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|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
When Quinn made a sound of objection, Susie met her gaze. "I'll wash and mend them for you."
Chastened, Quinn nodded. "Thank you, Susie."
Arturo closed the door behind her, then moved toward the window, out of Quinn's line of sight. She didn't like having him behind her, but she was bare from the waist up, with nothing to put on.
With a sigh, she levered herself up, amazed that her back no longer hurt. Swinging her feet over the side of the bed, she sat, crossing her arms over her chest. She'd rather be able to see him, all things considered.
She found him watching her from the far side of the room, his body utterly still, his gaze quite active, dropping to her chest, to her legs, then slowly climbing back to her face, a heat in his eyes that made her shiver. Had he come to claim his sexual rights as her slave master?
Slowly, he moved toward the bed, his steps as silent as any predator's. "Stand up."
"You make a terrible slave, cara. I wish to see your back."
Turning her back on a vampire hardly seemed like the smartest move. Then again, as fast as he moved, what difference did it make? She did as he asked, keeping her arms crossed over her chest as she rose, which effectively hid all evidence that she had breasts. Lucky her.
His fingers skimmed her shoulder blade, then her hip, two places untouched by the lash. "Is the pain gone?"
"Yes. Completely." She looked at him over her shoulder. "What's in the ointment Susie used? It has some serious antipain properties."
A gleam of laughter entered his eyes. "Magic." His head dipped, his cool lips pressing against her bare shoulder.
She shivered at the gentle, sensual kiss, her nipples hardening beneath her forearms. "Vampire . . ." Her voice sounded breathy.
His hands came around her, grasping her arms, tugging them lightly as if to open her to his gaze.
The soft, damp stroke of his tongue over her ear sent another tremor through her. "Why do you hide yourself, cara? I wish to see you."
Quinn grunted, letting him pull her arms away, dropping them to her sides. "There's not much to see." As an athlete, she'd always had far more of an appreciation for what her body could do than what it looked like. In sports, her lack of curves had been an asset. With guys, not so much.
Cool hands slid over her breasts, covering them completely, which wasn't hard to do. But, oh, it felt good.
He flicked her nipples with his thumbs, sending a rush of hot desire flowing through her veins. Over and over, he rubbed his thumbs back and forth over the tight buds. "You have beautiful breasts." The huskiness of his tone almost made it sound like he meant it.
"If you're into fried eggs."
"They are not fried eggs. Size is not everything."
"Most men would disagree."
"Most men are fools." He turned her to face him, then gripped her waist as he studied one breast with the raptness of a connoisseur, tracing her areola with his thumb. The gentleness of his caress made her tremble. "Soft as silk," he murmured. "The skin flawless. Your nipples are beautifully shaped, perfectly formed pink buds. Among the finest I've seen."
She watched him, torn between pleasure and wariness. "I can't decide if you're playing me."
His gaze flicked up to meet hers. "And what would I be playing you for?"
That ever-present amusement lifted his mouth. "Seduction takes many forms. But my words are true, cara. I've seen many a breast." His brow arched wickedly. "Many a breast."
She laughed. For the first time in forever, she didn't feel lacking with her shirt off. Thanks to a vampire.
Without warning, he knelt before her, gripping her waist with long, cool fingers as he pulled her close, and took one of her breasts into his mouth. His tongue took over for his thumb, flicking her nipple. Surprise caught in her throat. Desire shot straight to her core.
She didn't want this. And yet she did. He sucked at her, pulling her breast into his mouth. Without thinking, she gripped his head, sliding her fingers into the dark silk of his hair, breathing in the rich, intoxicating scent of him. Almonds. And night. And potent, virile male.
Oh, God, I want this. Her body melted beneath his touch, her legs turning to soft butter.
His mouth released her breast, his lips trailing kisses down one barely there slope and up the other to give equal attention to its twin. Flicking, sucking, his hands sliding up and down her sides, then down to her hips and behind, gripping her rear, sending heat leaping within her.
