"Almost anything one wishes. For a time," he added cryptically. "It's a powerful talisman, yet deceptively simple to use. Just twist it on one's finger and make a wish. But not too many."

"What does that mean?"

He didn't answer, just stroked her hair.

Realizing she wasn't going to get more from him on this subject, she said, "I know you'll find it soon."

He grinned down at her, revealing even, white teeth, his fangs not so intimidating in this twilight. Lothaire Daciano was stunning when he smiled. "I will. And then you'll be my queen forever."

"Yes, forever, Lothaire."

He curled his finger under her chin, instead of pinching it. "You want to be with me."

This unexpected tenderness, coupled with his vulnerability, was making her chest ache.

"Waited an eternity for you." He ran his knuckles along her cheekbone, his expression one of longing. And she had the strangest urge to cry. "I didn't know what you would look like. Imagined for centuries, searching faces."

"Are you happy with how I look?"

Another roguish smile made her heart clench. "I could stare at Saroya for hours."

A compliment, Ellie supposed. She tilted her head at him. Lothaire appeared younger when he grinned. "How old were you when you turned immortal?"

"I was thirty-three when my heart stopped beating." He sighed. "Last time I took a maid."

As she'd thought. Thousands of years without a woman. "Are you truly evil, Lothaire?"

"Yes," he answered without hesitation.

"Do you really mean to do me harm?"

"When I find the ring, yes. To you, I'm nothing more than death," he said, even as he gave her cheek another tender stroke.

"Will it hurt when you cast out my soul?"

"The ring might bring you pain. I don't know."

Disturbingly vague. "You won't show me any mercy?"

"Mercy? My father begged me for it once. After I decapitated him, I fed his remains to the dogs." Lothaire gave her a sinister smile, so different from his heartbreaking grin. This was more a baring of his fangs. "He hated dogs."

"You k-killed your own father?"

He tensed around her. "Perhaps he oughtn't to have buried me alive for six centuries."

"B-buried-"

"Sent to my grave. Before I was dead."

Oh, dear God. Last night, she'd recognized that she was out of her depth with Lothaire. Now she realized she was out of her depth with this entire new world of his. A world filled with hate and torture and murder.

No wonder he wanted Saroya.

And still, she found herself reaching out to smooth her fingertips along his strong jaw. "I'm sorry for what you've suffered-"

He snapped his head around and bit her forefinger.

"Ow." Like some rabid animal!

When blood rose, he clasped her wrist and drew her hand to his mouth, closing his lips over her fingertip. As he began to suck, his lids grew heavy, then closed altogether. Those sculpted muscles relaxed all around her.

And oh, she responded to his obvious pleasure. Watching his lips work made her melt. When his tongue twined around her fingertip, she felt a slow, wet ache build between her legs.

Why hadn't she let him suckle her breasts before? To have his hungry mouth working her stiffened nipples?

Suddenly he released her, his expression intent. "Need you."

She swallowed, wondering what he would do now. "Lothaire?"

"Do you want me to touch you?"

Did she? Would he hurt her? If he could caress her as gently as he'd worked that puzzle . . .

Before he'd thrown it in a rage.

Ellie had planned to seduce him away from Saroya. Am I gonna give up after one failure?

He cupped her breast with a hot palm, those elegant fingers tugging at her nipple through the silk. She gasped, her body gone boneless.

"Answer me." He dipped his mouth to her neck, teasing her with small grazes of one fang. "Yes or no, Elizabeth, before I stop pretending your answer matters."

When he began slipping her nightgown up her thighs, she shivered with need, lost. "Yes, yes. . . ."

Chapter 27

The fog receded. Lothaire wasn't dreaming.

He had one of his hands on a tender breast, his other steadily inching Elizabeth's lingerie up her taut thighs.

How had he gotten into this position? He couldn't remember. Why did he taste her delicious blood? Why couldn't he recall-

Wait. Had she been questioning him? As his mind began to clear, he realized the mortal had thought to take advantage of him. "You were digging for information?"

She swallowed.

"You little bitch!" He wanted to punish her-and he couldn't. Blyad'! What would it take to secure the ring-and to finally be rid of her?

