Prince of Twilight (Page 13)

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Stormy stayed with Vlad, wrapped in his arms and wondering where the hell this insanity could lead. Okay, maybe he still desired her to some extent, even though Elisabeta no longer lived in her body. But he felt no more than that. And in all likelihood, that desire had only been spurred by the blood lust. She knew his kind, knew sexual heat and hunger for blood were one and the same to them. Beyond that, there was the bond he'd created when he'd taken her blood before. He would feel that pull, just as she did, though maybe not to the same degree.

She was in love with him, after all.

As she lay there holding him, she searched her mind for more memories of the past they had shared. And she was surprised when she found them there, though she probably shouldn't be. Had he released her from the blocks he'd created in her mind deliberately? Or were they falling away on their own? Did he want her to remember, for some reason? Why had he wanted to make her forget in the first place?

It didn't matter. What did matter was that the memories were there, waiting for her to seek them out, retrieve them, relive them. And she needed them, needed to fill in the gaps in her past and to know what had really happened between them so long ago.

After Rhiannon and Roland had taken their leave from Vlad's castle, Tempest showered, put on a fresh nightgown and headed for the bed, to find Vlad already there, lying on his side facing her, his head propped up by one hand. He was undressed-from the waist up, at least. The rest of him was under the covers. But his shoulders and chest were unclothed, and the sight of him turned a switch in her that had no business being there. And the way he looked at her, his eyes moving up and down her and glowing with heat, didn't help matters a bit.

She didn't know why the hell she'd stayed. Being here wasn't helping her-if anything, it was only making matters worse. Elisabeta was stronger here, in her homeland. Taking over seemed to be getting easier for her here. Stormy felt almost sick, weak and achy, and she knew it was the constant fight for control that was to blame.

Rhiannon thought exorcism was the answer. And of all the vampires Stormy had ever known, none of them was more experienced or knowledgeable about matters of spirit and the occult than she. So why hadn't Stormy jumped at the chance to get out of here and let her try?

She thought she knew the reason. And she didn't like it, but she wasn't the type to hide behind self-delusion. Straight-up truth served her much better. And the truth was that she thought she might be falling in love. With Dracula. Which, to her mind, pretty much confirmed that her little red caboose was pretty close to chugging around the bend. She was freaking nuts. What kind of sense did it make for an ordinary mortal chick to fall in love with any vampire, much less Dracula himself?

Damn.

“Are you afraid to come to bed, Tempest?”

She shook free of her thoughts, realized she'd been standing there with her eyes glued to his powerful chest for a couple of minutes now, and forced herself to meet his steady gaze instead. “Should I be?”

“Given where you ended up last time you slept, yes, I would think you might be.”

“Oh. That.” She shrugged and tried not to shiver at the memory of waking up on a cliff, so close to the edge. “Not much that can be done about it.”

“There is, actually.” He nodded toward the door. “I've locked it. And the windows. You won't be able to sleepwalk any farther than the confines of this room.”

“Yeah? And suppose I decide I want to get out?”

“Why would you want that?”

She shrugged. “The castle could catch fire, I suppose.”

“Then break a window.”

“Lovely.” She moved closer, and he flipped the covers back. The nightgown she wore was like all the others she'd found in the drawers. Flimsy and sheer, black this time rather than white, and shorter. She started to wonder if she should have just worn one of her T-shirts to bed.

She got into the bed, lay down on her back, not touching him, tugged the covers over her and stared at the ceiling. Vlad sat up long enough to turn off the bedside lamp, then returned to his former position, on his side. It wasn't fair. The room was black as pitch now, and she couldn't see a thing, but he could. She knew all too well that he could.

“You were wrong before,” he said. Something trailed over her face, down her cheek, then. She thought it was the backs of his fingers.

“About what?” She managed not to stammer, but the words emerged a little breathy.

“About me wanting her and not you.”

“Was I?”

“Yes.” Those fingers trailed over her jawline and then down her neck. “I was surrounded by memories of the past, Tempest. I misspoke when I said her name. It didn't mean anything.”

“I doubt that very much.” He was lying. He had to lie, to keep her here long enough for him to get what he wanted. His precious Elisabeta, in full control of Stormy's body.

