I was so excited I could barely hold still. Not once had I entertained the idea that instead of being punished for my actions today, I would be rewarded.
Master was anything but cruel.
Killing the old man hadn’t presented any more of a challenge than an ant would have fairing against the underside of my shoe. But these men were younger. In their prime.
And, more importantly, fair game.
But more than excitement flowed through me.
I was furious.
Hearing their thoughts – knowing they were plotting to destroy the one I’d been destined to protect – ate away at my insides. So much so, I’d bitten Master’s neck with my imaginary fangs.
Rend. Tear. Kill.
I wanted to rip them apart with my bare hands.
I wanted to circle Master’s feet with row upon row of their severed heads to warn all others what would happen by going against him.
I wanted the last thing his treasonous sheriff saw was my smiling face as I plunged the stake into his cold dead heart.
Like my birthmark marked me as Master’s, his kingdom marked him as mine. Just as he had claimed me, he was mine as well.
Mine to protect. Mine to defend.
Mine. Mine. Mine.
Something else I never would have entertained until now – not once had I considered, dancing wouldn’t be the highlight of my evening.
And he was a good dancer.
Something he’d declared me to be as well. But remembering the way he felt against me – and the feelings he brought out in me – wasn’t prudent.
Now or ever.
So instead I tried to calm my body and mind for our upcoming fight. Normally I had my swords in hand to take the edge off. A familiar hilt to stroke, to calm and center myself. I could always call them to me now, but they would be impossible to hide.
I wanted the fools’ deaths to be a surprise.
It would be more fun that way.
Wondering if the grips of my daggers would have the same effect, my left hand automatically slid up my thigh to where one was strapped. But after a few moments of toying with the handle, I could tell it wasn’t quite the same.
“What are you doing?”
The sound of Master’s voice floated across the car’s interior and wrapped around me like a warm breeze.
A warm – low and throaty – breeze.
And the sound of it warmed places in the lower parts of my body.
So I again did my best to douse every feeling he’d managed to ignite within me, knowing it was one-sided. After all, he hadn’t been the least bit aroused – physically or emotionally – when I’d presented my naked body to him. In addition to his rage, he’d felt both curious and repulsed. I was sure he had seen hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful women in his long lifetime and he’d probably had sex with the majority of them. He was a thousand year old warrior and a king, so of course he would only want the most beautiful and unsullied of the bunch. And while I had only displayed myself for him to pass judgment on my actions, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps instead he had passed judgment on my scar-ridden body.
It was the most probable conclusion. The scars were the only things he had focused on. Each one gave evidence to my mistakes over the years, but more than feeling the shame over my blunders, I had cause to be proud of them as well.
Just like my birthmark marked me as his, my scars had also marked me as the one who would finally bring an end to the eight centuries’ long debt owed by our people.
Even if that fact had caused me to be a revered pariah.
But the newest scar on my heart wasn’t something to be proud of and it was my own fault as well.
Once again I had let my little fantasies bleed over into reality. Dreamt up a make-believe world where the most powerful vampire king on the whole continent could actually become smitten with someone like me.
Not only was the thought impractical, it was downright ridiculous.
So I cast it from my thoughts once more and hoped it would never return, vowing to myself I would do better in the future. To keep separate his actions and reactions. Discern the differences between bloodlust and actual lust.
Just because the king continually kissed froggy little old me didn’t mean I would turn into a princess.
Fairy or fairytale.
I’d stopped trying to get any sense of him through our small blood tie not long after I’d returned to him once he’d woken for the evening. With such a small exchange, feeling his emotions was something I had to make a conscious effort to do. But when I’d felt his rage – when I’d thought I was about to be punished – I’d closed it off.
Well, except for that small peek, with both my eyes and my link to his moods, to see what he’d thought of my dress.
And from what I could tell, he thought nothing at all about it.
Or me – in that way anyways.
It was yet another reminder for me to stop fantasizing about things that would never be, no matter how often our lips seemed to meet up as of late. But seeing him still waiting on an answer, I tried to act like all was well and lifted the skirt of my dress to show him what I’d been doing, while only admitting, “I normally center myself by stroking the hilt of my sword. I was hoping this would have the same effect, but it doesn’t.”
The car skidded to a sudden stop and my head snapped around, looking with both my eyes and my head for threats I could neither see nor hear. So when I looked back at Master to ask why we’d stopped, I stopped seeing the look on his face.
