The Vampire Queen's Servant (Chapter Fourteen)
She was a witch, sorceress, Medusa, vampire. He suspected he'd seen only the surface layers of a woman with more faces than the thoughts wrestling in his mind.
He'd never cared for feeling trapped. He supposed no one did, but to keep the frissons of panic down, he reminded himself this was his choice, that he wanted to be here.
Throughout his training with Thomas, the servant had used the word defenses. You must have no defenses with her. You must lower all your defenses to be a servant. Jacob thought he'd understood. But he hadn't. Whatever his expectations of this past night and the months of planning and preparation, it had far exceeded them. She'd challenged him, infuriated him, roused him more than any woman, real or imagined, ever had. She'd elicited protective feelings in him, erratic waves of fierce loyalty. Jacob realized Thomas's grueling training had been the same as that inflicted on a grunt in basic training. Grilled until he knew how to respond to conditions the monk couldn't have anticipated. Like learning what it meant to be a sex slave.
Uncomfortable with the thought, he nevertheless made himself take a closer look at it. She was a master politician, focused, deliberate. While he had no doubt she'd taken sexual pleasure in dominating him, she said she was teaching him what it was to be a human servant in her world. If she was really doing that, it meant there was a real chance she intended to accept him, even if she hadn't admitted it fully to herself yet.
He thought of her again in the car, the way she'd looked up at him, that brief look out of those mesmerizing green eyes. He's mine.
He was fucked. That was all. No help for it. He discovered a strap between the open arms of the upper X that could cup the back of his head so he didn't have to sleep with his temple propped awkwardly against the wood, straining the hell out of his neck.
He was exhausted and she obviously felt they were safe here, in a chamber that didn't exist to prying eyes. She would need his energy when she woke. Though God knows in what form she'd demand it. A dozen new images went through his brain, most of which brought him to full aching hardness again.
He could have closed his eyes, but he didn't. He watched her make soft noises in her dreams, studied every feature of her face, the fall of her hair, the curves of her body, letting his eyes do what his body wanted to do so much. Now deep in her sleep, she turned away from him, giving him another cock-teasing view of her body, her heart-shaped ass. The hem of lace rode up, skimmed the base of it an inch or two from where her pussy nestled between the press of her thighs. His thoughts drifted, sensual motes in the air as his lids reluctantly drooped, capturing and taking the vision of her into his dreams.
Hands molded over the muscular curves of his ass, nails digging in as soft lips traveled a path up his spine. The same fingers moved around his waist, playing with his navel and the flat of his belly, teasing the line of silky hair, drifting upward to his nipples, leaving his cock hungering for a touch.
The candle had burned down only halfway. He hadn't been asleep that long. She appeared to be in as deep a slumber as she'd been before he'd nodded off. Or was she?
He blinked. As she came into focus, he saw her stretched on her back, her jade green eyes gone almost black as the pupils dilated in the meager light.
He swallowed as her right hand rose, plucking at the nightgown, inching it up her legs. Displaying pale thighs, more and more of them until she reached the apex and touched herself, rising into the contact, a shudder racking her.
The invisible hands were descending. As her gaze followed their track he knew somehow she was doing it, this velvet clasp over his cock that dug those chains and uncut gems into him, making him grunt and jerk against his bindings. A skirt brushed against his legs as if a woman knelt before him. A groan tore from his throat when a hot, wet mouth closed over him, slid down his shaft, taking all of him.
On the bed, his lady's legs were parted, her head tilted back, but her attention was still on him while she manipulated her clit, dipped her fingers into her cunt to spread the slick honey over her lips.
Hands gripped his buttocks again, allowing the mouth to increase its suction on his dick and give a ruthless steadiness to the strokes. He could imagine her here, suckling him, serving him even as she lay a few feet away controlling it all, giving him a male fantasy all on her own terms.
He writhed in the restraints as the tongue on him teased his underside, sucked his testicles one at a time into that illusory mouth, licked them, and then came back up to take his cock again. Trembling against the cross, he realized he might find out how it felt to come with that rod inside him, his cock chained to restrict the flow of the fluids. As he watched her masturbate, the undulations of her body became more frenetic, an agitated snake coiling and uncoiling, writhing, seeking a bearing. The impressions of the lace on her skin, flickering in the candlelight, even reminded him of the sinuous patterns of a serpent.
Feeling like the tide whipped by the wind, he couldn't stop from pitting himself against it. "Spread your legs for me, " he whispered. "Let me see the sweetness, you won't let me taste. Let me watch you come. "
Her eyes widened at his outburst, delivered in a low voice full of husky demand. Triumph surged through him as the unexpected stimulus began to pull her over the edge. The mouth left his cock. At first, he thought she couldn't maintain the magic this close to losing control herself, but then the invisible fingers thrust between his lips with the exotic scent of her cunt on them. He sucked the taste off them, watching with burning eyes as she bucked on the bed, gasping, crying out, her pussy contracting beneath her fingers as she tugged furiously on her clit hood.
