But if Roman's artificial blood was feeding vampires, then those same vampires were no longer feeding off live people. Roman was saving lives in two different ways. He was still a hero.
And still a blood-drinking demon. How could she deal with this? Part of her was repelled, but another part wanted to reach out to him and tell him he wasn't at all bad for a.. vampire.
With an inward groan, she realized he didn't need her comfort. He had ten vampire women at home to keep him company on his lonely nights. Eleven women, including Simone.
He opened the door onto a dimly lit hallway. For the first time since leaving the ballroom, she could see his expression. He looked pale. Tense. Angry.
"If you will follow me, please." He stepped into the hall.
Shanna advanced toward him slowly. "Where are you taking me?" She peered out the door. The hallway was empty.
He didn't answer. Didn't look at her. Instead he scanned the hallway as if expecting the bad guys to appear any second. With the power of teleportation, they probably could pop up without warning. Roman was right. Her only hope of surviving the murderous intent of one vampire was to rely on another one. Him.
"Okay. Let's go." She followed him down the hall.
He stalked toward an elevator, his cape fluttering behind him. "There's an underground chamber here at Romatech, completely lined with silver. No vampire can teleport through its walls. You'll be safe there."
"Oh." Shanna stood in front of the elevator, staring at the down button. "I guess silver is like your kryptonite?"
"Yes." The elevator doors opened. Roman held them open and motioned sharply for her to enter. She hesitated.
His jaw clenched. "You have to trust me."
"I know. I'm trying. Is that why you gave me that silver crucifix? To protect me from the Russian vampires?"
"Yes." A pained expression flickered across his pale face. "And from myself."
Her mouth fell open. He had been tempted to bite her?
His eyes narrowed. "Are you coming?"
She swallowed hard. What choice did she have? She stepped inside the elevator.
He let go of the doors, and they swooshed shut. She stood apart from him, staring at the buttons. He's still the same man you knew before. He's still the same man.
"You no longer trust me, do you?"
She took a shaky breath. "I'm trying."
He glowered at her. "I could never hurt you."
A spurt of anger burst to the surface. "You have hurt me, Roman. You had the gall to.. to flirt with me and kiss me when you have ten live-in mistresses. And then, if that's not enough, I find out you're a.. a.."
"A demonic creature who has actually considered biting me."
He turned toward her. His eyes darkened to a burnished gold. "I knew this would happen. You want to kill me now, don't you?"
Shanna blinked. Kill?
"A stake or a silver blade through the heart is the best way to be rid of me." He stepped toward her and pointed to a spot on his chest. "This is my heart, or rather what's left of it."
She stared at his broad chest. Good God, she'd rested her head there. She'd even kissed him, and he'd tasted sweet and so alive. How could he be dead?
He took her hand and pressed it against his chest. "This is the spot right here. Can you remember it? You should wait till I'm asleep. I'll be totally defenseless then."
"Stop it." She jerked her hand away.
"Why?" He leaned close. "Don't you want to kill the blood-sucking demon from hell?"
"Stop it! I could never hurt you."
"Oh, but you have, Shanna."
Her breath hitched. She turned away as hot tears gathered in her eyes. The elevator doors opened. He stalked down a shadowy hallway.
She hesitated. How was she supposed to handle this? Wasn't it enough that her life was in danger? But her heart was aching for a totally different reason. She was trying to understand, trying to accept the truth about Roman. She actually cared about him, but she was just making things worse. She was hurting him when he was trying to help her. But dammit, it was hurting her, too. She had thought he was the perfect man. How could she have any sort of relationship with him now?
And he didn't need her. He had ten females of his own kind at home. They'd probably known him for a hundred years. She'd known him only a few days. How could she compete with that? She trudged into the hallway.
He was standing in front of a massive door, punching in a number on a keypad.
"This is the room lined with silver?"
"Yes." He pressed his forehead against a device. A red beam scanned his eyes. He opened the heavy metal door and motioned for her to enter. "You'll be safe in here."
She stepped inside. It was a miniature apartment complete with a bed and kitchen. Through an open doorway, she spotted a bathroom. She dropped her bags on the kitchen table. Then she noticed that Roman had entered the room and was removing his cape. He draped it over his hands.
"What are you doing?"
"This side of the door is lined with silver. It would burn my skin." Using the cape as insulation, he pushed the door shut. Then he turned the locks and slid a heavy bar into place.
"You're going to stay here with me?"
He looked at her. "Are you afraid I'm going to bite you?"
"Well, maybe. You're bound to get hungry sooner or later."
"I do not feed off mortals," he said through gritted teeth. He marched to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle from the fridge, and stuck it in the microwave.
So he was hungry, Shanna realized with a grimace. Or maybe he ate when he was upset. Like her. Somehow, a lecture on emotional eating didn't seem wise at the moment. She would really rather he be full.
Memories of the kitchen at Roman's house came flooding back. Connor trying to keep her out of the refrigerator. Connor and Ian warming up their "protein drinks" in the microwave. The harem girls drinking red stuff from their wineglasses. Good God, it had been in front of her the whole time. The wolf's fang. The coffins in the basement. Roman sleeping like the dead in her bedroom. He really had been dead. Was still dead, even though he walked and talked. And kissed like a.. a devil.
"I can't believe this is happening to me." She perched on the edge of the bed. But it was happening. It was all true.
The microwave dinged. Roman removed the bottle and filled a glass with warm blood. Shanna shuddered.
He took a sip, then turned to face her. "I'm a coven master. That means I'm personally responsible for the safety of the members of my coven. By protecting you, I have antagonized an old enemy - Ivan Petrovsky, the Russian vampire who wants to kill you. He could declare war on my coven."
He wandered toward an easy chair and set his drink down on the small table beside it. He ran a fingertip along the edge of the glass. "I regret not telling you everything, but at the time, I thought it best to keep you as ignorant as possible."
Shanna didn't know what to say, so she sat there, watching him as he sank into the chair. He yanked at his bow tie till he unraveled the strip of black silk. He seemed so normal and lifelike, talking about people he felt responsible for. Tilting to the side, he rested his forehead on his hand and rubbed his brow. He looked tired. After all, he was responsible for a huge business and apparently a large group of followers.
And now they were in danger because of her. "Protecting me has caused you a lot of trouble."
"No." He shifted in his chair and looked at her. "The animosity between Petrovksy and myself goes back hundreds of years. And protecting you has brought me the most joy I have felt in a very long time."
She swallowed hard as more tears welled in her eyes. God help her, she'd enjoyed their time together, too. She loved making him laugh. She loved being in his arms. She'd loved everything about him until she'd discovered his live-in girlfriends.
With a small gasp, she realized that her chief source of anger and frustration always centered on his harem. She could understand why he hadn't told her he was a vampire. Who would want to admit to being a demon? And besides, he had to protect more than himself. He had a whole coven of followers to protect. His reluctance to confide in her was understandable. And forgivable.
And the fact that he was a demon - well, that seemed open to interpretation. After all, he was saving millions of human lives every day with his synthetic blood. And he was protecting lives by providing other vampires with a different food source. In her heart, she knew there was no evil in Roman. She would have never been so attracted to him, otherwise.