Deep Kiss of Winter


"Murdoch used to say that women are like bottles of liquor - sample them, savor them, then discard them," Rurik drunkenly declared, his eye patch crooked.

More vampires had joined in the gaming, and they all laughed. Yet Rurik's words sounded hollow to Murdoch, hollow like the ache in his chest. What a slavering jackass I used to be.

He remembered other men slapping him on the back over his conquests. They'd been so envious of his success with women. He no longer shared their definition of success.

Rurik quieted his tone, skewering Murdoch with a look. "I wonder if he still feels the same way."

He's aware that my heart's beating. At length, Murdoch answered, "Until you meet the one woman who's meant to be yours. Then you hold on and never let go."

How well was he holding on to Daniela? I'm driving her away.

She'd been so vulnerable when she suggested they sleep through five decades. And he'd been so busy raging over the unfairness of their situation that never once had it registered what she had just offered to do for them - sacrifice fifty years of her own life.

He hadn't thanked her for her offer. He'd ridiculed her for it.

I've been such a fool. What the fuck was fifty years if they were together? She's my life now.

Clarity. His brother Nikolai had told him that love would feel different from anything he'd ever known. Murdoch concluded he was right.

I'm in love with her.

He pushed away the bottle. Go to her...apologize. He'd left her crying. He'd been such an ass, like the old selfish Murdoch who'd boasted about women being as expendable as liquor.

With that thought, the truth sank in. I'm not worth her tears.

But he could be.

He stood unsteadily, donning his coat and the obligatory gloves, then traced to the lodge. When he didn't find her inside, he started out into the still-raging blizzard, following her fading tracks.

Finally, he caught sight of movement among the thick drifts. Just as he was about to trace to her, he spotted something that defied belief. He stared in drunken shock, squinting through the flurries.

There was another male, one who looked to be of her kind, with Nordic coloring and pointed ears. He was easily as tall as Murdoch.

And Daniela was up on her toes... kissing him.

Can't be real. I'm drunk. Can't see through the blizzard. Somehow she was withstanding the male's touch, receiving his kiss. The bastard grasped her bare upper arms - with his ungloved hands. Murdoch gnashed his teeth. Skin to skin.

A jealous rage ripped through him. All the frustration he'd grappled with for months roared to life. His fangs went sharp with aggression, his heart pumping with wrath. Just when he realized he loved her, she would betray him?

The words from his dreams echoed in his mind: How badly do you want her? What would you sacrifice?

Anything, he'd do anything...

Didn't she know that she belonged to him? After tonight, she will.
* * *

This is nice, Danii thought. But it's not as I imagined it.

There was no loss of control or breathless wonder. No weakening of her knees. No lust.

Because it wasn't Murdoch.

Just as she began to pull back from Jadian, her ears twitched. Something was wrong -

Jadian went flying away from her into a tree. She blinked, struggling to get her bearings. Murdoch? He's back!

And he was seething, staring at Jadian with deadly intent, his eyes flooding black.

"No, Murdoch!" she cried. "This is Lord Jadian. He's come to offer me my crown! He's killed Sigmund. Murdoch, are you hearing me?"


"Are you drunk?"

Finally he spoke. To Jadian. "You dare touch my woman?" He launched himself at the Iceren, who eagerly met him. They clashed in the snow and howling winds, throwing punches.

Jadian was fast, skilled, and in his element, but against Murdoch's tracing and palpable fury he was no match. Until Jadian raised ice in his palm...

Oh, gods, Murdoch. "Stop! Both of you, stop fighting now!"

Jadian immediately dropped his hands. Following the order? He gritted his teeth just before Murdoch roared and swung his fist, connecting with Jadian's temple like an anvil hit. Jadian staggered.

She rushed between them. "Jadian! Are you all right?" Never taking his eyes from Murdoch, he nodded. "Stay here, please." To Murdoch, she said, "Vampire, come inside with me. Now!"

She couldn't believe she was talking like this to the drunk, infuriated vampire who'd just caught his Bride kissing a strange male. Yet when she strode toward the lodge, Murdoch did follow her, though he seemed to be getting more and more enraged with each step.

Once they were inside, she said, "This is not as bad as it looked."

"He kissed you," Murdoch grated, his eyes wild. "He took what doesn't belong to him."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your first kiss - it was mine to give you one day. But you let him."

"I just wanted to see what it'd be like," she said, repeating his words from all those months ago. "It's trivial, especially compared to what has happened tonight. Jadian has come to take me back to Icergard, to my people. They want to offer me my throne."

"And Jadian" - he sneered the name - "had to kiss you to extend the fucking invitation?"

"You have a lot of nerve to blame me for kissing another, since you did it to me."

"Before we'd become committed."

"Committed?" she cried. "You don't even know the meaning of the word! You leave me here, avoiding me, and when you do return, you're distant and preoccupied."

"You let him touch you!"

"I did, and it was nice. More than nice!" she added the lie. "But maybe you're too drunk to notice that I was pulling away from him -??because of you. I chose you, over a male I can touch! And now I see that I chose poorly. Luckily, I can rectify the situation." She held up her crown, clenched in her fist. "I'm going to Icergard with him."

Something in Murdoch seemed to snap. "No, Daniela, you're not." He stalked closer to her. "You're going to stay with me - because you are mine." Finally he was behaving like the domineering vampire. "My woman to possess, to kiss, to drink." As he stared down at her, his irises were black as night and just as fathomless. drink? "No, no. Don't, Murdoch!" But she was caught, mesmerized by the desire in his eyes. "Ah, gods..." When his gaze dropped to her neck, she knew he was going to do it.

So why am I not fighting him?

His gloved hands clamped her shoulders, squeezing them as he held her in place. His parted lips covered her neck, seeking...

Just as she cried out, he groaned and bit down. She flailed, but he held her tight. Pain seared her skin, his fangs like two brands shoved into her neck, his tongue like a flame.

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