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Authors: TERESA MEDEIROS

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BOOK: The Vampire Who Loved Me
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As she stopped fighting, going limp in his embrace, his head snapped back as if he’d been struck by a jolt of lightning. Portia knew she would never forget the look on his face at that moment. It was both agony and rapture, despair and joy, death followed by the miraculous flush of new life. He gasped, his chest shuddering as his starved lungs demanded their first real breath in nearly a decade.

Portia slowly rose, so mesmerized by the sight that she wasn’t even aware that all of the
French windows had flown open or that men were streaming into the ballroom through every archway and door.

She might have remained oblivious if Wallingford’s booming shout hadn’t penetrated her daze. “Unhand that woman, you monster! See! I told you you’d find him here with that Cuthbert fellow. First he burns his brother’s house to the ground and now this! Give me that bloody pistol, man, before it’s too late!”

At the exact moment Valentine crumbled to dust in Julian’s arms, a pistol shot rang out.

A pall of silence fell over the ballroom. Julian glanced down at his black shirt. An even darker stain was blossoming across the front of it. He touched his hand to the stain, then held it up in front of his eyes, blinking in wonder at the blood dripping from his fingers.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he whispered, slowly lifting his eyes to meet Portia’s. A heart-wrenching smile broke across his face. “Or maybe I won’t.”

As his knees crumpled, Portia launched herself across the landing with an anguished cry, breaking his fall with her arms. They sank to the floor together, Julian’s head cradled in her lap.

Chaos erupted on the ballroom floor below but for Portia there was nothing but this moment, this man. She pressed her hand to his chest, gazing at the blood welling between her fingers in helpless horror.

She shifted her gaze to his face, astonished by the changes that had taken place there. There were fresh crinkles around his eyes and the lines that bracketed his mouth had deepened. A few stray threads of silver streaked the dark hair at his temples. Those unmistakable signs of mortality only made him more beautiful in her eyes.

Her breath caught on a sob. “Damn you, Julian Kane! If you try to die on me now, Valentine’s wrath will be
nothing
compared to mine. Why, I’ll let them…I’ll let them read Byron at your funeral!”

His grimace of pain deepened. “You know I loathe Byron.”

“Yes, I do. Which is why I knew exactly what you were going to do when you said he was your favorite poet.”

He smiled up at her, his eyes drinking in her face. “That’s my clever girl.” He drew in a ragged
breath that escaped in a sigh. “This is very disappointing, you know. I was so looking forward to growing old with you.”

“We
are
going to grow old together!” Portia said fiercely, her fingers tangling in his shirt. “I’m going to eat too much plum pudding and get as fat as I please and nag you about your smoking. And you’re going to get gray and paunchy and crotchety and demand to know where I’ve hidden your pipe. And we’re both going to dance at our grandchildren’s weddings, even if it mortifies them.”

Julian lifted a hand to her cheek, stroking it with trembling fingers. “I never should have left you. When I think of all the wasted time…”

“Then don’t leave me now,” she begged, her tears beginning to fall like rain. “Please…” Her voice breaking, she rested her brow against his.

“Don’t cry, angel,” he murmured, urging her head up so she could meet his gaze. “You did exactly what you set out to do in that crypt. You saved me.” He pressed his other hand over hers, forcing her to feel each miraculous, shuddering beat of his heart. “Will you weep over my grave when I’m gone?” he asked hoarsely.

“Every day,” she whispered, struggling to smile through her tears.

“And if one of your suitors should give you a cat, will you name it after me?”

She nodded, no longer able to speak at all.

He gave her the crooked smile she had always loved so well, the sparkle already fading from his eyes. “I had hoped to give you my soul but I’m afraid I may have need of it where I’m going. But don’t worry, Bright Eyes. You’ll always have my heart.”

Portia buried her face against his breast, letting out a muffled wail of agony as she felt that heart stop beating beneath her hand.

The women were weeping.

Caroline and Vivienne huddled together on the hard wooden pew with Eloisa perched between them, nibbling on a string of her mother’s pearls. Larkin sat on the other side of Vivienne, squeezing her hand to offer what comfort he could.

“I never dreamed this day would come, did you?” Caroline asked her sister, dabbing at her pink nose with the monogrammed handkerchief she always carried in her bodice.

