My mind was a jumble of a thousand different things and nothing made sense. From the way he treated me to the way he made me feel, but my body wasn’t suffering from any confusion. It knew exactly how it felt.
It – we – never wanted him to stop.
But I shouldn’t feel that way. Knew I couldn’t ever interest anyone, much less someone like him, in the way I was coming to feel for him. I’d learned a long time ago the cost was too great a price to pay for entertaining the silly fantasies of a silly girl.
But it took all of my strength to lock down every emotion flowing through me while Master fed. I couldn’t let him know how much I enjoyed it. How much it pleased me in ways that had nothing to do with extending his life by giving him the nourishment he needed. How much his mere presence delighted me or how I was coming to crave our private conversations more and more. He couldn’t know I was coming to fancy him.
Master was my charge and a Vampire King.
I was nothing in comparison.
While more valuable than a plain human, my skills as a warrior – and now, perhaps my blood – would be the only things he desired of me. My virtue may have been intact, but I knew enough to know that all men rose in the same state as Master had, so I thought nothing of it. His aroused state wasn’t due to any desire he had for me and I couldn’t allow myself to be fooled again. The silly fantasies of a silly girl were the cause of my worthlessness as a woman. If Master knew I coveted his attention in the way a woman covets a man, then he could presume my attention would be divided as it had been on the day of my accident. He could deduce my ability to protect him would be compromised and deem my standing as his defender to be insignificant.
He could release me from my pledge.
So I attempted to force my thoughts towards something less pleasant. Less arousing. Anything that would stop my body from giving away my true wants.
The human mastodon.
The vampire sheriff with the unfortunate hair style at his turning.
My endeavors to cool my body’s reactions by tempering my thoughts were working. At least they had been until Master was done feeding.
Him licking the wounds closed on my neck only served to reignite the small spark I had been trying to put out, so I mentally scrambled to reorganize my thoughts. If he was able to sense my desire for him and I showed the slightest bit of distraction because of it, he could deem me a risk.
I could be relegated to joining the Weres in wing-offs and be forced to answer to the tiger if I wished to remain in his service.
That thought, along with Master’s attentions to my wound, meant my responding shudder had a dual cause. But the fluttering in both my stomach and further down my body that occurred next, while unfortunate, couldn’t be helped.
And – dare I say – it was all Master’s fault.
Just thinking ill of him had me mentally backtracking, knowing that wasn’t a fair assessment. I knew in actuality it was nothing more than his predatory instincts that made his fingers wind their way into my hair. Vampiric compulsion that caused his lips to claim my own in a bruising kiss. Male reflex that made him hard against my leg.
It was my own fault for feeling pleasure over something that was nothing more than what his nature caused him to react to.
But nature or not, I couldn’t stop my own reactions and soon gave myself over to his talented lips and tongue while it lasted, feeling guilty the entire time. While love was a rare occurrence to be treasured, sex was nothing more than the giving and receiving of pleasure, driven by hormones and mutual attraction.
The fact I was still a virgin attested to my own hopelessness in attracting the opposite sex, be it from my inability to reproduce or my polluted blood. And while Master had claimed me as his to his sheriff, the fact was I had been his from the moment of my conception. My life was always meant to be his, so there was no good to be had by deluding myself into thinking I could have anything more.
Despite my incapability to reproduce, what man would want a woman who would never put him first?
Master was and would always be my only priority, but the same couldn’t be said for him. I didn’t need to be a mind reader to know every woman who crossed his path wanted him sexually. Aside from his pleasing features, he exuded confidence. Danger.
I would be surprised if his picture wasn’t next to the definition of ‘sex appeal’.
And I was also admittedly surprised he hadn’t partaken in the pleasures of the flesh during my brief tenure in his service. The one donor he had chosen on my second night as his defender had been sent away, giving him nothing more of her body than blood. But I had thought perhaps after a thousand years even sex had gotten old for him.
But feeling him grinding against my leg was giving me second thoughts.
Thoughts I shouldn’t be having.
So I refrained from trying to attain any sort of physical relief, but I did allow myself to enjoy – just a little – my very first kiss.
