Blood Spatter: Part Seven

RECAP of Part Six: Kiril and Miho finally relent to the inexplicable attraction that has been drawing them together, and Miho finally contacts a concerned yet still cryptic Sebastian. Following information from the vampire king of Prague, Jazz and Konstantin are discovered, but it is not entirely a happy – nor peaceful – reunion.

In the past I have felt like a bit of a grandma for carrying a handkerchief, but right now I’m glad to have it. If I could, I’d be sitting in Jazz’s lap. I want to curl my arms and legs around her and never let go, but I actually feel pretty weak with relief that she’s still… alive.

That’s the other thing isn’t it? Kiril and I talked about the possibility, but now the reality is squeezing my hand almost painfully.

Jazz is a vampire now.

Even in my ugly crying state, I can tell Konstantin is highly apprehensive. He’s not letting Kiril out of his sight, like maybe he thinks Konrad sent us here to kill them both, but at the same time he wants to comfort Jazz who is clearly struggling with the moment.

No one really knows who should talk first, but eventually, I cough something out – the biggest question of them all.


“How did you even find us?” Konstantin scowls, ignoring me.

Kiril’s response is curt.

“I didn’t, she did,” he points out, indicating with his thumb in my direction. “Now answer her question.”

“Why what?” Konstantin glares, and I have to fight not to shrink back.

“And watch your tone,” Kiril snaps icily, and Jazz places her hand on my knee before leaning toward the two men.

“Cut it out, both of you,” she growls, then looks to me with such an apologetic shadow in her beautiful blue eyes I nearly forget how mad I am at her. “I’m sorry, Miho, really. It was never my intention to hurt you. Things just got… complicated… really quickly.”

Her hand is cold.

“I didn’t even know,” I sniff, “you were serious… but becoming a vampire serious?”

Jazz winces.

“We didn’t plan it like that,” Konstantin replies. “And it is my fault.”

“Not just yours,” Jazz quickly adds. “I didn’t say no.”

“I just got… carried away,” Konstantin frowns, looking into Jazz’s face apologetically.

“That is usually my line,” Kiril snorts, perhaps an attempt to lighten the mood in his own way, but it falls flat.

“It is what it is,” Jazz rationalises. “And I don’t regret it, not the vampire part anyway.”

Though Konstantin is still peering at her, Jazz’s eyes return to Miho and rest there.

“I can’t go back to London, Miho, or the UK even,” she goes on, and instantly both Miho and Kiril are shaking their heads.

“I honestly do not care what you do,” Kiril declares, pointing at Jazz, “but he is going back, unless he wants Konrad’s finest hunting him down and killing anything that gets in their way.”

Konstantin winces, so it’s clear he knows the truth in that statement.

“I won’t be leaving him,” Jazz announces forcefully, and I feel as much as see the tension in her hand, the creep of her fingers toward a fist.

“Do you even understand the predicament you have put yourself in?” Kiril presses, and I – at least – feel as if he has grown ten feet. “Konstantin is Konrad’s golden child, the one upon whom he pins his legacy because he is purportedly the elusive perfect mix of blood powers.”

It’s a surprise Konstantin doesn’t interject; he shifts uncomfortably, for though in another tone Kiril’s assertion could have been a compliment, even to my ears it sounds like a terrible and oppressive yoke.

“He has spent centuries breeding for a vampire like Konstantin,” Kiril snorts, and there is bitterness there. “Many women and many children slain because they did not meet his standards – he will not let his hard work run away with a turned for something as foolish as love.”

“You only say love is foolish because you lack the capacity to feel it,” Konstantin spits, and I cannot help the flit of my focus between the two brothers.

And in a split second that doesn’t go unnoticed by either Jazz or Konstantin, Kiril and I meet somewhere in the middle.

“No way,” Konstantin blinks, and Jazz goes that little bit further, snatching both my hands and nudging me sideways, putting her legs between Kiril and I.

No way,” she reiterates, but Kiril is unfazed.

“Do not project your foolishness on me,” he derides, a dark, jaded sound that hits me far more solidly than it should. “At least in my own pursuits I have the good sense to keep clear of Konrad’s zone of absolute destruction.”

“This wasn’t planned!” Konstantin charges, rocking to his feet, and Kiril is standing beside him that same instant, an intimidating obstacle between Jazz and I, and his brother.

“It does not matter how or why,” Kiril grates through his teeth, so low I physically feel his words. “As your reckless lady friend said, it is what it is, and what it is is a mess no amount of running will mediate.”

“You are the mess mediating expert,” Konstantin snaps back, and I’m finally at my limit, leaping to my feet and placing a hand against both their arms. Tingles spread up through my fingertips, but my annoyance overwhelms it.

“Enough!” I bark, taut and pointed. “This stupid circular bickering is getting us nowhere.”

Silence fills the space vacated by my patience.

“You want him to go back, Kiril – he needs to or Konrad will send Narumi and others after him,” I go on quickly, before I lose my steam. “Jazz won’t leave him, but going back for her is suicide – so what now?”

Licking his lips and looking slightly destabilised, Kiril takes my wrist and slowly lowers it away from his body.

“Konstantin needs to return post haste,” he says, evenness returning to his demeanour. “For now, until Konrad is appeased, he comes back with me, and Miss Mann here can take refuge at one of my estates on the outskirts of London.”

“Hide?” Jazz exhales.

“Bide your time,” Kiril corrects. “If there is any suspicion – and to be frank I would not put it beyond Arno or any of his people to attempt garnering Konrad’s favour by divulging what they discovered here – then there must be distance between you that leaves none.”

“And then what?” Konstantin huffs, sliding around his brother to sit on the arm of Jazz’s chair.

“Then I cure cancer, end war and solve world hunger,” Kiril sneers. “You be a good boy and play Konrad’s foot-stool until it is safer, but make no mistake – her life will always be in jeopardy if you continue this… relationship.”

“Could you say it with any more distain?” Jazz glowers, and Kiril’s self-confident grin only grows.

“You hooked up with the nice brother,” he leers, and I’ve had enough of the snarkiness.

“Will you come back?” I ask Jazz, but of course I’m caught between wanting her back in my life, and keeping her safe.

Biting her lip, I can see she too is in the grips of indecision, and it’s not one she wants to make without Konstantin’s input.

“I hate you, you know that?” Konstantin drops acerbically, the comment definitely meant for Kiril.

“Because I am right?” Kiril sniffs.

“Because you’re only ever right at the most infuriating of times!” Konstantin spits back, and Jazz takes this as the signal to move.

There is absolutely no way I’m letting her out of my sight, so I follow without so much as a glance back at Kiril, though the brothers remain glaring at one another.

Jazz and Konstantin had been travelling light, so there wasn’t much for them to pack up before they were ready to go. Miho, on the other hand, had far more luggage.

Though there was still so much to say, a weighty silence – a storm cloud on the very brink of breaking – followed their progress all the way to the airport where they boarded Kiril’s jet. They had encountered no problems – nothing from Arno and nothing from Konrad, and arrived back in the U.K to nothing but a limousine with heavily tinted windows. And still the thick tension persisted, all the way through the city, glancing over their shoulders, until it all gave way to much greener scenery.

But the rolling hills the farthest thing from Miho’s mind. She took very little in about the grandeur of Kiril’s sprawling estate, focused instead on trying to put all her questions and statements about everything that had happened since Jazz’s disappearance in some sort of order.

In a bedroom fit for a queen, the two men left Miho and Jazz sitting on either side of the bed. Both of them look down at where their hands were folded in their laps until Miho lifted one to rub fingers against the slowly increase throb of her temple.

“When did you know?” she asked quietly. “About the vampires?”

“Not right away,” Jazz answered, staring across the room at the balcony doors. “But, before…”

“Before what?” Miho pushed, rocking to her feet and turning around, though that only aggravated the ache in her skull. “I mean, I knew he’d been at the club, that you’d seen him outside a couple of times, but we used to share everything… I’d have thought the existence of supernatural creatures would count as pretty important to tell your best friend.”

“I think you’re well enough informed now to know why I couldn’t say anything,” Jazz frowned, tipping her chin toward the door in a gesture meant to indicate somewhere in the great manse, Kiril and his brother were no doubt having their candid own discussion. “I wanted to protect you.”

A noise something akin to a snort punctuated Miho’s incredulity.

“Did you expect me to accept you’d dropped off the face of the Earth and just get on with my life?” she questioned rhetorically, kneading the back of her neck. “Because that’s the only explanation I can think of that might have led you to think I wouldn’t do everything in my power to find you, and in doing so, put my nose in vampire business anyway.”

There was little for Jazz to do but cringe, because Miho was right.

“It was a difficult choice to make,” Jazz began awkwardly.

“You chose him, Jazz!” Miho exclaimed, the thundering in her skull doing little to aid in the containment of her sense of betrayal. “And I would never stop you from seeing someone you loved, but you actually chose to be with him, to keep his secrets, to become one of them, rather than stay with someone you’ve known practically your whole life! You just, threw me away.”

Cringing for the twisted expression on Miho’s face, Jazz finally tried to approach, but the wild slashing motion of Miho’s arm warned her not to get too close.

“I’m sorry,” Jazz sighed, and she’d lost count of how many times she had said it. “I fell in love with him and he with me, and when he confided his secret…”

“You couldn’t have told him there is nothing we don’t share?” Miho snapped, her eyes losing focus. “You couldn’t have told him we’re practically sisters and nothing can… nothing should have come between us?”

“Miho, be reasonable…” Jazz tried again, but she had seen Miho lose her cool enough times to know a temper like that was beyond reason and logic.

“You’re a fucking vampire!” Miho shouted, her whole face scrunching up as she backed away, the animated nature of her expressive hand movements causing her to wobble. “There’s no coming back from that, and what’s worse, if Konrad finds out his favourite son has gone and given his heart to a turned, you’re dead, dead!”

Breathing heavily against the boiling emotions in her chest, Miho leaned against the sideboard. Oh she was angry, no two ways about that, but now her fingertips felt as if they were burning away from the bone and her skull was cracking from some inexplicable pressure that distorted her vision.

Obviously, Miho was very angry, but it became clear when she blinked away large tears rolling red ribbons down her cheeks, that something else was very very wrong.

“Miho!” Jazz gasped, dashing forward in time to catch Miho before she hit the floor.

“Everything’s on fire!” Miho panted through teeth tightly clenched, and Jazz wanted nothing more than to comfort her, but blood was now dripping from Miho’s chin, and within Jazz a dangerous hunger called.

“Konstantin!” Jazz shrieked in panic, laying Miho gently against the carpet and moving swiftly to throw open the bedroom door. “Kiril! Help!”

She didn’t know where either of them were in the spacious mansion, they could have been in another wing entirely, but as Jazz took a necessary step onto the landing – away from the scent of blood that taunted her – two blurs flashed toward her at great speed.

“Jazz? Are you o…” Konstantin began, but his sentence broke off when he too was reached by the sweet smell of Miho’s distress.

“Take her down stairs, now,” Kiril barked sharply, and with eyes flashing an uncompromising warning, he spared neither a second more before disappearing into the bedroom. “Miho,” he hissed, pulling her gently into his lap.

And instantly the razorblades that had been digging through his veins were somehow dulled.

The beast within him paced irritably as Kiril weathered the tantalising spectacle of Miho’s blood-smeared face, but he hoisted her into his arms and carried her whimpering to the bed.

“What is this?” he whispered coldly, not to her but to himself, as he gently wiped her face clean with a hastily acquired pillowcase, before tossing is as far across the large room as he could. “Miho?” he breathed again, and finally she seemed to rouse from her agonised state enough to focus on his face.

And her mind was clear, her skin prickling pleasantly in the wake of each soft pass his fingers made down her cheek.

“That was…” she croaked thickly, reaching out to take his other hand and draw it down between her breasts, pressing his cool palm over the rapid pulsing of her heart. “I thought I was going to die.”

“What happened?” he soothed, his voice sounding foreign to his own ears.

“Nagging headache just, got worse and worse,” she murmured, savouring the sensation of his fingers sliding through her hair and the pressure of his hand that ensured they were connected. “Then it just, erupted… but…”

The last few tears fell, but this time they were clear.

“The moment I touched you,” Kiril continued, his brows knitting, “the more I touch you, the pain subsides.”

“You too?” she exhaled, examining his face as it drew closer.

Less than a minute ago it had felt as if she was being torn apart; but now she wanted to taste Kiril’s tongue, ravenously claw away his clothing and bury him so deeply within her the memory of that pain would be erased completely.

“Just relax,” he instructed, lips brushing lightly against hers with the promise of more, but to her disappointment he then sat up. “There is something I do not like about this.”

“Bleeding from the eyes was sort of traumatic for me too,” Miho piped up, shifting his hand over to her right breast. “But…”

Her pause was filled with puzzlement.

“… all I want now is to feel you,” she finished finally, frowning. “Kiril…”

“I know,” he admitted, but it was through gritted teeth.

He was fighting himself, Miho could see his struggle.

“Why am I not freaking out?” she exhaled, clutching his hand more firmly. “I should… see a doctor.”

“Liana will examine you,” he asserted, rocking back and standing, but Miho dug in her fingernails.

“Don’t leave!” she gasped quickly, a reflex, and Kiril’s gaze narrowed on her grip.

“I will return momentarily,” he told her, strain tightening his voice. “But until Liana has examined you, your friend will have to stay away. She is still young, and if you bleed again she may not be able to control her primal urges.”

“But not you,” she stated, rather than questioned, not removing her grip.

“No, not me,” he smiled with a gentleness Miho had not yet seen from him, and she allowed her hold to fall away.

True to his word, just minutes later Kiril returned, a woman a step behind him.

Though she again found relief in Kiril’s presence, this did not detract from the sharp, clear blue of the other woman’s eyes, and her instantaneous study of her new patient. And there was something old-world about her – from the modest ankle length of her skirt, to the well-loved leather doctor’s bag she carried to the bedside and opened.

“You may leave now, Master Kiril,” Liana said softly, placing a stethoscope around her neck.

“I shall stay,” Kiril responded, much to Miho’s relief, but Liana turned to frown at him – and when she spoke it was much more crisply.

“Master Kiril,” she began, firmly, the tone of an uncompromising woman. “I should like to begin my examination of your lady friend, however, I shall not do so without the requisite privacy necessary to uphold her dignity and confidentiality.”

Miho blinked; people generally did not speak to Kiril in such a manner. She expected a storm to break in the room – gale force winds and lashing rain, but Kiril simply looked annoyed.

“She is…” he began, but Liana cut him off abruptly.

“In capable hands,” she finished for him. “I shall call for the young master if I require assistance.”

This made Kiril ruffle, but Miho lifted her head a little.

“I’ll be okay,” she forced out, though she honestly didn’t want him to go.

Wordlessly he ground his teeth for a few seconds, while Liana simply peered at him expectantly.

“Fine,” he huffed, then stalked out, closing the two women into the room alone.

If she was pleased, or felt any form of satisfaction over her victory, Liana’s expression showed none of it. There was an intensity of focus about her, a stare that told Miho she missed very little, and practiced hands that spoke of experience.

There was little talk between them, save for questions and answers, and when Liana had determined Miho’s basic physiological details were normal, she requested more comprehensive tests to be performed… in the basement.

“So,” Miho quipped, much of her strength returned as she walked beside Liana out of the elevator into the incongruously sleek and sterile décor of the basement. “Kiril really is Batman.”

“He has considerable wealth, if that is what you mean,” Liana nodded, guiding Miho past various rooms before urging her to enter another.

“He doesn’t have a mask wearing fetish?” Miho quipped, settling into the indicated chair before a piece of medical equipment.

“Not to my knowledge,” Liana replied, taking her time to calibrate the machine. “However, what Master Kiril does outside the estate is his own business.”

There were still so many unanswered questions – like who this woman really was, and what her relationship to Kiril was, but Miho didn’t want to just blurt them out. She felt suddenly, acutely aware of his age, and what that meant for his relationship history – not that she was all that clear on his relationship at present either.

“Just relax, and look straight ahead,” Liana instructed with a small smile, indicating the chin rest, and Miho complied.

What followed was a gamut of tests, at the conclusion of which, Liana showed Miho back to her room wherein Kiril arrived shortly.

“Well?” he prompted impatiently, but Liana seemed completely unfazed by him.

“She has no evidence clinical conjunctival hyperemia, periorbital or palpebral edema, and maintains normal vision and extraocular movement,” Liana explained. “The young master is currently examining pathology for some underlying cause of the hyphema, though there are no visible indications of infection.”

Miho caught a handful of the medical jargon, and surmised what Kiril then vocalised.

“So you have no idea what happened,” he dropped, clearly displeased.

But the hand he had on Miho’s shoulder was light, warm.

“As yet, no,” Liana responded, and appeared a more than a little irritated by the fact.

Konstantin had been the one to contact Konrad: Kiril’s idea. Since he and his father didn’t get along – to put it politely – and to increase the chances of distracting the king from his rage – however unlikely.

Eyes followed the pair as they made their way silently through the lobby of Konrad’s primary place of business, but no one questioned them. Kiril strode with his typical air of self-confidence despite the derisive daggers shot his way.

Oh, if only they knew.

Better that they didn’t.

“When was the last time you were here?” Konstantin asked as they reached the elevator.

He was not so practiced at hiding his discomfort.

“A year or so,” Kiril shrugged. “Daddy dearest is not especially welcoming.”

“Like you ever tried to make peace with the guy,” Konstantin snorted, stepping into the gilded cabin of the lift.

Very conservative.

“What, drawn, and talk of peace?” Kiril smirked.

“Yeah, yeah, you hate the word, and he started it,” Konstantin huffed. “But you can’t tell me you’ve done anything to try and appease him.”

“No, I cannot,” Kiril agreed with mirth, not the slightest bit repentant. “That is what happens when you kill a man’s mother.”

“That’s your excuse?” Konstantin snorted. “Really? Because yours is not the only mother he’s killed.”

“So I should not hold him accountable because he has a full complement of victims on his ledger?” Kiril retorted.

“And I suppose your hands are clean?” Konstantin challenged. “Perfectly clear conscience?”

“Do not be absurd,” Kiril sniffed. “But by comparison…”

“Bad is bad, Brother,” Konstantin argued, looking up as the elevator chimed.

“I will keep that in mind as I’m bailing you out of the grave you have dug yourself into,” Kiril smirked, and was first to saunter out into the plush antechamber.

“Hmm, new carpet,” Kiril noted flippantly, causing several chatting in the large room to stop and stare.

As if it was his house, a crown upon his brow, Kiril strode unaffected by the attention he had drawn; in fact, Konstantin noted he seemed pleased and entirely unsurprised.

The way he pushed through the double doors was anything but subtle. Indeed, he announced his arrival like a performer: exaggerated, confident movements, boldness, and an aura that drew and held gazes.

“Father!” he exclaimed in an overly affable tone, clearly intending to mock the poor relationship they shared.

Konrad did not turn from the conversation in which he was engaged, though two other bodies in the room inched away from the king.

Not only unaccustomed to being ignored, but already looking to stoke the fire of opposition, Kiril filled the hall with his presence. As much as Kiril clashed with his father, this magnetism was what had allowed him to build his own empire despite the king’s enmity, and Konstantin had to admire that.

When there was no reaction after a few more seconds, Kiril’s upper lip began to curl, and Konstantin saw all the theatricality recede.

“You have ten seconds to acknowledge my presence, or your favourite and I return to our fun and games,” Kiril growled.

Challenge accepted.

It was the sudden slamming of the doors they had entered through that drew Kiril and Konstantin’s focus, and there they found Narumi with arms crossed over her chest.

“I am listening,” Konrad stated, his voice reverberating most unnaturally. “But not for long. You have already kept me waiting.”

“Drop the drama, Konrad,” Kiril dismissed, hands deep in his trouser pockets and looking completely relaxed. “We are here of our own volition at your most insistent behest.”

“And yet it was not you I called for,” Konrad dropped, only now turning to rest his unsettling scrutiny upon his children.

Kiril, however, he looked right through.

“Explain,” he added, cold and commanding.

“I sent Konstantin to address sensitive interests in Europe I could trust to no one else,” Kiril answered, and that more directly drew Konrad’s ire.

“And who are you to send my son, anywhere?” Konrad glowered, Kiril’s demise swirling in his eyes, his disdain carving his mouth in jagged lines.

“You would not question the contributions my business assets make to this kingdom,” Kiril replied calmly. “Because you would notice a significant decline in both revenue and influence were I to transfer my operations to say… Australia?”

“Do not over-estimate your worth,: Konrad retorted, approaching his elder son with a predatory gait.

“Oh, I know exactly what I’m worth,” Kiril chuckled, and the two vampires who had skirted to the edge of the room began their way toward Narumi, perhaps for protection from the oncoming affray. “But I stopped measuring myself by your skewed standards many years ago. After all, when you’re that small…”

Knowing he was playing with fire and brimstone, Kiril made a ‘tiny’ gesture with his thumb and index finger.

While the eyes of the three who were not important enough yet to be given names froze in absolute shock, Konrad began forward. It was Narumi, however, who took firm hold of Kiril’s chin and forced him to look at her.

“You owe your king the truth,” she hissed into his face, eyes boring into his, and he knew her power would catch him in a lie if he attempted to tell one. “So I suggest – for once in your life – you do not lie.”

“Konstantin was working for me,” Kiril told Narumi confidently, and instantly her nose wrinkled.

“As much as it surprises me, my Lord, Kiril is telling the truth.”

With his full focus on Kiril, Konrad didn’t notice the most unsubtle double-take Konstantin performed.

“It is truly touching how much you trust your children,” Kiril sniffed. “Now, if there is not anything else, there are a great many other things I would like to be doing.”

“Konstantin, remain,” his father ordered, and Kiril made no quarrel.

IF he dropped himself in it now, both he and Jazz deserved to be hunted as far as Kiril was concerned.

Following his retreat, Narumi waited with Kiril for the elevator and stepped in beside him.

“And what did that little ruse just cost me?” Kiril drawled, working the ache of his jaw and touching the throbbing pain of one temple.

“The truth would be nice, but I know it’s unlikely you’ll give me that,” she shrugged nonchalantly. “So, for now I’ll keep that one banked. Need I tell you whatever game you’re playing is a most dangerous one?”

“No,” Kiril grimace, and this certainly did not escape Narumi’s notice.

“What is wrong with you? You’re paler than usual.”

“It was a long trip and I am famished,” he answered flippantly, but his tone was tainted by discomfort.

“Have you been feeding from junkies again?” she snorted in amusement, knowing full well his response was a falsehood.

“Best you mind your own business, Narumi,” Kiril warned. “You want none of mine, and if the king learns of your complicity in my deception there will be little left of you but dust in the wind.”

“I knew what I was doing, cousin,” she smiled. “And I know – whether you tell me or not – I will uncover what you’re hiding.”

As swiftly as inhumanly possible, Kiril returned to the estate. Blinding pain seared his consciousness, and so he feared Miho was in an even worse state.

He was directed to Liana’s infirmary by an anxious Jazz, but he left her alone upstairs to ponder Konstantin’s failure to return.

“I was forced to sedate her,” Liana reported, when Kiril showed alarm at Miho’s unresponsiveness. “She was thrashing about quite vigorously, in addition to the symptoms you described earlier.”

Sliding his palm up Miho’s arm, Kiril’s own anguish abated swiftly, and when he touched his lips to the warm of hers, a buzzing joy flooded his veins.

“This is most unnatural,” he exhaled in relief.

“I have been able to determine no medical explanation for Miss Fujiwara’s condition,” Liana admitted. “And could certainly not yet venture the correlation with your own afflictions, save – it seems – that it intensifies the longer you are parted.”

“Unacceptable,” Kiril snapped, but he was gentle in the brushing of Miho’s forehead.

“It is all very well and good you saying that,” Liana grumbled. “But at this stage I must consider the cause to be rooted elsewhere.”

“Such as?” Kiril prompted expectantly.

“Witchcraft, obviously,” came a rather impertinent voice from the doorway. “Clearly, both you and your visitor have been hexed.”

Carrying a tome almost as large as his entire body, the lean child moved effortlessly toward Liana.

“I’ve been reading,” he announced.

“That is all you ever do, Kai,” Kiril pointed out, but he was clearly listening.

“And a good thing too, since you do so little,” Kai snorted, though he sobered and straightened his shoulders when Liana looked displeased.

“Did you know,” Kai began again, “that the Cerchio di veli coven in Florence during the Renaissance were well reputed for their love spells?”

“Are you truly suggesting I am subject to a love spell?” Kiril scoffed.

“Wealthy families paid fortunes for political gains founded in love spells that caused infidelity and broke politically motivated marriages,” Kai elaborated, much to Kiril’s disdain.

“Have you upset any witches lately?” Liana queried. “Aside from me, that is.

“No more so than usual, and even if I had, they would certainly not be alive enough at present to curse anyone,” he asserted.

“Unless,” Kai piped up, “she is the primary target of the manipulation?”

Appreciatively, Liana nodded, and Kai smiled broadly.

That Kiril did not immediately shut down this concept, told Liana Kai’s postulation had some merit.

“So, who exactly is your little friend?” Liana asked, since Kiril was not forthcoming with the details.

