tartled, Chris cried out and stumbled away from him. In a macabre dance, he stepped with her, matching her move for move, as if he knew which direction her body would take when even she didn't know. She would have crumpled to the sidewalk had he not caught her up and pulled her close to his chest. She could hear the wild beating of his heart, imagined the blood rushing in and out, pounding through his veins. Blood, warm and thick, life-giving--
Everything John had ever said about Voytek raced through her mind. Don't look into his eyes! She squeezed hers shut.
"No," he whispered hoarsely and traced the curve of her cheek with a finger. "Don't look into my eyes."
From deep inside a feral place Chris didn't know existed, a volcano of fierce desire welled and poured like lava throughout her entire being. The flow coursed along every nerve and synapses until it consumed her completely. She forgot who she was and where she was. She had only one thought, one need: the man who held her. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and drove her lips against his.
"Anton," she moaned, "take me. Take me now!"
She heard his laughter, haughty and mocking, and it was the sweetest sound she'd ever heard. She molded her aching body to his and accepted his kisses hungrily.
Small animal noises sounded deep in her throat as his tongue plundered her mouth, then trailed wetly along her jaw, beneath her ear, down her neck. His lips lingered against her throbbing pulse.
Chris wanted more than the natural physical intimacy between a man and a woman. She craved something her shattered mind would not let her define. His teeth scraped over her skin and her body convulsed toward them.
He laughed again and drew away.
"No, Anton!" she cried out.
As quickly as it came, the hot flow of desire receded to its secret caldera. Her body shook violently. Tears filled her eyes, then she was sobbing against his shoulder. Even in her torn condition, she felt the change in the way he held her. Not to control and restrain, but to comfort and console.
"You don't have to look into my eyes to become enthralled, Christina," he murmured against her hair.
Her mouth was hot and dry but somehow she was able to speak. "Wh-What do you want?"
"I want you to believe in me."
"I want you to understand."
"And make your brother understand. About Leslie."
Suddenly, he released her. If she hadn't been close enough to lean on the building for support, her weakness would have sent her to her hands and knees. She took several deep, shuddery breaths and did what John had warned against time and again: She looked into his eyes.
His blue eyes had darkened to black and focused elsewhere, another plane or dimension. John's voice sounded in her mind: Run while you can . . .
"I will not harm you!" he snapped.
A tremor moved through her. "Don't do--don't do that again."
"Enthrall you?" He closed his eyes and when they opened they had returned to blue. "You have my word. I merely wished to show you the powers I possess. I want you to believe, Christina."
"But you do not understand."
She shook her head.
"Understanding will come in time."
He was gone and Chris blinked. She didn't think he had dematerialized, but she had detected no movement. One second he stood on the sidewalk, a solid imposing figure, and the next second . . . he simply was not there.
Chris crouched against the wall for a long time, waiting for the tremors to subside. She didn't trust her legs to carry her weight. By the time she felt stable enough to push away, her teeth chattered. Her entire body shook with a chill deep inside her bones from the cold as well as the aftereffects of his preternatural enthrallment.
Slowly, she walked to her car, got in, started the engine. She turned on the heat full-blast. Would she ever be warm again? Would she ever feel sane again? And John? What could she tell her brother? How could she explain that Voytek had contacted her? How could she tell him what had happened and how she'd felt? Then the thought struck her and she buried her face in her hands and wept.
John had been right all along!
s soon as Chris entered the apartment she checked on John. He had rested comfortably when she left, but now he slept fitfully, tossing his head from side to side, his entire body twitching sporadically. Mournful moans sounded deep in his throat as if he were in pain. Did Voytek disturb her brother's rest? Or did John's own guilt torment his soul?
She dragged a large comfortable chair close to the bed and sat, watching her brother. Not knowing what else to do, she sang to him, old lullabies she had sung for her daughters when they were babies and too ill to sleep. The soft, rhythmic sounds seemed to ease his unrest.
John was older by twenty years and never in her wildest imaginings had Chris thought she'd be caring for him almost as if he were a child. He had always been so capable and strong, so adult. Chris' arrival was unexpected so many years after their parents had given up hope of ever having another child. By the time of her birth, John was away at college and as Chris grew up, John struggled to establish himself as an architect. Then he married Leslie and they traveled extensively abroad. Finally, as they settled in San Francisco to start their architect and planning firm, Chris had begun her own life in Connecticut with Terence Delaney.
