“Oh, is that the excuse you're giving?” Despite her tiredness, she wouldn't lay back down, her eagerness keeping her body humming with anticipation. Jacob shared the feeling, hand gripping hers. It kept his lingering malcontent at bay, such that his spirits lifted with hers. When they pul ed into the driveway, Bran and his pack came charging down the drive, surrounding the car and barking enthusiastical y. Elijah threatened to have them all taken to the pound and incinerated, obviously a routine threat, for all the attention they paid to it.
As they got out, she greeted Bran and bestowed warm affection on the others. But when Kane's scent came to them, both parents turned instantly toward the garage entrance.
Gideon stood there, holding the toddler on his hip.
Jacob's brother was harder around the edges than he was, more scarred. While he did have a dry sense of humor, the dangerous glint in his gaze always suggested it was best not to get on his bad side. And that his good side was a very narrow ledge.
The two vampires who appeared behind him had been changing that, somewhat. Jacob stil found it a trifle astonishing that his brother, the hardcore, bitter vampire hunter, was the servant of not just one vampire, but two. And one of those vampires was a male.
The three-sided relationship had healed some of Gideon's deep wounds, evidenced now by the faint smile on his face, the sincere warmth in his eyes.
They came up the drive toward him, an unlikely procession with the dozen dogs right behind and Elijah and John bringing up the rear.
“Letting a vampire hunter transport a vampire baby,” Lyssa commented. “That's the last time I'm letting Mason take care of my child.” Kane was asleep, his head resting against Gideon's neck, obviously just lifted out of his nursery bed when they realized his parents had arrived. It took longer for a child to rouse at dusk than an adult vampire. However, as they got closer, Lyssa noticed the dog yips and growls subsided, as if even the pack knew it was best to let Kane sleep undisturbed.
“Mason didn't have much choice. I threatened to stake him if he didn't turn the kid over,” Gideon informed her.
“Yeah, I'm seeing that happening.” Jacob snorted.
“Forget Mason. Jessica would have cut your heart out with a butter knife.”
“True enough,” Gideon agreed. “For such a pretty little thing, she can be kind of scary. It's cute.”
“Council cal ed a special session, and Mason felt he should attend, since he expected you were going to be one of the subjects,” Jacob explained to Lyssa.
“He, of course, wouldn't leave Kane. When I used Keldwyn to contact Ingram, I suggested that instead of getting the baby to Lady Danny, that Daegan come and pick him up, and they could bring him here.”
Mr. Ingram cleared his throat. “Vincent, Lord Belizar's servant, cal ed the house two days ago, Lady Wentworth. They indicated they expect you to come before the Council within the week, with the child. Since I wasn't sure of your return, and even if I was I wouldn't have guaranteed that pack of vermin anything, I told them I would pass on the message.” Lyssa gave him a quick show of fang. “Mr. Ingram, I'm very glad you took the job here, despite your initial concerns.”
Gideon snorted. “Let me guess. He didn't like your longterm healthcare plan?”
She turned her attention to Jacob's brother. He hadn't moved from the shelter of the garage, and she knew it wasn't disrespect or rudeness. Most vampire children weren't brought out from under shelter in the first couple hours after dusk, because it was not yet dark enough for them, as it was for an adult vampire. It touched her, though, that Gideon had known how it would feel to have their son present at their homecoming.
“I see being a servant hasn't given you the slightest pretense at manners,” she said, moving toward him.
He lifted a shoulder. “If ass kissing becomes a required skil for a servant, I guess Anywn and Daegan'l have to drive a metal stake through my heart and get themselves a new one.”
“Since this one is so much trouble, why would we want to start from scratch?” Anwyn stepped out of the garage and gave Lyssa a courteous though wary nod. She was stil very new to their world, but wariness of other vampires was not a bad trait to have. Lyssa herself had a natural caution around them, but the fact Gideon was servant to these two helped all eviate the natural mistrust. Plus, she knew Daegan Rei personal y, an assassin who'd served the Vampire Council for a number of decades. An honorable male, there was likely not a more dangerous vampire in the world, and that included herself or Mason. Knowing Mason had chosen him to protect Kane in his absence was the best possible choice, and said a great deal about Mason's confidence in the male as well.
She also appreciated the fact Anwyn hadn't hesitated to move into the conversation. Wary, but confident. Not tongue-tied. Of course, they'd spent an evening with Anwyn, Daegan and Gideon on the beach some time ago, and that had helped Gideon's new Mistress feel easier with Lyssa.