“I only wish there was more time before dawn, so that I could prove it to you.” His hand drifted across her chest, along her collarbone. Then his palm rested there. “As it is, though, we only have twenty minutes, give or take.”

She shrugged. “Don't assume we'd be doing anything else, if we had longer. I do get a vote in that, you know.”

“You wouldn't refuse me.”

“That sure of yourself, are you?”

“I know when a woman wants me, Tempest.”

She shrugged. “What I want and what's good for me are two different things, Vlad. In fact, in this case, I think they're polar opposites.”

He said nothing, but his palm moved very slightly, a caress so light she could only barely detect it.

“Twenty minutes, huh? I suppose we could talk.”

“Of course.”

She nodded, rolled onto her side to face him, but kept enough space between them that he wouldn't get distracted from the subject. “Tell me about you and Rhiannon.”

He was silent.

“You said you were her sire.”

“How is this information going to help you remember your past life with me, Tempest?”

She shrugged. “It's not. I'm curious, is all.”

He was quiet for so long that she thought he wouldn't reply at all. But then he did. “She was one of The Chosen. You know how powerfully vampires feel the instinct to protect and watch over them.”

“Yes.”

“And do you also know that for each vampire there is one of The Chosen with whom that bond is even stronger?”

She nodded in the darkness, knowing he could see it. “She was that one for you?”

“Yes. I sensed her need while traveling near Egypt and went there in response to it. She was the daughter of Pharaoh, but he'd wanted a son and considered her a curse from the gods, punishment for some crime, imagined or real. He'd sent her to be raised and trained by the priestesses at the Temple of Isis. She was never to be allowed to leave there, even when she fell ill. She was a virtual prisoner to them.”

“The Chosen always die young, if they're not transformed,” she muttered. “She must have been younger than most when the symptoms kicked in.”

“Yes. At any rate, I went there, and I took her away. Not without effort. Both of us were nearly killed when another organization intervened on behalf of the priestesses. Still, we escaped with our lives. I told her what I was, what she could become, and she accepted the offer.”

She wished to God she could see his face in the darkness, because she was sure there was more to the story. “I've seen the bond between vampires and their special Chosen ones. It's pretty intense.”

“Yes.”

“Even if they don't get involved sexually-“

“Are you asking, Tempest?”

She licked her lips, then lowered her eyes, because she could feel his probing them. “No. I only meant-you must have been close. Powerfully connected. It's a special and potent bond.”

“It is.”

“And yet you were willing to ruin it tonight. Because of Elisabeta.”

He said nothing. And that told her as much as a full admission would have.

She licked her lips, focused on his face again, barely able to make out more than the shapes and lines of it in me darkness. She was quiet for a moment, as she lay mere working up the nerve to ask the question that was burning in her mind. Minutes ticked past. Finally she drew a breath, closed her eyes and blurted it. “Are you going to make love to me when the sun goes down tonight?”

She lay there, eyes still closed, awaiting his answer. But it didn't come, and finally she rolled onto her side and touched him. “Vlad?”

Nothing. She frowned and slid out of the bed, hurrying to the nearest window, which was heavily draped, and shaded besides. Going to the side farthest from the bed, she carefully lifted the drapes and saw the first rays of morning sunlight, cool, dim and gray, slowly lighting the sky beyond the thick old glass.

Sighing, she arranged the drape back in place again and returned to the bed. He was at rest, then. Probably hadn't even heard her question. And she wondered what answer she'd wanted to hear that time. Because she honestly didn't know.

Hell, maybe she did know. She wanted him. Burned for him, and was growing increasingly frustrated with having to wait and wonder.

Maybe she should stop waiting and wondering. Maybe she should just give in to what she knew they both wanted, get it over with and see what happened.

Maybe it was time she stopped trying to be smart and logical, and just tried listening to the demands and hungers of her own body.

Yeah. It was time.

By the time the sun set and she hadn't slept a wink, she was ready. Her time with Vlad was coming to a close. This would be their last night together, assuming he kept his word and let her go. She wanted him. She could get through life without him, if she just had this one time with him to cling to, to remember.

He raised his head from the pillows and turned it her way. She lay on her back, the covers over her all the way to her shoulders, which were visible. His eyes moved over them, then over her neck, which seemed to tempt him. Swallowing hard and cursing herself for her own nervousness, she forced herself to lie still when he lifted the sheet and comforter as one and peered underneath.

