My First Engagement

Rick returned with a tall glass of ice water, slices of lime nestled among the ice cubes. Gently, he tipped me up to drink, then placed the glass on the nightstand.


"Refreshing. Thank you."

"You are welcome."

"Why are you Spanish?"

"Excuse me?"

"Puritans were English Protestants. I've never heard of a Spanish Puritan."

"It is true that we were a rarity of our time. My ancestors came over with the conquistadors and migrated north where they joined the Puritan settlers. In truth, my grandfather may have been a criminal, although it wasn't spoken of in my family. I believe he was escaping punishment. The Puritans welcomed my family's practical skills and strength. Survival was priority one for Monk's congregation, although I can't remember any of the English being overly welcoming. Perhaps that is why I spent my time in the woods with you."

I motioned for him to lie down next to me. He hesitated, staring at the empty sliver of bed. Through our connection, his emotions seemed muddled and dark. Being in someone's head isn't like talking to them. Sure, there were times Rick wanted me to know something, and the thoughts came across in complete sentences. But people didn't think that way naturally and today Rick's head was filled with a mixture of what I would describe as jealousy, possessiveness, hurt, anger, and resentment. I supposed he was still thinking about Logan but suppressing his emotions for my benefit. Grunting, I scooted over to give him more room. That was enough for him to stretch out and get comfortable next to me. Even without touching, the smell of him filled my nostrils, earth, pine, saltwater and honeysuckle. I breathed him in.

"Did you agree to marry me?" I asked, wanting to get him talking again. Truly, I would have liked the chance to explain about Logan, but Rick wasn't ready to hear it. Not yet.

He laced his fingers over his stomach. "Of course I did. I could no sooner part from you than my own arm. We were to be joined in the official way of the Wampanoag. I was prepared to disappear from my family forever, to live out my life with you and yours."

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"But, on the morning of our impending marriage, you met me at our pool, hysterical. You told me everyone in your tribe was dead."


"Drained of their blood. Everyone we knew and loved, dead." His voice cracked.


"We didn't know what they were at the time. Vampires are predators and they followed their prey. Just like everyone else that migrated to Red Grove, they came here to feed because so many other places were ravaged by starvation."

"Why didn't the vampires kill me?"

"I can only speculate, but I believe you were protected by your mother."

"My mother...the goddess of the dead, Hecate."

"Yes. I can't be sure, and you never told me, but afterward you...changed, became more powerful. You successfully enchanted Monk's congregation into accepting your presence, no questions asked."

Instinctively, I reached over and placed a hand on his chest as I tilted on my side to see his face. His body stiffened. I removed my fingers and placed them beside me. I cleared my throat. "Nobody asked where I came from?"

"People asked. You told them you'd washed ashore after a shipwreck, having traveled with a band of pilgrims who were killed during your journey. Everyone believed you."

"Sounds plausible."

"Plausible that you would come over one hundred miles from the nearest port without anything but the clothes on your back?"

I laughed softly. "So, my magic had been awakened."

"Yes. And you'd lost everyone you loved." His fingertips trailed through my hair again. The feeling was comforting, like coming home.

I closed my eyes, slipping into sleep. "Not everyone," I whispered. His story had lulled me into that space between sleep and awake, all of my defenses down. "I still had you."

The bed jostled. Through a crack in my eyelids I watched him stand. "Yes, mi cielo," he mumbled so quietly I might only have heard it thanks to our connection. "And you still do."

When I opened my eyes again, I rolled over and looked for Rick. He wasn't in the room; the door was closed, but the curtains were open, revealing a frosty winter's night. I must have slept most of the day. Likely, Rick was out patrolling the graveyard.

Rick. If I'd ever questioned his love for me, I'd been a fool. The story he'd told me was painfully genuine and nagged at a long forgotten memory. Some part of me knew it was truth, as was my past love for him. As confusing as it all was, the warm feeling blooming in my chest was more than heartburn. I was falling in love with him. Not because of my past, although it played a part, but because of the present. He gave of himself selflessly, even when he thought I'd strayed from him. And I was fairly sure, based on everything I'd heard and seen in my grimoire, that I had tricked him into becoming my caretaker, or at a minimum, didn't fully warn him of the consequences. The thought opened up a gaping hole in my chest. Since I'd become the witch, I'd always assumed Rick was the predator, leading me into this life because he had something to gain. Maybe Julius was technically telling the truth about our relationship, but it wasn't the whole truth. I realized, now, Rick had a much greater burden to bear than I originally gave him credit for.

