One flick of his tongue and she shattered. Her inner muscles clenched his fingers. She cried out. Spasms throbbed from her inner core, shooting ripples of sheer pleasure to her fingers and toes. With each wave of release, her breath caught in her throat, her fingers twitched at the sheets. The tremors went on and on. She pulled her legs up, pressing her thighs together, reveling in the glorious aftershocks.
You were beautiful. He kissed her brow.
"You were fantastic." She pressed a hand against her chest. Her heart was still beating rapidly, her skin still hot.
I must go now, sweetness. Sleep well.
"What? You can't leave now."
I must. Sleep well, my love.
"You can't just leave. I want to hold you." A jab of cold pain pinched the bridge of her nose, then disappeared. "Roman?"
She searched for his presence within her. He was gone.
"Hey, caveman!" she yelled at the ceiling. "You can't just love me and leave!"
No answer. She struggled to sit up. The bedside clock glowed with the time. Six-ten. Oh, that was it. She collapsed onto her back. The sun was rising. Time for all good little vampires to go sleepy-bye. That certainly sounded nicer than the truth. For the next twelve hours, Roman was dead to the world.
Shit. For a corpse, he made one hell of a lover. With a moan, she covered her eyes. What was she doing, having sex with a vampire? It wasn't like there was any future in this. He was stuck forever at the age of thirty. Condemned to be young, sexy, and gorgeous for all eternity, while she would grow old.
Shanna groaned. Their relationship was doomed from the start. He would stay the beautiful, young prince.
And she would be the ugly old toad.
Early in the afternoon, Shanna woke and had lunch with Howard Barr and a few of the daytime guards. Although trained in security, the guys were also paid to clean house during the day. After all, the sound of vacuum cleaners wasn't going to disturb the dead. Shanna spent a boring afternoon washing her new clothes and watching television. The Digital Vampire Network was on, but most everything was in French or Italian. It was nighttime in Europe. The slogans still appeared in English. On 24/7 because it's always nighttime somewhere. DVN - if you're not digital, you can't be seen. Now the words made a lot more sense.
She took a hot shower before sunset, eager to look her best for Roman. Back in the kitchen, she ate supper and witnessed the changing of the guard. The Highlanders arrived. Each one gave her a smile before heading to the refrigerator for a bottle of blood. They waited their turn at the microwave, while they smiled at her and exchanged knowing looks.
Did she have a piece of lettuce stuck in her teeth? Finally the Scotsmen left to take up their posts for the evening. Connor remained behind, rinsing out bottles in the sink. She recalled seeing him do that before, but at the time, the significance hadn't registered.
"Why is everyone so happy?" Shanna asked from her seat at the kitchen table. "After the bombing last night, I thought a war was about to break out."
"Oh, aye, it will," Connor answered. "But when ye live as long as we have, ye lose a sense of urgency about it. We'll take care of Petrovsky soon enough. 'Tis a shame we didn't kill him in the Great War."
Shanna leaned forward. "There was a Great Vampire War?"
"Aye, in 1710." Connor closed the dishwasher, then leaned against the counter. His eyes grew hazy with memories. "I was there. So was Petrovsky, though not on the same side, ye ken."
"How did it happen?"
"Roman dinna tell you?"
"No. Was he involved?"
Connor snorted. "He started it."
Was that what Roman meant when he said he'd committed terrible crimes? "Will you tell me about it?"
"I suppose there's no harm in it." Connor wandered toward the kitchen table and took a seat. "The vampire who changed Roman was a verra nasty character named Casimir. He had a pack of vampires at his command, and together they were destroying whole villages, raping and murdering, torturing for the pleasure of it. Petrovsky was one of Casimir's favorite minions."
Shanna winced. Roman had been a gentle monk, dedicated to healing the poor. It was appalling to think of him thrust into the midst of such evil. "What happened to Roman?"
"Casimir was fascinated with him. He wanted to wrench every bit of goodness out of Roman, and turn him into pure evil. He.. he did cruel things to Roman. Gave him terrible choices." Connor shook his head in disgust. "One time, Casimir captured two children and threatened to kill them both. He said Roman could save one of them if he would only kill the other one himself."
"Oh God." A wave of nausea swept through Shanna. No wonder Roman thought God had abandoned him.
"When Roman refused to partake in such perversity, Casimir flew into a rage. He and his pack of devils descended on Roman's monastery and murdered all the monks. Then they destroyed the buildings."
"Oh, no! All the monks? Even Roman's adopted father?" Shanna's heart ached at the thought.
"Aye. Ye ken, it wasna Roman's fault, but he still felt responsible."
No wonder Roman suffered so much from self-loathing. It wasn't his fault, but she could see why he would feel guilty. Karen's death hadn't been her fault, but she still blamed herself. "The ruined monastery - that's the painting on the fifth floor, isn't it?"
"Aye. Roman keeps it there to remind himself - "
"You mean torture himself." Shanna's eyes misted with tears. For how many centuries did he intend to whip himself over this?
"Aye." Connor nodded sadly. "It was the sight of the monastery and his dead brothers that instilled in Roman a purpose for his new and awful existence. He made a vow then to destroy Casimir and his evil followers. But he knew he couldna do it alone. So he sneaked away, traveling to the west, seeking out battlefields where the wounded lay dying in the dark. In 1513 he found Jean-Luc at the Battle of the Spurs in France and Angus at Flodden Field in Scotland. He transformed them, and they became his first allies."
"When did they find you?"
"At the battle of Solway Moss." Connor sighed. "There was never peace for long in my bonnie Scotland. It made a prime hunting ground for dying warriors. I had crawled under a tree to die. Roman found me and asked if I was willing to fight again for a noble cause. I was in so much pain, I doona remember much. I must have said yes, for Roman transformed me that night."
Shanna swallowed hard. "Do you resent what happened to you?"
Connor looked surprised. "Nay, lass. I was dying. Roman gave me a reason to exist. Angus was there, too. He changed over Ian. By 1710, Roman had acquired a large army of vampires. Angus was his general. I was a captain." Connor smiled proudly.
"And then you marched on Casimir?"
"Aye, it was a bloody war and raged on for three nights. Those who were wounded and too weak to move would fry when the sun rose. On the third night, shortly before sunrise, Casimir fell. His followers fled."
"And Petrovsky was one of them?"
"Aye. But we'll be getting him soon. Doona worry about that." Connor stood and stretched. "I'd best get to my rounds."
"I suppose Roman is up by now."
Connor grinned. "Aye. I'm sure he is." He strode from the kitchen, his red and green kilt swinging about his knees.
Shanna heaved a big sigh. So Roman had told the truth about his crimes. He had killed and transformed mortals into vampires. But he had transformed those who were already dying, and his purpose had been a noble one. He defeated Casimir, the evil vampire who enjoyed torturing innocent people.
It was a violent past Roman had, but it was one that she could accept. In spite of Casimir's attempts to vilify him, Roman had remained a good man. He'd always sought to protect the innocent and save mortals. Yet he was so filled with remorse, he believed God had abandoned him. She needed to get through to him somehow and ease his pain. Their personal relationship might be doomed, but she still cared about Roman, and she couldn't stand for him to suffer anymore. She wandered into the hall and headed for the stairs.
"Oh, Shanna!" Maggie stood at the opening to the parlor.
The double doors were open, and Shanna could see the harem inside. Aw, jeez. She really didn't want to see these women.
"Shanna, come on." Maggie grabbed her by the arm and tugged her toward the parlor. "Look, everybody! It's Shanna."