"Folks, we have us a real situation," Marlene said, but too calmly for the occasion as she sat down at the kitchen table.
"You ain't said a mumblin' word, Mar," Big Mike uttered on a long, tired breath. "You think the bedroom locks will hold?"
"I hope so," Marlene said, letting her head drop into her hands. "I'm just glad that she willingly went in there after she'd fed. I'm not worried about tonight - it's tomorrow night that concerns me."
"Yeah, but if the reinforced equipment that me and Jose installed fails," J.L. said slowly, "then what?"
"I honestly don't know," Marlene whispered.
"You don't think she'd bite anybody in here, do you, Mar? I mean..."
Marlene looked up at Jose, and cast a worried glance around the team. "You heard the man, and saw the transformation with your own eyes. Plus, we don't even know if Carlos's orders will hold up. This wasn't a normal vamp turn. We don't know to what degree she's beholden to follow his instructions. And if she fluxes hard, coming out of this vampiric state with her body chemistry all whacked out only to go into a full ripening - she's not the only one we have to worry about."
"He's coming back for her," Jose said in a quiet voice.
All eyes were on him as he hung his head. "I don't know why, but me and Carlos have a connection. I can feel where he's coming from... I wouldn't leave my woman, either, under the circumstances."
No one spoke for a moment as their thoughts went to the lost Dee Dee.
"Yeah, but Carlos saved a lot of lives, folks. That counts for something."
Marlene sighed as she studied the newest Guardian. "We like him a lot, too, Dan. But we have to also remember what he is."
Dan nodded. "But, Mar, check it out. Remember the old priest said that there had to be faith, hope, and love?"
"If she goes into a turn," Jose said, "I'll stay with her... I've got the faith, hope, and love for D. I'm not afraid of her."
"That was before dude did our little sister, man. Get a grip. Rivera is all vamp, so is Damali at the moment. No heroics, Jose." Rider crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Jose hard. "Don't be the weak link in this chain, brother. That gets us all fucked up."
"The faith, hope, and love thing was supposed to be between li'l sis and Rivera to keep the bite from going down like it did," Big Mike told Jose gently. "Ain't no percentage in you putting yourself, or anybody in this compound, in harm's way by letting her out till we get her straight."
"I hear you, Big Mike," Dan said calmly. "But aren't we all out on a crazy limb as Guardians, anyway, with nothing to go on but a whole lotta faith, nothing but hope, and love for each other?"
Big Mike nodded and let his breath out hard. The group studied Dan while he spoke, his words of inspiration holding them all for ransom.
"Well," Dan pressed on, "she loved him, too. Still does. Maybe that's enough to keep her bound to her promise?"
"Kinda ironic, though, don't you think?" Rider said, his gaze going toward the sealed compound windows.
"How so?" Marlene gave him her full attention.
"She helps Rivera fight his worst enemy, Nuit, who was also her worst enemy. In exchange, her accidental brand saves Rivera's life. Then, he helps her fight the biggest battle of her life over in Brazil, an external force, only to wind up fighting the biggest internal battle she's ever had to deal with. Namely, turning into the same thing she's been fighting, while also trying to stay away from him, which is the other pull she's been fighting ever since she was a kid - just like he's been fighting going to her all these years. It's like one big circle of madness between them."
Rider raked his fingers through his hair. "I'm just a nose, not a tactical sensor, but the electricity was in the air. He wanted her throat real bad, but had respect. I'll give him that. I don't think he meant to turn her - or why else would he have brought her home?"
"Rider, sometimes you can be deep." Marlene smiled at him and covered his hand with her own.
"I try," he said sheepishly.
"You just gave me a wild thought, though." She sat back and then leaned forward on the table, making a tent with her hands. "The planets forecast it, but like all things, we can never truly know what they portend until the action starts."
When everyone looked at her, Marlene tilted her head and shut her eyes. "Mars came the closest it's been to the earth in sixty thousand years this past August. And all these cosmic events seem to happen around our girl's birthday and close to home." She paused, looked at the group, and let her words settle in before continuing. "Mars is the planet of war, and we've seen new and awful wars erupt everywhere on this planet during this transit. Just like before, I thought that only had to do with what we were up against in the Amazon."
