“Amleth!” Rosalyn called out. She could not help but moon over the gorgeous vampire the moment he entered the foyer. He cut a perfectly Byronic figure in a black trench coat, the collar pulled up around his ears. His inky hair was held back with a pair of gold aviator sunglasses and the long waves spilled down over his shoulders.
“Hello, darling!” he said as he caught Rosalyn in his arms and kissed her cheeks.
“You’ve been poking at me since you landed in New York!” she said.
“What’s this bosh? I do not ‘poke’ in the blood. I very gently and correctly announced my presence on the continent.” He handed her a smartly wrapped package. “A thousand blessings upon you and yours, madame.”
“We thank you, London,” she said, finding the requisite formalities silly. But Rosalyn understood the importance of pretense. Godric insisted on obscuring the nature of his and Amleth’s connection by maintaining certain appearances between the two sheriffdoms. She herself had not known about Amleth’s adoption until she was turned. If others identified the blood of Godric’s two progeny in Amleth, most would dismiss it as the byproduct of a steamy, meaningless night in Dallas. They would be very, very wrong.
Rosalyn passed the ceremonial gift to Eric, knowing full well that the box was empty. Instead of handing token presents back and forth during official visits, Amleth, Godric, and Eric had a centuries-long game of hiding a hideous gold wallet in each others’ nests for the unsuspecting host to find. Once upon a time, Godric had discovered it mislaid in his belongings and thinking it was Amleth’s, returned the offensive object to him with sincerity. Amleth swore he nearly died all over again laughing at the wretched thing and the mere idea that it could be mistaken as his. Ever since, the lot of them took great joy in devising increasingly absurd ways to secret the wallet into one another’s unwilling possession. Rosalyn had no doubt she would be targeted as its next owner. She would have to stay vigilant.
“You’re all dressed up,” Rosalyn noted as a footman brought in Amleth’s luggage. “You look fantastic.” It was not just Amleth’s beguiling nature behind Rosalyn’s words. There was a giddy happiness percolating in their bond.
“We came straightaway. Boss’ orders and such.” He smoothed down an emerald silk scarf over his dark maroon velvet jacket and Rosalyn appreciated how the colors made his eyes dance a startling green. A movement on the portico drew her gaze over his shoulder and she sucked in an unnecessary breath. “Oh my dear god,” she said. Her hand flew to her mouth, horrified that she had blurted that out loud. The two vampires walking up behind Amleth made the trio look like they fell out of a fashion magazine.
Eric gave a deep chuckle. “Exquisite creatures, aren’t they? Allow me to introduce you to Amleth’s progeny. This is Constantine Manetas.”
The bronze vampire set down a leather carryall and knelt before Rosalyn, fist over his unbeating heart. His dark brown hair was smoothed back from where it met on his forehead in a widow’s peak. He wore his beard short. Like Amleth, his face was sculpted of shadows that played in the sharp angles of his bones. Unlike Amleth, Constantine’s eyes were jet black, so black and illegible they swallowed the world. They were reptilian. He flashed a pretty smile and Rosalyn was afraid. She reached blindly for Eric and found his hand. She nearly forgot her manners. “Welcome to Area Nine, Mr. Manetas. We are pleased to have you.”
“Please, call me Costas. I am your humble servant, madame.”
Eric presented Amleth’s other child, Eva Desjardins, and Rosalyn was grateful for Eric’s steadying presence. Eva frightened her too. ‘You’re doing beautifully,’ he silently reassured her.
Eva was an alabaster tower, delicate of limb and cordial as stone. Her formless linen shift was as colorless as her skin. Her head was crowned with a shock of platinum white hair. Her thin lips were tinted with a bright pop of ruby lipstick. Like Costas, Eva knelt to Rosalyn in full supplication. The guards and service staff took no notice. Everyone bent the knee to the House of Godric. But this was different. Amleth blinked slowly and silently asked Rosalyn whether she understood. His children were sworn to serve her. Rosalyn nodded. Her distrust did not waver.
The conclave of vampires was welcomed inside and settled in the finest of the public receiving rooms. Amleth automatically took the oversized chair normally reserved for Godric. The reaction of the handful of Dallas vampires milling about the nest was telling. The London Sheriffdom rivaled many monarchies in importance. The locals tittered in low, near inaudible tones and peeked at Amleth and his children from the shadows of the hallway. Amleth gave a small shrug at Isabelle, agreeing to greet the underlings while they waited for their appointments with Godric. Mabel was there, bubbling with excitement. Rosalyn could tell the little firecracker pin-up wanted to wheedle her for dirt on the smoldering Sheriff. She would be sorely disappointed.
