Narcise's breath caught and a rush of heat flooded her.
That very thought, that very temptation, had been teasing her, and now it bloomed, full and hot and sudden, in her thoughts.
"You would allow that?" she said carefully.
"I would welcome it," he replied. His voice, so low and filled with desire, sent a stab of desire into her middle. "Narcise."
The thought was titillating...and freeing. To have control, here, in this very chamber that epitomized her captivity, her complete dependence. And to have such a man beneath her hands and body and fangs.
His unique scent, fresh and warm, tinged with cedar and wool, had already seemed to overtake all of the other smells of memories-dark, awful ones-in this chamber, and now sat fully in her consciousness, reminding her of how he tasted and felt.
"But then..." No. She shook her head.
Temptation thrilled her...and eased into despair. But no. How long would his resolve last, if indeed he truly had resolve and it wasn't merely a trick?
As if he read her mind, Cale said, "I won't touch you. Even if you bid me." He glanced at the manacles on the wall, then back at her. His eyes challenged her, dark and intense.
Narcise was aware of a light fluttering in her center, broadening and spreading like the delicious heat of a fire on a cold Romanian night. Those compelling eyes still fastened on her; he walked over to the smooth white wall, marred only by the chains that hung there.
"I understand why you hesitate to trust," he said, slipping one of the cuffs over his wrist and locking it into place, where it held his wrist just away from his head. "Perhaps this will help." Then, unable to close the other manacle with his chained hand, he stilled and met her gaze. A sharp twinge pierced her inside.
"Narcise. Believe me when I say nothing you could do would make it more difficult for me than standing here, keeping my word not to touch you."
Trust me, he'd said before. He seemed to be saying it again, wordlessly this time.
She looked at the band encircling his wrist, wide and, she knew, cold. He would give her that control?
In a place where she'd fought for so long to keep her own?
The irony touched her deeply.
And then all mundane thoughts of irony and the like fled as she realized what she had. Here. Giordan Cale: handsome, strong and virile. Offering whatever she wanted, great or small, as she wished.
Narcise's mouth dried and she found it hard to swallow as she walked toward him, her bare feet padding from cool stone floor to lush rug back to stone again. Her middle was filled with fluttering moths, her gums swelling as they pushed out her fangs.
All the while, their eyes met and held, and it seemed as if she could feel his heart, thudding inside her own chest. Their heartbeats pounded together, their breaths seemed to work in tandem, and for the first time, in this room, she felt...womanly.
Womanly, and powerful, in a way she hadn't felt since she'd loved Rivrik.
Standing there in front of him, Narcise lifted his free arm, and felt the little ripple of a shudder beneath his skin. Her upper fangs brushed her lower lip, and without thought, she took him and brought his wrist toward her mouth.
Cale went still. Even his breath ceased as she watched the blue veins seem to surge and pulse amid the tendons in his golden skin. Instead of plunging in her fangs, Narcise flicked her tongue over the delicate ridges there, tasting the salt on his warm flesh, sensing the flavor of his scent and the essence of lifeblood pounding beneath its thin covering.
When she lifted her face, she heard the soft hiss of his breath and saw the faint smile lifting his lips. There was heat in his eyes, but no tension, no conflict in his face. Merely pleasure.
For some reason that comforted her, and she allowed her eyes to narrow and crinkle at the corners. Allowing almost a smile. And then she clicked the second manacle around his wrist, and stood back to survey her captive.
As the thought flitted into her mind, at first her reaction was one of horror that she should even have thought the word. She knew what it was like to be a captive, held immobile and helpless and at the mercy of the whims of others.
But this was different, she told herself. He gave up control willingly. He offered. He wanted to be here, he wanted her to touch him...and whatever else she chose to do.
And, she found, there was no doubt that she wanted to do...many things.
That alone was a welcome revelation, a relief, to a woman who hadn't willingly responded to the touch of a man for decades. For once the fangs protruded and the bloodscent filled the air, and the penetration began, even Narcise couldn't control her own body's instinctive reaction. But those occasions hadn't been real pleasure, or true satiation. They'd been wrung from her like some unwanted and terrible purging.
But now, tonight, this was for her. All for her. And Cale seemed to have understood that.
"Are you going to stand there all night while the blood flows from my arms," he said in that mellow voice, "and make me only imagine what you might do? Or are you going to kiss me and make the discomfort worth my while?"
