Vampire, Shifter and Superhero romances, for 0,99 to 1,99 or FREE

I admit. I’m into romance, the hot kind, paranormal, supernatural and dark, if possible. I’ll have them with really steamy scenes, please, or I’ll file a complaint. If you’re like me, then you’ll be happy to learn that…

Having access to tons of reads through my job, I will be posting new hot romances, freebies and special offers (0,99 to 1,99)! I’ll be your romance reads contrabandist. Interested?  Stay tuned, loves!

SO

For starters:

If you’re into vampire, shifter and superhero romance, I have a number of books out there that will ignite your passion and make your evenings special. They are either on special offer, or free, and they’ll remind you of Twilight and Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series.

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Prince of Midnight is currently only 0,99 on Amazon, and free to read in KU!

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Let me tell you a secret–Dracula had a brother. This is true. They called him Radu the Handsome, but his beauty was deceiving, and it hid a deadly secret…

With high ambitions as a journalist, Juliet Jochs travels to the Carpathians to investigate a mysterious and unnaturally beautiful prince. She suspects that he’s a dangerous man, and that this mission may cost her life. But, as the prince’s masks begin to peel off, she fears she may lose her sanity.

Prince Radek’s dark powers suck Juliet into a whirl of hypnotic desire–no woman has ever resisted his lures. But something is different about her, special, and he’s growing dangerously addicted to her. She must keep her head above the water if she is to save herself, run away and not look back before he consumes her completely. But can she resist opening the last door to his most terrible secret?
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You can grab book two, Prince of Obsession for 1,99, or read for free in KU!
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Carpathian prince Radek the Handsome has one last, dirty secret.

When Prince Radek is forced to strike a deal with his older brother Dracula, his young lover Juliet must pay the price–and is forced to leave him.

They meet again later, when he comes to her city on secret business. The Prince tries to keep cool when Juliet probes his shady dealings, but his craving for her grows obsessive and even dangerous, striking with a vengeance after their time apart. Stalking her from behind mirrors at night, he can barely contain his lust. But can he afford to lose control now that he’s so close to attaining the very goal for which he sacrificed Juliet years ago?

This is book two of the series Dracula’s Bloodline.
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Prince of Blood is the latest book in the series! Get it for 1,99 or free in KU!
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Dracula exists.
For centuries he’s been lurking in the underworld, searching for the one woman whose blood can make him invincible–Dracula’s Grail
.

A shadow stalks librarian Ruxandra Len, a demonic power from a past she can’t remember. Intrigued when she discovers that her bloodline leads back to the notorious Prince Dracula, she travels to the Carpathians to learn more. But what she finds is a truth darker than legend.

The Prince of Blood fascinates Rux. His dark energy weaves a web of enchantment around her, making her crave him. But just as the Dark Lord thinks she’s ready to surrender her blood, the deepest shadow of her past emerges. Can Vlad Dracula defeat an even older, darker legend, and protect the woman who means the world to him in more ways than he likes to admit?

This is book three of the Dracula’s Bloodline series. It has a HEA and a lot of steam.

Book four is in the works, and will hit the Zon on the 22nd of March, so in less than a month 🙂
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YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO LOVES VAMPIRE AND SHIFTER ROMANCE? Let them know 🙂 And there’s more! If you like superhero romance (genetically engineeered superhumans falling in love), I have two free stories out there!
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FREE
If you want something mysterious but sweet, Hyperion is the story for you 🙂
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Hyperion is an assassin with a fist of iron and a heart of ice. Not entirely human, he’s the only one who can fight a special kind of enemy. After being sent to the Dark Forest, he sets up camp and begins observing his target from the shadows. There’s little Hyperion doesn’t see coming, and even less he can’t deal with. That is, until his target’s young wife, Ligia, steps into the picture. A woman in need of protection seeks the assassin, and threatens to melt the heart that has been frozen for so long.
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Want something more dangerous, dark romance, with dark steamy scenes? Prepare for triggers and forbidden lust with The Revenge of Andrey Jones
RoAJ

There’s a fine line between love and hate

Lila Banks is driven and cool-headed—until she meets dream employer Andrey Jones, and finds herself drooling over him. The last thing she expects is that he’s hated her for years. His father, the villain known as Big Boss, had once left his family for Lila—or so Andrey thinks. Today, he wants revenge.

Cold, calculated and almost evil, Andrey uses Lila in vile ways, but the boomerang is bound to return. Will Andrey be able to resist Lila when she turns his own weapons against him? A story of dark seduction, walking the fine line between love and hate.

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EXTRA for 0,99 on Amazon, gothic supernatural romance, The Soul Trapper
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When beauty hides a curse.

Saphira is cursed with exceptional beauty. To her parents, she’s a goldmine. They want to find her a rich husband to save their own failing business. Enter the Marquis, a wealthy assassin with a secret grudge against Saphira’s parents and the rest of the town’s elite.

Forced into an arrangement she can’t escape, Saphira is pulled down a dark path of revenge. Certain she won’t survive the Marquis’s plot, she tries to keep her sanity by doing the one thing she knows how–she paints him. What she doesn’t expect is that her nemesis has another face only she can see. And that she has hidden powers of her own, powers that can either redeem or doom his soul.

For fans of Christine Feehan and Nora Roberts.

A dark paranormal romance with HEA guaranteed.

MORE TO COME, FOLKS! Stay tuned 🙂

Prince of Blood – Capter I

Loves, as you know, I’m constantly working on a new book, and right now I’m deep into the one for February–book 3 of the Dracula’s Bloodline series, Prince of Blood. I’m very excited about this book, and I thought I’d share the cover and the first chapter with you guys. Let me know what you think. First, here’s what the book is about:

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Dracula exists.

For centuries he’s been lurking in the underworld, searching for the one woman whose blood can make him invincible—Dracula’s Grail.

Bad things happen to the men who date librarian Ruxandra Len, as if she’s cursed. If she’s ever to at least lose her virginity, she needs to find out why. Through a scholar interested in her curse, she learns that her bloodline connects to the legend of Dracula. Intrigued, she travels to the Carpathians to learn more about him. But what she finds is a truth darker than legend.

The Prince of Blood fascinates Rux. His dark energy weaves a web of enchantment around her, making her crave him like a drug. But just as the Dark Lord thinks she’s ready to surrender her blood, the deepest shadow of her past emerges. Can Vlad Dracula defeat an even older, darker legend, and protect the woman who means the world to him in more ways than he likes to admit?

 

CHAPTER I

Rux

 

I have a stalker. Not the kind to send flowers, chocolate, or even dick pics. No, he sends my dates skidding under speeding buses, or slipping on tiles and cracking their skulls in the men’s room. Wanna date me? Might as well watch Final Destination just to warm up.

He’s a shadow. A curse. Kept me a hormone-raging virgin to date—I’m twenty-three. But, no matter how many men this curse puts in the hospital, there’s always a new guy eager to dare the fates. Today, as I do my hair and prepare for work, one of them goes wild.

‘I can meet you anywhere.’

Bling.

‘Shall I pick you up from work?’

Bling.

‘Or we can meet for lunch at the cafeteria.’

Bling.

‘Why don’t you text me back?’

Bling-bling-bling as his texts hit my cell, the display flashing on the bed until I pick it up. A glance at the guy’s profile pic that appears along with the text shows a long face, baldhead, big nerd glasses. He looks like a middle-aged science freak with mental issues. Half as bad as the leather jackets and tattoos, but I still block him.

I swing my purse on my shoulder and close the door behind me.

Half an hour later, on campus, the elevator opens at the library level, leaving me a corridor away from my workplace. A smile along with the occasional nod is my default response to greetings—most students know Miss Len from the library, and they think I must have taken special notice of them, too. I didn’t. No, believe me, I do like people, and I love the vibe of campus life, but I try to avoid close contact. It drains me.

Carrying a mocha to go in one hand, I’m groping in my purse for my staff card when I see him. The guy from the profile picture is standing right in front of the library doors where I can’t avoid him. I stop in my tracks, my jaw clenching.

Tall and willowy, he looks nervously left and right, pushing his thick-framed glasses up his nose. When he spots me he stiffens and clutches his briefcase like a shield to his chest, sweat glistening on his baldhead.

“Good morning, Miss Len,” he says in a rickety voice as I approach. His upper lip twitches over mousey front teeth.

I try to walk past him. He grabs my elbow, and my heart beats harder, but it’s more with rage than anything else. I’ve had so many daredevils pushing for a date that it’s not even funny anymore, it’s fucking annoying.

“Please, Miss Len, just listen.”

“No, you listen.” I take a step closer, not even bothering to struggle from his grip. “If you insist, bad things are going to happen, okay? This isn’t a fucking game.”

He swallows hard, and I pull my arm out of his grip. He lets me walk by him to the library entrance, but then he calls after me.

“I think I can help you get rid of the curse, Miss Len.”

I stop with my staff card in my hand, looking over my shoulder. That’s a first, nobody offered ‘help’ before.

“Aren’t you the one who’s been messaging me like crazy since five in the morning?”

“I am. But I wasn’t writing because I wanted to dare the fates and ask you out. But because I think I know why this is happening to you.”

I turn to him, giving him a once over. I have to admit, he doesn’t fit the pattern of the daredevil. He seems terrified to be even talking to me, clutching that briefcase like his life depends on it, sweating everywhere, eyes wide behind the glasses, upper lip trembling over his front teeth.

He’s probably never been on a date in his life, much less with a notorious cursed woman. The other guys were the leather-wearing, Harley-revving kind of bad boys, race pilots, even high-profile gamblers that would have made hundreds of thousands if they got into my pants without breaking a bone.

“Don’t take this wrong,” I begin, my tone softer. “You seem like a decent person. But don’t you think I already tried everything?” I motion to the elegant library doors behind me. “I’m a librarian. I know how to do research, and research I did to exhaustion.”

“But did you look down your own bloodline?”

My silence encourages him to walk over.

“You probably went the classic way,” he says, talking too fast to still hide his lisp. “You’ve probably been looking for similar cases in history, researching the kind of stalkers who created the illusion that supernatural things were happening, you probably even looked into myths and legends. But you never stopped to wonder why it’s happening to you of all people, have you?”

“I did, but I never used it as a research angle. The other similar cases in history didn’t seem to be related by blood. I feared researching my bloodline would be a waste of time, unnecessary effort—because it would be an effort. I’m adopted, with no ties to my biological parents.”

The nerd looks left and right to ensure privacy, then he leans down to me and whispers.

“Miss Len, forgive me for being so direct, but I think your bloodline leads back to Vlad the Impaler, the Prince of Blood. And I think he is related to your curse.”

It takes a moment until I realize—he’s making fun of me. A feeling of betrayal and anger engulfs me. For a moment there he had me fooled, thinking he was a decent guy.

“You think this is funny?” I say between my teeth.

“I know it sounds crazy.” He gropes in his pocket until he finds a handkerchief, and wipes the sweat off his baldhead. The smell of perspiration wafts over. “But let me tell you how I came to this conclusion.”

“Stun me.”

He looks around again, as if watching for spies.

“Not here. Please, meet me for lunch. I promise this isn’t a date, and I will explain everything, but we need complete privacy. Trust me, Miss Len, this will be worth it.”

He looks into my eyes full of hope.

I let the entire thing go through my head. What do I have to lose? I tried all the logical ways, I might as well give the impossible a chance.

“All right. But you better have convincing arguments.”

“I do, Miss Len. Thank you for your trust.”

“No, no trust yet.” My tone goes softer. “But hope. It’s been years, and I’m getting tired of this whole curse business.” Not to mention I’m yearning to feel a hot male body pressing on mine at least once in this lifetime, which won’t happen unless I finally lose the curse that’s been stalking me for years. I look the nerd up and down again. “Where?”

We agree on a pub downtown. We have to avoid running into people who know me, simply because they would stare and eavesdrop, so he says he’d reserve a booth.

When I ask him the obvious—isn’t he afraid of the curse?—the nerd says he isn’t; he’s certain it applies only to men who have certain intentions with me, and who actually make a move.

He finally leaves, his step quick and jerky, betraying he’s excited. I turn around, sliding my staff card through the device to get inside the library, wondering if a Dracula enthusiast could really hold the answer to my problem.

***

“I’m Dalton, by the way,” the freaky nerd says as we sit awkwardly across from each other at the pub. We’re in a booth by a crown glass window, everything around smelling old and moldy.

“Nice to meet you, Dalton.”

Awkward silence.

“So,” I break the ice. “You a Dracula fan?”

“Dracula is an interest of mine, yes.” He pauses, and looks back down into his cappuccino. I roll my eyes, my shoulders sagging.

“Okay, listen. I’m not a people person. I became a librarian because I preferred books to people, so please don’t put strain on my very poor socializing skills. You wanted to share your theory with me, but now you’re having me work for it. So please, if you have something to say, just say it, or give me something to read and extract the information myself. Like I said, I’m more comfortable with that than with conversation anyway.”

He blinks behind those big glasses.

“As a matter of fact, I did bring reading material,” he says, and bends to the side to pick up his briefcase from the floor. He opens it, and uses both hands to take out a big, medieval book with a beautifully carved silver cover that catches the light filtering through the crown glass.

My jaw drops.

“Where in the world did you get this?” I whisper, touching the book with the reverence I would touch a shrine, my eyes drinking it in.

“You know what it is?”

“I know it’s a highly valuable medieval artifact, worth hundreds of thousands,” I whisper.

“So you’re certain it isn’t a fake.”

“No, it’s real.” I hesitate, but then I tell him how I know. “My entire family deals in rare artifacts and books. Hundreds of originals and fakes have passed through my hands, all I need is a glance to tell.”

So much silver in my hands at once makes my scalp prickle. Great joy begins to build inside my lower belly, rising to my stomach—that same feeling I got every time I touched the rare books dad examined. It’s all I can do to keep myself from going high with the feeling, my eyelids fluttering as I drink in the beautiful carvings of what looks like gargoyles with tongues sticking out of their mouths.

“Well then, read the title,” Dalton encourages.

Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Blood.

And, under it, also carved into the cover, Year of our Lord 1449.

“Why would they put the year on the cover?” I whisper.

“Because this isn’t a book, Miss Len. It’s a chronicle.”

“Please, call me Ruxandra. Or Rux—easier to pronounce.” I touch the book tentatively again, opening it with reverence.

“Ruxandra—a Romanian name. It’s your name that drew my attention in particular when I heard about your curse.” He stands and moves over to my side, so that we can look into the book from the same angle. “May I?”

He starts turning pages. The gentle but expert way in which his fingers move, turning fragile yellowed page after page, the writing faded but coiling beautifully fascinates me. All chapters seem to have a date instead of a title. He stops at July 5th, 1450.

“These chronicles have been recorded at a medieval monks’ monastery,” he says, but then loses his battle with shyness again. It seems talking to me is a continuous struggle for him.

He’s now too close to me, the smell of perspiration and dank old suit wiping away my book-and-silver induced feeling of euphoria. His upper lip trembles over his teeth, and the page quivers between his fingers.

“The language,” I begin in a soft voice, trying to make this easier on him. “It doesn’t look Romanian, it looks German. Old German.”

“It is. The scholars leading the monastery were from Nürnberg—you must have heard about the Nürnberg Chronicles that documented the life and actions of Vlad the Impaler.” He looks at me when I don’t reply. “Sorry, I don’t know where to start, because I don’t know how much of the Impaler’s history you’re familiar with.”

“Honestly, not much more than what I saw in Dracula movies. But—” I narrow my eyes, going through my memories. “My mum is some sort of Dracula scholar, a fact that I never really took seriously.”

“So your mother might be aware of your family ties with the Impaler,” he says, his voice jumping with hope.

“Rather my dad. He’s… Well, his ancestors come from the Carpathians. But he doesn’t talk about it much. He never did while he was still here, in Britain.”

Dalton nods, his lips pursing.

“I heard about your dad in aristocrat circles. He’s a character that intrigues me—Radek Len, the dealer in rare books and artifacts.”

“My dad is a very private man. He’d hate to know he drew attention. But we didn’t come here to talk about him and his dealings, did we?”

“We might have to talk about them, in order to clarify your connection to the Impaler. Just look at the big picture: Your father, Radek Len, coming from the Carpathians, dealing in rare books and artifacts. Through him, you had enough experience with rare books in order to recognize a medieval original at once. And your mother is a Dracula enthusiast.” He looks at me as if from here the conclusion is obvious.

“But all this is irrelevant, Dalton, because I’m adopted. Wouldn’t it make more sense that we focus on my biological family, if it’s my bloodline that matters?”

“Depends. Your adoptive family seems related to the legend, too. And then there’s your name.”

I frown. “You mentioned that. What does my name have to do with it?”

He turns his attention to the book and puts a finger on a certain word.

I look down at the medieval page, my eyes fixing on the word right above Dalton’s finger. I don’t need to know the language in order to understand what it says.

Ruxandra.

I glance at word in front of it, and the one after.

Lady. Basarab.

“You see, there has been a lot of speculation regarding Vlad Dracula’s first wife,” Dalton begins. “Most sources refer to her as Elizabetta, some as Anastasia, some blatantly wrongly as Cneajna, who was actually his mother. But the noblewoman Vlad married in his youth, soon after he came back from his soldier’s training at the Sultan’s court, was Ruxandra. She was only seventeen at the time, he wasn’t much older either. They fell in love like only heart-driven teenagers can fall in love.

