Turning away from the parking lot, he strode into the building and back to his office. He snatched up the phone and hit the speed dial. Alfred Stone picked up on the first ring.
“Al, I heard her. In my head. In my fucking head, Al! What do you think that means?” he ground out as he sank down on his chair, his legs distinctly shaky.
Silence met his words. The line crackled slightly.
“Al?” Marius’s voice cracked as fear trickled down his spine.
“Your bloodmate, Marius. She’s your bloodmate.”
Alfred’s words were cool and unemotional, yet Marius found them soothing nonetheless. He closed his eyes. Alfred had hinted at Christmas about his destiny. Marius had chosen to believe that there was nothing left for him in the universe when it came to love. Alfred had told him not to worry. Now, Marius knew he was a fool for ever having doubted his friend.
“Who is she?”
Alfred sighed. “I can’t tell you. You’ll have to find out on your own.”
Marius ran his hand through his hair. “Alfred, sometimes you are such an asshole.”
“I know. And this is one of those things I just have to leave in your hands, Marius.”
Laughter lurked in Alfred’s voice, and for a moment Marius wondered if his friend knew he’d just had his dick in his hand, jerking off as he watched the woman, but then he dismissed the notion. Even if Alfred knew, Marius didn’t want to know that he knew. He felt voyeuristic enough without knowing someone had watched him watching her. At any rate, Marius knew Alfred only had his best interests at heart despite his refusal to tell him about the woman.
He hung up the phone and stared at his dark window. Who the fuck was she?
Resigned to a restless night, Marius grabbed his briefcase and suit jacket, before heading out of the office. On his way to the lobby, he passed his younger brother Colin’s assistant. Corey Green had a knowing way about him that unnerved pretty much everyone. Marius knew the man teasingly called him “The Big Fang”, but he didn’t mind. He privately thought it flattering.
His gaze flicked over Colin’s assistant, noting the slightly pointed fae ears and wide blue-gray eyes that always twinkled with good humor. Marius had never known anyone who was as happy as Corey. The aura of confidence and cheer that the wildling gave off freaked people out, including Marius. Not that he’d ever let on to anyone that Corey gave him the heebie-jeebies.
“Night, Bossman,” the wildling called out, his lips twitching into a grin as if he knew that he weirded Marius out. “Sweet dreams!”
Corey’s taunting tone gave Marius pause. For a split second, he wondered if Corey somehow knew what he’d been doing earlier, but the wildling didn’t look any different than he usually did. Dressed in khakis and a polo shirt bearing the cemetery’s logo, Corey’s clothes and expression reflected Colin’s relaxed attitude about work. As long as Corey produced well, Colin wouldn’t make him behave or wear a suit and tie. Marius, on the other hand, happened to find suits liberating. He enjoyed looking and acting the power broker.
One of Corey’s brows flicked upward as Marius continued to eye him thoughtfully. “Did you need something, sir?” he asked politely.
Marius shook himself from his reverie and decided he was being paranoid. First Alfred, now Corey. No one knew what he’d done except the mysterious woman. “No, I’m fine. But thanks, Corey. I’m heading home now. Tell Colin we’ll walk the grounds tomorrow. The weather should be perfect for a day on the lawns,” he said, his head spinning with plans to catch the woman whose thoughts had invaded his head.
Corey nodded. “Overcast. Gotcha. I’ll let Colin know. He has a lunch date with Eden but he’s free after one-thirty.”
Marius thought it strange to make a date with your spouse, but since his brother did it regularly he didn’t say anything. Colin loved his wife fiercely, and they had a great relationship. Marius was happy for both his married siblings. They’d found love with the younger brother and sister of Marius’s best friend Sean Antaeus. Eden Antaeus was the only Antaeus woman left in the black dragon clan if you didn’t count Sean’s green dragon wife Careen and their red dragon cousin Emily Delrey. Their oldest sister Diandra had taken herself off to the highlands of Scotland and left the dragon life behind.
As he got in his car, Marius’s thoughts drifted to what would make a dragon leave their clan behind. In Diandra’s case, the death of their parents had been traumatizing. Having to take over the company business had been stressful for her. Then her relationship with Sean deteriorated rapidly at the same time that she’d met her mate. And worst of all—at least to hear Sean tell it—her mate had been a werewolf.
