Eternal Passions

Cleopatra Danning has worked hard to keep her secrets secret and by living her life the way she wanted. As an antiques dealer, she keeps her eyes open for the best of them.

Nikolaus Matthews has just left the army and is settling into his own rightful place. He's strong, and has an eye for beautiful things, women or paintings.

They both aren't ready for the heat that combusts between them the moment they meet after having a bidding war on an old painting. Are they ready to face each others demons, though, and accept the love they're given?

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1. Chapter One

Chapter 1        

Cleopatra Danning bid almost twenty thousand dollars on a very old, seventeen hundreds vase that was small with gold rims, and won. She was triumphant over the buy, but was also wanting so badly to get the odd painting of a gentile woman painted in the eighteen sixties in Paris, France. Cleo only knew that because she had been there when it had been commissioned by her parents.

        However, before they would get to the painting there were five or six other antiquities that were of no interest to her so she studied the auditorium and stage. The auctioneer was an older man, maybe late fifties or early sixties was her guess, and the stage he was standing on was at least twenty years old with a few paint splatters. Old curtains hung around the stage and the play that had been set up was now slowly breaking down. Pieces of the wood were strewn across the floor. 

            The other antiques were sold quickly, each getting up in the price range. One almost tempted Cleo to go after it, but she had a budget this month, and there was nothing that was going to stop her from getting that painting. Which, fortunately, was coming up next. Cleo sat forward slightly in her chair, excitement rippling up her back as she watched them unveil the painting on the stand on stage. It immediately brought back memories and she couldn't help but smile with relief that this one was the real thing.

            “Next up, The Gentiles of Old, painted in the eighteen sixties. Bidding will start at five hundred. Do I hear five hundred?” the auctioneer said loudly in his baritone. It rang through the halls and someone raised their hand. “We have find hundred. Do I hear five thirty?”

            Cleo raised her hand, capturing the attention of one of the spotter's who raised a hand to indicate to the auctioneer that there was a bid. 

            "We have five thirty. Do I hear five fifty?"

            "Six hundred." A gentleman said as he raised his hand indicating who he was.      

            So, she had a competitor, but what would he do to buy the simple painting that she would not? The bidding continued on for a few moments, raising higher as the two battled over the painting. The bid raised to two thousand before she won it. As soon as the auctioneer officially closed the bidding, calling her out as the winner, Cleo left the auditorium where the auction was being held.

            She went to the small alcove outside the auditorium where a clerk sat. If she was going to get out of here before the rush, starting within twenty minutes after the last auction, she needed to get the things she bought and leave. The vase was for her store, Danning Boutique and Antique, and the painting for her living room wall. Her parents were going to get a surprise tomorrow evening when they came to dinner. Cleo grinned just thinking about the looks on her parents’ face. 

            “Hello, Chelsea. I bought the ‘Gentiles of Old Paris’ and a seventeen hundred vase with the gold trimmings and the hand painted story on the sides. Could I get those now?” Cleo smiled winningly at the woman, who nodded and went into the back room to get them.

            It was great when you started to become a regular and were no longer questioned continuously about things. Cleo didn't have to pull out her I.d. any more for them to be able to retrieve her things, and also knew they could take her on her word of what she bought. They had her totally figured out, down to how she left early in order to get her items before everyone else left. 

            Chelsea had only been gone about a minute when Cleo was tapped on the shoulder. She whirled around to find the man that had been competing with her for the painting. She was stunned for a moment, their gazes locked as she took in his handsomeness. His hair was a beautiful sandy brown and his eyes… Wow. Who knew eyes could look like pots of melted chocolate with flecks of gold?  

Mentally shaking herself away from her thoughts, she raised her eyebrow, and folded her arms across her chest then looked up at him. She immediately noticed the slight golden of his horns in his hair and tensed slightly. What kind of demon was he?

            “You must be Cleopatra Danning. I’m Nikolaus Matthews.” He stuck his hand out. “I was wondering if you would be willing to sell that painting to me, even for more than the price you paid for it.”

She looked at his hand until he dropped it, then put her hands on her hips and stared him straight in the eyes. “You, sir, may kick yourself over a backyard fence. I’m not going to sell it, not even willing to sell it. Not for more than I paid for it, the exact price or below it. I bought it fair and square since you stopped bidding.”

His jaw tightened and a muscle ticked in his cheek. “Fine. Thank you for putting that to me, so rudely too. I just thought since you own an antique store, that you would be willing to sell it before you put it up for sale. Sorry for thinking that.”

Nikolaus turned around on his heel and left promptly. She almost grinned at his departing back, but was saved from laughter when Chelsea came back with the painting and the vase. Both were wrapped and in boxes to keep them safe. They chatted for a bit, catching up as Chelsea asked about her parents, then Cleo gave her a check for her purchases and left.