"I never kiss," she told him, nevertheless moving closer. Her fingers itched to tear that shirt away and see what was underneath. She had a sudden fantasy of muscles shifting and bulging from the effort of pulling on the chains, in his biceps and rippling over his chest, and she wanted to see if it could be real.
His shirt was made of the finest linen, warm and damp from his skin. She tugged it loose from his tight breeches, noticing the very healthy bulge rising behind them. The sight and accompanying thought sent another spear of lust into her belly, and she boldly smoothed her hand down over that tempting ridge.
Cale gave a soft sigh and when she looked up, his smile had grown that much hotter and his eyes darker. "Is it becoming warmer in here, or am I imagining it?" he managed to say.
"I'm perfectly comfortable," she replied and smoothed her hands beneath his loose shirt. His firm belly, warm and textured with a light dusting of hair that she imagined would be as dark as that on his head, skittered and trembled beneath her fingers. And as she slid her hands farther up beneath the shirt, she covered hard slabs of pectorals and then her fingers curled up over smooth shoulders. The tips of her fingers brushed over what must be the ridges of his Mark from Lucifer: slender, raised, veinlike markings spreading from beneath his hairline down over the back of his shoulder. As she slid over that unholy branding, her own Mark twinged and she brought her hands to rest flat on the front of his chest, pressing into the wiry hair growing there.
Narcise was aware of him watching her as she stepped back and removed her hands from those warm planes, then realized there was no way to pull the shirt over his head while his wrists were chained.
"Cut it if you like," he said, reading her thoughts. "I have many more."
"As you will," she replied, but instead of reaching for one of the daggers, which had been used on her, she grasped the shirt at his throat and ripped. The heavy linen made a satisfying, powerful sound as it tore, and left his chest bare to her avid eyes. "It's no wonder Suzette talks about you the way she does," she commented, and tore one of the sleeves free, jolting his arm against the wall.
The chains clinked with her violent movement, but he made no attempt to pull or wiggle in his confinement. She eyed the bulge of muscle in his arm as his elbow bent in an L-shape, his wrist fixed at the level of his head. His skin, even beneath his shirt, wasn't the normal pasty-white of the sun-banned Dracule, but was golden, as if tanned by a sun that never touched it.
"In what way does Suzette talk about me? I do hope it's-" His breath caught as she plunged her fangs into the soft inside of his bicep, and he gave a short, sharp groan as his lifeblood burst free.
The taste and scent of his skin, so silky and soft around that firm bulge of muscle, mingled erotically with the rush of coppery blood over her tongue, and Narcise closed her eyes as a long-subdued desire rushed through her. His bare chest brushed against her cheek, and the long line of his legs paralleled her body as she pressed flush against him.
The hard rise of his cock nudged her hip, so close to that suddenly throbbing, hot and damp center between her legs. She held on to his forearm with one hand, and the other planted flat on the rough hair covering his chest. Texture, taste, scent...and his lean, muscular body sandwiched between her and the wall.
She pulled away after two long drags on his veins, swiping her tongue over the wound in a delicate little farewell, and looked up at him.
His eyes burned bright red-gold, and yet the centers were dark and intense. He had a sort of pained half smile fixed on his full lips, a bit of fang showing. For a moment, she almost shifted to cover them with hers, to taste him in yet another, more intimate way.
But she didn't. Instead, testing herself and testing him, she stepped back, realizing that her breathing had become unsteady and shallow. Her nipples swelled behind the bindings she wore beneath the suddenly too-tight tunic.
"More," he said, his eyes compelling her. "More, Narcise. I want to feel you against me."
She saw no reason to hesitate, and peeled off the close-fitting tunic. The freedom to do what she wished, to be in control and to enjoy the pleasure of the moment, emboldened her. Flinging the shirt aside, she untucked the binding around her breasts and began to unroll it, conscious of his intense regard.
Her relief at the release of her bosom was echoed softly by his rough intake of air when she pulled the last strip away and at last jounced free. She raised her arms, feeling the pleasant sensation of her breasts lift prettily.
"More lovely than I'd imagined," he said, the timbre of his voice skimming over her like a low and deep caress. "Will you take your hair down?"
"For one who has given over control," she said wryly, "you certainly have many requests, Cale." But nevertheless, sparked even further by her power and the pleasure simmering beneath the surface, she began to pull the pins from the huge knot of her hair.
