Read The Taste of Magic Online
Authors: Gina Rosavin
Vining sighed and fell into a chair. "You've changed, du Lac."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't help but notice how careless you are. You have not heeded any of my warnings, and still continue to do things potentially harmful to your basic nature. You are a visible businessman during the day, when you are at your weakest, yet you continue with your normal nocturnal lifestyle. You get no rest. And now look at you."
Adrian folded his arms. "What?"
"You won't take a woman, just because your…other needs are currently on the rise. Since when did that stop you? You're asking for trouble."
"I did not ask for your opinion."
"Actually, you did. Simply by summoning me. But just because you don't like what I have to say doesn't mean it isn't the truth."
Adrian growled, his ever increasing agitation draining his control over his bestial side. He felt his eyeteeth extend, and turned away. He needed to feed, to calm this raging turmoil. Yet, Vining seemed to mock him, and it was so easy to let his fury take over. Vining moved behind him once more, his hand on du Lac's shoulder.
He shrugged it off with a deep-throated snarl.
"That's it, du Lac, you need to take care of your most basic needs first. We can address this other issue later, after you've fed. You need a good hunt." Adrian nodded. That was exactly what he needed. Within moments, he soared over the river in raven form, assessing potential targets.
* * *
People milled about the opera house's lobby. Katerina kept to herself, away from the crowd, and waited for Adrian to return. When he did, he offered a glass of champagne. She accepted, watching him warily. She agreed to this date, as she had to all the others, because she was determined to find a way to get him to agree to her demands. So far, she'd done nothing but get drawn further into his web. Tonight marked the seventh evening spent with him. Every one carefully noted in her appointment book.
She hated herself for counting every moment they were together.
"I think you will enjoy tonight's performance. The female lead is being performed by an unknown, but quite a talented young lady, with a voice to make the heavens cry." Adrian sipped his champagne, his eyes never leaving her.
She shifted uneasily, and sensed the idea of heaven crying pleased him. "How do you know of her?"
"Besides being a patron of the Kuraskia Opera, I am also Miss Bertrand's benefactor."
Katerina blinked. "You mean you paid for…"
"Her tutelage? Yes, as I did for you."
Her eyes narrowed. "Is this a hobby of yours?"
His bland smile left her strangely annoyed. "From time to time, when there is someone who shows a certain…talent worth cultivating, I will offer my assistance however I can."
Knowing she wasn't the only one to benefit from his generosity left her confused. If he did this for others, perhaps there wasn't anything he expected in return. Even as she thought it, she denied it. Her instincts screamed there was more to his benefaction to her than anyone was letting on.
The lights flickered, signaling the curtain would soon rise. Adrian turned to her and offered his arm.
"Shall we?" His smile this time was warm and heated, and her heart jumped in response. She took a moment to smooth her raspberry taffeta gown before placing her hand in the crook of his elbow.
A sense of being watched made her turn. A dark-haired woman with enormous blue eyes studied Adrian, avid interest clear in her face. Before Katerina could think to question it, the young woman was gone, and Adrian tipped the usher who led them to the private box.
As he shut the door, she realized they were completely hidden from view. She nervously glanced around the private room. The over-sized, luxurious chairs before the window looked inviting, considering her trembling knees. He swept his hand before one of them, motioning her to sit, then seated himself in the other chair. She faced forward, but he leaned near, his breath warm against her neck, his hand lightly brushing hers on the arm of the chair.
She fought the urge to lean into him.
"I think you will enjoy this. Olivia Bertrand makes a fine Mimi."
"La Boheme is one of my favorites. I made it a point to go the Met whenever I could in New York."
"I am pleased you were able to take advantage of the finer things a city such as New York has to offer."
She smiled and turned to face him. His eyes were bright with interest. And hunger. A lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke her. Her smile faded.
"The city was a great place." Her voice was thin, and she cleared her throat and continued. "I missed my parents, of course, but New York became my home, and I worked to learn as many of its secrets I could uncover."
"I'd like to know your secrets," he said.
She swallowed again. "I d-don't know what you mean."
"Of course you do." He smiled and took her hand. The cool touch made her breath hitch, but she contained it. His thumb lightly stroked her skin, making her efforts to resist him so much more difficult. Did he know how the simple contact left her stomach a quivering mass, and her heart pounding in her chest?
His gaze dipped lower, settling on her neck. Still her heart raced, but apprehension replaced her excitement. They were alone here, no one could see them. The murmurs of the audience as it settled reminded her they were not truly alone, but if he chose to attack here, could she stop him? The crucifix was in her purse, and because she'd worn her hair up, she hadn't bothered with her tattoos. She was helpless.
She mentally prepared to flee, but his gaze once again returned to hers. The hunger there was not vampiric, though how she knew was beyond her. She only knew she was too easily swayed by the promise of delight in his eyes. The lights dimmed then, and as her vision adjusted, she couldn't quite see his eyes anymore. She could feel their heat and she took a steady, even breath and turned toward the stage.
Concentrating on the performance proved difficult. Her hand was still encased by his long fingers, still stroking, still stirring her senses. She gave a little tug, and he released her. Though she didn't turn around to look at him, she suspected he smiled.
The story of the artists and their lovers in Paris, told with enchanting music and incredible voices, drew her in, and by the time the lights came up for the intermission, she realized she leaned over the box. Straightening, she turned to Adrian. Had he smiled throughout the whole performance?
"I'm glad you are enjoying it."
