Chapter Fifteen

"I thought you might be hungry," Vincent said as he closed the door.

"I am," Jackie admitted. The boys had said she needed to be able to control her teeth while hungry, that it was the true test of her control and so she hadn't fed all evening. She was now famished, though she'd been so distracted, Jackie hadn't realized it until she turned and saw the bag of blood in Vincent's hand.

"Are you hungry enough that just the sight of it will bring on your teeth? Or do you need some help?" he asked, stopping before her.

Jackie ran her tongue over her teeth. Her fangs had receded during her embarrassment after the kiss, and—despite her hunger—didn't appear to be thrusting themselves out now at the sight of blood. She blushed as she realized she'd need help.

"I'm sorry," she began with embarrassment. "But I think I need help."

A slow smile curved Vincent's lips as he set the bag of blood on the desk, then he slid his arms around her. "Trust me, there is nothing to apologize for. Surely, you can tell that I'm quite happy to help with this?"

Jackie blinked as he pressed his lower body against her and she felt the proof of his being happy to help. She obviously wasn't the only one affected by their kisses. However, while her teeth had slid away in the embarrassment that had followed, it seemed his erection hadn't. That knowledge made excitement pool between her legs and she felt the pressure and shifting along her upper jaw. Without even thinking about it, Jackie used the skill she'd just mastered and forced the teeth back. It was a subconscious action, but one her body wholly approved of if it meant she would enjoy more of his kisses.

"More than happy to help," Vincent said softly as his mouth lowered to hers.

There were no tentative kisses to eyes and nose this time, no slow workup to a proper kiss. Vincent claimed her like a victor claiming spoils, his kiss aggressive and hungry. Jackie moaned and found herself arching against him, her arms around his shoulders and hands burying themselves in his hair as she opened to him and did a little demanding of her own.

Until meeting Vincent, no one had been able to compete with Cassius when it came to exciting her. While she knew it had all been mind control and that he'd placed that excitement inside her, still it had felt like true passion and Jackie had decided long ago that real passion would never be able to compete. Yet, Vincent could, and did, and won hands down and she knew he wasn't placing those thoughts or feelings in her head. Her body simply went up in flames at his touch, sending warm juices to her nether regions as if to try to douse the fire, but that simply made it worse.

Jackie was pressing against him, trying to get as close as she could. Every inch of her body ached to feel his against it, but their clothes were in the way. Fortunately, Vincent appeared to feel the same way, for he began to tug at her clothes. Jackie murmured encouragement against his mouth and trembled in his arms as he pushed her t-shirt upward. His fingers spread over the flesh of her stomach, then curved over her breasts through the silk of her bra. It wasn't enough though and she briefly broke their kiss to help him remove the t-shirt altogether.

The moment it was off and flying into a corner of the office, Vincent covered her mouth with his again as he began to work on her bra. Much to her relief, it was gone in seconds. Jackie shuddered and gasped as his warm palms closed over her aching, erect nipples.

She murmured into his mouth, then knotted her hands in his hair, her kisses becoming desperate as he fondled and kneaded her breasts. Within moments, she was breathless and panting, desire shooting through her like lightning. Growing unbearably excited, she let go of his hair and dropped her hands between them to begin working on the buttons of his shirt.

Jackie wanted his naked flesh against her own, she wanted to feel all of him. When she ran into trouble with the buttons, Vincent left off caressing her to help her, then the shirt was undone and she was able to push it off his shoulders.

"God, Jackie," Vincent gasped against her mouth as they came together again, the scattering of hair on his chest brushing her erect nipples. He kissed her once, hard, then pulled back to work at the knot of the drawstring of her jogging pants, muttering, "You remember how I said that sex was one of the other things I'd grown bored of over the centuries?"

"Uh-huh." Jackie began to work on his belt.

"Well, I'm not finding it boring anymore," Vincent informed her grimly as he finally managed the knot and began to push her joggers down.

"Thank God for that," Jackie breathed.

Vincent got the joggers to her knees, then apparently grew impatient with the task and grabbed her by the waist to set her on the desk. Her bottom had barely settled on the desktop, when he whipped the joggers the rest of the way off and stepped between her legs to kiss her again.

Jackie sighed into his mouth, then bit aggressively at his lower lip as her body plastered itself against his and his hardness pressed against her through his jeans. Her teeth were well out now, but both of them ignored that until Jackie—not used to having fangs—nicked herself again and the tang of blood entered the kiss.

Vincent immediately paused and Jackie almost groaned aloud with disappointment. She didn't want to stop what they were doing. Apparently, neither did Vincent, for he merely reached around to grab the bag of blood, and popped it on her teeth.

