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ForLaura, who always knows what happens next.

Chapter One

Corvinestri,Romania, 2042

Witha wary eye on the vampire across from him, Dominic raised his glassof Brunelo. “You didn’t call me all the way from Tesorojust to share a bottle of wine, Arnaud.” The trip from theHouse of St. Germain’s hidden city in Italy had not been solong or so tiring. But not knowing what such a powerful member of theTepes family wanted of him? That set Dominic on edge.

Arnaudsmiled and lifted his goblet as well “Enough small talk, then.”He took a sip of the dark wine before putting the glass aside andleaning into the depths of the sofa cushions. With one ankle crossedover his knee, he began. “I have a project for you.”

Dominicrelaxed slightly. The nobility often called upon him for his skills,some for very serious reasons, some for simple tasks. He doubtedArnaud’s would be one of the latter. “What can I do foryou?”

Arnaud’ssmile took on an unpleasantness that brought the Arnaud’s smiletook on an unpleasantness that brought the tension back intoDominic’s body. “You have turned your gift of alchemyinto something much greater than many of your house.

Howis that so?”

Dominicshrugged. “I study. I practice. I take my work very seriously.”And he was willing to use ingredients that others might considerquestionable. “I do not merely rest on my inherent abilities. Istrive to improve them.”

“Whichis exactly why I knew you’d be the right man for this job.”Arnaud picked up his glass and strode to the bar. He waved theservants away. “Leave us.” As they filed out, he refilledhis glass, then held the bottle toward Dominic.

“No,grazie.” Al he wanted was to know more about this job.

Arnaudreturned to his seat. “This task is not an easy one, I’msure. Otherwise, someone else would have already asked you toaccomplish such a thing, but I’ve heard you don’t shrinkfrom the difficult.”

Dominicraised one brow. “So much buildup.” He swirled the winein his glass, the thoughts of his past work doing the same in hishead. “What is this task?”

Arnaudhesitated, his jaw shifting as his eyes flickered silver for amoment. Whatever this was, he wanted it badly. He cleared his throat.“I wish to be able to see the sun again.”

Reliefflooded Dominic. He smiled and nodded. “That is not so hard.”

ButArnaud didn’t seem to share Dominic’s opinion. “Iwish to be able to see it whenever I desire.”

“Iunderstand. I can do this.” And he could have done it withoutArnaud’s demand for a face-to-face meeting. He stood, buttoninghis suit coat. “I will return home immediately and begin work.A few weeks, no more, and I will have something for—”

“Sit.”Silver rimmed Arnaud’s eyes. “I am not merely looking fora potion to drink or an unguent to spread over my skin. I wantsomething more permanent. More…available.”

Dominicunbuttoned his jacket and sat back down, a sense of dread rising inhis belly. “I cannot make you a daywalker permanently.”

Sittingback slightly, Arnaud splayed his fingers outward. “Of course.I understand that. We are vampires, after all.” He pinched thepleat of his trousers, straightening it. “I just want you totransform the blood of my comarré so that when I drink fromher, I have twenty-four hours of immunity.” He tipped his headand his sly, crooked smile returned. “That is all”

Aslow, simmering anger wormed through Dominic’s veins.

“Thatis all,” he repeated, not caring that his tone was less thanrespectful. “Hah. Such a small thing you ask.” He stoodand paced to the far side of the library. His temper could ruin him—he knew that—so he struggled to control the urge to lash out atArnaud’s unreasonable desires. “It is not possible.”

Arnaudlaughed. “Oh, I think it is, my dear friend.”

Theywere not friends. Acquaintances, yes, but not friends.

Notnow. “You’re asking me to change the physiology of aliving being. Permanently. So that she can act as…as…somekind of a miracle dispenser.”

Thesilver in Arnaud’s gaze tarnished. “This is a comarréwe are speaking of. Their sole purpose is to provide us with blood.

Theyexist for this. I am only asking you to enhance that blood.”

“Youunderstand nothing of the ways of alchemy.” Dominic shook hishead, Arnaud’s superiority so typical of Tepes nobles.

“It’snot a matter of pointing a finger and muttering a word. This isn’tthe dark arts of the House of Bathory; this is alchemy, anunpredictable science at best. I cannot take a frog and make itforever a sparrow. Temporarily, with the right experimentation, Icould transform it for a few hours, but it would always remain a frogbeneath its feathers. To take a human and make them somethingelse…the experimentation, the testing, the possibility thatsomething could go irrevocably wrong… No.” He threw hishands up. “I will not do this. There is no amount of money.”

Again,laughter. “You are both right and wrong. No, there is no amountof money because this job is going to be your gift to me. And, yes,you are most definitely going to do this.”

Dominicnarrowed his eyes. “I think not.”

Arnaudcasually walked back to the bar for another glass of wine. “AndI think you will because you value your life.”

“You’rethreatening to kill me if I do not agree?” The Tepes house wasknown for its bloodthirstiness, but he’d not expected house wasknown for its bloodthirstiness, but he’d not expected his lifeto be in danger over a job.

“Notkill you, no. Not directly anyway. Merely expose you.”

Achill settled into Dominic’s bones. Surely Arnaud did not knowenough to accomplish that. “Expose me how?”

“Thespecial services you offer? I’m sure the Council of Dominuswould be very interested to hear about those. How many have youturned to ash over the years? Ten? Twenty?

More?”He drained the last

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