Chapter OneMature

Nicklaus Crowl is a beast of a man; born and bred to be a warrior and a King. Raised amid the chaos of the Clan War he knows little of peace or light. In an attempt to strike a balance in his life, he leaves his family home in Manhattan and finds himself a condo in San Francisco; but the duties of an heir are not impeded by miles or continents, and Klaus must learn that he cannot juggle two separate lives.

When Caroline Forbes enters his life, he finds himself questioning everything he's a

The rain came down hard and fast. Puddles littered the pocked sidewalks. The droplets drummed against her umbrella, slipping along the vinyl and dripping off the edges. Storm clouds the color of cigarette ash stretched above the San Francisco horizon, the heavy burn of dawn skirting in at the edges. It was a gloomy day and the prospect of returning home to put on her pajamas and start the fireplace in her bedroom was beginning to seem irresistible. Beneath the overhang outside of her favorite coffee shop, Caroline paused to shake off the rain from her umbrella. Out of the corner of her eye she watched a man climb from the back seat of a taxi, his fedora hanging low over his face as the rain pelted his trench coat. His long strides carried him to the door of the coffee shop within seconds. Just as she secured her closed umbrella, he pulled the door open.

To her surprise, he stepped back and, with a polite smile and an open-palmed hand gesture, he allowed her to go first. She could smell his cologne - earthy, musky, it reminded her of the forests in Oregon, where she’d grown up. She murmured a thank-you and ducked inside. The rush of warm air hit her the instant she crossed the threshold and she sighed happily, setting her umbrella down on a small table to for two beside one of the many windows lining the far wall. Rain dribbled along the glass, distant now that she was safely inside the cozy shop. Fishing her wallet out of her purse, she ran a hand through her wild curls, pulling them back from her face. She navigated her way through the small tables and got in line at the counter, debating a hot cider over her usual mocha cappuccino as she dug a few small bills from the folds of her wallet.

Behind the counter, the barista smiled at her with vague recognition. Caroline’s eyes did a cursory scan of the danishes and pastries lining the glass display cases. She ordered a croissant and a large hot cider, and stuffed a few singles into the tip jar as her change was counted out. Equipped with her breakfast and cider, she made her way back to the table beside the window and settled into a seat to enjoy herself a little before she would be expected at the office.

Two bites into her croissant, a rumbling voice approached her just out of her peripheral vision.

“Is this seat taken?”

To her mild surprise, it was the man she’d seen get out of the taxi, the gentleman that had opened the door for her; he’d removed his fedora and his trench coat was folded and draped over his left arm. In his free hand held a steaming cup of black coffee. His aqua-green eyes peered down at her above a generous smile. Her eyes followed the lines of his lips, the wide expanse of his grin, the opalescent glow of his teeth. Unconsciously her lips pulled up to mirror his and she remembered how flaky croissants were.

Gingerly covering her crumb-sprinkled mouth with her hand before speaking, Caroline fumbled, “No, not at all. Please sit.” She wiped her lips free of debris with a napkin from the table dispenser as he set down his drink and moved his trench coat to the back of the empty chair.

He moved with an air of weightlessness, slow and graceful. “I’m Nicklaus,” he said, leaning back in his chair, one ankle crossed over the opposite knee, his fingers sliding possessively around his coffee cup. “Are you from the area?”

“Yes, I’ve been here for almost five years.” Caroline softened her posture, relaxing into the conversation. She added, “And I’m Caroline.”

His gaze was almost a pressure on her skin, barely detectable, but a little disarming. In fact, his entire demeanor was disarming - the set to his jawline, the angle of his posture, the slant to his mouth. The way he held himself as if he were ready to get up and vanish at any instant; as if he were expecting the need to arise. Still, she didn’t get up to leave.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Caroline,” he said, his smile stretching open over his teeth again. She knew it was inappropriate to study the way her name rolled around on his tongue, as if he were tasting it, but it didn’t stop her. “I’m new to the area, myself. In fact, I just unpacked my condo yesterday.”

“I see you’ve wasted no time in finding the best coffee shop in the area.”

His returning smirk was almost devilish. “I’m very intuitive in terms of product quality.” He sipped at his coffee, and though the cup was still steaming thick rivulets of vapor, he didn’t seem to notice the heat. “Such a dreary day,” he added, “I’d like to make something good out of it but I have no idea where to begin.”

“The Greenhouse is open this early,” she said, flippantly, tearing off a piece of her croissant and popping it into her mouth.

“That sounds like a good start.” Klaus straightened up and leaned forward, toward her, his eyes virtually glowing with expectation, and said, “Would you come with me? Are you doing anything else today?”

The End

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