Vampire Queen 8 - Bound by the Vampire Queen - Joey W Hill, page 14
If you truly cared about your well-being, you would hide such thoughts from your Mistress, despite your promise not to conceal things from me.
Perhaps I care more about honoring your claim on my mind than my own well-being. It’s not my fault she has an incredible rack.
He’d been deliberately crude to defuse some of the tension he felt from his lady, and he succeeded, winning a flash of amusement from her. Then Rhoswen began to speak.
“There is another tradition, one that human and Fae courts shared in those ancient medieval times. It is one the Unseelie Court has retained.” Rhoswen put her hand on Jacob’s pectoral, those wicked nails whispering over the cotton of his T-shirt. “You are my subject, Lyssa. If I desire to lie with your consort, I have that right. I will take him to my bed tonight, and determine what it is about him that holds your loyalty so deeply.”
“Vampires are not your equals, no more than beasts to you, but they’re alright to fuck.” Lyssa’s response was as dry as brittle bones.
Rhoswen laughed, though her nails bit into Jacob’s skin. “Nice attempt. You’re very convincing.
But I’m not stupid.”
“You are if you go down this road.”
Rhoswen pivoted to face her. Ice crystals formed on Jacob’s skin, even as Cayden’s sword pressed into his lower back again, warning him against trying anything while Rhoswen’s back was turned to him.
Rhoswen moved toe-to-toe with Lyssa. She was a few inches taller than his lady, making her lift her chin to hold the queen’s gaze, though that didn’t seem to discomfit her as Rhoswen might have hoped.
However the Fae queen’s voice was treacherously reasonable. “Is your line in the sand so important to you that you’d risk him? Cayden has wooden knives as well, and many guards at his disposal. Though I admit I have even more difficulty understanding this territorial reaction than I do the fact you chose a vampire for your consort, you have to pay the price for exposing your weakness for him to me. A queen of worth should know better.” Her eyes flashed as she gave back the insult. “After all, my using his body is little different than what he would experience at one of your vampire orgies.”
When Lyssa still said nothing, Rhoswen reached out and curled a hand in her hair, twining an ebony lock around her fingers, her nails sliding along Lyssa’s collar bone. The gesture was threatening and feral. Jacob shifted, and Cayden shifted with him, only instead of the expected jab of the sword, he felt the male’s hand on his arm, a firm but not bruising grip.
“’Tis a catfight at this point. Let them show their claws.”
Cayden spoke in a bare murmur, too soft to be heard by the otherwise occupied queens. Perhaps the captain was also trying to find a solution here that didn’t involve bringing the room down around their ears.
Rhoswen leaned in, her lips brushing Lyssa’s ear.
“Remember what I told you, half-breed. The combined magical ability in this room subjugates you to my will , whatever that will is.” Lyssa turned her head so there were only inches between their intent faces. “You were sure your power alone was up to that challenge a moment ago.
I'll be happy to test your theory against greater numbers.”
“Your Majesty.” Jacob knew he was stepping fully into the zone of his lady’s displeasure by speaking out of turn this time, but he did it anyway, with another glance at Cayden. As the guard captain released him, Jacob dropped back down to one knee. “I will service you however you need. I only require my lady’s permission, because I refuse no order from her lips.” Lifting his gaze, he met Rhoswen’s. “Anything I do for you will be because she commands it.”
They kept putting the queen into positions where she had to save face. He knew Lyssa was as aware of that as he was, but he wondered why his lady was playing such a precarious game, straddling the line between courtesy and royal umbrage, offering no deference to the Fae queen at all before her subjects.
I can detect the presence of Fae somewhat the way I do vampires, Jacob. Keldwyn, Rhoswen and her guardsmen are the only real beings in this room.
That was a disturbing revelation, given how much power it must take to make the courtiers corporeal, moving and responding as such, like when Cayden was bowled into their ranks. However, it explained a great deal about Rhoswen’s mercurial behavior. She wasn’t performing for an audience at all, but motives of her own.