While she held him to her with one hand, with the other she slid her fingers to the back of his neck, feeling the tendons and rock-hard flesh. His skin wasn't cold to the touch, not at all. Just a little cooler than her own. Wonderfully so. She wanted to press her heated flesh against him and cool the raging fever he caused with his touch, with his mouth.
His hands slid to the front, and he reached for the waistband of her pants.
Instinctively, Quinn grabbed his shoulders. "No."
Arturo released her breast and looked up, meeting her gaze. His mouth was damp and swollen, his eyes hot and questioning. "You want this."
"No. It's too soon." He was a stranger. A vampire.
Slowly, he rose until he once more had the height advantage, crowding her. His mouth tightened with . . . displeasure? Frustration? He lifted a lock of her hair, twirling the blond strand around one long finger, studying it.
"What am I going to do with you?" The edge of frustration in his tone told her this was no rhetorical question.
"Let me go? Maybe even help me find my brother?"
His gaze snapped to hers, but he didn't laugh. He didn't scoff. He just watched her as if he were actually contemplating it.
Her pulse, already erratic from his touch, leaped into overdrive, and she held her breath, waiting . . . praying . . .
"And what will you give me in return?"
"Anything." The word shot from her mouth. "Anything." Please, please, please let him be considering and not just toying with me.
He grasped her head in both of his hands, staring at her intently. "You, I will not free, cara. But your brother, perhaps. If you promise to never escape me again."
She stared at him, her heart thudding, her stomach cramping from the blow. You, I will not free. Ever. She'd never go home if she didn't escape him.
But Zack might. If the vampire was telling the truth and not simply placating her. Nothing mattered but getting Zack out of this place. Nothing. She had to make this happen.
"I have to see him. And his friend Lily. I have to know they're safe."
Arturo snorted. "Two of them, now? You ask much."
"You ask for my life."
He lifted a dark brow. "I already own your life, piccola. I ask for your cooperation."
She was beginning to shake. Tears burned her eyes. After all that had happened, it was this . . . this chance of actually saving Zack . . . that threatened to shatter her control.
"Yes. You have it. But I want them out of V.C."
"That will be difficult until the magic is renewed."
"But not impossible?"
His jaw hardened, then slowly eased again. "No. Not impossible."
The tears began to slide down her cheeks. Arturo watched them, frowning, then brushed one away with his thumb. "Why do you cry? I offer you much."
"I don't know." She swiped self-consciously at her other cheek. "Because I'm relieved. And because, either way, he's going to be lost to me."
He leaned forward and kissed her temple. "You owe me a boon in return, tessoro."
"I promised I wouldn't escape you."
"Yes. And now I want you in my bed. I want your body. And your blood."
Her legs turned to rubber at the raw confession, heat liquefying her center. She blinked against the blur of tears and met his gaze.
He stroked her hair. "I'll not hurt you, piccola. I will bring you great pleasure. As you will bring me."
And, really, did she have a choice? This was to be her life, now. This man's slave. The remarkable thing was that he was asking, that he was at least pretending to leave the choice in her hands.
She took a deep, trembling breath. "Okay."
Arturo reached for her, pinching her nipples lightly. Desire shot straight to her core. How could such a simple touch ignite her so thoroughly?
Cool lips grazed her cheek, trailing kisses down to her jaw. Lost in the sensation, she tilted her head, giving him access when his mouth dipped lower, his tongue sliding along the side of her neck. Shivers engulfed her.
The sharp prick of fangs brought her up short. He'd bitten her! Gripping his shoulders, she tried to push him away, but his arm went around her waist, hauling her closer.
"Vampire . . ."
His lips closed around the wound as he took a long pull of her blood, shocking her with the rush of pleasure. Delighting her. The legends were absolutely true. God.
Quinn felt cool fingers at her waistband, sliding down into her pants, into her panties. Into her. The intimate invasion, the pull of his mouth on her throat, and she was gasping, melting, shattering. She clung to him, shaking, weak. Utterly overwhelmed.