"Hold the bag," Vincent instructed and Jackie reached up to take over holding the bag to her teeth. The moment she did, he scooped her up off the desk and carried her to the couch. By the time he'd set her down on the sofa, the bag was empty. Vincent took it away and tossed it on the table beside the couch as he knelt between her legs.

Jackie's eyes widened incredulously as he caught her under the knees. He used his hold to tug her forward to the edge of the couch, spreading her legs wide as he did, then he began to trail kisses up one thigh. This was so like the erotic dream she'd had in this room the other day, Jackie could hardly believe it. Then she forgot all about the dream and focused firmly on the here and now as Vincent reached the center of her and set to work driving her crazy.

Aware that they weren't alone in the house, Jackie tried to control herself and keep from making too much noise, but in the end, had to grab for one of the throw pillows on the couch. She pressed it against her own mouth to muffle her cries of pleasure as Vincent proved once and for all that true passion really could beat out the false pleasure Cassius had planted in her mind all those years ago. Jackie was writhing and sobbing, gasping and straining, and then she was screaming into the pillow as her body bucked with orgasm.

She was as weak and limp as a damp cloth by the time Vincent rose up between her legs. And while she'd only managed to half undo his pants earlier, they were fully undone and pushed down now. Vincent slid right into her.

For one moment, Jackie felt sure he couldn't raise any interest in her for the main course after such a sating appetizer, but she was wrong. It took only two strokes for her body to revive and regain interest, and then she caught Vincent by the shoulders and held on for dear life as he took her to the peak of pleasure again. This time, he came with her, and they both cried out as one, neither of them thinking to silence the sounds. They then collapsed against the back of the couch.

"Dear God," Vincent breathed after a moment.

"Mmmm," Jackie moaned. Every muscle in her body was trembling and she couldn't seem to find the energy to murmur more than that as agreement.

Vincent started to straighten and Jackie—still wrapped around him like a limpet—went with him. It made him chuckle softly into her hair and he kissed her cheek before lifting and shifting them both so they lay lengthwise on the couch with Jackie half beside and half on top of him. Vincent then reached out to catch the throw off the back of the couch and pull it over them both.

Jackie cuddled against him, her head nestling on his shoulder and a smile curving her lips as she dropped off to sleep in his arms.

She didn't sleep long. Jackie opened her eyes a little while later and found herself staring at Vincent's chest spread out before her eyes. She lay still for several minutes, then found her gaze dropping down over his body, a body that had given her great pleasure earlier. Vincent was an amazing lover, passionate and giving, all a woman could want. The idea of spending eternity—or as close to eternity as immortals got—with him wasn't an unattractive one.

He was charming, handsome, and incredibly sexy. He was also intelligent and amusing and just plain interesting. But he was very different from her in many ways. Jackie tended to take everything terribly seriously, while he appeared to take things much more lightly. And yet she couldn't help thinking it might be a good thing. Perhaps they could balance each other out. Perhaps they would make an excellent team. He could help her enjoy life more and she... well, Jackie didn't want to say she could make him enjoy it less, but she could help him see where he needed to be more cautious and more security conscious.

That sounded so dull, Jackie realized unhappily. Her gaze slid over what she could see of his body from where she lay with her head on his chest. The man had given her great pleasure. If nothing else, she wanted to give him back some of that pleasure.

Holding her breath, Jackie eased off the couch, grateful he'd positioned her on the outside, then she shifted to her knees and peered at the length of him. He was long and lean and beautiful to look on. The man had a gorgeous body. Perfection. She could just eat him up, but where to start?

Smiling faintly at her own thoughts, she leaned forward and began to press kisses down his chest and along his stomach. Jackie's smile widened when his stomach muscles rippled under her caress and he murmured sleepily and shifted his legs restlessly. He didn't wake up until her lips reached his hip, then she heard him murmur her name with confusion.

Jackie turned to glance up toward his face and found his head up as he peered down at her.

"What are you?"

The question died on a groan as she took him into her mouth. Vincent was only half-hard when she did it, but was already growing larger as her lips closed around him. His hips jerked at the intimate caress and a growling hiss slid from his lips, then his hand caught in her hair and he tried to urge her away. Jackie ignored him and continued to move her mouth over his erection, her hands sweeping over his stomach and thighs as she did.

"Oh God," Vincent muttered and she could tell it was through clenched teeth.

Jackie glanced down toward his feet and almost smiled at the sight of his curled toes. That had to be a good sign. She'd barely finished the thought when Vincent suddenly gave up tugging gently at her hair. She thought he was going to let her work undistracted, but instead he rose up on the couch, caught her by the upper arms and dragged her on top of him as he fell back.