Vivienne shook her head, her big blue eyes
misting over with fresh tears. “My only consolation lies in knowing that we can be here for her, to offer guidance and advice and comfort during the difficult days to come.”

Caroline reached over and patted her hand. “It’s never easy to let go of someone you love.”

Vivienne nodded. “Especially someone so dear.”

Growing more restless by the minute, Eloisa wiggled around and climbed to a standing position on the pew. Spitting out the pearls, she studied the somber faces of the grown-ups lining the pews behind her with grave interest.

Until a man appeared in the doorway at the back of the church, his long, lean form silhouetted by the sunlight.

Chortling with delight, she held her plump little arms out to him. “Unca Jules!”

Julian came striding down the long aisle, a grin breaking over his face. He swept Eloisa up into his arms, planting a kiss on her rosy cheek. “Hello, pumpkin. Did you miss your dear old uncle?”

She nodded, resting her head on his shoulder with a contented sigh.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Caroline said,
rolling her eyes. “She just saw you at breakfast.”

Julian drew back in mock reproach. “Can I help it if I’m irresistible to the ladies? Once they’ve had a taste of my kisses, they’re never the same.”

“So I’ve been told,” Caroline replied with a teasing smirk.

Larkin drew a pocket watch from his waistcoat, frowning down at it. “Aren’t you running a bit late? We were beginning to think you’d run off to the Continent with some opera dancer.”

“I had to stay and help Wilbury oversee the icing of the cake. In case you’ve forgotten, I owe the old rascal my life.”

Larkin shook his head. “How could I ever forget? I had no idea what he was up to when he knocked Portia aside on that landing and started pounding on your chest. Turns out it was a trick he learned in battle when he was a young man. Thank God Wallingford had that surgeon on hand. If he hadn’t been able to staunch the bleeding and stitch you back together…” Although he left the thought unfinished, a brief chill seemed to touch the sun-warmed air.

One of the men in the pew behind them leaned forward, no longer satisfied with simply
eavesdropping on their conversation. “Ah, Wallingford! I hear he’s gone quite mad, you know. Keeps babbling on and on about some sort of bloodsucking monsters prowling the streets of London. Had to lock the poor bloke away in Bedlam, they did, before he did anyone else any harm.”

Larkin and Julian exchanged a hard-eyed glance, unable to completely hide their satisfaction.

The man went on. “He keeps swearing Kane here murdered some poor woman, although there was no trace of a body to be found. Wallingford can’t even get the men who were with him that night to testify on his behalf. They all swear the light was poor and they didn’t see anything until Wallingford jerked that constable’s pistol out of his hand and started firing. I’m afraid he’s going to be locked away for a very long time. But as I see it, he’s lucky he wasn’t hanged for shooting an innocent man.”

As the fellow settled back in his pew, Julian murmured, “Well, no one’s ever called me
that
before.”

He glanced toward the altar at the front of the church, where Adrian and Cuthbert were
patiently waiting for his arrival. He hadn’t been able to choose between them, so he’d asked them both to stand up for him on this day.

Cubby was fidgeting nervously with his cravat while Adrian stood straight and tall, his hands linked at the small of his back. Julian handed Eloisa back to Caroline, giving the child’s curls an affectionate rumple before moving toward the altar.

Cubby greeted him with a relieved sigh. “Thank heavens you’re here, Jules! I’ve managed to get this blasted thing into a terrible tangle!”

Julian gently pushed Cubby’s hands out of the way. It only took him two deft twists to work the cravat into a crisp knot. “There. You look quite the gentleman. Your father would be very proud of you.”

Cuthbert beamed at him. His lip was healed, but a sallow yellow bruise still ringed one eye.

Julian shook his head ruefully. “Out of all the things I had to do when I was a vampire…”

Cubby waved away the apology. “You don’t have to say it. Why, I’d let you hit me again if it meant I didn’t have to attend any more of those godawful temperance lectures!”

Giving his friend one last clap on the shoulder, Julian took his place at Adrian’s side.

Without looking at him, Adrian asked, “Have I told you lately how very proud I am of you?”

Julian slanted him a disbelieving glance. “It wasn’t so long ago that you wanted to put a crossbow bolt through my heart.”

“I missed, didn’t I?”

“On purpose?”

