woke slowly, the memories of parents she didn’t know and the life she never had
a chance to live fading to intangible presences at the back of her mind until
they were half-forgotten dreams. Her eyelids were heavy and her tongue felt
like sandpaper. She blinked slowly as the leaden feel of her limbs dissipated
and the fog in her head lightened. She sat up, a thick blanket of white fur
dropping down to her waist.
Fur? She stared around at the master
bedroom she was in.
“Oh my . .
.” The tall four-poster bed was made of dark black wood, a midnight blue
bedspread beneath her and a mountain of feather-soft pillows behind her. She
caught her reflection in a large mirror on a dresser table. Her face was ashen
and her lips pale as she sat in a mountain of expensive white furs. Her hair
was in wild disarray. She threaded her fingers through the messy mane and took
a few steadying breaths. Where was she? She struggled to remember anything
before she’d woken up here.
elevator, the man following her, and then Grigori . . . in her hotel room.
God. I’ve been kidnapped.
her arms around her chest for several seconds, just trying to calm her panicked
breathing. They had kidnapped her and brought her here. A thousand horrible
scenarios ran through her head of what they might to do with her . . . human
trafficking being the worst. The thought of it brought bile up to her throat
and she swallowed, gagging.
calm down. Just
calm down . . .
froze, and her heart stopped for a painful second before it jolted back into a
steady beat. She summoned the scholarly side of herself to analyze her
surroundings again. She needed to figure out where she was and what they wanted
from her. Then she could plan her escape. Beside her on the table, was a
leather bound book she was all too familiar with. James’s Barrow’s journal.
pounding, she pushed the furs down and slid off the bed. Her sock-covered feet
sank into a creamy white carpet. Madelyn grabbed the nearest bedpost, her
fingers gripping the spindle carved wood as she walked around the king-size
bed. She moved through the room and caught a teasing sense of something dark,
pine and masculine. A scent she’d recognized when she’d been standing close to
the man in the suit who’d looked just like Grigori from the journal. He
couldn’t be Grigori. She didn’t know his name, so she might as well call him
that until she figured out who he really was.
Grigori. He was everywhere in this room,
from the elegant furnishings to the clothes hanging in the closet. Madelyn
wasn’t sure how she knew it was his room aside from the lingering scent, but it
just felt like this was part of his world. She couldn’t explain it. She’d never
been in a man’s bedroom before and it was exciting and scary.
Why had he
brought her here? How had they knocked her out? And why did he want to know why
she’d been interested in James Barrow’s book? She had a thousand questions and
no answers. The smart thing would be to find her shoes and coat and get out of
here . . . no matter how intrigued she was with the mystery of Grigori Barinov.
down and looked in the closet and under the bed for her boots but couldn’t find
them. She had a sneaking suspicion he had hidden them to keep her from
escaping. She approached the beautifully carved bedroom door, gripping the
antique glass doorknob. Would it be locked? Was she a prisoner? She turned the
knob and it gave beneath the pressure.
opened and she entered a small corridor, passing a lavish master bathroom with
a large tub and an oversized glass shower. Whoa. The next room she
entered opened into a huge library and an office. Then the apartment gave way
to a large living room with the kitchen at the back and a dining room. A
roaring fire in a square pit in the center of the living room sparkled over
crystal stones. A wing backed chair facing the fire creaked slightly and a
masculine hand extended past the arm of the chair as it swirled a glass of
sitting there . . .
held her breath, listening to every sound from the antique grandfather clock in
the hall ticking away to the sounds of the man in the chair turning the pages
of his book. The hand holding the glass suddenly disappeared and the chair
creaked again as the occupant stood and turned to face her.
Grigori. He looked too damn sexy, and intimidating, in that expensive suit. His
light hair fell across his blue eyes and he gazed at her with an unreadable
expression. Her heart was racing again, and blood roared in her ears as she
watched him, afraid of what he might do.
awake,” he noted. He moved slowly, setting the wine glass on the table beside
“Why am I
here?” She was careful to keep a safe distance between them. They were facing
each other, like two animals measuring each other up before they decided to
fight or not. She wouldn’t hesitate to throw anything at him within her reach
here because you checked out a book.”
reply made her bristle. The last thing she should be was argumentative, but she
suddenly wanted to be brave in front of him.
against the law?” she asked, tilting her chin. She may have been scared out of
her mind, but she was not going to let him see it.
lips twitched. “No, but that book belongs to me.”
