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Authors: Denise K. Rago

Immortal Obsession

BOOK: Immortal Obsession
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Copyright © 2010 Denise K. Rago

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 145287753X

ISBN-13: 9781452877532
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-61550-824-2

Library of Congress Control Number: 2010907232

DEDICATION

For Marvin

Prologue—Paris 1790

T
HICK, BILLOWING SMOKE
filled the Louis XVI apartment as flames climbed the brocade drapes, spreading from the valance to the ceiling. Christian Du Mauré felt the eyes of his best friend, Michel Baptiste, on him from the doorway, as Christian hung on to his mortal lover, Josette Delacore. Christian had dreaded the inevitability of this moment since the night they had met when he had seen her walking along the Pont Neuf on the arm of the salacious vampire, Gaétan. Rumors had escalated about his new mortal mistress and there she was by his side, a dark beauty with a warm smile and a lilting laugh. Christian had not planned to fall in love with her, but that had been three years ago, and so much had changed in such a short time. Here they stood in her bedroom trying to say good-bye.

“We must go, Josette,” he yelled over the roaring fire, gesturing to Michel. He knew it was time, yet he hesitated, holding her tighter, feeling her sweat through her pale blue gown. She had grown thinner. He guessed she was not eating. Although they never spoke of it, they both knew the Delacores’ arrest and execution were imminent.

“I know.” Her muffled cries made his heart ache. “Despite what happens, I will always love you Christian. I could not convince Luc to leave here—”

He silenced her with another kiss. She was trembling, fighting hysteria as he held her tighter. He swallowed his own grief at the thought of never seeing her again, never making love to her right under her husband’s nose in this very bedroom. Soon it would all be ashes, and their love affair just a memory. The past few years now felt like moments.

“I have something you must take with you.” She pulled away from him, frantically searching under the mattress. He studied her angular face, surrounded by wavy brown hair falling to her shoulders.

It was hard to imagine never seeing her again.

“I gave her valise to the Meraux’s already.”

She continued groping under the mattress. “There’s just one more thing.”

“Josette, we must be on that ship by dawn,” he begged, watching the flames curl across the ceiling. He and Michel could survive accidents that would kill a mortal, such as Josette, but fire meant death to any vampire.

“Here, take this.” She handed him a small leather box that he recognized. “It’s all I have, but you will need it to pay for Solange’s care.”

Her emerald eyes looked past him at Michel who stood beside him now and for a moment she felt like a stranger. Christian was sure that something had just passed between his best friend and his lover but pride and time kept him from asking.

“Mon ami,” Michel whispered. “Hurry, before there is no way out for any of us.” He tugged on his best friend’s lace cuff, grievously watching the two of them.

“These were presents to you, my love.” Christian sighed, fighting back tears. It seemed only fitting that he should take her jewelry; the last vestige of their love affair as the reality of their parting covered him like a blanket.

“I have no more use for them. You, Michel, and Solange need them now. Hurry before you can’t get out.”

She had always been so strong. Rejecting Gaétan and coming to his bed had been an unimaginable act of defiance. The older, more powerful vampire had laughed it off, trying to hide his embarrassment at losing her to a younger rival, but Christian knew the cost of loving her. The growing disdain between the two vampires had become a bitter rivalry. Even Gabrielle, his lover and maker, resented losing his attention to a mortal aristocrat and would not protect him from the vengeful Gaétan. The Parisian vampires had become even further divided, mirroring the mortal world, and so it was time to leave Paris.

“Christian, we must go now.” Michel watched the flames spread across the wooden floor coming toward them.

Christian ignored him, though kissing Josette and holding her close seemed meaningless now, empty gestures for ineffable feelings. He looked once more at his mortal lover, framed against the luxurious bedroom they had shared, and tried to imagine his life without her, a time in the future when this would be a distant memory with no feelings attached to it. Perhaps that was the only way to survive the here and now.

“Solange?” She whispered, pulling at his arm. She tangled her fingers in a strand of his flowing blond hair and stared into his dark eyes. “I told Luc—”

“She’s already in London.” He smiled. “You have nothing to worry about, ever.”