“But their romance was short-lived. Upon the Turks’ first attack on Dracula’s castle, Ruxandra threw herself from the window of their marital chamber, and perished into the river flowing at the bottom of the castle’s rocky base. To this day, the river carries the name of Lady’s River. Before she jumped, she told the servants who struggled to keep her back that she’d rather die than become a slave to the Turks.

“Days later, when Vlad returned from battle, Ruxandra’s lifeless body was lying inside the castle chapel. The priests damned her, telling Vlad that her soul was forever lost; suicides would never be allowed into the kingdom of God. It is said that was the day Vlad lost his soul. The day when he started on a blood-shedding frenzy, impaling every one of his boyars that he thought might have betrayed him and driven his wife to kill herself, and hating the Turks with a passion.”

He turns the page, magic filling the booth at the rustle of old paper and his voice. I don’t think I’ve been so taken with a story since grandma Magda used to tuck me in.

“This chapter was written in 1449, while Ruxandra was still alive. But it tells a slightly different story than the official one I just recounted for you.” He pauses for the effect of his words, drinking in the fascination in my face.

“Well,” I invite.

“Seems Lady Ruxandra Basarab held a secret hidden within the walls of this monastery, where this chronicle was written. In later chapters, this book reveals that her suicide didn’t have to do with the Turks, but with this secret. She killed herself before the Turks could torture the truth out of her.”

“And what was the truth?” I push, looking at the beautiful writing again. The monks’ hands had moved with care and reverence—writing itself was an art back then.

Dalton lowers his voice, filling with gravity and magic. “Seems Ruxandra had pledged herself to a demon, performing a ritual at this specific monastery. It was a very special demon, that could only be summoned and bound on Holy ground. Must have been a fallen angel or a very ancient spirit, because it is said only those have access on holy ground.” He looks me gravely in the face, turning pages. “The next chapter tells of people in the village mysteriously dying if they said the slightest bad thing about Lady Ruxandra. Once, a boyar expressed his dislike of the Lady, and Vlad wasn’t there to defend her honor. She just looked at him with her—” He looks into the book, quoting. “Deeply black eyes, the black of the demon. The man fell to the ground, taken by violent convulsions that killed him.” He looks at me again. “There are mentions of Ruxandra’s demonic spells over the boyars in later chapters as well, many cases in which people died after she’d given them the ‘black in her eyes’. Now, returning to what is happening with you, six centuries later….”

I wait for him to continue, but he keeps staring at me as if I should have already understood, and now he expects a reaction. I shake my head, frowning.

“I’m sorry, I still don’t see how this whole thing led you to me, or determined you to link my case to this—” I gesture towards the book, looking for the word. “Story.”

“Can it get any clearer than this? Lady Ruxandra’s name, her eyes.” Again that pause and expectant look—after all, it’s so obvious, isn’t it? Because of my ink black eyes I must be as evil as a woman who’d pledged her soul to the devil.

In moments like this I remember why I resent human contact.

“You know a lot about Lady Ruxandra,” I say, a long-forgotten meanness seeping into my voice. “But I must wonder—how much do you know about me?”

“I knew that you were adopted by two high-profile traders in rare artifacts and books before you told me,” he says eagerly. “Both people of powerful secrets. You, their daughter, are haunted by a curse that puts your suitors in hospital. The papers flared with stories about you, but your father soon managed an injunction. Still, the articles were enough for me.” He looks at me with the pride of someone who thinks they know everything, and that they know you better than you know yourself. God, how I want to slap it off his face, but I refrain, speaking slowly, clearly, but through my teeth.

“Well, I see that you already know enough to understand me and my story fully. I only have a few details to add, not much, really. My adoptive parents were very loving, and for a few years things were amazing. But then they disappeared, leaving me with my grandmother, Magda—a former librarian who taught me the craft. I haven’t seen them in many years, not even when my father managed the injunction. He did it from a distance.” The meanness swells in my heart, and I snort bitterly. I can feel the blackness in my eyes deepening, and Dalton leans back, obviously growing scared.

“I know that look in your eyes, Dalton. It’s how people used to look at me in school—fear and suspicion. All because of the way I looked. The starkly white skin, the eyes ink black. You know what they called me? Samara. It didn’t sound so bad at first, because I didn’t know who Samara was. I Googled her, though, and found out soon enough. Watched The Ring, and realized I wanted to scare the shit out of the bullies, just like Samara did. Especially those always hanging by the lockers, laughing and pushing me around. One even hauled me against a locker and lifted my skirt, pretending to fuck me from behind and daring all the others to laugh.” The meanness turns to satisfaction, which surely shows in my grin. I can feel my eyes become even more intense, and Dalton pushes himself against the back of his chair.

“That’s when it first happened,” I say darkly. “One of his friends had a sudden change of heart. The smile suddenly wiped off his face, and he decided to attack the guy molesting me, punching him hard in the face and breaking his nose. So it was a man made of flesh of blood who stepped in, not some supernatural power that made him convulse and die. Soon though, people forgot, and a new kind of bullying began.

“The guys started betting on who would relieve ‘Samara’ of her virginity. So one of the school heartthrobs, one I had a crush on, asked me out. I accepted, eager to be kissed by him—unaware of the bet. But before he touched my lips after the movie’s, some stranger stepped in and beat him to a pulp. It was a while until things became more refined, with the ‘saviors’ no longer appearing and beating my dates, but acting from a distance, orchestrating accidents in men’s rooms and involving even crane hooks. Now, you’ll understand if I’m firmly convinced whoever is behind all this is a man of flesh of blood, not some demon. A man who’s been watching me for many, many years. And you know what? For a long time I was grateful for this stalker. Because, deranged or not, he loved me.”

I lean even closer, forcing Dalton to lean his head back, the skin folding under his chin as he tries to put distance between his face and mine.

“And love was something I craved like a starving dog. I’d never been so precious to anyone before, I’d never felt so worthy. Even my parents,” I continue, forcing the information into his head. “They tried to love me, but they failed. Sure, they left me with a caring grandma and kept sending money, but still—they weren’t there. They couldn’t find a good reason to keep me by their side. I wasn’t enough. But this stalker….” I lean back again, relishing the story in my head. “He loved me, and I didn’t want him to go away. I wanted him to show himself. At first, I didn’t research in order to get him off my case, but to bring him closer. It never worked, for some reason. He must enjoy just meddling with my life from a distance, never involving himself physically, it must be some kind of fetish for him. But I want to have a real relationship, so I grew tired of his games. Now tell me, Dalton, how could this be related to Dracula?”

He swallows, his Adam’s apple moving up and down. I wait for an answer, eyes fixed on his without blinking. He glances at the book and points shyly to it.

“May I?” he whispers gutturally.

“Please.”

Slowly, he turns a chunk of pages, then again a few of them one by one until he reaches chapter 31st of October 1460. He waits again as if he expects me to feel enlightened only by looking at it.

“I must remind you, Dalton, I don’t understand German, much less the medieval version.”

“Sorry, I forgot,” he says quietly. Sure, he’s been too taken with my intensity. “This chapter talks about one thing that always puzzled historians—how did Vlad the Impaler win battles with an Ottoman army that outnumbered his by thousands?” He taps the page with his finger. “This account says that Ottoman turned on Ottoman as if some demon possessed them to turn on their own—just like the first guy who punched the bully in the face. Imagine a battlefield, it says, one army red, one silver. The red one is a bundle of crazed animals tearing at each other, while the silver one simply forms the shape of a five-pointed star in front of their opponents. In the end, they finished the survivors, and impaled them.”

I don’t understand why he’s telling me this at first. But then my synapses start firing again.

“I understand where you’re going. The same demon, the one that Lady Ruxandra pledged herself to, probably in exchange for the demon helping her husband in battle, must have influenced my protectors as well. But I never had anything to do with pentagrams, demons, and I don’t take soul pledging very seriously.”

“For a woman with the word ‘curse’ attached to her you sure are very skeptical.”

“I’m just realistic, Dalton,” I conclude, hands on the table as I decide I’ve heard enough, and make to stand up. “There are no such things as curses, stalking demons, or reincarnations for that matter.”

“No? Then how do you explain this?”

He moves on to the last page. My brain freezes.

I’ll be damned…. I drop back into the chair.

***

 

Enjoyed this? Let me know what you think in a comment, I’m always happy to hear from you 🙂

Yours,

Ana

 

Prince of Obsession – Chapter I FREE

Loves, the release date for Prince of Obsession is approaching fast! The 18th of January is just around the corner, and guess what? On the 3rd, just a few days from now, the manuscript will be ready to go to my ARC readers (readers who receive the e-book in advance, for free, and post a review on Amazon.com and/or Goodreads on the release date). If you’d like to hop on my ARC team leave me a comment or send me your e-mail details to anaatcalin@gmail.com, and I’ll send you the book as soon as it’s set to go out. Until then, here’s what this sequel to Prince of Midnight is about, and the first chapter:

Anagratiu_v4_Ebook

 

Carpathian prince Radek the Handsome no longer turns into a monster at nightfall. But does that make him any less wicked than his brother, Lord Dracula?

Three nights before their wedding, former journalist Juliet Jochs storms out of Prince Radek’s castle in the Carpathians, determined never to return. Five years later, she makes a terrible discovery—the true reason why Radek broke her heart, and its connection to Dracula.

The Prince and Juliet meet face to face again when he comes on business to her city. He tries to keep cool when she probes his shady dealings, but his craving for her grows possessive, obsessive and even dangerous, striking with a vengeance after their time apart. Stalking her from behind mirrors at night, he can barely contain his dark lust. But can he afford to lose control now that he’s so close to attaining the very goal for which he sacrificed Juliet years ago?

***

CHAPTER I

Prince Radek

 

For the first time in years I’m facing my notorious older brother, Vlad Dracula. Yes, he’s as real as it gets, and just like the cliché describes him—shiny fangs, blood-red lips, cruel bony face.

The Old Priest brought me to his cave deep in a thorny mountain forest, the stalactites above us dripping water in some places, blood in others. Vlad still likes to impale creatures, and he doesn’t miss a chance to set an example among his vampires. I heard he likes to impale them upside down, making them resemble bleeding bats.

“I must say, little brother,” his voice bounces off the wet cave walls. “I was disappointed not to get an invite to your wedding. When is it again, in three days?”

I remain still as a statue, determined to wait the show out. Vlad grins, his predator canines glinting in the undulating light from the cave water. Large, with a black cape hanging on broad shoulders, he’s sure earned his title as Dark Lord.

“Tell me, Radek the Handsome,” he continues, placing special emphasis on my old title. The chains on his boots clamor as he steps down the stairs from his black throne towards me, his vampires hissing all around the cave and retreating fearfully into the cavernous tunnels that radiate from it. “How long has it been since you and I last saw each other face to face? A century? More?”

“Since the Nazis,” I say evenly.

“The last time we actually worked together.” He stops a few feet away. He’s taller and broader than me, and still not beyond trying to intimidate me. My jaw tightens as I try not to flash a silver blade at his throat.

“Before the truce,” he continues when all he gets from me is a cold stare. “The truce when I was generous enough to give you my castle and my scepter.”

“You didn’t have much of a choice but cede them to me. Be grateful I didn’t continue to hunt you down, you would have lost.”

He squares his shoulders, a big dark presence, only the face white and angular. “You know damn well you wouldn’t stand a chance if I was immune against silver and if I could walk into the sunlight.”

“But you’re not immune to silver, and you cannot walk into the sunlight,” I say, cocking an eyebrow and balling my fist to feel the silver blade strapped to my forearm under the black leather jacket.

Cruelty glints like blades in his dark irises, his jaw clenches for a moment, but then he relaxes and gives me a large, perfectly white grin.

“I didn’t ask the Old Priest to bring you here in order revive old conflicts, little brother.” Fuck, I hate it when he calls me that. “I’m here to claim what you promised me.”

I frown at him. “I never promised you anything.”

“No?” He looks at me with fake confusion, then starts pacing around me. “One night six months ago you met the Old Priest at church, and told him you’ll send me the girl when you’re done with her. Now, not only that you failed to deliver what you promised, but I find that you’re about to marry her, and I’m not even invited. That hurts.”

He stops in front of me after a full circle, now closer than last time, forcing me to look up at him. Anger boils inside of him, I can tell by the way his vampires hiss, restless, pulling deeper inside the tunnels. They sense him. The Old Priest, now one of these creatures as well but much uglier, presses himself against the cave wall to the side, shivering.

“What do you want, Vlad?” I say between my teeth.

He spreads his arms, the cape making him resemble a huge, regal vulture. “It’s easy. I want what you promised me. You told the Old Priest Juliet Jochs was a classy beauty in great genetic form.” He stresses the last words just like I have months ago. “You said she’d be very nutritious for me, and I could use nutritious right now, to be honest.”

My eyes become slits. “You know I’m marrying her in a few days. Besides, why now? You could have staked your claim right after the final battle, three months ago.”

“I’ll only say this, little brother, a mere reminder, really. Our truce only stands if both of us keep our promises.”

It’s my turn to start pacing. “To be honest, Vlad, I’m kind of losing interest in Juliet Jochs. I’ve been consuming her freely for months now, and well, you know me. I’m bored quickly.” I halt and look around, spreading my arms. “By the way, what kind of a welcome is this? Why doesn’t anybody offer me a cup of wine?”

Vlad grins, probably knowing what I’m doing. He nods and signals towards one of the tunnels with two claw-like fingers. To my surprise—however masked—the one hurrying over is Victoria, or rather a new version of her. She’s even thinner than before, her hair half dark half white, and messy as if she’s slept in hay. She also resembles a hologram because, due to the midnight monster’s curse, she materializes in more dimensions at the same time, and in none fully. Twelve equally-disturbing looking women follow her as she moves to an adjacent tunnel to pick up wine and cups—she manages to materialize completely when she grabs things—then walking over, keeping her eyes down.

I resent looking at Victoria because I resent what she’s done, but those other women do unsettle me, because I’m partly guilty of what happened to them. But it’s imperative that Vlad doesn’t pick up on the slightest trace of emotional weakness on me, which is hard. He’s literally known me for centuries, since the day I was born.

Victoria is now cursed to always be surrounded by the women she’d kept in the dungeon for so long, the living corpses who spit black, foul body liquid at people, infecting them with the Black Plague. She’s basically the one who turned them into what they are today, so she has to pay the price. She can’t move around without them, the Bloody Maries always floating around her like shadows.

“I’m surprised to hear that, Radek,” Vlad says as Victoria is pouring wine. “If you’ve lost interest in Juliet Jochs, then why marry her? Why tie your destiny to hers forever—because it is forever for us.”

“Merely a strategic alliance.” I pick the medieval cup of wine from Victoria without giving her another glance, as if she’s truly nothing more than a slave. “Juliet Jochs can make it big in the Western world, and she can serve my purposes there. I have money, but she has the connections, the influence, and the open doors.”

“Then, if all she is to you is a tool, you wouldn’t mind passing her on to me afterwards, would you?”

I look at him calmly, pondering, twirling the wine in my hand. “I would mind, because I hope to be using her for a long time. That’s why I’m marrying her. And she wouldn’t be much use out in the open if she couldn’t walk into the sunlight, or if the slightest touch of silver would make her writhe in pain, would she?”

Vlad looks me up and down. “Who are you trying to fool Radek? This woman healed you of the midnight monster, and gave you love that infiltrated your very flesh. You risked your life for her a few months ago.”

“It was the first time I felt something for a woman, Vlad, sure I was confused. I mistook gratitude for love, deep sexual attraction for emotional connection. I may be old, but these were new feelings to me.”

Vlad grins and, for a moment, it doesn’t look so vile.

“Little brother,” he says, almost a whisper. “I remember that sweet confusion.”

Memories come back to me and, for another moment, my animosity against Vlad drops. “Ruxandra—”

“Ruxandrs. Long ago.” He takes a deep breath, and snaps out of it. “Before we get melancholic, let’s get back to the true reason why I asked to see you today.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“I’ll be completely honest. I wanted to present you with a choice—you either give Juliet Jochs over to me, or you help my get the one thing that will reinstate my powers forever. The one thing that will make Dracula invincible again.”

The blood drains from my head. “Dracula’s Grail…”

“Refuse, and it will cost you Juliet Jochs. Even if you are telling the truth—which I doubt—and you’re no longer in love with her, you must care about her a great deal. In the end, she healed you of the midnight monster, and loved you even as a disgusting creature.” He holds up his big hands with the long, dangerous claws. “Which means you wouldn’t want these on her, would you?”

Vlad and I look hard into each other’s eyes. We both know—what I say now will determine whether the war between us starts again or not.

“If you refuse to help me,” Vlad slurs, “I will kill her, little brother. I’ll hunt her down and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot protect her every second, not from me. Sooner or later I will get her.” He bends just a little bit closer to me, glancing from the corner of his eye to Victoria. “And, if by some incredible chance I don’t succeed, someone else will. Your future wife has made some pretty nasty enemies. So. What say you?”

I ponder, my fists clenched and my muscles flexed under the leather jacket, the silver blades pressed against my sinews.

“The one thing that will reinstate your full power,” I grunt through my teeth, “Dracula’s Grail, isn’t easily found. And, if found, it’s not easily obtained. For centuries secret societies have tried to get their hands on it, and….” I stop before Victoria, the Old Priest, or the vampires get ideas.