"But I wasn't done? Jackie began to protest, only to be silenced by Vincent dragging her mouth down to his. He held her head in place with one hand, but the other was roaming over her body, smoothing down her back, clasping her buttocks and squeezing briefly before he allowed his hand to drop between her legs and began to caress her. He trailed his fingers over her sensitive flesh as he thrust his tongue into her mouth and Jackie groaned in response, her legs instinctively trying to close around his hand.

Vincent was having none of that, however. Retrieving his hand, he used it to pull her leg to the side until it slid off of him and rested on the couch. He used his other hand to pull her leg over on the other side as well, so that Jackie was straddling him. Vincent then caught her head with one hand to keep her from lifting up, while he slid the other hand between them and began to caress her again.

Jackie groaned into his mouth as his fingers trailed over her warm, trembling flesh, then bucked into the caress when he parted her damp flesh and slid one finger inside. This wasn't what she'd intended, she'd meant to give him pleasure, but he wasn't cooperating. Reaching between them herself, she took Vincent in hand and began to guide him toward her, but Vincent stopped her again. Moving abruptly, he suddenly shifted, sitting upright and forcing her with him.

Jackie gave up what she'd been trying to do and grabbed at his shoulders to keep from tumbling off as Vincent suddenly stood.

"What?" she asked with bewilderment, her legs instinctively wrapping around his waist. Vincent silenced her again with a kiss as he crossed the room. With one hand under her bottom to hold her up, he opened the door to the office with his other, then carried her out into the hall to the stairs, kissing her the whole way.

It wasn't until they were halfway up that Jackie recalled they weren't alone in the house. At that point, it was too late to worry about it, but she squeezed her eyes closed and prayed that Christian and the boys didn't come home suddenly at this point, or that Marguerite or Tiny didn't come out of their rooms. She was relieved when they made it to Vincent's room undiscovered. He opened the door, stepped inside and pushed it closed with one foot, which left them in complete darkness. It didn't seem to cause Vincent problems, however; he crossed the room in the dark without stumbling into or over anything, then laid her down on the bed and came down on top of her.

"Mmm," Jackie sighed and arched as his mouth closed over one nipple and suckled gently. She then groaned as he began to roll the other nipple between thumb and forefinger. Sliding her hands into his hair, she writhed beneath him in rhythm with his suckling, then spread her legs and raised her knees so that she could push down with her heels, lifting her hips to rub against him.

Vincent immediately groaned, the sound vibrating over her nipple as he pushed back.

"I want you inside me," she whispered. "Please, Vincent. I want you inside me."

Raising up, Vincent silenced her plea with a kiss. He caught her hands in his own and held them on either side of her head as he drove into her.

Jackie cried out into his mouth, wrapped her legs around him, her heels urging him on as he took them to the heights of pleasure again.

Jackie was starving when she woke up. She supposed it shouldn't really be a surprise. Even as a mortal she'd woken up hungry in the mornings and Marguerite had warned her that she would need quite a bit of blood at first, while her body continued to change. It seemed turning wasn't a quick thing and while she now had teeth, everything that was going to change, hadn't yet. According to Marguerite, her night vision would increase over the next while, along with her hearing, physical strength, speed, and many other things.

Wiping the sleep from her eyes, Jackie glanced around. She was still in Vincent's room, in Vincent's bed. They'd both fallen asleep again after he'd carried her up to his room and made love to her a second time. She'd awoken a little later to find him kissing and caressing her. Vincent had made love to her several more times during the last hours of night and well into the morning, until they'd both collapsed in exhaustion.

Her gaze slid to the digital clock on the bedside table and she grimaced. It was after three in the afternoon. Not very late considering what time they'd fallen asleep, but extremely late when compared to the hours she used to keep. Her conscience hadn't caught up to the change in the situation and she felt guilty for sleeping so late. She supposed she'd adjust with time.

Jackie glanced to the man asleep beside her. Vincent had turned on the bathroom light at one point last night and left the door cracked open so that it wouldn't be pitch black in the room. She was grateful. The light was enough that she could see his face. He was still asleep and she smiled at how adorable he looked. Vincent's hair was tousled, his chiseled features softened in slumber and his usual smile missing, replaced by a peaceful, but neutral expression.

Jackie found herself reaching out and running a finger lightly down one cheek, wanting to touch him, but not wanting to wake him. He'd had a long night and deserved his rest. Vincent had proven to her last night, repeatedly, that he hadn't been bragging when he'd said he used to be good at sex. If anything, he'd understated his prowess. Vincent was an amazing lover. Incredible. Mind blowing. And he was all hers... Maybe.

