Neal sank his fangs into the soft part of my thigh, groaning at the taste of my blood. I bucked beneath him, riding the wave of pleasure/pain. My spread legs were draped over one of the scattered floor pillows, my skirt flipped up to my stomach.
Neal transferred his attention to my pussy, licking and sucking, his lips wet with my blood. The air smelled of musky incense that swirled hazy smoke clouds turned different colors by the spinning strobe lights. Seductive trance music writhed through the speakers, throbbing in my ears as I built toward climax.
Nearby, I heard Ursula cry out as my master, Andre, made her come. They were locked together on the floor, her on the bottom. Naked, he was glorious. Sleek muscles, tight abs and stomach. He moved on top of Ursula with such grace and passion that Gareth, Neal’s master, watched him, eyes alight with lust.
Ursula’s head was pillowed in Gareth’s lap, her mouth rouged with his bloody kisses. As I watched, he dipped his head to claim her lips, sliding one hand down to fondle a breast.
The spring blood exchange had turned into an orgy. A normal course of events for the London Circle. Vampires were sexual creatures, and the seven of us were bound together by blood and Oliver’s mark. Gebo
--a Nordic rune that meant “the gift” and “exchange.” Well, we were certainly exchanging tonight.
Our Circle Master, Oliver, had long since departed the media room at Edgewood, the country manor where we spent one weekend each spring. Our Circle met four times a year to exchange blood, but spring was the only time we came to Edgewood and spent extended time together. The other three seasons we met in Oliver’s conference room in his warehouse on the London docks.
Parker stood by the bar with a shot of vodka in his hand. Watching. Nearly five years ago, he’d Turned me at the summer meeting. I’d fallen for him helplessly, and for two weeks, we’d had a fairytale relationship. Until he broke my heart and told me it had been an act. No such thing as fairy tales or even love. Just people using each other.
We’d had a complicated relationship beyond that of master and apprentice, but ever since Oliver had given me to Andre last year, Parker had drifted further away from the Circle. Barricading himself behind his lack of emotion. Alienating us either by pushing us away, or with out-and-out hostility.
The spring meeting was supposed to be a time where we strengthened our bonds and worked out our differences. But this time, nobody talked to Parker. He stood on the fringes--observing.
Even tonight when we’d had to come together to exchange blood, nobody wanted to kiss him or drink from his throat. They all drank from his wrist. Ursula had swallowed one sip and then spat the rest on the floor at his feet. He’d watched her do it with his habitual smirk because God forbid Parker ever evince vulnerability, but I wondered.
I was Enhanced. I could read minds and influence people to do things. Parker had discovered my talents soon after I’d Turned, and he’d kept them from the rest of the Circle. He’d made me tell him everyone’s secret thoughts I’d overheard in my head at meetings.
He’d convinced me I’d be staked if the rest of them knew of my powers. So I’d told him what they thought and twisted beneath his control. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d rebelled and gone behind his back to seduce and befriend his archrival in the Circle. Andre.
Once, they’d been best friends, but the death of Parker’s first apprentice came between them. Andre had loved Marina, and even though it had been his master, Devlin, who had tortured and abused Marina in a sick game of BDSM gone very dark, Andre blamed Parker when Marina burned in the sun.
I had so many reasons to hate Parker, but I didn’t. I tried not to think of him much now that I was with Andre. Only, this weekend I’d watched him be ostracized, and guilt plucked at me.
Oliver said Enhanced vampires were gifts to Circles. That they could heal rifts and wounds and bring the Circle together. But I couldn’t help Parker.
I’d tried to kiss him tonight during the blood exchange, but he’d just turned his head away and given me his wrist. He’d smirked at me, but he always did that. Was he truly fine with being on the outside looking in, or did it hurt him? He liked to pretend nothing hurt, but how could that be?
Parker downed the shot of vodka and set the glass on the dark surface of the bar. Then, with enviable nonchalance, he strolled out of the room.
Neal’s tongue flicked my clit, driving all thoughts of Parker from my pleasure-drenched mind.
Tonight would be the first time Neal and I had sex. When Parker had been my master, he hadn’t allowed anyone else to fuck me. But Andre was much less possessive. He knew I loved him. He was my Trigger. He guided my developing psychic powers, and we had a special bond within the Circle.
We’d fought hard to bond. My insecurities and past abuse at the hands of my mother and boyfriend had done a number on my head. So had Parker. Andre had patiently untied those knots in my psyche and helped me become the person I was today. Happier. Stronger.