Godric had pulled Rosalyn aside after dusk and given her a series of commands to lock their family’s secrets inside her head. He had also sheepishly adjusted his standing orders on Sookie. Preventing Rosalyn from being able to touch the human-faeling outright had been a serious error – one which might have been dangerous if Rosalyn had needed to truly defend herself. It was an oversight Godric attributed to not having ever considered restraining his first progeny from hurting humans. Both he and Rosalyn still had a lot to learn about the challenges of being ethical vampires in the 21st century.
While Mabel was chattering away with Amleth, Eva and Pam were catching up. Costas was engaged in conversation as well, but his eyes kept shifting back to Rosalyn, reminding her of how vampires used to look at her when she was claimed as Godric’s human. His interest sent chills of warning down her back. Isabelle slipped among the guests and Eric leaned down so that she could whisper something into his ear. He abruptly excused himself and left Rosalyn to assume the hosting duties. She took his place at Amleth’s right shoulder, supervising the Area residents and making it clear to all that Dallas had requested London’s presence. Amleth was their bauble to show off, and his time and attention were given at their discretion.
The discovery that vampires were so much more hierarchical and given to pomp and circumstance than humans had been rather a great letdown. Rosalyn had hoped that stripped of human conventions, they would associate loosely in covens or communes or conventicles. Godric assured her there were a great many such freewheeling places in the world. Just not Texas. And most definitely not Area Nine at present.
There was power, and then there was power play, Godric had explained. Most people were not able to recognize the difference. Real power was Eric in sweatpants smoothly running a sheriffdom out of a back room in a dingy strip mall club. Power play was this theatre of a gaudy house in Dallas – and everything Godric was about to do. “Observe, reflect, and you will see how we play the long game,” he advised her.
Earlier that evening, Godric had hoisted his solid walnut desk under one arm and banged through numerous double doors to an unused part of the estate. He tugged along a cart with supplies in the other hand. At the far end of the estate’s cavernous ballroom, he reassembled his office. The display was ridiculous, but sometimes underlings needed to have it spelled out for them. He was done playing the well-mannered, unobtrusive Sheriff. Let it never be said that Godric the Great ruled by reputation alone.
After sunset, Isabelle escorted Michael in. The human was forced to walk the long, full length of the court, sneakers squeaking loud and slow on the black and white checkerboard marble. The night was black beyond the huge picture windows. Godric had cut the pleasant landscape lighting in the east gardens. There were no vistas to distract visitors, no art on the walls, not even a potted palm. There was nothing in the grand hall other than Godric, the desk, and an empty chair. “Sit,” he ordered the boy, once the human finally reached him.
Godric started typing. He clacked the keys at a human pace. In the twenty tortuous minutes it took him to make the final edits on the contract, he did not once take his eyes off the fidgeting boy sitting in front of him. The human’s heart rate was elevated, but he bravely tried to meet Godric’s unnerving stare. The compact printer on the corner of the desk began rhythmically clunking out sheets of paper. Godric folded his hands and waited. The document was over two hundred pages long. Godric could have easily sent it to the large capacity photocopier in Isabelle’s office, but what kind of message would that send? He was letting the boy into his home. Giving him access to his wife. He was going to be as much of a bastard as he pleased – and then some.
Godric allowed a sly smile to slide across his mouth. People always thought it was Eric who was the unmanageable one. Almost no one remembered Eric before he was taught to be that way. Even fewer remembered that it was Godric who made him so. Most of those people were dead.
Seeing Godric’s odd smile, the boy swallowed nervously and cleared his throat several times. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck and the air ripened with his adrenaline, but he weathered the silent interview nobly. Godric addressed him at last. “I am told that you hope to become a doctor, Michael.”
“Doctors often find themselves holding a life in their hands. Does the power over life and death excite you?”
The boy blinked several times and he furrowed his brow in concentration. “I’d like to help people’s quality of life, sir, not play God.”
“That is not what I asked.”
“Ah…then…no, Sheriff. Having someone’s life in my hands is a daunting responsibility. I am not excited by the prospect, sir.”
