Lothaire Read online

Page 39

Page 39


  To survive in it, Ellie would have to grow more aggressive, callous even. Hed told her that the ones who survived longest were the notorious ones, the immortals with reputations based on some bold coup or brave deed.

  In prison, shed worked so hard to hold on to her humanity. Now she would be expected to throw it away.

  Did she want to be with him badly enough? To change herself so drastically?

  If she loved him, she might. But she didnt. Not at all. Mind over mind. Only a fool would love him. . . .

  Besides, every time she felt like she was in danger of falling for him, theyd have an argument over something.

  A few nights ago, when hed been obsessively poring over his prized account book, shed cleaned up some debris from his various rages and washed their linens.

  Hed been aghast. "You . . . you cleaned?"

  "Someone had to. I dont like sleeping on dirty sheets. "

  "Until we can hire servants, we transfer to another room. Another property, even! No Bride of mine cleans. "

  "You keep trying to change me, the way I talk and act. Youre gonna alter my very species to fit yours. When will you change something for me?"

  "This ancient dog will learn no new tricks. Besides, its a females place to adjust to her male. "

  Ellie had bitten her tongue to keep from screaming at him. At times with him, she bit her tongue so hard itd bleed.

  And theyd quarreled because of his irrational jealousy. One night, hed taken her to a creek she used to swim in when younger. "Why did you bring me here, Lothaire?"

  "You once liked this place. "

  Shed loved it there. Yet her thrill over the thoughtful gesture had faded directly. "Howd you know that?" The vampire must have seen her here-at night. "You spied on me?"

  "I spy on everyone. Why would you be different? Soon you will go spying with me. "

  Then realization had dawned. "Oh, my God, youre the one who hurt Davis, the boy I was with. You saw us together, and you threw him down a gully. He broke both of his legs!"

  "He lived?" Gaze narrowing, Lothaire had murmured, "Not for much longer. "

  Ellie had barely kept him from searching out her old beau with intent to do murder.

  Getting him to forgive Thaddeus was just as much of an uphill battle. "Come on, Lothaire," Ellie had said. "He only wants to visit us at Hags. He can help guard me when youre away. "

  "Forget it. "

  "Hes your best friend. " Not necessarily because Lothaire cared anything about Thaddeus, but because the boy cared more about Lothaire than anyone else in the Lore did.

  "How do I know you wont mortify him with more of your kisses?"

  "Because you know Im infatuated only with you. Besides, you can trust him. Any other man would have kissed me back. " When he remained unmoved, shed cried, "Youre jealous of an eighteen-year-old boy!"

  "Hes seventeen. "

  Eventually, shed won Lothaire over. Or so shed thought. At Hags, hed backed the boy into a wall, expression brimming with malice. "Elizabeth Daciano is my woman. "

  Thad had swallowed. "And she sure is a nice one, Mr. Lothaire. "

  "Keep your mouth to yourself today, boy, or your spine will decorate our mantel. . . . "

  But after her fights with Lothaire, whenever he found her pensive, he surprised her with new gifts. Hed brought her jewels from all over the world. Ellies own jewels. She supposed the others were hers, too, but these new ones were special because hed chosen them specifically for her.

  Or he would surprise her with wicked sex. Her sensual vampire had so many tricks up his sleeve, and as hed grown more comfortable controlling his strength with her, hed unveiled one after another.

  Yet each new move made her wonder how many stunning immortal females hed practiced it on before her. Hed once told her hed bedded a new one each night: fey courtesans, nymph barmaids, the occasional demon shepherdess.

  But never a human of course-

  He suddenly took her hand. Hers fit into his as if it were a glove made for her. She peeked up at him from under her lashes and sighed.

  Lothaire was like a pale-haired god beside her.

  He paused then, looking as if hed say something, but he closed his mouth, walking on.

  Would kill to know what youre thinking. . . . Ellie didnt want to break this tenuous truce with him, didnt want to spoil this honeymoon period. But at the earliest opportunity, she needed to know how they were going to evict the goddess.

  The night that theyd exchanged their vows, Ellie had been too frazzled by all the developments to realize something critical. When shed asked him how they would get rid of Saroya, Lothaire had answered, "The rings still in play, is it not?"

  Classic Lothaire-speak.

  Shed been just as disingenuous, promising him that she would get past all the things hed done to her. At the time, she wouldve said anything. Shed recognized that she had him on the ropes, and damn it, shed wanted to live.

  Now, even as she held his hand and leaned into his strong arm, she wondered if she could keep her word.

  She did truly want to work through her resentment-instead of just lying to him about it and snapping her mental rubber band.

  But how could she get past his treatment of her when everything he was doing now only reminded her of it?

  His telling her shed never see her family again brought to mind how hed threatened them so cruelly. Not to mention the fact that hed stuck her on death row. She tried to reason that hed prevented Saroya from killing by locking Ellie away. She told herself that hed saved lives.

  Ellie told herself that a lot.

  And though shed taken Hags contraception potion, he still pulled out during sex. Not that she wanted to get pregnant right now or anything, but he must be horrified by the idea of a part-human heir.

  Every time he left his seed anywhere but in her, he reminded her of all his many insults.

  Weak mortal, stupid human. No one had ever made her feel so lacking.

  It wasnt as if hed changed his mind about what she was, accepting her; he was merely looking forward to the time when shed be made different.

  Take away the difference in their species and they were still worlds apart. He was royalty. She was . . . Ellie. Does he still consider me just a "backward and vulgar hillbilly"? Hell probably be embarrassed of me around others.

  God, that hurts.

  And how could she get comfortable with him, when she sensed how dangerous-and evil-he still was?

  Shed been proud of him because he hadnt wanted to behead his


  Way to set the bar there, Ellie. . . .

  He stopped walking, drawing her close. "If you could have any gift, what would it be?" The breeze whipped his hair across his lean cheeks. "No expense is too great. "

  "Paying off my familys mountain. Maybe having a place near them. "

  "Elizabeth . . . " he said warningly. In the moonlight, his eyes gleamed like an animals caught in a headlight.

  "Alrighty then, maybe something for Balery? You could cross her out of your book!" Again and again, the fey had helped Ellie try to understand an enigma like Lothaire. The other night, Ellie had admitted that shed be a goner for him if he could tweak just a few things.

  Balery had replied, "You have to understand that he was born and raised in a world outside of the human realm, in a different time. Eons ago, he grew up in that ill-omened castle you saw, under the reign of a vicious despot-who was also his father. Even though Lothaire is one of the most intelligent males Ive ever encountered, he has no wisdom about womens feelings. None. Yours will be the first relationship hes had with a lover, the learning curve precariously steep. . . . "

  Now Lothaire said, "Hags debt is not yet satisfied. In any case, I was talking about a gift for you. " Plainly frustrated, he muttered, "Just forget it. Youll simply have to endure it when I bring you more jewels. "

  "Exactly how rich are you, Leo?"

  Hed grown to