The Mark of the Vampire Queen (Chapter Ten)

Jacob thought he'd be worn out and simply seek oblivion. Instead he took his Mistress again and again, using them both hard. The world might treat the idea with crass vulgarity, but in the darkness, with despair closing in, a man found sacred sanctuary in the wet heat of a woman's pussy. His woman's. Exhaustion finally took some of the pain, leaving it vibrating discordantly off of the waves of the last orgasm, but it wasn't enough. He pulled out only to give him the ability to maneuver his mouth down her throat toward the sweet taste of her nipples, the valley be- tween her breasts. When his hand slid between her thighs, she opened to him, let his fingers slide into the channel he'd already soaked with his fluids and her own. Her breath whispered out in a quiet sigh of pleasure. Perhaps Carnal should not have spoken so hastily about inferior mortal stamina. Her thoughts drifted through his mind, her pleasure with him spurring his efforts. And do vampires value stamina in bed over other attributes? When he thrust his cock into her again, her tender tissues took him slowly, her hips tilting up as he slid his arm under her waist, his palm spreading out between her shoulder blades to bring her to his mouth, nip at her sternum.

Tease the flesh of her breasts with his beard. Like size, it's what they do with it that matters. For the man . . . Or vampire . . . Who doesn't know what he's doing, stamina can become never ending . . . Torment. When she moaned, he relished the sound fiercely, deepening his penetration, knowing as her nails curled into his back and her cunt muscles tightened that he would make her come again. And again. Her climaxes, her screams, would drive the memories back, let him fall into a sleep where they could not follow and strangle him. "What about the man who knows what he's doing and has stam- ina?" He nudged into her hair and bit her ear, moving to the tender skin below. Need pulsed like blood hunger beneath the thin veil of his teasing. She drew his lips insistently back to hers. "That man I might just have to keep forever. " He fell into exhausted sleep, still deep inside her. She'd had her arms twined around his shoulders as he rested in the cradle of her thighs, pressing her into the mattress. When he woke that way sev- eral hours later, she surprised him further by staving off her dawn slumber with creative use of his morning erection, bringing them both to peak again.

She didn't shun his company for an indefinite time period as she of- ten had in the past when he'd crossed the arbitrary boundary lines she set between them. It was as if suddenly she intended to give him a collection of pleasant vignettes, like a photo album of good memo- ries shoved between the bad to break them up. It didn't make the pain of what had happened in her master hall bearable, or even bet- ter. Just a crucial step closer to what she had said. We shed our tears and have to go on. The very next night, she invited him to join her in the study, reading while he channel surfed and watched her out of the corner of his eye. Finding nothing on, he switched to music and retrieved a couple of the X-Men comics he'd picked up on errands.

Lying on the carpet on his stomach, he propped his chin on his knuckles and turned the pages, studying the graphics. As he stared at the colorful images, the simple concepts of good and evil playing out among the complexity of human emotion, he remembered Melinda's harsh death rattle. His lady's anger, the strike of Carnal's fist. The silence of the forest, as if every creature sat in judgment of him. He tuned in to find he'd been staring at the same page for ten minutes. Thinking that looking at her would take his thoughts in a better direction, perhaps to the memories of the most recent night, he found his lady watching him. She pointed to the floor at her feet. Bemused, he scooted over, and she amused him by propping her feet on the small of his back. Kneading him with her toes absently, she continued to read, occasionally moving down to stroke his but- tocks in the loose jeans he wore, dipping her toe beneath the waist- band. Before long, she set aside her novel and came down on the floor with him. He explained the comic book's characters as she lay back on his chest and he held the comic up over them. It was like they were studying the stars in the sky. The soft weight of her body held him to the earth when the lack of gravity threatened to send him spinning into space. How many had told him she wasn't his lover or friend? Debra had said it was something unclassifiable, that lover was the closest frame of reference, a dangerously erroneous one. Lyssa would set him back on his heels again; he knew it. It didn't matter. He wasn't going to stop serving her, protecting her. What was between them was a deeper relationship than lover or friend, because it encompassed both of those things and went to a far more intense level. Debra was wrong. They knew what to call it. Mistress and ser- vant. A "'til death do you part" no marriage ever envisioned . . .

