Authors: Kat Barrett
“Is there a problem with that?”
He shrugged and pulled the door open. “It just seems fucked up. They usually stick to their own kind.” Gaelic led her down a long hallway.
She could hear music off to their left. There was an opening and she got a momentary glance at a hall that was filled with people dancing and singing. “How many humans are here?”
“Three hundred and twelve.”
“Wow. How many vamps?”
“Ten. There are also four shifters and three werewolves, but as I said, they keep to themselves.”
“Oh. I’m sorry if you disapprove, but he is one with Rory, Salt, and I.”
Gaelic led her through an open door. Joel was lying on the bed. Two very beautiful women, a blonde and a redhead, were giving him a massage. They both stopped and leaned back onto the pillows when Gaelic walked in. Em wondered if they were currently Joel and Gaelic’s mates or if they were just present to piss her off.
Joel rolled over to face her, his naked body glistening with oil. He took his sweet time about getting up and walked over to her. “Queen Em has gotten herself into a tizzy. Imagine how surprised I was when I got a note saying that you would be here tonight. I was instructed to give you my blood and say good-bye.”
“Say good-bye as in you would never see me again?”
His haughty expression faded. “No. As in don’t detain you. Why would you think otherwise?”
“I don’t know. I just have a bad feeling that I will not be allowed to leave the governors’ caves once I’m there.”
“Then why are you going?”
Em was partially controlling the shivering, but she was frozen to the core.
“Because I’m freezing to death. I don’t have much choice. The book says that I have to take blood from my maker and an ancient or I will remain this way.”
Joel touched her cheek and frowned. “Holy shit, you’re cold. Are you shivering?”
Em nodded, her head feeling slightly jerky. “I hurt all over. Rory gave me his blood last night and it helped. I tried again tonight, but it did nothing.”
Joel immediately offered his throat and drew her into his arms. Em sank her fangs into his flesh and took from him. Joel moaned softly. “I still love you.”
She snapped her fangs back into place, feeling slightly better. “I know. I still love the two of you also. We just can’t make it together anymore.”
“Stay here with us. You can be the queen again.”
“I am the queen, Joel. You and Gaelic can no longer give me what I need. I like the all-encompassing release of control that I find at home. I like the things that my men do to me. I relish the pain and the sexual high it supplies. That may change some day, but right now… Thank you, Joel. I have to go face my fate with the governors.”
She stroked his cheek, the sadness that she saw in his eyes heart wrenching. Em turned to Gaelic. “Thank you.”
He nodded and Em saw a glimmer of grief in his watery blue eyes. “Be safe.”
“I’m gonna try. Maybe someday I’ll stop and say hello when I have more time.”
Gaelic smiled. He still looked like her beautiful surfer boy. “I do miss the two of you.”
“I’ll bet. Get going before your transport takes off without you.”
Em nodded and flashed back to the helicopter. She slammed the door and hooked up her seatbelt.
Nelson gave her an odd look. “How long was your hair before you got broiled?”
“It was down to the middle of my back, why?”
“It’s getting there again and it’s one hell of a mess. You need a haircut.”
Flashing was never kind to her hair, and she usually tied it back. “Thanks for the input.”
“You’re welcome. You are already slated to be brought to Vidar’s servants anyway. They will care for your hair and put you in something more suitable.”
Em had a sudden flash of an Egyptian temple where the women were bathed and adorned before they were presented to the men. She suddenly had to wonder just how old Vidar was. She wanted to ask Nelson, but he took to flight and Em had no intention of distracting him while he was flying. She certainly didn’t want to crash at warp speed.
Nelson flew into the side of a large mountain. Em thought they were going to crash until she noticed the opening ahead. They were flying into a cave just like in some movie she had once seen. Nelson put the helicopter down effortlessly. Without hesitation, he shut the motor down and hopped out, opening the door for her. Em slowly slid out.
Nelson grasped her hand and led her through a door in the side of the cave.
“Where are we going?”