Biting her lip, Jackie pulled her hand back and peered up at the ceiling. They hadn't spoken about much of anything last night, not their status or whether he agreed with Marguerite that they were true life mates now. She had no idea if he accepted, or even wanted her as his life mate. Come to that, Jackie wasn't sure she was ready to accept him as a true life mate either, though last night had urged her a step closer. She hadn't experienced such passion in all her thirty years, but this seemed all to be happening so quickly to her and she feared making a mistake.

A cramp stabbed through her stomach, distracting Jackie from her thoughts and urging her to get up and feed. Moving carefully, she slipped from the bed, then paused, recalling that her clothes were still down in the office where Vincent had helped her remove them.

Pursing her lips, she peered around the dim room and spotted a robe over a chair next to the bed. Jackie picked it up and slid into it, smiling as she was enveloped in Vincent's scent. She found herself repeatedly lifting the lapel and pressing her nose into the soft cotton and inhaling as she left the room and made her way downstairs.

It being mid-afternoon, Jackie expected to find Tiny in the kitchen, but the room was empty. Wondering where he was, she moved to the refrigerator and retrieved a bag of blood, then stared at it blankly as she realized she had a small problem.

Despite Christian's claim that just seeing the blood on awaking might be enough to bring on her teeth, such was not the case. It would appear being close to Tiny the first morning she'd awoken had been enough to raise them because of the blood loss and the change. This afternoon, her hunger wasn't enough to bring them on. She stood for several minutes, staring at the bag of blood in her hand and trying to figure out what to do.

Jackie briefly considered slicing open a bag to bring her teeth on, but didn't think she could stomach actually drinking the liquid out of a glass. It was one thing letting her teeth draw it straight up into her body, but gulping it down like orange juice held absolutely no appeal. In fact, the very idea made her feel nauseous, which meant if she punctured it to get the scent of blood to bring on her teeth, she would be wasting a whole bag of blood, because she wouldn't be able to pop the open bag onto her teeth. All that would accomplish would be to make one hell of a mess, she was sure.

Grimacing, Jackie shifted briefly from one foot to the other, then walked to the knife drawer with a sigh. There seemed little choice but to give the end of her finger a jab as Dante had done to his own finger the first day. That little pearl of blood had been enough to draw her teeth out and should work now. She hoped.

Jackie chose a little paring knife from the selection in the drawer, then pushed it closed with her hip and set the bag of blood on the counter. She then held up her left hand and mentally prepared to jab herself... and prepared some more... and some more.

"Geez," she muttered. "It's just a little jab. You can do it."

"But why bother when you don't have to?"

Jackie jumped in surprise as Vincent suddenly slid his arms around her from behind. She'd been concentrating so hard on trying to convince herself to accomplish the task, she hadn't heard him enter the kitchen.

"Hi," she sighed as his hands eased their way into her robe.

"Good morning," Vincent murmured. Using his chin to brush the hair away from her neck, he placed a kiss there. "You don't have to cut yourself. I'll help you bring on your teeth."

"Yeah?" Jackie asked, leaning back into him and allowing her eyes to close as his lips trailed over her neck, and his fingers caressed her breasts.

"Yeah," Vincent let one hand slide away from her breasts and Jackie shuddered as it drifted down across her belly, then moaned and pressed her behind back against him as his hand continued downward. When it slid between her legs, she gasped and tipped her head further back, her body arching. Jackie was sufficiently distracted that she didn't feel her teeth slide out. In fact, she wasn't aware they had until Vincent took his other hand from her breast, grabbed up the bag of blood from the counter and popped it on her teeth for her.

Startled, Jackie almost closed her mouth on the bag in surprise, but then caught herself, and raised her hands to take over holding the bag. The moment she did, Vincent turned her to face him and tugged her robe closed, then tied the belt tightly for her as well. When Jackie raised her eyebrows in surprise, a wry smile crossed his lips and he nodded toward the door. "We have company coming."

The bag still on her teeth, Jackie turned toward the door just as it opened and Tiny walked in.

"Oh, hey. Hello," the giant greeted them with a smile and Jackie found herself smiling around the half-empty bag in her mouth.

"Morning, Tiny," Vincent said for both of them, then turned and gestured toward the almost full coffeepot. "Is the coffee fresh?"

"Yep. I was just coming to see if it was done," he admitted, then glanced to Jackie to add, "I was just on the phone with New York. I thought I'd call and check things out for you. Everything's fine there."