"Meaning what, baby?" Shabazz asked quietly.
"I know he's a sore subject, but back in Brazil, Kamal told us that Damali was fighting herself, the other half of who she was. That's an internal battle - close to home for her, for us... for Carlos." She sighed hard and shook her head. "When we get spiritual messages, there are always layers of meaning in them."
"True dat," Shabazz muttered. "Brotherman was right on all counts, 'cause she's definitely fighting herself, and a pull to the male energy that's the opposite of what she is - was."
"Right," Marlene said, her gaze searching each face in the room. "If this Neteru, sent to our charge, is fighting the biggest spiritual battle of her life during this rare war transit - something very different than fighting an external demon... while her soul mate, her almost-lost Guardian, Carlos, is also doing the same, fighting what lies within... then this thing that they're fighting might be the beginning of the real McCoy of biblical proportions. Maybe the universe is spiritually imploding, concentrating everything inward, instead of outward - just like they are... needing to purge internally to bring forth the Light. We have to get to their core before it draws everything down into it."
"The real McCoy?" Big Mike rubbed his palm over his bald scalp, dispersing the beads of nervous sweat in the process.
"The Armageddon," Shabazz said flatly. "Parent against child, husband against wife, internal battles of the most insidious kind. Seas offering up their fishes - an internal purge. Plagues sweeping the land - an internal purge. Even the church is purging itself of terrible secrets and deviant acts. Everything is getting turned out from within - vomited up, so the hidden truths can be known. Ruthless government schemes are being outted. Environmental disasters... earthquakes, tornadoes, floods - nature's internal purge... and the whole world at war. Think about it - everything is purging internally... countries are fighting internal civil wars; families are fighting horrific domestic battles - internal. Major corporations are purging their ranks, finding thieves - internally. The big red planet just came its closest ever to us; Rivera is trying his best to pull away from the dark, while Damali is pulling away from the light, roles are reversing, the signs are everywhere. Implosion, contractions, even time feels like it's speeding up for something big."
"Well, shit," Rider said fast, standing. "Without getting all philosophical, Shabazz, the bottom line is simple: we can't let him bite her again, especially if she's ripening. If she's in some kinda funky mid-turn or Neteru system fluctuation, we'll have to help her purge it, before it goes too far. And we also can't be too hasty to do him, because he might be the tipping weight toward our side, just like he saved our asses twice. Dan is right about remembering that. But if the two of them get together before they make the wise choice - "
"That could be the beginning of the daywalker empire that the Vampire Council was planning to shift the balance once and for all, regardless of Fallon Nuit. That's what we have to purge - from within our own ranks as Guardians." Shabazz closed his eyes.
Jose found a stool in the far corner of the weapons room and sat on it slowly, just staring at the floor.
"Dude, talk to me," Rider said, his voice brittle from worry. "I thought we'd squashed that issue for the time being, after we beat Nuit? Then we just went through this same mess in Brazil, with a near-daylight hijack by the were-demons trying to form an alliance with the vamps. C'mon, y'all, gimme a break."
"Were it that simple," Shabazz said quietly. "We all thought it was done for a while, too. But if it's back again, that makes the third time, a trinity."
Growing more agitated as Shabazz's words sank in, Rider opened his arms, leaning forward, ignoring the ringing telephone. "That's why we got the millennium job?"
Shabazz and Marlene simply nodded.
When the ringing stopped abruptly and then suddenly began again, Marlene stared at the phone. "Pick it up. It's Father Pat."
Damali walked the floor in her room like a junkie, perspiration beading up and running down the center of her back. The soft yellows and greens and cream hues of her bedroom swirled and taunted her, echoing the fact that she was indeed trapped within them.
If this was anything like what Carlos had had to endure in the safe house, all she could do was weep for him like she wanted to weep for herself now. She'd turned. Had actually become a vampire. Had tasted blood. Her hands began to tremble just thinking of that sweet nectar.
