Immortal Promise: A Vampire Love Story by Lietha Wards - Read Online
Immortal Promise
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Summary

Lucas was a vampire. Not just any Vampire, but the future leader of his race. He was powerful and kept the laws of his kind under strict enforcement. There were those that disagreed with Lucas' rule and his sympathy towards humanity. No one had been able to challange him until he made himself vulnerable enough to be defeated. It happened when he fell in love with a mortal woman.

Published: Lietha Wards on
ISBN: 9781301106424
List price: $3.99
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coincidental.

CHAPTER ONE: LUCAS

VIOLET-BLUE EYES watched amber liquid swirl in a thick crystal glass. Every now and then, the eyes shifted to the busy boulevard outside the limousine. The owner of the eyes smiled to himself; it was a typical Friday night in Los Angeles and everyone and their dog was out on the streets tonight. That was one of the reasons why Lucas liked living here. The only difference between night and day was the light, but at night, the crowds shifted from the streets to the clubs. That provided him cover he needed.

He glanced at his wristwatch though he really didn’t need to―he always knew what time it was. His eyes went back to the activity outside the car. Lucas was on his way to a late gathering himself, but not at a nightclub. Not this time, at least.

He took a drink from the glass and shifted his gaze to a group of four young men staggering along the sidewalk, obviously drunk by the way they clung to each other to keep themselves upright. He gave a faint smile at the lewd whoops and hollers they emitted as they passed by a group of young women.

Physically, Lucas looked to be around their age, but he was much, much older. He liked to enjoy life as much as they were obviously enjoying it, but unlike that group, he didn’t intend to enjoy himself tonight. He was heading to a business meeting, not a social event.

He generally attended public appearances and social events to keep suspicious eyes looking in other directions. He’d built up quite a name for himself over the years, and reclusive tycoons were targets for bloodthirsty journalists. Staying in the public eye kept most of the sneaking paparazzi out of his bushes. The other reason he attended these events, and the main reason he kept a false front, was much darker.

His father, Valear, frowned on his career choice and told him that he drew too much attention to himself, but Lucas couldn’t cut off all contact with mortals as Valear and the rest had done. His own kind wasn’t enough for him―he still needed to be around humans. It was his last coveted grip on mortality and he refused to let it go.

In the past, Lucas had been criticized for being sympathetic towards humans, which wasn’t far from the truth. He’d never harbored any ill will towards the race, and he didn’t see them as a mere means of survival either. Humanity provided endless reasons for why he wanted to remain attached to them, and although his father may not have liked his rationale for walking among the living, at least he never forbade him to do it.

After mulling over his circumstances once again, Lucas turned his gaze to his companion. His father had originally given Jason to him as a gift to be his Protector, but Lucas also considered him a close friend. Lucas loved his father and would give his life for him, but he didn’t completely trust him. Jason, on the other hand, was the only one that Lucas trusted implicitly with his secrets and his life, even if his protector was a ruthless predator.

Jason turned his attention to Lucas as he felt his gaze settle on him, and cocked his head in question. What is it?

Lucas silently shook his head, indicating it was nothing before returning his stare to the lighted busy streets outside and letting his thoughts roam again. It had been centuries since he had savored daylight, but his world was now lived in darkness. More than seven hundred years had passed since that fateful night. He could still remember the terror he’d felt upon seeing Valear for the first time. That horrifying form in the moonlight would have stopped the most fearless of men in their tracks.

However, Valear had brought him new life and opened up an unthinkable world to him. Lucas never regretted Valear’s actions because he’d been young and the victim of a quicker sword on the battlefield. He hadn’t been ready to die. Of course, he’d also never expected to survive this long. Valear had a way of eliminating those who gained too much power and were stupid enough to try to overthrow him. Lucas never harbored that ambition, which was why he’d outlived his brothers.

Perhaps it had something to do with the love he felt for Valear, and the thought of losing his father terrified Lucas. Also, living so long gave him the opportunity to learn many things, and he still yearned to learn more. He’d mastered a multitude of different languages, some now extinct, played many different musical instruments, studied with world-renowned scholars, and lived and traveled all over the world.

