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Lucan beat her to the door, putting out a hand and closing it with a small slam the moment she tried to open it.
"You are not leaving." He braced his other arm against the wall, cutting off her last escape route. "Turn around and look at me, Samantha. Only look."
Slowly she turned, a leaf on a mild breeze, her chin tucked in, her frame vibrating with some brittle emotion. "I'm flattered, Lucan, really, I am, but I'm not interested in you."
His gladiatrix, so determined never to surrender. "Is that why you dreamt of me?"
Her hazel eyes turned as green as dark emeralds when she was angry. "How did you know that? Are you some kind of hypnotist?"
"I dreamt of you. I feel the same things you feel. I know what you hide from the world." He tapped his chest. "We live in here, alone. No one gets close. That's why I know we were meant to be together."
"Together." She chuckled. "You and me."
He leaned closer. "Don't you want me?"
She stared at his mouth. "No."
"But you're not trembling with anger. Your heart isn't pounding with fear." Lucan reached out and traced the subtle curve of her narrow brow. "I have an indecently good sense of smell, you know, and I can smell you, Samantha. When you change your clothes tonight, you'll see the evidence, all wet and glistening and wasted." He dipped his head down far enough to make her flinch. "That is the most erotic perfume in the world, you know. The scent of an aroused female going wet between her legs."
"I'm a lesbian," she said flatly.
Lucan threw back his head and laughed. "No, you're not, dearest heart. However, I will tell you a secret. Whoever you've bedded in the past doesn't matter to me. Frankly I don't care if you've been keeping a herd of goats for your personal pleasure." He ran a finger along the open vee at the front of her collar. God, her skin was so soft and thin that it seemed to flow like water under his touch. "Soon they won't matter to you. No one else will. When you and I come together, you'll think only of me."
She abruptly shifted tactics by dropping her head and staring at his chest. "Why pick me? I'm not like Lena. There are fifty women standing outside who make me look like a dog. Seduce one of them; you'll have a better time."
Frances had been supremely confident in her power over men. Samantha, with her hidden arsenal of magnificent curves and the open challenge in her gemstone eyes, didn't even recognize her own.
"I prefer a battle." Lucan almost laughed when he felt the nudge of a barrel against his side. "Not that sort."
"You want to scare me? Not a chance." She raised her chin and glared at him. "I'm about to make your birth certificate a worthless document. Back off. Now."
An alien tenderness flooded him. "Oh, Samantha, don't be afraid of it. It's the price of this degree of wanting." He reached down and wrapped his hand around her weapon, not attempting to take it from her but keeping his big hand over hers. "If you fire this, you will ruin my jacket. I am expecting guests, you see, so I would rather you not."
"God, you're a cold-blooded bastard."
"More than you will ever know. Now there is something that I wish to discover. Are you incorruptible, Samantha?" He bent forward and let his hair brush her cheek as he murmured against her ear, "If you do not know, would you like to find out if you are?"
"I ought to haul your ass downtown." Without looking away from his eyes, she lowered the weapon and slid it back into her shoulder holster. His hand chased hers, catching her fingers and bringing them back up to his mouth. "Why me?" she asked again, utterly perplexed.
"Why not you?" Lucan felt annoyed at her continued resistance. This close, she should have responded at least a little to l'attrait. It was apparent now that he would have to ensnare her in the traditional manner. "Aside from your appearance, which seems to trouble you so."
"I'm a cop investigating two murders; you're my prime suspect," she reminded him. "Stacked against that, sex is not only inappropriate, it's meaningless."
"It isn't only the sex, which I daresay will bring new meaning to both our lives." He brushed his mouth over hers, a whisper of a kiss, and tugged the band on the end of her braid. "It's about getting under your skin." He wasn't particularly gentle about unwinding her hair, and saw how her eyes darkened. "Taking you somewhere that you've only imagined." He felt his fangs extend fully, and closed his arm around her waist. "Somewhere you never dared go with anyone else. You'll be safe with me, Samantha. I swear you will."
"You don't even know me," she muttered, staring at his mouth. "Quit playing vampire."
"I'm not playing."
Until she saw the fake fangs, Sam thought she was in serious trouble. There was just too much Lucan in too small a room and no way out.
Now the situation had gone from dire to ridiculous.
