Waiting until the door slammed shut behind the fleeing demon, Cezar regarded his mate with a stern expression. “Don’t you dare smile, Anna Randal. Someday I’m going to do the world a favor and have that pest stuffed and mounted.”

Her hand lifted to run her fingers through his hair, the simple caress enough to send a blaze of heat through his body. Of course, just the thought of Anna was enough to send a blaze of heat through his body.

He’d been blazing for her for two centuries.

“I don’t believe you for a minute, Conde Cezar,” she said, her voice low and filled with an unmistakable invitation. “I think you have a lot more bark than bite.”

His fangs lengthened, his erection so hard that he was relieved he was wearing nothing more than a pair of silk boxers.

“Dios,” he groaned, “don’t say such things.”

Pressing herself higher on the pillows, Anna allowed a wicked smile to curve her lips.

“Why not?”

His gaze instinctively lowered to drink in the beauty of her breasts, barely covered by the lacy white bra. When he’d taken off the sweatshirt and jeans earlier it had merely been to make her more comfortable. Now he silently applauded his decision for an entirely different reason.

“Because it makes me desire to do things that you are in no condition to enjoy.”

Her fingers tightened in his hair, relentlessly pulling him forward. “I think I should be allowed to decide what I do or don’t want to enjoy,” she husked.

“Anna,” Cezar protested, even as he readily allowed himself to be pulled onto the bed beside her.

The hazel eyes darkened, revealing a vulnerability that revved his protective instincts into overdrive.

“Just hold me, Cezar,” she said softly. “Hold me close.”

With a swift motion he had her wrapped in his arms, her head tucked beneath his chin.

“Always.” He buried his face in the satin of her honey hair, reveling in her heat as it soaked into his chilled body. “Ah, querida, I have felt more terror in the past few hours than I felt in the past five centuries combined. You are turning me into a very old vampire.”

She burrowed even closer, her hands smoothing over his chest in a comforting motion.

“No more. Morgana is gone.”

“Bueno,” he growled with relish. “I regret you were the one forced to kill the evil bitch, but I’m not sorry she’s dead.”

“She’s not dead. At least, not exactly.”

Cezar stiffened, his brows snapping together at the mere thought that Morgana might still be plotting to harm his mate.

“Not exactly?”

With obvious reluctance, Anna revealed what had occurred after being pulled into the portal with Morgana. Cezar didn’t need to be a vampire to know that she was deliberately skimming over the more terrifying details and downplaying her own role in capturing one of the most powerful women in the demon world.

Now didn’t seem the best time, however, to press her for details. Not when she was still battered and bruised from her battle. Instead he ran a comforting hand down her back as his lips touched the tender skin of her temple.

“So her spirit is trapped in the emerald that is now being held by Arthur?” he murmured, unable to disguise his dark satisfaction. The thought of Morgana being trapped for an eternity was even better than a swift death.


“A fitting end.”

Anna shuddered. “I suppose.”

Shifting on the bed, Cezar put a finger beneath her chin and tilted her head up to meet his fierce gaze.

“Don’t feel sympathy for the woman,” he commanded. He wasn’t about to allow Anna to drown in a guilt that she hadn’t earned. “She would have happily slaughtered us all.”

“I know.” She grimaced. “I still wish…”


“That it could have been different.” She gave a restless shrug. “That she had been different. I’ve longed for a family for so many years and now when I finally find them they are either a raving lunatic or a ghost. Talk about dysfunctional.”

A slow smile curved Cezar’s lips. Despite the faint sadness in her voice, he sensed that she was beginning to make peace with her past.

“You’re wrong, querida.”

Her brows lifted. “I am?”

With a fluid movement, Cezar turned onto his back, tugging her warm, delicious body on top of him.

“Your family is a mate who will love you for all eternity; a vampire clan who will protect you with their very lives; a werewolf, a Shalott, and a goddess who adore you; and a very annoying gargoyle,” he murmured as he buried his face in the curve of her neck.

