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Atlantis Betrayed wop-8 Page 12

by Alyssa Day

“Princess.” He swept his best court bow. “You are beautiful beyond any graceless words my poor warrior brain might conjure.”

  She lifted her chin. “You don’t need to mock me.”

  “Trust me, Fiona. I am not mocking you.” He put every bit of the heat he felt into his admiring gaze, and was rewarded when she gasped again.

  “You—you don’t look so bad yourself,” she said, holding her skirt and descending the stairs.

  He had no idea how she could walk in those high-heeled shoes and almost hoped she might stumble so he’d have the opportunity to catch her. Hold her in his arms. Strip that dress from her lovely body. They’d never make it to the charity event.

  Another plus.

  He met her at the bottom step, blocking her way. “A kiss for good luck, Princess?”

  “You don’t need luck,” she whispered. “You seem to make your own.”

  “Only since I met you.”

  He wondered what would happen if he fell into the bottomless blue of her eyes and never, ever climbed out. He wondered if, finally, he might want to achieve the soul-meld when he’d dreaded it for so long. He wondered if he were going insane.

  He kissed her. He could no more help it than he could silence his own heartbeat. He bent forward, barely touching her arms with his hands, and pressed his lips to hers. Just a feather-light touch at first, but then her breath warmed him and he caught her tiny sigh in his mouth. Desire turned molten, passion slowed the passage of time, and he was caught up in a tempest of emotion.

  Surely no kiss had ever been so powerful. He wanted to protect her; possess her; consume her. He wanted all. He wanted everything she could offer and everything she was. Her scent tantalized him, something feminine and light and unmistakably her, and the silken softness of her skin was a marvel to his touch.

  He lifted her off the ground, into his arms, and deepened the kiss, forgetting his vow to never get attached, forgetting his callous and careless image, forgetting his name.

  She was everything, and he needed her more than he needed breath or life or hope.

  Fiona’s hands tightened on Christophe’s shoulders as he lifted her, but she was helpless to draw away. His kiss was devouring her, consuming her, lighting her up with flames that she willingly embraced. The memory of their passion from the night before was there, but this was more, too. This was a new beginning; an innocence. This was discovery and exploration; it was comfort in a time of heartache. Somehow, he was almost part of her, and she had never wanted anything so fiercely as she wanted him to keep kissing her.

  The sound of bells brought her dazedly back to her senses. She pushed against Christophe’s shoulders and pulled away from his kiss. “That’s the clock. It’s eight o’clock. You have to put me down before someone walks in.”

  Christophe, breathing hard, rested his forehead on hers for a moment and then lowered her back to her feet. “I won’t apologize for kissing you,” he said, his voice rough. “I plan to kiss you again, as soon as I get you alone, so let me know now if you don’t want me to do so.”

  Her cheeks felt like they were on fire. Damn the man for making her blush so often. “I—I’ll take that under advisement,” she said, stepping back and casting a quick glance down at her gown to make sure nothing was out of order as she heard Declan and Hopkins in the hallway.

  He grinned. “You look beautiful, Princess. Nothing out of place.”

  He, on the other hand, had a bit of a problem. She glanced down again. Make that a big problem. He caught her looking and laughed out loud, which didn’t help the blushing at all. Still with his back to the hallway entrance, he whipped his tuxedo jacket off and held it in front of the large erection currently tenting the front of his pants. However, that left exposed the sheaths for the multiple daggers that crossed his chest front and center.

  “Nice accessories,” she said.

  “Never leave home without them.”

  Declan burst into the foyer, holding something tiny and metallic in front of him. “Right, sis, I’ve got you covered. I’m going to wire you so we’ll be able to hear everything you hear. We can record, too, so you and Christophe can go over the conversations later and catch anything you might have missed.”

  “Bad idea,” Christophe said. “First, what do you expect to hear at the charity deal? Criminal pomposity? Second, electricity and Atlantean magic don’t like each other. I was counting on it to short out the security system in the Jewel House, as a matter of fact.”

