Authors: Joey Hill
Tags: #vampire queen, #vampire romance, #joey hill
“Hmm.” She didn’t smile at that, but she inserted her hand into the pool, standing up so she could reach farther into the water. He moved closer, watched. She seemed to barely move at all, but when she brought up her palm, a blue and gray spotted fish was cupped in it. She kept her hand just below the surface so the fish wasn’t out of water, but her hand was so still, the creature didn’t seem all that concerned with the confinement. She slid her hand from beneath him and he swam away.
“There’s always a way for the bigger fish to get to the smaller fish,” she said. “The only hope is that sometimes the bigger fish doesn’t have dinner in mind. Or worse.”
He drew a towel from a shelf built into the stone wall. With her gaze upon him he dried her arm, her fingers, rubbing them thoroughly. When he finished, he put the towel aside, clasped her wrist. Fine-boned as china, with an intense energy humming beneath the skin. She wasn’t used to being touched without permission, and he could see the war in her about that, clear as the warning flicker in her gaze. He tightened his grip, gauging the pulse.
“I’m going to give you a massage now. Learn more about your body so I’ll know how to properly care for you.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Take everything off and put on the robe hanging on the back of the door. There’s a dumbwaiter in there for your clothes if you want to use it. You can put them in there, press the signal light, and they’ll be returned cleaned and ironed within a few hours.”
She lifted her head, met his gaze. Her brilliant eyes had one message.
And then she moved.
She needed to be left alone for a few hours. She needed time to think, regroup. His brief touches in the elevator, the way he brushed his body against her, had been startling but not even slightly unwelcome, which was all unsettling enough. He’d dried her arm as if he had every right to handle her more intimately. Now he wanted her—no, ordered her—to remove her clothes and submit to a massage?
Alarms went off in her, triggers that didn’t care how intriguing he was. But she was hungry. She was going to take care of that and then tell him to give her some goddamned space.
No human could match or anticipate a vampire’s speed, so slamming him against the wall and taking him down to the tile on his back, her heel on his throat, was easy. He promptly closed his hands around her ankle and twisted.
Strength or not, that kind of maneuver required her to spin, pull back, but he didn’t let her go. He yanked, so she had to go down to roll free. When he seized her from behind, banding both arms around her, she broke the hold, sprang away, turned and hit him in the face.
She was teaching a lesson, not trying to kill him, so the spurt of blood from his lip could have been worse. She’d hit him hard enough to drop him, though, so she gave him points for still being on his feet. The man was built like a mountain. He touched his thumb to his mouth, tasted the blood in a thoughtful move that twisted the knife of hunger. His lips split in a feral grin, a dangerous spark to his eyes.
“Done proving the obvious, my lady?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What?”
“That you can kick my ass.” He tilted his head, considering her from head to toe. “Want to go another round, just so you’re absolutely sure? That first shot was barely a tickle. I didn’t know vampires hit like girls.”
This time she hit him mid-body, took them back to the wall again. Fabric ripped, and she saw he’d caught her shirt so it was off her shoulder, the neckline of the thin knit torn. Her breasts, held in golden satin lace, were now visible and quivering. She wrenched free and hit him again, this time a solid connection with his jaw, and swept his legs, sending him crashing to the tile again. As he went down, he snagged the waistband of her skirt and yanked, hard. The skirt was a snug fit, but his strength split the side zipper and dropped the garment to her upper thighs, hampering her movement. In that key second, he was able to bring her down on top of him. She drove her elbow into his inner thigh, close enough to his testicles that she heard a grunt…and a chuckle.
She squirmed away, sprang back to her feet, and glared down at him. With a toss of her hair, she shed the ruined shirt and skirt. Flicking them away carelessly, she stood before him in the gold satin panty and bra set. Once one became practiced at excessive internal shielding, external shielding required no more than a passing thought. She could be naked as an infant and conduct herself as if she were wearing full body armor. Even if the way his unhurried gaze coursed over her braced legs, the nip of her waist, the rise and fall of her breasts, spread heat over every visible inch of her skin.
