Self-contemptuous thoughts snarled through Andre’s mind. He was thoroughly pissed off with himself for wasting precious dark time staring down at this…this human. He brusquely left the bedside and stomped over to his closet. After quickly selecting his evening’s attire, he re-entered the bedroom still in a disdainfully foul mood…just in time to see Emma rising from the bed with a long, slow stretch.
He held himself rigid when his shirt that she was wearing rode up enough to expose the sweet curves of her ass as she bent over to straighten the covers. His lids lowered to mere slits as he watched her make the bed. If he didn’t know better he would swear she was sent by his enemies to innocently taunt him with her beauty and grace.
Instead of giving vent to the useless, scathing tirade scalding his tongue, Andre turned and retreated to his hidden rooms to change.
Some time and two more bottles of blood later, Andre re-entered the den to find Emma dressed and sitting at the table sipping coffee. The angle she was sitting at allowed him to see that the backside of her neck still bore his fading mark. His fangs throbbed, begging to leave a real mark of possession.
He refused to voice the various curse words flooding his ill-tempered mind at the thought.
“Well good morning again,” Emma happily greeted the sullen blond vampire.
She wasn’t sure what his problem was now, but since she was used to his snarling temperament, she wasn’t as affected by his glowering presence as she probably should have been. Maybe his middle name was “irascible” or “surly”. “Cantankerous”?
Earlier she had shocked herself with her own temerity. Her heart still hadn’t quite settled in her chest from his extreme reaction to such a small, simple movement, but she was rather proud of herself for keeping her wits enough to talk him down. His fangs had been just way too close to her wrist, and her hand still hurt from where he’d grabbed it. She was once again glad she didn’t bruise easily.
Even though he hadn’t actually hurt her, she’d still been awfully relieved when he abruptly left the bedside and gone to his closet. It had taken a few minutes for her knees to decide if they would bear her weight or not, though. She’d made the bed purely out of a need for normalcy in what was definitely not normal times, then escaped to the bathroom to get dressed.
The first bright spot this night was discovering that her underwear had finished drying during the afternoon. She didn’t really want to put on her clothes from the day before, but at least they weren’t actually dirty. The second bright spot was finding out that the coffee was still hot in the thermos, and that the milk hadn’t spoiled in the carafe. Coffee made everything better.
When he reentered the room, Andre had noticed that she was, by necessity, wearing the same clothing as before, and couldn’t help remembering her hand-washed undergarments drying in the bathroom. He was pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t whining about having to wear the same clothes again considering her attention to personal cleanliness. His own Maker would have raised hell at the indignity.
He nodded toward her coffee service. “You have eaten?”
“I ate a wonderful breakfast earlier this afternoon, and saved this for now,” she replied as she gestured toward the service with her cup. She chose to ignore his churlish tone of voice.
Satisfied that her needs had been properly tended and that he didn’t have to smell food again yet, Andre concentrated on that evening’s plans and mentally contacted his Maker. The sooner he got the girl settled in, the sooner he could go back to his normal routine.
No wonder he never took pets – they cost too much time.
He was relieved to discover that Sophie-Anne had no immediate need for both Sigebert and Wybert that evening and didn’t mind lending one of the brothers to help ensure the human’s safety. She was curious to know exactly what was going on, and expected a report later, but trusted Andre to take care of everything.
Either brother was an excellent guard, so he would send Sigebert with her. And maybe Rasul, too, as he was an exceptionally skilled fighter. He considered that BeauChamps might possibly have already located the girl’s address by now. Not bothering to slow down to human speed in his own quarters, he sped over to his now-charged phone and quickly spoke with Rasul.
Emma listened to the conversation, and was silently surprised to learn that she actually was supposed to bring her things back to his quarters.
Was she really supposed to be moving in with him?
She’d known that he wanted her to stay in a safe place there in the palace, but still, she’d thought that staying in his rooms that day was mostly just an emergency measure, and that he would probably move her to some other safe location later, but… Apparently he really did expect her to stay there…with him?
Emma’s thoughts reeled as she tried to control the silky flutterings of desire teasing her center at the thought of staying with him. He was beyond drop-dead gorgeous (she quietly snickered to herself over that description), and, oddly enough, she did feel safe with him, mostly…
But this was Andre. Andre. Even the Queen was highly respectful of him and his “talents”…and she was his Maker!
Well, he had declared her to be his…
As if sensing her convoluted emotions, Andre flicked his sea-blue eyes back to her and smirked as he finished his conversation with Rasul.
He sped over to where she sat, and glared down at her.
“Sigebert and Rasul will accompany you to your home so you can gather your things. Bring your things back here, and then they will escort you to the Queen,” he stated without inflection.
“So…I’m staying in here, with you,” she asked for clarification.
He snorted. “Where else would you stay?”