  Fiona looked at him in disbelief. “That was your plan? Stand around and hope for electrical failure?”

  He tugged at his tie and looked anywhere but at her. “There was a little more to it than that.”

  “Like what?”

  He grinned, and for just an instant, she could see the boy he must have been. “I hadn’t actually gotten that far yet. You see, I ran into this gorgeous ninja—”

  “I think we can all figure out the rest,” Hopkins said dryly. “Will your electrical malfunction issue interfere with Fiona’s microphone, as well? If we were to give you the equipment for her to wear later in the evening?”

  Christophe shrugged. “I don’t know. If I stay away from her, which I won’t; if I refrain from using magic all night, which I won’t; if all the fates are in our favor, which they never are—”

  Declan groaned. “What happens? Will it short out and electrocute her? This is such a tiny mike, you’d more than likely only be shocked, Fee, not actually electrocuted.”

  “That’s reassuring,” she said, glad she’d taken the extra-strength headache powder. “Just give it to me. If it shorts out and somebody notices me jump, I’ll claim I’ve been goosed.”

  Christophe gave her the oddest look. “Goosed?”

  “Pinched.”

  He shook his head. “Just when I think I’ve gotten a handle on current colloquialisms. Also, if anyone gooses you, I’ll cut his arm off for him, since Hopkins was kind enough to find me a tuxedo with room for my daggers.”

  Declan made quick work of showing Fiona how to attach the tiny mike so she could do it later. “Do you want the receiver, too, so you can hear us?”

  Christophe answered for her. “No, she does not. We’ll be able to handle it without instructions from here, but thanks.”

  She started to reply, but he held up a hand and then pointed at the door. “We’ve got company.”

  The door chimes rang, and all three of them stared at the door and then back at Christophe.

  He shrugged. “It’s a friend. He’s going to hang out with Declan tonight and keep an eye out for any trouble that might have followed us home.”

  Hopkins opened the door and Denal, standing just outside, bowed deeply. “Denal of Atlantis at your service, sir.”

  “Brilliant. Another one,” Hopkins said, standing aside and gesturing him in. “Is there any reason we should trust this young man with Declan?”

  Denal’s eyes widened. “I would give my own life to protect this human, my lord.”

  “I’m no lord, I’m the butler,” Hopkins retorted, but Fiona could see him sizing up this new person in their lives.

  For some reason, Denal reminded her of Declan—all fresh-faced youth with a bit of eager puppy in him. Their names even sounded similar. Except, this one was different. Older than he looked. There was a weariness in his eyes that matched the way Christophe’s eyes looked when he didn’t realize anyone was watching him.

  She stepped forward. In for a penny, in for a pound. “I’m Fiona. Welcome to my home. This is Hopkins and my brother Declan. Thank you for your company, but I do hope that it won’t come to giving anyone’s life.”

  He bowed again, but as he straightened, his dark blue eyes widened until they seemed to take up half his face. “You’re the princess? You’re beautiful,” he blurted out.

  Yes. Just like Declan. She managed not to smile. “No, I’m not a princess. Christophe likes to tease me, that’s all. Thank you for the lovely compliment, though.”

  She turne
d to Christophe, who was scowling at Denal. “We should be going.”

  “Ready when you are.”

  “Sean is pulling the car around to the front so you don’t have to go through the garage in your gown,” Hopkins said.

  “Thank you.”

  “I’ll have her home early,” Christophe told Hopkins.

  “No. You won’t,” she said.

  “Discuss it in the car, Lady Fiona,” Hopkins said, herding them toward the door. “Fashionably late is one thing with these charity functions, horrifically late is another.”

  “Christophe is nothing if not fashionable,” Denal called, stifling laughter.

  Declan grinned and punched Denal in the shoulder. “So, do you like pizza?”

  “I have a feeling those two are going to get along famously,” Fiona murmured to Christophe.

  “Yep. You’d never know from the look of him that Denal has hundreds of vamp kills to his name, would you?”

  Her smile faltered, and she swung around. “Hopkins, you’re in charge.”

