Authors: Shannon Bell
“Mmmm,” he moaned against my skin. The cold breath heated things up another degree. My one hand left his neck to trail down lower to his hips. Just as I was able to loop a fingertip into the edge of his briefs, he stopped and closed his hand around my own. “Not yet.”
My hand stopped in mid-motion but didn’t retreat.
“Back around my neck,” he said with a grin. “Keep them there.”
I desperately wanted to get my fingers around the part of Nico that was anxiously pressed against my thigh.
My fingers released his briefs and they trailed ever so slowly up the length of his chest, my nails dragging across his nipples as soft sighs escaped his lips. As my hand finally made its way up to his neck again, he let his own fingers explore.
His hands left my hips and traveled lower still until they were on my inner thighs. Cold fingertips brushed my boxers aside and his fingers were creeping under the elastic of my panties.
My breath caught and my hands clenched tighter around his neck in anticipation of what would come next. “Nico.” I didn’t want him to stop.
I was already soaked, but that was nothing. He slid his fingers past the elastic and his middle one entered me ever so slowly. A growl escaped his lips and his finger pushed deeper.
“Dylan,” he sounded surprised. Maybe now that he realized how wet I was, he’d realize why I didn’t want him to slow down.
My hips rose off the bed slightly, sending his finger still deeper. His other hand left my inner thigh and pushed me gently back onto the bed.
Suddenly the panties were too restricting. I wanted more. And fast. A second finger entered me and they worked me over like he was typing on a keyboard. My breathing sped up and his mouth covered mine, eating my gasps as though they were dinner.
I squirmed a little more, hoping to get these panties off.
“Everything okay?” he asked, his fingers stopping and sliding out unconsciously.
My hips rose up again. “Off, take them off,” I said. My raspy voice pushed beyond the pulse in my throat.
His hands obeyed and grabbed the thin material at both sides. He pulled them down my legs and flung them somewhere in the room. I didn’t care where.
Without missing a beat, his fingers were back to where they had been as if there hadn’t been an interruption. His eyes soaked into mine and I laid beneath him, completely bare, willing for him to take me at any moment.
With my hands still around his neck, I used them to pull his mouth onto mine again. As he leaned in to my demand, I arched myself up the length of his body. I felt as eager as he did for things to continue.
I released the hold around his neck and my fingers wrapped around his eagerness before he had a chance to protest. The hunger in his eyes told me he wasn’t going to tell me to slow down this time. Every inch of him was rock hard and surprisingly hot, compared to the rest of his body…unless it was just my body that was on fire.
Nudging at him, I guided his briefs down his legs. He pulled away for just a moment, sending his undergarments flying in the same general direction as my panties had gone only minutes before.
He perched himself above me, staring at me with a desire that equaled mine. I peered down the length of our bodies to where he was about to enter. I shifted slightly, trying to get him in without seeming too eager.
“Once we start, mia mortale, I will not be able to stop,” he warned. “I have not taken a lover to my bed in over a century.”
The words spun in my head. Lover. Bed. Not the point he was trying to make, but there it was. I nodded and then he gave me exactly what I wanted.
He was gentle – at first. The want turned into need quicker than either of us had anticipated. Each of his thrusts sent me screaming over the edge and he ended up handing me a pillow to scream into so as not to alert the hotel staff. He was so much stronger than anyone else I’d ever been with – for obvious reasons. Then there was his size. I wasn’t a virgin but with him, I may as well have been. After my voice was raspy from screaming joyously, we finally found a rhythm suiting us both which seemed to go on for hours.
His mouth floated from my shoulders, to the base of my throat, to my lips, and back again. His fingers slid from my swollen nipples to my abdomen, to all the lower places making me scream out all over again. The coldness of his fingers acted as a catalyst against my feverish skin, causing both of us to crave each other’s flesh even more than we thought possible. He moved his hands to brace my shoulders as his body came to climax. I made a small sound of discomfort as the strength of him dug through my body. The pain quickly turned to waves of pleasure crashing over my body rapidly and unexpectedly.