Valear had told him that the urge to know everything would stop after a few hundred years, but it never left Lucas. He was just as eager to learn today as he had been after his conversion. Religion fascinated him most of all, especially when thousand-year wars were waged in the name of God. Such hypocrites, he thought.

He was distracted from his thoughts as he saw Jason glance over his shoulder at the driver. Despite the darkness inside the limo, Lucas could see as clearly as if it were broad daylight. His protector was hungry, but Lucas knew he wouldn’t harm the man, not without Lucas’ approval. Jason’s kind was fiercely loyal and that’s what made his race ideal to protect vampires.

No vampire knew for certain how long werewolves had existed and protected their race, but they didn’t resemble anything written about them. They were not mindless animals that had a thirst for savage killing on a full moon. In fact, they were highly intelligent. They did have heightened aggression, as it was part of the predatory instincts of the species, but they could also change at will. Furthermore, they knew exactly what they were doing in their were-form. Jason used to become enraged by the mistaken beliefs, but now he just accepted them, stating that the human race was just plain stupid—shallow, vein and stupid. Although Lucas did understand his friend’s frustration, he felt differently about the matter. The human race was simply naïve because they didn’t live long enough to gain the intellect possessed by other races.

Jason scoffed when he’d relayed that concept to him, making Lucas smile. He’d expected the dismissal. Jason was arrogant, and rightly so. His skills were virtually unsurpassable and his intolerance for anything inferior to him was common to the breed; werewolves weren’t just predators, they were an exceedingly gifted race and the books written about them never portrayed that. Jason found it insulting.

As for the human chauffeur’s life, Lucas was thankful for the present-day conveniences that relegated senseless brutality necessary in the past. Yet, on rare occasions he still needed to take live prey to sustain his power, but his quarry only consisted of those the world could do without. It somehow made it easier to live with being what he was. The driver wasn’t in that group; therefore, he would live this night. And therefore, Jason wouldn’t harm the driver because Lucas didn’t wish him to be harmed.

He would have used his own driver, but the man he was meeting insisted on sending his car and driver to pick him up. Lucas didn’t want to lose the deal over such a petty thing, and he was hungry, so he agreed. He figured Michael Reese just had control issues.

Suddenly, Lucas’ thoughts were disrupted by an emotion―a powerful and alluring feeling that enraptured his whole body like a strong electrical current. He shot forward in his seat. Pull over, now, he calmly ordered the driver despite his inner turmoil.

But sir, Mister Reese said to— The driver politely began to protest while looking warily over his shoulder.

I advise you to listen, Jason cut in with a warning and followed it with a chilling stare at the driver. Fool, he thought.

Lucas knew from Jason’s menacing behavior that his eyes had flashed from dark brown to their animalistic amber. That was confirmed when the man paled and complied without another protest, saying, Yes, sir, with a tremor in his voice as he eased the car to the curb.

A whiff of adrenaline reached Lucas’ nostrils and he smiled in satisfaction. Humans released the hormone instantly following fear. Fight and flight, he thought with amusement. If he were any younger and less experienced, he would take the man’s life, unable to battle the aphrodisiacal lure of the odor of adrenaline. As it was, his mouth became lubricated with a flush of saliva, but still he resisted it. The driver was an innocent in all of this and Lucas did not slaughter innocents—anymore.

A cabby honked from behind them at the sudden change of direction, and he screeched his tires in frustration as he sped by the limo. Lucas could sense the chauffeur’s thoughts and knew he was unable to shake the glare Jason had given him. In fact, he didn’t even hear the taxi. He was terrified. His knuckles had since turned white as he clutched desperately at the steering wheel and an ominous silence came over him. Lucas felt a sense of pride that a small look from Jason was so highly effective.

