Immortal Games: Betrayal, page 1
Immortal Games: Betrayal
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Copyright ©2006 Elisa Adams
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ISBN (10) 1-59596-438-X
ISBN (13) 978-1-59596-438-0
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Loneliness had driven him to this -- to a place far beyond the point of no return. Alec watched the woman stumble through the darkness, making her way up the crumbling walkway toward his front door. Something inside him rejoiced at the sight, though at the same time, he cursed himself for inviting her here. Once she learned his secrets, he wouldn’t be able to let her leave. Confessing his secrets to a human had caused disaster once, and he couldn’t let it happen again. He hadn’t intended on bringing her here -- ever -- but events beyond his control had forced his hand.
It never should have come to this. He’d made a promise long ago to her father to make sure nothing happened to her, and now he was stuck. All available options would break that promise.
In the months he’d been watching her, she’d become his obsession, on his mind every waking minute and he could barely stand the torture. Humans would find his fascination with her twisted and sick. To his people, it was lust, intense and pure, and this time it meant everything. She was the one woman he shouldn’t have and the only one he wanted. Now that she was here, she’d have to stay.
He closed his eyes and for a brief second, let the guilt wash over him. She’d accepted his invitation, but she hadn’t realized she had no choice in the matter. He hadn’t given her one. She was as much a pawn in this as he was.
His eyelids drifted open. No sense feeling guilty over something he couldn’t change.
She stopped at the bottom of the old stone steps a story below the window where he stood, which gave him a chance to look her over. She was young, had celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday a few months earlier -- just before her father had died. An ankle-length, floral dress draped her thin body. Alabaster skin and long blonde hair completed the picture. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he knew they were blue. Midnight blue, like the ocean on a cold winter day. It was those eyes that had drawn him to her first. The woman had fight, a fiery determination that sparked something deep inside him.
“I saw her coming up the walkway. She’s lovely, isn’t she?”
He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Ian’s voice behind him. He tried to ignore the disappointment he caught in Ian’s green eyes. “She is.”
And if Ian even thought about touching her, Alec would tear him limb from limb, friend or not.
“What’s her name again? Anna?”
“Adriana.” Delicate and beautiful, yet laced with strength. It suited her.
Living here, in darkness, did not.
She walked up the steps and soon disappeared from his view. “Elena will take care of her?” he asked Ian.
“You know she will. Who understands your emotions better than Elena?”
“No one.” In another lifetime, Elena might have been his soul mate, but not in this one. He wanted Adriana more.
Alec stepped away from the window, letting the heavy drapes whoosh closed. The room was once again enveloped in blessed darkness, the only source of light coming from the brass sconces hung on the dark-paneled walls. Would Adriana be able to accept his world of darkness, so different from her own?
Ian narrowed his eyes. “You look upset. Do you want me to send her away?”
“No.” It didn’t matter now. Elena had let her inside and now she wouldn’t be able to leave. Guilt tightened his gut, but other, deeper emotions pushed it aside. There was no place for guilt now. Loneliness hadn’t been his only reason for having her brought here, nor had the promise he’d made. He had a trade to offer her -- one he hoped she wouldn’t be able to refuse.
He wasn’t proud of it, but retribution had played a small part in inviting Adriana to his house. Her father’s betrayal had stabbed him in the back and he’d retaliated without thinking first. Since Frank had died a few months earlier, just before Alec had found out the truth, Alec had chosen the next best thing. “She has to stay. There isn’t any other choice.”
“You’re right. There isn’t. Not now that you’ve gone and done this without exploring other options first.”
Alec shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from punching Ian and ruining the face women seemed to love so much. He took a few steps forward, his anger growing with every one. “Would you rather I let her die? Because that was the only other choice. You need to remember something. Frank did this, not me. He brought about this whole problem.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” Ian let out a harsh breath. “I just wish it hadn’t come to this. What are you going to tell her?”
Ian, always the voice of reason. Sometimes Alec wanted to wrap his hands around his oldest friend’s neck and strangle the life out of him, if for no other reason than he made Alec see what an impulsive fool he’d been, yet again. “Right now, all she needs to know is that I can cure her. Anything beyond that will come in time. She won’t take this well. You and I both know that.”
“You should go speak to her, at least. She’ll be even more angry if you hide from her.”
“I’ll go see her. Soon. First, let Elena feed her. She looks like she hasn’t had a decent meal in weeks.” Or maybe months. It pained him to think of her suffering. Though he hadn’t spoken to her in years, he’d already begun to think of her as his. And she was his. Had been since she stepped past the rusty iron gate. Maybe even before that, when he’d first entered her mind and she’d accepted him there. When he’d first realized that her feelings for him were as complicated as his were for her.
