Face to Face – 2/3 – Ladynero

Title: Face to Face
Author: Ladynero
Fandom: Vampire Hunter D, Castlevania (Netflix)
Genre: Action Adventure, BDSM, Het, Horror, Menage or more, Paranormal/Supernatural, Slash
Relationship(s): Meier Link/Charlotte Elbourne/Vampire Hunter D, Alan Elbourne/Ten Heart (OFC), Ten Heart (OFC)/Jack Heart(OMC)
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Incest, Major Character Death, Violence – Graphic, Negotiated non-con in a BDSM relationship, Murder, Blood play, Blood drinking
Author Notes: See notes tab on Summary Post for warnings related to specific chapters and other author notes.
Word Count: 81,930
Summary: A twist of fate, or perhaps an act of compassion, has the vampire Noble Meier Link and his human love, Charlotte Elbourne, whisked off to a new life where they will be free to love each other without fear or persecution. Yet family is not so easily denied, and Alan Elbourne wants to know the fate of his sister, unsatisfied with the story he was told. Falling in with the Royal Heart family, a group of con artists, thieves, and murderers, he hunts for Charlotte, determined to bring her home one way or another. Standing between the lovers and the crooks is the enigmatic Vampire Hunter known only as D, but it is not only bodies but hearts on the line when they all come face to face.
Artist: Izzy Hound



Chapter 7

 

It was the sounds of screams that woke Alan up, and he jumped to his feet, nearly tripping on the blanket that was still tangled up in his bed partner as he tried to get to the door to find out what the noise was about. He barely managed to remember to shrug into a dressing gown and belt it on awkwardly with one hand as he made his way to the source of the crying and loud voices raised in a panic.

“What’s going on?” he demanded, finding some of the servants clustered around a door that he realized leads to his father’s room. Missy the maid is bawling her eyes out as she clung to Franklin the butler. The cook and stablehand were also there, looking drawn and pale.

“It’s the master, young sir,” Franklin stated, nodding towards the open door. His voice was as grave as his face, and a cold chill ran down Alan’s spine. “He’s dead.”

“What? How?” That cold chill suddenly became a frozen lump in his stomach. He had only wanted to get the old man out of the way long enough to get Charlotte or even her body back, not kill him.

“The doctor will have to be sent for,” Alan stated, shaking his head as if trying to banish the idea that John’s death was his fault. “It’s possible that the shock of losing Charlotte was too much for him.”

He wanted to plant the idea that John either died of natural causes or by his own hand out of grief. All the better to keep everyone’s eyes off of him and his own position. From the understanding look on the cook and butler’s faces, it seemed to be working, and Alan sighed, scrubbing his good hand through his hair. “Leave the room as it is until after the doctor shows up. Meanwhile, I have a guest I need to get back to before she starts to wonder that I might have left her for good.”

The stablehand smirks at that, indicating he knows exactly what sort of guest Alan has, but Alan ignored him as he turned and walked back to his room, his guts churning in a mix of fear, anger, and guilt. He didn’t want to kill his father, just  inconvenience him in such a way that Alan could control the finances and get closure on Charlotte. Yet, somehow the old man had died, and Alan didn’t like the thought that there was blood on his hands due to a miscalculation.

“What’s all the noise about, lover?” asked the woman in a drowsy voice when he stumbled back into his room, feeling dazed and off balance. He blinked and focused on her, his eyes drifting over her lush figure which is not hidden by the sheets so much as it is emphasized by them. Her sleep tousled hair just makes her look even more attractive than when she had it mostly been tamed the night before.

“My father tragically passed in the night,” Alan stated, shaking his head as he started to get ready for the day. “The doctor’s been sent for, but I believe the thought of losing my sister was just too much for him.” The more he repeated the story, the more sure he was that was exactly what happened. If he was trying to delude himself or make the lie a reality, he honestly couldn’t say, but it didn’t matter. The main thing was John was dead and that meant everything belonged to Alan.

“What a shame. Your sister must have meant a great deal to him for her death to kill him as it did,” sighed the woman, one hand coming up to press against her chest in a gesture of sympathy and grief even though he had a feeling that it was completely feigned.

Alan inclined his head, accepting her words for what they were, and he managed to get his shirt on only to silently snarl at the buttons. It was difficult fastening them with one hand still in a cast, and he knew he still had several more weeks of being trapped in plaster until the bone had healed enough that he would be able to use it again. Unless he talked to the doctor about using a bone knitter which was an expensive procedure, but it would free Alan quicker than waiting for the bone to knit by themselves.

“Are you still going to Castle Chaythe to recover your sister’s body?”

He paused at that question as he frowned faintly. He really didn’t want to go to a vampire’s castle, no matter how much he loved his sister, but he had to ensure she wasn’t going to come after him with fangs. Of course, if she was free of a vampire’s bite, then he would drag her home and ensure she never left again.

“I have to, if only to settle the questions surrounding Charlotte’s apparent death,” he stated as he finished pulling his clothes on. Even though he was not sure exactly how he was going to accomplish that since most sane people stayed away from a Noble’s castle, not wanting to fall victim to the myriad of traps that were undoubtedly there or even the Noble themselves. “Now I just need to find people to help me.”

“My family and I can help with that.”

Alan blinked as he looked at the woman who had a hopeful look on her face as she stood up, the sheet that had been partially wrapped around her sliding away to reveal her naked body. She smiled and walked over to him, and Alan’s eyes were drawn to the sway of her hips and the slight bounce of her breasts. His cock hardened in his pants at the memory of sinking into her wonderfully tight body, and he curled his good arm around her waist once she was close enough, pulling her tight against him once more.

She grinned and lightly dragged a finger down his chest. “My little brother, Ace, can find anyone no matter where they are, and my father can follow that to their location,” she explained with a slight shrug that brought his attention fully to her breasts. “We travel around and help people.”

“And it was just a coincidence that you happened to find me last night?” Alan drawled, narrowing his eyes at her, a niggling of suspicion starting in the back of his head. It had been a bit of a coincidence that she happened to find him, and he brought her home before his father died, leaving him in charge of everything. He had already forgotten his part in helping John along to his death as he wondered just how much of a manipulation and con she had going on.

“Actually, it was a bit planned,” she admitted with a shrug. “We had heard about your sister and had come to offer our services only for you to receive news of her apparent death.” Another shrug as she slipped out of his embrace, moving over to pull on her clothes. “If you don’t want our help, that’s fine. I’ll just be on my way.”

“Wait.”

That single word stopped her, and he realized he was being very foolish. If she had mentioned her family’s occupation last night, then it would have been more reasonable to believe that she was trying to take advantage of his situation with his family. Instead, they hadn’t talked much about his family or even hers beyond the fact that Charlotte had been taken by a vampire as they had been occupied by other things. Now, he was being offered help that he would undoubtedly have to pay for, but she was willing, and if his sister was still alive, then her younger brother’s talent sounded as if it would come in handy.

Besides, Alan was reluctant to let her simply walk out the door, his heart aching at the thought that he might never see her again if he let her leave now.

“You wait here while I deal with the legalities, and then we’ll go talk to your family about hiring your brother at least to help me,” he murmured with a smirk before briefly kissing her lips again. He nodded his head towards a door in his room. “The bathroom is through there if you want to get cleaned up.”

She smirked and drew her fingers along his jaw, leaving tingling skin behind, before she turned to saunter into the bathroom. “Don’t keep me waiting too long, lover, or I might start without you.”

Shaking his head, Alan forced himself into some semblance of propriety before he left his bedroom, heading to his father’s study in an effort to get a better idea of the finances available to him now that John was dead. If he was going to hire his lover’s family, then he certainly needed to know how much he could spend on them.

It didn’t take him long to reach the room, and he settled behind the large desk, pulling over a leather chair to sit in while Alan started going through various papers and ledgers that were scattered across the desk. Everything seemed a bit overwhelming at first, the numbers wanted to dance before his eyes in a sort of mockery as if taunting him with the idea that he would never understand them. However, after a few minutes, he found himself understanding a lot more than he had, and the amount of money now at his disposal startled him into a stunned silence.

No wonder his father had not objected to the dhampir hunter’s demands if they were this rich. What that half-blood bastard of a Noble had demanded in exchange for Charlotte’s return was pocket change compared to the numbers Alan was staring at.

A frown crossed Alan’s face as a sliver of worry slipped through him. He would have to be careful and not reveal just how much money he actually had, or his lover’s family might decide to milk him for all of it before turning him out into the street to fend for himself. Or worse, simply killing him and burying his body somewhere in the Frontier. Alan briefly entertained the thought of hiring some bodyguards to accompany him on this excursion, but dismissed it. As long as no one but he knew how much wealth he actually had, then there was no danger accompanying his lover and her family to retrieve Charlotte’s body.

A knock on the door dragged him out of his thoughts, and he closed the ledgers as he called for the person to enter. The door opened to admit a small, elderly man with glasses so thick it was amazing he could actually see anything. The few wisps of gray hair sticking to his skull seemed to be in a permanent state of trying to escape from his scalp, and he had more wrinkles than smooth skin on his face, giving him a pruned appearance. Frankly, Alan thought he looked more like he should be in some Noble’s laboratory, cackling as some eldritch horror came to life instead of healing the sick, but Franklin Harris was the only doctor in town at the moment. There were rumors that he had a few apprentices to take over after he retired, but no one seemed to know who they were leading Alan to believe that was more wishful thinking than actual fact.

“Well, Doctor Harris? What’s the verdict?” asked Alan, gesturing for the elderly man to take a seat on the other side of the desk.

“From what little I was able to deduce, your father died of an overdose of his pain killer,” Harris stated, settling in a chair with a relieved sigh. He shook his head and ran a bony hand over the sparse hairs clinging to his scalp. “I had warned him about the danger of taking too much, but it looks as if he didn’t listen.”

“The news of my sister’s death hit us hard,” Alan stated, rubbing his good hand over his face in frustration and exhaustion, not having to fake the first. Why had Charlotte allowed herself to be seduced away by Meier Link instead of being a dutiful daughter and remaining with them? Then Alan wouldn’t be in this position of running after her to ensure she was dead. “She had been a pillar of support after my mother’s death, and then she was kidnapped by that vampire.”

