“Your thoughts elude me.”
“They’re not yours to take.”
Marius gave a soft laugh. The sound was like nectar on my soul. It took all I had to ignore the slow burn. I focused on the dark empty street below. It was raining and I was glad. The rain would cleanse the city streets. God knew they needed cleaning. I wish the rain would purge my heart too.
“Everything is mine to take in the new world.” He moved closer; his breath prickled the hairs on my neck. I didn’t turn to look at him. “Including you, Livvy?”
It sounded more like a statement than a question, though I knew he sought my favorable response. Why else would he have summoned me here?
“You seek to take me before you kill me?”
“I seek to take you.”
I refocused on my reflection in the window. My aqua eyes appeared vivid against my dark hair, and my pale face was dotted like a thousand tiny liquid orbs. It wasn’t true what they said about the reflection of a vampire. I could see mine just fine. Though, I wasn’t sure that I liked what stared back at me these days.
I can’t go there. Not with Marius, the soulless kindred master who meant to kill me and Sun should my father fail in his quest to stop the Lygarou. His heart was cruel and cold, and he represented the opposite of everything I had wished for in a man. His scent was raw; brutally sexy. I wanted to hate him.
He is irresistible.
My stomach fluttered as he stood behind me and reached to brush the hair from my shoulder. His touch was slight while his reflection offered a glistening fluid image in the dark glass. His features appeared mellow. I knew it was a farce.
“What if I don’t want to be taken?”
I tried to quell my nerves as lips like seduction smiled and our eyes locked amid the running droplets.
“What if you do?”
I turned to face him. “I don’t sleep with vampires who threaten my life and the life of my father.”
He laughed. “Who said anything about sleeping?”
My breasts strained. His brooding eyes bored into me. Damn. It wasn’t even that he was hot or anything. His eyes were deep-set, and his chin elongated above a crooked nose. And yet I wanted him more than any man before him. He made the others look like boys. I felt as if I had known him before in another life.
Thank Lord he couldn’t read my mind. This was the vampire who had sent my father into dangerous territory to face the unknown with barely enough men to cover his back should things go wrong. I’d do well to remember that.
“Go to hell.” I shook my head. “My father is out there risking his life so that you get to remain safe and snug in your tower, and you speak of romantic liaisons?”
I tried to steady my trembling fingers.
“Your father betrayed me; he’s fortunate that I didn’t remove his head from his neck.” He gave a sinister grin. “As for your romantic liaisons, I believe you’ve had time enough in your transitional state to discover and appreciate your heightened supernatural senses?”
I scowled. “And?”
“Sexuality, desire … passion.” He paused and lowered his voice. “Nothing else matters. It is all there is to live for now.”
My heart skipped a beat. I wasn’t sure if it was what he’d said or the way he looked at me. Whatever the reason, something deep inside of me acknowledged the truth in his words. Not that I was admitting it.
I looked away from him. “Those are meaningless to a vampire.”
“Then what else does give meaning to the life of a vampire, if not pleasure?”
“My father could be dead because of you. If he dies, I will never forgive you.”
“Your father still lives.”
“How can you know this?”
He smiled. “Let me show you. I have something for you.”
His inky eyes were glittering gems. His skin was ice as he clasped my hand and pulled me forward. “Come.”
Okay. I decided it was best to say nothing as he led me through the vast space toward a closed door. We were in his private chambers — the penthouse of the building he had claimed as his own. The lighting was subdued; the furniture was pristine white and sparse, and an array of tall chiseled sculptures captured the mood of elegance. It was the first time I had been in here. I daresay it wouldn’t be the last.
He pushed the door open to reveal a huge satin red bed dominating a dimly lit room. I halted suddenly. A wrought iron dresser stood along one wall and canvases adorned the walls. The tips of my fangs slowly sunk into my tongue as my eyes trained on the small boy who huddled on the bed in his mother’s arms.
My insides were a sudden storm. Thoughts faded as creature instincts kicked in. My lips quivered and I groaned as I sniffed out the boy’s blood. Mmm. His eyes were wide and shadowed over a thick layer of grime beneath a tangle of wild curls. His mother pulled him closer to her chest. I ignored her as his beating heart became my vibration.
“A gift from your father,” Marius said.
My eyes flitted to him. “Huh?”
Why did my nipples feel like stone?
He grinned and gestured toward the boy and his mother. “They arrived late yesterday afternoon with Lena, who tells me your father is safe and will reach the wolf-den before the next lunar.” He paused. “So, you see, he still lives.”
I was beginning to feel hot; a fact I knew was odd considering I was cold-blooded. The man made me want to unfurl. He made me want to moan. It was disturbing. I caught the boy’s movement in my peripheral vision. Saliva moistened my fangs. I flicked my chin toward the humans, barely hearing the woman as she started to whimper.
“Why would my father send them here?”
“The blood of children is a vampire’s delicacy.” He leaned close. “Do you feel what the boy does to you?”
My mind raced. Focus, Avila.
“It is forbidden to feed on and kill children. Your father’s decision to send him back to the city was commendable. I have taken this as a sign of his growing loyalty toward the clan,” he said.
“He was able to resist the boy?”
“Yes. Can you?”
My head began to spin. Marius was silent as my gaze skirted the floor. I’m not like my dad. I’m …
Ba boom. Ba boom. The boy’s heartbeat rose as I started to form an answer.
“I … I don’t want to.”
“You wish to take him?”
It may have been wishful thinking, but I took his question as permission. I moved forward, but he stopped me just as I reached the threshold. I flinched as his fingers dug into my elbow.
“Zaros is proving restless. He’s unpredictable. His defiance continues to escalate with the progression of the dome construction. I need a queen by my side if I wish to take the city as my own … someone I can trust.”
I remained silent as his words seeped into my mind over the overwhelming hunger-lust. His voice was a husk.
“You’ve got fire, courage and passion, Avila. You possess the traits of a suitable vampire queen.” He paused. “Do you wish to be taken?”
Dead stop. Hello, sexuality.
I gasped and met his stare, and my body responded in ways that I never knew possible. Heat. It was now throbbing through every one of my cells. I was intoxicated. He was so right about heightened everything. I could no longer resist. It was all I could do as he yanked me roughly toward him and kissed me.
It was finally mine. He tasted like sex, blood and wine. The sobbing of the woman beyond the threshold grew louder. The boy’s heart banged in my ears. Passion clutched my soul and desire was a beautifully orchestrated affliction.
When he spoke next, I wanted to explode. “Take him, my queen. He’s all yours.”
I stretched my neck back and grinned. Headiness encapsulated sweet anticipation. I gave a long hiss before my hand found his and I pulled him over the threshold.
“Take him with me.”
The woman screamed. I smiled. She sounded like birds on a sunny day.
The vampire life was pervasive.