Vlad grins dangerously. “Don’t pretend you didn’t try to get your hands on it yourself.” He bursts into wall-shaking laughter. “What, you didn’t think I’d see through your schemes, little brother? Only that you were planning on using the Grail against me, probably eliminate me for good. But I suggest you don’t even think about it. You see, if I die, things will become even worse for Juliet Jochs. The last thing I’ll do is order these guys to sink their fangs in her.” He motions around the cave at the tunnels full of vampires. “Or their claws and curses,” he mentions with a wave of his hand towards Victoria and her Bloody Maries. “And you know my subjects are forced to do my bidding even in my death.”

I look around from under my eyebrows, gaging the danger. Vlad sure has built a powerful army. Victoria’s type of monster is new, and she’s not the only oddity he’s added to his collection. I look at the Old Priest and the Bloody Maries.

“What can I say, Vlad,” I hiss. “You leave me no choice.”

***

 

 

Juliet

 

Radek is back! Thank God, I’ve been worried sick since he went to see his brother.

With an ecstatic smile on my face, I hurry down the castle stairs to the vestibule where I heard his voice. But he’s gone before I get to him.

As I follow his voice from one room to another—wonder whom he’s talking to—I’m led through the dimensions from one narrow passageway to eerie lonely room, to yet another passageway and another room. I stop, facing a wooden chair beside a crown glass window, like in some absurd theater play.

“No more dimensions games, Radek,” I call out, growing angry.

He’s been avoiding me for weeks, and it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to keep up my enthusiasm about our upcoming wedding. I’m glad to the moon and back that he returned safely from his meeting with Dracula, which had me biting my nails in terror, but now a more long-term, nagging worry returns—he’s been neglecting me. Why?

I notice a door in a corner, and stomp to it, my cheeks now burning. The door leads me to my own chambers, where I’m alone again. I curse in frustration.

He relocated me to these chambers two weeks ago, and went out with strange business every evening. Gone are the nights when he held me pressed to his naked body, and kissed me all over like his life depended on it. At least now he’s letting me see Lazarus—a newborn vampire—and Magda—a hundred-year-old witch—down in town. They’re my only friends. I didn’t tell them my worries about Radek losing interest though, because I didn’t want to admit them to myself, but I did turn to some tricks to reawaken his passion. Tricks I learned before I even knew Radek, before I knew anything about the Hidden World, before I knew the paranormal was as real as banks, cancer and David Bowie.

Tonight I’m wearing one of those white silk negligees that Radek likes so much. I even procured a set of cuffs to spice up what I hoped would be lovemaking.

“Juliet.”

Startled, I turn swiftly and find Radek leaning against the doorframe. He’s got a bottle of wine in one hand, and crystal wine glasses in the other.

“I’m sorry. Did I scare you?” He walks over smoothly like the prince he is, black suit jacket open, revealing a lean but muscular body under it. My heart aches at how beautiful he is.

He places the bottle on the medieval desk by the window, a bad-boy smile on those lips like red roses, his ivory face perfect and somehow detached. I think I catch the perfume of another woman on him. I gather the silk night robe tighter around me, watching him pour us both wine, struggling with my anger and burning cheeks.

“So, I gather the meeting with your brother went well?” I manage as I take the glass he gives me.

“Wonderfully. The truce stands solid. He was a bit hurt we didn’t invite him to the wedding.”

I snort. “Is that why he summoned you? To reprimand you on that?”

“And to make sure I wouldn’t attack him, now that I emerged even more powerful from the battle three months ago.”

I hold his stare. “Aren’t you taking this a little too lightly? The battle was terrible, we both almost got killed, and—”

The perfume of the other woman wafts over again as he shifts and leans on the desk.

“Who were you talking to earlier in the hall? I heard you,” I demand.

“Just our new housekeeper.”

“Our new housekeeper smells of pastry and Mr. Proper. Not Chanel No 5.”

He looks at me in that specific way men do when they’re thinking of a lie to tell. For a moment I hope the lie is good, because I really want to believe it. But, instead, Radek grins widely and opens his arms in a come-on-babe gesture. I’m sure the earth has just been pulled from under my feet. No, no, no, he isn’t doing this to me.

“Juliet, I actually didn’t even intend to keep this from you.” He looks to the door and calls a woman’s name, but I don’t register it. It’s like my brain is protecting itself.

My jaw drops when a blonde with a killer body dressed in a red negligee steps like a cat into the room.

“I thought maybe it was time we spiced up our relationship,” Radek says. “One on one, things kind of got stale.”

The image in front of my eyes is swimming, giving me a hard time believing this is actually happening. A part of me is screaming to scratch his eyes out, but another part just says,

“You feel our relationship has already grown stale? After only three months in which we’ve loved each other freely?” After you risked your life to save mine, after I healed you of the midnight monster, after I gave everything up for you, after, after, after.

I stand frozen with the glass of wine in my hand.

“Please, Juliet, be reasonable,” he says as the blonde stops by his side, a white hand with red polished fingernails snaking on his shoulder. He takes it and kisses it, forcing me to blink as if to wipe the image away. No, this can’t be really happening, he must be putting up some kind of show.

“I’ve been limited by the midnight monster for so long,” he continues. “Now that I’m free of it, I can do things I couldn’t even dream of before. It’s been six hundred years of prison inside my own body, hiding my deadly secret. Now I can finally enjoy life and sex to the fullest—thanks to you, of course.” He grins at me, and the playboy glint in his eyes spears me. “I can finally enjoy things I dreamt of for centuries, like a threesome with two beautiful women, fully naked.”

I just stand here like a statue as the blonde closes the short distance between us and caresses my face seductively. The part of me I recognize wants to spit her in the face and call her a whore, but….

I just snort, looking her up and down appreciatively. “Wow, what can I say, Radek. She is indeed beautiful. But I’m afraid I’m as straight as they come and, if you still intend to go ahead with the wedding in three days, I suggest that you send her back to where you found her.”

The woman opens her mouth to speak, and I cock an eyebrow, stunned that she dares believe she has a say in this.

“Why so bitter, milady,” she says in a thick Slavic accent. “I’ll gladly please you as well.” But I can see the delight behind her cat-like blue eyes hooded by heavy mascara—she already feels she’s better than me, her heart is swelling with self-esteem thinking the prince will even forgo his wedding with me for a night with her. But no, he won’t give her this satisfaction. Will he?

My heart sinks as I watch his hand touch the small of her back, grazing her spine. Her eyelids flutter at his touch, her hand moving away from my face, cupping her own breast.

“I want to marry you, Juliet,” Radek says as he strokes the blonde, “but not in the terms we had until now.” He looks me straight in the face. “I want an open relationship.”

A sharp pain goes through my heart, heat flushing to my cheeks. I hear my mother’s words in my head, words she told my sister and me a felt lifetime ago. ‘Life will kick us in the face. And our lovers. Our lovers will kick us in the face.’

I stare from Radek to the blonde, who now leans against him, massaging her own tits and looking provocatively into my eyes while Radek watches what she’s doing over her shoulder with an I’ll-do-your-every-hole grin. Her lascivious stare tells me, ‘He prefers me, boring long-time girlfriend’.

On the outside, I remain calm. On the inside, I’m on fire. I square my shoulders and push out my chin, placing the glass of wine gently on the medieval desk—ignoring the part of me that’s raging to throw it into Radek’s face.

“I’m not in the mood for wine today. Or a threesome. Radek, I would like to leave the castle now, and I’d like to find my way easily.” This means no games with the dimensions like before.

He looks me in the face, his stare growing deep and hard. It’s like he wants to carve my features into his memory. Is this what he wanted all along? Was he determining me to leave him so that he doesn’t have to be the one walking away?

“Are you sure about this, Juliet?”

I snort and smile. “Hypocrite.”

We just look each other in the eyes for moments. He doesn’t even blink, his feelings unreadable beyond the fact that they’re intense, while my heart is crumbling to pieces. My skin burns all over, but the rage of the moment enables me to keep my ground, which I’m mighty grateful for.

“I will ask Lazarus to come get my things later.” I look them up and down one last time. “Ask the housekeeper to have them ready. It’s the last thing I ask of you.”

Radek’s voice stops me as I head to the door.

“I have a final request from you as well.”

I glance over my shoulder. “Yes.”

“It’s about our other arrangements.” He leaves the blonde by the desk, walking towards me. “I’m still willing to honor all our other plans besides the wedding. I’m willing to buy Herald Gruff’s e-zine, which you will then run. Of course, in exchange for you building a credible and likeable public persona for me in Germany, securing me people’s approval.”

“And influential people’s trust,” I finish in his place.

I feel him close behind me, but he doesn’t answer. With a bleeding heart and a huge lump in my throat, I walk out the door. Soon after that I’m running out into the night, the white silk robe floating behind me as hot tears stream down my face. I run until I fall to my knees at Magda’s door, sobbing hard, bracing myself as if to keep my body from crumbling to pieces.

***

 

Radek

 

I stare out the window, leaning with my hands on the sidewalls. It pains me to have hurt the woman that I owe my life and my very humanity to, but it was for her own good.

“You think she’ll still help you in the Western World?” Irina asks from behind me. She’s laid down on Juliet’s bed.

“Get up,” I say evenly.

“I will,” she says seductively, “but only if you turn around to watch me do it.”

Anger grips me, but I manage to keep my tone calm. “You, in her bed. It’s a sacrilege that I don’t want to witness. Get up.”

“You really do love her,” she whispers.

“Lord Dracula was right,” she continues when I don’t answer. “You were truly marrying her for love.”

I ponder. How do I put this? “If you look into the life Juliet and I led together this last month, you’ll find out that we grew apart before my meeting with my brother tonight.”

“But she is important to you.”

“Of course she is important to me. She healed me of the midnight monster, and used intense love to do it. I’ll always be grateful to her for it, and in her debt.”

“But do you love her back, prince?” Her voice is pleading, making it clear she’s desperate for me to deny it. Given that she’s one of Vlad’s vampires, I better play along.

“Not enough to tie my life to hers forever,” I say, turning around to find her now sitting on the bed like an unhappy child. “She will be useful to me in the Western World because she wants to make sure I’ll honor my promise to her friends, the witch Magda, and Lazarus. I promised that I’d fight for the good guys, and use my power to back them up in the war against evil. Lazarus is also a vampire, by the way.”

“I know. I was one of those who bit him in the final battle three months ago.” She licks her lips, remembering the taste of him on the one hand, and trying to seduce me on the other. The strategy flops miserably.

“That’s not why I brought you here, Irina.”

She pouts playfully, but I can tell her disappointment is real.

“Too bad,” she says. “I have talents, you know. You would’ve liked them.”

“This isn’t about me.” The problem with living forever is that you come to see straight through people. “This is about you wanting to feel more valuable than Juliet. But, to me, no woman has ever been more valuable. She’s unique, and special. I may not desire her the same way I did in the beginning, but she’s still the only woman that’s worth something in my life.”

Only part of that is true, but I manage to mask it well. Another thing that comes with an unnaturally long life is a strong grip on the display of one’s emotions.

Irina keeps sitting on the bed, doing nothing to signal an intention of leaving. I exit the room without giving her another glance, making things as clear as they get. I may still need her later, but right now the least I can do for Juliet and my own aching heart is not giving this lustful vampiress satisfaction.

***

Prince of Midnight is live!

It’s the 20th of December and, as promised, Prince of Midnight just went live! It’s there for you to grab it, if you like, plus!–You won’t have to wait long for the sequel, Prince of Obsession. It will hit the Zon as soon as the 18th of January, and you know what? Get used to it. I have a new book planned for every month of 2019, so there will be a lot of fun! (And a lot of interesting stuff about vampires, shifters and other supernatural creatures)

The plot takes place in the Carpathians, is related to Dracula and Dracula’s castle, and the book is similar to the work of Christine Feehan. So, if you enjoy Christine Feehan books, you might love this one, too : )

Anagratiu_v3

The Devil’s Elixir is OUT TODAY!

The Devil’s Elixir has just hit Amazon today, and the first reviews are already trickling in from all over the world. Deeply grateful right now!

October 17, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition

Prince of Midnight – Chapter II (Book 1 of the Dark and Dangerous Series)

As promised, here’s more of my new paranormal romance with sci-fi icing, folks.

So what’s the story about?

Reporter Juliet Jochs travels to the Carpathians. Her job—investigating a mysterious and unnaturally beautiful Carpathian prince. Pretending to work a public profile for him, she actually wants to uncover his shady dealings and later expose them in the international press. If the prince discovers Juliet’s hidden agenda, she knows it may cost her life. But as she finds herself trapped in his fortress and his masks begin to peel off, she fears she may lose her sanity.

Prince Radek Matthayus has dark powers that suck Juliet into a whirl of hypnotic desire. He attracts her from the shadow, but he never seems to put his body on hers. She comes to crave his touch more than air, falling under his spell like in a dark dungeon. She must keep her head above the water if she is to save herself, run away and not look back. But can she resist opening the last door to his most terrible secret?

 

Read chapter I here.

CHAPTER II

Juliet

 

Two days later, Herald invites me into his office. I’m nervous as I close the door behind me, ruffling the curls that make a yellow halo around my head. I cross my legs awkwardly on the chair, pulling at the rim of my skirt to cover my knees—I wouldn’t want him to think that I’m trying to seduce him in some cheap way, right?

“One moment, Juliet.” He holds up a finger without looking up from the paper he’s reviewing with a frown before signing. It takes a while until he acknowledges me again. This might seem condescending to others, but look at it this way: Herald Gruff is the boss at a highly reputable magazine, one could go deaf on the bustling in the cubicles room just outside his office alone. That’s a lot of responsibility, not to mention it requires a fuckload of authority, sure he seems an asshole.

“So,” he says, pulling out a drawer and pushing a file under my nose. “Because technology isn’t to be trusted nowadays, I’ll approach this sensitive subject in paper form.”

I glance from the file to him, trying to process “don’t trust technology” and “approach subject in paper form.”

“But our work is entirely technology-based. We’re an e-zine, we don’t even sell printed issues. Actually, we loathe all things ‘printed’, don’t we?”

“Just open it,” he prompts, his greying hair quivering at the sudden jerk of his hand towards the file. He’s a bit older than me—okay, a whole chunk older—but he’s got a good body, since he swims daily, and intelligent if not pretty eyes. There’s something of a skinny bulldog to his face, but he was once obviously attractive. Not that it matters. Nothing is more attractive than a man who exudes self-control, power and authority.

As I leaf through the file, he says, “Radek Matthayus, the prince you picked on a few days ago at the press conference.”

“This isn’t much more than what I’ve covered on him,” I note as I go through the file rapidly. “It doesn’t say a whole lot, either, the guy is very private about everything.”

Herald leans back, pushing his hands through his ashen hair. It’s good to see him a little relaxed.

“I believe this guy is blocking foreign investment in infrastructure in his country from the shadow. He’s influential enough to do that and more. I want you to discover his reasons and then help me expose them.”

I blink at him like an idiot. This opportunity isn’t only huge, it’s a career-making turning point. A you-almost-got-me smile stretches on my face, while I wave a finger at him.

“Come on, what’s the catch?”

He looks at me sternly. “Catch?”

“You’re not offering me this job just like this, are you? I mean, this is huge, and probably for someone with far more experience. Why me?”

There’s a pause and steady eye contact before Herald replies. “Because you’re the only person the dark prince has shown interest in in a very long time.”

There’s a zinging in my ears, and my stomach twists. Shown interest. This feels surreal.

“What did you just say?” I whisper.

“We don’t have time for stupid dialogue, Juliet, I’m sure you heard me the first time.” Herald points to the file like an unhappy teacher at sloppy homework. “Everything here is merely a tenth of what we need to discover about this dark prince.” He leans in, gaze pointed like a gun to the center of my forehead. “Read it, and you’ll understand why I say ‘dark.’”

“But, Herald.” My voice cracks on his name, and I clear my throat. “In wha, er, in what way did he show interest in me?”

He smirks, giving me a once over. “I was surprised at first, too.” He leans back in his chair, more relaxed this way, motioning with a hand towards me from head to toe. “I mean, it’s not like you’re not cute and all, but compared to the kind of women who must surround him….” He purses his lips and whistles, waving his hand like he just touched something hot—which he obviously doesn’t consider me to be. It’s as if he’d forgotten all about the night two weeks ago, the office party, when he crammed me in a corner of this very office and kissed me, confessing under his breath that he secretly wanted me.

I still vividly remember his eager tongue, tasting of vinegar from the wine he’d been drinking. Even though I wanted him, I wanted him sober, smelling and tasting nicely. I felt his desire rock hard pressing urgently against my mound, and pushed him away on an impulse, saying, “Not like this.”

“You have nice natural blond hair, curly and all, but face it—it’s too short, barely even reaching your shoulders, it’s a mess on top of your head. With your pale eyebrows and eyelashes and snow-white skin, you look like a pretty corpse,” Herald continues cruelly, analyzing me with sharp eyes. “You could use some contrast, like dye your hair and your eyebrows or something.”

Jesus, what comes next, pump up your lips, get a nose job—God knows I could use one? I push myself off the chair, swiping the file off his table.

“Why are you doing this, Herald?” I demand, pacing slowly around and pretending to leaf through the file. It’s easier for me to stand up for myself when I’m not looking at him, he’s too intimidating and easily angered. “Is it because I ran out of here two weeks ago? Because, if that’s the case, you could make a move on me now, sober, and I wouldn’t say no.” I glance at him. He’s smirking, dark eyes glinting at me from under ashen eyebrows, the corners of his mouth pushing his cheeks aside into a wrinkly smile that speaks of experience, resilience and authority.