“Here. Pick it up.” Godric pushed the stack of paper across the desk. Michael scrabbled at the document’s edges with stubby fingernails. “That, young one, is your life. Or at least one possibility for it. I doubt it feels nearly as weighty as the decision it contains.”
The boy stared at the contract in his lap. Godric opened a thick dossier. “Your new apartment, fully furnished, exclusive amenities, and 24-hour security.” He placed another packet beside it. “Your benefits package. Health insurance, life insurance, and retirement plan.” He tossed a set of keys on the table. They belonged to the banana yellow Lamborghini Michael had liked. “A signing bonus.” Godric added another pamphlet to the growing pile. It featured an ivy-covered brick building. “Full tuition, plus books and supplies, etc., and comparable secure housing and transport while you’re enrolled.”
Michael fingered the brochure. “I don’t understand. I wasn’t accepted at Harvard.”
“You are now.”
“But…what are you offering me?”
“Me? Nothing. Yet.” Godric pulled another file from a drawer and flipped through it. He debated threatening Michael with how much data he was able to gather on his family. Did he know his third cousin in Dayton, Ohio was lactose intolerant? Better yet, did he even know he had a cousin in Ohio? Godric settled on a more direct tactic.
“Michael, my eldest progeny Eric Northman asked you to lie to me. You complied. My second in command Isabelle Beaumont also conspired with you to lie to me. You complied. Again.”
“I…well…Mr. Northman was the one who hired me and gave me the instructions. I didn’t feel like I had a choice, sir.”
“You’re really going to go with ‘I was following orders’? Try again.”
“Was I glamoured? Mr. Northman said he wouldn’t but I know we can’t tell.”
“No, you weren’t glamoured. You were being tested. My child seems to think you are capable of being more than a blood whore. Are you?”
Michael set his chin. “I am not a whore.”
“I will be the judge of that.”
“Sheriff, I am not ashamed of donating my blood to aid Madame Rosalyn. She is so beautiful and was so sweet and – ” Godric crossed his arms. He did not need to be told about the virtues of his wife from this welp. Michael took the hint. “I am not ashamed when I donate platelets to help humans either. I know I am capable of a lot more. Did Mr. Northman tell you I am saving up what I earn for med school?”
Godric ignored him. He was the one who asked questions. “What do you think will happen if you attempt to lie to me a third and final time?”
The ‘final’ was not lost on Michael and the contract trembled in his hands. “Whatever you want to happen, sir. ‘If’ there were a third time. There won’t be.”
“Let us hope, for your sake, that is true.”
Godric pressed the intercom and issued a rapid order to Isabelle in Spanish. A few minutes later, Eric rapped on the doorframe. He had Sookie by the arm. She was flustered and aroused and Godric could tell Eric had been toying with her to elicit that exact response. He narrowed his eyes in displeasure.
Michael swiveled around and glanced briefly at the woman. He turned back to Godric without so much as a tick in his pulse or any dilation of his pupils. It was a point in his favor.
“Approach,” Godric said. He could feel Eric’s groan about the new office setup before it rolled out of his child. “Tread carefully,” Godric warned him in Old Norse.
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate,” Eric replied in Italian, letting his voice echo in the empty hall. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Michael bit back a smile and shaded his amusement under thick dark lashes.
“Is something funny?” Godric asked sharply.
“Dante’s Inferno. Nevermind.”
Godric harrumphed. “Then you’ll also know Dante said ‘In His will is your peace.’” Godric’s will was very much still on the fence about the human.
“I’ll keep it in mind, Sheriff,” Michael said.
“Do,” Godric said. Another point in the boy’s favor. Eric was right. Michael was clever.
Halfway across the court, Eric paused to genuflect and told Sookie to give a bob. She appeared to enjoy the political pageantry. Compton had certainly pegged his ‘Southern gent’ act right. Sookie was clearly the type who took pride in being able to perform formal rituals and codes of conduct. She gave another deep curtsy when she was finally before Godric. Whether she had learned to respect authority was another matter.
Godric greeted her coolly. “Welcome back, Ms. Stackhouse.”
“My Liege Lord Godric. It’s a real pleasure to see you again.” Her tan had faded while she was away in London, as had the stench of Compton’s blood in her.
“Ms. Stackhouse, I wish for you to read this human for me. He is a potential employee. Ascertaining his trustworthiness is of the utmost importance.”