She was naked. For him. And he knew that now, if he hadn't already sensed it.

He peeled the covers away, folding them back. She rolled onto her side, curling up a little in response to the chill in the room. He couldn't seem to take his eyes from her; they moved over the curve of her hip, the length of her thigh.

He put his hand on her shoulder and stroked a slow path down her upper arm, then slipped to her waist, and she shivered at his touch. Then he moved it lower, to cup her hip, slide his palm gently over her thigh.

He left his hand there, where it kneaded and caressed, but drew his gaze back to her breasts and finally to her face, staring into her eyes.

“Surprise,” she whispered, her voice hoarse. She couldn't have spoken aloud had she wanted to.

He pushed with his hand until she rolled onto her back again, and his body moved with hers, his chest pressing her to the mattress as he finally took her mouth. She opened to his kiss, welcomed it and responded in kind. Their mouths locked, taking and releasing, suckling and freeing, over and over; a mimicry of the mating their bodies would be indulging in soon.

Soon.

He clasped her hip to hold her to him as he shifted his lower body over her, nestled himself between her legs. He moved against her there, rubbing her with his erection as he fed from her mouth. Then he slid one hand there, as well, and caressed her folds, felt the moisture, the dampness, there.

“Tempest,” he whispered.

“Yeah. Tempest. Not Elisabeta. Remember that, Vlad. You're making love to me, not her.”

His fingers moved inside her, and she sucked in a sharp breath. “I know who you are,” he told her.

“It's been killing me to wait, to want you so badly, Vlad,” she whispered. “Torture. Pure torture.”

He delved more deeply with his fingers, kissed her again, then moved lower to take a breast in his mouth and tease its peak until it went tight and hard. She arched her back to him and shivered with pleasure.

“Take me,” she told him. “Do it now, Vlad.”

“I want it to be good for you.”

“I don't think that's going to be a problem.” She moved her hips, rocking herself over his fingers, rubbing against them.

“I promise you, it won't be.”

He taunted her breast again, then replaced his mouth with his hand and slid lower, until he could press his head between her legs and taste her there. He licked deep, and her entire body shuddered. Her hands closed on the back of his head, clasping his hair and holding him. He took that as consent to ravage her, not that he required it at that point. She thought he was beyond holding back, and he lapped and suckled and invaded her mind with his own. She felt him there, feeling every sensation he caused in her. He knew when she was on the brink of orgasm, and that was when he stopped, drew away, gave her a moment to come back down.

She growled in frustration and need.

“I want you to come with me inside you,” he told her, and it sounded more like a command than a request. “I want you to know release only when I possess you, body, blood and soul.”

She was panting, shaking.

He moved up her body and lowered himself again, and this time he slid into her. She tensed a little, unused to his size and shape. He was big and thick, and he filled her, stretched her. But he didn't change his pace. He pressed on, deeper and deeper still, and then he took her knees in his hands and lifted them, pressed them wide, and slid into her even farther than before.

She whimpered, close to asking for mercy. But if she felt full, it was a good fullness. If she felt stretched, then it was what he wanted, and that made her want it, too. And if she felt pain, it was the blissfully delicious pain that couldn't be distinguished from the most intense pleasure imaginable.

He withdrew then, slowly, and entered her again. A little faster this time. And again, still faster. His pace increased, but slowly, teasingly, and the force with which he drove into her increased, as well.

She moved her hips to accept him, to mesh with the rhythm he'd begun. She wanted more, but he wanted her to want. To crave. So he held back, damn him.

Her hands slid around him, gripped his backside and tugged him into her. And when he still didn't give her enough, she dug her nails into his flesh and flashed her eyes open, staring up into his. “Harder, Vlad. Faster.”

It was almost a growl.

His control seemed to shatter. He drove into her, hard and fast.

She wrapped her legs around his waist, linked her ankles at the small of his back and snapped her hips up to meet his with every thrust. How she stood the force he was using she didn't know, but she did, and silently asked for more. He slid his hands beneath her backside, tipped her hips up so he could penetrate even more deeply, then held her to him to take every thrust, every inch, every ounce.

And just as she neared the precipice, he drove even harder and bent his head to her neck. He bit down, sinking his fangs through her jugular, shocking her, and sucking the lifeblood from her body as he plundered and took.

