Anathema (Causal Enchantment #1) by K.A. Tucker
“Trust me,” Sofie whispered, her delicate hands sliding up Nathan’s chest to slip behind his neck.
“And if you’re wrong … ?” Nathan began but, unable to finish the sentence, his voice trailed off.
“I’m not wrong!” she snapped.
He pulled away and moved to stand before a nearby window, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Let me prove it to you.” She glided over to his side, and lifted a finger to push a stray lock of chestnut brown hair off his forehead.
But Nathan ignored the affectionate gesture, focused now on the bustling nightlife beyond the walls of his chateau. Rarely did he envy humans. Tonight, though, as he watched horse–drawn carriages roll along Paris’s cobblestone streets, carrying passengers on their way home from frivolous celebrations and too much wine, his jaw tightened with jealousy. Why couldn’t his problems be so trivial?
He saw a man stumble out of a tavern and fall to the ground in a drunken heap, directly in the path of two draft horses, and his eyes widened. The idea of witnessing a man trampled to death lifted his spirits. That human’s problem would rival his own … He gripped the window frame in anticipation, watching the beasts’ mammoth hooves trotting toward the man’s limp body, seconds away from squashing his head as if it were a ripe melon. At the last moment, two men grabbed the drunk by the heels and dragged him to safety. The horses continued on, undisturbed. Damn those good Samaritans.
Nathan scanned the streets for another person in a predicament worse than his own, knowing the chances were slim. His attention landed on a young couple in the midst of a lovers’ quarrel, one that quickly escalated from shrieks and hand gestures to a swift knee to the man’s groin. The growing crowd of spectators around the couple erupted in laughter as the young man crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain. Despite the situation, Nathan chuckled, aware that his redheaded spitfire may react in the same fashion momentarily.
Sighing heavily, Nathan dropped his eyes to the oak tree beneath his window, its leaves a rich golden hue with the change of season. It was to be Sofie’s burial spot.
That day couldn’t be today, though. He wasn’t ready.
Nathan shook his head. “No … I cannot bear the risk.”
Sofie didn’t respond immediately. When she did, it was with the sharpness of a well–honed blade. “Fine.” The silk layers of her evening gown rustled noisily as she stalked toward the door.
Before she reached it, Nathan was across the room, his hand barring her exit. “Please don’t ask it of anyone else,” he pleaded. He knew the request was useless, though. She stared back at him, her olive green eyes blazing in defiance, her intentions clear. She would find someone—someone who didn’t care whether she survived. He couldn’t allow that.
Another heavy sigh, this one in surrender. “You’re impossible, woman,” he whispered, shutting his eyes. There was no hint of anger in his tone.
Sofie’s throaty laughter filled the room. Victorious, she stretched up to lay an intense kiss on his lips. A farewell kiss, if this failed …
Taking her hands in his, he pulled her to the center of the room where the kerosene lamp burned, the only source of light in the spacious master bedroom.
“No,” she protested, scowling, as he reached for it.
“I’m not compromising on this,” he answered firmly.
After a second of deliberation, Sofie nodded, relenting—knowing better than to press him further, knowing she had won the war. She lifted her hands to pull her loose hair up off her neck.
Nathan shut his eyes, mentally preparing himself. He trusted her abilities. If anyone could solve this problem, it was his Sofie.
But if she was wrong …
He opened his eyes to see Sofie’s dazzling, confident smile. How he would do anything to see that smile for eternity!
In one fluid motion he extinguished the lamp, plunging the room into darkness.
Sofie’s chest heaved as she inhaled deeply, trying to regulate her pounding heart. She had worked tirelessly for this moment, to allow for this possibility—pushing her mind to the brink of sanity, drawing on her skill until she’d drained every ounce of energy.
It was finally happening.
Or was it? Anticipation turned to panic as the seconds stretched to minutes with no signals from Nathan. She stood in silence, her eyes searching the darkness in vain, fighting against the urge to speak out, to plead with him. What if he had changed his mind? What if he had left the room? What if—
Pain. All concern vanished.
Sofie regained consciousness on the bedroom floor. The room was still absolutely dark, yet her eyes darted wildly around, taking in every picture, every fabric pattern, every crack in the ceiling as if sun streamed through the windows. Exhilaration flooded through her.
With only a thought, she was on her feet and standing in front of a mirror. She gasped at the reflection. The eyes staring back were no longer her lackluster olive but a mystical pale mint. Her hand flew to her neck. No puncture marks. Not even a scratch. The only evidence was some dried blood on skin that was now creamy and pale. A slow sigh escaped her lips as the crushing fear of failure lifted from her chest.
It had worked.
She began giggling.
“What in God’s name are you so happy about?” a voice boomed. Her head whipped around. Mortimer stood in the doorway, a look of sheer horror splayed across his face. “Do you realize what you’ve done?” he yelled, slamming his fist against the solid wood door. Splinters flew from the blow.
Sofie twisted her mouth in annoyance. “What are you talking about? It worked!”
“You call that success?” He gestured to Sofie’s left, his eyebrows raised mockingly.
She turned curious eyes to follow his hand. Her stomach dropped when she saw the body lying motionless beside the bed. “Nathan!”
She flew across the room with inhuman speed, dropping to her knees to clutch Nathan’s beautiful face, needing to see his rich chocolate–brown eyes gazing adoringly at her. She released a sharp gasp when she saw the vacuous gray of death staring back at her.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered, tears welling in her eyes.
“You have no idea what you’ve done to us,” Mortimer answered through gritted teeth. It was obvious that Nathan’s death was the least of his concerns.