“I really appreciate you agreeing to have dinner with me tonight.”
“You left me with little choice,” James stated, picking up his fork and forcefully spearing a slice of cucumber. “Not only did you call my assistant on multiple occasions, but you tried to fill my office with flowers and other junk. You need to stop sending me things immediately.”
“I apologize if I’ve made you uncomfortable. I’m possibly overzealous, but I have waited over a thousand years for you.”
“Did you read the book I sent, Jamie?”
“It’s James, and no, I work for a living. I don’t have time to read books, nor do I care at all about your Council.”
It was the truth, or at least the one James wanted to believe. His curiosity was easily squelched, or so James told himself. The way the book on his coffee table beckoned to him was a secret he’d never share. Whatever attraction he felt for Nikolai had to be ignored, no matter how gorgeous the vampire was.
Nikolai frowned. “I was hoping you’d at least have read the section about mates.”
The Vampyr Lord’s persistence was commendable but annoying. James refused to give in to the newfound interest he might have about Nikolai’s world, and he wondered how the vampire could be so sure of his pursuit of James. Slapping on the stare he gave an underperforming employee, James’s gaze met Nikolai’s head on.
“Why, so I’d understand whatever relationship your butler and chauffer have? Nikolai, I’m here to tell you to stop contacting me, not because I want to be friends.”
The disappointment on Nikolai’s face was unmistakable, and James wondered why his immediate reaction was to soothe the vampire. The feeling was unexpected and unwelcome.
“I suppose there’s no delicate way to explain matebonds or Fate to a human.”
“Are you really going to try that whole line about how fate brought us together?” James asked with a forced laugh. “I didn’t expect someone as successful as you to have your head stuck in clouds. I at least expected you to have enough experience to know that tired clichés rarely work.”
“The Council of Sorcery and Shifters is comprised of races who share a single thing in common. We were granted gifts from Fate,” Nikolai explained quietly. “For some, they wield magic, or can shift into a beast. I was given immortality, the ability to teleport, and other talents. Because we live for so long, she also matches us with someone who is our perfect complement. If they find themselves willing and able to build a relationship, they bond with blood or bite, which unites them for eternity.
“There are signals to tell us when we’ve met that person. It varies but often consists of a strong scent associated with that person and instant sexual attraction. I saw the surprise on your face. I know you felt it,” Nikolai insisted, his pale eyes boring into James’s in an unwavering way that made James uncomfortable.
Was it possible for Nikolai to see through James’s hard-earned mask?
James had no idea how Nikolai knew about the roses that even at the moment he could smell wafting off the vampire, or the inopportune erection he’d had at his sister’s party, but perhaps mind reading was one of his gifts. A sense of fear swept through him at the thought of pissing off the vampire, as he had no clue what Nikolai was capable of, but he quickly dismissed it. Nothing about Nikolai gave the impression he’d lash out.
“I’m not a fan of organized religion, nor do I believe in God,” James said. “I’m not judging you because you’re a believer or because you’re part of a larger religious structure, but you can’t expect me to start a relationship with you because some book told you that you’d meet your match someday. Maybe it’s a completely legitimate foundation, but I can assure you that I’m not your perfect complement.”
“Our belief in Fate is not a religion. There is no faith necessary. I’m clearly a vampire, and I’m surrounded by happy mates bonded by blood and bite. It’s a tangible thing and is explained clearly in the book I sent over.”
“Which I already told you I’m not going to read.” The Council continued to hold no interest to a man whose life wouldn’t intersect with magickind, shifters, or sexy vampires, no matter how much they might appeal. If James kept repeating it, he’d get the courage to toss the book Nikolai wanted him to read in the trash, or so he hoped.
“I suppose it would be asking too much to expect Fate to grant me someone far less stubborn than myself,” Nikolai muttered.
For a moment James had to question whether the beautiful and enticing man was unhinged. “Have you ever spoken with a professional?”
“I’m not crazy, Jamie.”