Book Four of the Second Billionaire Vampire Serial
After yet another series of setbacks for the billionaire vampire Dorian Thorne’s alliance, Cora Shaw struggles to regroup. She has school to attend and the wedding with Dorian to arrange–not just any wedding but a union that is to symbolize the friendship between humans and vampires. But even as she tries to balance these parts of her life, her relationship with Dorian enters more treacherous ground, and a blow to the alliance threatens all their gains.
Black is a woman on fire in this powerful, compelling and deliciously dark tale of love, murder, suspense, and intrigue! And if you can’t take the heat—-please, call the Fire Department!!
I love this series and I can’t get enough of Cora and Dorian. There are lots of plans for the upcoming big event and lots of hot steamy romance between our gorgeous vampire and his lovely young lady Cora. Just one fantastic series, so addictive, once you start, you can’t wait for the next and you never want it to end.
Oh my gosh, Matter of Time is fantastic. This is not your Twilight with the sparkling and all that other stuff. This is real deal violence, graphic situations and a whole lot of passionate romance between Dorian and Cora. I had to re-read this book again because I just couldn’t get enough of those two. This book was eclectic and totally exciting. I loved every minute of it.
“The library,” he said, and he threw the doors open.
The lights came on, and I gasped, stepping inside. Walls of books surrounded me, rising a full two stories, with a kind of mezzanine running around the perimeter of the room so the upper books could be reached. Ladders on rails leaned against the shelves at intervals, and the air was full of the smell of old paper.
I tilted my head back. The ceiling arched high overhead, classical scenes spread out across the expanses of the vaults between golden filigree. Voluptuous women cavorted with men, satyrs, animals, and cupids, while others in heavy robes struck poses amid the carnal scene.
“The nine muses,” Dorian said, following my gaze.
“I don’t think that one is a muse.” I pointed to a pink, naked woman who was falling into a flowery hillock as she coyly pretended to reject the attentions of a young man with a shepherd’s crook.
“I must admit that I was not here when the work was performed, and my instructions were interpreted most liberally.” Dorian stepped past me and shut the doors.
I giggled, counting the stately figures in the midst of the frolicking pastoral scene. They stood like stern guardians among rounded bottoms and dimpled knees. “I think all the muses are there, after all. Isn’t one of them music? She’s got a harp.”
“Love poetry,” Dorian said. “That’s Erato.”
“Well, she looks almost at home there. But the one with the globe and the triangular thing—she looks really pissed.”
“That’s Urania, goddess of astronomy,” Dorian said.
I started to giggle, and his blank stare only made me laugh harder. “I’m sorry. I’m being so immature. But her name’s Urania, so she shouldn’t look so unhappy.”
It was several seconds before Dorian’s face unfroze, and he began to chuckle.
“You’re not going to marry me now, are you?” I joked.
He smiled, catching me in the circle of his arms. “You think I didn’t know what you were?”
“I find fart jokes funny, too, sometimes,” I admitted. “I think you should know that before you say ‘I do.’ While there’s still time.”
Dorian smile faded. “I was lost the first time I kissed you. You looked at me to save you, and I would have given almost anything in that moment to be what you wanted me to be.”
I caught my breath, held by his piercing blue eyes. “You did, though. Save me, I mean.”
“But my will alone wasn’t enough,” he said. “If only it had been.” He shook his head slightly, and the smile returned as he stepped away from me. “Come this way. I’m sure I have books here that would thrill your feminine heart.”
“I have a feminine heart?” I asked.
He didn’t answer, heading straight toward a bookshelf, where he browsed for a moment before handing me a book.
“First edition,” he said.
I took it skeptically. It had a cracked leather binding, the front of it rubbed with some kind of dye until it took up a swirling pattern, the title hand-tooled in gold across a black strip on the spine. It was a rather plain book amid many other more elaborate ones, but I put my skepticism aside and raised it to read the words upon it.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE, it read. VOL I.
I almost dropped it.
“How did you know?” I demanded, holding it too tight as the surge of adrenaline and alarm slowly began to dissipate. “This is my favorite book in the entire world. How did you know?”
