Vampire Forgotten-First Chapter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Forgotten in the mountains of Romania. Forced to live a life he didn't choose. Suffering the daily pain of loneliness. Spending an eternity without the touch of a woman's hand.

Though damned as a vampire, Rhad Valentine has been given what some might call the gift of psychic sight. He sees it as a constant reminder of real life going on without him - a life he cannot live.

Mischa Bonovich is on a desperate mission to find her missing sister, Rianna. Led to the mountains of her homeland by the faint call of Rianna's voice, Mischa needs Rhad's gift and his strength.

Wild hunger, both foreign and welcome, drives Rhad to his knees. He'd never held a woman so soft. Kissed one so responsive. And in spite of his inner protests, he'll do anything to help her. Anything to feel just one more touch of her hand.

In the dark forests of Romania, Rhad's desire won't be quenched until he tastes what only Mischa can offer, but first, he must save her from a man who has nothing to lose. A man who holds a deadly secret that could tear Mischa from Rhad's arms before love can happen.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Vampire Forgotten-First Chapter

Submitted: February 04, 2013

Reads: 185

Comments: 1

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Submitted: February 04, 2013

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Also available in audiobook: http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00B8VUS3E&qid=1360033353&sr=1-1

 

Chapter One

 

Sex had just been delivered to his front door…in all its splendid glory.

Rhad stood looking down at the curvaceous woman lying across the front steps of his weather-beaten castle. With the lacy slip she wore and stiletto heels, she could have no other reason for the presentation of such a gorgeous offering.

He didn’t know whether to thank the Fates or curse them for tempting him with such a delicious creature.

His body surged to life, responding to the sight with a joyful leap.  He knelt down next to the goddess and pressed his palm to her face.  Her cheek was icily cold, her lips blue. 

Dear God, the woman was practically dead. With a low curse, Rhad scooped her into his arms and carried her over the threshold and into the dimly lit foyer.

As he moved down the carpeted corridors, he trained his mind to perform the tasks he needed.  Run the bath water.  Turn down the blankets in the guest bedroom. Dim the lights. Don’t think about the softness of the woman’s body in his arms.

The woman weighed no more than a glass of his favorite Merlot, and by the time he reached the upstairs bathroom, he hadn’t expended as much energy as it took to walk to the backyard garden. 

And the woman hadn’t moved nor made even the slightest of sounds. Only the slight rise and fall of her breasts outlined beneath the thin chemise assured him she was still alive.

The steam from the hot water coated the mirror, and condensation ran in rivulets down the porcelain tiles.  Rhad eased the woman to the plush rug in front of the tub and checked the temperature in the water before adding several splashes of bubble bath. He needed all the help he could get keeping her delectable body covered.

She stirred and made a mumbling noise.  A sense of relief which he didn’t understand washed over him, and he turned to look at her, immediately noticing the way the slip she wore had worked its way up her thigh.  Her perfectly smooth thigh.

Damn.

With more haste than neatness, he disrobed her and, muttering ancient prayers below his breath, lowered her into the water.  Warmth coated his forearms, and the feel of slippery, wet skin made his body harden with frantic need.

The petite woman slipped into the water and let out a blissful sigh. As the steam bathed her face, the blue tint began to recede and tendrils of dark blonde hair curled against her cheeks.

The bubbles barely covered the outline of her body, but Rhad didn’t need to see. He’d already felt, and that alone would be enough to give him sweet dreams.

“Master Valentine!” The admonition came to him in rapid fire Romanian followed quickly by the slap of his housekeeper’s shoes against the marble floor.

He stood and whirled around, feeling like he’d just been caught necking behind the schoolhouse.  The thought brought a grimace to his face.  These days, necking had an entirely different connotation.  “Madeline, calm yourself. I found this woman on the front stoop.  She was frozen solid, wearing no more than a scrap of lace.”

“And you saved her out of the kindness of your heart,” the portly woman snapped in response, two spots of color riding high on her cheeks.  Snatching a towel from the warming rack, she shooed him out of the way.  “I’ll take over from here.”

He tossed a longing look over his shoulder and caught a quick, unfulfilled look of full breasts peeking from beneath foamy bubbles.  Conjuring up thoughts of cold showers and icy boxer shorts, he mumbled his way back down the stairs.

 

“Do you think this is the wisest thing to do, Grandfather?” With a worried look on her face, the brunette peered in through the window of the bathroom.

“Well, I’m not exactly sure throwing her on Rhad’s step is going to make him trust her.”

She shrugged. “It was the only thing I could think to do under pressure.”

“Perhaps you should have considered leaving her some clothes.”

“I didn’t have a lot of time. She was in the middle of changing clothes when the tranquilizer took effect. You know I can’t maintain corporeal form very long. I did what I could in the little amount of time I had. I just hope it works.”