How in the hell could something so bizarre happen from loving a good man? And yet the mere thought was laughable. She truly believed a master vampire was good - her, a Neteru. But Carlos wasn't just some master vamp. He was her man, a good man. She sat on the edge of her bed for a moment, trying to still her pulse. It was beating an erratic thud in her ears till they rang. Her clothes clung to her, matted to her body from the hunger sweats. The need to hunt, to be free, almost made her cry out. The need for him, insatiable.
If he would just come to her, and break her free of this prison, get her away from the people she loved before she did something she'd never be able to live with, or die with, whatever her fate at this point. Prayers gave her a headache, but she tried anyway. It was hard to breathe. The air in the room was stifling, but as she looked at the clock, fear coursed through her. Near dawn. She immediately knew that she couldn't breathe because the damnable light was taking up precious oxygen, burning it away, like it might now torch her flesh.
Damali pulled herself into a tight ball on the bed, and closed her eyes. She was supposed to be the Neteru, the one to battle demons and vampires and ugly things of the night. A single tear rolled down the bridge of her nose and plopped on her lemon-yellow duvet. They'd even taken Madame Isis from her, along with every other weapon she'd owned. She'd failed. She wasn't worthy to have the blade of the huntress. She couldn't be trusted - couldn't even trust herself. Now, she was just a common creature of the night.
He sat in the dark in his Beverly Hills lair, sated from the newly refreshed blood tanks, but nothing close to fulfilled. The hunger was gone, but the ache in his soul would never be healed. She'd turned. His precious baby had turned, and from his bite. There was no one else to blame but himself. No matter what else was going on, no matter what supernatural forces had been tampered with, Damali wouldn't have turned if she hadn't been bitten.
If he found the key or the seal, he had to turn it over to the council. There would be no acceptable excuse this time if he didn't satisfy their demand. There was no back-door option, no game he could run. Even the Covenant and the Guardians had shunned him and rightfully so. He just hoped that if she'd died, it was with a prayer in her heart - the only thing that had halfway saved him. If her soul got lost in the realms, he'd turn over every stone and root out every snake until he found hers.
But if she'd died the way he was pretty sure she might have, a salvation prayer was probably the last thing on her mind. Bitter, perverse, cosmic injustice... she'd told him to pray on his dying breath, and he had. She knew to call for help and to seek redemption at the final moment. But when she'd slipped to the other side, she was probably calling his name with her last breath - the last entity that could save her. Too fucked up a situation.
He winced and closed his eyes in the darkness, then shifted his body to lie down. Suddenly the hidden, all-black marble subbasement beneath the Beverly Hills mansion felt like a cell. No amount of fine accoutrements, top-of-the-line electronic gadgets, solid gold fixtures, or expensive plush furnishings could make it be anything but what it was. This was no different than the monk's barren quarters - it was empty existence. At least there, he had someone he trusted to talk to. But now sprawled out in the center of a custom-made king-sized bed, the black satin sheets made him feel like he was drowning in a dark sea.
Damali's frustrated mental call to him was so piteous that even by day, rest would be impossible. He knew the suffering well, had lived it. Answering her by thought would only make her initial hours into the turn worse. He remembered riding it out in the safe house, like teetering on the edge of an orgasm for days... weeks... months, unable to hurl himself over the edge. Oblivion was always beyond reach. No peace, just unrelenting pent-up desire that broke your ass down for just one more time and stole your pride. You'd do anything or anyone just to get out and into the night... and into your lover's arms. It was a physical want so intense that there was only one answer for it - and without the bite, there was no way to quench it alone. Yeah, he remembered all too well.
Then a hunger came that literally ate your insides out. That he'd visited this horror upon her was beyond forgiveness... and that she couldn't even pray for assistance was thoroughly messed up. Her options were worse than his had ever been. At least he'd been a criminal, knew it, and there was a bounty on the recovery of his soul. Who came to look for willingly turned Neterus, he wondered? The answer was basic: he would.
If Marlene couldn't come up with a quick cure, Damali was a sitting duck in the Guardian compound. Her seven teammates, along with the Covenant brethren, would surely plant Damali's own Isis in her chest to save her soul - just like he'd been forced to plant a stake in Alejandro's to save his brother's.