Harris hummed, nodding his head in agreement. “Young Charlotte was quite the beauty. I could see why some Noble’s head was turned when it came to her,” he said before shrugging his shoulders, and Alan could almost hear his bones creaking from the action. “Well, unless something else turns up in the toxicology report, I’m listing his death as an accidental overdose due to grief.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I don’t need any more scandal for the moment,” sighted Alan, feeling relieved that his father’s death had truly been accidental. His hands were clean because John had simply taken too much of his medicine, leading to his own death.

“Anything else you need from me, young man?”

Alan nodded, rising to his feet as he gestured slightly with his injured arm. “I’m going to need this taken care of with a bone knitter,” he stated before shaking his head. “I have too much to do to let it heal naturally and lugging around a cast would only inconvenience me.”

“Would this have anything to do with the guest you happen to be entertaining at the moment?” inquired Harris, and there was a definite leer to his face as he stared at Alan.

Alan allowed his own smirk to take on a bit of an appreciation for his lover’s curves and delightful body. “Oh most definitely,” he replied with the sort of tone that was universal between men when they talked about their female conquests. “It is easier to seduce a woman when I don’t have to worry about an injured arm.”

Harris laughed, a dry creaking sound that made Alan think of dead trees in the wind, and slapped his leg. “Good on you, young man. Come down to the office, and I’ll get you set right up.”

“Let me escort you back to your office so you can fix this, and I’ll settle the bill right then,” Alan stated, slipping a book of promissory notes into his pocket as he rose to his feet. He was going to have the butler lock the study so no one could snoop among the papers while he was away. It shouldn’t take him long as Harris’ office was only a street away, but he wasn’t sure if he trusted all the servants at the moment. Not with this sort of wealth on the line.

It only took a few minutes to pass his orders along to the butler as well as put him in charge of dealing with the necessary details when it came to burying his father. The fact that Harris was willing to sign off right then and there on an accidental death helped calm a few of the more hysterical servants who were already wailing about being murdered in their beds. Alan had a feeling he was going to be looking at the current servants rather closely to see who would be continuing their employment with him once he returned from his task of retrieving Charlotte’s body. One way or another.

Within a quarter of the hour, Alan was back in his home, arm healed and John’s body removed to the local mortuary, leaving a melancholy feeling over the entire household. He sent the butler and housekeeper to keep control of the servants as he also arranged for a meal for both him and his guest before he settled in his late father’s study to finish going over the ledgers. He was going to have to carefully figure out how much money to offer his lover’s family for their help.

Alan shook his head as he realized he was really going to have to learn her name.  Especially if she continued to be so delightful in bed. Perhaps he might convince her to stick around as his wife even if they dragged Charlotte home. His sister could run the house and continue as she had while Alan and his lover dealt with all the other issues. Yes, that would teach Charlotte to leave him, and he would teach Charlotte how to please a man instead of whatever her vampiric lover had shown her. Of course, if Charlotte had been bitten after being whisked away, then Alan would ensure there was a stake through her heart and her head was removed before he cremated the corpse.

One could never be too careful when it comes to vampires after all.

“I was afraid you had abandoned me, lover,” purred the woman as Alan entered the dining room after being told lunch was served. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, causing her tight skirt to ride up and briefly distract Alan.

He managed to snap out of the brief fantasy of throwing her to the table and fucking her right there. He pulled a drawstring pouch out of his pocket and tossed it onto the table in front of her where it landed with a loud clink of coins. She blinked and focused on the bag, a curious expression on her face.

“Ten million dalas,” Alan announced as he settled at the head of the table, and he steepled his fingers before his face as he looked at her. “That is a down payment for your family’s help in retrieving Charlotte, one way or another.” He smirked slightly as her mouth dropped open. “That is what the vampire hunters were promised for the return of my sister, and they had a Noble to contend with. You merely have to retrieve her body if she is dead or her location if she still lives.”

There were very few times when Ten could claim that she was at a loss of words, and this was definitely one of them. Ten million dalas. Just casually tossed in front of her as if it were pocket change. Just how rich was Alan Elbourne now?

That thought seemed to snap her out of her stunned amazement, and she smirked at him, leaning back to lace her fingers over her abdomen. It was obvious that Alan had more money than the Royal Heart family had first thought, and that was going to most certainly work in their favor. He was still hung up on his sister, having even called Ten ‘Charlotte’ a few times last night when he had really been enthusiastic, and she was already figuring out how to milk him for every dala he had.

Alan had stated that this was a down payment, which meant he had a larger amount in mind for their final total. The fact that he had also pointed out that the hunters he had originally hired had been offered the same amount was a challenge, pure and simple. Was her family good enough to get his sister when there was no vampire involved? Or were they going to offer up excuses and turn away from the exuberant amount of money that was being dangled before them for what appeared to be a simple job?

“As there are no vampires on this job, I believe your terms are acceptable,” she purred, reaching forward to hook a finger in the drawstring of the pouch, pulling the heavy coins off the table and into her lap. “Are you going to come along or trust us at our word that the job will be completed to your satisfaction?”

This time, it was her turn to toss a challenge at him. After all, he had trusted the vampire hunters to retrieve his sister and all the one had brought back had been a ring and a story. If she had a choice, Ten would prefer it if Alan came with them as it would be so much easier to drain him dry before casually disposing of him somewhere.

“I’m not going to remain behind this time,” Alan stated in a firm voice as if daring her to argue with his decision, but Ten simply smirked at him, enjoying the heat that appeared in his eyes when his gaze traveled down her body. “Before, I was injured, but I do not have that excuse keeping me here. I’m going with you, and that is not up for negotiations.”

She laughed, knowing how that action made her breasts bounce in her dress and drew his eye back to them. “I have no problem with that at all, lover,” she stated, sitting up only when food was brought out to them. “We might even find ourselves sharing a bed because there are limited quarters on our transport.”

His answering smile was all lustful leer before he turned his attention to his food. When she turned her own attention to the plate before her, she had to blink a bit as the food was some of the finest she had seen in her twenty years of life, and when she took her first bite, she was sure she had never tasted anything more delicious before. If this was what it was like to be rich, she was more than willing to keep twisting Alan around her little finger as long as she was fed like this.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Alan was easy on the eyes, and aside from his annoying habit of calling his sister’s name out in bed, he was one of the more skillful lovers Ten had entertained. She would have to talk to her parents, but she might be able to turn this into a very long term con. One that lasted until his money ran out, but depending on what he was doing to make this sort of money, it might last until she either got tired of him or he died. That could be quite a lucrative arrangement for her family. She was going to have to speak to her parents before broaching such an idea to Alan and letting him think it was all his plan.

The weight of ten million dalas in Ten’s lap had her dreaming of fine dresses and glittering jewels all through lunch.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Ace was sitting on top of the transport, the hatch next to him open to allow a quick escape into the armored vehicle as well as the ability to slam it in Jack’s face if the bastard came growling at him. He had snagged a kitchen knife and created a make-shift sheath for it before he tucked into the front of his pants where he could easily grab it. While not the best of defenses, it would work in a pinch until he managed to get a decent knife from somewhere. In his lap was his book, and he was casually scribbling in the margins as he read, just whatever random thought that crossed his mind that might help him later.

“Darlings! I’m home!”

Jerking out of his thoughts, Ace stuck his head into the hatch to find Ten standing there next to Alan Elbourne, and he realized the young man had a proprietary arm around her waist. Great. It looked like Ten’s catch was highly infatuated with her, and with the way she was glancing at Elbourne and giggling, she was just as infatuated with him. Shaking his head, Ace closed his book and slipped through the hatch, closing it behind him before carefully climbing down, using various surfaces as a ladder. He glanced at Ten and Elbourne before curling up in the window seat, the most defensible spot in the room, as he watched them with a bored expression as he waited for the rest of the family to show up. It was obvious Ten had snagged Elbourne by the short curlies, but why was he here? And what was the story that Ten had spun out this time?

Ten pushed Elbourne into a seat before sliding into his lap, crossing her legs, and Ace watched as Elbourn put a hand on her upper thigh even as his eyes were fixed on her low cut neckline. Ten seemed oblivious to his attention as she fondled a bag in her hands that clinked, and Ace wondered how much money she was holding. The Elbournes were loaded after all which was why the family wanted to target them, and depending on the coin used, there could be a few dalas to thousands in there.

“Welcome home, sweetie.” Queen’s voice drifted through the air, heralding her arrival, and Ace watched as King and Queen gracefully sank into chairs across from Ten and Elbourne while Jack leaned up against the wall behind their parents, glaring in a fit of temper. Ace curled a bit tighter, shifting to get his feet under him in case he needed to defend himself against his brother. Even if Jack didn’t go for him, there was always the chance that someone else might go for him.

“This is Alan Elbourne, and he wants to hire us to locate his sister’s body,” Ten announced, and Ace felt a tingle of something slide down his spine. Was it fear or anticipation? He honestly couldn’t say, but they knew the sister had either been abducted or ran away with a vampire. “He is offering a down payment of ten million dalas. The same amount offered the vampire hunters, but we won’t have to deal with any bloodsuckers.”

Ace was pretty sure he heard King and Queen blink even as he felt like he had been hit upside the head with that little announcement. While they were used to conning large amounts of money from their victims, never had they come close to one million dalas let alone ten! Taking a few deep breaths to get his brain working again, Ace knew there had to be trouble with that much money on the table.

“What’s the catch?” he asked, drawing everyone’s attention even as he stared at Elbourne, He jerked his chin at the bag in Ten’s hands. “For that much money, you could hire professionals to take you anywhere you want.”

“Yet the last time I hired so-called professionals, all I got back was my sister’s ring and the story that she died at Castle Chaythe after the vampires there killed each other,” Elbourne drawled, and Ace hissed in shock at that name even as the man continued, either not noticing the reaction or not caring. “Ten stated that you are trackers, able to find things and people lost. That is what I need now, not hunters with more guns than brains who sell me stories and take my money.” He smirked. “Which is why I will be going with you.”

“Your safety would not be guaranteed with us,” King remarked, and Ace glanced over to find a thoughtful frown on his father’s face. Yet the light of greed still shone in his eyes, and Ace had a feeling that they were going to be heading to the vampire’s castle after getting more money out of Elbourne. “Plus just getting to Castle Chaythe is not an easy nor short trip considering we would have to go around the Barbaroi Village and the Shahagin Desert.”