"How on earth did you get up in there?" Jacob felt through the tools next to him and chose a different clamp, pulling aside a set of wires beneath the Mercedes.

He'd been inspecting the car's undercarriage, specifically the brake line, when he'd noticed the car had a small, furry tenant. Feline. He'd thought he was on the verge of getting to the little creature, but now he was having a harder time seeing her or him, cloaked in shadows as the animal was. Bran jarred his leg. In his lower vision, he saw the dog crouch down and hunch his shoulders with a hopeful look for his prog- ress. "Not . . . Helping, " he grunted, shoving the dog with his knee. He always put fresh flowers in his lady's room at sunset with in- triguing tokens of his sunlit day. This object might be a good one to leave for her. Depending on how coated with grease it was. And how long it took to extract it. "Ah, damn it. You must be female. " His target managed to shift into another, deeper crevice, into which it would have been impos- sible for even his lady's delicate fist to fit. "Keep it up. I'll get a cork- screw and pluck you out of there by your soft tissue.

"What are you doing under there?" Speak of the devil. Or perhaps–at least for the moment–an an- gel. Tilting his head, Jacob saw a pair of pretty bare feet planted on either side of his left leg. At the same moment, his fingers brushed his goal. An unhappy mewl greeted his triumph. "Come here, little mite. Sssh . . . It's okay. " He managed to hold on to the squirming thing, only because it was too young to be strong, and the mouth too tiny to do any damage. "Can you tell Bran to go sit a few feet away, my lady?" She bade the dog move back and he heard the dog chuff, pad away as Jacob wriggled out from beneath, holding the tiny kitten to his chest to keep it from streaking away. "How on earth did that get here?" "Without the dogs eating her, on top of that. She's not more than about eight weeks old. Mother probably got hit by a car and the kit- tens scattered. " As he came out, his lady changed her stance so she was straddling his waist, standing above him, her brow raised. She was holding her strappy high-heeled sandals in one hand and wore a tailored suit with a short skirt, suggesting she was heading out on one of her business errands.

Now she stepped to his side so she could squat beside him. Now see, you little rat, if not for you I could have run my hands up those beautiful legs and . . . "Think again. Not with that grease all over you. " Reaching out, she touched the kitten with a finger. The animal was cowering under the cup of his hands, quivering so she appeared to be a faceless ball of matted, oily fur. "Oh, goodness, what are we going to do with you? The dogs won't tolerate you; that's for certain. " "I thought I could take her over to Elijah's. He's had to take his grandson in. Even if his son or the kid's mother comes back to get him, he could likely use some company. " Lyssa raised a brow. "You've been male bonding. " Jacob gave a mock shudder. "You make it sound so sordid. " Smiling, she came down to him, catching his lips in a kiss, strok- ing her fingers through his hair. "How do you know it's a she?" He couldn't cover the thought that came into his mind quickly enough. With a smothered laugh, she gave him a sharp nip. "Men tend to be pains in the ass, too, Jacob. Quite frequently. In fact, they're probably the main reason women don't always have a sweet disposition. " "I bow to your great wisdom, my lady. " "Only because you know I could stomp on your groin with my heel. " "There's that sweet disposition showing itself now. " He grunted as she drew blood this time, but the tip of her tongue flicked at it, took it off his lip, her green eyes meeting his, glowing with sensual intent. His body stirred. If he hadn't spent so much time retrieving the feline, he would have let her toddle back under the car and see if he couldn't coax his lady into getting dirty. "Uh-uh. " She smiled again, those wet lips curving. "You set up the appointment with the bank to sign the trust papers. Told me I had to be there on time, you bossy thing. It's your own fault. " She turned her attention to the creature in his hands, stroking the fluff y back between the bars of his fingers.

