Dracula's Secret

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Authors: Linda Mercury
hormonal teenager. She pinched the bridge of her nose. Control yourself, she warned her clit.
    Arousal wasn’t new. For Lucifer’s sake, she was over six hundred years old.
    But sex was easy to sublimate. She’d always been more violent than sexual, even as a human.
    To be Freudian about it, Eros hadn’t been on her radar. Thanatos, Death, was her companion. A response like this, after all these years, embarrassed her. She set her jaw. Sex on toast or not, she came to kill, not to tease out Lance’s spicy scent from all the others in the crowded room. An aching spot between her legs proved her a liar.
    Lance started his speech, but she refused to listen. She propped her hips against the rough plaster of the building, tucking one knee up and tipping her head back to look at the dim ceiling. No tears, she demanded of herself, even as her eyes tingled in threat.
    She couldn’t risk her secrets. Too much depended on Dracula remaining dead. She also knew damn well that lovers wouldn’t stay with a furtive, untrusting partner. How could she afford to follow this fragile, erotic promise, delightful as it was?
    The resident ghost floated past. It nodded and continued its rounds.
    Everyone Valerie loved died. Usually by her own hand.
    She had no choice. It was time to pull herself together and finally finish Radu. She silently stalked to the balcony to listen to Lance’s lion’s tongue voice capture the world.
    â€œTonight, I did not make history. Tonight, I did not change the world. I am not a hero, nor am I a devil. We are all fallible. We all suffer. All of us need a place to sleep.
    â€œTonight, I only did my duty to those who hunger and thirst, who need a place that is warm and dry. If you look into my past, and I know you will, you will see that I have done many things, for good and ill. I will tell you this now: Sometimes life lets you make up for your mistakes.
    â€œIf I have angered you with my actions tonight, I consider that the price I have to pay for the wrongs I have committed.
    â€œIf fear holds you, let it go. If fury consumes you, be at peace.
    â€œGood night.”
    At his words, Valerie’s knees, always so reliable, buckled. Silently, she landed on the floor.
    Something hot and alive kicked in her chest, almost as if she’d swallowed a rat whole instead of drinking it. She touched her curled knuckles to her breastbone, half expecting her heart to beat.
    Its stillness shocked her.
    The heat spread throughout her body, her limbs shaking uncontrollably. Her eyes itched, her throat tightened as if a garrote choked her. When she rested her head in her cold hands, her shoulders heaved. The press conference went on, but she heard no more, not even when her brother spoke and the crowds left.
    A shudder shoved her against the wall.
    If there was any mercy left in the world, she silently begged, please don’t let her fall in love. She couldn’t take it again.

Chapter 12
    July 1813
The Peninsular War
    Â 
    Vlad Dracula brooded as he kept watch over the small French campsite. The army floundered ever since Napoleon left the Spanish Peninsula five years ago. Every day, guerilla fighters and poor decisions combined to decimate the troops. The English General Wellington’s victory at Vitoria today shattered the army. Morale was in the sewers.
    Even better, Dracula had offended France’s Marshal Soult with a suggestion for a counterattack via Roncesvalles. The marshal had summarily kicked Vlad out of the army.
    Vlad eased his body onto a fallen log and set his bottle of blood and rum on the ground.
    Radu, Vlad’s own brother, had sided with the British. Vlad frowned at his dusty boots and stained uniform. And now he was dirty. It was enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. He took a slug of his sweet and salty drink. Getting drunk was the perfect solution for tonight’s disasters.
    A faint rustle disturbed the scrub beside Vlad. He turned his head

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