Lothaire Read online
"How could a girl from the backwoods ever get caught up in something so . . . unlikely?"
Without breaking eye contact, he leaned back in his chair. "I asked myself that continually from the time I first saw you. After all, in the beginning, I had no idea you were anything more than a mere human, had no idea how I could possibly be connected to you. "
Why was he conversing so readily with her? Perhaps because he knew she would take his secrets to the grave? And soon?
For whatever reason, the words seemed pulled from him.
"Imagine my abject disappointment in you, female. Lothaire the Enemy of Old-the most feared vampire alive, the son of one king and grandson of another-paired with a mortal? Much less a mortal of no distinction. Im given to understand that your people are worse than peasants. "
Instead of indignation, curiosity lit her face. "Wait. I came first? You didnt find me because of her? Hey, are you saying youre a prince?"
"Yes, peasants," he repeated slowly. "The lowliest of the low among humans. " Then he enunciated, "Exceedingly backward and vulgar hillbillies. "
"Been called worse, mister. " At his raised brows, she exhaled impatiently. "Bootlegger, moonshiner, Elly May Clampett, mountain mama, redneck, backwoods Bessie, hick, trailer trash, yokel, and, more recently, death-row con. "
"No references to mining? Im disappointed. "
Sadness flashed in her expressive eyes. "My father died in a mine collapse. Ever since then, none of my kin will work underground. "
"Naturally the big bad coal company was at fault?"
"Im sure there are nice, safe coal companies out there; Va-Co isnt one of them. Minings over for us. "
"And so you remain appallingly poor. "
"Spose so. The bottom line is that insults only hurt when they come from someone I respect. "
"Then no ones taught you to respect your betters?"
"You think youre better than me because youre a prince?" Had she sounded disbelieving?
"Im a displaced king of two vampire factions. Now I work to reclaim my thrones. " Why am I telling her this? He didnt give a damn if she respected him. "As for the other, I think Im better than you because you are demonstrably my inferior in every way. Intelligence, wealth, looks, bloodline, should I continue?"
She waved that away. "Howd you find me? Youre obviously rich-oh, and royalty-why would you be in one of the poorest areas in America?"
He parted his lips to tell her to shut hers, but she dutifully took another bite of salmon, actually swallowing it. "My Brides arrival had been foretold. An oracle predicted where and when she would be. But not what. " The same oracle who assisted him now, a fey he called Hag.
He glanced at Elizabeths plate. She took another bite.
"I found you when you were fourteen, but you didnt trigger my blooding. " Hed assumed that she was too young. "I decided then that Id never return, would walk as the dead before being forever tied to such a base creature as you. " No matter that shed promised to be physically lovely.
"Then why did you return?"
"Pure curiosity. " It might have been pure, but it had plagued him, and hed returned to her thrice more.
When she was fifteen, a budding woman, hed found her swimming one night with a boy, eagerly exploring kissing with him. At seventeen, shed been on the verge of stunning, with her sun-kissed skin, wide clear eyes, and striking features, yet still too lowly to tempt him.
Until a year later . . . "Just when I vowed to spurn you forever, I found you in the woods at a makeshift altar, surrounded by bodies. "
Elizabeths expression grew stark. "Not me. It was Saroya. "
"Yes, Saroya," he breathed. Covered in gore from head to toe, bold and lethal, shed blooded him at once.
Now he stared past Elizabeth, relishing the memory of that night. . . .
Between unpracticed breaths, he demanded, "Who are you?" He knew that the mortals consciousness had disappeared, sensed the absence of Elizabeth.
Before him was another entity.
"I am Saroya, vampire. " Her very accent had changed. "Your goddess, trapped in mortality. "
All vampires knew that Saroya had been tricked from her lofty plane, cursed by her sister to live within random humans, one after another, repeatedly experiencing her own death through them.
If Lothaire had felt any doubt about her identity, shed erased it by speaking to him in Russian, her accent regal. There was no way for an ignorant eighteen-year-old peasant to know his tongue.
And besides, Lothaire deserved a goddess. He knew fate wouldnt have paired him with lowly Elizabeth Peirce!
For millennia hed sought to rule the Vampire Horde. How could they deny his claim with Saroya, the protectress of vampires, as his queen?
"Have I blooded you?" she asked with silky menace.
"Yes. Im Lothaire, your male-"
"I have no male and accept no master," she snapped. "I am a goddess!"
"Thats a shame," he replied smoothly, ignoring his new heartbeats and the unbearable stiffening of his shaft, denying the frenzy to claim her, to sink his fangs deep into her flesh. "Because had you been mine, I would have found a way to extinguish that humans soul, then make your body immortal. "
"Lothaire?" She narrowed her eyes. "An ancient one with great power, descended from two royal lines. Even I have heard of you. "
"And soon I intend to seize my kingdoms. I will have my immortal queen by my side. "
She stepped closer. "You could make me undying in this body?"
"In time, I would find a way. Nothing could stop me. "
"Yet you would desire to mate with me now? To complete the blooding. "
Each vampire had to experience his first release while touching his Brides body. Most vampires simply mated their females, but Lothaire knew he couldnt. Tracing within inches of her, he cupped her nape with a shaking hand. "The only thing greater than my need is my strength. Your mortal form is too fragile for me to claim. But I must finish this. "
"Then I will not yield this body until you destroy Elizabeths soul and make me whole. For now, you may take your physical release in some way. . . . "
"Lothaire?" Elizabeth interrupted his thoughts.
Reminded of that interlude with Saroya, he cast the girl a look of renewed hatred. That night he and the goddess had talked till dawn, discussing their aims. Again and again, hed discovered how well she fit him.
Saroya was his match in all ways-a queen even Ivana would bow down to.
Blyad! How could his Bride expect him to use Elizabeth? Maybe Saroya didnt see the dichotomy between the two females, but it was plain to Lothaire.
It would be like taking an entirely different woman.
Once Saroya understood their circumstances better, she would not be so keen for Lothaire to enjoy another. He imagined how hed feel if the situation were reversed.
Though hed scorned Elizabeth in her teens, even he had been misguidedly protective of her. When hed seen her kissing that male, Lothaire had tossed his truck into a valley. The male had run out of the water to investigate, so Lothaire had dropped him down as well. . . .
Maybe Saroya feels no jealousy because she feels nothing for you, a part of his mind whispered.
Yes, Lothaire prided himself on predicting others actions; did he truly anticipate Saroya rising for him tomorrow night?
Though he could hardly believe it, the goddess remained unconvinced of his charms. An absurdity, he knew, but who could fathom the minds of females?
Lothaire resolved to spoil her further and demonstrate to her his prowess in bed-to ensure she needed him for other things.
He exhaled. Itd been so long since hed had sex that he might not have retained any prowess. He smirked, thinking, Maybe I should practice on Elizabeth.
A sudden jolt of lust took him like a punch, wiping away his smirk. He sliced his gaze to her. Studying gray eyes met his.
The idea was sound.