Single White Vampire
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She hadn't fainted. She'd come awfully close, though, Kate admitted to herself as she showered the next morning. It was a good thing that she was young and healthy; otherwise these passionate encounters quite possibly might have killed her.
Smiling, she turned into the water and let it wash the lathered soap away. Lucern was better than chocolate. As a child, Kate had once asked her mother how she would know she was in love. Her mother had said she would know she was in love when she would be willing to give up chocolate forever to be with that person for even an hour. Kate, a dedicated and hopeless chocoholic, had decided right then that she would never fall in love. She had been sure that no male was worth such privation.
Lucern was worth giving up chocolate. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolateshe would happily give it all up for him. But her grin quickly faded.
She doubted she would ever be given a choice.
Sighing, she turned off the shower and stepped out onto the small towel she had laid on the floor. She snatched one of the large bath towels from the rack to dry off, then paused as she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Letting her towel drop away, she stared at her reflection.
Her body was a mass of bites. There were very few places that Lucern hadn't marked her. And every bite had been bliss. Anywhere there was a vein, and some places there weren't, her body was marked. These marks should hurt now that she wasn't caught up in passion and Lucern wasn't infusing her mind with his pleasure, but they didn't.
Kate ran her fingers over a set on her shoulder and shuddered as she recalled Lucern biting her there as he drove into her. Her body immediately flared to life, yearning for Lucern again.
"Dear God, I'm a junkie," she breathed, letting her hand drop. Worse, she was a junkie who was about to lose her fix. This was Sunday, the last day of the conference. There was a tea in the afternoon and a farewell party that night, but those were the only functions scheduled. There was to be no hospitality suite. Most of the attendees were leaving in the afternoon or evening. Some would even be flying home that morning.
Due to his "allergy to the sun" Kate had booked Lucern on a 4:30 flight back to Toronto, and herself and Chris on a 5:30 flight back to New York. That way, they could see him off and still get back to their respective homes early enough to unpack and relax tonight before going back to work in the office tomorrow.
How long did that leave her with him? she wondered. She had woken up at six a.m. and considered crawling onto Lucern, waking him up with a smile, but had come in here to take a shower first. By her guess it was maybe 6:15 or 6:30. That meant she had about ten hours left. Her mouth went dry. Ten hours. Ten hours and then
Her eyes were suddenly blurry, her heart aching.
Kate brushed away her tears with a disgusted swipe of her fingers. Jesus, what was the matter with her? So they had great sex. She hadn't done anything stupid like fall in love or anything, she told herself.
But she was lying. It wasn't just great sex. She'd fallen for the big lug. Cripes. She wasn't the sort to break the law and rob a blood bank for just any writer. She thought the world of Jodi, but she wouldn't have done it for her. And she wouldn't have offered Jodi her wrist for a little breakfast nibble either. Yep, she'd fallen for Lucern. Hard.
How had this happened? When had it happened? Obviously before breakfast on Wednesday. Maybe when Luc had proven he was a man of his word by actually showing up at the conference. No, more likely before she'd ever left Toronto. She was honest enough to admitat least, to herselfthat she hadn't been able to get the man out of her head during the month between meeting Lucern and seeing him again. She'd taken great joy in reserving his room, registering him at the conference, and choosing and ordering all of his costumes. She'd even dreamt about himhot, sweaty dreams like the one she'd enjoyed in his home.
Dear God, she was an idiot. She should have realized. She should have recognized her feelings and stayed away from him. She might have gotten over him in time if she had. No. Now that she had seen his soft side, watched him handle his fans with infinite patience and kindness, smiled and laughed with him and enjoyed the ecstasy only he could give her
Kate began to cry. Big fat tears rolled down her cheeks. Their reflection in the mirror terrified her. She was afraid she would react the same way at the airport, crying like a baby when she had to say goodbye. Her heart would be on her sleeve, bleeding for him. Lucern would be embarrassed and disgusted. Modern women were supposed to be able to handle such things. They were supposed to embark on affairs with insouciance, then shrug and move on when they ended.
Kate's heart, ever hopeful, suggested that perhaps this was more than an affair to Lucern, too. She viciously squelched that hope. Luc had never spoken of feelings for her, not even liking. And, as painful as it was to admit, she feared she was just a pleasant meal to the man. He couldn't control her mind to bite her; he had to impassion her. And he had impassioned her. Yet the reason for it was plain to see. He was using her. They had shared passionate moments the night he arrived and the morning after, when he had needed blood. Then they'd avoided it again until after the attack by a fan's husband, when Lucern had again found himself in need.