“Tis all we can do, my child.” The deep timbre of the old man’s voice never ceased to reassure her. Even in death he guided her, protected her, and interceded on her behalf when the Spirit Council grew weary of her antics.

She straightened and summoned up a smile to offer her own bit of reassurance. “Then this is how it shall be. We’ll just hope that Mischa can convince Rhad to assist her with her mission.”

“Oh, she shall. I’ve never doubted her for one moment.” With a wink, he took hold of her arm and disappeared into the thinning mist.

 

Damnit! How hard could it be to find one old man? He’d been looking for the geezer for over a month now, and yet, no one seemed to know anything about where he might have gone.  Even his precious granddaughter had feigned ignorance. He though taking out his knife would scare the truth out of her, but she’d proven to be tougher than she looked.

Scratching the back of his neck, Hamrick dropped down onto the damp ground and drew his knees up close to his chest. She’d been the only person who might have known where the shaman had disappeared to, but no matter how much pain Hamrick had inflicted, the girl wouldn’t talk. Then he’d reached the point of no return. She’d become a witness, and he couldn’t risk the police catching up with him.

He bit off a piece of jerky and chewed. His head tipped back to let the rain slash against his face, washing away days of dirt and sweat. Odds were good he was on a fool’s journey, but his father swore the shaman existed, that his great-grandfather had seen the man perform miracles. Hamrick had his doubts, but he didn’t have much to lose.

A sick chill settled in the pit of his stomach, and he swallowed the nausea. He’d come too far to go back now. Not that he would make it home without the shaman anyway. Life had dealt him one hell of a hand, and, if the old man really could do all the things his father said, the shaman would be his only chance for survival. 

With the tumor in his brain growing larger each day, he’d be dead in a month, if he could last that long. All the money he had meant nothing now. No doctor could help him, and he’d been to at least twelve. They all said the same thing. Inoperable tumor. Death imminent. Get your affairs in order.

What kind of bullshit line was that? He’d never been the type to let life walk all over him. In his world, he called the shots, held the power, and he’d be damned if he’d let some tumor shorten his life span. Not when there was another way out.

For the past three weeks, Hamrick’s team had been trying to pinpoint a location for the shaman, but little evidence could be found that the man even existed. No driver’s license. No social security number. His secretary had managed to provide him with the only break so far, having discovered information on the internet about a legend dating back to the 17th century. Using genealogy charts, she’d tracked down the shaman’s ancestors.

And Hamrick had allowed his anger to overrule his common sense when he killed the girl.  He’d been kicking his own ass ever since. He did have one more opportunity, and he couldn’t blow this one.

Mischa Bonovich. Right now, his security team was tracking her down. He’d go to her face to face. No one else could do this job for him. It was his life on the line, and he’d be damned if he’d trust anyone else with the time he had left.

 

Mischa woke with a start, her heart slamming against her chest and a dry taste in her mouth.  Fear engulfed her, and she pressed her palms against her temples.  Think, Mischa, think.  Where are you?  What are you doing here?

Through a hazy cloud, her eyes scanned the room.  Paneled walls.  Thick, Oriental rugs and dark, masculine furniture gave the room a distinct, manly look.  The overhead fan offered a cool breeze for her naked skin, but the room didn’t look familiar at all.

Naked skin?  Her thoughts came to a screeching halt as she touched her right shoulder.  Her bare, right shoulder.  Curses welled up inside her head, but decorum wouldn’t allow her to breathe them aloud even though she was alone. Her father’s teachings had been ingrained too deeply.

She peeked beneath the blankets.  More bare skin. 

Memory came crashing back. She’d been searching for Rianna, her baby sister who’d always been a bit flighty.  This wasn’t the first time she’d gone on a wild goose chase for her twenty-two-year-old sister. Rianna, though a sweet girl, was high maintenance. 

Scratching her head, Mischa squinted as she contemplated what might have brought her to this bedroom…or who, rather. She remembered the flight to Romania, the drive to the hotel, looking up directions to the castle online, and–nothing. Everything else was a black hole.

The bedroom door creaked open, and she dragged the burgundy-colored comforter up to the chin and peered over the top.  “Who’s there?”

Her gaze captured broad shoulders and an impressive chest as a man walked into the room, his footsteps muffled by thick carpeting. Mischa swore she heard the angels sing.  She’d never seen anyone like him, let alone a man.

This had to be Rhad Valentine-the reason she’d come to Romania. He’d been all Rianna had talked about on the phone, especially how beautiful he was, but men weren’t really beautiful.  At least, she hadn’t thought so…until now. 