Even if he got her out of there, once the Vampire Council found out that she had fully turned and could no longer produce a day-walker line, if he didn't deliver the seal or the key, they'd hunt her down - just to punish him. Whether the sick old bastards harvested her lost soul and tortured it in order to slowly rip his heart out, or passed her around to every topside male while he was held prisoner and unable to help her - either situation was unthinkable. And, despite knowing that, he wouldn't have it in him to dust her. Besides, without his protection, if there was a chance that she was still fertile, and ripening, her compound would be the epicenter of a major vampire invasion by every topside male on the planet now that borders were shaky, chaos was in full effect, and everyone was vying for world dominance. But if he got to her, he'd also start her worst nightmare... making her the mother of something unspeakable. Then, again, did any of that matter? If he didn't find the seal, it was all over anyway.
Carlos willed the tears in his eyes to dry. He was supposed to be her protector, from the very beginning, and had fucked this whole thing up big time. Her life was ruined, all because he couldn't keep his hands off of her. That was pathetic. No sense of control, no discipline when it came to her.
By rights, Damali should have been out there hunting down the bastard who stole the sacred key. That was her job as a Neteru. But because they'd both been off the job, and his love bites had turned into more than they'd both bargained for, he'd put his baby in a position where the clerical forces might have to smoke her. Now he understood everything Father Pat had been trying to tell him. They should have left him to die in the desert.
He sat up as her calls intensified and leaned his head against one of the cool black marble bedposts. He could feel the ache on the entire surface of her skin, even past the near sunlight, even past Marlene's new ring of prayers. If she would only just take in a slow breath through her mouth and let it out through her nose to summon control. She had to regulate her breathing, slow her heart rate.
The more she fought it, got hyped, the more her heart raced, the hotter the burn... A master burn was no joke, but he couldn't afford to reach out to her in a mind lock to explain all that. Whenever they connected telepathically it was too volatile. But not watching her struggle was impossible. Just seeing her so aroused was messing him up. It was lowering his defenses, turning him on, jacking up his control, and when she cupped her breasts he tried to pull out of the vision.
He could already taste the salt of her tears in his mouth, smell every bead of sweat that had exited her pores as her dampened body tossed on her sheets. And she was so wet, and so ready... his hands began to tremble, he needed to touch her so badly.
The moment he'd fully entered the turn, the full impact of what it meant to be a vampire became an unforgettable, defining moment that dragged every vice, secretly harbored desire, and lust to the surface, along with the insatiable need to feed. The vibration within Damali rippled through him like an electric current, bonding them regardless of the barriers. He now understood, even if it was for a moment - she was his turn, and would home to him, also sadly understanding the rush that turning a human produced in his kind. What had he done?
Carlos pulled in a steady breath, willing his pulse to slow to a near halt. He had to. Going into her mind now to talk her down was definitely impossible. She was too strong, wasn't a second-level, nor a mere human. That would have been easy. But this was master to council, and there was nothing in his line's knowledge base to deal with that. There had never been, to his knowledge, a topside female master to connect with a male of the species at council level. Thus, two senior levels had never been forced to separate like this - ever. Who would be a worthy enough adversary to make them do such a thing, if one had been made? And if Damali seized upon his mind and locked it, come nightfall, he'd be over there taking a bullet. He was nearly ready to chance the sun, as it was. Not to mention, that was the last thing she needed. This was best. If they locked, he told himself firmly, he'd telepathically siphon her for sure. Her system couldn't take another nick. But when her palm slid down her stomach, he shivered.
For a long while he just sat there with his head leaned against the marble post, a thousand thoughts feeding his despair, her insistent but confused calls making him want to jump out of his skin. Oh, baby... just stop struggling with this thing. No, I can't come to you. It's almost daybreak.
Seconds elongated to minutes. Whatever Neteru was still left within her sliced through the approaching dawn and held him hostage. "Damali, cut it out..." Carlos murmured, as her thoughts gripped his in a mental vise, nearly strangling him with desire.