Cleo got the back door to her car open and was putting the antiques carefully on the seat when she heard footsteps coming up from behind her. When she glanced at who it was, Cleo almost jumped into the backseat to crawl into the front seat and drive away. She didn't feel like arguing today.

But it seemed Mr. Matthews couldn’t take no for an answer.

He stopped right in front of her, his fists tightening, then loosening as he took a deep breath. “You, madam, are one of the most irritating women I know. But I insist on at least trying to buy that painting from you before it gets put into your shop. How much, seriously?”

            She laughed. Cleo tried to hold it back, she truly did, but couldn’t help it as it tickled up her throat. It seriously wasn't even that funny. He seemed to grow angrier, his horns deepening into a darker gold color as his dark chocolate-brown eyes turned to a brown, almost black, color. So, was he a Shadow demon then? Perhaps a Twister?

            “Okay, I’m sorry,” she barely held in a giggle as she took a deep breath to calm down, “But I told you I wasn’t willing to sell it. It’s not even going to be in my shop, it’s going into my home. The vase I bought, though, will be going into my shop.”

            Nikolaus stared at her for a moment, surprise clear on his face as his cheeks started turning slightly red under his tanned skin. His horns and eyes slowly returned to their normal color and he grinned at her as amusement crept into his eyes. “I should be the one apologizing. I shouldn’t have been so rude. I was wondering, though, if you would like to have coffee with me? Kind of like a peace offering, I suppose.”

            Oh, it was so, so tempting to say yes. His eyes were sparkling with his laughter and she wanted nothing more than get to know the man behind those eyes, but she had obligations. No matter how hunky the man was, she needed to keep on schedule.

Cleo smiled at him, but shook her head. “I’ll take a rain check. I have to get back to the shop, else my sister will run off after closing the shop. She needs to get to the business she owns by herself. But maybe some other time. If you ever need an antique, or even clothes for a girlfriend, then come on by the Danning Boutique and Antique shop. I'll give you a nice discount.”

He was quiet, looking thoughtful even as she walked around to the other side of the car. Cleo almost got in, but looked over the top of the car at Nikolaus. He was still standing there, looking a little put out by not getting yes. He now had his hands in his pockets and met her eyes with his calm brown ones. Cleo wanted to melt into those eyes and sighed softly as her imagination went wild with the idea. She shook her mind out of again, intent on asking a question that had nothing to do with how often he worked out.

            “What type of demon are you, Nikolaus Matthews? I’ve heard your name before, and I know you have a twin brother. But I can’t seem to be able to remember what kind of Mythsome you are.”

           He grinned at her, his eyes twinkling suddenly with mischief. “Well, Miss. Danning, I suppose you’ll have to go on a coffee date with me some time to find out. I’ll see you later.”

            With a small salute to her, Nikolaus Matthews was walking back down the sidewalk where he had come up upon her from. She couldn’t help but let her eyes drift over him. The army must have really kept him in good shape, and it didn’t help that he was probably the kind of guy to work out at least a couple times a week. The dress pants he had on did wonders for his butt, anyways.

             Cleo smiled and shook her head as she watched him for a moment longer. He seemed...familiar. It was the only term she could think of in terms to how she was feeling. But she shrugged it off and got into the car. It wasn't the time or place to be fantasizing about a guy. Plus, it was only appropriate to do so when you had someone to gush over the guy with. 

              She grinned as she started the car, thinking about everything her sister was going to say. Probably similar to what was going on in her own mind, seeing as how the two of them thought along the same lines a lot of the time since they were twins. 

                                                                    *****

            “Oh, my god! You met Nikolaus Matthews? You’re absolutely sure that was his name?!” Elizabeth was hurrying after Cleo, trying to get answers. “I never thought he’d actually come back to Chicago. Did you know that he’s been away in the demon army for like, a hundred and some odd years now?”

            Cleo chuckled. Lizzy was obsessed with knowing everything going on with anyone at any time in the Mythsome world. No matter if it was cheesy or horrific, her twin sister would always know what it was, how it happened and when it was going to happen. She stood by the counters with the boxes on it, opening the new one from the auction that morning. “Yes, it was Nikolaus Matthews. He wanted me to go to coffee with him, but I knew that if I didn’t get here soon enough, you’d close it up to get to your store. Question, do you know what type of demon he is? I couldn’t figure it out, even when he got a little angry with me.”

            As Cleo started to unwrap the vase, her sister was staring at her with her mouth hanging open and shock in her eyes. Geez, she didn’t know her sister could be such a busy-body sometimes. But Cleo guessed that it wasn’t very helpful that she encouraged Lizzy to do what she wanted to.