A continent divided them as well as a generation and after the death of their parents, their paths rarely crossed. They had kept in touch by phone and John always sounded well and cheerful, assuring her he was fine. Except he wasn't fine and hadn't been in a long time . . .
No, that wasn't true anymore, had never been true. Chris closed her eyes and massaged her temples. She had to reevaluate everything she had come to believe about her brother. John was not mad or delusional or incapable of accepting his wife's death. Everything he said was true. All John needed was to be believed. Chris could do that for him now.
John kept Heidenreich's work on the nightstand. She reached out and tentatively ran her fingers over the red and gold embossed V on the cover. Inside, she would learn the legend of the man--the creature who accosted her tonight. Chris picked up the book and lay it in her lap, the pages falling open to a well-marked passage.
A long time later, Chris had read every word about "The Golden Vampire" and much of what Heidenreich had written on vampires in general. Her eyes felt grainy and swollen and she slowly rubbed them. The rest would have to wait for another day. She closed the book.
She meant to put it away and get ready for bed, but she was too tired to move just yet. Her eyes remained closed and before long she felt herself drift off. Immediately, she dreamed.
Anton called to her in his low, throbbing voice, "Come to me, Christina."
She stood in complete darkness, moving her hands back and forth in front of her. She didn't want to go to him--yet, a part of her craved to be held in his arms once again. Suddenly, flashes of dry lightning relieved the blackness and she caught glimpses of the barren wasteland around her, silhouettes of skeletal trees and dead things hanging from their limbs. She looked down and saw she was dressed in a long sleeved night rail frothy with tattered lace. When she looked up again, she saw him on a far hill, the glitter of his white gold hair dazzling in the occasional light. She saw the deep sky blue of his eyes although it should have been impossible at this distance.
He started toward her and with each flash of light he swept closer. His black cape, satin lining as red as blood, billowed out behind like the wings of an angry raven. Then he was upon her, his cape shrouding them from the strobic light. His fingers ran through her hair as it moved the long locks out of the way. Delicately, he stroked her cheek, her throat, her shoulder. His eyes changed from blue to black as he whispered her name "Christina!" over and over, a litany that burned her heart and damned her soul. She closed her eyes and lay her head on his shoulder, offering herself to him. He lay one finger on the pulse in her neck.
"Do you give yourself freely and of your own will?" His whispered words sounded of honey over crushed glass.
"Yes, Anton," she answered with no hesitation or uncertainty.
"You are mine," he swore and lowered his lips to her pulsing vein . . .
Chris moaned and surged forward, responding to the exquisite ache of unfulfillment. When she became fully awake, she found her rigid body had moved to the edge of her seat, straining upward. Her head tilted to the side as if it lay on someone's shoulder. The collar of her blouse had been pushed aside, exposing her carotid vein. She drew in one gulping breath as if she hadn't breathed at all for the duration of the dream.
The intensity of the dream frightened her. Dreaming of Anton Voytek wasn't a surprise after their encounter and reading Heidenreich's book. Normally, her dreams were never this vivid or clear. She remembered every detail as if it had really happened. Her dreams were usually muddled collages of disjointed images that made no sense in the light of day. This dream had made too much sense.
Chris retrieved the book from the floor where it had fallen from her lap.
She carefully placed it back on the nightstand just as John had left it. She
glanced at her watch--only a couple of hours until dawn. Undisturbed, John slept
peacefully. Chris turned out the light and went to her bedroom. She changed into
a nightshirt, crept into bed, and didn't fall asleep until sunrise.
'm sorry for what I put you through last night, Chrissy," John apologized when Chris walked into the living room. It was after one in the afternoon.
Now was her chance to tell John everything that happened to her the evening before. She opened her mouth and surprised herself by saying, "I didn't mean to sleep this late. I'll fix us some lunch."
"I grabbed a sandwich earlier. Don't fuss over me. I can fend for myself."
She wanted to remind him of the condition she'd found him in when she arrived in San Francisco six months ago, but she merely frowned.
"I know what you're thinking." He sighed. "Harry's death made me realize how much time we spent trying to locate Voytek. Made me face my own mortality and Voytek's immortality. Leslie's gone, Harry's gone, and I'll be gone one day, but Voytek will live forever. He has resources Harry and I could never dream of having. It--overwhelmed me, Chrissy."
