[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.She smiled.Her upper fangs glinted.“So that’s why you have come.”Now she stood and moved toward him, bringing with her a renewed burning in the bites on his neck and the scent of roses.Max felt her presence as it seeped into him, cloying and close, and noticed the way his breathing became heavier.Controlled.Although he kept his eyes averted from hers, he felt the first hint of a muscle tremor deep beneath his skin.“You agreed to release me from your thrall if I succeeded.” He drew in his breath slowly, keeping it steady with effort.“You didn’t expect me to.”Lilith tilted her head, turning her face away while keeping her gaze on him in a sly manner.“On the contrary, Maximilian.I was certain you would succeed.I had no doubts.After all” —she reached for him, brushing her long-nailed finger along one of his cheekbones— “those very characteristics attract me to you.Your strength, your determination, and your integrity.”Max didn’t flinch as the nail, death-sharp, cut a thin line into his skin.His heartbeat was still his own, and though his throat was dry, he was still steady.He wanted to step away, but he didn’t.He’d faced Lilith before; he’d face her this time.Now her hand had come to rest on one side of his chest, and they stood face-to-face, the vampire as tall as he, the weight of her hand burning through his shirtwaist.“Along with…this…” she added, smoothing her palm over his firm pectoral.With her touch came the strength of her thrall, battling to capture his breathing, the race of his heart, the surge in his veins.His desire.“Will you not keep your word and release me?” Max closed his eyes.He knew it had been foolish to come here, but he’d been willing to try.He had little to lose.He’d even told Victoria he never believed Lilith would release him.Both of her hands were on him now, flat palmed, sliding up and over his shoulders to cup the bare skin of his neck.Max felt the tiny, warm drip of blood from his cheek where she’d cut him, and the unbearable closeness when she leaned forward and pressed an openmouthed kiss to the edge of his jaw, over the trickle of blood.The flood of sensation staggered him.Her lips—one cool and firm, the other warm and soft—bussing against his skin set his fingers to trembling against the sides of his trousers.Her teeth were slick and smooth as they slid against his jaw, ending in a tiny nibble.His breath caught, and he drew it in sharply, deeply, and felt the beginnings of response simmering low inside him, behind the weakness in his knees, and his lips parted with a soft puff of air.When she kissed him he tasted his own blood, and he kissed her back, unwillingly, yet willingly.Then through the haze of desire that pummeled him, Max remembered who he still was, and managed to slide his hand up between them, brushing against her breasts as they pressed against his shirt.He tore at its ties and at last closed his fingers over the tiny silver cross that hung from his areola.Strength from the vis bulla surged through him, and he drew in his first clear breath since she’d stepped near.He pulled his face away as she realized what had happened and stepped back.Her fingers tore at his shirt, pulling it open, and with a shriek of surprise, she jerked away.“So, you have come armed.” At first she could not look at him, could not look at the large silver cross that hung on a heavy chain around his neck.Hidden beneath his shirt, it was the only weapon he’d been able to bring into her presence aside from the tiny vis bulla.It wasn’t as effective as an ash stake, but it had produced the effect he’d desired.“I am not so foolish as to come to you unprepared,” Max replied, his voice easier now, although his blood still leaped and his chest was tight.“A stake would have been preferable, but your Guardians would not allow me to pass with one.I tried.”“I would expect nothing less from you, Maximilian.” She kept her distance, kept her eyes slightly averted, but was not the crumpled heap of weakness a lesser vampire would have been.The surprise had sent her spinning away, but the mere vision of the cross was not enough to frighten a vampire of her caliber for long.As one’s eyes became used to sudden light in darkness, so would she soon be able to look at him again.But the large cross would keep her from touching him—or touching him much.And the delicate silver vis bulla—blessed with holy water and forged of silver from the Holy Land—gave him his Venator speed, strength, and fast-healing capabilities.But neither would damage Lilith in any other way.Now, as she looked at him again, her eyes narrowed and seemed to focus on his half-bare chest.“That is not your vis bulla,” she said suddenly, her eyes widening.Max looked at her.“You’re surprised I would have noticed.Why should you be, Maximilian? I notice everything about you.” The purr was back in her voice again, and despite the hand-size cross hanging there, she stepped toward him.“This one is different.It’s smaller.”“But no less powerful.” It was true.He’d given his vis bulla to Victoria, then walked away from her on the streets of Roma a month ago.And later, when he’d decided to make this mad trip, he’d replaced it with this one— one that did not belong to him.“No, I would expect not.But still [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]