Lothaire Read online

Page 7

Page 7


  Shimmering black silk against blood-spattered granite.

  "Where have you taken me?" she asked in a pained tone.

  "New York," he answered. "To one of our homes. "

  "I assume we have many. "

  "We own mansions, villas, chateaus. Any dwelling you desire will be yours. "

  As if she needed him to tell her that. She glanced down at her arm, at a drying track of red. "Did you bite me?" Narrowing her eyes, she added, "And do not think of lying to me. "

  A muscle ticked in his jaw. "You know I cant lie, Saroya. " Natural-born vampires were physically incapable of it. Whenever a lie arose, a vampire would feel the rana, the burn, a scalding sensation in his throat.

  "Did you dare pierce my skin?"

  "There is little daring to it. But in this case, I only grazed your neck. "

  She reached up and brushed the nick with her fingertips. For some reason, her body seemed awkward, her breasts heavy. "Taking straight from the flesh, cosaş? Twenty thousand years of my memories will undoubtedly send you over the edge," she said. "You must have been very desirous of blood to have stolen hers. "

  Was there a subtle flush on his face? "I wager you have to be at the forefront of consciousness in order for me to harvest your memories. As for Elizabeths-I believe I can handle twenty-four human years. "

  "How long did you leave me in that prison, Lothaire?"

  "A mere half decade. "

  "What was more important than I?"

  He shrugged. "Finding a way to circumvent your curse. "

  "I assume that youve found such a means. Else Id still be locked up. "

  "I freed you because the body was about to be executed. By mortals. "

  Too shaming to be borne! "Id sensed a threat, but an execution? For such a paltry number of deaths?"

  Some of the tension left his broad shoulders. "My exact thoughts. "

  "So were no closer?" At least now that she was free, shed be able to kill once more. In the past, shed reaped souls from her kills, each victim providing her strength. Shed been a true vampire. Now she stole lives solely for pleasure.

  "After years of searching, I unearthed the Ring of Sums. "

  "Sums?" Her eyes widened. "Clever Lothaire. " For him to have thought of this possibility! That talisman was steeped in power.

  "It will allow me to extinguish Elizabeths soul and make your body undying. Youre to become a vampire like me. "

  Female vampires could only be born-never made. Though vampiric blood could potentially transform human males into vampires, a mortal female like Elizabeth would never survive the turning.

  Even a former deity like Saroya didnt know why.

  But the ring would overcome that. What else might the ring do . . . ?

  She almost felt like smiling-which she never did. Then her satisfaction dimmed. "I understood the ring to be lost centuries ago. Along with its owner. " A sorceress named La Dorada, a particularly treacherous adversary of Saroyas, had guarded the ring.

  No matter how zealously Saroya had sought Doradas death, her assassins could never deliver it. "You stole the ring from the Gilded One?"

  He inclined his head regally.

  Her lips parted. "I knew you were ambitious, but this is scarcely believable! Even gods tread carefully with Dorada. Especially the evil ones. " Ive never been more defenseless against her. . . .

  "I faced the sorceress and her lackeys seven days ago, yet here I

  stand. "

  Hed survived a confrontation? "She will target your Bride to punish you! Unless you killed her?" Am I free from the prophecy at last?

  "Not yet. "

  "If you left her alive, then she will be coming for us. "

  "Yes," he said casually.

  "We must use this ring to return my godhood, Lothaire! And quickly. "

  "Even the Ring of Sums has limitations. If the ring could make one a god, then Dorada would have commanded it to do so. I believe we are bound to the realm of the immortals. "

  "In any case, give the ring to me. "

  "Three weeks ago, I was trapped by foes, an organization called the Order. They imprisoned me and confiscated it. "

  She was tempted to disbelieve such a story-few in the Lore were as formidable as Lothaire-but he couldnt speak untruths. "Why would they target you?"

  "To examine me, determine my weaknesses, then execute me. Many other warriors from the Lore were captured as well. "

  "These foes must be exceptionally cunning to have trapped you. "

  "Their weapons are advanced. But I will steal the ring back. I depart tomorrow night, once you are settled. And once we have . . . caught up," he added.

  "You must destroy Dorada, Lothaire. You must. "

  He narrowed his eyes. "I intend to, as soon as I reclaim the ring. Consider the sorceress as good as dead. "

  Reassured somewhat, she asked, "How long will it take to retrieve it?"

  "A night? A month? I cant say for certain," he said. "I drank the blood of my former jailer. He knows how to find the ring, and I can tap his memories through my dreams. Have already seen some. "

  Saroya wasnt a patient god. "This body ages with each day. "

  Lothaire prowled around her, shamelessly raking his gaze over her form. "It is much changed. "

  "Mirror!" she ordered imperiously.

  With a bored lift of his brow, he pointed behind her, to one hanging on a paneled wall.

  Saroya crossed to the glass and gazed into it, cringing at her prison garb.

  The scratch on her neck drew her attention. Would that scar? Would it heal before she was made into a vampire? Once this body became immortal, it would be frozen forever-its appearance fixed.

  Lothaire traced to stand behind her. "Youve suffered no ill from your time in prison, have only grown more beautiful. "

  She scrutinized her figure. Had Elizabeth lost weight? Saroya had resigned herself to her new short frame-mere inches over five feet-but she couldnt accept this leanness. "The bodys too slim. "

  She recalled one of the few times shed risen in that fetid jail. Shed read Elizabeths journal, noting that the mortal "worked out" every day in her cell. Unfortunately, it showed.

  How Saroya missed her own features! Her eyes had once been large and feline yellow, slit down the center with a thin black iris. Her lips had been bloodred, her skin pale like the moon. Shed been almost six feet tall and voluptuous to an obscene degree.

  Whenever shed descended from her godplane to earth, men had been awestruck just to behold her. Once she beckoned for them, theyd offered themselves to her insidious brand of death. . . .

  She ran her hands over this new lean figure, groping for softness. How much flesh can the body gain before Lothaire finds the ring?

  At least Elizabeths bust had grown to a decent size. When Saroya cupped herself with relief, Lothaires eyes grew hooded.

  Saroya abruptly dropped her hands. In a brisk tone, she said, "This face is the most lovely of my temples. "

  Though this present guise couldnt compare to hers when shed been a cat-eyed enchantress, Saroya had enjoyed some success luring victims. Males wanted to protect the vulnerable-looking girl and pluck her innocence. Instead, Saroya had plucked their hearts, eyes, and testes.

  Unlike her twin sister, Lamia, a goddess of life and fertility, Saroya was a virgin deity and forever would be, defending her chastity to the death. . . .

  To others deaths.

  Yet Lothaire believed she was a sexual creature, believed shed never taken a lover into Elizabeths body out of faithfulness to him. . . .

  "Indeed lovely. " His voice had grown huskier. "Who came before this human?"

  "I possessed a middle-aged professor of Americana. I had much to learn from him, kept him alive for most of the nineties. After him came a shovel-toothed hunchback of a woman. I leapt off a building to be rid of her. " She frowned. "That transfer hadnt proved as instantaneous as Id hoped. "

  "How are t