The Mark of the Vampire Queen (Chapter One)

Present Day L yssa opened her eyes, not surprised to find them wet with tears as she surfaced from her memory of the knight. Though she had held Thomas in high regard, she wasn't sure she could allow herself to believe as the monk did, that the man who was her current human servant, Jacob, had been part of her over-one- thousand-year-old life span almost from the beginning. But the way Jacob made her feel, so much like that knight, certainly made her wonder . . . Regardless, whether the knight had carried Jacob's soul or not, her subconscious welcomed the memories as a way to spend more time with Jacob without revealing her growing need for his com- pany. If she'd been a different type of woman, she would have seized on them as reassurance that the recent decision she had made–to give Jacob the third mark, essentially a death sentence–was pre- destined. Jacob himself had tried to comfort her, reminding her he'd insisted she do it. But Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Went- worth, the last vampire queen of the Far East Clan, did not capitu- late to the will of a human. The responsibility was all hers. Besides which, reassurance and tender comfort weren't what she sought as she moved restlessly in the solitude of her wide bed in the dwindling hours before dusk.

She lifted her hand. Though it was very faint, she still had a mark from the day it was burned, reaching out of the tent to hold her knight. Just as the impression of Jacob's bite on her throat from the recent blood exchange of the third mark still remained, when the punctures should have disappeared within less than a day. The images of the past and present mixed in her mind. Last night, after she'd marked him, Jacob had bathed her in the Jacuzzi tub. She'd used her fingertips to collect the water from his eyes so he could open them. Just the way she'd collected the water from the knight's eyes so he could raise his pale, auburn-tipped lashes. Like Jacob's lashes. Jacob had asked her several times now what made her change her mind about giving him the third mark. She hadn't told him about Thomas's posthumous letter. I know the prejudices of your world, certainly. You know I do. But hear me as I tell you that Jacob is the other part of your soul . . . He will not survive being parted from you again. Let him make his own choice, before you try to make it for him . . . If Thomas had been right, Jacob had followed her through time, through her life. Fought to become her full servant, despite what that meant now. She ached for a way to deserve the devotion Jacob gave her, de- spite how harshly she often treated him. She couldn't change who she was, but he didn't seem to want her to do so. His alpha nature resisted her dominance even as he was aroused by it. Just thinking of that made a response tighten in her vitals. He was approaching his thirtieth birthday. Several weeks ago, she'd proceeded to make arrangements for a special gift. She hadn't really examined why she was going to the trouble for a servant she'd had for such a short time. But he'd made many things so much easier for her already, and a wise queen was always generous. Now, the sig- nificance of what she'd chosen, something she'd initially considered a jest based on the nickname she'd given him–Sir Vagabond– nearly made her want to call it off. But she wouldn't. For one thing, she had more pressing concerns. She had to go get him out of jail.