Huh. Must be the bloodlust.
“Sookie?” he growled softly. “Where are your panties?”
Huh. Must’ve forgotten those.
Truthfully, I didn’t care for them. I didn’t like feeling encumbered by wearing so many layers. But I was surprised it appeared to be an issue with him. I didn’t know of any supernatural who was concerned with modesty, but I softly apologized nonetheless and looked down at my lap, lifting my hand to pop a pair on, when it disappeared.
My hand, that is.
Hidden somewhere inside of the large paw attached to Master’s right wrist.
And seeing it made me think he should be the one tasked with babysitting the oaf. His mastodon footsteps would match Master’s gigantic hands.
But I kept my snicker to myself and only watched as he closed his eyes.
I waited quietly while he inhaled and exhaled several times for some unknown reason.
And a large part of me hoped for some sort of an explanation when he lowered the car’s windows and inhaled and exhaled some more.
I didn’t, however, acknowledge any of it when we were finally on our way again.
Nor did I say anything about my still missing hand, but then I’d known where he’d stashed it.
Palm down on his inner right thigh.
With his hand resting over it, I figured he had his reasons, thinking perhaps it was in case I had to teleport us from the car at a moment’s notice. So I made no attempt to remove it or to stop myself when my fingers automatically began stroking against the seam underneath my fingertips.
“Ingenious,” I smiled up at him, feeling everything within slowly falling into place.
It had the same calming effect, just like my swords.
He must have known it would work and that was why he’d done all of those things.
Master was quite clever, if not a bit odd at times.
But touching him like that, calming or no, made that insipid side of me – the one who enjoyed kissing him more than I should – forget the fact I couldn’t even manage to tempt him with my naked body and decide to take another peek at him.
I kept my eyes facing forward.
The small gasp left my lips before I could stop it – if I could have stopped it – feeling the strength of his arousal.
Was it for me?
I wanted to ask. To inquire why he felt the things he did, but it wasn’t my place.
He was my Master and king, not the other way around.
So I tried to remind myself of the woman who’d walked into this world not so long ago, full of herself and indignation over the thought of offering her body to him for any reason other than to stop a bullet, stake, or sword from entering his.
And then the absurd woman sitting beside him, with her hand on his thigh, reminded me that egotistical fool hadn’t kissed him.
Or danced with him.
Well, whatever happened or didn’t happen between us would be at his direction. I would never presume to attempt intimacy of any kind with anyone, much less with my king.
That would have to be all his doing.
And whatever we might be doing together if that impossible scenario played out, well…
I would just consider myself lucky.
Very very lucky.
Thankfully, before I could think for long on any more impossible scenarios, my head was soon filled with another thought.
Or rather, another’s thought.
My grip tightened on his thigh, while I closed my eyes and counted, saying, “There are six men in three separate vehicles just around the bend in the road. They’re waiting for us to go by, so they can pull up behind us. Apparently there are six more, further down. These six will attempt to box us in from the rear when we come upon their road block.”
“Idiots,” Master sighed, with his fingertips ghosting over my hand still gripping his thigh. “Can you get a sense of what weapons they have in their arsenal? I’m fine with toying with them for a while, but I’m not anxious to face another rocket propelled grenade any time soon.”
The playful taunt left my lips before common sense could prevail, but I relaxed, thankful seeing the amused expression on his face, and informed him, “They’re all armed with silver. Chains or nets. A few have wooden stakes.”
And hearing what they planned on doing with them assured they would not see the coming dawn.
We flew by the blind they’d hidden their vehicles behind and hearing their panicked thoughts, I laughed and said, “They underestimated the weight of your right foot. You should let up on the gas if you want them to join in our fun.”
“They underestimate more than that,” he smiled, but I felt the car decelerate and before long we were confronted by what appeared to be a car accident, with a third car parked at an angle in front of them with their hazard lights on.
Well, I supposed it was an actual accident, in that they intentionally crashed two cars head on into one another. But I’d only known that thanks to my gift and informed Master what they’d done.
“They must think highly of me in some way to assume I would stop,” he mused.
So I snickered and told him the truth.
“They assume you think highly of your car and wouldn’t want to risk driving it into the ditches on either side of the road.”
“Same thing,” he smirked and brought the car to a stop.
