"Check mate," Giovanni said, his voice smooth.
I stared across the chessboard at him and rolled my
eyes. "There's a shocker!"
He'd beaten me three times in a row, somehow perfecting
the art of annihilating his opponents in the shortest
amount of moves possible. No surprise, he'd had almost five
hundred years to master the game of chess. I'd had less
than thirty. Guess who was better.
Twirling the end of his long, black hair, he gave me a
wicked little smile. It was entirely too sexy, as I'm sure
he already suspected. "I could let you win next time."
I had a sneaky suspicion he had tried to let me win the
last one, which had ended in much the same fashion as the
rest—me as the loser.
"Oh, yeah, I want a pity win, thanks ... but, no."
He laughed and stood with the same grace he had in all
his actions. He put his hand out to me, his gaze darting
over my body as he pulled me up to him. My long burgundy,
belled slacks gave the look of a skirt and the flow of a
gown. My overly exaggerated breasts were pushed up towards
him in the matching corset top. I looked like I could be
starring in a late night soap opera.
For the supernatural and super horny.
Giovanni glanced down at the mounds of white flesh and
bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment of my beauty. No,
I wasn't being cocky. He'd done it so many times over the
past four months that I was used to it. Trust me when I say
getting used to being treated like a queen is friggin'
The first time he'd acted like that, I'd stopped and
made a point to question his behavior. He simply explained
he was paying his respects for being allowed to be near me.
I laughed him off, thinking he was joking. I mean, come on,
who would buy that response as the right answer?
Giovanni was one I was never able to read well. I knew
all about him being a big-bad-vampire and I knew all about
his role in killing me my first time on this earth. That
was over two-hundred years ago. Wait, it gets even more
confusing. He also played a key role in saving my life on
two different occasions this time around.
Warning: Concentrating too hard on my own life could
lead to an aneurysm.
Being reincarnated was hard enough to live with. Try
adding the fact that ninety percent of the people I knew in
my past life were immortal and still around. Apparently, I
had a history, sometimes sordid, with each of them. Yeah, I
was beginning to think I'd make a great movie of the week.
If I was lucky, someone famous would play me. Doubtful
"Dance with me, Bella." He made no attempt to hide his
accent like so many vampires I know did. Giovanni had lived
most of his life in Italy and made no bones about it. He
was what he was and that was that. I admired him for it.
"Who is this?" I was curious as to what composer I was
listening to now.
"Busoni," Giovanni said, as if this one name declaration
would sum it all up for me. I smiled and gave up trying to
figure it all out. I decided to enjoy the moment. "Busoni,
had a tremendous range of expression, would you agree? Not
to the extent of many of the masters, but I enjoy him all
the same. Pity he had to die. Such a mortal thing to do."
I nodded, unsure what, exactly, I was agreeing to and
smiled again. I wouldn't know range of expression if it bit
me in the ass. I also found little shocking about his
comment on mortals dying. It was a sad truth. Giovanni was
full of many of those.
For the first time in a long time, my smiles weren't
forced. Giovanni made me happy. Italy made me happy. It
felt like home.
I let him put his hand on my waist and take my other in
his. He led us across the marble floor in such a perfect,
fluid motion that it felt as though we'd been doing it for
centuries. Perhaps we had. My memories of my past life were
sporadic at best. Whatever was happening between us seemed
My heels clicked along as I let myself be swept up in
the moment. Giovanni had a way about him. He was
sophisticated, yet full of humor and charm. He was so very
different from the men I'd left behind four months earlier.
He was also a great deal more dangerous. Maybe that was
part of the lure.
He spun me around and around. Lifting me off my feet, he
continued around once more before setting me back down
gently. When he was finished, I was left dizzy, breathless,
and clinging to him. I knew he enjoyed being this close to
me. I enjoyed it, too. More than I should but it was hard
not to appreciate the feel of his toned body pressed to
mine. We'd been staying together for the last fourteen
weeks and in that time he and I had never had sex or even
shared a kiss. Horny didn't even begin to cover my body at
There's only so much Italian stallion a gal can take
before she's biting her lip and thinking of easing her own
Giovanni was turning out to be someone I enjoyed
spending time with. He'd been gracious enough to take me
away from the chaos of my father's--King Kerrigan, Leader
of the Dark Realm--home. My father had been well meaning in
his attempts at throwing an extravagant engagement party
for me, but he hadn't been aware that circumstances had
changed. Caleb, the man I had agreed to marry, and I had
had a falling out. My father especially liked Caleb,
because he, like me, is a faerie. Being intimate with a
faerie is a feeling that cannot be duplicated even with the
most loving of partners. As much as Caleb and I seemed
perfect for each other, the engagement went sour fast. He'd
been running around town with other women and I'd been
sleeping with other men. One man in particular that I'd
chosen to share myself with had upset him—Pallo
Pallo happened to be a master vampire and longtime on
and off again boyfriend of mine. Did I forget to mention
that Giovanni sired him? You know what they say about the
webs we weave.
"What would you like to do today, Bella?"
Giovanni had made sure to set it up so that I didn't
have to do anything on my own if I didn't want to. It
sounded very glamorous in the beginning, until two women
showed up in my bathroom trying to clean me. I had had to
draw the line and set limits then. After a two hour limit
setting session Giovanni seemed to understand I didn't mind
living my own life or bathing myself.
"I don't care. You decide."
