Cezar grimaced. “In considerably better shape than you, I promise.”

“Thank God.” Anna gave a shake of her head. “She knocked him out and then she stabbed me with a knife that she said was hexed so I couldn’t heal.” Her eyes abruptly widened as she recalled the gaping wound in her stomach. Instinctively she reached beneath the covers, discovering she was attired in nothing more than a T-shirt and her underwear, and more importantly, that her stomach was smooth and perfectly healed. “How…how did you save me?”

There was nothing to read on the dark, beautiful face, but Anna easily sensed the sharp wariness that suddenly raced through him.

“I gave you my blood.”

“Oh.” Anna scooted up on the pillows, her gaze searching his guarded expression. “It broke the curse?”


Okay. Something was definitely up.

Folding her arms over her chest, she cocked her head to one side. “There’s something that you’re hiding, I can actually feel your tension. What aren’t you telling me, Cezar?”

His brows drew together before his lips twisted. “Dios. I hadn’t considered this side effect. It will take me a while to become accustomed.”

Side effect? That didn’t sound good.


He briefly closed his eyes before meeting her worried gaze. “You were dying, querida. I couldn’t bear to lose you. I had to do something.”

“I’m glad you did,” she said softly, not at all certain why he was so disturbed by the fact he had saved her life. “Despite my numerous years, I’m no more eager to die than anyone else.”

“The only means to save you was to give you my blood.”

She gave an impatient click of her tongue. What was this ridiculous obsession about giving her blood? Did he truly think she’d rather die than to drink the blood of a vampire?


“And…when you took my essence inside you it bonded me to you.”

She stilled in confusion. “What do you mean, bonded?”

He captured and held her gaze. “I am your mate.”

Chapter 17

Although Cezar had prepared himself for Anna’s shocked reaction, his heart still clenched with regret as she surged out of bed and began pacing the cramped room with obvious distress.

“I…I can’t believe this,” she muttered.

Dios. Would she ever forgive him?

Rising to his feet he crossed the room and grasped her shoulders to halt her jerky steps.

“Anna, listen to me,” he urged. “This changes nothing for you.”

“Nothing?” Her beautiful hazel eyes widened. “Being mated may mean nothing to you…”

“Nothing?” He gave a short, bitter laugh. “No, querida. I have waited for what seems an eternity to at last claim you as my own. To know that I am forever bound to you fills me with a joy that I have never known before. My life is complete.”

Her features slowly softened as his fierce words sank in. “But…” Her words cut off with a gasp as she at last caught sight of the scrolling that marked her inner arm from her wrist to the bend of her elbow. “Oh my God. My arm.”

“That is the proof of my bonding,” he hastily assured her. “It won’t harm you.”

She blinked, looking stunned.

The sort of look to be expected from a young woman who awoke to discover herself bonded to a vampire.

“Is it permanent?”

He struggled to hide the tidal wave of smug contentment at the knowledge that nothing could alter the fact he was forever bound as her mate. He was supposed to be sympathetic, not smirking with satisfaction.

“Utterly and completely permanent,” he said, unable to halt the instinct to shift his hand and stroke his fingers down her cheek.

“But you just said that it changed nothing.”

“What I meant was that you are not bound to me.” His thumb brushed the corner of her mouth. “The ceremony has not been completed. Until you accept me as your mate and allow me to take your blood you’re still…”


Cezar smiled, grimly refusing to reveal the jagged flare of pain that raced through him. The dark ache beneath his contentment was something that he’d have to become accustomed to.


She lowered her thick lashes, almost as if she were trying to hide her inner emotions.

“We both know that’s not true,” she said, her voice so low that he wouldn’t have heard the words if he hadn’t been a vampire.


“I’ve been very much attached for the past two centuries.”

A bolt of lightning shot through Cezar as he tugged her chin upward and studied her rueful expression.


Her eyes narrowed, a dangerous glitter stirring to life in the hazel eyes.

“Don’t try to act surprised,” she accused him. “You’ve known since I followed you to Chicago that I never managed to forget you.”

Amazement at her blunt confession swiftly altered to something far more wicked. When he’d first brought Anna to this secluded room, he had felt nothing but concern as he had stripped off her clothing and tucked her beneath the covers. Then there had been the unpleasant task of revealing that he had mated her while she lay unconscious.

Now, however, his body refused to be denied any longer.

He didn’t know why she wasn’t ready to kill him for mating her against her will. Or why she was actually admitting that she didn’t hate him. All he knew was that they were alone in the bedroom and for the moment they were safe.

And most wonderful of all, she was already half naked.

What more could a hungry vampire desire?

Cupping her cheek, he allowed his free hand to drift lightly down her arm.

“I did suspect that there was more than a desire for answers that prompted your swift arrival,” he husked. “You, however, accused me of being arrogant.”

“You are.”

He laughed softly, bending his head to run his lips down the curve of her neck. “True enough.”

Her hands reached out to grasp his arms, as if her knees were suddenly weak. “But unfortunately, you were quite right,” she whispered, her neck arching in silent invitation.

Cezar shuddered, his body aching with the need to sink his teeth deep in her flesh and taste of her blood.

Dios, he hungered for her.

Attempting to avoid temptation, Cezar turned his attention to stroking his lips over every inch of her face.

“Why unfortunately?” he demanded, lingering a moment on the sensitive hollow beneath her ear.

She gave a tiny gasp, her nails digging through his shirt. “Because I was supposed to be able to get my answers and return to L.A. with you at last buried in the past where you belonged.”

“Never the past,” he rasped, scooping her into his arms and heading for the bed. “Our futures are forever entwined.”

Laying her down on the mattress, Cezar stilled as her hand lifted to gently touch his cheek.

“Forever? You promise?”

His heart squeezed at the vulnerability in her eyes. Like him she had been isolated and alone for too long. She no longer trusted that fate would not snatch away any chance for happiness.

“I will do everything in my power to keep you close to me, querida,” he rasped, joining her on the bed and pulling her into his arms. He wanted to swear that he would never let her go. That the mating would ensure they would never be parted again. But so long as the Oracles considered her one of their own, he couldn’t make such promises. “You are, and always will be, my mate.”

His words seemed to comfort her and the hazel eyes flashed with something that might have been pleasure as she reached up to wrap her arms around his neck.

“Does that mean you have to do everything I say?”

He gave the lobe of her ear a punishing nip. “I specifically said mate, not slave.”

She deliberately allowed her fingers to trail down his back. “A pity. I think you might enjoy obeying me on occasion.”

Cezar lifted his head to meet the sensuous gaze. His entire body hardened in reaction, the coldness that had held him captive since becoming a vampire melting beneath the heat of her searing hazel eyes.

“On occasion, eh?” he demanded, his voice already thick with need. “What sort of occasion?”

Her smile was slow and exquisitely wicked. “Like this occasion.”

His already hard erection gave a painful throb. Dios. He might be a five-century-old vampire, but this woman had the power to make him feel as if every touch, every searing sensation, was something that he had never, ever experienced before.

And perhaps it was.

Anna was his destined mate.

The one woman who was so intimately entwined with him that her slightest emotion, the very beat of her heart, was echoed in him.

Certainly he could feel her desire like a wave of longing that crashed through him with shocking force.

He groaned as he lowered his head to bury his face in her hair, filling himself with her delectable scent.

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