“Ooh, papa, he’s beautiful!” The female vampire clapped in glee and hopped in her seat. Tight, blond curls bounced wildly, giving her the appearance of a young girl, but in human years she was twenty-four.
Fumaro kissed her forehead. “Anything for my darling girl. Give me the syringe.” The viscount ripped off the unconscious human’s shirt. Then, with a sick smile, he plunged his daughter’s blood straight into John Berenz’s heart.
“Italy?” I asked numbly. “Like… Italy, Italy?”
The countess rolled her eyes. “No. He’s taking your father to Spain, Italy.”
I had reached the end of my rapidly fraying rope. “Oh my God!” I snapped. “If another person teases me or points out my many undead short-comings one more time, I am going to completely lose my shit!”
The count growled quietly and said, “Calm yourself, young one. Now more than ever, you must control your rage.”
Aurelia sat next to me and kissed me on the forehead. “Eliot, you need some rest. Aramis, take him to your room to get some sleep. That is, if you can find your bed through all of that mess.”
Aramis winked at her and pulled me up from the couch. “Come on, babe,” he said with a sympathetic smile.
His room was on the third floor. It was in the same dark wood style as the rest of the house, but it was definitely a teen guy’s lair. Music posters, books, a computer and clothes strewn everywhere. There were even several empty synthetic blood bottles on his nightstand.
I scowled. “I can’t believe your parents let you get away with this.”
“Trust me. They don’t. I haven’t gotten an allowance in weeks. Mom keeps threatening to have this corner of the house cut off with chainsaws and rebuilt so I can start over.”
I wanted to find it funny that vampires had messy bedrooms, but I was suddenly exhausted. Wading carefully through the debris that littered Aramis’ floor, I found the bed, shoved the books and clothes off of it and pulled the covers back. When I saw a familiar piece of dark purple cloth sticking out from under the pillow, I looked at my mate with a raised eyebrow.
“Is that mine?” I asked. Aramis looked sheepish, but didn’t answer, so I grabbed the shirt and pulled it out. “This is mine. It’s the shirt I thought I lost in the locker room at school. How did you get it?”
“I sort of stole it,” he admitted. “The minute I met you, your scent printed itself on my mind. I craved it like humans crave air. So I went to your school, broke into the locker room, and sniffed out your locker.”
“Is it that strong?” I asked, amazed.
“God, yes!” he groaned. He wrapped his arms around me and chuckled. “And the clothes in your locker smelled so good. Human sweat can be very powerful, El. It’s a concentrated form of their essence. I love your smell, and your sweat got me so hard.”
Even though I was grossed out by what he was saying, I could help but be aroused. My cock stiffened, and I moaned in disappointment. “Let’s get some sleep, Air. I’m worried about Dad and we should really rest.”
“True. I’ll even keep my boxers on tonight.”
I lay down and he climbed in behind me, putting an arm around my waist and holding me close. I had no idea what the next day would bring, but I prayed to any god that may have been listening to keep my father safe.
John woke to find himself in a strange bed with a strange vampire draped across his nude body. He tried to push her away, but intense hunger gripped him and the scent of her made his mouth water. Instinctually, he lifted the mass of blond curls off her shoulder and sniffed her neck.
The vamp opened her eyes and smiled. “Mm, good morning, my love.”
It made no sense. John didn’t recognize the young woman, let alone love her. Panic overtook him and his heart felt as if it would beat out of his chest. He tried to ask a question, but his throat burned. He hissed at the pain, and then gasped when his tooth pierced his lower lip. He attempted to sit up, but the blond held him down.
“Shh. Don’t worry. It’s completely normal.” Somehow, her voice calmed him, but still he couldn’t speak for the pain. She kissed his lips gently and said, “You must be thirsty, John.”
“Thirsty,” he repeated with a rough voice. “Yes.”