stiffened. “Then why did you leave it in a public library? You do understand
that’s how libraries work, right?” How she had the nerve to be snarky, she’d
one hand on the back of the leather chair, his finger slowly tapping a pattern
as though he was channeling all of his energy into the movement.
creature,” he murmured. “I like that.” This was uttered so softly she thought
she’d imagined it.
have the book back, you can let me go. I can leave, can’t I?” Her eyes
darted around the room, seeking out the front door. She inwardly groaned when
she realized the only way out was behind him. She’d have to get past brooding,
sexy, and scary Grigori.
afraid you cannot leave. I have questions that require answers.” He took two
steps toward her. It took everything inside Madelyn not to retreat. She sensed
that any sign of weakness would trigger his animal instincts. He was an
aggressive predator who looked too intense to be in this lush apartment.
questions and then let me go.” She wanted to curl her arms around herself, but
instead planted hands on her hips.
arched one eyebrow, calmly removed his coat and laid it on the back of the
chair. His gray wool vest showed off his muscular chest and his tapered waist.
She licked her lips, nervous and all too aware of him and in way she shouldn’t
be given that he had kidnapped her. The image of his face in the journal, the
sketch dated 1821, haunted her. It couldn’t be the same man. That was
impossible. But the likeness . . .
you after the book?” Grigori asked as he rolled up the sleeves of his crisp
white shirt. It revealed muscular forearms, which were also sun-kissed. Her
skin prickled and she tried to swallow the lump of fear in her throat.
sent me. I came here on my own.”
nodded to himself, smiling a little as he walked over to the kitchen and opened
care for some wine? It’s a fine vintage.” He held up a bottle and a glass.
seriously just offer me a drink? You’ve kidnapped me! For god knows what
reason. You’d better let me leave right now or—”
Grigori was studying her through hooded eyes. “Ms. Haynes, I understand you are
frightened, but I’m not planning on harming you. We’re merely going to have a
discussion. Once I have learned all that I need, you shall be free to go.”
“You . . .
you promise?” She had no reason to trust him if he did make such a promise, but
part of her wanted to trust him. Part of her was still fixed on the man in the
journal, the one she felt she knew somehow from dreams within dreams.
I have no intention of hurting you. I merely needed a chance to speak to you
privately. On my honor.” He touched his freed hand to his chest with his
fingers curled into a fist. The motion was archaic, like something a knight
from the Middle Ages might do as he pledged himself to the lord of a castle.
weighed her options—not that she really had any. If she was trapped here she
wasn’t going to make a fool of herself trying to escape until she had a real
chance. She wasn’t sure if she believed him, but part of her wanted to. She’d
never felt so torn in her life. All logic and basic instincts were screaming to
run away from the man who kidnapped her, but there was a deeper part of her,
whispering to her to stay and trust. It was like she was staring at his picture
in the library all over again and she couldn’t look away, couldn’t leave.
play along, it might help me buy some time to figure out a real plan of getting
out of here.
waved the bottle in the air. “Well?”
glass,” she finally replied. God, please don’t let me trusting him a little
be a huge mistake.
walked over, setting a glass directly in front of her on the black granite
countertop. They were only inches apart now. His body so tall and intimidating
compared to hers. A nauseating pounding started in her head and her skin
tingled like it had in the elevator with that other man.
her eyes, steadying her suddenly shaky legs. How was it that this man could
rattle her? Was it because he’d kidnapped her and she was freaking out . . . or
was it something else? She’d been scared plenty of times, but it had never been
like this. This felt . . . different. She didn’t feel right, like her body was
trying to change inside. It didn’t make sense.
A hand, his
hand brushed a lock of her hair back from her face, leaving a sizzling
sensation behind wherever he touched her. As she opened her eyes, she saw him
lean close to her and inhale deeply.
sniffing me?” she asked in a shaky whisper.
slowly, his full lips suddenly in a firm line. “You smell good. Too good,” he
growled softly. His hand reached up again, but it stopped inches from her. And
that was when she felt it. A faint breeze ruffled her hair, playing with the
strands. Grigori stayed motionless, his eyes narrowed. And just like that, the
unexplainable breeze vanished.
held her breath, hoping he would move first. He finally stepped back.
MacQueen send you?” he asked as he turned and walked away from her, back to the
fridge. The distance growing between them seemed like a vast chasm. It should
have been a relief, but it wasn’t.
going nuts. Seriously nuts.
the door and stared at the contents before shutting it and frowning.
