"Connor!" She yelped in surprise. "You're back!"
"Aye." He stood there, smiling. "That I am."
She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. "I'm so glad to see you."
He pulled back, his cheeks blushing. "I hear ye had a wee scare."
"Oh, it's terrible, isn't it? I'm so sorry, Connor." "Now, why would ye be sorry, lass? 'Tis Mr. Draganesti himself who sent me here. He's wanting to see you."
Her skin chilled with goose bumps. "That.. that can't be."
"He wants to see you right away. I'll take you up there."
He was alive? "I know the way." Shanna ran for the stairs.
Roman Draganesti woke up with no memory of how he had returned to his bed. He was lying on top of the suede comforter with his clothes and shoes still on. He ran his tongue along the inside of his mouth. The wire splint was still there. He felt the fang with his fingers. Solid. Of course, he wasn't sure if the fang could still extend and retract, and it would be impossible to put it to test as long as the tooth was wired in place. He'd have to convince Shanna to remove the splint.
After a quick shower, he threw on a bathrobe and padded into his office to check for messages. Radinka's spidery handwriting caught his eye. She'd completed the shopping for Shanna. Good. She was going to Romatech early to make sure everything was ready for the Gala Opening Ball. Since she was now working night and day, she felt she deserved another raise. Another one? Fine.
Jean-Luc Echarpe and Angus MacKay, French and British coven masters, were due to arrive at five in the morning. Good. The guest rooms on the third floor were ready for them. Roman was planning to introduce two new taste sensations from his line of Fusion Cuisine at the Opening Ball. Five hundred bottles had been prepared for the event. Everything was looking great.
Then he read the last paragraph. Upon waking, Shanna Whelan had discovered him in her bed. Oh no. She had decided he was dead and became terribly upset. Oh shit. Of course she would think he was dead. During the day, he had no pulse. But on the bright side, this could mean that she actually cared about him.
Radinka had tried to convince Shanna that his heavy sleep was due to the anesthesia he had received at the dental clinic. Unfortunately, that theory only drove her to the conclusion that she'd killed him. Great. She was upset not because she felt any affection for him, but because she felt guilty. He could just imagine the scenario - Shanna running about the bedroom, upset, while he lay there like a dumb log. Shit.
Roman crushed the paper in his fist and tossed it into the trash. This was the last straw. He had to finish the formula that would allow him to stay awake during the day. He couldn't lie around helpless when Shanna needed him.
He punched a button on his intercom phone.
"Kitchen," a nasal voice answered.
"Howard, is that you?"
"Yes, sir! I'm glad to hear you're up and about. There was a little bit of excitement here while you were sleeping."
Roman could hear stifled laughter in the background. God's blood. You would think being master of the largest coven in North America would entitle him to a little respect.
"Not that we're complaining," Howard continued. "It's usually so boring around here. Oh, Connor just walked in."
"Howard, we have important guests coming in tonight. Your employer, Mr. MacKay, will be here. I expect heightened security during the day and absolute discretion."
"I understand, sir. We'll take good care of everyone. The Highlanders are coming in now, so I'll be going. Good night."
"Good night. Connor, are you there?"
There was a pause, then a beeping noise. "Aye, I'm here."
"Escort Miss Whelan to my office in ten minutes."
Roman strode toward the wet bar, grabbed a bottle of synthetic blood from the mini-fridge, and popped it into the microwave. He headed back to his bedroom. There he pulled on a pair of black slacks and a gray dress shirt - an effort to look a little more formal since he had important guests arriving that night. Angus and his entourage would be dressed to the hilt in their Scottish finery. Jean-Luc would be accompanied by his beautiful vampire models, all wearing his famous haute couture evening wear.
Stuffed in the back of his closet, Roman spotted the black tuxedo and matching cape that Jean-Luc had given him three years ago. Roman groaned. He'd have to wear the damned thing again. Maybe Jean-Luc enjoyed dressing like the Hollywood version of Dracula, but Roman preferred the more relaxed dress code of modern times. He removed the tuxedo from the closet. He'd have to get it pressed before the Gala Opening Ball.
The microwave dinged. His first meal for the evening was ready. He tossed the tuxedo onto his bed. Just then, the outer door to the office slammed open.
"Roman?" Shanna yelled. "Are you there?" There was a definite edge to her voice. Nervous, breathless, near panic.
No way had that been ten minutes. She must have run the entire way. Damn. There went his breakfast.
"I'm in here," he answered and heard a responding gasp as he strode barefoot to the bedroom door.
She was standing close to his desk, her face flushed from running, her pretty mouth agape. Her eyes widened as he moved into the office. "Oh my God," she whispered. Moisture shimmered in her eyes. She covered her mouth with trembling fingers.
God's blood, she'd been through hell. He looked down, embarrassed by the ordeal he'd put her through. Oh, great, he was a sight. His shirt was hanging open. His trousers were unbuttoned and low enough on his hips that his black boxer shorts were showing. He pushed his damp hair back from his face and cleared his throat. "I heard what happened."
She just stood there, staring at him.
Connor rushed through the door. "Sorry, sir. I tried to slow her down, but - " He noted Roman's state of dress. "Och, we should have knocked."
"You're alive." Shanna inched toward him.
The microwave dinged, a reminder bell that his breakfast was still waiting. And would have to wait until Shanna left.
Connor winced. He knew a vampire was always the hungriest when he first awoke. "We should come back later," he suggested to Shanna, "when Mr. Draganesti has finished dressing."
She didn't seem to hear Connor. She moved slowly toward Roman. He inhaled deeply, taking in her scent. She smelled delicious, and that pale orange top made her look as juicy as a ripe peach. What little blood was left in his body surged toward his groin, leaving him doubly starved - for her flesh, and blood.
The intensity of his hunger must have been noticeable. Connor backed toward the door. "I'll be leaving you two alone, then." He eased out, shutting the door behind him.
Shanna was close enough to grab now. He curled his hands into fists, fighting the temptation. "I've been told that I frightened you. I'm sorry."
A tear escaped, but before it could reach her cheek, she brushed it away. "I'm just happy you're all right."
Did she really care that much? Roman watched her closely. Her gaze traveled the length of him, pausing at his bare chest, slipping lower to his stomach. Damn, he wanted her. He hoped his eyes weren't starting to glow.
"You're really all right." She touched his chest, a light touch with her fingertips, but it jolted him like a lightning bolt. He reacted swiftly, pulling her to him in a tight embrace.
She stiffened at first in surprise, then relaxed, nestling her cheek against the mat of curls on his chest. Her hands rested lightly on his shirt. "I was afraid I had lost you."
"I'm rather hard to get rid of, actually." God's blood, he was hungry. Control, stay in control.
"Radinka said I worked on your teeth last night."
"Let me see." She reached up to his mouth and examined the splint. "The tooth looks fine, a little more pointed than usual. It seems to have healed very quickly."
"Yes. You can remove the splint."
"What? No, I can't. These things take time." The microwave dinged again, drawing her attention. "Did you need to get that?"
He took her hand and kissed her fingers. "I just need you."
She snorted softly and removed her hand from his grip. "Is it true, then, that you actually hypnotized me?"
"Yes." It was close to the truth.
She frowned at him. "I didn't do anything strange, did I? I mean, it's awfully disconcerting to know I did stuff and have no memory of it."