This seemed to please the blond, and she put a leg up over his hip. When her skin brushed over his cock, his breath caught. Dozens of questions raced around his head, but they were all forgotten as the woman took his shaft in her hands and began to stroke him.
“Don’t fight it,” she whispered. “Claim your mate, John.”
“But… who? Who are you?”
“I’m Lena, your mate. Do you not feel my blood inside you? Don’t you long to taste me on your tongue?” Need pulsed through him. He pushed her down and knelt between her legs. His fingers sank inside her and she groaned. “Yes! Fuck me. Bite me. Give me your blood while you come inside me.”
Her legs wrapped around his waist, drawing him closer. Without thinking, John thrust into her, bringing a delighted cry to her lips. Gripping her chin roughly, he twisted her neck to the side and sank his fangs into her pale flesh. The sweet, thick liquid sated his thirst and he groaned in relief. He lapped at the wound and closed it.
Lena twisted around and pushed John onto his back. Fast and hard, she rode his cock until she felt his body stiffen. As hot come pulsed inside her, she leaned down and bit.
Fumaro stood outside the door, listening to his only daughter take her mate. He smiled when he thought of how he would school John Berenz in the sadistic traditions of the true, ancient vampires—traditions which most modern vampire clans had shunned for so long. John would learn how to be dominant over Lena, over less powerful vampires, and most important of all, he would learn that humans were only good for one thing: to feed upon.
It was the ultimate revenge on Aramis Ambrogi’s foolish young mate.
Of course there was a huge snow storm the night we had to fly to Italy. I clutched the armrest, eyes screwed shut, praying the small private jet would make it Rome.
Aramis poked my ribs. “You can relax, you know. Even if we did crash, you’d walk away.”
“Across the fucking ocean?” I snapped. “Just shut up and let me worry.”
He shrugged and closed his eyes, trying to get some rest before we landed. I couldn’t sleep, so I attempted to eavesdrop on Aristes, the Count, and their guard planning on how they would breach Fumaro’s defenses at his villa. Unfortunately, they were all speaking Italian so rapidly that I couldn’t understand a word.
Epp sat with his arm around Blake, who stared stoically out the window into the darkness. Although he wasn’t showing it, I could tell that he was anxious about his mother. I smiled sadly at Epp. He gave me a thumbs up, then spoke into my head. “Don’t worry, El. We’ll find them. The Count is so pissed at this point that nothing will be able to stop him.”
I fixed my eyes on Epp and thought, “Is the Count really that powerful? Like magic and stuff?”
“I wouldn’t say magic,” the Count said with a smirk.
“Damn it,” I muttered.
The Count put a hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay to ask me questions, Eliot. Just not at the moment. Once we have your father safely back with us, we can sit and talk. All right?”
“Yes, sir. Thanks for all you’re doing.”
“The coven takes care of its own. That includes your father.”
Benita sobbed quietly, and Aurelia tried to calm her. “He’ll be all right, Benita. You’ll wear yourself out like this. You need to be strong for John when he needs you.”
“You’re right,” Benita said. “Right. I will fight Fumaro to the death to get my mate back.”
I wished that people would stop using the word “death” in any context, but their confidence helped give me hope I’d see my father again. Aramis pulled me against him and I was finally able to sleep.
John paced around the bedroom while the head of the hospital yelled at him over the phone. “What is the meaning of this, Berenz? You don’t show up for your scheduled surgeries, and then call to say you’re taking a sabbatical. What on God’s green earth has possessed you?”
How could he ever explain something like this? He figured lying was his best option. “Yes, sir. I know I haven’t given any notice, but I’ve had a family emergency and I had to leave town very suddenly.”
It seemed to appease his boss. “Are you all right? Is Eliot okay?”
The mention of the name Eliot hit John like a brick. The image of a dark-haired, light-eyed boy flashed in his mind, and he stuttered. “Uh… Eliot’s fine. Look I have to go. I’ll call as soon as I can.”