She shrieked his name as she came, and he drove into her twice more, and shot his seed into her body as he drank from her throat.

They clasped each other that way as the spasms of an endless orgasm ripped though them both, bodies straining, his rod piercing her to depths no man had ever touched, his mouth drinking at her throat. Her back was arched, her arms and legs locked around him, and she trembled with the force of the spasms.

It was only as her grip on him began to weaken that he seemed to realize he was still feeding, still sucking the blood from her throat, still spilling semen into her body. She was fading, fading fast.

He stopped drinking, withdrew his teeth. Beneath him, her body relaxed into the mattress. Carefully, he withdrew from her body and lay beside her, sliding his arms around her and drawing her into his embrace. His hands stroked her hair. “I own you now,” he whispered.

She didn't reply. She couldn't. But she heard. As if from deep within a canyon, she heard. What did it mean? What had he done to her?

How long had that orgasm held him in its grip? How much of her blood had he taken? Was she dying? If felt as if she was.

He patted her cheek with his hand, softly, then with more force. “Tempest? Tempest, open your eyes. Look at me.”

Her eyes did open. She felt them open, but she didn't open them. She was trapped inside, and suddenly she understood why. The climax, and maybe the blood loss, had weakened her grip. The other was in control now.

“Don't call me by that bitch's name,” she whispered, her accent thick, her voice deeper than Tempest's had ever been. But Tempest, weak and trembling, trapped in her own body, heard it all.

“Elisabeta?” Vlad backed away slightly.

“Yes. It is me.” She clasped his face between her palms, kissed his mouth. “Oh, Vlad, darling, do you still love me? Tell me you do.”

“Of course I do,” he whispered.

Inside, Stormy felt her heart break.

“Then find a way, Vlad. Find a way to let me stay. To let me have this body. You have to, Vlad. If you don't, I'll die.”

He nodded. “I'm trying, Beta. I'm trying.”

“You're the one who set this into motion, my love,” Elisabeta said, her tone harsh. “You with your sorcerers and magicians. They with their spells and charms. Do you know what it's been like for me? Trapped between the worlds all these years, with no way to come back and no way to move on?”

He gasped.

“You didn't know?”

“That wasn't how it was supposed to be, Beta. I vow to you, it was never my intent-“

“Your intent matters very little now. It is done. My suffering, being imprisoned as if buried alive, is done. So long as you follow through. You need to finish this, Vlad.”

He met her eyes, shook his head slowly. “I don't know where to find the ring and the scroll with the rite. I'm not sure I can finish this without those items.”

She closed her eyes. “Then I'll die.”

“I won't let that happen, little one.”

A tear rolling down her cheek, she sniffled and said, “Do you promise?”

“I do. I'll make this right, I swear. Somehow.”

“Thank you, Vlad. Thank you.” She kissed him.

“Now I want you to rest. Go to sleep. Let Tempest return to her body, and wait for my call.”

“Yes. Yes, Vlad, I will.”

“Good. Good.”

She faded off to sleep, or something like it, and Stormy felt her own control slowly returning. But she'd learned something tonight. Learned it beyond doubt.

Elisabeta was the woman Vlad loved. And he would say anything, do anything, even if it cost Stormy's own life, to get her back.

Stormy had tears dampening her cheeks as the memory faded. She knew now what it meant, what he'd done to her, so long ago. By taking her blood, he'd created a bond between them-one that could not be broken. He'd known that. He'd done it deliberately, probably to keep her vulnerable to his power, his control, for as long as it took to steal her body for his precious dead wife.

No wonder she loved him so much.

Part of her argued that she'd loved him even before that night. But she refused to listen to that part. He was using her, he cared nothing for her. Except that she provided a home for Elisabeta.

She remained with him until the sun rose. She couldn't see the sun, of course. The windowless room gave no hint what was happening in the skies beyond it. But she felt the change in him. He went very still. No sounds emerged, not even a breath, and his always cool skin went even colder. There was a different feeling to him once the sun came up. She imagined this must be what lying with a dead man would be like.

