Sam Bosan has lived his life for centuries by a simple code. Never kill without a reason. Never alter the life path of another without permission. His first fledgling, Dorien, has never been far from his side. His best friend, confidant, and lover... he never expected to require more. Then he saw the woman that would alter both of their existences forever.
Tessa Carson lives a solitary but painful life. Her mental gifts often leave her unable to function in a society that would ultimately destroy her for the gifts she can barely control. She's content to live alone and isolated from society... until she started to receive handcrafted Oracle cards drenched in the psychic energy of the most interesting man she'd ever wanted to meet.
In the five hundred sixty-seven years since I became an undead nightmare, I’ve learned to live with what I am...if it can be called living. In the space of hours in the year of 1441, a man took everything from me and left me to survive on my own. Sometimes, if I allow it, the pain and horror of the night come back to me in jagged flashes of memory that cut so deep they make breathing difficult. That I survived was a miracle; that I came out of it with even a few scraps of humanity clinging to my soul remains a complete mystery. To survive, I learned to live by a very simple code. Never kill the innocent, never turn anyone against their will, and never, ever fall in love with something so fragile as a human.
Yet, as I watched Tessa Carson enter my inn, I knew I’d done something I’d vowed to never do. I saw her over a year ago in a crowded airport in Atlanta. She had been so obviously uncomfortable, and grief had poured off her in nearly visible waves. Pain and confusion had hit my mind like a fist, and for a long moment I could only stand and stare at her. I’d never met anyone human or vampire with such a powerful mind. It had taken a few hours to find out that Tessa was a fully documented sensitive who sometimes worked with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies... anonymously.
Her desire to remain invisible to the world suited my needs as much as her gifts did. For more than a year, I used her to find the humans who would help my own vampire children find love and contentment in the eternity I gave them. I have fifty-one living fledglings, and now twenty-five of them had found love and, one could hope, contentment. Life is full of uncertainty, but in the past few years, I’ve learned that many minds can not handle the years of solitude. How many lifetimes could anyone be expected to drift through before madness set in?
Not long after I’d sent her the first card, I found myself entering her dreams. At first, it’d been easy to take her over and use her in the dream world we shared as I saw fit. But as the months passed and our connection had intensified, I’d lost control of the situation and most certainly my heart in the process. It still stunned me that a human woman had reduced me to such a state...that she had slipped into my soul and heart before I’d even thought to shield myself from it.
“Our little human has a nice ass.”
“We have to tread carefully with her, Dorien.”
Dorien Pierce laughed and displayed a daunting set of fangs. He was the oldest of my fledglings, and our connection was as intimate as any I’d ever known. We’d shared many things through the years...blood, women, and even a bed. He was a hard, relentless man...a glutton for sex and all the other pleasures a vampire could leech from the human world. My best friend, lover, confidante—he’d run roughshod over my heart for longer than I’d care to think about. But Dorien wasn’t fragile. He was a five-hundred-year-old vampire, and very little that came his way was truly a danger to him. No, it had been a long time since I’d worried about losing him.
“I know we promised each other to take it slow, to introduce the full extent of our relationship carefully.” Dorien sighed. “But she looks delicious.”
“Yes, and now that our plan is succeeding we have to be even more careful.” I purposely kept my more primitive emotions to myself, though closing my mind against his was no easy task. The fact was that just looking at her made my entire body clench, my fangs ache. “Tell me what you’ve found out about the killings.”
“Certainly a vampire, the locals have few clues and no physical evidence. At least the messy bastard isn’t leaving DNA behind.” Dorien lit a thin black cigarette and sighed. “Probably not a good time to bring that sweet piece into town.” He motioned toward the camera. “Whoever this vampire is, he’s already proven he has no respect for your territory. It would probably amuse him to take something so fresh and lovely from us.”
My gut tightened and I pressed two fingers against my lips as I considered my words. A part of me wanted to keep it to myself, but I’d never kept secrets from him, and after five hundred years it seemed ridiculous to start. “I didn’t send for her.”
“Excuse me?” Dorien sat up in his chair. “Then how the hell did she get here?”
“Max found the final card on my desk and sent it out without telling me. I didn’t realize what he’d done until the day she got it. I’ve been so distracted with the killings that I hadn’t noticed it was gone. It certainly was not the plan to bring her to me like this.” I grimaced at the anger that surged in him; Max was a sore point between us. I’d taken the young vampire in after he’d been abandoned by his maker, and Dorien was of the opinion I should have put the young one out of his misery rather than try to save him. Considering his recent mistake, the thought was beginning to have merit.
“I told you that final card was a dangerous one to make.”
“Yes, I remember.” I looked back to the bank of security monitors and found Tessa in an elevator. Just looking at her made me nervous, and that was certainly an unusual state for me to be in. “But I had to have her.”
