Wickedly handsome and shamelessly rich, Tristan Stahl is a villain. A businessman by day and an underground cage fighter by night, he fears no one, and respects one man alone – his adoptive father, Mark Stahl. It’s at Mark’s request that Tristan recruits Isolde Molnar for her “special talents”. He doesn’t expect complications from this “piece of livestock”, but working closely with her turns out challenging in more ways than one. Throw a modern alchemist’s potion in the mix along with Mark Stahl’s growing infatuation with the girl, and there you have it – Tristan and Isolde Reloaded. Enjoy!
CHAPTER XV – Dark Desires
Thoughts knot inside my brain, and I spin on an axis, hurrying towards the exit. I run up the grand stairs so fast the air whips around my face, and I barge into Mark’s luxurious bedroom through the high double doors.
Mark and Isolde are sitting across from each other at a small round table by the high window, curtains aside to let them admire the star-filled night sky among tree branches. Mark’s blue eyes shoot at me from his pruned old head as he adjusts his wheelchair to face me.
“How may I help you, son?” The speaking device distorts his real voice.
“I’m sorry to intrude.” I glance at Isolde. Her hands grip to each other on her lap, ankles crossed. She’s defensive. My eyes slide down the curvy shape of her body wrapped in the cream dress that, admittedly, I’ve been wanting to tear off her since the moment she presented it to me at the store. I square my shoulders and look back at Mark. “But the girl needs to go now.”
He raises the arches of skin where his eyebrows used to be. “And why is that?”
Because I don’t want your foul hands on her. My jaw tenses, and my fists ball behind my back. “It’ s been a very long night. The club, Podgor, and she’s been feeling sick.”
He doesn’t look convinced, and I take a step forward. “She saw a man die tonight, Mark, if I may remind you.”
Mark’s body slackens in his chair. He must realize he’s been overeager. “Very well, then.” He gives Isolde a tired smile, and my jaw tightens.
“I’ll have the staff prepare a room for you here, Isolde,” he says. “You’ll be more comfortable than at your apartment, which I expect you to move out of as soon as possible.”
“Move in here?” The words leave my mouth before I can restrain my tongue. I sound too sharp, and Mark seems taken aback.
“Yes, here. With her powers now activated, she needs a safe place. A sanctuary.”
I hate the idea so much I barely keep back a growl. I don’t want her within his reach. I don’t want her within Gertrude’s either.
Isolde surprises us both by standing up brusquely, almost knocking back her chair.
“I appreciate your kindness, Mark.” She shoots me a glare as she emphasizes his name. Is she making a point of how close they’ve become? “But I’d rather keep my own sanctuary, my own place, plus that I need to be with my brother. Make sure he stays safe as well.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” I step in, gripping Isolde’s delicate wrist in my hand that seems a hammer compared to hers. The contact sends a soft tingle through my skin, a fully new sensation, but she pulls away.
“I’ll make sure that she’s well protected,” I tell Mark, still looking at her. Her gaze is burning, defying me. “I’ll have her apartment building monitored, men at every corner, two undercover constantly surveying the entrance.”
“The back door from the inner yard as well,” Mark demands softly.
I snort. “Of course.” I’m your right hand and personal bodyguard, you sorry bastard, don’t tell me what to do. I understand he’s trying to prove his position as my boss to impress Isolde, and anger punches me in the gut.
I turn around to restrain myself, and stomp toward the door, expecting Isolde to follow. She does after she kisses Mark good-bye on the cheek – I’ve learned to perceive what happens at every angle around me long ago, it’s a must-have skill in the cages. I swallow hard, and force myself to keep walking.
Mark’s glassy blue stare stings the back of my head as we walk out. I can sense he’s growing suspicious, but right now something else takes over my mind. I’m hyperaware of the soft sound of Isolde’s steps on the stairs behind me as we descend, and that puts a ball of fire in my stomach, the most awkward sensation.
Demerol is already by my car at the curb, and hurries to hold the door at the back.
“No, the passenger’s seat,” I demand.
Isolde steps in, looking messed up, but somehow snappy. She frowns, seeming irritated. I take the car keys from Demerol, planting a razor sharp glare right between his eyes. I could slash him across the face for wanting her the way he does. His looks alone are enough to stain her.
“I’ll drive. And we don’t need company,” I grunt.
With that I slide into the driver’s seat, slam the door shut, and fire the ignition. The tires spit out gravel as we drive away, leaving Demerol behind in a cloud of grey dust.
During the ride I can’t help glancing at Isolde from the corner of my eye, and I do it often enough for her to notice. Damn it, get a grip.
She makes herself smaller in her seat, bracing herself as if she’s feeling naked, cold, awkward, all sorts of uncomfortable, but I can’t stop. I’m pulled to her like a flea to honey. By the time we reach her place I’ve played a scenario in my head at least five times, a scenario where I pull over, bend her over the hood of my car and bang her brains out. Would it be enough to have my fill of her?
She opens the door to get out of the car, but then I notice something strange out in the night, a slight shift in the headlights. I grip her wrist to keep her in.