Grabbing my hand, he removed it from his thigh and brought it up to his lips, kissing the back and waggling his eyebrows at me as he said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
I laughed at his words – true in more ways than one – and in spite of my best intentions, it was impossible to tamp down on my growing affection for him. He was impossible to resist when he was so happy and carefree.
I was done for.
As we got out of the car, the others who had been behind us finally caught up. And I knew from their thoughts, they were going to grab me once Master was distracted by the others in front of us.
So I lagged a step behind as Master moved towards the six men who were milling about beside the dented cars, with two of them pretending to be injured.
And I nearly gave away our ruse by laughing out loud, watching him put his foot on the front bumper of the parked car and easily pushing it sideways, so it was no longer parked at an angle.
I didn’t laugh at just his arrogant show of power, but at their internal fright realizing just how strong their king was.
They had no idea, but they would soon learn.
“Problem?” he asked them, sounding completely apathetic.
Not only was he my Master, he was the Master of Understatement.
His simple query sounded more like he was giving them some insight into their immediate future. The men’s eyes were still wide, either awestruck over his little power display or simply because they were face to face with their king, but I had to give them some credit.
Had I been a regular everyday human – the kind I would need Master’s permission in order to kill – I likely wouldn’t have sensed the approach of one of the men who had parked behind us.
Master’s child could learn a thing or two from him about stealthy approaches.
But I could sense his hesitation. He was afraid, of both getting killed and of not capturing me. The former was already a foregone conclusion, but I saw no reason to not aid him in the latter because the sooner he grabbed me, the sooner we could get to the fun part of the night. So I made a show of appearing completely enthralled, paying attention to no one other than the king in front of me.
With his backside on display, it wasn’t a difficult thing to do.
Thanks to my gift, I’d known what his intentions were and managed to pretend to be caught off guard when his arm wrapped around my waist, while the other brought a knife up to my throat. Even with the tip pressed against my jugular, I knew I could easily disentangle myself from his hold and have him under my knife before he knew what happened.
But I wanted to play, so I played up my nonexistent fear.
Not very well, I’m afraid.
The best I could muster was a poorly executed, “Aahh.”
What? It was difficult to pretend to be afraid when – at most – you’re afraid of laughing and giving away your ploy.
Besides, I’d still been staring at Master’s behind.
The object of my leering turned at the unfortunate sound that left my throat, and his eyes hardened at the sight of the man who held me. But when they met mine, he returned the smile I could no longer contain.
It was play time!
Confused at the sight of the king smiling at what was meant to be a threatening posture, the man declared, “We got your woman, fanger. You make one move I don’t like and she’ll be deader than you.”
Wiping the smile from his face, Master appeared bored and deadpanned, “Oh no. Not that.”
His response seemed to catch all of them off guard, but when he looked back at me, the smile returned. The kind that caused a wide sweeping devastation across my insides, likely hitting every internal organ I possessed, as he affectionately gazed back at me and crooned, “Are you okay, Lover?”
But before I could scoff at the inaccuracy, plead for the possibility, or faint dead away at the thought, I saw the twinkle behind his eye.
He was playing.
With me or with them, I couldn’t be sure.
Well TWO could play that game.
Giving him my best doe eyes, I bat my lashes and replied, “I’m fine.” But his cocky smirk took a hit when I ended with a purred out, “Eric.”
Call the press because I called the king by his first name.
A part of me wished they were there, if only to document the look on his face. But if he got upset, I would claim – as his lover – I was entitled to use it.
Never mind I would behead any of his previous bedmates if I heard them utter it aloud, regular human or not.
And if he was really mad and decided to punish me for it, I’d already decided it was well worth it.
If Kitty miraculously lost all nine of his lives while I was reporting to him, well then, so be it.
The other humans who’d been standing around quickly moved to surround us, but I kept track of their thoughts to ensure Master wasn’t in any immediate danger. I would drop all pretenses in an instant if I sensed an impending attack, but at the moment they all seemed dumbfounded by the spectacle in front of them.
Master eventually shook off his stupor and stared back at the smelly human who reeked with fear behind me, taking a moment to wink at me before looking back to him and promising, “If you release my lover right now, I vow to give you a quick death.”
“But…” he began to argue.
But that was as far as he got, unable to say another word once I’d slipped the dagger from its sheath hidden beneath my skirt and up into his neck. Gripped in my left hand, I thrust my blade through his trachea and severed his vocal cords before he could utter a single syllable. So he was unable to make any sound when I used the dagger in my right hand to stab behind me, through my parted legs and into parts of him he would no longer need.
