What would the woman, Batya, taste like?
The question had many layers and burned like fire in Quinlan’s vampire mind.
He leaned against a brick building and stared up at a wide plate glass window on the other side of the street. His pursuit of Batya Cole had taken him away from Grochaire Realm way too often, as well as his duties as mastyr. He was in charge of a million realm souls and took his job seriously.
Yet, here he was because he couldn’t seem to help himself. Batya’s blood called to him, like no woman he’d ever known.
His instincts warned him away from the ex-patriot who lived a bohemian artist’s life in the small U.S. town of Lebanon, Tennessee. But she’d been on his radar for weeks now and he wanted her in his bed.
And literally nothing less.
Once he set his sights on a goal, very little could move him.
He could picture her lying on her back, hands gripping the wrought-iron head-board of her bed, the mass of her wavy-blond hair spread out on her pillows.
He’d been through her gallery, her free clinic, her bedroom. Bastard that he was, he’d been spying on her. A couple of times in the process, he’d wondered at his obsession, only to realize the nature of his pursuit didn’t matter, only that he conquered his prey.
He wanted to sink his fingers into her hair, lean close and smell all across the line of her cheek. He’d gotten near enough to her once, trapping her in a corner of her gallery, to catch a fragrance that smelled wonderfully rich, like an exotic tropical flower. He didn’t have a name for her scent, but he wanted his tongue on her to find out every nuance of her deepest flavor.
He’d been seducing her for the past hour with just his telepathy and of course his mating vibration, a serious realm-ability he’d developed over the past seven-hundred-plus-years of his life. He released another set of waves.
How does that feel, Cha?
He heard her moan, a soft whimper through the window.
Stop calling me that.
His telepathy with Batya rang clear as a bell, one more reason he knew they’d be good together. He’d be able to whisper her name through her mind while he kissed her and moved inside her, working his magic.
His mating vibration, the one that emanated from deep within his body, flowed in a stream straight up and through the second story bedroom window. He loved his mastyr status in these moments that he could do things most other vampires couldn’t. He could stand across the street and touch Batya low with just a thought and a vibrating stream of energy that had found the sweetest nest between her legs.
He added a jolt and heard her cry out. He extended his hearing so he could savor every whimper.
You should leave, Quinlan. Stop tormenting me.
Another jolt and again, she cried out. He liked punishing her with pleasure. That’s for telling me to leave. For the fun of it, he added another intense stream.
She sighed, purred, and moaned, one after the other. He had her now. He’d bring her, like he did last time, but he wanted to get closer. He wanted to watch this time and he wanted her watching him. And this time, he’d let her see what he had to offer.
I want in, Batya. Now. You’ve kept me outside long enough. He increased the force of the vibration and she groaned heavily.
This is a bad idea, Quinlan. She panted while she pathed to him. You know it is.
I don’t care. We’ll be good together.
He levitated and drifted across the street, moving close to the window. He saw her through a haze of multicolored sheers so that she appeared as though surrounded by ripples of golden, blue-violet light. He couldn’t see her clearly, but she writhed on the bed, her hands gripping the wrought iron bars just as he’d imagined.
I see you.
She rolled her head in his direction. You bastard. I never wanted this.
You didn’t have to let it get this far tonight.
Why did you come after me? You can have any woman in the Nine Realms you want and maybe a couple billion here on earth as well.
It’s all your fault. You shouldn’t have smelled so good when I first came here, remember? As soon as he’d touched her, her sex had bloomed and her exotic scent had filled him with purpose.
I can’t help how I smell.
And I can’t help how bad I want to bury myself between your legs. Besides, you refused me and I always face up to a challenge.
* * * * * * * * *
Batya could barely see Quinlan behind the layering of sheer gold, blue, and hot pink fabric that hung in loose swathes over her window, but she caught his scent, like smoky applewood, something burning hot on a barbeque. And he smelled wonderful.
She felt him, too.
Oh, God did she feel him.
His vibration moved inside her the way other things could move, in and out, but with an added shimmer of sensation both sideways and in an erotic swirl that had her aching for more.
And he knew it.
For weeks, she’d tried to resist.
Then one night, about two weeks ago, he’d brought her slowly out of a dream state and had her so worked up that by the time she finally came to consciousness the orgasm spilled over her like a sudden waterfall.
And all he’d done was use his outrageous, built-in-Grochaire realm vibration that he’d somehow turned into the seduction trick of the century. She tried not to think about just how many women he’d bedded by using just a few flicks of that vibration.
Plenty, no doubt. He had one helluva reputation. Sensible women never got near him.
But here she was, about as close as she could get to an orgasm, only this time he wanted inside her house. And the damn vampire was honorable and wouldn’t come in unless invited, so it wasn’t like she could call foul-play or anything.
The vibration inside her began to slow down, easing her back from the most delicious edge.
She murmured her frustration, but still held onto the wrought-iron as though her life depended on it.
She hated having to make this decision and wished he’d just bust through the window and take her, good and hard.
Instead, she’d have to ask for it.
Let me in, Cha. Let me give you everything this time. It’ll be good.
She settled her breathing down, trying to focus on why she needed to send him back to Grochaire. He represented what she’d been trying to escape for decades now. He belonged to Grochaire. In many ways, he was the realm he served. Of all the mastyrs of the Nine Realms, she’d never seen one more committed to governing his land than Quinlan.
But her home was here now, in the continental United States, and here she planned to stay the rest of her long-lived life. So what good was it to have Quinlan anywhere near her? No good at all.
It’s almost dawn, mastyr. Go home.
I have plenty of time to find shelter and still take care of you. Let me take care of you.
She’d had enough experience with men to know he’d be as good as his word, probably better, which defined her current predicament.
