Andre woke with a start. While he normally reanimated very quickly and habitually scanned his environment before visibly moving, this awakening was different.
This time, his instincts demanded a more thorough screening of his surroundings. His gut told him that something was off just enough to notice. Per instinct he remained completely immobile and used his other senses to test his surroundings. When everything tested normal, in one movement he was up, out of the bed and had his ear close to the door.
Although he still couldn’t pinpoint the problem, he knew something was off…something had disturbed the last moments of his dayrest enough to stir him to consciousness even quicker than usual.
Senses sharpened through alarm, he paused long enough to verify through sound and smell that there were no intruders in his quarters, and that Emma was…
There – he heard it again, a whimper of some sort, then a soft cry. So fast even vampire eyes couldn’t follow him, he blurred through the door and across the den. Immediately he crouched over Emma as she lay sleeping on the sofa.
After ascertaining there was no immediate threat to her safety, Andre stood tall and squared his shoulders. A thorough scan of his rooms proved there was no threat.
He paused, then stared down in puzzlement at the warm human.
Stretched out on the sofa with her head on a small pillow and the blanket tossed over the lower half of her body, she seemed fine. Her hands were tucked under her cheek, her dark hair caught in a bun that he wagered would fall loose when she rose, her pink lips…why was she pursing her lips?
He scowled as he looked closely at her brows and noticed they were furrowed, and her eyes, while closed, were darting side to side. A moment later, another she let loose with another small cry and seemed to try to curl into herself. Instinctively he bent closer.
Emma was in distress? Why? She smelled delicious as usual, but he could detect no odors other than the food covered on the cart near the table and a bit of stench from the were guards posted outside his door. There was no blood leaking from her body, and her countenance didn’t suggest pain.
Perhaps she was simply…what was it…dreaming? Although he couldn’t remember doing so himself, he did recall that humans sometimes did such a thing in their sleeps.
Should he wake her and tell her that there was nothing to fear? He wasn’t ready to deal with her just yet and so was loathe to rouse her. What was she dreaming about that would cause such sad, worrisome noises, anyway?
Another small, choked cry escaped her lips. He bit back the growl threatening to escape.
As if he were watching through his own dream state, he saw but didn’t stop his hand from gently stroking her sleep-flushed cheek. A moment later, he very lightly shook her shoulder.
“Emma? Emma, wake up. I think you must be dreaming. Stop it, and wake up now.”
He waited a moment, and when she barely whimpered and curled a bit more into herself, he knelt beside the sofa and shook her shoulder again.
“Come now, Emma, wake up,” he commanded a bit more urgently.
There was something wrong with that noise she kept making, and he didn’t like it.
All at once she gasped, opened her eyes, and threw off the blanket as she sat partially upright. Andre absently thought that her combination of quick movements would have done a vampire proud.
The residual fear in her eyes caused Andre to blurt somewhat less harshly, “It’s ok, you’re safe.”
Emma fell back to the sofa and scrubbed her hands over her face. He thought he heard her mumble something about “bad dreams.”
Suddenly she stilled, then very slowly lowered her hands from her eyes as she took in his shirtless state. As if she couldn’t help it, her eyes roved from his collar bones to his broad, thick shoulders, down his muscular chest. She took in his flat, darker nipples then looked lower to the waist of his blue silk pajama bottoms. He could almost feel her visual caress.
Her eyes then quickly flew back to his face.
His fangs throbbed as the scent of her arousal hit him.
He smirked at the red staining her cheeks, and couldn’t resist taunting silkily, “See something you like?”
Not being one to take the normal road, Emma sleepily woman’d-up, grinned, and cheekily replied, “Yup.” She then met his gaze squarely, and promptly blew his mind. “Your feet.”
Wait…WHAT? Andre couldn’t decide which affected him more – her dimples, the sweet lust in her sleepy eyes, or the fact she just admitted to liking his…feet?
Laughing softly at the shock on his face, she slowly sat up and yawned. She glanced back at him from under her lashes, and caught his somewhat disgruntled expression…which was completely ruined by the tiny smile teasing at his firm lips.
As she gathered her falling hair and retwisted it into her customary bun, she pointedly eyed his rather handsome feet.
“Sorry, big guy, but yeah, you’ve got a great pair of feet. Barefoot really suits you.”
Andre barely contained the very much unwanted grin that threatened to break his face at her completely unexpected words…and her dimples. What was with her and those damn dimples?