He had cornered the market on manly beauty. With raven hair flowing past his shoulders, high cheekbones, and eyes the color of Scotland’s hills, he was an artist’s dream.

Those broad shoulders were covered with a dark blue sweater, and the Levis he wore clung to his masculine hips, hugging him in all the right places.  In spite of herself, Mischa’s gaze drifted to those places more than once.  Then she gave the perfect face her full attention and noticed the sensual lips were lifted in a half-smile.

“Good evening. You slept the entire day away. I assume you are feeling much better.” The voice held the slightest trace of a Romanian accent, telling her the man hadn’t spent all of his life in her homeland.

The day? Her eyes narrowed.  “How did I get here?”

He strolled toward her. She’d never seen a man move with such grace.  Like a panther.  Just as dark and dangerous. 

“You do not remember how you arrived at my front door last evening?”

The smoothly cultured tone of his voice painted a picture of Tuscany, fine wine in crystal goblets, and a soft concerto playing in the background. But those eyes, they conjured up an entirely different image. Silk sheets, hot, sweaty nights, and tangled limbs….in a room so dark she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. 

Feeling only slightly guilty for her wayward thoughts, Mischa pushed the tangled mass of curls out of her face and shook her head.  “I don’t remember much before waking up in a bedroom I don’t recognize.”  She clutched the comforter tighter.  “Without my clothes.”

The half-smile became a full one.  “Then you really do not recall your arrival.”

Mischa was sure she didn’t want an answer to her next question, but she asked anyway.  “What do you mean?”

“You arrived wearing very little.  Nothing more than a scrappy piece of lace and high heels.”

Her heart increased its rhythm.  How in the hell could she have arrived without her clothes? “You’re lying.”

Dark eyebrows rose.  “I assure you I do not lie.”

“Why don’t I believe that?” Every man lied. It was in their genes. And why couldn’t she remember how she’d left the hotel room? Maybe that would tell her how she’d come to lose her clothes.

He seated himself on the edge of the bed.  “I have no idea since we have not met before now.”  He touched her knee through the thickness of the blankets.  “Or have we?”

She drew her feet to one side of the bed away from his reach.  “No, we have not met, and please don’t touch me.”  Though her lips made the request, her mind refuted it. Please touch me. Caress my leg, my thigh, and…

Heat splashed her skin.  She pressed one hand against her cheek, and her palm burned.  What was happening, and why was Rhad Valentine staring at her lips like he wanted to feast on them?

“Look, Mr.  Valentine, I don’t know how I ended up on your front step.  I can only assume it was an accident.”

“An accident.  I see.”  Rhad pushed himself to his feet.  With his impressive height, he towered over her.  “And might I ask how you know my name?”

Damn.  She’d never been good at keeping secrets.  “I’m not sure.”

He pressed his hands against the mattress too close for comfort.  “You are not a very good liar.”

His darkness reached out to her and threatened to drag her under.  She clenched both hands into the plump, dark comforter.  The air grew thicker, making it difficult to breathe.  He invaded her personal space without apology. 

“You need to back away,” she whispered.

In response, he leaned in even closer.  “Do I make you nervous?”

She scooted to the opposite edge of the bed.  “I’d like my clothes back now, and I’d like to leave.”

”As I told you, you did not arrive in proper clothing, but I have sent my housekeeper to acquire appropriate attire for you.  She should return shortly.  In the meantime, you should eat. You can join me in the dining room, or I can have a tray brought to you.”

“I’m not hungry.” Even as she spoke, her stomach growled, loud enough to make Rhad’s lips twitch.

He strolled toward the bedroom door with lithe grace Mischa envied.  “Do not be petulant, my darling.  You need to eat to build your strength.  When I held you in my arms last night, I barely knew you were there.” 

Dark eyes fixed on her face as he looked over his shoulder.  “When you have eaten and Madeline has returned with the clothes, you will be shown to the gazebo.  It looks like it will be a perfect evening.”

“I have no intention of staying.”  She didn’t draw attention to the endearment he’d used. 

His hand gripped the doorknob.  “We will discuss this later.”

Mischa knew when she was being patronized.  Her blood sizzled.  “No.  We will discuss it now.”

Rhad turned his head toward her, and red rimmed his beautiful, green eyes.  “Do not make the mistake of assuming you make the rules, Mischa. As you are a guest, I will allow you some leniency, but my patience will only be tested so far.”

His words should have scared her, and she did suck in a sharp breath, but it was only at the sound of her name. He knew her! Had he known she was coming?

“How do you know my name?”

He gave her a sly wink.  “I’m not sure.”  The door swept open and closed swiftly behind him.

Mischa scrambled out of the bed and wrapped the sheet around her toga-style.  Her toes sank into the plush carpeting as she raced around the room, looking for something to clothe herself in.  She didn’t know what she’d been thinking when she’d come here. 

