Book One in the Timeless Series.
Their love will be eternal, the legend says…if they survive.
Lonely and forced into a life of secrecy, four hundred-year-old Magnus finds Sian–the sexy music film producer who’s working in his house–tough to ignore. As she resists his alter ego when he invades her dreams to seduce her, her innate powers astound him and his need only grows. In dreams or reality, he’s determined to make her his. She is meant for him alone.
Independent, hard-working Sian has hopes and plans for the future that include the stately house at Darnwell. Not its aloof owner. She’s there to acquire the home for a video shoot, nothing more. By day, each layer she explores in Magnus’s grand old home with him leads her deeper into love. But by night, he seduces her in her dreams, gives her ecstasy like she’s never known. Then she learns his secret: Come the full moon, she is the only one who can control his wolf curse. First though, she has to survive it.
A teeth-rattling knock battered the door, startling Magnus awake. He hauled himself from the comfort of the wing backed porter’s chair, glanced at his watch, and exasperation rising, stalked over to open the door. A chill blast hit him. Raindrops pelted the marble tiled portico, spotting his polished shoes.
He sucked in the cold air, speechless at the sodden young woman who stood before him.
Clutching the neck of her coat and dabbing her cheek with a tissue, she seemed unconscious of his gaze. Runnels of water dripped from her brandy colored curls to form tiny puddles on the shoulders of her coat.
“Miss Armstrong?” he asked.
Her bright green eyes flashed up at him as she wiped a raindrop from the end of her nose. Once she’d flipped back her lapels, she shook her shoulders, splattering more water, and smiled with slick, pink shimmering lips.
“Mr. Johansson? Hi, I’m from Gorsewell Productions, I believe you’re expecting me. Sorry I’m a bit late. You know, you’re not on the GPS. Hell of a place to find, this, but I made it through the sticks at last.” She held out a black lace, fingerless gloved hand in greeting.
The sharp rainstorm hadn’t dampened her sultry tones. They slid over his skin to leave a wave of gooseflesh. His irritation she’d arrived over two hours late ramped up a gear. Not only was she behind schedule, but hardly his idea of an executive producer. Her disheveled, bawdy looks belonged to one of the long vanished waterside stews he’d once reveled in.
“Miss Armstrong, how do you do?” As he shook her hand, flames of sensation eddied on his skin. Her smooth, pale, lace covered flesh nestled briefly in his palm. He took his hand away, flexed his fingers to ease the scorching flickers around his hand.
“I’m fine, and yourself, Mr. Johansson?” Hoisting a large bag on her shoulder, she took a step, edging him back, allowing her to enter. The portico door slammed shut, its eighteenth-century glass rattling.
“I am quite well, thank you,” he said.
Without the buffeting wind to drain it away, her fragrance teased like an invisible mist in the air as she stepped into the hall. Sensual, like her voice, warm, feminine and appealing, the scent of her stoked the dormant need he’d squashed for decades, kindling life where none should be.
The thick, damp curls reached almost to her waist as she tilted her head back to gaze up to the gilded ceiling. “Awesome,” she murmured, and he nodded, though it wasn’t the view of the familiar ceiling prompting his agreement.
Here stood the worst surprise he’d received this millennium. But he’d spent years working to build up immunity to her kind, and this exquisite little dolly mop wasn’t about to break through his shell.
Straightening, she slid the strap from her shoulder and dumped the sports bag on the polished mahogany floor. “Is it like this throughout?”
Teeth clenched, he winced at the thought of one of the bag’s metal clips tearing into the wood, now silky smooth after restoration. Thoughtless wench.
“Yes.” He lifted the bag and set it on the marble topped hall table. “My home is over four hundred years old, a rarity which follows the Baroque style. Much of it is now very close to the original standard of craftsmanship. May I take your coat?”
He approached, and a tiny flicker appeared in her eyes. Her pupils expanded a fraction, the first step in an ancient dance, and her response thrilled him in a way it had no right to.
Miss Armstrong slid the coat from her shoulders, and his neck muscles bunched in tension. The garment, a garish neon pink darkened by rain, was lined in heavy purple silk. A lovely foil to her pale skin, more of which was revealed by the way the scarlet bolero draped down so low, exposing one naked shoulder. He’d nearly forgotten the appeal of such skin. Porcelain, yet far more delicate than the object itself, and not icy cold, but warmed with the flush of lifeblood.
He hung the coat in the vast closet, stifling the vortex she’d raised in him.
She swiveled on crimson patent, six-inch heels that could also damage the floor. They were somewhat at odds with her olive-green leggings, which ended mid calf, leaving an expanse of rain-dampened flesh. Pale flesh, spattered with tiny dark specks she must have kicked up on the cinder path while running from her car to avoid the rain.
