Ashes Of Midnight

Mass Market Paperback | May 26, 2009

byLara Adrian

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A woman driven by blood. A man thirsting for vengeance.
A place where darkness and desire meet...

As night falls, Claire Roth flees, driven from her home by a fiery threat that seems to come from hell itself. Then, from out of the flames and ash, a vampire warrior emerges. He is Andreas Reichen, her onetime lover, now a stranger consumed by vengeance. Caught in the cross fire, Claire cannot escape his savage fury—or the hunger that plunges her into his world of eternal darkness and unending pleasure.

Nothing will stop Andreas from destroying the vampire responsible for slaughtering his Breed brethren . . . even if he must use his former lover as a pawn in his deadly mission. Blood-bonded to his treacherous adversary, Claire can lead Andreas to the enemy he seeks, but it is a journey fraught with danger—and deep, unbidden desires. For Claire is the one woman Andreas should not crave, and the only one he’s ever loved. A dangerous seduction begins—one that blurs the lines between predator and prey, and stokes the flames of a white-hot passion that may consume all in its path. . . .

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From the Publisher

A woman driven by blood. A man thirsting for vengeance.A place where darkness and desire meet...As night falls, Claire Roth flees, driven from her home by a fiery threat that seems to come from hell itself. Then, from out of the flames and ash, a vampire warrior emerges. He is Andreas Reichen, her onetime lover, now a stranger consumed...

From the Jacket

A woman driven by blood. A man thirsting for vengeance.A place where darkness and desire meet...As night falls, Claire Roth flees, driven from her home by a fiery threat that seems to come from hell itself. Then, from out of the flames and ash, a vampire warrior emerges. He is Andreas Reichen, her onetime lover, now a stranger consumed...

Lara Adrian is the New York Times bestselling author of the Midnight Breed series, including the novels Kiss of Midnight, Kiss of Crimson, Midnight Awakening, Midnight Rising, Veil of Midnight, Ashes of Midnight, Shades of Midnight, Taken by Midnight, Deeper than Midnight, Darker After Midnight, Edge of Dawn, Crave the Night, and the e...

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Format:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 6.88 × 4.19 × 0.77 inPublished:May 26, 2009Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0440244501