"I didn't come here for this," she said slowly, in case he was too drunk to understand her. He had been knocking back a lot of that wine. "Like I said, thanks for the compliment, but no."
"Then you should not have come here." Up close, his face was prettier, all smooth skin and beautiful shadows framed by that gorgeous silvery mane. She raised a hand to push him back. He caught it so fast she didn't see him move then, or when he kept her follow-through punch from breaking his nose. "Don't fight me."
Their hands met at the exact same moment—another shock, for her left hand opened and threaded her fingers in his. His hand felt wrong against her scar, cool and heavy and too hard, and when she tried to jerk free, he used their entwined fingers to hold her there.
There is something seriously wrong with this man, something babbled inside Sam's head as Lucan's pale eyes came level with hers. He hadn't bent over; he'd lifted her off her feet, pinning her against the door with his hips and their entwined hands.
She had met men to whom she'd felt an instant, irresistible attraction. This wasn't that. It felt too strong, too eerie. Being shot three times hadn't scared her this much, only there was no room to pull away, and if she stayed like this she might do something extremely stupid, like—
"Listen to me, Samantha," he said. "You want to, don't you?"
She had never thought of herself as the obedient type, but just like that, she wanted to. The idea of him snapping his fingers and her jumping should have disgusted her, but instead it thrilled her. Everything about him did, especially the heat of his big body and the way he smelled. Men who wore cologne usually repelled her, but they didn't smell like…
"Jasmine." She breathed in. "It's you. It's coming from you."
He muttered something that sounded like a curse in another language. Then he bent down, his mouth open, as if he meant to kiss her. But he wasn't aiming for her mouth. He forced her hand up, turning it until his breath touched the scar on her palm.
Lucan bit her.
For several moments the room went away. So did the world, and time, and all that was became Sam and Lucan, together in the darkness that was the universe.
Samantha opened her eyes. She was surrounded by beautiful women in long gowns in every color of the rainbow, and handsome men in old-fashioned suits with short jackets and frothy white lace spilling from their cuffs and collars. They spoke in low, cultured voices; now and then a woman would titter. No one seemed to mind that she was wearing her dress uniform.
"You should have gone into the military."
Lucan came to stand beside her, but he wasn't dressed like the other men. He looked as if he'd just come from a costume party. His costume was supposed to be that of a knight, Sam guessed, but he hadn't taken very good care of it. The metal gauntlets encasing his forearms were blackened and dented; he'd used too much fake blood on the rest of it. The center of the dingy white tunic he wore had been ripped, leaving a hole in the shape of a cross through which dull, dark chain mail showed through. From his shoulders hung a long, black cape dripping with blood and gore.
Sam smelled smoke and sweat and fury. "You should have taken a bath and gone to the dry cleaner's."
"What would be the point? I'll never be clean again." He tossed a huge sword, dripping with blood, onto the punch table, and drew a shorter dagger from a sheath strapped to his upper arm. "Give me your hand."
Sam tried to draw her gun. Out of her holster came a bunch of jasmine.
Lucan regarded the flowers the same way he might a weapon. "Why do you keep fighting me off? Are you going to be like Frances?"
Who's Frances? "I'm just trying to arrest you."
"You're nothing like her, you know. You're everything she might have been, if she had let me save her." With that, he drove the dagger through the center of his left hand.
"God damn it." Sam dropped the flowers and seized his wrist. "That was a silly-ass thing to do."
"So is this." Lucan jerked the dagger out and grabbed her wrist with his wounded hand, slicing the scarred palm open with the tip of the dagger before turning his hand and shoving his bloody fingers through hers.
Their wounded palms came together, bound by his grip and their blood.
Sam saw so many things at first that she nearly fainted. Oceans. Castles. Endless forests. Countries exotic and dismal. Palaces of gold. Ships of rotting timber. Horses. Islands. Black sands. Dark men and fair women. Kings. Beggars.
A golden cross covered in red and black jewels.
Night skies, a hundred, a thousand. Beyond them, something darker. Something worse than the infinite darkness of despair and death.
You've never been made to leave your homeland because of your curse, Samantha. I see why you've hidden it from the others for so long.
She turned around, smothered by the airless blackness, trying to find her way out and back to her reality and him. As soon as I stop hallucinating, you're going to jail.