Her attack didn’t seem to disrupt that placid energy that hummed off him when he got back to his feet and squared off with her once more. She should have torn his shirt off the way he’d tried to do with hers. She’d like to take her fill of that muscular expanse, taste his flesh, his blood.
“I’m hungry,” she said. “You’re in charge of my care. Give me blood.”
“You’re the badass in the room,” he said, though the sharp laser of his eyes belied the mild tone. “Why don’t you just take it, my lady?”
When she said nothing, he knuckled the blood away from his mouth. “Would it help if I could overpower you? Force you to my will with physical strength? I suspect there are plenty of male vampires in your world who could do that, and you wouldn’t be losing money on a fancy vacation.”
She pressed her lips together. “Do you think you can play games with me?”
“No. Which is why this isn’t a game. You know exactly what I’m doing. You just want to control it, which defeats the purpose, don’t you think?” He studied her. “All right, point made. We’ll skip the massage, for now. Let’s go visit the main grotto and waterfall. We need to talk awhile.”
She wondered if he meant her point or his own and what his point had been. She closed her hands into fists, uncurled them. “It won’t make a difference. I think this was a mistake.”
“But you don’t know for sure. Let’s go find out. The plane won’t be back until tomorrow night, so what else do you have to do?”
“I could explore the amenities of the island. You told me there were plenty.”
He gave that lopsided smile again, but she was keenly aware the intent focus of his eyes never left her face, as if he was cataloging far more than her words. “I want to do something to help you get into a better frame of mind for this. An experiment. Are you brave enough for that?”
She stiffened. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“I think you’re terrified.”
In her world, an opponent recognizing fear was like a wolf scenting blood. Yet his tone softened, just enough to lock things up inside her, keep her watching, waiting. “Why wouldn’t you be?” he continued. “I can’t even begin to guess at what it feels like, denying a vital part of yourself for years so you wouldn’t end up someone’s slave. You have walls that are miles thick. I’m not here to knock them down, Kaela. I know you need them to survive. You have to let down the drawbridge, let me in. I have to earn your trust for you to do that. I get it. So let’s go talk and work on that.”
He stepped closer. She eyed him warily. She could kill him. The fact that it seriously crossed her mind told her he was right. She was scared. By the situation, by being so far out of her element, but so close to something she’d denied herself for so long. All he’d done was tell her to don a robe and she’d attacked, seeking control because she’d realized somehow he’d already taken some of that from her. She suspected he’d pushed her that way as an icebreaker of sorts. What a strange man.
He didn’t look down, but he found her clenched hand at her side. His large fingers covered her fist, caressed, teased, until her rigid fingers slowly opened up. Lifting her hand, he kissed her knuckles, keeping his eyes on hers as he turned her hand over, kissed her palm, her wrist. She drew in a breath as he held his mouth over her pulse, his thumb gliding up and down the delicate skin of her forearm. Her body swayed in toward him and suddenly she was even more aware that she stood so close to him in only a couple scraps of underwear, while he was fully dressed. It made her feel…that he was the one in control.
Only if she let him, and she wasn’t there yet. Not even close. No matter what her body was saying. She’d learned to ignore its wants a long time ago. Mind over matter, always, because her life depended on her head, not her heart.
“What experiment?” she said, trying to pull back.
He touched her chin. For a man with such a startling appearance, he had tremendous sexual confidence in his touch, as if he knew his frightening visage was inconsequential to what he could make a submissive feel. “First the waterfall,” he said. “But I still want you to go take everything off and change into the robe first. I’ll feed you soon. Can you accept that much for now?”
She wasn’t sure she could accept anything, but she nodded. She watched him, bemused, as he let her go to recover her skirt and blouse. Folding them into a neat pair of squares, he handed them to her. “If you’ll put these in the dumbwaiter, they’ll mend or replace them as well.”
He didn’t apologize for ripping them. No more than he’d apologize for ripping clothes that belonged to him. That was the point, wasn’t it? She needed to stop assuming his thoughts, because it made her want to reach up, touch his split lip. When he’d kissed her hand, he’d left tiny smears of that blood on her skin, and the scent was heady. She wanted to put her mouth on his, bite that offended area, make it bleed anew so she could taste him. It was as if she were a fledgling again, trying to control bloodlust.
