Authors: Susan A. Bliler
Lucia limped back over to the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror, too concerned with Draken’s comments to adequately concentrate on her appearance. “Nothing could mar my beauty? My exquisite allure…my perfection?” she queried aloud.
What has come over him? One minute he’s got me by the arms and is ready to snap me like a twin and the next he’s flattering me with compliments.
Looking up into the mirror, her locked on her reflection as confusion danced across her face. Draken’s comments on her curves in the dress and her needing to be concerned of his intentions truly did concern her.
Was he serious?
A soft knock on the door and the deep voice on the other side asking if she were ready brought Lucia from her thoughts. Draken had returned to escort her to dinner, and she had been so deep in thought, that moments had passed without her being aware. Her eyes quickly scanned her reflection in the mirror. She brought her black, satin-gloved hands up behind her neck to splay her black curls around her face. Her eyes darted to the reflection of the door in the mirror as Draken opened it slightly and poked his head in.
Scanning the room, his eyes found hers in the mirror and he smiled and asked, “You ready?”
Lucia took a shaky breath, “Yes.”
At the top of the stairs, Draken bent and scooped Lucia up in his arms.
Nervously, she wrapped both arms around his neck. Both knew that she would not be able to navigate the expansive staircase.
Without effort, Draken carried her to the floor below where he continued holding her as they descended a second staircase. On the ground level, he gently placed her on the ground asking, “Are you alright?”
She found her footing and placed her cane firmly on the ground before casting him a sidelong glance. “I’m fine.”
Grabbing her free arm, he looped it through his own as they crossed a dimly lit hallway to meet two large oak doors. Draken pushed the doors open and Lucia was met with a grandeur she believed no longer existed.
The dining hall was lavishly decorated with dark burgundy carpets covering most of the dark hardwood floors. The walls were lined with large windows with heavy blood-red curtains. Framed pictures were evenly placed along the walls as well, and a long, dark-wood table sat in the center of the room with seating for sixteen. Candles centered down the length of the table lit the room, and Lucia’s scan of the table revealed three people already seated, two men and woman.
“I apologize for our tardiness, I had an extremely important business affair that required my attention,” Draken calmly stated.
As they approached the table Lucia tentatively smiled at the young couple seated closest to them, but her attention was quickly diverted to the young man across the table as he scoffed, “Oh I can see you had some extremely important business that required your…um…
Draken cast the man a dark look as he ushered Lucia to her seat before claiming his own at her side. Lucia dipped her head to hide the crimson that flared high on her cheeks at the man’s implication. Both men already seated at the table rose just as Lucia sat.
Draken who sat at the head of the table introduced her to the couple now seated across from her. “May I present Jace Hunter and his lovely wife Elizabeth. The rouge to your left is my younger brother Nikolai.”
Lucia nodded her greetings to Jace and his lovely wife Elizabeth. “That’s a beautiful gown you’re wearing.” Elizabeth was beautiful in a sky-blue evening gown that, coupled with her light blonde hair, gave the woman a youthful, innocent appearance.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth beamed, “I was just about to remark in kind.”
Lucia dipped her head in gratitude and when she turned to greet Nikolai, he quickly grabbed her gloved hand and firmly kissed the top of it. “It is truly my pleasure,” Nikolai exaggerated.
Lucia pulled her hand back just as Draken warned, “Nikolai!”
Nikolai gave his brother a sheepish grin, and focused his attention intently on his glass of red wine.
Over the course of dinner, neither Draken nor the married Hunters gave any hint as to their relationship with the Shatan family. Lucia assumed they must simply be friends, and was happy to get the question off her mind as she engaged in a delightful conversation with Elizabeth in regards to Elizabeth’s very pregnant belly.
At the most inopportune intervals, Nikolai would interject into the conversation with some sly innuendo or advance on Lucia, making her more and more uncomfortable. After each such incident, Lucia would glance at Draken to see whether he was aware of his brother’s intentions, and she was relieved to see that Draken appeared to be just as fed up with his brother’s antics.