“Get this job done properly, and you’ll have that and more, Juliet.”

My heart gives me a pang of outrage. Is he offering himself as a prize? No offense, I might not be the prettiest, or the smartest, but I am like a lifetime younger… Then I want to slap myself. How can I be so conceited? He’s far more valuable than me in so many ways. If I can prove myself to him, then I might assume some of all that value for myself. I raise my chin, closing the file and holding it against my chest. I’m looking at him from higher ground, since I’m standing up, feeling grand, even if for only a moment.

“You can rely on me for this job.”

“I hope you appreciate that I trust you with it, considering your lack of experience and your young age overall. You are only twenty-two, in the end.”

I squint at him. “There’s a reason why you trust me with it, which reminds me. In what way has the prince shown interest?”

Herald purses his lips, pondering before he answers. “His people called the e-zine to inquire about you. They wanted to hire you, and offered to purchase you from us if it must be. I figured his interest must be serious, since he can have anyone he wants, you know.”

My ears start buzzing.

“Purchase,” I repeat quietly. “But what could he possibly use me for?”

“You’ll find out.” He gets up from his chair, pacing to me. I barely register the time lapsing until he reaches me, placing a hand on my shoulder. I tilt a bit under it. Looking straight into my eyes, he says, “I agreed, Juliet. I agreed to trade you, but I have my own agenda.”

“You traded me like I’m a thing?”

“No. I traded you like you’re Ronaldo.”

I have this overwhelming urge of hurting him. As I begin to realize what’s happening here, rage heats up my face. “How can you be sure I won’t betray your agenda to the prince?”

He smiles, which makes his cheeks look like a wrinkly bulldog’s again. “I’m sure, because the prince can’t offer you what I can. You see, while he can pay a thousand times better, his headquarters is deep in some obscure, impossible to penetrate mountain forest. Money won’t be of much use there, not to mention that the social environment… Well, I imagine it’s not what your half German half American upbringing has taught you to strive for and adjust to. I, on the other hand, offer you money and position when you’re back here in Berlin.” He brings his face closer to mine to look even deeper into my eyes, and I realize I’m pushed against the wall, clutching the file as the only shield between me and the intimidating power house that’s Herald Gruff. “Because I will have you back. And when that happens, with what you gather on the prince, we’ll go huge. You’ll have fame in the entire national press, all doors will be open for you, and you’ll be made editor-in-chief immediately.” He shrugs, taking distance and letting his hand drop off my shoulder. “Many will offer you career choices, though. If you’ll want to go for a position at one of the 5 best journals in the country, you’ll be free to do so. We can set that in stone through contract right now, if you like.”

I must admit, career advancement baits me. It makes me salivate. When I’m alone I fantasize about power—me in a black Armani suit to starkly contrast with my blond hair, pale face and pale eyes, looking striking if not attractive to whoever walks into my sky rise office.

Soon I’ve signed two contracts—one that transfers me to the prince’s company, and one stating my liberty of choice when I’m back with Herald. The job description I have with the prince’s firm is still drawn in general lines, but it includes my writing reports on what he intends to do with the real estate he keeps acquiring all over Europe, and about the work he does back home. Pretty much creating a better defined public persona that he can then display for himself outside his country of origin.

***

The whole contract thing has kept me at the office for two straight days. Been going through papers all night and all of today with Herald and the company lawyer. The train now lulls me to sleep with its swaying as it takes me to the periphery of Berlin, where I’ve lived with my sister Runia since the pictures business—told myself all those reasonable things about the hacker and all, but I still can’t be alone at night.

Runia is a caregiver for the elderly and people with disabilities, so she has a keen eye for signs of sickness and the like, which means she’s on my case as soon as I kick off my shoes.

“Jesus, Juliet, you look like you just broke out from the morgue.”

“Just another day in Paradise.”

On my way to the only bedroom I pass by a blur of her lean shape that resembles mine—basically a stripe in the landscape, firm bumps at the level of the breasts and butt. Her hair is much longer though, so it flows down her body in bouncy waves that are as beautiful as a doll’s. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to secure her a guy’s long-term attention in cold Berlin.

I hit the bed face down and only open my eyes again twenty-four hours later, when I’m left with five more hours until I’m to embark on a plane that’ll take me from the Berlin airport down to what I’ve heard is no man’s land. Runia has swapped her usual night shift with a colleague in order to assist me with my luggage and ask me a ton of questions, making me face stuff I really don’t want to deal with right now. Stuff I’d rather stay blind to.

“Have you considered that Herald could have dark reasons to put all of this on your shoulders? I mean, come on, it’s a huge deal, top secret, and if you screw up it can mean serious trouble,” she says while she stuffs thick sweaters over my rather flimsy stuff. I told her as much as I could tell her because, indeed, if something happens to me Herald would probably try to bury the whole thing, so someone should know where to have the Interpol start looking.

“I hear the Balkans are warmer than Germany, Runia, you can go easy on the winter stuff.”

“It’s autumn, and I’ve heard their winters are even more vicious than ours. I mean, have you read Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’? They have serious blizzards. Anyways, what if Herald has—”

“Listen, Runia,” I interrupt, holding up my hand. “This is a huge opportunity for me, all right? I don’t know who else would have trusted me with it at my age, and especially after less than six months experience in the media.”

“But that’s exactly my point. I know you’re ambitious Juliet, I admire that about you and I wish I was made of the same stuff, but don’t let the rush of a fast career blind you to—”

“Honey.” I walk around the bed and take her pretty face between my hands. “If I get what Herald needs on the prince, I’ll have all doors open. This will be the hardest, most vicious, most dangerous fight of my life, but it will also be the last, Runia.” I square my shoulders, reassessing my situation and feeling good about it. “And I’m ready for it.”

She looks at me, pressing her lips together, unwillingly accepting that I’m doing this. “What about your feelings for Herald? Are you sure they aren’t playing a role in this decision? The main role?”

“Of course they play a role. He wants me, Runia, he’s shown me that more than once. The way he looks at me and the way he came on to me that night…” I’m sure that stuff will feel a lot better when he’s sober. “But I have to prove myself to him. He’s not some desperate sugar daddy who’ll take the first model who’ll call him ‘lover,’ he wants substance, he wants a woman with real power to her.”

Runia shakes her head slightly. “As I said, I always admired your ambition and your brains, big sister, but when you’re in love, you’re downright stupid.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

But Runia has already pushed my hands down from her face and gone on to pick more clothes from the wardrobe.

“Tell me more about the prince. What’s in the file you brought the other night? You fell asleep on it,” she explains, sorting clothes. “I would have looked inside if you hadn’t been sprawled all over it.”

“A good thing you didn’t.” I check my briefcase for the file. It’s there, tucked safely between other papers I’ll need. “This is literally the kind of business you don’t want to know too much about.”

“Uuuuuu, I’m scared.” She pretends to be bracing herself and tremble. “You sound like Corleone.”

“I’m not joking, Runia.”

“At least do this for me.” She walks over, holding out her hand with a small gadget that I have to frown at to identify. “I know Herald said no technology because it’s easily hacked, especially by people as powerful as the prince.” She glances down to the small gadget. “But I’m pretty sure no one will take this seriously. Keep in touch.”

I take it and turn it in my hand, amused. “How did you even get the idea?”

She shrugs with a clever smile on her face. “There’s this thing about people with disabilities, especially the mentally challenged ones, that no one considers—They think outside the box by default, and disregard all rules. They have the most innovative minds.”

I’m deliciously surprised. This is one of those moments when I wish I were a selfless, people-loving caregiver like Runia, and marvel at the human genius where the entire world least expects it.

***

Turbulence has shaken the plane often enough to make me pray for my life. I haven’t prayed since I was six. Just as I thought the worst part was over, dragging my luggage from luggage claim, I bumped into a boisterous family of gypsies that tried to steal my purse. Hadn’t the cab driver the prince had sent for me intervened, I’d be stranded in No Man’s Land Romania without papers or money.

“Better watch it, miss,” he says in a thick accent as he picks up my luggage and leads me to the car. He’s a middle-aged man with a big gut, dark eyes, and a very friendly attitude. “You have better chance of surviving here without papers than without cash.”

This is another world, that much is certain. Everything seems old, the buildings withered and erratic, the people tired and angry, and the roads—don’t get me started on the roads. My organs shake inside of me from all the holes and ditches in the ground. After driving in a busy, emissions-smothered ring around Bucharest, we emerge into the plains, the road a meager streak cutting through, industry buildings on each side.

“It looks like business is picking up in your country,” I say, watching the halls glide by through the window.

“Picks up, yes, but not in interest of the common man,” the driver says, and continues praising his country’s natural resources and beauties, which he’s been doing continuously since we left the airport. He keeps checking the expression on my face in the rear-view mirror, so I have a causal smile in place at all times, though he doesn’t persuade me. This place is exotic, yes, but in that way.

I feel my jaw drop as we first pass a rickety cart trailing in the cloud of dust left behind by a racing Porsche. It’s almost disintegrating under a load of hay and wood, pulled by two runt horses and a drunken peasant with a lopsided hat and a long mustache.

“What in the world is this?”

“Get used to it, miss. Plenty more picturesque items where this came from.” The driver laughs hard.

The next thing I know, we come to a stop, waiting for a shepherd as drunk as the man in the cart to steer his herd of sheep across the road. They’re slow and curious, some of them stopping and watching us leisurely with grass between their teeth, chewing slowly.

I’m shocked and thinking about Herald’s words—for all the money in the world that the prince would pay me, staying here isn’t an option. When I think that we’re still inside the European Union, I could burst into laughter, but I refrain, especially because I find the context to ask the driver about Prince Radek.

“You say the prince sent you for me. Do you know him personally?”

“Prince Radek is a very private person. Very few people in town know him personally, but we all saw him on occasion.”

I tilt my head to the side, meeting his eyes in the rear-view mirror. “You’re a local from the prince’s town?”

“I live in Bran, the resort at the foot of his castle.”

My brain swells as it wraps around the information. I grab his seat. “You mean to tell me we’re going to the Bran castle? Like the one from Bram Stoker’s novel? Like the one from the Dracula movies?”

“Yes, yes,” the driver confirms, his big gut jumping up and down as he laughs hard. “Excuse my amusement, miss, but you’re sweet.”

“But he can’t be living there, that’s one of your major tourist attractions?”

“That’s right, but there are deeper layers to that story, miss. The prince has secretly bought the castle from the government years ago, yet has agreed to keep it as a tourist attraction and let the government cash in the proceeds.”

“So hand in hand with the government indeed,” I whisper, eyes darting left and right as I make connections in my head. Sure he manipulates the right people in the right places, he probably also bribes them with money from all the prosperous business around Dracula’s castle. The driver doesn’t dispute the theory either.

“It’s not impossible, miss. The prince’s family has always been well connected.”

In my enthusiasm I grab even tighter to his seat, pressing myself to it. I’m greedy for information, and this opportunity is gold. “What else can you tell me about him? I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot to say, but—”

“You have a crush on him, miss?”

The blood rushes to my cheeks. “Where would you get that idea?” I squeak.

He shrugs. “Everyone who meets him in person falls for him. It’s almost like a curse. All the girls in town, maybe some of the men, too.”

I remember the prince’s exceedingly attractive face, then the moving pictures of him as a ghost that he’s had the hacker manipulate into my phone.

“To be honest, I think he’s a terrible person.” I lean back and cross my arms, looking outside. It’s almost evening and we’ve reached the hills, the higher mountains shrouded in fog in the distance.

“This is indeed breathtaking.” I gawk at the sight.

“Wait until we’re reach the Carpathian heart,” the driver says like an eager accomplice. “It’s out of this world.”

“Out of this world is pretty much everything I’ve seen so far,” I mutter, but when he throws a, “What?” over his shoulder, I’m grateful he didn’t catch it.

What I get to see of the forests until the night falls is dense and uniquely wild. So much unlike the woods with man-made feel from my travels. I let down the window and peer into what turns out to be a precipice so deep that I can’t see the bottom, all black and hollow, draught messing up my hair.

“Pull back,” the driver calls. Startled, I draw my head back into the car.

“Why? It’s not like—”

“Don’t put parts of your body out there, miss,” he admonishes. “You don’t expose yourself to the Carpathians like that at night. They’re ancient and dangerous.”

I can’t hold back a laugh. “Oh, come on. We’re not in some Dracula movie.”

His gaze stays fixed on me in the mirror, and I wonder if he shouldn’t be watching the darkening road instead. My heart shrinks in my chest, I feel uneasy. Some strange power seems to have taken over, the car seemingly driving itself and floating as if the holes in the ground have disappeared miraculously, replaced by the smoothest asphalt.

“You’re not here as a tourist, miss. If you were, you’d be seeing a backward region with nothing to hold your modern interests, and none of this would be happening. But you’re here as a guest of Prince Radek.”

None of this would be happening echoes in my head as the car slams into something front-on, the impact throwing me between the front seats. I manage to catch myself with hands against the dashboard and keep my head safe, so there’s no reason to doubt what I’m seeing through the slowly cracking windshield as I raise my eyes. I feel them widen in dread, my fingers gripping to the dashboard.

***

Stay tuned fro more next week, folks 🙂 Subscribe with your e-mail address and make sure you’re notified as soon as a new chapter is out. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Prince of Midnight – Chapter One

Loves, the muse is here, and I pray she’s here to stay 🙂 Here is the beginning of a new novel I intend to release for Halloween, Prince of Midnight. Let me know what you think.

Prince of Midnight

CHAPTER I

Juliet

My first press conference is a nightmare. We’re talking a monstrous gathering at the old Opera House that traps me between other reporters, more experienced than me, and more ferocious than my ribs can take. Their jabs to my sides are merciless as they battle for the best spots and best visibility to be picked for questions, but I’ll be damned if I give in.

“Move out of the way, blondie.” A guy around my age with ambition written all over his face tries to shove me. Gripping my overlarge smart phone to my chest with one hand, I hold on tightly to the rail before me with the other. Keeping a spot in the first row is always a struggle, my rather fragile frame suffers, my hair is electrified like a white-blond version of Jackson 5, but fuck it.

Hang in there, Juliet Jochs. For the prize.

My prize, my target, my beacon is Radek Matthayus, a prince from the Carpathians. Though I haven’t seen him in person yet, I know all there is to know about the scrap of public persona he maintains. In short, he’s young, eccentric, a Casanova, and so immensely rich that he can’t be clean. Where he comes from, clean businessmen don’t make it like he did. In only a few years he increased his family’s inheritance by no less than fifty percent.

“Ladies and Gents, I give you prince Radek Matthayus, our patron and benefactor,” the master of ceremonies finally announces, rubbing his wrinkled hands together. His lips draw in an ass-kissing smile, while his eyes turn to the spot where Prince Radek is expected to appear.

The commotion stills for a few blessed moments that allow me to fill my ribcage with air. Clapping of hands announces the prince is close. I crane my neck to get a glimpse of him as he walks up the side stairs onto the stage, his shadow licking the velvet curtain as he moves flowingly towards the master of ceremonies.

There are few pictures of him on the web, none of them clearly focused, but enough for me to recognize him. Tall, black suit, dark hair and blue eyes, his face too pretty for a guy, and too young for his notorious money-making skills. After the master of ceremonies thanks him with heavens and earth for buying the old Opera House and saving it from being torn down and transformed into yet another mall, Radek takes the mike.

“It’s an honor to become the owner of this magnificent symbol of your history.” His voice is musical, trapped somewhere in his boyhood years, hypnotically pleasant. It distracts me from what he says next, but I snap right back to myself the moment questions are announced.

My arm shoots up into the air at once with all the others but, no matter how hard I try, the master of ceremonies doesn’t pick me.

Of course he doesn’t. I’m a new reporter, and young ones are usually too ambitious for their own good. At least that’s what I heard him say once after a shadowy auction that Radek also won, but I didn’t get inside the auction itself to see it.

No doubt, the master of ceremonies knows I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. Is Radek Matthayus supporting corrupt officials in his country? Has he helped boycott all attempts of building infrastructure in order to block foreign investment? Who is he bribing in order to get his hands on the most valuable pieces of real state in his country and beyond, and what is his ultimate purpose for amassing properties all over Europe? He usually keeps his business shrouded in mystery, but the old Opera House is too much of a national gem, so it proved impossible to keep the transaction behind closed doors. The entire national press is here, from shark to small fish.

Blocking real questions is the only shield against exposure of dark affairs. Only inquiries about renovation make it to the stage, about other properties the prince intends to acquire, even a question about his love life. The prince is very private about it, but he gives the brunette who asked a seductive smile.

“Sadly, I haven’t met the love of my life yet,” he says in his musical voice that makes the brunette flush. Boy, is she obnoxious with those needle-enhanced lips and fake fingernails. I crease my nose.

“But I sure hope Cupid takes his aim on me soon,” he concludes.

The brunette isn’t the only one who sighs like a hopeful idiot upon his answer. This beautiful bastard has women at his feet, and he sure as hell knows it. He plays on it, seducing them, depleting them of attention, admiration, adoration, sex, then throwing them away like broken shells.

“Maybe Cupid’s arrows just splinter against your steely heart,” I call out on an impulse. All heads around turn to me, including Prince Radek’s. Eat this, pretty bastard. “Considering your looks and wealth, you must be spoiled for choice. I’m surprised you haven’t found someone to your liking yet. Unless you think none of your admirers is good enough for you.” I shrug. “Just sayin’.”