She flipped open her bag, took out an iPad and stared around her again. “Perfect.” The word oozed from her like a low satisfied purr, and provoked his instant response.
Shock radiated through him. He wanted her, all of her. This moment, he could revel in taking her and enjoy a taste of paradise.
Swallowing his desire, he fought to master his thoughts, while she stared up at the painted panels in the interlaced plasterwork moldings above the stairs.
She must go. He’d show her the rooms he’d discussed with the owner of the company then send her packing.
An age or more had passed since one such as this had disturbed his equilibrium. A flash of need ripped through him. He’d been unprepared to receive her, hadn’t expected such a creature. What had happened in the world, he should have to deal with the likes of her?
He stepped back, turned past the tall, long case clock, and entered the main hallway, where he placed his hand on the comforting familiarity of the rosewood handrail.
This visitor dazzled like an exotic butterfly. In her thigh skimming, mustard yellow tutu with its froth of spangled lace trim, she emanated life, exhaled vitality with each breath as she stepped toward him, tilting her shapely head to view the paintings. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. Too late, he fought her careless snare, for pure unadulterated passion coiled from her.
Here walked one worthy of the chase as he’d once known it.
He gestured to the ceiling and the corridor, which led to the main rooms of the house. “I thought you would find the house suitable from the information I received when I contacted Mr. Gorsewell. I take it, he’s briefed you.”
Her concentration fixed on the ceiling, she nodded, moistening her sugar pink lips with the tip of her equally pink tongue. He glanced away, but his gaze had reached into the deep shadow of ripe cleavage revealed by her corseted bodice. An unwelcome shudder ran through him. Someone ought to explain to this little hussy how to dress for a business meeting.
He dragged his mind from her attractions. This remained business, no matter how outlandish or desirable the company’s representative might be. Commerce had always struck him as a sordid affair and until recent years, he’d rarely engaged in it. This afternoon’s only objective must be the promise of a large amount of easy money to top up his funds so he
could continue renovations on the house. The fact Miss Armstrong oozed the sex appeal of a lively whore had nothing to do with it.
Business. That’s all. He’d spent too long in control of things to let them slip now.
“Well, Mr. Johansson?” She looked over her shoulder, arched a smooth dark eyebrow, shook her small digital camera at him and followed up with an encouraging little smile. “You are going to show me around, so I can make some notes and get a few shots?” The way her lip curled up at the corner tore at him. The tiny movement invited him to so much more.
“Yes, of course. As you are so late in your arrival,” he said, unable to resist the challenge.
Yet she simply shrugged the one naked shoulder and gave him a sultry smile.
“I suggest we start in the ballroom. It’s the largest room in the house, and you might find it the thing your company wants. If you’ll follow me, Miss Armstrong.”
A pity she had to walk behind him. There would have been a kind of pleasure in watching her walk before him. The short tutu skirt would flick and entice with her swaying steps.
His effort to banish such thoughts brought a film of sweat to his upper lip. Her heels tapped a call to arms as he led her down the corridor to the double doors of the ballroom. Perhaps too busy looking at the ancestral portraits, so far, she’d not uttered a word.
He opened the doors and heard the soft catch of her breath as he ushered her through. This room instilled such reactions. How many times had he seen it? And still he marveled at the symmetry and glory of the gilded decoration.
Mirrors lined three of the walls, giving him the added discomfort of being able to view all of her as she stepped forward. The red bolero clung to her small, narrow back and enclosed the contours of her well-rounded breasts, which the tight-laced bodice did nothing to disguise. A hint of the outline of her nipples against the silken fabric made him roll his tongue against his teeth.
If he’d found her in St. James’s Square in his youthful wanderings, she’d have cost five guineas, maybe more.
“Good God, I’d not expected anything like this,” she said.
He nodded. How could she have expected perfection like this?
The panel of French windows onto the terrace did not give enough light on such a gray day. While she stood wide-eyed, he flicked on the switch so the eight crystal chandeliers sprang to golden life.
“Will this room suit your purposes?” He posed the question as she busily scribbled notes. She held the thick stylus at an unusual angle in her lace-clad hand. Long, square tipped nails, shiny with crimson gloss, sent his pulse pounding. He licked his lips and forced the ache down to a manageable level. Her visit must be a short one, for he could bear her company no longer. A flash from her small camera startled him back to her presence.
“We can get at least a half a dozen good shots in here, a masked ball type thing,” she murmured, speaking almost to herself. “Do those doors open?” She strode across the polished floor to the doors, pausing briefly to snap another photograph.
