“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
With a few flutters of her eyelashes over azure eyes and the upturn of lips, she hoped he might mellow and be less angry with the earlier comment. Now was the time to turn on female charms. Years since practicing the art of dating ritual tactics, not that she ever was an expert, she wasn’t sure if the female human mystique even worked on vampires. Hell, this was the first vampire she even met and totally out of her realm of expertise. He is cute though. Can a vampire be considered cute? Her gaze swept the bar behind Gregori, any direction except at this beguiling vampire. Then she took another sip of wine to continue the distraction. At this rate of drinking, she thought, someone might have to drive her home. What the hell am I doing with this…this man, ‘er vampire? Oh good golly, am I flirting? I’m too old to flirt. Another shiver ran down her spine. Fear or arousal, she couldn’t tell.
He snickered. “You’re making that up, right?”
“What? Oh you mean my name. No. No, my name is Candi Hartz. And don’t look at me like that. It’s not a stage name. I’m not a…you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“An exotic dancer. Stripper. I’m too old and not good looking enough for the job.”
Leaning closer, he said, “Okay, this is obviously your first time and you’re nervous. How about I call you, hmm, Katje.”
The word rolled off his tongue with such ease. Did he call all his female human prey pet names before he did whatever vampires do? “Huh, what is that a foreign word for a scared little cat?”
He laughed. “Not quite, but close enough. You are very funny.” He ran fingers across his cheek. “I asked you before but you didn’t answer. What brought you here, Katje? The sex or a fix?”
What? He thinks I’m here for sex or drugs? She slowly turned to look at the vampire named Gregori. “Uh, neither actually.” She looked away, scanning the room for any sign of Ethan. Nothing. But she couldn’t take her eyes off the man, ‘er vampire. Cute didn’t quite describe him, gorgeous did. When he smiled two deep dimples appeared on either side of his upturned mouth, just like the hero in her last novel, Tomas, her flamboyant flamenco dancer. But, Gregori didn’t hail from Spain or wear bolero jackets, that fact she could make bank on. His chiseled features, pallid skin, and long hair that fell to the shoulders reminded her of the Spaniard though. Gregori’s silky black mane could pass as almost blue being so dark and the color complemented the eyes of silvery gray. Oh those eyes, they were sharp enough to pierce steel with a single glance and were set in a face of classical beauty. Good golly, he smells delicious too. Fresh and cool like vanilla…and what is that other scent? I know it. What is it? Like a forest. No, a fresh-cut Christmas tree. Yeah, that’s it. Hmm, nice. She sighed and slightly slumped in the seat.
“So what other reasons would there be to show up to a vampire bondage and submission dungeon scared half out of your wits if not for sex or blood?”
Sex or blood? A fix is blood? Oh good golly vampires, of course. Hit me with the stupid stick again! Did he say bondage and submission dungeon? Vampires yes, bondage no, no, no. Continuing to scan the club, she answered matter-of-factly to retain composure, “Research and you.” Lying, she considered the statement harmless, a little white lie. She really did need to do research, not necessarily specifically on Gregori Van Zant though.
Sheena returned with Gregori’s drink and placed the snifter on the table. “Anything else Master Gregori?”
“Would you like another wine, Katje?” he asked.
“What’s that you’re drinking? A strange color for cognac or is it brandy?” She leaned over to take a closer peek at the liquor in the glass snifter.
Gregori’s brow crinkled. “I’m impressed. Yes, it’s our house special, a special blend made from Cognac Paradis laced with blood. Vampire blood. A taste perhaps?” He lifted the snifter toward her.
What? “Umm, I don’t think so. I tried cognac once and it didn’t sit well. It’s definitely an acquired taste for those with an iron palate especially if, um, blood is in the mixture. I think I’ll stick to the white wine, thank you very much.” She righted herself in the seat.
“Another white wine, it is,” Sheena said, winking at Gregori as she turned to leave.
Gregori’s smoldering silvery grey gaze pinned Candi’s attention. “Why are you researching me? Who are you really? You don’t exactly look like a bounty hunter or even a newspaper reporter.”
“Aren’t you a smart vampire? What can you do, read my mind?”
“As a matter of fact, I can.”
What? She glared at him and swallowed hard. Is he kidding?
“Well, you need to stop doing that. Didn’t your mother tell you it’s not polite to spy on people?”
“My mother died when I turned two years old. I don’t really remember her.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I-I didn’t mean…”
“It’s all right. It happened a long time ago.”
They sat in silence for a few long painful moments.
Sheena returned with the wine.
“Thanks Sheena,” Candi said and smiled.
“By the way, I’m not kidding. A woody blend of pine needles and patchouli. I think that’s what is written on the cologne bottle.”
Candi’s brow crinkled. “Huh? Pine needles and patchouli?” A tingly, warm sensation rippled across her skin. What? What is this guy doing to me?
“You couldn’t figure out what the other scent I’m wearing. It’s vanilla, pine needles and patchouli. Do you like it?” He gave a wicked, boyish grin.