Adrian continued to stare straight ahead, the smile flirting with his lips reminding Julian that even though they would always be brothers, there were still some secrets neither one of them would ever confess.

“I should have shot you for keeping Wilbury stationed outside of Portia’s bedchamber every night for the past three weeks while our banns were being read.” Julian sighed. “I thought I knew what an eternity was before…”

“I’m surprised you didn’t try to sneak through her bedchamber window.”

Julian shot him a glare. “I did. But without wings, it’s not quite as easy as it looks. Especially not with a big fat rosebush planted right beneath her window.” He gave his hip a rub, his flesh stinging from the memory.

“Aren’t you the one who’s always said that anything worth having is worth waiting for?”

Julian might not have been inclined to agree with his brother if the door at the back of the church hadn’t swung open at precisely that moment. He caught his breath, an act that was still a miracle to him.

But not as much of a miracle as the woman in the doorway, the woman who had made his every dream come true.

He stood in a church, no longer banished from the presence of his family or God. Sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, warming his face and glinting off the glossy silk of Portia’s curls and the exquisite Brussels lace of her gown.

Because of her, he could sleep through the night and rise to greet the dawn. He could turn up his nose at blood pudding and order his beefsteaks charred to the bone. He could sit with his niece in his lap and teach her how to bang out the first few bars of Mozart’s “Requiem” on the piano. The only thing that remained from his lonely years as a vampire was his insatiable hunger for this woman.

She smiled at him, her bright blue eyes
sparkling with love and tenderness. She wore a snow white choker around her throat and a halo of white rosebuds in her hair, making her look like the angel she was.

His loving gaze drifted downward. She wasn’t yet carrying his child as she had been in his dream, but starting tonight he planned to devote his every effort to the task.

He knew he was supposed to wait for the bishop to bless their union, but he already felt so blessed that he couldn’t wait another minute to claim his bride. Leaving Adrian and Cuthbert to exchange a bemused glance, he strode back down the aisle, ignoring the shocked gasps that followed him.

As he swept Portia into his arms, her merry ripple of laughter rang like bells through his soul. “Why, Mr. Kane, I don’t believe you’re supposed to kiss your bride until
after
you promise to love and cherish her for a lifetime.”

He gazed down at her, lovingly tracing every dear and familiar curve of her face. He had thought she was beautiful by candlelight and moonlight, but it had taken the sunlight to reveal her true radiance. “A lifetime won’t be long enough to love you. I told you once before that
whether I was a vampire or a man, I would love you for all eternity.” He touched his lips to her brow. “My sweet…my darling…my angel…”

She drew back, scowling up at him through narrowed eyes. “If you say Prunella, we may be together for a lifetime but I can promise you I’ll make it feel like an eternity.”

“My sweet…my darling…my angel…” He tweaked the very tip of her nose, then pressed a meltingly tender kiss to her lips. “…my Bright Eyes.”

About the Author

New York Times
bestselling author TERESA MEDEIROS wrote her first novel at the age of twenty-one and has since gone on to win the hearts of both readers and critics. A two-time recipient of the Waldenbooks Award for bestselling fiction, Teresa makes her home in Kentucky with her husband and two cats. You can visit her website at
www.teresamedeiros.com
.

Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.

By Teresa Medeiros

T
HE
V
AMPIRE
W
HO
L
OVED
M
E

A
FTER
M
IDNIGHT

Y
OURS
U
NTIL
D
AWN

O
NE
N
IGHT OF
S
CANDAL

A K
ISS TO
R
EMEMBER

T
HE
B
RIDE AND THE
B
EAST

C
HARMING THE
B
EAST

N
OBODY

S
D
ARLING

T
OUCH OF
E
NCHANTMENT

B
REATH OF
M
AGIC

F
AIREST OF
T
HEM
A
LL

T
HIEF OF
H
EARTS

A W
HISPER OF
R
OSES

O
NCE AN
A
NGEL

H
EATHER AND
V
ELVET

S
HADOWS AND
L
ACE

L
ADY OF
C
ONQUEST

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME
. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

Microsoft Reader September 2006 ISBN 0-06-120734-9

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

About the Publisher

Australia

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Canada

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United Kingdom

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http://www.harpercollinsebooks.co.uk

United States

HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

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New York, NY 10022

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.com

BOOK: The Vampire Who Loved Me
5.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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