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 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 : )

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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 🙂

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

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.

The Marquis – Epilogue – THE END

It’s true what they say about London – it’s rainy, gloomy, but full of charm. After only a few days here I feel like a maiden who’s eloped with the prince of her dreams to his magic land. My heart slowly cleanses itself of all the hurt and trauma from Northville, and I actually feel this love can put my soul back together.

Kieran and I spent the first couple of weeks alone in a beautiful townhouse. In the morning we’d watch the fabled London rain together, me wearing his shirt and holding a steaming cup of tea by the window, surrounded by his strong marble arms. On each one of these mornings my heart swelled with heavenly pleasure and joy. We visited old cathedrals, places and museums, we went out to concerts and restaurants on fairy-tale dates, and I can swear all I feel is bliss. Until I think of my mother.

It’s a good thing she stayed back in Northville. A good thing for me. It’s not like she didn’t want to come and be part of our lives, but the idea made me cringe with every one of her pleas. Kieran offered to pay for her to enjoy a most comfortable life wherever she would like to lead it, but since staying with us wasn’t an option because I refused, she decided to stay in Northville, where she could contemplate her past and her wounds.

Northville. The place can never go back to normal life. The town people saw too much, experienced too much, know too much. They agreed to help keep the serpents’ secret, and now the town has become a fortress, a heavily guarded keep for the serpents’ world-changing mysteries.

Lauren remained in the dungeons deep under the manor in the end, while Zed, Joyous and Jeanie stayed behind to oversee Northville’s fortification, and only joined us again today – on my first exhibition.

We’re at one of the most renowned art galleries in London, now filled with my paintings. They’re enjoying great success, but I have a feeling that has more to do with the power and money of the Marquis de Vandenesse than with my work. This event seems more of an introduction to the Londoner high society than anything else. People are more curious about me – the Marquis’ future wife – than about the paintings, though a few persons do show themselves impressed by a few pieces which they also decide to buy. Whether for the sake of the art or for the Marquis’ favour, I’ll never know for sure. But what I enjoy most about tonight is watching the young and handsome Kieran Slate as the Marquis de Vandenesse surrounded by elegant people seeking his attention, and realizing that all his hypnotic black eyes ever seek is me.

“It must be a true blessing, being worshipped like that,” a calm voice says, and soon the woman it belongs to steps in front of me.

“Vivien!” I make a move to hug her, but the golden lace dress I’m wearing screams at the brusque move. It threatens to tear, though it cost a small fortune – a paradox of fashion I always failed to understand, and a purchase I decide not to replicate. Vivien giggles a bit when I fail to wrap my arms around her, giving her an apologetic smile.

“You’re the most envied woman in the room, Saphira Lothar, soon-to-be Saphira de Vandenesse.” She looks me up and down, her intelligent brown eyes as kind as her words and voice. “Beautiful, talented, special and loved beyond measure by your man. None of these people miss any of these things, trust me.”

“I have a hard time fighting my vanity right now, I must admit.” I squeeze her hand, hoping the gesture expresses as much as a hug would. I keep my voice down, though I want to call out how happy I am to have her here. “So wonderful that you came.”

“I won’t stay long.”

“I don’t understand. Where are you going? I mean, I doubt you wish to return to Northville . . .”

“Indeed, I have no desire to do that.” She drops her gaze, but I keep mine steady on her. I can’t help but marvel. Despite all the torture she’s been through, she’s lost nothing of her inherent refinement and style.

Vivien Grant is a highly educated young woman, she speaks four languages fluently, she’s been to the finest schools, and majored in Philosophy. She’s a true intellectual. Her cleverness is obvious in her eyes, which intimidated men all her life – the very reason she was always single, I think. But after everything she’s been through she’s lost a bit too much weight, and the black pencil dress doesn’t do much to hide the willowy lines of her body – something that makes her look like a model, and attracts the eyes of fat-bellied rich men. She’s not too tall, not too short, and she moves with the gracefulness of a ballerina. The natural porcelain smoothness of her face adds a touch of innocence to the nobility of her features, and so does her un-dyed brown hair that’s now restrained in a sleek elegant chignon.

“But where will you go?” I whisper. “And . . . why?”

She lifts her eyes and directs her gaze to someone in the room. I follow it and see Zed in the Marquis’ entourage. Though the pain that last distorted his edgy, stony features is now well hidden behind the “Stone-mask” and the ice-blue of his eyes, there’s a bitterness and sullenness about him that scream it out. I remember Joyous’ explanation about what killed Yvette, and I grab Vivien’s wrist.

“No! It can’t be! You really . . . The Black Monks’ curse . . . Vivien, are you?”

She yanks her hand away and looks around as if to remind me we are being watched, and to get a grip on my temper. “I don’t understand what happened, Saphira. I just know I can’t be around him anymore. I just . . . shouldn’t feel how I feel about him. Yvette died because of it. And somehow he holds me responsible for that, as if it’s my fault we are now bound to each other, I . . .” She looks up, blinking and seeking to dry her tears and gag her sobs.

I take her hand in both of mine. “Please, Vivien. You just arrived, I just got you back. You can’t leave me again, please.”

“You don’t need me, Saph. You’ll enjoy a wonderful life with Kieran, and you’ll share your happiness with Jeanie and Joyous. I don’t fit in this picture, I’m broken and nothing can fix me.”

“With more reason. You need us.”

“No, Saph, I don’t need you, no matter how much I love you. And neither did you need me for healing, let’s be honest. What healed you was Kieran’s love that is special and perfect. Joyous loves Jeanie the same way, with a love that is natural only for superhumans.” Her voice breaks with sadness. “With the same love Zed felt for Yvette, and will never feel for me.”

Distress must be obvious in my face, because Kieran joins us and wraps a protective arm around me. “Is everything all right here?”

Vivien looks at us with her eyes full of tears but also kindness. “I wish you to be so very happy together, Saphira and Kieran, with nothing to ever shadow your love again. From the bottom of my heart, I truly wish that for the two of you.”

Unable to control her tears anymore she turns and hurries away, losing herself in the crowd. I want to follow, but Kieran stops me.

“Don’t.” He looks at Zed. I follow his gaze, and I see it – the terrible truth. Connections fire in my head as I grasp the truth.

“Oh. My. God.”

“The stake is high, Saphira,” Kieran whispers gravely. “And whether it will ever burn or not depends only on Vivien Grant.”

 

***

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having followed the story of Saphira and Kieran the Marquis! It’s been an exhilirating ride for me, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Stay tuned for many more goodies to come on this site, from personality tests and psych secrets to new thrilling stories of suspense and love. Also, feel free to ask me any questions you might have about the tests, articles and stories, I’ll be happy to answer them. A big, warm hug,

Yours,

Ana

 

Pic source.

The Executioner – Ep. XV – In Danger

“How can you be sure Dad is safe with the Intelligence Service?” Worry broke through my voice, no matter how hard I tried to keep it chained.

“Because there’s nothing safer than their protection in this country,” Mom said.

“The few words I exchanged with him back at the hospital, he didn’t seem anxious about his life. He wanted to stay here, with us.”

“Two of his colleagues and their families have been killed, Alice. Those men worked for the same organization as your father from Barcelona and Bristol, also in matters related to genetic research. The R.I.S. are certain BioDhrome were the moral author of these murders, and that back in the mountains they meant to finish you in the same horrendous way to teach your father the same kind of lesson. Therefore Tiberius is a risk factor in this house, for us and for himself. Without him we’re safer, but still. Officer Sorescu, the man you saw in here . . .” even more careful now, “he’s around with his colleagues, just in case. Melanie and George will be staying with us too.”

“Does this mean we’re confined to these walls?”

“No. The R.I.S. and the doctors, they all agree that the trauma will be slow to leave you, so a normal life is essential. Especially public places are benefic. Crowds are safe.”

She smiled as if this were supposed to thrill me like alcohol would a teen. And it did, to a certain extent. Crowds, places like the campus and even clubs were safe indeed in our town, people’s built-in curiosity would let no event unobserved. It worked better than CCTV, so there was strong reason to believe that BioDhrome wouldn’t risk taking action in open field. They’d try to get us alone, at night in lonely places or even in our homes. So surveillance and protection made sense.

But the feeling that Dad had been extracted against his will nagged. He’d been desperate like never before at the hospital, his tone had left no room for doubt. He’d been convinced that he could protect us, especially by being present.

