She brought up her hands and let them fall. "Okay, so, there are other vampires ladies out there."
"I don't want them. I don't love them." He stepped up to her. "I love you." He took her hands in his. "You went through the change alone. That's never happened to a Kyn before you." As she opened her mouth, he touched her cheek. "It's just a word.
But when you came to me, you were seeking something, weren't you?"
"Dreams. I fell in love with a guy from my dreams. It turned out to be you."
"You were looking for me."
"I was looking for that f.u.c.king bit.c.h in there who killed my parents." Her expression softened. "Yeah, and you. But you're not all green, and you don't have pine needles for hair, and you smell like Christmas."
"I am free of the Kyn." He frowned. "I am homeless and almost penniless as well." He caressed her shoulder. "Perhaps I only want you for your money."
"Or I could want you for your body. And your mouth." He kissed it. "And your eyes. And your hair. And your smile." He rested his hand over her left breast. "And your heart."
Their eyes met. Gabriel saw hers warm slowly, timidly, as if she wanted to give him time to change his mind and leave her.
"I will never leave you."
"Fine." She stepped back and handed him the helmet. "Get on. I want to dump this bike as soon as we get to Dublin. You think the vampire king is good for a new Triumph Tiger?"
He waited for her to climb on in front of him, and wrapped his arms around her waist as she kicked up the center stand and took off down the road.
"I think eventually Gabriel and Nicola will come back to the Kyn," Michael Cyprien said. "They need time to be together, and to bond."
"From what I saw in front of the castle yesterday, they need a hotel room." Alexandra lifted her hair off the back of her neck.
"Speaking of which..."
"I will not detain you." Richard looked down at his hand, which appeared half-human, half-feline. "Dr. Keller-"
"You're covered. I made up the next round of treatments and showed Korvel how to prepare more serum. If you can't trust him, you can't trust anyone." With a decided thump, she placed a small vial case on his desk. "I thought you might like to lock this batch up yourself."
That she had antic.i.p.ated his request did not surprise him, but that she would grant it did. She had no allegiance to him.
"Will you ever forgive me?" he asked her.
"No." She met his gaze. "But I'm still your doctor. Call me if your symptoms change, you marry another psychotic bit.c.h, or something else goes wrong."
She did care what happened to him. Richard thought of using that, then saw Cyprien's expression and decided against it. "Your generosity humbles me."
"Enjoy the novelty of the experience." She glanced at Michael. "I'll go wait in the car now." She left without looking back.
"That mouth." Richard breathed in a trace of lavender. "I will miss it."
"I will have her call you weekly, if you like. She loves to bend a sympathetic ear." Michael looked at the portrait on the wall behind Richard's desk. "What will you do with Elizabeth?"
"I will keep my promise to Nicola."
His surrogate son gave him a long, measuring look. "I will leave you to it." He executed a respectful bow. "Adieu, my lord."
After Michael departed, Richard took Alexandra's advice and carefully placed the alteration treatments in his safe. She had warned him that the rate of transformation could be slow, and consequently that his change back to human form might take months, even years, but he had all the time in the world.
Time had always been Richard's enemy. Now it would serve as his wife's executioner.
Richard left his study and walked over to the west wing. There he found Stefan hard at work with one of the recovering addicts now employed by Richard, filling in the s.p.a.ces. He waited until there remained but one stone to mortar into place, and then called a halt to the work.
"Go," he told them. "I will do the rest."
Stefan nodded and took the new man's arm. The junkie gave the high lord a quick, uncertain look before leaving with his guard.
Richard inspected the mortar work to assure it was sound and made of the special mixture he had obtained from an old Dublin masonry yard that guaranteed it to last for five centuries or more.He looked in through the last gap in the stone. The glorious Amber Room remained perfectly intact, except for the addition of some copper manacles welded around a large wooden cross, to which Elizabeth had been attached. She had first been dressed in her finest gown, her hair brushed so that it fell around her face in a cascade of gleaming curls.
Since she was facing eternity imprisoned in the Amber Room, Richard had felt his wife should look her best.
Elizabeth turned her head and saw his eyes looking in at her, and twisted against the copper chains binding her limbs to the wooden cross. The copper band that had been welded over the lower half of her face allowed her to make only outraged sounds in her throat.