"'ood,'anks," Jackie said around the almost-empty bag. It was very difficult to pronounce consonants with a bag in your mouth. Shifting to the side to get out of the way as Tiny joined them at the counter, she watched Vincent fetch cups and set them down for Tiny to pour coffee into. They then each fixed their own coffee, Jackie working one-handed until the blood was done and she could take the bag away and toss it. She did so, then stirred her coffee and carried it to the table. They sat in silence for a moment, just enjoying their coffees, then began to discuss Vincent's saboteur. They were still doing so when Christian entered the kitchen and joined them.

Unlike Vincent, Christian didn't bother with human food or beverages... ever. Ignoring the coffeepot, he retrieved a couple of bags of blood from the refrigerator and slapped one on his teeth. Once it was gone, he replaced it with the fresh bag, then tossed both empty bags in the garbage and moved to join them at the table.

"So, today you'll be working on bringing on your teeth," he commented, then glanced toward Tiny before adding, "You should also learn to slip into the thoughts of mortals and control them. You need to be able to do both to feed on one."

"But feeding on mortals is forbidden," Jackie said with confusion. "Only people with medical conditions like Vincent are allowed to feed on living donors."

"And any immortal who finds themselves in an emergency," Christian corrected. "You have to learn how, in case you find yourself in an emergency where your life is threatened if you don't feed."

"I'd rather die than feed off of? Jackie began.

"You may think that now," Christian said, "but once your life was threatened it would be another story. Besides, it isn't just for our individual good that we have to survive."

Jackie frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Say you were in a car accident," Christian suggested. "You weren't decapitated or anything else that was life threatening, but were injured enough that you've lost a lot of blood and are weak, too weak to get yourself away from the scene without feeding. The driver of the other vehicle is alive and well and uninjured."

Jackie frowned with displeasure, already knowing where he was going with this.

"If you don't feed off the other driver, you will be there when the police and ambulance arrive. The ambulance would pack you up and take you to the hospital and they would take all sorts of tests, and so on that would make you a threat to the rest of us. A threat that could have been easily avoided if you'd just fed off the other driver."

Jackie sighed in defeat, knowing it was true.

"So," Christian continued, "you can practice on Tiny and?

"Oh, no," Jackie interrupted firmly. "Fine, I see the need to learn how to read thoughts and control people, and I'll even acknowledge that there might come a time when I need to bite a mortal, but I'm not using Tiny that way."

"It's okay, Jackie," Tiny said soothingly. "I don't mind."

"Well, I do," she said grimly. "We've been friends for too long for me to intrude on your thoughts like that, or use you as a pin cushion."

"Then who would you like to practice on?" Christian asked dryly. "Tiny is the only mortal around. Besides, at least he's given permission for you to read his mind, so you wouldn't be intruding on some unsuspecting person's thoughts."

Jackie frowned at his argument. It was one of the things she disliked most about immortals, when they rudely tried to read someone else's thoughts. But Tiny was giving permission. If she practiced on anyone else, it would probably be without permission.

Sighing unhappily, she gave a brief nod. "Fine, I'll practice reading thoughts and controlling minds and bringing my teeth out, but I'll do it on my own time. Right now we have a saboteur to catch."

"Actually, right now you have a funeral to get ready for," Vincent said. When Jackie turned a blank face his way, he reminded her, "Stephano's fake funeral. You thought it would be a good idea to hold one."

"Oh, yes," Jackie murmured. They had started the preparations with a view to keeping the fact that Stephano had survived a secret until he could wake up and tell them who had attacked him. However, when he'd awoken and not been able to do so, she'd decided it might be good to go through with a fake funeral. She was hoping the saboteur would show up at the funeral and somehow give himself away... Or make another attempt on her. It was also necessary to continue to keep him safe. She didn't mind herself being bait, but wouldn't put Stephano in that position.

"Come." Vincent stood and caught her hand to pull her to her feet. "The funeral is at six P.M. We still have a couple hours. You can try my sunken tub. I'll scrub your back."

Jackie smiled despite the blush that colored her cheeks at the offer and allowed him to urge her to the door.

"I folded your clothes and set them on your bed," Tiny announced as they started through the door and Jackie groaned inwardly as the door closed behind them. She'd forgotten about her clothes left scattered around the office. And he'd seen she wasn't in her own bed when he'd taken the clothes up to her room.

"Tiny knows," she whispered with embarrassment.

"Everyone knows. We weren't exactly quiet last night and this morning," Vincent murmured gently, sliding an arm around her as they walked to the stairs. "Do you mind?"

Jackie met his concerned gaze, then shook her head. She was a bit embarrassed, but other than that didn't mind if everyone knew what they were doing. She just wished she knew what they were doing.

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