Glancing at the clock on Master’s phone for the fiftieth time that day, I sighed.
For the fiftieth time that day.
The day was dragging by so slowly. I was bored and anxious at the same time. I wanted him to wake up and fly me to de Castro’s palace so I could end the bastard once and for all.
I even half thought about having the girl Hadley sent to Las Vegas, so I could just teleport there myself.
So I sighed again, knowing Master would definitely punish me for doing such a thing.
My mouth had gotten the better of me the night before. I’d been so angry – so furious – he would dare to send me away, when it seemed to me that his life was in danger on a daily basis as of late. Logic and common sense failed me, with my temper taking over my mouth. It was something I was familiar with.
A trait that had earned me each and every one of my previous punishments.
But Master could have beaten me black and blue and I still would not have left him.
Not that he would have.
And looking down at him now, naked as the day he was born, I felt the now familiar stirrings in my loins.
The things he’d been able to do to my body.
I’d never experienced anything like it before and involuntarily shuddered at the memories.
It made me wonder what else he could make me experience.
Having exchanged blood for a second time, I could feel his presence more strongly. While he’d piecemealed Compton, I’d played with our connection. It took more effort on my part, but I could still block myself from sensing his emotions.
But I wasn’t sure if that would still hold true if we exchanged blood for a third time.
One more time was all it would take for a permanent bond to form between us. And while I had already pledged the remainder of my life in his service, I wasn’t so sure I would be able to handle feeling his every emotion all of the time.
Because like him, I was possessive.
And like him, I was certain I would become murderous if I could feel his attraction to any other.
The Were Herveaux had no idea his days would be numbered if I’d even winked at him in Master’s presence.
But I knew.
I could feel it in his blood.
But I also knew it was only a matter of time. Master had been feeding exclusively from me, but I was sure it was only because I was convenient. Before long we would return to the palace.
And before long he would take another donor.
And he would definitely punish me when I gutted each and every one of them the moment they left his dining room.
It held no table, but there was a bed.
A large one.
I knew he hadn’t had sex since I’d arrived at the palace with Great-grandfather. But even if we did join together and he continued to have sex with me on occasion, I had no illusions we would be exclusive.
Not on his end.
Vampire weren’t monogamous.
And while I was his in every way, he was mine to protect.
But nothing more.
I suspected a permanent bond would only increase my jealousy over him. Even now, I knew my affection for him would mean it would pain me when he inevitably took another into his bed.
And it would take a great deal of patience on my part to not teleport into the room and kill them the moment they touched him.
The Fae were vicious when it came to securing their own.
Evidently, it was a trait I’d inherited.
But he wasn’t mine. Not in that way. So perhaps it would be for the best if we explored one another’s body no further.
For my own sanity.
And for the preservation of the lives of his Royal Donor pool.
Although the latter was still iffy.
As was my willpower to rein in my lust whenever he was near, but all I could do was try.
And it wasn’t as though any failure to do so on my part didn’t have an upside.
But I was trying to not think about that.
Thankfully, the waking mind of Hadley filtered into my own, distracting me from murderous rampages and orgasmic failures. After her physical examination the night before, the doctor had sedated her, with the Were Dawson remaining just outside of her room for the rest of the night. I knew from my gift he was there even now, standing watch over her in the room across the hall from my own.
And I knew from my fifty-first glance at the clock on Master’s phone the old woman would be arriving shortly.
If she wasn’t still grieving for the predator, that is.
But sensing the girl’s apprehension and slight fear at her unfamiliar surroundings, I welcomed the distraction and popped to my room. Stepping out, I nodded at the Were – who nodded in return – and lightly knocked on her door.
After a long moment, her soft voice filtered through hesitantly saying, “Come in.”
Seeing her still looking so frail when I stepped into the room, I felt a little guilty for my earlier thoughts of shoving her onto a Vegas bound plane.
And then I felt guilty for feeling anything for her at all, like I was in some way betraying my real family.
It was confusing.
Her lips formed a small smile upon seeing me, so I returned it and said, “You’re looking better.”
Her eyes were brighter and her body was now clean, but she still wore the scars from her abuse.
Both inside and out.
“I…I feel better,” she replied after a moment.
“Good,” I smiled. “King Northman will be taking you to your grandmother’s house at first dark, so we still have a few hours. Would you like something to eat in the meantime?”
I’d never catered to anyone, but she didn’t appear strong enough to fend for herself just yet.
Besides, it would give me something to do.
But instead of answering my question, she raised her own by asking, “Who are you?”
I forgave her, her memory lapse, knowing she hadn’t been in the right state of mind the night before to take everything in, and responded, “Susannah.”
The Brigant name was too well-known for me to offer it willingly to anyone.
“No,” she replied. “I meant who are you? You are with the king?” Her cheeks reddened as she added, “I mean…I uh…heard you two last night.”
With the way he handled my body, it would have been impossible to have kept quiet.
But I was trying not to think about that, so I evasively answered, “I am in his retinue, yes.”
I was almost certain that was one of many things to fall from my lips at the feelings he’d caused in my body the night before.
Not that I was thinking about that anymore.
Being the only telepath in the room, she looked up at me unaware of where my mind had wandered to and said, “You called me cousin. Why?”
Me and my big mouth.
I had no intention of revealing our connection, but I couldn’t lie to her. My fairy blood made it impossible, but my teachings in the Fae realm prepared me for all situations.
Including how to talk around what we did not wish to talk about.