Prior to that, the man thought Jason was gay. However, the more time passed with his protector sitting behind him, the more the driver could feel the hair on the back of his neck rise whenever Jason addressed him or glanced over his shoulder to look at him.

The man didn’t have a rearview mirror to sneak looks at them because Jason had popped it out of its holder on the windshield and tossed it on the seat behind him when he’d picked them up, and they kept the lights off in the back. Nevertheless, the chauffeur could still feel the heat of Jason’s hungry stares on the back of his head and he began to feel very helpless. He even struggled to resist the urge to push the little button that would raise the divider between the front and the back because somehow he knew the bodyguard would be offended.

He’s right, Lucas thought, he would be annoyed.

Jason returned his attention to Lucas. His dark brown eyes were intense and concerned. Now, what do we do?

We wait. He tilted his head as if trying to see something clearly in a distant field. It is…close. It wasn’t the sensation itself; he was used to strong feelings from his kind. The assault of emotion occurred when another vampire was near. This was different, though. Vampires exuded a sense of presence or warning, like a small electrical shock. This was sudden, powerful…and alluring.

Do you want me to look around? Jason directed his attention to the busy streets.

Lucas knew Jason wasn’t sure what to look for, or whether it was even a threat. He didn’t know what Lucas had picked up on, but he’d seen the slight mix of emotion that passed over Lucas’ expression when he felt the surge. No, it wouldn’t do any good. Whatever he’d sensed wasn’t close enough to see yet.

Jason was perplexed. He had never seen Lucas react in such a way to a feeling. He was curious―no, more than curious. He was fascinated. Lucas never allowed emotions to grace his handsome face, yet something had stirred him enough to elicit a response. Jason had been quite happy tormenting the driver until that point, but now he was distracted by Lucas’ physical disturbance. He needed to be on alert for any threat that Lucas might encounter―if this was a threat. By the look on Lucas’ face, he wasn’t sure what was coming, but Jason would be ready to meet any challenge.

CHAPTER TWO: ELSA

THIS IS STUPID. I can’t do this. Elsa looked at the clothes her friends Linda and Tanya had decided she would wear. This just isn’t me.

You can be so difficult. It’s time you got your nose out of those dammed books and had some fun. Linda reluctantly admitted to herself that Elsa looked prettier than she’d thought she would.

As the only child of a wealthy senator, Linda was used to getting what she wanted. She’d spent the last two years in and out of universities such as the one she attended with Elsa and Tanya. She preferred the nightlife and her numerous boyfriends over a solid education. Whenever she flunked out, her father would make a large contribution and get her into another one. She openly admitted that she had little use for anything or anyone that didn’t serve her purpose. That originally meant girls like Elsa.

That is, until Elsa ended up as her dorm roommate.

Linda had begged her father not to force her to live in a dorm, but her father thought she could learn something from living among real people instead of her high-priced socialite friends. He’d also cut back on her allowance. She was disgusted and angry with him because her new roommate was everything she hated: innocent, naïve, intelligent, and pretty. On top of that, Elsa’s modesty infuriated her. The girl didn’t even know how stunning she really was.

Of course, extended time living with someone such as that can bring about a change of heart.

Elsa listened to Linda when she bitched about her father, her life, the cut in her allowance, and whatever boyfriend was in that day. She never protested Linda’s foul treatment of her or the barrage of insults over her fashion choices. Linda started to feel guilty and selfish, and as she thought back over her interactions with her roommate, she knew the words she chose must have hurt Elsa at times. She’d also noticed that in the last six months of knowing Elsa, no one ever called or visited her and she never got mail.

Curious and not caring how nosy she seemed, Linda had asked Elsa about her family. With some coaxing, Elsa confessed that she was orphaned at a young age and had made it this far on a track scholarship with hopes of becoming a doctor.

Guilt overwhelmed Linda. She began to attend class and her grades picked up slightly with Elsa’s tutoring. Not enough to make her proud, but her father noticed and she felt like she was actually worth something to him—something she’d never thought was possible. She credited Elsa with this and was determined to make up for her poor treatment of her friend, starting tonight. Although, it had taken serious convincing over the course of several days to get Elsa to agree to the outing.