“M’lady,” Michel whispered, brushing a strand of hair from her face. “Good-bye.”

Christian fought acknowledging the tenderness between them.

“Michel.” His name left her lips as if it pained her to say it aloud, and their eyes locked for the second time.

“Thank you for loving me,” Christian whispered, pulling her close for the last time. Her hair smelled like roses underneath all the smoke. He ran his hands through it, trying to savor the moment. He fought to release her, and then they were gone. He followed Michel out of her apartment and down into the streets of Paris as black smoke poured from the windows. The shrill of the crowd was deafening, and they found themselves face-to-face with an oncoming mob. Christian heard Michel curse as they ducked into the shadows of the Quai du Louvre and headed toward an alley that would lead them to a dirt path along the Seine. The air smelled of sweat, ashes, and blood.

“We must be on the
Cométe
by dawn,” Michel yelled, barely able to breathe through all the smoke. “I told François to meet us near the Pont Royal at midnight. Come on.”

Michel grabbed Christian’s hand, and the two friends moved through the shadows of the royal palace toward the Pont Neuf. The sounds and scents of all the bodies, blood, and flesh tickled their hunger, awakening the urge to feed again.

“Get us out of this crowd,” Christian murmured, holding the leather box to his chest as throngs of men yelling and carrying torches marched past them. Suppose François was not waiting for them. Suppose he had been attacked by the mob? The catacombs were no longer a safe haven.
Perhaps a mausoleum at dawn
, he thought as they sidled up against the cold stone of the royal palace waiting for the carriage to arrive on the Pont Neuf.

Michel spotted it and quickly the two vampires skirted the crowd and slid into the shoddy carriage. François cursed the crowds as they wound their way down to meet the launch that would take them out to their ship. The carriage plowed through the narrow streets, the wheels splashing mud on pedestrians as they rambled toward the quay.

Michel paid up as they scampered onto the launch. Christian kept his eyes on the water, never looking back at his beautiful city as the smoke and flames became tiny spots in the distance. Michel sang songs into the darkness, as they rowed over whitecaps and the sea breeze hit their faces. Christian spotted the
Cométe
and felt himself relax, anticipating a new life for them both.

“I cannot believe I paid for this hovel!” Michel collapsed his 6’4” frame onto the straw-covered wooden bunk.

The vampires could barely stand in the narrow, dank room, complete with a steamer trunk, a mirror nailed to the wall, and a chamber pot rolling around in the corner. The smell of soot from their clothes added to the odor of urine and rotting wood permeating the air. Christian ignored Michel and sat on the floor. The rocking ship soothed him. He reached for the lantern and put it on the floor beside him. Hesitantly, he opened Josette’s jewelry box. A piece of paper slipped out and caught in the moonlight. He pulled the lantern closer to read the note.

16 July 1790

Christian
,

By the time you read this note, I pray you and Michel will have made it safely to England, far away from this horrible place. I shall miss France. My only regret is not having more time with you, my love. As I face my certain death there is something I must tell you. Being the lover of not one but two vampires spoiled me forever, and once I entered your world, I could no longer share my mortal husband’s bed. Luc is not Solange’s father as I have always led him to believe. You are. Please understand that I never wanted to burden you or make you feel you were responsible for her. You often spoke of your regrets at not being a husband and a father and I yearned to tell you. Much has changed, Christian. She is your daughter. I know you will find a good home for her, but please watch over her and know that I will love you forever.

Josette

Christian glanced at Michel, who was curled up asleep like a cat. He impulsively reached over to wake him and thought better of it. Rereading the note again, a bloody tear ran down his cheek. Paris and his young lover were gone, victims of a disease that had turned brother against brother, and Place de Grève into a bloody nightmare. Mortals called it La Révolution Française, but he saw no sense in it.