“As you said, he has his uses.” The Fae queen spoke again, responding to Jacob’s courteous challenge. “Though I expect at times you have an equal desire to turn him into a frog.”
“There are various punishments I have concocted for him,” Lyssa said tonelessly. “While creative, that has not been one of them.”
“Queen Rhoswen.” Keldwyn spoke. Jacob had almost forgotten he was present. The Fae Lord stepped forward, sketching a bow to her.
“Notice it’s not ‘my lady’ or ‘your majesty,’” Rhoswen remarked acidly. “He does everything within the bounds of courtesy and etiquette, though his hatred of me rolls off in waves.”
“You did bind his child in a prison for over two decades,” Lyssa observed.
“She is not his child. She’s the child of the woman he loved. And children are like acorns, scattered over the ground. Some will root and grow, some will be eaten, and some will simply rot, fallen into corners where they are forgotten. Until they become trees, they are not important.”
“Yet without them, there are no trees,” Keldwyn said. He met her gaze. “My queen, there is a way you can resolve the fate of Lady Lyssa and her consort without a battle of will's. The Quest Gauntlet.” He turned toward Lyssa, his tone polite. “In our world, three quests must be met to determine if a subject is worthy to have his or her opinion bear weight in an unresolved matter, even if that matter is with the royal court. How they comport themselves for those quests, the queen’s decision and discretion concerning them, settles the issue. The queen has used this method before—”
“For full -blooded Fae who live in our world.”
“Your Majesty, the Quest Gauntlet is well proven in its fairness toward High Court or lesser Fae. As our queen, you are guided by the magical energies that pervade our world to set the tasks. If you do that as ably as you have always done it in the past, justly testing the mettle of others, then you may resolve many of your concerns in this matter as well.” The queen’s gaze sparked with true malevolence.
But the exchange told Jacob something else important. There were rules here, and the queen was not disposed to ignore them.
“I would suggest,” Keldwyn continued in the pregnant silence, “that, despite my duplicity, their successful ability to arrive here after freeing Catriona would qualify as the first quest. Under the old ways.”
“So sure of that, are you?” The queen’s voice was acid.
“If you agree,” he said, keeping his tone deferential, “then whatever two additional quests that are set might need to be arranged in accordance with the missive I’ve brought from the Seelie Court.
Since Lady Lyssa’s coming has aligned with the annual Samhain Hunt, the Seelie king requires her attendance. He would very much like to meet the daughter of Lord Reghan.”
Jacob was kneeling in the aisle between the retainers. At Keldwyn’s words, the moving water became ice beneath his knees, so solid and clear that he found himself gazing down into the water foundation of the castle. More undines swam there, hazy outlines through the frosted surface. Mist shrouded the hall, and snow fell thickly, swirling like a mild blizzard, kissing the skin with prickling cold.
The tense moment proved Lyssa right. There were no retainers in the hall. The animated, colorful figures were gone, replaced by a far more sparse assembly of ice sculptures in various poses. Cloven-hooved satyrs, the elusive nixen with ropes of seaweed tangled hair, winged Fae. One of them, looking much like Catriona, balanced on one slender toe, turning slowly under the snow flakes like a music box dancer in a snow globe.
Despite that entrancing picture, his attention sna
“How dare you.”
Keldwyn’s gaze flickered. Cayden had lowered his sword, obviously no longer considering Jacob a threat. However, his jaw was tight as iron, suggesting he’d like to use the blade on the Fae Lord.
“I am merely delivering His Majesty’s exact message,” Keldwyn said, unconcerned. “I am a liaison between both courts, Your Majesty, as you well know. I paid my respects to the Seelie king before I came here. He asked me my business in returning to our world. The interest is purely his, no influence of mine. You assume far greater things of this humble Fae than I am capable.”
“Oh, no doubt. One day, Keldwyn, you will cross the line, and the very laws you use will damn you.
And then you will pay for your presumption, for as long as it gives me pleasure to exact it.”