Under Neal’s tongue and mouth, I climaxed, crying out as I bucked my hips. He crawled up my body so he could grin down at me, lips red with my blood.
“Come on,” he said, hazel eyes dancing. He climbed to his feet and hauled me up. My legs were rubbery from my orgasm, and I leaned against him to keep my balance.
“Where are we going? Your room?” Perhaps for our first time, he’d prefer a soft mattress, although I found the media room with its black lights, strobes, music, and floor pillows seductive as hell. Last year, Parker had nailed me over and over on the floor until I’d screamed myself hoarse above the trance music.
“Oh, beds are boring, and floors are too hard,” Neal said. His shaggy blond hair fell across his cheeks, and I ached to brush it back and run my fingertips across his beard stubble. He rocked the scruffy look, damn him. Taking me by the hand, he gestured to the hall. “Follow me, madam. Our adventure awaits us.”
Intrigued, I let him lead me down the winding staircase. Instead of heading to his room or mine, he continued down to the ground floor.
Pulling me across the massive foyer, he chose the hallway leading to the kitchen, rather than one of the rooms off the foyer.
“Do you seriously think getting laid in the kitchen is sexy?” I tried to pull him the other way, but he only grinned at me over his shoulder and kept going.
We passed through the archway, across the slate floor, and past the butcher-block table dominating the large room. Pristine granite countertops gleamed. Glass-paned cabinets held meticulously arranged dishes. Teacups, champagne flutes, wineglasses, water goblets, juice glasses, brandy snifters. No plates or bowls. Vampires needed no such things.
French doors to the side of the counters led outside, but they were bolted shut and curtained so I couldn’t see the night.
The slate floor was cold, and I danced across it as quickly as I could, wondering where the hell Neal was leading me.
“The cellar?” I gaped at him when he shot the bolt and hauled open the thick wooden door. A staircase led down into increasing gloom and blackness. “No way. There’s nothing down there but dust, a shitload of cobwebs, spiders, and that goddamn incinerator I hate so much.”
As apprentices, Neal and I were required to take the bloody sheets and clothing generated over our weekend of lust and dump them into the fiery maw of the ancient incinerator. It squatted like a malevolent idol in a corner of the room at the bottom of the stairs. A more horrible place for sex I couldn’t imagine, unless it was the inside of a full trash bin.
“That’s just the room at the bottom of the stairs.” Neal paused halfway down the staircase to grin back at me. “There’s that wicked stone corridor I’ve never been able to entice you to explore before. Tonight’s the night.”
“Bullshit.” I hesitated at the top of the stairs, clutching the railing after letting go of his hand. “Let’s go to my room, Neal. This is like the beginning of a slasher flick.”
“That’s the point,” Neal said, laughing. “We’re vampires, Claire. We’re the monsters. What the hell can happen to us? A spider bites us? Who cares? Think of the ambience.”
“Ambience is supposed to mean something gorgeous or exotic, not doom, gloom, and torture chamber.” I considered going back to the media room on my own. Only, I’d waited weeks to feel him slide inside me, but there was no way he was doing it to me against the slimy stone wall of an ancient cellar.
“This is spicy. Forbidden. Dark. Secretive,” Neal coaxed, as if those were enticing things. “We’ll always remember our first time, won’t we?”
I didn’t want to concede he might have a point. As immortals, Neal and I would likely have thousands of trysts over the years. Soon, our first one would sink into the oblivion of time. Unless we made it somehow memorable. But a dust-choked stone cellar? With spider webs?
“Parker told me never to go past the incinerator. He says the corridors are like a maze. What if we get lost and can’t find our way out? It’s dark. There’s no electric light past this point.”
I was grabbing at straws, considering vampires could see perfectly well in the dark. Even though I could see through darkness, it still spooked me. Anything could lurk in the shadows. I preferred the crisp clarity of electric lights.
Neal fished in his pocket and extracted a lighter. He flicked it to life, and shadows leaped across his grinning, happy face.
“You told me you and Andre watch horror movies every Friday night, you little liar. What are you afraid of?”
“It’s one thing to watch a scary movie in your own living room, snuggled against your lover. It’s quite another to waltz onto the set and be a living part of it. And this is no movie either.” I remained on the top step as he skipped down the last few and landed in the dust at the bottom.
“You chicken-shit coward,” he said, still laughing. “I dare you.”