She'd broadcasted her intense call on an open channel that static-charged the air around him. He tried his best to put a privacy seal around it - all they needed was for council or the remaining topside masters to hear her... and Marlene and Father Pat!
Carlos locked in on the register of her voice and put a black box around it, but even holding it at mental length from him was nearly impossible. The transmission was so hot, coming to him as though broadband video images, he could only hope that the fact that she was still the Neteru would mute some of it to anyone but him. Then her complete thoughts broke through the compound barrier, adding the element of touch to the sound of her voice. The Guardians had left a hole in their seal!
Carlos groaned. "No, no, no - how could y'all forget to mentally block her, too?" They had sealed in her physical presence, not her telepathy... had sealed out both of his methods of coming to her, but had left the door wide open for her to mentally escape! He had told them, shown them, that she was as much a vampire as he was, in this fluctuation state. But they were still treating her like a human, only physically barring the windows and doors! That would never be enough to contain her.
The moment he felt her hands slide down his chest, he opened his eyes, trying to break the mental connection. There was no way this could end well, and she had no concept of the torture she was about to trap them within if she started something that couldn't be finished. "Stop," he said in a forceful whisper. "I'm not playing, D. I can't bite you to take you over the edge."
In his mind he saw her tremble, then felt a hot rake score his shoulder and collarbone as her cheek grazed his skin hard and her lush mouth pulled the lobe of his ear between her lips. "For real... stop," he murmured, his voice catching in his throat as his eyes slowly closed. The nip at the vein in his wrist did it, and when her tongue trailed up his forearm to the inside of his elbow, completing the sensual sweep with her deep, wet kiss at that sensitive pulse point, his shudder connected to the contraction she'd sent through his groin. He soon felt himself sliding down the marble post to lie on his back, his chin tipped toward the ceiling as her suckles intensified. "I mean it, baby. Stop."
Oh... no... she was rewiring him, placing a physical mark... just like a master, doing to him what he'd done to her. Everywhere she kissed up his forearm he'd felt down the length of his shaft. His hand balled into a fist as she nursed and licked the skin inside the bend of his arm, and against his will, he felt his hips begin to move to her rhythm, the agony concentrating as though she had the head of him in her mouth. He was connecting with air, nothingness, yet needing to be inside her. He could mentally see her pelvis working against the tangled knot of sheets on her bed, could feel the tension in her building and demanding an answer. But there was no way to reach her. A groan traveled through him... she had no idea what she was doing to him.
Suddenly her slick, scorching heat sheathed him and the sensation was totally unexpected. Intense pleasure made him cry out and hold himself. The pressure that lodged in his shaft throbbed so badly tears came to his eyes. Pain collided with fleeting gratification, making him sweat. Her voice escalated an octave, driving him to the brink of his sanity.
Knowing that the rough sensation his palm offered compared to her was futile, only made matters worse, but didn't stop his frenzied strokes that now matched her movements. Why did she start what couldn't be finished? His touch soon became her wetness, and then evaporated to once again only be his dry palm. The barrier was maddening. He dropped his hand away, hoping that might ease the torture. But the instant vacancy of warmth, the lack of sensation, was so visceral that it almost made him sit up. He covered the central ache like a wound, applied pressure to staunch the throb, and just held it, trying to will away the pulse that was wed to her insistent thrusts.
Trapped without an option, he was breathing through his mouth, hyperventilating like her with ragged inhales and exhales, and he gripped the mattress, his nails ripping through satin sheets and ticking, exposing stuffing as he arched hard. He needed her skin against his, instant friction to meet the burn. He needed her in his arms beneath him. Every pulse point he owned was lit on fire for her.
Sweat soaked him as his stomach, his thighs, his buttocks, and back muscles clenched and released to the pace she set. "Baby, stop... please," he said out loud in a pained rush through his fangs. When she arched again the back of his head dug into the pillows. But as long as she moved, he couldn't stop lifting his hips for her, couldn't stop the hard stroke of his hand that again felt just like her, couldn't catch his breath, much less form the words to break the connection that would haunt them both for hours.