“The Barbaroi Village I can understand, but why the Shahagin Desert?” asked Elbourne with a frown and a suspicious look in his eyes.

“There is a large pod of sand mantas in the area, and we would have to swing north by a day or two to avoid their current hunting area,” explained Queen with a small smile before she pulled out a pouch and tossed it to Ace who managed to catch it with a huff. “Go and get enough supplies for the trip.”

Rolling his eyes, Ace stood up and snagged the pouch from Ten’s fingers before digging out a few more dalas. “No sense in spending all of our money when he’s willing to finance the trip,” he countered, tossing the bag to Queen. “I’ll be back.”

Before anyone could say anything, he went outside and pulled the scout bike out from under the transport. He didn’t know how many chances they were going to get to purchase any supplies on the trip, but he knew his parents would drag it out as long as possible to get as much money out of Elbourne as they could.

The bike was small and made of lightweight material, and it was solar powered with a backup battery. The engine was silent, perfect for investigating a route that had a possibility of being full of monsters. It was also quick, sturdy, and could carry up to half a ton before it started to suffer under the weight. The downside to it was that it couldn’t travel at high speeds for a long time without the motor suffering from the stress.

Throwing a leg over the seat, Ace got comfortable before pulling a set of goggles out of a small storage compartment, and he slid them on, taking his time to enjoy this small bit of freedom. He knew he couldn’t linger long, but for now, he didn’t have his family breathing down his neck. Starting the engine with a push of a button, he grinned at the faint vibrations that meant it was running fine before he took off for a nearby general store. If he was really fortunate, he might be able to get a utility knife that would be much better than his current pilfered kitchen knife.

A few hours later, Ace stopped the scout bike next to the battered looking transport tucked into a grove of trees. It was patched and rusted in places, but Ace knew there were no holes beneath those carefully placed sheets of metal while the rust was skillful painting. All part of the illusion that they were nothing more than drifters and no threat to anyone.

Ace unpacked the bike, placing the large boxes of supplies inside the transport’s door before tucking the bike back into storage until the next time it was needed. By the time he got into the transport itself, Ten was already putting things away, but she stopped to glare at him.

“What did you do to Jack while I was snagging Elbourne?” she hissed, and Ace could swear her hair was getting more curly and poofy as he watched. Like a cat’s tail as it expressed its displeasure. “He’s been snarling and growling at me since Elbourne left to get clothes!”

Ace shrugged a shoulder as he started unpacking the rest of the boxes. “He wanted to know where you were last night. I said you probably had your target twisted around your tits, and he threatened to maim me,” he drawled, shaking his head as he broke the boxes down for later. He also managed to slip the kitchen knife back into the drawer it had come from, content with the utility knife he had managed to bargain away from the store owner who had taken pity on the “innocent” teen heading out to make a life away from his family. “Not like it wasn’t the truth cause that’s what you do.”

Ten still frowned at him, but her hair seemed to be calming down at least. Ace had to wonder if she managed to get all the even temperament out of the twins because she was less likely to jump feet first into a snarling rage. Ace shook that thought off as he put the rest of the supplies away, tucking the boxes into a small cupboard to be used later.

“Fine, but why were you protesting earlier?” asked Ten, folding her arms under her breasts. “Ten million dalas!”

“And how much more does he have in his pocket to casually toss that sort of money about?” countered Ace, a small smirk on his face even as he gestured towards the world outside of the transport as if money was the only thing on his mind. “I just opened up the possibility of our parents milking him for more considering you said that was a down payment. Just how golden is your goose?”

“Ace raises a very important question,” remarked King, walking into the little galley with Queen beside him. “However, we will need to present a unified front before our guest so all arguments and minor disagreements shall be behind closed doors or when he is asleep.”

Standard practice for them to be honest, not that Ace truly disagreed with any of them in public unless it was part of the con. Unlike Jack who didn’t seem to care about a unified front at all.

“Ten, you will keep our guest’s attention on you and the goal of locating his sister as we slowly build up expenses to see how deep his pockets truly are,” King continued, and Ten nodded her understanding of the order. Ace briefly wondered what sort of expenses King was going to come up with before he dismissed that thought. Unless it endangered his health or offered him a chance at freedom, it wasn’t his concern.

“That shouldn’t be a problem as he called me by his sister’s name last night more than once,” Ten stated before grinning. “I figure I have a dress or two that looks close to what she wore in the various pictures I saw. That should keep his attention.”

King nodded before focusing on Ace. “To minimize Jack’s temper, I want you to be visible as little as possible until he cools down from whatever issue he seems to have.”

Which meant Ace could easily spend all his time in his room, planning, and no one would wonder why. Ace felt like someone was looking out for him, and if he was truly lucky, he might be able to escape at castle Chaythe. This trip was going to be dangerous, there was no doubting that, but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t a grave. Or at least not his grave.

“I’ll only show up at meals unless you need me for some reason,” Ace promised, slipping past them and headed for the sanctuary of his room.

He had planning to get back to.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

The early evening sun spilled harmlessly into the bedroom, warming Mayerling as much as the soft body partially sprawled across his chest. Logically, he knew the Sacred Ancestor would not let any of his subjects come to harm, even from the sun, but he still flinched when he walked into a puddle of sunlight, the memories of when he deliberately walked into those deadly rays to save Charlotte so very fresh in his mind even though the injuries themselves had healed before the moon was high in the sky.

Charlotte shifted slightly in her sleep, mumbling nonsense as she rubbed her cheek against his chest, and he smiled at her, stroking her hair to soothe her back into a deeper slumber. He wished he could join her for a few more minutes, but his thoughts were far too busy to allow him further rest. This was not the first time in the last week he had found himself dwelling on the events of the gathering they had been invited to attend as well as the conversation between himself and the inebriated dhampir prince.

Mayerling had not known a simple touch could have cascaded so badly out of control, but he should have suspected that the young prince would be on edge despite how relaxed he appeared, slumbering with his head in Charlotte’s lap. Yasha had twitched a few times, making the Noble wonder what he was dreaming of when the prince had turned on his side, the graceful action seeming to emphasize his vampiric heritage before the soft growling began. Mayerling was sure Charlotte with her human hearing was ignorant of such a sound as it was in the range often used by vampires when hunting together.  A bit concerned about the prince, Mayerling had reached out to run a soothing hand down Yasha’s back, only for wings to explode out of the prince’s back and wrap around him in a protective cocoon. Charlotte had let out a startled scream when one of the thumb claws had briefly snagged her dress, but she otherwise had remained calm and rational even as Mayerling was frozen, all too aware of the powerful vampires around him. He had been very sure that they were going to attack first and figure out what he had done later, when there had been the faintest of whispers as the Sacred Ancestor had appeared next to the dias.

The Noble wasn’t sure what to make of the Servant being woken to snap Yasha out of what appeared to be a waking nightmare, especially when he and Charlotte were referred to as “sugar daddy” and “sugartits” respectively. The Servant had been quite free with its half of the conversation, and Mayerling desperately hoped to know Yasha’s half although he could speculate just on what the Servant said. Of course, the biggest insight into the prince’s mindset had come when Mayerling had carried him back to his room. The realization that Yasha expected Mayerling to demand something in exchange for a bit of kindness was heartbreaking, even more with the fact that he believed he didn’t get a normal life because he was a dhampir.

Since then, the three of them had been together all week with Yasha teaching them the laws of the land and the rules of the castle. While the prince had been cool towards them and very professional in his manners, Mayerling felt as if he was attempting to put a wall between them to protect himself. The pale Noble wanted to see Yasha’s face light up with laughter and happiness, to have those walls come crumbling down, and the darkness face from those pale eyes. Mayerling could understand how Yasha’s position as Prince of the Vampires would make the less than scrupulous seek him out for favors in exchange for other things, but basic kindness should never have a demand attached to it.

“You’re thinking too hard again.”

Charlotte’s sleep filled voice snapped him out of his thought, and Mayerling looked down as she shifted to lean on his chest, smiling at him. He found himself grinning in response as he stroked a hand down her bare back, and she hummed in delight, comfortable in her nudity that she had not been only a few weeks ago. She had also grown more confident in her own abilities and intelligence, something he was sure had been trampled by her family in an attempt at keeping her under their control.

“I did not mean to wake you, my love,” Mayerling said, resting his hand on her hip as he stared up at her.

She shrugged her shoulder. “It’s about time for us to get up anyway,” she said before frowning at him, worry clear on her face. “What are you concerned about? Or are you still trying to figure out if Chō is going to spring another surprise interrogation on us?”

A chuckle slipped out of Mayerling at the memory of Princess Chō questioning both of them when he had rejoined the generals. It had been quite thorough including what their intentions towards Yasha were as well as any possible romantic interests they might have. The pale Noble had been startled at first to be under such scrutiny, especially in front of the second most powerful vampires in the land, but it had also forced him to seriously consider his feelings and thoughts towards Yasha.

“I can understand why she did such a thing on Yasha’s behalf,” he remarked, and she nodded in agreement. He had told her of the exchange between himself and Yasha, and she had been outraged on the prince’s behalf. It had made the interrogation that more acceptable as far as they were both concerned. “But the prince has been almost cold and distant no matter how much I try to coax him out from behind the walls he has erected around himself.”

Humming thoughtfully, Charlotte drew abstract patterns on his chest with a sharp nail, and he shivered in delight at the possibility of violence in that slight gesture. They had spoken at great lengths about what they both wanted and needed to be satisfied with their intimacy, and he had been quite blunt when it came to a vampire’s instincts in pleasure. She had been startled and rather concerned when he had driven his fangs into his own arm during their first time together. It was an instinctual need to mark and share blood between lovers, and as much as he wanted to share that with her, he didn’t want to take her humanity away.

“Is it possible to slowly work on him? To show him we’re not going to betray him as those in his past have done?” Charlotte asked, looking down at him as her amber eyes glowed with the possibility of a problem to solve. Mayerling hated to disappoint her, but he was aware of the time limit that had been set for the prince to remain in his father’s lands.

“He leaves again in two weeks for the Frontier,” he confessed, shaking his head. “And with his role as the infamous vampire hunter, I do not know now when he might return.”

And that was certainly a frustrating point. How could they enjoy a relationship with someone that was always away and had no set schedule to visit?