It was her own fault. She’d been without a man way too long. Now she was so hungry, she’d even sleep with Quinlan, a vampire known to use up women and cast them aside like candy wrappers. He had no room in his world, his life, his heart for a relationship. She didn’t know all the details, but the horrific event surrounding his parents’ deaths had set him on this course, so good luck to any woman trying to overturn a childhood trauma.
At last, she released her death grip on the wrought iron and sat up. He’d given her time to think, to let her smarts work for her right now instead of her hormones.
Unfortunately, she still wanted the vampire bad.
And he still streamed his vibration, teasing her between her legs, but gently now, a reminder of what he could do to her if they were together, that he could sustain the sensation in a dozen places at once while he worked her physically with a nice list of attributes. She’d heard the rumors about him, which didn’t help either.
You know we’ll do this eventually. Even in her head his deep voice rumbled, another seductive layer that weakened her resolve. Quinlan had one of the deepest voices she’d ever heard, a rich bass. So, why not tonight, Cha?
She picked up her brush and pulled forward a heavy length of her thick hair. By long-established ritual, she started at the tips and began working out the tangles one by one. Brushing helped her to think, to remember, to coalesce thoughts and arguments, to synthesize opposing threads.
Her artist’s life in Lebanon…good.
She brushed and brushed, scowling and thinking, his vibration still an easy, seductive presence. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she felt utterly threatened by Quinlan, that something about him could destroy the precious life she’d built for herself outside of her birth realm.
She knew who she was in Lebanon.
Grochaire and the Realm-world swallowed her up, using her combo troll-fae powers until she sank under the weight of it.
She could never go back to that life and yet here she was, about ready to open herself up to the Mastyr of Grochaire Realm himself, the legendary Quinlan and his god-like physique.
Her brush fell from her hands as she lifted her gaze back to the window, where she could see him hovering, holding himself in place through levitation alone, his vibration still a beautiful sensation.
Hang-it-all, she was going to let him in.
But just as she slipped from bed and her long skirts fell into place to her ankles, a brilliant white-yellow light flashed behind Quinlan. He whipped around, then dropped from sight as shrieking sounded outside her building, the kind that came from Invictus wraith-pairs.
She heard him shout something, maybe the word, ‘run’. She wasn’t sure, but the high-pitched battle screams meant only one thing, Invictus.
She couldn’t believe that the Invictus had come to Lebanon. From what she’d always understood, the deadly wraith-pairs didn’t have the ability to pass the realm access points and enter the U.S. She’d always thought herself safe because of it.
In the street, a red wind streamed.
* * * * * * * * *
Quinlan stood on the sidewalk with his back to Batya’s art gallery, uncertain what the hell he was looking at. He waited with lowered shoulders, his arms firing up his battle frequency so that he could release killing energy in streams through the palms of his hands. He even had a dagger in his leathers if this battle got up-close-and-personal.
But what the hell was he looking at?
He could almost make out the shape of a woman held within a bright yellow glow, a sight that made his vampire eyes ache. He smelled the female though, a dark rancid scent that he knew from a battle six months ago in Bergisson Realm. An ancient fae had cursed the area and dammed up the waterfall at Sweet Gorge. Together, the Mastyr of Bergisson and his blood rose, Samantha, had created a new paradise there and the fae’s stench was gone.
But Quinlan would never forget that smell and it was here now, in Lebanon.
However, it would appear she’d shifted her attention to him, or maybe to Batya. But what would the ancient fae want with an ex-patriot, living at the Tennessee human earth access point, and running a free-clinic for other disenfranchised realm-folk? Batya wasn’t exactly a threat to the Invictus, the deadly wraith-pairs that many now believed the ancient fae had created.
But whatever this was, Batya was no match for the powerful fae, which was why he’d shouted for her to run.
From the shadows behind the golden glow, four figures emerged, levitating just a few feet above the ground.
Yet something more.
Two female wraiths each bonded with Guard-sized vampires, as big as him. But they weren’t regular vampires at all. Holy shit, each was a mastyr vampire. The Nine Realms had over two dozen mastyr vampires beyond those, like him, who ruled each realm. Only the most powerful mastyrs became rulers, a law that had been part of the Nine Realm world for millennia.
His nostrils flared. A bitter edge reached him, emanating from the Invictus, something cloying that reeked of the ancient fae and both pairs smelled of it, like wet ashes, a sure sign that this new version of the Invictus was her creation.
The battling vibration of both Invictus pairs swarmed toward him and in this moment he knew he was dead.
He could have fought a dozen normal wraith-pairs, but not these two together. Maybe not even one alone because the bond between wraith and mastyr vampire had created unimaginable power between each couple.
He thought of Batya in her studio. What would happen to her if he couldn’t stop them? He didn’t want to think about that.
A woman’s voice called out. “This is all wrong. He’s not supposed to be here.” The ancient fae drifted sideways, her features indistinct, her glow still hurting the backs of his corneas. He shaded a hand over his eyes.
And why wasn’t he supposed to be here?
Her words meant only one thing, that she’d come for Batya.
The thought of her in the hands of any of these monsters increased and focused his battle energy. He lifted his hands. “All right, motherfuckers, which of you wants to die first?”
* * * * * * * * *
Trembling, Batya made her way to the lower gallery floor and hid behind one of the pillars. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and her heart beat so hard in her chest she thought it would explode.
A soft, feminine voice called to her from behind. “Batya, what’s going on?”
Batya turned toward the doorway that led to the back rooms and her assistant’s apartment. Lorelei had been her solid right-arm for two years now, helping her run both the gallery and the free-clinic. “I don’t know, but I think Mastyr Quinlan’s in trouble.”
Lorelei drew close. She stood just slightly shorter than Batya as she stared out at the strange golden light and the massive wraith-pairs that looked ready to eat Quinlan alive.