“A hunter, I suspect,” he replied, and both Liana’s and Kai’s eyes bugged. “You have plenty of blood to test so I want it confirmed,” he added waspishly. “I need to be sure.”

“So, you’ve been out and about cavorting with a hunter?” Liana questioned, though it was obviously rhetorical.

“Unawakened, but yes,” Kiril confirmed, his top row of teeth scraping over the lower.

“Are you insane?” Liana hissed, leaning over Miho toward him.

“No, hexed apparently,” he retorted, glaring icily, and Liana moved back. “Return to the library, Kai,” he then commanded. “I want to know which spell and who I need to kill to break it.”

“And you’re going to be doing what meanwhile?”

For a second Kiril pursed his lips, his fingers paused mid-way through stroking Miho’s hair.

“I have a child to teach the ways of our world and a couple of nightclub owners to manage.”

“You’re going to leave here with her? With both of them?” Liana blinked. “If you are indeed connected by magic, it may very well be ill advised to kill her before the spell is broken, but to allow her out in public? Have you lost your senses?”

“Watch your tone, Liana; you know who you are talking to,” Kiril snarled.

“And it’s because I know, I think this is a terrible mistake,” she tried to reason. “Were the king to learn of this…”

“He shall not, unless some poor creature no longer wishing to live should tell him.”

Both fact and a warning Liana heard loud and clear.

I rouse to a melancholic piano melody drifting purposefully through the mansion. Though I picture the simple press of keys, the sound each makes is far more than that; there is a ubiquitous pain woven into the undulating tempo, a graceful, sorrowful longing in every hanging pause and a hand offered in my direction.

Wrapping myself in the satin robe hanging at the end of the bed, I pad out of the bedroom I don’t remember returning to, coaxed by the music’s sweet desperation, completely under its spell. And half way to the lower floor, I find myself unable to move – peering down into the lounge I discover the source of that beautiful distress.

Transfixed, unblinking, I watch Kiril’s fingers glide across the concert grand, the monstrous instrument of dark, varnished wood tamed by the skilful touch of his cold fingertips; and I wonder if it’s possible to be jealous of an inanimate object. Yet it seems so alive, the silver strike of each hidden string taking flight and fluttering upward to where I stand – and I can almost see those hazy wisps of sound shuddering toward me: fragile, hopeful, fervent but somehow laces with fine threads of irritation.

When the final reverberation gives way to silence, I inhale a sob and finally release the tears that have been swimming across my vision.

Clear at least this time.

Kiril looks up at me, his expression unreadable, his thoughts so shielded compared to the open emotion of his unguarded tune.

“You’re such a trope,” I declare, my voice still thick with a clinging sadness. “Sullen vampire playing broody music on his piano in the dead of night.”

“The pipe organ was taking up too much space,” he replies, and it might have been humourous had his tone not emerged so darkly from between those perfect lips I have kissed fervently and want to partake of again. “And it’s a little past noon.”

Impassively, he turns a couple of sheet music pages and begins again to play, ignoring my approach.

What am I supposed to make of that?

Have I irritated him by interrupting, offended him with my remark, or is there someone worse still than the wracking pain connecting our separation?

Persisting despite the ache in my chest, I complete my descent and tread slowly across the space until I am directly behind him. The swaying rhythm of his new malady causes me to frown; he is right there within arm’s reach and yet he somehow feels very far away. To reassure myself, I lightly place a hand against his shoulder, but immediately recoil when the piano shouts a single, dramatic discord and Kiril becomes still.

“What?” I scowl, with equal parts indignation and upset, and Kiril turns his whole body, suddenly trapping my legs between his, possessively drawing me close again with one arm around my waist.

I’m looking down at him, but the power is all his; not something I’m used to nor entirely comfortable with.

“Spit it out,” I huff, even as his hand floats downward over the curve of my backside.

“I am angry,” he answers finally, and as much is evident in the arctic sharpness of his eyes.

“I can see that,” I retort, trying to maintain my train of thought as he begins to gather up the back of my robe.  “It’s not like we both don’t have plenty of reasons to be pissed off at the world right now, so what particular frustration has got your goat right now?”

“I want you beyond all reason,” he snarled, but hidden beneath it was a despairing purr. “I want to consume you entirely, but then you would be gone and that I simply cannot allow.”

This confession is so incredibly frightening, but at the same time the most mind-blowing statement I have ever heard – of this I am sure.

Expressing this is nigh impossible, however; emotions refuse to be converted into words. All I can do in response is climb into his lap, lock my fingers at the nape of his neck and drink that sweet affection from his lips. Fervently, he searches for the places about my body of greatest warmth, until he’s straining against my inner thigh.

“Wait,” he utters, incongruent with the insistent press of his fingertips. “Wait.”

“For what?” I rasp. “A written invitation?”

“This,” he begins again, swallowing his desire in a massive gulp, “this isn’t real.”

“You’re going to let witches tell you what is and isn’t real?” I challenge.

We’d spoken in the infirmary about the theory of a curse or spell binding us by lust, and at first I was outraged and sickened and frustrated. To be manipulated in that way, to be robbed of emotional freedom made me feel trapped, suffocated.

As Kiril kissed me good night, however, and left me alone I couldn’t reconcile what I knew of my desire’s falseness with how powerful and real it felt.

How it feels.

“I will let the facts do so,” Kiril clarifies, and the icy edge causes me to recoil, rock back and pull free easily because Kiril allows me to.

“Oh well, in that case I’ll just be on my way and waste your time no longer,” I bite back, the lashing of a wounded and confused animal.

“You are overreacting,” he says from his seat. “You know very well you and I cannot be apart at present.”

“Enjoy your headache, Kiril,” I spit, failing to resist the burning hurt of a knife twisting between my ribs.

“Are you a woman or a toddler throwing a tantrum?” he hisses, in front of me before I can dodge.

“I’m a woman taken for a fool!” I shout into his face. “Caught up by your unnatural charm and swagger – maybe drawn by magic if you want to blame it – but preyed upon and lured nonetheless until I gave myself to you!”

“And I am the only one who has ever had the pleasure I suppose?” Kiril volleys.

I don’t know if he’s just caught off guard, or if my rage has given me supernatural speed, but my palm snaps loudly across his face.

“Miho?” Jazz calls from above, but all my focus belongs to Kiril for another barb before I stomp upstairs.

“I hope you have a good memory, Kiril,” I snarl. “Because hex or otherwise, screaming fits of bloody murder, it’s a pleasure you’ll not have again.”

Blood Spatter: Part 6

WARNING: This part contains smut.

Eyes turned to focus on them as Kiril urged Miho away from the table to where there was enough room to dance. This fictitious crowd bowed their heads respectfully, curtsied, before Kiril twirled Miho around.

“There have been many balls such a this,” he told her, their faces close.

“How are you controlling all of this in such detail and yet still able to form sentences?” Miho blinked, still preoccupied by their surroundings to pay too much notice to Kiril’s touch,

“You think women are the only ones able to multi-task?” he huffed, squeezing her body a little tighter against him. “The blood of a true vampire is very potent… among other things.”

At this, Miho sputtered out a laugh and accidentally trod on his toes, and their slight stumble saw them slide directly through a passing couple.

“I’m sorry,” she chuckled stepping back into the rhythm of their graceful path around the glittering space. “But that…”

“I wonder what potent thing you are imagining, Sparrow,” he grinned, knowing full well the innuendo he’d made.

“What’s with the nickname?” she asked on a different tangent, but it had been something she’d thought about on and off.

“Sparrows are small and delicate,” he replied easily, spinning her with the dramatic flourish of intangible cloth.

“Delicate? Me?” she snorted, somewhat proving her point.

“And you have this furtive awareness, always looking for danger,” he added.

“Ah, can you blame me?” she laughed, gasping a little when he leaned her back draped over one arm.

“No, I cannot,” he conceded, staring down at her with suddenly greater focus.

From her eyes, to her lips, his gaze then travelled to the extension of her neck, and as she noted this, Miho’s muscles tensed.

“You look hungry,” she exhaled quietly, her fingers clenching tighter against his jacket. “Should I be sensing danger?”

“Do not doubt I want to taste what Alex stole,” Kiril admitted, the hand not holding her reclined touching lightly to the line of her jaw before trailing slowly downward. “His trespass was unforgiveable.”

“Because he attacked me without provocation and that was wrong, or because the alpha male in you thinks my hunter blood should only be for you?” she breathed, but her eyes had narrowed sharply.

Slowly, maintaining eye-contact, he brought her upright, so close the tips of their noses were touching.

“Yes,” he told her quietly, and Miho was so transfixed, so consumed by the lush gleam of his eyes, that it took her several seconds to notice the orchestral music had ceased, as had the movement of bodies around them.

“I should kick your ass for that response,” she told him flatly, but he saw the continuation of her statement twitching on her lips.

“But?” he prompted.

“But I’d rather you kissed me,” she admitted, but Kiril still did not look especially moved.

“Why then, do you not kiss me?” he offered, challenge smeared across the slight upward tweak of his mouth.

Glowering, Miho lifted herself a little onto her toes and leaned forward, pressing against him with her lower body whiles her lip drew closer to him; then she smugly pulled back, just before their lips made contact – she made a point of showing him he was not the only one capable of playing games.

At this is was not pleased.

“Frustrating, isn’t i…” Miho began, but the air was crushed from her as he tightened one arm, and with the other slid his hand into her hair and brought her face to his.


It’s a ravenous kiss so fierce I think I might disappear inside him completely, sparking a fire almost beyond my control.  Every inch of my skin is suddenly singing a heavenly choir of rapture – and it’s terrifying just how ready I feel to face the apocalypse, if only to prolong this a little more. As my fingers dig into the taut muscles of his upper arms I can feel just how much he wants me too; I’m doing more than flirting with danger now, but whatever spell he’s got me under I don’t think I can resist it for much longer.

Even at the nip of his teeth against my lower lip, I’m still so caught up in the desire to taste his skin I ignore the potential of him biting down just a little too hard. Oh God, my head is spinning because I can’t remember the last time I took a breath – and I don’t care.

My gasp echoes around the hall, now empty but for Kiril and I, my panting a stark contrast to his complete composure. But his eyes are devouring me so indecently I cannot bring myself to move my face any further than I absolutely need to ensure I don’t pass out.

“See?” I grin in dizzy triumph. “You’re not the only one who always gets what he wants.”

“Is that all you want?” he inquires, the seriousness of the question dropping the floor from under my feet.

What he wants is obvious, and I simply cannot deny I want it too – trying to convince myself otherwise is now futile.

“Aren’t my thoughts loud enough for you now?” I volley, brushing my fingertips beneath the collar of his shirt.

“You told me not to intrude, Sparrow,” he points out, teasingly pecking at my cheeks, “so you are just going to have to be explicit.”

“Oh, explicit is exactly what I’m thinking,” I reply breathily, chasing his lips until he allows me to warm them with my own once more. “Distract me from this insufferable waiting, Kiril.”

“Is that what I am? A distraction?” he frowns, but the way he’s tugging me against his body by the waist tells me right now it’s highly unlikely he cares about anything other than getting me naked.

“Distraaaaaact me,” I hiss against his throat, before kissing up under his chin.

His reaction startles me at first, giving me a shove away, but his sharp bark at the pair of attendants to clean up precedes the equally as sharp snatch of my hand and the swift jerk of my body toward the exit.


There is a faint sense of travel, but the distance between the castle and my hotel is little more than a blur, pouring like molten liquid into the moment Kiril and I burst into my suite. The push and pull of emotions I’ve experienced since meeting him is full throttle forward – pull his jacket away, pull his shirt buttons free, pull his bare chest against mine.

The air rushes loudly from my lungs as I’m slammed against the door, and my legs wrap naturally around his waist; his tongue, cool and moist against the inflame of my skin, slithers maddeningly down my throat, across my collarbone and across my chest until his lips suck my left nipple into his mouth.

“Gaaaah,” I hiss as his teeth pinch, and a thrill of fear shakes magnitude 10 down my spine. “Kiril… wait…”

“Rrrrwhaaat?” he growls, lifting his head with a face full of fierce. “Do not tell me to stop.”

“No… not that,” I pant, helplessly drowning in his eyes, raking my fingers through his hair as I struggle to find more words. “No biting.”

“Are you afraid, Sparrow?” he whispers against my cheek, though his unflinching gaze doesn’t break contact.

A denial is derailed before I can voice it, the promising strain of his desire pressing between my legs.

“Yes,” I admit, a word frighteningly loud as even the sound of our heavy breathing vanishes.

“Good,” he praises, his wolfish grin at first suggesting a twisted satisfaction in my alarm, but then I see in the sudden stillness that’s gripped our bodies, it’s my honesty that has garnered his approval. “Trust me.”

“Take me,” I shudder out, and throw the last of my caution to the whirlwind that envelopes us both.

Thought gives way to pure sensation: the tearing of fabric refusing to give; the swimming intoxication of breath held far too long; the slick of perspiration and persistence.

Trembling in desperate anticipation, I welcome the weight of his body, frantic to smooth my palms over the sculpture of his muscles, aching for him to touch more than just the surface.

Begging like I have never felt lust before.

Teased from toe-tip to top, to the very limit of my frustration, until he can see the wildness, the agonising fracture lines of my libido chasing every caress.

And begging like I have never felt lust before – or perhaps once – I had the taste of him in my mouth and the heaving delight of him within; even though it wasn’t him, even when it was no more than the craft of my imagination and a warm substitute.

Now there is no need, but need for him, and had I sense of anything other than that, my pride might protest. But he is every bit as hungry as I am.

Ravenous, he drags me up, a puppet sobbing feverishly for him to end my torment. My body curls, back arches as he reaches around to dance his fingers against the throb of my suffering, and I can’t hold out any longer.

It doesn’t sound like my voice, but somehow it’s the most natural utterance I’ve ever made – a choking moan without meaning to be a word, just the pure expression of my body’s inability to comprehend anything other than the pleasure of Kiril tipping me over the edge.

The way he pulls back on my hair, the gratification of his teeth grazing my shoulder, that he is unrelenting even as I convulse, is finally punctuated by the surprisingly slow ease of him inside me. This delicious pressure from within, slow, measured strokes, causes my muscles to contract so tightly I may never unwind.

Who cares?

I’m a tense ball of yearning wanting more, rocking myself against him forcefully until I’m rewarded by his voice mingling with mine in incoherent harmony.

“Sparrow,” he grates out through his teeth, my earlobe bearing the brunt of his next assault in a stinging bite that draws close to breaking his word, but doesn’t.

“Don’t stop,” I breathe giddily, grasping for enough air to fill my lungs but light-headed regardless as another storm breaks over me.

Thunder rumbling at my very centre.

Lightning searing every nerve ending.

There is no way to distinguish between sweat and tears of ecstasy, but neither he or I care.

In a slight moment of terrible respite, my back hits the bedsheets and I peer up at Kiril looming over me with an ardent restraint I both hate and admire.

“What?” I swallow heavily, unable to keep from squirming as he poises at my entrance but moves no more.

“I want to burn that face you are making, into my memory,” he declares, and it’s now, now that he’s hovering above looking down at me I see his teeth, his fangs, the touch of his tongue tapping one point.

My chest stops moving; I am mesmerized.

“No,” he whispers, leaning slowly forward to frame my face with large hands, lying against me with a tenderness I do not associate with monsters, “not that face,” he continues, brushing my lower lip with one thumb before burying himself inside me again.

With his head nuzzling into the crook of my neck, his hands slithering up my arms to grip my wrists and hold them firmly down, I know there is nothing I can do to fight him – if he’s going to kill me, I’ll die.

It’s not death that’s bubbling in my veins though, not death tingling through every fibre of my body, nor are the screams Kiril smothers with his tongue cries for help – it’s a star gone supernova consuming everything in its path.

And if he stops now without filling me to the brim?

Perhaps that is death.

That is the face,” he groans, and I open my eyes to see his – wild and shameless – trying to fix me in his focus as I watch him come undone.


Kiril’s voice drifts softly to where I lie comfortably beneath the bed covers. Blearily, I try to blink away the tattered remnants of sleep and listen in.

“… control freak,” Kiril sniffs, standing by the window with bright of morning cutting a black silhouette out of the day. “Give me more time.”

There he pauses. I cannot hear who he’s talking to, but he doesn’t seem irritated or in any way put out.

Typical Kiril.

Though I make no attempt to hide my interest in his conversation, sitting up, my interest moves from his lips to the bare of his chest. There are no marks on his skin where last night my fingernails broke the surface in my ardour.

Our ardour.

Slowly, my eyes widen, because beneath the sheets I’m a mess, and I’m a mess because…

“Oh shit,” I gasp, suddenly scrambling to free myself of the tangle.

“Just do it, Narumi,” Kiril huffs, turning to fix me in his gaze. “I have to go.”

The hand holding his phone drops to his side, and I become motionless.

A naked, vulnerable example of intimacy without protection.

“I’m ahh… I’m going to…” I mutter.

“You look like death,” he smirks, amused as he makes absolutely no effort to hide his appreciation of my figure.

“Kiril… we… I’m…”

“Yes, a frightful reminder of the things I would very much like to repeat,” he grins, approaching.

“You need to tell me right now,” I demand in a fluster, pointing at him almost in accusation. “Can you get me pregnant?”

Kiril blinks, but his surprise is feigned.

“We could try I suppose,” he offers, spreading his hands and approaching with clear intent.

“This isn’t funny, Kiril, can a vampire get a human pregnant? Because I don’t want some needle-teeth horror chewing its way out of my body.”

“Then it is lucky I do not sparkle in the sunlight then,” he smiles, but I shuffle back before he can touch me.

“I am not joking!” I cry in agitated frustration, only to find myself swiftly backed up against the wall.

“And I am not laughing,” he hisses against my lips, our noses point to point. “Do I seem a man who longs for the complication of a child?”

“Just tell me you can’t get me pregnant,” I sigh, shivering as his fingers brush my bare hip.

“You and I, cannot have children,” he assures me gently, but his grin is teasing.

“And other things? Oh god, where was my head when I just…” I rush on, thinking about all the diseases one might catch from unprotected sex.

“I am not sure where yours was, but mine,” he chuckles, smoothing hair over my ear as he breathes against my cheek, “was somewhere deep, and dark, warm and beautiful.”

“I bet you say that to all the vaginas,” I stammer out, my fingers tensing against his sides, hankering to dig in.

“Those conversations do not usually last very long,” he admits, kissing one cheek lightly then moving to the other, “but I would definitely like to resume the discussion I began with yours last night.”

“Now you’re just being vulgar,” I snort, but a smile tugs my lips upwards as he lightly kisses them again.

What I’m doing – other than the obvious – I don’t know. What I do know, is being touched by Kiril is unlike anything else, and it’s utterly stupid how much I want him to never stop.


After running the water cold with activities other than cleaning, Miho dressed and sat on her suite’s balcony in the mid-morning sun. She’d been staring at her phone for some time before inhaling deeply and calling a number she had not hesitated to dial in the past.

It rang only once before Sebastian answered, and the image of him crouched over it, glaring, waiting for it to ring flashed in Miho’s mind’s eye.

“Have you any idea how worried I’ve been?” were the first words he said, and Miho rubbed her brow where a frown instantly formed.

If his concern for her was indeed so fierce, why had he not told her about the vampire in their midst? Why had he been so cryptic about his warnings to stay away from Kiril when he had to have known she would push back when not provided with a valid reason.

“Would you have accepted the real reason if he’d told you?” she wondered silently, finally responding loud. “I’m pleased to hear from you too, Sebastian.”

“Really? You know, if that were true, you might have responded to the fifty message I’ve left for you already,” he snapped.

“I’ve been running all over Prague looking for my missing best friend,” she volleyed curtly, her mood quick to darken. “Imagine Selina went AWOL,” she continued, leaning forward in her seat, “because that is how I feel right now, how I’ve been feeling, so I’m sorry if I’ve gone deaf to all your warning-warning danger Will Robinson over Kiril Lambert.”

A short silence ensued, during which time Miho sucked in a deep breath and flopped back; she hadn’t meant to be quite so savage.

“Uh, I’m sorry,” she sighed, rolling her eyes across the city. “I’m really exhausted, and Jazz’s trail’s gone cold.”

Why she was especially tired, she did not say.

“I don’t mean to badger you, Miho,” he responded, his voice also tempered by apology, “but that family are just so dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt anymore.”

“Then tell me everything at Pale is fine,” she replied, trying to muster up some positivity. “I hope you’ll manage to give Selina some of your time.”

“You know she loves the club,” Sebastian conceded, letting the matter of the Lamberts go – or the moment. “I actually think she was happier helping Mieke and I out than she would have been having boring old dinner with her boring old brother.”

It wasn’t the first time Selina Ross had visited and spent time at Pale, and though she was several years younger, Miho quite liked the girl. There was an infectious optimism about her that made being grumpy almost impossible, and patrons at the club found that incredibly magnetic.

Having her around was good for business.

“I doubt very much she travelled all that way to see the club,” Miho chuckled. “Boring old or not, kid sisters and big brothers have special relationships.”

As she spoke those last few words, Kiril stepped out onto the balcony behind her.

“Maybe,” Sebastian grunted, and there was another pause before he spoke again, during which time Kiril made it clear he wasn’t going to give Miho space to finish her call in privacy. “So, I meant Mieke and I can handle things here but, if there’s nothing…”

“I’m not coming home without her,” Miho stated flatly, staring up at Kiril whose lips began to part as if he meant to speak.

In warning, Miho sharply raised a finger and her stare became a glower. The last thing she needed was for Sebastian to recognise Kiril’s voice. Teasingly, he leaned closer.

“I know you love her,” Sebastian said somberly, “just, promise me you won’t destroy yourself in this search.”

“I’m a big gi…” Miho began, but Sebastian cut her off, his tone of voice absolutely serious.

Promise me,” he insisted, and hearing him, Kiril’s eyebrows twitched downward.

“You know I don’t like making promises,” Miho answered carefully, “especially ones I may not be able to keep, but… I promise I will keep my eyes open and my wits about me.”

A heavy exhale signalled Sebastian’s surrender.

“Okay, well, you know how to reach me if you need anything, so call me,” he added.

“I will,” Miho affirmed. “Say hi to Selina for me.”

“Will do.”

That ended the conversation, and Miho dropped her phone into her lap, chewing the inside of her cheek for a few seconds until Kiril’s shadow across her caused the bloom of a shiver.

“Mr. Ross seems very invested in your wellbeing,” he noted, and it might have sounded casual but for the slight scowl he was wearing.

“Friends usually are,” Miho shrugged, trying not to play into his looming broodiness.

“You and he…”

“Don’t finish that sentence, or question or thought,” she huffed, rocking to her feet and standing, but Kiril caught her wrist before she could slip back inside.

“Which question would that be?” he queried. “Whether you are in a relationship with him? Sleeping with him? I suppose that would go some way to explaining his hostility toward me.”

“Yes,” Miho replied ambiguously.

Kiril’s touch was warm – generally it was not, and it reminded her of the first time he’d heated his skin for her.

“That, and I imagine in large part because he doesn’t like the idea of a vampire making a meal out of his boss,” Miho added.

“Mmm, just his boss. Doubtful,” he asserted, walking his fingers up her other arm in a gesture Miho thought was absurdly cute – so much so she couldn’t help but laugh. “What?”

“And what if Sebastian and I are a thing?” she posed, teasingly, and Kiril’s expression became serious.

“One more reason to kill him,” he answered flatly, pulling her against him and trapping her in his arms with her back to his chest.

“Don’t you dare!” she hissed, struggling as he nudged her closer the balustrade and lowered one hand to the front of her pants.

“Or what, little Sparrow?” he smiled against the shell of her ear, his fingers burrowing into her underwear.

“Fuck you, Kiril,” Miho growled, squirming as he rubbed against her, but her declaration sounded less fierce as his name twisted into a moan.

“It is kind of you to be so explicit in your invitation,” he hummed against her throat, grinding against her even as she squinted at the street.

“Someone is going to see us,” she grumbled, fighting a losing battle with her self-restraint. “Damnit, why does this feel so good?”

“I have had a lot of practice,” he responded, delving into her with slow strokes – one, two, three fingers – until the volume of her encouragements grew conspicuous. “Sing louder, Sparrow,” he groaned into her hair. “Let all of Prague know how I make you feel.”

Clenching her teeth, Miho resisted that urge, trapping cries in her chest even as Kiril began to work free the buttons of her blouse.


Then his phone rang.


“Ignore it,” he snapped quickly, withdrawing from her so he could tend to his own pants, but this afforded Miho a moment of clarity.

“Kiril, answer it,” she panted. “What if it’s Arno?”

“Grrr,” Kiril snarled, standing straight and digging out the phone, barking into it the moment he answered. “What?”

With a hand on her chest, heart beating wildly beneath her palm, Miho stumbled into a seat. And her heart wasn’t the only thing pulsing – she was sure if there was any more friction, even if she just crossed her legs, she was going to lose it.

Instead, she tried to focus on what Kiril was saying. His expression had sobered, but his body was still tensed… everywhere.