Nelson didn’t reply. She was half-led, half-dragged down a long hallway and into an open area. The area was void of inhabitants and when he tugged her through the room and through another door, Em was tempted to dig her heels in and stop him. He was being very rude. She tugged her hand from his. “I am not a dog on a leash. You don’t need to drag me. I came here willingly, remember?”
“You came here to save your ass.” Nelson continued forward at a brisk pace but made no more attempt to take her hand. He opened an oversized door for her and stood outside of it.
Em hesitantly walked through the opening. The door slammed behind her. She turned on it. “Damn. Talk about rude.”
Vidar strolled from an adjacent room. “I guess he misunderstood my desire to keep your visit private.”
Vidar was just as she remembered. Tall, probably six foot or so, with a medium build. He looked about thirty, but was old enough to have been a Viking. He had thick dirty blond hair and slightly steely blue eyes. He was examining her, but she was also assessing him. “Are we keeping this private so I can simply sneak in and then sneak out with the next moon?”
His smile was tinged with pure amusement. “I think you know better than that.”
“Why would I know better? I only met you once and you were kind to me. Has something changed?”
“I will never be unkind to you. Although from what I have heard, kindness differs in the eyes of the giver and the taker. Isn’t that true, Queen Emerald?”
“I’m not sure what you have heard. I also prefer Em.”
“Em, short and sweet. I have heard many things about you. You are kind and just. It is an honor to live in your fortress. You now find yourself in the dilemma that you are in because of a love for humans. Correct?”
“I am as I am now because I was worried about how the others would feed if I took blood from everyone. A sick human is no good for anyone. Isn’t it better for them to be happy, well, and alive?”
“Touché.” Vidar extended his hand to a small sitting room. “Please have a seat. Do you desire sleep at the sunrise?”
“No. I usually stay up for a while. I would like to be more comfortable. My skin is crawling with the chill within my flesh.”
Vidar walked past her and took a seat on the sofa. He patted the cushion beside him. Em walked over and sat down, turning to face him. Vidar drew a blade from the side of his suede pants and ran it across his wrist. He offered it to her. “This should help for the time being. I would rather you concentrate on our conversation.”
Em had no idea why, but the thought of drinking his blood was curdling her stomach. She didn’t have much choice. It was what she came here for and if she didn’t do it, the iciness would return full force again. Rory’s blood had kept it at bay for a night and Joel’s would probably do the same. Em had no idea what would happen after that. She had no clue how she would get colder than she already had, but if it was possible, it might happen. Leaning forward, she sucked the blood from Vidar’s wrist. He moaned in pleasure. “Ah, another one of your lovely traits. You are a sexual feeder.”
“So I have been told.”
“Do you know what it means?”
“It means that you have a gift in your blood. Many vampires can induce a sexual reaction when they take blood. What you have is different. Your saliva ingests itself into the person you are feeding from. That saliva prompts human reproduction as no other aphrodisiac. If you feed from both male and female, the conception of a child is almost one hundred percent.”
Em suddenly understood what Vidar wanted from her. “Okay. So what does that have to do with the current situation?”
“You are also known for your intelligence. Either the tales of you are wrong, or you are playing stupid. Don’t do that with me, Emerald.”
The full use of her name was said as a threat. Vidar had obviously had children at some point in his life. “How many children did you have?”
“One usually uses a child’s name in lieu of a nickname when they are angry. I was asking the question for specifics. Do you want a sample of my blood, or am I to go running around giving humans my saliva at night so they can fuck and have babies?”
Vidar lowered his chin, looking up at her through his very tick eyelashes. “Your snide manners will not wash with me, young lady.”
“Then please answer my question, and I won’t feel the need to be snide.”
Vidar hauled back his fist and cracked her across the face before Em realized what he intended to do. Her head was whipped to the side, her skin burning badly from the blow. She could feel her eyes going wide in surprise, her mouth trying to hang open in dismay. She snapped her lips shut and sat upright, shaking back her hair from her face. “That was unnecessary.”
