I have found my fourth… and he’s going to bring out the worst in me
Venice. Of all the places that I’d wind up when shit hit the fan, the romantic city of gondolas and gelatos was definitely not what I’d pictured. It was also the last place on Earth I’d imagine I’d find my fourth.
The runes surrounding my navel pulsated with the need to complete the circle. Four souls. Four pieces of my destiny. Four men who could control my heart and my future and stop my nightmares from coming true.
My fingers curled into fists as I fought the idea for the first time. I’d been so enraptured by Luke, by Jet and Nate, that I hadn’t realized I’d been falling into a trap. The last piece of my soul stared down at me from atop a roof—a vampire, no less. He exuded confidence, arrogance, and danger in ways that made my skin crawl and my heart quicken. What kind of destiny paired me with such dangerous men?
The vampire with glowing red eyes watched and waited with an annoyingly pleased look on his face. I broke eye contact as I stared up at the sheet of jagged rock that made up the ancient building. “I can come down,” he offered, his voice carrying on the humid breeze.
Glancing down the street, Luke whispered in the shadows, blending amongst sleepy strangers. As promised, he was waiting for me by a quiet coffee shop instead of running to my aid like some kind of Prince Charming. I wasn’t a damsel. I didn’t need help. He knew that, but seeing him looking out for me anyway made my heart twist with delight.
He ventured a bit closer, revealing the beautiful, sharp angles of his face crested by moonlight. The way his brows knit together said he wasn’t too happy about allowing me to face danger alone, though. If he saw what had gotten my attention, I’d never hear the end of it—no matter if the man looking down at me was one of my fourth or not.
Ignoring the vampire’s offer, I grabbed one of the stones jutting out of the uneven wall and hauled myself up. There was no way I’d agree to meet this guy on the street. Anyone who saw him would know he wasn’t human and our conversation would be cut short, so I dug my fingers into a crevice in the gritty rock and climbed.
He offered a sleek, pale hand when I reached the top and I glared at him, choosing to skid my knees against the unforgiving stone instead of accepting his help.
He huffed a laugh. “Stubborn one, aren’t you?”
Growling and wiping away the stinging pebbles, I snapped my teeth. I figured a vampire might take that as an insult. “You’re the one parading around in the open with those eyes of yours like you’re not a creature of the night. The hell you trying to do?” I eased closer and tried to ignore the intoxicating musk of maleness that wafted from him. “Supernaturals are supposed to keep their presence hidden from humans.”
He grinned, flashing very real fangs that made my insides curl. “Says a succubus who just scaled a wall.”
Rolling my eyes, I glanced down the way I’d come. I’d thought it a short distance with some jutting rocks to give me purchase, but now I saw that we were three stories up and the side of the building glistened slick in the moonlight.
Okay, so maybe that had been showing off a bit.
I flinched as he ran a finger across my collarbone without warning. “I sensed the Blood Stone when you arrived, but I don’t see it on you.” His fingers dipped lower towards the curve of my cleavage and I slapped his hand away. He gave me a husky chuckle. “The magic is inside of you; how intriguing.”
“I’m so glad I amuse you,” I drawled. “How about you tell me who the fuck you are?”
He grinned, his fangs catching the moonlight and making me suck in a breath. “I can tell you’re not accustomed to vampires.” He cocked his head. “Am I the first one you’ve met?”
Snarling, I snapped a finger in his face and red electricity zapped around my skin. His eyes widened at my magic. “I’m the one asking questions here. Tell me who you are and what you want or this is going to get ugly.” I knew why I had been brought here. My magic wanted me to complete the magic that pulsated in my runes, but I wasn’t going to make it easy on him. If he wanted to be my fourth, he was going to have to earn it.
A dangerous glint flashed in his gaze, giving me just enough warning that he was up to something before he up and vanished into thin air. I gasped when his hot breath puffed on the back of my neck. I whirled to find him leering down at me, his red eyes glowing with excitement. “My name is Xavier,” he whispered, his voice caressing me in ways that felt like a violation. “And whether you want to accept it or not, you’re most certainly my mate.”
Before I could reply at his audacity, a rock beamed him right in the temple. Velvet red blood splotched across his forehead and he snarled, facing the ground where the projectile had come from.
“Get away from her, fang-face,” Luke growled.
Sigh. My angel knight in shining armor… or rather, tattered bits of a shirt that had survived the portal. The silver moonlight illuminated the cut lines of his chest that seemed to serve no other purpose than to reveal how ripped he was.
“Luke? The fuck you doing?” I whisper-yelled, trying to ignore how turned on I was by his protectiveness.
Xavier ran his finger down the trail of blood and drew it into his mouth, making sure to look at me as he licked. “Who’s your charming friend?”
“My boyfriend,” I answered without thinking, then my neck went hot with a flush as Luke laughed.
The most handsome smile I’d ever seen spread slowly across his face. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m her boyfriend, and even if I share her, it’s not with the likes of you.”