He hurriedly ran his fingers through his hair. His feet…of all things for her to admit to liking about him, she had to pick his feet? Emma…somehow he doubted that he’d ever understand her.
Naturally at that moment nature decided to call, and she groaned when she saw where her crutches had fallen.
With a snort, Andre quickly rose and handed them to her.
“Thank you, Andre. And, really,” she dared to directly meet his eyes for the second time that short evening, “thank you for everything. When I get back from being human, will you tell me what happened after I went all happy-sleepy from the pain pills last night?”
After his curt nod, Emma scooted toward the edge of the seat, grabbed the crutches, attempted to stand up, and promptly sat back down again. With a huff, she tried it again, and grimaced when she accidentally put a bit more pressure on her ankle than was comfortable.
“Ugh, nothing. I just put a bit more pressure on my ankle than it liked.”
“The doctor told you not to put any pressure on your ankle!” Stupid human – didn’t she hear the doctor? How was she going to heal if she didn’t follow the doctor’s advice?
Emma mentally rolled her eyes at his intoned reminder. “Yeah, well, ask the doctor exactly how I’m supposed to stand up without doing that. It’s pretty much impossible, big guy.” She fumbled with the crutches then slowly, painstakingly, turned to move toward the bathroom.
Andre clenched his teeth and fisted his hands as he watched her pitiful progress for a moment, then with a strongly-growled “Fuck!” he picked her up in his arms and stomped toward her destination.
Emma automatically clutched at his shoulders in shock at his sudden assistance. The coolness of his skin momentarily surprised her, but her attention was very quickly caught by the muscles rippling in his shoulders and chest. All too soon he quickly but gently sat her down on her feet near the toilet and propped her up into his side as he handed her a crutch that she hadn’t noticed he’d grabbed.
Glaring down into her face and daring her to accept, he muttered, “Do you need help?”
Emma gulped, cleared her throat, and, without looking anywhere near his face, mumbled back, “No, I think I’ve got it. Close the door on your way out?”
Andre nodded and beat a hasty retreat.
Several minutes and a long self-pep-talk later, Emma finally exited the bathroom and wasn’t too surprised to find a fully-clothed Andre pacing near the door. She was somewhat less surprised to find herself suddenly picked up and carried this time, and asked him to set her at the table where her coffee service lived.
That reminded her. “Andre, do you know where my stuff that was in the back of the SUV went? Rasul made make two trips hauling some of my clothes and my coffee machine and some supplies down before we all left.” She involuntarily shivered at the memory of what happened then.
She didn’t see Andre notice her shiver since he was standing behind her. He moved to take his seat, and quickly shoved the shiny brass tray holding the coffee service over toward her.
“What was wrong with your sleep,” he suddenly blurted out. Damn it – he’d meant to say…never mind, he mentally cursed, finally admitting to himself that he was concerned, erm, wondering what she’d been thinking about in her sleep.
Surprise at both the question and his tone of voice showed on Emma’s face as she answered. “Oh, I was just having nightmares about those guys who attacked us.” She unknowingly hunched her shoulders as she continued. “They were…huge, and they smelled horrible. I keep seeing that one grabbing my arm right before Sigebert tossed me away from him…” she tapered off at Andre’s growl.
“They’re dead, Emma; all of them. They will never touch you again.” Even if she’d had doubts, the look on his face would have erased them.
Emma sat the coffee thermos down and stared off for a moment, then raised her eyes to meet his.
Andre wondered what she was thinking about so hard as she worried her bottom lip between her teeth.
“Is it bad that I’m glad they’re dead? I mean, I know they were going to kidnap me, and they had to know what kind of situation they were sending me to, right?” She paused, but Andre sensed she wasn’t finished yet. After a moment, she continued, “I feel like I should be sad or upset that they’re dead, like…maybe I should wish that they were just in a jail somewhere, but, I’m not. I’m glad they’re gone.” She lowered her head to look at her hands.
“No, it’s not bad at all. You should be glad they’re dead,” he clarified strongly.
An instant later Emma felt a cold finger under her chin gently raising her head to meet his eyes.
“Those filthy dogs knew exactly what they were doing, and they knew exactly what the risks were. They knew, and could not have cared less, that if they had been successful, you would have spent the remainder of your life in an intolerable situation. They knew these things, and yet they performed their tasks willingly,” he ground out. “Never for one moment should you feel badly for someone who gets what they deserve, Emma. Never.” He brushed his thumb over her bottom lip, then jerked his hand away.
