And strangely, the last thing that crossed her mind was the rueful reminder of what Paul had said to her today. “You’ll be sorry, you’ll be so, so sorry!”

* * *

Javet was hard at work, studying the lab reports from the Paris office on the forensic studies done in the tomb. Despite the incredible advances science had afforded law enforcement, there were times when science could still offer nothing, because there was nothing to offer science.

Every drop of blood tested had belonged to the victim. Not that there had been many drops of blood left. And there was the first mystery.

That’s when intuition came in. A police officer’s gut intuition.

There had been dozens of people in the tomb— workers, onlookers. Footprints in the dust and fingerprints could mean everything—and nothing. Javet hated Dubois, but hating a man didn’t make him guilty of murder.

He drummed the desk, then let out a long sigh.

Two things: Dubois needed to be questioned more strenuously.

And it might be time to arrest Jean-Luc’s coworker.


He looked up from his desk. Millette, one of the his finest officers, was standing at his door, looking in.

“What is it?”

“There’s a report just in from Edouards, sir. We’ve found a body by the Eau Gallie stream.” Millette’s tense appearance told him there was more to it than that

“And?” Javet said. “Man, woman, child? Is there an evident cause of death?”

“Woman. The coroner has just been called. But...”


“The victim was decapitated.”

* * *

She wasn’t going to die, Tara determined.

Not then, at least.

And with the pitchfork cast aside, she suddenly found herself moving forward, drawn inexorably toward her enemy, practically throwing herself against him. She was shaking still, ready to scream or cry and again deny every bit of nonsense this man was telling her.

But she was glad as well to feel the steely heat and security of his arms as they came around her. A voice of warning still screamed within her, but it was overshadowed by instinct and desire; since she had first seen him, this was where she had wanted to be. She was like a moth who had flown straight into the burning flame, but after a moment of being there—feeling enwrapped, ridiculously safe, and more than willing to simply melt into the fire—she drew away, staring at him again.

“You used me to get to my grandfather,” she said.

“No. I would have come to your grandfather no matter what after the night in the crypt.”

“You talked to him before the night in the crypt— you’re the one who convinced him that there are vampires lurking around Paris.”

He angled his head slightly, watching her. “I didn’t talk to him before the night in the crypt.”

“He knew you!”

“We met—before.”


“A long time ago. Having nothing to do with the current situation.”

“And what is my grandfather’s part in this travesty?”

“He is a member of the old Alliance.”

“And this Alliance?”

“It’s an organization that’s very, very old.”

“Oh, I see. The members of this Alliance are like Freemasons—who believe in vampires.”

“They’re guardians.”

“Guardians of... ?”

“Humanity, the sacred right of life. Good over evil. However you wish to phrase the terminology, that is the role of the Alliance.”

“And when was this Alliance formed?”

“There has been mention of the Alliance—sometimes obscure—in writings that go back to the Dark Ages.”

“All right,” she said, hearing his words, denying them still in her heart, and forcing her tone to be as rigid and scathing as any law official might utilize. “And you’re part of this Alliance?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then what is your role here?”

“I’m on the outside,” he said softly, then shrugged. “I had heard rumors about the dig at the church, and through various legends and tales, I knew the rumors about Louisa de Montcrasset. I’ve studied a great deal of French history. I took the job with Dubois to make sure that I would be there when the coffin was opened.”

“But you ran into me instead.”


She started to walk by him. “You don’t have to feel compelled to hound and protect me because I happened to be there at the time—or because of my grandfather.” He caught her arm.“I am compelled to protect you.”

“I can handle myself.”

“Well, you can’t, not yet, anyway. But the fact that you feel I’m hounding you ... well, that has nothing to do with your grandfather.”

She stood very still, torn between her desire to cast him off, to run away, and to throw herself against him once more.

“You’re lying,” she said.

“You know that I’m not.”

