Lothaire Read online

Page 12

Page 12


  cell. "

  She followed him. "Wait, what am I supposed to do?"

  "Go to bed at dawn. Accustom your body to sleeping during the day. "

  "And tomorrow? What then? You said I might have a month left to live. What do you expect me to do for that time?"

  "Put on weight. " He slammed the door in her face.

  Ellie glared at the panels of the solid door, her fists balling. "You asshole!" She yanked on the door handle. Locked!

  She swept her gaze around the room. My new cell? No matter how open and airy it was, she remained trapped. She hated being confined!

  Hurrying through the French doors to her balcony, she sucked in deep breaths of night air.

  New York City lay before her, all bright lights and energy. How badly she wished to be down there! She imagined all the places to explore, all the new and interesting people she could meet.

  But shed never get the chance. Because there were mystical barriers. And goddesses and arrogant blood-drinkers.

  She strode back inside, snatched up her dresser stool, and chucked it at the boundary. The stool bounced directly back inside, bounding toward her. She started laughing hysterically until it connected with her shin. That was going to leave a mark.

  Ha-ha, Saroya. Black-and-blues your color. She was just about to run her face into the doorknob when she remembered she wasnt to harm herself, else risk her family.

  So she marched into the bathroom. Seeing herself in all this makeup with the Elvira-in-heat dress was like looking at Saroya. For the first time, Ellie was seeing what the goddess would prefer to look like.

  She turned on the hot water to wash her face. "I hate you more than hell, Saroya. "

  A psychologist could have a field day with this. Staring into the mirror with hate? Daily affirmations turned to daily accusations?

  Damn it, I should be dead right now! But the bitch had thwarted her yet again. "You may have won this battle, Saroya, but Ill win the war. Ill destroy you, somehow. " Even as she said these bold words, Ellie wrestled with regret over her plight.

  Part of her still wished for another chance, for the possibility to live. Why did she have to make this sacrifice? Why had it fallen to her?

  But shed long resigned herself to her fate.

  Gathering water in her hands, she said, "Your big finish is rolling in like a thunderstorm. No stopping it. " She scrubbed her face harder than she ever had, ridding herself of Saroyas war paint.

  Another gander into the mirror. Im back, she thought, even though the goddesss presence lurked within, eating away at her like a cancer.

  After drying her tender skin, Ellie returned to the closet. Combing through the choices, she threw on a pair of jeans and a simple navy blouse. Feeling more like Ellie, she left her feet bare.

  Unable to stop herself, she sneaked another peek at those jewels. She recalled the way Lothaire had shown them to her. Without a word, without bragging.

  Why had he cared if Ellie saw them? Had he anticipated her floored reaction? Figured shed go crazy like Saroya?

  Then she frowned. Lothaire had never said anything to indicate that he and Saroya liked each other, much less loved each other. Hed talked only of fate and bloodings.

  Questions about him surfaced endlessly. Did he love the goddess? Why hadnt he bedded his Bride? Were all vampires as ruthless as he was?

  She wished she could analyze Lothaire at her leisure, maybe use her degree to benefit her.

  One of the reasons shed studied psychology was that shed always found it easy to empathize with others. A handy tool for a counselor.

  But psychology was the science of human behavior. He was in-

  human. . . .

  She would just have to work harder to discover what made Lothaire tick, using any means necessary.

  When she exited the closet, she remembered that earlier theyd walked out of the main doorway from her suite. Theyd traced back inside. Unlike the door adjoining Lothaires room, it would be unlocked.

  Wouldnt even have to pick it.

  Maybe when he left, shed investigate this place. Did she dare disobey him? Hed probably never even know shed sneaked out.

  With that aim in mind, she knelt at the doorway crack to his bedroom, listening for him.

  She heard the rustle of sheets, a stifled curse. Hed gone to bed? After telling her he had work to do? And wasnt this kind of his workday?

  Again she thought, Typical male.

  Wait. Had he just . . . groaned?

  Im never going to sleep with this erection.

  Though Lothaire was exhausted, it throbbed for relief, impossible to ignore. He couldnt turn on his front without grinding his shaft into the mattress, couldnt turn on his back without his hands descending to masturbate his length.

  But hed be damned if he spilled alone when he was in possession of his Bride.

  His eyes narrowed when the mortal knelt at their shared doorway. Finished shrieking and throwing things, Elizabeth? He could hear her light breaths panting at the crack under the door.

  She spied on him? Lothaire was a master at spying, enjoyed few things more.

  Over his long lifetime, hed watched countless beings having sex, was an unabashed voyeur. And hed noted that every time a couple neared release, they reached a point of no return when all sense and inhibitions were lost, a point past which nothing could pull them apart.

  Lothaire himself had never been unaware of what he was doing, nor unable to stop himself.

  Now he feared that if he neared climax tonight, hed cross a line, tossing Elizabeth into his bed. Hed strip her naked and bury his cock and fangs so deep in her, he wouldnt know where she ended and he began. . . .

  No. I will not lower myself to a mortal.

  Lothaire could wait for Saroya to rise tomorrow night. He would wait, he swore to himself, even as his mind whispered, Shes not going to.

  But how to sleep? He switched on the metronome beside his bed. Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . Soothing, but not nearly enough to combat the persistent ache in his balls.

  Maybe he should drug himself as his former jailer customarily did-Declan Chase, an Irish soldier of the Order, known as the Blademan.

  Lothaire sat up, clasping his forehead. Had his escape from the Orders island prison been only yesterday? It felt like weeks had passed.

  Less than twenty-four hours ago, Chase had been mortally wounded. Lothaire had given the Blademan his blood in exchange for Lothaires own freedom-anything to reach Saroya before the execution.

  Yet another bargain. Attempt to turn Chase into a vampire; save Saroya.

  Centuries had passed since Lothaire had last made a vampire. Perhaps Im a sire once more? But the blood was no guarantee. Did Chase even live yet?

  My enemy. And potentially my spawn. He frowned, unsure how he felt about that. Especially since Chase had tortured Lothaire during his imprisonment.

  Though the Blademan had himself been brutally tortured as a lad-and therefore knew what the hell he was about-Lothaire had merely laughed at the pain. Even when his skin was burned to ash.

  Chase hadnt understood; no misery could compare to hiding in the snow while listening as ones mother was savagely raped and burned alive. No cruelty could compare to what Stefanovich had done to Lothaire years later.

  The earth grinding over me, roots threading my body.

  Block that memory out! Or stare down into the abyss. . . .

  No matter what happened between Lothaire and Chase, they were connected now, had exchanged blood between them. Which meant that Lothaire could reach into Chases mind with his own, could investigate his memories.

  Perhaps I dont need to sleep. He only had to get close enough to Chase.

  The Blademans woman was a Valkyrie. She would have taken him back to Val Hall, the Louisiana estate where her coven resided-with its never-ending fog, lightning flashes, and ungodly Valkyrie shrieks.

  A place Lothaire knew well.