The Emerald Lily (Vampire Blood)(6)

By: Juliette Cross


“What are you doing?” She’d never had a man so intimately close.

He stretched out his legs, bracketing her body. “Straighten your legs.”

Though this man was a stranger, she found herself oddly compelled to obey him.

“Now lean back.”

“What?”

He didn’t wait for her to comply. Gripping her upper arms with firm hands, he pulled her back against his chest and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his legs closer to hers. Instantly, she was enveloped in steamy heat. His temperature was up from the exercise of combat. She closed her eyes, unable to withhold the slight sound of pleasure at the tactile heat of his body.

“Better?” His husky whisper was at her ear.

She stiffened. He gave her a light squeeze, one arm banding her waist, the other across her chest, where his hand gripped her opposite shoulder.

“Relax. Do not fear me. I’m only trying to get you warm.”

“I don’t fear you,” she snapped, though the tenor of her voice sounded high and strained.

He chuckled, his broad chest rumbling against her back. “Defiant, aren’t you?”

She didn’t answer. “Why are we stopping so soon? So close to Briar Rose?”

“They’ll be floundering for hours, trying to reorganize. We killed all of the officers in command. That’s the downside to Legionnaires. They’re a well-disciplined machine, which means the soldiers are completely lost without someone giving them orders.”

He was right. “How do you know you killed all the officers?”

“They wear their pretty little bars on their lapels.”

“Yes, but how do you know you got them all?” Her chin stopped quivering, but her body continued to shake.

“Standard Legionnaire operations. When a threat presents itself, the commanding officers meet the threat first, assess, and determine the best strategy to extinguish said threat. After Dmitri spirited you away, we waited to be sure we’d taken care of the officers so there would be no one left in command. For Legionnaires, it’s much like cutting the head off the snake. The body will writhe uselessly, trying to find a direction to no avail.”

“I see,” she said, teeth chattering.

“You need to feed and rest before we move on. My blood will be enough to regulate your body temperature and give you strength till our next stop, where we’ll get you a human bleeder for real sustenance.”

His reminder drew awareness to her parched throat and the agonizing churn in her belly. Loosening his hold, he uncuffed one of his sleeves and rolled it up past his forearm. When she realized he planned to feed her directly from his arm, her pulse lurched into a gallop.

“I—I can’t feed that way.”

“What do you mean?” He finished rolling up his sleeve, baring a well-muscled forearm, a thick vein prominent. Her mouth watered.

“I don’t feed from the flesh.” She squeezed her eyes shut, his heat and heady scent pulling her canines from their rest, thickening her mouth.

“What other way is there?”

“I usually—that is, I mean, I’ve always had my host fill a cup for me.”

Silence. Stillness.

“I’ve never…actually fed directly from a host.”

Statue still for a moment more, he finally shifted behind her. He tilted her chin to face him as he leaned to one side. “I am not going to fill a cup for you, Princess. If you want to live, you’ll drink from me. A natural practice for all vampires. No matter how low or high born the bloodline.”

A challenge.

His unearthly eyes bore into her own, the firelight dancing on his sharp features, making him even more severe. He waited patiently. Unmoving. A steadfast wall of male vampire awaiting her decision. She became peculiarly aware that he was a man accustomed to giving commands and having them obeyed. But that wasn’t what made her want to sink her fangs into his masculine arm. It was some primal need that sparked to life the second she awoke with the taste of his blood in her mouth. She wanted to taste more of him.

She perused his features again, noting his own fangs were long and sharp beyond his parted lips. Her gaze slid back to those piercing eyes, seeing the same emotion of desire shining back at her.

“Yes,” she whispered. Not because she was unsure, but because there was an intimacy formed between them when he awoke her with his blood kiss. She whispered like a lover would to her paramour. “I will drink from you.”

Pausing for only a second longer, he maneuvered back into position. With gentle fingers, she wrapped them around his arm and brought the fleshy part of his forearm to her lips. A gurgling rumbled in her belly as her vampire senses heightened, the scent of warm, sweet blood filling her nostrils. How could she explain to him that the idea of feeding directly from the flesh had once repulsed her?