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The Vampire Queen's Servant (Chapter Thirty-one)

"Oh no. " She shook her head, even as she continued teasing with one finger, enjoying the feel of his hard waist, the fit of his jeans starting to constrict, the crossed position of his ankles making it all the more pleasurable to watch his reaction. "Too easy. "

"All right, then. I've got it. " With a regretful look, part courtesy and all genuine, leaving her own arousal simmering, he rose from the couch. Taking her hand briefly, he brushed his lips across it before he went to the entertainment center. Selecting a piece of music from her extensive collection, he inserted it into her player.

Turning around, waiting for the music to start, he began to crack his knuckles meditatively as if he was using the process to review what he had in his mind. "Are you familiar with soft-shoe, my lady?"

Whatever she'd been expecting, it hadn't been that. "Not really. "

"Soft-shoe is a type of tap dancing, " he said. "Only it's done with soft-soled shoes, hence the name. Or in bare feet. " He glanced down at his own with a smile. She watched, fascinated, as he took each finger in hand, cracked and dislocated each knuckle, then restored it with a chilling pop of noise.

"It was first introduced by George Primrose in minstrel shows in the early part of the twentieth century. The key to it is the lightness of the tapping, performed at a smooth and leisurely cadence. It was also called the sand dance. I don't remember why, though sometimes I think it's because there's something soothing about it, like a lullaby. "

He adjusted the angle of the floor lamp, turning it so it was behind him. Picking up the baseball cap he'd apparently donned earlier and then casually thrown on the coffee table, he spun it, using two fingers of his right hand. "No thumbs, " he pointed out.

"Duly noted, " she nodded. Quietly enchanted.

He started the music. The piano tune was a sad piece from the 1920s like the fading sounds of a carnival, appropriate as he began to perform the spare, smooth movements of the routine for her, with the sweeps and turns of the entertainers of that era. His shadow was thrown up on the wall by the lamp. If she focused on that image, he could have been any of those long-ago men who'd charmed children and made men and women long for experiences never as good as they seemed in their memories. The true definition of nostalgia.

He did eventually use his thumbs with the cap, but that was all right with her. It was a dance style made for a man, with the wide wheeling of the arms, the leaps in the same place, reminding her of Gaelic warriors preparing for battle, dancing in firelight. Trying to connect to something that would make them everything good men hoped they could be.

She could have watched him do it for hours, the man and his shadow dancing for one another, mesmerizing her with the poignancy of it. When the piece came to an end, he did a spin to complete it. The hat rolled down his arm to his fingers as he finished in a low bow and then straightened, a little breathless, his lips curved.

As he came across the floor back to her, his thumb cracked when he dropped the hat on the table. Grimacing, he pulled on the lowest joint to dislocate and reset it again.

Lyssa bolted straight up on the couch, her eyes widening. "That's how you do it. " She pointed at his hand accusingly. "That's how you get out of restraints. "

He winced. "Busted. If it makes you feel any better, old wives' tales say I'm supposed to suffer terrible arthritis when I get older. " He considered her. "Of course, that was one of the major draws of the whole human servant gig, avoiding that. "

"You… " She shook her head at him. "I thought the attraction was spending an eternity exposed to my charming and sweet disposition. "

"That, too, " he agreed. She noticed he was studying her more closely. Dropping to one knee beside her again, he reached out, cupped her face. "You're hungry, my lady. "

He was beginning to detect the minute pallor changes of her skin that indicated she was ready for nourishment. It had taken several months for Thomas to pick up on it, and while she knew Thomas could have described it to him, somehow she knew he hadn't. Jacob was just that attuned to her needs.

"May I offer you… Something? It's part of my job, isn't it?"

"Yes. " She inclined her head, which tucked her jaw into the curve of his hand.

"Would you prefer it in wine, or… "

She could tell he was braced for her to reject him since she'd gone back to her mode of establishing emotional distance between them. An attempt that was beginning to seem like a pointless exercise when something as simple as a dance could make her wonder why she deprived herself of his company for any length of time.

She shook her head. "When it comes to you, Jacob, I prefer the source. "

Most of the time she'd taken her blood in wine from Thomas. He'd simply prepared it for her, cutting his arm and mixing his life source in the wine that diluted it and gave it a variety of tastes, depending on what vintage she was in the mood to taste. With Jacob, she suspected it would be a long, long time before she'd relinquish her right to put her lips directly to his skin, feel his shudder as she pierced him. If she had a long time, which she didn't. Which made it even more important to her.

"I'll take it directly from my servant's throat, " she said.

Nodding, he rose, his mind projecting what he was about to do so he knew he didn't have to hesitate and wait for a sign of approval. She was intrigued by the decision, in the way he constantly surprised her with his impulsive, assertive actions when it came to her. Of course the majority of her surprise had to do with her reaction, the fact she liked his impulses enough not to forbid them. When he slid his arms under her, she linked hers around his neck. Turning, he took his seat on the couch with her cradled in his lap, her arm naturally sliding along his back, the other holding to his shoulder.