            “Cleopatra, do you know what kind of danger you were in? Well, of course not because you don’t know what kind of demon he is, but still!” Lizzy threw her hands up into the air. “What am I going to do with you? Well, sister mine, Nikolaus Matthews is the -”

            A group of high school kids walked past yelling and throwing things around. The football hit the window and Lizzy gasped. Cleo just smiled and chuckled softly as her sister ran outside to yell at the kids. She thought about how her sister thought Cleo would have been in danger with Nikolaus, but pushed it away. Being a vampire meant she had enough abilities on her own that she wasn't afraid of any demon. She chuckled as she walked around the counter and started working on putting out the things that had come in that day.

            Cleo had gone home to drop off the painting and change before she had arrived at the shop. She had been surprised when she realized her sister was still there. Cleo guessed it was because they both owned it, but she couldn’t be sure. Especially with Lizzy having her own shop to keep an eye on. Now she was cleaning up the shop for the afternoon rush. Everyone from Chicago to California and up to Maine, knew about the Danning Boutique and Antique store because of the website and newspapers. So, a lot of people were either ordering online, or coming into the shop constantly. Cleo and Elizabeth had employed some other Mystique vampiras to help. When Lizzy left, Poppy was supposed to come in to keep watch on what was being bought online, or pieces being bargained for, while Cleo took care of the people coming into the shop. So far, the plan was working, therefore they hadn’t hired anyone besides Poppy, Eleanor and Teresa.

Lizzy walked in with a scowl on her face but immediately smiled and shooed Cleo away from the boxes. "That's my job, not yours. You always get frustrated with it."

They both laughed, both knowing just how true that was, then went back in front of the counter to lean against it and watch the irresponsible teenagers playing ball. When they finally continued on to harass and worry other shop keepers, Lizzy and Cleo turned to look into the small glass case on the cashier counter. It was filled with small antique necklaces, and Lizzy and she loved to suggest which one would look the best on the other. They continued to show each other pieces and suggest one for the other as they put away the new pieces. They laughed as they made faces at one another's choices.

            The bell on the door rung and both women looked up. Lizzy giggled, actually giggled like a school girl, then left into the backroom, saying she was going to take stock of some of the new stuff that had come in. Cleo rolled her eyes then turned to face her customer.

            Nikolaus was tempted to just stare at the woman. She was clad in a black shirt that showed her belly-button, and a pair of leather pants that conformed to her body tightly. She wore ankle high boots with heels that seemed to show off her calves beautifully. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about her since he had left her at her car, and now he knew he wouldn’t be able to get her out of his mind the rest of the day.

            “Hello, I didn’t expect you so soon.” Cleopatra smiled at him. “Would you like me to show you around? We actually have some interesting paintings over here.”

            She motioned to then started to walk towards the west wall and Nikolaus couldn’t do anything but follow. His gaze was drawn to the bare skin of her lower back, and her lovely behind in the tight leather. Her hips moved enticingly, making him want to grab her and... No, he wouldn’t think about that. This wasn't the time or place to think those kinds of thoughts. 

            “I actually came by here to talk. I have some antiques that my aunt left me when she died, and I have no idea what to do with them. I’m more of a painting person myself, but none of her antiques were paintings.” Nikolaus really was having that problem, but he only brought it up to take his mind off his lovely hostess’ bottom.

            Cleopatra looked over her shoulder at him. “Well, bring them in and we’ll take a look at ‘em. I'm sure there's something we could agree on for price. Tell me a little bit about what they are.”

            He almost groaned at that unconsciously sexy look. He had a hard time bringing his thoughts back to what she'd said. "Uhm," he cleared his throat. "There's this old jewelry box that I have no idea where it came from. It's wood, painted white, with blue, red, and purple flowers. There are green vines and leaves spreading across or around the flowers. The knobs to open the drawers look gold, but I'm pretty sure that it’s just iron painted to look gold. It does look like it's pretty old though, if you consider just the shape the wood is in. Then, there are these sets of small but actually pretty beautiful glass weights in different colors, shapes and sizes. Quite amazing, actually. One of them looks like a cat."

            "Hm." Cleo kept walking as she said that one syllable. Nikolaus started thinking she wouldn't reply when she said, "Bring them in sometime this week and we can settle on a price. I know I'll probably pay a good amount from what you said about those simple pieces. It's usually the smaller ones that end up selling the best. Great as paper weights, you know?"

            Grinning, Nikolaus acted on instinct, putting a hand on her hip and spinning her around into his body. She gasped, but put her hands on his chest to stop herself from going any further. "I know exactly what I want in return." Cleopatra gasped again in outrage, but her breathing had also turned slightly shallow. "Now, don't get the wrong idea. I just want a couple of dates. Like walking on the beach, going to the movies and then a fancy restaurant kind of dates."