Prince Radek’s eyes lock on me. His irises are turbid blue, like murky water, impossible to see through. But one thing is crystal clear—behind them lies a poisonous snake.

“You’re prejudiced, Miss Jochs,” he muses, tilting his head to the side and narrowing his eyes. Startled, I glance from him to my nametag, then back again. Wow, what an eyesight.

“I don’t get around that much. Part of my work requires solitude, part of it bleak attorney offices and long negotiations, rarely ballrooms and select social circles, as you might imagine. I don’t actually meet so many women.”

He’s lying. He must be. His porcelain face that’s really too pretty for a guy compels you to stare. His skin stretches young and flawless over a masculine bone structure, his lips blood red and carnal. The more I look at him, the less I’m able to look away, and his feline smile tells me he’s used to that. The guy’s a born seducer, a magnificent beast that breaks hearts for the fun of it.

His attention leaves me shortly after our exchange, but he glances at me every now and again. Before he leaves, followed by his bodyguards, I manage to snap a few pictures of him with my smartphone. I check their quality a few times, delete the bleary ones, and keep two that Herald, my boss and crush, should be happy with. Oh, he’ll be so proud of me when he sees my interaction with the shadow prince all over national press tomorrow morning.

***

 

I wake up in the middle of the night from headlights flashing between the slats of my blinds. I glance at the electronic clock on my side-table. It shows a glowing red two a.m. that hurts my eyes—pale blue is a color that makes eyes sensitive even to a blur of snow.

My tongue sticking to my palate, I step into my slippers and drag myself to the kitchenette for a few long gulps of water when I notice my smartphone blinking a weird white. I frown at it with the water still in my hand, struggling to understand. It usually blinks green when the battery is full, red when it’s almost empty, never white. Confused, I pick it up, punch in the code and swipe. Then I drop it and the water like they burn. The glass smashes on the floor, but the phone remains intact after it hits the counter.

I analyzed and overanalyzed the pictures I took of Radek Matthayus after the conference, and I’m pretty damn sure he wasn’t looking my way in either of them. I’m also sure the last thing I did before I put away my phone was NOT looking at his picture, so why does the screen light up to it? And why is he looking straight back at me, like he knows where I’m standing and what I’m doing, when I know for a fact I photographed the side of his face TWICE?

The blue in his eyes seems strange too. Frowning, I bend down to get a better look. No, the blue isn’t strange. His eyeballs seem rolled backwards, revealing the whites, his skin pale, a ghost staring back at me. His blood red lips go pale as death, and a grin begins to stretch along his face slowly, the skin cracking.

I jolt backwards, knocking down the stool behind me. On the kitchenette counter, the screen goes dark. I don’t feel safe enough to fall asleep again, yet by the time dawn begins rippling along the horizon I’ve formed a reasonable theory in my head—Radek Matthayus is a powerful man who can pay big for manipulating technology. He must have had some tech wizard hack into my phone from some basement, and scare me witless as punishment for making pretty boy look bad all over national press. The more I think about it, the more my ego swells. One way or the other, the prince has taken serious notice of me.

 

***

Stay tuned for more next week! It will get dark and dangerous 🙂

The Devil’s Elixir – Chapter I (NEW Book Project)

Jumping up and down with joy, folks! A month ago I started a new book project that is advancing fast towards release, namely it should be out there by the 15th of June! But guess what–you guys get to enjoy it in advance, chapter by chapter (or, better yet, episode by episode) on here as an online series. This book can be read as a standalone, same as all of my books, since I don’t like to make my novels overly dependent on each other or condition my readers to read all of them. You can enjoy one or all of them if you choose to. This one is a sequel to The Executioner, Part One and Part Two already available on Amazon. Now this is what the sequel, The Devil’s Elixir, is about:

Leona Ignat is sex starved. She lives a secluded life as a teacher, and has occult abilities that abstinence sharpens. But when a mysterious stalker begins watching her from the shadow, Leona’s spells turn into deadly curses. Her powers run amok, and so do her hormones.

Nathaniel Sinclair is a monk. Gifted with all the allure of the forbidden fruit, Leona can’t help but lust after him. But Nathaniel is only here to protect her, and help re-channel her energies. He fights to keep her powers in balance and to find the shadow stalker, while Leona is faced with an even more dangerous villain—the consuming need to lead the world’s most resilient monk into temptation.

Enjoy CHAPTER I 🙂

THE MAN IN THE SHADOW

“You call this a teacher?” Pavel Tudose blurts. He’s the lecherous biology teacher at the Vocational School for Gypsies and Other Social Trash, as Leona calls it.

“Look at her!” He pulls Leona’s lapel, then lets go with disgust. “She sports the black outfit of a mourning governess, but the dress is so tight her tits might as well spill out.”

Leona looks him up and down. There’s a stain of sweat under Tudose’s armpit. He’s wearing the same slacks he’s worn all week, beard unkempt and eyebrows like bushes with dandruff. She keeps her hands together in front of her, her fingernails sinking into the back of either hand in order to keep from slapping him.

“I’m the only English teacher this shit hole could get,” Leona spews.

“Shit hole?” Tudose repeats, ostentatiously appalled. He turns to principal Serena Gheorghe, one finger still pointing at Leona, the stink of his sweat wafting over. “Did you hear that? You want that foul mouth teaching our teenagers?”

“You sure wanted this foul mouth all around your penis. When I made it clear it’ll never happen, you lost it and promised retribution,” Leona says, glaring at him.

“You little tramp,” Tudose exclaims, stricken that she dared tell. He moves to grab her, but Principal Gheorghe’s voice stops him.

“Remind me, Pavel, why did you bring Miss Ignat to my office?”

“You mean to tell me you forgot?” Tudose shrieks. “I caught her making out with a boy from 12 B just outside the classroom! He barely just turned eighteen!”

“Say what?” Leona exclaims. They hadn’t told her why she’d been summoned to the principal’s office until now.

“I remember that quite well, thank you. But I’ll need a name,” the principal demands.

“Armando Gabor.” Tudose throws Leona a vindictive look. “One of her own.”

He means also a gypsy.

The principal’s eyes fly over to Leona, narrowing. She’s a well-groomed woman in her fifties with a carefully designed chestnut perm and warm brown eyes, but now they cool with sternness.

“You’re not taking this guy seriously, are you?” Leona says, unable to control the volume of her voice anymore. “Armando Gabor is this school’s number one troublemaker, you know that. Yes, he grabbed me, yes, he does it often, he says things to me, like he says things to all young teachers, but we never made out! This is a gross lie!”

Doubt lifts from the principal’s face, and she nods at Leona. She knows the goods. Armando Gabor makes virtual headlines in this school every single day. Placing her hands on the desk the principal rises to her feet. Leona is grateful the woman finally takes charge, because her fingernails left searing scratches on the backs of her hands by now. Darn it, this scratching thing has turned into a nervous tic.

“Pavel, we’ve known each other a lifetime, and I treasure your dedication to this school,” Serena Gheorghe says. “You’ve always been willing to help these children form a set of values, but look at yourself now. You’re bullying your own colleague.” She pauses to let her words sink in. Beside Leona, Tudose is shaking with anger, his cheeks stained with red blotches. His blood pressure must have shot through the roof, sultry heat emanating from his body.

“This woman,” he grunts through his teeth, “has just called this school a shit hole. How can she possibly contribute anything of value with that mindset?”

Leona’s temper flares, and she makes a half-turn to him.

“Between you and me, you’re the useless one in this school.” She presses her own index finger into her own chest to mark every sentence. “I am one of these kids. I am a gypsy. I grew up in a family where the guts to break and enter, surprise a couple in bed and rob them was celebrated and respected. Where a woman worth marrying was illiterate. Where a real man was a pimp in a dark alleyway. I know these kids, I would have become like them, hadn’t someone given me a chance at a different perspective, at education. Yes, this place is a shit hole. But if anyone can help make it better, it’s people like me.”

Tudose’s eyes fill with hatred.

“You’ll never be anything but gypsy trash,” he grunts between his teeth. “The only thing worth a fuck about you is your ass.”

“Pavel!” Principal Gheorghe intervenes, outraged. As for Leona, this is where her reason shuts down. Anger boils in the pit of her stomach, and she can feel her whole face redden. She loses grip over her tongue. Before she knows it, she’s pointing at the biology teacher, her mouth moving of its own accord.

“You deserve to feel the flesh melt off of your bones like wax off a candle.”

Principal Gheorghe tries to appease her with light hands on her shoulders, but the bell rings, and Leona scurries out of the principal’s office before tears of frustration can flood her eyes.

She grabs the register for 12 B from the register cabinet and walks up to the classroom. This is where she has to put up with Armando Gabor’s brashness, twice a week. Today, though, she’s not up for it.

“Here’s our piece of crispy ass,” Armando shoots from the last desk by the wall. Leona tosses the register onto the teacher’s desk. She normally avoids his gaze, but all this strategy has ever accomplished so far was spur him on. Hell, for all she knows, he could be the one spreading the rumors about him and Leona making out on the school hallways.

Well, today things change. She grabs the edge of the desk with both hands, and shoots him a mortal glare, meeting his dark-russet look. He’s leering at her, his young gypsy face handsome if it weren’t for some teenage acne, his hair styled in a bad-boy ruffle. The tips of his hair are dyed blond. Leather jacket over a body that girls in the classroom drool over, shredded jeans and dirty boots, he’s sitting on the desk.

“Take a seat on the chair, Mr. Gabor.”

“I’m confortable like this. Might get even cozier if you come and join me.” He pats his thigh, then grabs his crotch.

“Take the chair, and I will.”

There’s sudden silence, while everyone stares with surprise spread over their faces. Whohohohoho they eventually burst, laughter and balls of paper flying all over the place. Only Armando’s jaw is still slackened, and he’s looking at Leona in shock.

“Do it,” she slurs. “And I’ll be right there.”

The class goes crazy, while Armando frowns, trying to understand what the hell is happening. Leona knows he’s much smarter than he lets on, so he surely expects there’s a catch. Still, he grabs the chair, drags it the necessary distance from the desk, and takes a seat. As promised, Leona squares her shoulders and walks over. She stops by his side, and bumps his thigh with her knee, nudging him.

“Be a gentleman.”

Armando offers his leg for her to sit, his features locking as he’s trying to hide his bewilderment.

“You.” She pats his desk mate’s shoulder, a chubby ginger haired kid with glasses. “To the blackboard, pick up the chalk, and write what I dictate.” She lets her arm glide over Armando’s shoulder while she talks, under his leather jacket to his back. Everyone stares, mouths open, the classroom so quiet only the rustle of paper here and there is audible. “Everyone, copy from the blackboard or, should Bobi here write it wrong, write as you know is correct.”

The chubby kid pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and walks heavily to the blackboard. A “kick me” sign is still glued to his back, but no one cares right now. Leona puts up a far better show. Armando looks up at Leona, daring a naughty grin and opening his mouth to say something, but she holds up a finger to stop him, without touching his lips.

“Do not speak, hunk,” she says, loud enough for the class to hear. “But when everyone’s looking away, you may start to touch me.”

The Inspectorate will catch fire when they hear about this, but to hell with it. She’s not gonna help any of these kids by patting their heads. For years it has been tried and tried and tried again, and they’re still ending up being pimped and dealt to in dark alleyways. They need someone who speaks their own language. Someone who’ll buy their crack and then slap them over the face with it.

She turns her attention to Bobi, her fingers already finding the area on Armando’s back.

“Go ahead, Bobi, write this: I. Shall. Not—” She speaks slowly, giving the kid time to write. She’s ready with her fingers around the right spot on Armando’s spine. As expected, Armando can’t believe his luck, and his hand touches her knee, going up her thigh, over her black pencil dress. Everybody is looking, more or less obviously, as expected.

“—touch my teacher in the manner I would touch a lover.” She says the words slowly, pressing hard enough for her fingers to activate the spots on Armando’s spine through his t-shirt. The young man’s features distort as he realizes something’s wrong.

“What the fuck,” he cries when he notices his fingers cramp and crumple, stiffening in the shape of claws. The grin stretches over Leona’s face as she drives her fingers harder into the nerves around his spine, drilling through the kid’s taut flesh.

“I shall not touch my teacher in the manner I would touch a lover,” she repeats like a spell. Armando jumps up from the chair, causing her to stumble from his lap. He’s thrashing around with his fingers still clawed.

Getting off the floor and cursing inwardly for the glitch, Leona continues to chant. “I shall not touch my teacher in the manner I would touch a lover. Or my hand will wither and fall off. I shall not speak to my teachers in the manner I would speak to stray dogs, or my tongue will dry and die. I shall not grab a girl against her will, or my cock will prune out and hang like a rag in the wind.”

She imagines that last part would be funny, if everyone weren’t so stunned at what’s happening with Armando. Girls and a few boys start screaming, while he begs, “Please, please, make this go away!”

Leona grins. “I would have to touch you again. But I imagine you don’t want my hands on your body anymore, do you?”

“Just fix this!”

“Come here.” Leona beckons him over with her finger. He hesitates, then gives his own hand a scared look and hurries over. He’s a head taller than Leona, and she realizes she might have to fear his retribution when his shock and fear subside, but now the fireball is on the roll. She winds her arms around Armando to make it look like a hug, hands going inconspicuously under his jacket from his waist. She drives her fingers into the right spot, and his begin to regain flexibility.

“Remember,” she whispers into the kid’s ear. “I know what spots to hit to make everything else I said happen, too.”

Released from the embrace, Armando looks at his hand, then at Leona. His eyes narrow, but not in the dangerous expression she expected—the boy is curious how she did it. Maybe there’s still hope for his future, as outrageous as this would sound to other teachers.

“Go back to your place, now, please,” she says, turning her back on him and walking behind her desk.

With a satisfied smile, Leona turns her attention to the stunned Bobi. When the kid meets her gaze he closes his mouth, pushes his glasses up his nose, and swallows audibly. She approaches the blackboard, inspecting the words he’d written: “I shall not touch my te.” He didn’t get to finish, of course, his attention sucked towards Armando when he’d started screaming. She didn’t expect any less than perfect spelling, really. Bobi is as close to a nerd as they come in this place.

“Now, let us finish that sentence,” she says.

***

 

Late in the evening, as Leona’s steps echo along the corridor towards the exit, and the lights go out in her wake, fear begins to nestle in the pit of her stomach. What if Armando Gabor got over the stun already, been through the relief stage and by now decided he wants retribution? In the end, she did humiliate him in front of the entire class. He was the badass leader, and now she made a fool out of him.

She stops in front of the exit door, clutching the handle of her briefcase tighter. She straightens her back. You won’t let these pricks intimidate the shit out of you. She places a hand on the rusty door latch, scrutinizing the schoolyard beyond it through the bars that protect the glass.

A screeching sound draws her attention from behind, making her look over her shoulder. The door to the students’ closet is ajar, moving loosely in the draught and evoking the start of a horror movie in Leona’s mind.

Unable to resist, Leona heads for the closet. The only company she finds is her own reflection in the mirror, which is cracked at one corner, and smeared with prints and other sticky stuff. Low moans seem to come from the last stall and, though her heart is thudding in anxiety, she can’t fight the urge to walk over. Someone might be in trouble, and the only help around at this hour is her. The janitor is probably lying drunk in the small storeroom at the other end of the hallway.

By the time she reaches the last stall the moans have stopped. Leona stays in front of the door, the line of blackness between it and the doorframe an invitation for her to push it open. Her heart beats faster, as if it knows something terrible awaits beyond it. Her fingers tremble as they touch the dirty stall door and give it a slight push, which reveals someone’s foot with a worn shoe. Seems the person is slouched by the toilet. Panicking, Leona pushes the door all the way.

It bumps into the person’s other foot instead of the wall, but it’s enough for Leona to take in the full view—Pavel Tudose is on his butt with his back at the toilet, head tilted backwards over the toilet seat, half his face, beefy neck and upper part of his chest crumpled as if the flesh has disintegrated. His tongue sticks out of his mouth, blackened and porous, still gurgling with some kind of pus, as if worms are eating it away. Leona gives out a sharp cry, her first thought being her own words for him in the principal’s office. But then her terrified gaze lowers to the large stain of blood on his shirt at the level of his stomach, and she understands this has been murder. A murder committed in the exact fashion of her curse. She notices a sandglass shaped bottle in his hand, but her time has run out. Blood rushes from her head to her feet, and she blacks out.

***

 

 

Leona is sitting on a sofa in the teachers’ lounge, a blanket around her shoulders, rocking back and forth. Her mind has been blank for a while now, and her stare fixed on the floor tiles. She’s loosened the tight bun that she’s normally wearing on top of her head, releasing the strain at the root of her hair, her thick black mane draped over one shoulder to the side.

She’s aware of the policemen swarming about the place, the spinning lights that play on her cheek, the fill of voices and rip of tape they use to seal crime scenes. Apparently they keep finding evidence related to the murder, drops of blood, and did they say acid?

“The bottle in his hand contained acid,” she hears the detective repeat somewhere close to her. She lifts her eyelids to see he’s speaking to principal Serena Gheorghe. The woman is bracing herself, her shiny perm a bit messy from all the times she’s run her hand through it.

“We still have to determine whether it bears the prints of anyone else besides the victim himself,” the detective concludes. Leona catches him glance at her and, noticing she’s back to herself, he heads over.