He was blindly grabbing a wad of the comforter, pulsating forward, harder than before. I let out one last muffled scream as we collapsed into a pile on the bed. A sound of contentment escaped from his lips. Sweat was dripping from every pore of my body and I lay gasping for air, with a grin across my face.
He lay next to me, smiling. “Thank you.”
My breath was finally returning in short puffs, which I was struggling to hide. “No, thank you,” I managed.
“Are you okay?”
I stretched out across the bed, satisfied. When I stretched, there was suddenly a shooting pain down the length of my body. I winced.
“Did I hurt you?” He asked, concern deep in his voice.
Uh oh. I tried to ignore him. Maybe if I just laid here for a few more minutes, the pain would go away.
“I did, didn’t I?”
Before I could argue, he was inspecting me, looking for bruises. I had no doubt that there would be some, though it would take a few days for them to surface.
He seemed horrified that he had hurt me, though he didn’t say anything. His expression said it all.
“It was worth it,” I assured him, kissing him gently.
NICO LACED MY fingers with his as we walked across the Ponte Santa Trinita. “Want to go for drinks? There are still a few places open.”
I nodded. There was no way I was ready to sleep after what I had just experienced. We went up to a trendy little bar called Dolce Vita. The place was nothing to look at from the sidewalk. In amongst a video store and a gelateria, it would be easy to pass it during the day without ever knowing it was there. Tonight, however, it was crowded and a line of people stood out front to get in. Crowds were good because he wouldn’t attract any undue attention. He was a gorgeous creature, so women were always eyeing him, though tonight his eyes were only on me.
I started to go towards the end of the line when he grabbed my elbow.
“Where are you going?” He asked, amusement showing across his face.
I nodded towards the back.
He chuckled. “Come with me.”
We made our way up to the front and past all the people who appeared a little annoyed that we were jumping in front. Nico led us right in the front door and gave a nod to the security guard.
“Nice,” I commented. He just smiled and led me further into the club.
Strobe lights flashed through the bar and made it difficult to get my bearings. Women were literally throwing themselves in our path and he simply flashed his award-winning smile at them and pushed past, holding my hand. The bartenders nodded in his direction. We squeezed past a crowd and to the wine bar in a separate room with no strobes or dancing so I could get a glass of wine.
“Sangria,” I said over the noise to the bartender.
Nico placed his hand over mine and shook his head. “Chianti,” he corrected.
The bartender set a glass in front of me and I picked it up with a frown.
“Why not?” Nico challenged. “You’re in Italy, not Spain.”
“Hmmph,” I said, taking a sip and following him into the next room.
The back room glowed with a soft blue-green light. We were able to get a plush couch in the corner to sit in, which is prime real estate in a place like this.
The club was smaller than it looked from the outside. It was essentially two small rooms with ample seating and two bars, along with seating outside that nobody chose unless they had no other options. Luckily, that was not the case for us.
I sunk into the purple leather and watched as people mingled with one another, going in and out of the two rooms as music and smoke filled the place. Black paint covered the walls and a single window across the room from me showed there was still plenty of night left and a line of people waiting to get in to enjoy themselves.
I looked over at Nico and watched another woman play coy with him as she crossed the room.
“What?” He asked innocently.
I raised my eyebrows. “Everyone seems very friendly.” I clung close to him to make sure everyone in the club knew I was with him and so he could hear me over the volume of the music.
The corners of his mouth quivered. “Perhaps. Are you hinting at something?”
There was something he wasn’t admitting to. “Why do the bartenders seem to know you?”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“The women seem very friendly, too,” I added, unable to hide the jealousy sneaking out. So much for avoiding undue attention.
“I may have come here before.” He peered around as if trying to locate someone he knew but quickly turned his attention back to me.
“A sip or two – or three,” he laughed softly.
“It is nothing, truly,” he whispered in my ear, taking my hand. “It is simply so busy here that no one notices.”
“Hmmm,” I commented, sipping my wine.
“Do you like it?”