“And if we want to talk to him? Is there some number we can call? Some place we can go, for example, I don’t know, a phone cabin downtown like in those detective movies or something?”

“We can contact Agent Varlam.”

“I see.” I proved unable to control an acid grin. So this is how Hector was forcing cooperation. By leaving us no way around him. On a second thought, what if extraction was no more than a cover? A gross lie? What if he’d thrown Dad in a nasty cell and punched and kicked information on Damian Novac out of him? I jumped to my feet, bumping into the table edge. My ears whistled in tune with the kettle on the stove.

“Well, I’d like a word with him right now,” I spat.

Mom stood up too, hand on my cheek to calm me down, blue eyes identical to mine wide and worried. Standing half a head taller though, she made me feel like a kid again.

“Alice, honey, the whole idea behind this was to keep out of touch. Why bother organizing an extraction, if family stops by at the hideout to say hello anytime they please?”

“And you accept this so easily?” I snapped and brushed her hand off. “Are you really not worried about him, not one bit? His absence doesn’t bother you in the least?”

Now it was Mom’s turn to frown and apply a hard edge to her voice. “It’s not much difference to the last years, is it?”

“But this is different, Mom! BioDhrome is serious shit, real trouble that not even the R.I.S. might be able to protect him from.”

“I am worried about your father, Alice, believe me, but yes, I admit, I’m more worried about you. And if his presence puts you in danger, then I don’t need or want to see him again until the afterlife.”

Her words sent a stab through my brain, but I kept protest and anger behind tightened lips. Mom’s honesty was sharp, like glass colliding with glass in her voice, leaving no trace of vulnerability. Moreover, Dad had been cheating on her for a long time, and she knew it. I happened to know even with whom. Indeed, why should she give a shit? I tried for a peace-making tone.

“But I wouldn’t be seeing him, Mom. I’ll just talk to Agent Varlam, make sure Dad’s all right. I need to convince myself.”

“I know you’re hard to assure of anything, sweetheart. You have a counterargument ready for anything, you’re able to question even the law of gravity, and I think you’re taking it too far sometimes. That’s why I’m telling you now: your father is safe and sound, take that for granted.”

Mom wasn’t the dictator Dad could often be, but when she stood for something there was no way past her will. Behind the mask of the kind, soft-spoken Madame Jenna everyone appreciated, she had ways of getting what she wanted, brains to bow to and the patience of a reptile. On days like this, I ate my heart out for not having inherited at least half of everything she was.

Still, I found the guts to try and make up a strategy around her in my head, but before it caught shape I heard the door from the antechamber to my room. Then light steps. Ruxandra’s steps. The knock on the doorframe to signal her presence was accompanied by a weak smile.

Her pretty face had lost much of its glow, her olive complexion now pale in its own way, her hair a washed-out black, rumpling down to her waist. Her jaw was locked despite the smile. The experience we’d been through had taken away what was left of her carefree self, I would say.

Mom smiled back and hurried to pour her a cup of coffee, eager to cover the subject of our conversation. Ruxandra relished Mom’s warm welcome like an orphan would a Christmas night with presents, and joined me at the table, huddled in my old pink bathrobe that came too short on her arms and legs.

They were all “Rux, dear,” and “Jenna” to each other, as always. They had a special relationship. Mom had made a life purpose of plunging deep into the troubles of the gypsy minority, she had dedicated them her time even though there was no trophy to be won. Rich wives of the Western World she came from did charity, Mom had told me, but she didn’t think much of it. “Raising funds for clerks. Trust me, half of the donated money ends up on their pay-checks,” she’d say.

But Mom was determined to be of use on a very personal, palpable level, and made a great “career” of social work. Many of the gypsy kids in our neighborhood, Ruxandra and her older sister Cora included, had listened to her winter stories and learned to read and write from her. Both Romanian and English. It had been Mom who’d helped Ruxandra’s mother leave her husband and find a job at the textile factory many years ago. She’d fought and achieved so much in those difficult times. A rush of admiration swept over me. My heroine.

Ruxandra took a long sip of coffee, fingers curled around the mug, then leaned her head back, savoring not only the aroma but also her surroundings. There was love in her gaze as it crossed over every detail of the room – the cluttered wooden cupboards nailed to the walls over the counter, the door to the back garden with its frosted glass pane, the pots, kettles and spoons dangling from a wooden stripe with hooks above the sink like bells waiting to be played.

“I’ve missed this place,” she said, her hand gently stroking the nylon table cover.

Mom gave her a warm smile. “It’s missed you, too.”

Despite the promising start, the conversation got stuck as soon as Mom uttered a “Did you sleep well?” Ruxandra lowered her head and pressed her lips, as if not wanting to remember. But, if she’d had nightmares, I hadn’t noticed. She’d been still and quiet. Only George’s low moaning and sighing had reached me once in a while through the veil of light sleep.

Mom tried to guide Ruxandra back on the conversational track, but all she got were attempted smiles from the trembling corner of Rux’s mouth. She wasn’t quite herself. But then again, neither was I.

Mom’s insistences on tea, cookies, coffee, chocolate, marmalade and another dozen sweets per minute were a clear sign I was a disturbing sight too. I wasn’t even sure to perceive and answer all her questions. I had this feeling they’d passed by my ears more than once, like “deja heards or something.

George woke up late in the afternoon. His sudden screams as if someone sliced him alive made us all jump, and Mom almost threw down the door to the antechamber to attend him. His pained groans sent chills down my back. Ruxandra slapped her palms over her face, her shoulders shaking in sobs.

Carefully, I took her in my arms. I threw a glance at the big, lazy clock on top of the bookcase – four in the afternoon. George had at least gotten a good chunk of sleep. Unlike Ruxandra and me, who hadn’t even found the energy of losing the pink bathrobes we still wore like overgrown babies, curled on the couch, TV on.

Without Mom to promptly switch channels as soon as the news came on, always packed with tragedies and subliminal, “This is the end of the world,” Ruxandra and I were now fully exposed to them. A report about a massacre at a remote cabin in the mountains of Bulgaria made both our eyes bulge.

The twin of our story, only that no one had been found, dead or alive. The perfectly groomed reporter’s words were like other “deja heards,” her voice matter-of-fact but disturbed in its depths. Censured images that played on the half of the screen next to her face accompanied her story.

“Blood on pieces of clothing and torn curtains. Broken windows and . . .” And this is where my ears began buzzing, muffling the sound of the TV. My blood pressure must’ve shot up.

So this one made it on the news.

“They’ll cover up in a few days max,” Ruxandra said, close enough to my ear to pierce through the buzz.

“How is that supposed to work? How could a footage like this be a mistake? They freaking filmed the mess. People are not stupid, Rux.”

“No, they aren’t. But there have been so many tragedies with so many explanations lately, that illegal experimentation won’t cross their minds. They’ll accept any animal attack, serial killer, drugs and orgies that ended up badly, you name it.”

Then the reporter said, “The police arrested Dr. Lazar Dobrev, a psychiatrist. He used to treat one of the missing persons. Dr. Dobrev set the man on the loose, even though he was known to have murderous impulses, which he shouldn’t have had trouble acting on at a height of two meters, and a hundred and seventy kilograms of muscle.”

 

***

 

Enjoyed this? Find the previous episodes here: Prologue, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI, Episode VII, Episode VIII, Episode IX, Episode X, Episode XI, Episode XII, Episode XIII, Episode XIV. More coming up next week! Until then, keep enjoying the goodies on this site, from personality tests to online stories – check out the dark mysteries of The Marquis here.

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Freed – Ep. 44 of “The Marquis”

It’s heart-breaking, watching Zed bent over the bed where Yvette lies, her face like wax. I would’ve never imagined the Head of Security, the man I once nicknamed “Stone Face” expressing such intense hurt. His edgy features are distorted, his eyes scrunched shut as he bites his knuckles as if that helps him subdue the pain to a bearable level, hands clasping tightly to each other. So much death, so much pain.

“It was Lauren Morris who killed her,” Joyous whispers in my ear. We’re standing in the doorstep of a small service hut adjacent to the manor. “She killed Yvette on her way to the tower, where she planned to do the same with you. They fought, but in the end Lauren was stronger.”

“But that’s not possible,” I babble among sobs, keeping as quiet as I can in order not to disturb Zed. “I saw the two of them fight each other before, Lauren would’ve never stood a chance against Yvette.”

“Normally not, but Lauren had a secret weapon – the truth about what happened when the Black Monks’ curse hit Zed, and his fingers drilled into Vivien.”

