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|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
"But you have trees."
"Dead trees. Oddly, they grow that way, which makes them ideal for firewood. V.C. is a world devoid of life but for the vampires and their slaves who soon moved in. But the wealth of D.C.'s citizens did replicate. The money in the banks, the silver in the silver chests, the artwork."
Quinn stared at the landscape on the opposite wall. "They must be worth a fortune."
The vampire grunted. "How do you sell an original of a painting that already exists?"
"I see your point. So you keep them and enjoy them."
"I do, yes. Others have sold paintings as forgeries. Extraordinarily good forgeries. The amount they get is far less than they would for the originals, of course. But there is little chance of giving ourselves away."
Quinn took a bite of hash browns, which melted in her mouth. Susie was an excellent cook, there was no doubt about it. Already, Quinn felt her strength returning.
"Where do you get the food if you can't grow it here?" She stabbed a bite of tomato.
"Traders - nonvampires - can still come and go. They make weekly deliveries to each of the vampire strongholds, truckloads of goods and foods from the real world, though I fear the shipments may stop as the magic continues to fail."
"What are Traders? Are they human?"
"They are not your concern, cara. Finish your meal." He took another large bite of eggs Benedict, clearly enjoying the taste. As he cut another, he glanced at her. "You will tell me about yourself."
She bristled slightly at the command, then sighed. "My name is Quinn Lennox, twenty-seven, born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I'm a research technician." She looked at him curiously, wondering if she needed to explain, but he appeared to understand.
"And your people? Do you know your family history?"
She almost smirked. "Are you wondering if you've known any of my ancestors?"
"How old are you, anyway?"
He peered at her. "Six hundred, give or take."
Six hundred. Holy shit. "You were born in the 1400s?"
"I was. Your family . . . ?" he prompted.
The 1400s. My God, the things he's seen. She shook her head, trying to clear it enough to answer his question. "I don't know much about my mom's family. Her parents died when she was a teenager, and she died when I was a toddler. I've never met any of my relatives from that side."
"Jillian Minor. I don't know what her parents' names were. My dad is Darrell Lennox. His mom was a Markham, I think. Beyond that, I don't know."
"You know little about your own flesh and blood."
"My ties with my family have never been strong. Except with my brother."
"Tell me about Zack."
"I wish to know."
Was he finally going to help her? She tried to quell the flutter of hope and couldn't quite manage it. "He's actually my half brother, born to my stepmother three years after my mother died. He's twenty-two and looks kind of like me except he has curly red hair."
"A half brother," he murmured. As if that mattered.
They lapsed into silence as the vampire finished his meal. Ernesta cleared their plates, then poured them each a cup of coffee. So . . . civilized. As if she were his guest and not his captive.
"What are you going to do with me?" she blurted.
He watched her as he took a sip of the steaming liquid, then looked away. "I will keep you."
"As your slave."
Still he didn't meet her gaze, and her instincts began to ring a low warning. He wasn't being honest, and she wasn't sure what it meant. Did it matter? She was at his mercy either way.
"You will help Ernesta with the housecleaning and the laundry."
She looked at him warily. "That's all?"
"No. You will feed me. But I will not do what was done to you before. I will never take enough to weaken you." He reached for her, his cool hand covering hers, drawing her gaze to his. "I promise you, cara, when I draw from your vein, you will feel pleasure." His eyes turned smoky, his smile breaking slowly and turning very, very carnal. "When I slide my fangs into your neck, I will slide my cock into your body, and you will scream with pleasure, I promise you."
His words turned her at once hot. And cold.
"Every fourth day, I will visit your bed to drink from you."
"Every fourth day?"
"When I add you to my household, I will have four slaves."
Quinn jerked her arm away from his hand, realizing what he was saying. "You have sex with all of them?"
His mouth twitched. "Not Horace."