ISBN - 13:9780440244509

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not hot enough ... Hmmm. This series was on the rise for me around books 3 and 4. Now books 5 and this one (6) have been a bit of a disappointment. This book was just ok. Andreas, while helpful to the Order in Europe, wasn't really a character I thought needed his own book and yet here it is. Given Andreas' pyro powers, this book totally lacked in hotness. The romance between Andreas and Claire was so-so, the war progressed just a tiny bit, and again there was limited text devoted to the rest of the Breed, so I continue to miss their comraderie. I'm on to book 7 because of a nice little teaser at the end, and I'm hoping the series will pick up steam again.
Date published: 2013-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Andreas Reichen is on fire Ashes of Midnight is the 6th book in the wonderful Midnight Breed series. This book follows not a member of the Order but a friend named Andreas Reichen. He has helped the Order in the last few books. We never really know much about him except that he was very fond of a human named Helene and took care of his family in a darkheaven. (spoiler of the previous book) Andreas lost everything and everyone he loved in the last book because of the war between the Order and Dragos. As far as the Order is concerned Andreas has either perished with his family or he went off the grid. Claire is a past lover of Andreas and thinks he is dead. When some people start to get assassinated that are associated with her husband she find out Andreas is alive and directly involved. Andreas is fueled with rage and revenge. He runs into Clair his past lover and Breedmates to his mortal enemy. Claire attempts to save Andreas from the brink of self-destruction and must come to terms with her past love for him and need to help him and her loyalty to her mate. This book was fantastic. I absolutely adore Andreas and Claire. It was a nice break following characters that were not part of the Order and already knew about the vampire society and Order. The rekindling of past love and friendship made this book have heart. It was a wonderful read and a great addition to this series.
Date published: 2011-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Hot The sixth book in the midnight breed series. This one picks up straight from the last book. Andreas has been present in the last couple of books, and I have to say he is not my favorite, but this book is very hot and hard not to like. A great addition to the series. 125/1000
Date published: 2010-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Burn Baby Burn!!! Another wonderful instalment in the Breed series, and I don’t know, I am liking them way better now. I find it that the series is starting to shine on its own now. The similarities to other vampire books is becoming less and less, and the action more spine tingling. I am talking hairless brooding vamps, with sex appeal that can warm the coldest winter. Plus the friendships are deeper, and the love oh so much stronger. Andreas Reichen, he was a constant character through previous books and he finally got his own book. His life is met with a harsh reality, when one of his closest friends is used in the destruction of his family. This is the horrific conclusion, to a case that Andreas was helping the Breed with, and somehow they found out and decided to punish him in the cruellest of ways. Andreas knows who is behind the murder of his family and he is hell bent on revenge even if it means the end of him. He begins his slaughter by tapping into his breed power, which is fire and turning those involved in the murder to a bloody crisp. When everyone presumes you dead, why not go on a killing spree. Clair Roth aka b*tch face is the love of Andreas life, not deserved I tell you. She is married to his enemy and the vampire behind the murder of his family. She doubts him through out the book, and at times seemed to be purely thinking about herself. She does realize the truth, and that she has been married to a madman for over thirty plus years. Yet for all that time she has loved Andreas and now, even though the circumstances suck, destiny has brought them together again. Andreas and Clair are caught in a war with the breed warriors, and they might not come out alive. Something sinister is developing in the vampire race, something that doesn’t bode well for the vampires everywhere. Through out all this, Andreas fights to hold on to his very soul, and the first signs of bloodlust. With each fire ball he fires the closer it pulls him to destruction. I really liked this book, a little slow in the beginning but it picks up speed in no time. I love when you get to see all the old characters, and they play a significant role in this book. Tegan comes out to play, and man oh man I wanna play with him. I can say that Adrian is the only author I have seen write characters of different race in a PNR. Clair from what I gather is mixed with black and white, plus Brock is a black vampire, can’t tell the last time I have come across that. That alone is one of the reasons why this series shines. The characters are diverse, the plot is thick with action and curves, and the sex is explosive, the blood sharing is just…… feckin hot. This book was a hit, and I am dying to get a piece of Hunter, he needs his own book and fast. I wanna eat him, a freaking wicked read. 2010-050
