MacKay towered over him. "Ye keep looking at yer watch. Give it to me."
"You've already emptied my pockets. Are you a pack of thieves?" Ivan took his time removing the watch. MacKay knew he was up to something. He just needed to stall for more time. With a resigned sigh, he placed the watch in MacKay's hand. "It's an ordinary watch, you know. I keep looking at it because so far, this party has been a dreadful bore."
"It is." Galina pouted. "No one has even danced with me."
MacKay handed the watch to one of his men. "Examine it."
With a tilt of his head, Ivan spotted the French coven master entering the ballroom with another Highlander.
Most of the guests turned to admire the Frenchman as he strolled across the room. Jean-Luc Echarpe. What a pathetic excuse for a vampire. Instead of feeding off mortals, the silly Frenchman was dressing them. And getting filthy rich in the process.
Ivan jerked his head to the side, causing a loud crack. That got everyone's attention. The guests were now focused on him. Ivan smiled.
Angus MacKay gave him a curious look. "What's the matter, Petrovsky? Is yer head not screwed on properly?"
The Highlanders chuckled.
Ivan's smile faded. Go ahead and laugh, you fools. When the explosives go off, we'll see who's laughing then.
Shanna stiffened in Roman's arms. She had wanted to give him comfort, but now that he was taking it, she was a little spooked by the fact that she was hugging a vampire. This was going to take a while to get used to. She pulled back, sliding her hands from his shoulders to his chest.
He kept a loose hold on her and studied her face. "Second thoughts? You haven't decided to kill me, have you?"
"No, of course not." She studied her right hand where it rested against his chest. Over his heart. The thought of a stake piercing him there was too awful to contemplate. "I could never hurt - " She blinked and looked at him in shock. "You have a heartbeat. I can feel it."
"Yes. But when the sun rises, it will stop."
"I - I thought - "
"That nothing in my body worked? I walk and talk, don't I? My body is digesting the blood I consumed. For my brain to function, it must be supplied with blood and oxygen. I need air in order to talk. None of this would be possible without a beating heart to supply blood throughout my body."
"Oh. I just thought vampires were.."
'Totally dead? Not at night. You know my body reacts to you, Shanna. You've known that since the first night we were in the backseat of Laszlo's car."
Her face heated with a blush. His huge erection certainly proved how well his body functioned once the sun went down.
He touched her warm cheek. "I've wanted you since that first night."
She moved out of his reach. "We can't.."
"I would never hurt you."
"Can you be sure about that? Do you have complete control over your.. ?"
His jaw clenched. "My evil impulses?"
"I was going to say your.. appetite." She wrapped her arms around herself. "I - I care for you, Roman. And I'm not just saying that out of gratitude for you rescuing me. I really do care. And I hate the way you've been suffering for so long - "
"Then be with me." He reached for her.
She stepped back. "How can I? Even if I can deal with the fact that you're a - a vampire, there's still the live-in girlfriends. The harem."
"They don't mean anything to me."
"They mean a lot to me! How can I possibly ignore the fact that you're screwing ten women on the side?"
He winced. "I should have known that would be a problem."
"Well, duh! Why on earth do you need so many of them?" Oh, jeez. Dumb question. Any man would probably jump at the chance.
With a sigh, he turned and paced back to the kitchen area. He tugged at the tie that hung loose around his collar. "It is an ancient tradition for every coven master to keep a harem. I have no choice but to honor that tradition."
He pulled the tie free and tossed it on the kitchen table. "You don't understand vampire culture. The harem is a symbol of a coven master's power and prestige. Without them, I couldn't command any respect. I would be a laughingstock."
"Oh, poor baby! Trapped in an evil custom against your will. Wait a minute, I think my eyes are tearing up." Shanna held up her hands and waited a few seconds. "Oh no. False alarm. Probably allergies."
He scowled at her. "More likely indigestion from your acidic wit."
She glared back at him. "How amusing. Excuse me for not fawning over you like one of your ten harem girls."
"I wouldn't want you to."
She folded her arms across her chest. "That's why I left, you know. I found out you're a womanizing pig."
His eyes flashed. "And you're - " His angry expression slowly cleared into a look of wonder. "You're jealous."
"You're jealous." With a grin, he whisked off his jacket with the flair of a victorious matador and draped it over the back of a kitchen chair. "You're so jealous, you can hardly stand it. You know what this means? It means you want me."
"It means I'm disgusted!" Shanna turned her back on him and paced toward the door. Damn him. He was far too clever. He knew she was attracted to him. But a vampire with a harem of ten women? If she was going to date a demon, he could at least be a faithful one. Good God. She couldn't believe she was in such a predicament. "Maybe I should contact the Justice Department in the morning."
"No. They cannot protect you like I can. They don't even know what kind of enemy they're facing."
That was true. As far as she could tell, her best chance for survival was with Roman. She leaned against the wall next to the door. "If I stay with you, it can only be temporary. There can't be any sort of relationship between us."
"Ah. You do not wish to kiss me again?" He stared at her so intently, she was ready to squirm.
"No." Her heart rate quickened.
"You know I want you."
She swallowed hard. "It won't happen. You have a whole harem to keep you happy. You don't need me."
"I have never touched them. Not intimately."
Who was he fooling? Of all the ridiculous things to say. "Don't take me for an idiot."
"I'm serious. I've never physically shared a bed with any of them."
Anger spiked inside her. "Don't lie to me. I know you've had sex with them. They were talking about it, about how it had been a long time, and how they missed you."
"Exactly. It's been a long time."
"So, you admit it. You've had sex with them."
"It's purely a mental exercise. We're not even in the same room." He shrugged. "I simply plant the feelings and sensations into their brains."
"You mean it's some sort of mental telepathy?"
"Mind control. Vampires use it to manipulate mortals or communicate with each other."
Manipulate mortals? "That's how you got me to implant your tooth?" She winced. "I mean your fang. You tricked me."
"I had to make you see it as an ordinary tooth. I regret that I couldn't be completely honest, but under the circumstances, I felt I had no choice."
He had a point. She wouldn't have wanted to help him if she'd known the truth. "So you really didn't show up in the dental mirror."
His eyebrows shot up. "You remember that?"
"Sorta. Do you still have the splint in your mouth?"
"No. I had Laszlo remove it last night. I was so worried about you, Shanna. I could hardly function without you. I was calling to you mentally, hoping we still had a connection."
With a gulp, she recalled hearing his voice in her sleep, "I - I'm not comfortable with you invading my head whenever you feel like it."
"You needn't worry about that. You have an incredibly strong mind. The only way I can get in is if you let me."
"I'm able to block you?" That was good news.
"Yes, but when you let me in, our connection is stronger than any I have ever experienced before." He walked toward her, his eyes gleaming. "We could be so good together."
Oh Lordy. "It's not going to happen. You've already admitted that you're having sex with ten other women."