Master was very good at it.
When I attempted to participate, my efforts fell short because my tongue gliding over his fangs only made him groan painfully and pull back. I’d known their teeth were very sensitive to touch, so I tried to hide the shame I felt over kissing him wrong, while he rightfully shoved me against the nearest wall and used his body to hold mine in place, with his face hovering over mine. The storm brewing behind his eyes was the only movement he made as he softly whispered, “You will be the death of me.”
He sensed my attraction.
But to what extent?
I couldn’t think clearly with him so close, so I popped myself across the room in order to tell him I would remain focused. Swear to him I had no delusion he fancied me as well, so neither one of us would be in danger of falling to the sword of another. Vow to him I had learned from my mistake.
At least, that had been my plan.
Master had other plans because he was on me nearly the moment I rematerialized. Of course, I had sensed his approach and could have popped away before he caught me.
And I would likely forever live in denial as to why I hadn’t.
But I held absolutely still, while he dragged his nose along my jaw up to whisper in my ear, “Keep it up and I will be the death of you.”
After all, I had caused him pain in my attempt to kiss him back.
But I said nothing and offered no resistance as he buried his face against my neck and inhaled deeply, with his next whispered words making me reevaluate his previous threat.
“You call to the predator in me and it has been a long time since I’ve had the occasion to hunt.”
While his actions were the cause for more unfortunate reactions in my body, I was confused by his admission. However my need to apologize for taking liberties I’d had no right to take had grown even stronger.
I shouldn’t have kissed him back.
Stupid silly girl.
“Stop!” he ordered, no longer whispering and no longer exhibiting any of the earlier signs he was in a lustful state from feeding.
I guessed the dirty mixture of my blood hadn’t been appetizing enough for him to want to go any further.
Just call me Hermione because I was a Mudblood.
There were so many things he could be chastising me for, so I had no way of knowing what exactly he was ordering me to stop doing. Kissing him was at the top of my list of likely culprits and my eyes automatically dropped down, but his fingers grasped my chin and pulled it up, bringing my eyes with it as he said, “You will stop feeling this…this…”
Staring up at him now, he looked positively incensed, either over his loss of words or perhaps my liberty taking lips. But then his eyes zeroed back on mine like two dark blue lasers while he accused, “That! You have balls the size of the Himalayas when it comes to battling creatures three times your size and ten times your age. And yet you’re more fragile than a butterfly caught up in a hurricane when it comes to your own sense of self-worth.”
Gripping my hips in each of his hands, he lifted me up the wall until I was a head taller than him and said, “Repeat after me. I am better than any full blooded fucking fairy.”
“What?” I gasped and automatically rejected the idea with, “No! I’m not!”
Sullied. Soiled. Sookie.
They all began with ‘S’.
“You are,” he snarled, literally shaking the thoughts out of my head and growled, “Do you think any of those stupid fucking fairies could hold their own in a battle against me? Like you did. Don’t you think it cowardly that they stay hidden away from this world, effectively choosing the probable extinction of their race over the possibility of having to face the likes of my kind? Like you do, each and every night.”
The room could have exploded into flames around us and I wouldn’t have been able to move my eyes from his when he ended with, “Those fairy fucks you call kin are filled with nothing but heroin. You, Sookie…Susannah…you are filled with nothing but honor. So have trust in me as I have trusted you. You are better than any of them.”
“But…” I started and stalled, unsure of where to go from there.
Although, ‘But why do you care?’ was currently leading the pack.
Perhaps sharing blood hadn’t been such a good idea. Perhaps he felt my feelings about myself would cloud my judgment or impair me in some way that would be detrimental to him.
“The only but I am open to discussing would be this one,” he smirked, pressing his fingers into my bottom, easily done with his hands still gripping my hips.
Needing some time to think about…well, everything, I chose to fall back into the easy banter we often shared whenever it was just the two of us.
But I was part-coward after all.
“I believe we’ve already covered that topic,” I softly smiled in return and reminded him, “No panties to bunch, remember?”
