No one understood his need. Blood was the only way he kept his wits. His power. His glow.
He traced his lips, and the salt-and-butter taste of blood on his tongue from three days past echoed a cutting memory. Saliva flooded his mouth, and his hands tremored once more. Thundering desire pushed him into fits of temper. They said this was all to find his mate. What would he do then? No more blood? He closed his eyes. What a folly. There was no mate for him. He took what he wanted. Nothing stopped him. He would bite the woman beside him, and his poison blood would kill. He fisted his hands. He needed that rush, that certainty, that control.
She giggled and stared up at him from her seat in his carriage.
What was her name?
Oh, indeed. Lady Elizabeth.
The blood of a well taken care of woman fed him in a rush that lower-class temptation did not. Though he had discovered he despised the smell of blood from those who had consumed garlic. He chuckled. He sounded the elite he was. The sides of his lips quirked up.
They would arrive at the Zir London home. He would satisfy his carnal cravings for the next several hours. He trailed his finger up the lady’s forearm.
More nervous giggles escaped from her lovely ivory throat.
He stared at the long column of flesh, the skin tight and throbbing, the pulse his teeth would slice through as he took his fill of her.
She was willing. More than willing. He would bed her, then feast. His own blood would fill his venom pouches and stream into her. Her blood from that moment forward would turn sour and dissatisfying. She would then fall away, and his valet would dispose of the lovely Lady Elizabeth. He never asked where the bodies went. He didn’t wish to know. Besides, the spell Ferrous had given him years ago always removed the suspicious thoughts from concerned people’s minds.
He stumbled down the carriage steps and held his hand up for her. She too swayed on the uneven ground caused by brandy. The butler said nothing as he opened the door, and Ilmir guided his guest up the stairs to the third floor. His rooms here resided in the attic. Only one additional room was on the floor—the guest room. No one ever came to visit. Why would they? He closed the door. “Miss Elizabeth.” He stepped toward her. She did not move.
“Lady Elizabeth,” she corrected and grasped the velvet of his deep red greatcoat.
His brow pinched. She crumpled the fabric. His blood surged, and his gray-gloved fingers wrapped about her throat. He tipped her chin back. “Take off your gloves.”
She whimpered, and the salty smell of her heated skin flooded his nostrils. Indeed. Tonight would be epic. Slowly she slipped the gloves from her hands.
“Good. Now lift your skirts and spread your thighs. I want to watch as you slide your fingers deep inside your loveliness.”
The throb of her pulse against the taut skin in her thrust-up neck increased.
Her feet slid apart on the wood floor. His own heartbeat thundered in his ears. He needed a taste. No… The one thing he would do was give her pleasure beyond anything she had known, before he took her life.
A loud thump came against the wall beyond the headboard where Astrid rested. Rested. Indeed. Her heart fluttered. She was not asleep. She could not sleep. She squeezed her eyes shut. Horse hooves clopped on the cobbles outside, and the wheels of carriages going down the street echoed in the dark. Her eyes drifted open. Light poured into the dark room. At night, the city was aglow.
Her mind raced and her skin burned with awareness. A woman whimpered on the other side of the wall. A heady warmth smothered her. She sat up. Astrid had heard similar sounds on the Isle, but none where she slept. She threw back the blankets, walked to the wall and pressed her ear to the smooth surface.
Muffled sounds met her ear. But nothing she could make out.
She frowned, grasped her robe and pushed her arms through the wool sleeves. She held her breath as she tiptoed out of her room and into the hall. The only other room on the floor was to the left of hers.
“Ilmir’s room,” Fina had said when they arrived at the late evening hour.
Hers was the only guest room in the house. Well, if he intruded on her slumber, she would ruin his fun too. This impulse was wrong, but this was her week, and he was part of her name-day wish. To bring him back to the family. To make him see he too was Zir. She raised her hand to knock on the door.
A woman moaned in deep pleasure on the other side.
Her eyebrows rose. That sounded delightful. What was he doing to her? Did they kiss? Astrid’s hand lightly wrapped the doorknob instead and squeezed the cool metal. Chills and fever raced her skin. She had never seen a man and woman together. Horses, pigs, birds, certainly.
She wanted to see what went on beyond the door. Her chest tightened, and she struggled to inhale. Today was her name day for another thirty moments.
She needed to see. She closed her eyes. In her five and twenty years, she had not been kissed, not once, and especially not in the way that came from the other side of the door.
“Turn so I can unlace you.” As if in a rush of air, Ilmir’s voice slid through the keyhole in the door. Astrid’s hand turned the knob. The door slipped open without a sound. She stepped in and closed the door, placing her back against the wood.
Ilmir glowed pure white in the black room. Glowing light lit the woman pressed against the wall. Her creamy white skin was bare. She wore nothing, no clothing at all. Her legs were parted, and her hands wrapped her stomach. Ilmir stood back, watching. The woman whimpered.
“Slip your right hand down between your thighs. Find your bud and, with the tip of your finger, trace circles around the hard flesh.” Ilmir’s hands fisted on either side of his hips.
Astrid inhaled and tried to still her own heart. Gooseflesh pebbled in a wave along her skin.
Ilmir’s head tilted slightly toward Astrid and then back to the window. He stepped forward. “No. Like this.” He placed his still-gloved hand on top of the woman’s lower curls and rubbed.
Astrid’s same muscles tightened and tingled. She swallowed hard. She would watch all. Every bit. His tongue slipped up the woman’s neck to her ear. “I am going to bring you so much pleasure that you will be exhausted before I take my desires from you.”
Those same words echoed through Astrid’s mind and struck deep in the dark sexual place she kept such experiences. She caught a moan in her clenched teeth.