I stumbled backward in horror, trying to escape this nightmare. Fumaro had turned him? My father was a vampire? My brain wasn’t working fast enough to process it. The count growled to show his superiority to my father. Dad shrank back.
“Calm yourself,” the count told him. “Now. Do you know who you are?”
“Yes,” Dad answered.
“Do you know what you are?”
“Yes, but… There’s a boy.”
“There’s a child in the house?” Aristes asked frantically.
“No. Not here. I don’t know where he is. His name is Eliot.”
Aramis clutched my hand and held me back. I heard his thoughts. “We don’t know how unstable he is, El.”
The count hesitated, then asked my father, “Why do you want to see him?”
Dad looked so confused, I wanted to cry. He said, “I think he’s my son.”
That did it. I broke free from Aramis and stepped into the room. “Dad,” I said with a wary smile. His defensive position eased a little, so I took a step closer. I heard Aramis growling behind me, but I ignored him. “Dad, it’s okay.”
His feet crunched on broken glass as he crossed the room toward me. When he was within arm’s length, he reached out and touched my face. His fingers were colder than usual and I had a hard time trying not to flinch.
“You look like your mother,” he said simply.
It was an odd way to start a conversation, but I ran with it. “So I’ve been told. Do you remember her?”
His eyebrows drew together. “Are we still married?”
It broke the ice, and everyone relaxed a little. I laughed and asked, “Why is that good?”
He looked sheepish. “Well, there’s another woman, but not Lena.”
“Who’s Lena?” I asked.
The count said, “Fumaro’s only child. I believe she has been handled. Am I correct, Benita?”
“Yes. She’s finished.”
Dad turned toward the sound of her voice and pointed. “It’s you. I remember you.”
She smiled brilliantly. “You do? I thought you would have forgotten me since you were mated with Lena.”
He shook his head. ” I didn’t feel anything for her, not even during sex. I kept picturing you in my mind.”
With a fiery determination, Benita crossed the room, grabbed Dad by the wrist and dragged him outside. They disappeared into the woods and I scowled. “Where the hell are they going?”
Marco laughed nervously. “Uh, trust me. You probably don’t want to dwell on what they’re about to do.”
The thought of my father having sex made me feel slightly sick. But at least he was safe. I couldn’t say the same yet for Blake’s mom. He hadn’t said a word yet. Epp held him tightly, waiting for any news of Lilianna.
“Check the outbuildings,” the count ordered. “And bring Fumaro.”
Four guards dragged a struggling Fumaro into the room. The count’s fangs descended and his long claws grew. I knew enough by then to step back. He then took his brother by the hair and said, “It is finished, Fumaro. Your clan comes to an end tonight. Your daughter has been destroyed.”
It was the first time I saw Fumaro’s implacable mask of indifference crack. He looked so shocked that I nearly felt sorry for him. The count showed no compassion. Without another word—without offering forgiveness—he slashed his nails across Fumaro’s neck. A quick twist separated the head from the body.
The count gave the head to one of the guards and told them, “Burn it. Bury the rest for now. We’ll have someone come in to clean up. Any sign of Lilianna?”
“She’s here, sir!” someone called across the lawn. “Becker was hiding with her in the guest house.”
One vampire carried the weakened vampire into the room and laid her on a sofa. Blake knelt on the floor next to her. “Mom? I’m here. Are you okay?”
“Blake,” she said. “Thank God you’re all right.”
He helped her to sit and handed her a bottle of synthetic blood. “You’re weak, mom. You need to drink this.”
“No, I can’t stand that stuff.”
Blake rolled his eyes. “Too bad. Drink it.”
Lilianna didn’t like it, but she did as she was told. After a moment, she asked, “Where’s your father?”
Two other vampires dragged Lukas Becker in and threw him at the count’s feet. He didn’t beg or plead, but he did try to explain. “It was Fumaro who made me destroy Galen. He would have killed me if I didn’t do it.”
