The Vampire Voss Page 1



London, 1804

“What in the dark hell is he doing here?” Dimitri, the Earl of Corvindale, set his glass precisely on the table, then adjusted it with great deliberation. He still held his cards but was no longer looking at them.

The man in question—the term “man” being a loose one, of course—had walked through the door of the hidden apartments at White’s. These rooms were reserved for Dimitri and those of his ilk, and could only be accessed by someone who knew the right thing to say.

It was more than unfortunate that the man in question knew what to say to gain entrance. It was damned annoying.

The newcomer strode into the chamber and scanned the space, which hosted fewer than a dozen occupants on a good night. He was average in height, with thick hair the color of molasses and a square, dimpled chin—both characteristics that made him very popular with those of the feminine persuasion. More than a bit of swagger colored his step, making Dimitri itch to adjust the glass again. Bloody nuisance.

“I haven’t any idea what he’s doing here,” replied his companion, Giordan Cale, looking up from his cards. His eyes had narrowed as well, and Dimitri saw the hint of red glow emanating from their pupils. He presumed it was due to the new arrival rather than a particularly bad hand. Cale didn’t have that large pile of pound notes and coins in front of him simply due to luck. “The last time I saw Voss was…hell. Must have been in Prague—sixty, seventy years ago.” Cale’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “How time flies when you live forever.”

Dimitri didn’t respond. There were days when forever was interminable. And days when he found it convenient to know he’d live forever.

Or, at least, for a very long time.

To his great irritation, at that moment, Voss made eye contact with him. Dimitri allowed a warning to flare in his own eyes then banked it. The man wasn’t worth the effort.

“I don’t believe I’ve seen the man for years m’self,” commented the third at their game of hazard.

“Consider yourself fortunate,” Dimitri murmured to Lord Eddersley as the newcomer made his way toward them.

Voss moved with what could only be described as flair and confidence. Despite his long absence, he had the right to be there, in the private, subterranean apartments at the famous White’s men’s club. The place Dimitri and his ilk considered their own, the place where it didn’t matter what they drank or how they found their pleasure. A place where they didn’t have to pretend.

Voss lifted an insouciant finger toward the footman in the corner and gestured for his drink to be brought to their table.

His arrogance made Dimitri’s grip tighten around the heavy glass, but he kept his expression passive as Voss pulled a chair over to join them. “Corvindale,” Voss greeted Dimitri by his title with a nod, then turned to his companion. “Eddersley.”

“Cale, recall Voss. Dewhurst’s heir.” Dimitri kept his tone bored. “Voss, Giordan Cale.”

“Of course Cale and I have met,” said Voss as he nodded toward the third man at the table. A curl tumbled artfully over one brow and Dimitri’s lip curled. “And, incidentally, I’m now Lord Dewhurst. Father passed on a year ago. Or so the story goes.” He gave an arch laugh and even Dimitri couldn’t resist a wry smile then.

Such was the sort of artifice to which the immortal of the Draculia were consigned. Constant lies, subterfuge and half-truths.

And, naturally, much relocating. One couldn’t stay in one place for more than three decades without facing awkward questions.

“No mourning clothing in sight,” Dimitri observed. “Tsk, tsk. Of course, one shouldn’t be surprised, knowing how that puts off the ladies.”

Voss gave him a half smile along with a flash of eye-glow as if to let him know he was fully aware how annoyed Dimitri was. “Deal me in,” he said, dropping a stack of notes onto the table.

Satan’s stones. Dimitri was about to rise and toss his own cards onto the table when Voss looked over at him.

His face had lost that languid expression, the deviltry that so beguiled the ladies—and that got him into so many difficult circumstances—dissolved.

“Sit down, Corvindale,” Voss said. This time, he showed a tip of fang. “I’ve news for you. Consider it a gift.”

Dimitri’s own fangs extended in automatic reaction to the show of provocation. “The last time you brought me a gift, you did nothing but irritate me and cost me a generation’s worth of property, not to mention my heart nearly on a stake.” And helped cause the death of a woman.

The other man smiled, though it wasn’t quite as easy, still showing just a tip of both pointed incisors. “But I thought for certain you would have forgotten that by now. It’s been nearly a hundred years since Vienna, two generations past, Corvindale. Surely you haven’t been stewing about it for all this time.”