Arturo pulled his hand from her pants, his fingers shifting to unfasten the button of her fly as he lifted his face from her neck. His visage . . . bloody fangs protruding from his mouth, his eyes gleaming with white centers . . . sent her heart thudding. Primal terror rose in a blinding rush even as she battled it back. He wasn't a demon. He wasn't going to hurt her.
But logic held no sway over primitive fear.
Arturo moaned, as if in rapture, tipping his head back as his fanged, bloody mouth dropped open.
He was feeding on her fear again. Furious with him, furious with the fine panic that had seized her, she pushed at his chest, trying to force him away, but he was as solid as cold steel. So she balled up her fist and delivered a knockout blow to his jaw.
He gripped her wrists so fast, his terrifying, enraged face suddenly inches from her own, that she gasped, her heart thundering in her chest.
"Get away from me," she hissed through clenched teeth.
Slowly, his fury turned into a monster-sized scowl, and he whirled away, propping one fisted hand on the wall as he stared at the floor as if struggling for composure. He stood like that for so long, Quinn wasn't sure what to say, what to do. Had she blown it? Would he renege on his offer to find Zack and Lily? Slowly, her heart rate settled back to normal, and she sat on the bed to wait for him.
Finally, he turned and strode to the door without once glancing her way.
"Get some sleep. We'll leave in the morning."
He paused, one hand on the doorknob, his face dipped as if he studied his fingers curling around the knob. "I do not know what they look like, your brother and Lily."
"Thank you, Arturo."
Still, he didn't turn. With a brief nod, he left, closing the door behind him.
She heard no click of a lock. But then she wasn't going anywhere. Not when he'd promised to find Zack and Lily come morning. Not when there was a chance he might actually do it.
And she'd promised to stay here . . . to be his willing slave. Forever.
"We're walking?" Quinn asked the next morning as she accompanied Arturo out the kitchen door and past the Jeep. Adrenaline had her wired, a mix of nerves and wariness as she walked beside this man who had touched her so intimately last night, this male who she'd nearly given her body to. And her body had not forgotten, nor had it forgiven her. Despite the orgasm he'd given her while drinking her blood, she'd lain awake half the night in a fever of need for his touch, for his possession. Long enough to wonder if he'd somehow pulled her under an unnatural sensual spell.
She was hyperaware of him this morning, the strong lines of his body, as he moved with pure, predatory grace beside her. The raw, masculine scent of him that wafted over her as the wind shifted just so. He was dressed in his requisite black, the long knife sheath once more hanging from the belt at his waist.
They walked around the front of the house and to the sidewalk that fronted F Street. The Treasury Building loomed a block ahead, vast, dark, and windowless. A shell of its true glory.
"We shall start with my kovena's stronghold," he told her.
"What's a kovena? A nest of vampires or something?"
The look he threw her chided. "A family, if you will. Many within the kovena were sired by our master, Cristoff, or by one of the other vampires. Many have joined the kovena out of loyalty or for protection."
"I long ago swore an oath of loyalty to Cristoff."
At the corner, they turned right, heading north. "Where exactly is this kovena?"
"Gonzaga Castle is only a few blocks."
"A castle? In D.C.?"
"Right." Unlike last night, the light was back, though so dim there was no color anywhere, just shades of gray. Her scientist's brain rejected the possibility that such a thing was possible. When she looked up at the sky, she saw clouds, gray smudges against the grayer sky. It made no sense. Magic. "This place shouldn't be possible," she murmured, then turned to him. "Do you really like living someplace so . . . dead?"
He grinned at her, making her stomach flip. "It is the perfect place for vampires, is it not? No sun, no need to hide for fear of detection by the far more numerous human race. Vamp City was promoted as a utopia, cara. And in many ways, it still is. Where else can vampires hold horse races and soccer matches, hunts and other games at any time, day or night, free to use our full range of abilities, free to feed on the humans in our midst without fear of reprisal or discovery? Without fear of the sun? We are free to be ourselves here, as we are nowhere else."