  Hopkins nodded. “Of course. I’ll just clean the shotguns, shall I?”

  Message received, in other words. There was trust, and then there was “trust with her baby brother.” Two very different things, especially from men who could so easily talk about killing vampires. The knot in her chest loosened and she put her hand on Christophe’s arm. “Let’s do this, then. Try not to offend anyone, that’s all I ask. I have to associate with these people.”

  Christophe grinned down at her. “When have I ever been offensive? Oh, by the way, this is for you.” He put a hand in his pocket and pulled out an object the size of a golf ball, which he tossed her way.

  She caught it and then opened her hand and stared at a large rock. “Lovely. I’ve always wanted a—oh, for the love of Saint George, that’s an uncut diamond.”

  Her knees wobbled and she had to lean against him for support. “That—that—it must be—”

  “One hundred carats, give or take,” Christophe said. “It should be ample to pay for your share of the Siren, don’t you think?”

  Hopkins crossed the room in three paces and lifted the stone from her hand. “That’s ridiculous. It must be a fake.” He examined it, holding it up to the light, turning it this way and that. “But it doesn’t look—This can’t be.”

  Fiona nodded, still staring at Christophe and then back at the jewel. “Trust me. I know jewels. Examine it, but I’m fairly certain that’s an actual diamond.”

  “Should be excellent quality, too, but feel free to check it out for yourself,” Christophe said. “Should we go?”

  Fiona slowly turned to look at Denal. “Does he always do this? Give away fantastically valuable gems?”

  Denal was watching Christophe, too. He slowly shook his head. “Never, as far as I know. Never took anybody to a ball, either, though, so what do I know? Next thing I know, we’ll all wake up down Alice’s rabbit hole.”

  “You’re worried about rabbit holes, when you’re from Atlantis?” Declan started laughing. “I think we’re all in Wonderland. I also think we need a great huge pizza or two.”

  “At least two,” Denal said, following Declan out of the foyer, headed to the games and media room, no doubt.

  The bizarre juxtaposition of pizza and hundred-carat uncut diamond boggled Fiona’s mind, and she stood, frozen, staring at the jewel in Hopkins’s hand.

  “If you have diamonds like this just lying around to give away, why do you need the Siren?”

  “That, my beautiful one, is a very long story, and one I think we should save for later, before Hopkins yells at us again for being late.”

  Hopkins looked up, more off-balance than she’d ever seen him. “Late. Right. Go. We’ll talk later.” He closed his hand around the diamond. “Fiona, we can fund so many programs with this, if it really is what it looks like.”

  “You called me Fiona. This really is a banner day. Diamonds, book signings, and crime solving.” She turned to Christophe. “Life is certainly interesting with you around,” she told him.

  “I was thinking the exact same thing about you.”

  Chapter 17

  The British Museum

  “Are you noticing a theme, here?” Christophe scanned the Great Court as they entered. “Our relationship is built on museums.”

  “We have a relationship?”

  He was quick with a wolfish grin. “Oh, sweetheart. Are we ever having a relationship.”

  “We need to talk about that diamond.”

  “That was business. It has nothing to do with us.”

  “There’s an us?”

  He didn’t answer, at least not in words, and she decided to ignore the implications of his wicked smile and take refuge in lecturing him about their surroundings. “The Great Court is the largest covered public square in Europe, with approximately two acres of space. It was designed by Lord Foster—well, redesigned, really—just in the late nineties and opened by the Queen just after the turn of the century.”

  “Turn of the millennium,” he pointed out.

  “Well, yes, that, too. You’ll notice the ceiling—”

  “Oh, yes. I couldn’t miss that ceiling.” He whistled, staring up at the glass-and-steel canopy.

  “They constructed it out of more than three thousand panes of glass and, like snowflakes, no two are alike.” She smiled. “I absolutely love it. I feel a sort of peace in this light, airy space.”

  He surprised her by putting an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. “That’s great news. If you like this, you’re going to love the Great Dome of Atlantis.”

