Where the hell is my freaking warlord?
Myst jerked upright, waking from the first real sleep she'd enjoyed since she'd been taken by the Horde four nights ago. She was alone in his bed, her clothes washed and folded at the foot. She smiled to realize he'd drawn a blanket over her.
She needed to keep up with Wroth until her sisters broke her out of this pokey. She swore again that this was the last time she would be bait - and this time she meant it. Rumor was rife in the Lore, but tales of Ivo the Cruel making dark alliances proved worrisome enough for them to "reconnoiter," or undertake Operation: Myst Gets Nabbed. Yet she'd learned little about Ivo for her troubles - the acting, the getting too close and then letting herself get caught, etc. - only that he was definitely planning something major.
She chuckled - that is, until General Wroth punked his ass out of a castle.
No, she hadn't learned much about Ivo, but this Kristoff and the general would make good dish. What if this king really wanted to kill Demestriu and stop vampires from terrorizing everyone else? Was it possible that not all vampires had a predisposition toward sociopathic evil? What if the Valkyrie didn't have to war with these Forbearers? However, it was doubtful. Her sisters wouldn't discriminate between the two vampire factions. Kill first and then say, "Gosh, were you actually good? My duh!" Vampires as a species were simply too powerful to go unchecked.
Demestriu and his vampire Horde had been brutal to all the Lore, but especially the Valkyrie. Fifty years ago, Furie, their queen, the strongest and fiercest of them all, had tried to assassinate him. She had never returned. Tales abounded that he'd chained Furie to the bottom of the sea to drown again and again only to have her dogged immortality surge her to life for more torment. When the covens finally found her and freed her, Furie would be as none other on earth, awash in rage. She wouldn't check for vampire affiliation before she slaughtered and would expect her covens to follow her example.
So, until Myst's covens decided on their plan of action with this new power, she'd go about business as usual, which meant she needed to find Wroth. Before he'd come, Myst had been powerless here. She could handle weapons as well as most in the coven, though a sword and bow were not her strengths.
Her preferred weapon was men. And now she had one - a big, scarred one with gorgeous eyes, and with skin that she wanted to lick until her tongue got tired - in her clutches.
Or she'd had him.
Manipulating them, playing them, making them believe she lived for them alone in order to have them do her bidding were her m.o. Furie had once asked her, "Why would you ever send a man to do a woman's job?"
Confused, Myst had answered, "Because I can."
The problem with Oblak's vampires was that they had no appreciation for her whatsoever. At least Wroth liked to look at her.
For them, the blood superseded all, and she could neither withhold it nor capitalize on it. Though the eyes of every creature in the Lore turned a certain species-related color with intense emotion, theirs were permanently, wholly red from sucking the life from their victims to the very marrow - not from merely drinking as these Forbearers feared. One kill put them in a downward spiral, because with the kill came the bloodlust riding them to do it again and again. Then the subsequent accumulation of their victim's memories over the years drove many of them mad.
Yet for the last four nights, Ivo and his men had never drunk from her, vacillating, examining her as she had yawned with boredom. She'd snapped to Ivo, "Get dental with me or don't, but make a damned decision." His eyes had slitted with menace, his red gaze a contrast to his pale face and shaven head, but in the end he'd avoided her blood, thinking her madness might be catching. Worked for her. In fact, she'd never in her life been bitten.
She wondered what it would have been like to have Wroth take her neck last night when his pupils had flickered black with want. She was an awful person, she knew it, weak with perversion to even entertain these thoughts. Probably the only Valkyrie on earth who'd ever fantasized about a vampire. She frowned. No. There'd been one other...
Myst tapped her chin, wondering if she should tell the Forbearers that they forwent for really no reason.
Maybe if the scrumptious general continued to be nice to her she'd hint a little. She had heard of him back in the day. Of course they'd had a correspondent in the field following that war and she'd reported back that Wroth had been big and brave and deliciously ruthless to his enemies. Though the Overlord had lost in the end against a much larger force, he'd bought his people at least a decade of protection.
Myst and her sisters had sat by the hearth, sighing over tales of his deeds as though ogling an issue of Tiger Beat. Myst remembered that she had felt loss at the news of his defeat because she'd known it meant the death of a great man. But he'd made a comeback, and, in person, he hadn't disappointed. Except for the fact that he was now a mortal enemy - or rather, an immortal mortal enemy. Oh, and a leech.
She tried the door to his room, just in case he'd decided to trust her, but it was locked - though not mystically reinforced like her cell was. She could easily have broken it down, but she didn't have to be back in the dungeon until dawn. So she took her time dressing and piling her hair up in a way she thought he'd like, and still had time to root through all his things. Though she kept her eyes from the shiny jeweled cross, lest she get sticky-fingered with it.
