Realizing that her test was over, Addie allowed herself to relax and took a deep breath with relief. Lex felt her grip on his arm go slack and looked down at her. Although her persuasive skills weren’t needed beyond facilitating the introductions, she handled herself and conversed with grace and class. She may not have been raised in high society (quite the opposite, based on the details of her childhood), but in mixed company where first impressions were of utmost importance, she carried herself with the poise and elegance of a princess.
Little did the sheriff know that she actually was.
The band that had been playing softly as background for mingling picked up their tempo and increased the volume for Big Band standards. The student and her vampire leaned against a far wall, just watching the more accomplished dancers try to avoid those whose lack of coordination should have kept them from going anywhere near the dance floor.
“You made me very proud tonight, Addie. You stood up for yourself and held your own with Northman and his infuriating progeny. You were polite and congenial to your embarrassment of a professor. You carried on an intelligent and engaging conversation with a very well-educated socialite. And… ,“ his voice dropped seductively, “… you kept a vampire more than a hundred times your age completely entranced since he first saw you this evening. I don’t think you comprehend how truly breathtaking you look tonight, especially in that shade of blue.”
The girl felt her cheeks warm with the blush that only he seemed to be able to cause. “You don’t have breath to take. Coming from you that seems like an empty compliment,” she teased.
His eyes playfully narrowed as he tilted her chin up to look at her. “If my heart beat, the way your legs look in those heels would stop it. If I breathed, your eyes and the flush of your cheeks would steal the air from my lungs. If I had met you before I was turned, I would have been a stuttering idiot in your presence. I met my maker when I was eighteen; I am eternally frozen at my sexual peak. Come home with me tonight.”
The conversation moved so quickly from gratuitous compliments to a blatant invitation to be debauched at his hands that it took several moments for Addie’s thoughts to catch up. She was well-versed in lighthearted smartassery, but had no experience in erotic banter or suggestive word-play. As attracted as she was to the Greek-Roman-Egyptian vampire before her, she knew that anything more than the innocently flirtatious friendship they presently shared would be asking for pain and heartbreak… and possibly death. “No.”
Lex took her hand and spun her in time to the music before clasping her waist and holding her close. “You know you want to, love. You’ve been dreaming of me. I can feel you come in your sleep.”
Addie tried to pull away, but his hold on her waist was too strong. No matter how embarrassing his knowledge was, she couldn’t deny it. “You can’t kill me in my dreams,” she sighed.
“I would never hurt you, mia carissima fata,” Lex argued, offended.
The girl shook her head, disagreeing. “Less than two weeks ago, you ordered me from your penthouse when my mask dropped. For the first time since we met… I was scared of you that night.”
The vampire spun her and pulled her close again, still dancing. “So keep up your mask. Then I can manage the temptation.”
Rolling her eyes, she scowled at the former prince. “So rather than be able to relax and enjoy myself, I should focus on hiding my scent so you won’t be tempted to drain me? I can think of a few ways I’d rather spend my time. Maybe shopping… with Pam.”
His brow furrowed skeptically. “You hate shopping. And Pam.”
“I’d prefer both at the same time if the other option is being used as a wet hole. When you can control yourself when I’m not masking, then we’ll talk.”
Lex had no intention of letting her go. “You took me by surprise last time. Try again. I can control myself.”
Addie scanned the room then shook her head. “Not here. Vampires at my seven and ten, plus several Weres throughout the room. I don’t want or need that kind of attention. Outside. If you can control yourself in the open air, I might let you take me home. I’m giving you one hell of a second chance. Don’t make me regret it.”
She didn’t know why she was playing with her life this way. Normal human boys were intimidated by her. Weres and shifters didn’t appeal to her. Other fairies were attractive enough, but their superiority complexes turned her off. Her first kiss was at seventeen when Arlene’s son Mikey came home for Christmas and brought his roommate Ford with him. They were caught under the mistletoe at Bellefleur’s; he’d pecked her lips, winked, and called her a sweet kid. He spent the rest of the evening undressing Sam’s daughter Samantha with his beady eyes. She could have convinced him to see her as more than a “kid”, but she longed for something real. She wanted what her momma had had with the sheriff. She wanted someone who made her blood run hot. Someone who looked at her with fire… with lust… with passion…
The way Lex was looking at her. Now.
He led her outside to the courtyard where the fragrance of the cherry blossoms made her a little lightheaded. Addie looked up and met the dark blue eyes of the sheriff. “I’ve only ever used three settings: full, half, and off. I’ve never tried intentionally lowering my mask gradually. Promise you won’t hurt me.” Not a request.
