All it took was a split second.
Sensing his panic.
And above it all, his overwhelming need for vengeance.
All he needed to say was her name for me to know if I didn’t leave then, he would literally wage a war to get her back.
So I quickly calculated the odds for his survival, both in remaining where he was or taking him with me. It took even less time for me to figure out which would be in his best interest – whether or not he would ever admit to it – when I left him there before he could order me otherwise, knowing I could retrieve her and be back before he could even make his way out of the house.
I’d already learned the night before an unexpected side-effect of our mutual exchanges of blood had allowed me to track his child’s location too. For whatever reason, the magic in my blood recognized them both as I could recognize my kin. So an attack against her was an attack against him and therefore me.
She was now the blood of my own. I would not leave her fate in the hands of her aggressors.
Our intimate conversation had the potential to turn towards subjects I wasn’t prepared to discuss. He’d claimed I had no need to worry. That he would be mine as I was his and I’d felt the truth of his words in my blood when I’d opened up my end of our blood tie.
But he’d spoken in terms of the present.
So I was left to wonder about what would happen in the future.
As a general rule, Vampire weren’t monogamous. And if they surprisingly chose to be for a while, I didn’t believe it would extend for any length of time.
Would he return to utilizing his donors once he’d had his fill of me?
Would I be able to turn a blind eye and cold heart if he did?
The unfortunate turn of events with his child was a fortunate way for me to avoid asking or answering any of the above.
So I used his blood in my body to find her and knowing I was popping into enemy territory – even if I didn’t know exactly where I was – I kept my presence hidden when I arrived into the room, using Great-grandfather’s ability to cloak myself.
They would never see me coming.
And perhaps Master’s child would learn the value of stealthy approaches when all was said and done.
I could tell immediately from their snarled minds the half dozen men surrounding her were Weres. I could also tell all of them were at ease –unsuspecting that their deaths were imminent – on what I assumed was their home turf.
So Master’s child wouldn’t be the only one learning something on this night.
While my mind took stock of the presence of everyone I could – and couldn’t – see in the surrounding area, my eyes remained on her. Restrained in silver, she appeared angry, showing none of the fear or pain I thought to be hers and could sense coming through the bond I shared with her Maker.
Master had chosen well in taking her as his child.
During my brief stay at the palace, she and I hadn’t gotten to know one another very well. She had her own duties to perform, as did I. While her obligations sometimes took her away from him and outside of the palace walls, my place was at his side.
A fact I knew he would angrily remind me of upon our return, but not because I had left his side.
But because I had left him behind.
He could just punish me later. I would more than likely kill the cat eventually anyway and should incur no punishment for his death, for he was not a regular human.
The Fae, hybrid or otherwise, were all about technicalities.
A single Were approached her from the front, exuding the authority of a leader, while he said nothing and only smirked down at her. She unflinchingly met his gaze and then eyed the hypodermic needle in his hand – filled with what I assumed was liquid silver by the color and sheen – and then the other, which he was using to work open his pants. But she showed only disgust, while she perfectly mimicked her Maker’s arched brow and deadpanned, “I don’t do dicks. Needle sized or otherwise, so you and the pin prick in your pants had better back the fuck off.”
I briefly wondered if his animal form was a pig.
His lips were still in the form of a half-smile when his detached head rolled to a stop on the floor at her feet and I silently swept through the room, repeating the action and catching the rest of them unaware, as I swung my invisible-to-them blades through the air.
She startled as much as a vampire of her caliber would – so, barely – and when it was only the two of us who were left alive in the room, I lifted the veil of magic and allowed her to see me for the first time. Sensing the presence of more vampires and Weres nearby, I quickly moved to her side to remove the silver restraints, not bothering to look over at her, while I acknowledged her with, “Master’s child.”
I could see the movement of her head in my peripheral as she looked over at me and nonchalantly returned, “Master’s badass.”
“How did you get here?” I asked, freeing her left wrist and going to work on her right. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “To both. I went to my daytime rest in Chicago and woke up here.”
Master’s palace was on the outskirts of Chicago, but I knew from my blood we weren’t there. And gauging my distance to him now in Bon Temps, I knew we were a great distance away.
Hundreds of miles, if I had to guess.
But I didn’t have to guess at his mood. He was furious.
Freeing her ankles from the silver lined straps she’d been bound by, I stood up and said, “We need to return. Master is angry.”
An understatement, if there ever was one.
But she only sped towards the still closed door and whispered, “We need to figure out who is behind this.” And then taking a moment to give me an impressed glance, she added, “And Master is blue-balled. Well done.”
I could have blamed her for his shaded state, considering what we had been about to do before I’d popped away. But knowing of her penchant for teasing him and liking the thought of having a partner in crime on that front, I smiled and said, “Thank you.”
But her smile was quickly replaced with another look of disgust as she looked me over and asked, “What are you wearing?”