She'd seen nothing intimate between him and Ernesta. A servant/master relationship and nothing more. Was that the way it would be with her? A quick feed and fuck every fourth day, then back to work cleaning his house? Was this to be her life?
No, she couldn't accept that. Wouldn't accept it.
"Cara," the vampire said quietly, drawing her gaze back to his. "Do not attempt to escape me again. If you become too difficult, I will sell you to one of the Traders for the slave auction, and your fate will be far worse than here with me." His fingers closed around her wrist in a cool vise. "There is no escape for you. Humans never escape Vamp City. If they did, you would have heard of it, yes? The missing would have returned. Yet none ever have." He squeezed her wrist lightly. "Accept your fate, and you will be content here. I will see it so."
She didn't argue with him, didn't reply at all. Perhaps the best thing to do was let him think she'd given up.
Heavy footsteps approached, and, a moment later, a man appeared in the doorway, a broad-chested, stocky man, with little hair on top of his head but a thick, bushy, graying beard that shimmered just like Susie's hair. "It's done, Master."
The vampire nodded once, released her, and rose. "See Quinn to her room, Horace."
As Quinn rose, the vampire met her gaze again. "Rest today. Tomorrow, you will begin your duties. All of them." Then he turned and walked out of the room, leaving her to stare after him.
All of them. She shivered even as her body warmed.
"Come along, girl," Horace said gruffly.
With a frustrated sigh, she followed Horace into a compact entry hall and up the hardwood stairs to the bedroom she'd left less than an hour before.
"You were a fool to try to escape, girl," Horace said, as they reached the door. "The master's the best of the lot of them. He don't hurt his slaves like the others do. And he don't give us over to other vamps."
"But he feeds from you."
" 'Course he do. Feeds from my wrist. It don't hurt none."
"What about your family?"
"Family's long dead, young'un. Been dead for more 'n a century. Now git you in there and forget everything that came before. Don't none of it matter no more. This is your home, now."
Feeling stronger than she had earlier, but still more tired than she should, she walked into the room, allowing Horace to close and lock the door behind her.
The linen rope was no longer tied to the dresser leg. She couldn't see it at all. And the curtains made no movement, making it clear that the window had been closed.
Suddenly, she remembered the hammering. Her eyes widened, and she ran to the window, pushed the curtains aside, and stared at the boards that had been nailed across it. He'd boarded up the window!
Gripping the boards, she pulled, the wood digging into her fingertips, refusing to budge.
"Shit!" How in the hell am I supposed to get out of here, now? She wasn't, which was precisely why the vampire had done this. Spinning away from the window, she paced across the room, her fingers digging hard into her hair. I'll never get out of here, never reach Zack. I'll never see him again, never know if he's alive or dead.
Despair slowly got the better of her. She climbed onto the bed and curled into a ball of misery as the tears began to roll.
Hours later, Arturo stood at the foot of the bed, watching the woman sleep. Quinn Lennox. An interesting name though not the one he'd expected.
She lay atop the covers on her side, both hands balled tight against her chest. A lock of sun gold hair caressed her chin, making his fingers itch to move it, to feel the satin softness once more beneath his fingertips. Her eyes were puffy, dried tears streaking satin cheeks. Despite the tears, her skin was lovely, a flawless lightly tanned cream with a spattering of freckles across the bridge of her slender nose.
Her lips, a ripe, natural pink, were parted, her mouth lush and lovely. Soon, he'd taste those lips, when her fear of him had abated. Soon, he'd taste far more than her lips.
Very soon, or it would be too late.
Even in sleep, she intrigued him. There was a freshness about her, a natural beauty untainted by feminine guile or vanity. And a stubbornness he understood all too well.
If not for the brother, she might do fine here. But that deep vein of devotion for the one she loved would cost her. She wasn't likely to give up easily or quickly, which ensured she would suffer. He wasn't without compassion, but compassion would do her little good. Both her fate and her brother's had been sealed the moment they'd walked into that sunbeam.