Damien MacQueen?” she asked. The name was one she didn’t recognize. Grigori
stared at her for a long moment as though discerning whether she spoke the
brotherhood didn’t send you.” He placed his palms on the counter, leaning
forward slightly as he stared at her. The man had that intense gaze down to a
T. She was frozen in place, unable to look away from him as he watched her. She
tried to study him back, analyzing the way his jaw seemed to be cut from
Italian marble and his straight nose gave him an air of distinction. He was
gorgeous—for a kidnapper.
“You are a
professor?” Grigori asked.
Ellwood University.” She lifted her glass of wine and tried to take a sip. The
wine was soft and dark on her tongue. A truly expensive wine without any bitter
aftertaste. The floral bouquet hit her taste buds and finished with a hint of
to research?” he asked.
almost felt like she was on a date. These were like the usual questions: Who
are you? What do you do for a living? Do you like it? But this wasn’t a date.
It was the farthest thing from it.
“I do . .
.” she hesitated, trying to figure out what to do.
enjoy history?” he asked as he sipped his wine, his blue eyes still fixed on
her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
paused, trying to focus on answering him but also staying alert. “History is
steady. You know it’s always going to be the same, no matter how much you look
back on it. I like the predictability.”
fear the future,” he mused.
bristled. “I don’t fear the future, I just . . . I just don’t trust things to
happen the way I want them to sometimes.” She’d expected her visit to Russia to
be a safe one instead of getting kidnapped by someone like him.
nothing to fear in your future,” he promised again. “At least not from me.”
There it was, that solemnity in his gaze that almost seemed to beg her to trust
lamps in the kitchen illuminated Grigori’s golden hair as it fell into his eyes
again. Madelyn had the desire to brush those gold strands away from his face
with her fingertips. And that was a crazy desire, because this man had
kidnapped her and she shouldn’t want to be touching him.
got a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome,” she muttered. She lifted her wine glass
to her lips and took another sip.
don’t know any Damien and I have no idea what the brotherhood is. You have your
book back so I see no reason for you to keep me here.”
her as he pulled out his cell phone. “Are you hungry? I believe I’ll have dinner
her stomach rumbled treacherously and he had to hear it because he smirked. He
was smirking at her . . .
then we talk.” He dialed a number and spoke in rapid Russian to the person on
the other end of the line. She had thought it was a rough language before but
listening to him speak it sounded musical.
need to take more Russian classes. Her two semesters of Russian in graduate school didn’t help her
understand a word of what he’d just said.
please tell me who you are?” she asked as he pocketed his phone in his
trousers. He retrieved his own empty glass to refill it with some wine. He
poured the burgundy liquid into the glass and she stared at it before looking
at him again.
“My name is
her lip. He could not be the Grigori from James Barrow’s book. He had to
be a descendent of the other man, maybe a great-great-grandson.
“Okay . .
.” she whispered. “So you’re descended from the man in the book. The one in the
sketch?” She thought again about man’s face, the melancholy smile and the
almost indulgent gentleness. That man was a mystery, just as this man was, but
this Grigori’s features were harder, colder. She still had a strange longing to
meet the man in the sketch.
“No. I am
not descended from the man in the sketch. I am that man.”
laughed. “That’s funny.” She had plenty of people make fun of her over the
years for dragon research.
“I do not
jest, Ms. Haynes. You have stumbled into terra incognita. Do you know
what that means?”
swallowed thickly. “It means ‘territory unknown.’ I’ve seen it on old maps.”
good,” Grigori praised.
his wine to his lips and took a slow sip, those blue eyes of his piercing her,
pinning her in place. “And do you know what else those maps said exactly?” The
clink of his glass on the counter was the only sound in the room because
neither of them dared to breathe.
she said the words, the ones that had been stirring like a serpent in a dark
cave at the back of her mind since the moment she brushed her fingertips over
the sketch of his face in the book. Surely he couldn’t be suggesting what she’d
always been too afraid to even contemplate . . . The words hovered on the tip
of her tongue as she stared at him, hypnotized.
be dragons,” she whispered.
drifted between them and although she and Grigori stood six feet apart, that
space ceased to exist. His eyes were no longer blue, but a molten gold color,
the pupils sliding into reptilian slits. That was impossible . . .
be dragons,” he echoed in a husky whisper, and Madelyn screamed.