"How are we going to do that?" she asked. "You can only trace to places you've been to at least once."
"But I can drive anywhere," Wroth replied casually, every inch a modern warlord.
So she was to return to her home in ripped clothing, with her skin still flushed from last night, her body still singing for a vampire's touch.
She would never live this down. And for an immortal, never was a particularly woeful proposition.
Yes, going back to Val Hall would mean a possibility for escape, but he could kill one of her sisters if they tried to free her. When he rose and strode to his closet, she studied his body, noting yet again how incredibly strong he was.
He turned and tossed her a button-down, catching her gaze just as it drifted south to his hard shaft. She almost missed the shirt and he smirked, making her jerk her face away. "Come here," he ordered and she dragged her feet over. His hands reached out to pile her hair up, just so he could lean down and breathe along her neck, then murmur in her ear, "Bride, this is embarrassing. I think I've caught you staring at my cock," making her quiver. She'd teased him the same way when his eyes had been riveted to her neck so many years ago. He added in a sensual rumble, "You like it, don't you?"
When the question sunk in, her eyes went wide with disbelief, the spell broken. How could he ask her that? When she would be forced to answer? His lips hovering over her shoulder, he said, "Answer me honestly."
I want to curl up between your legs, rest my head at your hip, and draw you over into my mouth to taste you for hours, she almost said, then negotiated her mind into another honest answer: "It's too big."
He dropped her hair, smirking again. "So it terrifies you more than tantalizes?" he asked using the words she remembered well.
Knowing he was getting his revenge little by little, she gritted her teeth against her answer but lost. "Both."
He clucked her under the chin. "I'll be sure to break you in slowly, ride you easy the first few times."
Myst of the witty banter and dripping sexual innuendo was speechless. Break her in? Arrogant! When he turned for the shower, she tried not to stare at his back and how it tapered to his narrow hips and his muscled ass with the hard hollows on the sides. She'd been right, it did beg to be clutched.
Damn her claws for curling -
"I believe you like everything about me," he rumbled from inside the bathroom.
She gazed at the ceiling, embarrassed as she couldn't remember ever being before. Of course he'd known she was staring, probably by the holes she was burning into his skin. As she dressed, she thought that he was right - she was tantalized, and she did like everything about him physically. The way he'd made her feel last night left no doubt in her mind that he could not only get her to ask for him inside her, but beg.
She needed to escape before then, before he "claimed" her. He hadn't drunk from her and they hadn't had sex. As long as those two things stayed sacred she could get past this patch in her life.
When he returned to the room, dressed like a male dream, she felt like shuffling her feet for her ridiculous getup, draped in his shirt that fell to her knees. She had never felt insecure before. But she didn't have long to ponder it, because he put his hands on her waist. "Are you ready?" he asked, staring down at her. Ready? To kiss him, hug him, go to her knees? What?
He pulled her to his body, wrapping his arms around her. "Close your eyes," he commanded. She did. "Open them."
Suddenly, they were in a garage. This was the first time she'd traced and been able to think about the process. She'd dropped an intoxispell or two in her day and found tracing on par with that. She was unsteady at first, but the air smelled like bayou at high tide, which she liked, and was heavy with humidity. New Orleans, but where? "What is this place?" she asked, breaking away from him to look around.
"An old restored mill north of the city," Wroth answered. "Where I stayed while scouring the streets for you for as long as I could manage every night. Before collapsing in agony and weakness."
She looked away quickly, fighting a flare of guilt - and spotted his cars. She tried to be cool, but of course, Wroth caught her eyeing them - especially the Maserati Spyder - and she knew he'd seen her flicker of appreciation. The Valkyrie prized fine things. They were acquisitive to a fault - it simply couldn't be helped. Her own mother had told her that Myst's first word was, roughly translated, gimme.
He opened her door to the Spyder, and once she was inside, she curled up on the soft leather, loving it. Joining her, he cast her an inscrutable expression. "We are fortunate, Myst. You'll want for nothing as my wife."
She'd already been fortunate. She already wanted for nothing. The coven divvied their collective earnings from investments, and the take was always incredibly generous. She had enough money to buy any clothing that struck her fancy, to purchase two thousand dollar hand-painted lingerie sets to placate her obsession. In a deadened tone, she mumbled, "Oh joy. I'm rich."
He commanded her to direct him to her home, not in itself an unforgivable crime. They didn't hide their address like the Bat Cave, yet they didn't often have trespassers at Val Hall. When his breath hissed in at the sight of the manor, she was reminded why.