"Give her some scraps or milk before you take her. Poor thing feels like she's starving. " He watched appreciatively as she balanced herself against the car to put on one shoe and then the other. "Keep walking around bare- foot on this asphalt and I'll have to give you another pedicure. " "An odious thought. I've had nightmares about the first one you gave me. " Her wicked smile gilded the image she allowed to flash from her head into his. The way he'd knelt between her legs, his mouth on her dew-kissed flesh at the Eldar Salon, the soles of her feet pressed into his bare back. She adjusted a strap. "I'm not coming back to the house tonight. I'll be back in two days. Keep Sunday night open. We're taking your motorcycle out. " Jacob frowned at the unexpected announcement. "Where are you going, my lady?" "My business, " she said, but rather than sounding impatient or imperious there was an anticipatory gleam to her eye. "And don't argue with me. I'll be fine and I'm going. I'll stay in touch, so don't worry like a shrewish wife. " His gaze narrowed. "Sunday, then. Any special preparations, a particular destination?" "Somewhere special. A surprise. " "Where?" "That's why it's called a surprise. " She easily evaded his attempt to catch her calf between his feet. Moving nimbly out of his reach, she headed for the BMW. "You better not have reprogrammed my radio. " He hid his grin as she turned the ignition and AC/DC's "Back in Black" blasted out her windows. Sitting up, he eyed Bran, who gave the bundle still securely held in his grasp a calculating look. He parted his jaws to pant, showing a foam of saliva. The kitten squeaked. "You're too much of a sportsman for this little mite. Let's go find a box and take her somewhere not populated by a legion of hell- hounds. " Still, as he rose to do just that, his brow furrowed. Where was she going for the next two days? And where the hell was she taking him Sunday?

At least she did stay in close mind communication. Just before dawn on day one, he'd woken with his mind flooded by an image of her in a hotel lounger, dressed in nothing but a black satin garter belt and stockings. Her hand covered herself, playing lazily with her pussy, which she kept frustratingly out of view with artful placement of her fingers. She'd nearly brought herself to orgasm before she cut the link, her playful laughter making him want to choke her even as she succeeded in reassuring him of her well-being. After that, he wasn't able to tell where she was or what she was doing, but she regularly fired off demands for correspondence to be sent, phone calls and paperwork to be handled. There was a plethora of things she wanted done related to the Gathering in addition to his normal duties. Despite her teasing and his full schedule, he worried about her. While she hadn't experienced any symptoms of the virus for the past few days, underscoring how the third mark had boosted her im- mune system, he knew it wouldn't last forever. He dreaded seeing symptoms reappear, because how soon they did would be a barom- eter of the disease's progress. She needed that annual kill. He'd set all the details up, forcing himself to treat it as he did a domestic task. He'd communicated three possible dates based on the man's daily routine. She'd agreed to the date that was the furthest out, two weeks, and refused to con- sider anything closer. On one hand, it made sense. She was choosing the date closest to their departure to the Gathering so she'd make the most of the strength the kill would give her, while milking along the benefits of the third mark. Which also told him she suspected, no matter what measures they took, her time was short.

The idea of witnessing her annual kill and handling the disposal details was a hard ball in his stomach. But he knew that making it happen sooner was not likely to dissipate that ball. His conscience was starting to resemble a pitted battlefield.

It didn't matter. He had to push it out of his mind. Make her his primary focus, everything else just the details. You think by learning how to clear your mind I can't read your face, your heart, Jacob? Your body? It had been just a whisper in his mind as she picked up on his thoughts, but he resolved to keep his mind off it anyhow. He knew his conflict over it bothered her, and he didn't want to give her an opening to deny him the right to be at her side when she did it. If her time was short, there were many reasons, both emotional and functional, that he needed to stay as close as possible. When she came back on the second night, so close to dawn he met her at the car with a cape, she was pale. She didn't speak, but once they were inside she pushed him down into a chair, straddled him fully clothed and bit into his throat, seeking nourishment she seemed to need badly. She murmured her pleasure at the taste of his blood, the feel of his hands on her hips as she purposefully rubbed against him, arousing him to the point of bursting. Because of his worry, his need for her had a sharp, emotional edge that made the physical craving even more acute. But she'd moved off of him and left him with a wicked though somewhat wan smile. Until Sunday, my servant.