He hadn't known if she would flush or not, given a vampire's paleness, but there it was. A pink blush sweeping her throat, her cheeks, the insides of her thighs, a heat that felt like a furnace blast.
Pain seared through his cock as the sight feeding his eyes made him bigger, thicker. As she came down and her eyes rested on him, he knew he was going to be punished for taking the game away from her. Fine. He could bear it. With this level of discomfort, his erection should be cooling in no time.
He hadn't counted on those hands. They slid beneath the cross-piece of the frame and two fingers dove deep between his buttocks to milk him with slow movements guaranteed to keep him hard while her fancy cock ring denied him a climax. But when pre-cum leaked around the bronze disk on the head of his cock he felt panic, wondering if that tiny rod would be like a finger stuck in a dam. Eventually the water pressure would build up and explode through the minute spaces around the plug, creating an excruciating flood of sensation. He could die from the agonizing pleasure of it.
He'd never thought of using sex as a weapon. His seducing her to climax with words had been more emotional than calculated, an attempt to regain some control. But he'd gotten in a lucky shot with a master swordswoman. The master now thought she was dealing with an equally skilled opponent and would no longer hold back. She'd slice him to ribbons.
Though she'd come down from climax, she kept her legs spread, playing with herself where he could see the glistening folds, the wet gleam of her knuckles, the post-climax dampness trickling down the base of her ass. At a particularly deft squeeze deep in his own, he let out a guttural snarl and cursed his own weakness.
"I told you I could be crueler than anything you could imagine, " she whispered. It resounded through the chamber and inside his head. "You think about it, Jacob. Think. "
He blinked in darkness. The candle had burned out, so the only illumination was the light on the clock and those glowing stars on her ceiling. Almost five hours had passed. He could barely make out her form, but it was in the same position, resting on her hip and turned away from him, the way she'd been before he'd drifted off. Though there were no hands touching him, his cock didn't care. The thin layer of flesh stretched over his ironlike erection suffered in the tight clasp of the cock rings and chains. His urethra burned from the invasion of the anchoring rod.
He couldn't think. No one who used his rational mind about this would stay. It didn't matter if his brother, Mr. Ingram and even his lady thought he was fucking crazy. Maybe he agreed with them, but again, that didn't matter. This was where he was supposed to be.
Lyssa dreamed of storms. Wild whipping winds beneath her leathery wings. Her eye was turned toward the ground for prey, but in this type of storm everything had taken cover. She spun, the wind whistling over and under her, the vibration of the thunder and electric static of lightning skimming along her skin.
There. A duck paddled in a marina, unconcerned by the storm because she lived in the shelter of Man's harbor. While wild ducks often found such a port because so many of the wild places were disappearing, this was a domesticated duck, released or lost from somewhere. Living alone during the winter months because she was too weak and less capable of migrating with her wild brethren. Nature weeded out. Nature provided.
Lyssa tucked in her wings and dove with single-minded intent. The noise of the storm and the darkness provided her cover. The reflection of lightning gleamed off her talons as she unfurled them like landing gear, only she would use them to snatch dinner and be aloft again, never touching the ground.
Thirty feet from her goal, another movement caught her eye. She veered off sharply, somersaulted in a controlled move and dropped in a hover.
The white duck, having seen her now, had panicked. However, her mate, a brown and black wild duck and the distraction Lyssa had seen, now shepherded his snowy female into the shadow of the floating docks. She was not alone after all, and Lyssa would not kill one of a mated pair. Nature weeded out. Nature provided. But Lyssa could choose what offering to take.
A piercing scream split the air. She spun to see the wiser, wild-born mate snatched by a hawk who'd apparently been marking Lyssa's prey as well. The duck had been focused on Lyssa and getting his mate to shelter. The hawk had been noticed too late.
The white duck squawked her distress as the hawk pulled her mate into the air and broke his neck in an easy movement, carrying him away.
Over in less than a breath. The clouds boiled in the sky behind Lyssa. The white duck swam in circles out in the open, lost, in anguish. Confused by what had just happened.
The hawk's approach had been covered by the storm, just like her. Opportunists. The world of men was turning birds of prey into opportunistic scavengers. As civilization often did, it turned wild creatures into what they were never intended to be. Perhaps it did the same thing to men.
She flipped, dropped and pulled the white duck from the water,ending her life in the same economical movement. You won't have to learn how to live without him.