“Stackhouse Consulting, LLC is happy to help you out. Pro bono, of course,” she said, pronouncing the phrase carefully.
“Of course,” Godric murmured, vaguely amused by the thought that she might dare send him a bill. He turned his attention back to Michael. “I will only ask you this once, young one. Think very carefully before you answer. What are you hiding from me?”
Michael’s heart tripped. “What? Nuh…Nothing, sir…” He looked around, searching for answers he did not have.
“His girlfriend just dumped him,” Sookie said, holding his hand to hear his thoughts more clearly. “He told her that he is a donor. She didn’t know until he came home with marks.”
“When,” Godric demanded.
“The night before last,” Michael said.
“It’s true,” Sookie confirmed.
“He claimed it was his first time feeding a vampire,” Godric said.
Sookie listened a moment. “Yup. That’s true too…Eww.” The two vampires waited for clarification. “He liked it. A lot.”
Eric gave his maker a look. “Ros fed like you.”
Godric raised an eyebrow. “I see.” Mentally, he recalculated Eric’s punishment.
“Did he tell the girlfriend about his client?” Eric asked.
“Ah…nope. He said ‘Just some guy.’ He’s thinking of you, Eric. I mean, Mr. Northman, but…” Sookie squinted in concentration. “He’s seeing Madame Rosalyn. He didn’t describe either of you. He told her his client was short and ugly and smelled like Axe body spray.” She giggled and Eric cut his eyes skeptically at the boy.
“Anything else?” Godric pressed.
“Just a whole lotta panic, sir. He can’t afford his rent without his ex. He asked for more shifts at the cafe where he works. He’s real keen to know what you’d like him to do. Eric promised him big things if he didn’t mess up. He’s pretty sure he didn’t mess up.”
“Very well. Thank you for your assistance, Ms. Stackhouse. You are excused. Eric, you stay.”
“What are ya’ll gonna do to him? Did he mess up?” Sookie said.
Godric had made a mental note to praise Amleth for his work with Sookie, but he saw that too needed adjusting.
“Leave, Tinkerbell,” Eric said and she gave a quick curtsy and trotted out of the ballroom clutching her purse. Godric drummed his fingers on the desktop.
“Seriously? Axe body spray?” Eric said, staring down his long nose at Michael. “This from Boy B-Plus.”
“Huh?” Michael said.
Godric waved off their chatter. He made his decision. “I agree that you are no whore, Michael. What you will become, however, remains to be seen.”
Should Michael agree to Godric’s proposal, he would be kept on a retainer during a short trial period, wherein he would continue to serve Rosalyn’s nutritional needs and help her re-acclimate to humans. His duties would shift away from blood donation into daytime tasks of increasing delicacy, and ultimately toward work related to the establishment of a medical program in Rosalyn’s school.
“You are the ones behind the new university?” Michael said.
“That is not public knowledge.”
“I won’t tell a soul.”
“No, you won’t. You will be glamoured into silence. But you can be part of this endeavor – if you prove yourself. Shall I continue?”
Michael gaped in disbelief at Godric’s sweeping agenda. Godric wanted to fund his post-graduate education and even if Michael decided against med school or flunked out, the family of vampires would find appropriate employment for him so long as he remained loyal. Ideally, Michael might work as a researcher and administrative board member once the medical program was operational.
“There is a caveat,” Godric said.
“I do not employ humans.”
“Oh.” Michael’s excitement deflated like a balloon.
Godric flicked his eyes up at his lurking progeny. “My child, however, does take such risks. Seeing as he has already engaged your services -”
“You have got to be…You’re giving me the Boy Scout?” Eric said. He switched into Norse. “Give me Stackhouse. That is a snack I will gladly babysit.”
Godric stood, planting two fists on the hardwood desktop. Eric automatically sunk to one knee. “Should Michael agree to my proposal, you will be his employer and direct supervisor. That includes ensuring his security and well-being. Can you manage that?”
“I take excellent care of my staff,” Eric said, eyes glued to the floor.
“Your barmaid is significantly underweight and has a mind the consistency of Swiss cheese.”
“In all fairness, Maker, Ginger wasn’t much to start with.”
“And what is your excuse for Yvetta?”
