Illusion (Prologue)

I could only stand by helpless as I watched Josephine collapsed in my arms, her fragile human mind overloaded with information. She had not expected to unlock her mysterious past in a house filled with vampires. I am nearly 1,000 years old and even I was amazed to discover that her father was one of the most formidable vampires in our world.

Carrying her to one of the sofas, I placed her against the overstuffed leather. Her pale copper hair fanned around her head like a halo, her long eyelashes casting a shadow over her prominent cheekbones. Unable to stop myself, I pressed my lips against hers. They were warm and pliable, soft pink and irresistible to me.

"I need you to come back to me, vackra. I just found you," I whispered against her unresponsive lips. I would sit by her for an eternity if that would bring her back to me. In desperation, I had attempted to read her thoughts. I had been frustrated to find they were blocked by a blackness that shrouded her mind.

"You love my daughter," Kian stated simply. He sat down on the arm of the sofa and clasped his hands together in his lap. My focus had been on Josephine and I had forgotten that we were not alone.


"I have watched you for centuries as you searched for her. Many would have given up, yet you never faltered. It is admirable," he said. His green eyes, so much like Josephine's, traveled over his daughter's face. His eyes shifted to me, a wry smile on his lips.

"She is my fated. I had no choice," I said. Reaching for her small hand, I enveloped it in my much larger grasp. Expecting to feel her squeeze my hand in response, her fingers were limp against mine. My eyes swept over her, silently musing that if not for the steady rise and fall of her chest and strum of her heartbeat, she looked like a vampire in rest.

"She is immortal, Stefan. She is also partly human. Eventually she would have stopped aging. Your blood and influence have caused her change to accelerate. She will forever be as she is now," Kian said, reaching to stroke her hair. "I could not ask for a better vampire to protect her, Stefan."

"You said she is immortal. She will not need to be turned?" A mixture of relief and happiness coursed through me at his words. If Josephine was immortal, I would not have to kill her to have an eternity with her. It silenced the questions that lingered in my mind, explaining why I had the vision of her when other humans were a blank to me.

"Stefan, she is still partly human and could still die a human death. At some point, you will have to change her. I am sorry." Kian stood and rested his hand on my shoulder for a moment. "You have been a faithful servant of the Board and Council for centuries. You will do what you think is right. When she wakes, I wish to speak with her. That is not a request."

Kian departed quietly, leaving me alone with her as she slept. Hours blended together as I sat at her side, silently willing her back to me. I spoke quietly to her, hopeful that the sound of my voice would be enough to break through the darkness of her mind.


Tensing at Sofia's voice, I did not turn and acknowledge the female vampire's entrance into the room. She was an unwelcome annoyance.

"Sofia, now is not the time to provoke me. Find someone else to bother," I growled in response. She had been a willing bed mate over two centuries ago. I had not touched her since my vision of Josephine, yet she never tired of trying to convince me that she was still willing to pick up where we left off.

"Is that any way to greet me, Stefan?" Sofia purred. I could feel her eyes sweeping over my body like eager fingers.

"Explain what you were anticipating, Sofia. For me to fuck you? Hardly," I scoffed and glanced at her over my shoulder. She was beautiful with her long dark hair and black eyes; however her good looks meant nothing to me now. My words angered her and I could see her eyes darken with undisguised fury.

"Leave her and come with me. We were so good together. She is nothing but a mere human. She cannot satisfy you as I can. Don't you remember, Stefan?" Sofia's voice was a seductive whisper as she crossed the room to stand behind me. "Remember what we had… what we can have again."

I closed my eyes, attempting to drown out her senseless chatter. The fact that she chose to approach me after my declaration in front of the Council infuriated me. Unwittingly, my mind filtered through memories of myself with Sofia. She was simply a willing body to fuck, nothing more.

"That was 250 years ago, Sofia. You were at best a meaningless fuck," I replied quietly. My eyes reopened and I reached to brush Josephine's hair back from her face, my fingertips tracing over the curve of her cheek and brushing against the swell of her full lips. All those years of anonymous bodies and forgettable mouths… they were all insignificant in comparison to her. She was now my salvation and my reason to exist.

"Look at you, Stefan. She's making you weak." Her heavily accented voice was filled with disdain. She stepped closer and ran her fingers across my shoulders.

Gripping her hand, I rose to my feet and twisted her arm behind her back and pulled her against my chest. My fangs dropped as I angrily yanked her arm, threatening to dislocate her shoulder. She struggled weakly against me as she tried to free herself from my grasp. Leaning to whisper in her ear, my voice came out like a snarl. "You do not get to touch me anymore. I would rather be seen as weak than to ever fuck you again, Sofia."

I pushed her away and watched her stumble to her knees. She turned to face me, her fangs bared as she looked up at me.

"I'll tell your precious Josie that we fucked. How do you think she'll react to that, Stefan?"

Blurring to her side, I had her by her throat before she could react. She clawed against me as I raised her off the ground with one arm, my hand tightening around her neck. "You will do no such thing, Sofia. One more word from you and I will end you. Are we clear?"

She managed a weak nod. I continued to increase my grip, enjoying her escalating fear. It would only take one more squeeze to snap her neck. My hand constricted and I felt the tendons in her neck strain under the increasing pressure.


Josephine's whimper made me forget my anger and desire to punish Sofia. Dropping her, my focus was on Josephine. The rest of the world could wait.

She needed me.