With a soft chuckle she shed the lingering regrets and regarded him with a wicked smile that made his hard body jerk in response.

“Now that is dysfunctional,” she murmured, straddling his aching erection as she bent down to brush her lips over his. “And wonderful. So very wonderful.”

The groan was wrenched from his throat as Cezar tried to think past the raw surge of need. “Querida, as much as I’m enjoying the feel of you in my arms, I beg you to hold still,” he rasped. “I may be a vampire, but merely having you near is enough to shatter any restraint I might possess. I’ve hungered for you for too long.”

Her mouth wreaked havoc as it traveled the line of his jaw, pausing to give his chin a sharp nip. Cezar muttered a curse as his body jerked and threatened to go up in flames.

“Who said I wanted you to be restrained?” she husked.

His fingers gripped her hips, a pained moan rumbling in his throat.

“Anna, you need to rest.”

His words of sanity were stolen as Anna gave a low growl and covered his lips with a kiss that sent jagged bolts of lightning through his body.

“What I need is you, Conde Cezar,” she muttered against his mouth, rocking her hips forward. “Just you.”

Cezar grimly held on to the last strand of sanity. “You’ve been injured…”

The strand snapped as she trailed her tongue down the curve of his neck, sprinkling hot, mind-numbing kisses over his chest. Dios. Vampires might possess the sort of self control that others might envy, but not even they were a match for a determined mate.

Especially not a mate bent on seduction.

The fingers that had been attempting to halt the sweet movements of her hips now trailed up the creamy skin of her back, swiftly dealing with the clasp of her bra, tugging the lacy garment away.

She shivered at his light touch, but she never faltered in her determined attack on his senses. Using her tongue and teeth she nibbled toward a hardened nipple, lavishing it with loving care before moving to the other and offering the same exquisite attention.

Cezar’s teeth clenched as his body bowed in sharp, brutal need.

“Ah…querida,” he groaned, drowning in her honeyed scent and the feel of her tongue as it trailed a searing path along the edge of his boxers. So close. So agonizingly close. “Your touch is magic.”

She chuckled as she nibbled the tip of him through the fine silk of his boxers. Cezar gave a low shout, his hands dropping from her body to grab at the cover beneath him. He was terrified he would bruise her tender skin.

Enjoying her power over him way too much, Anna took her time as she slid the boxers down his body. Even then she remained kneeling above him, drinking in the sight of his hard, straining erection with a smile teasing at her lips.

“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Cezar’s hands lifted. He was going to yank her downward and put an end to his torment. He needed to be inside her. Deep inside. But before he could do more than grasp her waist she was bending downward and…blessed saints, she was taking him into her mouth.

His eyes slid shut as his ragged moan filled the air.

Who knew that torture could feel so damn good?

Chapter 24

Over the next three days, Anna discovered the true pleasure of being a vampire’s mate. Never in her long existence had she been so pampered, so loved, so happy.

And it was more than just Cezar’s tender attentions, although they were enough to fill the heart of the most demanding woman. What female in her right mind wouldn’t adore having a mouthwatering, drop-dead gorgeous man indulging her every whim? It was the stuff of fantasy.

But there were also days spent shopping with Abby and Shay and Darcy, along with evenings surrounded by Viper’s clan, who readily treated her as one of their own.

This is what it was to have a family.

It was…astonishing.

Of course, for all her happiness, Anna knew that there was still something troubling Cezar.

He might be a master at hiding his emotions, but she was his mate. There was no way he could disguise his aching pain when he denied himself the temptation of her blood. Or the brooding fear she could occasionally sense deep in his heart.

That vague, annoying destiny that everyone and their freaking dog seemed to know about, except her.

Perhaps foolishly, Anna refused to dwell on the future.

If she had learned anything over the years, it was that these moments of contentment were all too rare. And all too fleeting.

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