She was a demon, he decided. It was now Sunday night and he stood in the driveway waiting on her. With mild concern, he wondered if it was possible for constant erections to cause permanent brain dam- age from blood loss. I'm ready whenever you are, my lady. He'd sent that mental communication to her about fifteen min- utes ago. Since she was a woman, he'd expected and had the time to make a few more adjustments to the bike, as well as throw a stick to Bran's brother Fionn. Sunday night was blessed with a pleasant tem- perature and light breeze to keep off the mosquitoes. A sliver of moon was tilting in the early evening sky. She came out wearing a lavender knit shirt, dark jeans, matching sandals and some simple jewelry. Except for the mall, he'd never seen her in jeans. The lines of the denim were straight and elegant, turning her ass into an upside-down heart where the garment nipped in to the waist.

She had her hair clipped up loosely so tendrils fell around her oval face. No makeup, not that she needed any. All in all, she looked like she was ready for a picnic in the park. She'd told him to wear com- fortable clothes, so he was in his normal garb of jeans and a T-shirt. She handed him a flyer. "That's where we're going. " He glanced down. Started. "There's a Renaissance Faire at Lang- ston Field?" She nodded. "They set up outside of town several nights ago, and I thought you'd like to go. " Seeing the pen and ink depiction of the knight on the horse and the amply endowed wench offering food and drink brought back memories, most of them good. Though he tried to squelch one of them in particular, he felt her amusement sweep over him. "Too late, Sir Vagabond. Now you're in trouble. " "She was just a friend. We were a bit drunk that night. " "Not too drunk to give her a good time, I see. " "If you're going to eavesdrop on my thoughts, you deserve what you get. " When his thumb passed over the drawing of the knight and his steed, other memories came back. Sitting on the back of a powerful horse, charging forward side by side with other knights. Brief, poignant moments where he felt immersed in something that had always been more than a performance to him. But it hadn't been enough to hold him, keep him. Only the woman in front of him had been able to do that. He raised his attention to Lyssa, knowing she was watching him closely, inside and out. "Why are you doing this, my lady? I'm not complaining; it's just these past few days . . . I guess I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. " Stepping closer to him, Lyssa slid her hands up behind his neck and brought his head down for a kiss. They didn't often do it this way, where his greater height was particularly marked. Jacob lost the flow of his thoughts as she stretched up on her toes and pressed her body into his. Abandoning whatever the hell it was he'd asked her, he kissed her back, wrapping his arms around her. Soft ness, firmness, perfume, blissful curves. With the hand holding the flyer, he gripped her left buttock, the paper crackling as he molded it to the perfect shape.

"Don't ask questions. I just want to give you something. Some- thing you'll like. " You're doing that now, my lady. He brought both hands into play, grasping her tightly to lift her against him. She made a noise of pleasure, goading him further. He was raging for her, his cock enormous in a blink of time. He wanted, needed her now. When she pushed away and backed up several steps until she was leaning against the bike, her gaze was one of wanton challenge. It seems you've missed me. Am I teaching you to be insatiable? The playful demeanor disappeared. Christ, even the dark mink sweep of her lashes could make him hard. She opened the top button of her shirt, teasing the cleavage with long-nailed fingers he'd painted himself. I want you. Which of them had thought it? And did it matter? He closed the gap between them and crowded her, trapping her between himself and the bike. As she put a palm on his chest, his hand closed over her deceptively delicate wrist, pulling it to the side and behind her, arch- ing her body up into his. Perhaps it was her own strength that made him act more savagely, more unleashed than he'd ever been with a woman. Her hair smelled like the exotic scent she used. It was something that if inhaled too deeply couldn't be detected, but it was there when one breathed nor- mally, part of the lightness of the air. Capable of teasing a man to madness, like all of her, for she could deny him whenever she chose. She watched him, the shadows in her eyes suggesting her internal struggle with her overwhelming desires and needs. Her lips parted as if there were things she wanted to say that she never would. It was a struggle his sudden, sharp, male need cared little about. Whatever it is, my lady, let it go. I just want you. It's that simple, every day, every moment. The beginning and the end of everything I need is here. When he lifted her onto the motorcycle's seat, she relented, wrapping her legs around him as he growled his approval into her mouth.