"This is where you live?" he bit out, forearms resting on the steering wheel, his tone incredulous.
She tried to see it from his eyes. Fog shrouded the property, and bolts of light illuminated it in a staccato rhythm. There were lightning rods everywhere, but sometimes they didn't catch all the lightning, as evidenced by the massive oaks in the yard still lazily giving up smoke. And the wood nymphs - those little hookers - were way behind on repairing the trees. If Myst heard them whine, "But Mysty baby, there was this orgy," as an excuse one more time -
"Hellish," Wroth said.
She tilted her head. In the olden days they used to stick a sword into the ground to mark a grave, and she'd always fancied that the rods made this place look like one of those mass burial sites. Even at this distance, shrieks could be heard coming from within. The Valkyrie often screamed. If Annika got angry enough, car alarms in three parishes would blare.
Okay, it might be a bit hellish.
"It's time you had someone take you from here," he bit out as he continued closer.
She frowned at him. "You forget. This is where I belong. I'm as much monster as what lies within."
"You're a lot of things, Bride. But you're not a monster."
"You're right. I'm what monsters like you fear beneath their beds."
"But now you're in my bed where you belong."
"So in this life of ours that your crazed mind envisions, I'm not going to fight?"
He shook his head as he parked down the gravel drive. "No. I'm well aware that you're deceptively strong. I know that other beings would rather die than risk your wrath. But I won't ever allow you to put yourself in danger again."
She batted her eyelashes at him and in a syrupy voice said, "Because I'm just so darn precious to you?"
"Yes," he answered simply, making her roll her eyes. He got out of the car, and she followed, but he quickly traced to open it for her, looking at her as if she was crazy not to wait for him to assist her.
Perfect. A gentleman warrior. Which she was discovering she might have a weakness for.
As they walked the drive, he said, "Hold my hand."
"Big vampire scared the wittle Valkyrie will get away?"
He turned to her with his brows drawn. "I just want to hold your hand."
What was that flutter in her stomach? And why didn't she mind that her hand was slipping into his big, rough one to be completely enveloped and secured? They walked like this to the side of the cavernous thirty-room mansion.
He was tense here, ready to trace them away in a split second, and she almost felt sorry for him when she realized he'd never seen anything like her home before. He was of the Lore, and yet in so many ways he was as human as he'd once been.
When he made her point out the window to her room, showing him a destination, he was able to trace them again. Inside, he scanned the lace and silk filled space with those discerning eyes, studying everything within. She was the girlie-girl of the coven with her candles and silk sheets, her room and lifestyle the most human-like of any of them.
Her room was next to Cara's, which housed only a spartan sleeping mat, her ancient winged helmets, and a string of vampire fangs she'd taken as trophies. Across the gallery was the room of petite, timid Emmaline. Though she was part Valkyrie, she was a vampire through and through and made her little nest on the floor under her unused bed.
It could be argued that Emma proved that not all vampires were evil and that the coven could coexist with one. Yet Emma had been the daughter of a beloved Valkyrie, and that half was believed to "temper" the other. An exception had been made for her, but Myst often wondered if she was the only one who noticed Emma flinch and tremble, her big blue eyes glinting with apprehension whenever the coven shrieked and railed about killing leeches. "Present company excepted" really was a weak statement when one thought about it.
"So what do you want me to pack?" Myst asked.
He raised an eyebrow. "You should be used to this. Choose clothes as if you were going away with your lover."
Her hands clenched as she crossed to her drawers that housed her Agent Provocateur, Strumpet & Pink, and Jillian Sherry collections, and those were mass purchases from just last week. "Depends on which lover." She plucked out a red leather quarter-cup bra and a baby-doll teddy that was completely translucent, then held them up for him.
"Both," he rasped, his expression pained. She saw he was getting hard again. He noticed her noticing and his eyes darkened.
Assuming a brisk manner, she crossed to the closet to gather a weekender bag, but he picked her up bodily by the waist and set her out of the way to gather a four-foot-long moving case. He dropped it at her feet. "Fill it, because you're never coming back to this place."
At his words, she nodded, making it somehow sarcastic, and he knew she was thinking to herself how wrong he was. He exhaled wearily. If he had to battle against her for the rest of their lives, he would.