Although I took care not to pierce his brain stem, knowing that would kill him instantly.
He should have obeyed his king and let me go if he’d wanted a quick death.
However his hold on me had disappeared when he’d lost his ability to speak, so when he fell backwards, I remained upright and looked down at his horrified gurgling face, taunting, “What was that? I am fluent in all languages and yet I can’t understand you.”
From his position on the ground at my feet, his eyes darted around wildly. I knew from his thoughts he wasn’t really seeing anything at all, but without the gift of telepathy, Master didn’t know that. So when he appeared to be staring up my skirt, he lost any chance of seeing anything – and his life – when Master darted forward and took each of my daggers from the man’s body and stabbed them into his eye sockets.
Sweeping me into his arms, he clutched me to his body, with his hands pressing against me at the head and hips, reminding me of our earlier dance. So I attributed my body’s movement against his to my fond memories.
I felt more than heard the growl rumble through his chest before he turned to face the rest of them and warned, “Whatever mysteries lie underneath her dress are for me alone to solve.”
But when his eyes met my own, they softened as he asked, “Isn’t that right, Lover?”
I was so done for.
Even so, the warrior in me refused to surrender without a fight. And while I put my hand over his on my hip, moving it over to where my birthmark was hidden away to remind him of one mystery he’d already solved, I smiled back and agreed, “Of course, Eric.”
My gift told me the rest of the men were oscillating in both their actions and thoughts, unsure of which to choose between their fight or flight instincts. But locked onto each other by body, blood, and gaze, for a moment there was no one else there but him and me.
And taking another peek at his emotions, I knew neither one of us were preparing to bolt.
I blamed the excitement. My lack of willpower. His stellar backside and the way he could move it on a dance floor for what happened next.
My arms snaked around his neck as I hoisted myself up his body. His head lowered and his grip on me loosened just enough for us to meet somewhere in the middle for our lips to crash together.
It was fast.
It was furious.
It was exquisite.
Unfortunately, the others made their presence known once more when I sensed they were preparing to attack en masse, so I forced myself to pull back and whisper, “They’re coming.”
“And so will we,” he smirked. “Soon.”
He released me at the same time I let go of him and I watched when he got the jump on them and me when he tore the head off of one of the accident victims before putting his fist through the other’s chest and tore out his heart.
While the competitor in me was mad he’d already felled two to my one, this warrior was also a woman and I’d found his deadly side very arousing.
But with three down and nine to go, I wasted no time. With his strength and speed, he had the upper hand on me, so I quickly sheathed my bloody daggers and ran towards the next one I saw now running towards me. Closing the distance that much sooner, I kicked my right leg up and put my foot into his chest before he could use his longer arm span to grab me. With our forward momentum meeting in the middle, I quickly planted my foot underneath his sternum and used it to launch my body upwards, grabbing his jaw in my right hand and the back of his head in my left. My trajectory took me over the top of him, with my feet landing behind his body.
Having never released his head from my hands, his neck snapped easily.
It was exhilarating.
But not bloody enough for my tastes.
So when the next one lunged at me, like the oaf lunged at sauce covered chicken wings, I grabbed his wrists and used his forward momentum to put him face down on the ground. Pulling his right arm behind his back at a painful angle, I had to release his left in order to reach for my dagger. But before he could even think to try and buck me off, I’d slit his throat from ear to ear and sat there for a moment watching Eric toying with the three surrounding him.
Each armed with silver nets and chains, they circled him like cowboys trying to lasso something much deadlier than any steer they’d ever come across, but he moved faster than their eyes could track. Having ripped his own shirt off, he used it to protect his hands and used the attacker’s own chain to behead him.
He ripped the arms off of the second and beat the third one to death with them.
And seeing him standing there – shirtless and blood splattered, with a lethal smile on his face – I’d never wanted him more.
But with four more to deal with – and more importantly, with his number of kills higher than mine – I wanted their deaths to be mine. And knowing the quickest way for that to happen, I called my sword into my hands and went after them. Being mere humans, I only needed one and none of them would live to tell anyone what they’d witnessed me do.
Use magic or speak English.
I’d been keeping track of each attacker with my gift, listening with my head to warnings my ears and eyes couldn’t give me. It was how I’d known one of them had gone for his rifle. Loaded with wooden bullets, he could kill either one of us with a lucky shot.
But it was my lucky night.