“I am perfectly aware that Fangtasia attracts scum. That’s the point. Ask my former dayman how he fairs and he’ll tell you about the fresh crawdads I leave him and the fishing reels he received last Christmas and the houses he won’t accept from me.”
Godric probed their bond and in the bond there was no lie. It was as he suspected. But he wanted more from Eric. Eric needed to learn from Rosalyn’s good example. “Treat Michael with the dignity he deserves. Do not fail your House.”
“And for the love of the gods, make it known to Amleth and Sookie that he is permanently off the menu – all the menus.” Eric bowed his head and wisely suppressed a smile. Breezily returning to English, Godric continued. “Michael, you will have to be mobile. You will go where we go and live where we house you, with the security detail your position necessitates. These are the concessions of being attached to my retinue. They are non-negotiable. There is one final thing.”
Godric leaned over the desk into the young mortal’s hopeful face and let his fangs slide down. “While Eric is your supervisor, you are my agent. You answer to me. If you detect the slightest whiff of deceit around you, in anyone, you report it to me. If you are concerned about anything you witness seeming suspicious or out of place, you report it to me. Understand? You are incapable of lying to me or mine. If you fail me, I will see to it that the world forgets you ever existed. Your own mother won’t know your name.” Godric twisted off the hard glamour and sunk back into his chair.
“Yes, sir. I cannot lie to you or yours. If I see something, I’ll say something, or my mother won’t know my name.”
“Review the contract and sign it when you are ready. Eric can answer your questions and he’ll explain your new security protocols. Regardless of whether you sign or not, I require you in the west garden in a half hour. Shower and change your clothing. You smell of fear.”
“Yes, sir.” Michael got up to leave.
“And Michael?” Godric added. “If your employer is kneeling, you should be kneeling lower.”
Eric snatched Michael’s wrist and pulled him to the ground. He guided him to bow, then stood and pushed Michael’s head down in another supplication. They backed away from Godric’s audience. Only when they were ten paces afield did Eric steer the human to turn. Neither dared to look back at the simmering Celt.
Godric twirled his pen in his fingers. Two down, two more to go. He called for Isabelle over the intercom. She entered with trepidation, having clearly received Eric’s warning that Godric was very much holding court. She fell to her knees before him.
Godric set a gold crown on his desk and folded his hands. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t give this to you.”
Isabelle’s mouth was momentarily frozen with horror. “Do you wish to send me away?” she managed.
“I do not wish it, but you have forced my hand. You do not weave misdirection and tell fibs for Eric. You do so for me – and me alone. Take it.”
“Others will see this as a reward, Sheriff.”
“But not you.”
“I know it is not. You have taught me well. The crown is a target on my head. Respecfully, Sheriff, I do not want it. I desire a foothold to limit others’ power over me. The only foothold I have ever wanted is at your side.”
“Your maker sends his hearty congratulations.”
“Antonio is a fool,” she said. Isabelle lowered her head and fat tears rolled down her cheeks. “I will accept whatever task you charge me with, Godric, so long as you acknowledge that I accept it in your service.”
“I know this, Isabelle, and I am grateful. It is only temporary. We need stronger leadership in the capitol. You will be an excellent Queen.” She nodded and more tears streamed down. Godric handed her a handkerchief. “It will appear as though I am retiring from public life and you are moving on to bigger and better things.”
“But you will remember who you serve.”
“Always,” she swore.
“Then it is settled.” Godric passed her the crown.
She did not touch the gold circlet. “You are leaving Dallas.”
“I believe it is time.”
“Gracias a Dios.” She crossed herself, genuinely happy for him. A thought occurred to her. “Please tell me you aren’t leaving Stan in charge.”
“I may be old, mija, but I’m not senile.” Hearing her beloved Sheriff joke and call her ‘honey’ softened the blow. “And I will not wander so very far,” he added.
She met his conspiratorial grin with one of her own. “How may I be of service, milord?”
The west gardens of Godric’s estate contained a meandering path lined with flowerbeds, shapely cedars, and other conifers. A number of artificial ponds and water features dotted the lawns. The gardens were well-kept and nice enough, if entirely pointless. They filled an awkward space on the home’s footprint between the massive windowless garages and the squat wing intended for human lodgers. Privacy hedging screened the solid, high walls of the outdoor court, concealing the fact that it was effectively an exit-less prison yard. The adjoining human quarters lacked the heavily fortified doors and biometric locks of the sumptuous vampire suites, but the only way out was through a secure corridor in the main portion of the estate. The construction was entirely illegal and for good reason. It was not safe for human habitation. No one had occupied these spare rooms or their secret garden in some time – until now. There was a single, throbbing heart in one of the bedrooms.