She nibbled her lower lip a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. She got up and walked over to examine the area with the small refrigerator…and to interrupt his odd scrutiny. Was he going to bring out a magnifying glass next?
“What are you looking for?” Andre finally asked, curious about her actions.
Funny, that’s exactly what she wanted to ask him.
“I’m trying to figure out where to set up my coffee machine. Is there a larger table handy that I could use? That thing weighs a ton, but it’s my best friend.”
“You wish to bring a coffee machine…in here?” Andre blurted, thoroughly confused and hating every second of it.
“Oh, definitely,” she declared. A moment later, “Aha – an empty outlet. I can plug it in over there,” she pointed to the empty electrical socket near the small refrigerator.
She turned to face Andre, and almost laughed at the surprise on his face. “The table needs to be big enough for the coffee machine, several cups and spoons, and the container for my fake sweetener. Is your fridge empty enough to hold a gallon of milk,” she asked sweetly.
“Look and see,” he snarled. What the fuck was she up to? Well, he knew she liked to drink coffee, but this was getting…
She looked, and there was just enough room for her milk. “Yup, there’s enough room, but just for the milk, though. No snacks for me in here , I guess.”
“You can order anything you want from the kitchen any time you want,” he replied firmly. Whatever what going on needed to stop immediately.
“Oh, I know, and I think that’s wonderful, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d much rather already have what I want on hand than have to bother other people all the time, or, honestly, bother with other people,” she said as she scrunched her face then laughed.
And…there she went with the dimples.
He actually couldn’t blame her for not wanting to bother with people any more than she had to. He felt the same way.
He glared at her for a very long moment, then picked up the house phone to order immediate delivery an appropriately-sized, sturdy table.
And a larger refrigerator.
Just as he was about to inform her that these were the only concessions he would make, a knock sounded at the door.
He didn’t like how she jerked, startled, at the noise, and he didn’t like the fear suddenly clouding her eyes.
“What’s wrong with you,” he demanded.
Emma shook her head and folded her arms across her chest hoping to hide the pounding of her heart. Although brief, the nasty nightmare she’d had about BeauChamps still lived in her memory.
“Just jumpy; I’ll be alright,” she half-heartedly reassured him. “I just hadn’t expected anyone so soon is all.”
He stared at her a moment longer, then strode to the door.
Sigebert and Rasul had met up en route to Andre’s quarters and both were curious about their impending assignment. Although Sigebert was definitely the strong silent type, he and Rasul got along fairly well even though Rasul sometimes purposefully annoyed the taller vampire with the long, dirty-blond hair.
Of Middle-Eastern descent, the slender, dark haired, dark eyed vampire was by far much more outgoing and talkative, and often used his flashing dark brown eyes to his benefit with the females of any species. He was quite happily a notorious flirt who just happened to possess incredible fighting skills.
Neither one knew what to think about their task. Apparently they were to not only escort the queen’s friend – an oddity in itself since the woman was neither donor nor pet – to her home, help her pack quickly, then bring her and her things back to Andre’s quarters, then escort said woman to the queen’s private rooms.
They mutually agreed that the part about bringing her things to Andre’s quarters made no sense whatsoever. Cold, focused Andre didn’t fraternize with humans except for feeding and sex, and that was done down in the donor’s area.
Andre didn’t like humans…so why was he moving one into his quarters?
While Rasul was lower on the political totem pole and couldn’t expect to have his questions answered anytime soon, Siegebert, as Andre’s brother and the one who had escorted Emma to the blond vampire’s quarters the previous evening, planned on doing just that.
He suspected this whole arrangement was based on protecting Emma from BeauChamps, and he approved heartily. He almost rather liked the small female. She spoke softly, had a sweet, beautiful smile that she used often, and was funny. She treated him and his brother like regular people, and she smelled nice.
He just hoped Andre knew what he was getting into. Somehow he didn’t think reserved, stern, nasty-tempered Andre had any idea.
Andre jerked the door open and reluctantly allowed the two vampires into his quarters. Sigebert had been in his brother’s private rooms only twice since they’d taken over the palace a century or so ago, while Rasul barely knew where the quarters were.
The younger vampire glanced around with avid curiosity until he spotted Emma now sitting on a sofa.
Andre instinctively snarled when he saw Rasul’s eyes light up when he spied the beautiful human. Although the sound was too low for Emma to hear, Rasul certainly did and immediately redirected his happy eyes back to the angry blond vampire.
Internally chuckling at Andre’s surprisingly possessive behavior over the girl, externally Rasul slightly bowed his head to acknowledge the elder male’s claim.
Sigebert just hrumphed at their display and turned toward Emma to nod a greeting. Even though she hadn’t heard Andre’s snarl, she did sense that something was going on between the other two vampires. She didn’t want in on the action, so she just grinned at Sigebert and nodded back. She’d always liked him and his brother even though they were the un-living definition of “strong, silent types”.
