After much thought and deliberation of the consequences, Lex came to a decision. “Five drops. At my age, it won’t take much. Some words of caution though – I won’t just be able to determine your honesty. I will be able to tell if you’re frightened, happy, depressed… aroused,” he quipped with a smirk. “I will be able to locate you if you’re in danger. Just so you know, as a rule, I don’t share my blood. However, I respect you and have come to value your company. As such, I am willing to give you this gift.”
Addie was sure that she didn’t put as high a value on his “gift” as he did, but she also knew that it was this or death. Most vampires were ignorant of fairy gifts; she suddenly hated the Viking and his progeny for outing her. She turned to the female vampire, matching her disdainful sneer with her own. “How do you know so much about fairies?”
Hazel eyes rolled and a perfectly pink lip curled. “What makes you think you have the right to question me?”
Eric chose to answer haltingly. “My maker… saved a fairy from being brutally raped simply for associating with our kind. She, in turn, stayed with him during his last moments when he met the true death. She kept him from having to die alone and I will be eternally grateful to her for that simple kindness. After that, we developed a sort of friendship during which I learned much about the tricks and secrets of her supernatural ancestry. Pam also got to know of her and her… skills.” He would not lie and call his child and his fairy friends; he was fairly certain they hated each other with a passion.
Addie returned her attention to the sheriff. “Five drops. Okay. I trust you Lex, and I want you to be able to trust me. If this is how I have to do it, I agree.”
He excused himself from his guests and escorted the girl into a spare room. He could tell she was nervous but then, so was he. In the privacy of the semi-darkness, Lex dropped his fangs, pleased to see that the girl showed neither fear nor arousal, and pricked his thumb. “Open up, love,” he murmured.
Mesmerized by the slick, red pearl swelling on the pad of the digit, she opened her lips to accept his “gift”. With her looking up, he held the finger over her mouth, letting his dark ruby blood drip onto her tongue. By the second drop, he felt a connection; by the fifth he had a clear read on what she was feeling. He could easily separate her surprise, anxiety, apprehension, and sincerity from his own emotions. Before they rejoined his guests, he asked her quietly, “Do you now, or have you ever, had plans to betray me or other vampires in my retinue?”
“Never, Lex. With the exception of letting you believe I could be glamoured, everything I’ve told you about me, my past, present, and goals for the future have been true. While some things I’ve seen and heard here have certainly been scandalous, trust is more valuable than cash any day. My momma knows a town’s worth of secrets and she’s never used any of it for her own purposes. Discretion was one of the first lessons she ever taught me. I have not and will not betray you sir, nor do I have any wish to risk your trust in me in the future.”
The former prince could feel the honesty in her promise. He nodded his acceptance and led her back to the study. Eric looked up from the paper he couldn’t help but keep reading.
To say he was impressed would be an understatement. Besides having a gift with words, the girl was remarkably well-informed about their world and he could tell there was a supernatural acceptance in her past that not many had.
Besides interviewing “K”, she had also spoken with “H”, a human who wanted his marriage to a vampire recognized by his state. “A”, another human who wanted to legally marry her vampire so he would have the right to adopt her children, despite the fact that they reached the age of majority several years ago. He had treated them as his own for years and they all wanted to be able to take the last name of the man who had made them his family. There was “JS” who owned a café – not a themed bar like Fangtasia – and compared his taxes and rates for essentials like insurance and supplies to what humans in similar businesses had to pay. He was outraged to learn that it was nearly double. When asked, the representatives for the areas were completely unapologetic for the prejudice against businesses owned by the undead.
Finally, she spoke with “J”. The vampire was still fairly young, but had extraordinary control. She initially resented her maker because she was turned unwillingly. It wasn’t until the maker’s human lover was out of the picture that he felt any inclination to mentor, teach, and feel affection for his progeny. Despite some violent conflicts between them, the two had been close until he was one of the many infected by Hep-V. He sought counsel and was told that due to laws enacted in previous years, progeny could not inherit from makers. In order to leave anything for her, he named his closest living descendant as benefactor with the condition that he sell his child certain parts of the estate (the house, the car of her choice, specific earmarked properties) for the sum of one dollar. The maker was a man of his word and expected his heir to be the same, so nothing was put in writing after a firm handshake. However, once the properties were appraised, the vehicles evaluated, and bank accounts totaled, the benefactor reneged on the agreement and, by law, was able to keep the wealth for himself. Only his “generosity” allowed the orphaned vampire to rent her former home for a comparable sum to other properties and he gave her the oldest of a fleet of vehicles. Only through the charity of friends and their jobs (her at the café owned by “JS”; he on the parish rescue squad) were she and her human companion able to make by with basics.