            But he couldn’t stop himself from pulling her a little closer. Her breasts pressed into his chest, and Nikolaus almost groaned at how good it felt. Even though she was right up against him, Cleopatra didn’t seem to notice his divided attention as he eyed her body. Indeed, she was gazing at him with a new look in her eyes. He liked to think that it was desire, and it was almost like she was caressing his chest now. She was certainly leaning into him and her breathing was a little shallow, like she was anticipating something.

            “Well, I suppose you could have a few dates. But only three for the beach, movies, and then that fancy dinner.” She gave him a thoughtful look, her breath slowly returning back to normal as she took back control over her body. “You’ll be paying for all of this, right? Cause if not, I can always put in a couple of dollars.”

            He gave her a stern glare. “No, you can’t put in a couple of dollars. The dates I’m taking you on are real dates. Not just so you can pay me for the antiquities I’m giving you, but real dates.”

            Cleopatra shook her head not knowing what to think of this man’s idea of what she thought was a way to pay him for some simple antiques. As she mulled over his idea, Cleo stared up at him and felt herself growing even more aroused then she had been when he had first grabbed her to him. She leaned even more into him, feeling the muscles in his wide, beautiful chest tighten a little, and looked up at him with wicked thoughts going through her mind. Cleo wanted to kiss him and do more...delicious things to his scrumpcious body.

            "Oh, but didn't you know I was rich? I have money I can put in, being charitable. Perhaps it won't be for the dates, but for you. I'll pay you for sweet kisses and loving gestures." She grinned at his stunned look. It quickly passed and he grinned at her as wickedly as her eyes were shining at him.

            "Dear Cleopatra, I don't think I'll need the enticement of money to give you sweet kisses or loving gestures." His hand slid down her back, gripped her bottom, and pulled her lower half closer to him. "In fact, we could start now..."

            But even as he pulled her closer, she pushed herself into him. "Hmm, now why would I agree to that, cherie?" He groaned softly, sounding tortured. She sighed at the hard feel of his body.

            "Woman," he groaned. "You're going to kill me."

            She chuckled, then slid her arms off his neck and turned back towards the casings with the paintings. She leaned against it, trying to get her wits back together. She was extremely attracted to Nikolaus, was fighting herself even from kissing him. Cleo smiled slightly, amused by her reaction. She didn’t know for sure what it meant, but she had a guess, and it wasn’t something she thought she was ready for. Not by a long shot.

            Nikolaus rubbed the back of his neck, thinking himself crazy. He felt like a randy teenager again, trailing after a girl because he wanted her. “Alright, so what paintings do you have then?”

            Cleo chucked softly and opened the case. The man had a one-track mind. “We only have prints for the most part, but they are all very good prints. They could be mistaken as the real paintings, they’re that good. Here we hold ones from the Renaissance era, so you might like these. I know we have a great print of The School of Athens.”

            Nikolaus walked over to bend over the case and look through the paintings as Cleo slowly showed them to him. She was right about the prints being good enough to be able to pass as the real thing. It was amazing, really, since he hadn’t seen anything like that before. It had always been easy for him to spot the fakes.

            “Do you have real paintings, though? Any at all?” He turned to look at her, pausing as he flipped through the prints.

            His cell was suddenly ringing, breaking up his thoughts and stopping Cleo from saying anything. He sent her a small smile before he answered the phone with a brisk “Matthews”. He walked away a bit, going into the boutique section of the store, and Cleo slowly closed the paintings cabinets. She had a feeling that he would be rushing out at any minute now and worked to control the disappointment that grew in the pit of her stomach. It just didn’t seem right to want to be in his company so much when she barely knew the man. Then again, she had also agreed to go on a couple dates with him, so she would get the chance to know him.

            She turned as she heard his steps heading back towards her. She smiled at him, but then frowned as she noticed that he wasn’t happy about whoever had just called.

            He stopped in front of her, giving her a strained smile. “I’m sorry to rush off, but I’ll have to come back another time to see the paintings. Would tomorrow be alright? Or the day after possibly?”

            Cleo smiled and crossed her arms. “Whenever you’re able to come back. I’m not going to expect you tomorrow, and you can take your time.”

            Nikolaus was quiet, studying her face for a moment. His eyes twinkled mischeviously, making her nervous. But she didn’t have time to do anything before she was being picked up and kissed thoroughly. Cleo was breathless when Nikolaus put her back down. He stroked her cheek as she stared at him then grinned. “I’ll see you later, Cleopatra Danning.”

            She took a deep breath, trying to form a coherent thought to answer him but couldn’t form the words. She ended up just watching him as he left. 

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