He felt as if he were losing his mind, knowing she was near, yet finding no tracks, no scent.

Over the course of his search, he'd located only her belongings. Her food, water container, and bag had been scattered in the brush among the demon gang's corpses.

He'd collected all her possessions for her, puzzling over the strange tube of food she'd packed and the peculiar canisters and bottles. But he'd stowed everything near his mine, carrying her full water canteen with him in case he should find her.

Seeing that water container had reminded him that she would already be suffering the dangerous effects of thirst. Dizziness, delirium. Suffering needlessly. Malkom was rich in water.

What he wouldn't give to go back to last night. He wouldn't have frightened her, wouldn't have uncontrollably slaughtered those demons.

He tried to tell himself he wouldn't have stolen her blood, but at the memory of that pleasure, he knew he would be lying -

Her scent.

At last! For hours, he'd been unable to detect her, but now he charged headlong in her direction.

As Malkom closed in, he slowed. Better not to make his presence known - she might turn herself invisible again or blast him with her hands.

So he scaled a cliff to follow her from above. At his first sight of her, relief soughed through him. But he kept a vigilant eye on her, ensuring that she didn't come across one of his many traps or some maurading beast. He followed, observing her behavior, puzzling out the foreign little succubus.

Always observing. But this time he enjoyed it. He could watch her for hours, her expressions were so revealing. And though her mutterings were incomprehensible, he recognized the tones. She was no longer afraid - she was vexed; kicking rocks, then seeming to curse them.


Even when so visibly exhausted, she was still lovely. Satisfaction swelled his chest as his gaze moved from one ex"uisite feature to the next. Her lashes were long, her cheekbones high and elegant. Her lips were full.

Before he'd encountered her, he'd never comprehended why males mused on what their mates would look like, what color hair or eyes they might have. As if a male should care more about his female's coloring than he should a fine horse's! Now Malkom experienced an unknown-before pride that his woman was a black-haired beauty.

Though he might have imagined his fated one would be a match for him - a weary and hardened demoness used to deprivation - she was his opposite in so many ways.

She had no fangs or claws, and her skin looked as if it'd never once seen the harsh sun. Whereas he was the son of a whore, he believed she'd been raised as a noble.

Yet she wore a collar, as slaves did. At the thought of owning her that way, his member stiffened. He imagined selecting her, expending as much wealth as necessary to secure her, then taking her back to his lair to enjoy.

In the past, his discipline had kept him from obsessing over intercourse. Now that there was the possibility of claiming her, his eagerness couldn't be stemmed. He wanted the use of her body at his will, wanted to learn her female form.

If he studied her enough, he could figure out how to pleasure a woman. As it was, he didn't even know where he'd begin touching her. He'd never felt a female's body, much less fondled one's sex.

But he had to believe he could find the key to her desires. One of the earliest lessons he'd learned as a youth was that everyone had a key. Were his woman's ears sensitive? Her neck? He imagined piling up that mane of hair and placing his lips on her nape. Would my hands covering her br**sts make her tremble?

She hissed in a breath, her limping more pronounced. Whether noblewoman or slave, she was clearly not accustomed to a place this harsh. She rubbed the back of her neck, pinching the muscles there. At least her wrist seemed to be healing.

Eventually, she hobbled over to a bone tree stump, sinking atop it. With a look of dread, she peered at her boots. As she gingerly drew off the first one, she bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out.

The short black hosiery beneath was affixed to her blisters. As she removed the second boot, he winced for her, but she never made a sound. His female was strong in resolve, if not in body.

When she twined the length of her hair into a knot atop her head, he saw the faint outline of his bite. The night before, she'd sneered the word vampire just before she'd sent blazing shots to his chest. If that was how she saw him, perhaps she hated them as much as he did.

She'd seemed more furious about his biting her than his shoving against her body for release. He understood her aversion. He'd been drunk thousands of times.

It had never grown any easier to take.

Yet it would be impossible not to enjoy her neck again, now that he'd experienced the bliss of it. He narrowed his eyes. Give and take. For years, he'd ceded his blood. I wear my scars - I am owed! Her blood would be a small price to pay for his protection.

Malkom didn't know how she'd gotten herself exiled into these infernal wastelands; he did know that she was damned lucky to have a strong arm to protect her here, considering her fragile nature and inconsistent power.

Perhaps she needed a token to remind her of how much she needed him.

Chapter 9

Just after she'd somehow stuffed her swollen, pulpy feet back into her boots, she spied a blur of motion in the smoke beside her, heard a thump. Something had landed a couple of feet away, and it wasn't moving.

What now? Exhaling irritably, she leaned over.

Sightless eyes stared up at her. She scrambled back, tumbling off the stump onto her ass. There lay the head of one of the ghouls from the night before, its throat slashed, slime still oozing from serrated arteries.

She gazed up, s"uinting through the miasma, detecting a large form on the cliff above her. The demon.

Why would he do this? Was it some sick kind of warning?

Her temper ignited, melting away any fear of him. "What is wrong with you?" She leapt to her feet, ripping open every remaining blister on them. I am so over this!

She was exhausted and battered, her temples beginning to pound. Her feet felt like someone had poured acid on them. Her pierced neck was in the itching, reddened stage of healing. "That slime got on my boot! Disgusting demon!"

The last twenty-four hours had been the worst of her entire life. And he was going to keep at her? "You think a decapitated head will scare me? You think it'll cow me into accepting you? Your 'attentions'?"

She snatched a softball-sized rock from the ground and flung it in his direction, heard a grunt. "I've had stalkers before, you ass**le!" Some really demented ones, too. One of them had strangled Mari's cat, leaving it on the front porch at Andoain. Mari had tried to resurrect the poor animal, but the process had devolved into Pet Sematary territory, or as Mari had sniffled, "Tigger came back ... wrong."

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