Lyssa opened her eyes to see Jacob sitting cross-legged on her bed, watching her. Wearing a T-shirt and clean pair of jeans, he'd apparently taken the time to shower and change.
On the unrumpled side of the bed where he sat, he'd laid her satin robe and a pair of slippers. He balanced her brush on his knee and had a basin of hot water with a facecloth sitting within reach behind him.
As the time of her rising drew near, if nothing set off the warning spells she had guarding the upper room, the staircase would reopen. Apparently Jacob had made good use of that effect when he'd managed to free himself again.
His blue eyes were steady, bluer than the daytime sky she'd never seen, the analogy coming from the imitation of it in picture books. But she sensed his were a reflection of the actual color, perhaps pieces of the sky itself, they were so vivid and real.
"I did spend the night thinking, my lady. Fully bound as you left me. " He inclined his head. "I chose to free myself an hour before dusk to prepare for your care. I ask your forgiveness and pray you won't view that as flaunting your will. "
Lyssa pushed herself up, blinking. Wetting the cloth and squeezing out the excess hot water, he spread it out over his hands. "May I, my lady?"
When she nodded, he brought it to her face, pressing comforting heat to her skin. She drew in a breath, letting it wake her up and drive grogginess away. She smelled the scent of the lotion she used to remove traces of makeup and realized she'd forgotten to remove it as she customarily did before she slept. Apparently he'd noticed and so did it for her now, withdrawing the cloth after a moment to wipe the lids, over and under, pass the cloth over her cheeks, her lips, so she could feel the touch of his fingers through it. He brought the basin onto the bed then, rinsed it out a couple times. When he was done, he put cloth and basin back to the side and lifted the robe. "If you'd like to slip into this, my lady, I'll brush and pin up your hair before you bathe. Unless you'd like me to help you wash it today. "
Once when she'd been angry with Thomas over something she couldn't even remember, she'd told him she was going to toss him over the next available cliff. Unruffled, he'd assured her she'd never do that. "If my usefulness to you expires on every level, you'll still need a mirror. " Perhaps that's why he'd taken such extra care to teach Jacob all the things involved in her daily toilette, and overlooked some of the other things that seemed so much more significant.
"What if I told you I'd make you leave if you don't tell me how you keep getting loose?"
"That threat is wearing thin, my lady. I need to have some secrets from you or I'll bore you within the first century. "
He held the robe by the shoulders. Lyssa pulled the black nightgown over her head. In a fit of petulance, she tossed it to the floor. Let him have his secrets. He could keep them while he picked up after her.
His gaze flickered to it, then back to her, but he didn't comment. His attention did slide down her throat though, to the slopes of her bare breasts, the nipples that tightened under his regard as she remembered his mouth there.
Sliding out of the bed, she turned her back to him. She expected him to rise, but he didn't. He moved down the bed until he was behind her, his knees close to the back of her legs. Touching her hands lightly with his, he guided them into the sleeves. When he brought the satin up, he stopped just short of pulling it onto her shoulders, restricting the movement of her arms unless she wanted to tear the garment. He'd adjusted his position so his long legs were on either side of her, his left foot next to her bare one on the floor. His heat was on three sides of her, his touch conveying a sense of reassurance.
Whatever she sensed from him, it wasn't censure for her treatment of him yesterday evening. She felt no emotional withdrawal from him at all. Intriguing.
"My lady, will you tell me what happened last night?"
"Not yet, " she said after a long moment. With renewed energy simmering in her blood, last night's episode was deceptively remote in her mind. "For now, you'll carry a backup for the powder I have. I'll show you the ingredients. As you saw last night, once I take it, I require a recuperation period. "
Even saying that much to him was difficult. She hated the necessity of it. So she didn't look at him. She gazed at the painting on the wall. Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum. It always made her slightly dizzy, in a good way. It also reminded her of one night Rex had danced with her in a quiet deserted street under a jeweled sky in Italy.
"You now know when an enemy could kill me, Jacob. It would be child's play. Just a matter of waiting and watching. "
Ironic as well, considering the things she hadn't told him yet.
When he rose, she drew in a breath as his body touched her back. He finished easing the robe onto her shoulders and freed her hair with a brush of his big hands on her nape beneath it. Drawing her hair to one side, he bent his head and his lips grazed the side of her neck where he'd bitten her, making her shudder. Gods, did the man know nothing of showing a servant's respect?
"It will not be child's play for anyone as long as I watch over you, my lady. "
She closed her eyes, overcome by a sense of guilt. She needed to send him away, refuse him before his life was lost.
Thomas, you wouldn't have sent him if you'd known. It was pointless. Of course, she had already given him the first mark herself, so how could she cast stones? She wanted him, though it was the height of selfishness to do so.