Still, she knew she could never repay Elsa for being such a good friend to her, she thought she could at least help her with something she knew she did well. She’d noticed the way people looked at Elsa, especially men. However, Elsa was completely unapproachable―she never made eye contact with the opposite sex and answered in such a low whisper when addressed that they quickly lost interest. Her attire generally consisted of dress slacks and a baggy blouse, and she pulled her hair into such a tight bun that it caused her beautiful eyes to slant.

Tonight was going to be different. It was the beginning of spring break and none of them were interested in leaving campus. Linda’s father was in Washington and Tanya’s parents were in Europe for the spring, and Elsa had no place she called home. Linda wanted to change Elsa’s style from loose-fitting and conservative to form-fitting and flattering. Tanya, a friend of Elsa’s who’d become Linda’s friend too, helped convince Elsa to join them for a night out. Yet, she had some reservations about one of Linda’s tight-fitting dresses.

I don’t know if these clothes suit her, Linda. They’re just not her style, Tanya said, running her eyes over their friend.

Linda knew Tanya didn’t fully agree with the makeover they’d done on Elsa. The other woman thought Elsa was just fine the way she was and had hinted at it more than a few times since they’d left the dorm.

That dress is not conservative enough for her. Tanya made a helpless gesture in Elsa’s direction, knowing the dress was too tight and too revealing for someone so innocent. Tanya was concerned that men might get the wrong idea and take advantage of her friend’s shy nature.

Linda shot her a look that told her to shut up. Bluntness was never an issue with her, but she didn’t want to keep having this argument in front of Elsa. She wanted her to have fun tonight.

Tanya was another person that Linda had originally disliked because of her seeming good virtue. She was honest, but brash and outspoken with a strong sense of righteousness and friendship meant everything to her. However, Linda discovered later that they had more in common than she’d previously thought.

Tanya enjoyed wild weekends as much as Linda did, but unlike Linda, she was able to balance her studies with her social time. Elsa had met Tanya at a study group the previous year in an elective class and they’d immediately hit it off. Not long after that, Elsa introduced her to Linda, who barely spared her the time of day. Then Linda met her at a party the following weekend and was surprised to see her having fun at a social event. Since then, the three of them had been practically inseparable.

Are you serious? Look at her! Linda pushed Elsa in front of the mirror to show her how good she looked.

This is too soon for her to make such a drastic image change. Maybe we should start with having her wear high heels for a day, and then maybe add a dress the next day—

Don’t be ridiculous, Tanya, Linda laughed. We’d all be done with our degrees by then—even me. Geesh, quit being so protective.

Elsa’s beautiful pale complexion turned crimson as she viewed her reflection. I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this! This dress is too short and tight and everyone can see my breasts! She tried pulling the material up, just to see it hike higher up on her thighs and make the swell of her cleavage more pronounced. She let out a frustrated sigh. Linda, I don’t know if I can wear this in public. It’s awfully revealing.

Linda lightly slapped at Elsa’s hands as she tugged at the material. Elsa, quit it, you’ll wrinkle the dress. This is the style. It’s not as bad as you think. You wait and see what everyone else is wearing―you’ll feel like you’re dressed in a quilt. Besides, you have a great rack, it’s time you started showing it off! Linda did her best to squelch her jealousy at the image before her. Elsa might just get all the attention tonight. It’s just one night, she reminded herself.

Linda, Tanya interrupted, She’s going to blush right out of that dress. Quit talking to her like that. She turned to Elsa. You look stunning, Elsa. Linda did a great job. I may not agree with the extent of the changes, but you really do look great! And you need the time to relax, Linda’s right about that. You spend too much time with your books.

See? Linda interjected and handed Elsa a pair of matching high heels. It’s a good thing we have the same shoe size. Elsa reluctantly took them and put them on. It was obvious that she didn’t want to hurt Linda’s feelings about the choice of wardrobe. Linda was glad that Elsa was too polite to say anything and would rather wear the outfit than hurt her friend’s feelings. She smiled inwardly.