Pulling the clip free, he buried his hands in her abundant hair, deepened the kiss, invading her with ruthless determination as he intended to invade her elsewhere. His hands went under her knit shirt, his long fingers tunneling beneath the band of the bra and pushing it up so he could support her breasts with his own hands, earning a quiver of response from her as he captured her nipples in the creases between his thumbs and forefingers. He knew she was wet for him already, knew it the way he knew he was ready to detonate. Putting his hand between them, he rubbed the heel of his palm against her mound and was rewarded by a con- vulsive tightening of her legs, her hips jerking up to meet him and increase the friction. He pulled the shirt over her head and unfastened her jeans swift ly, backing off enough to strip them down her legs, taking her sandals off. Despite the urgency goading their actions, he had to take a mo- ment to savor it. She sat on his bike in the driveway, under the spreading branches of a live oak dripping with Spanish moss. Wear- ing just her bra, a swatch of silky gold panties and all that glorious hair. The lawn rolled away behind her, verdant green painted with touches of fall color. Her hands were on him, too, opening his jeans. She'd barely un- zipped them before she gripped his bare buttocks and brought him back to her. Pulling aside the crotch of the panties, he thrust roughly into slick heat with a deep groan of relief she matched with a cry. He pumped into heaven, feeling the friction of the panties' elastic against the shaft of his cock even as he tightened his arm around her waist, keeping her close. Her buttocks rested just on the edge of the bike seat as she held her legs clamped high on his waist. When she leaned against his strength, her head dropped back as he held her with one arm and pushed her bra back up with the other. Holding it at her throat, he let his fingers apply pressure there. Her breasts trembled at his thrusts, his cock pushing in and sliding out of her pink lips, glis- tening and soaking the surrounding thin silk. Fuck me, Jacob. Ah, God . . . "I missed you, " he muttered as she brought herself back up, straightened and curled her arms around him so her head was tucked under his chin, her upper body pinned against his chest.

Her fingers still dug into his buttocks, driving him, holding on to him. Perhaps because she was not looking at him, he could say what was rolling through him. While he knew she could hear it in his mind, he wanted her to hear him utter the words deliberately, as an oath in- stead of just a stream of consciousness. "I miss you every second I'm not inside you like this. " Letting her hold on to him, he slid his hands under her thighs, bringing her clit more in contact with his cock, which was hard as the chrome of his bike. Her eyes widened and her body convulsed, giving him a surge of furious triumph as her nails bit into him. Her fangs glittered from the soft white light cast by the outdoor lanterns as her mouth opened on another cry. She spasmed inside as well, giving him no more choice in the matter than he'd just given her. He flooded her, feeling the two heats mixing together, wetting his ball sac. The inside of her thighs pressed against his hip bones. He kept pushing into her, stay- ing right with her through each aftershock, wanting the impression of his cock filling and completing her, imprinting on her memory. So perhaps she wouldn't deny herself or him for such an intermina- bly long time again. One day, two days . . . The hours when she slept. All of it was too long. Humor rippled through her, mixed with passion as she caught the thought. She held on to his shoulders, breathing shallow breaths as he held her close, pressing his head on top of hers. "What is it you miss so much during my sleeping hours, my greedy servant? My smile? My eyes? Or this?" She contracted upon him, squeezing him with such artful skill he thrust against her in answer. "All of you, my lady. Everything you give me when you do this. Your wet pussy, your panting breath, your nails digging into me, your heart and desire in your eyes, those soft whimpers in the back of your throat. It tears the heart out of me. " I never knew there was anything that I'd want for all eternity until I met you. Her nails pierced his skin, her forehead pressing against his chest so he couldn't see her face, but her emotional reaction to his words and thoughts flooded him like a wave.

Sometimes he forgot she'd lost her husband so recently. That such admissions could hurt her because the intensity was reminiscent of what she'd wanted but never had with Rex. When he felt her strug- gling to rein it in, he knew whatever she'd planned tonight, she didn't want to be drawn into her own shadows. Changing tactics, he raised her head with a nudge of his, brushed her lips with his mouth. Nipped sharply. "You got this out of your system? Ready to go now?" She blinked back the tears he knew she didn't want him to notice and managed to toss him an arch look. "I think I might need to freshen up first. " "No. Don't. " He gripped her with a sudden fierceness. "Wherever we're going, I want to know that my seed is sticky between your thighs. When you take your panties off just before dawn, I want you to smell me on your flesh and in the silk. " As her eyes darkened with desire, he knew he'd banished the shadows. Reaching up, she stroked her thumb over his lips, her touch lingering when he made the contact a kiss. "I won't be taking my own panties off, Sir Vagabond. I can almost guarantee you that. "