“You’re a twenty-one-year-old female American college student,” he said dismissively. His eyes glinted with humor. “Also, I got Clarissa to ask your best friend.”
“That’s cheating,” I accused.
“That’s smart.” He didn’t seem to attempt to hide his smugness.
Gaining control of my hands again, I cradled the book tentatively. “May I open it?”
“You may do what you wish. It’s yours.” He plucked the two other volumes off the shelf. “They’re all yours. A belated Valentine’s day present. I had forgotten that it was a tradition.”
Carefully, touching the smallest amount of the book that I could, I flipped the cover open. The pages were still soft, and I turned them with a finger only on the very edge. I flipped past the front matter. There. The first page.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife, I read.
“She might have held this,” I said, my awe creeping into my voice. “Jane Austen herself, I mean.”
“Not this one. There’s an inscription on the title page belonging to the person who purchased it, and we can trace its provenance from that point on,” Dorian said. Then immediately, he added, “I’m sorry. I should have let you have your dream.”
“No. I don’t need pretty lies to make me feel better. The reality of this is more than enough.” I flipped to the front, where I tried to make out the signature.
“The original owner is no one of importance,” Dorian said, handing me the other two books.
I closed the first volume and stacked the others on top of it, crossing to a long reading table where I carefully set them down. I didn’t trust myself to hold all three at once.
“Did you know him?” I asked.
“Her. No, I won it off its second owner in a card game in the eighteen-thirties,” Dorian said casually.
“You bet books back then?” The idea amused me.
“I’d already gone through his purse, and that was what he had left.”
“It wasn’t Jean, was it?” I asked.
He chuckled. “No, though Jean had a habit of losing—and an inability to give gambling up. Back then, all the gentlemen played at games of chance. There wasn’t much else to do but gamble, drink, race, and whore, and since one of the four had fatal consequences for me.…”
“That’s all there was to do?” I asked skeptically, flipping to the front of the book again. There on the inside cover was a library plate, yellow with age, with the name Dorian Xavier Charles Thorne under an elaborate crest of a man on horseback fighting a dragon.
“Perhaps there were a few more possible amusements,” he admitted. “But not much that caught my eye at the time.”
“This,” I said tapping the picture. “It’s everywhere. I noticed it for the first time on your boat, but since then, I’ve been seeing it everywhere. Over doorways. On the china. Even here, on the inside of your book. What is it?”
Dorian crossed to my side and leaned over. “Ah,” he said lightly. “My crest.”
“Like a coat of arms?” I asked. “‘Arise, Sir Knight of…Something!’”
“Not precisely,” he said. “It’s not heritable. It’s mine and mine alone.”
“So, why the dragon? Is that another metaphor, like the rising angel in the salon?”
“I wish that it were,” Dorian said, touching the plate softly. “Have you ever wondered why almost every culture has an image of a great, scaly beast, who either flew or lived in the earth or water?”
“You mean a dragon,” I said.
“Yes, a dragon. The Germanic peoples all knew about dragons. The Greeks did, too, as did the Chinese. Why do you think that is?” he asked.
“A Chinese dragon and a Greek dragon aren’t anything alike,” I protested.
“They are the same in the most important details. Dragons appear across time. Across cultures.”
“Are you trying to tell me that once you really did kill a dragon?” I shook my head. “Dragons aren’t real.”
His flash of a smile was without humor. “Neither are vampires. And neither are Atlantis, Avalon, Lyonesse, Buyan, Shambhala, and Mu.”
“So are you saying that those places aren’t real? Or that they are? And dragons?” I pressed, so far out of my depth that I had no sight of land.
He closed the book. “It all started with the elves. Started and ended with them. They opened the doors to other worlds and let the terrors that had chased them here in—other fae, other elves, too. We fought them back.”
“When?” I asked.
“No one knows,” he said. “Or where, before you ask. They were so strong that they almost broke apart time, and bits of the war echo across the ages.” He shut the book firmly. “That’s when I fought dragons.”
“I don’t understand any of that,” I said.
“I don’t think anyone does. There are memories that are not-memories.… We almost lost the world then, but somehow we didn’t. What I know is that we pushed them back, and we shut the door, and their terrible lands—Avalon or Atlantis or Shambhala or whatever you want to call them—are on the other side. And we swore to remember what we could. In our art. In our stories.” He shook his head.