“I already told you everything I know,” she says in a cracked voice as the heavy man hunkers down before her, the hem of his worn-out beige coat splaying over the floor. He’s got salt-and-pepper stubble, receding hair, and drooping, detached eyes. He doesn’t seem moved by any of this.

“People tend to remember details as the shock lessens, ma’am,” he says in the same impassible voice he’s interrogated her in just half an hour before. “Just thought I’d make sure there isn’t anything that came back to you and that you might want to share.”

Leona gives him a tired smile, now looking him directly in the face. She still doesn’t feel anything, not dread, not sadness, not anger, but she is a bit amused. “You suspect of me, don’t you? At the very least you think I’m hiding something.”

“Are you?”

Leona shrugs. “Why would I? It would only make my own life difficult, isn’t it?”

The detective keeps looking at her, saying nothing, his gaze impossible to interpret. Well, Leona could care less if she’s a suspect or not. She’s so tired all she wants is to sleep for like a decade or so.

“Listen,” she says, her shoulders sagging. “I know that hiding anything or making things up would only make this hard on me. Plus that I watched enough Navy CIS to know you guys have a lot of tricks in the book, and I’m no match for them.”

“You might be quite a match,” the detective says. “Your ex-boyfriend, Inspector Hector Varlam, must have taught you a thing or two.”

The name snaps in Leona’s head. “Mr.—” Did he even introduce himself yet?

“Marin. Detective Constantin Marin.”

“Well, Detective Marin, Hector Varlam was never really my boyfriend, and he’s been out of the picture for three years now. I spent two of those years in a monastery to get over that part of my story. He did bring quite a few things into my life but, I assure you, tips and tricks to get away with murder weren’t among them.”

“But an unhealthy obsession was, right?”

“What do you mean? I wasn’t—”

“Obsessed with him? Maybe not. But you seem to have sparked obsession in him.”

This can’t be right. “What makes you say that?”

The detective motions with his head curtly in the general direction behind him. “See that woman over there?”

Glancing in that direction, Leona sees Pavel Tudose’s wife crying and gesticulating between two police officers, right this moment actually pointing at Leona. She can’t hear what the woman is saying, the acoustics in the teachers’ lounge has always been crappy, and now with so many people it’s impossible to hear that far. But her hatred of Leona is alight in her distorted face.

“According to her,” the detective continues, “her husband has been keeping pictures of you in a box under a plant in his study. The wife discovered them a few days ago and confronted him, but that only led to domestic violence. Apparently, the man was stalking you, and some of the pictures even have traces of semen on them.”

Leona’s flesh creases, and her nose too.

“Now, connecting two obsessed men and the acid,” the inspector goes on. “It was said acid that made the victim’s flesh melt off his bones. Those were the words you used when you cursed him, right? Well, at first glance it looked like, in his madness for you, he offered himself as sacrifice to your fantasies, but the stab in the stomach ruled that version out. Someone killed him, someone crazy enough about you to be capable of murder.”

That someone would be so crazy about her

“But if the murderer could have made this look like suicide, why not only use the acid? Why stab the man and make murder only more obvious?”

“It actually makes a whole lot of sense.”

“Say what?”

For the first time the detective’s face betrays emotion. His drooping eyes sparkle, like he thinks he’s on to something. “I think this murder is an offering to you, and the perpetrator wanted you to know it.” He leans in so close that Leona can smell the scent of cigarettes on him. “I think the murderer is an obsessed stalker, namely Hector Varlam, Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to—”

“Actually, she does mind,” a deep voice rumbles from the crowd. That voice is enough to make Leona’s heart jump into her throat.

She looks up to see Viscount Nathaniel Sinclair make his way among the people in the teachers’ lounge. His overly muscular figure in a black shirt grows larger and larger as he approaches. People move out of his way with open mouths, and some even go, “wow,” “I’ll be damned,” and “what the fuck!” And no wonder, really. The Viscount isn’t your average gym pump, he seems a real-life Hulk, one with a handsome face and slightly dark skin, making it impossible to place his origin beyond “somewhere exotic”.

“And who are you, if I may ask?” detective Marin says, doing his best to hide his bewilderment. He gets heavily back to his feet.

“Tell him, Miss Ignat. Who am I?” Nathaniel’s sparkling eyes meet Leona’s awe-struck face. They make such a contrast to his skin that it’s compelling for any human’s eye. Leona’s throat goes dry. She’s often slapped herself inwardly for the sin of lusting after him, since he’s basically a freaking monk. What a freaking waste….

“He is….” What is she supposed to say?

“I am her spiritual adviser and confessor,” Nathaniel says and offers the detective his hand, since Leona is consistently failing to speak.

“Oh, a priest, then?” The detective measures Nathaniel up and down. Detective Marin is fleshy, and he sports a worthy gut, but he’s half the Viscount’s bulk, and two heads smaller. “You don’t look like a priest.”

Actually he does, in some weird way. The black clothing he always wears, even his huge, protective bulk. He has a strange, compelling beauty though, which gives him the hellish sex appeal of the forbidden fruit.

“I’m of a less known confession,” Nathaniel rumbles softly.

“But why are you here? Did Miss Ignat confess to you anything she should now tell me?” Marin looks at Leona with a suspicious frown.

“No, detective, I assure you. But Miss Ignat has been in the monastery for a reason, and that was to process the trauma Hector Varlam had put her through. As you probably imagine, I’d like to avoid that trauma returning.”

“Well, I don’t know the details of her relationship with my former colleague, but if it was a traumatic one, shouldn’t she have turned to a shrink instead of a priest?”

“Mr. Sinclair was all the support I needed,” Leona intervenes, also getting to her feet. Her knees are shaking, and she gathers the blanket tighter around herself to mask it.

In truth, Nathaniel never spent time with Leona at the monastery, even though she worshipped him like a god and lived for the glimpses she got of him. Every time he’d glance in her general direction she’d cling to hope, but he looked away without a twitch on his face, and she remembers that painfully well.

“I would like you to stay in town and available at all times, Miss Ignat,” the detective says from behind Leona as she starts pacing towards Nathaniel, blanket even tighter around her. Excitement swells in her chest as he places his huge, warm hand on the small of her back.

“You will have access to her, detective,” Nathaniel says. “But it will have to go through me.” He hands the inspector a business card, which the detective flips over and then again over.

“You also happen to be a lawyer, Mr. Sinclair?”

With a cordial smile for the detective, Nathaniel’s warm hand applies a little pressure to the small of Leona’s back, and she starts walking. All her colleagues, their families, friends and police staff are staring as she and Nathaniel leave the teachers’ lounge, his bulk a huge guardian by the side of her slim figure.

“I gather they never saw you in the company of a man before,” he says in a low voice. It’s the first time she hears it in years.

“You made it pretty clear that male company is to remain a no-no for me.”

“I’m glad to see you didn’t disregard my instructions.”

“Come on, Viscount. You would have found out, and confined me back between the monastery walls in no time.”

Leona and Nathaniel emerge under the overhang outside the teachers’ lounge, rain pouring down beyond it, thick bubbles splashing onto the cracked asphalt in the small courtyard that surrounds the teachers’ exit.

“Why didn’t you use this exit when you were leaving the school earlier this evening?” Nathaniel inquires calmly. Leona’s chest tightens, and she turns halfway to look up at his face.

“The janitor had already locked it. Why? You suspect of me, too?”

His bright irises fix her face directly, making the muscles in her core clench. “I hear you cursed him in the principal’s office. Considering your talents, a direct influence isn’t excluded.”

He presses the button on the umbrella stick in his other hand, and the umbrella opens above them. He shields Leona from the rain until they reach his car, where he opens the door for her to get in. His presence strains poor Leona’s starved hormones. She grabs the edges of the blanket tightly and reminds herself that, even if she hadn’t sworn off sex forever, Viscount Nathaniel Sinclair is as much off limits as Jesus Christ.

Still, she masochistically enjoys the prickle in her stomach as he slips into the driver’s seat, making the car tilt. But after only a few minutes she begins to wonder about their destination. The pouring rain leaves thick rivulets on the side windows, blurring the nightly city lights, teaming up with the sound of the wipers.

“Where are we going?” she says.

“I’m taking you home,” he replies in his gentlemanly tone. “Then we’ll have a talk.”

“You want to talk at my place?”

“Where else?”

Leona turns to the side, with her shoulder against the back of her seat to face him.

“If I remember correctly, you avoided being seen at all, let alone with someone, even less with a woman. Your identity as head of the Order of Lords is top secret. You mean to tell me that, after you made an appearance worthy of a stage back at school, you want to take it up a notch and make a show at my place, too?”

He frowns at the road. “Your place is safe. I made sure about that.”

Made sure?” It hits her. “Oh,” she whispers as understanding deepens. “You have me monitored. I thought you trusted me.”

“I can’t trust anyone who knows the Order’s secrets, Leona. Not after everything that happened with the Executioner, and sure as hell not after I found you in bed with the chief villain, inspector Hector Varlam.” He throws her a glance. “That’s how we first met, remember?”

The shame from that night strikes, weighing like a stone in Leona’s chest. She drops her eyes to her shoes. The motion of the car makes her sick, but she can’t look at Nathaniel right now.

“Well, I suppose I should thank you for watching over me. If it weren’t for you, I would have ended up in police custody tonight for sure. But, as you may know, I live with my aunt in an old house in the peninsula, which we share with a big gypsy family. Everyone would see you, plus that I’m not allowed to bring men at home.”

She still can’t look at Nathaniel, but she feels his sparkling gaze on her head. “I know who you live with. As I know that you’re not allowed to cross the threshold in male company, and that you’re not allowed to spend nights out.”

Leona looks up at him as she understands more and more of this. “I never actually had a chance, vow or no vow at the monastery, did I? The gypsy family, they’re your people, right?”

“We can talk here,” Nathaniel changes the subject abruptly, pulling over in front of the old dilapidated building that is Leona’s house. He lets the engine run, probably because it’s obvious she needs the heat by the way she keeps the blanket about her, and makes herself small in her seat. Thank God he doesn’t know she’s shivering because of him.

“How come you stepped in personally, Viscount?” she says. “Your identity is such sensitive information. A few years ago you wouldn’t have intervened for matters much more serious than this.”

“This matter is way more serious than you imagine.” Gravity deepens his gaze. “In one thing I agree with Detective Marin. Whoever killed your colleague, they did it for you.” He pauses, giving his following words more weight. “Either a secret admirer of yours killed the man out of jealousy or out of obsession for you, Hector Varlam being among the suspects. Or you killed the man yourself—these are the two scenarios that detective Marin would choose from. To me, there’s also a third possibility. One that has to do with your curse.”

“The curse? The man was stabbed in the gut! It was clearly murder.”

“Magic doesn’t work the way people expect it to,” Nathaniel says. “It makes things tie together, often in very logical ways. Your curse could have put the murderer in there with Mr. Tudose. It could have attracted the murderer into his life, so to say. Anyway, I’m glad to see you got over the shock of discovering him in that closet.”

“I’d be lying to say Tudose’s death makes me in any way sad. Since you’re so well informed regarding my life, did you know he tried to force my head into his lap once when he brought me home in his car?”

The muscles in Nathaniel’s arms flex, and his eyes gleam like a panther’s ready to attack. It lights a spark in the pit of Leona’s stomach, seeing him so ready to protect her.

“Why didn’t you notify the Order?” he demands, his tone now hard, contrasting with the soft-spoken giant from moments before.

“What would you have done?” she whispers, searching his eyes. She hungers for his answer. How would he have defended her?

“I would have sent my men to extract him from your life. You don’t have to put up with abuse.”

The expectation in her chest deflates. Not exactly the answer she dreamed to hear. She forces herself to look away from him before he can read the disappointment in her face. But the moment she shifts her gaze she notices two strange figures at the entrance to the neighborhood bar.

The Gossip Parlor is a meeting place for wild students and some older drunks seeking to impress the youngsters with made-up adventure stories. Loud rock music shakes the bar, and cigarette smoke floats so thick you could cut it with a knife. Leona has only been there once or twice to get vodka for her aunt late at night when all other stores were closed, but the patrons are regulars from the neighborhood. They all know her, and she knows them. All wild and loud, but decent, really. Which is why the two hooded figures looking like dealer and client surprise her. She catches a glimpse of one of the men as he looks anxiously over his shoulder, and her jaw drops.

***

Stay tuned for a new chapter next week loves 🙂 Until then, you can enjoy any of my other books, all available for you here. Two of them are even on promotion today, available, for 0,99!

 

 

 

 

Tristan and Isolde Reloaded – Chapter XX

THIS CHAPTER FEATURES MATURE CONTENT! 18+

Blurb:

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 – a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale with a modern, sexy flair. Enjoy!

Chapter XX – Deadly Passion

“Have you lost your mind?” My heart beats like a rabbit’s, and my cheeks are burning. Still, I can’t find it in myself to struggle from his embrace. “I’m your father’s—”

“He doesn’t have to know,” Tristan purrs. “He has no idea you’re a virgin, so he’ll have no reason to suspect.”

“But Gertrude and all your people heard me back at the dress store, when I told you I’d never been with a man.”

“Mark doesn’t maintain chit-chat relationships with the staff. Nobody will dare break the news to him.”

Anger squeezes my throat. “So you want to do me, and then throw me into his bed, is that it?”

“Yes. That’s it.”

I plant my hands on his iron hard chest and push at him with all I have. He doesn’t budge, but it serves as release for my anger. “Do you believe yourself, you bastard?” When I fail to move him, I throw my fists at his chest, beating down on him. “You want to use me and toss me like a condom, and you tell it to my face, too?”

“Would you prefer that I lied?”

I scream in outrage. He lets me beat him, his face hard, his jaw set, his gaze icy. He doesn’t move at all, he simply waits it out. The sides of my fists hurt, and I’m pretty sure they’ll bruise, but I don’t stop hitting him until I’m exhausted. I fall to my knees, crying and heaving, my dress deflating all around me like a parachute on the ground.

Shimmer in the limelight makes me glance to the side and remember that we’re not alone: the guards down by my foster father’s cross stare at us, but probably all they can see is unintelligible movement. We’re too far up. My foster father is looking, too, and I think our gazes meet.

I feel Tristan’s fingers sink into my hair, his big fist clenching on a handful. Astounded, I gaze up at him. He tugs, it’s painful, and I moan. He inhales sharply—the sight of me at his feet clearly turns this magnificent monster on. He opens his fly with his other hand, reaches in, and frees his erection. By God!

He’s huge. His shaft is a freaking weapon made of muscle.

“Take me in your mouth now, if you want to save him.” His voice is gruff with want, and his eyes flash like a beast’s ready to tear into my flesh. “He doesn’t have long, so don’t negotiate.”

His fist tightens on my hair, and the pain sharpens. He tugs my head back, touching his shaft to my lips. It smells of clean cotton. The moment he tinges my skin his lids flutter, his lips part, and he breathes in sharply, while his cock twitches on my mouth, releasing a drop of warm pre-cum. He wants me that much?

“Not here,” I whisper. “Please, it’s all I ask.”

He looks down at me on my knees before him. Keeping my head in place, he pushes his hips forward, and his shaft digs into my lips. He’s still on the outside, rubbing lengthwise on my mouth and my face, surely smudging my makeup. He pushes harder, and that weapon of a cock splits my lip. He moans deeply from his chest like he enjoys my blood.

“Tristan, I beg of you,” I manage, my lips squashed against his rough manhood, tears shimmering hot in my lower eyelids. I’m choking with indignation. “It’s my first time.”

He watches me for a few moments with a cold, unreadable expression, but then he steps back and tucks himself back in. He grips his erection over his trousers, probably to still it. My lips feel dry and cracked, and I run my tongue over the place where he’s been only a moment before, tasting my own blood and his salty pre-cum. Shock lessens, and my heart jolts—I’ve actually had my mouth on the most intimate part of Tristan Stahl’s body.

Turning to the Roman guards, Tristan’s voice booms, resounding against the cave. “Take the pig down from the cross, and drive him to the hospital. Make sure he stays alive. Keep guards on him, don’t leave him alone even for a minute.”

His attention returns to me, and my insides twist with a mix of anticipation and rage.

“Come,” he orders.

“Where are we going?”

“No time for questions, Isolde.” The way he says that, the way he looks at me, there’s no doubt—he won’t leave me a choice. I put my hand in his, and stagger up to my feet.

He slides an arm like an iron beam under me and cradles me to what seems a secret door beaten into the hard mud. I guess I could fight this, argue and scream, find a way to run with it to Mark, but it hits me with a bang—I want Tristan to be the first man in my life, even though I know he’ll be a brute. Damn you and your love potion, Marie France Cassel.

Tristan pushes the door, which makes an unsticking sound as it parts with the frame. It appears heavy like the entrance to a vault.

“Jesus, you’re strong,” I think out loud. Seems my neurons have all fainted. He doesn’t say anything.

He sets me down on my feet on a corridor smelling of mold. Above us, I can hear the muffled laughter and music of the mega theme party upstairs.

“This palace has secret passages?” I say in a quivering voice.

“They all do,” Tristan replies dismissively as he leads the way. I should want to jump on his back, screaming and scratching with indignation right now. Instead, I take a deep breath and go for another strategy.

“I always thought this place much too serious and, I don’t know, too sober for such things. Secret passageways are so France.” I even try a small laugh. I hope conversation will make Tristan see me as a human again, not just a piece of warm meat to stick his dick into.