“Wait.” My eyes narrow, infrared kicks in, and I see them. Young men and women, party people hovering in front of the entrance to Isolde’s apartment building, waving beer bottles, tattoos and crazy hairstyles. This is Berlin, and this side of town is especially prone to sorry-ass “funk”, but something’s off. It’s almost three in the morning, on a weeknight. Not exactly the peak of “party mile” time.
“What’s wrong?” Isolde inquires, her eyes narrowed to peer outside through the windshield. Despite the headlights, we’re too far from the building for her to see things half as well as I do.
“This is not right,” I say, and pick up my phone. The call goes to Demerol. “Get a team, fix an undercover, and prepare to tail.”
“Surveillance of Isolde Molnar’s place?”
“Yes.” My tone sharpens even more. “You get them over here, but then you’ll be working with me. So don’t get an extra car.”
I hang up and open the door, addressing Isolde. “Let’s go.”
She’s looking at me inquisitively as I offer her my arm. Hers hooks around it and, even though she looks uncertain, she lets me lead her towards the entrance.
The gathering in front of the block pulls to the sides and lets us through. Some stare open-mouthed, some ogle us, and some – very few – frown defiantly. There’s no power on the stairway, and my x-ray vision is helpful when Isolde skids over a stair edge. Her body slams warm into mine. As I steady her my palm sweeps up her arm, feeling her goose bumps. Is it from the cold, damp air, or from my touch?
This is a crumbling block by the railway, smeared with graffiti, and I already know that Isolde’s apartment is right by the tracks. But when she pushes the door open and hits the lights the shabbiness of it still hits me.
She throws her keys and purse on a small chest of drawers by the door, and leads me down a narrow corridor to the living room. The train shakes the walls and, right after it’s passed, she turns to face me. She’s scowling, but she’s obviously nervous too. She shifts her weight awkwardly from one leg to the other as she speaks.
“Listen, Tristan.” Her voice is dry and shaky. “You were right back at the villa – I am tired, which is the only reason I didn’t intervene much in your talk with Mark. But know this.” She even points a finger at me. Seriously? For the first time in ages I want to smile, but I repress it. “I acknowledge you as my boss, but you won’t boss me around in my private life. The world technically switched poles for me ever since I met you, and in order to keep my sanity, I’ll keep at least a bit of the old world with me – this place.”
Listening to her, I pace around the room. I stop by the old glass case she must have inherited from a grandma or something, and pick up a porcelain ballerina, feeling strangely amused.
“No one is asking you to relinquish the old world, Isolde.” I turn the ballerina in my hand, inspecting it. “Only your contact with it.” I turn around to look at her. God, how I want to bite into those carnal lips that seem made of cacao silk. “Have you ever desired to be special? Of course you have, all of you little animals do.” I walk around her like a tiger around its prey, sniffing her scent of fresh meat and lilies. She listens petrified, her whole body unmoving but for her chest, rising and falling with her heavy breathing.
“Well, now you are special,” I purr. “The people outside, I think they’re here for you. The mafia bosses behind Podgor, they’re rich and powerful, and they get wind of things extremely fast. You didn’t have the time to write an entire article about Podgor, but you announced it’s coming soon, and now they’ll do anything to stop you from publishing.”
I halt in front of her. She’s so much smaller than me, so frail, and this vulnerability makes my shaft twitch in my pants. Her eyes are stuck on my lips, as if she’s afraid to look me in the eye. A fist seems to clench around my heart, and I want to sink my hand in her rich long hair and tug her head back. To kiss her. Fuck, this needs to stop. I wrench myself away from her and stomp to the glass case again.
“You want to keep at least a sense of freedom, of independence, and I understand that, Isolde.” My tone is meant to make her feel mocked. “I’ll grant you that. But you’ll have to suffer my presence here, in your home. Often.” Why the hell did I just say that?
Her voice trembles. “To what do I owe the honor of being protected by the mighty Tristan Stahl himself?”
Protection, yes. “You’re exposed to dangers that only I can face up to,” I throw over my shoulder.
Isolde walks closer behind me, slowly, carefully. My pulse quickens, and my throat clogs for the second time in one night. I force myself to keep my back on her.
“You speak of little animals, special people, and dangers that only you can shield me from,” she says. She’s so close now I can feel her voice vibrate between my shoulder blades. She grips my elbow gently to turn me around, and this time I respond like a marionette. I meet her soft brown eyes that look up at me with the purest interest anyone has ever shown. “What makes you special?” she whispers. “Who was Tristan a moment before he met Mark Stahl?”
At that question something cracks deep in my mind, like an old gate being wrenched from its rusty locks. The showers room swirls around in my memory, the other boys’ screams, the poison spraying down on my face. Anger shoots through my veins, and The Dutchman roars deep inside me.
I reach for Isolde, determined to crush her lips under mine, and her ample breasts beneath me, but before I can act on it the door creaks open. A man walks in. Isolde looks at him, and color leaves her face.
To be continued . . .
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