“If you are saying you want me on the Council specifical y for my ability to question and chal enge you, with the best interests of our kind in mind, then I accept that privilege.” He held her gaze a long moment, then dropped to one knee before her, so she did not have to look up at him. His voice became rougher. “My lady, I serve no one without question, but I have ever viewed you as our queen and would serve you as such. I would be honored if you'd all ow my servant, Mariela, to replenish your strength. You will definitely need it for the days ahead.”
Mariela now stepped to his side. She was the one who'd comforted Barbra's servant in his passing.
Tal and blonde, with dark brown eyes, she had the athletic movements of a female Amazon, and a quiet steadiness and subtle intel igence that complimented her vampire master well.
Lyssa took his hand, squeezed it hard. “Thank you, my lord. I accept. I will draw from Mariela first.
Her blood should strengthen me enough to visit each Council member and mark them as I indicated. I will do that alone, with Jacob as my attendant.” She shook her head, anticipating Daegan and Mason. “I have made my point and Belizar has put his support behind me. I used your strength to back me for this key moment, because I did not want my son unprotected in such a volatile environment.” No matter the Fae protection he carries. She added that in Jacob's mind, saw his imperceptible nod.
They'd decided the purpose of the tattooed pendant would not be public knowledge, for concealed weapons were often the most potent kind.
Now she looked to Daegan. “I ask that you continue to watch over him while I take care of that task. Mason, be with Jessica. Give her blood, make her rest to ensure she is fully healed by dinner time.
After I mark the Council, I will retire for an hour or two with my servant to feed from him. Hopeful y this awful place has a room with a fireplace to ward off the chil coming from the very stones.” Her gaze coursed around the room, encompassing all of them. “Thank you. Your loyalty means a great deal to me. I will do my best to deserve it, now and going forward.” A spark of humor went through her gaze as she glanced at Jacob. And thank all the gods that vampires don't take offense at being thanked.
AS the clock moved toward the midnight dinner hour, Lyssa and Jacob final y arrived in the master suite that had belonged to Belizar. She'd of course eschewed the rooms where the Council had original y intended to put her. While she attended to the marking of the Council members, the staff had changed out the bedding, removed all of Belizar's personal effects and moved them to the bedroom where he now convalesced. Someone had thought to add a large vase of vibrant flowers to the room, and kept a fire well tended in the hearth. They brought color and heat to the room, respectively.
Pausing by the flowers, she touched the petal of a bright yel ow daisy and glanced at Jacob. “Your doing?”
“I know you hate the darkness here, my lady.” Stripping off the wrist gauntlets, he shrugged out of his shirt in a movement of graceful power, leaving him bare above the slacks. He stripped the belt out of it, so they hung lower on his hips, revealing the dark strip of the boxer briefs he'd worn beneath, one of the few times he wore underwear. Since the snug fit helped hold the extra arrows he'd carried along his outer thigh, she'd been more flexible about her requirement today. He pul ed those arrows out now, unfastening the top of the slacks to all ow him the ability to do so.
She sat down in a wing-back chair, watching the beautiful play of muscle. As he became aware of her close regard, his movements slowed and he looked at her.
Come to me, Jacob.
His stride across the room gave her more of that visual art. She said nothing, gave him no further direction, always enjoying what he would choose to do, how he would anticipate her needs. As he reached her, he bent, slid his arms beneath her in the chair. Lifting her in that easy way of his, he turned and took the seat to cradle her in his arms. His fingers tangled in her hair, tightening. Her alpha warrior. Her knight.
“Drink, my lady,” he said. “Take everything you need.”
He shuddered as she pierced him, as he often did. Dropping his head to the seat back, a deep sigh slipped out of him as his other hand settled on her hip, stroking that line. “You worried me.”
“You worry quite a lot. Enough for both of us.” He grunted at that. Mariela's blood had been sweet, pure, lifegiving. But there was nothing like Jacob's blood, the blood of her ful servant. Her arm was around his back, knuckles pressed to the cushioning as she stroked the serpentine shape of that third mark. Are you worried about tonight, my protective Sir Knight?
He shook his head. “It's obvious they're on board, at least for today. An indisputable show of strength was what they needed. Overcoming Belizar and staking Barbra more than accomplished that. I'm a little curious how the dinner will go. Given it's a vampire dinner . . .”
She smiled against his flesh. “It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of enjoying my servant during one of those.”