“We made our agreement, and I will keep it if your information turns out to be accurate,” he said curtly shifting over to Miho, whose hand reached up to him without prompting. “We will head there now,” he continued, his lips pinching when Miho traced her fingers lightly around the front of his pants. “Mhm, ensure your people do not alert them.”

Grinding his teeth, he listened to his caller’s response while Miho palmed him, grinning up cheekily.

“Fine,” he grunted, then without bidding his caller farewell, he hung up and tossed his phone aside before grabbing Miho’s hand.

“Sparrow, you are asking for trouble,” he warned, dragging her back to her feet. “Here I have the location of our fugitives, but all I want is to tear your clothes off.”

“God, I can’t believe I want you to,” Miho shuddered, wrapping her arms around his neck. “But Jazz? They really found her?”

“According to Arno,” Kiril confirmed, his forehead lowered to hers. “But right now I do not want to leave this suite.”

“You deliver Jazz to me, and I’ll do whatever you ask,” Miho exhaled breathily, tapping her fingers against the swell in is pants for extra emphasis. “And I’ll even enjoy it.”

“Get your coat,” he dropped, before clicking his tongue and forcing himself to turn away from her.

In a flurry, Miho did as she was bid, the burning in her loins distracted by the prospect of finally seeing Jazz again. Kiril hadn’t said whether Arno described her physical state, but Miho assumed Kiril would extend the courtesy of preparing her for the worst if… if what they’d found was a corpse in a ditch somewhere.

In the cab she couldn’t keep still, fidgeting and twisting in her seat. Though Kiril sat beside her watching, her mind was elsewhere – what she would say to Jazz, how relieved she would feel, how to hold her tears back so she could yell at her for just up and disappearing.

“This waiting is unbearable,” she muttered, wringing her fingers until her knuckles cracked, until Kiril closed much larger hands around hers.

Immediately she sat up a little straighter, the touch of his flesh against hers like an aphrodisiac that made her thighs quiver.

“According to Arno’s people, both Konstantin and Jazz are located on the outskirts of Prague in a cute little cottage… playing house,” he explained, sounding exasperated.

“Playing house,” Miho repeated quietly to herself, gnawing on her lower lip before leaning back and looking up into Kiril’s face. “With a vampire? Is that even possible?

Immediately Miho could tell Kiril had heard her thoughts, but he said nothing.

Miho considered her feelings for Kiril more seriously now. If Jazz had run away to be with Konstantin…

“You were talking to Narumi earlier,” Miho stated out of the blue. “Is something going on?”

“Hmmm,” Kiril hummed thoughtfully. “Konrad is wondering where his favourite son has disappeared to, and doesn’t have his least favourite son to take it out on.”

“What does that mean?” Miho frowned. “Is he going to send an army to march on Prague and extract you?”

At this Kiril emitted a pithy laugh.

“For Konstantin, perhaps, but not for the like of me,” he expounded. “If his golden child does not return soon, he may indeed send agents in search of him. Better that he goes back of his own accord.”

“And is Narumi on your side, or your father’s?” Miho pressed, trying to distract herself with backstory.

This caused Kiril to chuckle.

“Konrad is a tyrant,” he asserted. “No one is truly on his side, at least not out of choice. Fear maybe.”

“Is he really that much of a monster?” Miho scowled, then continued. “So, if he found out I was a hunter?”

“That in and of itself is not enough to condemn you,” he explained, but lifted a hand to her cheek. “But treaties are tenuous things, Sparrow. It is best you tell no one about yourself, not even Jazz.”

This caused Miho to frown.

“Jazz and I don’t keep secrets from one another,” she declared, her lips quivering as Kiril’s thumb approached them.

“We both know that is not true,” he smiles slowly. “Or she would not have disappeared without your knowledge.”

“You’re assuming Konstantin didn’t force her,” she scowled, her stomach churning. “Kiril, if she is with him, if she has been with him all this time… could he… would he turn her?”

There was silence but for the rhythmic sound of the car.

“It is a possibility,” Kiril answered eventually watching her reaction closely.

“What will that mean?” she exhaled, leaning into his hand until her head slipped to his shoulder.

“Complications,” he replied, idly stroking Miho’s hair, “but nothing I cannot handle.”

“Complications how?” Miho persisted.

“My father has no love for the turned vampire,” Kiril explained, disdain thick in his voice. “In the hierarchy of influence, they are even less than humans; the turned are a bastardised form of pure vampire blood, stains he refuses to acknowledge as being of worth to his domain.”

Miho pondered this, but the brush of his fingers against her scalp made it difficult to think.

“If Konstantin has turned your friend,” Kiril continued. “If they fled together and Konrad finds out they are involved, he will kill her.”

“He’ll have to go through me,” Miho snarled, straightening, and Kiril pinched the back of her neck.

“He will kill you too, Sparrow,” he pointed out. “Especially you.”

“Narumi,” Miho scowled. “Whose side is she on?”

“Hmph,” Kiril snorted, his fingers slackening. “Narumi is in the unenviable position of being caught between her place in the aristocracy and Konrad’s law-keeper, and what she believes is right.”

“So if she finds out I’m a hunter?” Miho prompted.

“It would be a terrible shame if I had to kill her,” Kiril mused. “I actually like her.”

“You’d kill her?” Miho frowned, shifting her body a little sideways so she could look into his face. “For me?”

“Let us not dwell too much on hypotheticals,” he responded, leaving the question unanswered. “Soon we shall have the information we require to move forward, and prevent Konrad from becoming more of problem for anyone.”


Soon the city gave way the green countryside, and in the hills to the south of Stradonice, the car came to a stop at the entrance to a dirt road where a man stood waiting.

Fiercely biting into her lower lip, Miho approached him with Kiril at her side, watching and listening as the pair spoke in Czech. Impatiently she scraped her toe through the gravel, until the man turned to his own car.

“There is a cottage half a kilometre up this track,” Kiril reported, taking Miho’s hand and pulling her into motion. “According to our friend, Konstantin and Jazz are both inside.”

“How the hell did they find them out here?” she whispered, as much to herself as to him.

“I imagine Arno really wanted to avoid the consequences of not locating them,” Kiril answered, and continued. “When we reach the house, allow me to approach first.”

She didn’t question why. If they had gone to such lengths to disappear, then they may not be all that happy about being discovered. Still, Miho couldn’t imagine Jazz ever doing her harm, vampire or not.

At the sight of the cottage, Miho found herself barely able to breathe, and Kiril gave her hand a squeeze.

“Wait here,” he instructed, and after releasing her he pushed through the picket gate and began up the path to the front door.

“Wait here,” Miho sigh, resuming her lower lip attack until she couldn’t stand it anymore.

Kiril pulled back the tattered fly-screen door and knocked three times against the chipped paint of the wooden door beneath. He could sense Miho at his back, knew she wouldn’t listen, but focused his hearing on any sounds of movement.

Then he was gone, one blink and he had dashed away, leaving Miho blinking at the space where he’d stood. She could only think he’d hear something and rushed off to intercept it.

“Jazz!” she shouted, shouted with all the energy she had, and after stomping up onto the porch she turned the front door knob.

Beneath her palm it turned, and steeling herself, she moved into the dim interior of the cottage.

“Jazz?” she called again, this time a little more discretely, but her answer came not in the form of her best friend’s voice, but in a loud crash and the sound of splintering wood.

There was little time to wonder at how her reflex was to run toward the sound rather than away from it – before rational thought blossomed, Miho had sprinted through the unfamiliar house and burst out the back door.

“Do not run,” Kiril warned, pointing at where Konstantin was struggling from the hole in the side of the cottage he’d made with his body’s impact. “For the chosen son you are a real pain in the ass.”

“Jazz,” Miho dropped in a breathy whisper, and the blonde woman’s head snapped in her best friend’s direction.

“Miho?” she mouthed, barely a sound at all – just enough for Miho to hear, enough to break the dam that held back the tears.

But Jazz’s expression was a conflicted twist of joy and angst, and her eyes darted between the two brothers before returning to Miho.

“My life has nothing to do with you Kiril,” Konstantin growled, brushing off his shoulders.

“Do you have any idea…?” Miho wept.

“Konrad has tasked Narumi to find you…” Kiril volleyed.

“I didn’t want to hurt you…” Jazz murmured, taking a hesitant step toward her friend.

“No, Jazz!” Konstantin called out urgently. “If Konrad’s looking for us we need to get even further away.”

“Who do you think our father is exactly?” Kiril rumbled, stalking toward his brother again. “There is no place you can hide he will not find you.”

“I thought you were dead,” Miho sobbed, peering up from where she’d sunken to the ground, Jazz’s figure wavering through tears like a ghost. “Are you dead?”

“I’m…” Jazz began, but her sentence faltered.

As Kiril and Konstantin physically clashed once more, Jazz crouched down before Miho and lightly placed her hands on Miho’s knees.

“… it’s complicated now,” she finished, Miho’s raw pain cutting her deeply; but she knew she deserved it and more.

“Why couldn’t you tell me about this? About him?” Miho choked out, taking hold of Jazz’s hands tightly, wrapping warm fingers around cold.

So cold that her eyes widened.

“You… He…” she stammered, blinking furiously to clear her vision. “Did he force this on you?”

Miho stopped listening despite having asked a question. The answer had already formed in her mind – this vampire who had taken her best friend away, turned her into this thing against her will… she would kill him, and it was written all over her face as she rose.

“No, Miho!” Jazz exclaimed. “It isn’t like that.”

“Really?” Miho balked, swiping away Jazz’s attempt to place a gentle hand on her shoulder. “So he sat you down and asked you politely and you said, oh sure son of a vampire king who’ll kill us both for it, make me a vampire!”

“We… not exactly,” Jazz admitted, fixing her grip around one of Miho’s wrists and holding her back easily.

“I don’t care who he is!” Miho shrieked, fighting against Jazz tooth and nail, but both women were nearly bowled over when Kiril came tumbling toward them.

“You of all people should understand the desire for freedom, Kiril,” Konstantin glowered, his voice suddenly so much lower, his body inexplicably growing until his clothing strained and threatened to tear.

“Konstantin don’t!” Jazz shouted, as she jerked Miho back against her chest and folded both arms around her. “Just calm down, we need to, to talk to them!”

Kiril was picking himself up, his expensive clothing streaked with mud and grass, while Miho struggled, and he cut a glance to her and paused when Jazz lifted her head a little toward her friend’s neck.

“Miho, we need to talk,” Jazz said thickly, and the taller woman fell still, just a moment, before wriggling around in Jazz’s hold to hug her tightly. “Inside,” Jazz prompted, looking around Miho at the two brothers briefly, before sliding her hand into Miho’s and guiding her back toward the cottage.

Blood Spatter: Part 5




Eyes and bodies turn; villain and victim peer through the dim at a figure leaning casually against the wall on the other side of the alley several metres away. Everything about him screams nonchalance – the setting, the setup, the characters, none of it seems to concern him.

Languidly, he tips his chin up, revealing an unnatural light in the green depths of his eyes.Everyone is unsure, except him.
The moment is his, the alley, the city, the night – all his, and this confidence dares anyone to disagree.

I take this moment of distract to attempt an escape, not wishing to let the opportunity slip by, but the back of my neck is snatched the moment I put this thought into action.
The world is a sudden blur of colour and sound, and I do not blink: not once.

Kiril’s cashmere coat flutters dramatically as he slides between the men, the cape of a hero pounding out great splashes of blood with his fist, driving teeth into flesh and ripping through veins until three men have fallen and do not move.

I do not blink: not even now, Kiril standing before me, his ludicrously stoic face a smear, his lips parted and stained.

“Now’s the part where you release her and beg for your miserable existence,” Kiril drawls, before the tip of his tongue touches the sharp point of a far too long canine tooth.

“That’s… not going to hap…” the remaining ‘man’ says, but his voice dies as Kiril sounds out behind us, even though he’s still plainly right before us.

“Wrong answer,” he whispers in the man’s ear, causing him to flinch.

And flinch again, tumbling me on hands and knees at Kiril’s feet.

Looking up – he’s there.

Looking back – he’s…

My mouth drops open in silent horror as Kiril squeezes his fingers tightly where they’re protruding from my attacker’s chest, his heart still in Kiril’s grip until it drops to the ground with a sickening splat. A few seconds later, the last body joins the rest, and I am alone with this monster wearing Kiril’s face.

His unhurried approach, perhaps designed to calm my obvious anxiety, explodes an energetic flight response. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast in my entire life, scurrying along like death was snapping at my heels – maybe it was?

Before I can exit the alley, however, I skid to a sudden halt in the face of a brick wall that hadn’t been there a moment ago.I think.

Panting and on the verge of hysteria, I spin into Kiril’s arms, drawn nose to bloody nose.

“Now might be a good moment for you to just accept my suggestion, and sleep,” he exhaled, holding my gaze with the fierce caress of green flame against my face.

“Let me…” I begin, wanting to struggle and shriek, but finding my limbs heavy and resistant.“Come on, Miho,” he breathes, paradoxical tenderness in the eyes of a murderer.

“Just sleep, and everything will be alright, I promise.”

“You… promise?” I hiss, but he’s holding all my weight now. “Don’t… don’t…”


I don’t remember finishing my sentence. Nothing makes sense, while maybe it makes sense now more than it ever did. Kiril’s face is so close to mine, pressed up against the wall somewhere in London, blood on his tongue – my blood – but his name is Alex, and Narumi shouts at him from somewhere nearby.

Teeth and eyes and blood.

So much blood – because of Konstantin? Because I chased him?

In the black, it falls into place.It’s so typical for me, to wander – no, charge – into a situation so blindly I don’t see the vampire for the trees; but for some reason I’m not nearly as surprised by this revelation as I should be.

The coldest part now, is realising Kiril is a bloodsucker, then Konstantin probably is too.


“Jazz!” I exclaim, sitting bolt upright in room I recognize.In bed, in my suite, I’m dressed in my nightgown, and the outfit I was wearing is hung up on the outside of the carved, wooden wardrobe.

“She’s not here,” Kiril says, and my head snaps to the chair beside the bed where I hadn’t even noticed he was sitting.

“Why did I even wake up?” I wonder, and though Kiril’s head tilts the slightest bit, his expression remains sombre.

“I have no desire to kill you, Sparrow,” he declares, unmoving as I slip out the far side of the bed: not that I think a simple piece of furniture could stop him from zapping in behind me and crush my spine. “Or crush your spine,” he adds, simply watching me. “Honestly, I don’t wish you any harm.”

“Oh really?” I spit, far more vehemently than I intend.

“Antagonising a vampire is hardly a good idea.”

Then I think about all the times we’ve been together alone, how I’ve acted and spoken to him.

“You remember now, don’t you?” he prompts, somewhat of a rhetorical question. “How is your head?”

“I just watched you slaughter four guys: slaughter,” I reiterate, my hands moving to animate my statements in macabre fashion.

He has washed and changed his clothing, and though he is no longer covered in blood, I can still see it patterning his pale skin.“And you’re asking how my head is?” I continue, exasperated. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Does it seem like I am?” he asks, so bland now it’s hard to resist the urge to smack some emotion into him.Which brings back the memory of me slapping him in that expensive café.

“That’s right,” he nods. “If I wanted to hurt you, you’ve given me ample motive and opportunity.”

“Stop that!” I snap, swiping my arm through their air. “Stay out of my head; I knew you were in my head.”

In long, agitated strides, I pace across the room and back again, and finally Kiril rises.

“That’s not the only place,” he adds simply, and I spin and point viciously.

“Don’t you FUCKING DARE pull that shit!” I roar, apparently losing all sense of self preservation. “You’ve been dangling Konstantin in front of me like a carrot since I met you, playing some sick game – why? What the hell do you gain from messing with me like that?”

Because you remembered,” he answers flatly, his single step in my direction bursting my bravado and sending me scooting back. “The mind-splitting headaches, flashes of a past events, of faces and names; something you shouldn’t have recalled.”

“Alex,” I shudder out. “He attacked me for asking about Konstantin and he…”

Kiril’s brows lift.

“He licked me,” I swallow, “and then he was…

“Hmph,” Alex grunted, leaned closer to Miho’s throat, inhaling deeply before slithering his tongue over the slowly oozing wound he found there.

Though Miho drove her free hand up under his chin, Alex tossed her aside, and she cartwheeled.

“Now that’s a nifty secret,” he snarled, about to pounce once more, when the back exit of the club opened abruptly, and a woman appeared in the doorway.

“I see,” Kiril nodded slowly, knowingly, and took another step forward.

“Just, stay right there!” I command, but my voice is trembling.

And Kiril is no longer before me.

Instead, his arms wrap around me from behind.

“Get off!” I bellow, wriggling and writhing like a mad cat, but at the same time my skin is suddenly singing.

“Stop struggling, Miho, you’re not in danger here,” he hisses, his cool breath tickling my ear. “Damnit please, relax.”

My body freezes, and it’s only half because Kiril’s entreaty actually sounds genuine. I watched him spit out a chunk of a guy’s neck, punch another’s heart right out of his body – I should be petrified, and I am – but at the same time, the clench of his arms and the pressure of his body against mine, the press of his face over my shoulder and his lips so close to my skin fires shocks of wanton anticipation all through me.

“What did you do to me?” I rasp, feeling his arms loosen a little. “You’re a murderer, you just…”

“I didn’t do anything to you,” he growls, one hand sliding up my throat to rest lightly under my chin, “but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more.”

“Kiril, let me go,” I plead, but the sensation of his exhale against my neck makes me shiver, and weaken my legs.

“In case the guys in the alley weren’t enough of a wakeup call, you’re in over your head,” he rumbles, turning me to face him. “Konstantin and Jazz are one thing, but you are in danger if you pursue this, more than you know.”

“Apparently I don’t know anything anymore,” I blink tearily, but Kiril’s expression isn’t sympathetic, it’s… pained?

“If they discover what you are, even Narumi,” he says softly, one finger stroking along the line of my jaw, “they will kill you.”

“They? And you?”

“If I did, you’d be dead,” he points out, and I have to concede the point; he’s right, he’s had plenty of chances, and yet his touch now is so gentle.

Of its own accord, my head turns into his touch, but my stomach is a violent, churning squall of conflicting emotion.

“Please, Kiril,” I beg, reaching out with my eyes, “just let me go – if what you say is true – I need space, and I can’t think while you’re…”

“That’s just it,” he frowns, but it’s not by me he’s confused. “I don’t want to let you go. I want to feel your warmth, hold it closely, hold it safe.”

Thankfully, despite his words, he steps back, rubbing at the back of his neck, while I find the edge of the bed to sit down on before I fall down.

“Vampires is a lot to drop on a girl,” I murmur, watching him pace to the window and then back to the middle of the room. “And the chosen one too huh? Brilliant.”

“Hardly the chosen one,” he sniffs, a sharp sound I can see he immediately regrets. “And I cannot be one hundred percent sure, not yet, not without…”

His expression is now imploring, but he’s also holding himself back: me too. I both want him to tackle me against the mattress, but need to him to stay away.

“Without…?” I prompt, but I already know I’m not going to like the answer.

“Without tasting you,” he answers plainly, honestly, and though his posture could be called relaxed, I see his eyes flicker with desire.

I know he’s talking about my blood – that is what vampires are about after all – but I cannot help but blush and squeeze my thighs together a little more tightly.

“And what would that prove exactly?”

“Every person tastes a little different,” he answers, his hands unfolding as he provides some crucial exposition, “and the older I get, the more I can tell about a person: intricacies of their health, hints of the genetic heritage, and whether they are human or not.”

An exhale explodes from between my lips.

“So, the vampire is telling me I’m not human?” I balk.

“I suspect, strongly, you’re not entirely human,” he agrees, hazarding to slowly move toward the bed at the far end. “As you have recalled, you were attacked,” he continues, sitting down a good five feet away, “by one of Konstantin’s friends, I suppose you could call him, and Narumi stopped him from killing you.”

“The woman from the police station,” I mutter. “She’s a vampire too?”

Kiril confirms this with a nod.

“And it’s her job to clean up mistakes like Alex made,” he adds.

“I remember being somewhere after that alley,” I admit, “and her voice.”

“We don’t go about killing people,” he says. “We will make you forget anything that might be problematic for us.”

“But I remembered.”

My lip bears the brunt of my bubbling anxiety.

“Regular humans don’t just shrug off power like Narumi’s,” he nods slowly. “It’s not possible.”

“Did you? Have you ever messed with my head?” I ask, and Kiril doesn’t look ashamed.

“I forced you to sleep last night,” he admits. “But if I had changed any of your memories, you would likely have remembered by now.”

“So you,” I inhale, “you didn’t make me…”

“Make you what?” he prompts.

“Ugh, make me want you so stupidly!”

And the moment after I think that ridiculously loud thought, I realise he’s been hearing the inner workings of my mind since we met.

Oh yeah, he’s grinning.

“Believe me when I say it is taking all my self-control to keep my distance,” he declares, turning a little. “But I will wait until you trust me.”

“Would you trust you?” I ask, swallowing the lump in my throat.

“To protect something important to me? Absolutely,” he affirms without a second of hesitation. “And knowing you, you will need protection.”

“Knowing me, huh?” I chortle. “When did we meet again? How much could you possibly…”

“I know you’re relentlessly loyal,” he interrupts. “Sassy and sharp-witted, tenacious and principled despite your ‘madam of the club’ façade, and a tactile, passionate woman, who has been haunting me for far longer than you think.”

“The hell am I supposed to say to that?” I think, and again I see Kiril’s lips twitch. “If you want me to trust you, you can start by staying out of my head,” I scowl reproachfully.

“You’re all but broadcasting,” he defends, “when you’re thinking about me.”

Burning – oh yeah, my face is flaming.

“I could try to teach you to be more guarded,” he offers.

“But I’m not a vampire… am I?”

Kiril shakes his head and rises again, making his intention to approach me clear before he does- and I let him; I know I shouldn’t, but I let him.

“You,” he says, looking down at me, his shadow casting cold over my exposed skin, while the light at his back makes him glow divinely, “are something I should kill right now, before you can become a real danger, to me, to my kind.”

My lips part to respond, in fright, in my defence, but the feathery touch of his thumb against me, silences the words before they can emerge.

“Fully awakened hunters are immune to the mind manipulation of many preternaturals – vampires included – and can detect our true identities no matter how human we look.”

“I didn’t,” I admit, but his thumb presses more insistently.

“Because you’re not awakened,” he clarifies. “And if I have anything to do with it, you never will.”

Gently, slowly, his thumb opens my mouth, and without even thought, just base instinct that somehow overwhelms that of survival, my lips wrap around it. The moist warmth of my tongue touches him tentatively, and for a second before the horror of my actions hits me, I suckle provocatively against the very tip.

My backward flinch is jarring, my eyes wide, and I’m shaking my head like that can dispel the pheromone laced fog controlling my actions.

“I’m sorry, I…” I shudder out, my body crying out for me to taste him far more, but my mind shrieking grave warning. “I hate this, I hate feeling like, like someone else is controlling me actions!”

Calmly, Kiril watches, his fully clothed legs brushing lightly against the dangle of mine.

“You can’t seduce me like this,” I growl adamantly, and it’s Kiril’s turn to shake his head.

“I told you, what you feel for me is my doing.”

Frustrated, I stand and shove him away so I can begin pacing again.

“What am I supposed to do now, huh?” I eject, throwing up my hands. “Lions and tigers and bears, and I want to just rub myself all over one.”

Clearly, Kiril was struggling not to smirk.

“Stop that!” I tell him once more, slashing the air with my hand. “I came here to find Jazz, not to get all tangled up in your bullshit.”

“Then that is what we do,” he asserts. “ The men who attacked you were locals, which means just as you did in London, your search for Konstantin aroused interest.”

“Well it’s a little late to ask them what they know,” I point out.

“They were asking you for information,” he points out, “which suggests they didn’t know he was here. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Prague’s gentry is unaware.”

“Given they attacked me, is said gentry likely to part with any information they might have?” I frown, but Kiril sniffs with arrogant confidence.

“Arno will deal with me whether he likes it or not,” he states, “I just need to make a call or two.”


Miho took a long shower while Kiril made his phone calls. She didn’t know or care who he was talking to; the last thing she needed to do was add to the mountainous pile of unbelievable she’d be blindsided with. Some of it she just knew, even though she didn’t know how she knew – a voice deep within told her Kiril was not lying, not about vampires and not about herself being an unawakened hunter. Surprisingly, it was the inexplicable attraction she felt toward Kiril – despite everything – that vexed her the most. As the warm water caressed her body, she replayed all the times they had been in close proximity – and shuddered, her hand sliding between her legs to press against the aching of her clit.

“Not good,” she sighed, her head leaning against the glass wall as she rocked against her hand.

Even as she relished the burgeoning, pleasure, a part of her remained deeply concerned by the mental image she’d created of Kiril nuzzled in behind her, his hands on her, in her.

And she really hoped he couldn’t hear her thoughts from the other room.

“Feel better?” Kiril enquired, when Miho finally emerged from the bathroom, fully dressed and preened.

Praying he took the flush in her cheeks as heat from the shower, she nodded, but her attention was soon drawn to the wafting scent of coffee and a tray of various consumables.

“Your stomach was growling,” he smiled, tipping his chin in the direction of the table.

