My mind had been busy, replaying her remarkable adeptness at mastering the dialect of Old Norse when my internal alarm silently and suddenly went off. But with my back facing towards her, I couldn’t be sure what had alerted me to her impending attack. Despite the high heels on her feet, the only sound I’d heard prior to spinning around was the slight displacement of air as she’d swung her sword. But something else had given her away in just enough time for me to be able to block her blow with the first sword my hand could reach.
I couldn’t be sure if she’d truly meant to harm me, but I wasn’t taking any chances. And with her standing directly in front of me, fiercely parrying and thrusting in the seductive – although deadly – dance we were now engaged in, I could see what my other sense must have picked up on right away.
Their scent was already rapidly fading away as we moved across the room, with the only evidence they’d existed at all being the slight moisture pooled in the corners of her eyes, next to the sea of blue glaring back at me. If I’d had cause to blink, I would have missed them altogether because they dried up just as quickly as they’d come.
Thinking perhaps it had something to do with missing her home, upon hearing how close she had been to being set free, I nearly released her then and there.
And I might have.
But unfortunately for her, I found all of my concentration was soon needed to keep up with her. Surprisingly quick for a mostly human fae, she handled her sword as though she’d been born with it in her hand.
Brigant hadn’t been exaggerating about her skill.
It had been some time – too long, really – since I’d last had the occasion to swing a sword. It had also been quite a while since I’d last faced a worthy opponent, but watching her easily dodge my intended glancing blows, it would seem I had finally found one.
And I would possibly tell her so, if she didn’t end me first.
Instead I tried to rein in my slack jawed expression, watching her deftly avoid the tip of my sword by twisting her body in ways that left me even more intrigued.
Susannah was very limber.
My eyes lingered on her form, while my mind lingered for much too long on the pleasures to be had by her, but it was her proficiency with a sword that ultimately made me ask, “How long have you been training, Princess?”
Her skill level was better than some vampires I knew. Her aptitude for learning must have been as high as Brigant had claimed for one as young as she to be fighting at the degree she was already capable of.
Knowing her age, I would’ve guessed she’d been made to pick up her first sword perhaps ten years earlier, at most. So I was more than a little stunned when she growled with a mixture of pride and contempt in her voice, “I can’t remember, but I’ve been told the most dangerous duty in all of the Fae realm was being my wet nurse as a babe. Milk wasn’t the only liquid I’d drawn from their bodies.”
Surely…she must be exaggerating.
But I didn’t have a chance to ask when she darted forward and back again, quicker than I’d been prepared for, and left a three inch superficial cut above my heart.
It was the only evidence I needed to know she wasn’t, in fact, trying to end me because a simple flick of her wrist would have done the job. One that no other had managed to do in over a thousand years, despite the number of attempts in that time.
And once again, I had been underestimating her. However it was her next words that I found more unbelievable than the wound already stitching itself closed, when she said, “And I’m not a princess.”
Spinning my body to avoid her next lunge, I argued, “I beg to differ.”
I’d clearly heard Brigant say she was his great-granddaughter.
“You’ll beg for your life if you continue to leave your left flank unguarded when your mind wanders,” she sneered.
So I sneered in return.
Because she was right.
So I told myself I wasn’t really trying. This wasn’t a true fight to the death and the last thing I wanted to do was mortally wound her.
Not when I found her so captivating.
“You are of Brigant’s bloodline,” I mused aloud, barely blocking yet another of her intended blows and missing the intended target of my own. “That makes you a princess, Princess.”
She outright growled at my taunt and dove towards me, moving her body at a rate that should have left her winded as she upped the ante on her assault. Instead I was left marveling over the fact she had yet to even break a sweat on her brow, while she sounded no less breathless than if she’d been sprawled across a chaise lounge as she scoffed, “I have no rights to the throne. Our entire bloodline could be extinguished before me and still the kingdom would never be mine. Regardless of my name, my kin, or my competence, I am tainted by human blood, bred only to serve you. I have no standing with my kind and were it not for our debt, I would not even exist.”
The tip of her sword easily found my left side – left unguarded, just as she’d said, when my mind wandered – while both her words and her blade sank in.
Surely, I’d misunderstood.
“So what do they call you?” I asked, still trying to put it all together.
Both her feet and her mouth faltered, when she stuttered out, “Soo…Susannah.”
Lowering my sword to my side, I looked for the words that continued to evade me, just like the young woman before me whom I had yet to leave a mark on. I’d hardly given any thought to the fairy royal’s debt at all once the first century had come to pass.
I’d known it wouldn’t be settled with a full blooded Fae. Their scent was simply too narcotizing to my kind, so crossbreeding with a human would have been necessary.
It would have taken more than one generation removed from the Fae for their scent to fade enough so they wouldn’t end up as nothing more than just a superb meal.
Even more time would be needed for that distant kin to grow and mature.
And – apparently – learn Old Norse and swing a sword like any worthy gladiator.
But when more time than should have been necessary went on with no word from Brigant, I had assumed he would likely wait until I made a demand for repayment.
One I probably would have never made.
Because I never truly expected him to willingly serve up one of his descendants to me.
So when he appeared before me twenty-one years earlier – eight hundred years after the debt had been made – to inform me the birth of a suitable child had taken place, in all honesty I was sure he only found the child acceptable to one day be handed over to me because it had been born disfigured or mentally deformed thanks to the nuclear fallout that now infected parts of every continent, save Antarctica.