Draken’s disapproval didn’t go unnoticed by Nikolai either, who after a particularly lewd suggestion to Lucia, received such a disapproving look from Draken, that Nikolai stood and professed that he was quite bored with all the talking and took his leave for the evening, despite the fact that only the soup had been served.
Lucia watched Nikolai stroll from the dining room, but turned her gaze away as he stopped at the dining room doors to wink at her before walking out.
Nikolai and Draken shared little resemblance, and she couldn’t help but wonder if they were truly blood brothers. Where Draken was tall with a large muscular frame, dark hair, a strong jaw line, and eyes dark as night, Nikolai was much shorter with a slighter build, sandy blonde hair, and light brown eyes. Lucia found that Nikolai’s looks were merely good looking, whereas Draken was gorgeous. Draken’s stony façade made Lucia want to break down his hard exterior and find the man within. At the realization, Lucia began choking on her sip of wine.
“Are you okay?” Elizabeth questioned with sincere concern. Lucia’s cheeks were flaming red as the implications of her thoughts set in.
Draken quickly stood to gently pat her on the back, “Are you alright? Do you need a drink of water?”
Holding a gloved hand to her mouth, Lucia shook her head and gave a raspy, “No, I’m fine.” She cleared her throat and stated, “I’m sorry. I just had a hiccup as I swallowed,” she lied, “but I’m fine.”
Draken reclaimed his seat, but kept a hand on her shoulder closest to him. She met his gaze and he asked, “Are you sure?”
The remainder of dinner passed quickly. The main course consisted of roast beef with boiled potatoes and carrots, followed by a crème brule. Following dessert, the party retired to the library for a nightcap.
As the ladies sat on a dark leather sofa in front of the fireplace, Draken and Jace spoke quietly by a window.
Sitting on the couch, Elizabeth casually asked, “So, how did you and Draken meet?”
Lucia’s mouth opened but nothing came out. Surely, she couldn’t tell the truth. The admission that,
He’s been holding me hostage for five weeks
would make them both sound insane.
Searching for the perfect lie, she was relieved when Draken’s voice came from above their heads. “We met through a mutual acquaintance”, he stated calmly as he walked from behind them to sit in one of the two empty armchairs placed on either side of the couch.
As Jace took a seat in the other after refilling his glass of brandy, Draken continued, “This acquaintance introduced us and we’ve been together ever since.”
Lucia couldn’t help but smile as Draken spoke the truth knowing it was being misinterpreted.
“That’s so romantic,” Elizabeth sighed, “I’ve always believed in love at first sight and here you two are. Draken did you know you wanted her from the moment you saw her?”
Without taking his eyes from Lucia’s, Draken’s smile faded as he repeated affirmatively, “From the moment I saw her.”
His gaze and the deception of her newly acquired friend were making Lucia extremely uncomfortable. Quickly she changed the subject, “Elizabeth, how did you and Jace meet?”
That simple question was all the fuel Elizabeth needed to throw herself into a forty-five minute dialogue on her relationship with Jace. Relieved, Lucia sat only vaguely listening, intently aware that Draken didn’t take his eyes off her for the entire length of Elizabeth’s rant.
Finally, Jace announced it was time for them to go and Lucia stood to affectionately hug Elizabeth and bid them farewell. Lucia was left alone in the library as Draken showed his company out.
Lost in her reflection of the lovely evening and the pleasant company, it was moments before she realized she’d been left alone on the main floor. With Draken gone, she quickly scanned the room for a telephone. Seeing one sitting on an end table in a corner, Lucia swiftly hobbled to it. Picking up the receiver, she dialed Warren’s cell.
The phone rang once before Warren answered, “Hello?”
Before she could respond, the line went dead. Frantically, Lucia pressed the receiver button and listened. No dial tone. Looking up, she saw Nikolai holding the end of the phone plug pulled out from the wall jack.
With an evil grin, he stepped toward her. Instinctively, she backed up until she met the wall.
“I don’t believe that Draken wants you using the telephone,” Nikolai slurred as he stepped intimately closer to her.
Wide eyed, she attempted to brush past Nikolai, but he took a side step to prevent her escape.
Fearful, she backed into the corner and stated with a shaky voice, “I’ll take up the matter with Draken.”
