* * * Note, This Is a previously published title that has been expanded from 20K to 38,366. Publisher and plot has changed and there are new characters added. ***
Lydia and Bjorn have a long story that will be told in later tales in this series.
Lydia Riley has managed to sever ties with her old lover and relocate to Diamond City to start a new life. Months later strong feelings for her boss, Bjorn Jensen develop and they become close. However, she's not ready to trust him with her secret and continues to deny him the truth. Between past and current threats, she realizes the odds are stacking up against her and the skeletons in her closet could cost she and Bjorn the happiness they've been waiting all their lives for.
Bjorn has fulfilled his destiny by over-seeing the wellbeing of his Dragon Lord. For centuries, he's led a lonely existence as a Protector, but now he's forced to take a long hard look at his life. The brown-eyed beauty from Moonbay City has captured his heart and soul, but there’s just a few things standing in their way of having a normal relationship. His immortality and a little curse from a shaman he encountered centuries ago.
Eventually Bjorn discovers Lydia’s past and helps her overcome an old rival. During the process, he makes a major sacrifice that could condemn him to darkness beyond the Realm of Pyreer.
Lydia Riley winced as the large Dhampir, Lars pulled her close to him as they passed a vampire while strolling down the stone steps of the opera house. She abhorred his possessive ways, and these days, his jealousy had escalated.
Warm breeze blew through her curly updo as they stood on the sidewalk, waiting for the limousine. Out of the corner of her eye she could see him staring at her.
Lars cleared his throat. “Did you enjoy the opera?”
She nodded as the limousine pulled up and the chauffeur slipped out and quickly opened the door for them. “I did,” she said in a low, unenthusiastic voice. She scuttled to the opposite side, but the Dhampir failed to keep his distance.
“You’ve been very moody lately.” Lars replied.
She gazed out the window as the limousine pulled off onto Moonbay Avenue. “Guess I’m not feeling well.”
“Tell me the truth,” He spat. “I’m tired of your lies. Isn’t there something you’d like to address?”
She turned and gazed into his eyes. “I’m sick of your jealous, possessive ways, Lars.”
“What do you mean?”
“When we were walking down the steps and passed that vampire, you pulled me close, like I was going to try and fuck him or something. You do that a lot lately.”
“His fangs were descended,” Lars said in a low, uncaring tone. “I heard his thoughts and it pissed me the fuck off.”
“Why should it even matter? I was with you. I’m not going to be with someone else when we’re together.” She massaged her temples and closed her eyes. “I can’t do this anymore,” she admitted. “I’m not a possession.”
He growled. “Aren’t you?”
Lydia gasped and set back in the plush seat. Things had to change. She’d been contemplating leaving the Dhampir for quite some time now, and he had to have known how she felt. It was no secret he could read her mind, but she was sure he was waiting for her to admit it first. That’s the kind of person he was.
“I’m not arguing with you Lars. I have a headache and you’re not helping it.” She heard him chuckle as she rubbed her temples. “I know you’ve tried controlling my mind, but I’m getting to the point where I’m strong enough to pull out of it.
He laughed. “I guess that means I’ll have to probe deeper inside your mine, my love.”
“You make me sick.” She grit her teeth looked out the window wishing she were anywhere else but with the Dhampir.
When they pulled up to the mansion, she didn’t even wait for the chauffeur to open the door. As she walked up the brick steps, she heard the Dhampir’s heavy footsteps behind her and felt his heated gaze. Her flesh pebbled and her pulse raced. She was certain the bastard was contemplating a long night of sex. But then, there was dinner. Lars enjoyed late dinners after long days of running his business. And of course, he required her companionship. He called the shots, but for months she allowed him to dictate her. Now she was simply tired of the life.
“Good evening Mr. Lars.” One of Lars’s servants greeted and ushered them to the dining hall.
“Good evening Jack.”
The table was set with a bottle of red wine, blood red candles and an exquisite smorgasbord of her favorite foods. As they settled down at the table, her stomach twisted in knots. Food was not what she desired at the moment. She wanted to be alone. Lars gazed at her as the servants dished out the food on their plates.
“Talk to me Lydia.” The large Dhampir sat back in his chair and narrowed his eyes.
She shrugged. “What do you want me to say?”
“Did you not enjoy our time together tonight?”
“Lars, it’s just—“
“You’ve been different for several weeks now. Don’t take me for a fool and tell me what’s on your mind.”
Lydia glanced across the room at the black lacquer piano, then to the servants standing nearby. Lars had been a client she’d hoped would turn into a love interest, but that was almost a year ago. Now things just weren’t working out that way. She’d always had a hard time expressing herself.
“I’m just not happy, Lars.” Who the hell was she kidding? She’d never been truly happy a day in her life, she’d been merely existing, a walking corpse just like Lars.