"My given name is Giordan," he said. "Use it."
Narcise paused in the process, one heavy hank of hair tumbling down her back while the rest remained anchored in a sagging bundle. It was the first time she'd heard that tone of command from him. She found it curious...and unsettling.
As if reading her thoughts, he spoke again. "Very well, then, cher. No real intimacy yet. No kissing, no familiar names. When you've come to trust me, then I would that you'd call me Giordan. But to me, already you are Narcise." His eyes blazed fiercely, not with lust or desire, as before, but now with annoyance.
"I think you're mad, Cale," she said. "We've hardly met, and barely spoken. How can you say such absurd things when you don't even know me?" Of course, she was thinking of Rivrik, back when life was life and not infinite rote...and much easier than this. Back when she knew she would die someday, and when she was naive and young and in love with someone who truly knew her.
Cale gave what passed for a shrug, and despite the awkward angle of his arms, it was smooth and laced with conceit. "Sometimes, a man just knows." His eyes fastened on her, the glow receding into an intense brown-blue gaze.
Unbalanced and unsettled by the certainty in his voice, she yanked a few more pins from her hair. Narcise was mollified when she saw the way his eyes narrowed in appreciation as she combed her fingers through the thick tresses.
Her hair was one of the reasons for her great vanity, for it hung to her hips. All one length, it was a pure blue-black, thick and smooth as a waterfall even after being bound up in braids or twists. Next to her pearly skin and brilliant blue-violet eyes, the color was intense and striking.
Now she stood there, bare from her ankle-length breeches up, her hair swinging around her shoulders and waist. His eyes never moved from her as Narcise came closer, feeling the gentle sway of her bare breasts, nipples tight and high and throbbing to be touched. Her fangs were still extended and she allowed their tips to show just below her upper lip.
As she drew near, she scented his arousal, smelled it rolling off him in waves, and her stomach tightened and pitched in response. Lush and heady, it filled her nose and swelled her veins, settling into her so that she swelled and dampened and throbbed. She pulled out of the pleasure for a moment to remind herself: this was so different from the other times, when the overwhelming scent of lust was pungent and stinging, and as repugnant as the bitter smell of death.
Now, The Chamber was filled with the scents of desire, male and female alike, mixing and stewing together to create an even headier perfume. The last bit of his lifeblood lingered in the air and she sniffed, drawing it in, tasting it once again.
"Narcise," he whispered, his voice taut and low.
She came to him, her hands settling on his hips, then sliding up over the ridges of his belly and the rise of the planes of his chest...and brought herself closer. She arched a bit, lifting her breasts so that her hard, sensitive nipples brushed against the wiry hair there, rubbing lightly back and forth against him as their bellies and thighs pressed together. The light prickling sensation against her breasts and nipples was pleasant and tingly, offset by the hard, hot length of his cock against the rise of her pubis.
His chest moved against her, expanding as he drew in deep, ragged breaths, and when she became bold enough to look up into his eyes, the stark desire there shot a spike of lust in her own belly. His lips were parted, showing the sharp, strong gleam of his fangs. She felt a little shiver of want, imagining those sharp points sliding into her skin, and the glorious release of her surging blood over his warm lips.
The soft clink of chains, every nuance familiar to her, told Narcise precisely what he was doing-shifting, clenching his fingers and tensing his muscles. But he wasn't struggling to free himself. He didn't pull or twist as she'd done, trying to loosen them.
Now, she slid her hands back down along his torso, pausing to unlace his breeches and drawers, and then tugged them down over his lean hips. His cock surged free as soon as it was able, thick and tumescent, and Cale gave a soft sigh of relief at its release.
Narcise eyed him appreciatively, her mouth watering a bit and her quim full and tingling with interest and curiosity. Her cheek brushed deliberately against the hot, velvet skin of his erection as she worked his breeches down from knee to ankle, and she inhaled the very male, very aroused scent emanating from that center of heat.
When she got to the floor, he obliged by silently lifting his long, elegantly arched feet, and she slipped the tight breeches away. And then she settled back, her palms flat on the cool stone floor, and looked up at him.
Magnificent. She didn't think she'd ever seen a more perfect specimen of maleness-and, unfortunately, she'd seen far too many. He was as sleek and muscled as Michelangelo's statue of David, and even had the same head of thick, curling hair.
Or perhaps she was merely inflicting such a comparison on the moment, as she didn't generally stop to admire-or criticize-the bodies she normally came in contact with.