The student cited many political and influential sources that twisted words backwards and sideways trying to justify the bigoted laws. She was also able to quote interviews – both published and personal – with American ambassadors to countries like Norway, Japan, Australia, and Switzerland that were known for their acceptance of outsiders. Those countries had no laws restricting the rights of their vampire citizens. Not only was there a lack of bigotry, but hate crimes were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All the countries mentioned had government-funded programs to foster and mentor orphaned or abandoned vampires still in their first century. The undead were encouraged to expose the experiences of their long lives to humans as professors or authors. How better to learn about both sides of the history that had been written by the winning side of any confrontation than from first-hand stories of the Russian Revolution, San Francisco gold-rush, the abolishment of the French monarchy, Michelangelo starting work on the Sistine Chapel, the creation of the Church of England, or watching Nero play the lyre in his opulent palace while Rome burned? Those tales were impossible to hear from anyone other than those that had lived multiple lifetimes.
Addie argued that the countries that gave equal rights and freedoms to all their citizens, regardless of heartbeats or need to breathe, enjoyed a population with more higher education degrees, leading to successful businesses, followed by higher household revenue, which led to disposable income and lack of debt, ending in a low unemployment rate and a government with surplus funds.
Eric was fascinated by the girl’s reasoning. In the right hands, with a few open minds, her paper could be the manifesto for the Vampire Rights Act. America had been teetering on the brink of financial ruin for decades; spun the right way, her arguments could change more than a few minds.
Not that she couldn’t do that on her own.
Eric placed the paper back on the desk as his host and the co-ed returned. Despite the raised eyebrow from the youngest vampire, the sheriff helped himself to another bottle of NuBlood, this time O-positive to see if the synthetic maintained its accuracy in the flavor variations.
After his first swallow, he was still impressed.
The vampires began discussing the red tape that would have to be eliminated to get the coveted FDA approval. Dismissed from the conversation, Addie pulled out her phone to do some research. Seeing some names that stood out, she made her way out of the study to make a few calls using some new and existing contacts. After using her gift (which her uncle proved wasn’t hindered by phone lines) on a stubborn answering service operator, a rude secretary and a belligerent personal assistant, she got what she wanted. “Yes!” she hissed, under her breath and in a different room, but that made no difference to the vampires.
“Something pleasing you, love?” called Lex from the study, feeling the pride and victory in their newly formed blood-tie.
Reentering the study, the girl bit her lip, playing at modesty. “Well, I did some research, made some calls… if you have the relevant data ready to present, you have a meeting available at nine PM next Thursday with the head of R&D of Rochol. Pharmaceutical companies always have connections with the FDA that mere tax-paying citizens couldn’t dream of.” The vampires gaped at her until she felt nervous. “What?”
Pam again narrowed her eyes at the hybrid. She’d had her fill of fairies during her time in Louisiana and had no desire to deal with another one, no matter how talented. “How and why?” she asked in a bored, clipped tone that only she was able to pull off.
Addie grinned and shifted her gaze to the friendlier males. “You can’t just glamour the head of the FDA to give you approval. Well, you could, but it would be worthless when they are inevitably asked about its safety. Any biased reporter or mudslinger with an agenda will remember the TrueBlood fiasco. No, your way in is to ride the shoulder of the straight and narrow. Now, Rochol is in no way connected with that Hep-V mess, so that’s point one. Point two is that their R&D head could be persuaded that a new synthetic blood for human medical use is necessary. The Rochol labs verify your data; it gets presented to the FDA for testing with a reliable name and steadfast brand behind it.
Eric knew she was speaking the truth. Although he wasn’t thrilled with having to extend his timeline, he knew that having the respectability of the Rochol name behind his product would be worth the delay. After a dozen lifetimes he wasn’t easily impressed; the girl had done enough in one night to categorize her as one of the few who could.
The Viking wasn’t alone in his admiration. Lex watched and felt her as she presented her facts. He could feel her uncertainty at first, slowly shifting to pride and confidence as she spoke. Try as he might, the prince couldn’t regret forming a tie to the plucky student. He’d been uneasy learning of her fairy background and at the same time, grateful that his well-honed willpower kept him from tasting the girl. Her flavor may have intoxicated him into losing control. He knew now that he had been right.