His hand again, moving as if in slow motion. Em was up and over the back of the sofa before he could connect, his hand slamming into the back cushion with a great deal of force. Em was running for the door a second later. Vidar was right behind her.
The door was locked. Em gave it a single tug and Vidar slammed her against the wood with his body. He grabbed a long chain from inside a shelf to her left and wrapped it around her wrists. Em snapped it easily and twisted out of his grasp.
Vidar stared at her, a curt grin on his face. “I am impressed. You are very fast and are immune to silver.”
She hadn’t even considered that the chains might be silver. It would have put a normal vampire to their knees. Silver had never bothered Em. She actually enjoyed the tangy scent of garlic. Salt hated it. Rory could tolerate it, but it made his eyes water.
“What other little secrets do you have for me?”
Em rubbed her jaw. “You could have asked me rather than slapping me.”
“I could have, but you were getting on my nerves. I really dislike cocky women. You didn’t strike me as such years ago when we met. Have you changed and adopted that particular irritating nuance?”
She was tempted to say yes, but didn’t honestly think it would change anything. Better to be in the good graces of Vidar than have him hate her. “No. I’m not usually cocky. I’m a bit…” Em hesitated. She needed to choose her wording carefully. Scared would make her seem weak. Irritated would make her seem cocky again. “Leery of what you require of me. I don’t mind helping, but I don’t want my fortress to fall into decay while I’m gone.” She wanted to say that she had a life there. She felt comfortable there and had grown quite accustomed to it. She had friends and mates there. It was a bad thing to admit to Vidar. The more aloof she seemed, the less likely he was to use her home against her.
“Is that the only reason, Emerald?”
She shrugged noncommittally. “Can we cut the small talk? Just tell me what you want.”
“You know what I want. I want you. I want you to prompt our humans to breed. I want you in my bed. I want to play with you as you are so fond of. You are an amazingly strong woman, and I have not been able to get you out of my mind since I first met you.”
“Oh,” she said quietly. “So I am to become another Joel and Gaelic with you being Maryann? What are you going to blackmail me with? Are you going to threaten my humans or my mates? If you know so much about me, then you should know that I’m happy, and I’m not looking for more. I’m sorry. If I stay, it will not be willingly.”
Vidar rolled his eyes to the ceiling in thought. “You are aware that if we exchange our blood, we will be permanently connected.”
Em was aware of that fact, but she hadn’t considered it directly. She had been too worried about freezing to death and the consequences of being at the cave. The fact that she would have a physical and mental bond with Vidar beyond what she had thought about. “I’m aware that can happen.”
happen. Just as it happened with Rory and that destroyed what you had with Joel and Gaelic.”
“Rory did not happen to Joel and Gaelic. Maryann happened. She took them away from me for four years. I grew closer to Rory not because of his blood, but because of the fact that he cared for me when I was emotionally broken.”
“Do you have a connection to Salt?”
Em was caught between telling him the truth and protecting her men. What kind of a game was Vidar playing? It would really help her to know who he had been talking to. “So who was running their mouth? Was it Dennis or Gaelic?”
“Good guess. It was Gaelic. He owes me for allowing him to leave. He gave up everything to come back to you, and he wasn’t welcome to do so.”
“Bullshit. He was welcome back into my life, just as Joel was. He left and so did Joel.”
“They left because they couldn’t handle what you had become. Where did you think you would fit two more lovers into your already full bed?”
Em chuckled. “I would have worked it out. I’m very good at that. It is a trait that I carried over from being a human.”
He grinned impishly. “Then you will work this out also. I will give you my blood and you will stay here so that I can make sure you aren’t getting sick from it. It can happen. While you are here, you will feed our humans. When ten babies are conceived, I will let you go.”
It sounded too simple. “So what is the catch?”
“No catch.” He grinned wider. “Oh, just one. You will wear a chastity belt while you are here.”
“That’s my secret,
The low tone in which he said her name made her shiver. What the hell kind of game was he playing? She had no choice, but to agree. “Okay. I’ll take you on your promise to let me leave. When can I start?”