The Faire was set up on acreage outside of town, a nature preserve set against the backdrop of Stone Mountain with its impressive carv- ing of the trio of Confederate generals. Nearly five acres of pavilion tents were interspersed with torch- light to distract attention from the large outdoor stage lighting that had been rented to further illuminate the area. A roar of cheers ris- ing beyond the forest of tents told Jacob some type of competition was in process. The crowd of parents and children he saw milling among the tents suggested it was not a joust, however, which would typically draw most of the Faire attendees to the makeshift arena at the rear of the fairgrounds. Other than a small scattering of cars, there were five school buses in the parking lot. "This is a school booking, " he noted. "It might not be open to the public. "

"It's not, " she agreed. "They're holding a special nighttime perfor- mance for an inner-city school. It was made possible by a private benefactor who asked if she might attend herself to see the children enjoy the Faire. And bring a guest. " He digested that as she used his shoulder to brace herself and swung her leg over the bike. He'd redone her hair for her and she'd rearranged her clothes, but as he wished she'd not done anything else. To all outward appearances she was perfect. "I suspect this benefactor is someone with more money than God. " "That's such a ridiculous saying. What use would God have for money? Hence, a pauper has more money than God. " "A pauper you are not, my lady. " Lyssa cocked her head. "These children don't have much of the good memories money can buy. Plus, it served my purpose. I was planning a birthday gift for someone very dear to me. Terry said you liked the nights the troupe entertained schoolchildren the best. " Jacob came to a halt. Eyes widening, he turned, taking a closer look at the cars and the pavilion tents in the distance. The colors. "This is my old troupe. They changed the flyer. " She nodded. "Happy thirtieth birthday, Jacob. " "This took some time to set up. When did you–" "You think I just sit around every evening, waiting for you to do my hair and wipe my ass?" He winced. "I'm never going to live that one down, am I?" "I'm still offended by it. " She sniffed. "I plan to bring it up as of- ten as possible, because that's my right as your Mistress. " He snorted. "It has nothing to do with you being my Mistress and everything to do with being female. " However, he tugged her forward until she was standing toe-to- toe with him and he had his lips pressed to the tip of her nose. "Thank you, " he said.

The faces were new, but Jacob saw Terry hadn't lost his touch. The British owner and operator had been a well-known Shakespearean actor in his homeland.

Everyone he hired understood their primary goal was to make the Faire goers believe they had stepped out of the world they knew, into a world based in history but gilded with the romance that fantasy and time could give it. Will you feel like a knight in shining armor when you help her tear the throat out of an innocent? Gideon's voice, dubbed over his con- science. His decision was made, damn it. Viciously, Jacob shoved the thoughts away, but not quickly enough. You do not have to come with me, Jacob. I have told you that be- fore. Yes, I do. He blew out a breath. He didn't want to think about this now. He truly didn't. She'd gone to a lot of trouble. Just . . . Does he feel any pain, or fear? Lyssa turned, her expression softening. Reaching out, she touched his arm. "No. For this, I use what you like to call pheromones, for lack of a better word. At least at the crucial moment. His last thoughts are that he is being most pleasurably seduced by a beautiful woman. " Jacob frowned at that. Though her eyes flickered, she continued. When I break the skin, there is usually surprise, but the chemicals bal- ance it, increase his arousal. Before he can feel the panic that comes with the instinct his life is in danger, I break his neck. I can finish feed- ing on him postmortem as long as he is alive when I break the skin, and I drink what I need within the first fifteen minutes after his death. "I may not view humans as equals, Jacob, " she said, low, "but they are too much a part of my life for me to simply cut a decent per- son down in the prime of his life and feel nothing. You are not alone in your feelings on this. It is just . . . I struggled with it many years ago. " I accepted it. Today shall belong to us. We will deal with the rest tomorrow. Agreed? Jacob managed a smile. "Agreed, my lady. " When have I ever been able to deny you anything? When she let her hand slide down his forearm to his wrist, her reassurance echoed in his mind. You are not alone in this. "A kirtle, my lady, with a lovely corset?"

