The Romanian's hungry stare closed the distance between them. Alba's cheeks burned. We hardly know one another!
Desperate to steer the conversation away from herself, she cleared her throat. “I have yet to wish you a happy birthday, Dr. Griffin.”
“Thank you.” The guest of honor did a cordial bow. “But ‘Griffin' is merely my professional name.”
Alba frowned. “What is your real name?”
Alba's limbs froze and the room started to take on a slow whirl. “That's curious,” she murmured. “I knew someone by that name in Romania.”
“And I once knew a girl named Alba Zâpâda,” Dimitri said as a curtain of desire passed over his face. “ You. ”
His lips thinned into a familiar smile and Alba's hand flew to her gaping mouth. Curse my poor eyesight! Now that she was this close to him she knew precisely who he was: Dimitri, the handsome Gypsy boy she'd fallen in love with at the tender age of fourteen.
Words escaped her as she gasped for air.
“Life is too short to be without the ones you love,” Dimitri purred. “Don't you think?”
All at once, memories of the summer Alba spent in the Balkan countryside flashed through her mind:
The first kiss she and Dimitri shared amid a field of white poppies.
Simona, Dimitri's raven-haired friend.
And the terrifying night the three of them spent in a haunted graveyard.
Her blood raced and the room spun in faster circles.
“I've been waiting an eternity to return this to you,” Dimitri whispered as he slipped a dried white poppy into her hand.
“But I thought you were dead,” she said before everything went black.