Authors: Gina Rosavin
He said nothing, and when she raised her head again, he held her shawl for her. She turned and he wrapped it around her, his arms coming around to enfold her in his embrace. For just a few moments, but she wished it had lasted longer. She turned to face him.
"Please understand." She reached up and placed her hand on his chest. His own hand came up and enfolded her fingers within his.
"I am trying. But you have no idea how…intoxicating you are. Good night, Kat. Sleep well." He pressed a soft kiss to her lips and stepped away. Before her eyes, he disappeared in a shower of golden light. She turned and walked up the steps and out of the castle to the waiting limousine, her legs unsteady and her heart racing as her thoughts replayed the events of the evening.
* * *
Adrian tugged at his tie, finally tearing it open. He was in a painful state, his unfulfilled desire still at fever pitch. Damn her! He'd been so sure she would finally give in and give herself to him. So close. He'd been so close. He ripped off his jacket and tossed it to the floor, quickly followed by his tie. With his shirt open, he stood before the window. He pushed the pane out and breathed deeply of the night air, savoring the deep seductive scent of the darkness. The only way to calm himself now would be to hunt.
Within moments, he soared out of the window, his raven's eye gazing at the city nestled at the foot of the mountain. He came to rest in the forest lining the road leading to the castle.
He transformed once again, his teeth extending as he reached full vampire state. He sensed humans nearby, and silently crept toward the beating hearts giving away his victims' location. A young girl saying goodnight to her beau. Adrian stood in the shadows as the young couple kissed and giggled, the boy reaching to try and get something more from the innocent encounter. But soon enough, the girl disappeared into her home, and the boy turned down the street.
He never had a chance to resist, as Adrian pulled him into a darkened alley. The boy's eyes barely had a moment to widen in fear before Adrian plunged his fangs into the soft, warm flesh. The hot, thick liquid ran down his throat, and the added hormones from the boy's recent encounter added to its sweetness. The boy slumped in his arms, and his heartbeat slowed.
Sated, Adrian stood, lowering the limp form in his arms. He let his tongue catch a stray drop from his lower lip as he ran his hands through his hair, leaving his victim sleeping in the alley. He turned and disappeared down the street. The boy would remember nothing, and someday, if the need would ever arise, Adrian had another servant bound to him. He smiled. There were other pleasures to be had in the night, and he fully intended to enjoy them.
* * *
Katerina stared as the taillights of the limousine disappeared into the darkness. She was still too wound up to simply go inside, so she strolled down the sidewalk, to the park at the end of the street. She paused at the entrance. Entering alone wouldn't be wise, not at this time of night. Hesitantly, she turned back toward her home.
She sighed. How easy it would have been to let Adrian seduce her tonight. What had stopped her? She didn't know. The time was not right. Not yet. There was no longer any doubt she would give herself to him. She didn't have any resistance left, and to be truthful, she didn't want to resist any more.
Even now, her body still warmed at the recollection of his touch. Despite all her doubts, nothing in her life had ever felt more right than being in his arms. God help her, it was where she wanted to be.
She reached her door, and opened her purse to take out her keys. A movement in the shadows drew her attention. She stepped toward it, then stopped short. Sitting on the sidewalk, staring at her with large, golden eyes, was a black wolf. He was perfectly still, almost as if he were a statue carved of marble. His sleek coat glinted in the moonlight, the cool night breeze ruffling his fur.
He watched her intently, then slowly stood and took one step toward her, stopping when she stiffened. Once again, he neared, and she took a deep breath. But he did not threaten in any way.
Katerina remained motionless as he came beside her, sniffed her hand, then rubbed his head against her. Surprised, she remained still, her heart racing in excitement and wariness. He nuzzled her again, and she stroked him, marveling at the silky fur. The animal drew away, and once more watched her before turning and disappearing into the darkness. For several moments, Katerina stared after him, puzzled and exhilarated by the encounter, which capped an already unbelievable night. She finally turned and let herself into the house, and up to her flat.
* * *
Adrian paced the great hall. He shouldn't have appeared to Kat. What had he been thinking? When he saw her alone on the darkened street, he hadn't been able to resist. At first, he meant to confront her, tell her how foolish she was for placing herself in such danger. Then she turned back home, and he used his superior speed and agility to arrive there before her.
She hadn't recognized him.
She hadn't been afraid of his wolf form. Wary, hesitant, but not frightened. The thought pleased him. One more interesting facet which made up the jewel that was Katerina. He wondered how she would have reacted if he had transformed before her. Imagining it brought forth a chuckle.
"Do you find something amusing, du Lac?"
He spun about. Niccolo Machiavelli leaned against the doorway. How had he not noticed the presence of his former friend? The surge of anger was hard to keep at bay, but he managed to maintain his outward sense of calm. He folded his arms.
"Niccolo. I heard rumors you might be in the neighborhood. I didn't expect you to be daring enough to encroach upon my territory."
Niccolo smiled, his dark eyes filled with hatred, his tall, lean frame casting an eerie shadow on the wall. "You never did expect anything of me. You always thought of me as beneath you. How many times did I have to listen to your low opinion? True, you've always been stronger than I am, but not anymore. I've found your weakness. And I will use it to take you down."
Adrian smiled, and fought back a laugh. "Greater creatures than you have tried and failed. You have no idea what you are up against."
"I own Machenicco Corporation."
