‘Please Your Highness. I beseech you to release Hayden.’
Ambrosius sniggered down the phone line. ‘Resorting to begging now, are we? You have fallen such a long way from grace. I am tempted to extend his sentence to punish your affront.’
My chest cinched my heart. ‘No! Please don’t discipline him for my transgressions.’
‘Hmm,’ he mused. ‘Are you in love with this fledgling?’
I huffed to hide my true feelings. I would never make the mistake of admitting to those sentiments again. ‘Don’t insult me. Hayden is a useful commodity. No more.’
‘Another soldier in your little army, hmm?’
How did he—
‘You may have fooled the rest of the damned population, but not me. I know how your deceitful mind works, darling daughter. Charity cases indeed. I hope you are not planning a revolt. It would be a pity to see all those fledglings throw away their lives.’
‘No, I will not release Hayden early. He needs to pay for his crimes.’ The duke disconnected the call.
My mind reeled as I processed my father’s words. Do I have a traitor in my ranks? Speaking of espionage, my winged spy fluttered in through the window and landed on his perch.
Percival ruffled his black feathers and waited for me to tap into his thoughts. Hayden is with the duchess. The bird replayed the conversation he had overheard.
Curious. I knew Hayden was special, but I had no idea he was also a mage. Knowing Amara and her ladies had their grubby hands on him churned my gut. At least he was safe from my father for the time being. Trading his dank cell for a soft bed and all the creature comforts he could want? Hayden would not mind. Willpower would only get him so far in this world. Still, I hated to think he could slip from my grasp when I was close to making such a strong allegiance. I also have these feelings clawing at my heart.
I fed my familiar a wriggling worm. ‘Go to the duke’s mansion and tell our friend to release Hayden.’
After gulping down his dinner, he cawed and launched himself into the night sky. I closed the window and returned to the living room.
Sheena jumped up from an armchair. ‘Well?’
‘The duke won’t pardon Hayden,’ I explained, watching her deflate. ‘But the duchess has given him more comfortable accommodation. He will be okay for the time being. I have sent someone to release him.’
The pink-haired punk squealed and wrapped me in a bear hug. ‘That’s a fucking relief. Thanks, Sera.’
I stiffened at first, easing into the embrace as my heart warmed to her. The uncouth girl was growing on me. ‘We should deal with your friend so that we can go meet Hayden.’
Nodding, Sheena stepped back and kneeled beside the couch. ‘What do we do with her?’
‘I am going to set her free.’ I slid a foot stool next to the sofa and sat on it. It took a few seconds to gather my composure for what came next. I detested mind control; it reeked of my father’s foul deeds. Still, this was better than the alternatives. I clicked my fingers in the girl’s ear and spoke softly. ‘Remain calm and wake up Rochelle.’
Rochelle’s eyes fluttered open, and she maintained a neutral expression. ‘Where am I?’
‘You are at a friend’s house. You and Sheena drank too much, so I drove you back here. Just as well, because your housemates met an unfortunate ending.’ I stroked my fingers through her blue hair as her eyes widened. ‘Shh. It’s okay. You and Sheena are both safe. See.’
Sheena poked her head into the one-sided conversation. ‘Hey there beyach. How’s ya head?’
‘Fine,’ Rochelle rasped. ‘I could use some water though.’
‘No shit. I’ll get you some.’ Sheena rose and strode into the kitchen.
I directed her gaze back to mine. ‘Once you have had some water, you will go home. When you leave, forget this place and forget you ever met me. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ Rochelle replied. Taking the glass of water, she swallowed it in three mouthfuls, and left without another word.
As Sheena rose to follow, I grabbed her arm. ‘Don’t disrupt the mind control spell. She will be okay.’
Tension eased from Sheena’s muscles. ‘What do we do now? About Hayden I mean?’
‘We wait for word from my friend. When the time comes, we will meet him at a… safehouse.’
She eyed me for a second. ‘Why did you hesitate?’
‘I do not know what you are talking about,’ I bluffed. More astute than I gave her credit for. I will have to be careful around her in future.
‘Don’t bullshit me, Sera. What’s wrong with the house? Is it really safe?’
I sighed. ‘Yes, it is safe from Ambrosius and… all damned. That’s the problem. The homeowner wards it against our kind. She will need to lower her protection spells to let us in. Still, it won’t feel pleasant to enter.’
‘Oh. Who owns the house?’ Sheena asked.
She let out a nervous laugh. ‘That’s vague as fuck.’
I smiled. ‘It’s not my place to reveal another woman’s secrets. Not when she is a trusted ally.’
Slumping back onto the couch, Sheena put her feet up. ‘What’s the deal with the duchess? Is she your mother?’
‘Absolutely not,’ I scoffed, sitting beside Sheena. ‘Amaryllis Hemlock was a witch. My benefactor saved from certain death during the Spanish Inquisition.’
‘When you say benefactor, which one?’
‘The duke of Castille. Abuelo didn’t have it in him to damn another soul.’ My thoughts began drifting back down memory lane.
Soon after damning me, the duke took me under his wing. He taught me the ways of our world. How to feed without killing, how to control a human’s mind, along with a few other tricks.
A few months later, he paid for the services of two courtesans, bringing them to my private chambers. ‘Dinner has come to us tonight,’ he explained in a gruff whisper.