Rianna had just talked so much about Rhad that Mischa was sure he must know something about her sister’s disappearance, and he knew her name. That said something, didn’t it?

A nervous knot formed in the pit of Mischa’s stomach. Could Mr. Valentine know more about Rianna’s disappearance than she wanted to know? One hand clutched her throat. From the little information she’d been able to glean about him, Rhad Valentine had few friends, but enemies by the score, none of which had ever gotten the best of him.

He was admired, feared, but mostly, avoided. Neither man nor beast crossed him, and Rianna spoke of him as if he were some type of god. But then her dear little sister had always been prone to embellishments.

Swallowing her hysteria, Mischa pulled the drawers out of the antique armoire.She stepped over the fallen pile of wood and ran to the closet, but the emptiness echoed when she opened the door.  Nothing hung from the hangers, and even the shelves were bare.

“Damn,” she whispered without the usual apology she offered immediately afterwards. She whirled around, hastily scanning the room.

Then a shadow fell across her path, and Mischa gasped.  “You left,” she accused.

Rhad pushed the door shut with a simple flick of his wrist.  “And I came back.”

She backed up until her spine connected with the closet door.  “Why?”

He held up a bag.  “My housekeeper brought these clothes for you.  I told her I would deliver them.”

“On the off chance of seeing me naked?” Mischa shot him a dirty look.

“That would have been one of the perks, yes.”

She liked the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled. Sex appeal dripped from every pore. It was no wonder Rianna had babbled on and on about this man. After clearing her throat, Mischa finally managed a reply. “Too bad I’m prepared for men like you.”

Startlingly white teeth flashed in a grin.  “You know nothing about men like me, Mischa, and until you do, you’d be wise not to antagonize me.”

She walked forward until the top of her head was a mere inch below his chin.  Tipping her head back to see his handsome face, for a brief second, she lost her train of thought, but the mocking smile quickly restored it.

“I know all about you, Mr.  Valentine.  You’re one of the last great vampires.  You feed off innocent people and instill fear in your victims, making their last grueling hours of life hell on Earth.”

That was the last of the information she’d discovered. Rhad Valentine was a vampire. She hadn’t believed it herself at first, but when she’d arrived in Romania, she soon found out that no one doubted the existence of the undead…especially when one lived two valleys over, and there was talk of others, though no one could confirm it.

Rhad twisted his watch around to see the time.  “That’s quite an imagination you have there, Miss Bonovich.” 

She refused to be intimidated by him. No matter what the cost to her own life, she would find out what happened to her sister. “Tell me how you know me. Did my sister tell you about me?”

Not even a hint of awareness flickered in his gaze. “I’m afraid I don’t know your sister.”  He flicked his finger under her chin.  “But I let no one stay in my home without knowing who they are.”

“I had no identification on me last night.”

“And you made sure of that, didn’t you?”

His hot breath bathed her cheeks, the scent reminiscent of fine whiskey.  “I’ve already told you I don’t know how I got to your house, Mr. Valentine. Whether or not you choose to believe it is your business.” Arms folded underneath her breasts, she challenged him. “So since you say you don’t know my sister, then suppose you tell me how you do know me.”

His fingers splayed out to circle the lower half of her face.  “Because I have been expecting you.”

 

His soul had begun to breathe.  Mischa was the woman he’d waited for, the one woman who would free him from the torment of his life.  The moment he heard her voice, he knew. The foundation beneath his feet had shifted and just watching her had given him the feeling of rebirth. He didn’t know how she’d gotten to his front door, but he knew why.

He brought his hands to his face and imagined he could still feel the warmth of her skin. Beautiful.  Sexy.  Passionate. Mischa embodied them all and more.

He poured himself a glass of cognac and swirled it around in the snifter.  The fragrance wafted up to him, but he didn’t enjoy the pleasant aroma as he usually did.  Something more captured his senses. 

He pictured her curves, those graceful long legs, those full breasts, and the proud tilt of her head.  Her long, strawberry blonde hair hung to her waist and caught the light as she moved and those eyes—he let out a groan. Perfection.  He’d never seen eyes the color of a perfect amethyst. 

Mischa Bonovich stirred him, made him remember the male side of the beast within him.  He curled his hands into fists.  Already he craved her and not the taste of her warm blood cascading over his tongue, but the feel of her body writhing beneath his.

She hypnotized him, and the knowledge was heady.  Did the Fates have a hand in her arrival? The question would go unanswered for now. It didn’t matter. She was here, and he felt alive again.

How could a woman create such powerful emotions within a man who’d long ago given up the thought of having any type of real life? He sat down in a red velvet settee and took a sip of the cognac.  It glided over his tongue, its taste pure and powerful.  Just as the woman upstairs.