"I didn't think vampires could hold their breath. Or had breath at all. "
He was actually teasing her for her reaction to that kiss on her throat. The scoundrel.
"Of course vampires breathe, " she said impatiently, covering the warm rush of response that went through her skin. "You can't speak without breath. Cough, or yawn. It's just that the lack of breath won't kill us. We don't require oxygen to live. "
Pulling the robe closed, she tied the sash and turned to face him.
Jacob sitting was distracting. Standing before her with those vivid eyes studying her face and firm mouth within touching distance, he was overwhelming. It made her need oxygen, despite what she had just said.
It infuriated her suddenly, the frustration of having to be one thing and say another, of having him not understand and take it all so lightly. Of course, that was likely because she hadn't told him the things he really needed to know. He was having trouble understanding the full impact of the situation because she herself didn't want to accept it.
"My lady. " His hands touched her face. He'd stepped forward to close the small gap between them, and she hadn't even noticed the movement. "Sometimes you look so sad. Please let me help you. "
Raising her lashes, she looked up at his concerned expression. "You are too good-hearted for this task, Sir Vagabond. I think you need to move on, continue your wanderings. "
He shook his head. "My feet have grown heavy and clumsy since yesterday, my lady. I'd trip over them and fall flat on my face if I got more than a hundred paces from you. " When he traced her brow with a finger, something passed through his eyes. "I'm not as good as you think, Lady Lyssa. I'm no saint, and I'm far from harmless. "
"My mind does not tell me false, knight. You're too pure a soul for this work. So was Thomas. That's why he's dead. "
She walked away from him, the staircase opening so she could ascend to the upper level where she could see the light of the moon glittering through the stained glass.
He'd collected the items from her bed and was following, so she sat down at her vanity, drawing her robe around her ankles in a sweeping fan. She needed to have Jacob remount the mirror on the wall. Since she showed no reflection, she hadn't been able to bear the absence of Thomas in the glass standing behind her, dressing her hair, his hands moving in an odd mime over empty space while she felt every touch. So she'd removed it, putting Edward Hughes's Midsummer Eve there, the human girl daring to stand among the fairies, foolishly bent over as if she thought she'd happened upon charming miniature children. She heard his footsteps, let the tension flow out of her shoulders as he began to brush her hair. Firm, full strokes, easy pressure to remove tangles. He didn't speak again, apparently picking up on her mood.
"I'm having a dinner party here three weeks from now, " she said, looking at that girl. At the fairies studying her, amused with her naivete. "A party of eight. The two of us, and three other vampires and their servants. Once I get bathed and dressed, we'll go over the details, the contacts. You'll call their servants directly as well as send it by sealed invitation. I'll prepare the invitations. "
Suddenly, she couldn't handle his touch a moment longer. Rising abruptly, she turned to face him. "We'll select the catering choices together. I'll tell you what I want and how I want it done, and it will be your responsibility to coordinate it. "
When he laid the brush on the vanity, her gaze strayed to the long fingers, the way they handled such a feminine object with ease. "As my lady wishes. "
She didn't see any apprehension in his expression, so he obviously knew how to do this part. "Go to the kitchen. You'll need to familiarize yourself with everything to instruct the caterers properly. The same goes for everything else in the house. If I have overnight guests, you should be able to provide them whatever they need. "
The original works of art in the room mocked her with their realism, their value, as she spouted nonsense she was sure Thomas had gone over with him a hundred times.
"I'll provide you an allowance to do whatever you need to serve my household, and you'll let me know whenever more needs to be transferred into that account. I check the books once a week. You'll be given a salary for your own needs, of course. "
He nodded. "Do you want me to help you bathe, my lady?"
She blinked. She'd fired words at him intended to point out his inferior status and he'd rebounded with something that reminded her of the intimacy she could require from him. That he offered freely and so temptingly.
"No, " she snapped. "Go to the kitchen. Do as I've asked. "
Pivoting on her heel, she strode to the bath and closed the door, turning the key in the lock with a decisive, unmistakable click.
Because the first mark told her where he was, she knew he stood in the same spot several minutes before leaving to do her bidding. When she turned her gaze to the tub, her forehead still pressed against the cool wood of the door, she saw steam rising from it. It brought her the scent of lavender and rose petals, telling her he'd sprinkled oils for both in the water. He'd also placed a vase of flowers on the foot of the tub, artfully strewing a handful of the mixed petals down along the damp side of the porcelain. It created a pale pink and lavender-colored path that made her dizzy, much like the Van Gogh. In the rising steam she could imagine herself dancing with Jacob, twined around him, immersed in him.
Thomas, who the hell is this human?