I gaped at him. ‘Surely they will expect to… work. How—’
‘We let them do their job.’ Mischief twinkled in his eyes, sparking a flame in my core. He sat on the lounge chair opposite mine. Watching me squirm in my seat, he grinned.
I had had resisted the attraction simmering between us, knowing it was unnatural. There was no hiding it from him that night.
He introduced Emel and Nisa.
Both dark-skinned women wore bright, flowing dresses. Nisa faced me in her purple gown. Emel, who had dressed in red, focussed on my lord. They danced for us at first, moving their bodies in slow, sensual ways as they removed their clothing. The show aroused me further, and it surprised me to learn how much I desired another woman’s flesh.
Nisa approached me, beckoning me to stand before her. I hesitated at first and shot the duke a questioning look.
He gave me an encouraging nod. ‘Enjoy yourself my dear.’
When I rose, Nisa undressed me. Then she pushed my bare backside onto the chair and kneeled at my feet. ‘Open for me, My Lady.’
I blinked at her a few times before understanding her intent. My cheeks flushed as I spread my legs. Somehow, without glancing at him, I knew my lord was staring at me. I felt his searing gaze on my skin. Closing my eyes, I arched my back, and let Nisa unravel me with her tongue. Partaking in something taboo titillated and thrilled me.
After my first orgasm, she climbed into my lap and kissed me. I startled, tasting my own musk on her lips. My hands glided over her warm, silky skin, from her shoulders down to her hips. The tingle of her tiny hairs rising to meet my touch fascinated me. Since the transition, my senses tuned into everything. Then she sank three fingers inside me. I moaned, opening my mouth to her and she deepened the kiss. Her skilled fingers tipped me over the edge again.
‘Bite me, My Lady,’ she whispered.
I had not expected the invitation. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I sank my teeth into her neck and drank her sweet lifeforce. When she became drowsy from the blood loss, I laid her down on the lounge.
My lord wrapped me in his arms. His voice sounded like gravel when he spoke in my ear. ‘You are the most erotic thing I have ever seen.’ The extent of his arousal pushed against me, proving his point. ‘I want you Seraphina. I need to be inside you.’
A shiver travelled down my body. Not a cold, spine-tingling shiver. It was hot and heady like the effects of intoxication. To hell with it. I was sick of resisting the primal urge, so I kissed him. That was all the encouragement he needed. Pushing me against the wall, he devoured my mouth. My hands roamed over him, exploring a landscape of muscle. There was nothing soft or yielding about this man. I could have been stroking a marble statue; one the devil himself had sculpted to perfection. Yet there was life coursing through his veins. Not to mention lust.
Wrapping my legs around him granted access to my starving centre. He drove himself deep inside me. The world faded around us in that moment. All that mattered was my lord as he pounded me against the wall. Our bodies writhed in a frantic rhythm. The pressure building in my core exploded, rushing through my nerves, and erupting in a guttural scream. I had never known such intense pleasure.
We moved to the bed where he took me in every position you could imagine and then some. By morning, I felt sore, spent, and satisfied. Then we slept soundly with our limbs tangled together.
Sheena fanned her face. ‘Phew. Your story is a scorcher, but how does it relate to the duchess?’
‘Sorry, I lost myself in reminiscence. I assure you I am getting to the point.’
From then on, we spent every night together enjoying each other’s bodies. I was not the only fledgling boarding with the duke, but I became his favourite. This stirred the jealousy pot. Especially with my father who also felt the supernatural attraction to our benefactor.
Giggling, Sheena clapped a hand over her mouth. ‘Your father is into dudes too? I never saw that coming.’
‘All vampires turn bi eventually. You already understand the pull between a fledgling and their benefactor. What you feel for Hayden, my father felt for the duke.’
‘And Hayden feels for you,’ she murmured.
Simpering, I continued my tale:
During the inquisition, the duke saved many mages who met their mortal end on the executioner’s block. Amaryllis was one such ‘charity case’ as Ambrosius called them. Most of the mages were either newly awakened, or unaware of their powers. But Amaryllis was a full-fledged witch and practitioner of the dark arts. She also knew how to leverage her charms to win my lord’s attention. I fell from his favour as fast as I had risen.
‘That bitch!’ Sheena interjected, bringing a wide grin to my face.
‘I had my doubts about you at first, but I think you and I are going to get along fine.’
Anyway, Ambrosius visited me early one evening while the duke took Amaryllis hunting. Expecting him to gloat, I began shutting the door in his face.
But he stuck his foot out and barged into my room. ‘I have a proposal for you, my dear.’
I shuddered to think what he could want from me. ‘What?’ I hissed.
‘Convince one of the duke’s mages to help me weave a little magic and I will take Amaryllis away with me.’ Turns out, he had also fallen for the witch.
I had already befriended most of the vampire mage hybrids, so it was an easy deal to make. The next night, Ambrosius disguised himself as the duke and snuck into Amara’s quarters. None the wiser, she eloped with him. My lord was furious when he found out, but there was nothing he could do since he had no idea where they went.
A buzzing chime alerted me to a message on my phone: Package acquired. ‘I’ll tell you the rest of the story later. It is time to go.’
‘You better,’ insisted Sheena. ‘I’m dying to know what happened with your duke.’