“No one beats the Germans at secret passages.”

He turns, annoyance crossing his sharp blue eyes, making it clear he doesn’t welcome the chitchat. He grabs my hand as if he’s lost patience, and practically drags me into what looks like a royal bedroom. He shuts the doors and hauls me onto a small divan by the wall. My back knocks against it and, despite my hands gripping to silky cushions, I feel like I’ve just been thrown into a prison cell.

Tristan approaches me, losing his suit jacket and tossing it to the side. He begins unbuttoning his white shirt that clings to his fighter muscles, and something stirs in my core. Silver light from the garden filters into the spacious room through the two windows on the far wall that frame Tristan’s figure. Apart from the shirt that outlines the shape of his body, he’s all made of blackness against the light, while he can see me clearly like a deer in his headlights.

He stands right before me and lifts my chin with his forefinger. His shirt is completely open now, his blue eyes luminous like a monster’s in his shadow face. I keep my gaze glued to his, but register his other hand working on his fly, freeing his manhood. My heart pumps like crazy, and I can’t believe this is actually happening to me.

“You’ll take me in your mouth,” he says gruffly. I make out his hand moving up and down his shaft—he’s stroking himself; my pulse throbs in my throat, and cream from my private parts trickles into my panties. What the—?

“Do it without objection,” he demands. “Do it until you feel my cum down your throat, and it may just save your virtue.”

This is wrong, this is sick, but it turns me on big time. My panties are soaked.

“No,” I whisper. I see the surprise cross Tristan’s eyes, and his hand stops moving.

Slowly, I bend down, bringing my face closer to his shaft, touching it with my breath. I grip the rim of my dress and lift the skirts, gathering the material in my lap and beside my hips. I’m a step away from revealing the most intimate part of my body to him. Underneath the skirts I’m wearing black stockings up to mid-thigh, and I make sure I display them for Tristan.

“This is the first time I’m being intimate with a man, Tristan,” I say in a low, secretive voice. “And I prefer to give you my virtue than my dignity.”

He inhales sharply, as if my very words make him horny. His big hand goes around the back of my neck, gripping my nape as he bends down to me. A split second before it happens I realize his mouth is going to leave me breathless, and I take in air. He crushes my lips under his, overriding me like a wave. That vicious mouth of his that I’ve been wanting to taste for so long is now actually on mine, causing me pain as it presses on the split.

Tristan’s teeth sink hard into my lower lip. I yelp as blood squirts out, and I try to pull back, but he keeps his teeth in like a pit-bull. He sucks on my pierced flesh, and fear rolls like ice on the inside of my skin. Just how damaged is this man? He moans with the frenzy, both his hands sinking into my chignon and messing up my hair.

Once again I try to pull away, intent on using as pretext that we can’t look a mess when we return to the party, but he apparently lost every ounce of reason. He keeps his hands in my hair, his tongue sliding hungrily into my mouth. Dear God, he’s kissing me with a deadly passion, and I have no way of fighting it.

My body softens in his arms, and I give in to him. I let my arms go around his broad torso and I press my tits against his iron chest—it feels delicious. I want more, and I snake onto him, feeling his body respond. He pushes himself into me, knocking me into the wooden back of the divan, smothering me with his hot mouth. I’m breathless when he breaks the kiss, looking into my eyes. There’s the raw desire of a caveman in his gaze, mixed with bloodlust. My lips feel sore and swollen, and I shake all over.

“That smart mouth of yours makes me want to eat you alive,” he says gruffly, the sound of his voice giving me goose bumps. It’s so animal sexy, and his wintry scent now mixed with the sweat of his body is an aphrodisiac.

“I didn’t think brains were something that you looked for in a woman,” I mumble. Speaking is hard, that’s how demanding he’s been on my lips.

“Me neither.” He grins viciously, and plunges into another kiss. I can’t restrain muffled moans while his hands splay on my neck and chest, going down to my necklace and tearing it. I can hear the emerald beads hit the parquet floor in a ripple, and a flash of Mark demanding to know where they went stirs me from Tristan’s embrace. His hands harden on me, keeping me in place.

He plasters me to his body, forcing my legs apart to accommodate his hips between them. I think he’s on his knees, but he still reaches me perfectly in all the right places. His fingers hook into the rim of my cleavage and pull down, my tits springing out and filling his rough palms. He releases a groan, and kisses my neck wildly, pushing his body into mine, squeezing my breasts. His manhood twitches against my most intimate part, only my lace panties between us. My skirts are in my lap and his trousers still on, only his manhood out, which makes the contact between us so secret, so meaningful. The touch of his mouth on my skin sends pleasure all over me, making me sigh and clutch his taut triceps, arching into his mouth, offering him my neck, my chest, opening my legs wider.

“Aw, Tristan, don’t stop,” I slur.

My heart beats like crazy in expectation. I’m convinced that this is it, Tristan Stahl is going to rip my soaked panties and enter me, and my head swims. But only a big hand goes down between my legs, strokes aside the lace, and swipes over my swollen private part. He’s surprisingly gentle, but I wince with the bolt of pleasure that shoots through me. He brings his face above mine, searching my eyes. His own are luscious like a starved animal’s chained just feet away from his meal.

“How does this feel?” His voice is husky, barely controlled.

“It feels like heaven.” My lids are heavy, hooding my eyes. I can barely restrain myself, my high heels planted firmly in the ground, and my hips moving into his touch. He strokes again, now with more pressure. “Aw, yes!” I arch my head back and push my hips forward, rolling my eyes at the sensation. I’m now twisted in an awkward position, my arms spread over the back of the divan, holding tightly, and my hips off the cushions, moving to meet the moves of Tristan’s hand. He brings his big body over mine, the sides of his shirt open, his face above my eyes. I think he wants to drink in how I feel, to relish what his touch is doing to me.

“This is my first time, too, Isolde,” he says huskily. “The first time I’ve ever wanted to pleasure a woman. Damn that witch and her potions.”

His words, his touch, his scent, it all brings me to the highest point. My hips arch further up, and orgasm breaks out from my clitoris. My neck arches back, my muscles stretch and tense, my eyelids squeeze, and I release a long moan that stops in Tristan’s palm that presses on my lips.

He releases me as soon as my moans die down, my body relaxing on the divan like a mass of jelly molding to the wood and cushions. He can use me now, and that’s just what he intends to do, I realize.

He grabs the sides of my thighs above the stockings and positions himself between my legs. This is it!

But no.

His long manhood touches me there, and he begins rubbing along my slit, relishing the wetness. He does not try to enter.

I look at him baffled. “What are you doing?”

He’s frowning, his lips slightly parted, painful need written all over him. His fingers drill into my flesh, marking his want. I bite back a yelp.

“If I thrust into you now I don’t think I can . . .” He pants, rocking his hips harder into mine. “Fuck,” he growls.

His body tightens, and his sap splashes on the inside of my skirts, a few drops landing on my skin. His groans are delicious to my ears, shooting current all through me. He breathes hard, his whole body relaxing, and I open my arms to receive him. For just a moment he leans his entire weight on my body, suffocating me against the wooden back of the divan, but he comes back to himself fast. We look long at each other, and I swear my heart has just melted away. I’m falling deeply in love with Tristan Stahl, the villain, the man who just took me with a passion I never thought I’d experience from a man.

The way his eyes lick all over me, for a moment I think he feels the same. But then he gets off me, tucks himself in, and starts buttoning up his shirt. The ice returns to his eyes, and soon an alternate reality seems to have replaced the passion between us.

“This won’t happen again,” he states coldly. I blink at him, trying to wrap my head around this extreme switch of his. There’s no trace left of the passionate Tristan from before.

“Why?” The question leaves my mouth like a ghost.

He shuffles his suit jacket on, just like a client who finished screwing a hooker. “Because you’re going to be Mark’s woman. Even if it’s only for a while, it will bring you many advantages, and you don’t need complications. And neither do I.”

Rage boils inside my chest, and my mouth goes dry. I glare at him. “I was going to become your adoptive father’s woman half an hour ago, too. That didn’t stop you from pushing your penis on my mouth. You think you’re any less despicable if you never do it again?”

He stands in front of me, now completely dressed, looking as if nothing ever happened between us. Nobody would guess that he’s been intimate with me just moments ago.

“Yes,” he says evenly, fastening his Rolex around his wrist. “Look, Isolde, I’ll put this in clear terms for you.” He sits on the divan by my side, hand on the wooden back. I read contempt all over his face, which I now see clearly in the light from the garden. So this is what they mean when they say men can do you and then ditch you like a used condom. “I’m engaged to be married, and while it is a marriage of convenience, it’s also the only relationship I have interest in. I’ve fucked other women before Gertrude, and I will fuck other women after I’m married to her. As you may have noticed, I have particularities in matters of sex. I wouldn’t be able to live them out with my respected wife, would I?”

Rage is choking me. I’ve been used in the filthiest way, I’m no more than a public toilet to him. The man split my lip trying to fuck my mouth, and he enjoyed it. I take my hand to the place, hot with anger. Hadn’t he been so out of his mind horny to make him think he wouldn’t last enough for it to be worth it, he would have taken my virginity and tossed me away in the same sick manner. I want to scream at him that his warm seed is still dripping off me, but I bite it from my lips, tears salty in the back of my throat.

“Secondly,” he says, “Mark hasn’t shown interest in a woman in over a decade. That he likes you the way he does is special, and I don’t want to spoil it for him.”

TO BE CONTINUED

***

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for more! Subscribe to this blog, and follow me on Facebook andTwitter to be notified each time a new chapter is uploaded. Here’s the whole story:

Prologue – Meet Tristan The Ripper

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

OR ENJOY THE HEAT IN MY FULL LENGTH BOOKS

The Executioner Part One

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The Executioner Part Two

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The Revenge of Andrey Jones

RoAJ

FREE ROMANCE READS, everyone!

You know me, folks 🙂 Always both eyes open for all things good books, all things hot romance, and all things good books again. Got two hot giveaways to tell you about today, and namely:

Romancing and Army of Readers – Some of these titles had me fanning my hands over my face, and I’m not one to do that often, I tell ya. Check this out.

Paranormal Suspense and Romance – One of my favorite favorites so far! It includes one of the best romance authors out there, Rachael Tamayo, I grabbed her latest book here.

Stay tuned for more, folks! I’m always reading and collecting all the worthwhile reads for you, not to mention that my latest activity as an editor with one of the fastest growing indie publishers out there has opened a well of goodies 🙂 So keep close

 

The Revenge of Andrey Jones is LIVE!

The day has come, folks!”The Revenge of Andrey Jones” has released, and let me tell you it’s a goody. I’ve been preparing this one for you for a while now, and when things got out of hand, I found myself on a joy ride 🙂 Full of dark romance, suspense and dark erotic, this one will surprise you! Get it for only $ 1,17 on Amazon, and enjoy a wild night 🙂

RoAJ

There’s a fine line between love and hate

Lila Banks is driven and cool-headed—until she meets dream employer Andrey Jones, and finds herself drooling over him. The last thing she expects is that he’s hated her for years. His father, the villain known as Big Boss, had once left his family for Lila—or so Andrey thinks. Today, he wants revenge.

Cold, calculated and almost evil, Andrey uses Lila in vile ways, but the boomerang is bound to return. Will Andrey be able to resist Lila when she turns his own weapons against him? A story of dark seduction, walking the fine line between love and hate.

Tristan and Isolde Reloaded – Chapter XIX – INDECENT PROPOSAL

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!

Chapter XIX – Indecent Proposal

ISOLDE

I know the woman now facing me directly. Her deep brown eyes meet mine with those unmistakable long eyelashes, curved upward. Her face is heart-shaped, delicate and very pale, as it’s always been, but indeed, I can see the lady in her. I’ve known her as helpless Frany, but now I’m looking at Lady Marie France Cassel, elite chemist; if I didn’t know better now, I’d think she is my sweet Frany’s older, aristocrat sister.

The moment she recognizes me Lady Marie France turns on her heels, places her drink on the mantelpiece behind her, lifts her skirt—shiny, black, sewn with black pearls—and she glides through the crowd away from me.

I scurry after her, but she’s faster. She seems a ghost, floating casually among human obstacles, while I bump into them, and excuse myself. I keep my eyes on her and follow out of the room to another room, different people, same smothering heat. I see her take a right into what turns out to be a dark corridor where I’m forced to feel my way along the walls, into the gardens outside.

It’s dark, the gardens are scarcely lit, and the chill bites into my naked arms and shoulders. The emerald necklace turns to metal against my skin, hitting me like a small cold whip every step I take.

“Frany,” I call after the woman who’s become a dark moving stain before me. She keeps gliding away. “Lady Marie France!”

She stops and turns, her pale face like half a moon in the night. I can’t see her eyes, but I can read her surprise.

“Yes, I know who you are, Lady Cassel,” I press, slowing down, hoping I got her. But she turns, and moves away even faster than before. I grip the folds of my dress and increase pace, my chest and neck cold, and my breath steaming out of my mouth. My lungs burn, and the dress squeezes me like pliers, but I won’t give up.

Marie France crosses a quaint little bridge over the pond, and disappears into a rusty pavilion. I’m pretty sure I hear a creak, but it could be the floorboards of the bridge squeaking under my feet. When I reach the pavilion I spin in circles, but she’s disappeared. I’m sure she stepped in here, though.

I look around the dimly lit gazebo, touching and inspecting the wrought iron benches and the chipped round table in the middle. Under it there’s a lever. I wrap both my hands around the cold iron, pull down hard, and a hatch opens. Indeed, there’s the creak, the same one from before.

I take a deep breath and climb down through the hatch, feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland. I don’t know why, but I’m not surprised to find a secret doorway in the royal gardens of the Charlottenburg Palace. Maybe it’s because of the vision I had, because I kind of know what to expect.

My hair and dress catch in the edges of the entrance, and I can’t refrain from cursing. A tooth-like piece of copper hooked into a fold of my dress, and the only solution I see to free myself is tugging hard. The force I apply to the tug turns out too much, the fold rips, and I roll downwards on my back. Something like a metal slide batters my spine as I roll, and by the time I hit the ground I’ve groaned so loud that my presence surely isn’t a secret anymore.

I get to my feet with difficulty, not sure yet how much of my body is broken. My bones hurt, but as I touch myself I realize the scare was the worst part of it. If anything, I’ll get a few bruises by morning.

I look around, bracing myself and rubbing my upper arms. This place is deserted and frightening, like an ancient cave. The air is stale, and foul. Ventilation surely is an issue here, and the pressure is heavy on my body, too. I must have fallen really far underground.

The soil consists of damp gravel and sand, and it crunches under my feet as I step to the edge of an abyss that yawns before me without warning. I flail my arms to keep balance, but when I steady myself my eyes also adjust, and I gasp.

The countless seats carved into the earth all around the hole are empty, but limelight is focused on a scene in the center of an abandoned arena. This place seems a secret Roman ruin, a site where Roman military probably had gladiators fight when they missed home. Spotting movement, I narrow my eyes, hunker down, and strain with all I have to see from this distance. I gasp, taking my hand to my mouth.

He hangs on a cross just like in my vision. Streaks of blood seem to snake down his forearms and down the cross from his feet, while two men dressed like Roman guards stand on each side of him with spears in their hands. I’m sure the crucified man is Tristan, and panic makes the blood squirt from my heart. But, unlike in my vision, there’s no laughing crowd, and as I look better I see the man on the cross isn’t Tristan. It’s my foster father from years ago, his body like a flaccid peach glistening with sweat in the limelight. He’s completely naked, and he seems barely alive.

I feel Tristan’s wintry breath on the curve of my neck before his voice reaches my ear from behind.

“He knows exactly why this is happening to him.” He’s really close; the temperature of his big body envelops my back. It’s not heat and it’s not cold, it’s just waves of temperature field. Something I’ve never experienced before, I realize suddenly.

“You aren’t human,” I whisper without turning.

“Whether I’m human or not has nothing to do with this,” he says in a low voice. His lips touch the shell of my ear lightly, and a shiver that borders on pleasure runs all through me. I grit my teeth. There’s satisfaction in his voice at his next words. “Do you enjoy the sight?”

“Enjoy?” God, I’m trembling like a chicken stripped of feathers.

“After everything he did to you, retribution must feel good.”

I turn to look into Tristan’s face. My heart cringes as my eyes settle on him. Please, God, don’t let me be falling for a monster, for a torturer and a killer. I brusquely remember Marie France and her love potion.

“I saw her, Tristan. I saw Marie France. She led me here, and she must be around somewhere.”

He grins his thuggish grin, and the wicked dimple appears beside his mouth. “Yes, I know. Well, she had a surprise of her own. She expected me on that cross.”

“And she expected a full audience, too. That’s what I saw in my vision.”

“Your vision helped change that version of the future—to this.” He motions with his chin to the scene in the limelight. I glance at my foster father, and my fists clench on the folds of my dress.

“Tristan, please, I can’t be responsible for this.”

He stands while I’m still hunkering down. He now looms over me. “Come on, Isolde, don’t be a hypocrite. Roland told me what this piece of shit put you through, you must experience some sort of pleasure right now.”

He reaches for me and helps me up. His hand is big enough to wind around my upper arm completely, but it’s also cold and wet. I look at it, and my stomach twists. His hand, wrist and cuff are soaking red.