The door opened and Lena strutted in, wearing a miniscule black dress. Sky-high heels clicked on the floor as she hurried to her mate. “There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
He looked at the petite blond and raised an eyebrow. She wanted sex. Again. But he wasn’t in the mood, not to mention the fact it wasn’t very good with her anyway. He got off, sure, but it was automatic to him. There was something missing. He put that thought aside and replayed the phone call in his mind. The mention of the boy Eliot had rattled him.
The girl pawed at him, but he scowled and said, “Not now.”
Lena took a step back, mystified as to why she was unable to seduce her mate. She pouted. “But, John, don’t you want me?”
“Who the hell is Eliot?” he barked, losing all patience. She didn’t answer, so he wrapped his fingers tightly around her bicep and squeezed, causing Lena to yelp. He growled quietly and let his fangs drop. “Tell me. Who is Eliot?”
“I don’t know!” she lied. “You’re hurting me, John.”
“Get out,” he commanded through clenched teeth. He thrust her away. Lena ran from the room. He sat on the bed and closed his eyes, trying desperately to remember. Images flicked through his mind as he tried to grasp the truth. He remembered seeing Eliot in a big house, not unlike the one in which he was now residing. There was a meal—a dinner, with a family. But whose family? Eliot was there. But before the dinner, in an office, he had talked to Eliot. Their conversation replayed dimly in his head.
Then the word “dad” popped in his head, and it hit him. He remembered Eliot running into his arms and calling him dad. Him! Eliot was his son! More memories came flooding back. Sitting around the table with Eliot and other vampires. A female vampire—tall, brunette, stunning…
Benita. The hallway. The kiss. He could almost feel her mouth on his, her hands on his ass. That cemented it. This little slut Lena wasn’t his true mate. But how then had he come to be here? He realized he’d have to keep up with the charade until he found out what the hell was going on.
Outside the plane, after we landed in Rome, I felt like a complete spectacle. Everyone in the private hangar stopped and stared at the group of beautiful—too beautiful—people stepping off the plane and into four impossibly large, black Mercedes sedans.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” I mumbled as Aramis climbed in next to me. I tugged at his sleeve. “Don’t we have to go through customs or something?”
He smirked. “Vampires do things differently. The count has connections up the ass.”
Aurelia pulled a leather glove off her elegant hand and smacked Aramis’ knee with it. “Don’t be vulgar. And remember, do exactly as the count says. In Italy, his word is law.”
Once we reached the count’s villa an hour from Rome, I stared in wonder. Cars were parked everywhere, bearing number plates from all around Europe. I counted dozens of different cars before Aramis took me by the hand and led me inside, to meet the hundreds of vampires that had gathered to help rescue my dad.
I stepped inside and my mouth fell open like a dead fish. Opulent. Resplendent. So far over the top that I was afraid of falling. That was my first impression of the count’s ancestral home. Gilt mirrors lined the main hall, reflecting light from chandeliers and candelabra. White marble floors gave the illusion of walking on clouds.
Then I caught sight of myself in a mirror and scowled. Black, military-issue fatigues—that had been Marco’s—heavy boots, and hair that hadn’t seen a brush in days certainly didn’t seem an appropriate wardrobe in such a house.
Arms wrapped around me and I jumped. Aramis kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, “I know what you’re thinking, babe. And you look fine. Everyone else is wearing the same thing.”
I leaned my head back against his shoulder. “But they all look great. I look like I’m playing dress-up. These pants are a foot too long and your butler had to add a notch to the belt because it wasn’t tight enough to hold them up. Just answer me this. How old was Marco when he wore these?”
“I don’t know. Middle school maybe?”
“That’s it. I’m a shrimp and now I’m stuck like this literally forever.”
Aramis’ eyes flashed white as he spoke into my mind, “I love the size you are. That way, when I have you on your hands and knees, and I’m buried balls-deep inside that perfect, little ass of yours, I can still reach around to kiss you.”
