worse!”
Above her fingers, Alex’s eyes danced with delighted laughter. “Does this mean you have the big golden…?”
He nodded, grimacing. “Yesssss,” he hissed. “And worse than that, now I’ve got a sensitivity to things that never bothered me before.”
Alexa swished the pear slice in her drink, then raised the glass to her mouth to lick at the sugared rim. Max’s eyes gleamed with amusement as he watched all the men seated nearby stare at her with unabashed lust. The dining room of the Butcher Block always had a slightly cool temperature in deference to the different species of the Darkworld that it catered to, so the front of Alexa’s thin silk shirt showed the outline of her rock-hard nipples. With those pebbled nipples and her agile pink tongue on display, Max knew more than one man had to adjust himself beneath the table.
Max had grown used to men staring at Alexa. A tiny thing with a fragile appearance, weighing in at about ninety-seven pounds, all big violet eyes in a piquant face and blessed with a set of lush, full breasts that turned even the coldest of men into drooling idiots, Alexa drew eyes everywhere she went. Men usually made the mistake of thinking her a brainless bimbo because of those big breasts, when in fact she had the most brilliant mind of anyone he’d ever met. She also had a razor-sharp tongue that could rip a person to shreds metaphorically in just a few seconds, not to mention the pointed fangs that could do it literally.
The combination of sex-kitten looks and a mind like a Wall Street shark usually meant that Alexa didn’t have boyfriends. Men either didn’t approach her because they thought she was a bimbo, or they did approach her because they thought she was a bimbo. She sent the ones that hit on her packing the instant they pulled the “Hey, baby” routine on her.
“Stuff that didn’t bother you before? Like what?” she asked, setting her glass down. “Mattresses?”
Max knew Alexa well, so he understood she was well aware of the men in the room staring at her nipples. In a very Alexa-like way she pointedly—he chuckled to himself over the pun—ignored them. He shook his head.
“I don’t have a sensitivity to mattresses per se,” he replied guardedly. “Don’t you remember your fairy tales?”
“Which one?” She arched a brow at him, then suddenly must have remembered their conversation in the mattress store. Her eyes widened. “Well, shit. If you’re the Prince and the Pea, how the hell are you ever gonna have sex again?”
He shrugged, resisting the urge to squirm in his seat again. “Why do you think I’m mattress hunting? Nothing is comfortable anymore. I feel everything,” he grumbled, finishing his second Manhattan. “I’m told that the sensitivity wears off. It’s just because the inheritance is new. Eventually, I’ll get used to the big golden…you know…and to feeling like everything is bigger, louder, harder, brighter.”
Alexa sat back in her chair, apparently stunned by his revelation. “So all of your senses are more acute now?”
He nodded, and she smiled slyly at him. “Well, bigger and harder aren’t necessarily a bad thing,” she murmured, smothering laughter.
He opened his mouth to whip out a witty retort but snapped it shut when his sensitive hearing noted footsteps approaching. He didn’t turn, but instead focused on Alexa, who blinked and peered around him, her eyes brightening in anticipation. He finally glanced over his shoulder to find Marty coming toward them with a laden tray. The waiter placed a platter of rare filet mignon wrapped in bacon and drizzled with bleu cheese crumbles, sautéed mushrooms, and French fried onion strings in front of Alexa. Then he set a huge bowl of hot wings in front of Max.
“Suicide wings, drumettes only, right?” Marty asked with a grin.
Max nodded, his mouth and eyes watering at the vinegar and hot sauce scent of the wings.
Alexa made a face. “I bet he’s the only customer you have that eats three orders of appetizers for lunch, right?”
Marty chuckled and picked up their empty drink glasses, setting fresh ones in front of them. “He’s the only one who can eat the double suicide ones. They’re too hot for anyone else,” he grinned. “And you’re a fine one to talk. You’re the only Acerbian I know who has to have the big dinner steak for lunch.”
“I have to fill up the empty space behind my boobs,” she snarked, cutting into the steak. “Men always think I’m heartless.”
“When you’re done eating, I’ll be back with your desserts and the information on the mattress.” Marty flashed a grin and disappeared into the crowded room.
