Deep Kiss of Winter


While he went to collect her things, Danii slipped on her dress, then explored her new hideout.

Murdoch had modernized the lodge to a degree. There was running water, lighting, plumbing, and a fairly new generator. She found bedding and towels.

In every spacious room, the timeless sculptures, decorations, and brickwork had proved impervious to cold. Which meant this place was perfect for her. She was a nester. Her star sign decreed nesting, and she was helpless to resist.

The first thing it needed was... ice.

When he returned with her bags, Murdoch gruffly showed her to a guest room, acting like he'd made a huge concession by letting her stay. But he also appeared a bit wild-eyed as he glanced from her to the suitcases and back. She supposed BP would be worse in him since he'd been single for so long.

"Do you have something in your bags to write my number on?" he asked her.

"Yes, but you can just tell me. I'll remember."

As soon as he uttered the last of the digits, he hastily said, "But keep in mind that I'll be extremely busy following our leads and hunting Ivo."

She gave him her best ice queen impression. "Of course, I understand." But did she? If she were honest, she would acknowledge that deep down, she'd hoped to convince him to stay here with her.

Which regrettably hadn't panned out. But no matter what, she still had this prime place of safety to hide out for a time - and that's what really counted. If he didn't want to experience more of the exquisite pleasure they'd just shared, then it was his loss.

Which means it's mine as well -

"Good bye, then," he said, tracing away before she could say anything else.

Once she was alone, she gave a casual shrug as if she wasn't hurt. But fooling him was easier than fooling herself. Ignoring the pang in her heart, she proceeded to decorate, figuring it would be many days before she saw him again...

Hours later, she lay on the stripped bed in the master room, eschewing the smaller chamber he'd stuck her in. A delightfully chill wind blew, rushing in through the outer doors and windows - which she'd opened to the freezing night.

She was fatigued from her labors, but pleased with her progress. Icicles embellished all the woodwork and doorways, and ice sheets covered each of the walls.

Yet then she frowned. The glazed walls looked faceless, the flawless ice seeming barren to her.

Those unbroken sheets bothered her, like an off smell or a discordant sound would. And the irritation was sharp, as strong as the pull she'd been feeling to this place.

She rose and crossed to the bedroom window, looking at the dark woods surrounding the lodge, then back inside at the walls. Out, then in. Wrong.

Unable to stand it any longer, she fashioned a spear of ice, galvanizing it with layer after layer, honing it.

Once finished, she took her makeshift chisel to the wall, stabbing the glaze. Then again. And again, until peculiar markings began to take shape.

Murdoch would not return to Siberia. I've made it seven days, I can make it seven more.

He'd finished chasing his leads for the night, and dawn was approaching - Lukyan and Rurik had already returned to Mount Oblak.

But it would be dark in Siberia.

Lulls in action were dangerous for Murdoch. They made the temptation to return to Daniela harder to resist.

No, he refused. Because of the blooding, he was just supposed to succumb? To tolerate this total loss of power? Welcome a complete personality rewrite?

He was determined not to go to her like some lovesick lad, especially since she obviously couldn't have cared less when he'd been about to leave that last night. And she hadn't called him once.

Part of him resented how easily she'd manipulated him. Another part resented her encroachment. But that didn't mean he had bachelor's panic, as she'd accused - which, he'd noted, handily placed all the blame on him for this, while ignoring the difficulties she presented as a Bride.

In any case, if a woman's toothbrush was this age's symbol of female encroachment, try two stuffed suitcases.

So for the last week, he'd kept himself occupied, endeavoring not to think of her at all. With Lukyan and Rurik, he'd been following the leads she'd helped generate, closing in on Ivo with each one. He'd tried repeatedly to see Nikolai, but his brother was usually... engaged with Myst.

During this time, Murdoch went to bed exhausted every day, hoping that he wouldn't dream of Daniela. But he always did. And each time, that strange voice asked: What would you sacrifice? What would you do for her?

He glanced at the lightening sky once more, feeling nearly powerless not to return to her, to check on how she was settling in, to see if he'd imagined the blue of her eyes or her crisp, clean scent.

In his homeland, the fall came with a pounding rain, scouring the countryside. Then one morning the rain would be gone, and they would wake to a white landscape. The air would be briskly clean, carrying the slight tang of the nearby northern seas.

Daniela smelled like those rare mornings. The ones he had never forgotten.

Wait - maybe she hadn't been able to recall his number. What if she'd wanted to contact him but couldn't? He should go just to check on her. Yes, to make sure she had everything she needed. He traced back to the lodge.

Murdoch's jaw went slack at the scene that greeted him.

The windows were all open and ice was... everywhere. She'd spun it all over the manor like a spider spins a web.

He'd been raised on the Baltic in the seventeen hundreds. Keeping a home warm had been paramount. Yet now ice arched in the doorways, rounding out the square doorjambs. Icicles dangled from the ceiling and descended from the windows like curtains. The walls were covered in a white glaze, and she'd carved primitive-looking symbols into the ice.

She had no right. Bachelors panicked over a toothbrush? Try having an otherworldly female leave a permanent ice storm in one's hunting lodge.

Who wouldn't panic?

And she was nowhere to be found. As he stalked from one empty room to the next, the level of disappointment he felt both staggered and perplexed him.

When he reached his bedroom, he saw that she'd been sleeping there - she'd stripped the bed of all its blankets. Why would she stay here and not in the room where he'd initially put her bags?

She's been sleeping in my bed? That knowledge did something to him, touching some dark, primal drive within him. The thought of keeping his female protected within his property, in a stronghold won by his sword... aroused him.

Sleeping in my bed.

He gave himself a shake, then turned to one of her unpacked suitcases, finding a couple of erotic novels with titles that had him raising his brows and a collection of lingerie he'd be imagining on her for years to come. He picked up one of her silk nightgowns, inhaling her scent.

Not surprising, he grew hard as rock. But his fangs also sharpened. Why was she the only one who tempted him to drink from the flesh? He'd never been tempted before her and hadn't had the slightest urge all week until now.

Setting the gown away, he opened the second bag. It was filled with containers of salt. What could she need so much of it for?

He crossed to the dresser. Atop it sat her sat-phone, which he checked in case she'd been unable to contact him. Not a chance -??fully charged, the ringer muted, the screen displaying numerous missed calls. He scrolled through her contacts, finding his number saved as VAMP PHONE. She'd could've called, but hadn't.

Tethered to the phone was a rugged-looking laptop, apparently ice-proof. At times, the world of the Lore proved boggling for him; the idea of internet capability in this lodge ranked right up there with the notion of an otherworldly ice being inhabiting it.

Once he entered the bathroom, he discovered what she used the salt for. A container was opened beside the old fashioned bathing tub. Daniela needed salt so she wouldn't freeze her bathwater. He dimly thought, No wonder she smells like the sea.

This was too bizarre to be believed...

The north wind gusted through the window, blowing snow inside. Without thought, he rushed forward to close the window, but it was frozen open.

He stared out into the harsh, wintry night. She was out there, somewhere, the little Bride he could never touch. Everything about her, about this situation, was unfathomable to him.

And all the ice was a blatant reminder that he could never drink her. You have blood lust for her. Leave this place.

His chest felt like it had a band tightening around it. He traced away, out of breath and mystified by the female living in his manor.

I'll be damned if I ever return.

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