Chapter One

"You there!" The angry shouts rang out clearly in the night air. "Woman! Stop!"

Breathing hard because of the exertion of such heavy running, she continued to press herself onward. The three men chasing her were drawing closer with each step she took. Her sense of alarm was going completely overboard as she darted off down a side alleyway to try and escape their pursuit. Slamming into a human body as she rounder the dark corner sent herself and the stranger crashing to the pavement.

Gazing up at the man who was now trying to regain his feet, she instantly felt that the men chasing her would be a threat to him, too. Before he could stand back up, she grabbed his arm and kept him still. The men who had been chasing her rushed passed the dark alley without giving it a second thought.

"Well, this is a sight to see." Another young man slipped out of the shadows speaking the language of the country. "If you wanted to be left alone—"

"Shut it, Traian." The light brown haired man who she had fallen with responded as he brushed himself off. He glanced down at the woman still sitting on the ground and was in turn struck by her beauty. "She ran into me." She accepted his hand to help her get off the pavement. "She is quite pretty, though."

"Those men looked like hunters to me." A third man followed the second from the shadowed passageway.

"They were hunters." She responded to them in the same language they had been speaking. "They must have followed me from Germany." Seeing the shocked looks on all their faces, she felt the need to explain herself. "My mother was from Romania."

"You come across as more of a tourist than a local." The man looked her over speaking this time in perfect English. He caught a glimpse of the moon's sparkle in her deep blue eyes. "Far too beautiful to be just a local."

"Radu, we need to get back to the club before your father comes to find us." The second man who had come from the shadows, a blond with dark eyes, spoke up.

"Patience, Ivan." As imperative as it was to return to the club, there was a pulling in his heart that refused to allow him to leave her. "We should take our new friend with us, if she so desires." He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. "What do you say?"

"They won't be looking for me there."

"Let's go to drink, men!" The other two erupted into cheers and turned back to the shadows as Radu leaned in to her. "Why were those men following you?"

"Maybe I'll tell you sometime."

Radu's heart skipped a beat as her sultry whispered words graced his ears. A sweet flowery scent filled his nostrils setting his primal urges into a blazing fire. Never before had a woman caused such a strong reaction in him. There was something about this woman who seemed to fit in perfectly while being so different that he would never forget.

Silently and curiously she followed him into the shadows somehow feeling safer just knowing he was there. Fear began to dissipate as they walked the quiet alley, and her hand naturally slipped into his. It seemed as though neither of them noticed, or if they did, neither cared. Everything between them was familiar and natural.

As the pair ahead of them slowed at a barred doorway, she glanced up at the carved letters above the threshold. L'Absinthé. Absinthe. The dark gray stone walls felt familiar to her as did the presence of her newfound friend. But, she knew she had never been in the city before.

Ivan tapped on the wooden door. A small window slid open, and he whispered something to the man on the other side. Slamming the window closed, the door creaked inward. Pursing her lips together, she politely followed the men inside the shadowed club. As soon as the outside door was closed, a second door of metal was pulled open by the cloaked man.

Blasting music flooded outward through the opening accompanied by a haze of smoke and a shield of flashing lights. The crowd on the dance floor ebbed and swayed in sync with the music. A quick glance around was enough to tell her tourists barely found this place. Having never gone into a night club before, it was almost a shock to see something so bright and loud.

"New friend, Radu?" Before she had even taken in all the sights, they were standing at a bar.

"Just ran into her down the street, Dorin. Literally." A smile curled at his lips. "Four Absinthe." He turned to her and gently brushed his hand down her arm. "Ever had it before, darling?"

"No." She was still in a dazed state. "Never."

"Then make it the best quality my father has, Dorin."

The man behind the bar turned and grabbed a bottle of bright green liquid and filled four shot glasses. Pulling out a long-necked lighter, he placed four metal holders with small chunks of dough on the glasses and lit them. Each of the four took their shot into a hand and raised it in toast.

"To new friends and lasting friendships." Radu lead the toast and they all drank.

"Welcome back." Dorin spoke straight to her and bowed his head slightly as she set the glass down.

"Let's dance."

Radu whispered softly in her ear and grabbed her hand as she was still standing lost in a daze from what the bartender had said. As he lead her through the crowd and out onto the dance floor, her mind remained preoccupied. The bartender had seemed so familiar to her—just like Radu had—but she was sure she did not know him.

"You must have looked like one of the regulars."

"It felt like he may have known me."

"This is a friendly place. We all act like we know everyone." A man passing through the crowd shoved into her sending her crashing against him again. "At least I was prepared this time."

"This would be a bad place to fall." The comfort of his arms caught her senses as their lips became dangerously close.

"Here out on the dance floor it would be." The scent of her hair clouded his senses, once again spiking his inner primal desires for her. "You're an intoxicating woman." Speaking the breathy words made control even harder to maintain. "You could drive a man from all his sense and reason just by being close to him."

"You say all of this to a woman you've just met?" She wanted to believe what he was saying meant he had the same feelings she did. "You almost seem to be trying too hard."

"I will try to guess your name."

"Guess my name?" His idea made her laugh. "Do you seriously think you can guess the name of a stranger?"

"Your soul speaks to mine, stranger. She screams loud and clear that I already know everything about you I need to, I just need to read it through a kiss."

"You're crazy." Her heart was pounding rapidly.

"You doubt my abilities?" His body urged him closer to her.

"I am just curious as to how you can learn to read a kiss."

"Destiny drives us all, milady." He leaned in very close until she could feel his breath on her lips.

"Does she now?"

The heat of the moment and the closeness of his body drew her into his arms. Their lips met, hesitant at first before gaining strength and lustful power. Energy flowed through each of them as the kisses grew more frequent and needful. Urgency clouded out the raging music and thundering bass as everything else seemed to melt away from them.

The forest was flooded with vibrant orange sunlight as evening drew near. Soft fluffy snowflakes began to gracefully drift downward from passing clouds. A warm feminine hand surrounded his drawing the chill from his exposed skin. She had only been with him for a short time, but she already meant more to his future than he could foresee.

Thunder rumbled loudly amongst the branches as dark angry clouds blocked out the sunlight. A frigid wind tore through the forest and blasted against his now empty hand. A tiny metal medallion with the head of a wolf carved deep in one side hung from a black velvet cord where her hand had been. Turning the charm over, an 'A' gleamed from the other side.

"Anika." His whisper came softly from the vision.

"What did you say?" An internal alarm spiked in her stomach. "Where did you hear that?"

"It is your name?"

"Yes. Where did you hear it?" She pushed him back at arms' length to give herself some space to breathe. "Who told you my name?"

"A snowy night." He tried to recount the vision he had just seen. "The forest was dark. Something happened and you were gone." The vision had been too powerful to ignore the signs that she was a special woman. "All that was left was a medallion on a velvet cord." He noticed the velvet cord peeking out from the neckline of her shirt.

"A vision from a kiss?" Her heart was pressing her to show him the gift from her father and seek answers, but her logic sided against in.

"Your hands are cold." Touching them carefully, he noticed the dramatic temperature change. "You saw it, too, didn't you?"

"Saw what?" Anika had seen the same vision.

"No one ever sees the visions I do."

"I didn't see any vision."

"Never mind." He could see in her eyes she was trying to hide something, but he realized she would keep denying it. "It's nothing."

"I've never felt anything like that before. I've never had such a—"

"Connection with someone else?" He did not even need to look at her to know he had read her mind." Neither have I."