“It was not,” she huffed, but moved to pour herself a mug just the same.

“Oh? Then I suppose you were growling for another reason?” he posed, one eyebrow raised provokingly. “Hm, perhaps not growling, maybe moaning is a little more accurate.”

Miho blinked, then rallied.

“Well, if I was it certainly had nothing to do with you,” she sniffed, casually filling her mug and grabbing a slice of fruit. “So, what’s the plan?”

Better to stick to business.

“We’ll walk right into Arno’s court and politely ask for his assistance,” he replied, not looking the slightest bit daunted by his suggestion.

“Is that really the wisest idea, considering you just killed four locals?” Miho asked sceptically, surprised by how good her appetite was considering the traumatic events of the previous night.

With a shrug, Kiril rose from his seat, thrusting his hands into his pockets.

“Arno is old,” he admitted. “That’s Europe for you, but the old world doesn’t hold nearly as much sway as it used to.”

“Okaaay,” she agreed, taking a sip before continuing. “But this we business. Before, you were all ‘Oh I should kill you because you’re a hunter and you need to be protected’, and now you’re suggesting I march down the throat of a vampire court? That doesn’t seem all that smart.”

“So long as you behave like you’re under my thumb, everything will be fine,” he told her, and now looked mighty pleased with himself.

“I am not under your thumb,” Miho ruffled, glaring at him over the rim of her mug.

“And this defiance is something I admire in you,” he nodded, “you never cease to entertain, but unless you want me to leave you here, you’re going to have swallow your pride for a little while and play like a good little pet.”

Grinding her teeth, Miho considered being stubborn by refusing to go, but it seemed she was getting closer to finding Jazz, and did not want to just leave it to Kiril.

“Fine,” she grumped.

“Understand, Miho, a false step here could me we both end up as little more than unrecognisable fragments of flesh,” he explained frankly, though he didn’t appear fazed by this prospect. “I can hold my own, make no mistake, but at the centre of Arno’s kingdom, he definitely has the advantage.”

“Kingdom,” Miho repeated. “So what? Vampires follow a monarchical hierarchy?”

“In some countries, yes,” he affirmed. “In others, it’s a matter of who has the most power and who can cling to it.”

“Not big on democracy huh?” she sniffed, finishing off her coffee and placing her mug back on the tray.

“Well, the human world messes that up enough for everyone,” he expounded with mild amusement. “And no matter how much power within our own we hold, we cannot help but be in some way influenced by the machinations of human politics.”

“And in the UK?” she prompted, taking another piece of fruit before moving slowly around the table to the other side; another piece of furniture between them.

“Monarchy,” he affirmed, but his lips remained parted as if there was more.

“And? Come on, the time for secrets is over,” Miho urged, emphasising her statement with a pointed look.

“And, do you remember when I warned you not to pursue my father?” he replied, not having to say much more for her to cotton on.

“Seriously?” she coughed, shaking her head. “Your dad is the king of the UK?”

“I’ll spare you the indignity of calling me you Highness,” he smiled. “At least in private.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she sighed shakily, casting her mind back to the business dinner and the whole thing with the man named Hardwick. “I feel like I’ve been walking around with my eyes closed.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s normal not to see that which defies the well accepted status quo,” he philosophised, glancing at his watch before looking back up. “Shall we go?”

With two loud cracks, Miho tilted her head from one side to the other, then levelled her gaze at Kiril – eyes brimming with determination.

“I’m ready.”

Continuing to smile, perhaps a little too genuinely for Miho to actually believe it was genuine, Kiril watched her snatch up her bag and head for the door.

“You’re going to need this,” he told her softly, and before she could look away from the door, she felt the light pressure of her coat folding over her shoulders, Kiril’s hands smoothing down her arms a second later.

The gesture caused her to shiver, made parts of her clench so tightly she’d leaned back against him like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Stop that,” she hissed, his thumbs stroking her upper arms, but she hadn’t straightened, nor reached for the knob… the door knob.

“This, whatever this is, is as difficult for me to resist as it is for you,” he whispered, then reached around her to open the door. “After you.”


Far from the pretentiousness of his usual limousine, Kiril has already called ahead to have a city taxi waiting for us out the front of the hotel. Like a gentleman he opens the door and sees me comfortably inside, before joining me in the back. I’m not stupid, I haven’t forgotten the things I’ve just learned or seen, but Kiril’s right – the attraction between us is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, and it demands I touch him, feel him and that I let him have the same of me. Fighting it is exhausting, even if my logical mind tells me I should not be putting myself in the path of a killer, a predator, all for the tingle of my nethers.

“It’s not just for that,” I tell myself sternly, as Jazz has always been my number one priority.

Denying how much I want Kiril to take me right there in the back of this cab, however, is becoming more and more difficult.

Our hands brush.

I blush like some ridiculous otome ‘heroine’ whose only exposure to grown men is her stern and uptight father. Trying so hard to rein in the raging fire in my face, I completely miss Kiril stating our location to the driver, but try to piece together our destination from what landmarks I’m familiar with.

“Relax, Sparrow,” Kiril instructs, leaning his shoulder against me a little, and it’s only when his hand touches mine again that I realise I’ve made tight fists. “You don’t want them to smell blood in the water.”

“If they do,” I hiss quietly, “it’ll be because you spilt it everywhere.”

“Do I win no points at all for saving your life?” he wonders aloud, and I think, I think, there is a hint of sadness behind a giant wall of irritability.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” I concede. “You’re bloody Batman, and you totally saved my ass from getting it handed to me.”

Surprisingly, he doesn’t press for more.

“Actually, you may just have given them a challenge,” he declares, and I turn my head to find his so very close to mine. “There is a part of you sleeping, yes,” he goes on, “but your instincts seem to be surfacing – the unnatural angle of one thug’s arm attested to that.”

“What’s an arm to a…” I grunt, but catch myself before saying the v-word. “It was a reflex.”

“Exactly,” he smirks. “Just remember to hold off on those when we are inside, and leave the talking to me.”

“With pleasure,” I agree, and look down when Kiril slides his fingers through mine – skin as cold as the grave. “Kiril,” I begin, slowly. “If Jazz isn’t dead, I mean, if Konstantin didn’t… if she’s been with him this whole time…”

My unspoken question terrifies me – as much as I want the answer, what it might mean could change everything.

“Let us make no assumptions,” he replies, a warmth of reassurance in that simple sentence that makes me forget the iciness of his flesh. “There is no going back for either of you, but this is hardly an end.”

Caught off guard by this tenderness, my mouth gapes, and I see Kiril’s eyes flit to my lips.

“Assuming he didn’t just kill her and flee the country,” I point out breathily, my heart a thundering rapid flush with adrenaline.

“Konstantin and I are worlds apart,” he reveals, his face inching slightly closer. “My brother is all heart.”

“And you?” I exhale, barely audible even as such close proximity. “What are you… all?”

For what seems like an eternity, all the sounds of the world beyond our bubble is hushed.

“Right now,” he answers, cool breath against the flush of my cheeks, “I am all self-restraint, Sparrow – and that is the only reason you are still clothed right now.”

There is a strange pressure behind my eyes as I try to break this spell I’m under, this quagmire that seems to hold me even stronger the more I struggle against it.

“I am not…”

“Liar,” he interjects, dipping his head forward, his forehead lightly pressed to mine, the tips of our noses touching, “and you cannot lie to me, or yourself.”

Taxi driver ex machina – the man clears his throat and I pull back to press myself against the window, while Kiril just chuckles.

“Do you always play so hard to get?” he queries lightly, running one hand through his hair. “That isn’t the impression of you I’d formed from watching you at Pale.”

“Are you saying you took me for a slut?” I scowl, but even I know this question is a defence mechanism.

“I am saying, it seems out of character for you to deny yourself something you want,” he ripostes effortlessly.

“What I want, is my best friend back,” I state clearly. “Nothing comes before that.”

“Not good with multi-tasking?” he laughs, giving my hand a squeeze, and it’s only then I realise he’s still holding it.

“Don’t make this any harder for me than it needs to be,” I grumble, but do not retrieve my captive fingers.

Kiril’s smile turns into grin.

“Hey, I believe that is my line.”

“Crude,” I snort, but the joke raises my spirits a little, unwinds a little of my tension – right up until the cab comes to a stop outside the Prague National Theatre.

I recognise its unmistakable architecture as Jazz and I have seen various shows there before, but I question why we’re here now. Kiril, meanwhile, exits and opens my door, offering me his hand.

“I figured he’d hang out in the Old Royal Palace,” I admit, as Kiril ushers me away from the closed main entrance of the impressive building, and around the corner to a far less obtrusive door.

“He has his own residences,” Kiril explains, glancing coolly about, nonchalance stamped on his countenance, “but here is where the king holds official proceedings and audiences.”

“So you booked an appointment with his secretary?” I ask, my stomach knotting as Kiril pounds an assertive fist against the tall wooden door beneath one of many stone archways.

“Something like that,” he grins, winking before adding one last reminder before the door opens. “Remember, Sparrow; here you are my subservient plaything – try not to think too loudly.”

“I’ll just focus on how absolutely you think I’m in love with you,” I volley quietly, before sobering up my expression at the appearance of a woman before us.

“Prince Kiril Lambert,” Kiril announces casually. “I am expected.”

The woman’s severe expression doesn’t alter, though she offers Kiril respectful bow from the waist. I’m sure some silence exchange takes place between them as she straightens, though she doesn’t so much as spare me a glance.

Trying not to allow my apprehension to show, I follow along behind Kiril as we’re led into the building, down a cool corridor and then to a brightly lit, plush room decorated in rich red and gold.

“If you would be so kind as to wait here,” we’re instructed, or more accurately Kiril is instructed – I may as well be invisible.

Questions bubble away behind my eyes, seeping through the cracks of my best intentions to seems focused on being Kiril’s ‘good little girl’, and I can tell because of the sharp look Kiril sends me.

“I will punish you,” he drops coldly, and I don’t have to feign how this threat – more like a promise – causes real fear to slither, to gather in my chest. “You are fortunate I deigned to bring you at all.”

“Of course,” I say quietly, lowering my head. “I apologise.”

Obviously dissatisfied with my nearly immediate transgression, he turns and pinches my chin.

“Do not embarrass me, Sparrow.”

It’s a performance, I’m okay with this, because in Kiril’s eyes I see none of the taunting arrogance I usually do when he’s teasing me.

“I would never,” I assure him, biting my lower lip, looking up at him from beneath my lashes.

Subservience is not my thing, but I’m no stranger to play-acting.

“See to it you don’t,” he sniffs, stepping away from me to the sound of a door opening at the other side of the room.

Though uninvited, Kiril strides confidently through into a much larger chamber, at the far end of which stands an ornate throne, upon which sits a lean man with a prominent hook nose, his thin hair silver at the temples.

In and of itself his physical appearance is unremarkable, but palpable waves of displeasure roll from the dais and crash into me; Kiril, however, remains as unaffected as ever.

“Thank you for granting me an audience as such short notice, King Arno, most honoured son of Josef Sovák,” Kiril greets in perfect Czech – not a word of which I understand.

Still, as he bows, I follow suit, lower and for longer than my ‘master’, and I so not seek eye contact.

Don’t want to make eye contact.

“If I did not know well enough of your family, Kiril Lambert,” Arno replies in English, though his accent is very thick, “I might consider some measure of truth in that statement. And you… despite your airs and graces, you are a wolf.”

I doubt very much his choice of language is for my benefit – perhaps more likely he wants to show Kiril he’s just as adept at English as with his native tongue – but this is merely conjecture.

“If only I could convince my father of as much,” Kiril smiled easily, while I want so much to cower.

Contemptuously, the Czech king grunts an undignified sound and points a thin finger directly at Kiril.

“Am I to believe you think me a fool?” he growls, grey eyes narrowing to nearly closed. “I should have you shipped back to your father in pieces for your brazenness, your audacity – to threaten me?”

What Kiril has threatened Arno with I am unaware, but can only think it has something to so with the phone calls he made before arriving. Whatever it is, everything about Kiril screams he is completely comfortable with his actions and in no way intimidated by Arno’s attempt to assert dominance in his own throne room.

“I’m making no threats,” Kiril disagrees, eyes forward still, even as doors on either side of the chamber open, and several figures enter, none of them looking all that pleased. “But I do have a grievance with you in need of recompense.”

You have a grievance?” Arno chuckles darkly. “I suppose that is why several accountants under my employ cried out suddenly in unison and proceeded to panic?”

“Yes, that would be why,” Kiril smiles thinly, reaching slowly out to curl his fingers around the back of my neck and give me a little nudge forward. “I sent this one to find my brother,” he continues, and though his voice is sure, growing more and more displeased, I exert what feels like the limit of my willpower not to tremble. “And in no less than forty-eight hours she is set upon by while strolling your streets, and threatened for the very information she came in search of; I will not ask your pardon for expressing my annoyance at such a gross breach of etiquette.”

Kiril’s fingers against my nape are tense, but his grip is not tight. As he speaks his thumb grazes my skin, lightness of his touch re-centres my thoughts on him.

“Do not talk to me of etiquette, Prince Kiril, when you entered my city and spilled blood on my streets before so much as a glance of acknowledgement for courtesy and tradition.”

“That is true,” Kiril nodded, slowly drawing him back against him. “But, had I done so, she would be dead, and you and I would be having a whole other… conversation.”

Those figures around us shift; none of them are stupid, so despite dancing a semantic game, everyone is well aware Kiril just rolled into the court of the Czech vampire king and started making threats.

Any second now they’re going to pounce us both, and I’m going to end up even worse than the vampires Kiril slaughtered; his arm slithers over my hip and rests there.

“Let me make this as easy for you as possible in order to save time, effort, and further bloodshed,” Kiril goes on, his free hand making slow sweeping motions as he speaks. “In recompense for the attack against my assistant, I want your network to find my brother and his partner, and report their whereabouts to me. Following that, the four of us will return quietly to the U.K. and bother you no more.”

Arno listens in silence, but he looks about ready to lurch from this throne and permanently end the conversation. Those around us don’t blink, don’t move, but I can feel their stares crushing my chest, stealing my breath.

“I want this over quickly, so I can get back to my own affairs,” Kiril adds. “My economic machinations are merely insurance that I get what I’ve come for – something which should cause you no great loss considering the hostility my little Sparrow met with at the mere mention of Konstantin’s name. I would sooner not interfere with the financial stability of the Czech Republic’s ruling house to get my way, but as you’re probably aware, I am very used to getting what I want.”

“All except your father’s approval,” Arno sneers, but his is the only expression that alters.

“Well, you’re at least half right there,” Kiril shrugs, but doesn’t clarify which part. “So all that remains is your cooperation, and we shall leave.”

If I stood in Arno’s position, I would no doubt like to tear Kiril’s head off, especially in front of his ‘subjects’ – if that’s what they’re called. He has to somehow save face, but it’s obvious from his hesitation whatever Kiril did with regards to his finances is no small matter. How, exactly, he’s managed to corner this man, a king and older than him by Kiril’s own admission, I don’t know.

“Do not think for a moment,” Arno says finally, rising and stepping slowly from the dais, “I will forget your audacity.”

“I would not expect you to,” Kiril acknowledges, his fingers beginning to drum lightly against my hip. “All things have a price. I am sure, however, should you require my considerable influence in the future, I could find my way to be of your assistance.”

At this, Arno chuckles, a sound that rattles around between his ribs for a little before spilling from his lips.

“You would be wise to not stray too far from the power of the old world,” he warns, coming to stand before us, no more than an arm’s reach away from me. “Your love affair with humans, these fragile things…”

His eyes linger on me.

“… may be your undoing,” he finishes.

“No doubt you’ll fully enjoy the celebration that follows,” Kiril grins. “I’ll leave arrangements to send you something suitable for such an occasion.”

“Keep your head down in Prague,” Arno commands coldly. “Leave details with Marika. If you are not out of the country within twenty-four hours of your brother’s location, I’ll kill you and take your little Sparrow for my plaything.”

“That sounds fair,” Kiril agrees, but his smile falters when Arno reaches out toward my cheek.

“You’d better hope…” he begins, but doesn’t finish before Kiril pulls me in behind him.

“But unless that eventuates,” he says frostily, eyes narrowed, eyes afire, “she belongs to one man, and he is most certainly not you.”

Amused, Arno tips his chin, satisfied at having apparently – finally – unsettled the intruder, but his eyes do not leave me. His gaze is nothing like Kiril’s, and in it I can read the desire to humiliate, to punish Kiril, through me.

Leaving floods me with the kind of relief that weakens my legs, and on the street with Arno’s court behind us, I lean against Kiril who has not let go of me since Arno’s approach.

“Did you really just bully a king by threatening to bankrupt him? In front of his people? In his throne room?” I sigh, my hands gripping his coat lapels.

“I never used that word specifically, but yes,” he answers, wearing none of the weariness I feel. “I do not want to linger here,” he continues, “as it is clear you cannot be trusted not to rush off in a frenzy screaming Konstantin’s name.”

Those last few words spoken, Kiril pauses to consider them – his brows twitching.

“Ensuring Arno had no choice but to help us locate my idiot brother was the fastest means to our desired end, so I can get you back to England,” he adds, smoothing his hands from my shoulders to my elbows.

Before even thinking, I’ve dropped my head against his chest and exhaled a long breath.

“Will this really work?”

“If Arno wants to avoid complete financial ruin and get me out of his hair as soon as possible, he will have his goons scouring the city and beyond,” he assures, gently sliding his fingers through my hair.

And it feels so good I could almost forget that with a twitch he could break me in half.

Feels too good.

“Well, thank you, for putting yourself on Arno’s bad-side for me,” I declare, but avoid his eyes as I step back out of his arms.

“I am unsure he has a good side to be honest,” he chuckles, and this forces a smile from beneath the tension I’d been holding since waking up.

“So what do we do now? Just, sit and wait?”

Almost unconsciously I take both cell phones from my pocket: the one with a local sim card and my regular one.

The latter has several missed calls and messages from Sebastian, one from Mieke – the former has none, and I cannot help but cringe a little.

“Something wrong?” Kiril queries, leaning a little closer again.

“I want you to be honest with me,” I begin, chewing the inside of my cheek a little because I’m not sure what it means if I get the answer I suspect I will. “Sebastian warned me to stay away from you, vehemently; does he know?”

“Mr. Ross and I are acquainted in the most basic sense of the concept,” Kiril responds, and it sounds like the words a politician might spout to avoid an uncomfortable truth.

“Okay, let me rephrase; I want you to be honest and clear,” I insist, narrowing my eyes at him, even as he moves to the curb to hail us a taxi. “Does he know you’re a vampire?”

“Yes,” he answers more in accordance with my guidelines. “He does.”

“No wonder he’s losing his shit,” I mutter, both sympathetic and irritated at the same time. “He knew there was a vampire in my club all this time and said… did nothing?”

“To be fair, Mr. Ross is in no position to reveal secrets,” Kiril says, and though the sentence itself literally attempts to exonerate Sebastian for his silence, the tone in which it is spoken conveys his disdain.

Turning this over in my mind, I just climb into the cab when Kiril holds the door open for me and we’re moving before I even know my destination.

“How?” I ask finally, shifting my whole body a little more sideways. “How does he know? Wait…”

It hits me.

“No way, Sebastian’s a…”

“No, he most certainly is not,” Kiril snaps back, glaring, and the sourness of his expression only deepens as I speak again.

“I suppose not,” I admit, reclining. “His hands are warm.”

And a split second later, Kiril has pulled off his dark leather glove and snatched up my hand.


“This is new,” I note, as he threads his fingers through mine. “And now I know you don’t have to be so cold.”

He knows I’m not just talking about the temperature of his skin, but he doesn’t react adversely. Meanwhile, I – not being completely oblivious – note this revelation as an act of jealousy?

“So if he’s not a vampire then…” I begin again, but then Kiril untangles our fingers and places his hand against my thigh – even through my jeans the sensation threatens to chase away logical thought.

“I do not wish to talk of Sebastian Ross,” he states flatly, sliding his palm upward a little until I catch his hand and prevent its progress.

“You can’t end a topic by feeling me up,” I point out, but I’m simultaneously imagining the downward curl of his thumb riding further up between my legs.

“I am not ending a topic,” he argues lightly, “but beginning a new one, one your tensing muscles, your body, tells me you are aching to have.”

My fingernails dig into the back of his hand a little, but he seems to enjoy it.

“What a chauvinistic conclusion,” I huff, looking out the window at the passing city.

“But not untrue,” he points out with a smirk.


Resisting Kiril’s presence, his allure, required constant vigilance and willpower on Miho’s part, especially when it became clear he didn’t mean for them to simply wait in her suite for the phone to ring. Instead, he further occupied her mind with an all access tour of the city.

Together they viewed a private art collection, ate lunch at the most exclusive restaurant in the city, shopped places Miho’s credit card would never have permitted, and after night had fallen ended up at Prague Castle well after visitors were no longer allowed on the premises.

“I’d ask if it’s okay to be here,” Miho whispered, following along one step behind Kiril, left by the hand, “but it doesn’t seem you care much for rules. Visitors aren’t even permitted in this area, let alone at this hour.”

“Do not fret,” he said at full conversational volume. “I happen to know the owner.”

“Oh, I suppose you’re on a first name basis with the president,” she scoffed, but a second later realised that wasn’t too far from the realm of possibility. “What are we doing here?”

“Dinner,” he answered, as they entered the second courtyard and continued their journey.

“Now you’re just showing off,” she muttered, passing by the soft rush of water in Kohl’s Fountain.

“Hardly,” he chuckled, quickening his steps until they had crossed into the third courtyard and were swallowed by the deep shadow of St. Vitus Cathedral.

Miho had seen it before during the day – magnificent – but now its sharp gothic features were swathed in a cold that made its tall spires feel like looming giants poised to crush them both.

“You have an over active imagination,” Kiril noted, obviously amused.

“Oh really? Mr. Vampire?” she snorted, speeding up to fall in flush beside him. “I don’t think my imagination can afford to be active enough right now.”

“I suppose it is better you focus on that than other things,” he agreed, and it was only then Miho realised she hadn’t thought about Jazz since the morning, nor had she felt nearly as tense about the chances of finding her unharmed.

“Huh,” she murmured, freeing her hand in order to loop her arm around his, even as he so casually opened the doors of the Old Palace with his other. “Was all this, today, distraction by design?”

“Oh, getting you to let your guard down is plenty motive enough for me,” Kiril responded, closing the doors beside them and leading them through the dim building until a soft glow ahead peeked through the gloom.

Emerging into Vladislav Hall, a place for State gatherings, coronations and formal Czech affairs, Miho found a wide ring of grand golden candelabras creating a halo of orange light around a single, small table dwarfed even more so by the empty space of the high vaulted ceiling.

Suddenly breathless, she became unaware of Kiril’s attention gaze as they approached, two figures – a man and a woman dressed as waiters – standing motionless at attention nearby.

With a chivalrous flourish, Kiril separated from Miho and pulled out a chair at the table, upon which already sat fine crystal and gleaming cutlery.

“Sparrow,” he prompted, and with a quick nod, Miho took her seat.

“Kings have been crowned in this chamber,” Miho exhaled in awe, “and you arrange a private dinner like it’s nothing.”

“I would not say nothing,” he smiled, and for once there was no hint at all of smugness. “But what trouble it might have cost was well worth it for the expression on your face.”

“How am I supposed to survive this?” she sighed under her breath, glancing to the left of the waitress offered her the wine bottle’s label before pouring the near black liquid into an immaculately etched goblet.

What followed was a magical, dream-like dinner where everything was simply perfect. To Miho it seemed Kiril was on his best behaviour, effortlessly recalling the original construction of the Old Royal Palace in the ninth century.

“Ninth century?” Miho blurted. “You’re that old?”

Slowly, Kiril nodded.

“But that’s over…” she began, crunching numbers in her head. “Over eleven hundred years!”

“One thousand, one hundred and seventy-three to be precise,” Kiril corrected: no biggie. “I had reached the peak of my vampiric development by that stage, and was hungry to explore the world.”

“I can’t even fathom that,” Miho sighed as she laid her spoon in her empty bowl, and rested her chin on her hand. “All the things you must have seen and heard, the change.”

Nodding, Kiril smiled a nothing smile.

“Good and bad I bet,” Miho added, studying his expression.

“My upbringing was not like yours for a great many reasons,” he expounded. “Reasons I will not bore you with now.”

“Because I have so much on my plate right now,” Miho smirked, spreading her hands, but as she did, Kiril rose from his seat.

With his movement, a much greater light flooded the entire hall, and suddenly the empty chamber was bursting with life. Gaping, craning her neck to peer at men and women dressed in the finery of former centuries, Miho exhaled a small noise to express her puzzlement.

“One of my powers is to create illusion,” he explained, stepping around the table to offer Miho his hand. “Which is surprisingly useful.”

“Surprisingly?” Miho breathed, touching her fingers to the palm of his hand, and she quickly found her body hauled upward.

“Not everyone agrees,” he smiled, making a sweeping motion with his hand down the length of her body, and an immaculate gown bloomed around her like an opening flower. “Cinderella.”