He learned that fact soon after he looked up and saw there were thirty feet and three cars in between us. But when he lifted the muzzle and peered through the sights, my sword and I were waiting for him at the end of the barrel.
Forged by elves, using a millennia’s old craftsmanship, my favored blade sliced through him with no resistance. But sensing the approach of the remaining three, I took no time to relish in his death and turned to meet them head on.
And for the second time that night, I got the opportunity to dance. While my partners were nowhere near as pleasing as my last, I didn’t mind for this was a different kind of dance.
One I was much more practiced in.
With my eyes focused on the two in front of me, my mind’s eye warned me of the one coming up behind and he fell in a heap on the ground, having met the tip of my sword without me ever turning around. The one to my right tried to throw his silver net over me in the next second, so I let him believe for a moment he’d caught me.
He’d been very surprised to see me disappear into thin air and he too was felled by my blade.
And like me, without ever turning around.
The last one standing seemed to like his chances when he’d chosen to take flight, running as fast as his human legs could carry him towards the trees. But seeing the opportunity, I thought to try something different and dropped my sword to the ground.
And put two bullets into his head in rapid succession from fifty yards.
Lowering my gun, I raised my eyes and saw him watching me with a feral look upon his face.
It likely matched my own.
Each of us covered in blood, he was covered by me a moment later when I’d popped myself into his arms and forced my tongue into his mouth. Like an elven sword, it met no resistance as our lips and teeth clashed against one another’s.
My legs wrapped around his waist and my back met the ground, with his hands and body setting mine on fire.
I’d never felt so alive.
And opening myself up to him, by both body and blood, I could feel his insatiable need.
For both my body and my blood.
So I tore his lips free from mine, with my grip on his hair, and turned to offer my neck to him.
However, because this woman was also a warrior, I waited until I felt the tips of his fangs against my skin to say, “I won.”
But, as it turned out, this was not my lucky night.
Or at least it wasn’t my lucky night.
Because before he could even pierce my skin – much less anywhere else on my body with anything else of his – I sensed another’s approach.
Minds I was already familiar with and who we were apparently downwind of because he groaned and pushed himself up on his hands to hover over me and yell, “FUCK!”
But it was only moments later when we were joined by Kitty and his crew, with the bulk of them fanning out and their purple-eyed leader coming up to us and asking, “Your Majesty! What happened? Are you alright? We heard gunfire!”
And I could hear his inner argument taking place, with him telling the king he was putting his life in danger by continually evading his Royal Guards and having a complete disregard for his own safety.
I would enjoy watching that happen.
I might even enjoy a little of that buttered popped corn to go with it.
But because it wasn’t my lucky night, he kept his thoughts to himself.
Even the ones he was having about me, feeling vindicated now that he’d caught us in a compromising position.
‘I knew it!’ was currently looping around the inside of his bald head.
“What happened,” he snarled, pulling him and me to our feet, “Is that you either showed up ten minutes too late or six hours too early. Way to cover both ends of the spectrum.”
Lucky wouldn’t begin to describe what I would’ve felt.
Sore didn’t even make the top ten.
“I…I…I didn’t know,” he stammered. “But I’ve been trying to reach you for over an hour now and left you numerous messages. When you didn’t respond, I thought something might be wrong.”
Reaching over, he smoothed my hair and pushed it over my shoulder, pausing to graze his fingers over the spot his fangs had been pressing against, before looking back at Kitty. Taking the pocket square from his suit jacket, he used it to wipe some blood from my face before doing the same to his bare chest and asked, “What could possibly be wrong?”
I thought the question was more rhetorical – and snide – in nature, but Kitty answered it anyway by saying, “It’s Mrs. Stackhouse. Her brother was killed in an explosion tonight. She’s beside herself and was asking for you.”
His demeanor changed instantly and he gestured to the mess we’d made and ordered, “See to this, while we return to the house.”
Looking back at me, he took my hand in his and didn’t need to tell me what he wanted. So I popped us back to his chambers at the Bon Temps estate and went one step further by magically cleaning him up. I’d dressed him in a crisp shirt and slacks, so he was fit for meeting with the old woman. But instead of departing right away, he stood before my messy self and tenderly tilted my chin upward with his fingertips.
Placing a warm and yet chaste kiss on my lips, the larger part of me was back to entertaining impossible scenarios when he looked into my eyes and left me with his departing words of, “This isn’t over.”