He moved to assist her, but every drawer in her room was full of thongs, hose, lace and little silk nightgowns that made his blood pound. She had a drawer for nothing but garters. It would take him months to bite all of these off her body.
He frowned. Women wore clothes like this for a lover. How many did she currently have? When he imagined them relishing her beauty, the gold chain slapping against her body as she writhed on them, he crumpled the iron post end of her bed.
Now she smirked at him, reading him so clearly. "Nikolai, if you can't control your jealousy, we're heading straight for divorce." She tapped her finger on her chin and added, "Make a note now that I'll expect the house, the kids and the hellhound. Actually, you can keep the schwag house."
He scowled before turning away, examining her belongings for more insight. Her film collection was copious. He was unfamiliar with them, as he was with most things that had to do with leisure time. "Which of these do you prefer?"
She clearly hated having to answer his questions and struggled against it each time. "I like romance and horror."
"A bit disparate."
She eyed him. "Funny, I used to think so."
He ignored that and tossed a few DVDs in the bag.
She put the inside of her forearm behind dozens of bottles of fingernail polish, pushing them over her dresser into the bag. The look she gave him dared him to say something. Nail polish was out of his realm of understanding, and he merely shrugged at her.
He crossed to her bathroom, searching the cabinets and drawers. "There are no medicines. No things...females need."
"I don't get ill and I don't have those types of functions. Just like you, vampire."
"None at all?" He wondered if she could get pregnant. Perhaps he didn't have to be as careful with that as he'd planned.
"None. Why, you can force me to have sex with you nonstop all month!"
"Why would I force you when I can barely keep your hands - and mouth - off me now?"
"Wroth, darling," she purred, smiling so sweetly. "I can't wait for the next time I get to put my mouth on you." In an instant the smile faded and she snapped her teeth and yanked her head back as if she was chewing something free.
He didn't even have time to cringe because she wriggled from his shirt then. At the sight of her naked body, his cock shot hard as steel. She sensually dragged her underwear up her legs and then bent over in only the thong to step into a skirt. Just as he was fighting the overwhelming urge to take her hips and feed himself into her, shrieks erupted from downstairs.
On edge in this place, he moved to peer over the landing outside her room and found ten or more Valkyrie downstairs. Some were lounging in front of a TV, bowls of popcorn in front of them - that they didn't eat. One was up and sparring with what looked like a ghost or a phantom. When the pair crossed in front of the television, the others screeched and threw popcorn at them.
A small Valkyrie stalked in the door. She was covered in blood.
"Cara!" they shouted in greeting, completely unsurprised by her appearance.
"What'd you get into tonight?" one asked from her perch on the mantle.
Cara pulled her sword sheath from her back. "My human unknowingly went into a demon bar. A demoness thought to make her lover jealous using my charge." She shook her head. "It was everything I could do to keep the demon from ripping Michael's throat out with his teeth."
"How'd you do it?"
Without blinking an eye, she said, "I ripped the demon's throat out with my teeth."
When they all laughed, Wroth raised an eyebrow, vowing that Myst would never see these malicious creatures again. Never. Without their influence, she would be kinder, gentler.
She sure as hell couldn't get worse.
"Have Myst or Daniela returned?" Cara asked.
"No. I'd expect this from Myst - "
Because she often ran off with men?
" - but certainly not from Daniela. She never returned from the Quarter."
"Well, the hits keep coming - I just saw Ivo the Cruel in the Quarter."
When they laughed again, she said, "You should know by now that I do not jest about vampires unless they're dead."
They sobered and one asked, "Has he returned for Myst? Somebody needs to warn her."
Wroth quickly turned back to her room - but Myst was gone.
He traced to the opened window, then to the end of the field below when he caught sight of her sprinting away. He yelled for her to stop and somehow she kept running.
She was fast and might have outrun him with her unnatural speed as she covered miles, but he traced, lunging from that momentum to snag her ankle, tripping her forward. She wore plugs in her ears from a music player. Enraged, he yanked them from her, heard the music blaring and threw the contraption into the woods beyond.
She'd almost escaped him. Before he'd claimed her. Thoughts grew distant. A shadow fell over his vision. He pinned her down, tossed up her skirt, then ripped the silk from between her legs, glorying in that feeling. He was finally going to take his Bride.
Hazily, he realized she was still struggling from him. Her words echoed inside him. "Wroth, you want it? I'll fight you for it."
He would always fight for her, always. Would he fight her for the right to her body?
"Then you're mine."