So I told her a half-truth and answered, “You appeared as though you needed to hear someone was on your side. Who better than family?”
I knew from her thoughts my words appeased her, but I struggled to keep my mask in place hearing her say, “I have a cousin. His name is Jason. If Gran still works here than you’ve probably met him?”
Yes. The oaf.
My kin, apparently.
My day seemed to be just getting worse and I wondered why I’d left Master’s chambers at all. But seeing her hopeful eyes staring back at me, I sighed – again – and revealed, “Yes. I have met him.”
And I smiled genuinely, recalling our first encounter when I’d thrown him to the ground.
But not wanting to scare her, I only said, “He is very fond of sauce covered chicken wings.”
She laughed and I found myself chuckling along with her in spite of myself. She looked happy.
For a moment, completely carefree.
She looked like any girl her age should.
It made me wish I was a necromancer so I could revive Compton, only to kill him again.
As her laughter died down, so too did her smile and her eyes filled with unshed tears as she whispered, “I miss him.”
I knew the feeling. I missed my cousins as well.
Well, maybe not Claude.
But all I said was, “You will see him this evening. The king wishes to have a doctor on hand just in case your unexpected reunion is too taxing on your grandmother’s health.”
She snorted – strangely sounding very much like me – and said, “Gran’s as strong as an ox. Jesus Christ himself could walk in and sit down at her table for Sunday supper and she wouldn’t bat an eye.”
I didn’t doubt her. The female of the species was often the stronger of the two.
We just had the common sense to allow the males to believe otherwise.
Females were also the deadlier of the two.
Great-grandfather’s wife had been the one to teach me that lesson.
I was stubborn, after all.
We sat in silence for a moment – each reminiscing about our elders – when she spoke up and asked, “Are you okay?”
Seeing my confused expression, she added, “You were uh…pretty bloody last night. Were you hurt bad?”
“Hardly,” I scoffed. “That wasn’t my blood.”
And seeing her confused expression, I added, “I am King Northman’s personal guard. I killed four Weres and a vampire in his defense last night.”
“Really?” she asked with wide eyes.
And feeling her want to know, along with her fear at even mentioning his name aloud, I offered, “And His Majesty ended Compton before dawn. He made sure he paid for his crimes against you.”
More tears silently streamed from her eyes, but I could sense her overwhelming relief. So I said nothing and merely sat with her until she eventually looked up at me and admitted, “I wish I was strong like you.”
In her mind, images of all she’d been subjected to flashed through her thoughts. So I passed along a little bit of the knowledge taught to me by Great-grandfather and caught her eyes with my own, saying, “The greatest strength is in survival. You survived, where he did not.”
Some days, that knowledge was the only thing to get me through.
But I kept that tidbit to myself and softened my features into a genuine smile when I added, “And I can teach you how to defend yourself. But first you need to regain your strength.”
“You would do that?” she asked, with her hope coming through in her voice.
That’s what family was for.
Which we were.
Hearing her stomach growl, she blushed again as we both laughed and I headed down to the kitchen to get her something to eat.
And ran right into the old woman.
I should have taken Master’s clock phone with me.
“Susannah,” she greeted with a warm smile.
“Mrs. Stackhouse,” I nodded in return, while my mind calculated the odds of her coming across her granddaughter before sunset.
The odds were great.
But in my distracted state, I didn’t realize my error until she smiled widely and said, “Very good! Your English is coming along splendidly!”
With her reunion with Hadley taking place in the very near future, I knew the odds were also great the fact I could speak English would come out. And I oddly felt a small amount of shame when I only admitted, “I am a fast learner.”
So it wasn’t a lie.
And wondering if the night before had been a fluke and it was the other half of Hadley’s ancestry I was related to, I sent out a quick pulse searching for the blood of my own.
And the force of it nearly made me jump backwards, bounding back off of the old woman in front of me.
“Apparently so,” she smiled, unaware of just how shitty my day was becoming. “Are you hungry? Would you like for me to fix you something to eat?”
But before I could reply, we both turned at the sound of someone else coming into the kitchen.
Whose identity I’d known before they even darkened the doorway thanks to my gift.
Still taking in her surroundings, Hadley walked through the door saying, “I’m feeling stronger, so I thought I would…”
That was as far as she got, halting both her words and her steps as she looked up at hearing the old woman gasp.
“Hadley?” she whispered, seemingly afraid the girl wasn’t real.
But she was. Something the ox quickly learned when she ran forward, wrapping her arms around the old woman and crying out, “Gran!”
I felt like I was intruding on their private moment, so I quietly exited the room and returned to Master’s chambers. But that didn’t stop me from intruding with my gift.
I told myself it was to monitor the ox’s health because Master would be furious if he rose from his daytime rest and found her dead in his kitchen.
He would be.
So it wasn’t a lie.
But the oaf making an appearance was my breaking point and I closed off my mind, not wanting to hear any more.
But not before I sent out another pulse and scowled realizing by the strength of the connection, I was closest related to him.
The day couldn’t end fast enough as far as I was concerned and I threw myself down onto Master’s bed beside him.
I tried to meditate, while waiting for him to rise, but I couldn’t find my focus.
I tried to empty my head of every thought, but that didn’t work either.
Ever since he’d given me access to his chambers, I’d spent an hour or twenty studying his features as he rested, but that didn’t work either.
Because now when I looked at him, it only served as a reminder of what I could never really have.
Just like the reunion taking place two floors below me.
So I gave up and did something I hadn’t done in a very long time.
I curled up and willed myself to sleep.