A frantic mother researches her daughter’s flawed DNA in a race against time, suffering disappointment after disappointment in her search for a cure.
In this sequel to Sinners’ Opera, Morgan D’Arcy, English lord, classical pianist and vampire, finally wins his Isabeau. Six months of painful separation have eroded Isabeau’s need to remain true to her wicked bargain with the most powerful vampire in the world, Lucien St. Albans. During their estrangement, Isabeau gives birth to Morgan’s daughter, Eroica—a DarkeChilde, half-human and half-vampire, outlawed by the Vampyre Code. She loves Morgan too much to live without him and relents to his enticing pursuit, but a dangerous confession nearly shatters their idyllic existence. In a dark moment, Morgan tells Isabeau their child carries a defective gene that will cause Eroica to go mad at puberty.
Eroica D’Arcy is the subject of Isabeau’s deal with the devil. When their beautiful blonde daughter reaches her twentieth birthday, she is promised to the Dark Prince of vampires, Lucien St. Albans.
PART I: Isabeau and Morgan
Chapter 1. Beaufort, South Carolina
In six months, the pain should have subsided.
Grief and sorrow still twisted her heart. Isabeau clamped a hand to the burning in her chest and hurried through the darkness along the familiar path to the log cabin. She’d grown up in Beaufort, but it no longer felt like home.
Only the whisper of the pines broke the silence of the chill November night. Before she left the stables, she’d checked the white ceramic watch she’d bought on sale. The silver hands pointed to nine o’clock. In her jewelry box at home were countless reminders of a life lost. She never wore the emeralds, diamonds or expensive watches anymore. The jewelry he’d bought her glittered alone in the darkness.
Time had dimmed the exquisite, dreamlike happiness she’d known but not the memories.
By eight, her mother would have tucked Eroica into bed. She’d stayed too long with Bianco, grooming and petting the white stallion. On her sixteenth birthday, a transport van had delivered the answer to Isabeau’s prayers. For thirteen years, she’d begged her parents for a horse. The driver claimed that her father had won a contest, the prize a beautiful Andalusian. Bianco was the first of many mysterious gifts. For twenty-eight years, Marianne Gervase kept a secret from her daughter…and her husband. When Isabeau learned the truth, it was too late. She was already in love with her godfather.
Last month, on October 11th, a miracle was born. Isabeau intended to breast fed her little Libra, but the baby had tried to bite her nipple. Knowing who—what—Eroica’s father was, Isabeau bottle fed her daughter. As Lucien St. Albans had predicted, Eroica was a female reproduction of her father. She had his silken blond hair, his captivating blue eyes. Isabeau had rejected Morgan’s calls, hadn’t opened his emails or the snail mail letters arriving once a week. She was familiar with his iron will. In every way possible, he tried to seduce his way back into her life. If she’d heard his aristocratic voice on the phone or read the same lilting cadence in the emails, she’d have lost her battle against him.
But, God, it hurt.
The Thanksgiving holiday had raced by. After Sunday fried chicken, Isabeau returned to Charleston, she and Eroica alone in her echoing Orange Street house. She’d never accepted her friend Kirsty’s offer to babysit. Except for the hours spent at LifeGen earning their living, Isabeau hated to be separated from her miraculous child. She refused to touch the small fortune Morgan sent as child support. That money belonged to Eroica and would, one day, pay college tuition and settle her comfortably for life. She didn’t dress her daughter at the expensive children’s boutiques as her father would have done, but shopped at sensible department stores.
Isabeau’s life centered around Eroica and the genetic puzzle of nonhuman DNA. She longed for the state-of-the art lab behind Rover House, abandoned now for months. In fact, she yearned for the idyllic life she’d shared with Morgan. She’d been a princess, living in a fairytale spun by her beautiful lover. She hadn’t chosen this lonely existence. Fate and Lucien St. Albans had made the choice. The truth of freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose had been drilled into her heart. Yet, her life was in her hands now. Oh, but tonight she wished Morgan were near to whisper promises…whisper madness…into her ear.
A shadow materialized from the trees. Her heart chugged over a beat of fear. She halted in her tracks, a shiver rippling the hair at her nape. Who—what—lurked on the path ahead? Her mother wouldn’t leave the sleeping baby. Strangers failed to notice the dirt and gravel drive to the cabin. She tried to call, “Who’s there?” but her dry throat constricted.
Six months ago, Isabeau had made a bargain with the devil. Her racing heart cramped. Had he come to collect? The shadow wafted closer. Holding her breath, she retreated. Again, it moved. Too fast to be human. If the dark figure was Lucien St. Albans, she’d be lucky to escape the confrontation with her life.
“Isabeau.” The elegant voice would forever summon terror.
Dread iced her spine, her pent-up breath escaping. He would smell her fear, sense the dread pounding in her temples. Isabeau gripped her throat. How would he kill her? Rip her head from her body? Or drain her to a husk?
“Lucien, are you reneging on our bargain?” Her voice was steady when inside she trembled. “Eroica is a month old.”
The shadow coalesced into a tall man, long black hair washing over his shoulders. His black suit blended into the night, his disembodied head floating on the darkness. Soundlessly, he drifted through the whispering trees. Even the breeze died as if nature were at his command. The eerie silence played along Isabeau’s nerves. A rush of adrenaline triggered the fight/flight response, but she stood paralyzed, her hands shaking.
“I sent Morgan back to you.” The words tumbled from her, betraying her shaken feelings. “You have no claim on Eroica.”
“Eroica,” he mused. “You named his daughter after Beethoven’s symphony.”
“I thought it appropriate since her father is a world-famous concert pianist.”
“Ah,” he laughed softly. “Her father. You returned him to me with a broken heart. As you once warned, he’ll never be mine. I think he will spend eternity pining for you and…Eroica. Lovely name. He hasn’t performed in months. Did you know?”
Isabeau ignored the one-way ticket for a guilt trip. “Why are you here?”
“Don’t be afraid, Isabeau.” In his supreme arrogance, St. Albans dared to place his hand on her arm. “I merely want to see her. You will allow me to do that, won’t you?”
“No.” She shook her head, wishing she could secret her child away, but there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the most powerful vampire in the world. “I don’t want you near her. You have Morgan. Eroica is mine.”
Her empty stomach knotted. Like physical pain, the heartache knotted at the top of her ribcage. She’d driven Morgan back to being the brightest star in the parade of glitzy London nights, concert halls and regal castles. When she thought of the beautiful women who worshiped at his feet, jealousy sizzled beneath her skin. She glared at the man responsible for her wounded heart.
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