“She’s not starving. It’s her illness that makes her look that way, not a lack of a decent meal.”
Alec nodded. He’d known that, and it disturbed him. She’d been a vibrant girl who had grown into a vibrant woman, but her illness had sapped the life right out of her. Soon, he’d see that life return. If she agreed to what he had yet to propose. He’d sent the invitation that had drawn her here. Told her he could cure her of what had been plaguing her, but he’d left out one important detail. Probably the most important of all. Yes, he could save her life. But he’d have to end it first.
* * *
“Would you like something to drink?”
Adriana stared at the woman who’d ushered her into the house. There was something about the woman that made a knot form in her stomach, but she couldn’t pinpoint what that elusive thing was. There was nothing threatening about her appearance -- smallish with a curvy figure that bordered on plump, shoulder-length hair the color of black coffee, and a youthful face that seemed to project trust and friendliness. It made no sense to Adriana that she should be wary of the other woman, but nothing in this situation had made sense since she’d opened up the invitation.
At the same time, a giddy feeling rose in her chest. She’d first met Alec when she was ten. He’d been her first real crush. He’d come around the house a few times over the years, and by the time she was sixteen, the crush had turned into something more. At eighteen, she’d been head over heels in love with the guy and he’d stopped coming to visit her father. Now seven years had passed. There was no way he could look as good now as he had then. A person could only go without aging for so long.
She held in a laugh at the thought of Alec with gray hair and a pot belly. For some reason it didn’t fit.
“Excuse me?” the other woman asked. “Are you feeling all right?”
The giddiness vanished. How he looked didn’t matter. The only thing that did matter was whether or not he could really help her. Her father had trusted him, but Adriana didn’t trust easily. She’d reserve judgment until she’d spoken with Alec.
“I don’t need a drink, thanks.” She tried to force a smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. “I’m fine.”
“How about something to eat, then?”
She shook her head. “No. I’m not hungry, either. I’m curious about why I’m here, and that’s all.”
“Alec will be with you soon, and he’ll explain everything.” The woman’s tone was soothing, her expression tender, and for some reason, that unnerved Adriana even more. “He’ll want to know you’ve eaten something first, though. You need to keep up your strength.”
“My strength is fine. I just want to see Alec, please.”
Adriana held up her hand, cutting off the other woman’s sentence. One thing she’d learned in the past few months, since she’d first gotten sick, was that patience was a virtue she no longer had. No one could tell her how much time she had left, so wasted seconds had become a luxury. “Just go get him. I want to see him now, or I’m leaving.”
The woman looked like she might argue, but then she relented. “Okay. Wait here. I’ll be right back. But he’s going to be very upset that you aren’t being cooperative. He’s not quick to anger, but trust me, you don’t want to see him mad.” With that, she turned and hurried out of the room.
“Elena tells me you refuse to eat.”
Adriana spun around at the sound of the deep voice behind her. At first, she saw no one, but then he appeared out of the shadows and her breath caught in her throat. Holy shit. How was this possible?
She had to be imagining things. There was no way Alec could look exactly the same now as he had seven years ago. She hadn’t expected an old man to walk into the room, but he looked thirty, at the most, maybe even younger. She’d always assumed he was just about her father’s age, but she must have been wrong.
Maybe her illness had started to cause hallucinations, but the more she looked at him the more certain she was he’d found some sort of fountain of youth. In fifteen years he’d managed to avoid wrinkles and, unless he dyed it, didn’t have a single gray hair.
He was tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, with dark hair that brushed his collarbone and full, sensual lips. His features were fine, sculpted, and the only things saving him from being pretty were his eyes. Dark eyes, nearly obsidian in color. They were large and almond-shaped, and in their depths she caught a hint of something that made suspicion curl in her gut. Along with something else she recognized, but refused to identify. Lusting after him from afar was one thing, but continuing it here, when he’d practically dragged her to his house, was psychotic. He wouldn’t want her, anyway. He was rich and powerful, though a little eccentric, judging from the almost gothic décor around this place. She was middle class all the way, and dying to boot. He might be odd, but he wasn’t an idiot.
“I’m not hungry.” The words came out softer than she’d intended. She took a step back. Coming here had been a mistake. She never would have done something so stupid if she hadn’t been desperate.
Alec walked further into the room, his hands in the pockets of his black pants. He probably thought it would seem like a casual pose, but she knew better. This man was a predator, and she had a sinking feeling she was tonight’s prey. Why had she not noticed before how dangerous he was?
