The Emerald Lily (Vampire Blood)(10)

By: Juliette Cross

“It’s best you know as little as possible, Mother. If I could’ve kept you from meeting her at all, I would have. But we had to stop here to rest and to feed before we move on.”

She stared at the princess with a nostalgic smile. Then it hit him. A flash of memory that was not his own, but the woman’s before him. She stood in a grand hall filled with royals and nobles around the throne of a king Mikhail didn’t recognize. A baby in a bassinet—sweet and lovely. The black-robed Queen Morgrid storming from the hall, people parting for her as if from a plague. A woman draped in white leaned over the bassinet, cooing kind words to the infant. Fathomless deep blue eyes stared up from the round, innocent babe. The princess.

Mikhail inhaled deeply, snapping back to the present. His vampire gift—a heightened intuition about other people, often accompanied by flashes of their memories—seemed to always jar him for a moment. Dmitri frowned at him, recognizing when he had a vision. The flashbacks occurred sporadically and only when someone exerted powerful emotion.

“Son, you will invoke the wrath of Queen Morgrid,” pleaded Lady Galena.

“Yes.” Aleksei squeezed her hands. “We know,” he replied with confidence.

“Why?” Her voice cracked with despair. “You do this for your father? He is dead, Aleksei. Nothing will bring him back.”

She might as well have been speaking to Mikhail himself. All of the Bloodguard had a vendetta to set right. Blood for blood. Death for death. And a few Legionnaire guards at Briar Rose wouldn’t fulfill the debt owed.

Mikhail’s mission would right all wrongs and do away with the queen—the heart of evil across the land—for all time. He’d not put her into a bloodless sleep. Not her. That would be too kind. His gaze slid to the princess, standing quiet and demure and perfectly poised. Her calm eased the anger riding him at the thought of the queen.

Aleksei embraced his mother as she began to weep. Irena quickly stepped toward the princess.

“Come, Your Highness. I’ll find a place for you to rest. Gentlemen, if you’ll come with me as well.”

They quickly filed after her, eager to give Aleksei some time alone with his mother. Mikhail shadowed the princess, needing her proximity to keep him grounded. He frowned at the sensation.

“Your Highness, I believe we are close to the same size. If you wouldn’t mind wearing one of my dresses, though I doubt they’re as beautiful as yours, I’d be happy to lend you one.”

“That would be lovely.” Vilhelmina smiled at Irena, her genuine appreciation shining in her honest face. “You are too kind.”

That’s what it was. Every move she made. Every word she said. It was honest to the bone. Beyond her beauty, her pure candor drew him ever more.

“And might we trouble you to find a few bleeders for us?” asked Dmitri. “We’ll pay handsomely. We need to replenish our strength.”

Irena glanced at Mikhail’s brother, shyer than she was before when she first met him. Dmitri wasn’t the charmer Aleksei was, but his confident air was no doubt attractive to the ladies.

“Yes.” She cleared her throat, batting her eyes more than necessary. “We have several servants who I’m sure would be happy to oblige. If you’ll wait in my brother’s study through that door, I’ll send Marshall in a few moments to find hosts for each of you.”

Irena started up the stairs. Mina behind her.

Before Mikhail followed the others through the study door, he caught the princess glancing over her shoulder at him, a pinch between her brow.

“Princess, I’ll bring a cup up to you.” He couldn’t help but let a smile slip. “If that is what you would like.”

She paused, her delicate hand on the stair railing. “That would be lovely.” She smiled, arching her brow. “Though I did actually prefer my last feeding.”

Her gaze trailed down to his lips to his throat then to the arm she’d fed from. Her raw desire channeled straight to his cock, hardening it to stone. Sea-blue eyes flared bright, and her secret smile seemed to say she knew exactly what she’d done to him as she sashayed up the staircase.

She had no idea.

He was a man of control and power and strength of will. A steely focus guided his every move, allowing him to lead the Bloodguard to become the most feared and revered mercenaries across the entire land of Varis. The sole reason he’d kept such control over the growing guard had been his resolve to uphold the blood oath that set them apart. Of course, a guardsman could fuck as many blood whores as he liked. But attachment was against their laws, an essential rule that kept men from splitting their allegiance between family and the Guard. Not that he’d set his sights on marrying a princess. She’d likely have dozens of suitors once she finally takes her rightful place in Arkadia. And he wouldn’t be one of them. Even so, he watched the tantalizing sway of her hips as she reached the top of the staircase and disappeared out of sight. Then he went in search of a couple bleeders.