Digging through his clothes, she realized she liked how he dressed, his style modern but still aristocratic somehow. And she loved his scent and his careless but sexy hair. She'd rolled in the bed with one of his big cable-knit sweaters, her face buried in it, uncaring if he returned and found her like that. But he never showed, and instead two guards had arrived to escort her back down as per his orders.
They wouldn't meet her eyes.
Well, shite, they knew something she didn't. Wroth hadn't kept her as she'd hoped. She was in trouble, and she suspected she knew why. If you do happen to have information, I can get it from you, he'd said.
When they closed the cell door behind her, and she realized she was the only one in the dungeon, her fears were confirmed. The low beings here - those who made up the Saturday night creature-feature underbelly of the Lore - had been taken away, no doubt to be tortured and killed.
She was the only girl left on the dance floor, but not for long, she knew, because none of the others would've talked. Of course, she'd threatened to peel them, and their families, for revealing any information, and there was a reason that "And may you never feel a Valkyrie's breath at your back" was a drinking toast among the Lore. The vampires might come and take one's village, but the Valkyrie would creep in, hiding under a bed to take one's head from one's pillow. Their word was law.
Which left her...She looked up when she heard boots clicking over the stone.
"Listen carefully, Myst," Wroth said as a guard opened her cell before leaving them. "I'm going to ask you questions about your kind and about the different factions in the Lore. You must answer them or I've been ordered to get the information from you by force."
"Torture? Ordered? Can't disobey Kristoff for me?"
"Myst, you know I'd be dead if not for him. My brothers and friends as well. My life has not been my own since that night."
He was actually serious about this. But then Myst hadn't been kidding either when she'd said that torture really pissed her off. She'd been giving Wroth preferential treatment because he was, like, a celebrity in martial circles, but now he'd taken a plunge into vampirism - and she needed to remember that. She'd push and cajole to the end but after that...Bring it, leech. Still bubbly friendly, she said, "Wroth, you could help me escape - "
"I swore my fealty and I'll see my order through. Answer or you'll face the consequences," he said. "I'll begin with the most basic. What are you?"
"Pussy Cat Doll?" she asked, immediately doing a slow headshake at his look. "Judge, jury and executioner." He scowled. Her eyes lit up. "Transient! What? Really. No? Babe in Toyland?"
"Damn it, Myst, just answer the questions. Then you can come back up to my room." He lowered his voice and curled his finger under her chin. "We can sleep together again as we did today - "
"But you don't understand that torture would be easier for me than to go back to the Lore as an informant." She'd no longer be an A-lister, an "avoid at all costs" enemy. She'd lose her status as a creature with which one did not fuck.
"My brother has tried to get information from the others - "
"But they didn't talk either, huh?" Did she sound smug?
He seemed to shake himself, hardening his resolve. "You're leaving me little choice."
Well. She was about to experience first-hand the Overlord's ruthlessness she'd admired, because apparently he'd decided she was an enemy just when she'd thought they were getting kinda cozy.
Way to hurt my feelings, Wroth. She sniffled. Now I'll really have to kill you.
With his thoughts constantly on her throughout the night, he'd stalled for hours, as much as he could, waiting till nearly dawn, ensuring it would at least be brief.
"You're really going to do this?" she asked as she turned from him, moving into the back corner.
Her shoulders were shaking, and he suspected she was laughing. When he crossed to her, taking her arm and turning her, he was shocked to find genuine tears streaming down her heartbreakingly beautiful face. "Wroth, I thought we had an arrangement." She cast him a brows-drawn look of betrayal.
She wasn't feigning this. In her wild, mixed-up mind, she had thought they were...friends?
The cell wobbled and he braced himself, frowning that she seemed not to notice. Just aftershocks from last night.
He didn't want her to hurt. But her eyes blazed with it, raw and true and bare. He was actually seeing her - Myst with her false swagger and play peeled back. This was a facet of her, but it was finally Myst, and suddenly he found it unbearable as each tear fell. He flinched when one dropped to her cheek, flinched as if he'd been hit. Another shake all around him.
She turned from him and appeared to wipe her face. When she turned back, she was blatantly sexual, as though she'd donned a mask once more.
"Myst, I don't want to hurt you, but you must answer my questions. This isn't a game."
She gave him a look of utter disbelief. "That's exactly what this is. You want to know about the Lore? Learn this lesson well - we are all pawns."