Why couldn't she have simply been like any other slave, easily glamoured, easily controlled? Then again, would she interest him this greatly if she were? Unlikely. Perversely, he liked that he couldn't control her thoughts. He liked her tartness, the way she spoke freely to him, often sarcastically, despite her fear. A fear she was remarkably adept at hiding though he could taste it all too well.
Sun-kissed lashes fluttered up, her head turning as if she'd sensed his presence in her sleep. Green eyes found him in the shadows, and the rich taste of fear caressed his tongue, feeding him. Vexing him.
Quinn shot up, scooting back toward the headboard. Her hair was sleep-tousled, one cheek rosy from the pillow, her T-shirt slightly askew. The thought of running his fingers through that fall of golden hair, of straightening her shirt and running his fingers over her sweet, sweet breasts, had the heat building in his body to pool thickly between his legs. It was all he could do not to join her on that soft bed and pull her beneath him, to push inside her.
But nothing doused his ardor like the fear of his partner. He wouldn't take a woman who feared him. He couldn't.
"I'll not harm you, cara."
"What are you doing here?" She raked one hand through that golden hair, pushing it off her face.
His words made her visibly shudder. At least her fear didn't spike though it continued to feed him, continued to annoy him. "You were staring at me as I slept?"
"You are a beautiful woman."
Her eyes narrowed. "You're not helping your case."
"I have no case. I own you, tessoro. I can watch you whenever I like." Cristo! The wrong thing to say to a woman he wished to calm. "Someday, you will trust me, Quinn Lennox." Though that was probably a lie. And not his first. "Someday, you will not fear me."
"Bring me my brother, Vampire, and I'll trust you."
Stubborn, intriguing, desirable female. "Go back to sleep, cara."
He left her there, sliding the outside bolt on her door before he was tempted to try to seduce her again. If he pushed her too fast, he'd only frighten her more. Or earn her hatred.
Though her hatred, unfortunately, was sure to come.
After the vampire left, Quinn sat on the bed, staring into the room as her heart rate slowly leveled off. An oil lamp glowed dimly on the dresser, its light dancing with the shadows on the ceiling. Damn the vampire for waking her from a sound sleep. At least in sleep, she could escape the terrible pressure on her chest, the grief and the helpless frustration.
A distant scream sounded outside. A male scream, a horrible one, which made her forehead turn hot and throbbing. Please, God, don't let it be Zack. Then again, at least it would mean he was still alive.
The sound of the door's opening had her stiffening, but it was only Ernesta with another tray. How long had she slept? Long enough to be hungry again.
As the woman cleared the door, Horace pulled it shut behind her, leaving the women alone. They weren't taking chances, were they? At least the vampire hadn't ordered her tied again.
"Your lunch." The woman carried the tray around the bed to the washstand without looking Quinn's way.
"Thank you, Ernesta."
Quinn glanced at the door. In a moment, Horace would open it again to let Ernesta out. Could she possibly shove her way past them? Unlikely. If the vampire thought she could escape Horace, he'd never have sent her with him last night. She wasn't even sure the man was human, not with that shimmery beard.
No, she'd find a better opportunity. Better to wait until . . .
The bed beneath Quinn lurched suddenly, nearly knocking her over. Ernesta screamed and clutched the nearest bedpost.
What the hell?
The entire house began to rattle. Was this an honest-to-goodness earthquake or something else?
Ernesta clutched the bedpost, her eyes squeezed shut. And Quinn realized that this was the opportunity she'd been waiting for. If she had the nerve to take it.
For Zack? Hell yes. She'd do anything.
Not giving herself a chance to think about it too fully, she slipped off the bed, grabbed the ceramic water pitcher off the washstand and, with a stab of guilt, swung it at the back of the shorter woman's head. She hit her hard, remembering too well Ernesta's assertion that she wasn't human. To Quinn's relief and sick dismay, the woman sank to the floor.