Caleb’s pilot flew Enoch to France to join Voronika and Angel. Enoch had visited every big city in the world, but rarely for fun. Usually, he was hunting a rogue vampire, traipsing through dark alleys and watching for quick movements along rooflines. This time was different. He didn’t want his girls to return to the penthouse in Three Rivers just yet. When he knocked on the door of their eighth floor suite, Voronika called, “It’s open!”
He sighed and ran a hand through his thick, black hair. She obviously felt safe here, not that a door would protect her from Samiel or rogue vampires. He turned the knob and stepped into a large sitting room only slightly less opulent than Caleb’s casino. A tall, thin man stood in its center amidst piles of clothing boxes. A young woman hovered nearby, trying not to call attention to herself.
“I brought this style in three different colors,” the man was telling Voronika as she turned in front of a large mirror, framed in gilded gold. “The low slung hips and slim fit look wonderful on your figure.”
Enoch stared. The snug, black slacks clung to her long legs and tapered at her ankles. To him, she was always beautiful, always sensual, but in these, she was a sight to behold. She turned again, noticed him, and waved him to her. She gestured to the pile of boxes and smiled. “You can hire shoppers in Paris who’ll bring clothes to your hotel.”
Long windows overlooked the street, but layers of sheer curtains blocked the sun. A perfect shopping solution for a vampire. She was wearing her blue contact lens. Her long, platinum hair fell past her shoulders, and her lush lips were brushed with glossy pink lipstick. He liked the softer look.
A pile of clothes was stacked beside Angel’s velvet-covered chair and another pile teetered next to the sofa. Enoch raised a dark brow. “I’m glad I raised the credit line on your card.”
Voronika strolled to the silk-covered sofa and settled there, pulling her long legs under her. She looked pleased with herself. “So am I. We’re having a wonderful time.”
He glanced at the boxes and laughed. “What? No jewelry?”
“I try not to be too greedy.” She raised her face for a kiss, and he crossed the room to oblige her.
Angel squirmed in her chair, then flew to him. “I’ve missed you.” She burrowed her head into his cashmere coat.
He ruffled her hair. Twelve, going on twenty, she was as close as he’d ever get to having a daughter. “I don’t know how long I can stay, but I missed you, too.”
The elegant man cleared his throat. “Have you seen enough for today?”
Enoch’s gaze returned to Voronika’s shapely legs. “We’ll take all three of these, along whatever else they’ve chosen.”
“You like them?” Voronika grinned.
The man’s eyes widened. “These are from our designer collection.”
“They must be expensive.” Enoch glanced at his mate. “Do you want them?”
Enoch handed the man his own credit card. “I missed Valentine’s Day.” He’d almost forgotten it in all the mid-February drama. “My wife doesn’t indulge often. When she does, I’m happy to please her.”
The young woman in the corner hurried forward to gather boxes and stack them onto a luggage cart. In another fifteen minutes, the purchases were made and the shopping assistants were gone.
Once they were alone, Voronika’s smile faded and she turned to Enoch. “Was it Samiel? Did you send him Home?”
Enoch noticed a cheese board and two bottles of wine on a side table. “I’ll tell you everything while I snack. We never stopped long enough to eat.” Enoch didn’t have to eat, but food was a passion of his, a luxurious pleasure. He ate and drank while he told them about Caleb and his casino.
When he finished, Voronika shook her head in disbelief. “And Caleb forgave Samiel and allowed him to stay?”
“He didn’t have much choice. He owes Samiel. When Samiel rebelled against the One, Caleb swore allegiance to him. He’d have been thrown in the pit with him and his followers if I hadn’t stopped him.” He paused, remembering the scene Caleb made afterward. “He wasn’t happy with me for that.”
“You should have let him go. Maybe the One would have left him in the pit, even after he released Samiel. Caleb’s more work than he’s worth. You still care about him more than you should.”
Enoch couldn’t explain his friendship with Caleb. It was too complicated, so he didn’t try. He changed the subject instead. “I still don’t think it’s safe for you and Angel to go home. I’d rather wait until Samiel shows his hand. Would you like to stay here longer or travel to some place new?”
“Here!” Angel cried. “We go sightseeing every night.”
Enoch hesitated. “So you haven’t seen Paris during the day. There’s no way around that. Voronika can’t go out in the sunlight, but while I’m here, I can take you while Voronika sleeps.”
Angel leaned forward, excited. “How long can you stay with us?”
“I don’t know. Until Samiel makes a move, I guess.”
Angel stared. “We can’t stay here forever. I don’t want to do all of my lessons online. I like school. I miss my friends.”
Words he never thought he’d hear from her. She’d done as little as possible in grade school. “If this stretches out too long, I’ll think of something else,” he promised. “In the meantime, let’s enjoy it.”
Angel bit her bottom lip, unsure.
Voronika had been a vampire a long time. Like him, time seemed less immediate than it did to Angel. She understood that. “We’ll get you back in your own school before March starts,” she said.
Angel’s shoulders relaxed. She wouldn’t mind missing two more weeks of school, but she didn’t want to miss much more.
Voronika gave her an approving look. “You’ll be proud of her, Enoch. Angel’s gone online and done her homework every day.”
Angel tilted a sideways smirk his way. “I’ve surprised you, haven’t I?”
She was such a smartass. He loved that about her. “I remember a time when you thought homework was for lesser mortals.”