“Holy shit,” Miho grinned, reaching out to touch the luxurious fabric, but her fingers passed right through to what she was actually wearing.

“Not real,” Kiril affirmed, pulling her forward against him to the swell of a grand orchestra.

Blood Spatter: Part 4

As anticipated, I look and feel like shit the next morning, and it’s already after ten before I finally get out of bed. My whole schedule is off now. Normally I’d be sleeping through the day so I can open the club for its first night of the week, but I need to get my ass down to the police station to harass Inspector Parker with what I’ve learned.

It’s not much, but it’s more than I had before.

Kiril’s warning about his father plays back in my mind as I get off the bus. He seemed most vehement about me not pursuing that line of inquiry… but then again, he’d seemed pretty interested in getting into my pants too, and we all know that didn’t quite get to where I wanted it to.

“No you fuckin’ didn’t,” I growl under my breath, skipping up the steps and pushing through the glass doors into the precinct.

There isn’t as much activity inside as television and film would have you believe, but that suits me just fine. I know Parker thinks Jazz has just eloped with Konstantin, and I shouldn’t worry – but that is dumb. How the hell could he possibly know what Jazz would and wouldn’t do?

Okay, so disbelieving cops are pretty weak plot devices in the face of actual, potential crime, so maybe I’ll be able to convince him to actually do his job properly this time. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to make me wait.

Frustrated by the desk officer, I slump down in a chair to wait. I suppose there’s no telling what other cases Inspector Parker might be working concurrently, so I should try to be a little more understanding.

Because I’m really good at being patient.

Resting my head gently back against the wall, I close my eyes and breathe deeply. There’s little I wouldn’t give for Jazz to just come waltzing in and tell me this was all some very unfunny joke. What filters through the darkness beneath my lids, however, is a voice, one that stands out among the rest – and instantly my brain painfully clenches.

Her words are hushed; I can’t really tell what she is saying, but a terrifying familiarity carves its way through my skull and pushes in behind my eyes.

“What’s yours is a matter for me to decide,” I hear her sniff, a commanding sound spoken to the night and my imminent death, not there in the police station.

My stomach lurches; my body is heavy, lethargic.

“Did you feed on her? Here? Are you fucking crazy?” the woman snarls, and my eyes open to fix on the motionless lips of a woman standing with a uniformed police officer on the far side of the reception desk.

Though I know, I know I haven’t seen her before, I am absolutely positive she is the owner of the voice in my head, that somehow and somewhere I have heard her speak those words.

Then, her name roars from the unseen lips of a furious man, and I pitch forward as hi possessive howl scrapes through my mind with animalistic claws.

“Get out of my way, Narumi!”

“Gah, Narumi,” I hiss through my teeth, holding both sides of my head and digging in my fingernails.

Fear swirls in, a rapidly moving tide as eyes fall upon my predicament; and I stumble to my feet, clumsily grappling for my bag before lurching for the door.

“Ma’am?” someone asks urgently at my back, but I need out, the cool air and the open.

“Miho,” comes a more insistent call – her voice, as I crash through the doors and staggering blindly down the steps.

To barrel straight into a pedestrian, who falls backward against the pavement with me collapsing on top.

Whimpering, my body feels weak against my victim, who barely even grunts as we hit the pavement. I’m sure I’d be embarrassed if my brain wasn’t still trying to escape out my ears, and so I just lie there against my human cushion.

Arms fold around me; a firm, safe embrace that brings some relief, until Narumi cuts into this momentary reprieve with a name that is not mine.

“Kiril?” she huffs as a question, and I crack my eyes open to peer blearily at the side of Kiril’s face.

“Okay now, Sparrow?” he queries with a smile so soft it’s briefly difficult to recall why I was so mad at him.

“Kiril,” Narumi prompts a little more sternly, her hands on her hips and her lips pressed into a thin, irked line.

“As much as I’m enjoying this arrangement,” Kiril murmurs into my hair, “perhaps we could take it somewhere a little more private?”

Weighted, fighting a kind of gravity Earth shouldn’t be pulling, my wriggling struggle out of Kiril’s arms no doubt looks something akin to an acid-tripping octopus.

“Here,” Narumi offers, but the thrust of her hand down in my direction causes an immediate resurgence of my panic.

“Don’t think she likes you,” Kiril smirks, getting to his feet and sweeping me against his body in one fluid movement of unfathomable grace.

Narumi, meanwhile, appears entirely put out.

“Taking this somewhere private might not be a bad idea,” she suggests, and I feel Kiril’s arms tighten around me.

“I’ll take care of her,” he declares, and while he is calm despite my hiccupping sobs into his coat, even I note the thread of inflexibility in his tone.

“Oh no, this is definitely my jurisdiction now,” Narumi insists, equally as insistent, but there is absolutely no give in Kiril’s posture.

“The little Sparrow is mine, Narumi,” he asserts, and this fires a spark of much needed resistance in my veins.

“I don’t belong to anyone,” I declare, giving Kiril’s chest enough of a push to extricate myself.

Though I wobble, I manage to stand my ground, but my thoughts are bubbling away with reflections of Narumi’s face, her words invading the memory of a dark alley and hostile man named Alex.

“Uh, just stay away,” I warn, gathering my frustration to a fine point and projecting it outward like a weapon.

“Calm down, Miss Fujiwara,” Narumi says, tempering her expression. “I have been working with Inspector Parker on the case of your missing friend.”

Shaking my head, I try to sift through what I know, don’t know, and what I think I may know… but aren’t sure. She was talking with officers inside the station, but at the same time, as each second passes I am more and more certain I’ve felt her pick me up from wet asphalt, sigh, maybe even a little in sympathy, and then convince me none of it ever happened.

“None of what?” I cry to myself, but as my shoulders slump I feel Narumi’s adamant gaze approach with force.

“Come with me,” she instructs, no fuss, no compromise.

The instinct is to comply, moving faster than thought, but the next second I battle it down.

“This one is not for your harem,” Kiril states, snatching my arm only to slide me in behind him.

“I’ve warned you not to meddle, Kiril,” Narumi snaps, but Kiril doesn’t seem at all bothered.

“And I told you, I will take care of this,” he replies. “Trust me.”

“Trust you?” she scoffs, rolling her eyes.

“Well, if you can’t trust family, who can you?” he chuckles.

It’s all some big game to him apparently, but even in my destabilised state I’m listening to the conversation; there is a web I’m caught in, fine, sticky threads linking Jazz and Konstantin, Kiril, this woman Narumi, and me – and I’m definitely not the spider.

“Fly, Sparrow,” I hear Kiril urge me, even as he tosses another defiant barb at Narumi. “You and I shall talk of this later, but for now, go.”

Have I reason to trust him any more than I have to distrust Narumi? Why don’t I even question his voice in my mind, why haven’t I ever questioned it?

Whatever the answer to those questions, I clutch the strap of my bag and wheel around.

“Hey!” Narumi barks, followed by an exasperated sound when Kiril bars her way to me.


Narumi made no further exclamation as Miho followed Kiril’s instruction and ran – not that Miho heard anyway. In an absolute muddle, she sprinted – not entirely sure why – but only slowed to a jog when she’d turned the corner of the next block.

Something told her this didn’t make her safe, but she was quick to flag down a cab, and she was soon on her way to Jazz’s apartment.

She found herself muttering as she exited, but stopped when she dug into her bag for the key to the foyer. The building’s façade stirred a weary lamentation where it had once roused a sense of friendship, comfort and safety – still, it was better than standing out on the street, where she still felt exposed.

As she approached the mail slots to the left of the front door, the mail had just been delivered, and as she had done every second day, Miho cleared Jazz’s box and headed upstairs.

“What the hell is going on? Am I really going nuts?” she thought, but figured if she was going nuts she probably wouldn’t be aware she was going nuts.

“Talking to yourself is kind of nuts,” she pointed out, then chuckled bitterly. “Kiril and Narumi clearly know each other – well – and then the headache… that woman. Fuck.”

Sighing in a way that was beginning to feel like habit, Miho dropped the letters on the coffee table, before heading over to the elaborate glass ‘hutch; belonging to a lean, but impossibly soft rabbit. As if recognising her, the animal put his little paws up to greet her, begging almost, to be drawn into her arms.

“So, how has your morning been, Kuni?” she asked, sweeping him up and snuggling him against her chest. Slowly, Kuni blinked up from between her breasts and Miho smoothed her fingers over his ears, clearly enjoying the sensation.

“Yeah, I totally get it,” Miho went on, as if Kuni had responded to her. “But, believe me, boring isn’t so bad.”

Careful not to crush her fuzzy friend, Miho flopped down on the couch and scooped up the three envelopes in front of her.

“Bill,” she muttered, unfolding the water bill before letting it drop from her fingers. “I’ve never known anyone to spend so much time in the shower.”

Oblivious, Kuni simply closed his eyes and enjoyed Miho’s petting as she opened the second piece of mail.

And sat up so quickly the rabbit nearly slipped to the floor.

It was the first bank statement Miho had seen, which wasn’t all that odd considering they were only delivered monthly – but it immediately piqued Miho’s interest.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing…” she muttered, then her eyes became wide. “Two days ago…” she exhaled, but her statement trailed off as her eyes read over the location of Jazz’s last purchase… yesterday.

In Prague.

“Sorry Kuni!” she exclaimed, jumping up and dropping the bunny safely back into his enclosure. “I’ll get Mieke to come over and feed you!”

The adrenaline of earlier that had been fuelled by alarm and confusion, rushed back through her system now through excitement. Over and over she turned what a small purchase out of the blue could mean.

“Surely if she was dead and someone stole her bank details, they’d have cleaned out her accounts by now, not just spend a couple of hundred dollars on what, menswear?” she thought, as she all but flew down stairs and flagged herself another taxi.


It wasn’t the first time Miho had gone to Prague, but the first time she had without Jazz. While their holidays in the Czech Republic capital were usually planned well in advance to coincide with festivals, caught up in a whirlwind of hope, Miho had booked the earliest flight online while still on her way back to her apartment, and was hanging up on Mieke as she walked through her door. Normally, she would have taken great care choosing what to pack, fretting over what she might accidentally leave behind, but the moment Miho’s suitcase hit her bed, she was flinging whatever was closest in her closet across the room, then packing it all flat.

She paused only when she got a text message, and fell still when she saw it was Sebastian.

Was thinking you, Selina and I could grab dinner before opening the club tonight – what do you think?’ he’d written, and Miho’s brow creased.

Occasionally she and Sebastian had eaten together, but it had only ever been through convenience or happenstance – someone picked up noddles on the way to work, or leftovers that stretched far enough to feed multiple people. Chewing on her lip, Miho wondered if the morning they had spent together – which had also been atypical – had led him to change his perception of their relationship.

“Not an entirely terrible thought,” was her first reaction, but her frown instantly deepened, and her gut clenched.

With guilt.

“Guilty why?” she questioned herself, resisting the burn in her chest and the put-out glare of Kiril’s eyes suddenly in her mind.

“Fuck,” she grumbled under her breath, and called Sebastian’s number.

“Hey,” Sebastian greeted cheerfully, a little surprised too perhaps that she hadn’t just texted her reply.

“Hey,” Miho parroted – awkward. “Ahh, I’ve just finished talking to Mieke,” she went on, getting right down to business rather than directly addressing his invitation. “I am popping over to Europe for a bit, so I’d like for you and her to operate the club in my absence.”

“Popping over?” he chortled. “What spurred the sudden departure?”

Reluctantly, Miho answered truthfully.

“I got a lead on Jazz’s location,” she announced, and in the few seconds of silence that followed, Miho got the impression of Sebastian straightening his posture.

“Where? How?” he prompted.

“Czech Republic. She made a purchase there yesterday after weeks of nothing,” Miho explained, her heart rate increasing just thinking about this clue that could finally lead her to her friend. “I know it’s a long shot, Sebastian, so don’t say it, but with the police doing fuck all and Kiril being just as helpful I have to tr…”

“Kiril?” Sebastian queried, but it actually emerged more like a denouncement than a name. “What has Kiril Lambert got to do with this?”

“Oh… um…” Miho stalled, again feeling guilt swell. “Konstantin, who I’m sure is with Jazz – I mean why else would she be buying menswear – is Kiril’s brother.”

More silence, soundlessness that stretched so long Miho wondered if Sebastian had hung up.

“Still there?” she probed, and Sebastian cleared his throat.

“Is he with you now? Is he going with you?” he asked, seriously: worried and maybe even sneering.

“No, he’s not,” she told him a little curtly. “I’m a big girl, I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Of course you never get yourself into trouble,” he huffed, and Miho switched the phone to her other ear irritably.

“Look, I know it’s short notice, and you’ve got your sister with you,” she argued, trying to temper her tone, “but I am not missing this opportunity, so I really need you look after Pale while I get myself into trouble.”

“Miho, I don’t think you realise how dangerous the Lambert family is,” Sebastian warned, clearly frustrated. “If Konstantin is a Lambert, then Jazz is in far greater danger than you alone can…”

“This isn’t an argument, you know I’ll do anything for her,” Miho interrupted curtly. “I’ll message you when I know something if it’ll make you feel better.”

“Damnit Miho! It might be too late by then!” he growled, but Miho was moving the phone away from.

“Thanks, I’ll talk to you later,” she said, and then hung up, grumbling under her breath.


Night had well and truly closed in by the time Miho made it to her hotel in Prague – Iron Gate Hotel and Suites – the one she and Jazz always stayed at when they were in town. The beauty of their regular suite didn’t bring Miho the joy it usually did, the fine wooden furniture that really felt like the city.

Her stomach growled, but she ignored it, and after dumping her luggage, she skipped back downstairs and hit the pavement. Tourists walked the streets, couples arm in arm, groups of young women looking for fun, smiling and laughing, but Miho stalked with determination toward the first place she could think Jazz might be at that time – where they might have been if they were there together.

Overflowing with people, as it usually was, Miho entered the restaurant and nudged past several people waiting to be seated before casting her gaze around. Ignoring the glares of many, she simply stood, her pulse thundering in her ears as she scanned every inch of the large, crowded space while the maître d tried politely to get her attention.

“Slečna?” he prompted, a word Miho was familiar with at least, but she ignored the man and headed for the female toilets.“Jazz?” she called, strolling in and checking for locked stalls, but there were none.Though the maître d and a waiter was waiting for her when she emerged, again encouraging her to respond without actually laying their hands on her, she brushed by them and pushed into the men’s room without ceremony.“Jazz?”“Ma’am, please,” the maître d sighed in exasperation, clearly not wanting a confrontation. “I must ask you to…”“Have you seen this woman lately?” Miho questioned, rounding on him with her cell-phone with a picture of Jazz on it.The man blinked – glanced to the waiter who also looked at the image – then shook his head.“And you’ve worked here every night the last… uhh… three weeks?” she pressed.“Yes,” he frowned. “What is this about?”“Here,” Miho said, thrusting a card against his chest. “She’s missing, so if you see her, please call me on that number. I’m offering a big reward for information leading to her.”Leaving the two men stunned in her wake, the Miho-whirlwind blustered out of the restaurant and out onto the footpath once more, sucking in a lungful of cold air.It was a gasp that overwhelmed her, an unexpected surge of emotion that threatened to knock her off her feet. Of course she hadn’t anticipated finding Jazz at the first place she looked, but hope had buoyed her beyond previous levels, so much so the disappointment of coming up empty flushed her cheeks with heat and her heart with anguish anew.“If he’s hurt her I’m going to fucking kill him,” she growled, much to the confusion of a couple passing by, but she didn’t allow them to ponder longer, charging off again to her next search location. Pale didn’t open on Sunday nights, but there was often people inside preparing various elements or events. This evening was no different.Though it was clearly not meant to be accessible to the public, Kiril tested the doors anyway, finding them unsurprisingly locked. He knew he could force them, but chose instead to knock loudly and wait until someone came to see what all the noise was about.Eventually, a woman appeared, one he’d seen but never actually spoken to. Surprise registered on her face, and she unlocked the door and swung it outward.“Mr. Lambert?” Kara queried, though she obviously knew his name. “I’m sorry, but the club isn’t open at present.”In response, Kiril nodded, but his expression remained firm.“I’m looking for Miss Fujiwara,” he revealed. “We had a meeting scheduled but she did not arrive, and she has not answered any of my calls.”“Oh, that’s a bit weird,” Kara frowned quizzically. “That you had a meeting,” she clarified. “She called earlier saying she was headed for Prague, something of a family emergency I think.”Kiril’s chin lifted a little in surprise, his eyes narrowing.“Miss Mann?” he asked. “Miho has shared the story of her missing friend.”In confirmation, Kara nodded.“It was really very sudden, and she went on her own,” she explained, shrugging her shoulders a little uncomfortably. “If I’m honest, I’m a little worried for her.”“She is a force to be reckoned with it would seem,” Kiril smirked, but his eyes remained fixed on Kara’s face. “However, I share your concern. I could leave immediately if I had her travel details: provide support.”Without reserve, Kara smiled. Though she didn’t have any exact details, she had heard Miho and Jazz talk of their adventures in Prague many times.“It’s not much, but I know they always stayed at Iron Gate Hotel and Suites, so I guess she could be there?” she offered, when Sebastian called out, appearing a few seconds later.“Kara, have you seen the…”His sentence broke off when he saw Kiril, and a storm quickly gathered in his countenance.“We’re closed,” he announced coldly.“Mr. Lambert is looking for Miho,” Kara piped up, looking with some confusion between the two men.Open hostility radiated.“Thank you for your assistance,” Kiril said to Kara, inclining his head, even offering a shallow bow before he turned, but Sebastian caught his arm and hissed.“Stay away from Miho.”Straightening, Kiril looked down at the offending hand, but did nothing to remove it.“Unless I am mistaken, and I am not,” Kiril began slowly, deliberately, “you have no claim over her, Mr. Ross.”“No one has a claim over her,” Sebastian volleyed, all teeth and glaring, “but when one Lambert vampire has already torn her life apart, she doesn’t need another.”If Kiril was surprised by Sebastian’s specificity, it did not show, nor did any concern.“Mind yourself, little guard dog,” he smiled with infuriating smugness, the very peek of a pointed incisor adding to the sharpness to his condescension, “don’t think I’m unaware you and yours stand apart; it would be foolish to begin a fight you have no chance of winning.”“And equally as foolish of you to be so sure of yourself,” Sebastian shot back, in no way backing down. “I will not allow you to drag Miho into your world.”“It might surprise you to learn, Mr. Ross, that I do not want that for her either,” Kiril pointed out. “But the fact remains she is pursuing the shadow of her own accord; better that there be someone to catch her at the bottom of the rabbit hole, than not.”This did not seem to comfort Sebastian at all, but his hold on Kiril did fall away.“Just stay away from her, damnit,” he cursed, causing Kiril to chuckle.“If that is all you have, I will be on my way,” Kiril laughed. “Be a good boy and look after your mistress’ house while she’s away.”“Sebbie?” a new female voice called, and a slight, tanned-skin woman appeared behind Sebastian just in time to see Kiril’s smirk widen as he moved away once more.“Fucking Hell,” Sebastian hissed under his breath, though his anger was no truly directed as his sister.“Mmm, who’s that?” Selina grinned against her brother’s arm, watching Kiril’s back.“Don’t you start,” Sebastian growled. “Under no circumstances are you to go anywhere near that… man.”  Dejected, my mission turns up nothing, and having been up since early Sunday morning, I end up returning disheartened and exhausted to the hotel as dawn is creeping up on the city. Struggling through a confusing swamp of dream and nightmare, I’m hunted by shadow, slashed at by light, chasing my best friend only to be barred by this woman Narumi and a sea of circling ravens.Waking in a sweaty tangle, however, is no longer a surprise to me, but it doesn’t mean I feel any less icky. Showering only does so much to pull me from a sullen mood, but I have to get moving because it’s already past eleven and I have plenty of places to search.Alas, my feet grow heavier each time I’m told no one has seen Jazz, and I’m convinced I’ve left little chips of my heart in a storybook trail behind me. By nightfall my stomach is grumbling, but I just can’t bring myself to stop and eat. My mind is occupied by the image of Jazz’s eyes, blue and beautiful, cheeky and teasing, challenging and complicit.God it stings.“Don’t cry, you fragile tart!” I snap at myself. “What good is crying?”But it’s so hard to look forward, because I’m afraid my forever won’t have Jazz in it anymore.“Assassin’s don’t cry,” I tell myself firmly, nodding politely as I make incidental eye contact with a man walking in my direction.When his hip bumps firmly into mine, it’s a total surprise, one that sends me stumbling sideways into one of many dim alleys lined with aging architecture and mystery.“Hey what the hell?” I snarl, gripping my bag’s strap tightly. “If this is being mugged, they’ve made a big mistake.”“Keep your voice down,” the man whispers, a baritone that should have sounded warm, but still racks a shiver through my body.An attempt to sidestep him is thwarted easily, but not by him.The man is not alone, this fact revealed as a hand curls over my mouth and an arm around my waist that drags me further into obscurity.Panic grips me; adrenaline fills me; and in a flurry of flailing limbs I land a lucky blow against my attacker and am released.There is no voice, however, when I open my mouth to scream, the banshee trapped in my throat by the clear and present danger of what was once two men, now four.“Good,” one of them snickers, satisfied it seems by my silence despite the hunched readiness of my posture. “That mouth of yours has already gotten you into plenty of trouble.”Surrounded, my back literally against the wall, I do my utmost to glower at each offender in turn.“Take it,” I finally gasp, throwing my bag to the ground before me, but none of them move to retrieve it.I note then, the cut of their clothing, the cleanness of their faces, the neatness of their hair – not really the types to grab a girl for her purse.“So,” the initial man begins, and I zero in on him, “what do you know about Konstantin Lambert?”Swallowing, I turn his question over in my mind. “First in London, and now here? Who is Konstantin Lambert to get such a response?”“I’m looking for him,” I answer, my throat dry. “Do you know where he is?”“If we did, he’d be dead,” one of the others growls, his shoes scraping loudly against the concrete as he shuffles toward me.“Why?” I very nearly hiccup, but my lip curls upward in what I can only hope is a fair imitation of a sneer.They look a little stunned, confused maybe, looking between one another, until the closest man reaches for my shoulder.I want to close my eyes, and I think for a split second I do, before something snaps inside me – and the next snap happens almost as quickly.There’s no thought, just pure instinct.My fingers dig into the flesh of his wrist as I step forward and jerk down; the sound his wrist makes as my heel stomps down on his arm, the crunch of bone breath beneath jarring force, it swiftly consumed by his yelp, and followed by the slump and roll of his body to the feet of his compatriots.For a few astonished seconds no one can believe what I’ve done, least of all myself. When the moment is broken, much like the limp dangle of my attacker’s wrist as he drags himself back to his feet, the expressions I face are a whole lot more terrifying.“That,” he grated, rage bubbling in his eyes, “was a mistake.”“Actually,” a new voice interrupts, casual, flippant and so familiar that my already racing heart threatens to seize, “attacking her was a mistake.”

Blood Spatter: Part 3


The itch of his fingertips searching the small of my back, their slow creep upward along my spine, prompts an encouraging, impatient whine to emerge from deep within me. Tasting his tongue curled around mine competes with the firm promise I seek beneath his waist. Fumbling with his belt, the cold metal buckle nearly burns the flame of my hands and I gasp, then again when Kiril unfastens the hooks on the back of my bra.

But the glorious release of tension across my chest, is confused by the sudden grip of both my wrists, and the way Kiril forces my hands out either side of my body, away from diving into his trousers.

“Miho, stop,” he rasps, even as I struggle to kiss him again, and it’s not until his voice comes more sharply that I blink. “Stop!”

With each breath that puffs out, the flames die back, and I realise what I was just about to do – what I have done, and choking in surprise I stumble out of his grip and flop onto the end of the bed.

My body is humming, while at the same time shivering with growing panic.

“What the fuck… what just happened?” I pant, hugging my arms over my chest, until a few seconds later I let outrage prop me up. “What did you do?”

“I stopped you from wrapping your fingers around my…” Kiril begins, but I shake my furiously, so I don’t have to picture it.

“No, no,” I growl, rolling to the side and getting back to my feet. “Don’t say it! I know what… oh boy.”

It’s true.

He was the one who stopped us when I was reaching for…

“Why? Why did I jump him?”

“Apart from the obvious?” Kiril smirked, watching me carefully from where he hasn’t moved – and again I’m, unsure if I’ve spoken my thoughts aloud.

“Did I get cause up in that vision of Jazz?” I scowl to myself, fighting the urge to fix my bra. “Vision of Jazz? Could it be real?”

“Tell me what you saw,” Kiril instructs, taking a step toward me, and I hold up my hands.

“Stay right there,” I warn tightly as I sift through my thoughts.

“Jazz was here, and she was with Konstantin, together, here,” I exhale, then narrow my eyes at Kiril. “But, if they were together then why are they missing? Would your brother hurt her Kiril?”

For easily thirty seconds he appears to be thinking, but his eyes never lift from me.

“In point of fact I don’t know my brother very well,” he admits with a slight shrug. “We’re different animals.”

“With a card to his apartment,” I sneer.

“I’m a resourceful man,” he quips.