Frustration bubbling up inside him, he rose and brusquely tossed her back onto the bed, making her cry out.

Yet as she scurried to right herself, her nightgown rode up and he caught the fleetest glimpse of her sex.

Bare? At once, he traced to the bed, throwing her back down. "Have you a surprise for me? I'll see it now-part your thighs."

"No!" She yanked down on her nightgown.

He clamped his hands on her knees, spreading them, rucking up the gown.

Face gone red, she fought, but he easily overpowered her, wedging his hips between her thighs. "I did things your way the last time. Now I'll do them my . . ." His words trailed off at his first sight of her female flesh. Glistening lips opened like petals.

A growl escaped him as his hand dipped to her.

He didn't want to want her. But the sight of her aroused sex and its luscious scent made him lust beyond control. When she needed release, he instinctively needed to sate her.

His first feel of her . . . wet, hot to the touch, unimaginably soft. He gave a reverent groan.

"Let me go!" She shoved at him.

To take this prize away from him? "Mine, Elizabeth!" He cupped her possessively, giving her a harsh jostle. "This belongs to me. You don't deny me what's mine."

When her nails dug into his arm, he laughed cruelly. "Like the claws of a kitten." Another jostle. "Understand me, woman, I own your body, will enjoy it for the rest of my life. Licking it, fucking it, all at my leisure."

She'd begun trembling with fear, gazing past him with bleak eyes. . . .

Damn her, that won't do.

Yes, he hated her and enjoyed taunting her-especially since she'd questioned him. Yes, he was furious to have no new leads from his earlier slumber, and he wanted to take it out on her.

But now he had an aching cockstand, which meant he craved the uninhibited sexuality she'd shown him. Want her wetter, want her abandoned.

With effort, he calmed his tone. "Relax, pet," he forced himself to say. "I won't hurt you tonight." Hmm, not a lie?

Still tension thrummed off her.

"You don't trust me?"


She shook her head, her flowing hair stark against the sheets.

"I only want to finger you, just play. Watch me, then." To illustrate, he leisurely rubbed his forefinger over her clitoris. Once, twice . . .

She lessened her grip on his arm. Another light caress and she began to relax.

"That's it, female." When he teased her, she lifted her hips for more. "So responsive." He skimmed his forefinger between her damp, silken lips. "You're quite pretty here, Elizabeth," he said hoarsely. To utter that statement without the rana, he had to add, "I find you exquisite here."

She swallowed nervously, studying his expression.

"Put your arms over your head. And keep them there."

"Why?"

"Because I'm driving. Do it. Clasp your elbows." When she hesitantly did, he fisted his hands on her nightgown and ripped it clean from her. Leaving her wholly naked.

Gods almighty.

"Lothaire! Your eyes . . ."

Between breaths, he grated, "I've needed to . . . to see you. Like this."

Tiny waist flaring to shapely hips. Generous, mouthwatering breasts. Skin the color of honey.

The lush heat between her legs . . .

Lothaire believed he deserved all good things coming his way, considered them his due; but even he felt giddy with fortune as he beheld her spread before him.

When she started trembling again, he lay on his side next to her, bending his arm and propping his head on his hand. His casual position belied the need exploding inside him as he gave a slow circular stroke of her little clit.

She gasped again. "You make me crazy, vampire."

"Of course I do, Elizabeth." Another stroke.

This male was like sex incarnate.

Compared to Lothaire, the boys Ellie had been with before were ham-handed brutes.

Now she was dealing with a seductive immortal who used his talented fingers-and his cunning mind-to do sinful things with her.

An immortal whose eyes had seemed to catch fire, red deepening across them as he'd gazed at her naked body.

When he drew moisture up to continue those lazy circles, she relaxed her arms over her head and let her knees fall wide.

"Greedy for more?" Grinding his hardness against her hip, he nuzzled her neck, her ear, murmuring words in Russian.

His warm breaths against her made her shiver wildly. "Wh-what did you say?"

"I talked filth in your ear." Voice gone ragged, he said, "I told you that you've got the prettiest little pussy I've ever seen, and then I told you what I'm going to do with it."