Date published: 2010-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great addition This is book 6 in the Midnight Breed series and again it's another hit. I really like this series as I have said befor and I was excited to read this book because I found the concept interesting and knew it would keep me turning pages. I really liked Andrea's and Clair's characters and I thought the story progressed really well. Overall another great book I would recommend this series to anyone. :0)
Date published: 2010-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wicked Hot After seeing the horrific aftermath of the massacre of his family, Andreas Reichen is consumed with rage and a need for vengeance. Andreas knows Wilhelm Roth is responsible for ending the innocent lives of those he cared about. He begins a quest to hunt and kill Roth that leads him to his former lover and Roth’s current breedmate, Claire. Andreas is so determined to get retribution that he’s not above using Claire to lead him to Roth. The problem is that Claire and Andreas still have unresolved feelings for one another that spark intense passion and desire, but Andreas’s need for retaliation and uncontrollable fiery power threaten to destroy him and Claire too. Ashes of Midnight, book six of the Midnight Breed series, was one I was eager to read. The previous book, Veil of Midnight, seamlessly laid the foundation of Andreas’s story in a subplot, which allowed this book to jump right into the action without a lot of explanations or back story. The relationship between Andreas and Claire had a whole different dynamic than the previous relationships because they already knew one another, so the plot involving them felt different at times, but in a good way. The inter-novel plot didn’t seem to progress very much until right at the end when there were some important revelations. It was a slow, steady build up for most of the book until it exploded right at the end. The ending was so full of exciting and important developments that I found it almost impossible not to skip ahead to the last couple pages to see how things worked out! There were a few moments during the course of Ashes of Midnight, particularly at the end, that I found a little sad (in an enjoyable way) because of the characters’ struggles to be with one another. This added some emotional depth to the story which was nice. Andreas is a character that had been introduced in smaller roles during many of the previous books, so by this book he’ll be familiar to readers. Due to the events in the subplot of the previous novel, Andreas has undergone some fairly drastic personality changes. I completely sympathized with him throughout the subplot as well as this book. Lara Adrian wrote him in a very interesting way since his changes because he’s got a complex good guy/bad guy vibe going on. Andreas is a good man, but he’s consumed by fury and hurt and that leads him to lose control and do some things that wouldn’t be considered honorable by most standards. I enjoyed reading to see whether his good side could overcome his rage. Claire was a character that I took a little while to warm up to. Initially, I found her to be a little whiny and selfish at times. As the novel proceeded, her priorities and attitude shifted and changed leading me to wholly approve of her. The transitions undergone by both characters were delightful and they complemented one another nicely. The intimate moments shared by Claire and Andreas were wicked hot. At one point Adrian incorporates Claire’s ability into a steamy scene, and I thought it was a fun twist on things. Ashes of Midnight was almost like a reunion book to me. All of the previous warriors and their mates made an appearance, and I enjoyed revisiting them. The reappearance of the previous characters really unified the plots for me. Fans of Tegan, Renata, and Dylan will be happy to know that they seem to have the biggest revisited roles. I highly recommend Ashes of Midnight to those who have read the previous five novels in the series. It was a fun, light read with tenderness, action, and some surprising plot twists!
Date published: 2010-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from another good book Just finished reading ashes of midnight which is the 6th book of the midnight breeds series. I read all the books back to back and was really sad when finished it. I now have to wait for the next one to come out. love the characters and how she has turned them into a family
Date published: 2009-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED This is book six in Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series and I couldn‘t put it down. Following events set up in the last book VEIL OF MIDNIGHT this instalment just takes off, with it’s exciting and suspense filled storyline. There is plenty of angst filled romance here too and several ongoing subplots and POV’s which all manage to come together for one explosive ending. Fans of the series will be thrilled as we get to revisit past members of the ‘Order’ and their ‘Breedmates’ who all have significant roles within this story. There is also a reunited lovers theme between our couple which is my favourite type of romance. Andreas Reichen’s character has been around in a secondary role for several books now. But ever since the massacre took place within his Darkhaven compound killing his entire family, this Vampire has been hell bent on extracting revenge from the man responsible. Andreas agony over this event and his need for retribution has also brought out a deadly power within him, one that he had tried to keep hidden. Andreas can physically manifest into fire, burning