"You're still looking for him--" she began.
"And I'll never stop!" John stood and paced a few steps away. "I've come to realize I have to take care of myself. I have to stay alive long enough to drive a stake through his heart."
Chris flinched in spite of herself and was grateful John had turned his back to her. She said nothing. The moment to tell him had come and gone. If she confessed now, he would wonder why she had delayed. She couldn't explain her hesitancy even to herself. Did Voytek still control some part of her mind?
"He's out there somewhere, waiting for me to try again," John growled and swept the stack of papers from the couch to the floor. "He has to be feeding, but I can't find any mention of murder victims that died the same way as Leslie."
"Perhaps he's gone underground," Chris suggested then went into the kitchen.
She opened the refrigerator and decided on orange juice. When she turned with the bottle in hand, John was only a few feet from her. He watched her without blinking. "Why do you say that, Chris?"
She didn't know where the thought came from. It was the first time she had offered any encouraging remark. In the beginning, she tried to reason with him. Lately, she had remained silent during John's rants. Chris stalled while getting a glass and pouring out juice. Her thoughts clarified.
"Well," she began as she set the bottle back in the refrigerator. "You said the cop-turned-priest lured him into a confrontation in the basement of the Heidecker estate. He was trapped there for nearly forty years. What if he decided to inter himself intentionally so he wouldn't leave a trail of mutilations that would lead you to him?"
John stared at her, his dark eyes almost as black as Anton's in the throes of bloodlust. He nodded. "His art treasures had been taken from him. We found all the coffins we knew existed and rendered them unusuable. It might have been his only choice. Harry and I never considered that possibility."
John gave her a strange little smile then returned to the living room. Chris let out a deep breath. Why had she misled him? She knew Anton had not gone underground for the past twenty years. She tried to tell herself she was doing it for John's sake. John needed to let go of the past. Anton was too powerful for her brother to attempt to destroy.
Chris wasn't sure if that was the true reason or not. She poured the orange juice down the sink.
John called to her. "I'm going out for a while."
Chris hurried to the living room. "Where are you going?"
"For a walk. In the park. I'll be back soon." He shrugged into his jacket and stepped close to her. He brushed her long hair back off her shoulders and rested his hands there. He placed a kiss on her forehead. "Don't worry, Chris. I'll be all right."
As soon as John had gone, Chris went over the notes she had made while reading through the police files. She ran across the list of artworks found in the ruins of the Heidecker estate. In twenty years, John hadn't been able to find any trace of Voytek using his name, "The Golden Vampire", or mysteriously mutilated victims. The artworks were tangible objects and could be traced more easily. She felt if Anton had exacted his revenge against John because of them, he wouldn't give them up so easily.
Chris logged onto the internet and began her search. By the time John returned a few hours later, she had found references to several of the paintings. Later, after they had dinner and John had gone to bed, Chris settled in front of the computer for a long night of research.
Later, in the wee hours of the morning, Chris rubbed her tired eyes. She leaned back in her chair and put her feet up. She had gone through a third of the list, but it was becoming obvious Anton had begun to "collect" his treasures again. She allowed herself the luxury of giving in to sleep and immediately began to dream.
Anton called to her again, "Come to me, Christina."
She stood in complete darkness until lightning limned the roiling black clouds as they raced across the sky. She wore the same ancient lacy night rail, but this time she stood on the deck of a full-rigged ship, gently rolling with the movement of the water. Three tall masts rose into the black sky, draped with the rotted remains of their rigging. She looked up and found him in the crowsnest, white gold hair shimmering in the flashes of light.
He fell towards her, his cape fluttering in the wind. He swooped down upon her and they fell to the rough wooden deck, his cape settling over them as she lay pinned beneath his body. His eyes changed from blue to black and he caressed her, whispering her name over and over. Then he lay one finger on the pulse at her throat and they spoke the same words:
"Do you give yourself freely and of your own will?"
"You are mine!" And he claimed her once more.
Chris' hand flew to her throat. Her body was stiff as if she reached for something unattainable. This dream had seemed as real as the other. When Anton reached into her mind to enthrall her he had created, or perhaps resurrected, a bond between them. Whatever the reason, Chris knew she didn't dare sleep from dusk to dawn unless she wanted to experience these dreams again.
Chris made sure she didn't sleep again until after sunrise.
[Intro]   [Index]   [Notes]