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Authors: Gina Rosavin

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BOOK: The Taste of Magic
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He shrugged. Anticipating what was coming, he played along. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

 

"I know what you are."

 

That knowledge would make her seduction more difficult, but he was up for the extra challenge. "Really? And what would that be, Kat?"

 

He felt a twinge of satisfaction at the way she flinched. She leaned forward. "No one calls me Kat. My name is Katerina."

 

He decided then and there he wouldn't call her anything else. "You were saying…Kat?" A sense of triumph swept over him when she didn't respond to the deliberate taunt. Her eyes flashed with annoyance before she once again composed herself. Subduing her fiery nature was clearly a struggle. Perhaps here was a way to get to her. He forced himself to focus on her words. "Mr. du Lac, I'm determined to see every penny you spent on me is repaid. Then you will release my father from your service. Though he receives a substantial salary from du Lac Enterprises, I know his actual duties are not managing your Financial Advisory department."

 

"You believe so? Your father has contributed to much of du Lac Enterprises' profits in the last fifteen years. His particular…skills are greatly needed, and appreciated, by the company."

 

"Skills? Don't you mean his magic, his ability to cast good fortune your way?"

 

"Your father is a valuable asset. I assure you, should he choose to…depart his position, I would not oppose him." He knew Dimitri would never retire, would always remain loyal, despite whatever arrangements Adrian might make with Katerina.

 

She arched an eyebrow, her lips pursed in annoyance. "Really? Then you deny you use him for…unethical dealings."

 

He smiled, but let no emotion show. She was smart. He wouldn't be able to outwit her as easily as he'd anticipated, not without taking her blood. How much did she know about her father's responsibilities? "Kat, I am shocked you would accuse me of such things. Your father chooses to work for me. If you object, I'm afraid you're talking to the wrong man. You should speak with him."

 

"I already have." She opened her briefcase and took out a large envelope. Disappointed, he realized he'd half-hoped she would pull out a stake or a bottle of holy water. Such a confrontation would have been exhilarating. Instead, she placed the envelope in front of him.

 

"Since you wouldn't accept my check the other night, consider this a down payment on my father's freedom."

 

He opened the envelope and peered inside. Three folders. He removed them and glanced at the names of several major international corporations before tossing them to the desk.

 

"Really, Kat, what am I supposed to do with these?"

 

She stiffened at his continued use of the nickname, but again did not protest. "I scrimped and saved any extra money not used on living expenses the past few years. What I saved, I invested. And made some wise choices, as you'll see. I'd say it's enough to cover boarding school through the high school years."

 

He arched an eyebrow and nodded. "I'm impressed. But really, you should share this with your family."

 

"No, it's for you. You'll have the rest by the end of the year. You can suggest to my father he take an early retirement. Then, I want your word you'll leave my family alone."

 

He stood and walked around the desk, stopping beside her chair. He leaned over her. "You are very brave to make such demands. Now, I have a demand of my own."

 

Katerina stared at him, hoping she still maintained her outward bravado. Truth be told, she was terrified. She had no magic like her parents to protect her. He could destroy her in an instant for her boldness, but it was a risk she had to take.

 

At the same time, the man was devilishly handsome, and she couldn't deny his sensual appeal. Even long ago, when she'd barely been past her twelfth birthday, she'd noticed. The memories were clear, etched in her mind as if it had happened yesterday. He'd come to her parents' home, and soon afterward, she'd been sent off to school.

 

Now, after years of adolescent recollections and imaginings about what it would be like to face him, she was in his office, and he leaned over her, his mouth beside her ear. The spice in his cologne intoxicated her. How could she act like a cold-hearted businesswoman when he was so near? No man had ever affected her like this before. But he was no ordinary man. What was he going to ask of her?

 

"You will have dinner with me tonight."

 

No, she couldn't! Even as she shook her head, her mind screamed to accept. His fingers slid along her jaw and turned her to face him. His touch was cool, but ignited sparks of fire within her. She met his crystal blue gaze, willing her heart to stop pounding so hard.

 

"Yes, Kat. We will dine together at my castle."

 

She couldn't resist. His hypnotic voice echoed in her mind, his words laced with a hint of some strange accent, and an almost medieval manner of speaking. How old was he, anyway? Even as the thought fluttered through, she found herself nodding in response. All rational thought had fled. The only thing she wanted was to hear him speak again in his silky voice, which caused delightful vibrations in her belly.

 

"I'll send a car for you. Be ready at seven."

 

She nodded again and stood, her gaze still locked with his. "I'll be ready." He turned away, and she felt as though she'd been suddenly released from some sort of restraint. With his hand at the small of her back, he guided her to the door. Her legs felt strangely unsteady. She prayed she wouldn't trip in front of him as they made their way to the door. She paused and turned back to him, her mind jumbled with confusion. What had just happened?

 

"I…"

 

He placed a finger on her lips. The touch made her knees weaken. "I'll see you tonight. We'll discuss my other terms then." Then she stood outside his office, aware his assistant watched her with curiosity. She cleared her throat and strode to the elevator, conscious of the fact she had not gotten him to agree to anything.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

As she drove down the narrow cobbled streets of Reimherburg, Katerina mentally berated herself. Her meeting with du Lac had not gone at all like she intended.

 

How could she have agreed to dinner with him? At his castle, no less. When she stopped for a red light, she let her gaze wander to the mountain at the edge of town. Sitting atop it was a tall stone fortress, its enormous turrets reaching to the sky. She would be there tonight. With du Lac. Alone.

 

The shiver passing through her wasn't caused entirely by fear. But she refused to let her thoughts travel that path.

 

The short, angry toot of a car horn alerted her that the light had changed. She turned, and headed away from the mountain, toward the highway running along the town's southern border.