The castle shook around him, and while he glanced around wildly, she remained undaunted. No, it was not the outside shaking.
The sound booming in his ears like an earthquake was coming from...within him. "What are you?" he demanded again.
Her face never lost its expression of vague distaste even when her hand pressed gently against his chest - to feel his heart stutter then thunder to life. Because he'd finally seen her and recognized her for what she was...
"Apparently, I'm your Bride."
"I was wondering if I could get you to turn for me," Myst purred to him, as he struggled to hide his shock.
She'd found him to be a cool, disciplined man, but she'd heard a new heartbeat was deafening for these unblooded vampires, the sudden rush of sexual desire overwhelming, their breaths unpracticed and rough at first. With soft touches, she eased him against the wall. His eyes were half-lidded as she rubbed up and down his chest. "How does the air in your lungs feel?"
He inhaled deeply. "Cold. Pressure, but it feels good." He looked at her with such gratitude for blooding him.
They always did.
"How does your blood feel, heating and moving?"
She palmed his erection through his pants, and his entire body jerked as he threw back his head to yell out. She was almost as shocked. She'd known Wroth was very well endowed, but hard, he was overly so.
Like Demon or Lykae endowed.
He held her hand in place over his shaft, making her fingers curve around it as he slowly thrust against her palm. Her body softened when she imagined the onslaught of need clawing at him. In a sensual whisper, she asked, "And how does this feel when it hardens and distends?"
"Good," he grated with a shudder. "So damn good."
"It's been three centuries? Well, you are due I suppose." She unzipped his pants just enough to wiggle her thumb inside and rub the broad tip of his penis, making it grow slick. His eyes rolled back in his head. "I can only imagine how heavy and tight this feels, throbbing with pressure, close to exploding."
"Why are you doing this to me?"
Because I can.
Soon he would have no more thought than an animal. His eyes were growing black. She stroked his length through his pants, relieved she would never have to take his uncomfortable size within her body. Five, four, three, two...
Wroth attacked, groaning, and he was surprisingly strong as he pinned her arms over her head. He kissed her, deeply, possessively, seeming to brand her with his kiss. He left her panting when he bent down to lick her nipples, sucking at them through her blouse. His other hand cupped her sex.
With a growl, he yanked himself from her, and took her elbow. "Come with me."
Damn it, dawn neared. Where were they? She had to keep him here. "No, Wroth," she said.
"Won't claim my Bride in a dungeon."
"But I can't wait," she cried. "Tell the guard to leave."
"No - "
"Wroth," she gripped his shaft hard while whispering in his ear, "my body weeps for this thrusting inside me."
He bellowed out that order, then tore open her blouse and bra, suckling and tonguing her nipples roughly. Involuntarily her back arched, pressing her breasts into his gorgeous lips. When had she begun undulating her hips for him?
"I've waited for you," he bit out. "So long I've waited."
One hand pinned her wrists above her, the other shot up her skirt and ripped her panties completely from her. His fingers roved, hot and slow over her, teasing. He knew exactly how to set her on fire, using the moisture from her own body to slide his thumb around her clitoris in slow, slick, mind-numbing circles.
"So wet," he rasped against her breast. "As soon as I saw you, I wanted it to be you." His lips took her hardened nipple, sucking on it till it throbbed. He turned to the other one for the same attention.
Myst made a decision then. There was simply no way she was going to miss this.
She moaned in truth, unable to control herself as lightning fired outside in conjunction with the emotion inside her. When he plunged one finger into her, withdrew, then thrust two deep within her, she wanted to come around them. He slid them into her unhurriedly but with enough force that she was rocked to her toes each time.
She arched her back more, wanting to offer up her breasts. She spread her legs, taking his fierce touch. "Don't stop," she panted, so close, aching to reach for his shaft. But he'd captured her hands above her.
"Never." He thrust harder, until she didn't know if her toes even touched the ground, then he spread his fingers inside her as if preparing her for his size. Her head fell back and she moaned at the overwhelming feeling of fullness.
She raised her leg to lay it over the knee he'd placed against the wall as if just for that purpose. Spread to him, she ground her hips wildly.
At her ear, he rumbled the words, "Come for me, milaya."
"Ah, yes...Wroth," she moaned again, about to succumb to his stroking. She gave a strangled cry and climaxed with a fiery, wet pulsing that staggered her and made him groan as if he had as well.
"I can feel you come," he grated while she clutched him, rolling her hips against his masterful touch until she was too sensitive to continue. But he didn't stop until she was mindlessly moaning his name in his capturing arms.
When she was spent, she sagged against him, still weakly undulating for him. Her nipples were wet and achy from his tongue.