He didn't love her. He never would. She needed to get the hell out of here, get some perspective. But she sat there instead, looking at him as he slept. She still wanted him, although with her, want wasn't even close to a strong enough term. She craved him. Hungered for him. Ached and pined and bled for him. And why the hell wouldn't she? Even beyond the bond he'd deliberately created, then empowered again and again, now, she thought, she would want him. He was the sexiest man she had ever seen. God, he had the body of a twenty-year-old. A ripped twenty-year-old. And he played hers the way Santana played the guitar. He made it sing. There was no one who could make her feel the way he could.

But he'd commanded that, hadn't he? That she would know release only with him. Was that why she'd never gotten off with anyone else, not in all this time? The bastard.

He would still be with the other woman, the Elisabeta-Brooke creature, if she hadn't stabbed him in the belly. Stormy ought to hate him. Why the hell couldn't she?

She relit the candle. Then, carefully, she pulled back the covers and removed the bandage she'd placed over his wound. She pulled at the gauze, wincing at how it tugged the tender, wounded area. But he was beyond feeling any pain. And even when she bit her lip and ripped the bandage away, no fresh blood welled in the seam of the wound she'd painstakingly stitched up.

She sat on the edge of the bed, holding a blanket to her chest to fend off the early-morning chill, and kept her gaze riveted to the injured flesh. As she watched, the skin along the edges of the wound changed. It paled and it blended, the cut edges melding into each other by slow degrees. She was ready with the tiny scissors and tweezers from her purse. The stitches would be rejected by his body within a few days, but it would be irritating and perhaps painful. And she was fool enough to want to spare him that. So she waited until the skin had begun to knit itself together, then snipped each thread and tugged it free. The minuscule holes those threads left be-hind closed almost as soon as she pulled the threads from them.

When she finished, the wound was almost impossible to detect. A tiny red line marked its former position, and within a few more moments, even that was gone.

Sighing deeply, Stormy lingered a moment longer. She ran her hands over the beautiful shape of his chest, feeling every ripple of muscle beneath his smooth skin. She touched his belly and shivered at the feel of his abs. She traced his shoulders.

He was incredibly built, and that was far from the norm. Vampires tended to be lean and wiry. Sometimes even skinny. She supposed that was because the undead tended to keep the form they had at the moment of their transformation. Every vampire had the Belladonna Antigen as a mortal. And the antigen tended to make them weak and ill over time. Max's sister Morgan had been a shadow of herself from its effects. Had nearly died, in fact, before Dante had shared the dark gift with her. And so she would always be as she had been then. Painfully thin and slight, and though far stronger now, she would always be weak for a vampire.

Vlad must not have been feeling the effects of the antigen yet when the vampire Anthar had transformed him.

Yes, Anthar. Another memory in the long list of them. He'd told her of his true origins. He'd been the helper of a Sumerian by the name of Utnapishtim, a man whose name was still known today. His story had been the precursor to that of the biblical Noah. Utnapishtim, it was said, had survived the great flood sent by the gods and had been given the gift of immortality. He'd been a relative of Vlad's. And Vlad had been sent to live with him as his servant and companion.

One day, the great king Gilgamesh himself had come, begging the old man for the secret of immortality. Vlad had been sent from the room, so he'd never seen what transpired, but he knew Utnapishtim had granted the king's request, in direct disobedience of the dictates of the gods.

Later, another man had come, an evil man, named Anthar. He was seeking Gilgamesh, and his intentions were dark. He, too, had demanded the gift, but the old man had refused. Anthar forced him at the point of a blade, then beheaded him, leaving him dead on the floor, and took young Vlad captive, to be his slave.

Vlad had been held by the dark vampire for years, all the while working to grow stronger, so he could one day escape. By the time Anthar had decided he needed his slave to be like him, a vampire, in order to better serve his needs, and changed him over, Vlad was a powerful young man in the peak of health.

And so, by the time of his change, he'd looked… the way he looked now. Like a centerfold. A powerful, muscular, beautiful young man.

She lowered her head and pressed her lips to those rippling abs. God, she wanted to kiss every inch of him. But no. She had work to do. And she needed distance and perspective. She needed to find a way to be free of him, of the hold he had on her, the bond he'd made, the love that possessed her. Getting to her feet, Stormy tucked the covers back over him.

Her hand rose to press against her throat where Vlad had left his mark on her. She felt it clearly-two swollen, tender places. Tiny wounds. And her body heated all over again as she remembered the sensations he'd aroused.