The images his mind created only served to taunt him until, with a low curse, he launched himself to his feet, tossing the cognac into the roaring flames inside the fireplace.

“Is she really the one?” The question bounced off the ceiling. “How can I be sure? Is it enough to trust my instincts?” He continued to demand answers, but silence was the only response.

Lowering his head, Rhad leaned one hand against the mantel, his eyes staring at the marble floor beneath his feet. “Shaman, did you send her? I need to know.”

The winds began to howl outside the window, and in an instant, Rhad had his answer, but he needed to know more-much more.

“Why now? It’s been so long. She thinks I know her sister. Do I know her?” He shook his head. “No. I don’t, but you do. Am I right?” Flames leapt higher in the in the fireplace, and with a slight chuckle, Rhad moved away.

“You always were a crafty old bastard.” His shoes clicked against the floor as he headed toward the foyer. “Maybe one day you’ll be able to explain to me why you continued to stay with me all of these years…and what took you so long to send Mischa to me.”

 

His hand stroking his white beard, the shaman looked down into the castle with a smile. “That is something you will figure out on your own, my young friend.”

The young woman standing next to him placed her hand on his arm. “Do you truly believe he’ll figure it out in time? We can’t let anything happen to Mischa. What if Rhad won’t go with her?” Pretty and slim, she looked so much like her mother. If his heart could beat, it would ache.

“You must have faith, Granddaughter. Mr. Valentine is quite a resourceful fellow.” He managed a grin though he didn’t feel it inside. “You just wait and see. All will be well in the end.” He guided her back from the edge of the cloudy realm, the place that would be their home forever

“As well as it can be,” she corrected him, her voice soft, hurting. “Nothing will change my death.”

Wanting to absorb some of her pain, he wrapped his arm around the woman’s slender waist. “No, but you are protecting your sister. What you do now will ensure Mischa lives for a long, long time. Rhad is one man I know who can save her life.”

“Hamrick won’t risk hurting her. She’s his last link to you. I suppose I should be thankful he got to me before he got to her.”

The shaman’s eyes closed. “Do not talk like that, little one. I only wish I could have warned you in some way, protected you, but this ethereal form will only allow so much interaction with the living.”

She reached up to touch his face, the warmth of her palm reassuring. At least in this world, they could still feel, love. “I don’t blame you. Hamrick is a desperate man, and desperate men always do irrational things.”

Though she said the words with so much conviction, the shaman read the truth between the lines. She hadn’t accepted her death, and he couldn’t blame her. He’d been old when he’d crossed the mortal realm, but she’d been far too young, a mere twenty-two. Bitterness was a part of the grieving process. All he could offer her now was comfort and the assurance that her sister would enjoy a long and fulfilling life…if things went according to plan.

 

 

Perfect. Just beautiful. Mischa Bonovich was out of the country. Her next door neighbor, a batty old woman who was in the mood to chat, didn’t blink twice about telling him where Mischa had taken off to.

Romania. Travel would tick off another precious day, and it wasn’t like the country was the size of Rhode Island. Somewhere in the middle of millions of people was his last remaining link to the shaman.

It would be like trying to locate a particular snowflake in the middle of a blizzard. His security guys were already digging for Mischa’s itinerary, but in the meantime, he was about to board a flight for a country where English wasn’t the predominant language.

Even with the woman’s location available, it would still take time he didn’t have to get to her. With Romania being over 92,000 square miles, information supplied by his secretary who thought she was helping, Mischa Bonovich could be at the farthest end from the airport.

After popping another pain pill, he handed the flight receptionist his boarding pass and sought out his seat for the 4,000 plus mile journey. His head continued to throb, despite the medication. The neurologist had warned that would happen. Then he’d talked about a morphine pump. That was when Hamrick had tuned him out.

He wasn’t looking for something to stop the pain. He was looking for someone to save his life.

 

Night fell, and Rhad Valentine hadn’t returned.  Arrogant bastard.  If not for the food deliveries, Mischa might have been alone in the house.  The housekeeper offered very few words in thick Romanian, making it clear she wasn’t interested in a conversation. She simply placed the tray on the bedside table, gave Mischa a baleful stare, and marched out of the room like she’d been summoned by the queen.

Mischa pressed a hand to her throat and shivered.  What had she gotten herself into? She was in a vampire’s castle.  His lair.  What on earth had possessed her to think this man might really help her find her sister? And how in the hell had she ended up on his doorstep?

There was definitely trouble brewing in the air, and had Mischa not come from a long line of believers in the black arts, she might have been spooked. But her mother had warned her to always be on the look out for danger…to never let her guard down.