“Not happy?” Soulless eyes flashed in anger as the Dhampir leered at her from across the table. His squared jaw set tight, his sensuous lips curved into a frown. Nostrils flaring, he cleared his throat.
Lydia could see the vein throbbing between his eyebrows and he never took his eyes off her. She sipped her wine before speaking. She refused to allow him to scare her, which was exactly what the beast was trying to do.
“The jealousy, possessiveness. Whenever another man looks at me, you pull me close and growl, demonstrating to the world that I belong to you. I don’t like that.” she looked him in the eye and stood her ground.
“You do belong to me.” He reminded her firmly.
“Lars, I can’t go on like this.” She admitted.
“I see.” Lars sighed in agitation. “Lydia, we’ve been seeing each other how long now?”
“Almost a year now.” She shifted slightly beneath his gaze before setting the wine glass down on the red velvet tablecloth.
“You’re willing to walk away from me and all of this…finery?”
She quickly glanced around the mansion with all its authentic antique furnishings. Although she still lived in a luxurious condominium with her cousin, Dawn, she spent much of her time in the Dhampir’s home. The white marble floors with flecks of gold glinted in the candlelight and at the door next to two huge pillars stood two very competent servants who’d served them a meal fit for a king.
“You’ve treated me very well, but it’s time for me--us to move on.” Lydia reached across the table and gently laid her hand over his large pale one. A part of her did care something for him, but that wasn’t enough to make her want to stay. At this point in her life she only wanted to be alone.
He’d given her everything her heart could desire except love. She knew she was nothing more than arm candy and a warm body to sate his carnal desires and bloodlust with, nothing more. Sooner or later he’d move on, she was certain.
“I’ve told you about the undercover police posing as Dawn’s clients, Lars. We all have too much to lose, and I wouldn’t want something happening to you just because of what I used to do.”
Quickly he removed his hand from beneath hers. “Lydia, when we met, you were nothing but a whore.”
Anger rose inside her and she stood abruptly. “I don’t have to listen to this shit!” Before she could step away from the table, Lars was next to her, grasping her arm.
“You’ll listen to everything I have to say.” He bared his teeth and put his face close to hers.
She yanked her arm away, but trembled when he slowly walked around her, lightly touching her body with the tips of his fingers. What would he do to her now? She was no match for his strength. His eyes gleamed, and she realized he was getting off on her fear. Lars always liked to be in control.
“I’m not afraid of you,” she lied.
He grinned and reached out to touch a breast. Her nipple pebbled beneath his fingers and she gasped. “No, but you want me.”
“No, I don’t.” That was another lie. But she knew if they had sex, she’d feel empty on the inside. It always ended that way.
“Oh, you’re such a liar. Your breathing has changed and I can smell your arousal. If I asked you to get down on your knees right now, you’d do it.”
“Don’t be too sure of yourself.”
He was almost correct, but only if she gave in. His touch ignited something lust inside her, but it was nothing but lust. Sometimes she could barely stand him and hated his sexual control over her. These days she’d grown tired of his arrogance and didn’t understand how she could have lived with that treatment all this time. And as far as her getting to her knees, she had her dignity. This arrangement was truly was over with.
“You were nothing but a whore, fucking every unremarkable man willing to pay you five hundred for the hour,” he whispered in her ear. “How much did I give you the first time we met?”
Lydia’s anger escalated. Lars often put himself above other men. Her heart pounded as she fought to swallow the knot in her throat and her gut churned at that distant memory. When she didn’t answer, he cruelly pulled her hair and jerked her head back. She grasped the large fist and dug her nails in, but he simply laughed.
“Is that supposed to hurt?” His voice boomed around her. “Baby, you know I like pain. Please, dig harder.” She felt his cock stiffen against the small of her back.
“I hate you! Dammit Lars! I had money before we met, even had my own personal assistance business. I didn’t want for a damn thing!”
“Why did you jump at my proposal?”
“You know the answer to that,” she gasped.
Lars chuckled. “You grew tired of the business, as I knew you would. Now answer me! How much did I pay the first time we met?” His grip tightened and she swore she’d be bald by the time he was finished.
“Five thousand!” she cried out in agony. “Lars, you’re hurting me!” She dug her nails in deeper, trying to draw blood.
He shook her. “How long?”
“Five thousand for an hour! Dammit Lars, you’re fucking hurting me! Let me go.” She tried pulling away, but he held her fast. “You’re not the first client who paid me that much!”
“No, but I was the last and that’s right, I paid you very well. The first time I laid eyes on you when I looked at the website, I knew I had to have you. And I did. I bought you, Lydia. Don’t you ever forget it! I’ve given you luxuries you wouldn’t otherwise have,” He snapped.
“Lars, before I met you I knew what it was like to dine at expensive restaurants and take trips. I’ve always been wise with my money. Don’t make it sound like you’re my savior, because you’re not. I was doing just fine before I met you.”