The smirk died on his lips and his eyes grew wider, with him shaking his head and muttering something like, “Royally fucked.” But before I could ask, he shook his head and looked back at me, saying, “I believe Adele is waiting for us.”
Reaching out with my mind, I nodded and confirmed, “Just down the hall and around the corner. She’s waiting to hear your door open before running back down to the kitchen and acting like she hasn’t been waiting to see us all day long.”
He nodded in return, but that was it. And after a long moment of no other movement or words from him, I pointedly glanced down at his hands still gripping my hips before meeting his eyes once more and playfully asked, “Will you be carrying me downstairs, Master? Or perhaps I can just pop us into the hallway and give the old woman a heart attack? She’ll be too preoccupied trying to survive it to question your integrity.”
That was what had bothered me the most about the woman. Master obviously held her in very high regard – proven even more so by the fact he also employed her oaf of a grandson. And yet she had been so quick to assume the worst about our king and his intentions towards her family if she could even entertain the idea he would steal her granddaughter and glamour away her memories.
If I was full of honor, then she was decidedly lacking in it as far as I was concerned.
Master caught my attention once more by slowly lowering my body down the wall. His gaze remained locked in front of him, as though he was memorizing every part of me that slid into and then out of his view. When his eyes met mine on my descent, they stayed there until I was back on my feet and for some reason it felt more intimate than our entire encounter during his dinner.
So I pretended not to notice.
Just like I pretended earlier to not notice Master had his own mighty hammer.
Claudette was a bad influence. I blamed her.
Whatever his reasons were for trying to build up my self-esteem, I couldn’t allow myself to believe his interest in my welfare was anything more than how it would affect him. I had vowed to protect his life above all others, even my own.
Of course he would want his personal guard to be confident in all aspects.
He wouldn’t want silly girls with silly fanciful fantasies batting her lashes at him when she should be covering his back.
So I battened down the hatches, sealing that silly girl away from the storm she could potentially unleash, and tried to exude a completely unaffected air as I asked, “The old woman?”
Master finally blinked and took a step back, seeming to shake off wherever his mind had wandered to and smirked, “She has a name.”
“They all do,” I shrugged. “When she proves herself worthy of your favor in my eyes, I’ll use it.”
His smirk morphed into a grin and he shook his head before turning towards the door and said, “You hide them well.”
Trailing after him, my heart jumped in my chest and the air caught in my lungs.
Did he know?
“Them?” I asked, wondering how I would explain the confusing emotions I felt towards him.
Surely whatever it was I felt couldn’t be anything more than a tiny crush.
“The Himalayas you carry in between your thighs,” he explained. Reaching for the door, he entered the security code before turning the handle and turned towards me to add with a smile, “I couldn’t see the outline of them at all. Trust me, I looked.”
The words were out of my mouth before I could even think of stopping them, but they brought Master’s feet to a stop. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of my traitorous tongue because it decided to take a few more liberties this evening by saying, “How could I not? With the way you walk around your quarters with your royal scepter leading the way, one would think you often hold court in your private chambers.”
He stared at me for a long moment completely devoid of any expression. And unable to sense his emotional state, I couldn’t be sure if the foot in my mouth had inadvertently crossed over the invisible line on its way in.
At least I’d had the forethought to switch to Old Norse the moment the door opened.
But his barking laughter echoing through the hallway let me off the hook and made the Were called Purifoy jump in surprise.
And he wasn’t the only one.
So I fell into step alongside of him and chuckled out, “You may have just caused the old woman to have a coronary all by yourself, so we’ll have to walk slower if you want her to beat us to the kitchen.”
I liked it when Master was relaxed. He worked much too hard for very little reward, so seeing him lighthearted was a treat for us both. One I hoped to see more of when we were done dealing with his CEO.
And that was where my mind lingered as we eventually entered the kitchen where we were greeted by the old woman.
“Your Majesty,” she smiled and nodded her head in deference to our king. “I hope you rested well.” Rising up she gestured to the goblet of blood sitting on the table – I gathered from her thoughts it was a standard practice for him when in this residence as he didn’t travel with donors – and said, “Your meal is ready.”
