Lyssa wanted a meal. Preferably something muscular, a man whose long, powerful body would serve her well as she took his blood. She would hold him down, drink her fill and ride him hard. Take him deep, making him give up his rich blood and hot seed to her body at the same time. She'd push him to exhaustion, beyond rational thought. All those wonderful muscles would be taut and slick as he pounded into her with single-minded urgency, his most primitive instincts making him into a fierce, beautiful rutting animal. Just imagining it made heat shimmer over her skin. As she gazed out the window from the shadows of the backseat of her limo, her lips parted, her tongue caressing the backside of her fangs as if she could already taste him.
For months she'd made herself take blood functionally, letting it nourish her the way freeze-dried packets would keep a lost camper alive. But like most vampires, her desire for blood was intertwined with her need to dominate her victim sexually. Without that, the blood had no taste. No vitality.
She missed taking alpha males. She enjoyed the fight, their resistance, the sweet taste of heated blood. The perception, if only for a moment, that the hunt would be a challenge. A vampire didn't survive by being ruled by her compulsions, any more than a woman survived by being consumed by her most private desires. But tonight she needed release, and she was feeling reckless enough not to care about the consequences to her fragile heart.
Her nails were just the beginning. A manicure, then a man.
It irritated her that the car in the deserted parking lot of the salon was not Max's. Maybe her manicurist had experienced car trouble and borrowed someone else's vehicle. Still, it set off alarm bells in Lyssa's head. But since her limo was an evening's rental while she stayed in Atlanta, she couldn't very well ask the driver to scope out the area for signs of rival vampires. Of course, if she'd had a marked human servant, he could have performed the task for her.
Leave me be, Thomas. I've made my choke on that. For now.
She studied her nails by the light thrown into the car from the parking lot lamps. Hellhound that he was, her Irish wolfhound Bran had torn one when she was indulging his incessant need for attention. It had grown back to the half-inch length she preferred in no time, but the glossy burgundy polish could not be regenerated. Perfection was essential, particularly these days when showing any vulnerability could create dangerous situations. Though she easily could afford to pay a manicurist to come to her home, her enemies needed to know she wouldn't hesitate to go out to seek simple indulgences.
The hell with it. So it wasn't Max's car. If it was a trap or trick, she was ready to prove to any enemy or potential suitor foolish enough to challenge her that she was not to be trifled with—particularly not when she teetered on the edge of full-blown bloodlust.
She nodded to the driver, indicating she was ready. Throughout (lie trip from her mansion on the outskirts of Atlanta to the downtown area, the fifty-something black man had watched her closely in the rearview mirror. From her research into his background and her request from the rental company she knew he was ex-military and used regularly for high-risk clients. Add to that, perhaps somewhere in his southern past he had a grandmother into voodoo or witchcraft, or some other path that believed in the otherworldly. For it was obvious he sensed there was something different about her. Something that warned him not to turn his back.
Getting out, he opened her door. When she stepped onto the pavement, she noted his large hand tightened on the top of the window as he apparently controlled an urge to draw away from her.
"I'll be two hours," she said. "You're welcome to do as you wish during that time."
"I'll likely just sleep in the car, ma'am."
"No." His brows lifted as she turned, pointed. "If you do that, there's a hotel parking deck two miles that way. You'll go there. It's not safe to sleep in a car downtown late at night, Mr. Ingram." It was possible someone might slit his throat and pose as her driver, a twisted attempt to gain her favor or capitulation. The pressure on her to remarry since Rex's death was fierce, and courtship in the vampire world had all the romance to it of a terrorist cell planning to blow up a preschool.
She didn't want the driver's blood spilled on her account. Particularly since blood spilled on the ground was wasteful. "Do as I say." Withdrawing some money from her small purse, she handed the folded bills to him. "That's three hundred dollars. Lock up the car, eat dinner in the hotel and pay for a room to take your nap. Come back for me at midnight."
He nodded. She could see her actions created many questions in his mind, but she appreciated that he didn't ask them, choosing to sort them out himself. Perhaps this driver would consider… No, his fear was too palpable.
Even while she discarded the idea of hiring him as her permanent driver, for hiring staff was something she'd recently shied away from doing, her mind was admonishing her as she knew Thomas, her last human servant, would have done. You must have staff. Most importantly, you need a servant. Who will take care of you, my lady?.
Only a human servant would ask that question and sincerely mean it when talking about his Mistress, a vampire over a thousand years old. It was moot in this case. Lyssa had no interest in Mr. Ingram as anything but a driver.
A marked human servant was different from an employee or domestic staff person. It was a person who served her by choice, binding himself to her by blood for much more intimate reasons than just to drive her car. One who accepted the demands of the role out of desire rather than fear, a form of submission that brought her a deep, lasting pleasure.
She just hadn't found anyone yet. A year was not a long time to wait when one had her life span. She still missed Thomas too much. It was that simple.
As she walked toward the high alabaster archway of the Eldar Salon and Spa, the sight of the familiar security guard waiting for her made her relax somewhat. Unless there was serious cause, she didn't believe in canceling an appointment at the last minute or being significantly late, like a movie or rock star who believed the world revolved around her schedule. People who worked had families, lives. Short lives at that. Rex had pointed out to her more than once that it didn't matter since humans frequently squandered the time they had. But that was their decision. Hers was to be reasonably prompt so they would have that choice to make.
She looked back at Elijah Ingram. She supposed most clients who rented a limo for the night didn't even know the name of their drivers, but she'd known much more than that about him before he'd come to pick her up. Enough to be reasonably certain he'd go to the hotel, pay for parking and take just enough of the change to get himself a soda and a Danish from the vending machine. He'd doze in the car and stash away the rest of the money to pay for his grown son's many mistakes. Other than purchasing that guilty snack, he wouldn't spend the money on anything for himself.