Glancing down at my bloodstained t-shirt and jeans, I wondered for a moment if she hadn’t realized it was I who had beheaded the Weres. But she cleared up any confusion when she added, “Denim? Really? Just because he likes to vacation in the South of Bumfuck doesn’t mean you have to dress like the local yokels. ‘When in Rome’ lost its meaning when a nuclear warhead sent it back to the Stone Age.”
She wakes up bound in silver, in a foreign land, held prisoner by hostile forces, and she’s concerned with my outfit?
It put me in mind of the night before when Master had asked about the presence of my undergarments.
No wonder he’d chosen her for his child.
They were equally unfocused.
But before I could answer for my attire a strong pull rocked through my body. Hers too, I would assume, hearing her gasp at the same time. He must have been able to tell she was now freed and he was calling us both with his blood, demanding our return.
I moved forward, prepared to teleport us both back to his estate, when she held up her hand in a silent signal for me to wait, just as I felt the presence of a void approaching on the other side of the door.
She stepped to the side so her presence would be concealed by the door, while I moved closer, standing front and center, just as it opened to reveal a vampire I didn’t recognize.
He wore the shock he felt on his face, be it from the dead Weres, his missing prisoner, or my denim jeans.
But I didn’t really care what the cause was.
The force of Master’s call was only skyrocketing and I knew the vampire in front of me could provide answers to at least some of our questions. So I closed the distance and reached out, grabbing onto him and grasping Master’s child with my other hand, while she did the same. My magic surrounded us all in the same instant, but it also reached out for the silver restraints I’d just freed her from.
And then bound him in, as we all popped back to Master’s estate.
But instead of transporting the prisoner to his chambers, I brought us into the room where Compton had met his end the night before. Likely sensing our return with his blood, Master sped into the room moments later and came to a stop, with his eyes taking in all three of us.
So when they met my own and he had yet to say anything, I tried to temper his boiling rage with a small smile. And seeing the t-shirt and jeans he’d managed to throw on in my absence, I teasingly informed him, “Your child doesn’t care for denim.”
But he was no longer in the mood for teasing and at the word ‘child’, his eyes turned back towards her and raked over her body. Scowling at the burn marks still healing on her wrists and ankles, he then turned the force of his glare onto the other vampire in the room and growled, “Victor Madden?”
What? No kudos for me?
I’d angled him over the drain and everything.
But it was his child who spoke up and said, “Would you have preferred I got you one of those shirts that said, ‘My child went Vegas and all I got was this fucking t-shirt’ instead?”
His amusement filtered through me, but his expression remained lethal.
So I said nothing and waited for him to make the next move.
But I didn’t have to wait long because he was in my face – and I was in his grasp – a split second later when he seethed down at me, “You. Left. Me. Behind.”
“You. Don’t. Say,” I deadpanned in return.
While his anger batted at my apathy – and our mutually growing lust danced a tango in our blood tie – her tinkling laughter echoed through the room. Moving across the room in a dance meant for one, she came to a stop and kicked the vampire named Madden at the apex of his legs before spinning towards us. Speaking over his pained grunt, she smiled and said, “I didn’t want to be the only one in the room not busting anyone’s balls.”
Master lost control of his ability to remain stone-faced and a reluctant smile formed on his lips, as he released me from his hold and warned, “This isn’t over.”
Where had I heard that before?
He wasn’t the only one who was blue-balled.
And for once I actually wished he would focus on my non-existent panties.
But instead he pulled his phone from his pocket and sent a text. To Rasul, I assumed, since he appeared seconds later, but it was only his brow that questioned the presence of the prisoner. Master didn’t acknowledge him right away and only walked towards the one named Madden, knocking him out cold with a blow to his head and then turned to face Rasul, ordering, “Find out whatever you can about Madden’s recent movements and alert the others. I know his Maker is finally dead, but see if he has any children. We should be prepared for an impending attack regardless of whether or not he can be tracked here.”
With that, he turned his eyes on us and led us both out into the hallway. Putting his hand on her shoulder and allowing his true concern for his child to shine through, he softened his tone and switched to Old Norse, asking, “You are well?”
Her steely façade crumbled – for only a second, mind you – before she nodded and softly replied, “I am.”
But it would seem the niceties were over because his concern flared to outrage once more when he began pacing and hissed, “How were you taken from the palace? There are wards and security measures in place!”
My blood only enabled me to find her location – something I was sure he would be inquiring about when he calmed down – so I couldn’t feel her emotions unless he opened their bond completely and felt everything she did, as I assumed he had earlier. But whatever he’d felt coming from her now was enough to halt his footsteps and stare down at her, silently commanding her to speak.
“I didn’t go to rest at the palace.”
From the rage I could feel boiling within him now at her meek confession, I wondered how much trouble I would be in if I popped her away for her own safety.
He said nothing.