Lex nodded, but it was hesitant. “Gradual is good. I can stop you before I lose control. Don’t tell me when you start. I want to see if I can pick it up.”
The girl leaned back against one of the cherry trees and closed her eyes. She concentrated on lowering her walls slowly, reversing her training from Niall and Parker. Her focus was so intense that she was unaware of her surroundings until the snick of fangs dropping grabbed her attention and her mask went back up automatically.
“No! I’m okay,” Lex argued when Addie threatened to leave then and there. “Besides sunlight, you smelled like wheat and honeyed wine. I could almost taste it. It was the first time since… since I was human that I craved something other than blood. For a moment, I think my mouth watered, but you were in no danger. Please continue.”
Addie remained skeptical, but closed her eyes again after a few more assurances. Whatever she had been doing before was working, so she found herself doing it. Again she lost herself in her concentration until cool skin ran down her throat to her bare shoulder. Her eyes shot open in surprise.
“Shh, cara mia. I won’t hurt you. I just need…” He pressed his nose into the crook of her neck. “You smell like what the sweetest dreams are made of.”
Her breath shook as she inhaled, both frightened and aroused… and a little sick with herself for that fact. She’d heard her momma called a “danger whore” more than once as a child, whispered by parents of her classmates and wondered if this bizarre combination of emotions had contributed to that. However, when the ancient vampire pressed himself closer, she realized that she wasn’t the only one turned on.
For the first time in his long existence, Lex was completely unaware of the passage of time. As Addie’s addictive, ambrosial scent started to envelop him, it was if the Earth stopped turning.
The jasmine oil his mother and sister used to dress their hair. Spring wheat ripening in the sun. Warm salt air blowing in from the Mediterranean. The fruits and berries he and his siblings would gorge themselves on whenever they could. The sawdust from the shipyard… all of it was there.
He could smell the pear juice that flavored the lips of his first lover. The spiciness of her ebony skin… her eyes that shimmered like pebbles on the beach… When his sister became queen to Juba II in Mauritania, her palace was fully staffed and Alexander Helios was immediately fascinated by her head priestess, Iotape. It was with this woman – seven years his senior – that the prince learned his first lessons on how to please one’s partner.
He had last seen her the afternoon before the night he was turned. That morning they made their offerings to Isis and said their prayers that Cleopatra Selene, who was in active labor, would give birth to a healthy prince. Afterward, they retired to the palace’s shady courtyard for the remainder of the day, enjoying now-well-practiced carnal delights. Later, as he imbibed gluttonous amounts of wine to celebrate the birth of his nephew, it never occurred to him that he would never laze in the sun again.
All of this rushed through his mind as he became intoxicated by the hybrid’s scent, intense despite the cool, open air. Addie trembled against him, but continued to slowly, courageously lower the façade her grandfather and her guard trained her relentlessly to keep up. Despite her fear, she wouldn’t – couldn’t – tell Lex to stop. His palms smoothed up and down her bare arms as he inhaled her – the pulse points in her throat, the back of her neck under her hair, the brachial arteries in her upper arms…
She was barely aware of her whimper when he ventured lower. The hybrid focused on keeping her breathing steady and mentally shoving down the invisible wall she had built around her fae essence. His nose traced her collar bone and travelled lower. From shoulder… to elbow… lingering at her wrist… She suddenly felt his absence in front of her and peeked her eyes open, wondering if he had left… wondering if it had become too much for him.
The sight of him kneeling before her made her eyes widen. She was almost certain that no one in the past twenty centuries had seen the same sight… at least, while clothed. With patience that surprised her, he leaned in and inhaled deeply from the back of her knee. At the same time, his hand slid up her other leg slowly, starting at her ankle and stopping mid-thigh. “You feel like silk, love,” he murmured into her hip. “Your flesh could be satin under my fingertips but for the luscious rush of your blood pumping underneath. I don’t think you truly understand how badly I want to taste each and every inch of you.”
Addie shivered despite his grip on her thigh and waist. Lex nuzzled his nose into the juncture between hip and groin through the chiffon of her dress and bit back a growl. “You can’t lie to me, Addie. Even if my blood didn’t tell me so, the scent of your arousal is undeniable. Why fight what we both want?” Midnight blue eyes flicked up to lock on bright green ones. “Besides strengthening my desire to fuck you senseless, your scent is having no effect on my control. If I have to take you to the roof or buy a fucking park so you feel secure in the open air, so be it. I want you and I will have you. If not tonight, then soon. Very soon.”