She nodded. "I am. You were right. Olivia Bertrand is a wonderful Mimi. Her voice is incredible."
"Yes, when first I heard her sing, I knew with the right training, she would go far. I wouldn't be surprised to see her in New York soon. I'll take you to see her."
He knew just how to get to her. Returning to New York would be wonderful, for even though she was glad to be home, she felt out of place here. She longed for the beat of the big city, the excitement and treasures to be found lurking anywhere.
"You sound quite sure that will happen."
Adrian lifted his chin. "I am."
"Tell me, does Olivia's father work for you too? Isn't that your standard deal?"
Adrian sucked in his breath, momentarily taken aback by the change of subject. Then he smiled. She had been unusually silent on the matter of her father. He sensed she was about to start in now.
"No, unfortunately, Olivia's parents died when she was a child. She was raised by an aunt."
"Does her aunt work for you then?"
Ignoring her question, Adrian led her from the box and down the stairs to the lobby. A waiter passed carrying champagne and he snatched two glasses, and headed for a darkened corner.
"Most people know better than to ask those sorts of questions." He handed her a glass, pleased she didn't refuse.
She met his gaze steadily. He wanted to drown in the ebony depths. "I'm not most people," she said.
"True, and for that, I am grateful."
She tilted her head, her brow furrowing. "What do you mean?"
"Tonight would not be nearly as enjoyable."
He leaned closer, satisfied with the way her breath noticeably caught. She backed up, but came against the wall. He reached up and stroked her cheek, wishing they were truly alone so he could touch so much more. Leaning forward, he pressed a soft kiss to her lips, and she gave a little gasp before her she melded her mouth to his.
Voices nearby distracted him and he stepped away as another couple neared. Adrian turned, and immediately wished he hadn't.
"Du Lac, is that you? It is! I wasn't sure you'd be here tonight." Ingrid Eberhard strode toward him. A wide smile graced the society reporter's narrow face, her sleek flaming hair reflecting the hall lights.
"Ingrid, do you make it a habit to follow me?" Adrian asked, but he smiled, and reached out to take Ingrid's offered hand, her wrist adorned with many clinking bracelets. He bent over it, and she laughed delightedly.
"Du Lac, who is this charming creature?" Ingrid's wide green eyes focused on Katerina. Adrian turned.
"Ingrid, this is Katerina Romanov. Katerina, you may know Ingrid from Zietung."
"Yes, I read it every day."
Adrian didn't miss the way Ingrid's gaze moved over Kat, as though taking inventory. He wondered what would appear in the paper tomorrow morning.
"Good, we must keep our readership up. Are you enjoying the performance?" Ingrid asked. Her voice held condescension as if she were speaking to a small child. Adrian didn't miss the way Katerina stiffened.
"Very much. La Boheme is my favorite."
"Oh, you've been to the opera before? I don't recall seeing you here."
Ingrid was snooping. Adrian prepared to intervene, before Ingrid formulated some strange idea and turned it into a twisted innuendo about Kat. He shouldn't have worried.
"You must forgive me, Ingrid," Katerina said. "I've only been back from the U.S. for a couple of months and haven't yet had time to attend the opera. But as a former patron of the Met in New York, I've missed it and couldn't pass up the chance when Adrian offered to escort me this evening."
Adrian bit back a smile as Ingrid's faltered for a moment, but she quickly recovered. There had been no mistaking the animosity in Katerina's voice.
As Ingrid opened her mouth to respond, the lights flickered.
"I must be off. Wouldn't want to miss the curtain. I'll see you again, Adrian." She turned to her companion and they disappeared down the hall. Adrian turned to Katerina and offered his arm.
"I apologize for her."
"Ingrid can be difficult, and if she feels slighted, she uses her column to fight dirty."
Katerina smiled. "She's a reporter. It's what they do."
Adrian closed the box door behind him. "Yes, but you may find your name in the paper with all sorts of lurid accusations."
"You have more to be worried than I do. I mean, you can't be photographed, right?"
Adrian stepped closer, and her heart pounded faster in response. He smiled, pleased to know he affected her as much as she did him. "True, but with allies like Ingrid, I am safe. Exposing me would endanger her own existence."
Katerina's eyes widened. "You mean, she's a…a…vamp—"
Adrian placed a finger upon her lips, silencing her. The way she trembled set off corresponding shocks in him. "Though we are alone, there are others who can hear us. And yes, she is."
She seemed to ponder this new knowledge as she took her seat. As he lowered himself beside her, she turned.
He chuckled. "Heavens, no. Ingrid is not one I would have chosen for my…employ." He offered a smile, hoping to ease the wariness darkening her eyes.
"But you're not above using her when you need to."
"You're very astute." He kept his voice low and slung one arm across the back of her chair. Her heart was still racing, and the sweet musky scent of her blood grew more intense with each beat. He could barely focus on the conversation. He cleared his throat and continued. "But vampire or not, I would still use her to my advantage."
"Like you use my father?"
He chuckled, and once again took her hand. Apparently she had not forgotten the conversation Ingrid had interrupted. "Kat, we've been through this."
"Yes, I know. And each time I find out more, I can't help but wonder."
"Wonder about what?" He let his gaze fall upon her lips, his groin tightening when her tongue darted out to moisten them. He couldn't take much more of this. Bringing her out in public was excruciating.
"Is Olivia Bertrand a…one of you, as well?"
He nodded, not sure where she was heading. He leaned back, frustrated at his difficulty in regaining his composure. Katerina watched him intently, her dark gaze knowing.