“Yes, they lead to the terrace and there are steps down to the formal gardens.” He followed her quick pace. “Would you like to see?” At last, something which gave him some illusion of a business arrangement.
She gave a little sigh, as though he were too slow to understand what she wanted. “Please, Mr. Johansson. I do have a job to do. Not that I want to make you feel as though we’ll invade your home, but I need to get the schematic for this over to Franklyn before the end of the month.” She quickly thrust one of the French windows open. He ignored her jibe, but added it to her list of imperfections. Late, dressed like an expensive trollop, she must be the most unprofessional individual he’d ever met, and appeared far too swift in her assumptions.
“Of course, Miss Armstrong, forgive me. When one has lived in a home so long, one feels every guest should be given time to enjoy its delights.”
Her eyes narrowed. The pink lips pursed, yet she nodded. “I’m sure. However, my job is to find if it’s suitable for a music video shoot, Mr. Johansson. I’m not here to assess the individual merits of your home or its decor.”
She stepped out onto the terrace, despite the rain, and made her way over to the large, ornamental terra-cotta pots standing at the top of the steps leading down to the bowling lawn. Rain drops gathered like tiny pearls on her glossy red shoes.
“These are good. I could probably use them,” she said, nodding toward the sweep of the steps and taking more photographs. “Do you have a maze?”
“No, I have never felt the need for one.”
“Pity, I could have done something with one. Never mind. Is there anything more you think would be suitable? Remember, we are looking for gothic horror, at this point. Though of course, things can change.” She headed back into the ballroom.
He followed and did his best to maintain his composure. This young woman seemed to have no qualms at suggesting his home might not suit.
“May I suggest the library?” he said as he closed the French windows behind them.
“Sure, lead on.” Her heels tapped across the floor, and he caught up to her. As they walked out of the ballroom and he led her down the corridor to the next room he believed would be suitable for the project, he noted one of his strides matched two of hers.
“Excellent. Now this is something special.” She patted the Louis XIV desk in the library before taking a shot.
“I’m pleased you approve.”
She ignored his words, took three more pictures and made notes. “I’d like to see the kitchens?”
The request startled him. “Why? You don’t intend to use them, do you?”
“Please, don’t plan my job for me. The kitchens, Mr. Johansson? Which way?”
“Very well, follow me.” Irritation prickling, he led her out of the library. Her conversation proved nil and she bordered on rude. He ought to have guessed the true magnificence of the house would be wasted on these music industry types.
They descended the green, wrought iron spiral staircase to the kitchens. The rain-dampened ringlets of hair moved as she paced quickly through the door he held for her. The image of those lustrous coils wrapped tight around his hand as he tilted her head back to taste her mouth hovered. Swiveling around to face him, she seemed to pick up his thought, and a further widening of her pupils sent an electric hot flash to his groin. She blinked slowly.
Interesting. The barrier she drew against him when she closed her eyes proved surprising. Whether she knew it or not, she’d raised her hackles. Well, that wouldn’t last long should he choose to take her.
A surge of all the needs he’d subdued through the ages rocked him. Half an hour in her company and his control could be challenged to this level of extremity? Base, lustful instincts bubbled, powerful and infuriating. He waited for her to speak, but she didn’t.
While she glanced about the room, he squashed his thoughts, and though it proved a kind of torment to do so, drank in as much detail of her dainty–though strangely clad–form as he could.
“Maybe we can use this room. Put the main lights on for me?” He did as she asked, and her smile curved her cheek. “Yes, just right. Lovely.” 12
The stylus moved quickly over the computer pad she carried as she made more notes. “Okay, last request. Master bedroom, or the one you think best for us to use. Obviously we don’t want to tear you from your bed when the film crew gets here.” A slight breathy laugh, telling him more than she’d intended, followed her words. She wasn’t immune from him any more than he was from her. She’d absorbed his need as naturally as the air she breathed.
“I’ll show you the main guest room. The master suite is not available. No amount of money could make it so.” He held her green gaze.
The soft response surprised him. Since her arrival, she’d strode through his home like an advancing army. But let her think what she would. He’d not have her prowling through his most personal space, not with an iPad in her hand. A riot of images of her naked on his bed, her pale skin flushed and rosy with desire, her glossy mouth open in pleasure, her hair a flame on his pillows, rushed through him so he nearly gave up the pretense of humanity and hauled her into his arms. The control he exerted, the result of years of practice, made his palms damp.
She needed to leave.
“This way,” he said, and led her out and along the corridors back to the central stairs.
“Do you actually live in this palace?” she asked.
“Yes, I’ve lived here for some time.” He left it at that.