“You’re evil,” I said, as I discreetly adjusted my pants.
“Come on, the count wants to introduce you to everyone.”
We went into the ballroom, which was even more decadent than the hall. I shook my head and tried to ignore the surroundings. I had more important things on my mind. Namely, the count calling me to come up in front of everyone. Remembering Aurelia’s warning about doing whatever the count said, I went to stand next to him.
“This is Eliot Berenz. One of two new members of the Ambrogi Clan, and the mate of Aramis.” Everyone clapped and smiled, and I was suddenly much less nervous. He continued, “Now to why I have called you all here. Eliot’s father, a human named John Berenz is being held by the Viscount Fumaro Corleanni. However, my disgraced brother has also another hostage.”
“Who?” someone called out.
“Lilianna Becker,” he replied.
Gasps and murmurs erupted from the crowd. Another young vampire said, “But Becker is a Belanni, and in league with Fumaro. Why should we help them?”
Everyone chattered and nodded their agreement, until the count growled fiercely. “Enough! Blake Becker is now the mate of Epifanio Ambrogi. Very courageously, he came forward with information that Lukas Becker had destroyed his son, Galen, because of his homosexuality. When Lilianna Becker overheard her husband and Fumaro talking of the murder, she ran from the house—at great personal risk—and brought her evidence to me, at the Ambrogi home.”
“I can’t believe it,” one vampire exclaimed. “How could your brother think he could get away with this?”
The count raised an eyebrow and said, “My brother is too confident and has a low opinion of humans. For that reason, he most certainly wouldn’t expect me to call up every vampire in Europe to storm his villa.”
I was shocked. “Everyone?”
The count smiled. “Everyone. Don’t worry, young Eliot. We will get your father back.”
“Thank you. But how many vampires will be at Fumaro’s house?”
Aristes said, “According to our intel, about one hundred and fifty. We have two hundred and forty-one vampires here.”
I was suddenly worried again. “Are you sure we’ll have enough?”
“Oh yes,” Aristes said, “because we have something that Fumaro doesn’t.”
“What?” I asked.
A low growl came from the count. I turned to see his eyes glowing red, and his nails extending into dark claws. I’d seen the display before, but it was still awe-inspiring. What I saw next, however, stunned me to my core. The count raised his arms slowly and his whole body began to rise from the floor.
“Oh, shit!” I cried, and hurried back to Aramis’ side.
He told me, “Watch this. It’s so awesome what he can do.”
While in mid-air, the count pointed his finger at an unlit candelabra on the mantel. All five candles lit at once. With another sweep of his hand, one of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the room exploded into millions of shards.
“Not again,” the countess moaned. “Every time he has to show off, he breaks the window.”
The count flew—I had no other word to describe it—to his wife and kissed her cheek. Then he turned to me and winked. “Perhaps there’s a little magic in me after all.”
John decided to keep the status quo by apologizing to Lena and dragging her into a broom closet for a quick fuck-and-feed. As he drove his cock into her, he pictured Benita’s tall, graceful form under him, her long hair wrapped around his fist while he took her from behind. It was the only way to keep his dick hard enough. Just before he came, he bit down on Lena’s shoulder and drank.
“Yes! Take my blood!” Lena cried as her mate’s seed pulsed into her. She mumbled, “I love you, John. I hope we have a baby soon.”
That stopped John dead in his tracks. He was not about to have a baby with Lena. He already had a son. He had Eliot.
The ride to the town near Fumaro’s estate was quiet. Everyone was worrying about what might happen if we ran into more resistance than the count had anticipated. I sat in Aramis’ lap, terrified that we’d get there and storm the house, only to find my father’s lifeless corpse buried in the cellar.
I shivered and Aramis rubbed my back. “He’ll be okay, El. Please don’t worry.”
“But everyone else,” I said. “What if anyone of your clan dies? It’s all my fault. I don’t think I can cope with that.”
“Eliot,” Aristes said. “You cannot think like that. Just have faith.”
