Her eyes seemed to be filled with an ancient knowing, and they glowed as if banked with a blue fire.

She looked otherworldly. Like a completely alien being. She is otherworldly...

"Do you want me?" she whispered on a frosty breath, leading him to a bed in the center of the room.

He'd never wanted anyone more. "I have to have you."

"Then take me, Murdoch."

He was about to give her his standard warning, that this was only for a night. He wouldn't be interested in more. But she pressed her chill lips to his, stunning him with the cold - and with the pleasure. Perfection. Delicious.

He lost track of what he'd been about to say.

As they kissed, he slipped her skimpy dress from her, then pressed her back on the bed. He tugged her panties down, left her heels on.

Sweeping his hands up her thighs, he spread her legs. Now that he could, he made a feast of her body for hours, licking her in secret places. Instead of her own fingers delving into her sex, his now thrust inside her.

He tormented her, first keeping her from coming, then forcing her to, over and over.

In his dream, he knew she'd never been with another man. He painstakingly prepared her body for his, determined to spare her pain as he claimed her virginity.

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When he'd been human, he'd never been interested in virgins. Back then, much was taboo in his conservative country. Deflowering a maid one never intended to marry was virtually blasphemous.

So why was he continuing with Daniela, positioning his h*ps between her pale thighs? Why was he kissing her soft br**sts, rubbing his face against them, sucking on those stiff ni**les? Did he want to be bound to her? One woman. For more than even a mortal lifetime. Possibly forever.

These thoughts left him when the head of his c**k found her wetness.

She softly cried, "Murdoch..." Lightning fractured the night, the thunder booming all around them.

With a groan, he slowly rolled his h*ps up, pressing the crown inside her untried body... the tightness, the connection.

When she gasped in his ear and made little whimpers of pleasure, he ran his mouth against her neck, licking her sweet skin, knowing he'd take her blood this night.

He rode her harder, faster, shocked when she met his frantic thrusts with a hidden strength. She dug her heels in to lift her hips, seating him even deeper inside her.

She told him she was about to come, and he was desperate to feel it.

Her sheath began squeezing his throbbing cock, and the power of her orgasm sent his seed climbing. The pressure would soon make him mindless. His c**k ached; his fangs ached. No amount of will could prevent him from bucking his h*ps to lose his se**n... or from piercing her neck.

With a yell, he sank his fangs into her tender flesh. And it was like coming home.

"Murdoch!"

He felt her crying out as her blood filled his mouth, coursing through every cell in his body.

Connection.

As the overwhelming urge to come inside her grew, he slammed his body between her legs. Growling against her neck, he began to ejaculate, spending so hard he knew she felt it inside her. Still sucking her blood, he flooded her womb.

Once he was spent at last, he collapsed atop her, releasing his bite. Afterward, as their hearts pounded, he couldn't seem to stop kissing her neck and murmuring praise in her ear. This new bond between them was like nothing he'd ever known.

Yet she began fading, disappearing from him.

"Murdoch, what's happening?" The fear in her eyes was like the night before - stark, filling him with dread.

"No! Daniela, don't go... "

A strange voice in his mind whispered, "How badly do you want her? What would you sacrifice?"

He woke to his own yelling, tracing to his feet. With her number still in his hand, he snatched up the phone, staring at one, then the other as he caught his breath.

He shook his head hard. What the hell was this? Like a spell on him, making him behave in ways he normally wouldn't.

Calm yourself. Think this through. You have bloodlust for her.

He couldn't control it. He acknowledged that. Yet he kept remembering his brother's contentment. Murdoch's mind seized on the rightness of being with Daniela in his dream.

Think, just think.... As he debated, he stalled, tracing to the kitchen to drink blood, though he had no appetite, then showering. He took time selecting which clothes he'd wear for the night - in case he decided to meet her again.

In the end, Murdoch found it impossible not to call her. To hell with it.

He was strangely nervous as he picked up the phone. After all, he'd never contacted a woman for an assignation. They'd always come to him.

He'd have to smooth-talk Daniela, since he'd left it so badly today. That wouldn't be a problem. He'd been called silver-tongued by more than one lover in the past.

Eight-six-seven-five-three-oh-nine -

"Kristoff wishes to see you," a male said from behind him.

He hastily disconnected the call, then cast a scowl over his shoulder. Lukyan, a Russian Forbearer, leaned negligently against the doorframe.

Murdoch didn't trust the former Cossack. Not bothering to hide his irritation, he said, "Can't it wait?"

"It's about your brother. You're to go to Blachmount."

"What about him?"

Lukyan's expression was studiously blank. "He's probably about to be executed."

CHAPTER 12

Danii had gotten into Val Hall undetected. Now I just have to get my things and get out.

Although a couple dozen Valkyrie lived here at any time, the manor was quiet this morning. Most were nocturnal, as was Danii usually - it was cooler that way.

Nix, the one half sister she wanted to see, was nowhere to be found.

Upstairs, Danii passed the most shaded chamber in Val Hall, belonging to Emmaline, her beloved niece. But she knew Emma would be asleep as well. It was day, and Emma was vampire. Or half one. No one knew who her vampire father was, and that information wasn't likely forthcoming, since her Valkyrie mother had died of sorrow decades ago.

Gentle Emma was the single vampire the Valkyrie accepted. Though a blood drinker, she was so timid that she made it easy to overlook the vampirism.

Emma was the exception; Murdoch was the rule. Just accept it. He almost bit you...

Danii reached her room, which was basically a giant freezer, and pushed open the heavy insulated door. A blast of arctic air and the comforting drone of refrigeration met her.

She lived at Val Hall year-round. But in the summer, even the meat locker - as her sisters called her room - was barely adequate for her needs.

There simply was no call for hundred-degree days.

Closing the door behind her, she gazed around the spacious area. She'd decorated it with frost, glazing the walls with it. Icicles dripped from the blades of the ceiling fan. Valances of ice capped her windows.