Gregori pushed open the door to his bedroom and carried Candi across the darkened room to the bed. He eased her down at the foot of the four-poster bed and took a step back. “Undress,” he commanded. His voice low and velvety. He smiled, seeing rebellion cross her expression. Standing back, he crossed his arms. When he flashed a wicked smile, she dropped her head in compliance.
Through narrowed eyes, he cast his eyes on her with strong intent as she untied the twists and wraps of the dress. The fluid pink-colored fabric cascaded down her shoulders, over her hips, and pooled at her feet, leaving her in stilettos, bra, and lace thong. Trembling before him, either from fear or anticipation, he wasn’t sure. The thumping heartbeat picked up pace and he suspected the latter. She may be nervous, but he sensed the arousal.
Slivers of moonlight filtered through the slats of the plantation shutters on the Palladian windows, painting her creamy flesh with silvery light, an incandescent glow glistened in an aura around her. The beast within him became aroused, demanding release. The vision of her beauty both startled as well as summoned. She looked like an angel standing in the dark, wearing bra, panties, and sinfully sexy high heels. Fuck, I’m so screwed!
With a slight cough, he cleared his throat; he spoke with control and domination in his tone. “I stated this downstairs, but I’ll tell you again. In the bedroom, I am your ‘Master’ and you will address me as such. You can call me ‘Sir’ as well, but nothing else is permitted and if you disobey, you will be punished. Do you understand?”
“Y-yes, sir,” her voice squeaked out.
“Good girl. So, Katje, do you like the dark or light?”
“I don’t understand what you’re asking, sir.”
“Do you like to fuck in the dark or have the lights on?”
“I, uh, don’t care, sir. Whatever you want.”
“Katje, I didn’t ask what you think I want. What do you want? Answer me with the truth.”
“I-I prefer the dark. It’s better not to see.”
He wondered why she preferred the dark. Was she self-conscious of her skills or body? Both? Didn’t she know she was a beautiful woman, lush curves, and soft flesh to mold his hands around, and kiss forever? Again, the beast within begged for release, but he pushed the demon down. Tonight he wanted to test, not frighten her. “Katje, we’ll stay in the moonlight for now and we shall discern how you like being restrained…as I touch you.” He took a step toward her, lithe and predatory. His fingers wrapped around her wrists, pinning her hands with one hand, he held them behind her back as he cupped her cheek with his other hand.
He captured her mouth, hard and passionately, like he’d kissed and savored the taste of her lips for the first time. Their tongues fluttered and surged one against the other. She struggled to free her hands, only she couldn’t, he tightened his grip preventing any movement. With the heat of her arousal tugging at his own, he tapped into her mind. The thoughts of shock from his restraint overwhelmed her, confused by the desire to continue. His mouth moved down the side of her neck, teeth scraping gently on the skin at the pulse point, giving her goose bumps. Oh, the call of her hot blood burns in my veins. Such a delicate morsel, this one is.
Again, she tried to move. And again, his fingers held her in place. The scent of her arousal enticed his nostrils. Sliding his free hand down her abdomen to her thigh, her body twitched. When he reached the mound between her legs, she gasped in his ear. The flood of her juices confirmed all the evidence of the depth of her arousal as her scent enveloped his senses. As he guided her back onto the bed, he lifted her onto the soft mattress. Her breathing quickened as she came to rest at the edge. Raising her hips, he slipped the tiny thong down her legs and tossed it aside. Standing straight, he pulled the black turtleneck sweater over his head, and revealed a broad, muscled chest, tapering down to the corrugated leanness of his flat abdomen. Realizing her thoughts were still confused despite her body’s arousal, he slowed the pace. “Katje, first of all, this time between us is for pleasure. I may be your master tonight, but trust me to know how to give you the pleasure you deserve. Can you do that?” His eyes were intent, knowing they glowed red in the semi-blackness of the room.
She nodded. “You won’t spank me…or take my blood…or anything that hurts, right?”
“No, Katje.” He stroked a finger down her cheek. “Any physical punishment I hand out will be for another time, but only if you disobey. I take no pleasure in hurting you. I will tell you this, the pain enhances the pleasure.”
Her muscles relaxed beneath his hold. “Okay, you’re saying I’d ask you to punish me for my pleasure?”
“Yes, pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin.”
“I-I can’t believe they’re the same.”
“You’ll come to learn, mijn schat. Pain sometimes is necessary to free you from the chains you put on yourself. Tonight is purely for pleasure, forget everything else. Your body will yield to me and your surge in desire will come around to wanting more. But if you become too frightened or are somehow in unbearable pain, you say the safe word…Pink.” He shook his head, and continued, “If you use your word, everything between us will stop, so don’t use it unless you need to quit our play. I will be exploring your limits. You have to trust, I will keep you safe.”
Her body relaxed as his eyes met hers. His Kitten realized she had a way out and the understanding of the situation, the acknowledgement he wanted. Pleased with t