As if he anticipated her alarm at that thought, her need to do something immediate and drastic to put things back in perspective, he put a calming hand on her shoulder. Under her curious gaze, he pressed his thumb against his bottom lip, putting pressure next to the split. When he felt the blood well anew—or perhaps he saw the avid sparks in her gaze, the signal of her parted lips, the gleam of her fangs—he swiped his thumb over the spot, collecting several drops.
“Stay still, my lady. Still as a statue.”
Nothing could be as still as a vampire. It was one of many things that made them deadly. But she couldn’t still the thundering of her heart as he reached out that short distance between them and painted his blood on her lips with sensual care, like an artist at a canvas. The tip of her tongue came out, an involuntary motion, and teased the taste off her bottom lip, touching his thumb. He let it rest there while she sampled his flesh, his blood.
A human’s myriad scents were as detailed as a book page. She’d registered his interested arousal as soon as they met on the dock, but now there was a more focused attention to it, his cock likely finding even less room in his well-fitted jeans. She detected a faint tightening of his muscles, but other than that, he was almost as still as she, watching what she was doing.
What would she do if he pushed his thumb into her mouth, an unspoken command to close her lips on it, suck it like he’d want her to suck his cock? On her knees. She’d seen that reaction in the eyes of any male vampire who wanted to prove he could overpower her. She would have expected it here, but what she saw was a reflection, as if Garron’s sexual energy merely opened her to a mirror of her own desires and needs. She wanted to be on her knees, sucking a Master’s cock. Maybe sucking this Master’s cock.
She stepped back, a little too abruptly, but he let his hand fall to his side, his expression as steady as before.
“A meal soon. First the robe and the waterfall.”
His tone made it a simple command, not a matter for debate. With a lack of other immediate options, Kaela circled around him, moved toward the bathroom.
She paused at the door, glanced back, but he wasn’t looking at her. He was studying the small waterfall, his hands now slipped into the back pockets of his jeans, his weight rocking lightly on the balls of his feet, a position that inadvertently drew attention to the breadth of his shoulders, the fine ass and columns of his thighs. He was built like a brick house and looked like he could dismantle one, brick by brick.
“Jewelry too,” he said. “Take it all off.”
She didn’t say anything, but disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door. Like the rest of the suite, it anticipated every comfort she might need. Ironic, given she felt miles from her comfort zone. The large tub had silver fixtures that gleamed, thanks to their cleanliness and the row of bell-shaped lights that cast muted white light over the room. Another spray of colorful tropical flowers was on the vanity, so vibrant that all the gleaming white and silver surfaces reflected hints of their color. If she had a reflection, she wondered what it might look like tonight. It was probably best that she didn’t know.
She removed her underwear and found the robe. The silken fabric caressed her skin like a spa treatment and clung to her curves, showing the jut of her nipples and molding the flare of her hips, the cleft of her buttocks. When tied, the robe was at mid-thigh, short enough to display her legs and make her think twice about what might be revealed if she bent over, but it wasn’t so short she’d feel unclothed. Yet it was definitely a garment intended to display her assets for a waiting Master.
That thought gave her pause. He’d been strong, quick, not easily intimidated. He hadn’t seemed afraid that she could seriously injure him, which was either foolish or something else, something she appreciated. Sometimes the most important advantage you had was making your opponent believe that, no matter what he did, your will wasn’t going to break.
Unless you wanted it to do so.
She frowned at the thought. Maybe their talk would help her figure all this out. Maybe not. But if not, he’d said it himself. A plane would be available tomorrow night.
She belted the robe, emerged. He’d taken a seat in an easy chair that faced the bathroom, so when she stepped out, his full attention was on her. While the chair would have been roomy enough for her to curl up with a book, take a nap, it fit his size. He had his hands resting on the arms, his knees spread in a casual pose. He wasn’t waiting on her as much as he was expecting her, a subtle difference she picked up from his body language.