She needed to remain aware of what he really wanted from her. She needed to make it very clear to her desire-glazed brain. She mustn't forget. He felt passion for her, a burning, nearly insatiable desire.

And yes, drinking from her again might have intensified it even more, on his side as well as her own.

But he didn't love her. He loved Elisabeta. He was willing to trade Stormy's life for hers. She mustn't forget that.

Carefully she unlocked the door, then turned the lock again before she pulled it closed. She did the same with the cellar door at the top of the stairs, and then exited the house through the front door, making sure it was locked, as well. She needed to get back to Athena House and formulate a plan to capture Elisabeta so Rhiannon could perform the ritual on her.

Vlad wasn't going to like it. In fact, he would probably never forgive her for it.

Elisabeta was still half-asleep in the grass when a sound brought her fully awake. Her first thought was that it was Vlad, coming out to get her, to apologize for his behavior, to bring her into the house and tell her how much he loved her.

But as she came fully awake, she realized it couldn't be Vlad. The sun had already cleared the horizon, and it beamed brightly down on her-so brightly that she had to shield her eyes to see who was coming out of the house.

And then she saw, and her anger burst into a full blown rage.

It was her! Tempest. She had spent the night with Elisabeta's husband. Dammit, she had known all along! He was infatuated with her. And too confused to realize that he'd only ever been drawn to her in the first place because she, Elisabeta, had been there, inside her.

“I am going to have to kill her,” she said softly. “It's the only way.”

She rose from the grass as the woman walked away from the house and along the side of the road. Elisabeta started to walk after her, her hands clenched, her rage burning. But before the second angry step, her head was spinning, her knees trembling.

She pressed a hand to her forehead, closed her eyes and braced her hand on a tree to keep from falling. What was this?

She stood there for a moment, holding her head, and waited for the dizziness to abate. When it did, she tested her footing and found her legs once again solid. Even so, she wasn't at her best. Perhaps it was the shock of adjusting to this new body. Or perhaps Brooke had some physical imperfection or illness that hadn't been apparent to Elisabeta until now.

Damn this body. She'd wanted a strong and healthy form, not this.

No matter. What needed to be done, needed to be done. Tempest was coming between Elisabeta and Vlad. That was the only reason he had refused to transform her. Beta had no choice but to remove Tempest from the equation. Vlad could not be distracted when she needed him to be focused only on her.

She was in no condition, however, to murder the woman with her hands alone. She remembered, with a flash of pain, the way Tempest had spun and kicked and hit her before. She was not experienced at physical combat. She would need an aid. A weapon.

She looked around and came upon a perfect one-a rock larger than a grapefruit, smooth and round. She picked it up and then hurried in the direction Tempest had gone. She must be heading back to Athena House. The road curved, looping around a stand of red pine forest. While Elisabeta was unfamiliar with the place, Brooke knew it well. And by now Beta had mastered the skill of probing Brooke's mind, mining it for information.

She veered off the road and into the pine forest, traveling through it unerringly. Its carpet of browning needles and fragrant pungence were soothing to her senses, and the pine cones that littered the ground only tripped her up once. After that she watched for them. She emerged on the far side of the woods, and the road was there, only a few feet from the edge of the trees. So she backed up a little, sheltered by the scented branches, and she waited.

Within a few minutes, Tempest came along the road. There was purpose in her step, a troubled, pensive look about her face. Was she contemplating the hopelessness of her future without Vlad? For she had to know his heart belonged to another. Was she in love with him?

Beta waited until Tempest had passed by her hiding place, so she wouldn't see movement from the corner of her eye and be warned. The attack had to be completely unexpected. A blow from the blue.

When Tempest had gone past her, Beta crept out of the trees, moving quickly and quietly up the grassy incline to the road. She raised the rock over her head, clasping it in both hands so she could bring it down hard, and she ran at Tempest's back.

Tempest spun around at the last possible moment and ducked to the side. The rock hit her shoulder instead of her skull, but it must have hurt her all the same. She grunted in pain and toppled over sideways, landing on the ground with a solid impact that must have hurt nearly as much as the blow had done.

Furious, Elisabeta lifted the rock again but even as she brought the rock down, Tempest swung her legs in a powerful arc that took Beta's feet right out from under her.

She went down hard, slamming her own head into the very rock she'd intended to use to crush Tempest's.

And then it was dark.