She brushed her fingertips over her skin. "Are you tempted to take a drink from me?"
In the worst way.
He wondered how many times Ivo had taken her and felt a spike of some unfamiliar feeling claw in his gut. "We don't drink from living beings. It's how we got our name." It was this order's pledge, their pact. Wroth had never tasted flesh as he drank. But then he'd never felt the smallest stir of temptation to before her.
"So we are never tempted to kill," he said, giving her the official line, which was true, but the whole truth was more complicated, and they kept the details they'd managed to learn secret. Living blood, blood not separated from its source, brought side effects with it. A vampire would suffer torments from it, such as his victim's memories. Kristoff believed these memories were what drove natural born vampires insane and made their eyes turn permanently red. As far as they could determine, the only way not to harvest them was to drink blood that had died, avoiding the evils - and the benefits.
"What if you drank from an immortal that couldn't be killed from that?" she asked, her words lulling again. He couldn't seem to take his eyes from hers.
A tricky question to answer without saying that the immortal would have far too many plaguing memories, multiple in number to a mortal. He answered her question with one of his own. "Do you want me to take your flesh, creature?" The mere idea of it made his words rough, his fangs ache.
At her titillated look, he feared she'd say yes, calling his bluff. What would he do then?
"Rain check," she answered brightly. Then, to his shock, she curled up between his legs, face nuzzling against his uncovered torso, and wrapped her pale, delicate arms and hands around his thigh.
"I never asked my questions," he said, staring at the ceiling, trying to sound casual about what was occurring. He'd seen a great many things in his life, but this female was throwing him.
"We have all the time in the world for that, do we not?"
He thought she kissed the scar on his lower stomach with her lips - and a slow little lick. He lay tensed, rasping, "At least tell me your name, creature."
"Myst," she whispered, then she fell asleep.
Myst. How fitting that she was named after something intangible and capricious.
Long after, he was still roiling. In sleep, his little pagan clutched his leg with her pink claws. And they were claws, sharp and curling, though somehow elegant. He ignored the pain, for it was little compared to the odd satisfaction of thinking that she clutched him for comfort.
He savored simply resting with her, doing nothing but watching as her hair dried into big, glossy red curls that spread out over his chest. For centuries their army had been constantly on the move, hiding in the shadows of the northlands in often grueling conditions, keeping their growing numbers secret. Everything had been about the war, all adding up to this attack, to furthering their cause.
He brought a curl up to his face to brush it over his lips. So soft, like her flawless skin. Tomorrow night, if she hadn't given him information - and he somehow knew she wouldn't voluntarily - could he lash her skin to get at her secrets? After Myst had cleaved to him so trustingly? Could he break any of her delicate bones and have her gaze at him with pain in those green eyes? If she'd been his Bride he wouldn't have to hurt her, would be forbidden from ever harming her - his life given over to protecting her.
He ran the backs of his fingers down her silken cheek, feeling her light, quick breaths warm on his stomach. He'd never truly felt the sting of envy in his life, had never envied other men except those who enjoyed peace in their land. He'd been born affluent, his family aristocratic, and fortune had followed him until the latter years of his mortality. To envy was to lack.
So why did he want to destroy any vampire who might be blooded by her?
Where the hell is my freaking warlord?
Myst jerked upright, waking from the first real sleep she'd enjoyed since she'd been taken by the Horde four nights ago. She was alone in his bed, her clothes washed and folded at the foot. She smiled to realize he'd drawn a blanket over her.
She needed to keep up with Wroth until her sisters broke her out of this pokey. She swore again that this was the last time she would be bait - and this time she meant it. Rumor was rife in the Lore, but tales of Ivo the Cruel making dark alliances proved worrisome enough for them to "reconnoiter," or undertake Operation: Myst Gets Nabbed. Yet she'd learned little about Ivo for her troubles - the acting, the getting too close and then letting herself get caught, etc. - only that he was definitely planning something major.
She chuckled - that is, until General Wroth punked his ass out of a castle.
No, she hadn't learned much about Ivo, but this Kristoff and the general would make good dish. What if this king really wanted to kill Demestriu and stop vampires from terrorizing everyone else? Was it possible that not all vampires had a predisposition toward sociopathic evil? What if the Valkyrie didn't have to war with these Forbearers? However, it was doubtful. Her sisters wouldn't discriminate between the two vampire factions. Kill first and then say, "Gosh, were you actually good? My duh!" Vampires as a species were simply too powerful to go unchecked.
Demestriu and his vampire Horde had been brutal to all the Lore, but especially the Valkyrie. Fifty years ago, Furie, their queen, the strongest and fiercest of them all, had tried to assassinate him. She had never returned. Tales abounded that he'd chained Furie to the bottom of the sea to drown again and again only to have her dogged immortality surge her to life for more torment. When the covens finally found her and freed her, Furie would be as none other on earth, awash in rage. She wouldn't check for vampire affiliation before she slaughtered and would expect her covens to follow her example.