My head snaps to him. “Something happened then?”

Joyous the Healer keeps looking at Zed as he talks, as if assessing the state of his health from a distance. “Vivien and Zed connected on a very deep level. We still don’t understand exactly in what way, but we know the first thing Zed said when he opened his eyes – after you made the painting of him – was Vivien’s name. The event had a powerful effect on Vivien as well, an effect that apparently went as deep as her DNA, which we’ll test soon. We don’t think what binds them is romantic in nature, we rather think it’s biological, but it’s still something we have yet to fully understand.”

“Then how . . . why . . . how could Lauren use that as a weapon against Yvette?”

“It was all in the way she put things. It seems she made Yvette think Zed and Vivien were now bound like star-crossed lovers who would only resist being together in order not to hurt her, and that weakened Yvette’s desire to live.”

“Joyous, are you sure about this? How do you even know what was said between Lauren and Yvette?”

His face takes on an infinitely sad expression, like that of a parent melting with pain as they see their child cry. “When Zed found Yvette she was still alive. She died in his arms, after she gave him her blessing to be with Vivien.”

Tears course down my face, bundling on the tip of my chin. This is a tragedy. I try to keep my sniffling inconspicuous, but I can’t bring myself to leave the hut, not wanting to miss the chance of helping Zed if he needs me in any way.

Other serpent-men come in and out, pretending to have things to do in the hut in order to quietly check on Zed, then they leave just as quietly and grim-faced.

I know the kind of pain that’s consuming him, and I know no one should approach him now. He needs to be with Yvette. Still, I can’t take my eyes and focus off them until Jeanie approaches and whispers between Joyous and me.

“The town people got a priest for the dead. He’d start with Yvette now, so that her soul can be on its way. She’s the only human, the rest of the dead are Black Monks and serpents, and for some reason he doesn’t consider matters as urgent for them.”

I’m more than relieved that my sweet curly-headed, milky-skinned Jeanie is safe and sound, but all I feel capable of giving her is a slight nod. She looks devastated as well, and it has to do with Jeremy. He’s not dead, though, and that moves him down on my list of priorities.

Lauren is top of it right now. I need to talk to her. I already forgave her for many things, such as having sought and used every opportunity to hurt me all my life, for having destroyed my relationship with Jeremy right before our wedding, even for having tried to kill me, but I can’t forgive her for this cruelty – when asked whether she regretted having killed Yvette, only a few hours later in the dungeons, she says with a vicious grin that she doesn’t in the least.

She says that Yvette was a plump middle-aged woman who embarrassed herself by pursuing a relationship with a man who seemed much younger than her, not to mention outrageously more handsome. She also says that she’d merely cleared Zed’s future of what would’ve proven ballast that he respected too much to shake off. That he should actually be grateful to her. Her only regret is having tormented me the way she did, now realizing I’m the only innocent person in this entire story. I can’t listen to any more of this. I turn on my heel and stomp out of the dungeons along with en escort of serpent-men.

The serpents manage to keep Zed away from Lauren’s cell, since he would surely end her, and she stands under both my and Kieran’s protection for having made the decisive move in the fight between Kieran and Basarab. Hadn’t it been for her, my lover would now be dead too. We have yet to see what to do about her.

Joyous, Jeanie and a few serpent-men escort me to the study to see Kieran. Here he’s having his last important talk before he brings his business in Northville to a final close, they say. And right before we knock on the doors they open widely to let a team of men in white medical clothes carry away a screaming and raging Jeremy Simmons. They make for such a commotion, that we instinctively clear the way to the sides to let them pass, restricting our reactions to staring after them, seeking sense of the picture.

Jeremy’s bulk is useless against the expert arms of the very same men who’d broken my bones with jets of water at the asylum. All I can do is watch as they take him away. His maddened eyes latch on to me like I’m everything to him, his fingers splaying towards me like a man’s reaching for his only hope.

“Saphira, listen to me!” His voice reminds me of the lamenting lunatics back at the asylum. “This wasn’t my fault, Saphira! This was not my fault! We are both victims, Saphira!”

He keeps calling out my name as the men in white drag him away down the corridor, his screams growing faint. A presence behind me makes me turn, and my eyes meet the beautiful face of Kieran Slate.

Our arms wrap around each other, our embrace tight like that of two people frantic to keep together, terrified they might be separated again. We touch each other to make sure the other isn’t hurt, and I must say the hard feel of his body under his shirt elates me – it gives me the feeling that he’s not only whole and healthy, but also indestructible. I couldn’t take knowing him in mortal danger again, it would surely kill me.

I cup his face and look up into his pitch black eyes, revelling in the awareness that we’re together again, and promising him and myself that I’d never leave his side again.

“I love you, Kieran, I love you so much!” I stand on my tiptoes, kissing his cheeks and his forehead that he seems happy to offer, bending down to me.

“And I adore you, Saphira.”

We kiss deeply and desperately, our souls merging with each other, forgetting time, place and the group of serpent-men hovering around us, watching. Joyous clears his throat and touches Kieran’s shoulder, bringing us both back to reality.

“There are a few more matters you might want to deal with right away. Like Saphira’s mother, for example, she’s desperate to see her daughter.”

“Take her to a room in the west wing. Saphira will come to see her after she’s rested.” He looks at me again, a delicate smile on his face. “It might take until tomorrow.”

For a moment there I ask myself if all the horror I’ve been through is the price for the out-of-this-world love that I’ve been blessed to experience. It’s so unique, intense like the strongest drug, and so much more powerful than anything I’ve ever felt, even for Jeremy. Jeremy . . .

“Isn’t that measure too drastic?” I ask Kieran a while later, after immediate matters have been attended to, and the door to our chamber closes behind us. “Locking Jeremy in the lunatic asylum, I mean. In the end, he was under Basarab’s possession while he did everything he did, even as he first cheated on me.”

“Precisely because of that,” Kieran says, removing his shirt and revealing the marble perfection of his elegant muscles. “Basarab’s possession left him seriously damaged, plus that –“ he approaches and wraps his arms around my exhausted body. “He did serve the Elite, Saphira, remember? Those old pigs that run half the country paid Jeremy Simmons to keep them warm in Northville and in his side of London, and he obliged without scruples.”

The Elite . . .

“What will happen to them?” I whisper.

“They will pay dearly for what they’ve done, but that’s no longer our concern. I want to dedicate my life to making you happy, Saphira. No more revenge, no more bitterness, no more war.”

Kieran bends his head and kisses me under the light of full moon that hazes between the vaporous curtains. I close my eyes and relish in the silky, warm feel of his lips, excited like the first time my crush kissed me, and yet feeling so at home. The most wonderful sensation, the perfect interlacing between the highs of infatuation and the depths of true love. I nestle my head at his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Maybe we still have a chance of putting all this behind us, a chance at complete happiness, even after so much evil. Maybe this love does have the power to dispel the shadow of everything that happened.

“Take me away from all this death, Kieran.”

***

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The Executioner – Ep. XIV – Discoveries

Where was Dad?

I threw the blanket aside, squirmed out of bed – squashing Rux in the process, provoking a sleepy grunt – and rushed to the master bedroom.

The curtains hung open, making way for the pale winter light through the overlarge window. The bed was made – of course, Mom must’ve been up for hours, if she’d slept at all, considering the circumstances. Having left the parental home a few years ago to live with Ruxandra in the suburbs, most of my parents’ habits had moved to the back of my brain, only to resurface when exposed to them again. As they did now. I remembered the smell of scrambled eggs that used to draw me to the kitchen when I was still a teenager. It hadn’t spoilt my olfactory senses in some years and it didn’t now either, but, as I said, old memories resurfaced.

I tiptoed to the kitchen to find Mom sitting at the table, her thin fingers slowly stroking a coffee mug smeared with souvenir photos of San Francisco – one of the few items that still bound her to her own home. Her stare was lost over the black liquid that didn’t give out steam, which meant she must’ve been staring blankly at it for some time now. Her hair, blond and crisscrossed by gray strands, fell rumpled to her slim shoulders. A fluffy white nightgown clad her thin body.

The sight was disconcerting, considering her usual innate urge of always looking flawless and making an impression of aristocracy on all eyes that fell on her, including the cleaning lady’s. Now the absence of an elegant and shiny chignon and the uncovered wrinkles on her meager face in the presence of a stranger were another definite sign something was wrong.