Nearly sobbing with frustration, his mouth hungered for her kiss so much that he dropped his plundered defenses. Immediately he felt her mouth upon his, consuming it with a phantom kiss, her tongue dancing with his, planting the burn within his groin there, too, making him moan from deep within his chest. The side of his throat was on fire, needing her instant strike as much as he needed release. Her softness covered him, and he ran his hand over her round, tight behind, touching the air above him, feeling her as though she were there.
"Don't do this," he begged, edging toward the point of no return. Each of her hard nips along his chest and his shoulders and the side of his jaw were layering sensations inside his thighs, mirroring the unfulfilled pleasure that was now oozing from his shaft. "You don't understand."
A soft kiss grazed his temple, trailed down the bridge of his nose, but then became aggressive again as it captured his mouth and pulled a groan up from his gut. The way her lips hovered just a fraction of an inch above the aching skin at his jugular stripped his breath, turning the pace of his exhales into shallow pants. Then she mastered him with a long, rough lick up his jugular, the heat of it searing his oversensitive skin's surface, making him arch hard as though a high-volt electric current had hit him. That's when he lost it, couldn't think about the state of her turning or the consequences.
"Deliver the bite!" His eyes were practically crossing beneath his lids. If she was strong enough to open-channel seduce him at dawn, maybe... "Baby please - do it now!" He could feel her struggling with the knowledge, trying to learn master technique on the fly, needing to respond to his request as much as he also wanted that, but her fangs hadn't lowered... a psychic siphon took practice.
She stared into his eyes, the look in them pained and confused as she edged toward a climax that faded. We were so close, she murmured. Why -
"That's what I've been trying to tell you..." His voice was a harsh whisper. The connection was so strong that each sensation that eluded her also summarily vanished within him, leaving them both precariously hovering on the precipice. And from a deep reservoir of knowing he understood all too well that the fact that she still had Neteru flowing through her was blocking the full knowledge transfer from his line. Everything in her makeup was designed to fight a turn. "Baby, without the final bite, there is no end to this. You can go all the way up to the door, but won't be able to open it. Now stop. All right?"
Part of him took very small comfort in the fact that her system was purging on its own. However, right now, it was a serious impediment. But it was better this way. Less complicated. He tried to steady his breathing and resolve himself to the inevitable - a very long and sleepless day within his lair.
She just stared at him for a moment. I've never felt like this in my life... She closed her eyes and threw her head back and began moving against him again. Her fluid thrusts quaked him, and every tremble that contracted her body around his made him gasp. We have to finish this, she murmured, her tone urgent just like her movements had become. I can't take it.
If she couldn't do it, he had to. She had to go beyond level-one thought, actually had to manifest the nick and draw blood. Had to transform matter into energy at the speed of light. He'd show her how, maybe could talk her through it? Oh, man, he had to... if the prayer barrier wasn't blocking him, he'd take her to V-point on the spot. But that was crazy; he knew he shouldn't teach her something like that... her team would be at risk... she might hurt a Guardian or worse. But she felt so good, was crooning in his ear, was promising him in fits and starts that she'd only siphon him. Just do it.
It was an offer he couldn't refuse, not now. He focused on her throat, could feel her pulse thudding in his ears. No problem, he'd release them both from this torture. Just a nick, not a full siphon. Just one more time. His incisors lowered another lethal inch, but the barrier wouldn't allow his penetration. Damn!
"Focus, baby," he pleaded. She had to do this. "Sync up with my pulse. Ride it hard and drop fang, then open the vein."
He could barely get the words out and was literally shaking with anticipation as he mentally braced himself, watched her draw a deep breath then stare at his throat, and come in against it hard. Just as suddenly, he felt the bite. It was a human one that sent ripples of pleasure through him, but it wasn't enough to take either of them to oblivion. She hadn't gathered enough atomic velocity in the thought when she delivered the strike. She had to break the skin. He could feel her frustration wash through him as her head dropped back, no hint of fangs in her mouth.
The near miss made him inhale and exhale hard; he'd show her how this was done. Neither of them would last more than twelve hours messed up like this.