Rosalyn took a seat under a pergola of jasmine. “Please command me, Godric.” It was the fifth time she had asked in as many minutes.
“No,” he said.
“You are being difficult.”
“I know.” He smiled and it did little to soften the hardness that had settled on his face since his return from the High Council. It was this same raw brutality hovering about him that parted the household’s underlings in the common rooms like the Red Sea. He barely stopped to grunt a welcome at Amleth.
“You’ll at least hold me, right?”
“No. Your will must be stronger than your body.”
“I can feel your anticipation. You’re excited to see me feed.” It was unnerving and she was worried it would goad her into doing something incredibly stupid.
“Better?” he asked, cordoning off his end of their bond.
“No,” she said grimly. The warm evening breeze rustled the flowering bowers hanging from the pergola. Michael’s hot scent swirled in alluring eddies toward her, tangled with the heavy perfume of jasmine and clipped grass. “Please, Godric.”
“Be brave, my muse.”
She grimaced. “Bravery is what you’re going to need if you allow me to harm a hair on that man’s head.”
Godric offered no further words of support. Michael strolled across the lawn, sending a wall of rich, succulent heat crashing through the gardens. Rosalyn’s fangs dropped hard and cut her lip. Licking the wound, she clung to the stone bench for moral support. Eric had not exaggerated. Godric did not make things easy. She was afraid for the boy and afraid of her impulses so near him. “Hi, Michael.” she said, feeling shy. “Thanks for agreeing to come back here.”
“Of course. I am deeply honored,” he said.
He was too calm. ‘Be terrified!’ she wanted to scream at him. Or perhaps it was her instincts hoping he would run. She managed to keep an even tone. “You’ve really helped out a lot these past few days. How are you feeling?”
“Just fine, madame.”
“Can you…um…I’d rather you didn’t use all the formal speech they train you to use, okay?”
“Whilst in Madame’s private audience, she means,” Godric interjected. He leaned back in his wide stance, hands shoved into the pockets of his grey pants. He watched the two interact with sly grey-green eyes.
“What should I call you?” Michael said.
“Rosalyn or Ros is fine. I’m sorry that we’ve not had the chance to talk.” Talking was the last thing her body wanted to do. Even the open air of the gardens felt erotically close and still not close enough. She wanted to crush his young, hard body to her mouth and gorge on him. His pulse was a thunderous roar in her ears.
But Rosalyn knew nothing about him. The decent part of her had a jumble of questions for him. Was he alright with this arrangement? Was there anything he needed? What sorts of things did he like to do? Perhaps they could get to know each other first.
“Shall we take a walk?” she suggested.
“You and your walks with strange boys,” Godric teased. “Look where that got you.”
“Oh hush. I’m annoyed at you.”
“I noticed. You can take it out on me later.” He winked and her fangs ached at the suggestion. “I might kindly suggest cutting to the chase, as they say. You are hungry. He is food.”
“He’s much more than that,” she said.
Godric snorted. “So everyone keeps telling me.”
“You are here as our guest, Michael,” she explained.
“He is here as Eric’s employee,” Godric corrected.
“Whatever. I want him to be comfortable. Keeping pets is banned in this area, Michael.”
“I’ve heard about Sheriff Godric’s decree.” Michael nodded at their chaperone. “It is a very progressive position.”
Godric wandered behind the boy and rested a hand on his shoulder. Michael looked at Godric in surprise and his heart walloped a beat and began to race. Rosalyn let out an involuntary growl at the contact and she slapped a hand over her mouth. A corner of Godric’s mouth ticked up. He slid an arm around the boy, winding Rosalyn up further.
‘He’s mine!’ she thought, jamming the claim at Godric in the bond. If he felt it, he did not show it. Rosalyn’s desire boiled up unbidden from some deliciously dark place in her. A cool creeping sensation crawled over her skin. She realized it was her cold blood prickling – in what would otherwise have been a flush of sensual heat. She swallowed thickly, fixating on the dusting of fine hair peeking out from Michael’s v-neck t-shirt. He was still slightly damp from a shower and his skin smelled of soap and clean laundry. Her thoughts grew more lurid and explicit by the second.