Light, light words. But the reality was much darker. And though it had been decades, and Dimitri had come to terms with the fact that it mostly had been an accident, he still wished Voss to hell on a more than occasional basis. Nevertheless, Dimitri didn’t rise to the bait. He sheathed his fangs and hooded his eyes, although he wasn’t able to resist letting his annoyance glow from them. “Then shall we dispense with hazard and discuss your tidings?” The bored tone had returned to his voice. “Why waste a perfectly good card game.”

Voss bowed his head in supercilious acquiescence. “Your command, my lord.” He lifted the drink that had appeared a moment earlier and sipped, then nodded at the glass as if in agreement with it. “French. Been running the lines, have you, Corvindale? Or is this not from your private stock?”

The Treaty of Amiens had dissolved more than a year ago and war between England and France had flared again, making it impossible to fill one’s cellar with any French vintage or fashion. Unless one had special arrangements.

Dimitri gave him an arch glance that answered the newcomer’s question. Naturally it was from his private stock, acquired through illegal means. Not that legalities or governing bodies meant anything to any of the Draculia.

“I approve, for I drink only for pleasure tonight, Dimitri,” Voss was saying. “I fed yesterday. A lovely, very promiscuous young woman and her two best friends. A plump and generous threesome tasting of a hint of rose and coriander.” He lifted his square, dimpled chin and smiled knowingly. “Warm and delightful. And fresh.”

“Country girls, I presume?” Dimitri said coolly, although his fangs threatened to shoot to full extension. Bastard. “What a shame the bourgeois aren’t foolish enough to lift their skirts for you. All those lovely white thighs and blue blood.”

Pure red burned in Voss’s eyes, making even his dark irises glow. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to deny oneself the pleasure of a real feeding for decades. To be resigned only to a bottle of pig’s blood, or worse. It would certainly make one cold and empty. Unpleasant, to say the least. Slow. And repulsive.”

Dimitri accepted the slur; it was nothing new. The others feared him, keeping their distance, interacting with him only when necessary, pretending to be his comrade whilst whispering behind his back. Within the Draculia—those who bore Lucifer’s Mark identifying the crack in their souls—it was common knowledge that Dimitri hadn’t fed on a living human for more than two generations. He’d taken up that abstinence not long after the events in Vienna.

The exception to the divide between himself and the wary deference of the others was Voss, who had only this sort of insolence to show, and Cale, whom Dimitri considered his only true friend.

Unlike Dimitri, Voss wore his dissociation from the other Dracule like a mantle of pride—mainly because it was of his own making. Voss, now the very wealthy Viscount Dewhurst, amused himself by seeking and collecting information that could be sold or bartered and, Dimitri suspected, he did so also in order to insulate himself from the others.

Dimitri, on the other hand, didn’t care what anyone thought of him and did nothing to challenge long-held perceptions. He simply wanted to be left alone with his studies and occasionally emerge to the gentlemen’s clubs for a game of chance or a midnight horse race. Or perhaps a bout of pugilism at Gentleman Jackson’s.

“If you have news, I suggest you share it. Sooner rather than later,” Dimitri said at last.

Voss’s contemptuousness seemed to evaporate as he leaned toward him, as did the anger in his eyes. For a moment, Dimitri sensed a sort of hesitation, perhaps, or doubt, from the younger man. Younger in years on the earth by perhaps a generation, but not in physical appearance. To an ignorant mortal, the two men would appear to be in their thirties instead of well over one century old.

Voss’s fingers traced idly over the sides of his cognac glass, giving him the appearance of being relaxed. But his face was intense and his voice pitched low enough for only Dimitri to hear.

“Narcise Moldavi has disappeared.”

Next to him, Cale stilled, and Dimitri flickered a glance at his companion. The man’s face was passive, his eyes flat and dark as he lifted his glass of wine. He remained silent.

“Cezar Moldavi can’t keep control of his own sister. Why is that such great news?” Dimitri’s tone was flat and bored. Yet, his attention sharpened. He had a bad feeling about this.

Voss sipped then returned his drink to the table. “You’re not a fool. You know Moldavi will eagerly blame no one other than yourself for her disappearance. Regardless of any evidence—or the lack thereof.”

“Again, you bring me no information that I don’t already possess,” Dimitri replied, annoyed at the reminder that Cezar Moldavi continued to disfigure the face of the earth after two centuries. He forced his fingers to release the glass, slowly and deliberately. “You’ve interrupted my game for naught.”

“From the looks of it, Cale is the one with the largest pot. Perhaps you ought to thank me.” Voss settled back in his chair, once again looking like the rake he was well-known for being: heavy-eyed, half smiling, relaxed. “But here is the information you likely don’t possess.”

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