Lothaire Read online

Page 36

Page 36


  But Kristoff had forbidden his army to drink blood straight from the flesh-to forbear. Which violated one of the Hordes two sacred tenets: the Thirst.

  Aside from Kristoff there was one other contender, unlikely though she might be.

  Much to analyze, moves to predict . . .

  "I rolled to find Dorada, but shes far removed from us at present," Hag said.

  "Very good," he answered absently, only now remembering that he hadnt predicted Tymurs movements, hadnt slain the vampire with his customary detachment. In defending Elizabeth, Lothaire had thrown away his greatest weapon, had relied on searing instinct.

  She is mine.

  Reading him so well, Hag said, "You know its Elizabeth now, do you not? Perhaps you wont slit my throat to my spine if I speak of this?"

  Hed been so arrogant during that conversation with Hag, dismissing the idea of a mortal Bride as absurd. He hadnt even bothered to tell Hag exactly how ensnared he was with Saroya.

  "How will you get Elizabeth to forget all youve done to her?" Hag asked. "She wont be able to easily, if at all. Trust me on this. "

  "Doesnt matter if shes my Bride. I cant keep her. My plans must remain unchanged. "

  Hag blinked at him. "You dont intend . . . ? Lothaire, if you go through with this, it will destroy you. "

  "Ill be destroyed if I dont fulfill these vows. "

  "Your mother wouldnt have wanted this for you. "

  "You assume I speak of the vows I made to Ivana? Perhaps I foolishly made others-"

  Elizabeth sauntered in. Tanned, barefoot, grinning in her short cutoffs.

  So sexy his thoughts blanked for a long moment.

  "Hey, Lothaire. Thads been telling us all about you. How heroic you are. " She sidled up to him with a hip-swinging gait that quickened his pulse. "And you went and got ash vines for me?"

  Hag chose that moment to turn her stove to simmer and swerve out of the kitchen onto the deck.

  Before he ever decided to reach for Elizabeth, Lothaire found his hands circling her waist. "So certain I did it for you?" he asked, lifting her to the counter.

  "Uh-huh. You only needed to keep my body healthy. Not my mind. "

  He eased his hips between her knees. "Perhaps you shouldnt attribute characteristics to me that arent there. "

  "And you should stop with the Lothaire-speak. " She raised her hand to his chest, making lazy swirls with her forefinger.

  "What are you talking about?"

  "You ask questions to get around lying. Or you say things like"-she imitated his accent-" perhaps you or Id surmise that you. Yeah, thats right, vampire, I got your number. "

  It disconcerted him how quickly shed learned his tells, but he made his face impassive. "Did you worry for me today? In between tequila shots?"

  She sighed. "And you also abruptly change the subject. In any case, I did worry about you, Leo. "

  "What did you call me?"

  "Your initials. Lothaire the Enemy of Old? Sounds like Lothaire the Wizard of Oz. Leo suits you better. "

  His fingers dug into the counter on either side of her hips. "Enemy of Old is not just a name, its a designation. It takes bold strokes to survive in the Lore; Ive earned the right to be called that. "

  "Well, right now youve earned your nickname, too. "

  "Why now?"

  "Im buzzed and youre looking gorgeous and kissable. You needed a nickname. "

  In all his life, no one had ever called him by one. Nor felt the casual ease to do so. "Why this . . . affection? Last night you were crying. Arent you angry that I took you to Helvita?"

  "I grabbed you," she admitted. "You started to disappear, so I tried to shake you awake. "

  "Concern for me?" His spike of pleasure was overrun by irritation. "And yet Id ordered you not to touch me. Why would you disobey me?"

  "You called for me, repeatedly yelling my name. "

  Then some part of him had known Elizabeth was his.

  "And youd told me that you could be killed if you traced in your sleep! After seeing the creatures awaitin you, I believe it. "

  His shoulder muscles knotted. "What do you remember?"

  "Jumbled bits up to a point, then nothing. Anyhow, Im past it. "

  "How could you possibly be?"

  "I have something to look forward to. " In a solemn tone, she said, "Ive decided, Leo, that Im gonna keep you. "

  Though everything within him was in turmoil, he calmly said, "Have you, then?"

  "Even if youve been the biggest dick imaginable. "

  He glowered at that. "Insolent chit. "

  "Im your Bride, arent I?"

  "The idea of a mortal Bride is ridiculous. " Even if the Bride in question makes me weak from wanting.

  "Im calling Lothaire-speak! You didnt answer me. "

  "How many times have I told you that youre beneath me?"

  Instead of being insulted, she smiled. "Should I call you hubby? Or vampire groom?"

  Just when he was about to give her a set-down, she leaned in to whisper at his ear, "If you sip me, will you get tipsy?"

  His body tensed. "One way to find out. "

  "Then take me back to your bed and do really naughty things to me while you talk filth in my ear. "

  He just stifled a growl.

  On their way out, he quickly stopped at the deck to tell Thaddeus, "Hag will open a temporary portal for you to get home, paren. Leave your phone number with her before you go. And of course, you will not give this location to anyone. "

  "Sure thing, Mr. Lothaire. " But again, the boy refused to meet his eyes.

  Chapter 40

  Somethings different about you," the vampire said as soon as theyd appeared in his room.

  I figured out some things about myself. "I cant imagine. " And about you.

  Hed begun doing that predatory stalking thing around her. "If only I could lie so easily. I will find out your secret. "

  Grasping for a change of subject, Ellie asked, "What were you dreaming of when you traced earlier?" then bit her tongue when she saw a glimpse of raw anguish in his eyes.

  His expression grew shuttered. "A memory . . . one of my own. Something I do not want to speak of. "

  She had a pretty good idea of what. "Fair enough. "

  "Youre not going to press?"

  "Youll tell me when youre ready," she said.

  This really seemed to please him. He snatched her close to nuzzle her hair. "You smell like salt, sun, and tequila. Exotic to one like me. " He inhaled deeply, as if he wanted to take her scent into him-

  Suddenly his body jerked with tension, and he set her away. "Why do I still scent a trace of Thaddeus-even when were away from him?"

  "Im sure we hugged. " But she could feel her cheeks getting flushed. Was her heart speeding up?

  "Youre . . . lying. Why would you lie, unless . . . " His eyes shot flame-red.

  "No, Lothaire, it isnt like that!"

  "Tell me what it was like," he said softly before roaring, "or Ill do murder!"

  "I-I kissed him. "

  "Then youve killed him. "

  "Thad didnt kiss me back! He was bewildered, just stood there. Afterward, he was mortified. "

  "Then Ill punish you more, slattern! I should string you up naked to a pole at the demon crossroads!" With a crazed bellow, he launched one of his fists into the wall, hitting it like a wrecking ball. The room shook. Another punch before he faced her, yelling, "Did you touch him?"

  "No! In any case, why would you care? You keep telling me that I am not your Bride. Saroya is! What is one harmless kiss for a woman youre gonna kill soon?"

  "Tell me why you did it! Why in the fuck would you kiss him?"

  "My reasons are my own!"

  He laid his bleeding hand over her throat. "Tell me or Ill wring your pretty little neck. "

  Nothing had changed with Lothaire. Nothing. "You cant. " She flailed from his grasp. "So take the needle off that record, vampire!"