Lord of the Vampires (Page 7)

Lord of the Vampires (Royal House of Shadows #1)(7)
Author: Gena Showalter

Surely the female was not as stubborn as she seemed. “We might be separated.” Before she freed him. “I want to know where you are at all times.”

“Uh, I’m not sure how I feel about someone knowing where I am at all times. But again, we’ll discuss it. After.”

All right, she was more stubborn than she seemed. “As you can see, I have been enslaved. Tortured.” Uttering the words enraged him further. He should never have allowed himself to be placed in this situation. He should have been stronger. He was stronger. But he had no idea how he’d ended up in the Sex Market. “I don’t even—”

“—know if your name is really Nicolai. Blah, blah, blah. I know. I told you, I read a few passages of the book. I just don’t understand this.” She motioned to the prison, to him, to her gown. “‘Jane, I need you,’ you said. How did you know to write to me when we’ve never met?” Desperation wafted from her. “Unless I came here before, but returned home to a time before we’d met, and my dreams were echoes of what was to be. That would mean history is now looping, but of course, that creates a paradox, and—”

“Enough.” Jane. Her name was Jane. Somehow familiar, causing his arousal to ramp up…up. Maybe because the syllable was as soft and lyrical as her strange—though slight—accent. Focus. If she had asked anyone else these questions… “What have you mentioned to the others?”

“Nothing.” She laughed without humor. “I don’t know them.”

“Good. That’s good.” But she knew him, even though they had only seen each other in their dreams? As he had claimed to know her in that book? Something more was going on here. “Where are you from, Jane?”

“Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma was not part of this magical realm. “You are human, then? Not a witch?”

A sweep of dark lashes, momentarily hiding undiluted shock. And pride. “I was right. I crossed over, didn’t I?”

“Jane. I asked you a question.” And he was used to getting answers immediately. He felt it in his bones.

“Yes, I’m human, and no, I’m not a witch. But you, you’re a vampire.”

He nodded. He knew this realm coexisted alongside the mortal world—a world mostly ignorant of what surrounded them.

Crossing over, as she had mentioned, happened more often than it should. How and why, though, no one knew. One moment you would be talking to a shifter or fighting an ogre, and the next moment a human would be in his place. And if not a human, a useless, bendable object.

Disappointment nearly felled Nicolai. Why had his magic chosen this woman? What good was a human here? Even so luscious a human? If Jane were asked to perform a ritual, as Odette had often been asked, she would be unable. She would fail. Everyone would know she was not who she claimed to be, before he could get what he wanted.

He had to act faster than planned.

“Listen. I summoned you here, and I am the one who protects you.” A small truth meant to pacify her. “Trust no one else. Only me.” A lie meant to save him. For once she set him free, he truly planned to leave. This palace—and her. As unstable as his abilities were, he could not remove the mask that made her Odette while they were together without the possibility of sending her home. Plus, he needed her able to travel freely through this palace as only a princess could. What a princess couldn’t do was travel unfettered outside these walls.

The moment she let him go, Jane would have nothing but her wits to shield her.

Guilt filled him. Before the emotion had time to settle, develop roots and grow, he ground it into powder and scattered every speck. He could not soften. No matter how desperately he craved this woman’s blood.

“So, you wield some type of magic?” she said. “All right. I can roll with the idea of a magical vampire. But really, a lot of people assume science is magic, so are we talking about planar, natural, runic, divine or metaphysical, because I can—”

“Jane.” She was a babbler. He found the trait…charming. He frowned. Charming? Truly? The need to taste her must be clouding his judgment.

Abashed, she smiled. “I’m sorry. Curiosity and puzzles are my downfall. At least, they used to be. I thought I’d come to hate them, but, well, as you can see, that’s no longer the case.”

That smile…had he ever seen so open and innocent a sight? Another spark of guilt ignited in his chest, but again, he quickly ground and scattered it. Easier done this time, as the force of his arousal intensified, becoming his sole focus.

No. Only escape mattered, he told himself.

“Why me?” she asked. “I mean, how did you know to summon me?”

He’d wanted a female susceptible to the lure of a vampire, one untainted by the evil of the Queen of Hearts, one who was not afraid of blood, who would understand his plight. He told her none of that. He knew women—or, at least, thought he did—and knew it would not please her. “Order my release. Now. Hurry.”

Frustration suddenly radiated from her. “How?” she demanded.

“Summon the guard,” he said. “Tell them to unchain me, that you wish to take me to your bedchamber. Then, tell them to bring the healer to us.”

“The healer?” Her concerned gaze swept over him. “Are you hurt?”

No. But the healer had bound his memories and powers, and so the healer could easily free them. And, he mused darkly, he wanted to kill the bitch. “I do not hear you calling for the guard, Jane.”

“Then your ears are working perfectly, Nicolai. So, the guards will do what I tell them?” She snapped her fingers. “Just like that?”

“In their minds, you are the princess Odette. Oldest daughter of their queen, and soon to be their ruler.” Nicolai finally allowed himself to stride the rest of the way to the bars, his chains rattling. Closing in… “They will do anything you tell them to do.”

She released the metal and backed away before he could touch her. As if he were dirty, unworthy. He probably was. “Yes, but why do they believe I’m Odette?”

A muscle ticked below his eye. Her continued questioning irritated him, yes, but her distance irritated him more. When close to her, the scent of her was nearly overpowering and so delectable he was probably drooling. “Because.”

“Because why?”

Stubborn baggage. “Because my…vampire magic made them,” he said flatly. To tell her more was to, perhaps, send her running. Humans were so easily frightened by what they did not understand.