Blake turned to his father and howled in rage. “So you killed your son to save your own neck?”
Lukas tried to answer, but Blake tackled him and held him down on the floor. Over and over again, he punched his father. Bones crunched under the blows, and blood splattered Blake’s face and hair. Epp and Marco finally pulled Blake off Lukas, but the elder vampire was too weakened to move far. He got to his knees and turned to his wife.
He could barely speak through the blood and broken jaw. “Lilianna, please forgive me. I’ve done unspeakable things, and I deserve to die, but I can’t until you forgive me. I’m begging you.”
Lilianna took a deep breath and said, “I forgive you, Lukas, but only because it is not my job to judge you. I will always love the man you used to be. The centuries have turned you into a monster, so filled with hatred that you don’t have a shred of humanity left in you. I don’t know if you’ll go to hell or some other place, but I pity you. The only comfort I take is that you will not harm our boys again.”
The count nodded to two of his guards. They took Lukas outside, and a few moments later, I heard the now-familiar sound of a vampire dying. Blake went to the sofa and held his mother while she sobbed in grief.
Betina dragged John through the forest, toward the group of waiting SUVs. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, her tongue sliding teasingly over her fangs.
John groaned and felt his cock getting hard. “Where are we going?”
“The count’s villa. We’ll have privacy there, for a while at least.” Digging keys out of her pocket, she opened the doors of a large Mercedes. “Get in.”
“Okay,” John said nervously. This was all happening very fast. He knew that Benita was meant to be his mate, but they literally knew nothing about one another. “Can we just talk, though?”
Benita pulled onto the road and asked absently, “Talk? Why?”
He cleared his throat and answered, “I… I’m scared, Benita.”
She brought the car to a screeching halt and gaped at him. “Are you scared of me?”
John put a hand to her cheek and smiled reassuringly. “Of course not. Look, I know you’re my mate. I feel it with everything that I am, but this is all completely new to me. I didn’t know vampires were real until two days ago when I found out my son had been turned. Then, I was kidnapped, turned into a vampire, and woke up in some demented woman’s bed.”
“Don’t talk about her,” Benita said with a growl.
“Sorry. But then the windows exploded, and I was rescued by some vast vampire army, and Eliot was there, and then you show up, and I run away with you, and… it’s all extremely overwhelming. I mean, what am I going to do? I suppose I can retire. Lord knows I hate the politics of medicine, but what do I tell my friends? What do I tell Eliot’s mother?”
Benita leaned over and kissed him softly. “I’m so sorry, John. I was so caught up in my own feelings that I’ve neglected what you’ve been through. We’ll go to the count’s villa and talk. We’ll take as much time as you need, and you can ask anything you need to. The rest—us—will come in time.”
He squirmed in his seat. “Not the best choice of words.” Benita bit her lip and looked apologetic. John kissed her again and said, “Maybe I’ll ask some questions tonight, but there are some things that just can’t wait much longer.”
“Where do you think Dad went?” I asked Aristes.
“I suspect they went back to the count’s villa,” he replied with a smile.
I sighed and Aramis put an arm around me. “Hey, babe. Be happy for him.”
“Happy?” I shrieked, smacking his hand away. “Aramis, do you have any idea what has happened here? Dad has a job. He has family, friends, coworkers, and let’s not forget Mom, who, I’m sure, will be very interested to know why her ex-husband has suddenly become a plasma-holic!”
Marco laughed from the front seat. Aurelia put a hand to my cheek. “My dear Eliot, you must remain calm. You’ve been under a great deal of stress and you’ll need to feed soon. I know that your world has been turned upside down, but trust me when I say everything will be all right. Yes, it will take time to work out the details, but you will have all of us to help. Benita also has many resources at her disposal, and is an extremely wealthy woman. Your father will not want for anything.”
I picked at a loose thread on my pants. “Well… where does she live?”
“In Tuscany,” Aristes answered. “Beautiful villa.”