“What are we? Twelve?” I stomped down three of the stairs, rolling my eyes. “This really is like the start of a horror movie. You dare the blonde girl with the big tits to come into the spooky corridor, and then there’s some heavy petting before--whomp
--somebody’s head gets cut off by an axe-wielding maniac.”
“Nobody’s going to chop off your head,” Neal assured me.
“No, because I’m ducking so they get you,” I muttered, descending the rest of the stairs, hoping I wouldn’t get a frigging splinter. Neal darted ahead of me, skirting the bulk of the incinerator. My vampire eyes adjusted to the darkness, and everything turned to cool shades of red and gray until what appeared to be candlelight flickered against the stone walls in the corridor beyond.
“Brilliant,” said Neal as I rounded the corner and saw him lighting a torch mounted in an iron sconce. He lit two more, and the scent of burning pitch needled my sinuses. The torchlight danced across a myriad of spider webs strung across the ceiling and walls. Grimacing, I kept to the center.
“How the hell many are you going to light, you bastard?” I cried, my voice echoing up and down the stone throat of the corridor.
“Dunno. I’m having fun,” he called back.
I wanted to rip one of the sconces from the wall and fling it at him. However, the light did erase the darkness and made the place marginally easier to bear.
“Whoa.” Neal stopped lighting torches and stood very still.
I strained to see him in the distance. How had he gotten so far ahead, and just how damn long was this corridor?
I hurried to his side and found him examining an ancient arched door. Made of wide planks from what must have been a very old, large tree, it defied entrance into the room beyond. The handmade iron hinges, latch, and an old-fashioned lock that would require a large key resisted Neal’s shoulder as he tried to shove it open.
“Damn. If we could get in there, that would be the perfect spot to fuck your brains out,” he said.
“Now this is beginning to sound like a sci-fi alien porn film. You’re not fucking anything of mine out.” I knocked his hand away from the iron door handle.
He grinned and backed me into the wall. “Give us a kiss, love. The corridor is as good as the dungeon for me.”
“Jesus, you’re weird,” I accused, but I let him capture my mouth with his.
At least we weren’t walking farther into this dreadful corridor. We hadn’t made any turns, so it was still a straight shot back to the incinerator. I wanted to keep it that way. Parker’s warning about the cellar being a maze filled me with unease. Getting lost down here was not my idea of how to spend my spring-meeting weekend.
Neal’s body felt delicious and warm against mine even as my back scraped against the protruding stones embedded in the wall. He kissed with the same hedonistic abandon as he lived his life. He cupped my face with his hands, pressing his erection into my lower belly.
“Lord, you taste good.” He tugged at my lower lip with his teeth, fangs slicing into my flesh so blood flowed. Warmth dribbled down my chin. He moved his mouth to my throat and teased the throbbing pulse with his tongue as I worked on unbuttoning his jeans. He bit me when my fingers closed around his cock, making me involuntarily squeeze. We both gasped. Blood flowed down my throat and shoulder. Neal tugged at my skirt, ripping it so it fell to my feet. I stepped out of the shredded circle of fabric, and he hoisted me up against the wall so he could impale me with his engorged cock. He slid into my wet warmth, and I hooked my arms around his neck, wriggling against the wall like a pinned butterfly.
Only, no butterfly had ever reveled in being stuck like I was.
I sank my fangs into his shoulder, shutting my eyes as waves of pleasure rolled over me, threatening to sweep me under. Neal rammed into me over and over until the sweat rose up on his shoulders and across his forehead. The intoxicating scent of bloody sweat mixed with stone and earth proved a strangely lusty combination. The stones scratched into my back, scraping my skin raw, and blood flowed. The piercing pain made me feel alive and powerful.
“You,” panted Neal between thrusts, “are so fucking hot.”
I dug my fingers into his round, firm ass cheeks and rode his cock, breath coming faster and heavier until I exploded into orgasm.
“Again,” Neal demanded.
I hooked one leg around his waist and braced my other heel into the stone floor, thrusting against him, not feeling my raw skin against rock, only experiencing the adrenaline high produced by a massive climax. I came again, shouting, my voice guttural and fierce. Neal’s body tensed, his mouth falling open as he let himself go, spilling semen hotter than blood inside me. His face was smeared red, and I licked it clean as he shuddered in my arms.
He buried his face in my throat, closing the wound with a swipe of his tongue. He laughed into my neck. “Now tell me you don’t like the ambience.”
