The Mark of the Vampire Queen (Chapter Five)

Because Gideon tried to trip Jacob on their way into the police station and Jacob responded by using his shoulder to ram him into the wall, the officer who'd brought them in had recommended to the guard on duty that they be cuffed to the bars on opposite sides of the communal cell. He'd also threatened them with an officer as- sault charge because they sandwiched him in the middle of the scuf- fle. Gideon's private arsenal had not helped matters. While the cops had been partially mollified by his concealed carry permit for the guns, Jacob was sure they were running every background check on him possible, including searching the data banks for international terrorists. Perhaps because Jacob had been a little more polite to the cops and wasn't carry ing twenty pounds of weapons like an action movie star, he'd been cuffed where he could sit on a bench, whereas Gide- on's choice was standing or taking a seat on the questionable cess- pool of the floor. The guard on duty was posted at a desk near the cell. He kept an indifferent eye on them and the other occupants, ignoring any wise- cracks as he worked on paperwork. Their cellmates were mostly drunks sleeping it off, a few petty criminals, a scared-looking white- collar kid who'd probably been pulled with pot in the car and was thrown in the tank to put the fear of God into him.

He was keeping his head down, his hands twisting around each other as he tried not to look toward several of the more hardened offenders who were sharing sullen company in the corner. Jacob felt the ache of the fight in every muscle. His eye and jaw were swelling and there was bruising in his ribs, but he didn't think he'd cracked any. Gideon sported a similarly damaged face. Despite that, Jacob wished they weren't cuffed. Beating on each other was preferable to staring at one another across thirty feet of space, every- thing said and unsaid vibrating in the air between them, making his headache worse. "You look like shit, " he said. Gideon's head lifted. "You're not looking so pretty yourself. " "No. I mean you look like shit, Gid. This is beating you down. "

"Shut up. " Gideon turned his face away. "You don't get to talk to me as if you're my brother. After we leave here, I'm not looking back. You're one of them now. My brother's dead. You hear me?" He spun around abruptly, making the cuffs clank against the bars and earn- ing a sharp glance from the guard. "Dead. " "So love's all about meeting your terms, is it?" Idiot, stubborn, hardheaded jackass. You used to sing to me when I had nightmares. You used to smile. Gideon turned away farther, hunching a shoulder, but to Jacob's surprise, he responded, his voice low and gruff. "I'm past loving any- one, Jacob. I just can't handle it anymore. This is probably just the way it's meant to be. " The desolation in Gideon's tone was as cold as death, and Jacob wondered if the analogy was uneasily close to the reality of his brother's life. "That's fortunate. " Jacob's attention swung to the rear of the cell. On first glance, the man looked like a well-heeled middle-aged businessman, a hooker's John or a DUI. But he was neither of those things. His eyes glittered in the shadows, and his smile revealed the hint of a sharpened tooth.

Jacob cursed his focus on his brother, which had kept him from more carefully noting all the cell occupants. The vampire had been blending into the shadows, screened by the restless movements of the others. Of course, if he'd been deliberately avoiding notice until now, Jacob might have missed him regardless. It didn't make their situation any less fucked. Gideon had gone on alert as well, straight- ening from the bars, his eyes narrowing. "Kyle Miller, " he said flatly, telling Jacob they were in trouble, if he didn't have the small handful of brain cells required to recognize that already. "Tends to like to take his full quota. Just another of your happy, fuzzy vamps trying to live, " he added, a cutting edge to his tone that made Jacob shoot him a narrow look. "It's like dinner theater, " the vampire observed, remaining seated in the deceptively casual pose, his hands linked around his knees, idly fingering the expensive fabric of his slacks. "So many interesting dramas play out here. I could have used the sewers to head home an hour ago, but watching you two has been so stimulating. Oh, no worries"–when he nodded toward the boy, Jacob noted the vacant confusion in the kid's eyes, the lingering aftermath of vampire com- pulsion instead of alcohol or drugs as he first thought–"I've already supped well. I'm not interested in blood. However, I think I'll be kill- ing him. " He indicated Gideon. "As you can tell, he's known to me and my kind. His luck runs out tonight. " Jacob surged to his feet, the cuff bringing him up short. He could yell for the guard, but the guard would not only end up dead, he wouldn't even get the door unlocked before the vampire struck at Gideon. He wouldn't even know what had happened. At the mo- ment, their conversation wasn't even being tracked, everyone else involved in their own miserable circumstances and the guard tun- ing out anything that wasn't life threatening. In the meantime, Gideon hadn't moved at all. His brother met the vamp's gaze as if he wasn't hampered by a lack of weapons and limited mobility. With a jolt, Jacob realized Gideon had perhaps had other reasons for wanting to meet with him today. Looking for hope from the only reason to live he had anymore–his brother–Gideon would have seen Jacob's betrayal as the last straw.