She moaned, her nails digging into her elbows. "Lothaire!"

"Be my dear," he rasped with that deep accent, "and finger yourself for me. Show me how you like to come."

His accent . . . the rough edge to his dirty words . . . his wicked voice was like a touch, caressing her all over.

She readily obeyed him, slipping her hand between her legs, stroking her clitoris. Though he hadn't asked her to, her other hand cupped a breast, which seemed to please him.

"You don't penetrate yourself?" His eyes were locked on her fin-

gers.

She could only shake her head.

"You wouldn't know to, would you? Soon I'll teach you how good it feels to have something inside you."

"Lothaire . . ."

"Once your body becomes immortal, I'll feed my length into you, spending deep inside here"-he tapped the pad of his forefinger right at her core. "And in here"-he raised his hand to her mouth, dipping his thumb inside it.

When she dutifully sucked, he hissed, "Yes. Ah, sweet Lizvetta, I'll be at this flesh dusk, midnight, and dawn."

Imagining his thumb was another part of his anatomy, Ellie suckled in bliss.

"I feel your little tongue. Are you to make me come just from that?" He drew his hand away, rubbing his wet thumb over one pouting nipple, then the other.

"Lothaire, I'm close. . . ."

"Without waiting for me?"

Rising, he unfastened his pants, shoved them off, then went to his knees between her legs.

She stared in awe at his naked body, at his huge penis-the most beautiful one she'd ever imagined. The veined shaft was so rigid, the head broad. Moisture beaded the swollen slit.

When thought returned, she said, "I want to touch it. Learn what you like."

He gave her an unreadable look-pleased by that? "You're busy with something else." He gave a pointed look at her fingers, then grasped his erection in one hand, rising above her.

With his arm muscles bulging, he pressed the crown against the center of her chest, hissing an inhalation at the contact.

Slowly he dragged it over one nipple, then the other, making her moan low.

She swallowed when he positioned himself between her breasts, cupping them until they pressed against the sides of his shaft.

With a groan, he thrust, his head falling back, tendons straining in his neck.

"Oh, my God . . ." I could come just watching him move. He clamped both of her nipples between a thumb and forefinger, then thrust again.

And again. "About to spill across your neck if I don't stop."

She whimpered, imagining that hot liquid marking her. "Do whatever you want!"

But he'd already begun dragging the head down her torso. In a haze of sensation, Ellie watched the damp crown trailing over her belly. "Lower, vampire. P-press it against me. Let me move against it."

"Do you want us to touch? You want to feel me against those bare lips?" Again his tone was challenging. "Then kiss me. Rise up and kiss me."

Ellie felt like the vampire was testing her, but to determine what?

Dragging her fingers away from her sex, Elizabeth put her hands behind her, raising herself on straightened arms. She leaned up to press her mouth to Lothaire's, wantonly meeting his tongue.

Gods, she makes me crazy. He drew back. "Harder. Kiss me like you'll die if you don't come soon."

Her eyes were locked on his lips. "I will!"

He grasped her shining hair and tugged her upward. "Do it!"

With a throaty cry, she leaned in. When he caught her mouth with his own, she sucked his tongue again, making his head swim.

And then . . . she tentatively licked one of his aching fangs, drawing her own blood for him.

He stilled in shock even while thinking, Yes, ah, gods, yes! Do it again. . . .

The little witch licked the other one. Harder.

Sharing another blood kiss with me?

The pleasure jolted straight to his cock, but the idea of her doing this burned into his mind. Too intense, too much from her.

Too . . . unforgettable.

He broke away. Furious with her. Thrilled with her. His cock about to explode. "Lie back, then." He scarcely recognized his own voice. "Grab your elbows once more."

When she obeyed, he rewarded her by inching his hips lower, his cock straining toward her wetness.

She wrapped her leg around his waist, spurring him on. Hot little

piece . . .

Finally, Lothaire rested his shaft against her quivering lips. Fuck!

He had to squeeze his cockhead to keep from instantaneously spilling. "So wet," he hissed. "Dripping."

With his other hand, he gently pinched her folds against his shaft, as he had with her breasts. Then he rocked over her clitoris.