And the one time she had, Mischa found herself inside a vampire’s castle with no means of protecting herself. The question was: would she need to protect herself from Rhad Valentine? Though her sister had extolled his virtues, he certainly didn’t look like the friendly, assisting type.

And as far as she knew, she could be his midnight snack.  Maybe that was why he wanted her to eat.  The shivering intensified.  Well, she wasn’t going to fatten up so he would enjoy his meal more.

She sat on the bed, her legs curled underneath her in a lotus position.  Trying to meditate was useless. A pair of turquoise eyes haunted her.  She flopped back against the stack of pillows behind her and cursed the attraction curling within the pit of her stomach.

Desire sizzled along every nerve ending.  Rhad Valentine had overwhelmed her when he’d walked into the room for the first time.He’d taken her breath away, and she wondered if, before her mission was over, he would take her life.

She fought back the panic and remembered that she had taken an online course for just such an occasion.

“How to kill any vampire” promised immediate results with a money back guarantee.  Mischa guessed the friends she’d named as beneficiaries would be collecting that if the class failed. Of course, she never actually believed in the class, but taking it had given her some sense of control over her fears.

“Oh, Rianna, where are you, and why did you come all the way back to Romania on this quest of yours? Why could you not have been happy in Boston?”  She reverted to her native Romanian tongue as she spoke and combined her thoughts with prayers, praying benediction for her wayward sister.“Sor? Fates , a face pe plac la ai grij? de Rianna. Ea este tîn?r ?i nu de asemenea wise la timp. Chiar ceas înc? o dat? ei pîn? la I a putea afl? ei. Apoi atunci I’ll a lua înc? o dat?.”

Sister Fates, please take care of Rianna.  She is young and not too wise at times.  Just watch over her until I can find her.  Then I’ll take over.  Just as she had since their parents had died seven years ago. 

She’d never complained even though she was forced to give up her dream of being an opera star.  This had simply been her lot in life.  Rianna’s dreams were more important now, and though her younger sister had made a few mistakes in life, Mischa could not imagine her own life without her sibling’s irreverence and carefree spirit.

Her soul nourished by the strength of the prayer, Mischa jumped to her feet and donned the jeans and flowing, white peasant blouse the housekeeper had bought for her.Not exactly her first clothes of choice, but it certainly beat facing the vampire in a toga again…that was if he was even in the house.

She creaked open the bedroom door.  Gas lamps lined the hallway, providing just enough light for her to find her way to the top of the stairs.  She refused to call for help, determined to find her own way to the master’s den. 

“Mischa, how nice to see you out and about,” Rhad spoke from the bottom of the stairs.

She jumped.  The shadows barely allowed her to make out the planes of his face, but the deep timbre of his voice was enough to restart the shivers. “You have a habit of sneaking up on people.”

“I cannot sneak in my own home.”

“Whatever.  We have to talk.”  She reached the bottom landing and swept past him, trying to ignore the way her heart leaped to her throat as the sleeve of her blouse brushed against his arm. She refused to be seduced by a creature of the night, and yet, her body responded, awakening with the need for sensual pleasure.

Rhad swept out a hand, his fingers pointed toward an open door.  “As you wish.  Here is my study.”

Mischa walked ahead of him, her head held high.  The scent of leather assaulted her nostrils, and she spared a glance at her surroundings, eager to take her mind off the man following her.

Rich, gold-embossed books adorned walls lined with shelves.  Executive chairs with intricately carved legs and wooden floors polished to a shine set the scene, and the thick, heavy drapes added the finishing touch to the room.  She could picture Rhad wearing a black cloak and hair gel while twisting his moustache. 

She looked over a shoulder at him.  “Nice decorating job.”

“Since I know you were only being facetious, I’ll refrain from thanking you.  Please, sit down.”

Mischa did but didn’t waste time before she launched into her diatribe.  “I want to know where my sister is, and don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Her name is Rianna Bonovich, and I know you were the last person she saw before she went missing.  You’re all she talked about. That’s how I know all about you. I know everything about you.”

He sat opposite her and assumed a relaxed posture though Mischa was sure his muscles were tensed.  “Everything?”

“Absolutely.”  She scooted to the edge of the chair and leaned forward.  “Didn’t I already know about your vampire status?” Her voice dropped a notch as if she were imparting a secret.

Rhad didn’t blink.  “If such is the case, then why would you throw yourself on my doorstep?  Aren’t you risking your own life?” 

 “I didn’t throw myself on your doorstep.” How insulting. She couldn’t deny that someone had thrown her there, but she would have retained her dignity…and her clothes…had she any choice in the matter.

“So you just fell on your way to my door?”