By the time they finished eating, Marty returned with coffee, a crème brûlée, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce. Alexa’s eyes glowed when she saw the crème brûlée.
“Oh, baby, come to mama,” she sighed as Marty set the deep oversized ramekin in front of her.
As he poured the coffee, Marty told them about the mattress. “I know this woman with a space mattress, not a memory foam, some other weird stuff made for the space program. They’re starting to sell mattresses made of it now. It molds to your body, and it feels like you’re lying on a cloud, but it doesn’t get all hot like memory foam.”
Max perked up, ignoring his ice cream. “Have you slept on it?”
“Yeah.” Marty set the coffee carafe on the table. “Had to work a double shift once after pulling an all-nighter. The boss gave me ninety minutes for a lunch break. I went next door to hang out, and Bliss let me take a nap in her bed. It’s amazing.”
“Bliss?” Alexa’s voice turned sharp. “Is she some kinda hooker or something? They all have names like Bambi or Bliss or Desiree.”
Marty looked affronted. “Bliss isn’t a hooker. She owns the club next door. Carpe Noctem. You’re Acerbian. I’m surprised you don’t know her.”
Alexa’s lip curled derisively. “So not a club girl,” she said and cracked the top of her crème brûlée with a spoon. “Besides, there are a lot of Acerbians in this world. We don’t all know each other.”
Strike one for Marty, Max thought. Since her breakup with Tremain, Alexa stayed far away from clubs and the rock-star life. Max figured Alexa had to know about Carpe Noctem; everyone knew of it because of its wild popularity as a dance club, but he doubted she’d ever set foot in the place.
“Her brothers own Wilde Racing.”
Marty’s words dropped into the momentary silence, and Alexa stiffened. Max bit back a sigh. Strike two for the waiter. He had to know Alexa’s background. The whole world did.
Years before, Alexa had been bonded to a human, her mate. Ian had been a race-car driver who had died in a fiery crash at the Nürburgring in Germany. No one could understand why she had survived the death of her bonded mate. Usually, vampires didn’t. But one thing Max knew for sure, while Alexa might dislike nightclubs, she sure as hell hated auto racing.
“Don’t give a flying fuck what they own,” she muttered, refusing to look up from her dessert.
Max opened his mouth to smooth things over and bring the conversation back to the mattress, which he was dying to know about anyway, when Marty said, “Rumor has it Olivier Wilde lost his bonded mate too…just like you.”
Alexa’s head snapped up, and her dark violet eyes speared the waiter. To give the guy his due, he didn’t back down an inch. He just stared right back at her, calm and unblinking.
“Bullshit,” she rasped.
Marty shook his head. “I don’t think so, Alexa,” he replied in an oddly gentle voice. Then pointedly, he looked away from her and turned his gaze on Max. “When you’re done, I’ll take my break and introduce you to Bliss. I’m sure she’ll let you try the mattress and tell you where she got it.”
After Marty left, Max looked at Alexa apologetically. “I’m sorry. I really need to see this mattress,” he said softly.
She pushed away her half-eaten dessert, something he’d never seen her do with crème brûlée before. It spoke volumes about the depth of her distress.
“I know. It’s okay, Max. We’ll go see the mattress. You lie on it and see if it suits. If it does, she tells you where she got it, and we leave. Ten minutes tops, right?”
The slight quaver in her voice made Max feel like a schmuck. “Ten minutes tops,” he promised.
Alexa let out a sigh. Her violet eyes met his, awash in held back tears. “I’m sorry. You know how I hate reminders that my life is a big, black, sucking hole.”
Not for the first time, Max wondered why Alexa had survived. Her goddess must have something in mind for her to have saved her when her mate died. However, almost thirty years had passed, and what that something was had never been revealed. The mystery intrigued Max in part because he wanted Alexa to be happy.
Marty had made such a point of bringing up the Wilde brothers that Max grew suspicious. Their peculiar waiter knew something they didn’t, and that aroused Max’s natural curiosity. Not that it mattered. He needed to check out the mattress, and despite his best friend’s discomfort, he was going to Carpe Noctem to do it.