with a heat so intense he blazes everything in his path and now he’s coming for Wilhelm Roth. His search for Roth ironically takes him to the home of his enemy’s wife and Andre’s former love Claire. He has never been able to forget the beautiful Breedmate or their fated love affair. Once reunited this couple is powerless to stop their mutual attraction even if it means breaking the sanctity of her blood bond to Roth. Events soon transpire which see this couple on the run as Claire learns of her absentee husband’s true nature and Andreas tries to recover from his ever increasing bouts of pyrokenetics. He’s finding it harder and harder to control the fire and Claire fears for his life knowing that he won’t give up this quest for revenge even if it means sacrificing himself in the process. As a last resort they contact the Order and are flown to their compound in Boston. That’s when things get really interesting; as all the storylines converge into a combined hunt for Roth and his evil partner Dragos thereby placing the entire group in a lethal trap. Andreas may very well be their only hope of escape but he’s become so blind with vengeance that he can no longer control the fire, this time the inferno may consume them all. This series seems to be either hit or miss for me, ASHES OF MIDNIGHT is a definite hit.The conflict, erotic romance and gunplay carries throughout and builds to a level of nail-biting, page turning suspense as we approach the thrilling finale. I do suggest at least reading book 5 before starting here but alternately I could recommend the entire Midnight Breed series. Cheers. 1-Kiss Of Midnight, 2-Kiss Of Crimson, 3-Midnight Awakening, 4-Midnight Rising, 5-Veil Of Midnight, 6-Ashes Of Midnight.
Date published: 2009-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good read It was a good read, but not one of my favorite books out of the series. The ending is a cliffhanger and leaves you waiting patiently for the next book, Shade of Midnight, to come out. The character Andreas is hell bent on revenge and finds his love Claire again, but who will win in the end, his revenge which could mean his death or Claire and the love they have for each other.
Date published: 2009-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was okay, but it wasn't great. I'm not sure what I expecting, but from the reviews other were giving it, I though this book was going to be something spectacular. Sadly it was not. I found it to be kind of dull it places. The villian (Willham Roth) was a tad lame. He was all cat no hat. Even more sad than my hope for this book is the fact that I will continue reading this series in the hoes that it will eventually get better.
Date published: 2009-07-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great! As a LA fan, so far so good - the series continues to rock! This book is Andreas and Claire's story. The characters are good and have strength, the pace is good and the plot is good. Because there was actually some substance to this book, I finished in two days. Looking forward to reading the next novel, "Shades of Midnight" (Kade's story) due out in January. For similar types of books, see J.R. Ward or Sherrilyn Kenyon.
Date published: 2009-06-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Another great book in this series! Andreas has had his entire family killed and his former human lover Helene made a minion. His home destroyed by fire he is thought dead, but has survived to take revenge on the man responsible. Caught up in his plan of revenge is Claire, Andreas's true love who he hasn't seen in a long time. His quest will take both him and Claire to Boston. There they have to work with the order not only to take Wilhem (Claire's Breedmate) down, but also to find Drago's lab where he has been creating an new brand of deadly breed. As much as Andreas fights his feelings for Claire, he can't control the passion and longing that she should be his breedmate not Wilhem's. Strong characters and continuing storyline, Ashes of Midnight is another great read in this series.
Date published: 2009-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This Series Continues to Please Ashes of Midnight is the latest in Adrian's Midnight Breed series and like the other books before it, it is an entertaining read. Well paced, good characters, a stand-alone story that ties into the overall plot of the series, romance, sex, action...it has something for everyone. This time round, it is Andreas Reichen's story. At the end of the previous book, Andreas, the leader of a Darkhaven community in Germany, had returned home to find everyone slaughtered - men, women and children alike. Now, overcome by rage, his gift of pyrokinesis spirals out of control as he hunts down the corrupt members of Breed society responsible. When Andreas learns that his nemesis, Willhelm Roth, is ultimately responsible for the destruction of his family, he will stop at nothing to seek vengence, including making a pawn out of his former lover Claire who happens to be blood-bonded to Roth. One of the things I like most about this series is that while one book may focus on a particular Breed Warrior, Adrian doesn't just write the others out of the story. All the members of the Order are still major players in each book. I also like that the Breedmates, the women, have become active participants and are not just warm bodies on the sidelines only written in for a booty call. The women are all strong and independent with unique skills to aid the Order.
Date published: 2009-06-15