Pam could feel Eric’s reluctant admiration for the hybrid and felt sick over it. Never had vampires and fairies been meant to work together. The fucking backwoods telepath that cockteased her maker until he didn’t know up from down was proof of that fact. She didn’t want this version of Fairy-lite to screw him up even further, especially since his tie to the gap-toothed redneck had finally waned enough so that her emotions were no longer a distraction.
On the other hand, the new girl could do whatever she wanted to the sheriff. As their stay in Washington was unexpectedly extended, it would be amusing to watch someone his age chase tail and be led around by his balls like a confused puppy.
Addie tried to stifle a yawn. She wasn’t ready to leave and Lex still hadn’t finished her thesis. Even before the trying events of the night, his opinion of her work was important to her, possibly more important than her professor’s. She was steadfast in her belief that vampires should have the same rights as humans and she was determined to do everything in her power (supernatural or not) to make sure her friends at home could at least hope for change.
Despite her stifling, the sheriff could feel her exhaustion. When Northman and his child left to feed, Lex looked into Addie’s eyes. “I’m disappointed that you didn’t trust me with your secret. If I had known, I wouldn’t have risked your safety by sending you some of the places I did. How did you keep from getting drained?”
The student yawned again, unable to help herself. “My grandfather taught me how to mask my scent years ago. When my vampire friends complained that I didn’t smell like ‘me’ anymore, I found a ‘medium’ setting. Around strangers and in places like the donor lounges, I turn it off. When I’m relaxed or around friends, this is how I smell. I only ever drop the mask when I’m sleeping or unable to concentrate. It doesn’t happen often.
Lex couldn’t control his curiosity. It wasn’t often that he learned something new. “So why expose your scent, even partially, when we met? I could have drained you and not thought twice.”
She rolled her eyes and smirked though her exhaustion. “You don’t get to be a sheriff with that kind of impulse-control. You also don’t get to be your age without getting bored. History repeats itself, right? I took a chance that I would be that rare ‘something new’ for you to puzzle over. However, most of my friends are fifty or younger, so the human memories don’t hit as hard. The one who was momentarily back in Tudor England unexpectedly is how I learned of that aspect. Momma said that it never happened to her and Grandpa told me that some fae have the power of retrocognition… like seeing past lives. I don’t remember Daddy having that power, but I was little when he died. Grandpa said fae powers are like mixed nuts. One might be a telepath, her brother could be a healer, Mom or Dad could be empathic or persuasive… the talents aren’t genetic, only the ability to have one with the ‘spark’.”
The vampire looked at her cautiously. “Why are you suddenly so open with me?”
Her face fell in remorse. “You were glamouring me to keep your secrets safe. Now you know it never took. So as belated payment for those secrets – that are locked in my head never to be repeated – I thought I’d give you some of my own. I trust you not to spread them around or use them against me.”
Although his blood told him that she was absolutely exhausted, his other hint was the additional sweetness and strength of her scent, both which were rapidly increasing. It was logical that concentration on keeping up her guard was difficult when she was nearly asleep on her feet. But logic didn’t keep his fangs from throbbing in his gums or his cock from stiffening in his jeans.
He couldn’t associate this blend of scents with any part of his past. Not even the full-blooded fairies he’d come across in Ireland, Russia, and Japan had affected him so quickly. Then again, he’d only wanted to drain them. The overwhelming perfume of sunlight, honey, wheat, wine, ocean breeze, tropical rain, freesia, amber, cinnamon, and vanilla threatened his control to where he wanted to drink and fuck and drink and fuck until he died at dawn or suffer the bleeds for fighting the sunrise to continue drinking and fucking. He wouldn’t be able to resist much longer and knew he needed to make her leave before he ended up killing her accidently. A lusty growl was in his voice when he addressed her. “Addie. Leave. Now.”
Tiredly, she turned her head to acknowledge him. Her instincts sparked her fight-or-flight response at the sight of the prince’s reaction to her unmasked scent – his pupils were so dilated that only the thinnest strip of blue could be seen around the black. The tendons of his neck strained and pulsed, displaying his efforts at resisting his nature. His whole body was tensed like a lion about to pounce. Finally, his fangs poked down over his lower lip and he looked as though he wanted nothing more than to drain her dry. With a high yelp, she ran through the door, barely remembering to grab her purse on the way out. She had a feeling that not many had seen the sheriff lose his control and composure that way in many years.