I recognized the challenge in his statement. If he could feel Xavier exuding with the power of my fourth like I could, then he was going to challenge Xavier into earning me. The vampire couldn’t just walk into my life and win a place in my bed… unless he kept licking his finger like that. He really needed to stop it.
Raising an eyebrow at me, Xavier finally lowered his hand. “Well, it seems I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Why don’t we go to my place and have some wine?”
Glaring, I said, “I don’t do wine.”
He smiled. “Oh, darling, you’re in Venice. We all ‘do’ wine.”
He inched closer and my rune burned at his proximity. He was definitely one of my four, but the raw arrogance in his gaze pissed me off. Just because destiny had bound him to me didn’t mean that I was going to just bend over.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I snapped.
He grinned and his eyes swept over me, taking in the curves poorly hidden by my tight Miami-suitable clothes. “We don’t get many succubi in Venice, especially not any that could handle me.” His grin grew. “You can handle me, can’t you?”
My nails bit crescents into my palms. If I said yes, that would just egg him on. If I said no, I was admitting I’d never slept with a vampire and I had no idea what to expect.
When I hesitated, he slowly licked his lower lip, riding his tongue up his fang.
Getting tired of this prick, I teetered on the edge of the roof, preparing myself to break my legs trying to jump off rather than spend one more second with the likes of this vampire.
He brushed my shoulder with a light touch and pointed to the stairwell. “If I may.”
Sighing, I opted for the stairs.
It turned out that I was a wine kind of girl, I’d just never had the right wine before, apparently.
“What’s in this?” I marveled, turning the glass to catch the light of Xavier’s chandelier as the low golden glow splattered rainbows and sequins off my glass.
He didn’t answer, and instead refilled my drink.
I sighed and took another sip, fluttering my eyes closed in bliss. When I opened them again, I wondered how I’d found myself from Miami’s beaches to this place, the best Venice had to offer. His “humble abode,” as he’d called it, was apparently a vampire hideout of the luxurious sort.
“So, a muse runs this city?” I asked, slipping into the comfort of an expensive leather couch. I shouldn’t have been indulging in the poorly hidden attempts of my fourth trying to woo me, but couldn’t help it. I was exhausted. I could be wooed and refuel my energy stores at the same time, right?
Luke ignored his glass and instead peered out of the two-story window gazing at the stillness of the canals below. “It’s nothing like New York, or Shanghai,” he said. “It’s too… peaceful.”
Xavier poured himself a glass of wine—which was definitely not wine—and settled himself across from me. It didn’t matter that he was out of arm’s reach. The way his gaze raked over me made me feel invaded. I hated that I liked it.
“We work hard to keep things that way,” Xavier said, his tone edged with accusation as he glared at Luke. “Hades runs things differently than Apollo, Ares, or Derek,” Xavier continued. “He’s only half a muse, after all. He’s capable of some common sense.”
Raising an eyebrow, I set my glass down. “Half-muse?”
He nodded. “My master is half-vampire, half-muse. He sleeps for decades at a time and awards the vampire community the magic of compulsion. It keeps the humans blind to our ongoings, keeps the vampires happy, and until recently, has kept Apollo and Ares out of vampire business.”
“So, what’s changed?” Luke asked, leaning against the window and crossing his arms.
Xavier frowned, not hiding his distaste for Luke. “Your arrival comes as part of provenance of a new world foreseen by my witches.” I shivered as he said that with such confidence… his witches. “They’ve predicted chaos to engulf this city and the resulting flames will devour the world.” His gaze fell on me, coating me with a wave of his desire mixed with aggravation, as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to rip out my jugular or plunge himself into me. My rune pulsed low on my stomach in response and I clenched my thighs, cursing low under my breath. Xavier grinned at my discomfort. “My witches have also seen the few key players who can derail fate. You, my dear, are one of them.” He shifted closer, making my spine go rigid as his grin widened, revealing lengthening fangs. “If I take you as my mate, the vampire community would gain the edge we need to withstand the Incubus King and a rogue muse.”
I rolled my eyes. Sure, he was hot and the rune pulsing low on my belly was begging me to explore his body, but I was a succubus. I didn’t do “mates.” I had other men in my life. “Again with the mate thing.” I motioned for Luke to sit with me. With a sly grin, he obeyed. I ran my thumb across his lower lip and gazed into the perfect blue of his eyes that held so much pain, mystery, and longing. “I am not made for just one man.” I loved Luke. Just like I loved Jet and Nate. They all soothed a deep wound inside of me that had plagued me all my life. It was hard to believe that my magic believed Xavier comparable to the souls who’d won me over.
“He’s no man,” Xavier observed, ignoring the point I was trying to make entirely. “My witches never miss anything—or anyone. The only reason they wouldn’t be able to foresee Luke’s arrival is if he were a powerful supernatural.” He set his glass on the table and the liquid inside sloshed in a way that made my stomach roll with nausea. “So, my friend, what exactly are you? Why does this succubus resist me when she has been destined as my mate? Why does she cling to you, when she should be draping herself over me?”