"I've noticed you like the places that are the most life-threatening, my lady. The carotid artery, the femoral. I think you don't want me to forget my life is yours for the taking. "

An intuitive man. She let the thought whisper through his mind like the hint of danger. As if he sensed her hunger rising hard and fast to the surface, he tightened his arm around her back, drawing her closer while the music continued to play. His glance went pointedly to the remote next to his thigh.

There are some men who think sex and watching cable TV at the same time is the closest thing to heaven on earth.

Touch it and I shall remind you immediately your life is mine for the taking.

I didn't say I was one of them, my lady. The warmth of his smile touched her face as she closed her eyes, placed her mouth over him and bit, digging in as she would for the anticipation of sweet fruit waiting behind a firm rind. She knew he now understood she liked him to feel pain at the entry, that she'd been glad he didn't want her to use her secretions to desensitize the experience. She was stirred by how aroused he got without them, stoked by the stimulation of their two energies.

He stroked her back with his one hand, his other lying over her legs, palm resting on her hip. His arousal grew beneath her, but from his mind she knew he also understood that when she fed it might or might not lead to that. Sometimes the taking of what he was willing to surrender to her was something of its own to savor. It had a deep intensity to it she didn't want to mesh with sex, like not mixing two equally good foods together so as not to dull the nuances of each.

Plus he was enjoying the simple feeling of being in a state of wanting her, letting that yearning build but holding it in check for her pleasure, for when she called for it. Which ratcheted up her own desire. During the dinner, without prompting he'd startled himself by calling her Mistress. Closing her eyes, she savored the sweet taste of blood, the disturbing though exultant realization he was beginning to understand what serving a Mistress truly meant.

He wasn't a natural sexual submissive by a long shot, but by pledging his heart, mind and soul to serve her, whether it be her pleasure or need for companionship, or as her protector, he'd opened up the path in himself. He was learning what pleasured her soul could create pleasure in his own, taking him places he'd never considered arousing before. For her and her alone he would submit, and that made his submission all the more potent.

Pressing her breasts against his chest, she dug in her grip on his arm. His own hand fisted the fabric of her skirt into a ball as he communicated back the same passion, his fingers flexing in a rhythm with her nursing at his throat, her generous swallows of his blood.

At length, she drew back, pressing and holding her lips on the wound as she'd done in the past, waiting for the blood to clot from the agents in her mouth, enjoying the taste of him settling on her tongue as she did so. He was still hard beneath her, and she rubbed herself against him, a passing stroke. His head dropped back to the sofa as he eyed her, his hand coming up to her face, threading his fingers into her hair. "I want you, " he said in a quiet voice. His thumb moved to her lips, to the fang that was still somewhat elongated. Pressing so it punctured, he gave her another taste. She took it into her mouth, suckling on his thumb as his fingers fanned out over her lashes, her nose, her lips. Nuzzling against his touch, she closed her eyes, taking the thumb deeper so his large hand masked her face. As she let him draw his thumb out slowly, she flicked her tongue against it, opened her eyes so she could watch the images rolling through his mind reflect in his expression.

"Would you like your cock in my mouth, Sir Vagabond?"

He swallowed. "I'm sure you can read my mind, my lady. But I would never presume to–"

"Tell me. " Her voice was low. She knew her eyes were bright, harsh demand and desire projecting in her voice, compelling him to respond in kind. "Yes, my lady. I want my cock in your mouth. I want to feel your lips, your teeth on me. I want you to swallow my come. Hold you on me with my hands fisted in your hair, watching my cock stretch your beautiful, perfect mouth. But there's something I want even more than that. "

He showed her in his mind, in great detail, such that she trembled and moisture gathered between her legs, feeling the images almost as if he were doing it.

"You've picked up on the advantages of this form of communication far more quickly than Thomas. "

"Well, my mind is far less pure. "

She tugged his hair so his head obligingly dipped. "Thomas was a man as well as a monk. He had thoughts. "

"You enjoyed teasing him. "

"At times, " she admitted, no apology in her tone. In fact, Jacob noted there was laughter there, one of the first times he'd heard her speak of the man without sadness. He'd apparently found a memory that didn't overlap with the tragedy which had taken him from her. As much as his body wanted to push them forward on the roller coaster he'd just initiated, he forced himself to patience to get an answer to the question that had been plaguing him. He suspected she might be in a mood to answer.

