The Dark Blood of Poppies

Free The Dark Blood of Poppies by Freda Warrington

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Authors: Freda Warrington
you have. I’m enchanted to meet you. I am a friend of Karl von Wultendorf. You know him, I understand?”
    “Slightly.”
    “I find it incredible that he has not mentioned me.”
    “Perhaps you are of less importance to him than you realise.”
    Pierre’s smile thinned. He leaned on the parapet beside her. He stood too close and she wanted to draw back, but pride would not let her give ground to him. “And you know Charlotte, Stefan, Niklas?” He sounded sarcastic. He must know that Charlotte and Stefan had initiated her.
    “Of course,” she said thinly.
    “They are all talking about you – except Niklas, of course, who has very little to say about anything.” He grinned, but his eyes were cruel. “That’s why I had to satisfy my curiosity about the new immortal who is creating such interest. You know, you have not many friends, Madame Violette.”
    That made her look hard at him.
    “Might we stroll together?” he added. “I think we should talk.”
    She thought,
Why? I have nothing to say to you
. But she glanced back at her ballet premises and imagined an unscrupulous vampire such as Pierre preying on her darlings. The idea filled her with fury. So she slipped her hand through his proffered arm and led him in the opposite direction.
    “Let’s climb to the Fortress,” she said. “There is such a lovely view of the Alps from the other side of the ridge.”
    * * *
    Rain began to fall as they walked. The pavements shone. The steep cobbled path that wound up between the trees towards the Fortress Hohensalzburg seemed to run with mercury.
    Pierre held Violette’s satin-sheathed hand in the crook of his elbow, congratulating himself. What superstitious fools had Kristian left behind? How could they be afraid of this lily?
    Pierre thought he was falling in love. He actually felt protective towards her, when in the past he’d never given a damn for anyone but himself.
    She was stunning, a goddess among mortals and vampires alike. The combination of pale skin and black hair was irresistible, like an exotic Beardsley drawing. Her large eyes, enhanced by the velvety strokes of her brows and lashes, were truly violet; not amethyst-grey like Charlotte’s, but the luminous indigo of the Crystal Ring itself. She seemed both delicate and strong. Imperturbable – but hardly likely to perturb anyone else.
    He said, “I believe you need to feed, Madame.”
    “You’re observant.”
    “It’s obvious from your pallor, your whole demeanour. I know this… tension. You should not wait too long.”
    Her face transformed. Her serenity became rage, blazing from her eyes. He actually recoiled.
    “Don’t tell me how to conduct myself,” she said.
    One glimpse, then the shutters folded down once more. Pierre exhaled. Shocked at first, he felt a frisson of excitement.
    “I pity the poor human who runs into you,
chérie
.”
    “Don’t pity them,” she said tightly. “I can control the thirst, if you can’t.”
    “Can you?”
    “And I am not your
chérie
.”
    “Forgive me, Madame. I did not mean my idle remarks to offend you.
Mon Dieu
, perhaps there’s something in what they say after all.”
    “What do they say?”
    They had reached the Fortress. The walls stood dark and impenetrable against the sky; trees rustled in the darkness, alive with the patter of raindrops. The air smelled deliciously earthy.
    The gates were locked, but the Crystal Ring let them pass through barriers of wood and iron, and into a huge corridor that curved steeply upwards. Behind immense walls, the museum and staterooms lay in darkness. Tour guides and staff slumbered, a troupe of boy scouts slept in the old barrack rooms. A succulent treat for later, Pierre mused. The few sentries who kept watch were oblivious to the vampires’ presence.
    “Well, certain immortals believe you are mad, although who they are to judge, I’ve no idea,” said Pierre. “They claim that you tore off a vampire’s head with your bare hands – frankly

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