“Now I am worried.” But she felt the flash of his amusement, fol owed by a more serious direction.
“I'm concerned about Jessica.”
“I knew I was right about the protective part.
Chivalrous soul. Mason can exempt her if he wishes.
He will not let etiquette or seniority stop him. If she participates, it is because she is determined to perform fully as his servant. I expect she needs to prove it to him.”
“And he'd all ow that?”
“It's amazing what a vampire finds her or himself all owing, despite the fact they are supposed to be Master or Mistress, and the humans the servants.
However, if she's convinced him to be a little less maniacal y protective, that's not an easy task. She's a remarkable girl.”
She was quiet then for a bit, feeding off of him.
She stroked his chest, fol owing the appealing flat hardness of his pectoral, the curve of biceps.
“I'l bring Kane tonight,” she said. “Let the others pet and play with him.”
Jacob chuckled, his voice a little thick, reacting to the intimacy and pleasure of her touch. “If Helga gets her claws into Kane, we won't get him back, short of threatening to stake her.”
“He'l love the spoiling. As Gideon says, when it comes to vampire children, we are hopeless. But he does not realize what it is like, to be a species where offspring are so rare that every infant is like a precious, delicate gem. Even without the pendant, I was never worried about Kane being harmed by the Council, not at this age. Only taken away from his rightful parents, who best know how to protect him.” As he made a noise of agreement, she lifted her head. “On that note, I invited Brian to the dinner tonight. When you were talking to the kitchen staff, I visited his lab area. He told me he has some findings on one of his projects he wants to share.”
“Good. I've missed the vampire geek.” She snorted. “I dare you to cal him that to his face.”
“No thanks, I'l pass. I do occasional y understand the benefits of tact, especial y around vampires who can throw me through wal s.”
“Perhaps you can teach your brother such diplomacy.”
“Not likely. I'm stil kind of amazed he'l be there tonight. I assume he'l have to be gagged, muzzled, blindfolded . . .”
“He has been with Anwyn and Daegan for a few months now. When he knelt before her, that day at our house, it was obvious they've been thoroughly training him in what is expected of a vampire's servant. I would have enjoyed seeing that.” Jacob felt a lazy, sensual stir of amusement from her. “But he is stil Gideon. He has an unmistakable deference when it comes to his Master and Mistress, though he will never be as smooth with it as you, someone who will ingly sought the bond. But it's there. He belongs to them, body, heart and soul.”
“I know. I see it. And it stil kind of freaks me out.” She chuckled against his skin then, changing the nourishing pul to a stimulating lick, her tongue caressing the puncture. She scraped her nails over his nipple. “I'd like a bath, Jacob. I want you to bathe me, and while you do, I'm going to enjoy touching you however I wish, making sure you are hard and ready for tonight's events, whatever your Mistress will s.”
“I'm sure I could do that, even if she decides to avail herself of my cock now.”
She rubbed her ass against the mentioned portion of his anatomy, teasing him. “No doubt. I've missed showing you off, Jacob. It's been a rough day, and I plan to enjoy my night thoroughly.”
“God help me,” he muttered. She turned her face up and slid both hands into his hair, bringing him down for a plundering fuck-me-now kiss he knew wouldn't sway her, even as she'd get so hot and wet he could smel it and it would drive him insane.
His lady was stubborn like that.
Mindful that he had responsibilities beyond tireless and devoted sex slave, Jacob had taken the time to ensure dinner would reflect the new management as best as possible with such short notice. The staff had done well with his direction. The dining room table had a bright white tablecloth, red flower petals scattered over the fabric. A beautiful arrangement of traditional red roses formed the centerpiece, the blooms partial y open in that coy, tempting way his lady most preferred. The china was a simple white scal op with solid silver edging. He'd lined up several courses for sampling, foods his lady enjoyed, but ones that would tempt the palates of the others.
Right now, the vampires were stil in the study, enjoying pre-dinner drinks, but at a step, he glanced up, pleased to see his brother had joined him.
Gideon eyed the table settings. “Martha Stewart Living says you should put the napkins on the plates in a fan shape. Adds a little touch of class.”
“You stil reading magazines in grocery stores? I thought you only did that when you were hunting.”
“Anwyn keeps a few subscriptions going in the break room at Club Atlantis. Sometimes I read an article here or there, when I need a few minutes to clear my head.”