"When Thomas became my servant, I did require him to lie with me at least once, " she confessed what he asked in his mind. "I required proof of his loyalty, that his devotion to me would supersede his oath to God. "

"You tread in dangerous waters, my lady. Even vampires answer to a higher power. "

She nodded. "There are those who believe the folk tales, that we're already damned. But I'm not one of them. A vampire is part of creation, like a man, dog or mosquito, trees or rivers, and our souls are as up for grabs as any. But men create religion, not gods. I personally believe Divinity could care less if we indulge in carnal knowledge of one another. "

In fact, there was a spiritual power to it so overwhelming, Lyssa thought the religions that used it as a form of worship made more sense than those that called it a sin. "A man's integrity, his morality, his sense of right and wrong and the choices they compel him to make, that's his connection to God. While I have no problem testing that connection for my own purposes, I respect it for the most part when its strength is true. That's why I only asked for it once. " Something like humor danced through her gaze. "I do admit to the occasional flirtation, a teasing and provocative image injected in his mind at the right moment to distract him from a task. " She sobered. "But with Thomas, his faith was unbreakable. He never did anything to shame himself before his God, no matter what he himself thought about it. "

She considered the copper strands of his hair tangled with her fingers, the beauty of Jacob's eyes. Those firm, sensual lips.

"One thing I do understand is the power of devotion and loyalty. While I might not believe whatever we call God requires us to give up sex, since that was something Thomas did to prove his loyalty to Him or Her, it demanded my respect. Any deity, or queen for that matter, " she allowed herself a small smile, "would appreciate a servant who gives up a significant natural desire to prove his love and dedication to her service. I might ask someone to choose between their conscience and my desires, but as you have pointed out before, Sir Vagabond, the choice remains in the realm of that person's soul. If the soul is strong enough, I can't take the choice away unless I use a level of duress that damns my own soul, not theirs. I'm not like some of my brethren. "

At last, she gave him the answer she knew he'd been seeking, and her eyes were intent on his, underscoring she understood the significance of her answer. "If I ask you to make a choice, there is a strong and urgent need for it. Not because I just enjoy taunting you and breaking your soul into pieces, bit by bit. I swear it. "

Jacob nodded, his hand finding her other one and holding it, his fingers closing around hers. "Then I will trust you, my lady, even if I don't always agree. Did he please you?"

She cocked her head, met his gaze with an amused look. "He did. He was a gentle, thorough lover who made me regret my decision to demand it of him only once. "

"Really. "

She laughed at him then. She knew it couldn't be compared to the volatile couplings she'd had with Jacob. They encompassed a whole spectrum of reactions and action. In their few joinings, Jacob had been gentle, thorough. Also passionate, demanding. Surprisingly inventive and intuitive, never forgetting or leaving her heart and mind out of the equation when their two bodies came together. He was powerful in the arts of charm and seduction for that reason, all the more so because he used them for their mutual pleasure, never with a thought to manipulate. He brought an adventurous innocence to it she also appreciated, learning all the dark paths a body could take for sexual pleasure. He elicited unexpected responses from her, like now when she heard the faint territorial note enter his voice. He didn't like talking about other men that had been with her, even one like Thomas.

"What about you, Jacob? You are too at ease around a woman's body for me to think you don't remember fondly one or two… Dozen. "

He chuckled. In one of those unexpected moves, even as she knew his thoughts, he lifted her as easily as he would a child, shifting her and guiding her legs so she sat astride him, her legs curved and overlapped behind his hips, between his body and the couch. He snugged her up to him with those large, capable palms on her hips and backside. She drew in a little breath when he accurately put the pressure of his cock against her clit, his fingers holding her buttocks, kneading. "You've driven them all out of my mind, my lady. And before you try to make a liar out of me… " She had the snippet of a thought as she dove in, trying to do just that, before he put his hand on the back of her neck and brought his mouth to hers to delve into her in a sense that was far more physical. It did, however, accomplish the objective of driving anything else from her mind for the moment.

Brash, impulsive… Tara's words came back to her, and all Lyssa could think was, "Thank God. " He knew her power, but it still didn't stop him from these impossibly forward moments she welcomed like a drug. Somehow they carried her away from a need to control everything, to worry about his place and her place…

Putting his hands on either side of her face, he held her as he kissed her, caressing her neck, making her need him inside her suddenly, desperately. Reaching in between them, she found his jeans and opened them, his lower body lifting to allow her to move them down to his thighs. She moved her hands to herself, but he guided them to his shoulders, coaxing her to let him be the one who gathered her skirt, bringing her bare skin in contact with his hard stomach, the thrust of his cock, the feel of crumpled denim next to her calves. He murmured a sound of appreciation as he only found her beneath the cloth. His hands were sure as he took her down on him, holding her steady. He slid deep into her with the torturously pleasurable ease of watching a sunset melt on the horizon, the heat spreading out, the beauty of it taking over and surrounding all the senses.

