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Authors: Gina Rosavin

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BOOK: The Taste of Magic
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His hand was on her wrist, not tight, but firm enough so she knew he had no intention of releasing her. And he'd convinced her to remove the crucifix. She tilted her head, ready to reveal her secret defense. Otherwise, if he chose to attack, she would be helpless.

 

"Kat, please. But I don't want you to leave. You see, I do like you. Very much." Adrian knew that was true. The last few days hadn't been easy, with her forever in his thoughts. When she arrived at his office today, he had struggled to keep from revealing just how much she affected him. He succeeded, but failed this evening when he kissed her, and his vampire self had started to emerge. The need had taken him by surprise. How could he have lost control? Desire had overtaken him so completely, he had almost failed to stop. Even now, the lure of her blood was still not nearly as strong as his yearning for her, which could prove more dangerous.

 

What was it about this woman that affected him so deeply? He stood, determined not to let her unsettle him any further.

 

"Come, dinner is ready."

 

He offered his arm. For several moments, she stared at him before she stood and placed her hand in the crook of his elbow. How could such innocent contact leave him hungering for more? He escorted her to the dining room and seated her beside him.

 

"I had my chef prepare an assortment of dishes. I'm sure you will find one to your liking."

 

"Won't you be joining me?"

 

"No. I've already…eaten."

 

Her eyes widened and she swallowed visibly. Quickly she lowered her gaze. "Kat? Is everything all right?"

 

She nodded, but didn't look up from her plate. He reached over and placed a finger beneath her chin, tilting her face to the light.

 

"What troubles you, Kat?"

 

"You." She seemed as surprised as he at her words. He smiled, liking the vulnerability she displayed as she nervously blinked twice, looked away and then back again. She only endeared herself to him further.

 

"Why?"

 

She shook her head and eyed him quizzically. "As if you didn't know." She lifted her chin a notch. "Why did you do this for me? I mean the school, the money. What did you hope to gain?"

 

Many things, he thought. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."

 

She tossed her napkin on the table and stood. "I don't have the patience or inclination to play these games. You're a vampire, you kill people. You bought my father's loyalty by sending me to school. A man like you doesn't do that without expecting something in return. And don't give me the bull about repaying a debt. The debt you owed my father was not worth this."

 

"I consider my life well worth any price. And I would have paid more, should your education have required it." He was beside her in a moment. He had to admit, he liked it when she came at him like this. No pretence, no subterfuge, just simple honesty. How refreshing.

 

"Your life?" She seemed genuinely surprised.

 

"Yes, dear Kat, my life. My very survival. If not for your father's intervention, I could very well be no more. I agreed to pay for your schooling. I offered your father a job, which he accepted. It was the least I could do. He's been valuable to me over the years."

 

"And when he's no longer valuable? What will you do then? Kill him?"

 

Although he'd always figured he would do exactly as she suspected, suddenly he no longer wanted to destroy the old enchanter when his usefulness expired.

 

"No, Kat. Your father will not come to any harm from me. Should he choose to leave, he will not be harmed."

 

She eyed him skeptically but said nothing. Finally, she nodded. "All right, then what did you hope to gain from me?"

 

Now it was his turn to be surprised, yet he was impressed with her instinct. She correctly surmised she was his target. With her quick intelligence, she would make a fine addition to his staff, among other things. But she would not be easily swayed by his usual manner of courting a woman. He would have to play the game a little differently with her, but somehow, he knew his eventual triumph would be even sweeter.

 

"And what makes you think I want something from you?" She shook her head. "I'm not stupid. Why would you put a girl from a poor family through American high school and college, if not to gain something for yourself?"

 

He smiled. "You're very astute. But I would prefer to think of it as continuing your education." She had much more to learn, though he was sure she wasn't aware. Her mother had assured him her powers could not yet be used. If Adrian had his way, Katerina would use those powers very soon.

 

"I'm not sure I know what you mean."

 

"If you work for me, we can build du Lac Enterprises to an incredible future."

 

She stared at him a moment. He couldn't resist dipping into her mind. While he couldn't do this with mere mortals, her inborn supernatural abilities enabled him access to the innermost reaches of her mind, as long as he maintained eye contact.

 

Work for him? Be near him all day long? And then owe him even more of my life? No, I can't. I won't.

 

He was disappointed, and decided to let the matter drop. For now. He wanted her to come to him willingly, in all ways. He waited for her spoken answer.

 

"I'm sorry, but I can't. You've done more than enough already." He nodded. "Very well. Should you change your mind…"

 

"I won't."

 

He arched an eyebrow at her, and she shifted uncomfortably, but didn't pull her gaze away. She was brave, and it only made her more appealing. Did she not realize how easily he could bend her to his will? He wouldn't. Not yet. Her intelligence, her mind, her determination were part of what made her such an appetizing morsel.

 

He would have to tread carefully. Angering her would only serve to alienate her. He needed her magic, the powerful magic of her family. According to her mother, Kat would someday be one of the strongest, should she be trained properly. She would be. Adrian intended to ensure it. With Katerina's strong will, he would not have an easy time exerting his control. It was a challenge he looked forward to facing. He had to show her what was in her soul, what she could be with her powers in full force. She had to experience the wondrous delights to be shared in black magic. He'd waited long years for this, and it was turning out even better than he had anticipated.

 

Despite her insistence she wanted nothing more than to clear her debt, she was enamored of him, he was sure of it. Her response to his kiss had proven it. And this was his way to her. If he wooed her carefully, she would not want to be free of him. Ever. She would belong to him, body and soul, before he brought her over.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

 

Adrian sat before the fire, a snifter of brandy dangling from his fingers. Kat had been gone for over an hour, yet all he wanted to do was sit and replay the evening in his mind.

