Her steps faltered as she came to a bend. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
She was not alone.
Eva froze and strained her senses. Her hearing and eyesight was slightly better than a human’s but nothing compared to a full shifter or—she swallowed hard—a vampire. Unable to detect anything, she slowly crept forward. Placing her back against the twelve-foot tall hedge wall, she peeked around the corner. A man sat on a white marble bench, his elbows resting on his knees, his head hung low. She could only see his perfectly hard profile and her heart skipped a beat as her breath caught. High, bold cheekbones and a straight, stern jaw descended to thin, yet enticing lips. His hair was black and buzzed in an extremely short military fashion. To her disappointment, his eyes were closed, but she knew they would be intense. He was dressed in all black, a stark contrast to the white that surrounded him.
Raw power radiated from him. He was pure unadulterated male. Lethal. She knew instinctively this vampire was the crazed king, Hadrian Lucretius. The man—no, the beast that had ensnared her in the hall.
His eyes remained closed as his lips pulled back from his long, white fangs tinted with red.
She knew she ought to be horrified but as before…he was making her lust. Her body was hot and heavy, her breathing came in soft gasps, and heat spiraled through her core as she recalled the feel of his powerful body looming over her.
“I know you’re there.” His voice was deep and heavily accented though his style of speech was modern. He spoke again, but she did not comprehend his words. She closed her eyes and savored his voice. Dark. Seductive. She shivered, not from cold, but from pleasure.
Nothing made sense. She knew her reaction was insane. She knew she should be terrified and run as fast as she could back to the castle and the safety of her room. But, she could not bring herself to leave, nor did she want to run. Her heart stuttered at the thought of him chasing her and something wild deep within her roared to life.
In a rush of movement, she was pulled forward and spun about. Her back slammed against the hedge, a cool, strong hand wrapped about her throat. Her cry of shock quickly faded to a gasp of delight. He stood before her, pinning her to the hedge. Her senses flared, taking in his fresh scent. He smelled of pine, wilderness, and male. His eyes gazed deeply into hers as if searching for her very soul. They were fathomless, obsidian pools that swirled with malice, grief, and…desire.
Her heart thundered in her ears as her lips parted, drawing in rapid breaths, filling her lungs with his irresistible scent. Again, she wondered at her response, but lust clouded her mind, blocking all rational thought.
She dropped her gaze to his broad shoulders and chest, which were covered only by a short-sleeved black shirt. Her fingers twitched at the thought of running her hands over the hard muscle. He was lean, solidly built, and tall, clearly over six feet.
He crowded her. Trapping her.
She loved it.
Hadrian’s gaze focused on her pulse. Eva’s heart beat wildly, teasing him. His fangs felt heavy in his mouth and they ached to pierce her slender throat.
The run had helped him immensely, driving away those hateful memories. He thanked God he had recovered before his ward had stumbled upon him in the labyrinth. The memories always left his mind tainted.
He had wanted blood. No. Needed blood. Death. Yes, he had craved to taste death, to savor it. He had hunted in the forest and fed from a rabbit. It’s tangy blood and tiny life had brought him precious little relief. It was enough. It would keep him from tearing her throat open and gorging himself on the sweet elixir.
She would be spicy, exotic, and oh, so hot.
He ran his tongue over his fangs and Eva sighed. The scent of her desire grew stronger. He took in a deep breath and shuddered. Intoxicating. His erection strained against his pants as heat consumed him. He wanted to teleport her to his bed, feel her soft body beneath him, her hips rocking with his as he claimed her, filled her. Her lust sang to him like a siren’s song and fired his icy blood.
“We meet again, little one.” He brushed the elegant column of her throat with his thumb, pausing over her pulse with every stroke. “I did not expect it would be so soon.”
Hadrian kept his hand on her neck as he stepped back to appraise his prey. He had known she was small, but his mind had been completely consumed with lust and hunger earlier to focus on detail. She was barely over five feet and slight of frame. Fragile. He could snap the poor girl; easily break her like a doll. He eased the pressure on her neck at the thought. Her face was delicate with almond shaped eyes that were down caste, concealing their color. She also had well defined cheekbones and stubborn chin. Her luscious, pouting lips were peach in color. Hadrian shivered as he imagined their taste. He could not remember the last time he had felt another’s lips pressed against his. Never had he kissed the women he took to his bed…not since he had been a mortal man, not since his wife. But damn, her mouth was tempting.
He dropped his gaze to her body. She was tightly bundled in a thick jacket, the blue a perfect complement to her smooth sun kissed skin. Her dark brown hair was pulled back and fastened in a braid that came to her hips. He resisted the urge of freeing her locks, having the absurd desire to run his fingers through her hair.
He released her throat to press his hands to the hedge on either side of her head. Her gaze met his and Hadrian bit back a curse. Amber. Pure, amber stared back at him. Not yellow, as he thought before when he had found her in the hall.
For an instant, his gaze grew sharp. Eva tried to look away, but his hand caught her chin and forced her to face him.
“Look at me, little one.”
She raised her hands, intending to shove him away, like she knew she should. This was wrong. He was a vampire. No, he was a crazed vampire king and she was, well, a lowly half-breed, who was also his ward. Nothing could happen between them. As if I would want something to happen between us, she told herself.
His thumb brushed over her bottom lip, the caress was simple and yet completely erotic. He sank his body into hers and Eva lost her breath.
Hadrian slipped his hand down her neck to her nape; his fingers began to play with the stay strands of hair that had escaped her braid. His ravenous gaze roamed her body. Despite the bulkiness of her jacket, he could feel her generous curves. The blue material covering her chest strained ever so slightly against her breasts as her hips cradled his, her stomach was flat and soft against his painful erection.
“Shall we continue what we started in the hall?”
Eva swallowed hard as she thought, Oh, God, yes!
His finger danced over her shoulder and her chest to the zipper of her jacket. She watched as he slowly drew it down, heat coiled in her core.
Eva couldn’t think. She couldn’t move. The heat of his strong hands burned through the thin material of her pajama tank top as he spanned her waist. She did not notice the cold but shivered in anticipation. His fingers slowly slid up her sides and paused at her ribs, just below her aching breasts. She arched her back and he hissed.
“Terror,” Hadrian whispered. “You should be feeling terror.”
Eva squeaked in response, unable to speak.
He leaned his head down, his breath brushed along the sensitive flesh of her throat.
“You should run,” he said. Would I let her escape? Yes, he would. He would use what remained of his will to remain still as she raced through the labyrinth. He should set her from him and demand that she go.
All Eva could do was nod. She knew he was right. She should be screaming. She should be praying that Falcon would come to her rescue. This dark vampire had her trapped. Hadrian, the mad king, had her at his mercy. She tried to remember the evil rumors, hoping they might be able to draw her back into reality. Nothing came. All she could think about was how much she wanted to feel his hands on her body, hips lips against her skin and his—
“Touch me,” Eva gasped. Desire controlled her mind as lust gripped her body.
His black gaze jumped with dangerous delight. He spun her about, forcing her back against his chest, his hands gripping her hips as he pressed her front towards the hedge.
Heaven help her, a bolt of treacherous excitement ran down her spine to curl her toes. She pressed her hips back and groaned at the feel of his hard cock against her ass.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked, his lips brushing her ear.
“Who?” His demand was rough and, God, she loved the anger that laced his voiced. On some level, she knew she must be losing her mind to desire this vampire. She did not care. She wanted him. Now. Primal, sexual need coursed through her in sweet agonizing pulsating waves.
“H-Hadrian Lu-Lucretius,” she answered.