With Alice and the Fiends hot on my heels, we charged back up to the house and ran into the ballroom. Nostro and Sinclair were going at it so fast, I couldn't see a thing. Just blurs of fists. For a wonder, no one else was fighting; most of the others were up against the far wall listening to Tina.

"-not interfere! Whoever wins this will be our new lord and you cannot interfere! That was our law when mortals were still cringing in caves!"

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"I'm going to interfere," I said hotly. I pointed to the blur that was Nostro and Sinclair. "Sic him!"

Yowling and snarling, the Fiends rushed forward. So did I-in time to grab Sinclair and pull him out of the way. As quick as I was, a Fiend still knocked us sprawling. I rolled over on my back to watch.

You know in cartoons when, to denote a vicious fight all you can see is smoke and whirling limbs and stars and stuff? That's what it was like. The Fiends were snarling, Nostro was screaming, and we were all staring. Then the Fiends started making wet noises, Nostro was gurgling, and then the wet noises continued. But Nostro wasn't making any more noise.

So long, Noseo. You shouldn't have messed with me, and you sure as shit shouldn't have messed with my friends.

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Nobody said anything. Forty vampires were staring at me, and the triumph on Tina's face was almost too much to bear. Her face was like a beacon, beautiful and terrible at once. She didn't look like a preppy cheerleader just then, but like a warrior claiming victory. I turned to Sinclair, sure one of his coolly sarcastic remarks would break the tension, and then I screamed and scrambled to my feet.

Sinclair was horribly burned. Most of his left side was a blackened mess. All his hair was gone. His eyelids were gone. I could see the veins in the skin of his left arm as they tried to sluggishly move blood through his dead system.

Incredibly, he was smiling. His cracked lips pulled back and his teeth looked even whiter and longer against his burned flesh. "Victory."

I burst into tears. Sure, victory, but at what cost? And what happened next? He was burned because of me, he'd lost his home-and most of his flesh!--because of me. And instead of recovering or feeding to get better or staying the hell out of the fight, he'd come running to my rescue!

"Sinclair-Eric-what-"

"He needs to feed," Tina said as Sinclair put a hand out and steadied himself by clutching her arm. "From you. Your blood will heal him quicker than anything else."

"It's a queen thing?"

She nodded, but she wasn't looking at me. Her eyes were big and sad as she stared at Eric. "Water will help-it's-it takes too long to explain, but water facilitates the healing process. Then-"

"Right, right, you can explain later." I gingerly grabbed Eric's right hand and pulled him toward the pool. "Here, come here, Eric. It'll feel better...Christ, you must be in agony..."

"The lengths I must go to so you'll call me by my first name."

I made a sound, a cross between a laugh and a sob. "This is no time for your nasty sarcasm."

"Actually, I can't think of a better time for nasty sarcasm. You must tell me how you turned the Fiends' loyalty from Nostro. Such a thing has never been done before."

"You're always so nosy."

"You're always so intriguing."

I led him to the pool room. "Take a breath," I said, standing so close to the edge my toes dangled over the edge.

"Why?" Sinclair asked, reasonably enough. Then we plunged into the deep end.

I had time to think, oh, shit, the chlorine's going to sting him like hell, but from the look of relief on his face, that wasn't the case at all.

He pulled me to him gently and I went willingly enough. He was a blackened husk because of me; the least I could do was let him regain strength from my blood. I only hoped I had enough to do him any good. Was drinking from a vampire-from me?--so very different from drinking from someone who was still alive? Tina seemed to think so, and that was good enough for me.

I shivered as his teeth broke the flesh of my throat. I was losing my vamp virginity to Sinclair-although I'd taken my share of willing donors, I'd never been the donatee, so to speak. The water was deliciously cool as we floated near the bottom of the deep end. It was odd and delightful to be completely comfortable under water and not have to worry about coming up for air.

I had my hands on his shoulders and, while he drank from me, I could feel the skin on his back knitting together, re-forming from nothing, could feel him regaining strength and vitality. He stroked my back as he fed, which was lovely-soothing and sweet and comfortable. Being lunch felt as good as drinking lunch. This was the pleasure of being taken, of being held by a creature much larger and stronger, a creature who could break you if he chose. It was the pure pleasure of surrender.

Eric pulled back and smiled with a look of pure uncomplicated happiness. His face healed itself while I watched in shocked amazement. So fast, it was happening so fast! Then he was whole, perfect-a completely gorgeous male specimen. With really big canines. It had taken less than five minutes.

