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The Vampire Queen's Servant (Chapter Seven)

As he stepped over the threshold she was moving to the walls, switching on small spotlights to highlight the room's artwork. "Stand in the center of the room, arms at your sides. "

A Matisse. A Titian. A Van Gogh. Deep expressions of the soul in a multitude of colors, like the woman who lived here. While he had many questions for her, he knew the spur of curiosity was not why he wanted to ask them right now. A part of him wanted to deny she could order him to be silent. But he had to understand the unfamiliar before he could determine if it needed to be rejected or defied. What was swirling through him now as he obeyed her command was definitely unfamiliar. His loins tightened with every quiet sound he heard. Her feet sinking into the carpet. The soft swish of her robe moving on her legs. She fluttered at the corner of his vision and then disappeared.

Before he could turn in surprise and look for her, her hand touched his back.

"That's a neat trick, " he said.

"Jacob. " Her voice was a whisper along his spine. "I know you're nervous. I can hear your pulse. You've never submitted before. When you make love to a woman, you take her over. You let her feel your strength, your desire. If there is any surrendering, she surrenders to you. When you let yourself go, it's only when you're certain she's become lost in you. In the passion you've given her. "

Did he detect a certain edge to her tone, as if she resented the women he'd had before? That would be absurd. Almost as absurd as his relief when he saw no evidence of Rex's presence in this room. Nothing to remind him she'd been alive long enough to have been touched not only by her husband, but by many other men.

She caressed his hips, holding him as she rose on her toes to press her mouth under his ear. "If you wish to be my servant, you must learn what surrender truly means. " Her hands slid under his arms and she began to toy with one of the shirt buttons, the color on her nails shining faintly in the soft light. "So don't make me gag you. I want to make use of that pretty mouth of yours, that clever tongue. You'll stay silent from this point forward unless I command you to speak. Remain still. "

He'd begun to raise his hands, intending to clasp them over hers on his abdomen, but at that he stopped, battling his own will. Taking a deep breath, he made himself lower his hands back to his sides.

"Good. Very good. "

As she opened his shirt, she moved closer, the barest brush of her body against his back, his buttocks. Her breath tickled his spine through the light fabric.

Though he knew it was a defense mechanism, Jacob tried to sort out the questions he had, mundane and less mundane, as if writing them down in his head for later reference. Anything to keep himself motionless as her fingers tormented him with nothing more than the unfastening of his shirt and her command to be still. Why did she breathe? Did she like coffee? Max had said she preferred a pot brewing in the foyer of Eldar, but she hadn't even asked for a cup. Was it the aroma? Should he make her breakfast? What was the driver doing? Had she ever had a man self-combust and die, incinerated by the fire she ignited in him?

Placing her palms on his now bare stomach, she kept one there while moving the other up to find his nipple. He swayed, leaning back into her as sensation shot through him. Her arms tightened, holding him. He felt her pleasure in his response, in the way she touched her lips to his neck. While he'd never thought of the throat as an erogenous zone for him, it apparently was now, for his cock became harder every time she went near it.

"Perhaps you're thinking this will be like those times when you let a woman control the moment. Let her ride your cock to climax while you held onto the bed rails and pretended you were bound. Soft games of pleasure with no real risk, the dark areas of yourself untouched, vulnerabilities unchallenged. "

She came around to face him, her fingernails scraping his skin as she followed the waistband of his jeans, just inside the band of fabric. "Lovely musculature. Mature, lean. Not the body of an untried boy. There are scars here. You've fought battles. "

"I've–"

"Hush. You do not have my leave to speak. "

A sharper command this time, in a tone that shot resentment through him. She began to hum softly to herself. As if her dialogue was intended to be a one-way conversation, like a potential buyer examining a thoroughbred racehorse. He suspected she was doing it that way deliberately to goad him.

On the other hand, her expression was focused, fascinated, as if she'd been given a private viewing of a special work of art and was standing alone in a room with it, envisioning it as hers. The look in her eyes was enough to make him want to reach for her, hold her against his aching want.

That response grew even more intense when she unbuttoned his jeans and opened them, reaching in to clasp his hard cock and adjust it, bringing it out of the recesses of the pants. Moving closer, she let go to run her hands back along the inside of the jeans to palm his bare ass. Pushing her knuckles against the hold of the fabric as she kneaded him, she rubbed the satin of her robe against his cock where it was taut and erect, revealed by the open fly.