Emma quickly prepared her coffee, then pursed her lips.
She glanced over at Andre and found his gaze focused intently on her face. “Hum?”
“You’re trying your best to not ask me something. Just spill it, as you humans would say.”
She laughed – she couldn’t help it. She stirred her coffee for a moment, then asked, “Ok, were you able to get any information at all out of that…were?”
His face suddenly livid, he answered curtly, “Yes, and no, you don’t want to know.”
Emma bit her lip again, then, “That bad?”
“Yes,” he snarled. Andre felt his whole body tighten in memory of the information he’d gotten from the were.
She shivered and rubbed her hands up and down her arms.
“Ok, just tell me this: did you make him suffer?”
Andre gazed at her serious, scared, but determined face, and gladly growled, “Yes, I did.”
After searching his eyes for a long moment, Emma thoroughly shocked Andre as a dimpled grin slowly transformed her soft face.
Andre stopped his responding grin barely in time. He decided that particular moment was a great time to heat and drink his “meal”. For several minutes a companionable silence ensued, which surprised Andre. In his experience, the feed and fucks he usually dealt with generally insisted on trying to engage him in useless, annoying conversation, or tried ridiculous things to gain his notice.
But not Emma, he considered venomously. No, Emma didn’t try to get his attention because she already had it…and seemingly didn’t even know it. He rolled his eyes and sat back down across from her.
“This Tracy from the kitchen, you like her?”
Surprised with his question that had come from out of the blue, Emma looked up and blinked for a second.
“Yeah, I do. She seems really nice.”
“Nice? How well do you know her? How much have you spoken with her?”
“Um, well, twice now. I just usually have a really good sense of whether or not someone is a good person, and I think she is.”
Andre wondered if this was a particular skill, and if it was, would it stay with her after her turning?
WHERE IN THE FUCKING HELL DID THAT COME FROM?
He jerked himself up from the chair and finally stopped to lean once again against the small sink in the non-existent kitchen. He lowered his head to pinch the bridge of his nose, subconsciously reverting to a long-lost habit from his human days.
“Why?” Emma asked over her shoulder. She wondered what in the world was his problem now, but it wasn’t like she could casually wander over and…and what, she wondered? What could she do? She unsuccessfully tried to banish the memory of his fuckhot chiseled chest from her melting brain.
After taking a thoroughly unnecessary breath and being bombarded with Emma’s scent, Andre shook his head and answered.
“You’re injured. She can help during your recovery, and provide companionship while I’m gone.”
“Gone?” Emma squeaked. She really didn’t want to think about that sudden sharp sense of dread stabbing her chest.
His head popped up at the concern in her voice. Unintentionally his voice softened. “Just while I’m performing my duties around here. But, at no time will this door be left unguarded, so you don’t have to worry about that. You will be safe so long as you remain in here.”
Uncomfortable with the ideas floating around in his head, Andre dialed the kitchen’s number from memory – a fact which irritated him to no end – on his cell phone and demanded to speak to the kitchen manager. He then promptly ordered the man to send Tracy and a cart of fresh food and coffee to the quarters within the hour.
Quite bemused by the suddenness of not only the exchange but of the implementation of the plan itself, Emma quietly sipped her coffee and watched the leonine beauty of Andre as he paced the confines of the den.
The abruptness of Andre’s voice startled her. “Did you sleep well this day? You seemed fully asleep when I put you to bed last night.”
He stopped pacing to lean back against the wall facing her, and folded his arms across his chest as he focused his blue eyes on her face.
Refusing to acknowledge the blush burning her cheeks, Emma nodded. “I was pretty well doped up on those pills, so yeah, I definitely got a good night’s sleep.” She cleared her throat as she pretended to ignore the last part of his statement.
“Oh, did you see all the stuff that someone brought me? I guess it was Tracy?” She indicated the bag on the chair nearest her. She really needed to divert his attention from counting her eyelashes.
Andre nodded, his lips turned up in full smirk mode.
Voice low and silky, he asked, “Does the knowledge that I’ve unclothed you bother you, Emma?” The gorgeous blush on her fair cheeks did bring him a certain joy.