His sitting with her, the corner cupboard hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles, was even more disturbing. A heavy winter coat hung negligently on the rest of his chair, his chubby hands cupping a coffee mug of his own like pillows of flesh emerging from under thick sweater sleeves. His mien was grave as he set small brown eyes on me.

Round and unfriendly, that’s the impression his face made. Was he her lover? No way, my inner self spat. She would’ve gone for someone less . . . stiff. Plus, he didn’t seem to be feeling awkward, nor did he try to justify his presence.

Just a few moments of puzzling silence, then he stood up, gathered his coat and turned to the door that led directly to the back garden – something told me he’d come in through the same, but I was clueless as to the reason why he refused to use the front door. With a hand on the handle and the coat on the other arm, he turned once more to Mom.

“You know where to find me.”

She nodded, and he left.

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Still, my sixth sense activated again and sent me with slow steps to the table, then seated me in the man’s place.

Mom didn’t raise her head. On the contrary, she seemed to sink it even closer to the mug, a hunch forming on her slim back that was otherwise as straight as a wood plank. Hadn’t it been for the thick bathrobe, I would’ve seen the skin stretch over her ribs. The truth of the man’s visit must’ve been a burden not much different from an affair. Could it be?

“So?” I managed after a while.

Her fingers still stroked the mug with slow, even moves. “We’ll be under police surveillance. I don’t know for how long.”

Police surveillance?

“Why’s that?”

“You and your friends. The . . .” she chewed on her lower lip, probably to keep back what looked like a nervous breakdown. Her cheek twitched. “Those people from the mountains. BioDhrome, they told me.”

Panic shot to the tips of my toes.“BioDhrome’s our priority now, Tiberius. They won’t stop here.”

“Where’s Dad?”

Only now Mom looked me in the eyes, eyebrows up like a crying pet’s. She looked for the way to put it, there was no doubt.

“No, God, please no!”

Mom’s expression grew from wrecked to worried, more alert now, the way it had been at the hospital. She touched my wrist, voice soft and soothing, though it cost her some effort. “No, baby, no. He’s all right, safe and sound.”

“Where is he then?”

This was the news she’d been nervous about, I could tell by the pause and fixed gaze on my eyes. “He’s been extracted, they told me.”

Extracted? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Another nervous chew on her lip. “This BioDhrome thing.” Then reconsidering, “Alice, this must stay between us. Tell no one, not Ruxandra, not anyone.”

“Just tell me, Mom!”

“Give me your word first. For your own safety, not my comfort.”

“I’m your daughter, you really believe I’d betray your secrets?” A stab in the chest accompanied the words. As I don’t betray Dad’s. “All right, may I die in chains, if a word on this leaves my mouth,” I went for one of the gypsy oath formulations I’d learned in Ruxandra’s crowded home as a child.

Mom shuddered. “Not like that, please. Your word suffices. Keep this all to yourself, for your own good.”

“No need to elaborate on that. Elaborate on extracted.”

She took a deep breath, gathering her nerves. “I’ll have to start with the beginning so you understand.”

“Please do.”

“For many years, Tiberius has been working with an international organization whose name he never told me. He’s been analyzing blood samples they delivered him. The results were always classified, your father never spoke of them. They often surprised and baffled him, which filled him with enthusiasm in the beginning. But after we had you, he withdrew in his shell like a turtle. Soon his work started to take too heavy a toll. We had midnight fights more and more often.” Her voice trailed off, lost in painful memory.

“Tell me about it,” I whispered. All those late nights when Dad tiptoed to the master bedroom, the quiet quarrels they thought I didn’t hear played like a movie in my head. All those empty weekends, Mom sunken in her books and I in mine, Dad only a picture on a shelf, even though he was still of this world.

“I put him under pressure to quit what he was doing. I imagine that’s why his heart grew cold to me, and he began seeking comfort elsewhere. Oh, dear baby, I haven’t asked – some coffee? Tea?”

With the premiere of her confession on my shoulders I nodded, and Mom put a kettle on the stove. I let her decide on whether coffee or tea and moved a few inches in to let her sit by me and slide a loving arm around my back, as if to support me through what she’d say next.

“Your father is a BioDhrome target, they tell me, because he works with their direct enemy, an organization which calls itself ‘the good guy,’ but I don’t know. They’re so powerful that they could order the R.I.S. to take your father in while we were still at the hospital in Brasov, and that kind of power is dubious. To be completely honest, I’m no less afraid of them than I am of your attckers in the mountains.”

***

Enjoyed this? Find the previous episodes here: Prologue, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI, Episode VII, Episode VIII, Episode IX, Episode X, Episode XI, Episode XII, Episode XIII. More coming up next week! Until then, keep enjoying the goodies on this site, from personality tests to online stories – check out the dark mysteries of The Marquis here.

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Blades and Roses – Ep. 43 of “The Marquis”

Ivan Basarab is dead. It becomes clear to me as the wounds in Kieran’s picture begin regenerating like slowly closing zippers. His reptilian powers of self-healing work freely, which means no one is attacking him anymore.

The canvas of Basarab’s picture, on the other hand, is drenched in red, dripping thickly on the floor and on Lauren’s shoes. It’s dead quiet outside, as if the wind itself were holding its breath, and all I can hear is the beating of my own pulse in my ears. As the breeze makes it through the window again I release the air from my lungs and fall to my knees.

“It’s finished,” I whisper, covering my face with palms full of colour.

“What just happened?” Lauren mumbles. I look up at her through the blurry veil of my tears, but I can see she’s completely bewildered. Intoxicated with hatred and seeing me hopelessly fighting to save Kieran, she did the only thing that was in her power– she stabbed and slit Basarab’s picture. The outcome is something neither of us expected, but synapses fast-wire in my brain, helping me put two and two together.

“Normally it’s the pictures that work as doubles for the people,” I explain quietly, “taking all the blows and the harm. But it seems the energy you put into your attack combined with the energy I put into making the painting reversed effects.”

“What the hell does that mean?” The turbid green of her eyes isn’t enough to camouflage her bewilderment this time.

“It basically means that by killing the picture, you killed the man.” I can hardly believe it myself as I voice it. “Incredible . . .” Incredible what human emotion, intention and energy can do. “It was . . . teamwork.”

A fat drop of red splashes on the tile under the tripod holding Basarab’s picture, and releases a chain reaction – the rusty smell of blood fills my nose, making me sick. The adrenaline has kept me unaware of the smell until now, but the relief that it’s all over brings back sensitivity to all my senses.

Billy Dean – Ivan Basarab – has open wounds that reach his bones, fat and muscle visible as if the canvas were made of flesh. My stomach can’t take the image, and I break down, crawling on all fours and struggling against the sickness.

Fortunately Lauren proves great presence of mind. She hurries to me, helps me up and out of the room from the Dark Tower, leading me down the gloomy spiral stairs and away from the horror behind. Even the spiders and insects seem to clear from the place as we descend.

I feel so sick that I rely on Lauren completely. From the night she almost beat me to death at the asylum I know how strong she is despite the very few pounds of flesh that cover her bones, but the fact that she’s so fast and stable on her feet despite the stilettos and the tight leather outfit is rather admirable.

As we emerge in the granite main corridor on the ground floor I manage to voice my thoughts, and Lauren admits she’s been training with Jeremy – probably while the Inspector was under Basarab’s possession – for months for this mission. In my head, I thank God her allegiances switched from Basarab to us, otherwise she would’ve easily killed me. In my stained canvas gown, barefoot and exhausted, I wouldn’t have posed much of a challenge.

The manor is huge, hollow, quiet and dark, only our steps filling it like ghosts. Lauren leans me on a pillar by the main entrance in order to try and open the double doors, but even with all Jeremy’s training she’s not strong enough to pull aside the enormous bronze lock that traverses them. I should’ve thought about it, the thing is designed to withstand a whole crowd pushing to open the doors.

We have to go down to the catacombs and use the opening that I discovered the night I first witnessed Kieran turn into a serpent. His men had replaced the glass I’d broken with a bulky bronze door, but I know the way to open it.

Lauren and I emerge out onto the rocky fields. The sea is far, but the salty breeze seems to carry drops from its raging crests. I close my eyes but open my arms and breathe in deeply, allowing the freshness of the night to fill my lungs.

“It’s over. It’s really over.” Relief courses from head to feet, turning me soft.

The horrors of these past months run before my mind’s eye and through my heart like they say things do a moment before you die. Before I first met Kieran at the Royale a felt eternity ago I was a pampered upper class girl secluded among her paintings, with little knowledge of the world out there. So much has changed since then. Right now I feel like I’ve just escaped execution after a long line of torments and tortures. My flesh hurts and my soul aches, but I’m alive.