Elsa straightened and the heels caused her well-shaped legs to lengthen. Linda struggled not to laugh when Elsa wobbled slightly and grabbed Tanya’s shoulder to steady herself. Have you never worn heels before? she asked in amazement.

No, she answered sheepishly.

Linda shook her head. "You have legs like that and you’ve never worn heels. Jesus, Elsa, you are a piece of work."

Elsa blushed again, but managed to smile at Linda’s tease. "How long have we lived together?"

Point taken. She giggled. Elsa was right; she knew her well by now. As she looked at her roommate, the twinge of jealousy resurfaced and she did her best to squash it. She wasn’t prepared to handle what she’d created.

Elsa was a rare beauty. Her heart-shaped face was complemented by striking emerald eyes, thick lashes, full lips, and high cheekbones. Linda had always envied Elsa’s soft, pale skin and flawless complexion. She never wore or needed to wear makeup. Linda watched her absently sweep her curly, ebony hair out of her face and pin it up so it cascaded down her back.

She scolded herself for her jealous feelings when Elsa shot her a vulnerable look full of apprehension. Her friend deserved a night of fun. Anyway, Elsa would be back in her shapeless clothes tomorrow and the males of the species would once again be Linda’s for the choosing. She turned and examined her own appearance, her previous thoughts already dismissed. Red was definitely her color. Come on, girls, I want to get there before all the good stock is taken.

Where are we going, Linda?

Linda noticed Tanya’s worried expression. Don’t worry, Tanya. One of Daddy’s friend’s sons is having a bash at his beach house. He’s invited me and a few of my close friends. She gave both her friends a quick hug.

This isn’t a coke party, is it, Linda? I’m not sure about this. Elsa’s nervousness was evident in her voice. Why can’t we just go to one of the dorm parties?

Because, Elsa, compared to these parties, dorm parties seem like study sessions. Linda began leading her towards the door although her words apparently hadn’t reassured Elsa—quite the opposite, in fact, based on her worried expression. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you, she added with a cheeky grin.

That’s what I’m afraid of, Tanya stated seriously, causing Linda to giggle again as they left the room.

***

The wave of emotion washed over Lucas again and he tried to catch the feeling and examine it, but it was too late. The feeling was already gone, but this time, he’d sensed a direction. Make a left up there at the corner. It was the same direction the disgruntled cabbie had taken only a moment ago.

Yes, sir.

He knew the driver wasn’t willing to argue this time. The man thought that if he kept his mouth shut, they would leave him be and Jason wouldn’t look at him again. Lucas watched Jason’s mouth stretch into a thin smile of amusement as the fear radiating off the driver reached him. Jason is very good at what he does, Lucas mused silently.

Lucas read Jason’s mind and responded in kind, then continued to give the driver directions. As the car wound through the streets towards a line of beach houses, the waves of emotion came again―closer, stronger. He glanced at the crowded sidewalks, his sharp, predatory eyes examining the features of each person as the car drove by. He didn’t know what, or who, he was looking for, but knew he’d recognize it when he found it.

***

At that same moment, a cab containing three young women pulled up to a stunning beach house with elegant blue-gray brickwork. The building was lit up and alive with music. Linda could see shadows through the illuminated windows and knew there was a large crowd inside. The driveway was packed with sporty and expensive cars and a small crowd mingled out front.

I can’t believe I’m doing this. Elsa’s voice was laced with apprehension.

Linda put an arm around her shoulder to reassure her. This isn’t my first house party, Elsa. You’ll be fine. I won’t leave your side, I promise.

Me too, Tanya added as she got out of the cab.

Linda popped out of the cab next, but turned back to speak to Elsa, who was still sitting in the car. She looked like a baby deer cowering in the brush. Linda felt terrible as she witnessed the extent of her friend’s fear. Trust me, Elsa―we’ll be with you. There is nothing to worry about. Just wait until you see all the eligible men here. Linda leaned over and took Elsa’s hand, hoping to urge her out of the car.