Luke ignored the provocation and kept looking into my eyes, his hand slipping up the back of my neck as he pulled me in for a deep, sensual kiss. Warmth flooded through my body and my world spun when he pulled away. “You’re so much better than wine,” I said with my smile against his teeth.
Xavier huffed a laugh. Instead of getting the point—again—he was amused.
Sneaking Xavier a glance, I glared. “So, your witches,” I said, purposefully pushing him off topic, “what else did they see?”
His ruby gaze darkened for the first time as he leaned back into the embrace of the sofa. “Death,” he said, the word an ominous growl. “This city will be the first to fall to Derek’s madness. With the three stones of power, as well as the alliance of the other two muses, he will undo all the hard work that Hades has put in place.” His gaze grew dark. “I fear the harsher possibility. They come to kill my master while he sleeps and I won’t be able to stop them, not without inducing Hades into a premature awakening.”
I shrugged. “Okay, so, go wake him, then.”
He watched me with an intensity that displayed every facet of his inhumanity. He didn’t blink, didn’t breathe. Every muscle in his body was taut and ready to spring. “No one can wake a sleeping vampire, especially Hades. Only the power which gave all vampires life could rouse him from his current state.” His gaze dipped to my breast where a faint red glow had begun to throb, and for the first time I dumbly realized that Xavier’s eyes were the same kind of red as the power exuded by my Blood Stone. “I’m afraid you’re the only one with that gift,” his gaze snapped to mine, “but you won’t be able to wake my master with the power of your Blood Stone alone. You must be able to speak to him, mind-to-mind.” He leaned his elbows on his knees. “You must become a vampire.”
Shivering, I peeled myself away from Luke who’d begun to grip me a bit too hard.
“There’s no way Sonya is going to become a bloodsucking vampire,” Luke snarled.
I winced at the insult. “Am I so different?” I asked, my voice a weak whisper. “I drain life just as a vampire does.”
Luke took my hand and the power of his blue gaze drew me in with such desperation that I couldn’t look away. “No, Sonya. You’re so much more than that.” His touch threaded my fingers. “You’re mine.”
Xavier appeared beside us without warning, his vampire speed taking us both off guard. His red eyes glowed with wisps of power that bounced off the harsh arches of his cheekbones. “Do you hate what you are?” he asked me, seeming to be able to read my mind.
My first reaction was to slap him for getting all up in my face, but there was a deeper emotion in the backs of his eyes that made me go still. “Yes,” I admitted. Only Nate had been able to get me to open up, to feel understood. But where Nate had given me solace, Xavier whispered of a kindred pain that shared my own.
He placed his hand on my shoulder and I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of comfort being between these two strong men that made my runes awaken with heat and hunger. Luke, my tormented angel, found ways to bring out my humanity and suppress my succubus impulses. But this vampire, there was another promise he offered in the cool strength of his grip. There was an understanding there that no one else could offer. “Perhaps,” he whispered, “if you became a hybrid, like my master, you wouldn’t be a slave to your impulses. It’s why he became what he is.”
My eyes went wide. “Let’s say, just for kicks, I was up for this. How does one become a vampire?”
“Sonya,” Luke began, but I held up a hand.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m not doing anything rash. I just want to hear what he has to say.”
Xavier grinned, his tongue flashing seductive promises across his lips. “The secret of how to turn a female is one of the best kept mysteries of the supernatural community.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Males are easy to turn?”
He grinned. “Wouldn’t call it easy, but it’s no secret. It’s long, painful, and good luck getting the kind of blood necessary for the turn.” His grin turned wicked. “Females, however, are not often turned, and for good reason.”
“But you’re going to tell me?” I asked.
He stood and crossed his arms. “Perhaps, but I’m afraid the angel can’t be here for this conversation.” We both startled at how seamlessly he guessed what Luke was—and how not surprised he was that Luke was a celestial being. Xavier pointed to the hall. “Your room is three corridors down. There’s enough insulation in the walls to keep our conversation private and out of earshot, even for a supernatural. Should Sonya wish, she’ll join you after we’ve had our little chat.” His eyes blazed with power. “If she chooses to accept my proposal, however, you’re not to interfere.”
Luke eyed me warily. I couldn’t miss the pain in his eyes. He’d watched me choose other men so many times before, and once again, he feared he was going to lose me to another. It wasn’t monogamy he desired, it was the assurance that I’d always come back. I wanted to tell him that he had a piece of my heart. He always would.
He took my hand. “Don’t look at me like that,” he said and gave me a weak smile. “Don’t look so guilty. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I understand what you are. I understand to be with you means to share you. I love you enough to do that.” He gave Xavier a dubious glance. “Not that I could comprehend anything this fang-face has to propose could be remotely enticing.”
Laughing, I pushed him away. “Go on. I’ll see you soon.”
Xavier looked far too pleased with himself as Luke sauntered down the hall.
“Great,” he said when Luke had disappeared from sight. “Let’s talk secrets.”