But he really didn’t need to since his eyes conveyed everything she needed to admit, “I finished up early last night. And given everything I’ve been feeling from you lately – the lust and bloodlust and then more lust – I felt the need to blow off a little steam and went out for a night on the town. I suppose I was having too good of a time and before I knew it, daybreak was close and I was too far away from the palace to make it back in time. So I got a room at the Winchester and rested there for the day. I don’t know how I ended up in a room full of Weres or what Madden was doing there. I don’t even know for certain we were in Las Vegas. My fairy shuttle didn’t make any stops for more souvenirs on our way back.”
Her eyes fell to me and then to my outfit, when she added, “But we really must go shopping. Soon.”
Again, with my clothing?
She and Claudine would get along well.
Well, if she didn’t drain my cousin first.
But thoughts of my cousin must have magically put thoughts of my kin into Master’s head because he shook it and said, “We’ll deal with your carelessness and their failures later. But first I still need to speak with Adele. I ran into them on my way down here, so she’s waiting for us upstairs.”
That was one of the subjects I’d been fortunate enough to avoid earlier.
Until now, apparently.
But I had nothing to do with their reunion – that they knew of anyway – and I felt him trying to calm my rising anxiety through our bond, while he quickly explained everything to do with Compton and the girl’s rescue to his child. Thankfully he left out my connection to them all, so when he was through and his eyes fell to me, even his voice was calming when he said, “Hadley only mentioned how kind you were to her. Nothing more. She merely wishes to thank you.”
And eying my bloodied clothes, he added, “But perhaps you should change first.”
“Finally,” his child huffed in annoyance.
So I took the opportunity to distract myself from the dread I could feel building up inside over what would potentially come of our meeting upstairs, by grinning at her as I magically changed my outfit.
Into an identical t-shirt and pair of jeans.
Her eyes grew wide, but instead of unleashing another tirade on wearing denim in Rome, she only turned to him and growled, “It’s. Not. Fair! I saw her first!”
He laughed, with some of the weight of the evening falling from the tension in his shoulders – and hearing it had a small but similar effect on me – as he started walking towards the stairs and replied, “Wait until you see what she left hanging above my bed.”
Still sounding annoyed, she fell into step behind him and said, “Let me guess. Her panties? Only the scent of your blood is in her, nothing else. So does she tease you with them? That would explain your mood lately.”
But his mood only grew even better when he answered her with, “She doesn’t wear them.”
“I really hate you.”
I didn’t need a tie with her to sense her now sour mood.
He chuckled again, but their bickering came to an end as we reached the top of the stairs and while I could feel the questions he had for us both still burning in his mind, I suspected he was choosing to get the quickest chore out of the way first.
I agreed, but only in that they were a chore.
One I would have preferred we didn’t deal with at all.
That they remained at the estate long after their reunion spoke of their want to speak to their king. But if the old woman gave him any attitude over her granddaughter’s imprisonment or the fact she’d been held by one of his own sheriffs, I wasn’t sure I would be able to contain my wrath.
Or my swords.
I’d been there.
I’d felt his anger.
His rage. His horror. His own personal failure at discovering the girl had been so close all along and that she’d been held by the one he should have been able to trust.
And the old woman would feel some of those same things from me if she didn’t choose her words wisely.
As he had said, they were there waiting for us, as we all stepped into the same room where he’d first shown me he felt affection for the elder Stackhouse when she’d fainted the night of our arrival.
And seeing the oaf sitting beside her, warily looking back at me, I smiled and darted my eyes to the spot on the floor where I’d last laid him out and back again.
He didn’t find it as amusing as I.
But that was okay.
I didn’t find it amusing I was closest related to him.
But my attention was soon drawn back to the old woman as she stood up and moved faster than I would have thought possible for her. Pulling me into her grasp, I froze every muscle in my body lest I pop away in my surprise – and surprise her into the heart attack Master had been worried about – while she embraced me in her arms and whispered gratefully into my ear, “Thank you.”
I didn’t know what to say.
So I said nothing.
But with her skin touching my own it was impossible to not hear her thoughts. The girl hadn’t revealed my true part in her rescue the night before. Only that I had comforted her both then and again during the day before the old woman’s arrival.
I felt uncomfortable, both being in her arms and being thanked for what was ingrained in my very core.
To protect my kin.
Which she apparently was.
And that thought only served to make me more uncomfortable.
My true matriarch had only ever shown me her disgust.
Her absolute detestation for my existence.
It was all that I’d ever known from an elder female in that role.
It was all that I’d come to expect.
And all of it was understandable.
Although it had remained unspoken, as I’d grown older and wiser, I’d come to figure out on my own why she hated me so much. Her cold attitude towards me was to be expected.
The old woman’s warmth was not.
Try as I might I could not resist checking one more time and was unsure as to how I felt, once again finding what I still had not yet come to terms with.
She was the blood of my own.
Everyone in the room was.