Stop manipulating me!” I snap, starting forward with my finger pointed aggressively. “I want my best friend back!”

“Calm down, you’re being hysterical.”

My jaw clenches around a screaming retort that would only prove him right, and his expression softens a little.

“Turn around,” he prompts, and my face scrunches up even more.

“Excuse me?”

“Your bra,” he clarifies. “Turn around and I’ll do it up.”

“I can do it myself,” I mutter, but this seems to amuse him.

“Don’t be childish,” he chides, approaching, but I’m worried, worried that if he touches me I’ll lose myself again.

“Don’t be an ass,” I volley. “Very mature.”

“You think I’ll take advantage?” he enquires with one eyebrow raised.

“There’s plenty of precedent for that,” I reply curtly, but do not move as he steps closer.

“Afraid you’ll kiss me again?” he smirks.

You kissed me,” I correct, but we both know once into it, we were kissing each other.

“Just turn around,” he huffs, taking my arm and giving me a half spin.

“I was pretty clear about you keeping your hands to yourself,” I growl, but his hands are already back up under my blouse and nimble fingers are joining hook to loop.

“It’s a little late for that now don’t you think?” he chuckles, far too close to my ear for comfort. “And let’s not forget your wandering hands.”

Embarrassment filled my cheeks – I know he’s right.

“Done,” he announces, stepping back, and I take a moment to fix myself before turning around again to face his smugness. “I don’t suppose you’re going to help do my pants back up?”

I shouldn’t look, I shouldn’t, but my eyes move to his crotch of their own accord and I am forced to swallow the growing lump in my… throat.

“If Konstantin wanted to hide, where would he go?” I ask, instead of addressing his increasing amusement.

“Like I said,” he shrugs, “I don’t know him that well, but that he frequented Pale alerted me to his interest in your friend.”

“Then what was the point of all this?” I exclaim, throwing my hands up in exasperation.

“You saw something, didn’t you?” he asks rhetorically, and my hands drop to my sides.

“Maybe I saw what I wanted to see,” I admit, searching the floor for the fallen bead.

“Or your deep connection to Miss Mann actually allowed you to catch a glimpse of what transpired here,” he counters, and I can’t figure if he’s making fun of me with that serious tone of voice. “Either way we…”

His sentence is interrupted by the call of his phone, which he doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“Tell him they’ll be free and unharmed by tomorrow 0:900,” he states, his voice now cool and smooth and completely business, but I’m not interested in his dealings.

Spying the bead, I snatch it up and hold it tightly.

If what I saw was some sort of flashback, it only tells me Jazz and Konstantin were there together, nothing about when or what happened before or after – this is maybe more frustrating than having seen nothing at all. I want to cry, but I don’t.

By the time Kiril is finished with his call, I’ve wandered back out into the main living area and are just staring blankly out toward the river.

“What if they’re both at the bottom?” I wonder morbidly.

“Unlikely,” Kiril scoffs, one hand in his pocket as he saunters from the corridor. “I’ll put some feelers out, see if I can’t track him down, but you… you need to stop wandering around shouting his name.”

“Why?” I frown, snapping from my gloom.

“Because if his disappearance is the result of something sinister, you may very well draw that upon yourself,” he reasons, but is tone is the type you’d use when explaining something to a child.

I cannot, however, deny he’s right.

“I’ll drop you home,” he then says, turning for the front door, speaking as he walked toward it. “Get some rest, then beautify yourself for tonight.”

“You don’t seriously expect me to go through with that now,” I scowl, and he pauses at the door to look back over his shoulder.

“I do.”


Miho was unable to rest – no surprises there. The trip back to her apartment had been cloaked in a silence Kiril seemed comfortable with, but Miho couldn’t decide which emotion in her was the strongest.





Still pacing later that evening, she decided upon ‘Irrmortifrustration’.

“Still can’t believe you’re going through with this,” she muttered to herself, checking herself in the mirror again. “Ugh, why should you care how you look?”

She did, however, and that only pissed her off more.

At the begrudgingly agreed upon time, she swathed her shoulders in a warm wrap and headed downstairs to the front of her building. There waiting, was a now familiar stretch limousine, and leaning against it the same driver she’d caught sight of earlier that day.

Inclining her head, she stepped to the door at the rear he opened, only to reveal the empty cabin.

“No Kiril?” she frowned, pausing in the doorway.

“Mr. Lambert had business requiring his attention,” the driver responded, his voice a monotone. “He will meet you at the venue.”

“Of course he will,” she sighed, then folded herself into the car.

“Yeah, this isn’t the most ridiculous shit you’ve gotten yourself into,” she told herself scathingly, disregarding whether the driver could hear her or not.

In her mind, she played out all the possible scenarios. A swanky ballroom full of influential businessmen, sipping expensive champagne talking shop, while the wives, girlfriends and manipulated arm-candy smile until their cheeks hurt.

And feet.

And pride.

“Aaaaand when I find you Jazz, you’re going to pay for this.”

Resisting the urge to fidget, Miho tried to focus on the time, calculating how many hours she would have to play nice with Kiril until she’d be free of her obligation, but her mind kept wandering back to the far too pleasant pressure of his body against hers, and the delightful burn of desire he’d kindled in her.

Then cursed herself… and crossed her legs.

“We’ve arrived Miss Fujiwara,” the driver said through the small window between the front and back sections of the limo.

“Peachy,” she exhaled, and straightened her gown while waiting for the door to open.

She expected Kiril to be there waiting, but no, he wasn’t, and the driver helped her disembark and walked her to the entrance of The Grand At Trafalgar Square, then left her to find her own way.

Resisting the urge to bail on account of Kiril’s exceptionally bad manners, she politely inquired of staff at reception where she was directed to the elevator and the appropriate floor for The Ballroom.

The venue was unlike any she had ever been in, with beautiful Victorian Era ceiling moulding and majestic columns. For a moment, Miho forgot her annoyance, and walked along the rich carpet toward the double doors outside which stood two beaming men in tuxedoes.

“Madam?” one greeted, prompting – no doubt – for her name.

Hoping Kiril had at least remembered to pass on that much, Miho conjured up her best smile.

“Miho Fujiwara,” she declared confidently, and the attendant checked the list before looking up with broad grin.

“Of course, Miss Fujiwara,” he then bowed. “Please just wait one moment.”

Wondering why she wasn’t just let into the ballroom, Miho just shrugged and waited while the man disappeared inside.


A minute later he appeared once more and thanked her, before stepping out of the way, he and his compatriot each taking a door and pushing it dramatically inward to the sound of a loud speaker.

“Announcing, Miss Miho Fujiwara!”

People in their finery, paused with champagne flutes half way to their lips, paused hald way through conversations, paused mid multi-million-dollar deal, to turn their eyes to where Miho now stood the absolute centre of attention.

“Fuck me,” she sighed, adopting her best ‘I’m in charge here’ posture. “I’m going to kill him.”

Like she belonged there amid London’s most wealthy, Miho strode forward like a panther stalking prey… and her prey was Kiril. The image of biting his face off made her smile widen for extra authenticity.

Oh, and it was authentic.

People parted as she approached, either because they thought she was important, or maybe because her inner thoughts were beginning to show on her face.

“Come out, come out, wherever you aaaare,” she grated under her breath, until she noticed the stares focusing behind her, instead of on her.

“You’re late,” Kiril smirked, his expression clear in the tone of his voice.

Slowly, Miho pivoted, narrowing her eyes on him haughtily.

“And you’re an asshole,” she declared airily, spreading her hands like a true show-woman.

But her insult only seemed to buoy him.

“Maybe,” he admitted, stepping cockily toward her, “but a lucky asshole.”

“Lucky I don’t deck you right here,” she hissed as she took the hand he offered like it was choreographed, and he kissed her cheek: feather-light.

“You didn’t disappoint,” he whispered, cool air tickling across her ear.

“I never do, you arrogant prick,” she assured.

“Now now, Sparrow, let’s be civil in front of the audience,” he chided, straightening and offering onlookers a blinding smile before resting one hand on Miho’s hip. “Let’s get you a drink.”

“You’re not afraid I’ll tip it over your head?” she smiled, nodding to those who inclined their head as she and Kiril carved their way through curious guests. “Because after that announcement, you deserve it.”

“Should I not wish to show you off?” he asked, snagging a champagne from the waiter now standing patiently before him, before passing it Miho.

His charming smile persisted, and Miho conceded by lifting the glass from his light grip.

“You’re testing me,” she sniffed, before taking a sip. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re daring me to walk out on you in the most fabulous fashion.”

“I would never,” he replied, watching her with an intensity Miho could feel digging beneath her gown.

“Because you know I’ll do it,” she pointed out. “What might that do to your reputation? If I was to make a real spectacle?”

“I think you have better survival instincts than that,” he says, walking her toward a large window.

“And if you’re wrong?” she poked, peering at him over the rim of her flute.

“I kill you, dispose of the body, and get on with my night,” he shrugged, all nonchalant, but he inched a little closer to her, eyes flaring.

In response, Miho’s body flushed with heat. She didn’t believe him – or told herself she didn’t believe him – when in the pit of her stomach something told her he was fully capable of that level of ruthlessness.

“Unfortunately,” she said finally, “I’m much better at getting myself into trouble than I am at doing what I should, so I hope you bought a drop sheet and a shovel.”

“I don’t suppose Henrik showed you how much can fit in the truck of the limo,” he mused, hovering close to her tall and broad.

“Henrik has far better manners than you,” she grunted quietly, irritated she felt compelled to avert her gaze, causing Kiril to laugh and place his hand in the small of her back.

“I’m sure politeness will make all the difference when you’re being buried in a shallow grave,” he murmured, his low voice reverberating all throughout her body.

But with jaw set and nostrils flaring, Miho refused to recoil, and instead reciprocated his touch with her palm flat against his chest and drew her face a little closer.

“You’re not the first date I’ve had who’s threatened to kill me,” she whispered cheekily.

“Can’t say I’m surprised, given how stubborn you are,” he volleyed, not moving away, not moving at all.

“What an adorable new toy, Mr. Lambert,” a sing-song voice intruded, and Miho glanced to the curvaceous owner with brows raised. “She looks positively delicious.”

The words themselves might have been a compliment, might have been, but there was condescension dripping from every syllable that slipped between her red painted lips, and scathing judgement cackling behind her smoky eyes.

Hackles instantly raised, Miho tilted her head a little to one side and responded in as cheerfully innocent – but clearly derisive – a way as possible.

“That’s funny,” she smiled: razorblades, “because I was just noting to Kiril that you look positively tasteless.”

Blinking once, the woman then stared pure violence at Miho, who refused to flinch. Kiril, on the other hand, emitted an unrestrained chortle.

“Stubborn, but entertaining.”

With her lips curling back into a sneer, the woman shifted her feet and made her next attack.

“What happened to your other little pet? Run out of pennies?”

“Why?” Kiril returned lightly, the woman’s barb falling flat in the space between them. “Are you running low?”

It was Miho’s turn to snicker, and she found herself leaning a little against Kiril, bound by their complicity.

Desperate to conceal her mortification and loss of confidence, the still unnamed woman lifted her chin defiantly – but there wasn’t anything she could say really.

“If you’re quite done with the ridiculous insults, Miss Flannigan,” Kiril exhaled, the kind of sigh that indicated he was very much done wasting his time with her, “I would like to get back to enjoying my evening. My lawyers will be in contact tomorrow to finalise contracts.”

He then angled his body toward Miho, a definite snub.

Miss Flannigan’s fingers curled toward her palm and then out again. Miho could tell she was struggling to determine the best way to retreat without making it look like she was scuttling away with her tail between her legs.

Unfortunately, there was no elegant way to achieve that considering the burns she’d received, and eventually she stalked away in a huff.

“What was that all about?” Miho asked with a frown, but Kiril was smiling at her intently.

“Okay that’s just creepy.”

“You’ve impressed me again, Sparrow,” he said, slowly reaching toward her face. “You went straight for her jugular.”

“She offered it to me, approaching with snarky remarks like that,” she replied lightly, watching his fingers until they were just about to touch her lips.

Then she inched her head back a little.

“Hands off, remember?” she pointed out, but Kiril didn’t look the slightest bit discouraged.

“After our interlude earlier today, I think we’ve moved well past that,” he smirked, and his thumb had brushed her cheek before she could shift away further.

“I’m here because I agreed to be, not because I want to be,” she declared.

“Now that, is a lie,” he contested, and Miho had stepped back against the cold glass of the window before her movement had consciously registered.

“Cut it out,” she hissed, swiping the air with her free hand. “If you want to hunt ass, look elsewhere. You, are my connection to Konstantin and nothing more.”

“Your nose will grow if you keep that up,” he chuckled, digging his hands into his trouser pockets. “But, speaking of Konstantin, why don’t we talk about the vision you had.”

A reflexive shiver bloomed goosepimples over her bare arms, the images and sensations suddenly revisiting with perfect clarity.

“Obviously it left an impression,” Kiril noted, “but I’m more intrigued by why you would imagine something like that.”

“I didn’t…” she began, words so quick her mind trailed behind.

“Another lie?”

Scowling, Miho filled her mouth the bubbling goodness of the no doubt expensive champagne, buying herself time to think over her response.

“I don’t know, Kiril,” she shrugged, annoyed. “It looked and felt real. I was in Jazz’s body, and I can’t explain how I know I… I didn’t just make it up.”

“I believe you,” he assured, but Miho peered at him sceptically. “I’m just curious to know if you’ve experienced it before.”

“No,” she sighed. “But Jazz is family, my only family, so if I was going to go coo-coo over someone, it’d be her.”

“Oh I think you’re crazy, but not for having visions,” he laughed, and this time, under the weight of his stare, Miho felt herself blushing.

“Hmph, for being here with you maybe,” she countered. “You need to help me find them.”

“Let’s just see how the rest of this evening goes,” he replied noncommittally, and motioned for her to follow him.

Before dinner was served, Miho trailed Kiril around the lavish ballroom, introduced to business associates, competitors and rivals by name, and with his hand on her back or her arm over his. Beyond that, there was little for Miho to do other than listen and try to decode.

After the meal was consumed, there was that kind of dancing one always saw on television at formal events, the kind where people were controlled, counting steps, or glued to his or her partner in an intimacy almost too indecent for public. Kiril’s fingers curled over hers, his palm pressed firmly in what now felt like a familiar place on the lower part of her spine.

“So, am I going to have to lure you with my brother to get you to see me again?” Kiril whispered against her ear, and Miho tensed, leaned back a little so she could look into his face.

Reflex drew a biting retort to her tongue first – something about not being interested in pretentious, arrogant, controlling types, but the moment her lips parted, she nearly choked. She simply couldn’t force the words into existence when he was looking at her so hungrily, like he was completely parched and only she could sate his thirst.

“Why would you ask that?” she replied finally, a slight frown tugging her brows downward.

At this, Kiril chuckled, twirling them gracefully around the dancefloor.

“Shall I list all the reasons a man might like to spend time with out?”

“Definitely,” she nodded, but her face was burning – and that pissed her off.

“Who the hell is he to make me feel this way?” she thought, and Kiril’s smile only widened.

“You forget I’ve seen you in your element, night after night, stalking the floor of Pale, playing the perfect hostess one moment, and disarming a disorderly drunk the next,” he explained. “I’ve watched you put down a man three feet thicker than you like it was nothing…”

“You’re exaggerating. I never take on anyone more than two feet thicker,” she smirked, but it wavered a little as Kiril tipped her back and left her dangling: vulnerable.

“A part of me wants to taunt you until you have a go at me,” he laughed, his fingers tapping against her shoulder blade.

“Well, you’re on the right track,” she sniffed, not daring to move lest he drop her. “What else has you so besotted?”

“Is that what I am?” he snorted.

People were starting to stare at them now.

“Well you’re obviously partial to my cleavage,” Miho pointed out, tearing her eyes from his to look along her body, and she suddenly found herself upright once more and pressed to Kiril firmly.

“I cannot deny, the curves of your body are…”

As his sentence stalled, one arm unfurled from around her and touched beneath her chin, tracing over her skin so lightly on a path toward the ample ravine between her breasts.

“Off limits,” Miho gasped, but she couldn’t move – not because he held her so tightly but because…

“I don’t want to?”

“Are you sure?” he breathed to her throat, and Miho’s body shuddered a traitorously pleasant shiver.

“You’re far too used to getting what you want,” she tried to growl, but her voice cracked.

“So, you’ll deny me on principle?” he questioned, sliding his hand a little lower to just above the arc of her backside. “Even if you’re denying yourself something you want?”

“Seems I left presumptuous out of my description for you,” Miho grunted.

“I’m not wrong though, am I?” he smirked, his self- assuredness both irritating and somehow thrilling at the same time.

It took a lot to challenge her, and though Kiril had requested her presence for the purposes of entertainment, Miho had to admit she too was enjoying the game.

“You know, for a business dinner, there isn’t a lot of business going on,” she said, not answering his question at all.

“Hmm,” Kiril hummed, taking the hand she had resting on his shoulder before leading her from the dancefloor.

It was clear she’d changed the subject to avoid answering, and Miho wondered why he didn’t pursue.

“More business deals are done at events like this than in boardrooms,” he explained, pausing amid tables as a stony-faced man and his escort approached. “Hardwick,” Kiril greeted, and the palms met in a solid handshake.

“Lambert,” the man nodded, his warm brown eyes only briefly glancing at Miho.

Obviously, Kiril was his primary focus, and while Miho was interested in what they had to say to one another, the stunning blond to the left of Hardwick smiled and offered Miho her hand.

“I’m Gemma,” she smiled, and Miho actually thought it looked genuine.

As such, she shook hands with the woman and introduced herself, before striking up a conversation.

“I’m not sure I’ve had enough to drink to listen to another dry discussion about security contracting or the rising price of international transport,” she offered, taking a chance that Gemma was also a little bored.

Thankfully, Miho was not met with disdain, and Gemma nodded.

Though Kiril’s hand remained resting on her hip, Miho found Gemma quite easy to talk to, and though they didn’t seem to have all that much in common, their discussion consumed Miho’s attention – right up until Hardwick mentioned…

“I’ve heard Konstantin has gotten himself into trouble.”

His tone of voice was laced with disrespect that caused Miho too look to him sharply, that and the mention of Konstantin’s name. So far as she knew, he had nothing to do with Kiril’s business, in fact Kiril said he hardly knew his brother much at all.

“My brother’s matters are his own,” Kiril shrugged, his answer cool and unruffled.

“Surely the disappearance of the golden child, has caused your family some concern,” Hardwick pursued, and Miho felt Kiril’s fingers twitch against her.

“What’s the matter Hardwick?” Kiril smirked, tall and sure. “Afraid I might inherit the family business?”

“I do not believe there is any danger of that occurring,” Hardwick volleyed, not backing down at all. “I think Konrad would sooner…”

“Konrad, is it?” Kiril interjected.

The question was pointed, rhetorical, woven with ‘that was one step too far’.

“I…” Hardwick began, a little less sure of himself, but again, Kiril cut him off: a clean break, bloodless, cauterised.

“You’d be wise to remember your place,” Kiril told him icily, so cold, so powerful, resonating, that Miho quivered and felt the urge to pull away. “Don’t go concerning yourself with matters beyond you,” he continued. “The consequences could be… messy.”

By appearance, the man named Hardwick looked a decade, maybe even two older than Kiril, and yet he’d lost his confidence of before – even shrank back a little.

“Come on Miho,” Kiril then urged, slipping his hand around hers once more. “We’re very much done here.”

Offering Gemma a small, hurried wave, Miho trotted quickly after Kiril before he dragged her off her feet.

“Konrad is your father?” she asked as she fell into step.

“Hardwick should not have mentioned that,” Kiril said firmly. “So forget what you heard.”

“As if,” Miho snorted, having barely enough time to grab her wrap and handbag from her dining chair, before Kiril began to tug her toward the ballroom doors. “I’ve been asking for information on Konstantin all over and gotten next to nothing, but clearly, in circles you say he’s not a part of, it’s known he’s disappeared.”

“Are you really so surprised a crazy woman roving the streets shouting out names was ignored?” he quipped curtly, striding through the double doors toward the elevator.

“Hey!” she barked, giving his hand a sudden tug, which brought him to a jarring halt. “Back right up with the insults.”

She gave her hand a shake, but his grip remained.

“My pursuit of Jazz is not crazy, nor are my methods,” she growled, leaning forward a little, pointing at him with her other hand. “If what that guy said is true, and Konstantin is some golden child – inferring his superiority over you in inheriting your father’s business- then it stands to reason your father would be just as invested in finding his other son as I am in locating Jazz.”

“The last thing you want, is to be in the same space as Konrad,” Kiril declared, and despite her bravado, that sentence struck fear in Miho, the trembling candlelight of her vehemence flickering a little dimmer.

“Why?” she forced out in a far too hoarse whisper for her liking.

“Just trust me,” he said curtly, tugging on her hand again and pulling her into the elevator a moment longer.


As the doors close, his hold falls away. Though his skin was cool – even given the amount of time his grip had persisted – I feel a warm impression where his fingers had curled. Silence floods the narrow elevator cabin, and though it is a relatively short trip to the ground floor, it  seems much longer while Kiril stands two feet or so beside me with his hands dug into his pockets.

Chilly waves of deep annoyance radiate from him now, and though I also sense an underlying, boiling foundation of malice that should frighten me, I feel it’s not at me he’s truly angry.

When the doors open, he steps out ahead, his broad back a distancing wall protecting whatever the actual source of his ire. Were Hardwick’s words enough? Was Konstantin’s disappearance something worth mentioning at a business event? Yet, there was something distinctly more personal about the snide, verbal attack; Hardwick thought he’d had the upper hand, but he’d lost momentum and confidence when Kiril cut him off.

“You would be wise to remember your place,” I recall Kiril saying, and the way Hardwick’s posture had stiffened.

There were so many questions now swirling around in my mind, I don’t even notice Kiril has reached the limousine, and Henrik is standing patiently at his post, waiting for me to follow.

“The consequences could be… messy,” I hear Kiril’s voice replay once more, even as I carefully stoop to enter the vehicle and settle on my side.

Awkwardly, we sit separated as the limo moves away from the building and enters the slow stream of traffic.

“I am sorry,” he says finally, much to my absolute bewilderment, and as much is clear on my face as I look at him.

“For what part exactly?” I query, not nearly as cutting as I could have been.

It’s not hard to imagine that Kiril Lambert is not one to apologise to anyone.

“I meant what I said though,” he continues without answering my question, his gaze still stern though his voice has softened. “Digging around after Konstantin is one thing, but my father is another entirely. And don’t ask wh…”

“Why?” I interject, just as he knew I would.

“Shouldn’t you be asking a different question right now?”

“And what should I be asking right now?” I scowl, but the way Kiril’s eyes slowly skim down my throat, over my shoulders and to my chest, causes my expression to crack.

“You should be asking, where I’m taking you now,” he smiles, both suggestive and sinister at the same time.

A little urgently I look out the darkened window, but London is still flowing by.

“Do I need to be concerned?” I ask, and launch my own challenge,

I’m tired of him always putting me on the back foot, forcing me into a defensive corner.

Time for attack.

Reaching across the void between us, I take his arm and use the anchor to slide myself across the supple leather seat until we’re shoulder to shoulder.

“If you did, would I really tell you?” he counters, still and watching me with growing interest, until I place my hand against his thigh.

“What the hell am I doing?” I hiss silently, but the tense of his muscle beneath my hand sparks a clenching response of my own.

All evening there was hardly a moment he didn’t have a hand on me somewhere, but for some reason – now – this contact fanned flames left simmering by our encounter at Konstantin’s apartment.

“You’d tell me,” I whisper, dancing my fingers over the expensive fabric of his pants, inching a little higher, “because you think you’re untouchable.”

“I suppose you intend to prove this false?” he remarks, our stares interlocked.

There’s no way I can break free now, no way I can back down. Some force completely beyond my control, is driving me to him – and I crash madly through the barricades that should logically prevent me from desiring him the way I do.

“It’s unreasonable,” I tell myself, but there is painful anticipation even leeching through voice in my head.

“Stop talking,” I growl, leaning against him and toward his lips, but his hand over mine – just shy of his crotch – causes me to pause just slightly in confusion.

Within the confines of even the spacious limousine cabin, Kiril somehow manages to curl his arm behind me, and drag me between his legs, holding my back to his chest with his arm across my stomach.

“Audacious little Sparrow,” he exhales against the back of my ear, lips lightly brushing.

“Kiril,” I murmur, curling my back to press against him with my ass.

“Obscene,” a judgemental voice hisses in my mind, but it’s overwhelmed by the rush of almost excruciating pleasure as Kiril strokes just his thumb beneath the short hem of my cocktail dress.

“Just my thumb,” he croons, vibrations that travel through my skin, through muscle and fat and bone, all the way to the molten centre of my body.

“It’ll take more than that,” I breathe, emptying my lungs and filling them completely as he begins to move upward, caressing inward along the delicate white of my inner thigh, until my skirt is indecently bunched.

“You have to let me…” I hiss, lolling my head back against his shoulder, speaking to the crook of his neck.

“No, I really don’t,” he contradicts, tightening his hold around me as his fingers reach their destination – upward along the tingling path of my crease and then deliberately down again ever so lightly.

