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Authors: Gina Rosavin

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BOOK: The Taste of Magic
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"I've been away too long, I don't understand."

 

"We all have our paths we must travel. I wanted you to have the best advantages. You are the first child in our family to go to college, and you surpassed everyone's expectations. I would do it again if I had the choice to make now. Your education has given you power, and you will use it well."

 

Her mother's pride warmed Katerina and she smiled. "I'm glad you did it, Mama. But I missed you and Papa so much."

 

Olga looked away. "Sending you off was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But it was best for you."

 

"And now I have this wonderful education, and I'm going to use it to clear whatever debt or obligation Papa has to du Lac."

 

"Katerina, you mustn't involve yourself in things which don't concern you." Olga's brow furrowed, her eyes filled with worry.

 

"This does concern me. I have the best education, and Papa is still working for a vampire. Surely any responsibility Papa has is over now." "Du Lac treats your father well."

 

"It has to stop. And I'm going to do it. I'm seeing him tonight and I'm going to find some way."

 

"You are seeing him? Tonight?" Olga pressed her lips together, revealing her consternation.

 

Katerina nodded. "And I'm going to make him accept a way to end this. I want Papa free. All of us."

 

Olga shook her head. "But you mustn't. You must stay away from him." She frowned and narrowed her eyes. "Mama, I know you're worried, but I'll bring protection. Unless there's something else you need to tell me?"

 

Again, her mother shook her head. "No, there's nothing else. But you mustn't go."

 

So far, her mother had not given her sufficient reason, beyond what Katerina already knew. "Why? Do you really think he'll attack me?"

 

Olga sighed. "You know what he is. He's dangerous. Don't let his charm make you forget."

 

"Don't worry. I can handle myself." I have to. If I don't, I'll be as trapped as my father is.

 

Maintaining her determined front before her mother, she rose. This was almost harder than standing up to du Lac. "I have to go. I have a lot to do before tonight. I've been trying to find out more about du Lac, but there's not much. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Imagine starting your corporate biography with the information you're a blood-sucking killer. Not good for business."

 

"You must be careful." Olga followed Katerina to the door, where she hugged her daughter goodbye. Ever since she had returned from America, Olga had been charting her daughter's path. While not everything was clear, one path Katerina might take spelled doom. Olga had to make sure things progressed as she'd planned.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Katerina was ready when the Mercedes limousine arrived. The glassy-eyed driver said nothing, just held the door. The sun dipped behind the mountains, the sky almost purple, in stark contrast with the whitewashed stone castle atop the hill. Illuminated with lights, its towers were eerily menacing. Katerina's heart pounded and she absently fingered the small gold crucifix at her neck. She was sure du Lac wouldn't be pleased she'd worn it, but she needed some sort of defense against him, no matter how small. Would it be enough?

 

Despite her assurances to her mother, she was terrified he would attack her. Certainly, she would need protection, for once she reiterated her demand that he release her father, he would be angry. Recalling how her father had declared his allegiance to du Lac and insisted he wanted to continue in his service had only convinced her more strongly she needed to settle this debt.

 

She considered du Lac and the hold he had over Dimitri. At the very least, he was extremely persuasive, though she suspected he used some sort of mind control. He was certainly capable of such a deed. The task she'd set for herself seemed impossible.

 

Especially since the man was too damned attractive.

 

The car stopped at the entrance, and the driver ambled awkwardly around to open the door. As she walked up to the massive, carved wooden doors, he stood mute. Before she could knock, they opened, and a servant, dull-eyed as the chauffeur, motioned her to follow him into the hall. She eyed him curiously as he shuffled ahead of her down the hallway. Suspicion formed in her mind. What had du Lac done to him?

 

She paused inside a massive double doorway, at the top of an elaborate two-level stone staircase. Adrian stood in the cavernous room below with his back to her, staring into the mammoth hearth. For a moment, her heart raced. She steadied herself. Though there was definitely a darkness surrounding him, he didn't look evil.

 

He spoke without turning. "Please, come in, Kat."

 

She pressed her lips together and stepped down to the first landing. Why did he persist in using that nickname? Why did she let him? The semi-dark room was lit by candlelight and the hearth, bare but for a few ancient as well as modern objects. Some chairs and tables were set about, but she couldn't see them clearly through the gloom hovering in the room. Two chairs faced the hearth, covered in inviting, thick cushioned, red velvet. Finally he turned, but made no move toward her. His gaze beckoned. Propelled by some unseen force, she descended the stairs and walked across the room. She stopped several feet away. Adrian looked oddly annoyed. His gaze fell upon the crucifix at the hollow of her neck.

 

"I'd prefer you didn't wear that tonight."

 

"But…"

 

He shook his head. "It won't protect you, and I prefer not to see it. Its presence makes me uncomfortable. As a guest in my home, you are safe from me. You have my word."

 

Katerina didn't know if she should trust him, but found herself doing as he asked and placed the tiny cross inside her purse. Adrian heaved a sigh, clearly relieved. She held back a smile, knowing she was still guarded against him. Underneath each ear, hidden by her hair, were temporary tattoos in the shape of crosses. Should he attempt anything, she could easily reveal them, at least long enough to escape his clutches.

 

Why did the thought dismay her?

 

Damn, why did he have to be so handsome? Dressed in a tuxedo, he was a formidable and enticing sight. His golden hair shimmered in the firelight, his sharp features illuminated by the glow. He stepped closer, and she fought the urge to turn and run. She remained where she was and lifted her chin. His smile widened.

 

"I'm pleased you came."

 

"I have a feeling I didn't have a choice." That was true. Somehow she'd been compelled to be here, and suspected he used his vampiric powers. She knew she couldn't trust him. But something in his gaze left her feeling breathless and giddy. She was helpless to resist.

