Even Vampires Get the Blues - By Katie MacAlister

"Hi." A woman stood in the doorway, American if her breathy voice was anything to go by. "Are you Payann, by any chance?"

Paen looked up from a tattered manuscript, wincing slightly at the mispronunciation of his name. The woman had to be from the southern US. No one else drawled his name into two syllables. "I'm Paen, yes. Can I help?"

"Hi," the woman said again, slipping in through the barely opened door, a big Cheshire cat smile on her face. "I'm Clarice Miller."

Paen was on his guard the second the smile hit her lips. Whose was she? he idly wondered as she smoothed down her sexy, nearly see-through gauzy dress before starting across the room in what he assumed was meant to be a seductive slink. Daniel's? No, Danny preferred redheads, and this woman had a mane of golden brown curls that spilled over her shoulders. Finn's? Clarice turned her smile up a notch as she stopped before the chair opposite him. She might possibly be Finn's, but his middle brother tended to prefer earthier women, Pagans and Wiccans. Clarice looked fresh out of an expensive salon or day spa. Which meant she had to belong to -

"Avery said you're the laird of Castle Death?" She tilted her head slightly, so she was peering up at him through her lashes in a pose he mentally dubbed the Princess Di look. It was charming on the late princess... less so on the American in front of him.

Regardless of the irritating interruption, he kept his voice pleasant. "I'm the acting laird of the castle - which is named de Ath, incidentally, not Death - but my father is the true owner. He and my mother have moved to Bolivia, however, so if you have a question about the estate, I will do my best to answer it."

The scarlet-tipped fingers of her left hand trailed along the edge of his rosewood desk as she sidled around it toward where he sat. "Your daddy's in Bolivia? How fascinating. But you're left here to handle everything yourself since you're the oldest son? That must be a lot of work. Avery says your land runs for miles and miles all around the castle."

Paen heaved a small, inaudible sigh, and mentally wrote the words gold digger next to the woman's face. Lately, Avery had taken to bringing home women who seemed to be more attracted to the family's home and supposed wealth than the men who lived there. "Yes, we have a bit of land. And yes, it takes some doing to manage the estate, but as I enjoy the work, it's not really that much of a chore. Is there something in particular I can help you with? Some question you have, perhaps?" He glanced at the ancient manuscript before him, wishing nothing more than to be left in peace so he could finish translating it.

"Well now, that's mighty kind of you, but I'm here to help you," she answered, scooting aside the manuscript so she could ease herself onto the desk. Her smile changed into one of blatant invitation. "I was thinking I might give you a hand" - she paused as her eyes flickered briefly to his crotch - "with whatever you might need. I'm told that I'm very good at what I do."

Paen sat back as she crossed her legs. He gave her full marks for the casual way her dress seemed to slide back on her thighs as if by accident. Did she know what he and his brothers really were? Or was she just looking for a fling with a bona fide Scotsman, as he'd heard female American tourists were wont to do? "What exactly did you think to turn your hand to?"

"Oh... this and that," she answered, her little pink tongue running quickly across her bottom lip. Paen watched her attempts at seduction with mild amusement. "Anything you like, really. I'm open to all suggestions."

She dropped one shoulder and leaned forward, allowing him an unobstructed view of two plump breasts.

Being a man, he felt obliged to admire them for a moment. That done, he gave Clarice a tight, dismissive smile. "Indeed. I'm afraid that I already employ a steward, and she's quite competent, if a bit on the trying side sometimes. Although I appreciate your offer, there really isn't much that I need help with."

She licked her lips again, more slowly this time. "I bet I could think of something."

Paen looked down in surprise. Clarice, evidently emboldened by his brief admiration

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