A hand clasps my upper arm and hides me behind a back dressed in dark fighting clothes. I recognize the leather expansible outfit the serpents wore when they left for battle, as well as Joyous’ locks. He hisses at Lauren, who retreats in a hunched, rather awkward-looking fighting position on her mosquito legs, eyes wide and knives ready to protect herself.

“No, Joyous, wait,” I intervene, holding tightly to his arm and straining to make him listen. “She’s helped me back in the tower. She’s on our side now, and it was her who killed Basarab.”

Joyous doesn’t react immediately, but keeps circling Lauren while I keep dragging after him and holding tightly to his arm to prevent him from hurting her. He measures her from head to toes viciously, and finally addresses me, yet not taking his eyes off Lauren.

“Maybe it was only an act she put on as she realized her people were losing.”

“Her people were losing, but Kieran was dying. She saved him, Joyous!”

He still doesn’t look convinced. After glancing from Joyous to me a few times Lauren gives a crooked, daring smile and drops her knives, lifting her hands in the air in a gesture of surrender. The expression on her face still retains a kind of mocking pride, though – her way of keeping dignity as people emerge from the shadow, throw her down and tie her hands behind her back. Frankly I don’t blame her for it. She had to put up with enough humiliation.

“Treat her well until this is cleared,” Joyous orders. “Put her in a dungeon, but make sure she has minimal comfort.”

I want to intervene and plead that they don’t put her in a cell at all, but Joyous clasps my shoulders and makes me look at him. There’s something pained in the Healer’s eerie honey-coloured eyes surrounded by dark circles.

“I know you trust her, Saphira, but I can’t do the same, since . . .”

He pauses, and my heart jumps. “Since what?” I clasp his wrists in anguish. “Don’t hover, Joyous, I beg of you!”

He drops his voice as if to help keep us both calm. “There have been losses, Saphira.”

“Losses, what losses? Oh, God, Jeanie?!”

“No.”

My pulse seems to settle, but then the name hits me like an arrow in the breastbone.

 

***

To be continued on Friday.

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Judgment Day – Ep. 42 of “The Marquis”

Lauren approaches the picture of Billy Dean. I can only see her back – her blood-red hair in a bun, her tall skinny frame clad in black leather – as she strolls away from me. She keeps proud and straight perched on her stilettos, as if she’s demanding an explanation from Billy’s bespectacled, narrow face. Now that I think about it, in reality his front rodent-like teeth are even more prominent.

“But how can this be?” she whispers, inspecting Billy’s painting. “He’s not one of the men who committed the crime against Catherine Lancaster.”

“You know about that?” I can’t hide my surprise.

“I know about many things. Jeremy – Billy,” she corrects herself sourly, “– sometimes talked after sex. He always stopped before his tongue rolled too much, but I got the essential. I also know the Marquis suspected the real Ivan Basarab was one of Catherine’s tormentors. Jeremy – Billy – said his father had been among them and the true Ivan Basarab, and that he was merely continuing his father’s work, since the man himself was dead.”

I nod to myself. “That was only a diversion Billy created on purpose. He discovered that Northville had been a gloomy, anonymous enough resort where rich people acted out their inner demons for decades, and in time he discovered their dirtiest secrets. He used these discoveries in order to divert the Marquis from the truth. These people used Billy as a notary for bad business such as questionable adoptions and money laundry, especially since he seemed so easy to manipulate and to intimidate. He took advantage of that, one thing led to another, and within a few years he practically owned them. Billy has an incredibly high IQ, and he used his intelligence to get what he wanted. I’m sure he got himself introduced to the Marquis’ ‘makers,’ and got them to enhance him the way they’d enhanced other so-called superhumans like the Marquis. That’s how he must’ve obtained his demon-like ability of taking possession of other people’s bodies, as incredible as that sounds. I think he found a way to engineer the Black Monks too.”

Found a way,” Lauren repeats, still inspecting Billy’s painting closely, her hand tracing his nose and lips and chin. Her voice is full of hatred. “This man fucking possesses other people, Saphira. How can you simply put it like that – he found a way?”

“I couldn’t really afford dropping on my butt and gaping at the idea,” I reply, throwing my hands in the air. “I had other priorities, I couldn’t stop to investigate the science behind the way. Lauren, I almost died almost every day these past few months. I saw the Marquis turning from a stunning young man into a slimy, huge serpent, I found out there are immortals out there, I discovered that my father was a rapist and a murderer, that an army of leper monks invaded Northville, and I got almost beaten to death in a lunatic asylum just to name a few of my troubles. I’m not even sure my brains are still inside my head.”

A sound like canvas tearing interrupts my tirade, and my head snaps to the source of it. The Marquis’ painting is bleeding, his shirt soaking with viscous red.

“Kieran!” I haste toward the picture, grabbing the paintbrush and the crayons off the floor, and I start repairing feverishly.

Another tearing sound in another canvas makes my eyes search desperately for the source until they fall on Billy’s picture that is bleeding as well.

“They’re facing each other,” I shriek as Kieran takes more blows, his beautiful ivory face getting slash after slash as if Billy were attacking him with Wolverine-like claws. I’m aware of Lauren looking puzzled from my desperately moving hands as they work on Kieran to Billy’s painting that’s also getting wounds so ugly they seem inflicted with an axe. His flesh is split to the bone in many places. It looks like the Serpent and the Slayer are literally killing each other. Neither is winning or losing, they’re chopping each other to pieces.

I can barely keep up ‘repairing’ Kieran, and I don’t register when Lauren grabs the knives she’d meant to use on me just shortly before. I only spin round in dread when her outcry, vicious and full of hatred, rings in my ears. For an instant there I’m sure she’s attacking me, but I’m wrong.

With wide eyes I watch Lauren lunge to the picture of Billy Dean, the man who’d loved her his entire life, but who’d used her without scruples. She rams both knives exactly in the centre of his face, making blood surge as she pulls downward, cutting Ivan Basarab in half, and shredding him.

 

***

To be continued on Friday.

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All previous episodes.

Stay tuned for a new episode on Friday, we are drawing towards the end! ONLY TWO EPISODES TO GO! Until then, feel free to roam this site for all the goodies it has to offer.

 

 

The Painter-Witch – Ep.41 of “The Marquis”

 

It’s happening. Tonight. Serpent-men are crawling on and under the fields, slithering among rocks, shrubbery and through the underground tunnels. The Black Monks began moving forward, bringing the final battle closer with the synchronized rustle of their marsh. The town people haven’t reached the property’s borders yet, but they’ll sure be here in no time, along with Jeremy’s special forces and the Elite’s mercenaries. The serpents are greatly outnumbered, and I’m their only true chance, which leans heavy on my shoulders.

I sit on the floor in the dark tower, facing a semicircle of sketches representing almost three dozens serpent-men like mirrors. I’m dishevelled and exhausted, holding the paintbrush and pencils loosely but ready to intervene if pictures start cracking with the bubonic plague. My eyes are puffy and tired, but wander relentlessly along the canvases.

I glimpse a patch that begins expanding on the cheek of Lugo’s picture on my far right. The first curse has struck, and I hurry to repair it. The plague doesn’t appear on Lugo again, but it pops up like stains of paint on different faces at very short intervals. With every repaired piece energy leaves my body, and in a matter of minutes I’m desperate. There’s no way I can keep up with the Monks’ curses, I’m overwhelmed, and the stains keep spreading.

While I rush to fix a face, the bubonic plague wastes another one within seconds. A few serpents must’ve ended up in the Black Monks’ direct line of fire, since the curses riddle them as fast as a machine gun. My hands can’t move quickly enough, and I cry out in despair. Faces practically combust before my eyes with the disease, blackening, crumpling and disappearing under the curses’ power.

There’s nothing more I can do. I fall to my knees, crying out in frustration as the night’s rustles, shrieks, groans and hisses reach me through the open window.

The Marquis, my love, might soon be lost to me. I raise my eyes to the picture I made of him all those months ago, splendid and vivid, hanging on the wall behind and above the others. His ivory features are flawless and unscathed – yet. I must pull myself together, I must save him or die trying. I get up and start toward the painting, but a pitchy, nasal, unwelcome voice makes me freeze in my tracks.

“He is indeed exquisite.”

