Reporters jostled for position behind the security barricades, firing questions and shooting pictures in a frenzy of lights, sounds, and motion. For a moment, the sea of bodies parted, giving Ronald Lassiter, who stood in a building across the street, an unimpeded view of the cool redhead with the distinctive name—Francesca Marie Stewart. With her fitted Armani suit, stiletto heels, and Chanel sunglasses, most people would guess she was an actress or the governor’s mistress before they’d guess she was—at heart anyway—a tree-hugging environmentalist who just happened to have the Midas touch.
Oh yes, Ms. Stewart was amazingly good—and thus made an amazingly good living—at raising funds for whatever green cause she deemed worthy. In this case, her cause was the California governor’s reelection campaign.
He had no doubt she’d work her fingers to the bone making sure she raised enough money to ensure victory.
It was just one of the things that he loved about her. Despite what had happened to her face, she was beautiful enough to have found twenty men to support her, but she’d clawed her way up the ladder with sheer determination rather than sex appeal. She worked hard. Had always worked hard. Harder than a woman with her background should have to.
Ron smiled, and since he was alone, he didn’t even bother trying to hide his fangs. His throat felt parched, his lips chapped, and even though he’d drunk human blood less than twenty-four hours ago, his stomach ached with the need for more. His hunger was insatiable of late, and he knew he should be concentrating on that—on stocking up on humans to feed from before the chaos started—but he was hoping there was another way.
His shirt and tie rubbed against his neck, making him feel suddenly claustrophobic. He loosened them, then immediately breathed a sigh of relief before settling his sights on Frankie again.
He knew everything about Francesca Stewart. How much money she had in her bank account. What kind of birth control she used. Where she jogged. Where she shopped for her groceries.
Even what kind of perfume she liked—cruelty free, of course.
His surveillance told him she was proud and ambitious. Smart. A survivor.
So did the scar on her face.
Ron focused his gaze on the thin white line that ran from the inner corner of her right eye, down her cheek, and toward her ear. Aside from a light layer of makeup, she did nothing to hide the scar. In fact, she almost always wore her hair pulled back, a gesture of defiance rather than a fashion statement.
He knew exactly how she’d gotten that scar, and admiration filled him once again. She’d suffered tremendously, but this woman had depth. She had substance.
And she owed all her success—her very life—to him.
Now it was time for her to return the favor.
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