Her eyes had quickly moved to my own, but I could tell while she was seeing me, she wasn’t really seeing me. She was just relieved I was still there and hadn’t been shipped off after she’d gone the night before.
And confused once again by the feelings that washed over her, making her think that she knew me.
Ever perceptive, Master’s eyes lingered on her and waited until she finally looked back at him to say, “Thank you Adele, but I’ve already fed.”
He didn’t say any more and didn’t look over at me, but he didn’t have to for her to know where his nourishment had come from.
And I didn’t need to look at her to know she wasn’t too happy about that fact.
Likely sensing my rising hostility at her silent disloyalty, he took another step to block me from her view, but it was a tossup on who he was attempting to protect.
Who needs to be a mind reader when yours couldn’t hide her thoughts in a bucket with a lid on it?
The sound of Master’s voice soothed the cantankerous beast in me somewhat and I forced myself to calm down, listening as he asked, “Is there something you want to ask me about my…guest?”
She took a moment, choosing her words carefully, before hedging, “You don’t normally travel with…guests other than Miss Pam.”
“No,” he agreed. “I don’t.”
Disappointment flowed through her over his ambiguous response.
Glee flowed through me for the very same reason.
She appeared stuck in limbo with nowhere to go and neither one of us could bring up the elephant in the room without revealing my gift when something else occurred to me. I hadn’t yet spoken a word in front of the woman – while she was conscious, anyway – and doubting very highly the girl Hadley could speak Old Norse, I used it as I told him, “Your old woman is confused. I can feel she wants to believe I am the girl, but logic is telling her otherwise and she’s wise enough to not accuse you outright of anything nefarious. It is more sense than sight that leads her to think I could be her granddaughter, but the sound of my voice speaking this language is tipping the scales back towards sound reasoning.”
Her sense of perception – while incorrect – reminded me of the way of the Fae. We could sense our blood – our kin – if we reached out for them with our magic.
Knowing Great-grandfather had sealed the portal upon his return, I hadn’t even bothered to try sensing him or my cousins.
Master nodded at my explanation, but kept his eyes on the woman and gave her the opportunity one more time by asking, “Is there anything else, Adele?”
Her mind was at war with her heart. One was convinced I wasn’t the girl, while the other was convinced the opposite was true.
Thankfully, logic won out and she merely shook her head and replied, “No, but if she has any special dietary needs or would like anything special prepared, I would be appreciative if you would translate for me.”
I swallowed the snicker that threatened to come out, but her misbelief I couldn’t speak English was my own fault.
A false impression I would likely foster during the remainder of our stay.
With that taken care of I followed Master into his office and watched him quickly go through his emails. Replaying our evening thus far – I admittedly skipped over a lot for my own sanity – but something he’d said earlier ended up combining with something I’d thought of later and it was like a literal light bulb appeared over my head.
My eyes even darted skyward just to be sure.
“What?” he asked, not needing to look over at me to know there was something I wanted to ask him.
“When was the last time you hunted?”
He had been steadily typing away on his keyboard, but froze at my question, with only his eyes darting up to meet my own.
“Truly hunted? Before the Industrial Revolution.” Arching a single brow, he asked, “Why?”
I ignored his question and acted suddenly uninterested, lazily asking, “Do you miss it?”
I knew he could feel my building excitement. I blamed that for why his fangs chose to make another appearance, but we both pretended to not notice.
Figuring I would up the ante, I tossed my legs out over the armrest of the chair I’d been seated in and leaned back, swinging them back and forth and looking at my fingernails like they were the most interesting thing in the room.
When in actuality, I was chumming the waters.
A warning and a whine all rolled into one.
I was competitive by nature – something I believed we held in common – and I reached out with my mind, searching the acreage of his estate for a deserted location. I might not have been able to sort through everything else just yet, but this I could do for him like no other and at the same time prove to him I was invaluable as his protector.
His massive ego would work in my favor when even he would be unable to best me.
It wasn’t difficult to feel his eyes drilling into me and when I found what I wanted, I finally looked up at him and smiled. Staring into his eyes, my body was already dematerializing before him as I taunted, “Catch me if you can.”