Reflex made him roll over onto his stomach to gather her beneath him for leverage, but the compound barriers made her vanish as his intent to bite her became laser. All he had in his arms were black satin sheets. He brought them to his face in defeat and felt her shudder the moment her near-orgasm dissolved with her moan. Her tears ate away at him, making him need her even more as only the echo of her frustrated sobs remained.
He knew exactly how she felt; he needed to cum so badly he was ready to cry himself. Pure agony became one with panic as he flopped over onto his back again, hoping she was still focused enough to broadcast. Damali, come back... The thought was almost a prayer that shot from his brain in the tone of a command. Damn, why did she start this mess? "It's all right, mi tormenta, stay with me," he said gently, but deeply conflicted, and wondered why he was submitting to such agony.
She covered him immediately and he nearly wept it felt so good. If she hadn't been able to come back, he would have lost his mind. The unrelenting tension was giving him a headache. A hard bite against his femoral artery almost convulsed him and made tears fall in earnest this time. "Don't do it." If she went down on him he'd open the lair for sure. Cancel that. He couldn't take it without knowing there'd be an end in sight.
Hot moisture slid from beneath his lids and ran down the sides of his face, meeting the sweat that was coursing down his temples. When he felt her kiss the tears away from his lashes, another futile reflex made him attempt to knock her chin back with his jaw to find her throat, and he again held his length within a firm grasp. Every place that he'd ever bitten her glowed red, became an infrared beacon bearing his mark, but he couldn't get near a single pulse point. A blue-white layer of dangerous heat covered her skin and barred his incisors entry. An agonized groan swept through him as her tongue found his navel. She was trying to make him break through a barrier that simply couldn't be crossed. It wasn't about not wanting to, some things just couldn't be done.
"I can't!" he finally yelled, his voice echoing through the lair. "You have to come to me!"
I don't know how to... Every time I get close -
"Then stop," he said as his voice faltered. "Just go to sleep."
They both knew what she'd said was the truth. As her torture wore on, he began counting the hours till sunset with his eyes tightly shut. Just one more time. Anything, for just one more time... Her voice carried his name like a blade against his senses. Each time she said it, his name got lower in octave until it filled her abdomen, the register of it was so low and sensual it had gone beyond a croon to a desperate whisper. He could feel it vibrate inside her like a depth charge, then his name broke up into two low timbre syllables as she shuddered, Car-los.
She had to stop, but if she did he'd risk sunlight. He was mentally stuttering her name in three-part harmony, Da-mal-i... Then she seized upon the thought, mounted him, bore down on him, arched in a hard snap that made him call her out loud by name. Her response was instantaneous; she sent the message to him as a challenge, using his own past words to tease him - That's what I was waiting to hear, baby.
"Un mordisco! Por favor... Damali, ahora. Baby, it's almost entumecido." He was nearly weeping for release as she moaned in his ear and stopped moving against him, holding his hips down firmly. What was she doing to him? A sly smile crossed her kiss-punished mouth.
She let go of his hips as he thrashed against her hold. She allowed the sensation of being inside her to ebb as she pulled back and made him slip from her warmth. Stop struggling with this, she murmured in a tone so seductive that it made him pump wildly against the air.
"I can't," he admitted in an urgent rush. "Finish this now!"
I thought you wanted me to stop and go to sleep?
All he could do was surrender. "No don't," he said between his teeth. "You win."
You left me -
"It won't ever happen again."
He nodded and shut his eyes tighter. "I promise I'll get you out tonight - as soon as it gets dark... baby... just... try one more time."
You pissed me off, and really hurt my feelings. I don't know that I should... maybe I'll just go to sleep, like you said to.
"No. Please don't do that," he said quickly. He could hear her thoughts but could no longer feel her touch. "I swear, girl, I'm sorry." She was making him beg, and that didn't make any sense. She had his dignity in shreds and fury was only stoking the burn. He tried to summon some control, throttle his impulses, tried to regulate his breathing, to ignore her, but then she pulled him into her mouth. "Please don't stop," he whispered, trembling as she left him again and became nothing but air.
If you promise not to leave me, I won't leave you...
