Serena’s love for Zaki surpassed death, but her transformation into a vampire has kept her separate from him for thirty-four years. Her heart and body crave him, but the natural enmity between vampires keeps their visits brief. Now fate twists its fickle fingers into her life and teases her with a solution. And a piece of her heart she’d thought lost forever.
Zaki has spent two millennia living by the rules of vampiric nature—alone. Sex was a means to blood, not love, until Serena entered his life and enslaved what was left of his soul. Now his longing for eternity with the one woman who captured his heart may become a reality. If they both survive long enough for the cure…
Thirty-four years ago—Chicago—January
Instead of bright lights and pearly gates, Serena opened her eyes to a dimly lit bedroom. A fire crackled in a large fireplace across from the wide, comfortable bed. Warm blankets held her in place. The only other illumination came from a small lamp on the nightstand next to the bed. A dark figure sat in one of two armchairs placed at angles to the fireplace.
“You are awake.” The man’s accent was unusual. His words weren’t a question but a statement.
“Yes. Where am I?” Serena should be afraid, but she was too tired and groggy to be concerned. Although her coat and winter knee boots were gone, her sweater and skirt appeared to be intact.
“My home, not far from where I found you.” He rose from the chair then walked toward her. His height towered over the bed. His hair was close-cropped, its natural kinkiness giving it texture. His skin was black as coal. The pale blue turtleneck sweater with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows emphasized his darkness. Muscular forearms appeared as sculpted ebony wood.
Fleeting fear tugged at her mind, but the temptation to touch him, make sure he was flesh and not a carved statue, was almost overwhelming. She’d never been in such an intimate situation with a black man. Common sense said she should be concerned. Instead, a shiver of something she couldn’t quite define shook her body then warmth enveloped her.
His full lips curved into an indulgent smile. “You fell in the parking lot. You should be more careful.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “Is there someone I can call?”
“No. No one locally.” She glanced away from the sparkling obsidian eyes. “My car wouldn’t start. I was trying to get to a phone, call a tow truck.”
“You shouldn’t have been down at the lake in this kind of weather.”
“How do you know where I was?” A little shred of fear slipped through the fog in her brain.
“I see you there a lot.”
Serena turned back toward him. “I like the peace and quiet. Lets me think. If you see me there, then you must like it as well.”
“This apartment is the warehouse you were attempting to reach.” His arm swept out, indicating the room.
“Really?” She glanced around the room. Opulent beyond anything she’d seen outside of magazines, the room was large. Heavy dark red drapes covered the windows. The fireplace opening was almost the height of her host. The furnishings were heavy, thick with cushions and trimmed with dark, rich-looking wood. Nothing to indicate it was in an old warehouse. “I always thought this place was abandoned.”
“I prefer people think so. I don’t care for the curious trespassing on my privacy.” His teeth flashed in a brilliant grin against his ebony face.
“I’m sorry. I’ll leave…” Her head swirled as she pushed up on her elbows. Dizziness and her host’s dark hand pressed her back into the pillows.
“I don’t think so. The weather has turned into a blizzard. I’m afraid you’re here for the duration.” He smoothed the cover over her. “Even if we could reach your car and get it started, you are in no condition to drive. You have a mild concussion.”
“That would explain the headache and dizziness.” She reached up to feel a large knot, tender to the touch, centered on the back of her head. “I slipped…on the ice.” The vague memory clarified slightly. Flexing her ankle caused a sharp pain. “Sprained my ankle.”
“Yes, and a rather spectacular fall it was.”
“You saw?” A frown creased her forehead.
He canted his head toward the window. “I was watching. You almost made it.”
“I guess I owe you my life. I would have frozen out there.” Sleep pulled at her eyelids. “Thank you… I don’t know your name.”
“Zaki Bashandi at your service, madam.” His body bent slightly at the waist in a quick, formal bow. On most men the action would look silly. Him…it suited.
“I’m Serena Whitmore. Zaki Bashandi…nice to meet…you… Unusual name…” Her words slurred.
“It’s African.” His lilted accent suddenly made sense.