I laughed underwater and nearly choked. He pulled me to him again, not nearly so gently this time, and then his mouth was covering mine, his tongue was rubbing against mine, and his arms were around me, pressing me against him.

We kissed for an hour...or so it felt. He pulled me free of my rags and I helped him out of the burned tatters he'd barely been wearing. When I touched his throbbing, firm length I was glad I was floating and not standing-I doubt I'd have been able to keep my feet. He was huge and beautiful and I wanted every inch inside me. I was tired of fighting my attraction to him, tired of pretending I didn't feel it in my stomach every time he smiled. Love? I didn't know. I'd never known anyone like Eric Sinclair, who thought I was a hopeless twit but had fought for me, lost everything for me, and secured a throne for me.

His lips closed over one of my nipples and he suckled gently. Then his tongue rasped across the firm peak and I had to remind myself not to gasp under water. His hands were everywhere, kneading and stroking my back, my buttocks, my thighs. Then he released me and dove.

My back arched as I felt him part me with his thumbs, as I felt his tongue burrowing between the folds of my cunt. I stared blindly toward the pool's surface while his tongue stroked and teased and licked and stabbed, while his fingers restlessly kneaded my thighs.

I wrapped my legs around his head and seized a fistful of his hair, fairly grinding his face into my cunt. The sensations from his lips and tongue, coupled with the sensual feeling of the water caressing every inch of me, were putting me into ecstatic overdrive. I cupped my breasts and squeezed hard. I pinched and tugged at my nipples until they were swollen and throbbing.

Then I felt his fangs pierce one of my plump outer lips, felt him suck gently, drinking from the very center of me, and I spun away into orgasm. Spun? No, was shoved, was thrust into orgasm, and I screamed silently, eyes staring blindly at the surface.

He stopped drinking and his lips settled over my clit; his tongue gently stroked and soothed the small bud. Then he sucked, hard, and I writhed as another orgasm took me over.

He reached up, found my waist, and pulled me down to him, kissing me every inch of the way until his mouth was covering mine again.

she's so beautiful she feels so good ah I can't I can't hold back I have to have her have to be inside her oh Elizabeth my darling my own oh oh oh

I froze. I was hearing thoughts, but they sure weren't mine. And it wasn't like he was taking over my brain, it was more like I was...eavesdropping. Since when could I read his mind? Anyone's mind? Could he hear me?

Nothing; he kept kissing me and was now sucking my lower lip into his mouth. I reached for him, found his enormous length, and stroked gently.

He took his cock in hand and pressed forward, spreading my lips with his fingers. I looped my legs around his waist-we were now drifting upside down-and slowly impaled myself on his length. It was tight-it was unbelievably tight-and splendid and amazing and wonderful.

I felt his hand in my hair, forcing my head up, and he watched my face as he came into me, inch by inch by inch.

ah sweetheart as if I could

And still he came forward, kept pushing into me. He buried his face in my throat as he forced himself to enter with excruciating slowness, forced himself to hold back for fear of hurting me.

Which was all very nice, except I wanted to come again. Wanted to feel his cock all the way up inside me. Wanted to feel it in my throat, wanted to ride him until I was screaming and clawing, wanted to see his eyes roll up and feel him spasm against me. I wriggled closer and he shuddered; I bit him on the throat and he shoved, seating himself within me with one thrust.

It hurt. And it was glorious. Nice and tight. I squirmed against him, enjoying the sensation of being pinned, impaled. Fucked.

I locked my ankles behind his back, dug my nails into his shoulders, and shoved back at him. I bit him again, on the other side, and he writhed against me. We thrust against each other...

can't stop can't stop can't can't Elizabeth oh Elizabeth you feel alive to me you feel like no one else to me Elizabeth

...almost battling beneath the water, surging and thrusting and writhing against each other; his mouth found mine again and he kissed me so hard one of his canines pierced my lower lip.

I came so hard I saw spots, came so hard I could feel myself clenching around him...

ELIZABETH! ELIZABETH! ELIZABETH!

...felt him shudder as he found his own release. His grip tightened, his tongue thrust even deeper into my mouth, and then he was relaxing, relaxing and slipping out of me, smaller and softer, but still formidable.

I started to pull away, but he grabbed me back and held me for a long moment while we drifted toward the surface. I couldn't hear him in my head anymore, which made me sad.

Love? I had no idea. But it had sure been something.

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