He yelped as she pinched him, just hard enough to get his attention, and he looked at her to find a slightly annoyed look on her face. “When we were first meeting, we never knew when we could get together,” Charlotte pointed out, her voice hard and unwavering. “How would this be any different? Save for the fact that we’ll have each other while he’ll be out there alone.”

Shaking her head, Charlotte slipped out of bed and pulled on her dressing gown as she moved to her vanity. Unwilling to remain where he was in the lonely bed, Mayerling rose to his feet and followed her. “Men, I swear,” she huffed, lifting her eyes to meet where his would be if he had a reflection as he stopped behind her. “Have you even asked him if he wishes to be in a relationship with us? Or just assumed he would be delighted to be our lover as you are a Noble?”

“I have not had the chance to speak with him about a possible relationship between the three of us,” confessed Mayerling, taking the hairbrush from her and starting to work out the tangles in her hair. She loved it when he brushed her hair, and he loved the fact he could indulge in this simple task.

“Mayerling!” she cried, throwing her hands up in a rather dramatic way, but for some reason, he found it adorable. She glared at the mirror and leveled a finger at the glass. “I will be fixing this tragedy today. Get dressed to have tea with royalty because that is what we are going to do. I’m going to invite the Prince of the Vampires to have tea with us and have a very frank and honest discussion about our feelings and hopes for each other as well as see if he’s even interested in a possible relationship with us.”

Sighing in defeat, Mayerling rested his hands on her bare shoulders before bending down to place a kiss on the top of her head. “You are right, my heart,” he murmured, feeling blessed once again at the knowledge that Charlotte was wise beyond her years and also completely his by choice. “I attempt to break bad habits and then charge right back into the mentality of thinking that he should feel honored to have any attention I give him due to the status of our births.”

“Which is why I’m here to yank you back out when you start sliding, Mayerling,” Charlotte remarked with a smug smile as she stood up and moved over to her closet. “Of course, if it starts getting too bad, I may have to pull out a leash and collar for you.”

“At least you know I’m house trained,” huffed Mayerling as lust flashed through him at the thought of kneeling before a seated Charlotte, a leash running from her hand to a collar around his throat. Or perhaps he would stand behind her, the Enforcer of her wishes, as Yasha knelt before them in only his hair and a collar. Did the prince indulge in their darker nature? Or did he completely ignore the darkness that flowed in him from his vampiric half to fully embrace his human?

The pale Noble had to admit to himself that one of the fantasies he had enjoyed this past week was Yasha strung up and willingly helpless as Mayerling blended pain and pleasure on his skin for their mutual enjoyment while Charlotte watched. Or perhaps joined in under his careful guidance. She had expressed an interest in such things when they had discussed their sexual needs, but he had not started introducing her to those appetites yet.

His closet yielded an outfit of sapphire blue velvet trimmed in silver, and he snagged a matching ribbon to tie his hair back. It only took him a few minutes to get fully dressed, and he turned his attention to assisting Charlotte with her clothes which he had learned were much more complex than his own outfits. Charlotte had chosen a dress of forest green velvet trimmed in gold that she placed on the bed while she fussed with her underclothes. He smirked as he watched her slide on thigh high stockings to fasten them to the garter belt wrapped around her hips, the pale fabric making her legs look even longer. Simple shoes were stepped into before a chemise was dropped over her head, the undergarment a simple barrier for the corset she had discovered she enjoyed wearing now that they were properly fitted to her.

“Shall I lace you up, my lady?” he asked when she reached for the matching green and gold brocade corset. He knew she could easily tighten her laces, but he enjoyed helping her when he could.

“That would be delightful, Mayerling,” Charlotte stated, wrapping the corset around her before offering her back. “Thank you.”

He gently tugged the laces tight enough to be snug, enjoying the way the brocade was warming up under his fingers from her body, and he dropped a kiss on her exposed neck as he tied them in a bow. “There, my lady,” he purred, sliding his hands around her slender waist and feeling the boning beneath the cloth. “All ready for your dress.”

She shivered under his lips, but there was no scent of fear from her skin, something he loved about her. Far too many humans would flinch or move away should his lips come close to their throat, but she encouraged him, never ignoring nor denying what he was. Oh, he was so very tempted at times to sink his fangs into that lovely skin and drink his fill of her blood which he was sure was so very sweet, but to do so would be to change her forever, removing the sun and warmth from her life and replacing it with the cold darkness of night.

“You’re brooding again.”

Mayerling huffed and shook his head as Charlotte tapped his cheek, bringing him out of his thoughts before she moved into their sitting room. He drifted along behind her, unable to stop the slight flinch when he passed too close to the sunbeam, but he settled to lean against the wall as she sat at her desk, pulling out a sheet of paper and her pen and ink set.

“I try to not dwell on what cannot be, but there are times when you tempt me nearly beyond my control,” he admitted, shaking his head as he watched her pen glide over the creamy surface of the paper. Her writing was elegant and a work of art in his opinion. “I cannot count the number of times I have been tempted to simply taste what I shouldn’t, not when it means you will lose the warmth of the day.”

“And I have told you that I do not mind at all,” she replied in a matter of fact voice as she signed her name to the bottom of the letter before folding it and writing the prince’s name on the outside. “However, that is an argument for another time. Now is about Prince Yasha and if he even wants to be with us or if we’re simply acquaintances moving towards friends.”

Standing up after putting her pen and ink away, Charlotte tapped a firm finger in the middle of Mayerling’s chest, a determined expression on her face. “You will speak about your feelings for him as well as why you wish him to be a part of our relationship even knowing that he will be gone for long lengths of time,” she stated. “If I do all the talking, then it will seem as if I am the only one who fancies him, but if you do all the talking, then he will think you only want him because of what you cannot have with me.”

“I may be silent at times, but it will not be because I wish for you to speak for both of us,” Mayerling stated, turning that over in his mind. It was true, blast it! If he let her do all the talking, it was highly likely that the prince would think he was indulging Charlotte by inviting Yasha into their relationship, but he was rather unsure if he should speak up, risking the chance old prejudices might spill out of him.

Charlotte patted his arm as she passed him, heading for the door of their rooms to hand off the letter apparently. “You will be fine if you think before you speak, my love,” she remarked with a small smile. “Unless you enjoy the taste of your boot leather.”

“I have a feeling you would make me sleep on the couch for a month if I were to start chewing on my boots in the manner you are suggesting,” Mayerling drawled, watching as she interacted with what looked like a passing maid for a few minutes. He folded his arms as he waited, wondering if they were going to have breakfast in their rooms or if they would be joining the rest of the inhabitants at the dining room table. Mayerling and Charlotte normally enjoyed breakfast with the generals and Royal family, but there had been a few days when they wished to have a lazy morning and ate in their rooms.

“Oh not nearly a month because you are quite comfortable to sleep on,” replied Charlotte with an airy wave of her hand before moving around the room and straightening up a few things that were not exactly messy but left unorganized. Neither of them were sloppy by any stretch of the imagination, but apparently she felt the need to straighten even that little bit of a mess for the arrival of Prince Yasha. Mayerling himself was unsure what to do and decided that the best thing would be to simply stay out of her way until everything was to her satisfaction.

Just as she was finishing up, there was a brisk knock on the door, and Charlotte called for the person to enter as Mayerling straightened, his arms falling to his sides. The door swung open and Mayerling’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of Yasha. Apparently he had decided to dress for his station today as his clothes were much more elegant than they had been in the past week or even when he had been enjoying his time with the generals.

Black boots rose up to above the prince’s knees, a swirling design tooled into the leather, while black leather pants were practically moulded to his legs and hips. A vest made of the same leather as his boots was fastened over a white shirt whose billowing sleeves fell over his hands, making them appear that much more delicate somehow, and a steel gray scarf was tied around his throat like a cravat to tumble down his chest. Aside from that scarf, the only other color on him was the blood red lining of his black cape, and it took Mayerling a few seconds to realize that the prince was wearing a fingerless glove made of black silk on his left hand. An odd choice with the outfit, but he had a feeling it had something to do with the Servant. Had the prince been wearing that all week and Mayerling had not noticed it? That was likely with how twisted up in his own mind the pale Noble was.

Charlotte sank into a deep curtsy, and Mayerling found himself bowing just as deeply to Yasha. “Thank you for joining us today, Your Highness,” Charlotte began before rising. “I hope I am not overstepping myself by inviting you to spend the day as a companion of ours instead of a teacher as there is much we wish to discuss with you.”

A servant bustled in behind the prince with a cart and started putting various dishes on the small table that was set up away from the window before vanishing again with quiet efficiency, closing the door behind her. Charlotte smiled and gestured towards the table. “Will you join us for breakfast, sire?”

A strange look crossed Yasha’s pale eyes before he inclined his head and moved over to the table. Charlotte held out her hand and Mayerling automatically took it, escorting her and holding her chair out before he joined the two for breakfast. There was silence for a few minutes as everyone filled up their plates and started eating, and Mayerling tried to not fidget in the quiet, knowing that the conversation to come was not the most comfortable for him but needed to try and progress further in a relationship with the prince.

“Why have you invited me to spend the day talking with you?” Yasha asked after several minutes of silence, and Mayerling settled back in his chair with a cup of tea as he tried to seem unconcerned. “We normally spend the entire day together as I teach you about the castle and its politics.”

“Perhaps, but there has been very little time during those lessons to talk about personal relationships,” Charlotte remarked, and Mayerling had to admit that she was certainly blooming into a politically savvy young lady under Chō’s guidance. “As much as I enjoy learning about our new home, I would like to speak of the relationship between the three of us and how it could grow beyond the simple and tentative friendship it is now.”

Yasha frowned, just the faintest downward twitch of his lips, as he sat back in his chair and crossed his legs. “What makes you believe I would want anything beyond what we currently share?”

“Nothing except ignorance of your feelings,” countered Charlotte, pouring herself another cup of tea before settling back in her own seat. “I asked Princess Chō if you were in a relationship after she interrogated both of us about our feelings and intentions towards you, and she told us that you were not in a relationship by your own choice.”

“She asked because we are interested in seeing if you wish to join our relationship,” Mayerling spoke up, seeing a good place to inject his own feelings  as well as support Charlotte as she insisted. “I confess I was attracted to you when you were hunting us, but that wasn’t a time to speak of such things. Especially as Charlotte and I had to solidify our relationship first.”