"I cannot help but wonder if your silence is due to disappointment or awe," he said, a bit of taut humor in his voice. "I hope it's the latter that has you dumfounded."
"Oh," Narcise said, her eyes traveling up along tight, muscled calves and impressively sturdy thighs, "I think it is safe to say that Suzette did not exaggerate."
She pulled to her feet, unwilling to remain in such a supine position any longer and, tossing her hair back over her shoulder, stripped off her own breeches and drawers.
His rushing exhale was audible, and when she stood in front of him, as naked as he, the heat in his eyes nearly set her on fire. The chains clinked audibly and she saw the muscles in his arms tighten even more. His cock twitched enticingly.
"What now?" he said in a dusky voice.
Narcise couldn't remember the last time her body felt so warm and lush and alive, swelling and throbbing with arousal. Power and desire gave her courage, and she stepped away for a moment, presenting him with her backside as she went over to the array of daggers and whips. The edges of her hair brushed pleasingly over the top of her buttocks.
"You've vowed not to touch me," she said, picking up one of the finger-length daggers. She remembered this one, remembered the tiny little cuts that had been made all down one side of her torso, little Xs, neatly and carefully so that a delicate patchwork of red had been left. Time to banish that memory. "And you've claimed that I can do anything I wish."
"Indeed," Cale replied. His voice, still dark and low, was a bit stronger now. Perhaps a bit wary.
Narcise walked toward him, feeling the hot glow in her eyes and the insistent press of her fangs. She held the slender dagger, sliding her fingers thoughtfully over its hilt. The Devil's Mark on her own shoulder throbbed and swelled in encouragement.
"Do you like pain, Monsieur Cale?" she asked when she came to stand very close to him. So close that his breath stirred her hair, and she could smell the blood leaping beneath the wound she'd given him. Her mouth watered at the memory of his taste and scent, and she swallowed hard.
His glowing eyes, still dark and intense at the centers, bored into hers. "You may do what you will, Narcise, I will not fight you. But I am not one who enjoys receiving-or inflicting-pain on my lovers."
The rumbling sound of those last syllables-my lovers-sent another shock of desire into her center. Such a beautiful voice, and the caressing of those syllables was a figurative stroking of her skin. Such an intimate word, so foreign to her, so out of reach. To be one's lover presumed a span of time. Perhaps even some tender emotion.
And...the bald truth in his words, for she could read it in his eyes, released a last bit of tension she hadn't even realized existed. I am not one who enjoys receiving or inflicting pain.
"Very well," she said, and raised the dagger. With a sharp, deliberate movement, she sliced a nick in the soft part of her palm.
The blood burst into a thick red line, half as long as her finger, as Cale gave a little jolt, then went still.
Narcise tossed the dagger away and lifted her hand, the bright red blood shiny and slick on the plump skin. "Taste," she said, bringing it to his mouth.
He hesitated, and she could fairly see his fangs quivering with need as she brought her hand to his lips. The chains shifted and clanked, and his torso pressed against hers, hot and damp.
"You aren't breaking a vow. You won't be touching me," she said when his only reaction was a slight flare of his nostrils, followed by a ripple in his throat. "Just taste. Sip."
He moved then, at last, his mouth covering the soft, blood-drenched skin of her hand. His lips were warm and gentle, full but firm, as they covered and caressed the wound there. The effect was the same as if he'd covered her breast with his lips, or her quim with his mouth: sensual and erotic, soft and sleek and cunning. He used his tongue to slip around, just as she had done to him, lapping and stroking the sensitive flesh, sucking and drawing in her blood. The release of pressure that had been building inside Narcise swelled and washed through her as he teased and licked with his magical mouth.
Though his teeth and fangs scraped against her, and though he gave a soft, deep groan in the back of his throat, he never drove them into her flesh, penetrating and taking more than she was offering.
Narcise, her body damp and loose, pressed herself all along the front of him, sliding and rubbing for her pleasure as much as to tease him. As he licked at her hand with full, slick lips, she curved her fingers around his cock, moving them idly up and down the length of it. He jolted and trembled against her, pulling away from her wounded hand to rest his head back against the wall as she stroked faster, then slower, then faster, faster, faster- "Narcise!" he groaned, and she felt his body ready, gathering up.
"Not quite yet," she warned and slowed her last slide. Then, removing her hand, she drove her fangs into the soft part of his shoulder.