She didn't see Daegan right away, and didn't detect him by scent, but Daegan had that unusual trait. Jacob touched her arm, guiding her attention upward. Daegan was squatting comfortably on a thick branch of one of her live oaks. Though her property was well secured, while Kane was outside, he was obviously staying in a position to study all approaches. She nodded to him. “Lord Daegan.” The tal , dark-haired and dark-eyed vampire offered a half bow. The graceful execution emphasized the deadly power of his lean form.
“Always a deep pleasure, Lady Lyssa.” She gave him a quick smile, but with the courtesies out of the way, she turned her attention to the one person she most wanted to see, to touch.
Laying her hand on the smal back, she felt Kane's heat and breath. Hard and thick emotions swam up to choke her, unexpected. Gideon shifted, intending to put Kane in her arms, but her head began to spin.
Drawing her arms back quickly before he could lay the infant into them, she swayed alarmingly. Damn it.
Jacob had his arm around her, steadying her. She saw his intent to feed her, then and there, but he'd given her more than he should after what they'd dealt with in the desert world. She hadn't let him feed her since, because he wasn't at ful strength, either. She wasn't going to weaken him to replenish her, not in a situation that wasn't life threatening.
“I'd try my best to change your mind about that, but it's one of the reasons I asked Ingram to bring Gideon here,” he said.
She was being eased down into a chair.
Someone had brought it to her in a blink, which meant Daegan. She wanted to be gracious, but she was angry. She wanted to hold her son.
“In just a moment, my lady. Let Gideon feed you.” Four words she never would have expected to hear. He's all right with this?
The message I asked Keldwyn to convey to Ingram was that you would need more blood upon arrival. When he was arranging for Kane's arrival, he mentioned it to Gideon, and he volunteered.
Other than his Master and Mistress, I think you're the only one to whom he'd ever willingly give his blood.
Gideon had handed Kane to Daegan, who cradled him with surprising expertise and gentleness. From the vampire's relaxed attitude, she knew he had no problem with her feeding from Gideon, but she wasn't expecting any issues to come from him.
As a much older and far more powerful vampire than a fledgling like Anwyn, she had every right to drink from Gideon, even if Gideon or Anwyn opposed it, though Daegan was a different matter.
While Anwyn was aware that this might happen, accepting it in concept was a little different from facing the reality of another female vampire taking her servant's blood, an intimate exchange.
Before she'd been forcibly turned to a vampire, Anwyn had been owner and Mistress of a BDSM club, one she stil managed. A Dominant's possessiveness had already been strong in her veins before she'd ever grown fangs. While Lyssa wouldn't ask permission, there was a fine line between exercising the rights of a more powerful vampire and courtesy. She met the other woman's gaze. “Thank you for the use of your servant.” In the corner of her eye, she noted Ingram shepherding John discreetly back into the house.
Ingram had been around them enough to know when things might become an adults-only situation.
With no self-consciousness, Gideon dropped to one knee, leaning forward to press a kiss high on his Mistress's thigh. He waited for the touch of her hand on his head before he looked up at her. When he turned his face into her wrist, put another kiss there, her expression eased somewhat. Lyssa suspected it had as much to do with whatever he'd said in her mind as well as the gesture.
In a more formal setting, soliciting permission from his lower-ranking vampire Mistress to obey a higher ranking vampire, even silently, would have been an offense. However, Gideon was not the most polished of servants. He acted on his feelings, and they were all driven by his bond with his two vampires.
More than that, Anwyn was a more unstable fledgling than most because of her brutal siring. She contended with seizures during volatile moments. As such, Lyssa knew Gideon was not deliberately perpetuating an act of insolence, but offering needed reassurance. It was the same reason Daegan had shifted to stand at Anwyn's back now, so close he brushed her shoulder as he held Kane. While it obviously discomfited Anwyn to need such support in front of another strong female vampire, she apparently accepted it as a necessity.
Gideon rose then. Moving to Lyssa, he again dropped to a knee. Like Jacob, he was a tal man, so the position put them eye to eye. Stress and violence had hardened his expression over time, but there was a sensual softness to his mouth, a different quality in his blue gaze. Smal but significant indications of the changes Daegan and Anwyn's presence had made in his life.
“I seem to remember a time when you were very opposed to being bitten.”
“Things change,” Gideon grunted. “Some people change every damn minute. Vamp one minute, a fairy the next. Flip flopping like a trout. And that doesn't even cover him.” He glanced toward Jacob.
“Human to vamp, then back to human again.