There were no words. He was beyond speech and in no position to negotiate as he leaned his head to the side, exposing his jugular with hope, begging her not to break the touch transmission. Just try, his mind demanded... for both of us.
A hot breath scored his throat. Behind his tightly shut lids he could see her throw her head back. A gorgeous pair of fangs lowered, parting her lips, making him shudder and forcefully lift his hips trying to enter her. The sight of her incisors glistening within her darkened bedroom sent a shiver through him that locked each vertebra in his spine together disc by disc. Hope lit a fuse that might detonate with salvation. Their eyes met for a second. She coated him like hot butter and he winced at the long-awaited sensation. One strangled word escaped from his mouth when she sheathed him: "Please." Then a razor strike opened his jugular lengthwise, threatening to bleed him out, not two neat puncture wounds like he'd anticipated. It was thoroughly primal, so erotic what she'd done that he thought he'd go blind. "Oh, baby!"
He came so hard, so fast that it felt like his testicles were being sucked up into his abdomen with every spasmodic convulsion. Each contraction of hers fused with his, her guttural moan working its way into the open vein like a pleasure stab as she climaxed. His wail got trapped in his chest for a moment on a sharp gasp, then broke free in jerky, stuttering increments. Thick emulsion ran over his fist, ejecting from his body in molten waves to the same rhythm of her throat siphon. When she threw back her head again just to breathe, he futilely tried to bring her back. "Don't stop, not now."
Her gasping murmur was passionate, yet logical. I'll flat-line you -
"Then do it!"
Immediately, she returned to his neck and pulled hard. Beneath his lids he saw flashes of light that married the pleasure, setting off another wave of ecstasy so profound that his body went into a cold sweat. She was bleeding him out to the bone - like a pro. Oh, shit, it felt so good... Blood was running down the sides of her mouth, dribbling down her chin, she couldn't take it all in fast enough. He was going into pleasure shock, shivers hitting him in tidal waves till he nearly blacked out, but she kept him from probable extinction by finally covering the open wound with her hand to seal it.
Get a bottle from the kitchen. Now, she said quickly. You won't make it through the day.
He didn't argue, just weakly materialized private label from in-lair stock and popped the cork with his thumb. He was still trembling as he leaned over the side of the bed and turned the black bottle up to his mouth. He sighed hard after downing half of the magnum, and then wiped his seed-covered hand on the sheets.
"Damn..." he murmured, flopping back against the mattress. Her first night as a turned vampire and she'd done him like that? Had worked a mind lock so hard she'd made him see stars? Then the way she'd opened him up - lengthwise - and passionately marked him like he'd never even dreamed was possible? He shuddered as just the mere thought made him feel it all over again in quick phantom pangs.
"Baby, listen," he said through harsh, intermittent breaths. "We've gotta stop, it's almost full daylight... we both have to regenerate - I mean, I have to, and you've gotta purge. Please. I can't take another round like this last one." That was no lie. He needed her to be physically with him, if she was going to take him there with a lateral nick. The delivery was so awesome it could have passed for a battle bite. His fingers went to the side of his throat and he shivered at what she'd done.
A gentle kiss swept his mouth, and he could feel her pull back and release her hold on him. He almost dropped the bottle he was clutching on the floor. Relief, fatigue, bone-deep satisfaction claimed him, as did renewed worry. He was so spent that he couldn't even lift his head. How was he going to keep his hands off her now? "Good night, baby," he whispered, too tired to say much else. Her soft reply stabbed at him and made him renew his promise. "I love you, too. I'll be there tonight." He nodded. "Yeah." This dangerous situation had gone too far.
As soon as it got dark, he knew he had to go to her, and he also knew that if they didn't get the seal or the key, he'd have to smoke her then stake himself... just to be sure the council wouldn't torture her. Ironic - that's just how her parents had died.
The options narrowed down to the basics: break her out, bring her to the lair so she could feed from the tanks, love her hard to stop the burn, and then find the key. The big question was, where? The other major question was, would he risk alerting Father Pat or Damali's squad? If the humans freaked and jumped the gun with a sloppy plan, then all their asses would be in a sling.
He needed more time to think. But time had never been a luxury he'd owned.
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