Andre was disgruntled at both Rasul’s temerity and Sigebert’s acknowledgement of his human. That old dirty-blond mountain never bothered with social niceties, and for fuck’s sake, couldn’t Rasul tell that Emma was his?
Hell, it was time to get this shit started.
“Sigebert, you know that BeauChamps is out for Emma. I’ve claimed her to his face,” Andre slid his eyes over toward Rasul and was rewarded when the younger vampire’s eyes widened in surprise, “but he’s just foolish enough to attempt something underhanded,” he sneered in disgust. “I want the two of you to guard her while she gathers her belongings and brings them back here. At no point whatsoever is she to be left alone until the threat of BeauChamps is permanently eliminated.”
All three vampires fairly shivered in anticipation of enacting the threat implied by Andre’s words. BeauChamps already had no friends in this camp, and, unbeknownst to Emma, his threat to her wellbeing had been the final straw to the two oldest vampires in the room. Even the youngest one was repulsed by the threat against what was obviously a beautiful human unworthy of such treatment.
“Yes, his nights are numbered, but no moves can be made until after our Queen’s negotiations with him are completed. Until then, either one of you, or Wybert, will escort Emma wherever she goes, without exception.” He held Sigebert and Rasul’s eyes until they both nodded in understanding.
Then he turned his hard gaze onto Emma, and sternly commanded, “Listen to your guards and do exactly as they say. When you arrive at your home, quickly pack what you will need. When you return, you will bring your things back here, and one of them will escort you to the Queen’s quarters. Follow my rules and I will see to your safety. Act foolishly, and I will err on the side of caution and lock you in here until the threat is over. Understood?”
Andre didn’t like that odd sense of urgency invading his chest at the thought of her leaving the Queen’s compound. The guards he’d chosen for her would suffice – Sigebert was the better hand-to-hand fighter of the highly experienced brothers, and Rasul could work magic with his short sword. Any more guards would draw unnecessary attention to the human, so these two would have to do.
Emma narrowed her eyes at Andre over his warning, but the deadeye look he fired right back relayed his seriousness – he would, indeed, lock her in his quarters for who knows how long.
She hrumphed, then stated, “So I guess I’d better go on to the bathroom now, huh.”
Suddenly laughing at the confusion evident on the three vampires’ faces, she clarified, “Well, if I’m going to be being followed around all the time…”
Those same three faces all displayed the same level of chagrin as they realized what she meant.
Rasul, always being a bit braver than necessary, suggested, “To ensure your privacy, we can always sweep the bathroom to guarantee your safety, then guard the door while you’re doing whatever it is you do in there.”
Emma grinned, giving all three males a quick blast of her dimples, and agreed, “That’s a perfect idea! But, now, if you guys will excuse me for a minute, I’m going to go be human anyway.”
When she returned to the room a few minutes later, everyone was standing near the door, so she quickly slipped her shoes on, and grabbed her purse.
Rasul and Sigebert went on out into the hall, but when Emma started to follow them, Andre pulled her aside.
His large hand firmly grasping her upper arm, Andre tugged her into him and leaned in close.
“Be careful. Keep a strong eye on your surroundings, and if you sense anything at all out of the norm, alert your guards immediately. Do not take any chances, Emma.”
“Why can’t you go with me?” She hadn’t meant to say that, and certainly didn’t mean to sound so weak and pitiful…it just came out that way.
“Verily I would if I could, but I am more useful here keeping BeauChamps himself occupied.” His stern face never changed a bit, but his blue eyes suddenly looked a tiny bit…softer? kinder?
Emma grimaced her sympathy; she knew he couldn’t stand the smarmy older vampire. “Good luck with him. I just about bet he’s going to do anything he can think of to try to get under your skin, but honey, you’ve got something he’ll never have.” She gave him a mischievous look.
Andre smirked, and tried not to react to that weird warmth building in his gut when she called him that other name.
“What?” He couldn’t imagine what she meant, but he was willing to play along.
He had to kiss her. That purely impish look she gave him demanded a thorough kissing, and he instinctively obliged.
In the blink of an eye, his hand rose from her arm to tip her chin up and his lips claimed hers in a rough kiss that shocked them both.
He slid his hand around her neck and into her hair to hold her head steady as he deepened his kiss even farther. He circled her waist with his other arm to pull her even closer as he felt her hands smoothing up his chest to clutch at his broad shoulders.
Her taste and scent were light and sweet and he felt like a starving…he cut that line of thought short when his fangs dropped with a vengeance. He jerked back barely in time to keep from nicking her lips.
“Obey your guards,” he growled sternly, then led her out into the hall to a discreet control panel next to the door.