His hot flesh felt the bite of the open teeth of the zipper, but it couldn't dampen the inferno of desire raging through his blood like the sudden rise of lava in a smoking volcano. When she tilted her head, her lips were so close he couldn't resist any longer.

"No, " she murmured.

"Yes, " he insisted.

When he closed the gap, he stumbled forward at the lack of contact. She was no longer there, empty air the only thing in front of him.

"Take off the rest of your clothes, Jacob. "

He spun awkwardly and saw a flash of her, then she vanished like mist with that rapid speed vampires had. His gaze went to the ceiling, knowing gravity didn't necessarily limit them, but he found nowhere for her to perch.

"Clothes off. Lie across the bed with your feet on the floor, your arms stretched over your head as far as they can go. If I have to tell you to do it again, I'll make you do it and crush your male ego. " Her voice was a sensual caress, coming from several places in the room, moving like a capricious wind, disorienting him. "But even worse, I'll tie you down and leave you like that for several days, until you realize what belonging to me truly means. Enough to regret it. "

Jacob lifted a lip, curled it in a snarl. "Give it your best shot, my lady. "

He couldn't say why he did it. Maybe because he didn't want to capitulate so easily. Maybe because he had no game plan for this other than his intuition and unwillingness to be controlled.

He didn't see her coming. A shove knocked him to his knees and the shirt was ripped off his shoulders. When he flipped to his back, it was floating down to the floor. The candles flickered with the passage of her flight.

Rolling into a crouch, he didn't bother removing the pants. They were a tactical disadvantage open and low on his hips, but by the time he lifted a hand to remove them, she could be on him. He waited for it, that sense of impending air movement. Guessing her next direction based on her last strike, he ducked away, twisted back and grabbed, managing to seize a portion of her robe and tumble her across his legs.

Anticipating the lightning move of her hand, he reared back and dodged the grasp. He clamped down on her wrist, a move he knew she could easily counter by breaking his arm. But he had to believe the point of this impromptu match was not to injure. While he understood she was trying to prove something to him, he was just as determined to get his own message across.

He would be her servant. He wouldn't be livestock. At least that was what his pride told him, drowning out the voice of his psyche that said there might be darker issues involved in his resistance.

She'd frozen in a half-standing position, her slender forearm cuffed by his grip while she stared at him, two feet between their faces, her foot planted between his knees. He'd pulled her robe of her shoulder, exposing most of her right breast. Even as the pleasure of seeing that milk white curve made his body respond, a sense of shame swept him at this evidence of rough handling. Knowing how much stronger she was, he nevertheless eased his grip at the feel of those fragile female bones. With his other hand, he reached out and slid the satin back up on her shoulder, his fingers whispering along the collarbone, itching to trail down her sternum to cup one of those soft curves.

She straightened, drawing back from him. Her gaze narrowed. "You've fought vampires before. "

"Yes, my lady. "

"In the limo, you were wearing weapons. Several. I don't remember that Thomas had any particular skill with weaponry. In fact, I worried about his fingers when he handled kitchen knives. "

"He told me of your enemies, of your world. My brother is a vampire hunter. He taught me how to fight them. But I quit. Thomas felt that was another reason I was qualified to be your servant in a way he wasn't. His words, my lady. Not mine. " He added it quickly at her expression. "My brother and I… Our paths separated some time ago. I'd rather not speak of him. "

He didn't want to think about Gideon, who would be apoplectic if he knew what his younger brother was doing.

"You neglect to mention your brother is a vampire killer, that you worked with him, and you're refusing to tell me more than that? When I can crush your windpipe before you can blink?"

"Killing me is your choice, my lady. What I tell you of my life is mine. "

She made a noise somewhere between irritation and disgust, a Japanese curse that sounded as if she'd compared him to an earthworm, if he'd gotten the translation right. Being fluent in a handful of languages was another part of his resume he'd not yet been able to cover, though he didn't think revealing that now would appease her. She stepped back several more feet, her expression merciless, hard.