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter One BERLIN, GERMANYThe vampire had no idea that death awaited him in the darkness.His senses were overloaded with need, his hands and arms full of a half-dressed redhead who pawed at him with barely restrained lust. Too fevered to notice they weren't alone in his Darkhaven bedchamber, he willed open the carved double doors and guided his eager, panting prey inside. The woman teetered on a pair of tall heels, laughing as she twisted away from him and wagged a finger in front of her face."Hans, you fed me too mush champagne," she slurred, stumbling into the dark room. "My head's all woozy.""It will pass." The German vampire's words were _sluggish, too, though not from the alcohol that had inebriated his unsuspecting American companion. His fangs were no doubt filling his mouth, saliva flooding over his tongue in anticipation of feeding.He tracked her with deliberate movements as he closed the doors behind him and prowled toward her. His eyes glowed like embers, transforming from their natural color to something otherworldly. Although the woman seemed oblivious to the change coming over him, the vampire held his head low as he approached her, careful to conceal the telling heat of his bloodthirsty gaze. Except for that shuttered amber glow and the dim twinkle of stars outside the tall windows overlooking the Darkhaven estate's private grounds, there was no light in the room. Then again, being one of the Breed, he could see well enough without it.So could the one who came to kill him.Enveloped in shadows across the large chamber, a dark gaze watched as the vampire grabbed his blood Host from behind and got down to business. The first pungent copper whiff of the human's pierced vein made the observer's fangs erupt from his gums in reflexive response. He hungered, too, more urgently than he wanted to admit, but he had come here for a greater purpose than to serve his own base needs.He had come for vengeance.For justice.It was that overriding mission that held Andreas Reichen's feet firmly to the floor as the other vampire drank greedily, blindly, across the room. He waited, patient only because he knew this male's death would bring him one step closer to fulfilling the vow he'd made some twelve weeks ago . . . the night his world had disintegrated into a pile of ash and rubble.Reichen's restraint was held on a threadbare leash. Inside he churned with the heat of his anger. His bones felt like hot iron rods beneath his skin. His blood raced through his body, liquid fire that seared him from scalp to heels. Every muscle and cell within him screamed for retribution—screamed it with a fury that bordered on nuclear meltdown.Not here, he warned himself. Not that.The price would be steep if he gave in to the full measure of his rage, and by God, this son of a bitch wasn't worth it.Reichen held that explosive part of himself at bay, but the effort came a fraction of a second too late. The fire in him was already swelling, burning through the fragile tethers of his self-control . . .  The other vampire suddenly lifted his head from where he'd been feeding at the woman's neck. He drew in a sharp breath through his nose, then grunted, animalistic . . . alarmed. "Someone is here.""What'd you say?" she murmured, still drowsy from his bite as he sealed her wound with his tongue then shoved her away from him. She staggered forward, huffing a couple of choice curses under her breath. The instant her sluggish gaze lit on Reichen, a scream ripped from her throat. "Oh, my God!"Feeling his eyes smoldering with the amber fire of his rage, his fangs tearing through his gums in readiness of the fight to come, Reichen took a single step out of the shadows.The woman screamed again, hysteria rising in her wild, panicked eyes. She looked to her companion for protection, but the vampire had no further use of her. With a _callous sweep of his hand, he knocked her out of his way and stalked forward. The blow sent her careening to the floor."Hans!" she cried. "Oh, God—what's going on?"Hissing, the vampire faced his unexpected intruder and crouched into an attack stance. Reichen had only a moment to cast a quick glance at the confused, terrified human. "Get out of here." He sent a mental command that unlocked the bedchamber's doors and swung them open. "Leave, female. Now!"As she scrambled up from the polished marble beneath her and escaped the room, the Darkhaven vampire leapt into the air in a single, fluid arc of motion. Before his feet could touch down, Reichen launched himself at the bastard.Their bodies collided, the explosion of Reichen's forward momentum propelling both of them across the width of the chamber. Fangs huge and gnashing, fierce amber eyes locked on each other in the deadliest kind of malice, together they crashed like a wrecking ball into the far wall.Bones cracked with the impact, but it wasn't enough for Reichen.Not nearly enough. He threw the struggling, furious Breed male to the floor and pinned him there, one knee crushing his throat."Ignorant