Lothaire Read online

Page 54


Page 54

 

  She seemed to soften at that, but then she asked, "Has anything really changed?"

  "Ive learned I need to consult you in matters, lest you decapitate me. "

  "Lothaire . . . " she said warningly. "You didnt truly want me, not until I was a vampire. And that hurts. "

  "When Saroya was cast out of you that night, it felt like someone had injected me with feeling for you. I saw you clearly for the first time, knew you as my Bride with no doubts. Before you were a vampire. "

  "What if thered been no ring, no way to turn me? Could you have accepted that?"

  "Never. "

  Pain flashed in her expression. "Why?"

  "I dont court my own death, Lizvetta. You were mortal, could perish so easily. When a vampires Bride dies, he is ended, back to being the walking dead-if he doesnt greet the sun. So ultimately, Im only as strong as you are. "

  "Thats why you were so raring to turn me?"

  He hiked his shoulders. "And the sex is better. "

  "Ugh!" She threw her hands up.

  "Because its safer. Each time I denied my instincts, I feared Id harm you myself. "

  "If Id remained human, could you have felt the same way about me?"

  "I would never have acknowledged to myself everything I felt for you while you were so vulnerable. But then, when youd been turned, you were so strong. . . . " Voice dropping an octave, he said, "You took all my lusts and made me weak. "

  When she nibbled her bottom lip with one of her little fangs, his thoughts blanked for a moment.

  "Everything you felt for me?"

  "Come, come, Bride. Youre exceedingly clever. You must know that Im in love with you. Now will you return with me?"

  Seeming to steel herself against him, she said, "But you told me we werent equals. That doesnt really go along with my idea of love. "

  "You traced the first day you were a vampire. You took me down with a sword. Most of the Lore lives in fear of you. Your loyalty to your family never faltered, no matter how much I offered you, or how much pressure I put on you. Youve much to teach me, Elizabeth. "

  When she remained uncertain, he said, "I understand how important your family is to you because I remembered how important my mother was to me. These long millennia, Ive hated Serghei for taking my family from me-now Ive realized I tried to do the same to you. "

  "And what if we have another falling-out? Will you refuse to talk to me? I longed to tell you how sorry I was for hurting you-until you sent me that awful package!"

  "And you gave me the finger in return. Which I can now admit was uproarious. " Especially since it had grown back.

  "You didnt answer my question. You dont exactly have relationship skills mastered. And we will fight in the future. "

  "As I said, youre to teach me. Plus, youll have my memories and know how I truly feel. All you have to do is drink from me every night. " He gazed at her mouth, at her fangs readying from the mere thought. "You miss my blood-admit it. "

  "No!" she gasped, pressing her lips together.

  Voice gone hoarse, he said, "Then why are those sexy fangs of yours so sharp?" Raising his gaze to her darkening eyes, he rasped, "Gods, I am going to do depraved things to you back at our castle. "

  She swallowed. "I-I havent agreed to go with you. "

  "Then tell me where I may do those things to my Bride. If we remain here, well break this flimsy bed, possibly this entire conveyance. "

  Chin raised, she said, "You need to apologize for how you treated me. "

  Shes wavering. He checked a look of victory, saying honestly, "I am sorry, Elizabeth. I tried to go back in time with the ring, intending to treat you like a queen from our first meeting. " Then he frowned. "You should always tell me whenever I need to apologize. "

  "Just till you should be gettin the hang of it!"

  "Ah, youre agreed, then? So lets be off. " He sat up, going still. "Am I wearing a wife-beater, Lizvetta?" He gaped down. "Oh, come on!"

  "I suppose nows not a good time to give you your Skoal hat?"

  "Your retaliation is unspeakable. For this alone, you must forgive me for my treatment of you. "

  "Still high-handed?"

  "I literally risked my neck just now to say that in front of you. "

  He saw her lips quirk, but she schooled her expression.

  "I told Nix that I would go to the grave again if it would make you love me. I went to the grave in that mine, ergo . . . "

  "Are you trying to make me feel guilty so you can manipulate me?"

  He blinked. "Of course. Now, tell me you love me. "

  "I do, Lothaire. For some reason, I truly do love you. And I will give this a chance," she said. "If you stay here with me. "

  Ellie had already made up her mind that shed try living in Lothaires castle and being a queen of the vampires and all, but this was too funny an opportunity to pass up.

  Lothaire swallowed, his gaze flickering over the Beanie Babies on the windowsill and the stuffed animals.

  "You could like it here, Lothaire, I just know it!"

  With a pained expression, he said, "Those stuffed animals horrify and repel me. " He shuddered. "And the aura of pathos in this place is inescapable. You dont . . . you cant want to live here. Not instead of a castle with servants to wait on your every need?"

  "Sure I could! And then you wouldnt need all those fancy clothes of yours. "

  He squirmed. "I dont think I can live here. I really dont, Elizabeth. "

  And because she was so attuned to him, she could feel something akin to panic inside him. "Dont want to even give it a try?"

  "Actually, I cant even be here for much longer. "

  She patted his hand. "I know, baby, I know. "

  "If you know I cant be here, and you wont come with me . . . " His eyes reddened ominously. "You believe were living apart? I tried that; I detested that!"

  Then he made a clear effort to calm himself. He opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it. At length, he grated, "Im purchasing this mountain and the adjoining ones for you. "

  A breath left her. "Lothaire, I dont even know what to say. "

  "Come with me back to our kingdom, and I will have a mansion built here for your mother. " With great effort, he said, "We could visit, if infrequently. "

  She leaned down until their faces were inches apart. "Well visit every weekend, holidays, and NASCAR, vampire. " She pressed her lips against his, sighing from the rightness of it, from the certainty that her life was with him.

  Oh, Lothaire, youre not even gonna know what hit you. . . .

  Between kisses, he told her, "If you agree to only Sundays and holidays, I will buy all your brethren homes. " Against her lips, he said, "And you knew NASCAR was pushing it, Bride. "

  Epilogue

  SOME TIME LATER . . .

  Wed snickered behind your back," Stelian told Lothaire in a dazed tone, "amused by how such a young female was managing you. " His expression was thunderstruck.

  Lothaire knew that look, wore it often himself. "But you understood nothing of which you spoke?" he said, gazing at Elizabeth across the den of their castle apartments. She sat before a hearth fire, laughing with Hag and Kosmina, the royal hound at her feet.

  "Correct. " Stelian swigged a deep drink of blood mead. "How did she just get me to agree to her familys Christmas visit?"

  In a tone both rueful and brimming with pride, he said, "You never see my queen coming till its too late. " Just this evening, Elizabeth had somehow gotten Lothaire to agree to take Joshua-and eight of his cousins-trick-or-treating.

  But really. How hard could that be?

  Though it shouldnt have surprised anyone, the mortal boy worshipped Lothaire.

  Im acquiring relatives like unspayed cat shifters.

  Elizabeth caught his gaze, casting him that mind-scrambling smile of hers. Draped in the jewels he lovingly bestowed upon her, she radiated her contentment.

  Shed had no trouble adjusting t