Addie only relaxed once she was behind the locked doors of her apartment. She split her time in the cab from the hotel between checking to see if a feral vampire had given chase, unable to reign in his instincts and wondering why a (very) small part of her hoped that he did. Despite her exhaustion, she knew that it would take a while for the adrenaline rush to wane enough for her to sleep.
She couldn’t understand why or how, in a single night, so many of the lessons that had been drilled into her over the past decade were forgotten.
“Vampire blood is a drug, Addie. It’s only acceptable if you’ll die without it.” Well, she may not have been injured, but she was still pretty sure the consequences were the same.
“Fairies are a secretive race, young one. Those that would hunt us… drain us… kill us for our blood… cannot learn our secrets.” She could only assume the sheriff’s blood had lowered her inhibitions and loosened her tongue about the supernatural side of her ancestry.
“Damn it girl, I can smell you clear across the cemetery! Stay inside when you’re too tired to keep up your mask or every bloodsucker from here to Shreveport’s gonna be hunting you down!” Well… her guard may have been exaggerating a bit, but the reaction certainly was dead-on.
“Sweetheart, this is very important. The older a vampire is, the more they have seen. Seeing the same things – good and bad – about the world and humanity in general gets boring after decades and centuries. If you don’t want to get noticed, blend in. Normal and ordinary never gets noticed for very long. And darling, you are a beautiful young woman; you stand out without trying. When you meet the sheriff, he needs to know that you are not ordinary. You aren’t going to him wanting to be bitten or for money or to rub shoulders with death. God knows he sees that every night. No… your intelligence, sense of humor and quick wit, your open mind and supernatural ease will draw his attention even more than your beauty because ‘pretty’ is a dime a dozen. You are Addie Michelle Brennan and you are unique. And if I know one thing about vampires, especially the very old ones, it’s that ‘unique’ immediately becomes a riddle for them to solve. They will study you, investigate you, and question you, surrounding themselves with you until they can piece the puzzle together. Hide some of the puzzle pieces sweetie, because every male vampire is still just a man. And while every man likes a little mystery, his is also inherently a ‘fixer’ and will stop at nothing to answer the question that is you.” Had she lost her advantage by babbling the way she had?
Even though her mother was a night-owl, a glance at the clock told Addie that is was far too late to call, even with the slight time difference. Grateful that her morning was free of classes, Addie felt the last of her adrenaline fade and collapsed into a deep sleep
Hands. Mouths. Teeth and tongues. Fangs. Writhing bodies and amorous moans. Addie’s subconscious knew the pornographic scene was a dream, but her body didn’t want to let her wake up. Deep down, even below her subconscious, she knew that those five scarlet drops from the former prince’s thumb were the cause. Not even as a hormonal teen had her dreams been so… graphic.
Lex’s lean body hovered over hers, thrusting into her slowly from behind. “We both want this,” he sighed into her ear, giving her chills. “I’ve wanted you like this from the moment you walked into my penthouse.”
Addie could practically feel his cool skin against her as she arched her back. “I could tell,
she whimpered when he hit an especially sensitive spot inside her. “But I see your donors as they leave. I won’t be part of a harem. I’m better than that.”
He growled and scraped his fangs against the side of her neck as he shoved in forcefully. “I know you are. Everything about you calls to me. Your beauty, your scent, your mind…” Lex slipped his hands from her hips and clasped her breasts, pulling her against him tightly so her back molded to his defined abdomen. “If you were to let me taste your blood, I think you could completely enslave me.”
“Oh fuuuuck…” Addie moaned when the vampire behind her shifted his hips and started hitting a spot that made sparks explode behind her eyes. “I don’t want a slave,” she mumbled with the last remnants of clear thought she had as her pleasure mounted. “I want… I want…”
Lex released her breasts and lowered her to the bed, his front still crushed against her back, and pinned her hands to the bed as she stiffened and came harder than she could ever remember. “You want this. You want what only I can do. To you. For you. You want me. Now do you have the courage to pursue it, my little fairy?”
Drenched in sweat, Addie awoke in a panic and still shaking from very real aftershock from her dream orgasm. As she caught her breath, she had only one thought.
“I’m so screwed.”