“Staff?” The camera clicked again.
“A couple of dailies, housekeeper and cook. Neither is here this late today,” he said as they walked up the stairs. Her hand, long nails the same shade as droplets of sweet fresh blood, trailed along the glow of the polished banister. Incredibly provocative.
“They won’t be wanted on the days we film. The band wouldn’t like it. Everyone is vetted before they take part in a shoot.”
“I see. Will the group object to my presence in the house? I, of course, won’t disturb their work.”
“No, that’ll be fine, Mr. Johansson.”
“Here, this is the main guest suite.” He indicated the intricately carved door.
She reached out to cup the polished brass handle.
“Please, go in.” He said no more and waited for her to enter. The enticement of her fragrance had worked on him all the way here, and he wanted to memorize her true scent. He’d know her again anywhere.13
The animal stirred within. A smile curved his lips. He’d find her no matter how far away she might be, and when he did, he’d need no introductions.
Holy Angels, not now! Not again. Never!
He’d sworn it, and lived with the oath so long.
She paced about the room, nodding. “Fabulous, just the kind of thing I want. I’ll sort the right soft furnishings.” Her eyes sparkled as she took in the massive four-poster bed with its elaborate drapes, and she snapped more photographs. She tapped out a quick set of notes, and he enjoyed her concentration.
The delicate form of her features intrigued, at odds with her rather brash manner. He forced himself to observe because if he didn’t, the tortuous images of her minus her bizarre outfit might take control and he’d make them a savage reality.
A small wrinkle formed at the corner of her eye with her smile. “Okay, thanks a lot. I think we can certainly say this will be the place to shoot the Timeless film. I’ll email you with all the major details at the beginning of October, though the tech guys will need to visit before I can finalize everything.” She flipped the computer closed. “Franklyn will discuss finance with you. He supervises all that.” A little shrug of her shoulders followed, and he watched like a man starved of beauty. “I don’t ever get involved with the money side of things,” she said.
“So, when can I expect the film crew? Do you have any idea?” Soon, thankfully, she’d leave. He breathed a small sigh of relief, though he still warred with the creature within.
“End of October I would guess, maybe even Halloween. This place is perfect for it. We could have a fantastic Halloween party once we finish the shoot.”
A shiver ran over him. Impossible. Not that night, no matter by what name she called it. There could be no worse night for them to come here. He would be at his weakest, the monster as strong as it could ever be. “I won’t agree to the date.”
“Now, hold on. Franklyn said you were open to reasonable requests,” she said.
“No, Miss Armstrong, not that day, or night,” he snapped, and silenced her.
The air crackled with the challenge she stared back. But he sensed when her opposition disappeared, though he could still scent her unwillingness to acquiesce. An involuntary spasm twitched in his hand. She was so primed for the next step. But he wasn’t, never would be again. “You are ready to leave,” he said.
Her eyes flashed, widening at his tone, and for the first time since she’d stepped into his house, her composure faltered. Perhaps she’d made an intelligent perception, discovered all was not as it appeared.
“You may bring the crew in the night before or after October thirty-first, but not on the thirty-first, Miss Armstrong. I’ll show you downstairs.” A small kernel of warmth grew in him, as she compliantly nodded. He remained in command of himself and his world.
“I’ll need to arrange for the technicians to view, especially the lighting manager,” she said, hurrying after him as he strode down to the hall.
“You may email me possible dates for their visit.” Through the window, rain fell again from the lowering sky. As she zipped her bag closed, the sound dragged his gaze back to her.
Luscious, lovely, so youthful and ripe, she flaunted her vitality. The thought tore through him so he had to clear his throat.
She must leave, and now.
He helped her on with the still damp coat, and while she tugged the belt tight about her, had to resist the urge to touch it.
“Bye, Mr. Johansson, I’m sure we’ll meet again,” she said, offering her delicate hand.
The skin of her fingers, soft and supple, the warm, lace covered palm rested in his a second too long. “Goodbye,” he said with a last look, drinking in the wide, coal black pupils centered in the dazzling green irises of her eyes. A picture of them stayed with him as he closed the door behind her, and her fragrance still pooled about him.
Hunger for her rose, hot and almost unstoppable. He shook his head. “We’ll not meet again if I can help it. Not tonight, not later. Not ever would be better.”
Miss Armstrong would be forgotten, in a few weeks. Perhaps by the end of the month he’d not even remember the delicate flush on her cheek or the fiery corkscrew curls twining over her marble-pale shoulder.
Fixated as a drowning man watching a life belt drift away, he stared through the window at her shimmering crimson heels as she skittered down the driveway to her car.
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