Later, Sir Vagabond. It concerns the last quest.
Hel fire, Rhoswen didn't waste any time. Given that they'd had the conversation before he arrived, it suggested Rhoswen had possessed more confidence about his success than expected. Or that she had spies who reported to her the moment he'd succeeded. He'd vote for the latter, but it didn't real y matter. He'd overcome the second quest and lived to tel the tale.
Yes, and don't waste this moment on worry of what may come. I know how much you've longed to see the Seelie Hunt. Let's enjoy it together.
She truly was remarkable. He found himself wanting to touch his lady, feel her body close to his.
Offering a rakish smile, he held out a hand, leaning down. “Would you like to ride together, my lady?” He wasn't sure if she would agree, but there was an intriguing sparkle in those green eyes. So intriguing he couldn't help touching her mind, curious.
She loved seeing him on a horse. When his body became one with the creature, moving together in sinuous strength and grace, she fantasized about having her own body pressed against his, feeling it.
She'd wanted that experience—riding a horse with him—for a long time.
You should have told me that at Mason's, my lady. I would have been happy to ride on the beach with you and given you all you desired. He could fulfil one of his lady's personal fantasies here and now. The evening was getting better by the minute, no matter that he looked like a drowned rat and felt like he'd been beaten half to death.
You are incorrigible. But her eyes said she wanted him no other way.
“Lord Firewind.” He twitched a rein, gaining the horse's attention, which was probably a good thing, since it looked like he was trying to stare fiery holes into Rhoswen's back. “May my lady join me? I value her safety far beyond my own, so if she will not be welcome, I need to know that.”
In response, the horse did a pretty leg change, damn near a prance, shaking out his abundant mane. He earned a more considering eye from the mare and a smal smile from Lyssa.
“I believe that's a yes,” Jacob said dryly.
Turning her mount's reins over to one of the guards, she lifted her arms. Leaning down, Jacob slid his arm around her waist and brought her over to Firewind's back. Despite the complaints from his abused body, he made it appear an effortless move.
He settled her in his lap, holding her before him sidesaddle as she tucked in the excess train of her dress. Relaxing into his embrace with a smal , relieved sigh, she laid her hand over his on the reins, a brief squeeze. Then she slipped her fingers over the horse's mane, the greenery and white shel s threaded there. “Seaweed?”
Jacob nodded. “In water, he has a tail, a great powerful thing”— boy howdy—“as green as your eyes, with gold edges on the tail and scales.”
“Hmm.” She touched the horse's neck to get his attention. “Lord Firewind, can you sidle to the left of the Unseelie entourage without appearing . . . rude?” The horse responded instantly, as if he was more than happy to put some distance between himself and the queen. “Do you real y kil children?” she queried softly. “Drown them?”
The horse whuffed, a glint to his eye that wasn't real y an answer. However, remarkably, through Lyssa's mind, Jacob could make out fragments of the waterhorse's response, reflecting Lyssa's limited understanding of the Fae language.
“Truth is always . . . complicated,” she repeated for Jacob's benefit. “Yes,” she agreed. “It is.” She asked nothing further. Like his lady, he'd like to know more about the complex and dark beast carrying them, but sensed that was all they'd get right now. Plus she had other agendas to pursue. Leaning against his chest, she put a hand on his face. As she did, she tilted her head back onto his shoulder, exposing her throat, the tempting line that drew his eyes to the swel of her breasts, the way the train of her skirt outlined her thighs. “Drink from me, my vampire,” she murmured. “Replenish your strength for the night ahead.”
He hesitated, aware of eyes on them. Her nails dug into his flesh—that Mistress's warning. She locked gazes with him . I don't care what they think, Jacob. Their ridiculous notions of hierarchy and superiority mean as little to me as the Vampire Council's. You are my servant, but I am also yours, in this regard. Use me to strengthen yourself, so I know I have your full abilities to serve and protect me tonight.
She always knew the right combination of words to compel him, but in truth the pounding of her blood, so close, already had his fangs lengthening. He covered her hand against his face gently with his own, an acknowledgment. Then he bent his head to that artery and sank his fangs into will ing flesh.
Firewind shifted, alarming him a moment, remembering what Rhoswen had said about blood, but Lyssa's mind touched them both.
He says you won't stir his hunger with the smell of my blood, for I'm not human. He only drinks human blood. In copious amounts, and he has already fed this day.