Her teeth nibbled at her lower lip. “That’s a subject for a different time especially since I’m not quite sure how I got here. Although, if I thought it would ensure my sister’s safety, I would do anything.”

“Including die for her then?”

A lump formed in Mischa’s throat.  “If I have to.”

“I don’t know your sister, Mischa.”

“You’re lying.”

Fury flashed in Rhad’s eyes, and he got to his feet.  “I believe I’ve already told you that I do not lie.”

She got to her feet to stand in front of him, determined not to back down from the danger he presented.  “That’s a load of bullshit. I know you know my sister. She spoke of you often when we talked on the phone.”

“And did she tell you the things I had said to her?”

The first inkling of doubt tickled the back of her mind. The conversations she’d had with Rianna had almost always been about Rhad but never about any communications Rianna might have had with him.

Determined not to let her own doubts sway her, Mischa shot back. “That’s beside the point. I know my sister, and it’s obvious you’re not a figment of her imagination.”

Though Rhad’s jaw tightened, he ran one finger down her upper arm and dipped his head lower.  “You should not take chances when you do not have all the facts.” 

Dark and dangerous, he stared into her upturned face, and Mischa wondered if she’d pushed him too far.  Anger flashed in his eyes, and though she wanted to take a step back, she forced herself to remain in place. 

“I have what I need.”

His hand traveled to her face and he gently stroked her cheek.  “Mischa, if you think to threaten me because a story in cyberspace told you I was one of the undead, then you really don’t know anything about me.”

She clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering. “What makes you think I found out about you online? Perhaps you’re not the only vampire I’ve seen.”

His chuckle was infuriating. “Do not play games with me, little one. I have never been defeated.”

Realization struck like the chiming of a grandfather clock, and a cold chill swept over her body. “You really knew I was coming, didn’t you?” Common sense told her to back out now…to get the hell out of Dodge while she still could. But it was too late. Running wasn’t an option.

“Would my answer make any difference? Would you not have come anyway? You just said you would do anything for your sister so I assume you would change nothing about your current situation.”

She hated his mocking tone.  What she hated even more was her body’s reaction to his touch.  Places tingled she was pretty sure had never tingled before.  And his eyes mesmerized her.  She’d never seen that shade of green on a man, but on him the color was appropriate.  It allowed him to hypnotize his victims.  She found herself staring into the liquid pools and leaning toward him.  Her will power was crumbling like the Berlin Wall.

Forcing herself to hang onto her determination, she threw caution to the winds and gripped a hand full of his starched, white shirt, trying to shake him.  “Where is she?  Tell me where she is, or I swear to God, I will kill you myself.”

Rhad covered her hands with his.  “You mean because you took a course online?  You think that really will teach you how to handle someone like me?”

How did he know so much about her? And the class? Could he read her mind? The thought unnerved her. Mischa licked her dry lips.  “I did have a stake with me, but it must have gotten lost prior to my arrival.”

He dropped his hands down to his sides.  “Perhaps that was for the best then.”

Her arms folded underneath her breasts, she assumed a challenging posture. “You think I couldn’t kill you? Don’t underestimate me, Mr. Valentine. I’m more than capable of protecting my family.”

His palm slid alongside her cheek.  “Did it ever occur to you that you were brought to my home for a reason other than your own?”

Her gaze stabbed him.  He was deliberately trying to throw her off-guard. “It doesn’t matter why I was ‘brought’ here. The fact remains I was coming here anyway so here I am.” When he didn’t speak, she continued. “I know you were the last person to see my sister, and I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what I need to know to find her.”

He didn’t bother to correct her. “You are inside the home of a man you believe to be a vampire, and you make demands?”

He had a way of talking which caused alternating spots of heat and cold to criss-cross up and down her spine.  “Just stop it, okay? I’m not scared of you, what you can do to me, or anything else. I’m here for Rianna, and if you think I can be bullied into running, well, you don’t know me well at all.”

His eyes flashed his approval. “You might think I know your sister, but perhaps, the Fates know I am truly the only one who can find her…and protect you.”

“The Fates could not be that cruel. Besides that, I don’t need protecting.”

His thumbs caressed the corners of her lips.  “Ah yes, the class. You have a strange sense of humor, Mischa, but I ask you to hear me out.”

She wished he’d stop touching her, or maybe she didn’t.  “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

“I am very adept at finding people, things, places, even.My ancestors have blessed me with the gift of sight.”

“Are you trying to tell me you’re a psychic vampire, because I’m warning you, my bullshit-o-meter can sniff out a scam in a matter of seconds.” Sorry, Dad, but this guy just brings out the obscenities in me.

“Why do your eyes look so wide?” His question threw her off the mark, and she blinked up at him.  “Do I make you nervous?”  The timbre of his voice told her he already knew the answer.