Once again, she paused. Then she could pause no longer. Outside, the day had gone. Within the stables, the shadows were misting and thick, yet they offered no hint of menace. She slowly took a step toward him, and even more slowly, reached out to touch him. Fingers and palms coursed over the shape and structure of his face. She edged ever closer to him. He held very still, allowing her the exploration. Then she found herself pulled into an embrace so close that it defied the thin barrier of cloth between, found that she was being kissed with an open-mouthed passion that rendered her instantly reeling, blood rushing hot to every extremity, hunger suddenly something that shuddered and thundered with every throbbing beat of her pulse. She kissed back, lips and tongue aggressive, nearly desperate. His mouth drew the total focus of her attention, his kiss in the shadows, in the midst of the stables in the growing mist of the night She was heedless of her own reckless movements, drawing ever closer still, fingers upon his shirt, seeking buttons, shoulders shrugging from the constraints of her own silk blouse. Then there was a moment of total, staggering awareness when his hand first fell upon her naked flesh, at her waist, fingertips traveling along her rib cage, palm and touch molding over her breast She made little sounds, desperate little sounds. She wasn’t sure when she lost everything else— shoes, jeans, undergarments-—only that there was a trail along the scattered hay and grain on the stable floor, leading to the soft stacks of hay. Shadows and mist... both of which had been tinged with shades of danger just the night before, now seemed like a surreal blanket of the sweetest privacy. He threw horse blankets over the bed of hay, and as she came down upon it, she felt as if she had never known a softer mattress, never lain upon a surface so welcoming. He was everything she had sensed from the beginning, smooth, sleek, agile, so tightly drawn and hewn, flesh searing, each movement vibrant, every brush against her body by every part of his like an awakening of fire and need and more, a coming together destined by eternity. Something she had waited for all her life.

He was a practiced lover.

His mouth moved over the length of her. Subtle, seductive, aggressive. She drifted on waves of sensation, inhaling the rich clean scent of hay, and that of the man. There were moments so intense and acute she lost all thought except that of the carnal pleasure, and there were those brief seconds when she thought she had lost her own mind, because nothing would ever be the same again, she could never be touched so again, so completely that the liquid spiraling heat could enter and touch what was ethereal as well as flesh and real, and that she was desperate for cataclysmic union with a madman, and no one could ever make her want or hunger in the same way again. And yet, in those brief moments of sanity, there was something deeper as well. The birth of her own madness, for she knew as well that, somewhere in her heart, in the depths of her soul, she was very, very afraid that she believed ...

Then all thought was gone again. She burned from the center of her being to every extremity, felt the red flame of hunger lapping at her ferociously, intimately, lips, breasts, thighs, sex, stripped, bare, throbbing, waiting. Then they were together at last, in shadow, in shades of fog. She was entwined, tight, surging, close, shuddering, trembling, straining. He seemed to fill her, a part of her, hard and strong, and she longed then never to let go, hungering and desperate, yet ruing the very explosion she sought so fervently with every twist and surge.

In the end, the night itself seemed to conclude with them, shadows burst to light, darkness to implode, mist to shatter into crystalline motes. Again, the rich scent of the hay came to her, along with the dampness of her own flesh, and at last, the prickles of the hay piercing through the blankets here and there. Reality. The stables, the night, her nakedness, her arms twined around the bare muscled torso of a near stranger.

But it didn’t matter. There was no going back.

She didn’t know what to say then.

That didn’t matter either. He was the one who spoke.

“It’s full dark,” he said, and kissing her forehead, he rose. “I have to go.” Ann stopped back into the office for only a moment. Henriette had gone, and most of the workers were leaving. She didn’t care that she might face a severe reprimand from the publisher for missing the meeting.

She spent extra hours in the office every week. She took work home every night of her life. She was good at her job, and she knew it, and she would defy anyone who said differently.

The art director popped his head in her office. “You missed the meeting,” he said.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry—we decided on the plain design and coloring for the new American novel that had been your suggestion. It was no big deal.”

“Thanks!” Ann said. “That sounds great. lam sorry.”

He shrugged. “I think it’s the first meeting you ever missed.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“See you tomorrow.”

He walked away. Ann moved around her desk and pulled open her top drawer, looking for a rubber band to bind a manuscript to take home with her.