She was just supper to Lucern. Which was humiliating. But even more shameful was the fact that, if that was her only value to him, Kate wasn't sure she wouldn't offer herself on the menu for the rest of her life just to be near him.
She closed her eyes and hugged herself. She couldn't face Lucern again. She couldn't risk shaming herself that way. And if he rejected her
No. She couldn't risk seeing him again.
Lucern rolled onto his side and felt around for Kate, but his hand encountered an empty bed. Scowling, he opened an eye and glared through the darkness. She wasn't there. Forcing himself to sit up, he peered around the room. The damned woman had gotten up and left him alone in bed. He wasn't finished with her yet. He intended to keep her busy in bed all day. He didn't give a damn about her schedule. This was their last day together, and he planned on making the most of it.
Shoving the blankets aside, he slid out of bed and marched to the bathroom. Kate wasn't there. His gaze went to the bedside clock. It was a little after 7:30. The only reason the room was dark was because of the blanket he had hung over the blinds on the windows. Turning away from the bed, he jerked his door open and stalked out of his room.
Chris was sitting on the couch watching cartoons. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.
"Oh, geez!" The editor rolled his eyes at Lucern's nudity and turned back to the TV. "Will you go put some damned clothes on? Man! I Why am I getting a sense of dij` vu here? I've never seen you naked before." He turned a suspicious glance Lucern's way. "Have I?"
Lucern ignored the question. He'd blanked Chris's memory of the other morning, but he had no intention of telling the editor that. However, he also couldn't march into Kate's room like this without revealing the nature of his relationship with her, possibly making her very upset with him. Unless he controlled her friend's mind again.
You're watching television, Chris. You don't see me.
"I don't see you." Keyes turned back to the television.
Lucern continued on to Kate's door and thrust it open. Her room was tidy and full of sunlight. The blinds were wide open. Lucern quickly pulled the door closed, then just stood there. He had seen enough to know that the room was empty. The glimpse he had gotten of the closet was enough to make his heart drop into his feet. The closet doors had been wide open, revealing an empty curtain rod and no luggage.
Lucern returned to the living room and whirled toward Chris. Releasing the man's mind, as he barked, "Where is she?"
Chris turned his head slowly. "Why are you naked?"
"Dammit, Chris, where is Kate? Her stuff is gone."
"Oh." Discomfort flickered on the editor's face. "She had an emergency. She had to leave. She asked me to keep an eye on you today and see you to your flight tonight."
It didn't take a mind reader to know Chris was lying; the way his eyes dipped to the side to avoid Lucern's gave him away. Lucern felt as if he had just been gut-punched. "Kate left?"
"Yeah. Like I said, she had an emergency." Chris turned back to the television, but a flush was rising on his neck. He wasn't comfortable lying.
Lucern's mind raced. "How long ago did she leave?"
"Er well, about half an hour, I guess. She woke me up. Her flight is at eight and she had to get through security and everything. She wasn't sure she'd make it on time."
Lucern wasn't listening. He had already run into his room and begun dragging on clothes from the night before. Re-donning his tuxedo pants and dress shirt, he snatched up his wallet and ran out of his room.
He ran straight out his bedroom door into the hall, rather than waste time moving through the shared living room. Fortunately, there were no resourceful fans hanging abouthe would have plowed right over them. He ran to the elevator, waited impatiently for it to arrive, then waited even more impatiently for it to descend the twenty-some floors to the lobby. Everything was awash in sunlight when he hurried out of the elevator. Lucern winced and pulled his collar up to protect as much skin as he could, but otherwise he ignored it and hurried out to the row of cabs lining the front of the hotel. He leapt into the first open one and immediately took control of the driver's mind, urging him to ignore the speed limit and just go to the airport.
Even so, with traffic, it was 7:56 when he arrived. He still had to find the gate her flight was leaving from. He prayed Kate's flight would leave late. They often did, he remembered hearing. With one eye on his wrist-watch, he hurried to the information counter and had the woman look up Kate's name. A little mental nudge from him made sure she didn't hesitate. Then he was running through the airport, jostling people and pushing them out of the way, and mind-nudging security guards. It was 8:02 when he reached Kate's gatejust in time to see her plane taxiing away. Luc stopped short at the door and stood, staring at the aircraft, his shoulders slumping.
Lucern turned slowly, his eyes taking in Lady Barrow's smiling face. Her eyebrows flew up at his dismayed expression.