In the center of the world's most beautiful room, Orson Leary's remains had been carefully arranged on Elizabeth's velvet settee directly in front of the cross. Beside him was a small pile of broken amber.
Satisfied that his orders had been carried out to the letter, and that his wife would spend whatever remained of her life facing her final victim and watching him rot more quickly than she did, Richard picked up the last stone, applied a generous amount of mortar, and slid it into place.
Please read on for an excerpt from Lynn Viehl's EVERMORE.
A Novel of the Darkyn Coming soon from Signet Eclipse Jayr watched the couples dancing the branle, but only heard the ensemble's music as if she sat somewhere far removed from the ball. The events of the evening seemed to please the guests of the realm, something that should have gratified her. It was her duty to attend to them and the thousand unseen details that ensured their pleasure. Yet here she sat, doing nothing at all. This unwelcome awareness had made her as useless as a moonstruck girl caught between the two cruelest of heart torments, doubt and hope.
It mattered not. Soon, Jayr knew, her wits would return and drag her back to her senses. Soon she would shrug off this appalling paralysis and get on with seeing to her master's guests. Soon- Byrne's hand came to rest on her shoulder, half on the velvet yoke of her tunic, half on the bare curve of her throat. He leaned over to murmur, "Rob fancies himself a danseur this night."
Locksley might have been performing a string of triple tours en l'air and Jayr would have missed them, so absorbed was she by the weight and feel of her master's touch. His soft breath set fire to her cheek; the warmth of his nearness reduced her to ashes.
The world dwindled to nothing but Byrne. She felt the length of his arm pressing across her back, and could it be... yes, there, the absent stroke of his thumb against her neck. He was petting her.
An idle caress. It means nothing.
Jayr smelled tansy entwined with heather and swallowed against the ache at the back of her throat. Locksley. Byrne had said something about his dancing. "The suzerain has much skill on the floor."
"How can you tell?" He shifted his palm, causing his calluses to delicately chafe the edge of her collarbone. "Have you danced with him?"
"No, my lord. I have not had that privilege." Thank Christ, the ensemble had nearly finished the set. As the branle came to its elegant end, Jayr forced herself from her seat. "I should check on the bloodwine."
Byrne stood, catching her around the waist and turning her toward the politely applauding couples. She expected him to point out some flaw, some error to be corrected, but his hand urged her forward, through the spiral of tables and to the very edge of the dance floor.
Jayr heard muttered Arabic and low snickering, and felt Nottingham's Saracens staring at her. Ridicule's whip straightened her shoulders, and kept panic at bay, even when her master drew her toward him. He stepped back, and then something happened that froze her in place again.
Aedan mac Byrne made a brief but perfect reverence to her.
It had to be a mistake. The suzerain of the realm never showed such regard to his seneschal, his third blade, the eyes at his back.
Such a man made reverence only to his lady, whose silk and lace swathed her soft limbs, and whose long, perfumed curls framed her delicate features.
Jayr could not be seen as a lady. She was not even wearing a gown.
"My lord?" Perhaps he made a clever jest. A moment of mockery to amuse the assembly. That had to be it. No wonder the heathens were entertained.
A lord paramount never bowed to his lowly servant.
Byrne said nothing, only taking up her hands in his. He arranged her arms in counterpoint to his before nodding to the leader of the ensemble. They began to play one of Strauss's pieces, one Jayr should have been able to name, had her voice and her brains still functioned. Her master turned her again as he guided her out among the whirling couples and into what had long ago been a vigorous and rather silly provincial dance.
He was dancing with her-waltzing, with her.
Jayr could not ask her master if he had gone mad. Moving her feet in the whirling patterns of the dance demanded much of her concentration, and the rest seemed fixed on the lacing at the neck of his shirt. She also suspected that if anyone might lose their wits on this night, it would be her.
"My lord," she finally forced out, "I am honored, but perhaps you could exchange me for a more appropriate partner. Lord de Troyes seems rather ill-matched with his lady, and I would-"
"Jayr?" He spun her down the length of his arm and back to his body.
She braced herself against his chest to keep a respectful s.p.a.ce between them. "My lord?"
Byrne seized one of her errant hands and worked his fingers through hers, locking them together. His arm pulled her in until their bodies brushed. "Shut up and dance with me."
"Yes, my lord."