“Perhaps one day we will both see impossible dreams granted, Your Majesty.”
Jacob waited for things to go very bad. Lyssa’s hand, resting on his shoulder, tightened perceptibly, suggesting his lady was braced for the same. But then Rhoswen gave a bitter laugh. She tossed her hair back, dispelling a shower of snow flurries, and abruptly the room was no longer an ice garden. It was merely a hal of mirrors and falling water, reflecting each other in a never-ending cycle. Though Jacob didn’t expect to see himself, he noted none of them reflected, so it was still impossible to see who stood inside the hall… or if they were in such a place at all. Reality was hard to pin down here.
“Very well. The Quest Gauntlet it is. You are permitted to choose a champion, Lady Lyssa, or accept the quests yourself.”
“I’m her champion.”
They spoke at once, though Lyssa gave Jacob a searing look. You have learned to speak out of turn far too often, Sir Vagabond.
I speak out of turn only for your protection, my lady. With respect, there’s been great need of that of late.
“Well, that will make things interesting,” Rhoswen said, those blue eyes measuring. “One for each of you, I think. The first will be delivered to you on the night of the Hunt, but in deference to your busy social schedule, that one will be your champion’s quest, not yours.”
Lyssa’s jaw tightened. “He is my servant. He cannot accept a quest on my behalf if I wish to take it for myself.”
“The queen’s discretion, remember? This is the way it must happen. As Kel said, the powers that guide me in the Quest Gauntlet know best.” Interestingly, there was no sarcasm attending that statement, and when she turned to Cayden, all traces of anger had once again vanished. She was as remote as any monarch dealing with matters of mundane consequence. “Provide them a suitable guest room. They may wander as they will in our world. Make sure they are brought to the Hunt site at the proper time.”
Cayden gave a short bow, though Jacob noticed as the queen turned away, he looked at Keldwyn. If ever there was an I’m-so-going-to-kick-your-ass look, it was on the captain’s face. Keldwyn arched an anytime-you-feel-lucky-son brow. Definitely so many things happening here above their heads, and it was not an easy feeling. Jacob’s intuition was going off like a blaring fire alarm. Just like a Vampire Council session, the more inside intel they had on what all the political maneuvering was about, the more likely they’d survive. They needed a way to get more information.
I agree. And my servant needs a lesson in obedience. It seems we can handle two birds with one net.
The queen had been striding toward the base of her throne, suggesting that behind the four-way waterfall was an exit to another location in the castle.
Now she paused. In the beat of time before she turned her head toward Lyssa, Jacob wondered if she’d been wiping an expression from her face.
Frustration, rage? Weariness?
“Your Majesty, you spoke of a desire to lie with my servant. Was that a true desire?”
Rhoswen pivoted, a slow movement that drew the eye to the tempting shape of her delineated by the corset. It was only enhanced as she swept her fall of hair from the left shoulder, making the silver cloak she wore ripple. “It was.”
Jacob remembered what Rhoswen had said. A Fae would not lie, though they were masters of misdirection and misperception. So the simple answer was probably the truest thing they’d yet heard, whatever the motives behind the answer.
However, those motives were now double-edged, and he was balanced on that blade.
Lyssa spread her hands. “You were correct.
Similar things occur at vampire gatherings.
However, the difference between them and the medieval tradition is that I share my servant only in my presence. Why would I deny myself the pleasure of seeing him perform or participating as well, even if I am sharing him with another? Can you accept my offer under those terms?”
“Give me a taste of what pleasure I may expect, if I do.”
Lyssa glanced down at Jacob. “Rise. Remove your shirt for the queen.”
Jacob complied, stripping off the T-shirt. He kept his eyes ahead, on the throne, not looking toward Keldwyn or Cayden. He’d learned to handle situations such as this, but he still wasn’t comfortable in front of males, particularly adversaries, who got to stand fully clothed and watching. Even more, ones not bound to sexual submission as he was. What got him through each time was the knowledge it was about his lady’s pleasure, not his pride. He reminded himself of that now.