"Why, whatever is the matter?" she asked with concern. "You look as if you've just lost your best friend in the world." Her words faded into silence as she peered from Lucern to the plane taxiing out of sight. "Oh. I saw your editor before she left."
Lucern's expression sharpened. "You did? Chris said she had an emergency back in New York."
"Hmm." Lady Barrow didn't look convinced. "Well, then, there appear to be a lot of those right now. We had one as well. I had to send the editor of my magazine home early to take care of a problem, too. She's on that flight as well."
Her gaze drifted to the plane again, and she and Luc watched it taxi around the building and out of sight. The woman sighed. "Well, you could probably use a ride. I'll give you a lift back to the hotel, so you needn't look for a taxi."
Lucern stiffened when she slid her arm through his. He really didn't want to ride back with her. He had no desire to talk to anyone at the moment, and was feeling rather raw and weary. Unfortunately, Kate wasn't the only woman with a strong mind; the thoughts he tried to put into Lady Barrow's brain obviously had no effect. Rather than drop his arm and leave him to stew in his misery as he wished, she began to tug Luc along the concourse toward the exit.
"Have you enjoyed your first Romantic Times Conference, Mr. Amirault?"
"Luc," he muttered almost sulkily. Then scowled. "No. Yes. No."
"Ah-ha." She didn't seem the least surprised at his confusion. In fact, she translated his feelings for him nicely. "I gather you were a bit overwhelmed andadded to thatunder the weather at first. You began to enjoy yourself after the first day or so, but are now wishing us all to hell and back."
Luc turned a startled glance to her, and she gave him a knowing smile laced with understanding. "Watch your head."
He blinked at those words, then realized they were standing beside a limousine with blackened windows. He watched her slip into the car, then followed and closed the door after him with relief. At least he wouldn't have to worry about the sun on the way back.
"You look a little pale today," Lady Barrow commented, opening the door of a small refrigerator for him to see its contents. "Would you like a drink?"
Lucern's gaze slid over the bottled water, cans of pop and juice inside, then shifted to Lady Barrow's throat. He could use a pick-me-up, a quick nibble until he got back to the hotel and his last bag of blood. He'd been saving it for this morning and was now glad he had. He shouldn't have gone out in the sun.
"Luc?" the woman queried softly.
Lucern sighed and shook his head. He couldn't bite Lady Barrow without permission. She was far too nice a woman for that. He'd bite Chris instead. The editor deserved it for lying and not telling him at once that
Kate had left. Those few extra minutes might have gotten him to the airport in time to stop her.
"Well, I think you could use a drink," Lady Barrow said. He heard a clinking and the sound of liquid pouring, and he turned to see Kathryn Falk mixing two glasses of orange juice and champagne. She held one out and asked, "Did you have a spat, or is she running scared?"
Lucern just stared at her agape.
She smiled. "The sparks have been flying off of you two all week. And no one could miss how protective she was of you, or how protective you were of her."
Lucern accepted the morning cocktail. He downed it in one gulp, then handed the empty glass back. What Kathryn Falk said was true, unfortunately. But Lady Barrow couldn't know that the protectiveness on Kate's part had been purely professional in natureshe had promised to look after him and had fulfilled that promise beautifully. As for the sparks
Oh, well I do try to keep my writers happy, Luc.
Lucern's mouth tightened as Kate's words rang through his head. He didn't think she had faked all of her passion, or that she had done it as part of her job, but she had left him this morning as if none of it mattered. Or as if she feared he might take it to mean more than it did and cause an awkward scene or something. And he might very well have, he realized. He might have done something as foolish as ask her to come home to Toronto with him, or
His mind shied away from the "or." Lucern wasn't ready to admit his possible desire to spend an eternity with Kate. To laugh and cry and fight and make love with such passion for centuries. No, he wasn't ready for that.
A glass appeared before his face, which Lady Barrow had refilled for him. When he hesitated, she said, "She'll come to her senses, Luc. You're a handsome, gifted, successful man. Kate will come to her senses. She just needs time."
Lucern grunted and accepted the drink. "Time is something I have lots of."
The comment was to weigh heavily on Lucern's mind over the following weeks. He returned to the hotel with Lady Barrow, but didn't stay any longer than it took to pack his bags. He headed back to the airport and took the first available flight back to Toronto.