 

She found an American music station on the radio, but barely paid attention to the songs. All she could think about was du Lac, how he leaned over her in a way which had been slightly menacing, yet made her stomach flutter with excitement.

 

She knew what he was, had known ever since her father brought him home so long ago. Her mother explained vampires to her, but at age twelve, Katerina had found it hard to reconcile the fair, handsome man with the monsters she saw in the cinema. Until then, she'd never seen a vampire up close, and he looked as human as she and her parents. She never told anyone, but when she made eye contact with him, she felt his pain, as if she had been the one wounded. Even now, she recalled the trace of vulnerability in his gaze.

 

There had been no hint of vulnerability in the man she met today. No, he was powerful, intimidating…and too damned sexy. She could still feel his touch on her face, and realized how much she longed to feel his cool caress once again. Her heart pounded.

 

She shook her head and parked the car in front of her parents' home. For several moments, she stared at the house where she'd spent the first twelve years of her life. How different the house seemed. In the flurry of relocating and starting her new job, she hadn't visited, except for the night of her party. That night, so many people wanted her attention, then she met du Lac. This afternoon, she took some time to study her childhood home.

 

The cottage had been added on to, enlarged to resemble a small villa. Obviously, her father had done well working for du Lac. Once again, that man was at the forefront of her thoughts. She sighed and stepped out of the car. She had a lot of questions for her mother.

 

As she approached, the door opened. Olga emerged to stand on the steps. Her long, dark hair was liberally streaked with gray and tied in a thick braid, its length emphasizing her height. Katerina knew she shouldn't be surprised her mother had known when she'd be here. She hadn't called ahead, so this visit was completely unexpected. She remembered how Olga had always known when, as a child, Katerina was about to do something forbidden or dangerous. Being away for so long had made her forget much of the life she once had here.

 

A bright smile lit Olga's slender face and she enclosed Katerina in a hug. "I am so glad you are here. But tell me why. Shouldn't you be working?"

 

Katerina followed her mother inside and shut the door. "I finished early." For some reason, she didn't want to tell her mother why she left work, or where she'd been not long ago. She was thankful her mother didn't already know that as well.

 

"So tell me all about your new job." Olga led her into the kitchen, where she set about making tea.

 

"It's fine. I'm really enjoying it. Actually, Mama, I'm here because I wanted to ask you a few things."

 

"Like what?" Olga's back remained to Katerina as she measured out the tea leaves.

 

"What hold does du Lac have over Papa?"

 

She didn't miss the way her mother's shoulders tensed. When Olga finally faced her, her expression was serene.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"He paid for my education. But I can pay him back now, so what else keeps Papa working for him?"

 

"Your father is very grateful to du Lac for sponsoring you. He feels it is his duty to…"

 

"His duty. To serve a vampire? Mama, I'm sure du Lac is not using Papa for his financial advisory skills." Katerina slid into a chair at the table.

 

Olga remained silent for a few moments. "Your father is very happy working for du Lac."

 

The tea kettle whistled and, with relief in her eyes, Olga turned back to pour the hot water into the two prepared cups. Katerina took the cup her mother offered. "It's more, though, isn't it? Why else would du Lac pay for my education?"

 

"Du Lac is a very generous man." Olga seated herself across the table. Katerina shook her head. "That's not exactly how I see it, Mama. There's something else."

 

Olga didn't respond for several moments. Finally, she raised dark eyes and pierced Katerina with a stare.

 

"What your father does for du Lac, I don't know. I stay out of it. Your father does what he sees fit, and I go about my business."

 

Katerina took a deep breath. "Is Papa a vampire?"

 

For several tense moments, Olga simply stared at her. Her face was carefully composed, not an iota of emotion revealed.

 

"No, he is not."

 

Katerina wasn't sure if her mother's words were true, but she desperately wanted to believe them. Still, there was more, she was positive. But she didn't press further. Clearly, Olga was not going to reveal her secret now. With her mother still gazing evenly at her, Katerina sighed and glanced about the room. Once more, she was struck by the home she'd left behind, and how it had changed almost as drastically as she had. What had once been a comfortable cottage was now a small mansion. It was a glaring reminder of how well her father's job paid. And how her parents now depended on the income her father brought in.

 

"I see you've managed to benefit from du Lac's benevolence, as well. You've done a nice job with the place."

 

Her sarcasm earned her a sharp glare from her mother, and Katerina shifted in her seat, feeling as small as a child once again.

 

"Watch your tongue."

 

"I'm sorry, Mama."

 

Olga smiled and squeezed her hand. "Is it so bad to enjoy the fine things your father's salary can bring?"

 

Katerina shook her head. "No, I understand, and I'm glad you can. But there's so much I don't know, I can't help feeling there's more. You sent me away on a moment's notice, and all I had were phone calls and letters for years. You never told me why. You can afford all this, but you couldn't afford for me to come home and visit?"

 

"It was an opportunity for you that your father and I could not pass up. We would never have been able to give you an education, not for a very long time. You are a very smart woman, and you will need all of your intelligence to guide you down your path. Traveling would have taken you from your studies, when you needed to focus on them. I could not allow the distractions to keep you from achieving everything you have. And what is to come."

 

"What does that mean?"

 

"You will know soon enough. Your power will guide you."

 

Katerina wanted to shake her mother, force out whatever she wasn't telling her. She restrained herself with great difficulty. What power did Olga refer to? She felt more adrift than ever. In all her time in America, she'd never shown one hint that she possessed any of the powers her parents did. Fortune telling was a disaster, levitation of any kind was even worse, as was reading minds. She'd tried it all, from summoning a book to calling forth a demon. Nothing. Being away had made her wonder if what she'd been taught as a child was even real.

BOOK: The Taste of Magic
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