 

"You always have a choice, Kat. Some wine?"

 

She nodded. She needed to soothe her nerves. He chuckled, as if he'd read her thoughts. She narrowed her eyes.

 

"Why did you want me to come?"

 

He handed her a glass of red wine. How appropriate, she thought, and eyed the glass warily.

 

"Relax, it's just wine. I assure you, you have nothing to fear." Just losing my sanity, she thought. Aloud, she said, "How do I know I can trust you?" She took a long drink of wine.

 

He chuckled again. "You don't. You are right to be cautious."

 

"Maybe this was a mistake." She put her glass down, but he grabbed her wrist.

 

"You won't get far." He immediately softened the compressed line of his lips. "Why not just relax and enjoy the evening?"

 

"All right. But at the first sign of…"

 

He rolled his eyes and frowned in exasperation. "I can control myself, Kat."

 

What was the matter with her? She was beginning to like the way the nickname sounded on his lips. If she couldn't resist him as a man, she was doomed. She had to free her family, nothing more. So why did she wish tonight was simply two people being together? She lowered her head.

 

"I'm sorry. It's just…"

 

He reached out and lifted her chin. "You're afraid of me."

 

"Can you blame me? I mean, you're a…you…kill people. Your servants, they're…zombies, aren't they?"

 

He smiled. "Someone of my…nature requires servants who do not ask questions, who do not speak of what they see."

 

She pressed her lips nervously. "Do all of your victims end up like him?"

 

She nodded in the direction of one of his servants, who was bringing more wood for the fire.

 

He shook his head. "Is that why you are afraid? Do you think I will turn you into one of them?"

 

She remained silent, worried her answer would anger him. "I would never. The only thing you have to fear from me, sweet Kat, is this."

 

He leaned in, still holding her gaze. His lips, oddly cool, yet amazingly sensual, brushed lightly against hers before he drew away. Then Adrian grabbed her and crushed her against him, his mouth claiming hers in a fierce kiss, his tongue plundering her mouth. And all she could do was cling to him helplessly, as she gave herself over to the tumult assailing her senses, the heat he drew from deep within her.

 

Adrian's hands roamed her back, his mouth still fused to hers. Her knees weakened, and her arms tightened around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair. She couldn't get enough of him, his heady taste, and she pressed herself more tightly against him. This was madness, but she couldn't help herself, the sensations flowing through her were too wonderful. Maybe insanity wasn't such a terrible thing after all.

 

Abruptly, he released her and turned away.

 

"It would seem my control is not as strong as I would prefer." His voice was hoarse and ragged, his shoulders and neck stiffened ever so slightly.

 

She stared at his back in confusion. Her knees trembled, and she fell into the closest chair. She picked up her wine glass and drained it, trying to steady her jangled nerves.

 

When he turned back, he was composed and calm, his gaze assessing her coolly.

 

"You are sweeter than I imagined," he said, his voice now steady and clear. He eased himself into the chair beside hers. He moved like a cat, his motions smooth and fluid, his long fingers curling around the arms. Unable to find her voice, she simply stared into his heated gaze. What had gotten into her? She had to remain cool, aloof, and keep her emotional distance. Then why did she so long for him to kiss her again? No, this was not a social encounter, or anything of the sort. She was only here to protect her clan. Wasn't she? She took a deep breath.

 

"I…Monsieur du Lac…"

 

His gaze bored into her, robbing her of her next words.

 

"Adrian, please." He picked up the wine bottle and refilled her glass. The hint of annoyance in his voice stiffened her spine. His gaze still locked hard on hers, and though she sensed his powerful will, she felt no threat. In fact, the heat she found in his eyes warmed her. She had to look away, the intensity making her fingers shake.

 

Since her wits needed to be sharp, she merely sipped at the wine this time. All he had to do was agree to her repayment plan and she could be finished.

 

But even as the thought arose, she knew she would never be finished with him. She was indebted to him, much more so than her father ever would be. If she could only find out why, perhaps then she could free her father. If it meant placing herself in Adrian's path, she would.

 

"Adrian, can we please discuss the terms of my repayment?"

 

"There is no need, and I prefer we not speak of it." His eyes hardened and she swallowed past the lump which had formed in her throat.

 

"But…"

 

He held up a hand. "No. I will not hear of it."

 

A surge of annoyance coursed through her. "What do you hope to gain by keeping my father and family in servitude to you? Why won't you let me free him from this debt?"

 

He smiled, and his eyes warmed once again. He leaned forward until his face was mere inches away.

 

"Did you ever think perhaps your father enjoys working for me? He is well compensated."

 

A fact Katerina knew well, but the idea her family could be in service to a vampire for generations angered her. He could control the Romanov clan, make them bend to his will, do whatever bidding he asked. She could not bear for her family, descendants of a long line of proud witches and enchanters, to be little more than slaves. She wanted their freedom, to live the lives of their own choosing, not as little more than pawns in an evil man's plans.

 

"You think me evil?"

 

She stared. Had he read her thoughts?

 

He nodded. "It is difficult to ignore when you are shouting."

 

"Shouting? But I said nothing."

 

"Your thoughts are quite loud. Why are you so upset?"

 

"If you can read my mind, then you know."

 

He nodded, one fair eyebrow arched. "You are clever, Kat. I like that."

 

She straightened her back. "Don't."

 

"What? Don't like you? I'm afraid I cannot help myself." In a heartbeat, he was seated on the arm of her chair and leaning over her.

 

His very nearness caused her heart to race, her stomach to clench with excitement. What was the matter with her? She needed to get out of here. Now.

BOOK: The Taste of Magic
2.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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