His house, his safe haven for some time, seemed cold and empty when he entered it. There was nothing there but memories. Kate sat on his couch, lecturing him about the importance of readers. She rushed anxiously to his side in the kitchen to exclaim over a head wound he didn't have. She laughed, did a little dance and gave him a high-five in his office. She moaned and writhed with passion in his guest-room bed, which he had pathetically taken to sleeping in. She haunted his mind, filling it nearly every moment of the day. But that was all she did.
Lucern got the Internet chat program she had requested he get, and he often exchanged instant messages with Lady Barrow, Jodi and some of the other writers he had met at the conference, but while he had Kate on his list of contacts, she never appeared online. Jodi seemed to think she was blocking everyone. He considered sending her an e-mail, but couldn't think what to say. Instead, he sat at his desk, listening to time tick by as he watched and waited for her to appear online. Time was something he had a lot of.
It was nearly two weeks before he grew tired of waiting and watching. In disgust one morning, he turned the chat program off and opened his word-processing program. He thought he would make his first attempt at a work of fiction. Instead, he found himself recounting the story of his first meeting with Kate, then everything that followed that meeting.
It was a cathartic experience writing the book, like being there and reliving each moment. He laughed at some of the events he hadn't found funny at the time, like his codpiece getting caught on the tablecloth, and his frantic attempt to get condoms. He didn't laugh at her leaving, so that's was where he stopped the story he had entitled simply Kate.
He put his last entry in the story some few weeks after he began, then pushed wearily to his feet. He felt a little lighter than he had upon leaving the conference, but not much. He was grateful he had met and spent time with Kate Leever. He would always carry her in his heart. But he was both sad and angry that she hadn't given them a chance to have more.
He switched off his computer, glancing angrily at the answering machine on his desk. Lissianna, who had insisted they all needed one since they usually slept during the day when most business was done, had bought the machines for everyone last year at Christmas. Lucern hadn't bothered to listen to his messages in the past, but he had since returning home. He'd kept hoping that Kate would call, even if just to ask when he would have another book done. But she hadn't called once. And none of the messages on the machine tonight were from her, either.
There was a message from his mother, and others from Lissianna, Bastien and Etienne. Lucern had been avoiding his family since returning from the conference, and while he knew they were worried about him, he didn't feel like talking. He didn't feel like talking to anyone, really, except for the people from the conference. He had met them all with Kate. Somehow, chatting to them over the computer made him feel closer to her. And sometimes Jodi or one of the other women had a bit of news about Kate that had made its way down the writers' grapevine. Nothing important though. She was editing so-and-so's book right now. She had rejected that model's book. She had a cold coming on. She had fought it off.
Lucern ignored the blinking light of his answering machine and headed for his bedroom. His stomach was cramping with hunger, and his body was achy with the need for blood, but it seemed like a lot of effort to go downstairs and raid the fridge. He didn't even have the energy to undress. Luc simply walked into his room and collapsed on the bed. He'd sleep for a while, he decided. A long while. He'd feed later.
The sun was just rising when Lucern fell asleep; it had long gone down when he woke up. And the aching that had nagged at him when he lay down was much worse. He had to feed. Rolling out of bed, he made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He drained two bags of blood while standing in front of the refrigerator, then took another back upstairs. The bag was nearly empty when he entered his officewhich was a good thing, since the sight of someone sitting at his desk startled him enough to spill the last few drops on the floor.
"Bastien." He glared at his brother. "What are you doing here?" He glanced at the computer screen and froze as he recognized the last chapter of Kate.
Bastien closed the word-processing program with a click, then offered an apologetic expression. "I am sorry, Lucern. I was worried about you. I just wanted to be sure you were all right. You have neglected to return calls from any of us, and won't visit or allow us to visit you. We were all worried, so I came to see what you were up to."
"When did you get here?"
Bastien hesitated, then admitted, "I came just after dawn."
"You've been here all day? What ?" The question died in his throat. He knew exactly what Bastien had been doing. His brother had read all the way through the story of Kate, he'd read every word to the last page. Luc's gaze narrowed on the younger man. "How did you know I would write it down?"
"You have always kept a journal, Lucat least since paper became easier to come by. You always wrote things down. I often wondered if you didn't do so as a way of distancing yourself from it all. Like you do by shutting yourself away here."
Lucern opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. Neither of them would believe his denial, so why waste the effort? Turning away, he walked over and slumped onto the couch. He was silent for a moment, then scowled and asked, "So, what do you think of my first work of fiction?"
Bastien's eyebrows rose, but he didn't call Lucern on the obvious lie. Instead he said, "I think it's a very poor attempt at a romance."