Emma watched in fascination as he pressed a series of buttons, and didn’t object when he grasped her index finger and pressed it onto the surface of a part of the thing in the wall. After a long beep and the flashing of a green light, he released her hand then pressed a few more buttons. She had the errant thought that Andre was probably a great typist considering the speed at which he pushed all those buttons.
“You are now cleared to enter my quarters. Press this button, then press your fingertip here, and the door will unlock.” At his nod of dismissal, she left with the two vampires who had been waiting patiently.
Andre paced. They had been gone for over an hour and forty-seven minutes. He knew because he’d been counting every fucking second of it.
At least an hour and fourteen minutes of this time had been spent keeping BeauChamps occupied so that he couldn’t go after Emma himself, but damn. How fucking long did it take to pack a few bags?
Sophie-Anne knew of his obvious impatience, and wondered at the exact cause. Her child was not the sort to become involved with a mere human, but she had a sneaking suspicion that was in the process of changing. In fact, she mentally chortled, she was probably viewing that very process even now.
Ahhh, her Andre. What a strange one he was. She had never once regretted changing him. She never regretted changing any of her children, but Andre always held a special place in what used to be her heart.
Although she had born no children during her brief excursion as a human, she knew the love she felt for her progeny was along the same lines as what she would have felt for the flesh and blood variety. She was proud of her chosen few, proud and concerned for their happiness and future successes like she imagined any mother would be.
Sigebert and Wybert, she knew, were happiest doing what they had always done: protecting her and her queendom. They wanted peace and quiet, blood and sex, and more peace and quiet…so long as it was interrupted by the occasional battle. She had chosen her most personal guards exceptionally well.
Andre, however, was an enigma even to her, even to this day. He was the most intelligent male she’d ever met, eerily focused, easily riled but able to maintain the traditional stoic facade unless he was truly pissed off, then no one was safe. But…there wasn’t a soft or tender bone in his body except, perhaps, for herself.
When it came to punishing the deserving or extracting information from an unwilling participant, Andre sometimes scared even her with his enthusiasm and incredibly effective techniques. And this was when he was in his “calm” state.
Once again Sophie-Anne congratulated herself on the wisdom of choosing Andre as a child. He was amazingly loyal to her. In fact, she almost wanted to consider that loyalty one of her vampire gifts. All her children were incredibly loyal to her. Whereas other Makers eventually released their children or were asked by the child to be allowed to roam away, her own children never asked for such freedom. Granted she did treat her progeny with much care, attention, love, and respect. She never demanded more from them than they would willingly give, even when it came to sex.
After his turning, he’d made a highly proficient lover, very capable and skilled, but it had felt more perfunctory than anything. She didn’t mourn when that phase of his turning was complete, although the things he could do with his mouth…
She shook her head to clear that incredibly pleasant memory and concentrated on his impatient stalking. Surely he couldn’t be that concerned over Emma! She did, after all, have two incredibly talented warriors by her side. When tasked with protecting someone, Sigebert would kill the devil himself should the need arise, and even Rasul, however slight in build, was widely known for his skills with the sword.
However, she couldn’t blame him for worrying. Although she’d known the girl for such a short amount of time, she really wouldn’t want to lose her…friend?, and especially not to one such as BeauChamps. Sophie-Anne had congratulated Andre on his quick thinking in claiming the girl away from that foul bastard. If she didn’t need the land he was holding over her head, she’d have gladly had that disgusting worm dispatched long ago.
For the sake of her child, her expensively beautiful carpeting, and, honestly, because she herself was a bit concerned as well, she really hoped Emma would be back soon.
That human was a riot, she thought to herself. Funny, kind, considerate, genuine, playful, and oddly reluctant to being spoiled, which Sophie-Anne truly didn’t understand. The girl was quietly brave, too, which she did understand.
Last week while out for an evening gala, Sophie-Anne’s group was attacked by some of those smelly Fellowship hypocrites, and in the resulting mêlée the clasp on an horrendously expensive antique necklace had broken. There was no time to worry about such trivial things just then as Sigebert and Wybert hurriedly escorted her away from the drama. She wouldn’t have cared about that necklace except it had been given to her by one of those old kings of France. She couldn’t remember his name – there’d been so many of them – but he had been rather memorable in other ways.
Two nights later, Emma, with the necklace in her purse, came knocking on the doors to the palace, and that, as she had heard someone say, was that.
Sophie-Anne suddenly sat up straighter. Andre correctly guessed that she was receiving a mental communiqué from Sigebert and subconsciously moved closer to his Queen. Although her children couldn’t communicate with each other in the same method, he could definitely sense something was going on via the Maker/child bond.
“Five weres attacked…,” she held up a finger to delay Andre’s questions when he hissed, “when they left her apartment…Sigebert is fine…Rasul…no damage…the girl…small damage…en route back now.”
“What does he mean by “small damage”,” Andre snarled through his extended fangs.
Sophie-Anne had never seen his eyes turn that color.
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