Even though my panties separate us, my body responds before thought can catch up, so desperate for greater friction than his tantalising tease.

As he continues to stroke with such aching gentleness, the hand at my waist loosens and slides up over my chest, squeezing just briefly before his fingers splay beneath my chin and turn my head to him.

“How did I resist you?” he wonders, smothering my gasp with his lips, the quivering breath that tries to vault forth when his hand burrows into my slick warmth.

It becomes impossible not to squirm, not to dig my nails into his thigh with one hand and attempt to reach around behind me with the other.

“No,” he hisses, though he’s not the slightest bit out of breath as he grips my wrist and forces my arm to the side.

“Don’t play with me, Kiril,” I snarl, my teeth clenched around a whimper as he presses more insistently against the joyful inflammation of my clit.

The trace of his tongue down my throat, the sharp, fleetingly, pain of teeth nipping at my skin, sends shots of electricity through me – bursts of pain that collide with the increasing momentum of my arousal.

And I have to admit, I am no longer in control – and I don’t care.

I am so enraptured, writhing helplessly, I don’t notice the motion of the limousine has ceased, but it seems Kiril does.

“Fun time is over, Sparrow,” Kiril smiles, and I blink at him aghast as he licks his fingers provocatively, before pulling my dress down toward my knees.

“You… what?” I sputter out, winded.

“We’ve reached your apartment building,” he clarifies, lifting me off his lap and leaning forward to give the smoky glass between the front and back parts of the vehicle a tap. “You’d prefer, perhaps, that shallow grave I mentioned earlier?”

Before I can answer – even if I could think clearly enough to say something intelligible and scathing – the door to my right opens to reveal Henrik’s hand.

“Sleep well,” Kiril says, edging his thumb over his lower lip, a man savouring the taste of something delicious.

With my face painted now with intense embarrassment, my dignity in tatters, I swoop to gather my bag and take Henrik’s proffered hand.

“You’ll not have to worry about resisting me any longer, Mr. Lambert,” I spit as I head for the doors of my building, refusing to look back. “I’ll do enough for the both of us.”

Stomping up the steps, I nod but curtly to a concerned looking doorman and continue on my way to the elevator.

In times like these, Jazz would have been the first one I’d call – to rant and rave and cry and get all my frustration out, and I’ve already taken the phone from my clutch as the elevator swallows me up. So now my nostrils are burning as I try to hold back tears of shame, that I let that man I hardly know, but know enough, touch me so intimately, and who is there to comfort me?

Pitifully, I stumble into my apartment in the darkness, not daring to switch on the lights lest I catch a glance at the fool and her regret. Despite knowing full well I’ll wake in the morning with the most horrendous face smeared with makeup, I collapse onto my bed and hug my pillow.

“Just the entertainment,” I whisper to the night, but the night does not respond.

Blood Spatter: Part 2

It isn’t often I wake in the morning, even when its Sunday and the club is closed, so it takes a while for sleep to fall away and for me to gather my faculties. The place beside me is empty and cold, and I stare at the impression left on the sheets where the blanket it still a little pulled back.

Torrid recollections flood my mind, awakening the same heat deep within my body – it’s so intense I can feel Kiril’s thumb trailing down my cheek, playing across my lower lip and slipping into my mouth. But I know for a fact it was Sebastian who warmed my bed last night.

There has never been anything remotely unsatisfying about our encounters – when we relent to our need for carnal relief he is all I am able to think about, if I’m able to think at all.

I’m just lucky I didn’t moan Kiril’s name while in the throes of rapture.

I hope I didn’t.

Noises from elsewhere in the apartment draw my attention to the fact Sebastian is still here.

Another first.

He has never stayed the night, nor have I at his place, and that’s the way we’ve preferred to have it… have each other. Flesh on flesh without the hang-ups.

So what the hell does it mean?

He’s pottering around in my kitchen by the sounds of it, again not something he’s ever done nor am I used to – I am not entirely sure how I feel about this, especially with the memory of Kiril Lambert’s hands gripping my hips still vivid and fresh.

Wrapping myself in my fluffy robe, I take a moment to stretch out the wonderful ache of my body, and marvel at how much better I now feel.

Jazz still weighs on my mind – I will never let it go – but my brain is free of pain.

“Sebastian?” I call tentatively, poking my head out of the bedroom to scan the hall before heading to the kitchen.

“Expecting someone else?” he quips, meeting me under the arch, and if he hadn’t been smiling his usual charming smile, I might have really worried I’d sighed the wrong name in satisfaction.

“No, it’s just… this is different,” I offer, flopping onto a stool.

“Well I had to make sure you’re okay,” he points out. “You were pretty messed up yesterday. How’s the head?”

“Still there,” I quip, rubbing the back of my neck. “Pain free, thanks to you.”

“Luckily for you, that’s the kind of healing I’m good at,” he grins, and with a wink turns to open the fridge.

Luckily he can’t see my expression – a cringy hybrid of guilt and scorching reminiscence.

“Your fridge is a tragedy, it’s no wonder you’re unwell,” he grumbles, removing a bottle of milk well and truly past its used by date.

“I don’t eat here often,” I shrug.

“Often enough to stock up on beer though,” he snorts.

“Beer is an important food group!” I defend sheepishly, and he casts me a reproachful look over his shoulder. “Come on Sebastian, you’re not my nutritionist.”

“Maybe I should be,” he grunts, holding up a jar of… something. “This has been here since you moved in, hasn’t it?” he sighs, and I shrug. “Miho, it’s growing features of its own.”

“I’ll call it Jeff,” I announce proudly, and Sebastian straightens. “Fine, I’ll go shopping today and fill the fridge with vegetables.”

“Which you’ll inevitably not eat,” he huffs.

“Well it’s your fault for letting me have dessert first!” I volley triumphantly, and he narrows his eyes.

“You’re not having dessert for breakfast,” he tells me sternly.

“I’m an adult, I can eat whatever I like,” I proclaim obstinately, and he approaches when I get to my feet.

I feel like I’m playing a dangerous game with him standing here in my kitchen, like we’re about to cross an invisible line that borders fuck-buddy and love interest; not sure how I feel about that.

What I am sure I feel, is the settle of his hand on my hip and the warmth radiating from his chest as he draws closer.

“Eat whatever you like, huh?” he smirks, tapping his fingers.

“And yet I’m very selective about, what I put in my mouth,” I exhale against his lips, tempting him with half lidded bedroom eyes.

“Sadly, I’m not one of the food groups,” he teases, nipping my lips but refusing to allow me to delve much deeper.

“That’s fine,” I grin, pursuing him, wrapping my arms around his neck. “I’ll counteract with some exercise.”

“Mmm,” he murmurs, letting me catch him, delve into him, and get far too aroused before he pulls away. “Wish I could,” he says.

His eyes say yes, but he’s stepped back.

“But I have to get to Heathrow.”

My arms cross sulkily over my chest.

“My sister is coming home for a visit, and I promised to pick her up,” he adds in explanation.

“Fiiiiiiine,” I grump. “Guess I’ll just have to amuse myself.”

“Now there’s a stirring image,” he smiles cheekily.

“Ugh, get out before I jump you,” I growl, taking his arm and swinging him toward the door, and laughing he allow it.


Doing something as normal as supermarket shopping feels for some reason quite strange. It’s not like I’m above the mundane necessities of life, but wandering up and down aisles pushing a cart is so far removed from the doof-doof of the club or the crystal finery of Pale’s lounge.

Hmm, the lounge, my wrist encircled by Kiril’s fingers.

“Are sanitary products truly so fascinating?” a voice queries, a caress down my spine though no contact is made.

“Did I just…” I blink, turning to look into Kiril’s laughing eyes.

“Did you just…?” he prompts, the slow smile creeping into his lips indicative of where he thinks my mind has gone.

He’s a regular customer and a powerful man… a stunning specimen… and so I try my best to hold in the roasting return volley that jumps fist to my mind. Still, he’s the one inexplicably ambushing me in the feminine hygiene section.

“I’m just trying to decide if it’s worth paying extra for the organic product,” I remark casually, “considering its ultimate fate.”

To his credit, he doesn’t flinch at the discussion over tampons.

“One should never compromise on the finer things,” he philosophises, as easily as if we were talking about fine wine. “If you are unable to afford the more pleasant option, however, I would gladly pay the difference.”

There is no way I can’t laugh at this.

“Seriously?” I chuckle. “What on Earth are you doing here Mr. Lambert?”

Shopping for a girlfriend perhaps? I know he doesn’t have a wife – a wedding like that would be spectacular. Kiril Lambert is business royalty after all.

“I’m stalking you,” he declares, his boy-like shrug incongruous with the expensive, clean lines of his charcoal, Savile Row suit.

A thrill shudders through me. It shouldn’t, but it does.

“I read somewhere you’re the CEO of a high-profile insurance company,” I say slowly, trying to measure my breaths. “That doesn’t dominate your time?”

“One should never compromise,” he repeats, reaching to the shelf and picking up a the most expensive box of tampons available, “on the finer things.”

Fighting a blush, I cover the effect of his implication with an incredulous laugh.

“So, let’s finish your shopping so we can talk,” he adds, and I feel my cheeks relax in response to the change in his tone.


“Talk about what?”

“Your missing friend,” he replies, “and what I can do to help you find her.”

This I did not expect, and it slaps me into a bit of a daze.

”Wh… why?” I manage.

“Here is not the place to hold such a discussion,” he tells me, and begins to wheel my trolley.

Together we travel up and down the aisles in silence, and when all is done and paid for, he tells me his limousine driver will deliver them to my apartment when we’re finished with our café date.

Kiril’s words, not mine.

But it’s not just the café around the corner, oh no, we ride in conspicuous luxury to London’s newest exclusive eatery. This isn’t somewhere you can just walk off the street and enter, grab a table and a latte – it’s the kind of exclusive that opens with a month long waiting list, and a menu with pastries costing more than I might spend on food for a week.

As we enter, I’m aware of eyes turning to us: mostly women envious of my company and equally as critical of my ‘day off to slum it’ attire.

“This isn’t awkward at all,” I murmur but Kiril doesn’t break stride on his way through the doors toward a spacious booth at the rear of the café, urging me along with the feathery touch of his fingers in the small of my back.

“Ignore the spiteful stares of the envious, Sparrow,” he tells me softly, adding to the heat in my cheeks. “Unless you’d like to draw their ire a little more with a true spectacle?”

Suddenly, all I can hear, see, smell, taste and feel, is him. The recollection of the previous night, with the sense of him superimposed over Sebastian, hits me with full force and I actually stumble as my legs weaken.

“That’s a yes, is it?” Kiril whispers into my ear, my back against his chest, his arms steadying me. “Hmm? Right here in the middle of the café?”

“Mr. Lambert, welcome back,” a voice welcomes cheerfully, and Kiril shifts his eyes slowly in that direction. “Oh…uh… I apologise for interrupting,” the waiter rushes. “Should I… just…”

“Bring menus,” Kiril snaps, and the waiter scurries away, nearly falling over his own feet.

“Hungry?” I ask gaining control over my senses again, but when I pull away from Kiril’s body I immediately wish I hadn’t.

“Oh, I could eat you up right here,” Kiril rumbles, and I think all my clothes fall off.

“I don’t think you’ll find me on the menu,” I tell him, leaving off the part where I’d happily make the necessary amendments.

“Shame,” he muses, entering the booth and settling.

He watches me do the same, every move I make catalogued by a stare tat misses nothing.

“You said you could help find Jazz,” I say, knotting my fingers in front of me on the table top. “How?”

“I’ll be honest,” he says bluntly, the toe of his perfectly polished shoe bumping into mind, “but my information doesn’t come for free.”

That I will give him anything he asks for without hesitation is on my lips instantly, and I only just manage to keep from voicing it.

Anything is awfully broad.

“What could a man like you possibly want from me?” I ask instead, and his answer comes first as the slow brush of his foot up my calf.

So here is this insanely remarkable man playing footsies with me, and I ask him what he could want?

“Miho, it’s pretty clear what he wants!”

Even though his expression is polite, the amicable look of a man conducting business, he’s nudging me closer and closer toward a reaction. And I should want to demand he stop – hot or not he is all but a stranger and I do have a sense of decency – but I’m paddling against rapids trying ardently to sweep me away completely.

I want it, but I have my pride, and men like him don’t do anything without reason – take the risk?

“Take it,” a voice whispers: silk flowing over my skin.

“I’ve an incredibly boring work event to attend tonight, which would be infinitely more interesting with you at my side.”

“A date?” I chortle, unable to keep in my incredulity trapped. “That’s the best you can manage?”

Then the toe of those perfect shoes are against my thigh, moving closer to somewhere he most certainly shouldn’t be touching – my leg clench together, trapping his foot.

He doesn’t fight, leaving it where it is, and I absolutely should be standing up and stalking about enraged, but a very large part of me want to find out what he intends to do with those mirror-shine shoes.

“Shall I show you the best I can manage?” he grins, an animalistic gleam in his eyes.

“I accept, on one condition,” I manage, my voice thin and dry, and one of his eyebrows lifts in amusement,

“Which is?”

I want Jazz back more than my own life is worth, but I’ve never uttered a sentence more difficult.

“You keep your hands – and feet – to yourself.”

Is there disappointment there? Frustration? Anything mirroring the rage of my own flesh? Maybe, but Kiril agrees nonetheless.

“I will hold you to your word,” he tells me seriously: a smouldering promise rather than a threat.

“And I to yours,” I exhale, wanting it to sound a whole lot more self-assured than it actually does. “So…”

Looking satisfied, Kiril leans back and temples his fingers.

“I’ve a business engagement this evening, for which I need an escort,” he declares smugly. “It promises to be tedious – you, will make it less so.”

Not exactly what I was anticipating, and that, along with some measure of disappointment I wish I could have kept to myself, must be written on my face because Kiril’s smile widens knowingly.

“Escort?” I repeat sceptically, hardly oblivious to the connotations.

“Would you feel better if I referred to you as my date?” he offers, challenging me in a different way. “is that what you want it to be?”

A hawk, his gaze sharpens on his prey – me, a pigeon – and he’s about to sweep in for the kill.

“I suppose it doesn’t matter what it’s called,” I finally reply: non-committal. “You want arm candy, it is what it is.”

Entertaining arm candy,” he adds. “Old men in pressed suits and starched collars are anything but exciting.”

“Surely a man in your position is used to that environment,” I point out.

“My familiarity with it has nothing to do with my lack of enjoyment,” he volleys easily. “And here you are, the perfect candidate to spice up the evening.”

“Because you have something I want,” I frown. “Or so you say.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered by his proposal, and my attraction to him is so powerful, I can barely contain myself.

I cross my legs.

“The moment you concede to my request, is the moment you find out for sure,” Kiril smirks, choosing to emphasise that word specifically, and I scowl.

It’s clear he is used to getting his way, but it’s just as evident he knows I’m not one to roll over, to bow, to surrender – but this is Jazz.

My greatest weakness as well as strength is laid bare before him, and he is taken advantage.

“I already told you,” I sniff, trying not to sneer or pout.

“Use my words, Sparrow,” he insists, burrowing through my sense of self-respect, laying waste to my ego.

Swallowing my pride, I square my shoulders confidently, owning my decision, my commitment to getting back my friend.

“I concede.”

This victory doesn’t seem to please him as much as I thought it would, and I capitalise.

“Now tell me what you know.”

Without hesitation he nods, and I’m floored.

“The Konstantin you’re searching for,” he begins, leaning back in a more casual posture, “is my little brother.”

Like I’ve been punched in the gut, all the air leaves me. Gaping like a fish out of water. The song and dance I’ve been making all over London in my attempts to locate Jazz and the one person of interest I have in her disappearance, and his very brother has been in my club every other night.

Suddenly I’m livid.

There’s no way he didn’t hear about my quest; I’ve been shoving my nose into every place I can think Jazz and Konstantin might have gone together, shouting my distress from the rooftops, and received only silence, even from the police.

“You had to have known before now,” I hiss, only just managing to keep the venom behind my teeth.

Leaning forward, I rise up, hands now fists pressed against the tabletop if only to keep them from lashing out at him in anger.

“Calm down, Sparrow,” he instructs, no longer smiling, but he can take his pet name and shove it up his ass.

“Don’t you dare birdie me,” I growl, barring my teeth and pouring out all my potential for intimidation, which isn’t insignificant by any means. “Where is she?”

“That I do not know,” Kiril responds, spreading his hands with perfect calm. “In point of fact, I don’t even know where Konstantin is.”

Quivering with indescribable rage, I rock back and shuffle out of the booth, dead set on marching to the hell out of there and placing a call to Detective Parker about this revelation, but Kiril slaps his hand around my wrist.

“You intend to go back on your word?” he whispers, tugging me against the edge of the table at his side.

“Oh, you set me up!” I exclaim loudly, glaring down at him – stares across the café turn to us.

“Yes, I did,” he admits, ignoring the attention we’ve drawn in favour of attempting to freeze me with those beautifully verdant eyes. “But if I’m not mistaken, you’d do anything for your friend, and agreed to do so.”

“I don’t need you to find her, Mr. Lambert,” I grate, lifting my arm, but Kiril holds firm. “I will take your name to the police and tell them you know something, so get your secretary to leave some time open for your interrogation.”

“Unlikely,” he volleys, stroking the inside of my wrist with his thumb, which only enrages me more.

Against his pale skin, Kiril is suddenly wearing the handprint of my displeasure.

“If you knew anything about, about Jazz, you wouldn’t act like such a smug bastard,” I seethe, and my lips poise to continue when Kiril’s eyes narrow keenly.

The rising crest of my anger and indignation shudders as an opposing force meets it, attempts to push it back.

“Get off,” I snarl, throwing off his grip and stepping out of arm’s reach, allowing the swirl of ire to gather momentum once more. “If your brother has done anything to Jazz, I will burn him, and you also for daring to stand in my way.”

Storm clouds gather in his expression and thunder rumbles through ever word Kiril speaks.

“It is unwise to threaten me, Miho,” he annunciates slowly, and a cold ripples through my body.

“I… I’m leaving,” I stammer around the lump in my throat, but I find it impossible to move.

“If you leave now,” he says, so quietly and yet not whispering, “you will likely never see Miss Mann again.”

“And it’s just as unwise to threaten me,” I exhale thickly, though the heat in my face and the trembling air in my lungs is evidence enough I’m losing control of my composure.

Unaffected, Kiril rises, not once breaking eye contact. He is far taller than he should be, and the darkness at his back, outlining the shape of his imposing figure seems too real.

“Konstantin has an apartment not far from here,” he tells me, ignoring my unimpressive retort. “And I have a key.”

“Give it to me,” I hiss, breathless, too proud to cower, but far too unnerved to raise my voice much more.

“No,” he drops plainly, then his very edges soften. “But, you may join me – assuming of course you can wrestle your ego into submission long enough to reiterate your commitment to our agreement.”

Hubris calls for me to slap him again, to stalk out and ban him from even entering Pale again – by my friendship with Jazz is far stronger than that. Even if he has something to do with Jazz’s disappearance too – and I’d be stupid not to consider this given his manipulation – I have no real choice but to accept.

“I agree,” I tell him frostily, reaffixing my handbag on my shoulder and crossing my arms over my chest.


Kiril watched Miho closely, relentlessly, where she sat beside him in the back of his limousine. She was still, a statue frozen in a moment of wrathful indignation, with her gaze fixed forward; but he knew she had him in her peripheral vision, seeming ready in an instant to defend herself from unwanted contact.

Contact he wanted.

There she was, so close to him, warm, determined and fierce, and desire pulsed through his veins. How easy it would be to drag her into his lap, snake his hands around her and squeeze around her delicious curves, and bury his face against her neck.

But he didn’t, because he suspected something Narumi had missed when she manipulated Miho’s thoughts into forgetting her encounter with Alex – a recollection that had already begun to surface once more. This resistance, the way she fought against his ability to overwhelm her emotions – and won – suggested she was even more than the stunning, confident businesswoman he’d first taken her for.

And he wanted her all the more for it.

As their vehicle pulled into a secured underground car park, Miho’s eyes widened a little.

“He lives here?” she questioned.

One Tower Bridge overlooked the Thames, and the iconic Tower Bridge itself. The complex as a ridiculous piece of real estate someone like Miho would never be able to afford – millions of pounds for luxury she only ever saw in film.

“This is the most recent address of his I know,” Kiril responded, exiting the car himself, though it was the driver who released Miho from its confines.

Unlike the subterranean car parks Miho had experienced across the city, this one was bright and absolutely spotless. There were no petrol fumes, no rubber marks on the sealed concrete ground, and all painted markings were in pristine condition.

Without a word, Kiril began in the direction of the elevator, using the same key-card that had admitted their entry to the car park, to open them.

Dubiously, Miho stared at the confines of the elevator interior, obviously cautious about being trapped in the small space with Kiril without the presence of another person. Pure obstinacy pushed her forward and to the very back, where she leaned against the mirrored wall and glared as Kiril joined her.

“It’s going to be a very long night for you if you keep that up,” he pointed out, smiling like he actually hoped she’d persist.

“I suppose you’ve love me to be compliant and pliable and all over you like the women you bring to Pale,” she snorted, continuing to glower as the doors closed them in.

“Oh no, I quite prefer you combative,” he chuckled, moving closer, and Miho sidestepped to avoid being further boxed in. “Much more entertaining.”

“I’m not here for your amusement,” she huffed, crossing her arms again, but it made balancing a second dodge a little difficult.

She found herself in the corner, Kiril directly before her looking most pleased with himself; and she was infuriated, in part because he insisted on challenging her when she was here only to serve her mission, but more so that the closer he drew, the more her skin eagerly anticipated his touch.

The doors opened on the fourth floor to a clear and pleasant chime, but Kiril continued to smoulder, close enough to Miho for her actually feel the radiant heat from his body – or so it seemed.

“No comeback, Sparrow?” he prompted smugly, leaning his head forward, and Miho turned her cheek.

“My comeback might very well be my knee to your groin if you keep pushing me,” she growled, but Kiril’s smile only widened.

“The lady likes to rough-house,” he noted, and Miho expelled a frustrated breath, using her shoulder to nudge past him and exit to the landing.

Chuckling, Kiril followed – the more she rebuffed him, the greater his desire to her submit to him willingly.

“So you’re a big-wig CEO,” Miho said, approaching one of only two doors on the floor. “What does Konstantin do to be able to afford a place like this?”

“I tend not to involve myself in my brother’s affairs,” Kiril replied, touching the key-card to the electronic lock beside the door. “The origin of his wealth has nothing to do with me.”

“Yet you’ve access to his luxury apartment,” Miho pointed out dryly.

“I never said it was given to me,” he responded, reaching around her to push open the door. “Ladies first.”

Well that obviously changed things a little – card or no card, it was trespass if Kiril didn’t have permission to be there. What if Konstantin was home?

“Even better,” Miho muttered in determination, and stomped into the spacious, dark wood appointed living area.

But it was quiet and clean, and Miho’s call to Jazz went unanswered.

“Refrigerator is empty,” Kiril noted, not that he was especially surprised, but Miho did not respond.

In the master bedroom she’d thrown open the door to the walk-in robe to search for women’s clothing, but finding none, she made her way to the ensuite. There she found no evidence of a woman either, but that only meant Jazz hadn’t made herself at home – or maybe hadn’t been given an opportunity to.

“Damnit,” she cursed, rushing from room to room, scanning, opening, searching every nook and cranny.

Kiril, meanwhile, was far from frantic. He wandered lazily from room to room, but wasn’t really looking for anything in particular. When he finally reached the master bedroom, he stopped in the doorway, staring.

On all fours, with backside in the air and her right cheek pressed against the plush carpet, Miho was peering under the king-sized bed, fishing around for what, Kiril did not know; but he found himself transfixed by the sight. Her posture was not an invitation by any means, and yet the idea of folding himself over her, pulling back on her hair and tasting the skin of her throat, bubbled furiously in his blood. Resisting the urge to follow through, tainted the sound of his voice when he finally spoke.

“What are you expecting to find under there?”

Her body flinched but did not straighten. Instead she reached a little further, grunting as she reached her limit, and only sat back when she’d snared her prize.

“Apartments like this are serviced by professional cleaners,” Kiril pointed out, approaching. “It’s unlikely you’ll find any traces of your friend.”

“And yet…” Miho smiled thinly, staring at the small bead black and white swirled.

To Kiril it meant very little, but obviously Miho knew something.


Inhaling slowly, I close my eyes.

This seemingly generic bead clasped between my fingers is personal to me. The ridiculously overpriced Pandora bracelet I’d given Jazz for her last birthday, comprised elements I had chosen individually.

But there is something much deeper here, and I’m suddenly not me anymore.

The world tilts and my ears are filled with the sound of Jazz laughing, laughter emerging from my lips. She opens her eyes and I’m staring into the face I know as Konstantin’s, and his lips press against my collarbone.

