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Naya listened to the dying sobs of the latest human victim, sickened to her limits. She didn’t care for the excuse that these people were the worst of society, that each and every one of them had left a wake of destruction and despair behind them. The ceremony was without conscience. She had every intention of privately insisting Heriolf not allow them to occur anymore. It was beneath him as a leader.
Fortunately, the swearing-in portion of the ceremony had finally ended, the last new member of Heriolf’s contingent added. Keeping her eyes down so that she wouldn’t have to look at the feeding supplicant, she leaned close to her guardian. “My lord, since the formalities are concluded—”
She didn’t have to finish. With magnanimity, Heriolf said, “Of course, my dear. Retire for tonight. I will see you tomorrow.”
Naya didn’t have to pretend gratitude. “Thank you.”
Just as she started to flee the room – she wouldn’t do anything so humiliating as actually run, but she knew fleeing was what she was doing nonetheless – Heriolf caught her hand. She looked into his ice-chip eyes. He gazed intently at her, seeming to seek her thoughts though she was the one person whose ruminations escaped him.
“Good night, dear girl.” He stroked her cheek, and Naya had to suppress a shudder at his look of possessiveness. Yes, she would marry him, her guardian, her protector, her friend. But Naya could not lie. The thought of being his wife in the physical sense made her stomach twist with fear.
“Good night, my lord.” She gave him a smile that she felt tremble on her lips.
He released her. Naya swept out of the room, her guards following silently behind. She breathed easier and her tense shoulders sank with relief as she gained the hall.
Lyndon’s voice rang in the room she was quickly leaving behind. “All may now join the feast in honor of this great night!”
Screams hardly muffled by the gags stuffed in the human victims’ mouths followed Naya up the stairs. Male and female, the feast was being devoured and raped, a double indignant end to life. Naya kept her mind a careful blank, and not because anyone could read her thoughts. It was enough that she could.
She gained her room and shut the screams as well as the silent guards out with relief. She looked around the chamber that was both sanctuary and cage.
Not for the first time, Naya wondered what it would be like to live in the human world, among others of her own kind, far away from the vampires. To have someone she loved at her side, to go to a job, to have friends. Not that any of that would happen. She’d been among vampires and their human servants since she was five. After nineteen years she knew she wasn’t capable of making a go of it in the outside world. Heriolf had protected her, yes; but his adoration had crippled her as well. She’d been homeschooled by the adoptive parents he’d intimidated into caring for her properly, had been kept from other children, from the social mix of humans who didn’t serve the vampires. She had no job skills, no career prospects. She existed in a strange gray world that held no true peril, but offered no vibrancy either.
Naya sighed. Without Heriolf, she was nothing. She had nowhere else to go, nothing to call her own, no one else to help her. Loneliness seemed to be her lot, but she felt she’d made peace with it.
She went to her armoire and swung the doors open. The dress she wore, as light as a dream, came off to be hung with the others. Naya wore no underclothes. She felt best nude, unfettered by the nuisance of clothing. Only when her skin was exposed did she feel she could truly breathe. With Heriolf having already taken his taste of her blood this evening, she wouldn’t have to put anything on.
Relaxing, she went to the vanity and brushed her hair, hearing it crackle with static. Removing the miniscule dash of makeup she wore took only seconds. Still a bit downcast but feeling so much better to be free of the celebration downstairs, Naya went to her bed. She lay on freshly laundered sheets for a few moments, not covering up. She felt safely cocooned within the sheer curtains of the bed.
I’ll spend tomorrow in the woods. The whole day. Autumn was in the air, releasing summer’s humid stranglehold. Naya hoped the air would be crisp. She knew the woods around Heriolf’s mansion like the back of her hand, but every day brought new discoveries nonetheless. It was the one place she felt truly home. And once out of sight of the mansion and its retinue of human servants, she would shed her clothing and be at one with the natural world, the way she felt she was meant to be.
Naya sat up, ready to put the lamp out. Her hand reached for the curtain to draw it back, and she paused. Hadn’t there been a slight movement on the other side of the bed? She slowly looked over her shoulder.
The handsome vampire she’d glimpsed in the hall below stood there, silently drawing the curtains back. She opened her mouth to scream.
The next instant his face was only inches from hers, his gaze capturing her, swallowing her in their brown depths. She had a moment to think she hadn’t made the mistake of looking into a vampire’s eyes in a very long time.
His voice was a calming purr, taking all thought from her mind, replacing her fears with a soothing ocean tide of placidity. “Silence, woman. Lie down and do not fight me.”
Naya did as she was told, sinking onto those clean sheets with him hovering over her. His fingers gently brushed her hair from her face and throat, and his head tilted to one side. Then his face burrowed against her neck. The pain of his bite was far away and unimportant, submerged in the wave of arousal that swept over her as he began to feed. His body covered hers, and she felt his excitement, the press of unrepentant masculinity against her naked sex. Her lower body spasmed, sending a gush of warm wetness from her.
The terrible yet wondrous need made her heart pound all the faster as he drew and drew on her. An enormous aching emptiness opened inside her, as if a black hole had burst into existence within her belly. It yawned great and ravenous, begging to be filled. For the first time, Naya wanted to know – no, needed to know the strength of a man inside her body.