But even upon seeing Susannah for the first time earlier that night, I’d given no thought to the preparations behind her appearance. With her pleasing physical attributes and her even more delightful words spoken in my native tongue, my only frame of reference to tie it all together was she must have been the product of some sort of human/fairy finishing school.
Spending mornings with her nose in a book, afternoons with my native language on her tongue, and nights teasingly putting hers on or in the equivalent of a fairy jock.
But with the sobering implication of her words, I was no longer under that impression.
I just didn’t know what to think.
“Lift your sword, Master,” she warned. “Or do you admit defeat?”
Doing as she’d said on autopilot, I vaguely noticed Herveaux’s appearance in the doorway, likely alerted to our presence by the unmistakable sound of steel hitting steel. But I briefly held my hand out towards him, signaling him to not interfere if he was of mind to. And not long after, I spotted Quinn in the mix of the rapidly growing ring of spectators all vying for a position in the doorway. And, while not seen but heard, Pam had made her way there too, with her defiant chants of, “I saw her first!” echoing across the room.
‘Too bad,’ I wanted to tell my child. ‘Susannah had been born for ME.’
Like the sword in her hand, the implications of that flew freely in all directions. But I ignored them and all those around us, needing to keep both eyes on the fiery little tainted fairy in front of me. With her imposing display, I was sure the upper echelon of my guards were now worrying about their positions within the hierarchy of my protection detail.
I’d spoken too soon when telling her I wasn’t sure where she would best fit. And always feeling invigorated when my sword was out, I knew of other places she would fit very well.
I could see three different spots in the room where I could take her, just from where I was standing.
We had to have been at it for nearly an hour by then, but she showed no signs of slowing down. There was no fatigue in her swing. No weariness in her movements.
I was still impressed, but it was the inference of her words that continued to eat away at me. There was something very off-putting at the thought of Brigant raising her like a prize winning cow, only to hand her off to settle a debt I no longer cared anything about. It had been at his insistence his debt be repaid in this way and while I could appreciate the magnitude of the gesture – now – now as I watched the fierce little creature before me, attempting to put me in my place, I would like nothing more than for him to take hers.
If only for a moment.
That would be all I would need to run him through with my sword.
While I recalled my earlier remarks, I couldn’t help but remember her disparaging ones about herself and I had a sneaking suspicion my initial assumptions about her upbringing were well off the mark. But I could no longer be sure about anything.
The only thing I could be certain of was her stamina only seemed to renew itself with every offensive tactic she tried. Now gaining some ground on my positioning, I wondered if she was perhaps part machine. But my mind just as quickly dismissed the idea, with my mouth noting my frivolous thoughts out loud by noting, “You’re sweating.”
Even that scent on her was appetizing.
“I. Don’t. Sweat!” she huffed, spinning around and landing her fourth blow, with her blade glancing across my right forearm this time. The wound was already stitching itself closed when she added, “I glisten.”
Parts of me were glistening as well. One part in particular.
Undeniably young, she’d gotten complete control of her emotions by the time she’d begun the second swing of her sword. All of her moves were controlled. Calculated. Strategic. Nothing she did was without merit. She wasted no energy by making wrong moves.
Even speaking as though she wasn’t worthy of calling Brigant her kin, only seemed to leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth alone. She hadn’t been bereft. She hadn’t sounded bothered at all by what I was coming to believe had been having a much stricter life forced upon her.
But my musings had brought with them my own memories of my once restricted life.
Quickly shaking thoughts of my long gone Maker from my mind, I went back to studying my opponent. Like her body, her eyes were constantly moving. As soon as I left an area unprotected, she went after it.
I supposed I should have just been happy she hadn’t gone for the thin little stakes that were still holding most of her hair up.
I wanted to believe I had been toying with her – mostly – not wanting to truly hurt her. But after her small confessions, I wanted to know more. I wanted answers to every question firing off in my mind and knowing she would be having some of my blood as soon as we were done, I decided to call an end to our engagement by engaging her for real.
Putting on a burst of speed she’d had yet to see from me, I had her pinned against the far wall, with both her hands and her sword captured by mine above her head.
Putting my lips a hair’s breadth away from her ear, her sweet scent enveloped me as I whispered, “Surrender.”
Still outfitted in her red dress, she easily slid her right leg around my left calf. Wondering if my night might possibly become even luckier, I pulled back only slightly hearing her whispered reply.
The next thing I registered was a simultaneous pulling and dropping sensation in the pit of my gut. My equilibrium was thrown off when I felt my feet leave the floor and when they, and my mind, found purchase again, Susannah was no longer in my grasp.
Nor was I still in the dojo.
Now back to standing in the center of my office, I held stock still smelling the silver of the blade hovering millimeters from my throat and feeling the small pointed tip pressing over my heart. Pam’s internal alarm over my sudden disappearance was still radiating across our bond, but she calmed somewhat, likely sensing another sensation within me that was quickly drowning out every other.
Lust. And all of it was mine.
Unable to hold her hair in place with a single silver-tipped stick, the ends of her golden strands tangled in the scruff along my jaw, with her head now hovering over my right shoulder. As if to remind me of my precarious predicament, my would-be attacker locked her legs around my front, causing her breasts to press firmly against my back where she was now perched from behind.
Susannah had teleported us into a much more advantageous-for-her position.
And as I had done only seconds earlier, she leaned down to my ear to whisper, “Old Norse isn’t my only trick, Master.”