Shaking his head, he reread the note once more in disbelief. He had sired a child with a mortal woman. Did the Parisian vampires know of Solange’s parentage? Would Gabrielle kill his hybrid child, or consider her a threat to the pure vampire blood that coursed through their veins? Would she be safe in London? After all, their destination was no secret. Christian vowed to watch over his daughter from a distance as she navigated the mortal world; protect her from his kind, yet not interfere in her life.

As more tears fell, Christian folded the note and tucked it back into the jewelry box. He felt the rays of the sun as the need to sleep overcame him. Sliding next to Michel, he drifted into oblivion, just as he had every morning for the past thirty-three years, unable to fight the dawn’s deathlike embrace. How Michel would laugh at him when he told him he had fathered a child with Josette. Clutching the box to his chest, his last conscious thought turned to Solange, his mortal daughter.
At least she is safe.

PART ONE

NEW YORK—PRESENT DAY

Chapter One

T
HE VAMPIRE CLOSED
his eyes and bit into the fleshy neck of the waif. He waited for the rush as the red plasma trickled down his throat, engorging him and bringing him to life. He heard the young man moaning in ecstasy, his voice echoing through him, drowning out the loud club music surrounding them both. Blood flowed through his body like fire as Lucien instinctively wrapped the trembling stray tighter in his strong arms. The boy’s muscles tightened, his heart beating faster. He was afraid. Lucien felt stronger as the urchin’s blood coursed through his veins, inflating him, making him dizzy with power.

Strangely, he felt mortal again; his sight became even clearer and the surrounding sounds intensified, almost to the point of pain. The youth’s heartbeat pounded in his ears like native drums, and between his legs an erection bulged as blood filled every inch of his body. For a moment Lucien thought he might die. Not like his mortal death, but in bliss like a star, blazing so bright he would explode, shattering the dark universe with fragments of energy and light.

The blood gave him incredible sustenance and power. It pulled at his own thoughts seductively and slowly, like a vampire tugging at his victim’s life force. It felt as if the blood had a life of its own, a vampiric power. Lucien concentrated harder as images from the young man’s life ran through his own body: a tiny house, his bedroom, school, friends, putting a needle in his veins. The images moved like a film in fast forward. The face of a dark-haired woman with emerald eyes surfaced. Once a child, now a seductively beautiful woman. Was she a lover? No.

A sister, perhaps? She reminded him of someone he had known in Paris, but who? Reluctantly, Lucien released himself from the youthful flesh of his prey, still holding him close. The boy stared up at him with glazed eyes.

So the rumors had been true.

“Why’d you stop?” The boy rubbed his neck, feeling the two raised bumps.

“Too much of a good thing.” Lucien smiled and licked his pouty lips. He brushed the mortal’s warm cheek. Yes, if he were not careful, he would drain the boy. Instead, he studied him carefully, now that he had satisfied his lust for blood. He brushed a strand of dirty dark hair from the boy’s sunken face. He was beautiful underneath his drug-induced haze.

“I’ll do whatever you want as long as you pay me.”

Lucien reached into the pocket of his leather coat for the wad of cash and felt nothing.

“Later I can get you all the money you could want, young man.”

“It’s Ryan,” he quipped, his eyes glazed over from the blood loss. “I’m always available.”

“Very well, Ryan. Who is the woman with the emerald eyes?”

“My sister Amanda.” He chuckled nervously, knowing a vampire could gather information from a mortal’s blood.

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah, and real smart. She got it all, beauty and brains.”

Lucien had seen the facade of a large building with columns and banners waving in the breeze. He had seen a fountain with a beautiful angel on top, while running water and sunlight cascaded under her feet. The dark haired woman sat at a desk in a tiny office, surrounded by books and coffee cups, staring at a computer screen.

“She works in a museum.” Ryan volunteered. “She loves antiques and anything French.”

“Good taste.” Lucien smiled as he caught a glimpse of Michel moving through the crowd coming toward them.

“Later, Ryan,” he whispered in a dismissive tone.

Ryan nodded and ducked into the shadows. Lucien guessed this was the usual crowd of mostly young women, overly made up, dressed all in black, pretending to be one of the undead. Only in America, he thought, feeling suddenly homesick for the City of Lights. This was his first weekend in the New World, and already he missed Paris.