Elsa let Linda tug on her hand for a moment before she reluctantly complied and climbed out of the taxi. I’m not interested in any man, you know that. My education must—

—come first. We know, Linda finished, causing Elsa to frown. But just give us this one night and please try to enjoy yourself.

Okay, I’ll try. She sighed in resignation. She looked past the two women to the house taking in the crowd and the noise. Apprehension washed through her again. She didn’t like dealing with drunken people and large crowds. She bit her bottom lip.

Tanya turned to Linda and whispered in her ear. Jesus, look at her. She’s scared shitless.

Shhh. Linda knew the only reason that Elsa had agreed was because she felt guilty about all the work her friends put into her makeover. She knew she’d only gotten Elsa this far by manipulating her kind, gentle nature. It’s for her own good, Linda thought. Elsa let Linda pull her along the brick walk that led to the house, but her eyes follow the cab as it pulled away and she grimaced when it disappeared. All hope of escape was dashed.

You’ve made the first steps, Elsa. She gave her roommate another reassuring smile. Only a few steps left—wow, look at the size of that car. Linda stopped tugging on Elsa’s arm and stared at the gray stretch limo cruising slowly down the street. She probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t given a small squeal as the driver applied the brakes.

***

Lucas instructed the driver to pull down a circular driveway that led to a large beach house. A typical Friday night gathering was occurring and it looked like a big one.

Lucas, we should go. Jason’s voice interrupted his concentration.

Lucas was reluctant to give up the chase, but knew his protector was correct. Very well. Jason’s appetite was increasing, as was his own. He could no longer ignore the hunger and it was beginning to overpower the alluring feeling he was following. He relaxed back against the cushioned leather in defeat, not realizing that he’d become so tense.

The car was cruising by three women heading towards the entrance of the house when the emotional wave overwhelmed him completely. It felt like someone had lit his insides on fire. Stop the car! he commanded as he sat up straight, staring at the object that drew him―that called to him.

She was unbelievable. "My God, Jason, look at her!"

"It was a woman?" Jason said with surprise, scanning the three human females for any sign of threat.

Apparently, he responded. Although he could only see the elegant curve of her backside, the long, graceful shape of her flawless legs, and the long ebony curls that wavered slightly with each step she took, he knew she was the source of the feeling. He had no explanation for how his senses had picked her up, but at that moment, he didn’t care.

Just when he thought he could tolerate no more, he caught her scent. His inhuman sense of smell almost did him in. The innocence that blossomed off her was so intoxicating and enticing that one hunger was replaced by another. His mouth started to water as his groin began to stir. One thing was certain: she was mortal. Every gorgeous inch of her was alive and pulsing with pure humanity.

He had to touch her.

Then the beauty turned her head towards the car and said the words "What’s going on?" with her full, perfect lips. Sweet Christ! She was stunning.

***

Linda’s eyes widened in excitement with her smile while she watched the car. Well, he’s rich; maybe he’s good-looking too.

Could be a gangster, or a drug dealer, Tanya objected, not masking the concern in her voice.

Good. That would mean I’m right, Linda answered enthusiastically, causing Tanya to scowl at her. It wasn’t like she’d dated anyone like that before.

I can’t believe you just said that, Tanya snapped, her voice laced with annoyance. Let’s go. We don’t want to encourage them.

The one with the ebony hair? Jason asked, smiling in amusement as his sensitive ears picked up the conversation between the women. Jason couldn’t smell or sense any of them the way Lucas could, but he had other talents that were quite useful.

Yes, Lucas answered, not taking his eyes off her.

Ah—exquisite. I should have known.

She has to see me. Lucas’ hand went to the window control.

Linda had just turned to argue with Tanya when the familiar hum of an electric window brought her attention back to the limo. Oh, someone pinch me, Linda sighed as the lamps along the sidewalk cast light on the figure in the car.