"A rather significant omission, from both you and Thomas. "

Now he was glad for the command not to speak unless requested to do so. Nevertheless, he braced himself for the uncomfortable questions. However, after several tense moments, one of those pauses she seemed to favor, she simply said, "You're a fool to worry about chivalry when it comes to a female vampire. "

"I'll never raise a hand to you, my lady. If you tell me my choice is to be bound on that bed or to strike you, then I submit. There is no choice then. "

"I won't make it that easy for you. You may go lie on the bed. Or you may leave and never see me again. "

On that note, she was gone from his sight again. Multidirectional, her voice filled the room. It was as if he were in the inner sanctum of a goddess's temple, hearing her voice coming from the elements, making him unsure if it emitted from the whisper of water in the fountains, the mysterious rustling of the trees, the flicker of firelight in the braziers, or the stones that came from the earth itself.

"If I forced you to go to the bed after you fought me, whether by hiding behind your chivalry or my physical force, you'd take some comfort in that. It's harder to do it willingly, not knowing what to expect or what it will do to you, what I'll expose. But you'll discover far greater pleasure in the torment if you go willingly than if you fight. "

His knee-jerk reaction was that she was trying to inflict some misguided lesson upon him. But perhaps submitting also unlocked certain vulnerabilities in his lady. Would it give her greater pleasure as well, to see him submit? In her voice he could detect her urgent desire to see him go down by his own volition, though he had the conflicting suspicion his resistance teased the sharp edge of her lust.

Trying not to think about it too much, Jacob made his decision. Leaning his hips against the footboard to keep his balance, he removed one boot, then the other. While he was aware of her regard from somewhere in the room, he knew it would be pointless to seek her out. Pushing off the jeans, he retrieved his shirt and laid both garments over the arm of a chair, placing his boots in front of it.

As he stood completely nude, deliberating his next move for several charged moments, he wondered what she was thinking. He was throbbing, enormous. He hoped she took pleasure in that. Life in a circus had helped him get past modesty about personal nakedness, but he found himself somewhat self-conscious under the circumstances.

"You think you can commit over three centuries to me, Sir Vagabond?"

"As long as you need me. "

"You say that, but you resist me. Did Thomas tell you the oath to a vampire of my rank?"

"I am sworn to your service. Compelled by absolute loyalty, I safeguard your well-being before my own or any other ties of family or friendship. I swear it by the giving of my blood to you and before all of Divinity, may my life be cursed and my soul be damned if I speak false or ever betray the vow. "

A pregnant silence filled the room. "Thomas made you take the oath, " she said at last.

"It was the last step in my training. I stood vigil in the monastery chapel for three days and three nights before he spilled my blood on the stones to consecrate the words. "

Fifty lashes across his back. Required when administered in conjunction with the oath, they were part of the Ritual of Binding to a vampire queen. It was a ritual so ancient most vampires under three hundred years old didn't know it. Lyssa moved through the shadows outside of his vision, staring at those crisscrossing lines that would have turned his back into a mass of blood when they'd occurred, causing enough pain to make the strongest man sick, lose control of his bowels. Then the monks would have made him scrub those stones clean on his hands and knees, naked, before they would offer to tend his wounds. The Master always came first.

"Did Thomas use my whip?"

"Yes, my lady. He said you'd used it on him when you accepted him. "

She closed her eyes. She'd given it to Thomas as a gift years before. He'd apparently carefully preserved it. Once a human became a servant, most wounds he'd received even previous to his acceptance would not leave permanent scarring, unless his Mistress anointed the weapon with a drop of her own blood first.

Without knowing if she would accept him, Jacob had subjected himself to torture and permanent disfigurement. An exceptional act of loyalty. It moved her far more than she wanted him to know.

"I'd like you to put your boots under the bed, " she said at last.

Odd. From the tone of her voice, Jacob could tell that had been a request, not a command. He suspected Lady Lyssa never intimated words except exactly as she intended. She could likely orchestrate any nuance she wanted in her speech.

"Under the bed. Just like the country song?"

She didn't respond. He didn't expect her to do so, but at least he didn't sense she was offended by him forgetting himself and speaking out of turn. Putting the boots neatly just under the bed, he eyed the expanse of mattress.

