In this scene, Portia Cabot comes face to face with Julian Kane for the first time in five years...
Bonus Sneak Peek
The Vampire Who Loved Me
He hadn't recognized her.
Julian Kane had looked right at her with the same burning dark eyes that had haunted her dreams for the past five years and betrayed nothing more than the faintest flicker of interest. Or was it annoyance?
Apparently their time together had meant so little to him that he barely remembered her. And why should he? Portia thought. In the years since he'd been gone, he'd probably had dozens—she stole a bitter glance at the blowsy brunette still clinging to his hand—no, hordes of other women only too eager to help erase her from his memory. Why should he remember one awkward seventeen-year-old girl who had blushed and stammered and practically thrown herself at him every time he sauntered into a room?
As the initial rush of hurt passed, Portia had to fight the urge to fly into a towering rage. Despite her boast to Adrian that she was no longer a child, she wanted nothing more than to toss her lovely bonnet to the floor and jump up and down on it.
"Bright Eyes?" Julian whispered, his handsome face a gratifying study in shock and confusion.
"Don't call me that," she snapped, suddenly despising the endearment. If he tried to tweak her nose, she was going to bite his fingers.
He cast a desperate glance around them, as if becoming aware of the squalor of their surroundings for the very first time. "What in the name of God are you doing in a hell like this?"
"Where better to look for a missing devil?" she retorted.
They were beginning to attract an audience. Several of the seedier-looking men were already edging nearer, almost as if they scented blood in the air.
"If the lady's lookin' for a game," called out a hulking chap with a red-veined nose and hands as meaty as hams, "I'm ready to play."
"Big Jim is always ready," someone else shouted, nudging the man next to him. "That's 'ow 'e ended up with twelve brats and only two o' them on 'is poor wife."
Raucous laughter greeted his words, but there was no mistaking its ugly undertone. As Julian dropped the brunette's hand and advanced toward her, Portia took a step backward, feeling a tiny thrill of alarm.
It seemed she had finally succeeded in getting his attention.
His stride was as smooth and lethal as any predator's. Before she could protest, he had seized her hand in a crushing grip.
"Ow!" she muttered, trying to twist away.
"Sorry," he mumbled beneath his breath, gentling his grip but refusing to yield his claim on her hand. "Sometimes I forget my own strength."
That strength was in full evidence as he swung her around as gracefully as if they were waltzing across a ballroom floor and tucked her back against his broad chest. As they faced the group of men who seemed to be rapidly devolving into a pack, Julian called out, "I'm afraid she's not looking for a game, lads. She's looking for me." He closed his hands gently over her shoulders and nuzzled her hair, his melodic baritone striking a pitch perfect note between rakish and sheepish. "And she's no lady. She's my wife."
Sympathetic groans rippled through the crowd. It obviously wasn't the first time an irate wife had marched into the club to drag her husband home. The men gazed at her with new respect, some of them even reaching up to doff their caps. But Portia was distracted from all of that by the disconcerting tickle of Julian's nose grazing her earlobe. She would have almost sworn he was sniffing her.
Determined to prove she wasn't quite as helpless—or as witless—as he believed her to be, she resisted the urge to stomp on his instep and twisted around to give him a dazzling smile instead. "When I awoke to find you gone from my bed, I couldn't help but worry, darling." She patted the ruffled shirtfront peeping out from the deep V of his waistcoat. "I know you promised me your French pox was all healed up, but you can never be too careful with those weeping sores."
The men's groans were even more sympathetic this time. The brunette gasped in outrage, then seized the sputtering blonde's hand. Both of the women went flouncing toward the stairs, shooting Julian disgusted looks over their shoulders.
Julian's eyes narrowed on her face even as he slid one arm around her waist, drawing the lower half of her body flush against his. Keenly aware of the dangerously snug cut of his trousers, she tried to wiggle an inch of distance between them, but her struggles only deepened his smirk.
"Your concern is most touching, my love," he said. "And how fortuitous that you should appear just as I was beginning to wonder where my next meal was coming from."
His lips parted, giving her a teasing glimpse of his fangs. Fangs that only lengthened and sharpened when he was hungry. Or aroused. Portia swallowed. Perhaps she had been unwise to bait him. If Adrian and Caroline were right and he had given up on the search for his soul, he was nothing more to her now than a dangerous stranger. And she was nothing more to him than a particularly juicy morsel.
She forced herself to give his chest another wifely pat, keenly aware of the rock-hard muscles beneath her gloved hand. "If you wish to play another hand of cards, sweeting, I'll hurry home and rouse the maid from her bed to fix you a midnight supper."
The corner of his mouth quirked upward in a knowing smile. "Nonsense, pet. I do believe you've roused an appetite that only you can satisfy."
His long, sooty lashes swept downward as he leaned toward her and Portia realized too late that he had no intention of tweaking her nose.
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