He loosened his grip on her hair and stood in front of her as a blank look crossed his face. “And you want to leave me after I’ve treated you so well? I don’t understand why you want to throw what we have away.”
She rubbed the crown of her head. Why couldn’t the asshole see, she truly didn’t need or want him. She had, in fact enjoy him treating her like a queen. She had, in fact grown tired of the business and hoped something more would ignite between them. But it never came to pass. Although she knew the type of man he was, something inside her made her cling to him, but recently she’d come to the conclusion this was all a mistake.
“Lars, you paid me for exclusivity. You knew this was simply business, nothing more nothing less. And just for the record, I didn’t ask you to do any of those things. Seriously though, I have no problem returning everything you’ve ever given me.”
Lars shook his head. “Now why would I want to do that? Everything I’ve given you is yours to keep.” He reached for her, but she pulled away. “Lydia, don’t be like that.”
“This has to end, Lars. I’ve been feeling like this for quite some time. Something in me has changed. Everything between us is simply materialistic. You’ve treated me like a queen, but you can’t give me what I truly need.”
“And what’s that?”
“I want love, and trust. This isn’t a relationship, but an arrangement. Sometimes I find I’d rather be alone. Why can’t you understand that? Surely, you’ll replace me.”
“Ah, such exquisite beauty cannot be easily replaced.”
Lydia rolled her eyes at that little comment. “Lars couldn’t help but eyeball other women whenever they went out. Hell, she wouldn’t be surprised if he had some other honey set up on the other side of town. Whenever she looked at another man, he’d always made her pay for it—in bed.
“Don’t think like that woman. Of course I look, I’m a man and I haven’t been with anyone else since we’ve been together.”
“Dammit, Lars! I told you to stay out of my head.”
“Truthfully, I saw this all coming,” he admitted. “You thought you did a pretty good job keeping it from me, but when you’re sleeping, I could easily read your mind.”
She gasped. “Then why so pissed at me?”
“Because despite what you think, Lydia. Dhampirs are quite capable of love---only it’s a different love than what humans are used to. I do wish you’d reconsider.”
“I’ve made up my mind,” she said quickly. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Your cousin Dawn continued with the escorting even though she knew the area was hot. She knew you both were possibly being watched. I told you, sweetheart, in this line of work, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up with you.”
Lydia frowned. “Yeah, I know. Look, it’s getting late and I’d like to go home now.”
“Stay the night, maybe you’ll change your mind in the morning.”
He was convincing, but it was now or never. She had to make this change. “No, I want to be alone tonight.”
“Very well. I’ll let this go—for now. Perhaps you’ll change your mind.” He reached for her but she pulled away.
“Don’t!” Lydia picked up her black satin clutch. “I’ll send for my things.”
“Lydia, I’m a very determined man. Do you honestly think I’ll not pursue you anymore? I was determined to have you and I got you. You didn’t even have the common courtesy to tell me from the beginning. I had to go and probe your mind to find out things about you. Do you really think I’ll let you walk away so easily?”
She shrugged as she walked to the entrance of the elaborate dining hall. “What are you going to do, lock me away somewhere?”
“Don’t tempt me, little one. I’m sure finding pussy as good as yours will be quite the challenge.”
She shook her head at his arrogance and continued walking. “You’re impossible Lars!”
Before she could exit, he stepped in front of her, forcing her to look at him. “Just a question for you, babe. Why did you wait so long to call it off? I know you’ve become a master at guarding your thoughts, but you left yourself wide open while asleep.”
“I honestly didn’t know how to tell you and I’m sorry for that. Please be understanding. That’s all I want, do you think you can at least try to respect my wishes?”
“Very well. I’ll give you some time, but I’m not giving up on you completely.”
Her heart lurched. That’s what she as afraid of. She looked away, but he quickly slipped a finger beneath her chin, forcing her gaze to his. “Lars.”
The Dhampir bent down and captured her lips with a kiss that promised hours upon hours of exhilarating pleasure. Her body betrayed her and she knew it was his way of hopefully luring her back. Coming to her senses, she gently pushed him away.
“Stop with the mind controlling. I’ve made my decision.”
He smiled. “You can’t blame a man for trying.”
She felt like a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders and somehow she was free. But she knew it was temporary. Sooner or later Lars would pop back up in her life. The decision to relocate was definitely the right thing to do and she was looking forward to it.
* * *
Lars watched as Lydia strolled from view, the long red dress accentuating every curve. His cock jerked against his pants. He should have taken her at least one more time. How dare she cast him aside as though he were some busted old toy?
“Will there be anything else tonight, sir?” The servants eyed him curiously.
“Just clean up and we’re good,” he told them. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Perhaps Lydia had changed her mind. A loud buzz sounded off and he walked to the speaker and pressed the button. “Who is it?”