From the corner of his eye, he realized she was behind him now, almost three feet back. Close, reminding him of the temptations that might wait for him if he complied. Far enough back so the decision was his, as she'd said. After that, his choices would be limited. He turned around to face her. Keeping his gaze on hers, he took a step back, then another. The anticipation that rose in her expression resulted in a taut, indefinable anxiety in his gut as he sat down on the bed. As tall as he was, he'd still have to flex his feet to keep his toes grazing the floor if he slid back to where the crook of his knees met the mattress as she wished. Lying back, he felt the soft quilting of the cool bed linens give beneath, him.

She hadn't made the bed, so he smelled her, felt the rumpled waves of the quilted blanket beneath him. He'd undressed her for her comfort, trying not to take advantage of her unconscious state to ogle, but now her scent taunted back to life the vision of smooth, pale flesh and curves he'd briefly glimpsed, the bare folds of flesh between her legs, for vampires only had hair above the neck. He raised his arms over his head, his knuckles brushing the covers.

"See if you can reach the opposite edge of the mattress. "

He stretched out his arms as far as he could and came within a few inches of reaching the other side if he strained.

"Hold that position. I want you to pretend your arms are already bound. In a moment, they actually will be. "

When he heard the clank of metal, he wanted to roll away, leap up. With a force of will that took more effort than he expected,he kept still. A beautiful woman wants to tie you up and have her way with you. You've played soft bondage before. But only as she'd described, where it would have been easy to get loose. Where the emotional stakes were nowhere near as high as they would be here.

Now her robe brushed his leg. There was the sound of metal touching metal again. Her hand slid around to his calf, her fingers stroking the hair there before moving down to his ankle. She took her time about it, turning her hand over as if it were the page of a book to rub her knuckles along the same area. The electrical reaction ran up the inside of his thigh, prodded his cock up another notch.

Apprehension had affected his erection, but it was quickly being restored with the magic her fingers were creating. He didn't want to admit lying still at her command might also be contributing. He'd never considered it a sexual act, making himself helpless to a woman.

Thomas had told him there was no end to the things she could teach him. The crafty son of a bitch hadn't gone into these kinds of specifics, though. He wouldn't have bolted if he'd known.

Probably. But it would have been nice to be prepared, as much as a man could be for something like this.

Of course, Thomas had been a monk. Which made Jacob add another question to his list. Had Thomas done this type of thing with her? Because he'd assumed the monk was under the vow of celibacy, he'd never even thought to ask.

Cold steel locked around his ankle. A loose fit, but not enough that he'd get it off without shearing off his heel. Trailing her hand down his foot, over his toes, she traced the lines between them. Her lips were soft and warm on his knee, the area just below it. He wanted to see her, but by holding the position she'd ordered he could only feel her and strain his ears to hear her movements.

The contact of her mouth tickled, making him quiver. Her lips curved against him. A smile, maybe. He felt a prick, just the touch of a fang, and then her weight shifted. Putting her back against his bound leg, she sat, letting his leg and the bed support her as she took hold of the other foot and restrained it in the same manner. There were chains attached to the manacles and she made some adjustment to them which widened the spread of his legs with the pressure of her shoulder against one of his calves.

Air touched his balls as she made him that much more defenseless by somehow anchoring the chains to the corner posts. He swallowed, told himself he could lie here. That he'd done this willingly. He wasn't afraid of her hurting him, so why was a well of panic trying to cloud his brain, take over his body and make it tremble as if he were some type of untried virgin?

"Very nice. " She caressed the inside of his leg, dragging her nails over his thigh. His cock was at full attention now as if it knew she'd straightened to look at it.

"Even better, " she murmured. Her body rubbed against his leg as she rose. She appeared like the unexpected touch of a breeze up near his head, standing on her knees on the mattress to the right of his straining hands. The neckline of her robe was loose, showing him the crescents of her breasts. At his avid gaze, she spread the upper part of the robe open, revealing her bosom completely. She had curves like firm, juicy apples, the pink nipples capturing his attention and making saliva pool in his mouth.

She pulled another set of manacles on the bed. As she balanced herself, her hands closed on his wrists and the metal snapped onto them, a series of clicks and pressure that told him they were locked with a key like the ones on his ankles. Crossing his wrists, she hooked the manacles together, avoiding contact with his fingers. A hard quiver ran through his muscles as she used the key to sweep a lock of hair off his forehead.

"You've stopped straining. Reach for the edge of the bed as far as you can. "

"Come down here. "

"Obey me and perhaps I will. "

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