A moment of panic caused my heart to palpitate. Julius wouldn't be happy about Rick's methods of rescuing me, Bathory surely had a price on my head, and Mr. Nekomata could be moving into my house any day now. How long did I have before they came for me? For Rick? I needed to tell Rick what I'd learned and find out what he knew about the possessed woman who died in my ER. We had to be at full capacity, acting as a team, or we wouldn't stand a chance.

I lifted my shaking hands in front of me. The deep, bloody grooves that had etched my skin had filled in, thanks to Rick's blood, but the ache in the joint told me I wasn't completely healed. Another feeding and I'd probably be as good as new. Speaking of blood, I reeked of it. The sponge bath Rick had given me only went so far. I desperately needed a shower, if not to get the stink off of me, to wash away the feel of Julius' fangs at my throat or Bathory's bull whip. With both hands, I pushed myself up and swung my legs over the side.

Near the bed, leaning against the wall, I noticed a long, round, purple candle, like the ones you see in church. My intuition hummed. This had not been here before. There was a stamp in the wax, maybe the store logo, in the shape of a scarab beetle. Was this what Rick had obtained during his absence? Immediately, I had to know more. He'd traveled far for this. Why? I reached for the candle.

Apparently, I'd overestimated my degree of healing because my head swam. I tilted forward at the hips and face-planted on the carpet.

"Mi cielo!" Rick shook my shoulder.

My cheek was pressed into the scratchy area rug next to the bed. I groaned.

"How did you fall out of bed?" He lifted me into his arms.

Morning light shone through the window, warming my face. "I wanted to shower. I feel like I've been rolled in vampire saliva and left to dry."

His shoulders drooped, and he squeezed my waist gently. "I will help you." Gingerly, he undressed me, balling the bloody and torn slip in one hand and tossing it into the garbage can near the bed. As if I weighed nothing, he lifted me and carried me into the bathroom. Holding me up with one arm, he started the shower with the other, testing the temperature of the water with his wrist.

"You must be tired," I said into his neck.

"No, I slept Monday."

"It's Sunday."

"Yes. I am good for a few more days." He tested the water again, then carefully undressed himself while maintaining his hold on me.

I was completely naked but not ashamed. Our connection ran deep, an ancient bond I was still discovering. I tugged at his shoulder. "Bathroom."

It took him a moment to register that I needed to use the toilet, but once he understood, he lowered me to the porcelain.

"Call when you are finished," he said, bracing my arm on the nearby sink. He left me then, closing the door to preserve my privacy.

When I was done, he returned and helped me behind the glass door of the shower. Holding me close, he tipped my head back under the spray. The warm water coursed through my hair, assisted by his fingers, and washed down the length of my body. I watched red tinged water circle the drain. Rick stepped back, taking me with him, and lifted a bottle of shampoo from the ledge. With his free hand, he squeezed some out into my hair and began massaging my head. I closed my eyes and hummed with pleasure as he worked the suds from the crown of my head to the ends of my long hair. The smell of vanilla and lavender wafted through the steam around us.

I leaned into him, not from fatigue but to indulge the sensory drive of my body. Even through the ache of my muscles and joints, a different kind of discomfort bloomed from my core, an ache for him. My body knew what it wanted, what it needed.

He finished rinsing my hair, and our eyes locked. A torrent of energy and magic spiraled through my body, building as we stood skin-to-skin. The corners of his eyes wrinkled, but he shook his head, breaking the connection.

Reaching for another bottle, he coated my hair in conditioner that smelled just as good as the shampoo, then grabbed a washcloth from the rack outside the door. He worked the soap inside the cloth, then placed my hands on his shoulders. "Can you hold yourself up?"

I nodded, unable to speak around the lump in my throat.

He kneeled down in front of me, carefully lifting my right foot and lathering it with the rag. He worked his way up my calf, around the back of my knee, and up my leg. As he neared the apex of my thighs, I gripped his shoulders more desperately, not for balance but because my body burned for him. My breath came in shallow pants. He switched to the other foot, the other leg. When he reached my crest, he stood, lathering my abdomen, then my back.

I tried not to register my disappointment, as he seemed to skip the parts of me I wanted him to wash the most. My nipples were straining, peaked with anticipation. My core throbbed with desire. And under it all was this hunger, an unnatural, inhuman craving for his blood.

Supporting the base of my neck, he tilted my head back, rinsing the conditioner from my hair, then positioned me, a rag doll in his arms, under the spray to wash the lather away. I slipped my arms around his neck and pressed myself against him until no space was left between our wet bodies. He wanted me too. I could feel the hard length of him against my belly. Why was he hesitating?