A strange look passed over Yasha’s face, and Mayerling was almost willing to label it a mix of sadness and longing. “I do not want to be some toy for your bed to make things more interesting between you two…”

“And we’re not asking you to be that, my prince,” Mayerling interrupted, getting a startled look for his bad manners. He didn’t want Yasha to get that thought firmly in his head, that they only wanted him as a toy or a bit of excitement in their relationship, and the sooner the pale Noble cut out that issue, the smoother the conversation would go. He took a breath and licked his lips, trying to settle his nerves as he attempted to help Charlotte with this conversation. “We are not looking for a toy or something different to make our relationship more fun. You would be a part of our relationship even when you are beyond the borders of the kingdom as the Vampire Hunter D.”

“I cannot remain here as you have said,” Yasha stated, putting his tea cup on the table and folding his hands in his lap, and he ducked his head again, reminding Mayerling of the traveler’s hat the prince wore as the hunter. Obviously he was used to hiding his expression behind the wide brim and fell back on the action when nervous. “And many would not wish to have such a relationship when they do not know when their partner might return.”

Charlotte hummed, tilting her head as she looked at him. “However, knowing you have someone waiting at home for you would help ease the loneliness at times, would it not?” she countered before smiling at Yasha. “Plus there is the princess’ network. Messages can be passed both ways between us, and depending on how agreeable His Majesty is, we might be able to sneak out and meet up with you at a safe house.”

Now the look Yasha turned on Charlotte was one of startled amazement, and Mayerling had to admit that he had never thought of using their new resources that way. Since Chō collected information to help Yasha with his job, it made sense she would have a way to pass that along to him when he was beyond the borders of the kingdom, and he did not doubt that the Sacred Ancestor had some way of quickly getting to his son should Yasha require the assistance.

It was so simple of an answer that Mayerling completely overlooked it.

“Do you wish to join our relationship as our third, Yasha? Our equal in love and friendship?” Charlotte asked, her voice gentle as she looked at him. “We ask nothing more than you are willing to give and offer the same in return. If you wish nothing more than friendship, that is fine, but if you wish to join our bed, know you are quite welcome.”

Mayerling was holding his breath, not wanting to break this mood that Charlotte had created with her words, too afraid that Yasha might bolt if he so much as twitched wrong. Considering how motionless the prince was as he sat there, Mayerling may not be far off the mark. Charlotte on the other hand, calmly fixed herself another cup of tea and waited for the answer to her question.

Almost as if he was moving through a viscous liquid, Yasha slowly sat forward after several minutes of silence passed, and some sort of tension slid out of the prince’s shoulders as he reached for his tea cup again. “I think… I would like to try,” confessed Yasha, the words slow to emerge as if each one had to be weighed for how they would be taken. Mayerling’s held breath escaped in a relieved sigh as he felt like he had no strength in him at the moment from the sudden lack of tension. “I am not quite sure how to start a relationship like this however.”

Giggling, Charlotte uncovered a plate of pastries and set them in the middle of the table for all of them to reach. Where she had been hiding those, Mayerling honestly couldn’t say as he thought all of the dishes had been placed on the table by the servants. “We talk about what we want and need out of a relationship, and we see where any compromise is needed,” she stated with a slight shrug before gesturing to Mayerling as she snagged a pastry from the plate. “It is how Mayerling and I have managed to avoid a few stumbling blocks. Even if he still refuses to bite me.”

“Why is that?” asked Yasha, turning his attention towards Mayerling, and the Noble found himself captivated by those pale eyes again.

“You as well as I know what a vampire’s bite does to a human, my prince,” Mayerling pointed out, accepting the offered pastry from Charlotte. “She is beautiful and warm, and I do not wish to take the sun from her, not even as a victim.”

A small laugh slipped out of Yasha, just a sight huff of amusement. “Did neither of you ask Dr. Liao about the full aspect of the Methuselah treatment and what it would do for Charlotte?”

“You mean it does something other than give her a longer life and make her more sturdy?” asked Mayerling even as he wracked his brain on what the prince might be alluding to but was coming up blank. They had not thought that it would do anything beyond what they had been told about it, and he certainly had not questioned the process that gave him Charlotte for the rest of his life instead of hers.

Shaking his head, Yasha reached for the insulated bottle that had been left alone until now, and he poured out two goblets of blood, handing one to Mayerling before capping the bottle. Mayerling inclined his head in thanks for the serving of blood as he accepted the goblet, and he sipped it, savoring the taste and heat that slowly spread through his body. It was always wonderful to feel that heat, as if he was coming alive after being cold for so long, and he could easily understand how some vampires grew addicted to such a sensation to the point of not caring about their victims. Such activities earned them the attention of famous vampire hunters, and Mayerling was very glad his family had always been on more friendly terms with the humans they watched over.

“The Methuselah Treatment does give you an extended lifespan as well as make you stronger and more hardy than an average human,” Yasha began, picking up his own goblet and cradling it between his fingers as he sat back in his chair.”However, Mother was not ignorant to Father’s nature, and like Charlotte, she refused to pretend it didn’t exist. She did not wish for him to fight his instincts when they were together in bed, and that was one of the issues that took so long in developing the treatment.”

Mayerling’s hand trembled as he began to realize what the prince was leading up to. Was it really that simple? Would he be able to give her the one thing he had denied her – and himself – for so long with no danger to her?

There was a satisfied smirk as Yasha drained his goblet and placed it on the table, and he sighed, briefly closing his eyes as a slight flush stained his cheeks. His lips were parted enough to reveal that his fangs were longer, obviously in response to the blood, and Mayerling licked his own fangs as he was briefly distracted with thoughts of what it would be like to feel those fangs in his own skin while his were buried in another. He shook his head and dismissed those thoughts for now.

“So it would be safe for me to be bitten by Mayerling or even yourself?” inquired Charlotte, a faint thread of delight in her words. “I would not become a victim or even a vampire at a later time?”

“You are immune from the enzyme in a vampire’s venom that is not only an anticoagulant but also spreads the virus that makes someone a vampire,” Yasha explained as he opened eyes that glowed with a red light, and Mayerling stared at him a bit in confusion before everything caught up with him.

Charlotte could not become a vampire no matter how many times she was bitten by him. She would remain as she was now, human and perfect in his eyes.

“What do you mean? What venom?” asked Charlotte, a confused expression on her face as she sat forward, excited about the prospect of new information, and Mayerling’s heart thumped almost painfully in his chest at the sight. She was gorgeous when she was learning something new.

There was a hesitant look on Yasha’s face before he glanced at Mayerling, confusion in his own eyes. “Haven’t you talked to her about this?” he asked, and Mayerling shook his head, unable to speak at the moment at the delight of her being immune to his bite. The prince sighed and stood up, gesturing for him to follow him, and Mayerling automatically held out a hand to help Charlotte who was nearly bouncing as they stood. “Let’s settle somewhere more comfortable and talk about biology.”

Smoothing her skirt out as she sat down, Charlotte smiled at Yasha as she settled on the couch in the sitting room, and Mayerling sat next to her. Yasha instead sprawled in a chair across from them both and rested his ankle on his knee as he steepled his fingers in front of his face. He was frowning, but it appeared to be in thought as if he was doing his best to organize his thoughts. Mayerling had to admit that he was looking forward to hearing what Yasha had to say, because while he had a basic idea of how his physiology worked, hearing it from another who had invested so many years in learning about how a body worked if only to combat whatever might be thrown at him was bound to be fascinating.

“For the most part, there is no difference between humans and vampires when it comes to biology,” began Yasha, dropping his hands into his lap as he looked at them, and Mayerling inclined his head, knowing that much at least. “However, on a biochemical level, there is a lot more to vampires than there is to humans. Strength, longevity, hardiness, and mental abilities are the more known gifts that every vampire has. Fangs and claws I would put in the hardiness category as they allow us to both defend ourselves as well as provide access to the blood our bodies require to survive as we do not produce red blood cells.”

Mayerling wondered if the prince realized he was referring to himself as a vampire, but he held his tongue, remembering how he had taunted the dhampir hunter about “their” nature. He did not wish to bring such memories back to the prince, not when Yasha was sharing his knowledge with them.

“As we require blood to survive and replenish our bodies, we have developed a way to take it from our victims with little stress to them,” continued Yasha, focusing more on Charlotte as he talked. “One way is what you have already experienced through hypnotism.”

“And another way is this venom?” inquired Charlotte, curious but being polite about it.

“It’s an anticoagulant that keeps the injuries we make with our fangs from healing quickly, thus depriving us of a much needed meal, and a mix of what is best described as a light sedative and aphrodisiac to keep the victim calm and even enjoy the experience,” he continued, gesturing slightly as he nodded in response to her question, and there was a lightness about the prince as he talked, a joy that had not been there before during their other interactions that made him seem so much more animated and alive. This was what Mayerling wanted to see above all else, and he sat back, an appreciative smile on his face for how gorgeous Yasha was right now.

“The venom also carries a concentrated dose of the virus that will eventually change a human into a vampire,” Yasha stated, sitting up and leaning forward as he talked, and there was a small smile on his face now, showing his delight in sharing this knowledge with another, and Mayerling had to wonder how many times his prince had been this animated about something in the past only to discover that his audience was uninterested in the topic. “And once that virus is introduced to a human’s circulatory system, it starts changing them into a vampire. A process that could take weeks or years.”

Humming thoughtfully, Charlotte tapped her chin as she thought. “Then the best way to counter such a combination would be a mix of antibodies to fight the virus while also possibly strengthening a human’s system so it could fight off such attacks in the future even if bitten by a different vampire.”

“Much the way a person might become immune to snake venom,” agreed Yasha, rising to his feet and starting to pace, and Mayerling felt an appreciative smile curl his lips as he watched the graceful movements. Those long fingered hands fluttered through the air, gesturing to emphasize various points as Yasha spoke. “The main issue was the virus. If there was a way to introduce some sort of weakened strain into a human host, then it was quite likely the human’s own immune system would fight it off, but that is always very tricky.”

“Because a human might succumb to it instead of defeating it,” agreed Charlotte, and Mayerling wondered just how much medical knowledge she had or if it was something else that was letting her follow along with the prince’s train of thought. Mayerling could understand most of what was being said, but he didn’t have the same knowledge or training that Yasha did.

“Exactly, and the virus couldn’t be too weak or the immune system might just ignore it completely,” stated the prince.