Now he just didn't give a shit at all, which made him hazardous on a lot of levels, mostly to him- self. For the first time in his life, Gideon needed Jacob more than Ja- cob needed him. He might be past asking for help or wanting it, but that was too bad. Jacob wasn't going to let his stubborn brother's ass get wasted by some midlevel vamp. "This isn't going to happen, " Jacob declared. Kyle's gaze shifted to him. "You're brothers. You're the prettier of the two. " "Told you, " Gideon said, though he didn't shift his gaze. "Asshole, " Jacob responded mildly. He kept a matching deadly focus on their enemy, forming a triangle of tension that finally caught the guard's attention. Now the other inmates were stiffening, mut- tering. While they hadn't followed the exchange, they certainly could sense some violent entertainment brewing. "Knock it off in there. " The vamp's gaze flickered over Jacob, lingered in areas less than comfortable. "Perhaps when I'm done, I'll take some dessert, after all. I can make you hard as I drink, human, " he whispered. "Increase your pleasure and your prudish embarrassment. I bet your brother hasn't seen you jack off since you were young enough to share a room. " "You're not touching my brother, " Jacob said. "Or me. " He could hear the guard starting to move, the chair scraping back. If he came into the cell, he was dead. "I'm not seeing you in a position to stop me. " "Perhaps not. " Jacob inclined his head with cold courtesy. "But my Mistress can blow you away like dust. " In a blink, the vamp stood by Jacob, his face close enough for a kiss, his fangs exposed. He had a hand on the back of Jacob's neck, fingers snarled in his hair. Jacob steeled himself not to move. Gideon surged forward, metal clanking. The guard called out, telling Miller to move his ass back, his hand on his radio, a breath away from call- ing for backup.

It was all white noise as far as Jacob was concerned. He kept his focus on the man in front of him, all his energy devoted to main-taining a cool reserve, showing no fear or doubt even against the vampire's heavy wave of compulsion. It was like a sickly sweet cough syrup infiltrating his nose and lungs, but it was neutralized when attempted on a human already claimed as a servant. The only good thing was it appeared to have confused the guard, who was rocking on the balls of his feet, torn between heading to- ward the cell, punching his radio and going back to his desk. Kyle's nostrils flared, telling Jacob he'd detected his Mistress's marks, and not just the ones she'd administered with her fangs. Sexual emissions could be detected by vampires long after they'd occurred, even after bathing. On the first night she'd brought him to her home, Lyssa had rubbed her slippery response on his limbs, his cock, his chest . . . It had been a sensual experience he remem- bered vividly, and she'd told him it was one of the ways she would mark him as hers to other vamps. Since then, she'd done it several more times. "Who is your Mistress, mortal?" Kyle hissed it be- tween his teeth, obviously warring between bloodlust and self- preservation. "Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth. " The vamp tensed, but didn't retreat. "You lie. " "You know the marks are there, even if you're not powerful enough to detect who made them. Are you willing to risk her wrath if I speak true? Does she even know you're in her territory? My brother is under my protection.