“Ms. Joan here to see you,” Jeeves, his butler informed over the intercom.
“Send her in.” He’d hope Joan would have held off on meeting, but apparently the viper had been casing his home, waiting for Lydia to leave.
“Well, got any good news?” Joan strolled in wearing a black suite with white pinstripes. For a woman in her sixties, she looked damn good, he thought to himself. But she was off limits. He walked over to the bar and poured them both a Scotch.
“I see my niece has finally left. Oh. Now Lars, you know I don’t do Scotch. Got any Hennessey?”
He rolled his eyes at the incessant woman. “Not at the moment. What about a Gin?”
“I guess,” Joan said in a huff. “Anyway, nice work. I know how you feel about Lydia. Thank you for helping me to chase them away. I never suspected they’d move out of the city. Hell, as it is, the brothel isn’t bringing in money like it used to.”
“Perhaps hiring women with a little more couth would help out,” Lars said sarcastically as he turned to gaze at her. “And you owe me big. I wasn’t counting on them relocating. She’s left me and it’s all your fault.”
“Yes, I do owe you. If you hadn’t put the heat on the girls like that by sending in some of your crooked cop friends, Dawn’s escorting business would still be going strong. And I’m sure you’ll have no problem with pursuing Lydia. The girl just needs a break.”
“Well, you have your daughter, Dawn to thank for continuing with the escorting. Lydia was quite content with not selling her ass, I made sure of that.”
“Aww, but tonight you’ve finally found out where you stand with my niece, hunny. I’m so sorry for that loss.”
“Sure you are.” He snapped.
“Perhaps I can spend the night—maybe help you forget all about the child. Hell, after all; she’s just a child.” Joan walked over and grabbed his cock.
“Don’t do that.” He pushed her hand away. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the manipulation of his manhood. It was just in poor taste to bed Lydia’s aunt. He did, after all have his standards. If the need would arise, he’d seek someone else out. Hopefully, he’d get the beautiful goddess out of his head by the end of the week, but he doubted that seriously.
Joan smiled, showing her perfect white teeth. “What’s the matter, having performance issues tonight?”
Lars snarled. “Don’t taunt me Joan or I just may turn my friends on you. I’ve already done enough damage where Lydia’s concerned. She’ll never forgive me if she finds out.”
“Oh stop being such a martyr. Lydia doesn’t want you anymore, accept it and move on. It’s not like you loved her.”
Lars sighed and turned his back on the annoying woman. “Joan, like me, you’ll never know what love is. Now—get the hell out.”
“No, not yet. There’s just one more thing.” Joan sauntered around, looking at the exquisite paintings on the wall.
“Now what!” He turned to look at her. She was really starting to piss him off.
“Fleur de Lis, Dawn’s catering business must be destroyed.” She grinned as she stared the Dhampir in the eye.
“Have you lost your mind? Why destroy your daughter’s business?”
“Well, that’s between me and my daughter. Now, here’s what I’d like for you to do--”
“No, you crazy woman. I’ve done my part and have no reason to hurt Dawn’s business. What gives with you?”
“So, we’re not partners?” Joan grinned.
“Joan, get the hell out or I’ll put you out myself.” His fangs descended when he became angrier. If Joan wasn’t Lydia’s aunt, he’d kill her right now.
“So now you’re turning on me? Oh, I do think you should watch your back, Dhampir.” She set the crystal glass on the counter and glared at him.
Lars struggled not to rip her head off. “Joan, you’re pushing me. Leave now before I do something we’ll both regret.”
“You’d never get away with murdering me,” she said with a laugh.
“Oh, you’d be surprised with what I can get away with. Don’t think me a fool, woman. You’re human. I don’t have to kill you right away. I’d gladly make you suffer until I grow tired of torturing you. Now, get the fuck out!”
“Very well.” She turned on her heel and exited the hall.
He continued staring at the spot where she had stood until he heard her leave his home. Manipulating Lydia the way he had almost made him ashamed. Of course, he did it all for her, or that’s what he told himself. Joan had come to him for help in eradicating Dawn’s escorting business. And it worked. At first, he thought it a blessing in disguise, but obviously Joan had other plans.
He sighed when he thought of Lydia. He never wanted to hurt her. Unfortunately he’d been fully aware of her change of feelings for him. Perhaps he wanted to get back at her, make her look over her shoulder and become a trembling mass of nerves. Maybe someday she’d return, but he didn’t believe that for a second.
But disappointment filled him. Lydia was a survivor and deep down he knew she’d never return. But she was his. He had found comfort in the doe-eyed beauty. In anger, he tightened his hand around the goblet until it shattered. “Fuck!”
He needed to keep a close eye on her, just to make sure she wouldn’t forget him. When she tired of her new life, he’d be there waiting for her.
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