A thought occurred to Mayerling, and he frowned, sitting forward as he crossed his legs to rest his elbows on them. “I have heard of some hunters who have managed to resist the will of the vampire that bit them, something that was thought to be impossible.”

“When the few cases Father heard about were investigated, it was discovered that those who were bit had a strong sense of self that was hard to subjugate by the vampire, no matter how powerful they were,” Yasha explained, glancing at Mayerling in an acknowledgement of his question. “They were still affected by the venom, but they were essentially their own master and not a thrall.” He shrugged a shoulder and continued pacing. “Those cases are very rare, however, and humanity as a whole does not seem to be evolving any resistances towards us.”

“You.” The word was breathed by Charlotte, and Mayerling looked at her to find her staring at Yasha was an expression of stunned surprise on her face. “You, or at least your venom, is the basis of the Methuselah Treatment, and if it wasn’t you, it was another dhampir.”

Yasha froze, staring at her with an unreadable expression, looking like a predator sizing up a bit of prey. “What makes you say that?”

Charlotte grinned and stood up, walking right up to him as she talked. “You have a vampire side but it is mixed with the human, thus making it weaker in many ways. However, as it is weaker, it would give a human a better chance at fighting off the virus instead of succumbing to it.”

Her tone was so matter of fact that there was no insult in her words, and Mayerling found himself rising to his feet, drawn by her enthusiasm for finding the answer to the problem that had been laid out before her. If he were honest with himself, Mayerling might have come to the same conclusion, but he would have needed a lot more information. From the faint twitch of Yasha’s mouth, he was obviously amused instead of insulted.

“There is the possibility of needing to weaken it further, but that would be the starting point, the foundation to build off of,” stated Charlotte before reaching up to gently poke him in the chest. “Dhampirs are immune to such a virus as they carry it themselves, but I have never heard of a dhampir turning a human so a dhampir’s version of the virus is weaker than a vampire’s. Thus, a dhampir’s venom is the basis of the Methuselah Treatment.”

That small twitch stretched into an honest smile, and Yasha inclined his head. “You are correct,” he stated, reaching up to cover her hand and press it to his chest, and Mayerling’s breath caught at how gorgeous the two of them looked like that. “Not me because I’m too strong. My parents wanted to ensure I had every advantage possible which is why I can do things that many would consider impossible. At the time, they were thinking more about the various vampires who lived within our borders using me as leverage against Father, but that has turned into my advantage when I hunt.”

Mayerling shook his head as he walked over to join them, testing the waters a bit by placing a hand on Yasha’s lower back the same time he rested his other on Charlotte’s. He counted it as a positive sign when the prince only looked at him but didn’t try to move away from his touch. “You amaze me, my love. Where did you gain your medical knowledge?”

“My father was crippled when I was young, and after my mother died, I became his caregiver,” explained Charlotte, a shadow passing over her face. “The doctor who treated him was nice enough to let me read as many medical texts as I wished as I hoped to help my father as much as I could before the doctor’s services were called.”

“If you wish to expand on that knowledge, you can always speak to Dr. Liao,” Yasha offered, his eyes briefly flickering to Mayerling as if judging how he might take the offer.

Charlotte shook her head. “No, I have no need for more knowledge. At least not right now,” she stated before a teasing grin curled her generous mouth. “Not unless you happen to have a medical fetish we could explore together.”

“I don’t, no,” stuttered Yasha, his eyes wide at the sudden shift of subject, and Mayerling felt him tense slightly under his hand.

“Then what do you enjoy, my prince?” inquired Mayerling, an inviting smile on his face as he enjoyed the warmth coming from his companions. Those pale eyes shifted towards him, and the pale Noble’s smile widened a bit further. Charlotte was certainly better at understanding people than he was, and he would bow to her suggestions in the future. “We can hardly start a relationship together if we do not know what the other enjoys.”

“What do you enjoy, Mayerling?” Yasha asked, a faint blush on his cheeks, and Mayerling was very glad that the prince was only an inch or two shorter than he was. Mayerling did enjoy it when his partners were shorter than he was.

Reaching up with the hand that had been on Yasha’s back, Mayerling gently ran his fingers through Yasha’s dark curls. “I enjoy dominating my partners and sharing the painful pleasure that our darker nature desires. A bit of blood play, some bondage, and fulfilling every desire my partner has.”

“I enjoy watching,” confessed Charlotte, a touch of embarrassment in her voice, and Mayerling was proud of her for speaking up even as he kept his attention focused on Yasha. Far too many humans wanted to hide their desires, ignore what made their hearts quicken and their blood heat, and Charlotte was learning to voice what she wanted. “And being watched in return. Knowing my lover is going to take care of me while introducing me to new sensations and experiences but also respecting my wishes when I say stop.”

A shiver slid down Yahsa’s spine, and he licked his lips, just a flash of a pink tongue over pale skin before it vanished again. “I enjoy being dominated,” he confessed in a soft voice as if admitting his desires would somehow reduce him in their eyes. “Bondage, flogging, spanking, even whips. Being pushed through one climax and into the next with little stopping.” He closed his eyes and dropped his head, still trying to hide behind a hat that he wasn’t wearing. “I have to be in total control of myself as the Vampire Hunter that I just want to give up control when I’m home, let another make most of the decisions when we’re together.”

Slowly, Mayerling curled his hand around the back of Yasha’s head, turning the prince to face him. “And blood play, my prince? Does that excite you, the thought of me taking my claws to your skin and painting you in your own blood?”

Another shiver but there was a flare of desire in those pale eyes, the almost shimmer of vampire crimson in their depths. “I… yes…” came the slow confession as something vulnerable, almost fragile, appeared in that gaze, but there was hesitation too, as if Yasha couldn’t find the path forward. “I want to trust you, to surrender everything I am to your control, to take what you are offering.”

“Still trying to resist this nature of ours, dhampir?” Mayerling challenged, his tone teasing and affectionate as he pushed just a touch to see if Yasha would commit to this. He had already stated he wanted to be part of their relationship and even now as he hesitated, he stated he wanted what they were offering. Yet it was obvious he was afraid of taking that one last step.

Apparently, that was the right thing to say because a low growl spilled from Yasha’s lips before his hand lashed out to grip the front of Mayerling’s shirt. The Noble barely had a chance to revel in his small victory before his mouth was being claimed in a fierce and determined kiss.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

Yasha couldn’t help but hesitate in taking what he wanted, that last step that would bring him into their relationship, not as a toy or a bit of flavor for their new romance but as an equal partner. Chō had been blunt when she talked to him about her interrogation of the two, and the realization that they held affection for him had given him a bit of hope for this possibility. It was why he had dressed in his finer Court clothing when he had received Charlotte’s invitation to spend the day with them talking.

Truthfully, it had already gone better than his last so-called relationship because not only had they let him talk about vampiric biochemistry, but they hadn’t indicated they were bored when Yasha truly got into his subject. It had always fascinated him how vampires differed from humans, and how that affected his own life. The fact Charlotte had been able to follow along had been delightful because normally the only ones who indulged his curiosity and conversations were his father and Dr. Liao who had encouraged him in his curiosity. Yes, he had used that knowledge against those he hunted, but it became just another tool for the Vampire Hunter. At home, he was free to explore his curiosity on whatever he wished to learn about, and there was a delightful freedom in that.

But now, he was now kissing Mayerling, and he shivered at the feel of fangs pressed against his for the first time in centuries. It had been Mayerling’s taunt about resisting their nature that had tipped the delicate edge he had been standing on. Mayerling had no idea how hard Yasha resisted everything about his vampiric half until he had to use it for a job when he was out there, and that didn’t include the times when his dual nature tried to work against him such as the various bouts of sunlight syndrome.

A whimper of need reached his ears, and Yasha was surprised to realize that small, desperate sound came from him. He deepened the kiss, surprised at how easily Mayerling’s lips yielded to his tongue, and he shivered as he dove into that mouth, eager and hungry to taste the pale Noble. Curling his tongue around one of Mayerling’s fangs, he purred slightly at the taste of the other’s venom that was starting to slide down the fuller that was on the underside of every vampire’s fang. It was hard to describe aside from pure Mayerling, and Yasha wanted to see if that taste could be found all over that pale skin.

Strong arms wrapped around Yasha’s waist, pulling him tightly against Mayerling’s body, and another hungry whimper slipped out of him as he felt that strong form against his own body, hard cocks pressed against each other through their pants. He wanted to peel Mayerling out of his clothes and have his own peeled off until they were skin against skin, but he couldn’t get his fingers to work, not with how he was distracted by that fantastic kiss.

It took him a couple of moments to realize there was a body pressed against his back, and he managed to drag his mouth away from Mayerling’s, gasping for breath as he clung to the Noble. He could feel his own fangs had extended in response to his arousal, and there was a slight pressure in his cheeks where he knew his own venom glands were located.

“Such beauty,” murmured Mayerling, an appreciative smile on his face even as he lifted a hand from Yasha’s waist to cup his face, and Yasha leaned into the touch, hungry for that contact. “You never need to hide what you are from us. Prince. Hunter. Dhampir. We want all of you.”

“I think we would be more comfortable in the bedroom to continue this discussion,” remarked Charlotte behind him as he felt her hands on his shoulders, and Yasha gasped in surprise as his hair was moved before a pair of hot lips pressed a kiss right behind his ear. “While you are both gorgeous clothed, I believe we should enjoy a great deal more skin between us.”

An appreciative smirk curled Mayerling’s lips as he stepped backwards, the arm around Yasha’s waist pulling the dhampir after him, and Yasha felt Charlotte at his back, pressing him towards the bedroom. He didn’t resist at all, wanting this even if the words were now sticking in his throat. He hoped he could show them what he wanted even if he couldn’t speak the desires.

Mayerling released Yasha when they were by the bed before stepping back, and Yasha stared at him, frozen, as he watched those pale fingers rise to start unfastening the fine clothing the Noble was wearing. None of his past experiences had ever been like this, and he felt nervous at how strange and new everything was. It wasn’t as if this was his first time with two partners or even two partners of the opposite sex. Raman and Sharma had him in their bed often enough during his teenage years and occasionally between his patrols, but this wasn’t them.

