Wickedly handsome and shamelessly rich, Tristan Stahl is a villain. A businessman by day and an underground cage fighter by night, he fears no one, and respects one man alone – his adoptive father, Mark Stahl. It’s at Mark’s request that Tristan recruits Isolde Molnar for her “special talents”. He doesn’t expect complications from this “piece of livestock”, but working closely with her turns out challenging in more ways than one. Throw a modern alchemist’s potion in the mix along with Mark Stahl’s growing infatuation with the girl, and there you have it – Tristan and Isolde Reloaded. Enjoy!
My men bring her in a few days later. I’m waiting in the study, reading the last adjustments to her contract. I expect her intense dark eyes to spit soot at me, but there’s no trace of the confident, bold-mouthed young mare from last time in the girl now facing me. Even at the club, with her tits technically popping from her cleavage, she was more commanding.
She wears an old raincoat with a mock fur lined hood that now hangs loose on either side of her neck, no make-up, a thick and messy bun atop her head. I’ve never seen her hair open, but I expect it to be long and tangled, suiting the curvaceous little cavewoman that she is. Demerol says they intercepted her at the corner store buying eggs for breakfast, so this must be the morning package, no mortar, no paint.
“I hope my men weren’t too brusque with you?” I rise from the chair behind the desk, my eyes scanning the reality for differences to the picture I had of her in my mind a few nights ago. Except for the lacking grooming there aren’t many.
“I was taken a bit by surprise.” She looks up at the shelves upon shelves of books like they’re fairy tale, clearly in awe. “It’s quite a castle and a library you have here.”
“You an avid reader?”
“I’m a sucker for romance novels.”
Sucking. The lapping sounds of my jerk-off come back to me, and I want to splinter the rack of ancient weapons on the sidewall.
“As honest as always, but without the bitter part.” I sound hostile, which alarms her. I can see it in her face.
“Well, you’re my boss now, aren’t you? I thought I’d mind my tongue.”
Hell, what next? She’s gonna find a reason to say sex?
I rip my gaze away from her as I invite her to read the contract, but can’t help creeping from the corner of my eye as she passes me by. She leaves behind a trail of meaty smell mingled with cheap lily scent. I grit my teeth to refrain from literally biting into her.
They say humans unconsciously decide if they want someone as a sexual partner in a split second after they meet them, but I stopped being fully human a while ago. I do prostitutes to release my waste, but I never lusted for them, not even in the abusive way I want to possess Isolde. They’re human cattle to me, they stink and wobble, they’re drains and gutters. Seems I have to remind myself of that whenever I’m around this particular one.
Isolde takes the contract in her hands, and I almost expect her to go audacious enough to sit in my chair and start analyzing individual paragraphs. But instead she remains standing and skips right to the last page. She picks up a ballpoint pen from the holder on my desk, and signs with one swing of her wrist.
“Didn’t you want to peruse it first?” I inquire, cocking an eyebrow.
She tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear, her cheeks a reddish hue. She’s nervous. “What’s the use? It’s either your way or the highway, isn’t it?”
She looks around, awkward and shy. This doesn’t add up, she acts nothing like the first two times we met.
“So, do I come back tomorrow with a suit and a briefcase? Or will I be working from somewhere else?” she says.
“You work from here, and no, there’s no need for special attire. You start right away.”
I join her behind the desk, keeping a safe distance like a lion from a lamb, and pull file folders from the lowest drawer. I place them in the form of a pyramid to suggest hierarchy within the Institute for Psychosomatic Research. Isolde is much smaller than me, and all I see is her messy bun whenever I glance at her. An urge washes over me to grab it, tug her head back and lick her jugular, feel it pulse on my tongue. I grit my teeth to refrain.
“Here are your golden apples,” I begin to talk, determined to distract myself from the urges. “I know all there is to know about all the Institute’s important members, besides their leader.” I point to the X-marked file at the top of the pyramid. “You’ll use the others in order to get to him. I believe that my resources combined with your talents is the formula for success.”
Isolde stiffens. I bend my head a bit to get a good look at her face – fixed eyes, slightly parted lips. She appears stunned.
“What troubles you, Isolde?”
I don’t expect her to say something immediately, therefore I give her a few moments. She takes her hand hesitantly to a file right under the X one. Besides the X file, each one has a picture of its subject on the cover.
“Marie France Cassel,” I start about the person she’s staring at. “She might be among the hardest people to pin down.”
“She works for the Institute?” Isolde murmurs.
“Obviously.” Redundant questions annoy me, so I turn from her and start pacing slowly, keeping my eyes off her as well. “Madame Cassel majored in Chemical Engineering at Imperial, London, top of her class, but she considers herself a new age alchemist. She is praised in her field as very innovative, and mixes in-depth knowledge of chemistry with esoteric that she openly believes in – based on her upbringing; her parents were Goths. No one ever took them seriously, of course, but Marie France cherishes their memory and therefore always strived to prove their legacy veritable. She’s a modern witch, if you want.”
“Did she succeed? To prove their legacy real?” Isolde sounds faint, as if she’s afraid of the answer.
“To a certain extent.” I narrow my eyes at her. “Why the special interest in Ms. Cassel?”
She holds up the file. “I know her, Tristan. Her name is Frany, and she used to work with me at the nightclub.”
The news tears through my eardrums. Like everything that takes me by surprise, it angers the hell out of me. “Say what?”
“This woman was supposed to wait your table a few nights ago when you and I last saw each other. The guy you saved me from and his friends had given her a bad time, and I offered to take the drinks up for her. Then –” she hesitates. I’m forced to approach.
I grab her shoulders, my hands firm on her upper arms, but I pull her closer gently. Her scent of prey and lily makes my nostrils flare. This is what blood must smell like to sharks. “I suggest you spill all the beans.”
“Didn’t you see Frany at all?” she asks, clearly intimidated.
“Would we still be having this conversation if I did?”
Her eyes dart around as if she’s searching for an explanation on the walls and shelves. “The glass you drank from. Frany took it to some guy who looked like an undercover agent or something, leather jacket and all, saying the police is after your DNA.”
The wheels turn in my head. I narrow my eyes.
“What is it?” she inquires. “Please, Tristan, tell me what you’re thinking.”
“Marie France Cassel doesn’t need my DNA. She’s had it since forever. And she’d never work with the police.”
Isolde frowns and shakes her head slightly. “But why would she be so desperate to stop me from touching that glass and making your DNA useless?”
I grin. I’ve never been so close to the Institute before, especially through a member as highly ranked as Madame Cassel. Hiring Isolde has already started to pay off. “Let’s go ask her.”
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