“The wine,” Nico said, pointing at my glass.
I wrinkled my nose. “It’s oakier than I like.”
“You mean it’s not fruity.”
“I didn’t say that, but since you did, yes.”
“Wine isn’t meant to be fruity.”
“Says you,” I commented, taking another sip.
He shook his head. “No, says all Italians.”
“I could probably get used to it,” I admitted.
“I’ve secured you an apartment near my domicile,” Nico announced, holding my hand open and dangling a set of keys above it. He said it so nonchalantly I thought I misheard him.
I let the keys drop into the palm of my hand. “An apartment?”
“You can’t keep living out of suitcases and paying by the night here – you’ve got to be running out of money, which is why I suppose you took a job. And since you’ll need a place for the next year….”
He had no idea how much money I was out of. “Okay, so where is this place?” I asked, willing to go along with anything at this point. An apartment in Florence…I could get used to this lifestyle.
“It’s in San Marco, clear across the city from where you’re staying now. It’s a second floor apartment of a palazzo just outside of the Piazza di Duomo.”
“And it’s how far from where you live?” I asked, hoping he’d finally tell me.
He smiled in his usual charming manner. “Nearby.”
“And how much is this apartment I’m staying at?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, watching me intently as I drank my wine quicker than I should be. “I’ve got it covered. You don’t have to keep bartending if you don’t want to.”
“I’m enjoying it, so I’ll keep it up for a while. Besides, I have expensive taste in clothes, so now I can buy more.” I grinned and felt a wave of questions coming on, but knew not to ask all of them at once, so I settled for the basics. “Can you afford it?”
He laughed. “You have so much to learn about me, but not yet. Yes, I can afford it. I told you not to worry about it.”
“Okay, okay.” I chewed on my bottom lip unconsciously as I looked over at him, trying to read his thoughts.
“Don’t worry so much. I own the building you’ll be staying in. As for the rest, I’ve got it covered.” He kissed my cheek, took the empty glass out of my hand, and froze.
I felt his whole body language change and his wide shoulders stiffened. He stood up from the couch abruptly, brushed his hand through his hair and cocked his head slightly. He appeared to be listening to something I couldn’t hear.
“Everything okay?” I asked, looking up at him.
He raised my empty glass up, but wasn’t really looking at me. “Did you want another?”
“Sure.” I leaned forward to see where he disappeared to but it was as though he vanished into thin air. Settling back on the couch, I listened to the music, which was much different from anything they were playing back in the States. It had a Brazilian feel to it with a strong bass that seemed to pound through my whole body. I watched the strobes flash through the next room where people were practically standing on top of each other to dance. It was such a shame people were packed in here like sardines with all the art on the walls from different local artists. Each to their own, I guess.
I felt the cushion give a little beside me.
“That was quick,” I said, turning just in time to realize it wasn’t Nico. “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.”
“No, no I’m not. But I’m glad that I caught you without him for a minute.” The man’s voice carried an accent heavily Italian. He watched me through bluish-grey eyes and impossibly long eyelashes. His pitch black hair was pulled into a tight ponytail hanging just at shoulder length.
I was startled by his forwardness. “I’m really not interested,” I said as I stood to search for Nico. The bar area was packed and I couldn’t spot him out of the crowd.
“I didn’t ask you if you were,” the dark-haired stranger replied.
I took a step away from him, hoping Nico could hear this conversation and come rescue me – sooner than later.
“Why don’t you sit back down,” the man suggested, pointing to the empty spot next to him.
I took another step away. “No, thank you. I’ve got to get—”
“I said why don’t you sit back down,” he commanded. “I’m not going to ask again.” The music was loud but I managed to hear every word he said. I looked around the club but no one seemed to be paying any mind to this corner of the room.
I took a seat next to him.
I was hoping he could hear me over the mass of people.
“Nico’s been told to give us a few minutes, so I’ll ask you not to speak to him right now and focus on me.”