Adrian stared, his eyes narrowing. It could not be! During the recent proceedings he began against Eurocom, Machenicco had made an attempt to out-maneuver him. So far, Adrian had managed to hold the aggressive company off, but today he received word of a hostile takeover attempt of one of his Swiss banks. By Machenicco Corporation, the same company which had failed in a hard-fought and bitter attempt to gain control of one of Adrian's chemical processing holdings in Russia just weeks earlier.
Machiavelli was making a concerted effort to gain control of companies key to du Lac's success. All the steady progress Adrian had made in the last several years would be undone if he didn't stop the attack. He suspected the wily Italian vampire had more in mind. He narrowed his eyes. "Why are you here? We both know you've been unsuccessful. As you will always be."
"Don't be so sure, du Lac. I thought it was time to let you know who you're dealing with. You will not be the victor this time."
"You've failed in the past, you will do so again. You may go now."
A cold and heartless smile glimmered. Adrian returned it.
"Du Lac, you are making this more enjoyable for me. I can't wait to see you when I finally crush you."
"What makes you think this time will be any different?" "Because I have been keeping a close watch on you. I now have something I can use to ensure my success."
Adrian adjusted his sleeve and lifted his chin. "I doubt that." Niccolo leaned closer. "A certain witch seems to be spending quite a bit of time in your company."
The fury, which rose at the mention of Kat, brought him immediately into full vampire state. He reached for Machiavelli, lifting the Italian easily. Instantly, the other's clawed fingers were at his throat. Adrian held him off with superior strength, baring his fangs with a loud predatory growl. Machiavelli hissed in return, but his struggles weakened as Adrian's hand clamped around his throat. With a roar of outrage, du Lac tossed his nemesis to the floor. He advanced slowly, ready to pounce and destroy the creature of his own making, once and for all. But when the Italian rose to his feet, he held a long stake in his hand. Adrian let his lips curl over his fangs in a mocking sneer. He held his hand out, beckoning Machiavelli to attack.
Katerina sipped her tea, her thoughts awhirl with the events of the night. She replayed her evening with Adrian, wishing she could overcome her fear and let him close. If only he were a mortal man, then the fear of him attacking her wouldn't be there. But if he were a mortal man, she knew she wouldn't feel this way. Part of what intrigued her was the fact he was a vampire. A dangerous creature of the night. A shiver passed along her spine. Yet, he had never done anything to harm her. He'd been charming and witty and when he kissed her, she could almost forget the world existed. She wanted him, no, she ached for him. Then why did she keep refusing? After the last time, he seemed so angry. She couldn't blame him. Why had she turned him away? She was the moth and he the deadly flame, enticing her to a dance to the death. Why did she suddenly want to die a glorious, explosive death in his arms?
When he bade her good night, she read the annoyance in his eyes. Had she pushed him too far? Had he read her thoughts and known she feared he would kill her? Worse, did he know she feared more falling in love with him? She was halfway there already. When he looked at her as though she were all that mattered in the world, she was giddy with excitement. It was a good thing she had turned down his job offer. Being near him all day would wreak havoc on her. In the last months, she had established herself as a tough negotiator who got results. Revenues were up at KNT, and she had been a large part of that. She would never have been able to perform at her best if she had to worry about Adrian always being around.
She imagined him coming up behind her in her office, locking the door and sweeping her desk free of clutter before he laid her upon it and…she shook her head. This was getting her nowhere. What was she thinking, mooning over a vampire?
As he had pointed out, he was also a man. A very tempting man, charming, attuned to her every desire. His steady seduction eroded her defenses. She couldn't fight him forever. She knew once she gave in, it would be unlike anything she'd ever known. How she knew that, she wasn't sure, she just believed it.
She paced the living room of her tiny apartment, wishing briefly she had stayed with her parents, for being alone with her racing thoughts was driving her insane. Yet, she knew that would not have helped. Her parents' presence would probably have made all the turmoil worse. Fifteen years in the States had changed her in so many ways. She was not the simple girl who had left the mountains of her homeland for the shiny and noisy USA, with its wonderful freedom and variety of life.
She thought when she finished school, she would finally be her own person. She returned home, determined to face the man who was responsible for her success and be free of him.
How differently things had turned out. Now, slowly drawn even further into his web, she wasn't sure she wanted to escape. What did he really want? Could she truly trust him? He had assured her many times she was in no danger from him. Still… Doubts rose once more. One thing she was certain of, he wanted her, but as a woman, or as a meal? So far, he'd stood by his word. But every so often, he'd been tense, and there had been a frightening hunger in his eyes. His control was admirable, but would there ever come a time when he had none? Would her greatest fear become a reality?
Forcing her thoughts away from him, she recalled the strange encounter with the black wolf. How odd she had felt no threat from the animal, even though she knew it could rip her throat out if it had attacked. The beast had been strangely tame. When it rubbed its head against her, she felt as if the creature sought her affection.
A knock at the door drew her from her thoughts, and it was all she could do not to run to it. Had he come for her? She wanted to find him on the other side. She yanked the door open, utterly disappointed to find herself face to face with a young woman. Katerina recognized her. Sophie. The one who had tried to kill Adrian.
"Ms. Romanov?" she asked.
"What do you want?" Katerina eyed the dark-haired young woman warily.
"I came because…it's du Lac."
Katerina's heart pounded, though she forced herself to remain outwardly calm. "What about him?"
Katerina's fingers clenched as panic rose in her throat. "You stupid fool, what did you do to him?"
"I-I didn't do anything. But Machiavelli found him. He's been wounded."
Katerina swallowed the lump of fear. "Is he…will he…"
"He says he'll be fine. He's been staked."