Lord of the Vampires (Page 2)

Lord of the Vampires (Royal House of Shadows #1)(2)
Author: Gena Showalter

Raw images tore through her. This man—this vampire—bound, helpless. Hungry. His lush lips were pulled taut, his teeth sharp, white. He was surprisingly tanned, temptingly muscled, with dark, mussed hair and a face so eerily beautiful he would haunt her nighttime fantasies for years to come.

What she’d just read, she’d already seen. Many times. How? She didn’t know. What she did know was that in her dreams, she felt compassion for this man, even anger. And yet, there was always that low simmer of arousal in the background. Now, the arousal took center stage.

The more she breathed, the more the sandalwood scent clung to her, and the more her reality altered, as if this, her home, was nothing more than a mirage. As if the vampire’s cage was real. As if she needed to stand up and walk—no, run—until she reached him. Anything to be with him, now and forever.

Okay. Enough of that. She slapped the book closed, even though so many questions were left dangling, and strode away.

Such a strong reaction coupled with her dreams utterly nixed the idea of a joke. Not that she’d placed much hope in that direction. However, the remaining possibilities upset her, and she refused to contemplate them.

She showered, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and ate a nutritious breakfast. Unbidden, she found her gaze returning to the leather binding, over and over again. She wondered if the enslaved vampire were real—and okay. If she could help him. A few times, she even opened to the middle of the book before she realized she’d moved. Always she darted off before the story could snare her. And perhaps that’s why the stupid thing had been given to her. To hook her, to send her racing back to work. Well, she didn’t need to work. Money was not a problem for her. More than that, she no longer loved the sciences. Why would she? There was never a solution, only more problems.

Because when one puzzle piece slid into place, there were always twenty more needed. And in the end, nothing you did, nothing that had been solved or unraveled, would save the ones you loved. There would always be some dumb guy throwing back a few cold ones at the local bar, getting into his car and hitting yours. Or something equally tragic.

Life was random.

Jane craved monotony.

But when midnight rolled around, her mind still hadn’t settled in regards to the vampire. Giving up, she returned to the kitchen, grabbed the book and stalked to bed. Just a few more passages, damn it, then she’d start craving monotony again.

Jane’s oversize T-shirt bunched at her waist as she propped the book on her upraised legs, opened to the middle of the story, where the bookmark was still set, and returned her attention to the pages. For several seconds, the words appeared to be written in a language she did not understand. Then, a blink later, they were written in English again.

O-kay. Very weird, and surely—hopefully—an I-just-need-sleep mistake on her part.

She found her place. “‘They called him Nicolai.’” Nicolai. A strong, luscious name. The syllables rolled through her mind, a caress. Her ni**les beaded, aching for a hot, wet kiss, and every inch of her skin flushed. She thought back. She’d never interviewed a vampire named Nicolai, and the one in her dream had never spoken to her. He had never acknowledged her in any way. “‘He did not know his past or if he had a future. He knew only his present. His hated, torturous present. He was a slave, locked away like an animal.’”

Just like before, a wave of dizziness slammed through her. This time, Jane pressed on, even as her chest constricted. “‘He was kept clean and oiled. Always. Just in case Princess Laila had need of him in her bed. And the princess did have need of him. Often. Her cruel, twisted desires left him beaten and bruised. Not that he ever accepted defeat. The man was wild, nearly uncontrollable, and so filled with hate anyone who looked at him saw their death in his eyes.’”

The dizziness intensified. Hell, so did the desire. To tame a man like that, to have all of his vigor focused on you, pounding into you…his participation willing… Jane shivered.

Lose the ADD, Parker. She cleared her throat. “‘He was hard, merciless. A warrior at heart. A man used to absolute control. At least, he thought he was. Even with his lack of memory, he was patently aware that every order directed his way scraped his nerves raw.’”

Another shiver rocked her. She grit her teeth. He needed her compassion, not her desire. He’s that real to you? Yeah, he was. “‘At least he would have a few days’ reprieve,’” she read on, “‘forgotten by one and all. The entire palace was frothing over Princess Odette’s return from the grave and—’”

The rest of the page was blank. “And what?” Jane flipped to the next, but quickly realized the story had ended on an unfinished cliff-hanger. Great.

Thankfully—or not—she discovered more writing toward the end and blinked, shook her head. The words didn’t change. “‘You, Jane Parker,’” she recited hollowly. “‘You are Odette. Come to me, I command you. Save me, I beg you. Please, Jane. I need you.’”

Her name was in the book. How was her name in the book? And written by the same hand as the rest? On the same aged, stained pages, with the same smudged ink?

I need you.

Her attention returned to the part directed to her. She reread “You are Odette” until the urge to scream was at last overshadowed by curiosity. Her mind swirled. There were so many paths to take with this. Forged, genuine, dream, reality.

Come to me.

Save me.

Please.

I command you.

Something inside her responded to that command more than anything else in the book. The urge to run—here, there, anywhere—beat through her. As long as she found him, saved him, nothing else mattered. And she could save him, just as soon as she reached him.

I. Command. You.

Yes. She wanted to obey. So damn badly. She felt as if an invisible cord had been wound around her neck, and was now tugging at her.

Trembling, Jane closed the book. She wasn’t searching for anyone. Not tonight. She needed to regroup. In the morning, after a few coffee IVs, her head would be clear and she could reason this out. She hoped.

After placing the tome on her nightstand, she flopped into her bed and closed her eyes, trying to force her brain to quiet. An unsuccessful endeavor. If Nicolai’s story was true, he was as trapped by those chains as surely as she had once been trapped by her body’s infirmities.

The compassion grew…spread…

While he was kept in a cage, she had been bound to a hospital bed, her bones broken, her muscles torn, her mind hazed by medication, all because a drunk driver had slammed into her car. And while she had been—was—tormented by the loss of her family, since her mother, father and sister had been in the car with her, Nicolai was tormented by a sadistic woman’s unwanted touch. She felt a wave of regret, a crackle of fury.