The gown a red-haired woman displayed at the opening of one of the pavilion tents was deep green velvet with wing sleeves and a touch of deft ly done embroidery at the neckline. The corset to go over it was a tapestry of hunter green and gold, the lacing strings strung with copper beads, reminiscent of a medieval world with the elegant touches of the modern-day artisan's mind. "This is lovely. Do you have something for him?" Lyssa nodded at Jacob. The seamstress rummaged through her line of designs, hung up on a line tied between two wooden posts decorated with ribbons and clusters of dried flowers, like miniature versions of maypoles.

She produced a green tunic edged in gold, brown hose and a pair of supple boots. "Beautiful, but no. " When Lyssa shook her head and stepped for- ward, she brushed shoulders with the woman. "Look at his eyes. Those eyes should never be wasted. " "You're quite right, my lady. There appear to be many parts of him that should not be wasted. " "They're not, good woman. I can promise you that. " While Jacob smiled at her relaxed banter with the seamstress, it made him wonder how many of her trips away from home recently had been to visit with Terry and his troupe. To arrange for his birth- day, when she faced many important matters and an uncertain amount of time to accomplish them. Haven't you heard, Jacob? I have a new human servant who is the epitome of efficiency. He handles so many things for me now I scarcely know what to do with my evenings. Watching her going through the selections as if she were just any other woman enjoying her shopping, his heart tightened in his chest. It seemed there was no end to the things she was, the emotions she could pull from him. And that was the answer to his brother's voice in his head. Yes, Gideon. I'll do anything for her. It's beyond what the world calls right and wrong. It's what I must do. It is what it is. "Here. " Lyssa pulled out a tunic in blue, embroidered in silver. When she turned to face him, her green eyes were intent. "I like the green dress very much, but do you have the same in blue, with a cor- set done in blue and silver?

I would wear his colors, after all. " "Of course. I make all of the designs in pairs for that very rea- son. " Fifteen minutes later, with the aid of the curtained partition of the tent and an exchange of money, Jacob had left his bundle of street clothes in the woman's care and gone outside to make room for other browsers while his lady changed. When he felt her emerge, he turned. He swallowed. Though the blue dress had simple lines designed to lie soft ly against the curves of a woman's body, the cinch of the corset enhanced them and lifted her small breasts. She was perfectly at ease in the garb, displaying aristocratic patience as the woman pinned a jeweled scarf on her hair. Whether in jeans, silk or velvet, every inch of her said royalty. A queen. It was her birthright. Only a little while ago his mouth had been pressed against her lips to the point of bruising. She'd parted them, let him plunge into the soft moistness within, penetrate her body the way she could do to his heart with just a look. You don't wear my colors, my lady. I'm wearing yours. When she stepped toward him and lifted a hand to his cheek, he looked away, pressing his jaw into her palm. I've stood with kings who had not a tenth of your bravery, wise men who would be put to shame by your resourcefulness. Priests who would be blinded by the light of your integrity. "Cease, my lady. " He caught her hand. When he squeezed a little harder than he intended, he immediately loosened his grip, trying for a lighter tone. "You'll make me vain and then I'll be no use to you at all. " The way you look in that tunic makes me think of how you look without it. Like when you get out of my pool and water is rolling down your naked body, your nipples drawn up tight, begging for the scratch of my nails . . . Your eyes so fiercely blue . . . " As she took another step closer, her thighs brushed his. She spoke in a whisper now, her lips close. "Would those tight hose bear the strain if I commanded your cock to rise for me? It's making me wet, the desire to take you inside me again.

You know women of this time period didn't wear underwear. " Jacob swore soft ly, though his mouth couldn't help but tug into another smile. Daring to dip a hand beneath the fall of her hair adorned with the jeweled net, he curved his hand around the side of her throat. When he tipped her chin with his thumb, her lips parted, showing him a hint of fang. "Don't worry, Jacob. I have my ways of whittling you down to size if you get too vain. " "You can cut any man's knees out from under him with nothing more than a sweep of your lovely lashes, my lady. I'll argue with you no more. At least for the moment. " She laughed then, and the throaty sound was enough to turn heads. "Just what I expected from my stubborn servant. A condi- tional surrender. Let's go see the games that knights like to play. "