It’s Lauren. Though I can’t bring myself to turn and face her – what happened between us last time left me with a trauma – I know she’s standing in the doorstep. Her shoes make a clicking sound on the tiles as she approaches, her eyes surely on Kieran’s picture as she speaks.

“So heartbreakingly handsome, so compelling. I would’ve turned from Basarab and betrayed his plans to the Marquis, that’s how much I desired him. But he refused me.” She’s now close behind me. “He was madly in love with you already, whether he wanted to accept it or not. He couldn’t help but be loyal to you. Well, what can I say, now you can both die loyal to each other.” There’s poison in her voice.

“Lauren, please believe me,” I manage, “I did not know what Gunnar was doing to you. He never touched me when I was a kid. Please, believe me.”

She snorts and starts walking around me, checking me out from head to toes. She clearly has the higher ground. I’m only shrouded in a stained gown, barefoot and vulnerable, while she’s dressed all in black leather resembling a character of older action movies, wearing high metal stilettos, and she holds a knife in each hand. Her blood-red hair is tightly bound on top of her head, emphasizing her sharp, angular features that might not be exactly beautiful for a skinny woman, but darn bad-girl sexy. The hostility in her turbid, cat-like greenish eyes is so intense, it can easily pass for malice, and I admit – I’m afraid of her. I keep silent, which gives her room to spit more venom at me.

“Too bad Jeremy wasn’t capable of such loyalty. He didn’t love you enough to resist me.”

“And isn’t that satisfying enough for you?”

“Enough to let you live? No.”

“Why not? You took life from me once, I was completely broken after I found you and Jeremy in bed together. And in the end, he preferred you – you’re still sleeping with each other, aren’t you? But he asked you to keep it a secret.”

Lauren’s eyes narrow. For a moment there she’s fazed, and I grab the chance. Somewhere in the background another picture crumples and dies, making rage swell inside my chest.

“You think Jeremy is Ivan Basarab, don’t you Lauren?”

She’s shocked. “You know?”

“Yes, I do. You don’t.”

“What the hell do you mean?” She grows alert, takes a step back and flashes a knife at my throat to stop my advancing. Another canvas dies, and rage grows inside of me at a scary pace. I can’t control myself anymore, and my instinct of conservation fails. I keep forcing her back, and when the tip of the knife touches my throat I brush her arm out of my way.

“Here’s a truth you might not like: Jeremy never betrayed me.”

“What the hell –”

“You’ve been fooled all along, Lauren. Ivan Basarab has a very special power – he can switch bodies. Jeremy is not the real Basarab.”

Lauren stares at me perplexed, and I know I should take it easy on her. But time is way too precious, and there’s none for “taking easy.”

“You never slept with Jeremy Simmons, Lauren, you slept with someone else. Someone who’s been hopelessly in love with you for years – Billy Dean, the Notary.”

“What? Are you mad?”

“Billy possessed Jeremy, because he knew you were into him. You slept with Jeremy’s body, but inside was Billy.”

“You’re insane.”

“Do you remember when Mr. and Mrs. Dean first adopted Billy? Where did they adopt him from? Let me refresh your memory – from a Monastery in Romania.” I glance at the window and point to it with my finger. “The Black Monks out there, where do you think they come from? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see the connection. The science behind what the Monks do and Billy’s own abilities is another story, but I’m sure you see where I’m getting at. Billy – by his true Romanian name Ivan Basarab – took care to always remain just a ‘face in the crowd’ so that he could implement his plans from the shadow. A face in the crowd, that’s all he ever was in Northville, even in the stories of our lives. Think about it – if you were to tell your story, how often would you mention him?”

I’m now so close to her that our noses would touch if she weren’t much taller than me on her stilettos, and I weren’t looking up at her. “When Jeremy was first swayed by your advances, just months before our wedding, Billy had taken over his body. Billy possessed Jeremy like a demon. Whenever Jeremy is himself, he still wants me. He’s not aware of what’s happening to him, which ensures that he’d never betray Billy – he thinks he was drunk the night he cheated on me with you, that’s why he never denied; but he doesn’t actually remember it. Moreover, Billy may have allowed Lord Barkley to get close to you, he even used you to get the old prick to do what he wanted, but when it came to the intimate part, he possessed the old man. The only one you actually ever slept with was Billy, always Billy.”

She blinks and drops on a box by the far wall, where I’d pushed her to as I talked. She looks around as if she’s looking for her scattered thoughts, then looks at me, then at the window.

“They all fucking used me. Gunnar used me. Billy and Jeremy used me. Everybody used me.”

I hunker down before her and take the chance to remove the knives from her hands as she gazes teary-eyed at me. I place them slowly on the floor and take her hands in mine.

“Not everybody. Lauren, you and I, we loved each other like sisters once. They say emotions never change or disappear, they are buried somewhere deep from where they will always find their way back to light, even if it’s a neurotic, sometimes even hostile way.”

Overwhelmed by melancholia, I kiss her pointy knuckles. “I want you back, Lauren. I still love you.”

She bursts out crying as if something inside her breaks loose from chains, and throws her arms around me. “After everything I’ve done to you, you can still say these words? Forgive me, Saph. Oh, God, please forgive me!”

I stroke her nape with one hand and hold her tightly with the other arm. As we let go I realize it’s still outside, calm and even suspiciously serene. Lauren and I approach the window, looking out into the night. A light goes on in the distance, then another and then another. I recognize the serpent men standing on the fields, here and there dead Black Monks. And as a whole line of torches becomes visible from behind rocks, my smile broadens.

“The town people turned against the Black Monks! Instead of going after Kieran they helped him.” As the torches approach I distinguish faces and voices, and I have a strong feeling the town people made the decision themselves, and Kieran’s influence wasn’t even necessary. They understood who the real enemy was. But Lauren isn’t as relieved as I am.

“But what about Basarab?” She says. “With the powers you told me about, he could take over extremely strong creatures to defeat the Marquis. And if he doesn’t defeat him using one body, he can try over and over again using hundreds.”

My smile might’ve just turned cunning, maybe even a shade bad. “There’s a limited number of people that Billy can possess, it only works with the weakest personalities – or with his closest friends, like Jeremy. But now even that possibility is out of his reach. I have some talents of my own, and I went creative with them.”

I turn around and point to the picture by the door, as anonymous as the man it represents – the picture of Billy Dean, in which his soul is now anchored. “Billy will never be able to leave his body again.”

 

***

To be continued on Friday.

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Secret Weapon – Ep. 40 of “The Marquis”

The Manor’s main hall is intimidating. It was intimidating when I first saw it on the Night of Venice, but now it’s nothing short of crushing with the Marquis’ deadly soldiers-in-black replacing the partying crowd’s laughter. They’re lining a long, impressive table, heavy chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, the immense space crawling with whispers.

The Marquis and I sit at the head of the table, and I feel mighty awkward with everybody staring at me like I’m the Queen. The diamond ring on my finger draws serious attention. Kieran’s men look at it and at each other, all of them baffled but for a few exceptions – Zed, whose stony features and ice-blue eyes are fully restored, and Joyous the big-boned, eerie-eyed Healer; the Marquis’ most trusted men, who’ve been with us every step of the way.

There are more soldiers present – serpent men loyal to the Marquis – than I imagined. Probably over three dozen of them. Maybe not enough to stand against the Black Monks, Inspector Jeremy Simmons’ vassal Special Forces and the Elite’s mercenaries, but surely enough to make a point about how much they respect Kieran Slate, a.k.a. the Marquis de Vandenesse.

“You’ve always been our leader, whether official or not,” one of them says after Kieran talks about our plan. “We’ve always followed you, but this is pure suicide. We can’t simply attack the Black Monks, they’ll freaking roast us before we get to say ‘charge’.”

“Hear him out, Lugo,” Zed cuts in. He still sounds weak, but then again, only a few hours ago his flesh was practically turning into ashes on his skeleton, so no wonder the healing exhausted him.

“Saphira here,” Kieran continues, “my future wife, has a special talent. She’s a painter whose work amazed and intrigued, but recently we discovered her talent has more powerful underlays.”

He chooses his words well as he tells about my ability of making what his men called “voodoo pictures” that can take over all harm done to a person, leaving the person unscathed. At the right moment Zed stands and bares a part of his tattooed back where the last remains of the bubonic plague are visibly healing.

“I owe this to Saphira Lothar,” he declares, giving me a deeply grateful look, and going on to explain what happened. The man who first spoke – Lugo – stares at me like I’m turning into a mermaid with every word that leaves Zed’s mouth.