No one had ever spoken to her that way before. Like she was desirable and… irresistible? She was surprised to find that she liked it… a lot. The sheriff before her, with his blood in her body and his superior senses, knew it. He flashed her a quick fangy smirk and leaned in to nuzzle her again, only this time closer to her center. His thumbs massaged her inner thighs and subtly encouraged her to spread her legs wider without her consciously aware of it.
“No… please don’t… I can’t…” she whimpered weakly when his fingers crept further up her dress to toy with the lace edges of her panties. The blood he felt pumping through her femoral artery made his fangs itch and his cock was steel against his silk slacks. Somehow her resolve strengthened with every breath she gasped in. “No!”
“Why the fuck not?” the tense vampire demanded. Not only could he tell that she wanted him by his blood, but he could feel the evidence of what his words and actions had done to her.
“I’m not the kind of girl to have sex in public. I’m not one of your donors who can be glamoured to not come back. I can’t trust you to not bite me and keep control. And call me old-fashioned, but I don’t really want to lose my virginity against a cherry tree, on a rooftop, or in a fucking park, no matter how dark and/or private it might be. I want my first time to be romantic and at least a little traditional if you don’t mind. Now let me loose.”
He sat back in his shock, landing on his ass on the dew-covered grass and released his grasp on the girl’s legs. Her reasons filtered through his mind and he could feel how resolute she was. “You’re a virgin?” he asked incredulously.
She huffed a frustrated sigh and smoothed down her skirt. “Yes. I’m astounded that that is the detail you’re hung-up on. I thought you’d argue the biting thing, to be honest. Color me surprised.”
Lex collected his dignity and rose to his feet, refusing to continue the conversation from the ground. “It’s not like I can argue the unknown. Based on my reaction to your scent, it’s not unreasonable. I’m aware of your conservative upbringing, so I may have argued your first point. As to your second, you are better than any donor and it has nothing to do with your glamourability or the way I assume your blood tastes. But never did I think someone like you would be… untouched. Pure.”
Addie gasped in offense. “Someone like me? What the fuck does that mean? Did you think I was an amoral slut even though I wasn’t begging to be one of your feed-and-fucks?”
He really didn’t like it when her rarely-shown volatile temper came out. “I can’t be held accountable for my misconceptions upon meeting you. I assumed the status quo. It wasn’t until ten days ago that I learned how different you really are. It took me a little while to adjust my perspective. Someone like you – intelligent, mysterious, playful, strong, kind, and far too beautiful to ignore. I thought that gift would have been given away years ago to a human boy who was less than deserving. Never did I think that you were able to avoid all the walking hard-ons that you surely attended school with. Never did I think that I might possibly have the chance to introduce you to one of the most pleasurable experiences for both of our kinds… well, all three of our kinds really. Never did I think that I could be so… lucky.”
“I was surrounded by walking hard-ons for years. But my mother was ‘crazy’, my uncle was a ‘slut’ and an ‘idiot’, and something about our family was ‘abnormal’. People didn’t know what to think of me, especially after Daddy died. Momma leaned on me a lot, so I chose to be there for her instead of going out with fair-weather friends and boys who only wanted one thing. I’ve always liked older guys anyway. The ‘gift’ you’re hung-up on… it wasn’t until very recently that I gave it any thought.” With that, the effort she’d used earlier to manipulate the cloak on her scent took its toll; she was suddenly exhausted. “I’d like to go home now, please.”
He could smell her scent intensifying, proof that she was losing control of her mask, showing him how strong her influence over her essence truly was normally. Lex called the driver to have the limo meet her in front while he mingled a bit more. As his presence had been noticed, he was obligated to network within his area. The connection he had with the hybrid thrummed to a steady hum, what he imagined her pulse would sound like as she slept.
When the benefit finally came to a close, he again called his driver. He started to relax into down-time when a new, entirely unexpected scent hit him. The former prince nearly shredded his car’s interior looking for the source. Finally, on one of the rarely-used cloth napkins in the wet bar, he found it. When he opened the perfectly folded white cotton square, he discovered a delicious, dark red streak and a hastily scribbled note.
Your control impresses and surprises me. It makes me want to try more. No other vampire has ever been exposed to my blood. I’ve been too scared. Convince me that I can let go around you and that my trust is not misplaced.
As he read, the fae essence in her blood taunted the predator in him. All he wanted to do in that moment was track her down, play with her until she begged, then move in for the kill. The tiny shred of humanity that remained reminded him that that specific impulse was exactly why he should not. It reminded the hunter that he had any number of perfectly fine donors available to relieve the bloodlust. When the hotel came into view, Lex called to have four donors waiting in his penthouse when he arrived.
His hybrid’s blood had put him into a ravenous mood and he didn’t feel like hiding a body.