"Please," I whispered into his ear. I followed up my plea by wrapping my lips around his earlobe and sucking gently.

He moaned. "Are you strong enough? I don't want to hurt you."

"I will be. I need heal."

"My blood first, then."

Unlike my skin that moved aside easily for Rick's teeth, I had to cut or bite him for access to his blood. I didn't have my blade, and I was too weak to bite through his skin, so he did the honors. With a partially shifted hand, he dragged his talon across the space where his neck met his chest. As his flesh opened for me, I latched on, suckling the sweet ambrosia that was his blood. Warmth and strength spread outward from my stomach. My hand trailed down his abdomen to his thick shaft, partially sheathing him with my palm. He gasped. I stroked as I drank, until his hips began to thrust into the ring of my grip.

Feeling stronger, I pulled back and licked the opening in his flesh. It knit together, healing itself. He didn't wait a moment to replace flesh with flesh. His mouth came down on mine, his velvet tongue stroking inside until I thought I might explode from need. He bit my lower lip gently, then worked his way along the bone of my jaw and up to my ear.

"I haven't finished washing you," he whispered. I heard the soap jostle in the dish and then felt him back away. He built up a lather between his palms, replaced the bar. Those soapy fingers gripped my waist and twirled me around. Sandwiched between his large hands, one on my belly and one on my lower back, he slid both down, cupped my sex, worked his soapy fingers along my most sensitive area. I hinged forward, catching myself on the shower door, my chest pressing into the cool glass. His other hand rounded over my ass, washing me in the spray. Back and forth, around and around. I arched my back to give him easier access.

Every time we'd had sex before felt like a feeding, pleasurable, erotic, his excitement pulsing through our connection and mingling with mine. I could tell he was holding back, keeping me from seeing all of his emotions. But oddly, his guarded soul didn't put a damper on my attraction. After the last twenty-four hours, I felt exposed and vulnerable. I wanted him to own me, to control me. I wanted to be his in every way possible.

I pressed into his massaging hand, needing more. The spray rinsed over me, his palm smoothing the soap away. I inhaled sharply as he pressed against my backside while his hands swept up my sides to knead my breasts.

"Please," I begged. "Take me."

He pinched my nipples, hard, making me moan with ecstasy. The head of him pressed at my opening and I eased back until he was completely inside of me. His hand swept down my side, to the back of my leg and hitched one knee up, setting my foot on the ledge of the tub. I answered by raising my hips, to get a deeper angle. That was all it took. Gripping my shoulders for leverage, his hips unhinged. The glass door rattled with his advance and retreat. At the same time, he reached between my legs, massaging and stroking until the pressure grew to the point of no return. I exploded around him, my sex constricting as I called out his name again and again. I held nothing back. If our connection was open at all, he must've felt the change, that he owned me in that moment. But I felt nothing in return. He was closed off to me.

Patiently, he slowed while my body calmed, then pulled out just long enough to spin me around. He was back under me in a heartbeat, bending his knees to thrust inside of me from tip to base in one lithe move. He gripped me under the ass, and I wrapped my legs around his hips, my back crashing against the opposite shower wall. Joined, he stopped, ran his nose up the side of my face and looked at me with hooded, black eyes.

"I am yours, mi cielo. You own me."

"I don't-"

"You hold my chain as surely as if I were your dog." The words were matter of fact. No hint of resentment.

"You're not-" Didn't he know he had it backwards? I was his.

He pressed a finger over my lips and tilted his hips so he was deep inside. "You own me, but I am a jealous slave, and if you can not be mine in return, I can only assume you are better off without me." In and out, slowly he stroked. "Are you better off without me?"

"No," I moaned.

"Can you be mine?"


Holding on tight to his neck, I braced myself as he began to slam into me in earnest, his entire body fully engaged in the act. And wasn't that a turn on? Watching him lose himself pushed me over the edge again, my orgasm milking his until the spray of the water ran cold and my fingers turned pruney.

Rick reached back and shut the water off, then kissed me at the base of my neck.

"Do you need to feed?" I asked him.

"Not yet. You're not strong enough."

"I am. I feel good." It wasn't a lie. The sex and the blood had chased away the remaining ache. I grabbed the nape of his neck and pulled, while tipping my head to give him access.

He pressed his lips to my throat but didn't bite.

"Please, Rick. I don't want the last set of teeth in my neck to be Julius's."

For a moment, he hesitated. Then, with a possessive growl, he struck. My flesh moved aside, accommodating his teeth. I stroked the back of his head as he drank from me.

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