My head snapped sharply into focus. Shit. I was sitting next to another vampire. Someone who had the authority to tell Nico what to do. My nerves were starting to shake me. I nodded and looked over at the vampire. “Okay,” I said, sitting back down beside him.
He turned his attention to me. “My name is Costin. I am the sovereign of the Toscana region.” He looked over at me and realized that he had scared the shit out of me. “You do not need to fear me, I merely mean to speak with you so you and I can come to a better understanding of what it means to be a pet.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I answered. I didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t exactly every day I met a vampire, let alone one who ruled an entire region.
There was intelligence behind his eyes making him look older, but his skin was flawless. I studied him, realizing he looked younger than Nico by probably three or four years. Costin couldn’t have been more than twenty six when he was turned. How many years ago was that?
Costin peered over me curiously as I sat tense beside him. He moved the collar of my shirt down, looking for something. Goosebumps covered me from neck to fingertips. “Has he not marked you yet?” His cold fingers pressed against my skin. “I can smell his scent on you, quite strong actually, but there is no mark.” He made this more of an announcement than a question, but I still felt like he wanted an answer from me.
His comment about scent made me blush and I wasn’t sure if he knew how the scent came to be. I prayed like hell he didn’t.
The music continued to pound through the walls but it was as though someone had hit mute. I could only seem to focus on Costin and his intense stare. People walked past us, not looking twice. I wondered if Nico was watching us from another part of the club.
“I’m not sure what kind of mark you’re looking for,” I replied. I thought of the past forty eight hours and couldn’t remember the word “mark” coming up in any of our conversations. There were much more interesting things to focus on which happened recently, I thought privately while replaying his caresses. I stopped suddenly and tried to think of anything but that in case Costin had the same ability to read minds as Nico. I focused on the music in the background and prayed that it was enough to mask any other thoughts I was having.
He let out a frustrated sigh. “The mark is as much to protect you as it is to make life easier on Nico. It marks you as his…staking his claim, if you will.”
“What kind of mark?” I asked, instinctively placing a hand on my throat.
Costin nodded at my gesture. “Close. It is a bite mark, but it is something only other vampires will be able to see. Think of it as a black light sensitive stamp with a one-of-a-kind design. It is so other vampires do not try to attack you, or stake their own claim. It is against vampire law to kill the pet of another. Once you are the pet of one, you cannot belong to any other.”
“So I need to be marked?” My voice caught on the words. I didn’t like the idea of being bitten, but if it had to be done, I’d rather be claimed by Nico than someone else who wouldn’t be gentle about it.
“You will be the first Nico has ever made, so it is vital both of you follow the rules. I will speak to him about this. You must be marked as soon as possible.” He hesitated and his nostrils flared. “Though with his scent as strong as it is on you, I doubt there would be much confusion about whom you belong to.”
I blushed automatically, knowing now he knew what the scent was. I wondered what he thought of that and wondered how much of the past few days he knew about. Had he ever done the same as Nico? Was he judging me as I sat here?
I felt very uncomfortable as Costin sat studying me. His gaze was almost palpable as it traveled the length of me. I waited for him to say something else, but we remained silent on the couch for several minutes.
“Do you have any questions for me?” He asked suddenly. He knew I did by the way he asked, his eyebrows raised.
Thinking for a minute, my mind spun out of control with the questions I could ask, including those that I was embarrassed to ask Nico or of which he refused to answer. But then again, I didn’t really know Costin, either. There was no telling whether he would even answer my questions. I could get the same vague answers as I’ve been getting so far.
“No, not for now,” I reached up and tightened my pony tail.
He bowed his head, accepting my answer. I had a million questions I refrained from asking and he knew it.
He finally moved by uncrossing his legs and taking my arm in his hand. He turned it over and slid his coarse hand down the entire length of my arm. He raised my wrist to his mouth and applied a small amount of pressure. I heard my breath catch as I watched him, afraid to panic. There was no sense in making a scene here if it wasn’t necessary. He pressed his lips to the fast-beating pulse and then dropped my arm suddenly, “Be well, Dylan. We will see each other again soon, I am sure.”