“Relax, my prince. We won’t do anything that you do not want,” Charlotte murmured, moving to stand beside him and meet his eyes when he looked at her, surprised by the honorific. Yasha was used to being called ‘my prince’ by the various vampires that inhabited Castle Dracul, but the humans prefered either ‘sire’ or ‘highness’. Charlotte smiled at him, reaching up to unfasten his cape, and he watched her handle it with care despite the fact it was made of a material strong enough to stop most projectiles with ease. “Mayerling promised me during our first time together that if I called a stop to what was happening, he would stop even if he was buried balls deep inside me.”

“It’s not that,” Yasha managed to confess, and he realized with a start that his hands were trembling. It was ridiculous considering he was several centuries old yet he felt like a fumbling teenager face to face with his first crush, and he was having trouble talking. Why was this so difficult?

Charlotte stepped in front of Yasha and cupped his face, rubbing her thumbs across his cheeks. “It’s okay,” she murmured with a reassuring smile, and he found himself focusing entirely on her. Her amber eyes were kind and understanding, and just that expression had his nerves settling for some strange reason. “Nothing you say or do will make us walk away or laugh at you. I’m afraid you’re rather stuck with us as we had a very long conversation about you, and we are both highly attracted to you as a person.”

Mayerling stepped up behind Charlotte, naked to the waist, and Yasha swallowed at the sight of all that pale skin that was practically begging to be touched and tasted. “You have my word that if you say stop, I will stop no matter what is happening,” remarked the pale Noble, reaching over Charlotte’s shoulder to run his fingers through Yasha’s dark hair. “We will simply enjoy ourselves as people do. Anything more rough will wait until after we have a thorough talk to negotiate everything between us to ensure there are no accidents.”

Something relaxed in Yasha’s chest, and he blinked in surprise. Was that all he needed, to hear the reassurance that Mayerling would stop if asked? It wasn’t as if Yasha couldn’t make him stop if Mayerling did ignore him because Yasha was only held if he wished to be. There must have been something on his face or in his eyes because Mayerling smiled and ran his hand down Yasha’s left arm, gently encircling his wrist.

“Leave the glove on,” Yasha stated as pale fingers ghosted over the black silk that was wrapped around his hand. “It’s keeping the Servant asleep for now.” The last thing he wanted was to be distracted by the snarky or crude comments from the demon while he was trying to enjoy his first time with them.

“I don’t feel like being called ‘sugartits’ again,” huffed Charlotte, startling an embarrassed laugh out of Yasha.

“At least you were not referred to as ‘sugar daddy’,” drawled Mayerling, but there was humor in his voice and ruby eyes.

Shaking his head, Yasha pulled his hand gently from Mayerling’s grasp before turning his attention to the rest of his clothes. He had to step back to get to some of the fastenings, but he knew that they would be tangled together soon enough. “Despite the crude comments, I don’t have a parent fetish.”

“That’s good to hear because the only being I wish to call me ‘Mommy’ are those that actually come from my body,” drawled Charlotte, shaking her head before glancing at Mayerling briefly. “Do we have enough condoms for both of you or will we have to purchase more from Dr. Liao?”

“I’m sterile,” Yasha offered, shrugging out of his vest and shirt. “It’s reversible, but I didn’t want to take any chances while outside the borders.” He folded them and put them off to the side, leaving him bare to the waist as well. “I’m also clean as that’s another thing Dr. Liao makes sure of whenever I come back.”

Charlotte hummed and lightly dragged a nail down Yasha’s chest, and he shivered at the sensation. He felt hyper aware of his surroundings and the people within it. “I have never heard of the famed Vampire Hunter D taking a lover or even having a casual fling,” she remarked, her eyes soft. “No matter how many might wish him in their beds.”

Yasha shook his head, sending his hair dancing around his shoulders. “I don’t take any risks like that out there,” he said, reaching up to cup her face with one hand. “Too many would use that against me either as a trap to kill me or to get a child from me to again use as bait.”

She rose up on her toes and pressed a soft kiss to his mouth, and Yasha slipped an arm around her waist, holding her close as he helped her keep her balance. “One day, when you have returned for good, then we will talk about children between all three of us,” she promised, and Yasha blinked at her in surprise.That offer was something he had not been expecting, but it was wonderful to have that placed on the table. She smiled and lightly nipped at his lips in a teasing manner, and he growled in delight at that action. “However, right now, we’re going to enjoy ourselves quite thoroughly.”

“I may have to ask Dr. Liao about this reversible sterilization,” mused Mayerling, stepping up behind Charlotte to sandwich her between them. “That will allow us more ability to play without worrying about children until we’re ready for them.”

“Later,” stated Charlotte, staring at Yasha even as she directed her words to Mayerling. “You need to help undressing me, or this will be over before it gets started.”

An amused laugh slipped out of Mayerling as he stepped back, but Yasha kept staring at Charlotte, captivated by her amber eyes. “You see how commanding she is, my prince,” teased the pale Noble, and Charlotte shivered in Yasha’s arms as Mayerling did something at her back. “Very determined to keep us poor men in line like the little queen she is.”

“It’s a good thing I’m used to forceful women in my life,” huffed Yasha, shaking his head, and he felt the fastenings on her dress relax under his fingers. Stepping back himself, he helped slide the dress off her shoulders, enjoying the way that the forest green velvet slid down her arms to reveal silky skin, and an appreciative smile curled his lips as he gently dragged his fingers back up her arms. Unlike Raman who was only warm after she had fed, Charlotte was nearly burning under his fingers, and he briefly wondered if all humans were this hot or if it was something special about her.

“You’re both taking too long,” she huffed and stepped out of her dress when it fell around her ankles before lifting the chemise off over her head, and Yasha felt all the blood rush to his cock as he took in the sight of her wearing only stockings, heels, and a garter belt. There was no way anyone’s legs could be that long nor a body so humanly perfect. He had thought her attractive before, but standing there like that, she was gorgeous!

A smirk curled Charlotte’s lips as she leaned back against Mayerling, reaching up to curl her arms back around his neck which put her body on full display. The confidence she was displaying in her looks was as heady as her beauty, and Yasha wanted to stretch her out on the bed and bury his face between her thighs to see what noises he might coax from her. A long fingered hand stroked over her torso, traveling from just below those perfect breasts to stop just above the cream lace encircling her hips before drifting back up again, and Yasha managed to drag his gaze up to find Mayerling smirking at him over her shoulder.

“It appears I am not the only one who is a slave to your beauty, my love,” purred Mayerling, and Yasha softly growled as the vampire took a step back, pulling Charlotte away from him. He found himself drawn by some invisible leash as the couple backed all the way to the bed, and he didn’t stop until he nearly ran into the corner.

Charlotte ran her eyes down Yasha’s body, and the dhampir could practically feel her gaze on him, making his leather pants uncomfortably tight. “You’re wearing too much,” she announced before nodding at him. “Take the rest of your clothing off, my prince.”

His fingers were at the fastenings of his pants before he could really think about it, and he sighed in relief as his cock sprang free of his pants. It took a few moments to unfasten his thigh high boots, but soon, he was shoving the last of his clothes off to one side as he stepped towards her, his hands coming down on her hips, teasing the lace there.

“I want to lay you out on the bed and make a feast out of you,” Yasha growled, his voice darker even as his words felt a bit clumsy due to his fangs that had lengthened in his mouth. A shiver that he could feel slid through her, and her eyes darkened in an obvious reaction to his statement. “I want to sink my fangs into your thigh, marking you in such a way that you will feel it whenever you move for the next several days.”

“Not my throat?” gasped Charlotte, her voice breathy and a delightful blush on her cheeks.

Yashoa shook his head. “Too easy to puncture or accidentally crush the windpipe, and then you’d be dead regardless of how durable you are,” he stated before reaching up a finger to trace along the base of her neck where it met the shoulder. “Here is a good place. Inner elbow. Inner thigh. Any place where there are large veins and no chance of permanent damage.”

“I admit I had not thought of such a possibility before,” mused Mayerling, his pale hand coming up to cup one of her breasts, and Charlotte gasped, her back arching slightly as those long fingers came up to roll her nipple between them. “It seemed prudent to simply drink from the throat as that vein is most accessible by a simple bending of the head and often uncovered as humans wish to prove to each other they have not been subject to a vampire’s bite.”

“You’re both talking too much,” huffed Charlotte, and she reached up to snag the back of Yasha’s neck before she pulled him down to devour his mouth. He purred as she fearlessly curled her tongue around his fangs, before he took control of the kiss, exploring her hot mouth as he felt Mayerling playing with her nipple, those cool fingers brushing against the dhampir’s chest.

“And you are too impatient, my lady,” Mayerling breathed into her ear. “We are going to savor you until you beg for mercy.”

That sounded like a delightful idea to Yasha, and he shifted his grip on Charlotte’s hip to reach a bit farther back and tug at Mayerling’s pants. It was only fair that the Noble remove the rest of his clothes before they peeled those stockings off of Charlotte’s impossibly long legs and spread her out on the bed. He would have voiced those thoughts, but his mouth was currently occupied by Charlotte’s lips, drinking in each sound she made. There was a chuckle from Mayerling before he shifted, hissing in relief as the sound of a zipper and button being unfastened reached Yasha’s keen ears. The rustling of fine cloth and the slight creak of leather boots announced that Mayerling was indeed stripping off the rest of his clothes, and Yasha growled softly in delight. That was another person he wished to stretch out on the bed and make a feast out of, but Charlotte was the first priority for his attention.

“I think it’s time we move this to the bed,” growled Mayerling, and Yasha stepped back, finally dragging his mouth away from Charlotte’s in time to watch Mayerling pick her up and gently toss her onto the bed where she bounced with a delighted laugh. Yasha crawled up on the bed to kneel between her legs, and he smirked at her as he gently removed each shoe, dropping it over the edge as he held her eyes. She had teased him with her actions, and now it was time for a bit of payback.

Gently, he ran the pads of his fingers from her right ankle to the top of her stocking, enjoying the shivers and soft gasps from her that his actions produced, before he unfastened the stocking from the garter belt. With careful hands, he slowly eased the sheer material down her leg, letting his fingers trail the entire length of the limb. Then he repeated his actions with her left leg, smirking at her as a flush spread across her cheeks and down her chest. Mayerling was stretched out next to her but wasn’t touching her in any way, apparently content to let Yasha take the lead this time. Well, that was perfectly fine with Yasha. He’d bend his knee and neck to them another time. After they had all enjoyed their pleasure.

