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Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang

By´╝ÜKatie MacAlister

 
 
PROLOGUE
 
 
 
 
“He’s here.”
 
“Is he? Where? Let me see.”
 
The air moved behind me as Magda hurried over to peer around me. “Are you sure that’s him?”
 
I nudged aside the heavy blue tweed curtain, creating an infinitesimally small gap between curtain and window that allowed me to eye the man who stood on my front step. “It has to be. Just look at him.”
 
“I would if you moved your hand . . . Ah.” Magda had what I thought of as an opera singer’s voice, rich in timbre, and with a Spanish accent that managed to be simultaneously charming and sultry. “Well, it’s true he is wearing dark glasses. But lots of people wear those.”
 
“At night?” I asked.
 
She pursed her lips. “He doesn’t have long hair like Alec had.”
 
“No, but he’s got a widow’s peak. That screams vampire. So does the fedora he’s holding.”
 
“Bah. It’s just a hat.”
 
I pointed. “That is not just a hat. It’s leather and stylish, and all the vamps I’ve seen have worn something similar.”
 
“Hrmph. Lots of men wear hats like that. And long dusters.”
 
“Oh, come on! Who do you know who dresses like something out of a European male model’s agent portfolio, wears dark glasses and a hat, and positively reeks of sexy, smoldering danger?”
 
“Well . . .” Her face screwed up for a moment while she thought. “I just don’t know. Are you sure that’s the messenger?”
 
“Positive.”
 
“Hmm.” Magda’s chin rested on my shoulder as we huddled behind the curtain. “He could be a religious person trying to convert you. Or someone who ran out of gas and needs to use your phone. Or maybe he’s a spirit, and is lost, and needs you to help him find that place the spirits call heaven.”
 
“The Icelanders call it Ostri, and he’s not a spirit.”
 
“How do you know? Are you wearing your thingie?”
 
I lifted my hand. A small oval moonstone charm swung gently from a silver bracelet.
 
“OK, so he’s not a ghost. Why don’t you let him in and we’ll see who he is?”
 
“Are you kidding?” I asked, giving her a gimlet eye. “He’s a vampire! Don’t you know anything? You never invite a vampire into your home. Once you do, they can come in anytime they want!”
 
Her lips curled. “Unlike, oh, say, a normal man?”
 
“You know what I mean.”
 
“Why don’t you just ask Kristoff?” she asked, moving away, her tone dismissive.
 
I let the curtain drop to glare across the small living room at my friend. “You know full well I haven’t heard a single word from that particular man since that horrible time in Iceland when I ended up being his Beloved instead of Alec’s. He hates me because I took his dead girlfriend’s place. I couldn’t possibly ask him, even if I knew where to find him, and I don’t, so that point is completely moot.”
 
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Magda said, plunking herself down on my couch, waving a hand toward the archway that led to my kitchen. “He’s right here. You can ask him all you want.”
 
My jaw dropped as a shadow detached itself from the darkness of the room beyond, and a man stepped forward into the light. Eyes the color of purest teal practically glowed at me, causing my heart to leap in my chest until I thought it would burst right out of me.
 
“Pia,” Kristoff said in that wonderfully rich, Italian-accented voice that never failed to make me feel as if he were stroking my bare skin with velvet.
 
“How . . . how did you get here?” I stammered, my brain overwhelmed with the sight and scent and sound of him, right there, close enough to fling myself upon.
 
“You are my Beloved,” he said, and took a step toward me, the light from a nearby lamp casting a golden glow on him, shadowing the sharp planes of his face and the little cleft in his chin, burnishing the short, dark chocolate curls that kissed the tips of his ears, curls that I knew were as soft as satin. And his mouth-oh, that mouth with the lush, sensitive lips that could drive me insane with desire even now had me remembering the taste of him, the slightly sweet, slightly spicy taste that was so wholly unique to Kristoff. Instantly my legs threatened to turn to mush. I clutched the back of a chair to keep from melting into a giant puddle right there on the floor in front of him. “We are bound together for all eternity, Pia. I cannot be parted from you.”

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