He was truly striking―almost roguish. His strong, square jaw held a hint of stubble. His long, dark hair, gently brushed his shoulders and framed his perfect masculine face. His eyes, though, were unusual; some odd shade of blue? She couldn’t tell with the dim lamplight. She took a step forward, but stopped when she noticed he wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were focused solely on Elsa. A wave of jealousy, anger, and hate swept through her, then was gone as quickly as it had come. She immediately felt guilty for it.

Elsa— The name came out in a thick brogue with the ‘L’ rolling off his tongue.

Y—yes? Elsa took a step towards the stranger.

Tanya instantly became concerned and put her hand on Elsa’s shoulder, stopping her from taking another step. What are you doing? You don’t know who this is and how the hell does he know your name?

Since when did Elsa approach a strange man in a car? More importantly, since when did Elsa even go near a man? But there she was, walking up to the guy without any hesitation. Tanya thought the man was very handsome, and he was most definitely focused on her friend, but it gave her an eerie feeling. He looked at Elsa like someone would look at a finely cooked meal.

To her shock, Elsa actually shook her hand off and bent over to let him touch her. The man’s expression changed abruptly. This look Tanya knew very well. It was desire.

Lucas locked his gaze with Elsa’s, beckoning her closer with his blue-violet stare, not missing the redhead’s protests. He felt victorious when Elsa ignored the warning, but surprised that he hadn’t needed to influence her in any way. She came to him of her own free will. He could have clouded her mind and willed her to do what he wanted, but it wasn’t necessary. He’d never had trouble getting women to approach him, but this one was untouched and he was certain this behavior was abnormal for her. His suspicion was confirmed when the redhead’s thoughts came through to him, and he felt a wave of smugness over his ability to lure a woman to his side without using his power.

Elsa was oblivious to everything except the handsome man in the car. Her breath caught in her throat when she set eyes on him for the first time. Tanya’s warning rang at the edge of her consciousness, but she shook her friend’s hand off and ignored her questions. Oddly enough, she felt no apprehension as she stepped up to the car and leaned down to the open window.

Lucas watched the redhead reach for Elsa again and his eyes flicked to Jason with an unspoken command before settling back on the untouched beauty just inches from his hand.

Jason nodded at Lucas, knowing exactly what he wanted, and got out of the opposite door just as Tanya moved to draw Elsa back.

Lucas’ hand came up and stroked Elsa’s cheek, his blue-violet gaze locked on her emerald eyes. So beautiful…

His mouth was doused with another wash of saliva and his throat burned to taste her, but he fought desperately to control it. Centuries of experience gave him some semblance of self-control, even around a rare creature such as this. It didn’t help that he was hungry, though―very desperately hungry. Her warm, soft skin felt like new spun silk. The thought of her naked against him made him lustfully carnal. Fuck, now he was hungry and aroused. He would have to make this introduction short.

H—How do you know my name? She turned her face into his hand and closed her eyes against his caress. This man, his touch, was absolutely wonderful―all her worries seemed to melt away as he caressed her cheek. He smelled incredible, but she couldn’t quite describe it in words. Every time she thought she had the scent pegged, she inhaled deeply and it seemed to change into something more intoxicating. The man seemed familiar to her somehow, although she knew she’d never met him before in her life. Was that why she walked up to him without any fear? Her question vanished from her mind when he smiled.

Lucas didn’t smile often, but he couldn’t help but feel smug at her reaction to him. She didn’t seem to need an answer to her question and appeared to have forgotten that she’d even asked it. The waves of emotion that he’d followed to her were now a steady pulse of attraction, which was nearly impossible for him to resist. Regardless, he needed to fight it; he had plans for tonight. He was after another’s blood.

Lucas heard the driver shift uncomfortably in his seat. Yes, it was time they go. He could stay, but he needed to deal with his hunger. Her innocent blood didn’t help the situation. It took every iota of his willpower to resist luring her into the car so he could sample the treasure pumping through her veins.

