“The police are the ones who investigate murders,” she said flatly.

Brent sat on the edge of her grandfather’s desk, neither angered nor amused. “They investigate disappearances as well.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“As of today, up to seven people have disappeared in the past few weeks, reported to the main station in Paris.”

“Disappearances—of who? And what do the disappearances in Paris have to do with a brutal murder here, in the village? Jean-Luc didn’t disappear. His body was butchered and left for discovery.”

“Paula Denton, British student, a beautiful young woman, last spoke with her family over two weeks ago, telling them she’d be leaving Paris for home that night Next, reported about ten days ago, John Bryner, an American. He was due at a school in Nice, and never showed up. Jillian Grieves, a Parisian prostitute, hasn’t been seen in nine days. Barbara Niemes, another prostitute, has now been missing nearly a week. The list goes on—the known list. God knows how many people have disappeared who don’t have family members who track them—or street sisters who are still able to prove their love by looking for their friends.”

“Students have disappeared—young students, running around Europe. And prostitutes,” she said.

Brent raised a brow. “Oh? They don’t deserve your concern?”

“Don’t be absurd!” she lashed out. “Naturally, they are human beings, and deserve everyone’s concern.

But students roam through Europe all the time. And prostitutes—”

“Prostitutes with drug problems always return to their supply,” Jacques said with a sigh.

She stared from one man to the other. They both stared back at her.

“Okay, I get it. They’ve all disappeared because of— vampires.” Neither one of them said anything or moved a muscle.

“Vampires are supposed to drink blood, they don’t consume every inch of a body,” she said. “If vampires had taken these people, their pathetic, blood-drained bodies would have been discovered.

Their grieving families would have buried them, and then, they’d have risen again and there would be more vampires, and more vampires, all coming out of the walls like cockroaches.”

“Vampires drink blood, yes,” Brent said.

“There, you see?” she told Jacques.

“They also mean to survive, and therefore, they don’t leave discarded bodies lying about They’re also territorial, and seldom fond of competition. They rarely create new members of their own kind. There is actually a code by which they survive,” Brent said.

“A code. A rule book. The Vampire Rule Book. Sorry, I haven’t read it yet”

“It’s not a book, Tara, and you can’t read it But there is a society, and it’s ancient and there are codes and laws by which the creatures exist—and have existed throughout time.”

“And you dug up this countess, and now she’s a vampire.”

“She was a vampire before I dug her up. But yes, now she’s loose,” Brent said.

She stared at him, then lowered her head, shaking it “You knew my grandfather before you came here today,” she said.


“Tara—”Jacques began.

She interrupted him. “You came here, Malone, way before any of this, and you filled my grandfather’s head with a lot of rubbish. You got him to lodge protests about the dig, and because of you, the police are going to wind up questioning him. You are the instigator of this nonsense, this fantasy, you’ve convinced him that he’s part of some kind of an alliance, and what you’ve done is dragged an ailing man into a nightmare.”

“I am not an ailing man who has lost his mind, young lady!” Jacques said with level dignity.

She still couldn’t look at Jacques. She thought she was beginning to piece it together. “I don’t know what your game is, Mr. Malone. Maybe you’re a writer, too.

Some kind of a critic, out to malign Jacques, or make your own name somehow through him. Whatever your game is, though, it is over. I’m going to go straight back to the police and tell them everything I know.“

“I can’t let you do that, Tara,” Brent said. His voice held either a soft menace, or a simple promise.

“Are you going to kill me? Do you, perhaps, think that you’re one of them? That you’re a blood-sucker yourself?”

Staring at her, he blinked, but his eyes didn’t fall from hers. “No,” he said.

“Oh, well, thank heavens for that, at least What a relief. I’ve yet to see one of these creatures.”

“But you have seen one.”

“I have?”

“Yes, the other night. Countess Louisa de Montcrasset was here, at this door, when you and Ann returned home. And you must sense far more than you’re willing to admit, because you weren’t foolish enough to let her into the house.”