He cupped the back of her neck and yanked her up to face him, gazing down at her with lust, but his words were more. "I will be good to you, Myst. I will protect you. You are mine."
He was saying these things because he was about to shove into her with that huge shaft, to claim her. A true vampire's Bride. He took her leg and clutched it to his hip, about to free himself.
Her half-lidded eyes had just widened with true alarm when she heard the merest whisper at the gateway to the dungeon.
Before he could react, Myst flung herself away. Why would she do that? His hand shot out to pull her back, but she shrank from him. Why wasn't he inside her right now? He'd made sure she was wet, ready to receive him -
He heard movement and jerked his head around, fangs sharpening in fury.
"Look at the lovebirds." A creature similar to Myst was standing at the entry to the cell, a bow at the ready.
A second one with bright, glowing skin joined the first, happily chewing gum and flipping a dagger in the air. "Don't make me look - I think I'll be sick. Myst, cavorting with a vampire is a new low even for you."
"What is this?" Wroth demanded, stalking toward them.
The archer nocked an arrow with supernatural speed and let it sing without hesitation. He lunged to dodge it, but she'd anticipated his move and the arrow pinned him to the wall. A second took his other shoulder, drilling its tip half a foot into the stone. He cast her a killing look, then lurched forward to simply let the arrows tear through him, but the shafts were ringed like shank nails.
When he realized he wouldn't be moving, he bellowed with rage.
He saw Myst pulling her clothing together, turning for the door. "Don't you walk away from me."
"So sorry to interrupt your plans for tonight." She cast him that hurt look. "You almost made me forget that you'd come down here to torture me. You want to learn? Know that we hate torture. It starts to add up over the years - "
"That was before I knew you were my Bride."
Her face went cold in an instant. "Before you knew you could finally screw me? Now that your body's in working order, I don't feel the skin flayed from mine?"
"You're my Bride. Mine. You belong to me."
She flew back at him, enraged. The bright one tossed her a dagger and Myst caught it behind her without looking. Again his mind demanded to know what she was.
She pressed the blade to his jugular. Her pupils were silver and lightning bombarded the castle. "If I belonged to every man who wanted it so or to every vampire I've blooded there'd be nothing left of me. But no one cares about that."
"You've not blooded others. They would be here protecting you, fighting for you."
"Not" - she leaned in closer, tilting her head like an animal - "if I killed them all."
Then she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him to her, pressing her lips against his. She kissed him hard. Yet he soon tasted...her blood? Just as he groaned, she drew back with an inscrutable expression on her face.
Unimaginably warm and rich, her blood was as exquisite as everything else about her, and he shuddered in ecstasy at the luscious taste. "You know I'll want nothing else now," he rasped.
In response, she snapped her teeth at him. To the others she commanded, "Leave him," then exited the cell.
The archer and the bright one exchanged a confused glance. "And by 'leave him' you clearly mean leave him beheaded, disemboweled, and chock full of quills like a pincushion."
"You heard him - I'm his Bride."
"Ohhh," the bright one said, blowing a bubble. "You mean he hasn't, uh, you know, released, the first time since his blooding?" Then with a quick glance at his crotch, she said, "And he stays like that without you, right?" She chuckled. "I'm cool with the plan."
The archer wasn't convinced. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy condemning vampires to unending sexual torture as much as the next fabulously talented huntress..." When Wroth heard a guard charging in, she leisurely shot an arrow in that direction, tilted her head at the result, then sighed to Myst, "But Vampire Bride just sounds so B-movie. He just dragged you down to B-moviedom."
The bright one made her voice overly dramatic, saying, "For that alone...he must die. Seriously, Myst. Your 'husband' has irrevocably damaged your street cred unless you kill him like the others."
They were all mad.
And still he was hard, aching for her body, for the blood she'd given him just to torture him. "You evil, teasing bitch. Kill me then."
For just the merest second he imagined he saw compassion in her eyes, but when she shrugged, his hazy mind finally grasped that she was going to leave him here with nothing but a body knotted with lust for her and a taste of blood that he would go to his knees for. "You're the most malicious bitch I've ever known."
"Flatterer," she chirped.
Across the corridor, she easily leapt to the window forty feet above, opening the shutters to draw the unfortified bars from the space as though she might pluck back a curtain. She held a hand down for the others.
"I will find you," he bit out. "I will find you and make you pay for this a thousand times."
The bright one leapt up and caught Myst's forefinger with her own. "Sounds like he's setting up a date," she said as she dangled.
"Oooom," Myst purred, her gaze flickering over him. "Dress casual."