 

How easily he'd convinced her to remove her crucifix. The confusion in her eyes had been enchanting. He wanted to see those eyes dewy with passion, gazing upon him while she lay beneath him. He shook his head. She wore the crucifix for protection, but she didn't know the spells cast by her mother, at his request, made him immune to most traditional repellents.

 

He had refrained from revealing that piece of information, certain she would be quite angry. Once he decided on a victim, he was virtually unstoppable. But he didn't see Kat as a victim. No, she was more, much more. He just wasn't sure exactly what.

 

An eternal life mate. He denied it, even as the words formed in his thoughts. Oh, to have her by his side for all eternity…the very idea excited him beyond belief. But for the oddest reason, he had absolutely no urge to bring her over, even though the sexual desire she stirred had brought forth his vampire nature. He had resisted the lure of her blood with little effort.

 

Why?

 

Even as he questioned it, he knew. What he admired, cherished, was her vitality, her very life essence. Despite her heritage, despite her upbringing, there was an innocence about her, a purity which called to him, captivated him, leaving him spellbound. Only one woman had ever enthralled him before, and what he'd felt for her did not compare to this all-consuming craving for Kat. As a man, as a lover. Not as a killer. Was he losing his mind?

 

With a snarled oath, he threw the snifter into the fire. Even the breaking glass and the hiss and flare of the flames did little to ease this unfamiliar yearning.

 

He reached with his mind, sending the call. He needed to speak with Vining. Surely the man could give him some advice. Should he ask? No, he probably should not bother. Before he could change his mind, the other vampire materialized before him.

 

"Du Lac, good evening." Vining reached over and picked up Kat's wine glass. "Company, I see. A woman. And was she tasty?"

 

Adrian glanced at the only man he'd ever called friend. Peter Vining was almost as old as Adrian, and over the centuries had become the foremost expert on the vampire nature. He even came to serve as a sort of psychiatrist or physician. The glass he held in his hand had remnants of Kat's lipstick, and suddenly Adrian recalled the taste of those lips as they melted beneath his.

 

"I didn't bite her."

 

Vining stared for a moment, though his expression remained thoughtfully blank. "I see. So why was she here?"

 

"You know, I believe I wasn't thinking clearly when I called you. Must have been the brandy." He offered Vining a wry smile. "I really don't have need of your services this evening."

 

"You look a little worn down. When was the last time you fed?"

 

Adrian shrugged. "This evening. One of the servants."

 

Vining shook his head as he reached into his bag. He removed a large flask, unscrewed the top and handed it to Adrian. He took it, gulping back a large swig. He held the flask out before him and gazed at it, nodding approvingly.

 

"Very good, Vining. I feel much better." He didn't meet the other vampire's gaze. "You may go now."

 

Vining smiled. "The blood of an innocent." He lowered himself into Kat's chair. "I think you're in serious trouble, du Lac. Why else would you have a woman to dinner, and not have her for dinner?"

 

Adrian glanced sharply at him, but ignored the ill-chosen witticism. "You don't know what you are talking about. She is Katerina Romanov."

 

Vining's bushy eyebrows raised in surprise. "The enchanter's daughter."

 

"Yes, the enchanter's daughter," Adrian snapped. He stiffened again, and regained his composure. "She is intelligent, and I spent a sizeable amount of money on her. She's…an investment."

 

"So? Is there something wrong with her that you haven't…"

 

"Not now. The time isn't right."

 

His words were met with silence. He dared another glance at the other man, and had the urge to reach over and shut his gaping mouth. "You look like a fool, Vining."

 

"Excuse me, but I just heard you, the man who spends his nights hunting the clubs and streets of the city, finding the perfect prey, saying he wants to wait to bite an attractive woman? One with magical abilities, no less. You expect me to accept it as easily as if you had said, 'Hello, Vining, nice night'? Tell me why now isn't the right time."

 

Adrian remained silent for several moments. He'd known Vining long enough to know he couldn't easily fool him. Besides, he learned centuries ago to be ready for whatever lascivious comment Vining was sure to make. But damnation, he needed to be free of this cursed obsession! Vining was the only one he trusted enough to share this with.

 

"Du Lac? Are you going to tell me…"

 

Adrian stood and paced anxiously in front of the fire. "All right!" He clenched his fists, then heaved a sigh. "I'll tell you. I want her, but in my bed."

 

Vining shrugged. "So, take her to bed. I don't understand…"

 

Adrian slammed his fist on the table. "No, I don't suspect you do. Do you know what it feels like to be consumed with thoughts of a woman, almost to the exclusion of everything else? Including blood?"

 

Vining's eyed widened almost imperceptibly. Then he smiled. "You know what I think?"

 

"No, I do NOT know what you think. Why don't you tell me?"

 

"I think you've actually fallen in love. I never imagined it would happen, but you, my friend, are showing definite signs of that particular malady."

 

"I am not falling in love. Love is a weak emotion." Adrian began to pace again, the familiar hunger rising.

 

"And what about Melissa?"

 

Du Lac's head snapped around. "What about Melissa?" "You loved her."

 

Du Lac pressed his lips together and shook his head. "No, I only thought I did. That was a…foolish mistake."

 

"Then what is it about the witch that has you so coiled up in knots?"

 

Du Lac gave him a wry smile. "It has been a long time."

 

Vining smiled and nodded. "Well, perhaps once you satisfy this more…human desire, you'll feel more like bringing her over."

 

Du Lac shook his head again. "No. Not for a while."

 
BOOK: The Taste of Magic
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