“Yes.”  She saw no reason to lie.

He chuckled and guided her toward the chintz sofa as if she couldn’t make the short journey by herself.  And the way her knees were knocking together, maybe she couldn’t.  He settled her on one cushion before sitting down beside her.  “I suppose I shouldn’t have asked you.”  The deep voice flowed over her skin like warm water.

“No, especially since you already knew the answer.” She scooted her knees to one side, putting more space between their bodies. “So tell me more about this gift of sight you claim to have.”

“Would you be surprised if I told you my gift is telling me to kiss you?”  The heat of his skin bathed her cheek.  “You know, you can tell a lot about a person from the way they respond to you.  If they melt,” he lifted a hand and brushed his knuckles down her cheek, softly, a lover’s caress, “if they sigh against your lips,” his hand moved to the long, smooth line of her neck, “or if they whisper your name.  Would you whisper my name, Mischa?” 

Her lids slid to half-mast as he moved even closer to her.  She couldn’t whisper his name because her throat had closed, making speech impossible.  His outer thigh burned against her leg, his hands resting on either side of her hips.  She opened her eyes wider and discovered he was lowering his head, his lips seconds away from touching hers.  She should stop him, back away, but she was frozen and couldn’t think of one of the many reasons why she should stop him.

His lips brushed hers once, twice and then he backed off, his eyes meeting hers.  The silence in the room was almost deafening as their gazes locked.  Tension clawed its way up Mischa’s spine, and she held her breath, waiting for him to make the next move.  She didn’t have long to wait.

Hooking his hand behind her head, Rhad pulled her closer, fusing his lips to hers in a kiss that was anything but hesitant.  Powerful emotions churned inside of her, emotions like desire, passion, and a longing so intense her heart ached.  She was sure he could taste her fear, her hesitancy and finally, her surrender.  She wanted him, but he was already pulling away.  Had she spoken her craving aloud?

He put some distance between them.  “I will not apologize.”  From the sound of his voice, he spoke through gritted teeth.

Mischa fell back against the cushion behind her, closing her eyes.  “Why doesn’t that surprise me?” 

He turned, fixed her with another surveying look.  “I won’t deny what I am.”

Her eyes popped open.  “You mean a vampire?  If that’s the case, why haven’t you taken my blood?”

“Because I will not do so without your permission.”

Unconsciously, Mischa rubbed her neck.  “And if I never give it?”

Stealthy steps carried him back to her, making her feel a little like prey. “Then I shall remain a very hungry man.”

His eyelids drooped low, shadowing the heated light in his eyes.  Mischa’s palms grew damp.  “You’re either the most considerate vampire I’ve ever met or you’re lying which you said you never do.”

“If I’m what you say I am, I’d wager I’m the only vampire you’ve ever met.”

Mischa wanted to hit him.  “That makes no difference.  I don’t want to become one of you.”

The smile he gave her was filled with longing.“Destiny can be a bitch, my sweet.”  He dipped in and caressed her lips once more before pulling away.  “You should sleep.”

“Is there a lock on that bedroom door?”

“Nothing will harm you here.”

Mischa got to her feet.  “No?  Not even the host?”

A thumb touched the corner of her mouth. “Mischa, when I take you, you will feel no pain.  Only passion, hunger, and a burning need for the feel of my body inside yours.” He brought her hand to his face and gently suckled her index finger.  “You will want me as much as I want you, and when I make you mine, you will need other men no more.”

She tugged her hand free and quickly backed toward the door.  “This is where the bell really rings on that meter I was telling you about.”

“Sleep well, little one.”

Yeah, that was going to happen.

 

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe Hamrick won’t come after her. Let’s send her back to Boston. We can keep her safe, can’t we? I mean, we’re not totally useless.”

“’Our abilities are limited.”

She snorted. “Only because we allow them to be because of the council.” Arms held wide, she swayed to and fro. “Look at me! I can do anything I want…including save Mischa’s life. I brought her to the castle, and I can protect her.”

A hard hand clamped down on her wrist. “If you interfere, your actions could end in her death.”

The brunette blanched. “How can you be so sure?”

One bushy eyebrow lifted. “You doubt me now?”

Her arms folded. “Well, I am dead, aren’t I?”

The shaman turned to look at her, and she caught the disapproval in his eyes. “So you think I allowed you to die, do you?”

She dropped her head, ashamed of her rash words. “No. I don’t. It’s just that…I’m so worried about Mischa. She shouldn’t be here.”

He took hold of her hand. “And neither should we, but all things work out in the end.”

“I wish I could be as sure of that as you are.”

“Rhad will save your sister, Rianna. That I can promise you.”


© Copyright 2019 RachelCarrington. All rights reserved.

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