Hence, under hers. " "Don't need your goddamn protection, " Gideon snapped. "Get away from him, Miller. Deal with me if you've got the balls. " "Lady Wentworth's servant wouldn't be in a jail cell like a bar- room brawler. In the company of a vampire killer. " Kyle surveyed Jacob scornfully. "Nothing about you says servant to me. Whoever's ser vice you are in, you have not been in it long. He or she won't miss you overmuch. Killing you both is starting to look more appealing to me. " His face got closer. Another millimeter and his lips would be meeting Jacob's, an idea so repugnant Jacob thought he might prefer to get his throat torn out.

Kyle was going to call his bluff, and he and Gideon were going to die. Even if he and Gideon had been armed and free, a vamp had a better-than-average chance of killing them. Cuffed to the cell bars, they were sheep staked out in a wolf 's den. "I think you need to remove your hands from my servant, Kyle. And every other part of your presence. " Kyle's gaze snapped to the cell door. Lyssa stood next to the guard, a calming hand resting on his shoulder, watching the ex- change impassively. Despite her stillness, Kyle reacted as if she'd swooped down upon him like a bird of prey. He backed away with none of his earlier grace, knocking into the cluster of smoking inmates. They shoved him aside, too interested in the appearance of a woman with Lyssa's striking features to react to the insult. Kyle's use of compulsion had been like scattering marbles across the floor, causing imbalance, confusion, a loud mental clatter. Lyssa's was like the movement of water, simply taking away resistance and thought. The inmates did not make vulgar quips, just stared at her openmouthed, lust in their gazes. His eyes unfocused, the guard moved to the wall and pressed the buzzer to open the cell door. It slid open, but no one moved. It was as if time had stopped, and the only sound was the distant noise of the police station offices up- stairs. When Jacob glanced over at his brother, he found Gideon was as calm and riveted as any of them. If anything, his expression was even more blank and unaware. "Don't do that to him, " Jacob said. "My lady, please. " "He's seen much wear since I saw him last, " she observed, not without a trace of compassion in her cool tone. "Don't worry about him. His weary mind needs the rest. We'll take him home and give him some cosseting, you and me. " Her gaze shifted to Jacob, the jeweled beauty of her green eyes striking him low in the gut. I was woken from my sleep to find you were in danger, a danger you were oblivious to until too late because of your preoccupation with your brother. As a result, I had to get here without adequate time to do my makeup or hair.

When I get you home, you're going to pay for that. Her emotions were a dark, shifting mass he couldn't penetrate. He'd known she might withdraw from him like this for a little while. He'd wanted the third mark, fought her will for it and won. But now she was shutting him out. He wanted to touch her even as he had a strange impulse to run away from her and his brother, from the con- flict in his heart they represented. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, though he knew he wasn't. He wanted to cross the distance between them, kiss the hem of her dress, wait for her touch on his head like a benediction. Despite the circumstances, he couldn't help his response to her. The emotional impact of his brother's current state made him crave her on every level. He'd just tried to convince Gideon what it was about her, and here it was, active, thrumming in the air. The third mark had made it almost unbearably powerful, the connection they had. He was torn between wanting to do anything she asked and needing to resist her, to perversely prove his love was more than just a magical compulsion to an otherworldly creature. Flatterer. Her voice was a whisper in his mind, unable to be re- sisted. I know that, Jacob. I also know what you've been doing today. All of it. I think it's best you don't defy me anymore. After all, you did say he was under my protection, correct? "Do I have your obedi- ence?" "To the best of my ability, my lady. " " `Yes, my lady, ' will do. " "I don't wish to lie–" "Oh, for the love of God, your honesty is fair killing me. " The snap of her voice reverberated through the room like a shock wave. Kyle flattened himself against the wall. Jacob thought if Kyle could have dissipated and materialized beyond the bars, he would have done it. However, despite the popu lar movies, that was not a power vampires had. The only way out of the cell was through that door, past Lyssa. Kyle wasn't that brave. He stayed where he was.

