Authors: V. J. Devereaux
V. J. Devereaux
Published by the author as a member of the
Alexandria Publishing Group
Originally edited and published by Ellora’s Cave under the title Night Move. All rights released January 27, 2013, extensively rewritten and revised by the author)
Blood Bound - Copyright - 2013 Valerie Douglas
Cover art by The Cover Counts
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To Mateo, my friend, although we’ve never met, and the inspiration for Sasha
Nicholas walked into the darkened library, scanning the room for his cousin. He found Julian standing in the opened French doors staring out over the vineyards with his shoulder propped against the jamb. Beyond him Nico could see the grapevines on their supports tipped with the last gilded rays of the setting sun, brilliant in comparison to the darkness in the room around them. That warm light illuminated his cousin’s face and form as he stood brooding in the doorway, his dark head bowed a little.
Looking at him, Nico could almost understand the attraction that some men felt for another man, although that was not his way nor was it Julian’s.
His cousin was a tall, well-built man with a strong handsome face. As a boy Nico had thought him a giant, at least until he’d grown into his own height. He smiled a little at the memory, but his smile faded as he studied the man who was his cousin and closest friend.
The truth was that Julian was lonely and had been lonely for a long time. As was Nico.
Money, they’d found, could isolate one even in a crowd.
It didn’t help that circumstances had added a new weight to Julian’s shoulders. Nico couldn’t understand such unreasoning hate from those who didn’t know him or them.
Julian didn’t need to hear about that now, he needed a distraction.
He owed Julian a great deal, and would have done much to ease his worries. This was a small thing.
“Julian,” Nico said, and his cousin turned his head a little, his dark liquid eyes meeting Nico’s.
Giving a seemingly careless shrug, Nico said, “Where’s the harm? And there are advantages. You don’t actually have to talk to them, only look. Who would expect a man like you to use such a pedestrian method to meet someone? Give it a try, it might be fun. If nothing else we’ll kill an hour or two.”
He grinned at his cousin, who shook his head, but fought a smile of his own. As Nico had hoped.
Julian rolled his eyes at his cousin fondly. He knew that engaging grin of old. It had gotten the younger man out of trouble many a time. As it likely would now. He sighed, but worked hard at concealing a grin.
“What do you have to lose?” Nico added reasonably. “If you choose one, at the absolute worst you’ll have a pleasant meal with an attractive woman. Quelle horreur, cousin, what a terrible trial. Given the circumstances she’ll be unlikely to know you for who or what you truly are and so you won’t have to lie, you can simply relax and be yourself.”
Julian returned the look, and sighed.
The thought had its appeal, that was certain. It had been a long time since he’d been able to do even that much. The curse of money and the illusion of power.
Nico gestured and the remote computer mouse in his hand brought the large screen display above the fireplace to life.
Under normal circumstances Julian used the screen to display the financials of his various clients in a large enough format to see from anywhere in the room, a blessing of modern technology. He liked to pace while he thought.
Now the screen displayed the familiar logo of one of the more popular internet dating sites.
Lifting an eyebrow, Julian gave Nico a sardonic look. “Really?”
Nico shrugged carelessly. “You’ve tried everything else, Julian. To no success.”
That was true enough.
Julian had money, a great deal of it, and money changed everything. They’d both attended business occasions, society events and charity balls, but once it was known who Julian was the atmosphere inevitably changed. The lure of his money was simply too great.
Julian wished, suddenly and fiercely, that he could meet the one woman to whom it wouldn’t matter.
“You won’t meet someone like this anywhere else,” Nico said.
Julian straightened a little.
The image of a lovely woman appeared on the screen, the picture clearly professionally taken.
Her hair was a rich brown with paler highlights, and tumbled around an attractive face. By the look of her she was around thirty, perhaps a little older. Although younger women could be and were pleasant diversions only a rare few that age bothered to know much of the world around them. That was a necessity in Julian’s world. He needed someone who wouldn’t just grace his arm, but could also stand on her own in a room full of people with influence. She had to have confidence, even in unfamiliar circumstances, and yet he needed something else.
This woman also didn’t have the polished, practiced expression of indifference that most of the women they met wore like a mask. Or that predatory look he’d seen in the faces of so many in his own circle, a coldness he’d begun to hate.
He glanced at Nico, who knew him well and whose tastes were almost identical to his own. That wasn’t surprising considering their years together. Whether it was a matter of having been brought up together or simply an affinity they shared, it hardly mattered. They were much alike in many ways, including taste. And appearance. Although there were clear differences between them, many mistook them for brothers, as they were both tall, dark-haired, with strong features.
The woman on the screen did have a certain appeal. Her features were lovely, but there was something missing, but what it was Julian couldn’t quite put a finger on. There was a softness in that face. He wanted someone with strength, someone who would challenge him.
He sighed and shook his head. “No.”
With a shrug, Nico said, “She was only a possibility.”
He brought up the next one, but one look at her profile had them shaking their heads in astonishment, laughing.
The next few were attractive but more importantly Julian found he was enjoying this very strange ‘hunt’. He was somewhat amused by what the women said about themselves on some of the profiles, some by their clear intention, and sometimes not. For himself, he liked humor in his women, although so far none of those he’d seen really appealed to him.
Nico gestured at the screen and clicked the mouse.
The woman displayed the screen was a horse of a different color altogether.
Julian went still, transfixed.
“Well now,” Julian said, as he slowly walked toward the screen.
Perhaps some would have argued the point, but she was definitely attractive, her features classic, the shape of her eyes lovely. There was something else there, too, something in the look in her eye. Character. A touch of the hunter, a confidence and strength many of those he’d met and those they’d looked at had lacked.
Smothering a grin, Nico changed pages to display the woman’s profile information.
He’d done a little searching.
For a moment Julian went still, looking at the screen, and then he burst out laughing.
“How unlikely, and yet how perfect.”
Slowly, letting his grin show, Nico said, “Yes.”