Jacob decided that was a thought best not pursued. Conscious of the host they were approaching, he drank swiftly. As she reached behind her back, he closed his eyes when she found him, stroking his cock where it nestled against her hip and buttock, an idle pleasure that strained the hose further. As long as she kept herself pressed up against him like this, it would be disguised. As well as stay painful y hard.
The way I most like you, Sir Vagabond.
The blood nourished, while the knitting of his bones strengthened. As vitality returned to his limbs, they climbed the slope to a portal, a large black wooden frame shrouded in mist, reminding him of the stories that warned travelers to stay away from a fog, because it made it too easy to wander into the Fae world. The night sky had darkened further over it, stray bits of green lighting striking and reflecting off the glossy wood.
What else awaited them upon that hil made an equal y absorbing impression. The Unseelie were the dark side of the Fae world, more malevolent in their intentions, whereas the Seelie, while quick to anger or exact retribution for insult, essential y had motives for good. He wasn't entirely sure of that assessment, for all Fae tales warned against congress with them. However, he couldn't deny sheer power came from the knot of royals at the head of the Seelie train, even more overwhelming than what Rhoswen had displayed thus far.
Keldwyn was part of that group. He sat upon a dappled gray stal ion, relaxed and as dispassionate as ever. If Jacob ever needed money, he knew who he'd be taking to the poker tables in Vegas.
Having been in your mind, I'm too familiar with your moods. I would give them away with my poker face.
Anyone who ventured into Keldwyn's mind might be forever lost there. I wouldn't take the gamble.
True. He might eat their brains like a zombie, only from the inside out.
She cleared her throat over a chuckle. Jacob took the opportunity to press his mouth to the juncture of her throat and shoulder. Reaching up, she rubbed her thumb over his lips, cleaning the last of the blood away. In his current attire, he was tempted to paint some of it on his chest and come off as a wild Celt.
They seemed to expect nothing less of a vampire.
His attention returned to the Seelie entourage.
King Tabor was easy enough to pick out, since he was at the head of the triangular formation. His long gold hair was plaited with ropes of earth-colored gemstones down his back. Most Fae males had strong faces with remarkable, ageless beauty.
Cayden's scar had been the exception. However, Tabor's face had a lined rugged quality that suggested maturation, like the cycles of the earth itself. His eyes were leonine amber. The way he sat his steed showed a fit male who'd known battle. A glance at the male's eyes told Jacob that Tabor might be the oldest of all of them, Rhoswen and Lyssa included. It might explain the lines on his face, but Jacob suspected there were other causal factors. He had a steady center that Rhoswen lacked, as if he'd faced his deepest self and accepted what he'd seen there.
Had Tabor and Rhoswen grown up together? It was an odd thought, considering both would be well over a mil ennium. He wondered at what age a Fae was no longer considered a juvenile. Vampires didn't real y consider one of their kind mature until they passed the first century mark, and then they were stil the equivalent of a twentysomething adult.
“King Tabor.” Rhoswen nodded. “May I present Lady Lyssa, daughter of Lord Reghan.” Her pause before giving Lyssa the title was audible, showing she didn't particularly care for assigning the honorific. It wasn't a surprise she felt that way, but it was tel ing that she did it now, before him.
Tabor's gaze swept Lyssa from head to toe.
Unlike most males who appraised her, Tabor didn't display the covetousness or lust, just an unexpected intensity. The Seelie king drank in her appearance as if seeking familiar landmarks, like old friends meeting after many years. Only Jacob realized it wasn't Lyssa who was the old friend.
Rhoswen sat motionless. Perhaps because she had a different purpose tonight, she wasn't emanating her usual frosty reaction, but Jacob thought he saw something more vulnerable lurking in her gaze. Cayden had unobtrusively moved his mount closer, so his leg brushed the flank of the horse Rhoswen rode.
Just as she'd done with Rhoswen, Lyssa inclined her head. The short courtesy that wasn't an act of obeisance, but one royal acknowledging another.
“Thank you for accepting our invitation to join us, Lady Lyssa.” Tabor's deep timbre was like quiet thunder rol ing behind the hil s before a summer rain.
Rhoswen was powerful, no doubt, but this one . . . If he wanted everyone around them to burst into pixie dust, this male had the ability to do it. Jacob was pretty sure of it. It was disturbing and riveting at once, similar to the effect of the sirens on his senses, minus the lust, thank the gods.
The fingers that loosely held his steed's reins were marked with intricate tattoos that circled the base of the fore and ring fingers, then banded his wrists and disappeared up the cuffs of his earth-and-gold-colored tunic. The gold circlet on his head had similar markings. “Your father was a particular friend.