“You’ll excuse me for making you both an object lesson, but let’s examine what we have here,” Godric said. “Young one,” he said to Michael, “the situation you find yourself isn’t ‘progressive’. It is beyond dangerous. It is lethal. There is no such thing as safety with our kind. Full stop.”
Rosalyn protested. “That’s not the inter-species understanding we’re working towards!” She looked decidedly unconvincing with her large fangs.
“And work towards that we must,” Godric said, “but not from a starting point of willful ignorance. Not when you’re shaking from possessiveness over this boy and your judgment is crippled by gnawing hungers you can’t even name. Close your eyes and stop breathing, love. You need to dull your senses.” Godric turned Michael’s chin towards him with a tip of a finger. “You will never be closer to death than you are right now, Michael. I am a fate worse than death, if I choose to be.” The boy’s fearful sweat bloomed with the dread Godric was seeking.
“Stop scaring him.” Rosalyn gripped the concrete bench.
“I don’t do this for my enjoyment.”
“God, please. Just stop,” she said behind clamped-shut eyes.
“Why? What does his fear do to you, Ros?”
“It aggravates my prey drive!”
“Aye, it does. You are both trying to overthink something incredibly simple. You sound like very smart idiots. Stop wishing away danger and fear with logic and embrace it for the properly instructive voice that it is. Understand your instincts. Ros, do you trust yourself alone with this young human?”
“No,” she said, defeated.
“No,” Godric said. “And that is perfectly right. Michael, this newborn vampiress knows neither her strength, nor her abilities, and she understands precious little of her impulses. She doesn’t even know that were I not her maker, she would have just attacked me for embracing you a moment ago.”
“Oh. Yesssir,” he stammered.
“Distrust anyone with greater power than you, regardless of their species. That goes for you too, Ros.”
“Got it. Distrust everyone and everything,” she said miserably.
“Really, Rosalyn? Insolence?”
“Sorry, Maker. I’m listening.”
“Ros, I could feel the fear dripping from you the moment you laid eyes on Amleth’s children. I could also feel that you didn’t understand why.”
“I…I don’t know why. I want to like them.”
“You haven’t been around a single unfamiliar elder until tonight. The majority of my subjects are babies. You could hold your own with most of them and you don’t even know how to fight. Such is the gift of ancient blood. Yours intuitively recognizes the superior powers of Amleth’s progeny.”
“They pledged fealty to me.”
“But?” Godric prompted.
“They do not answer to me.”
“Precisely. They are always, always, always Amleth’s creatures,” Godric said, very pleased she remembered this crucial lesson. She had still been human when she had witnessed him ream out Eric and Pam for forgetting the ultimate power of a maker’s command.
“Can you let Michael go now?”
“In a minute. You are on high alert having strange vampires in your territory, and having Michael walking around unclaimed is adding to that stress. I want you to take a close look at him, Rosalyn.” Godric gazed at the boy who so uncannily resembled him. He stroked his cheek. Michael fell instantly into the glamour and his lips parted. He folded deeper into Godric’s deadly arms.
The air blossomed with arousal, human and vampire alike. The thirst kindling in Rosalyn’s throat burst into a fire. She had to suck at the anticoagulant dripping down her fangs lest she drool. “This is what happens when you let your troublemaker brother procure for you, Ros. Eric hasn’t done you any favors by picking someone who is desirable to you in every way but one. He was amusing himself and made matters more challenging for you.”
“Is there something wrong with me?” Michael said. “I can change.”
“Alas, you cannot,” Godric said. “Your blood type isn’t ideal. But that’s perfectly fine. At the end of the night, hunger is hunger and food is food, isn’t it, Ros? It’s a luxury to be picky and it’s utter rubbish to subject our nutrition to culinary fads.”
“It’s unethical,” she supplied, and fuck this blather because she wanted to eat. She licked her lips. “I want him.”
“You can have me, beautiful.” Michael said, his voice thick with desire. He ran a hand down his fitted t-shirt. “Every inch.”
Godric raised an amused eyebrow. “If you’re going to hit on my wife, dear boy, at least do me the favor of giving her what she came for first.” The fog of Godric’s glamour lifted and Michael turned beet red. “Hold him like you would a glass, Ros. He is that fragile.” Godric let Michael slip from his grasp. “Catch his gaze and think of what you want. Tell him calmly.”