“Figures. I’ve always wanted to go to Tuscany.”
“Then we’ll go,” Aramis said. “When school’s done, we’ll backpack through Tuscany.”
His smile was so sweet that I couldn’t resist it. I unbuckled my seatbelt and climbed onto his lap, burying my face against his chest. “I love you, Aramis,” I said with a yawn.
“Love you, baby,” he replied, kissing the top of my head. Then I heard his thoughts come through to me. “You’d better get some sleep now, because I plan on fucking you all night long.”
Since I’d been able to project my thoughts to the count, I thought I’d try it again. I concentrated hard. “Hey, Aramis? Can you hear me?”
His arms tightened around me. “You did it! I’m proud of you.”
I craned my neck up so he could kiss me. What started out gently quickly morphed into a breathy battle of tongues and lips. His cock hardened beneath me and I squeaked in surprise.
“Boys!” Aristes warned. “Behave yourselves.”
Aramis tickled my ribs and I giggled, trying to smack his hands away. Aurelia sighed. “I guess I’ll have to separate you. Eliot, sit over here, and I’ll sit in the middle.”
“But—” Aramis began, as his mother yanked me off his lap. Humiliation killed my erection, thank God. I buckled my seatbelt without complaint, but I could tell my mate was seriously pissed. He sighed loudly and dramatically at regular intervals for the rest of the drive.
When we finally arrived at the count’s villa, I barely had time to hear the count say, “Your father and Benita are in the guest house and will join us later,” before Aramis dragged me upstairs.
“Gee, this isn’t obvious,” I huffed.
Halfway down the hall, Aramis backed me up against the wall and kissed me hard. “I am so fucking horny,” he whispered in my ear. “Want you now.”
“Take me then,” I said before fixing my mouth to his.
The noise of someone coming up the stairs jolted us apart, so we ran in to the nearest guest room and locked the door.
We stood in the middle of the room, kissing passionately. Without looking away from my eyes, Aramis unbuckled my belt and tossed it onto the floor. The pants, which were far too big, fell down around my ankles. I tripped on them and fell onto my ass. My pride was bruised, but I quickly got to my knees and looked up at my mate.
“I want to suck you,” I said quietly.
I quickly got his pants down around his thighs, and I whimpered when I saw the long, thick cock pointing right at me. Wrapping my fingers around him, I licked my lips and looked up at Aramis through my lashes. “You promise to fuck me after?”
His smile was sinful. “I’m going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to walk for a week. How does that sound?”
I kissed the tip of his cock and sucked gently, working my tongue into the slit. Aramis hissed in pleasure and I grinned. I reached around and stroked his ass, then got an idea. I wondered if Aramis had ever had his ass played with before. I figured he’d stop me if he didn’t like it, so I went with my instinct. I pulled off his cock and sucked a finger into my mouth. Aramis’ eyebrows drew down.
I slipped my hand between his legs and circled his tight opening with my finger. His legs shook and he inhaled sharply. It was amazing, exerting this much power over my mate. I wrapped one hand around his dick, stroking him, using my spit as lube while I worked the tip of my finger into him. He winced, so I withdrew my finger and rubbed his thigh. “Have you ever had anything in your ass before?”
“N-no,” he breathed.
“You trust me?” I asked. He nodded, so I gently pushed my finger back into him, in and out, until I was all the way in. I began long, slow thrusts, until the worried lines on his face smoothed out and a small smile curved his lips. He was enjoying it, thank God. A drop of pre-come gathered on the tip of his cock and I licked it off. My mate swore under his breath and his ass tensed around my finger.
“Relax,” I said.
“Feels weird,” he said.
“Good weird?” I bent my finger forward and rubbed his prostate.
Aramis arched his back and cried out, “Holy shit, that is so fucking good weird!” He grabbed me by the shoulder and tugged. “Gotta fuck you, baby.”