Marius pulled out of the cemetery’s gates and headed inland to the foothills. Being a vampire, he’d always sort of lumped all shifters together. It made no difference to him if they were werewolves, werecats, dragons, or merfolk. They could all change their shape from a human form to the form of an animal. Or fish in the case of the merfolk. Despite what the movies and books said about vampires, the truth in the Darkworld was that they were not the undead and could not shape-shift into bats. The very thought of being either of those things privately creeped Marius out.
He drove down the freeway, glad the rush hour traffic seemed to be headed in the opposite direction, toward the coastline and beaches. As he drove, he realized a lot of stuff squicked him out these days. He wondered when he’d gotten so fussy and narrow minded, bordering on the neurotic. He hadn’t always been so stiff rumped, had he?
The more he thought about it, the more he saw himself as others must see him. Overly fastidious. Serious. Never smiling. Never enjoying himself. In that moment, Marius saw how incredibly unhappy he really was. His weekly golf date with Alfred and Sean seemed to be the only thing he enjoyed anymore.
He exited the freeway, frowning fiercely as he drove toward his hillside home. His dissatisfaction with life had to be obvious to everyone. No wonder they always walked on eggshells around him. Only Sean and Alfred had the balls to ever bring up his unhappy romantic past. They were the only ones to ever tell him it wasn’t important to his future.
As he pulled into the drive of his restored Victorian, Marius sighed. The sight of the gray stone exterior always made him feel content and happy. Unlike Colin who had a love of all things modern, Marius loved the past. He loved antiques and things with history. He’d always felt that he should have been born many centuries before. To him a horse was a creature of beauty and elegance, while a car was a utilitarian hunk of metal.
Parking in the garage at the back of the house, he got out and eyed his expensive hunk of metal. Colin had chosen the Jaguar for him saying it suited his image. Marius couldn’t tell the difference between a Jag and Toyota. He would have been happy with the Toyota, and his wallet wouldn’t have screamed so much at the purchase. Not that he cared about the money. On a personal level, money’s only meaning related to his comfort. If he wanted a Jaguar, he wanted to have the funds to buy it. He liked being able to do whatever he wanted. Mostly.
He entered his kitchen, his gaze taking in the gleaming granite countertops and shiny appliances. The house might look historic on the outside, but inside it had all the amenities. He enjoyed them despite his lack of enthusiasm for status symbols and modern things.
After a hot shower, dressed only in a pair of boxer briefs, his hair still damp, Marius padded barefoot down the stairs to the kitchen. He tossed a frozen gourmet dinner into the microwave and leaned against the counter, watching the plastic carton spin. He could cook, and he had groceries, but tonight he just didn’t have the patience.
He ate standing at the counter, wolfing down the meat and potatoes without tasting them. His mind kept wandering back to the sound of the woman’s voice in his head. Her sexy tone caused goose bumps to rise on his arms. For all he’d thought he’d been in love before, no woman had ever given him such a reaction.
And Alfred had been no fucking help whatsoever. The man’s job as a Magia was to assist matings. Yet he refused to tell Marius anything about the woman he’d heard in his head. What the hell was the point in holding back?
Marius tossed the plastic tray into the trash and took out a container of blood. Much as he’d rather bite someone and drink from a free flowing vein, without a mate or even a girlfriend, that wouldn’t happen, so the bag o’ blood as Colin called it was his only choice. He nuked the bag a few seconds to make it room temp then held it to his mouth.
Closing his eyes, Marius thought of the smooth skin on the neck of the woman who currently made him hotter than a two-dollar pistol. His fangs dropped. He imagined how it would feel to scrape the tender points over her flesh and sink them into the throbbing pulse of her vein…
His fangs punctured the bag and he drank quickly, assuaging the hunger that gnawed at his gut. As the hunger waned, his dissatisfaction grew. Being unhappy all the time wasn’t how he’d envisioned his life. He had pride in his work. It satisfied him and made him happy, but he couldn’t live at the office. He needed more in his life.
Going to bed at the incredibly early hour of 9 p.m., Marius lay on the soft mattress of his king-sized bed and frowned up at the moonlight dappled ceiling. If he needed more in his life, what exactly did he need? A girlfriend? A wife? A bloodmate? Every Acerbian vampire needed a bloodmate, but Marius had the niggling sense that he needed something even beyond that bond. Yet he couldn’t figure out what that something could be.