Tracy looked around, taking in the quietly growling, suspicious male faces staring at her and waiting impatiently on her answer.
She straightened her spine, and quietly replied to Andre, “Word among the staff is that you’re keeping Emma under guard because one of the old vampires wants her. Nobody’s exactly sure who or why, but people are pretty sure it’s BeauChamps. Everyone knows his reputation, and nobody can stand him. Everybody likes her, and hates the thought of BeauChamps getting his hands on her. She’s one of us, ya know? Anyway, if there’s a problem, we definitely want to help.” Tracy shrugged and glanced over to Emma.
Andre considered her words for a moment, then nodded his approval to Emma.
“Here, have a seat, and tell me what all they’re saying about me. I need a good laugh.” Emma smiled as she indicated the nearest seat.
Tracy glanced down, then gasped. Andre immediately blurred over and demanded, “What is it, were?”
The maid pointed at Emma’s now very swollen ankle. “That amount of swelling is not good! Why haven’t you even wrapped it? Her ankle needs to be bound and propped up. Until then, she needs an ice bag or a cold compress on it to reduce that swelling.”
Before Tracy had finished speaking, Andre had already transferred Emma from the chair to the sofa and had her ankle elevated on several pillows resting against the back of it. Emma leaned back against the arm of the sofa while Andre started calling out orders.
“Rasul, go get a cold compress or some sort of ice bag. Tracy, bring her drink. Emma,” he started as he flicked the blanket over her legs, “how long has it been since you took any of those pills?”
“Erm, it’s been a couple of hours I think? I’ve slept since then,” she added with a small laugh.
Tracy quietly chuckled at the small joke, then brought her the bottle of Advil.
An hour later Emma and her headache were fairly positive she’d survived the strangest world war ever. Dr. Ludwig had arrived in good time…and was scathingly livid that no one had wrapped Emma’s ankle. Andre was loudly and scornfully furious that the doctor had not only “neglected” to properly treat her patient, but that she also had “neglected” to inform him of the need to bind her ankle in the first place. Even the imperturbable Sigebert had bailed not long after the doctor arrived, and Rasul followed very shortly thereafter. Cowards.
Needless to say, Emma’s ankle was now quite thoroughly examined, sturdily bound, perfectly propped, and lightly covered.
The way everyone was going on she was kind of surprised that no one had insisted on a full-body cast and an electric wheelchair. Yet. She kept her snarky mouth shut, though – there was a lot of humor that vampires just didn’t seem to get. It was also hard not to snicker as the errant thought of Andre painting her toenails crossed her mind.
She closed her eyes and leaned her aching head on the pillows piled against the arm of the sofa for a long minute…until she heard Andre start in about the now-cold food she hadn’t had a chance to touch.
“How long has it been since you ate last, Em,” he demanded.
“It was the same time I took the pills, before my nap earlier, so it’s been several hours, but I’m really not hungry again yet.”
“Irrelevant.” Andre switched his glare to Tracy, “Return this cold filth to the kitchen and bring her something fit to eat.” The maid-turned-companion gladly fled the enervating atmosphere.
Emma smirked to herself. As much as she’d like to get up and pace alongside Andre as he worked off whatever had sparked his temper, she didn’t dare move… and it wasn’t just because her ankle would hurt. She had a very strong suspicion that if she even tried to get up, her ass would land right back where it was, compliments of Andre and his apparently intense desire to see her tucked in like a Christmas turkey.
Still, though, all that pacing of his was quite annoying. She thought for a few moments, trying to find something to distract him, then sighed. She really wished she knew what his problem was. While he’d been surprisingly angry over the state of her ankle, which really confused her, the fact remained that something of that nature wouldn’t have been all that big of a deal to him.
She sipped her coffee as she pondered the situation. Males…apparently it didn’t matter if they were vampire or human, they never made any sense.
At least she was comfortable all stretched out on the sofa and not the least bit cold, she reminded herself as she finished her coffee and placed the empty cup on the now-even-more-conveniently-placed end table.
Finally she couldn’t stand his pacing another second.
“Ok, big guy, what’s wrong?”
She knew the way he snapped his head toward her should have startled her more than it did, but she held his gaze steadily.
“What the hell makes you think there’s something wrong,” he demanded contemptuously with his chin up and his hands on his hips.
“Um…the fact you’re wearing a path into the carpet hinted that there’s a problem, but really, the fact that you just now bit my head off proves it.”
For about three seconds Emma was absolutely certain he was going to literally bite her head off. His eyes blazed, his fangs dropped, and his whole body tensed.
Then, suddenly, his entire demeanor drooped as he turned away from her.
She waited for a long minute, but he didn’t say anything. So, with a softer, calmer, voice, she asked again.
“Andre, seriously, what’s wrong?”
Another long minute passed.
“I failed you.”
Emma wasn’t sure she’d understood the words spoken so very softly to the empty part of the room. “I’m sorry? I’m not entirely sure what you just said, but if it’s what I think it was…you’re totally wrong.” She paused to give him a chance to speak, but when he didn’t, she continued. “Come here,” she enjoined.
“Andre, honey, please move your huge, beautiful body over here, or I swear I’m going to get up from this cocoon somehow.”
Slowly, and with obvious reluctance, Andre turned and walked back over to the sofa. Emma slid closer to the back to make room for him, and patted the seat beside her. He stood immobile where he was, arms folded, jaw set, and refused to even look at her.
Mentally muttering about recalcitrant five-year-olds, Emma made as if to rise. Andre cursed and immediately sat down on the small space she’d made for him.
“Ok, honey, tell me how in the hell you could possibly have failed me? I’m really confused here.”