She nearly snorted. She’d been too much in love with him then to notice much of anything else.
“You’ll get sick if you don’t eat.”
She narrowed her eyes. If he was trying to make a joke, it wasn’t a very funny one. “I’m already sick, but you know that already, don’t you?”
“I do. It’s why I invited you here.”
“Your invitation mentioned something about a cure.”
“How can you cure me if you don’t know what I have?” No one knew. Even the doctors hadn’t been able to figure it out. Her body was slowly shutting down, her organ function decreasing, her immune system weakening, and no one could figure out why.
“It doesn’t matter. I can cure you of anything.” He pulled out one of the chairs surrounding the cherry table. “Sit. I’ll make you something to eat. And then, while you have a meal, we can talk.”
“No, really. I don’t want a thing to eat or drink. You people act like I can’t take care of myself or something.”
“I never thought you couldn’t.” He reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm.
Her breath caught in her throat and for a single second, every muscle froze. His touch warmed her from the inside out, though his palm felt a little cool against her skin. Her body swayed a little and she started to lean into him before she regained enough common sense to stand up straight.
“I’ve missed you,” he said softly. His tone was so low and rumbling that it made her knees weak. She’d always been a sucker for dark hair and a deep voice.
“How could you have? I was a kid the last time we spoke.”
“You were eighteen.”
She caught the hidden meaning behind his words and her eyes narrowed. “So what? You’d known me since I was ten. I’m sure I’ll always be a child in your eyes.”
“You haven’t been a child to me for years. Why do you think I stopped visiting your father at home?”
She shrugged. She could guess, but she wanted to hear him say it. The words would bring her a sense of satisfaction.
“He didn’t want me around you anymore.”
“You could have told me how you felt. I wouldn’t have objected.”
“That, my dear, was a big part of the problem.” He stepped closer and leaned down, brushing a soft kiss across her lips. Just the single touch had her reeling. She closed her eyes as her mind flew back to a particularly memorable fantasy she’d had about Alec, one that had started in a similar manner.
“Do you have any clue what you do to me?” Alec asked, his face just inches from hers.
She shook her head, but that was a lie. She knew. She could see the evidence in the way the heat flashed in his eyes, in the way his cock bulged against his zipper. Just the sight made her pussy wet and she pressed her legs together to hold back the arousal. She wanted to touch herself, to stroke her fingers along her clit. No, she wanted Alec to do that, but he had yet to touch her beyond a single, tiny kiss.
She leaned toward him, but he backed away. “Alec.”
A sexy half-smile graced his lips. “How much do you want me?”
“A lot. But you already know that.”
He stepped closer until his body bumped up against hers. He kept moving until her rear hit the table behind her, and then he grabbed her waist and lifted her off her feet, settling her on the tabletop.
“You wear dresses a lot.”
“And convenient.” He fingered the material at the hem before pushing it up her legs.
“How did I know you’d say that?”
A spark of humor flashed in his dark eyes. “I must be getting predictable in my old age. Wouldn’t want that to happen. I’ll have to do something about it.”
She’d expected him to kiss her, but instead he dropped to his knees in front of her and parted her legs. She closed her eyes and let her head drop back, her pussy muscles contracting as she felt his hot breath on the insides of her thighs. He was wrong. He was anything but predictable.
Alec cleared his throat, pulling her from her memory. It had only been in her head, but it had seemed so real. Now, face to face with him after so long, it didn’t feel like a glorified daydream. It felt like… like he’d been inside her head.
A sudden panic gripped her, threatening to close her throat. She glanced around the room, but saw no sign of the woman who had let her inside. She was alone in this house with Alec, the woman, and maybe others. She never should have come here. She should have waited. The doctors eventually would have come up with something to help her.
Dying slowly isn’t a very pleasant option.
She narrowed her eyes at the thought. No, it wasn’t pleasant, but neither was dying at the hands of a serial killer. For all she knew, he could have invited her here just to slice her open and eat her insides. She brushed past him and started for the door. “Thank you anyway, but I’m starting to see this is a huge mistake. I need to go. Now.”
She raced down the hallway and reached for the door, but just as she started to pull it open, he slammed his palm against the heavy wood. The door shut with a bang and her heart thudded against her ribcage. Her stomach roiling and her muscles tensed, she turned and glanced up into stormy eyes. She expected him to grab her, to drag her off somewhere into the depths of the old mansion and chain her to a wall, but he barely moved. He only leaned forward until his lips brushed her ear. The contact, though unwanted, sent a shiver through her.
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