“This is a miracle,” he says. The crowd turns restless, but Kieran’s voice rises over them. Everybody falls silent, eyes stuck to him, drinking in his words.

“Saphira is the ace in our sleeve. She agreed to make pictures of all of us – it can be only sketches, she’ll add the ‘flesh’ to them as we go along – and she’ll keep restoring them while the curses hit us. Nevertheless, there’s a catch. We’re outnumbered, so Saphira might have a very hard time keeping up with the Black Monks’ ‘blows.’ It would drain her of her vital energy. So we need to go about this in an energy-saving way.”

Lugo frowns. “What do you mean, in an ‘energy-saving’ way?”

“We need guerrilla tactics. We first dispatch scouts to find out who are the Monks’ most important people, their leaders, their secret weapons, and we go for those. We try to keep in the shadow, unnoticed, for as long as possible in order to avoid as many blows as we can. And, of course, one of us has to go for the head of the octopus – Ivan Basarab, the Slayer. I will gladly take on the task.”

Lugo jolts forward and bumps into the table, that’s how much the statement charges him. “You know who he is, Marquis? You finally discovered that bastard’s true identity?”

Understandably, Kieran hesitates. There’s no easy way to put this, since Ivan Basarab is literally no easy man to pin down thanks to his very special power.

Kieran licks those sensual lips that look like sin, preparing to speak, but the doors open and Jeanie Simmons enters the hall, followed by a squad of serpent-men. It looks like she had just been saved from her brother’s hands and returned to her beloved Joyous’ arms that open broadly to receive her. Her sweet dark curls bounce up and down as she runs to the Healer, her otherwise milky face on fire, and her eyes still wide with fear.

“The people in town,” she calls out once in the safety of Joyous’ embrace, “they gathered with torches and weapons to march here and set fire to this manor, Marquis. They want to kill you, they’re convinced you’re the source of all evil that’s befallen Northville.”

Kieran’s face turns to ice, and my heart beats like crazy – he might be ready to fight all the foes out there, but there’s no way he’d fight the town people. They’re innocent, victims of the elite string-pullers, and he’d rather die than take on them – I read every one of his thoughts and feelings on his beautiful marble face. This could be a dead-end.

I cup Kieran’s jaw with my hands, and guide him to look at me. “There will never be a better time than this to use your powers for the good, Kieran.”

His black eyes search mine puzzled. I take a deep breath and, though feeling guilty for my thoughts, I share them. “Influence their feelings, Kieran. Make them fight your enemies instead of you.”

“What? Are you –“

“Yes, I am.”

“But Saphira, if I do that and don’t get to Basarab fast enough, they will die–“

“And what will happen to them if you die? Basarab’s Monks will finish them for sure, there’s no way they’ll leave any witnesses who could tell the tale of Northville. They won’t allow the slightest bit of truth to ever come to light, because it would turn the world upside down – engineered serpent men, painters who can make ‘voodoo pictures’ of people, healers? What will the world do when it finds out that lines such as ‘everybody dies,’ and ‘we’re all only human’ are bloody mockery? Yes, Kieran, normally influencing people is wrong, is bad, it’s a big No, but in this case, it’s plainly the best thing to do.”

 

***

To be continued on Friday.

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Eros and Thanatos – Ep. 39 of “The Marquis”

The dark tower provides a large view over the fields. Kieran’s serpent eyes penetrate the night, while I stand in the alcove opposite from him, looking up at the painting I made a felt century ago.

The painfully handsome Marquis de Vandenesse looks down at me from the wall, his marble features as ruthless as a young devil’s, but the black eyes that used to scare the life out of me have a creamy softness to them. Indeed, like Kieran pointed out on the Night of Venice, the portrait seems a confession. It allows a glimpse of the boy Kieran Slate behind the powerful Marquis.

I feel him approach, which compels me more than his portrait. A gush of wind from the open window inflates my gown as I turn to look at the serpent Marquis who’s chained my heart to his. Tall and beautiful just like the young man in the picture, he takes my breath away. His shirt is open, revealing the marble sinews of his body, and I can’t help a surge of lust.

“The air carries the scent of death,” he murmurs, casting my senses in a daze.

I have a flashback of the moment we first met – that fated night at the Royale by the sea, when he’d first used his hypnotic powers on me.

“You promised you’d never influence my senses again,” I whisper.

“And you think I’m doing it now?”

“It feels like you are. It’s that opiate effect, numbing the pain I want to feel.”

“I assure you, it’s not intentional, but maybe automatic. I want to keep pain away from you so much, I might do it instinctively.”

He looks down at his hands, and I follow his gaze. My heart skips a beat at the sight of his long fine fingers twisting a diamond ring between them. I swallow the spike of emotion that bolts up from my heart in order to prevent embarrassing manifestations. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize what he’s doing.

“A while ago I crossed Gunnar Lothar’s threshold,” he says, “asking for your hand in marriage. I asked the man I hated for what I thought would be the deadliest weapon against him. Things have taken many unexpected turns since then, and soon there was nothing left of my initial plans, but one thing never changed – my wanting to marry you, Saphira. I desire you as my wife more than I ever desired anything, even revenge. I won’t lie to you, there’s a chance that I’ll find my end tomorrow, and there’s no priest to forge our bond before that happens. All we have is tonight and the deadly breath of the Black Monks out there. Let it be our minister and seal our vows, and be sure that I’ll love you forever even from the Underworld.”

My breath catches at his words, which he speaks taking my hand in his and sliding the ring gently on my finger. It’s a bit of a loose fit, but the intensity in his dark gaze fits mine perfectly.

I stroke his cheek, taking full delight in the feel of him, and I can’t hold back a longing sigh. That sets him on fire, and he takes over my mouth in a hot-blooded kiss, lifting me in his arms. I wind my legs around him, welcoming him between my thighs, rubbing and weaving myself on him as he takes me to the bed. I’ve lost my head for Kieran Slate long ago, but now I let go completely. Death is just around the corner for both of us, so I might as well relish in our love like there’s no tomorrow.

I peel the shirt off him with feverish hands, thirsty for him as I savor his silky lips, his jaw, his neck, and lower my mouth down his smooth chest, my hands seeking the hardness in his pants. He doesn’t have much patience either, breathing hard with lust, soon taking over and kissing me into submission.

Looming over me, he guides me on my back on the satin sheets, his fiery mouth pleasuring my skin all over. Before I know it I’m lying completely bare under him, while he stands on his knees over me, a beautifully shaped marble devil, naked and growing bold. He’s big and hard for me. His hand sinks and my hair, twisting and tugging as he brings himself to my lips. Making sure I want it as much as he does, he glides down my mouth.

His smooth hardness slides over my tongue to my throat, turning me on so bad that I moisten and writhe, my face on fire. I can’t refrain from clasping his backside and guiding him deeper, making him grind into my lustful mouth and moan with unrestrained pleasure. He flexes and clenches his fist in my hair, gritting his teeth and knitting his brows as if it’s too much for him, and then, completely unexpectedly, he retreats and curls at the end of the bed.

I don’t know what just happened, and I stare at him rocking like a hiding child. I crawl to him and touch his shoulder, ready to beg him to come back and take me, but he tenses yet more.

“Please, Kieran, look at me,” I whine, but he’s bracing himself so tightly that the flesh under his fingernails is even whiter than the rest of him, his face hidden, his lamentations low but heartbreaking. I go gently to my knees before him, caressing his thick, black hair. I keep insisting until his face dashes up, and the sight of him sends ice slithering down my body.

His eyes are the black blisters of the serpent, his lips like black leeches, and his flesh turns glutinous as scales slowly replace the skin. I don’t know by what miracle I manage to catch the outcry in my throat before it reaches my mouth. Every cell in my body screams to get away from him, but I force myself to keep still – this is the man I love, a victim of bastards with power over science.

My hand shakes slightly as I take it to his face, brushing a tendril away from his now snake-skinned forehead.

“This is too much for me, Saphira,” he pleads. “My basic instinct runs wild at sudden pleasure, and the beast comes out. I want to make love to you, so bad, but if I lose control fully, it’s very dangerous.”

“Don’t think about that,” I whisper, bringing my face within an inch of his. “This is true love. I love you and I trust you, Kieran.”