Oh God, he was perfect. She wished she could let him into her mind to tell him… And then she did. She gave him the images in her head, letting him see how she was seeing him, how she was feeling him, wanting him… Harder. Wanting him whispering to her, all barriers and rules gone, at least at this level.

He pulled the pins from her hair, letting them clatter to the floor as he gripped her hair, used it to pull her down on him even more powerfully, his eyes darkening, pupils widening as he drank even more of her in.

"Fuck me, " he demanded. "Fuck me. "

God… Yes. That was what she wanted, that guttural desire that was all hers. A natural part of him to take over a woman, held in check as he served her until she tore off the bridle as she did now, giving him his head and feeling all that power surging under her, wild and unfettered as it was meant to be.

"I'm going to make you come, my lady, " he growled, his hands dropping to seize her hips, forcing her down on him, her clit smacking against his pubic area each time, a blow that shuddered through her system even as he stretched her further, took her deeper, widened her thighs to open up her cunt, bring the labia and clit in closer contact with his hot skin. "Fuck you until you're screaming my name, until none of it matters. Until you know you're mine. That you can trust me with everything, forever. "

His. It was insane. But she felt so intertwined with him now, she didn't have any energy to argue, could only ride as he was compelling her to do with the grip of his hands, the jerk and thrust of his hips. The orgasm swelled up hard and fast and still he was taking her down in those relentless strokes, spreading her wide. He curled his arm around her waist as she began to climax, pulling her down with one arm as he found her clit with his thumb, held her slightly off of him and used his hips to piston into her, holding her immobile as he worked her, in and out, his thumb working that tiny bud of flesh. The climax battered her as she writhed, holding tightly to his shoulder, one hand gripped in his hair as the pressure became too overwhelming and she screamed as he said she would.

With a sound of fierce triumph, he shot his seed into her, his powerful shoulders flexing under her hands, his head pressing down against her sternum. She held her jaw to him, biting down on her lips as she hoarsely cried his name, whispered it as her cries became whimpers and her clutching hands eased into short, jerky movements on him. To stroking, light touches of amazement.

When he leaned back on the sofa, he framed her face in his hands again, keeping her balanced on his loins. The dinner, the things she'd told him over and over… The broken arm. Those were the things that were supposed to make sense. This was supposed to be confusing. But right now it was just the opposite. The possession by the fire, this, every time he smiled at her or kept on serving her even as he rebelled against her… Those things were all so clear, though she couldn't describe or encapsulate them with words to explain exactly what was so clear.

"My lady?" With a half smile of exhaustion, he tapped her forehead then drew her down so she was comfortably wrapped in his arms. "Turn it off. Let's watch the movie together. "

"I'll watch the movie, and you'll fall asleep, " she said against his skin. His laughter rumbled against her cheek.

"You're likely right about that. I guess I'll just have to trust a mere lass to keep me safe while I sleep, no?"

The affected brogue came easily to him, and made things shiver up her spine even as she snorted. Mere lass. "Yes. I'll keep you safe. I promise. "

He was silent for a moment, then startled her with a drowsy comment. "It was curious to me that you didn't know about the soft- shoe, my lady. I guess I expect you to know everything. "

She rubbed her face against his chest. "Weren't you listening the other night, Sir Vagabond? Just because I'm as old as I am doesn't mean I've reached this state of all-encompassing wisdom where I just sit on the top of a mountain soaked in enlightenment. Good for you, too, because you'd go insane with the inactivity. " When he chuckled, she closed her eyes at the thrill it gave her to feel him vibrate against her body again. "I know a lot of things by experience humans will never live long enough to understand, including yourself. But one thing I've learned is we don't overcome our nature. It's so much a part of us, I'd say it's maybe half of our souls. "

When Bran raised his head, she looked at the dog, wishing she could have his simple acceptance of life. "If our nature is to want to love and be loved, " she said softly, "we don't overcome that, get past it. On the same note, I could live ten thousand years and not understand why we do the things we do to each other. "

She waited for his response, but his even breath told her he had succumbed in her embrace, the taking of his blood and the climax too much to keep him conscious. He'd drifted off on the soothing notes of her voice, trusting he'd not come to any harm with her.

When the total lack of sense she was using could well be the death of him.

If she dared, she would have said more.

Or why, knowing I shouldn't have you at all, I want you so much. Reaching up, she touched his face, brushing his brow. All the wisdom in the world doesn't make me immune to the way you desire me.

With regret she rose and covered him with a lap blanket, leaving him to dream alone. Though her mind mocked her, she had to keep making the attempt to teach him what being a servant to a vampire queen truly meant. Her heart called her a coward, running from her desperate wish to stay in those arms all night long. Maybe even beyond that.

But they had to get through the Council Gathering. She had to get through it. If nothing else, she'd at last acknowledged she would need Jacob to do that. It was time to focus on what needed to be done. Time was too short to indulge her heart.

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