I slowly pulled out of his ass and he grunted from the sensation. He ripped off my shirt, then his own. Then he bent me over the bed and knelt down behind me. Even though he’d done it before, I couldn’t help but gasp when his tongue breached my body. It was wild. I’d never seen him that eager before. He swirled his tongue around my hole, then pushed a finger into me. Another finger quickly followed and I yelped.
Aramis froze and asked, “Are you okay? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No,” I said impatiently. “Please, Air. Just fuck me already.”
He was on his feet and sliding into me before I could blink. I wasn’t quite stretched enough, and it was a little painful, but I needed my mate. I shoved a hand under myself and fisted my dick. “Fuck me. Oh shit, fuck me.”
His pace picked up and he leaned over me. His chest hair rubbed against the bare skin of my back and I groaned. The groan turned into a cry of ecstasy when I felt my mate’s fangs scrape my shoulder. I turned my head and offered myself, as much as I could in the position I was in.
“Mine,” Aramis snarled. His fangs pierced my skin and I fought for a second before giving in to the delicious pleasure of feeding my mate. The gentle tug against my skin was in sharp contrast to the brutal thrusting of his hips and I was driven to the edge quickly.
“Coming,” I breathed. “Holy fuck, Aramis. Come with me, please.”
I tightened my muscles around him and reveled in the long, low moan I dragged from my mate. Hot come spilled deep inside me and I cried out as I came all over my hand and the bed I was pressed against. Aramis licked the bite on my throat and collapsed on top of me.
“I never want to move again,” he mumbled.
“Me neither, but—”
His phone buzzed with a text and we both growled at being interrupted. “S’pose I should get it?”
“No.” It buzzed again, so I nodded. “Yes.”
He pulled out of me carefully and stood, but then put a hand on my lower back, holding me down. “Jesus Christ, you look so fucking slutty, laying there with my come dripping out of your ass.”
“Slutty?” I repeated with a scowl.
Aramis raised his eyebrows. “Sexy?”
“Better. Now answer your phone while I figure out what to wear.” I yanked the sheet off the bed and cleaned up with it. No way was I walking around with my mate’s spunk dripping out of me. Looking around for clothes, I realized I had no choice but to pull on the too-big pants and belt them tightly. All of the buttons on my shirt were gone, but it was better than nothing, so I pulled it on and let it hang open.
He dug through his pants and pulled out his cell. “Oh shit.”
My gut clenched. “Oh shit, what?”
He showed me his phone and I read the text from Epp: Nice performance. Everyone heard you. Mom’s gone apeshit and says to get down here now, looking respectable if you can. We tried to distract her with a game of cribbage, but she’s pretty pissed.
“Oh shit,” I repeated, and followed Aramis down to meet our fate.
I clutched Aramis’ hand as we walked into the drawing room. Aurelia immediately walked over to us. With a forced smile, she asked, “Could I speak to you in the study, boys?”
Aramis swallowed loudly and we followed her into the count’s private office. I hoped it was sound-proofed like Aristes’ study was, because I had a feeling we were going to have our asses handed to us.
Aurelia put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. “Well?”
“Well what?” Aramis repeated. He evidently thought playing dumb would work.
It didn’t. “I hope you’re happy!” she shrieked. “Everyone in the villa heard what you two were doing. My God Aramis, I am so embarrassed. There are nearly two hundred vampires here, most of them with their mates, and yet you two were the only ones that made a spectacle out of yourselves!”
She started speaking rapid Italian to my mate, who seemed to shrink an inch with every harsh word spat at him by his mother. I couldn’t let Aramis take the blame, though, so I said, “It’s my fault, Aurelia. I would blame it on being a new vampire, but I won’t. We should have been more… discreet.”
I was glad she switched back to English, but she was still pissed. “A bull in a china shop would have been more discreet, Eliot. Now I want you two to go out there and apologize to the count. Then, I want you to go upstairs and clean up whatever… mess you made.”