At her snarl, the others had shifted, her menace disturbing the calm she'd imposed upon them. Even children know a parent sometimes prefers to hear a lie. I know your soul, Jacob. Just say "yes, my lady, " so I can have the fleeting pleasure of pretending it's true. "Yes, my lady. " He couldn't help the smile her impatient words almost coaxed from him. He did his best to control it, but from her narrow gaze he doubted he was successful. A fleeting breeze and a quick impression were the only evidence she'd moved. She slammed Kyle to his knees with one hand, holding his skull to the filthy concrete wall at the back of the cell. With minimal pressure she could crush it. Jacob was sure Kyle was all too aware of that. He'd survive it, but he'd wake up in a hospital under human hands in the bright light of day. "You ever touch what belongs to me again and there will be no- where you can hide. So that you remember . . . " Kyle let out a cry and held the side of his face, blood surging from between his fingers at his ear. Lyssa flicked away the piece she'd taken, the diamond stud ear- ring still in it. Thinking of it getting lost in the debris and trash that littered the floor of the cell, Jacob felt a bit nauseous. Dirt from shoes, gum . . . Body parts. Some inmate would be willing to loosen the backing and filch the diamond stud for his own ear. "My apologies, my lady, " Kyle said. Though she let go, he stayed bent over, trying to convey obsequiousness and hold on to his ear, protecting himself as best he could. "If I'd truly believed–" A howl, and he was holding the other ear. A bigger piece tossed away this time. Jacob watched it roll and stop behind the Nike- covered heel of the mesmerized kid, Kyle's earlier meal. "Don't lie, " Lyssa said. "Go home, Kyle. You've done enough for tonight. Don't let me catch you on my bad side again. You won't sur- vive it. " He nodded, backing away from her, bumping Jacob and splat- tering blood on his shoulder before he spun toward the door. The guard still held it open. Looking around the room, Jacob saw she held fi fteen men in a hypnotic state with no visible effort at all, his brother included. He didn't care for the way the men looked at her, under her control or not, but he supposed Lady Lyssa couldn't help but mesmerize any man's senses, with or without persua- sion. "Now you go for the charm, " she responded to his thoughts. "Maybe you should have tried more of that on your brother. You wouldn't have landed up here. " "I didn't have much time to use it. Even if I'd wanted to. " She arched a brow. "Are you telling Mommy he started it?" He shot her an annoyed look and this time she was the one who suppressed a smile, but it was a tight, controlled gesture. Drawing closer, she rested her hand on the joining point of his shoulder to his neck, ran a proprietary hand over his chest, the sore ribs. "You're in pain. " "It's not bad, my lady. Nothing a couple aspirin won't cure. " "Mmm. " Now she raised her attention to his face, took his chin and made him shift his face left and right, displaying the swelling and bruising. "I wasn't talking about your body. The third mark will have that healed by morning, if not sooner. " Her gaze shifted to Gideon. Something deadly in her expression warned Jacob. Quickly he twined his fingers with hers on the cuffed side, drawing her atten- tion to him. "He was trying to protect me, make decisions that are mine to make. " Much as it was my decision to accept the third mark. She withdrew her touch.

"Release them both, " she ordered the entranced cop. "We're going home. " "But bail–" "The diner owner isn't pressing charges. " She looked between him and Gideon. "Since the two of you aren't charging one another for assault–I assume–there's nothing to hold you for. That's what the police will remember after we've left. " "Why would the diner owner–" "I paid him enough to convince him. " The cop unlocked the cuff on his wrist, went over to Gideon and did the same.

Jacob rubbed his arm, eyed her as she studied him. Why didn't you just let me rot in here a day or so? Perhaps I didn't care to spend the evening without my servant. Before he could reply to that, she'd turned away. "Follow me. "