As hungry as he was, he knew he wouldn’t stop and thus would end up killing her. What a horrific thought, to destroy such a rare, beautiful woman―someone who was able to summon him with such force and not have a clue about her power. What gave her that ability? The question would haunt him until he found the truth.

Without taking his eyes off the stunning creature in front of him, he sent the thought to his protector, who had made his way around the side of the car to block the redhead from interfering again. Lucas traced a finger across Elsa’s full bottom lip. It was as soft as a petal on a rose. Swallowing another rush of saliva, he wondered what the rest of her felt like.

Sighing heavily, he knew he had to leave. It was disappointing that he had another engagement that couldn’t be put off, but that might prevent any tragedy from marring his time with this woman. I will see you later, Elsa, he silently promised. He had touched her. She would be easy to find now that her mental scent was imprinted on him.

Jason got back in the car and Lucas reluctantly tore his gaze and his hand away from Elsa, telling the driver, We must leave now. The car began to pull away. As the tinted window rolled up, Lucas kept his eyes on Elsa’s until the darkened glass cut off their visual connection.

Well… Jason stared at Lucas, a small smile appearing on his handsome face as the car pulled away. That explains a lot.

Lucas nodded. To say the least, he said evenly.

CHAPTER THREE

TANYA WAS FROZEN in place by sheer terror. When Elsa ignored her warning, she moved to pull her back a second time. A soft click sounded as the passenger door on the other side of the limo opened, momentarily distracting her. A devilishly handsome blond got out of the car and locked his dark, icy stare on her. His lips were pulled into a smile but his eyes were devoid of any amusement.

She felt a terrifying, prickly sensation creep up her spine. Someone’s walking on your grave, her grandmother used to say when that feeling would strike Tanya as a child. A wave of helplessness and terror washed over her. She tried to run, but found herself unable to move. Those eyes—she couldn’t tear her gaze away from them. She tried to scream, but only a brief whimper escaped from her lips. Her legs felt numb and she thought she would crumple where she stood.

She couldn’t take her eyes off the blond man as he strolled casually around the car and moved directly in front of her—towering over her five-foot-eight frame. She managed another small sound as his hand came up and caressed a strand of her auburn hair, his cold gaze never leaving her eyes.

Jason could smell the fear radiating from of her. Unfortunately for her, fear excited and attracted him She was desperately trying to fight it, though. He spared a glance at Elsa, who was captivated by Lucas. She was fighting it so she could protect her friend. Admirable. This one was impressive in her own right.

He glanced around; no one seemed to think the scene looked suspicious. A few people passed them on their way into the house, but it looked as though they were just having a friendly discussion. The blond woman standing nearby was too captivated by Lucas to notice that he’d left the car.

Turning his attention back to Tanya, Jason leaned close to her and smelled the lock of hair in his hand. Her eyes widened, but then he heard Lucas summon him back to the car. His lips brushed the lobe of the redhead’s ear. "You will not remember me," he said with a deep softness, forcing her senses to absorb it as her own thought. He then turned and obeyed Lucas, getting back inside the car. Then they were gone.

A full minute passed before someone spoke; it was Linda. I think I’m in love.

Tanya couldn’t shake the fear that she’d developed, though she didn’t know why she felt it. Was it because the man who’d touched Elsa was a stranger and Elsa didn’t think twice about walking up to him? She knew Elsa was naïve, but anyone else would have erred on the side of caution. I don’t like the feeling I got from him. It wasn’t just him, it was the whole situation, but she couldn’t explain her feelings even to herself. Then she noticed Elsa hadn’t spoken at all. Elsa, are you okay?

Elsa didn’t answer her. She was rooted in place, staring at the corner around which the car had disappeared.

I loved the feeling I got and I certainly wouldn’t mind doing a little feeling of my own. Linda made an overdramatic gesture and fanned her face with her hand.

Tanya ignored her. Elsa?

Yes? Elsa finally responded, her eyes still fixed on the corner.

What is the matter with you? Tanya grabbed