We parked the cars about a mile from Fumaro’s estate and began to walk through the woods to get to the house. I stayed with Aramis and his parents. Benita, Blake and Epp also came with us. Lucia and Blanca went with the countess, Marco, Nero and Giovanni. Beatricia had remained in the states with baby Aristes, safe with her husband and his clan.
With the count’s detailed knowledge of his brother’s house, staff, and habits, we were able to guess that my father would be held on the second floor, toward the back, where all the guests stayed. But first we had to clear the security. A computer genius from Zurich hacked into Fumaro’s system and disabled the security cameras and motion sensors. Then, without speaking, the various clans spread out, each planning on clearing a different area of the grounds and villa. There were guards everywhere, but quickly—ruthlessly—the count’s vampires went to work. A knife to the heart to disable guard was followed by a quick twist and pull.
A disembodied head rolled to a stop at my feet and my first instinct was to scream in terror. Aramis clamped his hand over my mouth. Once I got my breathing under control, I nodded to let him know I wasn’t going to make any noise.
It was fairly evident that Fumaro really hadn’t planned on the count attacking his house. Our vampires cut through his defenses like a hot knife through butter, and we quickly surrounded the villa. I was standing next to Benita when we carefully looked into the window of the sitting room. I was filled with relief when I saw my father alive and well, but I still couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
My father sat on a leather sofa, with a young, blond vampire draped across his lap. Her hand was up under his shirt, stroking his chest. He twirled a ring of her hair around his finger and leaned down to kiss her, whispering endearments.
My attention turned back to Benita, terrified of how she would react, but she was no longer standing next to me. The count had hauled her away from the window. He restrained her, and Aristes had a hand over her mouth. She fought and kicked against her captors, but couldn’t free herself. Eventually she calmed, but still looked seriously pissed. I wondered if my dad was going to go home with his nuts intact.
I went back to the window to watch. Fumaro came into the room, and the blond sat up, like a teenager getting caught with her boyfriend. As soon as the girl turned, my dad’s smile dropped from his face and he shivered. Something was going on. My father was obviously faking his affection for the girl, but why?
The count was standing behind me, and I realized I had to let him know it was all an act. I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers and tapped the count on the arm. He looked down at me and I flashed my eyes into his. He nodded, so I thought to him, “It’s an act. Dad’s faking it. There’s no way he’d act like that. He is completely awkward around women. The look on his face is the one he uses on people that are annoying him, but he has to be nice to.”
He smiled proudly and sent his thoughts to me. “Well done, Eliot! Now, do you trust me?”
I nodded. “What are you up to?”
I took a few steps back. A moment later, so did everyone else. There was a minute of absolute stillness, while the count stood with his head bowed. He raised his arms and rose slowly into the air. Then, he swept his hands through the air like a conductor. Every window in the villa shattered. Sharp shards of glass fell like rain all around the yard.
The count ran in through the window, so fast I couldn’t see him move. He collided with Fumaro and the two of them went tumbling across the room. Fumaro roared in fury and fought hard against his brother, but he couldn’t win against the count’s magic. The count dragged Fumaro outside and threw him into the hands of our guards.
Once he was secure, our vampires stormed the rest of the house. Aristes stepped through the broken window to approach my father, but a sudden shriek of rage made us all wince. Benita charged into the room and slammed into the young, blond vampire. It reminded me of a daisy being hit by a train. They crashed through the wall on the other site of the room and disappeared from view. A bunch of vampires went after them. After a short struggle and a lot of really pissed screaming in Italian, Benita reemerged, blood splattered on her face.
Now that everyone was subdued, we turned to my dad. He backed into a corner with a terrified expression on his face. Aristes walked toward him, but Dad put up a hand and said, “Stop!”
Aristes smiled, but kept moving forward. “John, we’re not going to hurt you.”
“I said stop!” As he barked out his command, long fangs descended in his mouth.