Lucern stiffened, affronted. "Why?"
"Well" Bastien began to play with the computer mouse on Lucern's desk. "For one thing, the guy's an idiot."
"What?" Lucern sat up straight.
"Well, sure." Bastien's lips twitched. "I mean, here's this all powerful, handsome, successful vampire writer, and he doesn't tell the girl he loves her. Heck, he doesn't even say he likes her."
Lucern scowled. "She left before he could. Besides, she didn't tell him, either."
"Well, no. But why should she? Most of the time the guy's such a surly jerk, she's probably afraid to." When Lucern merely glared at him, Bastien gave up all pretense. "You should have followed her, Luc."
"She wasn't interested. She was just doing her job."
"I'm quite sure her job description didn't include sleeping with you. Or letting you feed off of her."
"Bastien's right," a new voice said from the doorway.
Both men glanced over in surprise. Marguerite Argeneau looked at her sons, then entered the room and moved to sit beside Lucern. She took his hands in hers, stared sadly into his eyes and said, "You should go to her, Luc. You have waited six hundred years for Kate. Fight for her."
"I can't fight for her. There is nothing to fight. She has no dragons to slay."
"I didn't mean you should fight in that way," Marguerite said impatiently. "Besides, has that ever worked in the past? Gaining a woman's attention by slaying her dragons only makes her dependent. It isn't love, Lucern. That's why you never got the girl in the past. Kate doesn't need you to slay her dragons. Though she might welcome your help once in a while, she's strong enough to slay her own."
"Then she doesn't need me, does she?" he pointed out sadly.
"No. She doesn't need you," Marguerite agreed. "Which leaves her free to truly love you. And she does love you, Lucern. Don't let her go."
Lucern felt his heart skip with hope, then he asked warily, "How could you know she loves me?"
"She was half in love with you before she ever met you. She came to love you fully while here."
"How would you know?" Lucern persisted.
Marguerite sighed and admitted, "I read her mind."
He shook his head. "Her mind is too strong. You couldn't have read it. I couldn't."
"You couldn't read her mind because she was hiding it from you. Kate was attracted to you and afraid of it. As I said, she was half in love before she ever met you. That scared her. She closed her mind against it and therefore against you."
Luc shook his head. "How could she have been half in love with me? She didn't even know me."
"Your books, Lucern."
He shrugged impatiently. "Lots of women think they're in love with me thanks to those damn booksI saw them at that conference. They didn't know me at all."
Marguerite sighed. "Those women were attracted by your looks and success. Kate is different. She's your editor. She didn't believe in vampires, and wasn't smitten by your success. She fell for the real you. She recognized it from your writing."
When Luc looked doubtful, his mother made a tsking sound. "How could she not? You are just as surly and reclusive in real life as you were in the recounting of Etienne and Rachel's story or any of your other books. Your voice shone through. You were completely honest in those books, showing the good and the bad. In truth, you revealed more of yourself in your writing than you generally do in person, because you revealed your thoughts, which you usually keep hidden."
Lucern still didn't believe it.
Marguerite borrowed a page from his book and scowled furiously. "I am your mother, Lucern. You will trust me in this. I would never lead you astray."
"Not deliberately," he agreed. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Tears pooled in Marguerite's eyes, and Luc knew his mother wanted to banish the loss and sorrow from his past. "Trust me, son," she said. "Please. Don't give up your happiness so easily. Your father did that. He grew weary of life and gave up on it, and nothing I could say or do could bring back that spark. You were precariously close to following in his footsteps. I have been worrying about you for some time. But Kate's arrival shook you up and brought joy back to your life." She clasped his hand. "Lucern, it was as if you were reborn. You smiled and actually laughed again. Kate could give you so much you've misseda son or daughter, a companion, joy. Don't let your pride stand in the way."
Lucern stared at his mother, her words revolving in his head along with another woman's. The psychic at the conference had said something very similar.
"You had begun to weary of life," the woman had said. "It all seemed so hard, and the cruelties of man had begun to wear you down. But somethingno, not something, but someonesomeone has reinvigorated you. Made you feel it might be worth living again. That there is still joy to be had."
"Hold on to her. You will have to fight for her, but not in the way you are used to. Weapons and physical strength will do you no good in this battle. It is your own pride and fear you will have to fight. If you fail, your heart will shrivel in your chest, and you will die a lonely, bitter old man, regretting what you didn't do."
Lucern felt the skin on his neck prickle. His gaze slid to his mother, and he asked, "How do I fight for her, then?"