With the pungent smell of whiskey on Nikolai’s breath and his hands placed on either side of her head up against the wall, effectively caging her, he leaned closer until his breath tickled her side-turned cheek, “I must admit my brother has the most wonderful taste in women. If you’d like, I could assist you up to your bedchamber.”
won’t be necessary,” Draken boomed from behind a startled Nikolai.
Immediately, Nikolai dropped his hands and backed away from Lucia, “Just trying to help brother, but as you seem to have matters under control, I’ll bid you both a good night.” With that, Nikolai vanished through the library’s oak doors.
Draken crossed the room and gently pulled Lucia from the corner with a look of concern as he swept black bangs from her forehead, “You needn’t fear my brother. He knows that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated in my home.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” she muttered under her breath.
Draken’s eyes immediately turned stony, “Do you think you are so desirable that men can’t resist you? I assure you, my brother could have his choice of a great many women, he needn’t waste his time with” eyeing her up and down he spat, “used goods.”
Annoyed, Lucia pulled her arm from his grasp, “I think I would have made myself clear earlier. I do not think I am desirable. As for being ‘used goods’, my sexual history is none of your damn business! And I’ll tell you this once and for all,” she gritted as she leaned closer to him, her head tilted up to meet his steely gaze, “keep your hands
She brushed passed him and limped toward the door, but didn’t get far as Draken again grabbed her arm and quickly spun her to face him, “Listen to me you little minx, I take orders from no one. Certainly not in my own home, certainly not from a woman, and certainly not from the lover of my enemy.”
Sparks shot from her eyes as she scowled up at him. “You
keep your hands off me Draken, and I don’t know what you’ve heard about my relationship with Warren, but you’ve been misinformed.”
“You deny being his lover?”
With a wicked grin, Lucia purred, “I deny nothing, because I don’t answer to you. As you pointed out earlier today, I have no one…and
is who I answer to.”
A cough at the door ended their argument as Patrick entered and announced in an even tone, “Mr. Shatan, I’m afraid your brother has left his tub running again. The west wing is flooded, and your brother is nowhere to be found.”
Cursing under his breath, Draken picked up Lucia, who offered no resistance, and carried her up the two flights of stairs with Patrick on their heels. Barking orders to Patrick the entire way, Draken had no choice but to finish his argument with Lucia later. He placed her on her feet outside her door and left to investigate the damage caused by his brother.
With one hand on the doorknob, Lucia made to enter her room, but suddenly realized that Draken, Patrick, and Nikolai were all preoccupied. Immediately, she set out for the library’s telephone.
At the top of the stairs, Lucia removed her gloves to give her hands a better grip and placed her cane firmly under her right hand. She leaned on the stair rail with her left and using her cane to assist, she pain-stakingly descended the stairs.
Her descent was slow, but she was making progress as beads of perspiration dotted her nose. With her heart pounding, she was finally safe at the bottom of the landing where she quietly limped back to the library.
Crossing the room to the phone, she quickly plugged the cord back into the phone jack, picked up the receiver and dialed Warren’s number. The phone rang once, but no answer. A second ring sounded with still no answer. Lucia whispered, “Come on Warren, pick up!”
On the third ring a groggy sounding Warren answered, “Hello?”
“Warren! It’s me, Lucia!” she nearly shouted with excitement.
“Lucia, where are you,” Warren questioned with much less concern in his voice than she’d hoped for.
“I don’t know. I’m with Draken. Draken Shatan. I think I’m at his manor. Can you come and get me?” Lucia spoke rapidly.
Calmly Warren ordered, “Slow down, slow down. What in the hell are you doing with him? What have you told him?”
“What have I told him,” she practically shrieked, “I’m being held hostage, I haven’t told him anything. What is it I shouldn’t be telling him? Look, just come and get me.”
Warren sighed on the other end of the line, “Lucia, I don’t know where you are. You don’t know where you are. How am I supposed to come and get you? Listen, this Draken is a dangerous man…he’s a killer. Whatever you do, make him think that you and I are lovers. I can’t explain it to you right now, but him believing that we are lovers will keep you safe, I promise. He…”