He jolted again, and cursed in pain and relief as the blood burst into her mouth like a hot, coppery orgasm. Narcise's world turned warm and damp, pounding and pulsing, as she drew on him, hard and fast, desperate and needy. Her vision darkened and became red; her consciousness was filled with the texture of sweet, bloody ambrosia and damp skin, and an erotic melange of sensation.
Now they were vibrating against each other, the rich smells of arousal thick and full, the taste of his lifeblood filling her mouth, and her own, still on his breath. She released him and bit again, roughly, driven to devour him, to take him all in-taste, scent, touch-singe her tongue to explore those small wounds, the curve of his shoulder and neck, the taste of his skin, salty and hot.
Her bloody hand curved around his cock and guided it to her, as she lifted on her toes. She raised a leg, settling it around his hips, and he groaned in desperation when he was unable to help steady her, to settle her in the right place, and she felt the tension rippling through his body. But Narcise had an arm around his neck, her ankle curved behind him, opening her legs so that he could fit into her. She was swollen and ready and with one measured thrust, she impaled herself against him.
Cale gave a sharp cry, echoed by her own gasp at the intense, brilliant pleasure. Oh my, oh my...was all she could think as every bit of awareness faded into a ball of heat that expanded as she moved against him, and he thrust smoothly, forcefully against her.
She wrapped her other hand around his neck, too, fairly hanging there, and planted her feet against the wall at his hips so she could leverage herself within the pounding rhythm.
The ball of heat and pleasure grew and swelled until it filled her center, rolling into a great undulating explosion of pleasure that had her crying out, and then sobbing with relief and satiation as he shuddered his release against her.
She felt the tremors through her body, inside and against her, for a long time...and after a while, she realized she was sliding down off him, her knees weak and her limbs loose and soft.
The wall was cool and smooth under her fingers, and she heard the faint clinking of the chains, the soft rasping breaths of his pleasure and the stone floor beneath her toes.
After a long moment, she opened her eyes, stepping away from his warmth with a shameful little stagger. Her fingers trembled, but there was a warmth in her belly that had spread throughout and made her want to smile. And perhaps even to cry.
"Narcise," he said after she'd stepped back and gathered up her tunic and breeches, then turned to pick up the dagger and to return it to the table: focusing on those mundane tasks instead of the tender emotions that seemed to be threatening.
There was an odd note in his voice and she looked over to see-
"How did you do that?" she said. He was standing there, one of the manacles hanging free. A chill raced over her.
She didn't need him to answer, for she realized that his free wrist was the one he'd clasped inside the manacle. And that he must have connected it loosely or even not at all...so that he could-
"You could have freed yourself at any time," she said, needing to speak the words out loud in order for them to penetrate. As she watched, he reached over and unlocked the wrist manacle she'd connected. It wasn't difficult: there was a small little pin that held it closed and could be adjusted by the size of the wrist. Her world had begun to tilt.
"You can trust me, Narcise," he said.
Something unsteady bumped in her heart and a little coil of fear started in her belly. Her Mark twinged sharply. Now that he was free, now that she'd aroused his lust and shared some of herself with him, he'd take and take-
Narcise shook her head to force away the rising panic, and realized she still had the dagger in her hand, behind her back, and she gripped the hilt comfortingly. The blade was cool against her bare skin, but she shifted so that Cale couldn't see it. She wouldn't allow him to touch her. He'd promised.
By now, to her faint surprise, he'd pulled on his breeches, and then scooped up his shirt. "But of course I want to stay, Narcise," he said, his voice very even and very low, his eyes penetrating. It was as if he could see the change in her emotion: from ease to terror. "However, I'm not going to impose my presence on you any longer, for the temptation to forget my vow is much too great. Particularly after...that." The low rumble caught on that syllable and dropped even lower as he made a slight gesture toward the wall of chains. "But I'll return. Until then, remember what I said." His gaze held hers for a long moment, as if to nudge her thoughts.
It's only you, Narcise.
Sometimes a man just knows.
She shook her head, more in confusion than negation. In an absurd display of betrayal, her body still hummed and the little knot in her quim still throbbed pleasantly even as she sifted through truths and lies, flattery and appreciation.
"Thank you," he said softly. "I pray you are safe until we meet again, cher."
And then he unbolted the door and slipped through, closing it tightly behind him.