Jayr found no comfort in silence or the waltz. She busied herself with counting steps and avoiding eyes. It seemed as if every lord and lady on the floor was gaping at them. And why should they not? The suzerain of the Realm held his seneschal in his arms.
Among the Kyn, such a thing had never happened.
Jayr cursed herself for not listening to Alexandra and donning more feminine attire. She might have looked less the skinny boy in a gown, and the skirts would have enforced a respectable boundary between their bodies. As it was, his person met hers in the most unseemly places: the flat of her belly, the small of her back, the front of her thighs. Little wonder that the waltz had often been condemned in the past as insidious and improper. The intimacy of it, of the constant press of his body to hers, quickly became unbearably erotic.
Behind the torture, a very small part of Jayr hoped that the waltz would never end.
As the music swelled to a giddy madness, Jayr glanced up to see her master's face darken, and followed his gaze. Alexandra, resplendent in an ivory lace gown, laughed as Cyprien lifted her off her feet and kissed her while they still twirled among the other couples.
What would it be like, Jayr thought, to have such love that you did not care who saw you express it? "The seigneur seems blessed in his choice of women," she said before she remembered that she was supposed to be holding her tongue.
Byrne changed direction, leading her through a tangle of couples and into the shadowy end of the floor, far from the sharp ears of those watching from the tables. When a burst of laughter drew the attention of the assembly, Jayr found herself being marched from the floor and around the corner to the empty corridor that led outside to the gardens and herbarium.
"I thank you for the dance, my lord." Jayr stepped out of his hold and straightened her sleeves. "It was most pleasant."
Byrne's broad back blocked out the moonlight streaming through the long, narrow panes of pale blue glass. His scent changed, growing heated and dark. When he put his hand to her throat, Jayr flinched.
"Pleasant, you say?" he asked, his voice dangerously soft.
"I meant enjoyable," she quickly added, feeling his fingers tighten. "Quite enjoyable. You are most accomplished, my lord."
"Pleasant." He walked her backward. "Enjoyable."
She felt cold stone against her shoulders. "I regret that I am not more adept myself. I rarely dance." He had her pinned now, body to body. She averted her face. "My lord, I should return and see to your guests."
"And Rob?" Byrne thrust his hand into her hair, his fingers curling against her scalp. "You will see to him? You will dance with him?"
She glanced up, confused. "Of course. I am happy to see to Suzerain Locksley's desires."
"He makes you happy. Unlike me."
Byrne's scent had fogged her thoughts; surely she had not heard him correctly. "My lord, it is not for you to make me happy."
"Is it not?" He lifted her in the same way Cyprien had Alexandra, sliding her up the stone wall until their eyes were level. "Did I not make you, Jayr?" His gaze moved from her eyes to her mouth. "Did you not swear your oath to me? Do you not belong to me, body and blood?"
Jayr felt drunk on his scent and touch, so much that she lost the last shred of her composure and shuddered uncontrollably against him as she told him the truth. "I am yours, my lord. Do with me what you will."
Byrne bent his head to hers, his long garnet hair spilling against her cheek as his lips touched hers. The contact made her jerk with shock, but he held her in place, his mouth slanting over hers as he deepened the kiss with his teeth and tongue.
Jayr had dreamed of this moment and what she might feel, but those paltry fantasies had not prepared her for how Byrne would take her mouth. He took and bit and thrust, reveling in the claiming, allowing her no retreat. The heat and scent of his passion smashed over her, reducing her to a clinging, moaning wreck writhing between his arms. In desperation she seized his shoulders, clutching at them as she fought her body's shameful response. His body became an oak, as still and unmovable, to which she had been chained. And there, pressing hard between her thighs-thrusting against her crotch-the heavy, stunning weight of his erection.
The ferocious hunger of his mouth eased away. "Mother of God." Byrne sounded as astounded as she felt. "What am I doing to you?" He carefully lowered her until she stood on her own again.
"You kissed me." She saw the pain and regret in his eyes, and cold, clammy horror crawled along her spine. She made her bruised mouth form a smile. "Needs are like cherished guests, my lord. At times they may be inconvenient, but one should never allow them to go unattended for too long."
"You are right." He looked disgusted now. "Jayr-"
"Your guests are waiting. Excuse me, my lord." She made her bow and ran.