Anna peered down at the three in conversation with her lord. Her gaze gravitated to the tall man who spoke. His dark hair flowed past his shoulders and lay over the black cloak he wore. Remembrance lighted in her mind, and she glided her fingertips along her lips. Licorice and cream wafted through her senses as sentiment touched her. A kiss. A breath of life. An adorned moment.
She stepped to the stairs as he turned. He disappeared out the door.
“Clair.” The sire’s deep voice tolled in her ears, and the ferrety woman entered the receiving hall. “Charlie has joined the household. He will have a place with the stable hands. See to it he knows what’s expected of him.”
Lord Dressen turned to leave, and Clair motioned in the opposite direction. “Just follow me, love.”
Anna watched her lead a scruffy little man to the hall. His friendly features showed through the overgrowth on his face. Crinkles cornered his eyes, adding charm to the weathered visage. His thinned hair was tousled, and he walked with a stiff gait.
She immediately looked to her lord’s call and flushed as their eyes met.
“Prepare for bed. I’ll be up shortly.”
Heavenly purpose filled her, and she darted down the hall to her room. Throwing the door wide, she grabbed the nightgown laid out on the bed and ran through the small vanity to the bathroom.
The woman in the mirror ran the short length with her. Not real. Only a reflection.
Clair told her so when she corrected her actions of the night before.
She stripped off her clothes and slipped into the tub. With a turn of the faucet, the stream of water bubbled up from the spout and cascaded over the marble ledge to the porcelain at her feet. She pulled her knees to her chest and waited for a suitable depth.
After a quick wash and rinse, she double-checked her hair for suds. She ran Clair’s specific instructions through her mind; wash thoroughly, rinse thoroughly, dry thoroughly, dress.
She bounded from the tub and grabbed a towel, running it over her body. Raking a comb through her hair, she turned on the dryer and impatiently whirled it in all directions. Vibrations ran up her arm, and the tunneled whine seemed like a drill breached her skull. Panic stung her nerves, and in a fit of urgency, she threw the tool to the floor. She dashed out the door and perched on the edge of her bed, gazed locked on the door latch.
Empty time filled the minutes and hazed her peripheral vision. A distant hum lulled her mind as her thoughts focused on the golden knob that would allow her sire’s entrance.
The latch turned.
Anna jumped to her feet.
Lord Dressen entered, his black robe loosely tied at the waist. His lips teetered into a crooked smile as he scanned her appearance. “Anxious this time, are you?”
The deep song of his voice enveloped her senses, and she blinked at him, riveted by the measure.
He sauntered to her. “Your eagerness is refreshing after the countless refusals, but…” His hand motioned to her. “I prefer to disrobe you myself.”
Anna glanced at herself. She hadn’t followed Clair’s instructions completely. She ran her fingers down her gown-less stomach. No matter. Her keeper was there, and his glorified presence filled on her.
Motion of his halted stride caused the robe’s fold to brush her thigh. With a fingertip, he skimmed the curve of her hip and then the length of her waist. He lowered his gaze and tilted his head as he traced her ribcage. The dip of her cleavage slowed his movement.
The tantalizing touch sent thrills across her nerves. Her breath hitched, and she leaned into him, savoring his touch.
“I told you if you gave me a chance, you’d be back. You could have had this all along.” His body crushed hers against the wall. Hot breath poured over her face. “I could have had this all along. All those years of being denied, enduring the gossip of others behind my back.”
He combed his fingers through her unkempt hair and knotted them in the half-dried locks. “I always get what I’m after, Anna. Soul mate or not, you were going to be mine.”
Yanking her head to the side, his lips trailed along her shoulder until his low voice rumbled in her ear. “You do want me don’t you, Anna.”
She wilted and caught her breath. “Yes.”
“Say it. You want me.”
“I want you.”
He tugged at her hair, harshly grating her head against the wall. “Say it again.”
“I want you.”
“I want you!”
Grabbing her hands, he pressed her fingers and thumbs together, positioning them to form a triad over his chest. He gritted his teeth as he growled. “Just like last night. Say what you did last night.”
As Anna took an exclamatory breath, a startling series of bursts sounded from the lavatory. A galvanized glow pulsed across the floor, lights flashed bright, and then died.
Lord Dressen’s voice boomed. “What the hell!”
Sparks burst through the air, piercing the darkness, branding white streaks into her retinas. Shock charged up her spine and down her arms to her fingertips. A wild shriek punched from her lungs. Flaying her arms, she shoved everything from her path as she jumped to the bed and scampered to the headboard.
Anna’s ears rang in the soundless aftermath. Her heart pounded, and her chest heaved as she stared into the black void.
“Wait,” said Dressen in a low voice. “What’s that?”
She opened her eyes wider as if it would help her hear something over the thump of her heartbeat. Through the silence, soft splashes trickled.
A flashlight lit in Lord Dressen’s hand as he slid the bed stand drawer closed. Deep shadows accentuated the crease over the bridge of his nose as his brows pinched together with his frown. He pointed the torch at the floor beyond the foot of the bed. Following the dark patch of water-soaked carpet to the vanity, a puzzled expression quirked his face. “You bathed before I came, didn’t you?”
“And you didn’t turn off the water?”
Anna blinked as she realized she hadn’t. “No.”
He aimed the light at her face. “Your hair’s half dry. What did you do with the dryer?”
“I threw it down.”
Lord Dressen looked sideways, and a weak chuckle passed his lips. “You threw it down. And you flooded the bathroom.” He peered back at her. “I guess they figured taking your common sense with your memory would insure compliance.”
He tossed the light on the bed and then stepped to a safe portion of the floor. “I’m beginning to see what I’m dealing with.” A long sigh hissed from his lips. “No matter. You’ll be with me while in the presence of others. All people need to know is that I got you.”
Opening the door a crack, he called down the hall for assistance. He tightened the tie around his waist and looked at her. “I’ll assign Clair as your aide. I can’t have you electrifying yourself now that I have you. Stay there. I’ll send her to help you move to a different room.”
Anna scampered to the foot of the bed and grabbed the flashlight. Returning to the headboard, she pulled her thighs to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. The light created a soft halo on the ceiling as she wrapped her arms around her legs and clutched it to her shins.
The latch clicked behind him.