“Why what?” I forced myself to look away from her and concentrate on him.
“Why did you make the cards? Why her?”
I stood from the chair and shrugged. Dorien had asked the same question over and over again in the year since I’d started to send cards to Tessa Carson. How could I admit to him that I’d been lonely, so lonely that the sadness and isolation that I’d felt from all of my fledglings had made life almost unbearable? If I did, he would know that his own hurt and desolation cut into me daily, and that was the last thing I wanted for him. Dorien was the first of my blood family and in many ways the first person I ever loved without reservation. We’d been together for so many years, yet we both knew something was missing between us, and he’d never addressed it.
“You should feed before you see to her.” Dorien shrugged out of his jacket as he stood.
I allowed my fangs to descend as he turned to face me. I could hunt and often did, but taking blood from Dorien always made for a better meal. He roused something wild in me in a way few people in the world could, and feeding from him sated me physically and emotionally. I pushed him against the door and laughed at his intake of breath.
“I’m certainly in the mood for a taste of you.” His scent was fresh, male, and intoxicating in its own way. I knew him well in this way, knew his pleasures, the things that would make him hard and feral with a need not so easily sated within the heated depths of the fragile female humans we both sometimes used for sex.
I turned him roughly, pressed against his back until his chest met with the door, and pushed one thigh between his legs. He parted for me slowly. Dorien was many things, but submissive had never been one of them. That he was easily indulging my need for control tonight spoke of his own need. The desire to ease that in him made my gut clench. Of all my fledglings, Dorien was the one I would not manipulate in that way. Never him.
He tensed against me briefly as I pushed my fingers into his hair and pulled his head back to expose the sweet expanse of skin that covered his pulse point. The blood he offered would be rich and delicate as he never fed from anyone unhealthy or unclean, and if he had he certainly wouldn’t have brought it to me. I lowered my head, and his body relaxed against mine as my lips met with his flesh.
Dorien pressed back against me in a way he hadn’t in a very long time. Things had changed between us since I’d found Tessa. The months of separation that I’d unwittingly forced on both of us seemed unbearable in that hot, dark moment.
“Never, Sire.” His breathless answer obliterated what little control I had left.
I sank in hard, my teeth pierced his skin and he groaned. As I allowed my fangs to probe more deeply and connect with his jugular, I pushed into his mind with my own and found myself drenched in the intimate pleasure that had moved between us for hundreds of years. The rush of blood in my mouth forced my eyes to close, and for several long moments, I allowed myself the simple pleasure of feeding. His heartbeat quickened with each draw of my mouth, and his breath came in ragged jerks. I could barely remember the last time he’d gotten so aroused while I fed from him.
The scrap of nails on wood filled my ears, and a full shudder ran down the length of his body as I slowly pulled my teeth out of him. I held him tight against the door, using the weight of my body and the press of my thigh to remind him of his place in my world. “Come, love.”
He groaned, jerked, and then relaxed slowly against my hold. “You son of a bitch.”
The power of his orgasm rushed through our mental connection, and my cock hardened against his ass. “That’s no way to talk to your sire. Fortunately for you, I enjoy you too much to punish you.”
Dorien let his head fall forward slightly until it rested on the door. “Are you sure that she’ll accept us both?”
“What makes you ask that?” I released him and took several steps back.
“Because you’ve invested so much of your time and attention in her over the last year.” He ran his fingers through his hair as he turned and looked at me. “That’s the first time you’ve come close to any sort of sexual contact with me in months. You’d rather sleep and dream with her.”
“No, it’s okay.” He shrugged. “We’ve known each other for five hundred years and I have no worries that I’ll be replaced in your affections.”
Something dark and hard inside me that I’d barely acknowledged over the last few months softened. In the past few months, I’d grown concerned that he might push away from me and leave once I brought Tessa into our lives. I knew he meant his words, that I could trust him to be at my side as he always had been. “She’s getting anxious.”
Dorien nodded. “Yes, she’s practically broadcasting her unease and fear in FM. We’ll need to teach her some basic discipline on that front. There are some vampires that would find a mind so powerful as hers threatening. It’s difficult to even fathom a human woman so gifted with psychic ability.”
“Will you turn her?”
“Only if she sincerely wishes it. Else, I will take all the time her brief mortal life will give me and be satisfied to have known her.”
Dorien sighed. “I’m not sure I will feel the same about such a situation.”
No. He never had, and that was one reason why Dorien found his friends among other vampires, had never once considered creating a blood child of his own, and rarely allowed himself to enjoy more than sex with humans. He didn’t accept loss or even disappointment well, and death was the ultimate loss.
“Good night, Sire.”