Mentally cursing every one of Andre’s ancestors, she briefly glared at him through her lashes. She then politely returned her gaze to her coffee and proceeded to ignore him as best she could, and pretended that he wasn’t staring holes through her.
Several minutes later, she thought of an acceptable change of subject, cleared her throat, and pretended she wasn’t still blushing.
“That reminds me, do you know where my clothes and things ended up?” Purposeful avoidance, she decided, was a wonderful thing, especially since her coffee had gone cold.
After giving Emma one last scalding gaze that focused noticeably on her breasts, Andre finally raised his eyes to meet hers as he pulled out his phone again. Very quickly he directed Rasul to bring Emma’s things up as soon as possible…all the while holding Emma’s gaze.
He wondered if he should tell Emma that he could smell her arousal and hear the increase in her heart rate, but strangely enough he didn’t want to push her too hard. He was enjoying this tension, this…flirting? taking place between them, and didn’t want it to end so soon.
Almost wriggling in her seat from his frank perusal, Emma attempted to divert his attentions. “For what it’s worth, I’m finished with that food cart if you want to get rid of it. I can’t imagine it smells all that great to you.”
His eyes focused on her lips, Andre quietly growled, “Let’s just say it smells nowhere as good as you do, Em.” He then very quickly wheeled the cart out into the hallway, and dismissed the weres still guarding the door. Rasul should be along soon enough to begin his guard duties.
When he returned to the den he found Emma applying something, possibly hand lotion, to her hands from a tube. Although it smelled nice enough, it wasn’t nearly as nice as her own natural scent.
Still, the process of watching her rub the lotion into her hands mesmerized him, and it wasn’t long until he was actively imagining her small hands rubbing along his body, smoothing the muscles on his back, easing the tension in his thighs…
Just as he decided that he was disgusted with himself for actively thinking such thoughts of a mere human, there was a knock at the door. Now oddly irritated with the intrusion, Andre stalked to the door and jerked it open.
Emma watched as Rasul then Tracy entered the room. He was loaded down with boxes and bags, and Tracy was hesitantly pushing another cart of food and, she really hoped, fresh coffee.
He immediately placed his load near the door and announced that he was going to collect the second load, and promptly left. Tracy stood by the door for a moment in obvious indecision, then quietly rolled the cart over to the table. She quickly placed the new coffee service near Emma.
Rasul was soon back with his second load, which he promptly placed near the door. He turned his twinkling brown eyes toward Emma and bowed. “How are you this evening?”
Emma blushed a little since Rasul was, after all, an extremely attractive vampire, and replied with a laugh, “I think I have new coffee here, so life is fine. Is that all my stuff?”
Enjoying being the center of attention, Rasul happily answered, “Yes, my lovely, this is everything we brought with us.”
“Good! Is my coffee machine there?”
Rasul gestured dramatically toward a box she didn’t recognize, and she giggled.
“What’s in that blue box?” She didn’t recognize that box.
“It contains items from your kitchen that you said you just could not live without,” he replied emphatically.
Emma, Rasul and Tracy all laughed. Andre glowered, and took control of the situation.
“Rasul, put her clothes and personal items in the bedroom. The coffee machine and kitchen items go over there,” he pointed as he ended his strong command.
Without comment, but with a definite gleam in his eye, Rasul quickly complied.
In just a few moments, Rasul reappeared. All that remained of her small pile of boxes and bags were her “kitchen” items, and Rasul whisked them away to the microwave area.
After allowing Emma a long sip of her new cup of coffee, Andre turned to Tracy.
“Consider Emma your new mistress. Your job is to make her life easier. Understood?”
Ignoring everyone’s shocked stares, he focused on the dark-haired maid who nodded her head.
“If she needs something and you cannot obtain it, contact me or Sigebert.” He nodded toward a note pad near the house phone on a side table. “Our numbers are written down.”
Just then there was another knock at the door.
Rasul immediately stepped between the door and where Emma sat, and Tracy silently angled the food cart with the same thought in mind. Andre approved of the protective measures, and strode to the door.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Sigebert’s almost-smiling face appeared. Andre allowed him entry even as he wondered when his quarters had become some sort of common meeting ground.
Emma caught Andre’s eye and nodded infinitesimally toward the cart then Tracy. Andre’s expression didn’t change a bit, but Emma could tell he’d caught on to what she was thinking.
“Tracy, how did you know that Emma needed protecting?”
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