“Is that why you don’t trust elves?” I asked. “Back on the yacht, when Clarissa came by, she told me that elves know more than anything about aether genetics—vampires and shifters and more. That they could help you with your research. But you won’t let them. You won’t let them near.”
“Elves are not to be trusted,” Dorian said flatly. “In any agreement, you end up the worse off, and you often don’t find out how until years or even decades later. But yes, this is part of the reason that vampires do not trust elves. Once, a very long time ago, they almost destroyed the world.”
“If all this happened, with dragons or whatever, where’s the evidence?” I asked.
Dorian shrugged. “Gone with the memories. So much was lost when we put the world back together again. If you look at it in some ways, it was nothing but a moment, a hairline crack in the history of the world. From other viewpoints, though, it was…everything.”
I looked around the room, and with fresh eyes, I could see elements of the crest repeated everywhere—in the rococo flourishes around the pastoral scenes in the ceiling, above the door…and I was sure in almost every one of the books on the shelves that surrounded us.
“You’ve told me about the Adelphoi and the Kyrioi and the origins of the agnates, but not about this,” I said. “It seems kind of important.” How many other things like this were there in his world? What were the secrets of the shifters or of the djinn?
“To the Kyrioi, it’s everything,” he said. “They think that the doors might open again at any moment, that Arturus the stag-headed huntsman king might come back. They believe that if they have a stranglehold on humanity, they will be best positioned to defend against it.”
“And the Adelphoi?” I ventured.
Dorian shook his head. “Human creativity works best without agnatic interference. Guns, bombs, steel. Even the most violent inventions are made best without us. We Adelphoi don’t know that the elven doors will break open again. We hope that we’ve secured them well enough that they won’t. But if they do, well, grinding human society under our boot heels won’t give us readier allies.”
I frowned. “This is like the apocalypse you’re talking about here.”
“An apocalypse that we’re unlikely to see in our lifetimes, as long as they will be,” he said. “Let’s worry about what is coming soon—if we worry about anything at all.”
“If,” I echoed. “And since when am I not worrying?”
He caught my face in both his hands and gave me a long, tender kiss. I melted into it.
“Maybe you should leave more of the worrying to me,” he murmured.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be a vampire chauvinist,” I returned. “We’re in an equal opportunity worrying relationship. Or didn’t you know?”
He picked me up so suddenly that I squealed and carried me a few feet down the long table to set me on its edge a safe distance from my new stack of books.
“I’ll never read them, you know,” I confessed.
“Pride and Prejudice? I thought you already had.” He tugged my sweater over my head.
I was determined to get him naked this time, so I worked quickly at his jacket, freeing its buttons and then loosening his tie before he could start distracting me with his kisses.
“I’ve read Pride and Prejudice. But not that copy. The first edition. And I never will. I’m too afraid of…sneezing on it or something.” I’d made it halfway down the front of his shirt, but he was already twisting my bra loose with one hand.
“Do you make a habit of sneezing on your books?” He slipped my bra down my arms, freeing it from my hands as I moved down to the next button and tugged the tail of his shirt out of his waistband.
“Mmm,” I said as his mouth found my neck. My hands were already starting to slow, the sensations that he was sending through my body scattering my thoughts. His mouth worked against my skin as his hands skimmed over my body, and shimmers of pleasure went through me, all the way down into my fingers and toes.
“Ah! Stop it!” I managed, pushing him away. “You always do this. It’s not fair. I can’t even think.”
His eyes glittered. “What would you want to think about?”
“Getting you out of those pants, for one thing,” I said.
“I didn’t hear any complaints a few hours ago.” Though his face was stern, humor teased at the edges of his voice.
“Strip,” I ordered boldly, looking up at him as I leaned back on my hands.
“Or else?” he asked.
I wriggled my shoes off my feet with my toes, then pulled off my socks, balled them up, and tossed them at him. Dorian caught them leisurely out of the air and dropped them to the floor.
“Or else nothing, and you know it,” I said. “Do it anyway. For me.”