Raggedly, my breath hitches as he holds me firmly against him, my legs, Jazz’s legs against the edge of the bed – and I’m giggling as he kisses up my neck and threatens to topple me backwards. But he has to work for it, I struggle and squirm and try to fend him off, but the way he grips Jazz’s wrist is a grip unbreakable, somehow gentle but commanding against my refusal to submit. Finally, he twists a leg behind mine and shoves us back against the mattress, and as Jazz’s back sinks into the deep softness of the duvet, the Pandora bracelet explodes from my wrist and beads bounce all around us.

A stillness falls as the last glass sphere rolls into hiding beneath the bed, and Konstantin peers at me with an intensity that stokes a dangerous furnace within my belly – and I can feel his desire pressing insistently between my thighs, and as he releases Jazz’s wrist, I fold my arms around his neck and draw him down to meet a fierce passion of my own.

It bounces twice, the black and white, silver swirled bead as it drops from my hold to the sound of a breathy moan. A shudder rips through my body, but as I blink, it’s Kiril’s hand I find against my cheek, his body so close we’re lightly touching. We’re standing in Konstantin’s bedroom of course – I was always there despite what I saw and felt – it doesn’t make sense. And my emotions are muddled, mine and Jazz’s blended together, my flesh singing from Konstantin’s promise of carnal pleasure: suddenly reflected in the coolness of Kiril’s palm brushing against my face.

“What… are you?” I exhale, heat on my breath, a shivering anticipation of his slowly approaching face and a painful conflict between wanting him to take me like his brother had – hadn’t – and knowing I have every reason to shove him away.

I should shove him away.

“That look,” he responds, green fire crackling in the slim space between us, and I tremble as his other hand comes to rest lightly against my hip. “That invitation.”

“It’s not…” I begin, but my body betrays me, shifting with his encouragement to close all distance. “Kiril…” I hiss, desperately fighting to order my thoughts before I’m drowned by this wave of inexplicable need, this ludicrous urge for him to smother me. “I saw… I saw them…”

“I see you,” he states plainly, and his lips tease across mine.

Arching into him flashes an unintentional green light, and our mouths unite with a dizzying lust over which I have very little control.

Blood Spatter: Part 1

It’s the shrill and frantic screaming of a phone that abruptly interrupts the dreamless dark of my sleep. Thundering jackhammers valiantly try to drown out the sound with blinding pain in my head.

“Fuck, shut the fuck up,” I growl, pawing around wildly for the location of my phone until I somehow coincidentally manage to hit the answer button. “What?”

“Miho?” comes an urgent male voice that makes me cringe for more than one reason.

“Jesus Sebastian, stop yelling,” I hiss, covering my eyes with my forearm though the room is already dark.

“Maybe if you answered your phone when I call you, I wouldn’t have to,” Sebastian argues, his tone a blend of relief, worry and scorn. “Where the hell are you?”

For a moment I ponder this answer – I should be more concerned that I have to think about it.

“Home,” I finally determine.

“Are you sick?” he pursues. “Mieke, Kara and I opened the club without you, but that’s never happened.”

“Oh shit,” I curse, sitting up far too suddenly for the likes of my migraine. “Mmph, um… I’m sorry, I’ll…”

“Are you sick?” he repeats more seriously.

“No, I… um…”

I… um… struggling to answer that question – why am I struggling to answer that question?

“Some guy nearly hit me with his car,” I respond finally, the memory hazy. “I hit my head when I stumbled.”

“I’d ask if you’re all right, but clearly you’re not; I’m coming over,” he states, leaving no room for argument.

“Fine, you can drive me to work,” I conclude, pushing back the duvet and wriggling into a sitting position.

“We can discuss if when I arrive,” he grumbles. “Don’t do anything crazy in the meantime.”

Pfft, like I ever do anything crazy.


There is nothing interesting about my getting ready for work routine, except that my headache wanes a little. Still, I’m sloshing some aspirin around in a glass when he buzzes my intercom.

For a few seconds I look at him on the LCD screen, admiring the strong line of his jaw, the faint hint of stubble and the fall of several dark strands of hair that constantly fall across his forehead.

I’d be lying if I didn’t think there might be a better – more fun – way to get rid of my headache’s remnants.

“Are you going to let me in?” I hear his voice through the speaker, and I break from my lascivious reverie.

“Sorry,” I apologise, though he can’t even hear me, and in what seems like a far too short time, he’s travelled up several floors and is knocking on my door.

“I’m angry with you,” are the first words from his mouth, and though he’s frowning, he’s looking me up and down with an analytical eye.

“Thanks, Dad,” I mock, turning to get my handbag, but Sebastian takes my wrist and slowly forces me to straighten.

“I’m not done checking you over yet,” he grumbles, and there’s a pout in his voice though his expression remains stern.

His hands begin on my cheeks, large hands I always feel could crush my head and yet are so incredibly gentle as they graze my skin.

“Sebastian,” I whisper in complaint – but the downward intonation of his name, and the tilt of my head against his palm, betrays my alternate agenda.

“Don’t you Sebastian me,” he huffs, sliding his hands deliberately down my throat as he leans closer to examine a contusion on my left cheek. “You’re never late, never sick, never out of touch, and with… well…”

His sentence trails off, but I know exactly where it was going.

“I was afraid,” he admits, and I actually think he’s being serious.

This guy, who I feel has never been afraid of anything in his life, his brow is now creased, and my reflection in his sometimes-animalistic brown eyes wavers with genuine unease.

“I was afraid something had happened to you too,” he adds, shifting his weight, and when I cannot help but form a slight smile, I think I see him faintly blushing.

“As if,” I snort, slapping his chest with the back of my hand before scooping up my handbag. “I was an assassin in a past life.”


It takes a little more convincing to get Sebastian to allow me out of my apartment, but eventually he drives me to the club – on the provision I let him drive me home after closing. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. Though he’s come home with me plenty of times, our relationship has never been more than a mutually agreeable meeting of flesh and pleasure. The depth of his disquiet is surprising, and I’m not sure how to take it.

“Where the hell have you been?” Mieke glares, the moment we enter Pale’s foyer.

“Easy tiger,” Sebastian grunts in Mieke’s direction, then heads off to do the rounds.

“Overslept,” I tell her sheepishly, and it’s not really a lie.

“Oh yeah? Well I didn’t – I got here three hours early because Seb’s losing his shit about you not answering your phone,” she huffs, but I can tell she’s not actually mad at me. “Kara’s already doing rounds in the basement.”

“Sorry, I’ll get to work, Boss,” I smirk.

“You might want to start with Mr. Lambert in the lounge,” she suggests, and I know she sees the way I’m suddenly more focused. “Thought that’d get your attention,” she sniffs. “And tonight, believe it or not, he’s alone.”

“That’s weird,” I agree. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a harem.”

“Right?” Mieke nods. “Go and take advantage.”

No harm in buttering up a VIP.

The man is an immaculate specimen, the kind who conveys so much with his mere presence alone. His suit is easily worth as much as the entire contents of my wardrobe, clearly custom tailored to emphasise his best physical features: and god damn, those features. They’re a sonnet of masculinity, a rousing canticle of sculpted muscle in perfect proportion.

Intimidation is not something I’m used to submitting to, but every time I’ve had cause to interact with Kiril Lambert – billionaire CEO of KeepsGuard Risk Management and Insurance – I’ve had to struggle against a tide of uncertainty and doubt.

He makes me feel small: I hate it, but affix my best smile as I approach, and bury the instinct to act meekly behind a fortified wall of self-confidence.

“With compliments of the house,” I smile, placing the tray down on Kiril’s table, before taking the uncorked bottle of very old and expensive whiskey in hand.

“It’s my understanding, you are the house,” Kiril points out blithely as he adjusts his silk tie slightly, but for a few seconds I find myself enchanted by the nonchalant motion of his hand. “So it’s you I have to thank. Join me.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, but for some reason, I don’t feel offended by his assumption; I am no stranger to this type of attention in my club – without being arrogant – but in this instance, I shock myself by acting completely out of character.


I put it down to my headache and try to cover a grimace with graciousness.

“It’s my policy not to mix business and pleasure, Mr. Lambert,” I tell him casually, but slip into the booth opposite him nonetheless, “but since you’re Pale’s resident celebrity, I’ll make an exception.”

“Is that the only reason?” he enquires, eyes fixed on my fingertips, apparently fascinated by the way they dig into the wax sealing the amber liquid behind crystal and begin to peel it away.

“What would you like me to say?” I ask, pouring carefully into his glass before pushing it toward him.

I sense my quip is a dangerous one, but simply can’t help playing his game.

“That you’ve finally given in to your burning desire for me,” he replies: so blasé, it almost doesn’t sound like the words of a consummate playboy.

Here is a creature blessed – sublimely handsome, connected and wealthy – oh he never wants for companions.

Normally, I would scowl at such a line, but he drops it so effortlessly I actually laugh.

Then regret it.

Grimacing, I resist the urge to rub at my temples and straighten my back.

“Something wrong?” he queries, slowly coiling his fingers around the whisky tumbler.

It’s such a simple gesture and yet I find it so incredibly sexy I nearly forget my pain.

The unusual green of his gaze pierces through my attempts to appear unaffected, and though I have reassurances on my tongue, I find myself barely able to inhale, let alone form words.

“Ah, it’s just a headache,” I finally manage, and frown at how breathless I sound.

“Late night?”

At this I scoff.

“I run a club, I’m practically nocturnal,” I point out, but thinking about the night previous makes the pain increase threefold.

“A woman after my own heart,” he chuckles, “but that doesn’t explain your obvious discomfort.”

“I had a run in with… with a…” I begin, then cringe when it feels as if my brain is expanding, threatening to burst from my eye sockets.

“You look like you’re in need of a medicinal dram,” he declares, turning his glass slowly by the rim, casually observing my growing distress.

“Hm, if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be from the top shelf,” I murmur, trying to blink away the stars sparkling across my field of vision.

“Then please,” he beseeches, though the two words again sound more like an instruction, “allow me to make you feel a little better.”

Men like that don’t beg.


Used to being propositioned in my own club by drunken idiots, I totally take it in my stride – though I find my answer uncharacteristically more flirty than is routine.

“And how might you achieve that, Mr. Lambert?” I question, tweaking a crooked smile despite the continuation of heavy drums in my head.

Before his lips even part, his eyes flicker somehow more brightly, and again I find myself transfixed by the way emerald flames seem to dance within their depths.

“Kiril,” he corrects, “and I have myriad ways.”

His voice low – the brush of velvet across my skin, and that alone seems to dull the war raging between my ears.

“I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to call one of London’s most successful CEOs by his first name,” I point out, not that I believe in elitism.

“This successful CEO is offering it to you,” he shrugs, it being his first name, not the lewd other it that suddenly invades my mind’s eye. “But for now…”

His fingertips are cool, smooth, as he turns my right wrist over onto his palm, and I flinch at the unexpected contact.

“Close your eyes,” he orders firmly, and before the thought can even register, I’m smothered in the darkness beneath my lids. “Just breathe,” he whispers, a breath I can almost feel against my cheek though I know he is still across the table.

A shudder ripples through me, tingling that begins at the stroke of his thumb against the pale underside of my wrist, and gathers momentum up my arm.

“And that’s just my thumb, Sparrow,” I hear him say, see his lips moving and the hungry blaze of his stare though my own eyes remain closed.

Sparrow? But did he even speak? I can’t tell, but I respond anyway.

“Oh really?” I sniff, wanting to smirk at the boldness of his allusion, but the deepening pressure of his thumb into my skin, the tendons, warns me not to.

“Shh,” he soothes, pressing against one point that for several seconds makes me feel dizzy.

Then the clattering discomfort of the marching band parading through my brain is silenced.

Everything falls silent.

The sweet jazz piano.

The quiet chatter of staff and other nearby patrons.

The clink of glassware.

Until a new rhythm emerges – faster and faster and faster, until the pounding of my heart is almost unbearable.

“How did you…” I exhale, finally opening my eyes.

Pain free, I meet him halfway, though the intensity of those penetrating meres threatens to cause my calm to crumble.

“Magic,” he smiles confidently, continuing to gently caress from my wrist, along the lifeline of my palm.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I struggle to the surface, swimming valiantly out of a verdant ocean to break eye contact and reclaim my hand.

“What the hell is going on?” I wonder, for I can feel him crawling across my skin, sliding to places hidden beneath my clothes.

I have seen him in Pale a hundred times, and while I’ve acknowledged his inexplicable beauty, always pausing in my rounds to perve discretely, I now feel an almost overwhelming magnetism that sticks me to my seat.

But there is someone else observing us; I can feel Sebastian’s scorn as surely as if he was waggling his finger disapprovingly in my face.

“Looks like your boyfriend doesn’t like me touching his property,” Kiril snickers, taking my other hand when I look in Sebastian’s direction. “Not one to share I take it.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, but I should…” I begin, but he cuts me off.

“Stay,” he commands quickly, a word from his mouth before he even thinks it over; he surprises even himself, as much written in the sudden – though fleeting – change in his countenance.

Because that makes it so much better.

“Excuse me?” I snap, and whatever hold he’d had on me shatters. “Pardon me, Mr. Lambert, I should resume my duties. Please enjoy your drink.”

He lets me go, regaining his air of self-importance, but I hear him as I walk away – am sure I am supposed to.

“I think I would, very much.”

“Fraternising with customers now?” Sebastian almost accuses, the moment I am within earshot, and I feel myself souring further.

“Any issues?” I redirect, but Sebastian has me caught in a purposeful gaze.

“Miho,” he levels. “Kiril Lambert is not someone you want to get involved with.”

“Oh yes?” I sniff, undaunted by the seriousness of his expression. “Successful, influential, wealthy, and not shy about spending his money here,” I add.

I leave off how hot Kiril is – no sense in provoking Sebastian.

Working his jaw, Sebastian stares at me, attempting maybe to transmit his disdain via telepathy.

“It’s already not my night,” I sigh, finally heading for the stairs. “Please don’t make it worse.”

Surprisingly he doesn’t follow to my office, which is just as well.

Still, it means I’m alone as I flop down behind my desk, and beyond, Jazz’s empty work station screams out her conspicuous absence.

It just doesn’t feel right without her, and it’s not just about the physical space she should be taking up – she means so much more to me than that. Her absence is like a hole, carved right through my perception of everything; we’re sisters in all but blood, and the only family either of us have left.

“What did he do to you?” I hiss to the room, but further ponderance of Konstantin’s involvement in Jazz’s disappearance is brutally shoved away by the feeling of someone driving an ice-pick through my skull.

But that isn’t the only sensation.

Against the lacquered wood I ball my fists, leaning forward like it might make the pain less severe, but my mind is tugged in the direction of a solid collision.

The ground.

Wet under my body.

In the darkness, afraid, and barely clinging to consciousness.

Vaguely I hear a question and a name.


Groaning, I blink away the vision, and through clenched teeth I breathe moist patterns against the desktop. The images, the sensations, the emotions all feel so real.

Then it’s Kiril Lambert who floats into my mind; the gentle touch of refreshingly cool skin against the flush of mine lulls some of my present affliction. Desperately I want him to caress me again, and I realise it’s not just because of the way he so easily chased away my resurging migraine.

“And that’s just my thumb, Sparrow,” I hear him purr again, and though I hate the diminutive, I cannot deny the growing knot in my stomach and the tingling warmth in places I’d like to experience his other fingers.

Resisting the urge to allow my own hands to wander, I settle for some more aspirin and paracetamol, before heading back downstairs to work.


Adding to my pre-existing irritation, the sensitive throb of my nethers doesn’t fade as the night wears on, any more than my headache. Crossing the basement nightclub dance floor, nodding to Kara as I go, I’m afforded the occasional, incidental bump in the right spot and it sends a shudder of pleasure through my body – and though Sebastian and I have enjoyed each other’s company many times since he came to work at the club, it’s Kiril Lambert who flashes into my mind.

Avoiding him is suddenly not so easy when my feet seem to have a will of their own, but I stop in my tracks on the far side of the lounge, when I find he is now not alone.

“Of course he’s not,” I chide myself. “Come to the club and just sit there for hours alone? Him?”

No indeed. He’ surrounded by his typical entourage of slender beauties, who stroke down his lapel, touch his skin, murmur against it.

Perhaps he feels my gaze as it lingers too long, because he looks through his company at me; they don’t seem to notice he is no longer with them, as surely as if he’d gotten up and walked away.

“Feeling lonely, Sparrow?” he smirks, I see the question alight in those green pools that penetrate me so thoroughly.

And I don’t even think I mind, not that I’d ever admit it aloud.

”Ah, not lonely, something else?”

His smile grows wider with certainly as his gaze wanders down my body.

“Am I actually hearing him in my head?” I scoff at myself. “You have bigger issues to worry about than your libido.”

“Speaking of bigger things…” I hear him grin, as I turn away and force myself to shift toward the lounge bar.

Which is just as well considering the insolent flick of my hair causes a chandelier to drop and brain me: not literally, obviously, but that is certainly how it feels.

Clutching the edge of the bar, I lean against it heavily with my eyes tightly shut, and Morris the bartender is quick to show his concern – and he is not alone.

Faintly, I hear a woman yelp, then the touch of a hand against the small of my back.

“Still broken, Sparrow?” Kiril whispers into my ear, leaning a little over my shoulder.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I gasp out, trembling and unable to open my eyes.

Though Morris puts a glass of water in front of me, I don’t notice, too busy shaking, too busy glaring into the face of someone I vaguely recognise and the way his teeth are bared threateningly.

“Where is she?” I hiss, losing my legs to slump back into Kiril’s arms, whimpering pathetically.

“What did you do?” Sebastian barks, and his voice rings in my ears as he rushes up to pull Kiril away by the shoulder.

Kiril’s response is to slap Sebastian’s hand away, but he neither confirms or denies his involvement in my debilitated state.

Had I not been just about ready to empty my stomach on any available pair of shoes, I might have wondered at the ferocity of their accusatory glares, that, and the origin of the prevailing notion in my mind – both a source of agony and truth.

“Alex knows where Jazz is!” I exclaim breathlessly, but the moment the sentence is from my mouth I want to curl into a ball. “Fuck me…”

“Another night, perhaps,” I vaguely hear Kiril murmur.

“Back up,” Sebastian commands savagely, and I feel his arms close in around me.

So warm, but there is something I suddenly miss about delightful prickle of cool skin, and from Sebastian’s embrace I blink away tears to fix my watery gaze upon Kiril once more.

“Where’s Alex?” I hiss, but my body is suddenly exhausted, and I collapse against Sebastian’s chest.

To this I get no answer, not that I could actually process it if I had.

All I want is for the evening to swallow me completely, to wrap me in darkness that steals away the terrible vortex of torment tear my brain to shreds.





With refined detachment, Kiril watched Sebastian easily sweep Miho into a princess carry, but he found himself captivated by the limp swing of her arm when the other man stepped away. Crushing a surprisingly tenacious desire to snatch Miho away like a jealous dog over a bone, he instead watched Pale’s head of security disappear with his prize, without stirring further.

He was by no means oblivious to Miho’s amateur – though by no means insignificant – investigation into the disappearance of her business partner; he was aware she’d ruffled many feathers by shouting out the name Konstantin in places she was sure she’d be heard.

Oh, she’d been heard.

Smirking, Kiril didn’t even bid farewell to his vacuous company, and left Pale without a fuss, pressing his phone lightly to his ear.

“Ah cousin dear,” he drawled, his free hand in his pocket as he strolled down the street. “I love what you’ve done with that problem from last night.”

There was a short silence, before a female voice responded.

“Are you following up?” she queried and didn’t sound especially impressed about it. “You?”

“Pure happenstance,” he shrugged, even though his cousin could obviously not see him. “I heard the girl nearly got herself killed by one of Konstantin’s fanboys.”

“What’s your angle, Kiril?” she asked suspiciously. “Why the interest?”

“We both know full well she’s hunting for Konstantin because he’s abducted her friend,” he responded – because abduction was no big deal. “What I don’t know, Narumi, is why you didn’t erase her desire to find him.”

“You don’t think her sudden disinterest in the location of her business partner and best friend would be a little suspicious?” Narumi volleyed, and Kiril could tell she was annoyed – just as she always became annoyed when he challenged her. “Especially to the likes of Sebastian Ross.”

“Oh yes, and he is very interested in her, a real knight in shining armour,” Kiril chuckled, stopping at an intersection to wait for traffic.

“Don’t provoke him, Kiril, I don’t need the headache,” Narumi sighed, and Kiril got the impression of her rubbing her temples. “For once it’s Konstantin causing a stir, and unless you want Konrad on the warpath, just stay out of this and let me handle it.”

The mention of Konrad caused Kiril’s top lip to peel back in a sneer.

“Where is Konstantin and his little friend?” he grated between his teeth, stepping – no, stalking – across the road.

“I haven’t located them yet,” Narumi admitted. “He’s doing a remarkable job of concealing himself.”

“Remarkable, isn’t that him just all over,” Kiril huffed, abruptly taking the hand of a passing woman.

She looked at him quizzically, before smiling and staring wordlessly: starry-eyed.

“If you find him before I do,” he continued into his phone, leading the woman along with him, “tell him I said hi.”

“Just stay out of this,” Narumi warned. “I mean i…”

But Kiril hung up and tucked his phone away, focusing on his present company.



In the darkness of my apartment, I’m alone again with Sebastian. Murmuring a mixture of concern and how much trouble I am, he helps me to the bedroom and sits me down on the end of the bed.

“I’ll get you some water,” he says in a low voice, his hand still resting on my shoulder. “Think you can get undressed by yourself?”

There is nothing untoward about his question, not even a hinting undercurrent of lust; he could take advantage, but he doesn’t – that’s the kind of man he is.

“It’s not so bad anymore,” I reply, slowly sliding the jacket from my shoulders.

No sudden moves just the same.

“I’d say you’re working too hard, but I know that’s in your nature, so, what’s going on?” he questions, and though it’s dim I can see him frowning. “In the year and a half I’ve known you, you’ve never had so much as a sniffle.”

“There is the whole best friend missing and nearly getting run over thing,” I point out a little snappishly, but it’s a measure of my low tolerance levels rather than any actual anger I have toward him. “I’m sorry, Sebastian, I don’t know – I just have this terrible feeling something horrible has happened Jazz, that I’m so close to finding her but she’s just beyond me reach.”

Blinking, I find my cheeks wet again, and Sebastian gently wipes his thumbs across my cheeks.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asks, and though he’s a seriously impressive looking man, this inquiry leaves his lips unsure, tentative.

If I was able to think more clearly, I would certainly challenge him; though we care for one another as friends, he made it clear very early on our relationship beyond that was just physical: a way for us to relieve some of the tension in our lives without romantic entanglements and all the obligations that come with. He has never stayed and never asked to, always leaving when we’re both satisfied.

Saying yes might lead to something I don’t need, but I know right now I don’t want to be alone.

My chin drops forward before lifting again, and the warmth of his palm cupping one cheek is a reassurance I’m grateful for.

“Okay,” he smiles simply, crouching a moment to unzip my boots and slide them away. “Hop into bed, I’ll get you that water and be right back.”

Sighing, I undress to my panties and slip t-shirt on – normally Sebastian wouldn’t get to see such a thing, the Miho ‘home-body’ in her unflattering night clothes, but it’s not something I worry about.

What I want is to be held, and stroked, and told everything will be okay – that I’ll wake up tomorrow and Jazz will be back, no harm done, and this blasted headache will be long gone.

Wordlessly upon his return, Sebastian strips down to his underwear and joins me beneath the duvet, leaving me no time to appreciate the stirring cut of his physique. Instead, I settle for the strong coil of his arms around me, and snuggle against his firm chest, inhaling slowly.

“Just close your eyes,” he whispers into my hair, but it’s not his voice I hear.

Kiril Lambert.

His are the fingers weaving softly through my hair, his breath against the side of my head, his ankles entwined with mine. Just as it had, sitting across from him in the booth with my wrist in his grip, the pain my skull abates, and I am left with a slowly growing ball on tension in my stomach.

“You okay?” Sebastian queries, leaning his head back.

My answer is to kiss him, a slow and searching notion, probing for interest.

The tense of his body and then the smooth of his hands down to the small of my back is his response, but he ends the dance of our tongues.

“I don’t think this is what you need right now,” he tells me, but his body is already telling me what he needs.

“I don’t want to think,” I hiss, my voice a little hoarse, and his response to the trail of my fingers to the band of his boxer briefs and beneath. “So get naked and fuck me.”

These words are the kind of vulgar imperative I might use in a moment of passion to provoke him, not the kind of thing once says while vulnerable; but I can’t help it, I suddenly need it.

Also surprised he hesitates, but not for long when I palm him firmly and bite into his lower lip, at which point Kiril takes hold of the hem of my t-shirt and tears it all the way to my throat.


It’s Kiril Lambert’s weight I feel pressing over me, and into me not long after, his shoulder-blades I’m digging my fingernails into and his hips my legs are wrapped around. Gentle at first, I feel he doesn’t want to hurt me but is definitely holding back – he needs encouragement, and my teeth sinking into the taut flesh of his shoulder and the arch of my body to deepen our contact provides this.

The night is a heavy blanket that hides us from each other’s sight, but through the fierce thrust and grab, and the heady thickness of panting breaths and desirous moans, I can clearly see the ravenous depths of Kiril’s gaze by which I am willingly consumed.