She wanted to protest instantly, to assure him that she simply never let unknown visitors in to see her grandfather.

But something had settled over her ...

A chill.

And she was afraid that, somewhere, deep inside herself, she was going as mad as they were. Because somewhere, deep inside, she was almost believing the insanity.

“You know I’m right,” he told her.

“Listen, Tara,” Jacques said. “I’ve tried to tell you about this, to make you understand.”

“I—I—” She stared at both of them.

Then she flew out of her chair. “No!” she cried angrily. “No! I will not believe any of this absurdity, and Mr. Malone, I will get you out of this house!” She stood before her grandfather’s desk. “Jacques, how can you let this man play with your mind this way?”


“I will not be a part of it,” she said, and turning, left the room.

Ann lay with her eyes closed, sleek and sated as she had not felt in... all her life. She curled into the pillow, so aware of the man at her side, and smiling because her thoughts were so cliched: she felt as if she had died and gone to heaven.

They had chosen one of the loveliest hotels in Paris, despite the feet that she had come out only for her lunch hour.

Luxurious. Clean sheets, drifting white curtains, windows that led out to a beautifully planted courtyard, the slightest touch of an autumn breeze ...

She turned, burrowing against the formidable wall of his chest, running her fingers over the mat of fine, golden blond hair. They had sated the initial urge for simple appeasement, taken things slowly, swiftly, slowly again, and now—far later than she had ever imagined and still not at all willing to rise and leave and return to work—she was fascinated by exploring the man who had walked into her life like a cataclysmic shift in the earth. She frowned, noting as she ran her fingers down the length of his arm.

Though well healed and barely visible, she realized that there seemed to be a great deal of scar tissue on his body.

“The accident,” she murmured softly.


She rose over him. “I’m so sorry, and yet so glad that it brought you here, to Paris.” He smiled, putting an arm around her, pulling her closer. “It was quite a while ago now,” he told her.

“What happened?”

“I was caught in a fire. Um ... let’s see, I was out with friends. And while they escaped it, I was trapped.”

“They left you?” Ann said, indignant that anyone would leave a friend to such a fate.

“It was a strange situation,” he told her, “and it doesn’t matter; it’s over now.” His tone was light, but it seemed that there was something in his eyes. Maybe a deep-seated bitterness, one that he didn’t intend to forgive. She could hardly blame him.

“You must have been burned very badly.”

“As I said, it doesn’t matter. I’m healing, and have been healing.” He ran a finger down her arm, bringing a tremor to her limbs. “Tell me more about you.”

She laughed. “There’s not much to tell. You know where I work, what I do.”

“Yes, but... what about your personal life? This has been a rather mad rush of a lunch hour, don’t you think? Is there ... anyone else out there?”

“I live with my family,” she told him.

His magnetic smile deepened. “I meant, is there someone else in your life. Another man. I have to admit to being head over heels, and jealous as all hell, and yet I can’t imagine that a woman such as you wouldn’t have a lover in her life somewhere.”

She didn’t pull away from him, but withdrew a little into her thoughts, amazed that not a single thought of Willem had come to her until Rick had specifically asked. She had thought herself so wounded by Willem so deeply in love, and so determined to be strong against him....

Rick inched a shade closer, as if he were trying to assure her that he meant to give her so much more than the taste of flesh against flesh. “There is someone?”

She shook her head. “There was, just as I’m sure there have been many others in your life,” she said with a wry shrewdness.

He merely smiled. “There is no one now, I can assure you.”

“And I can say the same.”

“But what about this man you were seeing?” he persisted.

“Willem. He’s the head of sales for my company.”

“Um. Scary for me. You see him on a daily basis.”

“No, only for meetings. And it doesn’t matter—it’s over.”

“I hope so,” Rick said, his gaze sweeping over her. Then he added, “No ... that’s far too indefinite. I intend to make it so.”

Ann relished the husky sound of passion in his voice. “Really?” she teased. And added a bit breathlessly,

“I am just dying to see what you do with your—intentions!”

“For now, I intend to keep you a bit longer.”