There was a knock on the door, and I was glad of the reprieve. When the door opened and the count came in, however, I wasn’t so happy. I decided to get it over with. “Count Corleanni, I’m very sorry for what happened. It’s my fault entirely, and if you’d like me to apologize to your guests then—”
He put up a hand and smiled. “Please, think nothing of it.” Aramis and I glanced at each other, both wondering if he was joking. The count continued, “Though I am very old, I realize what it is like to be young and newly mated. And Eliot here is a newborn. We can hardly expect him to keep his libido in check, especially after such a traumatic week.”
Aramis cleared his throat. “Uh… we need to clean up the room.”
“Already done,” he said. “Now join the party and please do not be embarrassed.” Aurelia stood there, gaping at the count. He took her chin in his hand and said, “My dear Aurelia, you are a wonderful mother and have a beautiful family. You have a strength and courage that I so admire—we all do. Even as a human, you fought for your love, and trust me, I know standing up to my wife is a formidable task.”
I made a mental note to ask what had happened between the two women, but now didn’t seem the appropriate time. Aurelia smiled at the count. “Grazie, signore,” she said and left the room.
The count chuckled and said, “By the way, boys. We’ve moved your room to the far wing. It’s soundproofed.”
As he turned to leave, I asked. “Another soundproofed room? What’s that for?”
A devilish grin spread over his face. “It used to be the torture chamber, but don’t go yet, since we’re having apple pie for dessert in honor of our American guests. I hope you’re hungry.”
With that bizarre declaration, he walked out, leaving Aramis and I scratching our heads. I spoke first. “Do you think that torture chamber and apple pie have ever been used in the same sentence?”
“Probably not,” Aramis said.
“And do Italians even have dessert?”
He licked his lips seductively. “I’m Italian, and I love dessert. Especially nice, thick milkshakes.”
“Ew!” I protested. “That is so… porny. And we’re in enough trouble with your mom as it is. Let’s go.”
“Speaking of porn, I wonder if your dad and Benita have shown their faces yet.”
I punched him on the shoulder. “Will you cut that out? Blech! That’s all I need to think about right now.”
We left the study and walked down the hall toward the billiard room. Aramis’ brothers were arguing over how to play.
“The table’s broken,” Nero said. “There aren’t any pockets.”
“Oh my God,” Marco moaned. “It’s billiards, you moron.”
“Even billiards tables have pockets, Polo.”
“Maybe it’s snooker.”
Epp spoke up. “And I only have three balls.”
“Isn’t Blake a lucky boy then,” Marco said with a chuckle.
Blake laughed, but his mate rolled his eyes. “I meant pool balls, you twat.”
Before the argument could progress any further, Lucia and Blanca strolled in with two young male vampires I’d not met before. All of the brothers stopped talking and turned to face the newcomers. Marco cleared his throat and extended a hand. “Marco Ambrogi,” he said with a small inclination of his head.
The taller of the two shook Marco’s hand. “Bennett Skelton-Twombley,” he said. His posh English accent fit the name well. He motioned to his friend. “This is Houghton Hugh-Phipps.”
Epp smirked. “From Clan Hyphenation.”
We couldn’t help but snicker. The girls weren’t amused we were teasing their potential suitors. Bennett took it in stride, though. He said, “Yes, it’s rather absurd. The British aristocracy do so love making things difficult for their descendants. I had a mate at school named Percival Tarquin Highclere Fotheringay-Beckhurst—”
“The sixth,” Houghton finished. “Poor sod. And he had a lisp.”
“Oh damn,” I said. “That is very unfortunate.”
“Yes,” Bennett laughed. Then he spied the game table and said, “Oh, look here, Phipps! Care for a game of carombole?”
He retrieved the three balls from Epp, while Houghton took the cue sticks from Marco and Nero. The two English vampires began to play a bizarre kind of quasi-billiards that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I tugged Aramis out of the room and we went to find the food.