“You goddamn goofball.” I smacked his sweaty shoulder, but before I could say more, he was ripped away from me and thrown so he crashed to the stones six feet down the corridor.
“Jesus Christ!” I yelped, terrified at the appearance of a tall shape until I realized it was Andre. The flat silver sheen of his eyes sent a bolt of panic down my spine, reigniting my fear.
“What the hell are you two doing down here?” he demanded, moving so his face was two inches from mine, and I could measure the depth of his rage in the tight muscles of his cheeks and silver of his eyes. Someone had bitten his throat, and the wound dripped blood. It smacked wetly onto the stone floor, some of it spattering onto my foot. I wanted to bend forward and lick the twin punctures, but I didn’t dare. Fear made me crave blood almost as much as passion did. Where the hell had he come from? He must have been in the kitchen retrieving a bottle of wine when he heard me scream and came to investigate. But why should he be so angry? Neal and I were just screwing.
“Are you fucking insane?” Neal picked himself up from the floor, wincing as he surveyed his bloody palms and knees. “What the hell did you do that for?”
“Answer my goddamn question.” Andre whirled to face him, fists clenched, and Neal’s hazel eyes widened. He froze.
“We just wanted a bit of fun. Something different.” Neal was careful to keep his voice pitched low, but I could tell he was poised for a fight.
“Not down here. Get your asses back upstairs. There’s a whole fucking estate you can shag across if you like, but down here is off-limits.” Andre’s fangs gleamed in the flickering torchlight.
My back was sticky-hot against the slick cold stonework of the wall, and my skin throbbed as it attempted to heal. My skirt and T-shirt were shreds of fabric on the floor next to Neal’s crumpled jeans.
“What right do you have to tell me what to do?” Neal’s eyes flashed silver, then back to hazel. He was hard to rouse into anger. I’d never seen him mad.
“I am a fucking master, and you are a fucking apprentice. But if you don’t think my rules apply to you, they most certainly apply to my apprentice. So unless you want to screw the wall, take Claire back upstairs. Now.” Andre’s tone was lethal, but Neal ignored the potential danger, his expression turning sulky.
“We’d better go,” I said. Why was Andre so unreasonably angry?
“I’m not going anywhere. Hell, Claire, why don’t you tell this bastard to piss off? We aren’t doing anything wrong. Why are you caving and meekly doing as you’re told the way you always do? You’re letting Andre treat you just as shabbily as Parker ever did. When are you going to get a spine? Christ.” Neal swept a hand agitatedly through his long hair.
Andre turned to me with a grin so flatly intimidating I wanted to shrink through the wall. “Are you really going to pick now to get all rebellious on me? I advise against it. Strongly.”
I knew if I didn’t walk up the stairs on my own, he’d drag me up them. That thought sent a shiver of fury down my spine, which consumed most of my fear. I wasn’t used to being afraid of or angry at Andre, and the fact I was both infuriated me. I’d come so far in the past few months, regaining my confidence and starting to believe in myself and my own strengths instead of always thinking I was the weak one. I was not going to let anyone take that away from me.
“You don’t own me,” I spat. “Nobody does.” I looked over his shoulder at Neal. “And fuck you, Neal. I am not meek, you asshole. I’m going upstairs because I want to get away from you two bastards, not because anybody is telling me what to do.” I gave Andre a shove, and he staggered backward, but quickly regained his balance. The silver sheen faded from his eyes, but I didn’t give a shit. He’d humiliated me in front of Neal and made me feel like a naughty child when I’d just been having sex--what we’d come here to do. And Neal, that bastard! It would be a cold day in hell before he stuck his dick in me again.
Halfway down the corridor I turned to give them both a middle-finger salute before whirling around again. Acutely aware of my bare ass, I did not disgrace myself by breaking into a run, but once I gained the stairs, I allowed myself to rush up them and slam the door behind me. I hurried down the hall and into the foyer.
“Oh, fuck,” I groaned when I all but bashed into Parker standing at the bottom of the spiral staircase. He eyed my naked body and, predictably, smirked.
“What the hell are you looking at?” I snarled and then wished I could bite my damn tongue out.
“Your tits at the moment,” he said.
I dodged around him and up the stairs.
“Now your ass!” he called out helpfully.
I endured listening to him laugh all the way to the first landing.
“I love spring meetings,” he said when I reached the top step.
“Yeah, well, I hope you love being alone this particular spring meeting, you sonofabitch!” I yelled.
Amy Lee Burgess