fool!" roared the vampire, arrogant despite his pain. "Have you any idea who I am?""I know who you are—Enforcement Agent Hans Friedrich Waldemar." Reichen bared his teeth and fangs in a profanity of a smile as he glared down at him. "Don't tell me you have already forgotten who I am."No, he hadn't forgotten. Recognition flickered behind the pain and fear in Waldemar's slitted pupils. "Son of a bitch . . . Andreas Reichen.""That's right." Reichen held the bastard in a gaze so deadly furious it must have burned to hold it. "What's the matter, Agent Waldemar? You seem surprised to see me.""I—I don't understand. The attack on the Darkhaven this past summer . . ." The vampire sucked in a choked breath. "I'd heard no one survived.""Almost no one," Reichen corrected tightly.And now Waldemar knew why he'd been paid this unexpected visit. There was no mistaking the bleak awareness in the other male's gaze. Or the stark fear. When he spoke now, his voice shook a bit. "I had nothing to do with it, Andreas. You must believe me—"Reichen snorted. "That's what the others said, too."Waldemar started to squirm, but Reichen pressed down harder with his knee planted heavily against the vampire's throat. Waldemar wheezed, trying to raise his hands as the weight began to crush his air channel. "Please . . . just tell me what you want from me.""Justice."With neither satisfaction nor remorse, Reichen grabbed Waldemar's head in his hands and gave a fierce yank. His neck snapped, then the Breed male's head fell back to the floor with a heavy thunk.Reichen exhaled a deep sigh that did little to purge his anguish, or the grief he felt at being alive and alone. The sole survivor. The last of his family line.As he stood and prepared to leave this latest death behind him, a glint of polished glass on one of the room's several mahogany bookcases caught his eye. He stalked over to it, his feet moving automatically, sharpened gaze fixed on the face of his enemy that stared out from within the silver-framed photograph. He grabbed the picture and stared down at it, his fingers hot where they pressed into the metal of the frame. Reichen's eyes burned the longer he looked at that hated face, a growl curling low in his throat, raw with visceral, still-smoldering rage.Wilhelm Roth stood among a small group of Breed males wearing ceremonial Enforcement Agency garb. All of them were decked out in black tuxedos and starched white shirts, their chests festooned with bright silk sashes and gleaming pendant medallions, gilded rapiers sheathed at their sides. Reichen snorted at the self-importance—the power-hungry arrogance—etched in those smug, smiling faces.Now they were dead men . . . all but one.He'd saved Roth for last, having meticulously worked his way up the chain of command. First the Agency death squad members who'd ambushed his Darkhaven home and opened fire on every living being inside—even the females, even the infants asleep in their cribs. Next he'd targeted the handful of Enforcement Agency cronies who had made no secret of their allegiance to the powerful Darkhaven leader responsible for ordering the slaughter.One by one over the past several weeks, the guilty had met their end. The vampire lying dead and broken on the floor was the last known member of Wilhelm Roth's corrupt inner circle in Germany.Which left Roth himself.The bastard was going to burn for what he'd done.But first he would suffer.Reichen's gaze drifted back to the framed photograph in his hands and froze there. On first glance, he hadn't noticed the woman. All of his focus—all his fury—had been centered solely on Roth. Now that he had found her, he couldn't tear his eyes away from her.Claire.She stood off to the side of the group of Breed males, petite yet regal in a sleeveless ghost-gray gown that made her light brown skin look as smooth and lush as satin. Her soft black hair was swept up in a careful chignon, not a single strand out of place.Time had not aged her so much as a year from when he'd known her—not that it would, when she was kept youthful and strong by the blood bond she shared with her chosen mate these thirty-some years. She was looking at Wilhelm Roth and his criminal friends, smiling with a perfectly schooled, perfectly unreadable expression.A perfectly proper mate to the vampire who had proven to be Reichen's most treacherous adversary.Claire.After all this time.My Claire, he thought grimly.No, not his.Once, perhaps. Long ago, and for merely a few months at that. A brief handful of time.Ancient history.Reichen stared at her image behind the silver-framed glass, surprised at how easily his fury for Wilhelm Roth could bleed over to the vampire's Breedmate. Sweet, lovely Claire . . . in bed with his most hated enemy. Was she aware of Roth's corruption? Did she condone it?It hardly mattered.He had a mission to fulfill. Justice to claim. A deadly, final vengeance to serve.And nothing would stand in his way . . . not even her.Reichen's gaze bore down on the photograph, fury smoldering in the amber light that reflected back