As Queen Rhoswen approached once more, the thought helped him stand fast. Her gaze was traveling over his upper body, a slow, sultry scrutiny across his chest, his stomach, down to the waist of the jeans. They rode low enough the musculature of his lower abdomen and hip bones were visible. He saw her gaze linger on the pendant Catriona had given him. It had become a simple brown stone again, the green and amber glow obviously activated by magic unique to Catriona. However, the Fae queen obviously recognized it as something of her world, because her lips tightened at the sight of it.
Her gaze traveled downward, pausing on the cross brand. Then, as she moved around him, it was the servant’s mark and the faint lash scars layering it that drew her attention. Her hands were truly like ice, such that he had to steel himself not to flinch. Trailing them down to his waistband, she played with the hilt of the scab-barded knife she found there. As she hooked her finger alongside it, sharp nails scraped the rise of his buttock.
“You have whipped him.”
“Yes, but not in that instance. They were administered by my former servant, as part of the oath Jacob took. The Ritual of Binding a full servant must make to a vampire queen.”
“So you have learned the way to pleasure through pain, have you, vampire?”
“What pleasures my lady, pleases me, Your Majesty.”
Rhoswen returned to his front. As she did, she tracked in front of Cayden. Jacob noted the guard captain’s face was wooden. He seemed as thrill ed about this little tableau as he would be about having his foot gnawed off by wild dogs. Considering his jaw and gut still ached from its contact with Cayden’s sword, Jacob couldn’t say it didn’t give him some satisfaction, even though he empathized with the captain’s reaction far too much.
“Hmm.” The Fae queen tilted her gaze, slid it down. “I want to see the entire man, make sure he is not deformed in any way.”
Jacob glanced toward Lyssa. She could tell him in her mind, but he wanted to make it clear who ordered him, which suited both their purposes. He did it with courtesy, though, knowing his lady didn’t want the queen rankled overmuch. Lyssa gave him a nod, and he opened the jeans, shoving them down his thighs. It was not his favorite position, for it left his ankles tangled, but he already sensed the queen would have no patience for him to remove the boots.
She made a growling purr in her throat.
At the first vampire dinner he’d ever attended, he’d had to publicly service two women at once in front of a party
What pleasures my lady pleases me… In far more direct terms, her commands made him hard, made him want to do anything to earn the right to bury his cock inside of her, let him service her with mouth, hands, whatever she needed. At the beginning, it had been just a vague compulsion, hard to understand. While he still didn’t always understand it, the things he would do for her and why, the reason had become far less important over time. Like now.
The result was all that mattered.
He drew in a breath as Rhoswen’s cold fingers curved around his thick, steel length, and her tongue touched pink lips. With her breasts so close, pill owed and cinched up in that corset, the trim waist that begged a man’s hands and the legs beneath that looked capable of locking around a man’s hips and taking him deep, it wasn’t difficult to maintain the reaction.
“It seems your cock does not wilt from the touch of ice. Can it stay that way, through the coldest storm?
Can you pleasure me as I desire?”
“I can pleasure you however my lady wishes me to do so.” Looking down, he saw Rhoswen’s drifting touch had limned the muscled lines of his abdomen with frost. He briefly met the blue eyes that were studying him so intently, then returned his gaze to the floor behind her. She was taller than his lady, but not as tall as himself.
Her fingers caressed him a chilling moment more, then slipped away. “He’s tediously honorable, but his other qualities may help us overlook that irritation.
You may clothe yourself, vampire.” As he reached down to draw up the jeans, Rhoswen turned toward Lyssa.
“Whatever game this is, I accept. There are still a few hours until dawn, when I will have other pressing duties. You have an hour in your rooms, and then my attendants will provide you a bath… and prepare him as I desire.” She swept her gaze back over Jacob, a feral look suggesting a dangerous hunger, then she locked eyes with Lyssa once more. “You are no fool. You know I am not very happy with the results of this meeting. Your servant will be used hard, to express both my pleasure and displeasure.