“Still do, but you won’t pay for my new school if I don’t make decent grades, and I can’t think of a way to trick you.”
He laughed, enjoying her honesty. “You’ll thank me some day.”
Her expression said that she doubted it, but at least, sixth grade challenged her more. She enjoyed changing rooms for her classes, and her friends competed for top grades. They pushed her. That was good.
Her previous school struggled with students and families bogged down with poverty. Enoch had donated money to buy new shoes for each kid and new laptops. He’d seen the difference the extra dollars made and vowed to donate more each and every year. He’d been impressed by how hard the teachers in that building worked.
He looked at the many purchases scattered around the hotel room and shook his head. He had no qualms enjoying wealth, but if he could help eliminate poverty, he would. He looked at Angel. “What did you have planned for the rest of the day?”
“Voronika was going to take me to the indoor pool and nap in a lounge chair while I swam.”
“I’ll take you.” Enoch finished his glass of wine. “Voronika can enjoy some alone time.”
Voronika gave him a grateful smile and stretched out on the long sofa. “It’s nice having you here. We can convert back to our usual routine.” Which meant that he’d take care of Angel during the day while Voronika slept, and the girl could keep normal, mortal hours.
“When does the chef come with our supper?”
Voronika glanced quickly at Angel. “He doesn’t. He was offended by the meals that Angel asked for, said that a French chef doesn’t make hamburgers and French fries. We’ve been ordering room service.”
Enoch raised an eyebrow at Angel. “Hamburgers? You can get those at home.”
She glanced down at the floor. “His food was too fancy.”
Enoch let that pass. “Angel and I can visit the markets each day and bring food back.” If he’d rented an apartment, he could have cooked—one of his joys, but he could buy chickens, roasting on rotisseries, at the market. And there was stall after stall of fresh vegetables. “Come on. We’ll go there now and visit the pool after supper.”
Angel hurried to the door, excited. “Voronika can’t go there. They’re only open during the day.”
“That’s why the One created grocery stores,” Enoch teased, “for twenty-four-hour shopping.”
Voronika waved them away. “Have fun. Get out of here, and let me sleep.”
She sounded bored, indifferent, but both Enoch and Angel knew better. Ever since they’d taken the girl in, Voronika had pushed herself to wake up when Angel got home from school so that she could spend time with her. In Paris, she was doing her best to keep Angel’s hours. Angel didn’t realize how hard that was for a vampire, but Enoch did. She must be exhausted. He motioned for Angel to follow him, and they set off.
Angel loved the open-air market they walked to. She’d never seen anything like it. She and Enoch spent hours choosing flowers to put in vases, pastries for breakfast, desserts for supper, honeys, and breads.
For the next two weeks, they worked around a basic schedule. Enoch took Angel to the pool every morning, then they went exploring every day before they ended up at the markets. They returned to the hotel in time for supper with Voronika, and then when the sun sank, they explored a little more. Enoch had forgotten how much fun Paris could be when he wasn’t hunting rogues.
When the two weeks were up, Enoch gave in gracefully when Angel wanted to return home. He couldn’t hide her and Voronika endlessly. He still worried about Samiel, but maybe he’d misjudged him. On Caleb’s private jet, returning to Three Rivers, he decided that his fellow angel must be enjoying freedom enough to forget any ulterior motives.
It wasn’t until a month later—when Angel was starting her spring vacation from school—that he heard Caleb call for him. He sensed no danger this time, only aggravation. Enoch went out onto the balcony to connect with him. The air held the hint of spring, warm and fresh. Temperatures bobbed up and down, but winter felt like a thing of the past.
Caleb’s image hovered before him. “Samiel left the casino today. He’s decided to create his own, small kingdom. He’s surrounding himself with rogue vampires and mortals who’d like to join their ranks.”
Damn. Not the news he wanted to hear. “For what purpose?”
Caleb sighed. “I’d say that he wants to imitate the One. He wants to be a supreme ruler. He’s tired of being in the One’s shadow. That’s one hell of a lot of responsibility, but Samiel thinks it’s worth it.”
Enoch’s gaze swept the city before him—the limestone courthouse with its high dome, the restaurants, and businesses. Traffic crowded the streets. “Samiel agreed to our conditions. No one gets harmed.”
“That’s what he said.”
“I don’t trust him.” What if he snatched Voronika or Angel to hold as hostage? Or Danny and Maggie? His brows furrowed in frustration. He refused to live with constant worry, wouldn’t let Samiel make the first move. “I’m going to him. He either gives me an angel’s promise that Three Rivers and everyone in it will be safe from him, or I fight him now.”
Caleb’s image flickered—a sign of strong emotions racing through him. He’d made an angel promise to Enoch, too. He knew the consequences. “You still have people to protect, people you care about. Samiel killed the followers I held dear.”
“Most, but not all. Come with me. Make him give you a promise, too.”
Caleb turned to look at someone, and Enoch saw his chambers. A beautiful, male vampire was lying in his bed. “I’m a little busy right now.”
“Too busy to make sure Samiel doesn’t kill your new lover?”
Caleb’s blue eyes blazed. “That was a tacky remark.”
“I don’t care who you sleep with, but how many people are you willing to risk to Samiel?”
Caleb’s lips thinned to a tight line. “My jet will be in Three Rivers in two hours. I’ll pick you up.”
Enoch nodded. “Together, he won’t have much choice but to listen to us.”