at him from the surface of the glass. His fingers burned where his skin met the metal of the frame. He tried to cool the acid tempest swirling in his gut, but it was too late to hope for even a small measure of calm. With a snarl, he tossed the photograph to the floor and turned away from it. He stalked to one of the tall windows and willed open the pane, knowing he couldn't trust his touch now that his rage was so close to ruling him.Reichen stepped onto the sill in a crouch, hearing the hot spit and sizzle of melting silver and cracking glass as the framed photograph burst into flames behind him.Then he leapt into the thick autumn night to finish what Wilhelm Roth had started.Chapter TwoClaire Roth's lips pursed in contemplation as she stared down at the architect's model spread out on the table in her library. "What do you think about moving the bench away from the strolling path and closer to the koi pond, just on the other side of the cottage roses?""An excellent idea," said a bright female voice over the speakerphone situated nearby. The young woman was calling from one of the region's Darkhavens. Having seen some of her work elsewhere within the vampire community, Claire had been working with her for the past week, privately consulting on the design of a small garden park. "Have you decided about the material for the walkways, Frau Roth? I believe initially you'd mentioned cobblestones or crushed rock—""Would it be possible to keep the paths natural instead?" she asked as she moved along the side of the table, perusing the rest of the scale model. "I'm thinking soft earthen walkways trimmed with something simple yet inviting. Forget-me-nots, perhaps?""Of course. That sounds lovely.""Good," Claire said, smiling as she considered the change. "Thank you, Martina. You've done a wonderful job. Really, I couldn't be more pleased with how you've taken my jumble of rough ideas and turned them into something so much more than I imagined."The young Breedmate's voice brightened on the other end of the line. "The park is going to be beautiful, Frau Roth. It's obvious how much time and care you've put into your vision of what you'd like it to be."Claire quietly registered the compliment, feeling less pride than relief. She wanted this slice of empty land to be turned into something beautiful. She wanted it to be perfect. Every planting, every carefully placed sculpture, bench, and strolling path was intended to be a place of total peace and tranquillity. A sanctuary meant to inspire the mind, heart, and soul. She wasn't one to pick up the torch for a cause—well, not in a very long time, at any rate—but she had to admit this project had become something close to an obsession for her."I just need it to be right," she murmured, blinking past a sudden misting of her eyes. She'd been overly emotional lately, and was grateful that there was no one in the library to see her weakness."Don't worry," Martina's cheerful voice soothed. "I'm certain he's going to love it."Claire swallowed, caught off guard. "W-what?""Herr Roth," the young Breedmate replied. An awkward silence stretched out for long moments. "I, um . . . I'm sorry if I'm prying. You'd asked me to keep the park and its design a secret, so I suppose I assumed that you meant it to be a gift for him."A gift for Wilhelm? Claire had to work to contain her bemused reaction to the idea. She hadn't even seen her mate for half a year. He came to the country only because his blood compelled him to. Claire had grown to dread those visits, expected as his mate to feed him from her veins and to take his blood in exchange. Wilhelm hardly pretended to feel differently about their coolly obligatory arrangement. They had discreetly lived apart nearly all of the three decades of their pairing—he in his Darkhaven mansion in the city, she and a handful of security staff here in the country manor a couple of hours away.No, the garden park was not a gift for her chronically absent mate. In fact, she was sure he'd be furious if he found out that she'd undertaken the project on her own. Fortunately for her, Wilhelm Roth hadn't taken an interest in anything she thought or felt or did for quite some time now. He was more than content to leave her to pursue her assorted philanthropic and social activities; his business with the Enforcement Agency was all that mattered to him, particularly of late. That was his obsession, and in a quiet corner of her heart, Claire was glad for her solitude. Especially these past difficult weeks.Martina let out a small sigh over the speaker. "Please, Frau Roth . . . forgive me if I've overstepped my bounds in any way.""Not at all," Claire assured her. Before she had to offer Martina either a pleasant lie about her motivations for the park's construction or explain her estrangement from the Breed male she saw infrequently at best, a hard rap sounded on the library door. "My thanks again for the lovely design, Martina. Let me know if you have any other questions before we proceed with the project.""Of course. Good night, Frau Roth."