Figuring that Andre must have suddenly cornered the market when it came to surly stoicism, she just jumped in blindly.
“Do you want me to go?”
Well that got a reaction, she thought with a gasp.
He hissed and a split-second later was leaning over her with his weight pressing her into the pillows behind her back and his arms on either side of her shoulders trapping her where she rested.
“You’re going nowhere,” he snarled as the sea-blue fire burning in his eyes captured her gaze.
She brought her hands up and ran them through his silky hair before gently pulling his head down.
His nostrils flared and he growled deep and low just before crushing her lips in the most intense kiss they had yet shared. A smooth swipe of his tongue along her lower lip bought him plunging entrance into her mouth and Emma didn’t even bother trying to control this kiss. He knew exactly what he was doing and she gladly let him have at it.
When she finally needed to breathe, he slid his nose along her cheek to nip at her earlobe before drawing his lips down her throat. With a throaty purr, he quickly renewed his mark on the side of her neck, then retraced his steps to recapture her swollen lips and resume plundering her warm, sweet mouth.
Eventually a knocking at the door drew Andre’s notice, and while he in no way wanted to remove Emma’s hands from his hair to free himself from her hold, the fact that he was enjoying it so much told him that’s exactly what he should do. With a reluctance that surprised even him, he slowly leaned back from her, and made himself meet her eyes.
“Your ankle. I should have noticed it…I should have taken better care of you,” he barely whispered as he lowered his head.
Emma leaned up, kissed his forehead, then whispered into his ear, “If it makes you feel better, then I’ll say that I forgive you, but there’s honestly nothing to forgive. But even so, I don’t expect you to be perfect, honey. I just expect you to be…you.”
Andre raised his head to stare into her warm brown eyes for a long, intense moment, then placed a chaste kiss to her throat, rose, and opened the door for Tracy, and, surprisingly, Rasul, to enter. He smirked in full male satisfaction as Rasul immediately took in Emma’s kiss-swollen lips and the renewed mark on her neck; it was extremely obvious what they’d been doing before the ill-timed interruption.
Tracy wheeled the cart over to the sofa and proceeded to show Emma the contents under the stainless steel cloches covering the various plates. It took Emma a few minutes to realize that Andre and Rasul were having an almost-silent vampire-style discussion, but she didn’t care. She was having her own pleasant conversation with the perfectly-grilled t-bone steak, mashed potatoes with gravy and buttered dinner roll on one of the plates. A certain bowl of vanilla-almond mousse was requesting a rendezvous, too.
Andre, facing the sofa where Emma sat eating her dinner, took the opportunity to inform Rasul of some last-minute updates to Emma’s security plan…all the while trying not to succumb to the urge to simply watch her eat. This simple human activity seemed to take on new meaning as she wrapped her lips around her fork or licked her lips clean of a drop of liquid from her cup.
Rasul was the only one to notice just how often Andre flicked his eyes in Emma’s direction, and somehow he didn’t think this Queen’s child was studying human eating patterns. He wondered if Andre had any idea of the changes wrought by this one human female, but he highly doubted it…and he certainly wasn’t going to be the one to point these things out to the master torturer, either. He was pretty sure Andre hadn’t changed that much.
He didn’t understand why Andre was suddenly ready for him to leave when Emma finished her plate meal and reached for the bowl and spoon…until the human moaned in apparent bliss at the taste of the white fluffy glob in the bowl.
Rasul had to agree that following Andre’s silent command was probably a good idea if he wanted to retain use of a rising part of his anatomy.
Andre glared at Rasul’s retreating form, relieved to see the male leaving the premises. He had no doubt that Emma’s verbal enjoyment of her food was purely innocent, but that didn’t mean that he wanted anyone else to hear her. He didn’t understand this compelling, almost primal, urge to keep other males away from this simple human. It certainly pissed him off, but it wasn’t something he could ignore…no matter how hard he tried.
A moment later he paused as he received a “communiqué ” from his Maker. It wasn’t an urgent “call”, but he would always reply quickly to her summons.
“Em, stay here, rest, and move as little as possible,” he commanded firmly. “Rasul will guard your door.” He turned to Tracy, “Care for your mistress,” his order unmistakable.
As soon as he left the quarters, both women breathed a sigh of relief, glanced at each other, then dissolved into laughter.
“Well, now that we’ve received our orders for the evening, whatever shall we do?” Emma was still giggling.
“Have you eaten enough, or would you like more coffee?” Tracy had gotten her laughter under control very quickly. She knew Andre’s reputation and didn’t want to take any chances.
“I’m stuffed, but if you want to, just wheel the cart over near the table for now. We can pick at it later on.” Emma felt weird telling someone else what to do, but it wasn’t like she had a lot of choice. Then she snickered – apparently telling someone else what to do was exactly what Andre had told her to do.
Tracy smiled uncertainly at Emma’s snickering, so Emma described her convoluted thoughts, and suddenly they were both giggling again.
“Ok, Tracy, I have to ask: why did Andre refer to you as “were”? Are you a were of some sort?”
Tracy laughed and nodded. “I’m a were-lynx.”
Emma’s eyes grew round. “Ohhhh – beautiful!” She thought for a moment, then added, “I’d ask how you like being a were, but it’s not like you have a lot of choice, is there?”
With a wry twist to her lips, Tracy agreed, “Truth.”
After sharing a sympathetic expression, Emma started trying to get out from under the blanket Andre had tightly tucked around her. “Ugh! Why does he always think I’m about to freeze or something?”
“Because he cares?”
At that moment, someone knocked on the door.
**For some reason I’ve had a hell of a time writing this chapter and have no idea why. I just hope it turned out ok. Lemme know?**