A blood tear slithers down his cheek that slowly changes from serpent scales to glutinous mass, then to beautiful ivory skin. His blister-like eyes are still pained and deeply worried, but he does allow me to get closer and closer. I force myself to keep my eyes open as my lips touch his, expecting them to feel like the black leeches they look, but instead they’re dry and pleasant. His kisses are gentle, and his tongue careful as it seeks mine.

There’s a lump in my throat as I imagine that split serpent tongue exploring my mouth, and indeed I feel the two tips, coarse and cold, but their touch is so shy that it makes me grow downright audacious. I sink my hands in his hair and pull him over me on the bed, inviting him to push his tongue down my throat, even though chill after chill runs down my skin.

Flashes of that tongue pulling Pukov’s stomach out lash at me, the white tablecloth splattered with blood, the coiling and wriggling under Pukov’s shirt. But Kieran Slate is the man I love, and I want him inside of me, even if that means having him between my legs in his serpent form.

But instead of disturbing, his love turns out sensual and intoxicating, and I find myself wanting more and more of his scales on my skin. I finally understand that the snake-man is as much part of Kieran Slate as his hypnotic powers, and if we’re both going to die soon, I want to experience him to the deepest level, and to the last cell.

“Use your powers on me, Kieran,” I whisper. “I want to be high on you, and I want an overdose.”

The words are a powerful catalyst for Kieran. His eyes, at first stunned, then confused and then profound, pour themselves like a black drug into mine, and cast me in a spiral trance. I let go of all reason, and my mind goes blank, leaving me fully prey to the sensations Kieran gives me, making me arch and moan under his kisses and caresses.

My thighs part to accommodate him as he slides deep inside me, long and hard and smooth. Moist and lascivious I grind my hips to meet his moves, riding towards the climax that makes all my muscles flex, and Kieran Slate shows his true face above me – his features are prominent, beautiful and white as ivory, while his black eyes bleed, and his sensual mouth lets out moans of pleasure.

I’m still convulsing with the remains of climax as he drops on his back by my side, taking me in his arms and kissing my forehead and my lips and my cheeks. The opiate haze he’d cast over me begins to lift, and I come back to a feeling of happiness and fulfillment that pulses in my chest.

“I love you, my bride.” His voice is creamy and rich, and his hands restless as they caress my body like he worships me.

“And I adore you, Kieran.”

***

To be continued on Friday.

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Stay tuned for a new episode on Friday, we are drawing towards the end! Until then, feel free to roam this site for all the goodies it has to offer.

 

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The Picture of Kieran Slate – Ep. 38 of “The Marquis”

“All weakness of the flesh passes on to the voodoo picture,” the young butler mutters to himself, staring in awe at the portrait of Zed that blackens and crumples with the pestilence that until now had been eating at his body.

The meaning of all this sends my neurons spinning, making me barge out of the room and run down the grand stairs towards Kieran’s study, my bare feet slapping the granite floor. The double doors open as I haste toward them, and Kieran appears, my heart surging at the sight of him.

Those pitch black eyes that I love beyond all reason and common sense meet mine. I lose the last bit of control over myself and jump in his arms, practically assailing him. He says my name with the reverence of a priest invoking an angel as he lifts me, and claims my lips like a starved animal.

I savor the feel of his hot, silky kiss with every fiber of my body, and I hold him so tight that my muscles hurt.

“I’ll never let you go again, never,” he says in his intoxicating, low voice. We kiss desperately again and again, only pausing to drink in the sight of each other’s faces, touching each other as if we both want to make sure this is real.

Remembering I must look much like the loser of a boxing match, I search for my own reflection in the black luster of his irises – I’m indeed disheveled and I seem a ghost, but I can’t see the bruises. I speak my mind before I think it.

“Medicine man’s talents extend to face-lifts?”

Kieran doesn’t find it amusing, and pain distorts his youthful features.

“I’d be just as crazy about you if you were a goblin,” he says. “But Jeremy Simmons and Lauren Morris will pay with their lives for what they did to you.”

“Please, Kieran, whatever happens, don’t hurt Lauren.”

A frown curls his otherwise marble-smooth brow. “Why do you defend her?”

“Long story. But fact is, she was punishing me because my father abused her when she was a child.”

“That’s no excuse for trying to beat you to death.”

“Oh, is it not?” I snap. “Didn’t you start off with the same intention? Didn’t you want to make a sacrificial lamb of me too for my father’s wrongdoings?”

His eyes become slits, his pain all too obvious as he beats his own chest with his fist.

“I wish you were inside this for one minute to feel how remorse tortures me. It sears to look at you, and yet I can’t look away. From the moment I laid eyes on you, you were like a drug, and the more I saw you, the more I wanted you until I desired you so much that it hurt, Saphira. I fell in love with you, and the deeper I fell, the more I despaired. Every time I did something to hurt you was like driving a dagger in my own flesh.” He drops his voice, a dangerous glint crossing his eyes. “I love you so much that I’d let myself be killed for you.”

He kisses me once more like a madman, taking my breath away in the most literal sense. I push him gently so I can inhale and stop my head from spinning in the wake of his love declaration that got me melting in all the right ways and places, and I catch a glimpse of the gathering behind him. I lean to the side to see clearer past Kieran, and my mouth opens as I make sense of it.

Kieran peels himself from my field of vision to clear the sight of his desk, which now serves as a stretcher for Zed. Surrounded by his peers, the Head of Security lies still as a corpse. Except that he’s very much alive, not to mention plague-free. His stony features are once again recognizable, his dark-blond hair clean, and the black skeletal fingers that Kieran had almost surgically extracted from Vivien’s flesh have skin on them again. His peers had cut the black suit off him, exposing the nakedness of his sturdy body that’s covered with tattoos, contributing even more to the intimidating look of him.

“It’s a miracle. You are a miracle,” Kieran says, turning me around and looking at me like I’m the Holy Grail.

“You know what happened with the picture I made of Zed?”

“The butler boy searched the place like crazy while we were trying to save Zed, and explained he was looking for things you could use to paint. I suspected what the whole thing was about, and as the bubonic blackness started retreating from Zed’s skin it all became crystal clear to me.”

He cups my face with his hands. “I knew there was something very special about these golden eyes of yours, I knew it all along. You see people in a way the fewest can. In the portrait you made of me you focused all humanity and vulnerability that I’d thought forever lost. It was the first thing that scared me in a very, very long time Saphira. And now it turns out you can do so much more.”

“But how . . . How is that even possible? The whole voodoo thing, I mean.”

“It’s your born potential activated by close contact with – well, with me. When I first influenced your mind with my own powers, your potential unlocked. You became subconsciously aware that the impossible is possible. Your subconscious mind pulled out that unique something that you were born with, since we are all born with one special particularity that only we can excel at, and sharpened it into a weapon. Back when you painted me you could have used that picture to hurt me; your probably did, in a way, by baring my soul in it and therefore making me love you. All people have unique talents that they can develop to more-than-human extents, but most cannot unlock their true potential naturally, like you did. Most people need psychological guidance and maybe –” he gestures at himself and his men, “ – tampering a bit with genetics. That’s why I say you’re a miracle.”

This blows my mind, and I fear I might faint. I grip tighter to Kieran’s supporting arms.

“Is it . . . magic?” I breathe.

Kieran smiles. “Let’s say it’s a kind of magic that can be explained.”

“Will this magic be enough to defeat Ivan Basarab’s Black Monks?”

A shadow falls over Kieran’s face as he understands what I’m getting at. “It could be, but it would take an enormous toll on you. Every portrait you paint using your newly discovered power draws vital energy from you, and during battle you would have to repair portraits again and again before they are consumed with plague or wounds. You can’t possibly do that for all of us, we’re two dozen people.”

“And Basarab’s Black Monks are at least a hundred. You’re greatly outnumbered, Kieran.”

“Then give me Basarab’s true name, and I will take him on, one on one.”

Joyous enters the room and intervenes. “It’s too late, Kieran. Black Monks surrounded the manor, and the catacombs are blocked halfway to the asylum. If you get out there, they’ll cast their curses on you a hundred at a time. You may be the most powerful serpent ever engineered, but with that kind of viciousness you’d be dead within the first couple of yards.”

“Plus,” I put in with a shudder, “Basarab’s identity provides more reason for worry than for hope.”

Kieran squares his shoulders and takes the powerful attitude of the leader everyone knows and needs right now. “Give me his name, and I’ll find a way to reach and eliminate him – It’s as simple as that.”

“No, it’s not.” I look around at the men’s confused faces. “Basarab has a special power of his own, and I’m afraid it’s a nasty one.”

***

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