“You look good enough to eat,” Rosalyn told him. “Come to me.” She was not sure she had glamoured him. Michael went to her anyways. Her fingertips chased over his chest and arms and she brushed her mouth over his throat. She captured the skin between her lips and licked and sucked the flesh. Michael let out a deep moan. That was when she chose to strike.
Michael’s blood was wildfire, liquid ecstasy shooting through her veins. She drank and drank and there was nothing but the fount of hot pleasure. It flooded into her, rich and salty and strong. His artery thudded in her teeth and she continued to suck, the rhythm goading her on in spite of its slowing.
Some tiny part of Rosalyn’s mind tried to grasp at the thought Eric had given her to help stop feeding. “Think of Godric leaving you again,” he had suggested. She struggled to reach the thought. It was slippery and just beyond her touch, bobbing up and down in a river of crimson.
“Stop,” Godric commanded. Rosalyn reared back from Michael. Godric pulled the panting boy to his chest and quickly licked up the gush of blood on his throat. Michael writhed under Godric’s efficient tongue and Godric nipped the boy’s earlobe with an impish smile.
Rosalyn was panting too, lips red and eyes ablaze. Her mind was overrun with decadent, depraved desires. None of her hungers were sated. She wanted to hike her skirt and ride the boy atop Godric. Drink from his thighs while he spilled his seed. Let them both ravish her until she could not tell them apart. Nothing but cocks and mouths and hands and blood.
“Sit down, Ros,” Godric said. He guided her to the bench and sat with her. “Stop breathing. Close your eyes.” She did, and it helped soothe her temporary insanity. He gentled her, speaking softly, bringing her down slowly from a delirious high.
“You have done well, young one,” she heard Godric say to Michael. “Remember to take your vitamins and ice your neck. That was not a gentle feeding.”
“I will, Sheriff. Thank you.”
Rosalyn peeked up from Godric’s protective shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“He’ll be fine, my love.” He reassured her, smoothing her long mane of hair. “Michael, have you made a decision?”
“Mr. Northman has the contract. I already signed.”
“Very well. Welcome aboard. My assistant Stan will take you to your new apartment. If he bullies you about the Lamborghini, remind him that the car is actually mine. Then remind him that you are mine. Then report him to me.”
“You have a day task later today, as well as a night assignment tomorrow night. Shall we say 3pm to start? That will give you twelve hours of rest.”
“I only need six or so.”
“Yet eight hours of sleep is the recommendation for a boy of your age.”
“Respectfully, sir, I am 25 and a man.”
Godric stared at him. Michael lowered his gaze. “We are sending a chef to give you cooking lessons. We do not approve of your diet.”
Rosalyn’s hands had wandered under Godric’s shirt. She gave him a pinch and a stern look. “What Godric means is that I smelled your ramen noodles in the kitchen and, well, I’m sorry but I deep-sixed the rest of your groceries – not for my sake, but yours. If you’re helping my nutrition, I’d like to help yours too. You don’t have to eat like a broke college kid anymore. You’ll thank me when you hit 30 and your metabolism crashes.”
“Oh, sure. I do try to take care of myself. I work out. Running, lifting, yoga for flexibility.” He straightened his posture and carded a hand through his hair – a move which put his bicep on display.
Godric did not try to hide his amusement. “So you do work out, dear boy. You wouldn’t survive it if I let my wife have her way with you right now. Perhaps best to drop the innuendo. Unless, of course, that was meant for me?” Godric quirked an eyebrow and Michael blanched. “She would snap your cock like a twig. Remember that tomorrow night when you and she are sparring.”
“Sheriff Amleth will be leading you both through a basic martial arts course. That is your evening assignment. Neither of you have self-defense skills.”
“I see. Should I bring anything?
“Just a good attitude, some gym clothes, and a very strong dose of respect for Amleth.”
“Yes, sir. Duly noted.”
“Alright then, stud muffin. You are dismissed.”
Michael blushed and bowed. “Goodnight, sir. Goodnight Madame Rosalyn.”
“Night,” Rosalyn said. Michael’s footsteps crunched in the grass.
As soon as he was gone, Godric turned to Rosalyn with a feral glint in his eyes. “I need you naked and on all fours. Now.”
A/N: Please leave a comment if you have a moment. Your feedback fuels the muse! xx