“Yes, I nailed him myself,” Tristan says, and he sounds like a satisfied psycho. He offers me his other hand. “Here, touch his blood.”

“What, no!” Frany! I grip his forearm, horrified. “What about Marie France? Did you intercept her as she came here? What did you do to her?”

He frowns. “I decided to let her go. Desperate as she is now, she’s going to make huge mistakes, and lead us to the others. My men are tailing her closely. We’ll get to all of her confederates, eventually.”

I glance at my foster father. “Are you really doing this for me, Tristan? When we met at the Palace you looked at me like I wasn’t worth jack. The last thing I expected—”

“Was that I’d seek revenge in your name. Exactly.” He steps closer, and his arm goes around my waist, plastering me to his body. I gasp. This can’t be happening. This can’t be freaking happening.

His wintry smell tinges my nostrils, the sleek feel of his suit licks my arms, and I think I’m having an out of body experience. It all feels like an alternate reality, me staring up into his razor sharp blue eyes from somewhere beside myself.

“I had to do something that would make this a highly incredible scenario, Isolde. Namely that I’d be down in this cave tonight, ramming nails into a man’s hands and feet in order to please you. I had to put on display my indifference to you.” His gaze is wild. The man is mighty damaged.

“Tristan, this is sacrilege,” I manage, keeping my tone extra soft. “You can’t give my foster father the fate of Christ. Please, get him down. That would please me.”

He lets go of me and squares his shoulders. “It’s pretty hard to release him now, Isolde. What you see is only the tip of the iceberg. Your foster father and I first met twenty-four hours ago, and we spent some time together since then, you see.”

I shudder, understanding what he means. I look him up and down, picturing how this monster has tortured my foster father, probably while telling him it was in my name. Now that weasel has seen Tristan’s face, and he can go to the police with it. I notice a stain of blood on Tristan’s white shirt under the suit jacket, emerging from under his lapel, wet and plastering his shirt to his pectoral.

“You intend to kill him no matter what,” I breathe, bracing myself.

“I don’t have a choice,” he states coldly.

I glance away for only a moment to ease the tension between us, and when my eyes find him again he seems even more threatening. I barely dare look him in the face as I say, timidly, “You’re the mighty Tristan Stahl. President of Stahl Biotech, head of the pharmaceuticals mafia, and you’re well connected to the very top of the world. If anyone always has a choice, it’s you.”

I drop my gaze, but I can feel those blade sharp eyes drilling into my skull.

“Well, what can I say.” His tone is deceivingly calm. “You are very smart, Isolde. You know how to manipulate words, but I’m afraid men of my caliber aren’t as easy.”

My eyes snap to him. “I’m not trying to manipulate you, Tristan. I’m trying to talk some sense into you.” I point to my foster father, raising my voice as the fist of despair grips my heart. “You’re about to take a life!”

“His life is worthless.”

“That’s not for you to decide. He’s been born into this world, he has a right to be here.”

“Well, he sure doesn’t feel the same about you, does he?” Tristan loses patience, grips my elbow, and pulls me harshly to him. I slam into his body like a ragdoll against a wall. I’m so soft compared to him, and his face is so freaking close to mine, his wintry breath smashing into my face, good God! “This man is a neo-Nazi. He believes that I deserve to live, the perfect Aryan specimen, while you should die just because your skin is a few shades darker than his. He’d never return the favor you’re doing him now, Isolde.”

It’s a struggle to keep my gaze hanging on his, but I have to. It’s either make my point now, or never. “And if you sacrifice him now to his own gods, Tristan, saying you’re doing it for me, what lesson will he have learned? He’ll only think he’s dying a martyr, and that he’s been right all along to hate the Latina bitch.”

Tristan pauses, looking hard into my eyes. “You’ll say anything to save him, won’t you?” He scans me up and down. My intuition tells me that, if until now he was only intrigued by me, now I’m in much bigger trouble. “It would seem you’re even more special than Mark expected.”

He comes so close his icy blue eyes become a blur. “Tell, me,” he purrs like a stalking tiger, “how much would you sacrifice in order to save this piece of shit?”

“Sacrifice?”

“What would you give me in order to safeguard his right of being in this world?”

Blood drains from my head. “What are you trying to say to me, Tristan?”

He splays his fingers over my back, my tits swelling against his iron body. “If you want me to take the risk and set him loose, Isolde, I’ll have something in return.” His voice goes low, deep, smoky, making the skin on my back prickle. “I’ll have your virtue.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for more! Subscribe to this blog, and follow me on Facebook andTwitter to be notified each time a new chapter is uploaded. Here’s the whole story:

Prologue – Meet Tristan The Ripper

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

 

 

Tristan and Isolde Reloaded- Chapter XVIII

Chapter XVIII – Party Flavours

 

ISOLDE

 

VIP treatment can be scary as heck. I’m sitting in the back of Mark Stahl’s limo, noise and cameras surrounding the car. I blink every time flashes bounce off the bulletproof glass. Mark Stahl’s pruned hand is on my knee, the white sleeve of his shirt starched and spotless. I’m sick to my stomach.

“You’ll have to get used to the attention,” Mark’s robotic voice says in my ear. The speaking device is strapped to his dry neck with transparent, thin little tubes. I struggle to repress a shudder when I look at him, an ancient turtle in a suit.

“Once they see you by my side they won’t get off your back again.” He grins. “So get used to the VIP status.”

The limo comes to a full stop, the driver walks over, and opens the door on Mark’s side. His men grip the wheels of his chair and carry him out like some ancient king. As soon as his blotched baldhead emerges from the car, journalists’ voices surge, and a bodyguard’s hand reaches in for me. I take it and step out, too, careful not to stumble on the rim of my 18th century dress with emerald green folds. The corset is tight, and my tits once again fill my cleavage, but I’ve learned how to move in such a way that they’re never in danger of popping out. Not to mention that I can count on the vintage emerald necklace to cover almost all of my chest down to the swell of my breasts.

As soon as I’m fully out of the car microphones pop under my face from everywhere.

“Was this a secret affair?” Male voice, very close.

“How long has this been going on?” A woman, close, too.

“Is there a pregnancy involved?” A girl journalist with a blurry face squashed in the crowd to one side of the red carpet. Jesus Christ, I’m actually on the red carpet, and for what?

With every step I take another camera flash hits me, making me squint. One wrong step, my feet in high heels stumble on each other, and I lose my balance. Luckily, two bodyguards catch me, one on each side. They practically carry me to the entrance, which feels like a throttle. They have to squeeze me between their barrel-like bodies to get me inside. Mark is basically carried over the throng’s heads.

“Whew, that was crazy,” the man to my right says once we’re inside the foyer. His voice is deep, familiar, and when I look up at him I recognize Demerol, Tristan’s right hand. He’s smiling down at me. By God, this man has a lot of hair.

The bodyguards set Mark down by my side. He ignores the shouted questions all around us, and keeps his eyes fixed ahead. He raises his hand, palm up, waiting for me to take it. He may seem an old frog in a high tech wheel chair, but his face demands respect. He oozes power, like there’s a huge, dangerous shadow rising from him.

As soon as my hand has touched Mark’s crumpled skin the chair starts wheeling forward, his bodyguards keeping tight on each side of us, making way. We make it through the entrance hall that is full of journalists, and move from room to room that open into each other, all opulent rococo. It’s crowded beyond belief, and hot like the in cauldrons of the underworld. It’s smothering.

“I thought this party would be much smaller. Something secret with closed circuit,” I whisper to Mark, bending slightly from my waist to his ear. My hip bumps into the top of his wheel with every step, and brushes into Demerol on the other side, that’s how tightly I’m squeezed between them. Journalists shout and slam like crazy into the bodyguards, trying to reach the mighty Mark Stahl—I learn from their yells that this is the first time Mark has shown himself in public in over a decade.

“Would I take the trouble to attend a small party, Isolde?” Mark smiles a cold smile as if only for the cameras, keeping his eyes ahead. It makes me feel like I’ve asked the most idiotic question.

“No, but the Charlottenburg Palace is a museum,” I retort. “I didn’t think it could be used as a venue for a party of such large scale.”

“It sure doesn’t happen every day,” he replies coldly. He’s been strange for a few days, and his attitude makes me uncomfortable.

We enter the Golden Gallery, the main ballroom with its gilded patterns on the walls, mirrors and high windows. I’ve seen this room empty once when I visited the museum, and it was impressive, but today it’s downright stunning. It’s hosting a theme party, women in white wigs and vintage dresses laughing on the arms of their partners.

Mark’s wheelchair glides along by my side, leading me deeper towards the center of the ballroom. People stop and stare as we approach, and laughter ceases. Some men even bow. An older lady to the right covers her mouth with her fan as she leans towards a younger one’s ear, and I can tell she’s whispering about us by the way her eyes stay fixed in our direction.

“Is this really happening, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?” a thick male voice booms, tearing my eyes away from the woman with the fan. A man with grey whiskers and rich mustache fills my field of vision. He’s wearing an aristocrat’s—or is it a military man’s?—dark blue outfit from the Kaiser’s times, knee-length boots included. He’s tall and fleshy, broad. Mark’s wheelchair comes to a stop, and I halt, too. We’re still holding hands.

“Mark Stahl in the flesh and—” The man leans back, exploring Mark. “—well, in the wheels.”

“Wolfram,” Mark greets evenly, the smile wiping off his face. He squeezes my hand. “Isolde, this is former member of Parliament Wolfram Schultze. He planted as many obstacles in my company’s way as he could back in his day. Wasn’t a big supporter of Stahl Biotech.”

Oh, wow. I like him already.

“I’m still not a fan, Mark, I must say,” Mr. Schultze says, taking my hand. He kisses it, avoiding to leer, and turns his attention back to my partner. “But I’m retired now, so no longer a problem to you.” He bends in closer to Mark and winks. “Which means I can now take you up on your offer of friendship.”

“I have no use for your friendship anymore, Wolfram,” Mark says bluntly.

“Don’t be so quick to write me off.” Mr. Schultze straightens up, and offers his arm to a woman who steps into he picture by his side. I recognize the mole above her mouth and the shape of her bright red lips—it’s the woman from my vision. She looks at me with contempt, as if she knows me from somewhere, too. Or maybe it’s just because I’m the escort of a much older and outrageously rich man.

Mr. Schultze looks around the place as if he’s searching for something or someone, and making a point to Mark. “There are people here who would love to have me on their side. I may not sit in the Parliament anymore, but I’m still invited to dinner, you know.”

“I’m sure you haven’t lost your connections,” Mark says. “Especially not the ones to the benefit of which you gave me hell.”

I glance from him to Mr. Schultze, who’s chewing on the inside of his cheek, frowning, clearly uncomfortable. “I want to make peace, Mark.”

“You want to nail me as much as always. You just changed strategy.”

I keep staring at the woman, Mr. Schultze’s partner. She’s a good-looking middle-aged lady, with a wicked vibe. In my vision she was laughing. Was she enjoying Tristan’s pain? Wait a minute—did she help set up the trap for him?

Familiar, deep baritone makes my ears perk up.

“Isn’t this an unexpected encounter,” Tristan says. He’s joining our little circle in a sheen grey suit that hugs his tall and broad-shouldered frame. I can’t help it. My eyes lick all over his figure, and I mindlessly let my tongue run over my upper lip. When I realize what I’m doing it’s too late. It’s obvious to everyone that I find him delicious, especially to the blonde with white gloves on his arm—Gertrude. My heart gives me a pang, and I swallow hard. I look away to avoid the poison in her glass-like blue eyes.

“Mr. Wolfram Schultze.” Tristan extends his hand. Mr. Schultze takes it, a bit hesitant. “I trust you remember me as well, not only my father.”

“How could I ever forget you,” Mr. Schultze replies, keeping his reserve. “Mark Stahl’s loyal Cerberus.”

Tristan gives a short laugh that vibrates against my chest. “Interesting comparison, but defense is Demerol’s specialty.” He motions with his hand curtly to Demerol, who’s still flanking me. “I’m more of an attack dog.”

“Indeed,” Mr. Schultze says, scanning my blond bad boy up and down. There’s genuine curiosity in his gaze, and respect that he seems unwilling to display otherwise. “I hear you go after those who make your father uncomfortable, rather than protect him from them.”

“I’m not very good at coaxing, I must admit. I mostly coerce.” Tristan displays a cool grin. That dimple appears in his cheek, and my knees liquefy. By God, everything about him is sexy and powerful at the same time. Mr. Schultze, Demerol, all his father’s bodyguards seem squashed beneath the weight of his presence.

“Tristan,” I whisper, reaching for him. Shoot, my arm is trembling. From the corner of my eye I see Mark raise an arch of skin that used to be one of his eyebrows. I’m being too freaking obvious, but I have to tell Tristan about the woman. This whole event here could have the sole purpose of trapping Mark Stahl’s engineered weapon of a son.

But before I can touch him Tristan plants a razor sharp glare between my eyes. It seems to split my forehead open. I freeze, and my hand drops to my side. Tristan offers Gertrude his arm, she smiles triumphantly at me, then they turn around and leave. Boy, was that embarrassing.

People come between Mr. Schultze, Mark and me, and soon Mr. Schultze is taken away in a small crowd.

“Keep an eye on him,” Mark says to me while picking up a glass of sparkling wine off the tray a waiter holds. The young man bows enough to make the famous magnate’s job easy. Mark passes me the glass. “The people he mentioned, those who want him on their side if I don’t—they’re definitely the Institute’s people. So switch that legendary intuition of yours on, get to work, and let me know if you notice anyone special.”

He sounds like a boss, and I can hear the anger behind his voice. I understand his reasons, too. I hunker down so that my face is well beneath his, and place my hands on his knees.

“Mark, that woman. The one escorting Mr. Schultze. I had a vision of her a week ago. In that vision, Tristan was being crucified, and she was laughing hard. This means that, if they have anything planned for him, she’ll know. That’s what I wanted to tell him.”

Light gradually returns to Mark’s face. “Is that why you reached for him the way you did?” He lets out a small laugh, like he’s relieved. “You looked like a schoolgirl with a crush, Isolde.”

Which is what made Tristan look at me the way he did. His contempt was a blow right to my solar plexus. I bite my lip and drop my eyes to the floor, to Mark’s shiny black shoes.

“I don’t have romantic interest in your son, Mark.” The lie is sour on my tongue. He reaches under my chin and makes me look up into his blotched face again.

“We’re prepared for this, Isolde,” he says quietly, his lips close to my face. He has his last meal on his breath, and I want to crease my nose, but I stop myself in time. “All the important ones are gathered here, thinking they can finally get their hands on The Ripper.”

The what?

“But, thanks to you, they’ve dug their own grave. Finally, we have them, Isolde. We just have to identify them.”

“Mark!” A man places big hands on each side of Mark’s arms from behind, peeking at him from around the life support gear. He must be someone who knows Mark well, since the bodyguards let him through.

Mark seems genuinely pleased to see him as well. They go on talking, and I remember to keep an eye on Mr. Schultze. I walk around with the glass of sparkling wine in my hand, taking a sip here and there, Demerol close behind me.

“If you keep so close people will think you are my partner,” I say over my shoulder when my tongue is loose enough from the alcohol. I’m a bit dizzy and I start to relax, but my eyes are soberly fixed on Mr. Schultze. He’s just turned to talk to someone, but his broad and fleshy back obscures the person completely. I crane my neck left and right, trying to get a glimpse around him, but in vain.

“If I were your partner, you wouldn’t be attending monster events like this,” Demerol says warmly. “You’d be tucked in bed, with cheap beer and a pizza instead of caviar and sparkling wine. But I’d treat you much better than Mark Stahl and his beast of a son.” His voice fades as he finishes the sentence, as if it took all his nerve to bring the words about his lips.

“I thought you were loyal to Tristan.” My eyes are still fixed on Schultze, and I do my best to ignore the staring crowd. I can feel their gazes on me, but my intuition gives me tension; something tells me it’s important to keep focused on the former member of Parliament.

“I am loyal to Tristan.” Demerol snorts softly. “I don’t have a choice. But neither he or his father would ever have to know about us.”

I can feel my own eyes widen at those words. I turn to him.

“Are you suggesting an affair?” I’m staring Demerol in the face, and it feels like watching a big, good-natured dog-man with a kind gaze and a soft voice. He takes a step closer, and hope flickers in his eyes.

“I’m proposing an affair,” he whispers.

I’m stunned. “Wow. That takes a lot of guts.”

“It may cost me my guts if they ever find out I said this to you.”

I’m lost for words, and embarrassed. I don’t know how to reject him gently. The best solution right now seems to be taking a sip of my sparkling wine and returning my attention to Mr. Schultze, but he’s not longer where I left him.

“Shoot!” I push the glass into Demerol’s hands, hitch up the folds of my dress to make sure I don’t stumble again, and begin a desperate search for Mr. Schultze. I hurry to the place he’d last been, wedging myself between people when I have to. Those who spot me before I’m close enough move out of my way of their own accord, and I’m sure it’s because of my VIP status as Mark Stahl’s partner—or his bed bunny, as I heard some whisper.

I finally see Mr. Schultze’s fleshy back clad in a dark blue tailcoat, and I slow down, breathing out in relief. But then he moves out of the way, revealing his interlocutor. My stomach shoots to my throat.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for more! Subscribe to this blog, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter to be notified each time a new chapter is uploaded. Here’s the whole story:

Prologue – Meet Tristan The Ripper

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

 

FREE ROMANCE for everyone!

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