He watched Michel move through the crowd. Despite the passing centuries, Lucien had never forgotten Michel’s grace and beauty, now adorned in haute couture such as Armani and Versace. Well over six feet tall, with catlike dark eyes, shoulder-length black hair, and high cheekbones, Michel was still one of the most beautiful men he had ever seen. He had been the talk of Paris centuries ago, and judging by the way women stared at him, Lucien assumed nothing had changed for the ethereal vampire. His beauty was arresting, his attraction to both sexes universal. He moved like a tiger through jungle palms, silent and deadly. Lucien felt his heart racing as Michel approached him.

“I thought it was just talk, but no.” Michel gave Lucien the once-over. He had never trusted the younger vampire. “What brings you to our little corner of the world?”

“Quelling rumors.” Lucien smiled carefully. There was no use lying.

“And how are our Parisian friends, Lucien?” Michel leaned up against the bar, scanning the crowd for Christian. Lucien’s presence was an omen. “What are their panties in a bunch about now?” He grabbed a plastic drink straw from the bar and began to chew on it.

Lucien shrugged. He had come to New York to gather information. He had not asked for permission, nor would it have been granted to him. He was depending on the reputed good manners of the New York vampires, especially Christian Du Mauré, Michel’s best friend. In fact, he was praying for it.

“I mean no harm, Michel.” Lucien put his hands up in a gesture of humbleness. “It has been too long since we have seen each other.” He noticed that Michel had only a trace of the French accent that Lucien remembered mixed with what must be a New York twang. He had heard that Christian and Michel had been here since the early 1900s.

“1790 to be exact.” Michel spoke, twirling the straw. “If I remember correctly, you sided with Gaétan and Gabrielle against us, but then, that was over two hundred years ago. My memory may be failing.” He watched Lucien carefully, guessing that he wanted no trouble, at least not in public.

“Things change, Michel. That is one of the advantages to being immortal. Your perspective on history alters at some point, don’t you think?”

“Vampires tend to hold grudges. You should know that, Lucien.”

Lucien shrugged, leaning against the bar.

“Well, my eyes deceive me.” A deep, soothing voice pierced the darkness.

Lucien turned and found himself face-to-face with the flowing blond hair and dark eyes that could only belong to one immortal: Christian Du Mauré. Dressed in satin trousers and a lace shirt, he could almost pass for the eighteenth-century dandy Lucien remembered so well. He wore a long black leather overcoat and his once shoulder-length hair now fell down his back.

“Hello, Christian.”

“Welcome to New York.” Christian tried to smile, though it pained him. “What brings you to the Grey Wolf?” It took all of his self-control not to lunge at his enemy. Unfortunately, there were too many mortals present to draw that kind of attention.

“It has been too long since I saw my old friends.”

“You were always a pitiful liar, Lucien.” Christian instinctively touched the leather strap on his chest that held a machete strapped against his back, under his leather duster.

“What has happened to that well known politesse?” Lucien smiled, remembering there was no charming Christian.

“You come here without permission. If my memory serves me, that is an open declaration of war. I suggest that you leave before I lose my patience and you lose your head.”

Christian had taken to wearing the machete since the nightmares had returned; faceless ghouls stalking him in Central Park. Lucien knew he would have been dead if not for the watchful eyes of the mortals around them, and he used it to his advantage. Christian knew he was here for a reason, and feared it.

The tall vampire kept an eye on Lucien who watched Ryan move through the crowd toward the door.
Has he fed from him yet?
Christian wondered, knowing that it would only be a matter of time. Then he could go back to Paris and squeal like a stuck pig.

“Kindness is a luxury in short supply these days. Now get out,” Christian hissed. “Do not come back, or I will kill you.”

Lucien forced a smile and stepped into the crowd of mortals as he made his way toward the exit. Once outside the club, the vampire reached for his cell phone as he followed young Ryan Perretti down Bleeker Street.

BOOK: Immortal Obsession
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