  Fiona started to snap out a retort, but the pleasure on his face as he looked up and around at the wonderful space stopped her. Maybe there really was an Atlantis. Maybe he really was from there. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that they were all scoffing at the idea of vampires, and now there were certain to be some in attendance here tonight. Nothing, it seemed, was impossible anymore.

  Not even Plato’s mythical lost continent.

  “Is it just a city? Or a whole continent?” she whispered, and he jerked his gaze down to stare at her in surprise.

  “You believe me?”

  “Maybe. Maybe a little.” She laughed. “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

  “If you—” He paused and his eyes narrowed. “Who’s the dandy on his way over here? He’s staring at you like you’re on the dessert menu.”

  “As did you, earlier,” she pointed out.

  “That doesn’t mean any other man can do it,” he growled.

  “Lord Nicklesby,” she called out. “What a delight to see you here.”

  “Fiona, my dear,” he said, taking her hands in an overly effusive handshake. Now that she thought about it, Christophe was right. Nicklesby was a bit of a dandy. He had more gel in his hair than she did. “I was rather unpleasantly surprised to see you on the telly this afternoon. Bit of a strange situation, hmm?”

  “Are you calling me strange?” Christophe’s smile was all the more deadly for its veneer of politeness.

  Nicklesby blinked. She’d bet he hadn’t had much experience with Christophe’s form of directness. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing.

  “Certainly not, certainly not,” Nicklesby blustered. “Just—ah, well. Quite right. I see Foster’s new partner—vampire, don’t you know. I’ll just go over and say hello. Lovely to see you.”

  Before she could say anything, he was gone, practically jogging in his haste to be away from them. She finally released the laugh she’d been holding in.

  “How do you do that? Make me laugh when my world is turned upside down?”

  “When better?”

  He flagged down a passing server with a tray of champagne. “When does the ale come through?”

  The man shook his head. “Sorry, sir. I’m fond of a pint myself, but this is strictly a champagne kind of event.”

  Christophe pulled out a crumpled handful of euros. “This purp
le one is for you if you find me a pint. Find one for yourself, too.”

  The waiter’s eyes grew huge. “Sir, I can tell you’re not familiar with our currency. That’s five hundred euros. I can’t accept that.”

  Christophe grinned. “I like an honest man. Take it, and see what you can do.” He tossed the bill on the waiter’s tray and turned to Fiona. “Would you like a glass of champagne?”

  She took a flute off the tray. “No, but I think I’m going to need a glass of champagne. Let’s just put it that way.”

  She drained the glass in three swallows, and the server traded her empty glass for another and then took off, presumably in search of ale.

  “Who is this delicious hunk of man, where have you been hiding him, and does he have a brother?” The voice was instantly familiar, and Fiona whirled around, delighted.

  “Maeve! I didn’t know you’d be here.”

  Maeve, dressed in a scarlet gown that set off her dark-haired beauty to perfection, tossed her head. “Saving whales is my life, don’t you know? Or is it dolphins? What marine life are we saving tonight? And, I repeat, who is this lovely man?”

  Beside Fiona, Christophe stiffened and his eyes flared a hot green for a split second before he bowed to Maeve.

  “This is Christophe,” Fiona said, not sure what to do about the no-last-name thing.

  “I am delighted you brought your new man, Fee. Now where have you been hiding him?”

  “He’s not my new man,” she said. “He’s more my—”

  “Her partner,” Christophe said.

  “Yes. Yes, my partner,” she said, grasping the suggestion.

  “And her lover,” he said, ruining everything.

  Maeve made an O with her perfectly red, shiny lips. “Oh, he is a rogue, isn’t he? Lucky, lucky Fee. Shall we go and have a girly chat? I’ll bring her right back, I promise.”

  With that, she pulled Fiona off, tightly holding her arm, leaving Christophe staring after them.

  “Maeve, slow down. What on earth are you dragging me across the floor for? For Saint George’s sake, this had better be good.”

  Maeve glanced back at Christophe, now a good twenty feet behind them. “Your boy toy there isn’t human. Did you know that?”

 

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