They always scream.
Never once do they accept their place in the timeless dance of predator and prey. They cling to their mortality like a child clings to a tattered blanket, unwilling to let go. Yet, they must know their days are not without limit. Every creature on Tallenmere serves one purpose or another. These young things, so tender and precious, are serving the most noble purpose of all.
They are food.
Tonight’s prey has gone from screaming to pleading when she’s brought to my chamber. It’s piteous, really—the whimpers, the big round eyes full of desperation and fear.
She’s on her knees, quivering as violently as her voice. “Please let me go. I just want to go home.”
I close my eyes and inhale deeply. Her terror is rich and musky. Fear, for those who have not yet acquired its taste, is a delicacy. To be the one inspiring fear, a privilege.
With utmost respect for the impending sacrifice, I kneel before the girl. She’s fifteen, maybe. Or perhaps twenty-five? Human aging perplexes me. In any case, she’s fully developed. Her life force—some may call it a soul—ebbs and wanes just at the surface, flaring bright with hopes and dreams. The old are no good to me. Their energy is buried too deep, rooted fast with stubbornness and routine. They do not fill me as the young ones do.
Yet, fear encases this one’s life force in an impervious shell. Extracting it in this state would take too much of my energy, leaving me hungry again too soon.
“Shh, darling. I won’t hurt you.” I skim my knuckles across her smooth cheek, smearing the tracks of her tears. “Don’t be afraid.”
She gives a slight nod, but her eyes remain skeptical. At least she’s quiet now. They all turn quiet when I smile and speak sweetly. It’s perhaps my greatest weapon of all, this beauty. I have my father to thank for the likeness, my mother to thank for nurturing it.
The longer I kneel, stroking her cheek, smoothing her thick brown hair, the more she relaxes. Fear subsides, gradually releasing its grip on her life force.
“What is your name, child?”
“A beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
My smile widens, and I rub the round top of her ear—another human trait that mystifies me. “I need you, Mavelle.”
“Please, my lady, my family and my promised one will be worried for me. Just tell me what I can do for you, and I will do it. Then, let me go. I will not tell anyone about you.”
“Oh, how sweet. You are to be married?”
She swallows hard and nods.
“Has he ever kissed you?”
Brow furrowed, she nods again, slowly.
“I’d wager he’s never kissed you like this.”
Hands on her shoulders, I pull her to me, so close I can smell the bread and honey on her breath. Her eyes widen. I press my lips to hers, and she whimpers. Still and patient as a tyger, I wait, kneading her knotted muscles beneath my fingers. And, it doesn’t take long for her to exhale with a sigh, for her lips to part.
I know the battle raging inside her—how wrong it feels—woman kissing woman. Yet, when the moment dawns, it feels anything but wrong. It’s warm. Gentle. Plump lips against plump lips. I slide my tongue inside to meet the barricade of her teeth, but soon they open to me, too. And she flicks with her own tongue, testing the waters of our uncommon union.
Her hands have moved of their own accord now, tentatively seeking a refuge on my waist. Desire aches between my legs, pulls my nipples into painful peaks, but it is a rare night that I give into complete temptation. The hollow emptiness at my core must be filled.
Hunger wins the battle once again.
I deepen the kiss and lock my arms around her. She tenses briefly, but responds in kind until she feels it. Feels me drawing on her energy. And she plants her palms flat against my shoulders, tries to push me away, but it’s too late. Already, she’s wilting in my embrace, her mouth still molded to mine, plump lips growing cold.
By Tyr, it’s pure pleasure—energizing, enervating, unexplainable pleasure! I do not release her until every last flicker of her essence is inside me.
Then, I simply let go. Her body slumps to the stone floor—as inanimate and inhuman as any object in this chamber. I stand and dab her saliva from my mouth with a handkerchief, thankful to not have to rely on blood like my weaker creations.
Her escort, a necessity I’d rather do without, is standing quietly in the shadows, watching.
“You want me to give her to the vamps?” His voice is raspy, eyes gleaming.
I glance at the bulge in his trousers. Aroused, as usual. “No, deliver her to the forest’s edge. Let her promised one find her. I have unfinished business with him.”
He’s staring at the girl, one fist clenched tight at his side, the other stroking his thigh, skimming the outskirts of his erection. He’ll botch everything if I don’t allow him a release.
I lean over the back of a dining chair and pull my robe up to my waist. His response is swift, and as he plunges into me time and again, I smile, knowing I’m one step closer to having everything that was taken from me.
Look for No Place Like Home (Tallenmere #4)