"My dear, Bella, everyday it is the same. I ask what you
want and you volley it back to me."
"Volley? My, aren't we the hip vamp? Are you taking
notes on how to sound like you come from this century?" I
batted my lashes. "Oh, I want to see them."
His smile widened. "Shall we try horseback riding again?"
I let out a long, exasperated breath. "The horses are
scared to death of you. Why don't you get some sort of
demon-breed? Maybe they'd be less skittish." The last time
we'd attempted to go for a ride Giovanni had sent the
horses into a dither. They were beside themselves with
fear. They could sense he was a vampire and they were not
cool with that. Hell, I wasn't always cool with it either.
Couldn't really blame the things. Our planned night out
ended up with me coaxing an upset horse back to its stable
while trying to convince Giovanni that, no, I really didn't
need his help.
"How about tennis... would you like to play?"
This was going nowhere fast. "I don't know how to play.
Maybe, if you did you could teach me."
Laughing, he threw his hands up. "Arrèndere—I
surrender. It is up to you, Bella."
"Can I ask you something?" I hedged, unsure how much I
wanted to push him because I was positive his answer
wouldn't be to my liking.
"Why is it you have a pool, a tennis court, horses and
all this other stuff if you can't, or don't want to use
A slight smile appeared on his handsome face. "I told
the people who took care of this property that I wanted it
kept up to date. They followed my orders."
"That part I get. It explains some of the stuff, but not
Coming close to me, he touched my cheek and his soft
hands ran over my skin lightly. "Bella, it is you who liked
horses. I simply continued to keep them around after you
were gone. They reminded me of you. I used to watch you
care for them and go for morning rides to see the sun come
up. Though, I was not able to accompany you due to obvious
reasons, I did so enjoy knowing you were happy."
I didn't know what to say. He'd kept a stable full of
horses around for over two-hundred years because I'd liked
them? It was too much even for me. I shouldn't have been
surprised. He'd kept a room of the house stocked full of my
old clothes. Over the years he'd picked up things here and
there that reminded him of me, even though I had been long
dead. It wasn't very endearing. It was weird.
"Giovanni, you're creeping me out again."
"I do have a tendency to do that."
A nervous laugh escaped me as I glanced around the large
sitting room. It was beautiful. In fact, it was the most
beautiful room I'd ever been in. It wasn't just that he had
decorated it in antiques that seemed very touchable, it was
how much time he'd put into every piece of furniture and
artwork that went into his home. He seemed to have a thing
for deep, rich colors in the main living area and more
subtle ones throughout the rest of his home.
My gaze wandered to the fresco of Jesus tending his
sheep. The irony of the devil having Jesus hanging on his
wall was not lost on me. A vampire with the desire to have
a holy figure depicted in his home—just another
example of Giovanni's quirks. Part of what made me like
being around him so very much. It was also something I'd
I looked back at him with a heavy heart. "I'm going to
have to go home soon."
There. I had said it out loud.
He moved his long black hair over one shoulder and began
to take his jacket off. The man wore designer suits almost
every day. I wondered if he wore designer underwear, too.
Shocked to find myself thinking about him sexually again, I
couldn't pull my eyes away as his long, pale fingers
unbuttoned one of the three buttons of the single-breasted
black jacket. He casually tossed the jacket onto the sage-
colored chair behind him. My cheeks flared red because only
yesterday I had been picturing him nude in that very chair.
The soft feel of the velvet and the ornate features matched
him, so well. Having him waiting naked in it for me seemed
like the perfect fantasy.
Giovanni was doing the most casual of things, yet I
couldn't seem to tear my gaze from him. His matching black
button up dress shirt was open, down to his mid-chest. My
toes curled at the thought of touching him. I was shaken.
I'd gotten used to looking at men bare their chests to me
since I'd known Caleb and Pallo. Caleb was a fan of the no-
shirt look and Pallo liked to show his chest off through
the wonders of designer clothing. Giovanni was a lot like
Pallo in that respect, but he seemed to think more was
better. I had seen him once in a mesh black shirt. It
showed off his tanned and toned upper body, but I'd never
seen him in anything quite that revealing again.
Moving onto my tiptoes, I tried to sneak a peek into his
shirt. He caught me doing it and smiled.
"You have only but to ask me and..."
I put my hand up to stop him from going any further. I'd
been the one to insist sex stay out of our relationship,
but being next to an Italian stud twenty-four hours a day
could make a nun second guess herself.
I'm certainly no nun.
"No. Really, I'm good. I was just wondering about
He walked over to the side table and poured two glasses
of wine, keeping his back to me. I knew it was on purpose.
His tall, toned frame and long hair made him slightly
androgynous from the backside. Thankfully, his shoulders
were wide and his face masculine or people would begin to
Giovanni turned and handed me a glass of red wine. As I
took it, my body reacted to his touch, heating, tightening,
aching for more. Yanking my hand away, I gave him a nasty
look. "I thought I told you not to use your vamp-mojo on
His black eyes softened and the corner of his mouth
dropped into a frown. "Bella, I am not using any mojo on
you. I promise you that."
If he was telling the truth, then I was in deep shit.
Having feelings for him could be deadly. I knew that for a
fact. I set my glass of wine down and walked towards the
stairs. "I need some time to myself."
What I really should have said was that I needed to put
distance between us.
He put his glass in the air and nodded to me. "Of