Laying between her ankles, the dhampir started kissing his way up her legs, alternating between them as he went, and she spread her legs wider as he settled between her thighs. He pressed a few more kisses to the soft skin, feeling the blood pump below the surface, and he had to force his sight to remain normal instead of letting it slip into Hunting Mode to bring all the veins and arteries into view. No, he wanted to see her during this time. There would be plenty of time to indulge in that other view later.

“This is quite the view,” purred Yasha, reaching up with a careful hand to spread her pussy, and she moaned above him as he enjoyed the sight of that delicate, pink skin. “Mayerling is certainly lucky enough to have enjoyed this sight.” That was the only warning he gave her before he leaned in, dragging his tongue from her ass to her clit and flicking that hard nub with the tip of his tongue, getting a squeal for his troubles as she tried to box his ears with her thighs. He huffed and wrapped his arms under her thighs, curling up around them to hold her legs in place to save his ears and still be able to hold her open for his attention.

“Your skill is unparalleled even in this, I see,” teased Mayerling, and Yasha watched as he caught Charlotte’s hands to pin them above her head with one hand while his other went back to playing with her breast. “It took me several moments to get a sound like that from her our first time together.”

“Did it take you that long to find her clit, Mayerling?” Yasha taunted right back before he wrapped his lips around that little cluster of nerves to suck and flick it with his tongue. She was quite vocal in her appreciation of his attention to detail and writhed under their combined grips. If they had not been of vampire blood, she would have not only gotten free but possibly done some damage to Yasha who was between her legs.

The dhampir didn’t just focus on her clit, making sure to pay attention to other parts of her anatomy as well. His tongue wriggled into her vagina, and he hummed at her taste even as she cried out again. It was hot, addictive, and could only be described as pure Charlotte.

It didn’t take long before she screamed, her body tense, and Yasha felt a flush of male pride for coaxing her into a climax with only his mouth. Giving her one last lick, he released her thighs and climbed up to lay next to her, watching as she came down from her pleasurable high even as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Her eyes were dark amber, and her skin had a delightful flush of heath down to nearly her abdomen. Smiling, he propped his head up on his right hand and stroked his left over her stomach in a soothing gesture.

A hand curled around the back of his head, and Yasha blinked as he found himself being pulled across Charlotte’s body to meet Mayerling’s lips in another kiss. A purr of delight slipped out of him as the Noble’s lips coaxed his open before their tongues curled together. It was obvious that Mayerling was seeking out every bit of Charlotte’s flavor that clung to Yasha’s mouth, and the dhampir was more than willing to share that with his male lover. His eyes fluttered shut as he simply enjoyed the sensation of being kissed by Mayerling. This was one of his favorite activities and something he knew many didn’t think anything about, but for him, each kiss and caress was special due to how rare they were in his life.

“Gorgeous.”

Yasha blinked and pulled away from Mayerling to look down at Charlotte who was staring up at them with an appreciative smile on her face. Mayerling had released her arms some time during the kiss with Yasha, and she was playing with her own nipples as she watched them with hot eyes.

“Watching you two kiss is wonderful as you’re both gorgeous,” she stated, a definite purr to her voice as she arched between them, stretching while also showing off her body again. This time, Yasha lost the battle with his instincts, and he shivered as the various veins and arteries beneath her skin became visible, a flare of hunger blossoming in his stomach.

He didn’t realize he was leaning down towards her until a pull on his hair brought him back to his senses, and he blinked, shaking his head slightly as he forced those instincts back. He looked up to find an understanding expression on the pale Noble’s face. Yasha offered him a small smile of thanks as he got his instincts under control. Normally, he was much better than this, but he had never had the temptation that was Charlotte Elborne stretched out like some sacrificial offering and more than willing to submit to him.

“She is quite the temptation, my prince,” remarked Mayerling, pulling Yasha in for another brief kiss. “And the worst part is she knows it, using that temptation to her advantage.”

“She should be punished for that,” rasped Yasha, swallowing to get the words out of a dry throat. He stared at Mayerling, waiting for directions on how to best punish Charlotte for her teasing, because while he might have a few ideas himself, Mayerling was her first lover and the one most in control here.

“She should indeed,” purred Mayerling, and he released Yasha’s hair to twist towards the edge of the bed. Yasha frowned, a bit confused by Mayerling’s actions, until he heard the crinkle of a condom wrapper. Rolling back over, Mayerling held out a second to Yasha. “If you wished, my prince.”

Charlotte snorted and sat up, and Yasha hissed in surprise as one of her hands curled around his hard cock. “Before either of you put those on, I want to taste you.”

Before Yasha could ask which one she wanted to taste first, she twisted around and wrapped her lips around his cock. That earned her a snarl as Yasha’s hand came down to tangle in her hair, holding her there as she began treating his cock like her favorite food, licking and sucking as she bobbed her head. This was far more intense than it had ever been with Raman, and Yasha wasn’t sure if it was because it was Charlotte or because it was with a human.

Mayerling grasped one of his wrists and tugged his hand free of Charlotte’s hair, and the dhampir looked up from the beauty nursing his cock to find Mayerling smiling at him. Before Yasha could get his brain working to ask what Mayerling wanted, he was being pulled into a deep kiss again. Growling, Yasha reached for Mayerling, pulling his wrist out of the pale Noble’s grasp to bury his fingers in that white hair and hold Mayerling close enough to devour that mouth, needing the feel of fangs clicking against his. There was a desperate hunger in his kiss, one that made his fangs ache to slide through skin and release the crimson life that flowed beneath that thin tissue.

Either Yasha was not good at hiding his hunger from Mayerling or the vampire was more attentive to what Yasha needed, because he broke the kiss, directing his words to Charlotte who still had her hot mouth wrapped around the dhampir’s cock.

“I’m afraid there’s been a slight change of plans, my love,” he purred, and Yasha looked at him in a bit of a daze as Mayerling pulled back far enough to unwrap the condom that was still held between two fingers. A small hiss slipped out of Mayerling as he rolled the latex down his hard cock before he reached down to lift Charlotte onto her hands and knees, a move that she protested around the cock in her mouth. A guttural moan slipped out of Yasha as those vibrations slid down his cock and up his spine, and he clutched at her hair, hoping that whatever Mayerling had planned, he would enact soon.

“Don’t worry, Charlotte, I promise we will fulfill one of your fantasies this day,” purred Mayerling as he knelt behind her, his long fingers curled around her hips, and he pushed into her body without any preparation. Yasha’s eyes were wide as his body tensed, sure that Charlotte was going to scream from pain at suddenly being filled, but she only moaned and shivered in pleasure as Mayerling’s hips pressed against her upturned ass.

Glancing up, Maylering must have seen something on Yasha’s face for he offered a reassuring smile. “You may have been a bit distracted by her mouth, but the hand that wasn’t on me was busy between her thighs,” the vampire remarked as if it was the most casual thing in the world. “A small deal between us as I did not wish to harm her with my claws.”

Which made sense considering how sharp even Yasha’s nails were compared to a human’s, and he relaxed as he stroked a hand through her hair. “What fantasy does she want that you said we will fulfill?”

Perhaps not a question to ask when he was trying hard not to climax, but Yasha wanted to know exactly what Mayerling was volunteering him for.

“She confessed to wishing to know what it might be like to be between two males.” purred Mayerling as he started slowly fucking Charlotte with a firm, steady rhythm that looked like one he could keep up for a very long time if he wished. “And now that I know she is immune to the bite, I will most certainly give her what she has been asking for for so long.”

A shiver ran down Yasha’s spine as he gritted his teeth, trying to ease a bit of the ache in his fangs. Gods, how long had it been since he had pierced skin that wasn’t his? Would Mayerling allow him to bite Charlotte and share her warmth? Would Mayerling allow Yasha to bite him? It wasn’t unheard of between vampiric lovers to share blood with one another, especially during intimate situations, but Yasha found his throat locking up when he tried to ask for permission. He didn’t know why it was so hard with these two when it had been quite easy to voice his desires with Raman and Sharma. Was it because these two were essentially strangers to him while he had known Sharma and Raman his entire life?

Strong fingers slid through his hair to cup the back of his head again, and he was pulled into another hot kiss. A purr of delight slipped out of him as he brought a hand up to thread through Mayerling’s hair again even as Charlotte moaned and whimpered around his cock, her noises and heat almost forgotten as he focused on Mayerling’s wicked mouth.

“Permission asked, and permission granted,” Yasha managed to force out from a tight throat, wanting to feel Mayerling’s fangs in him as much as he wanted to sink his own in that pale skin.

A soft chuckle was his answer along with a nip at his jaw before words were breathed into his ear. “Permission asked and permission granted.”

Yasha actually trembled in a mix of excitement and need as he leaned past Mayerling’s face to press his lips against the base of his throat, the slow thrum of the vampire’s heartbeat a teasing promise against his lips. Mayerling obviously had taken Yasha’s earlier statement about how vulnerable and delicate the throat could be to heart as his own cool lips drifted over the base of Yasha’s throat as well.

“Face to face, my lovely foe,” purred Mayerling, his breath dancing across Yasha’s skin, and Yasha gasped in surprise at the sound of those lyrics coming from Mayerling. It had been a week since that song had been played, yet Mayerling had either looked up the lyrics or memorized the song, something no one else had done before.

“I want to bend, I want this bliss, but something says I must resist,” Yasha whispered, hoping to convey the strange uncertainty that seemed to grip him at odd times with them. His fingers stroked through Charlotte’s hair, feeling himself getting closer and closer to his climax, and he snarled, plunging his fangs into Mayerling’s shoulder, shuddering hard as he came in her mouth. The taste of the Noble’s blood was strangely spicy, carrying age, knowledge, and other little nuances that could only be described as Mayerling.

There was an answering snarl and pain briefly flared in Yasha’s shoulder, before he shivered, both hands coming up to grip the vampire and hold him close as his blood was taken as much as he took from the other. Small drops teased out and savored like a rare wine, and the dhampir was sure he could get drunk on Mayerling without even trying. Dimly he was aware of Charlotte slipping out from between them, but he didn’t pay her any mind as he floated in the sensations being passed between himself and Mayerling.

All too soon, Yasha’s head was gently pulled away from Mayerling’s shoulder as the vampire removed his mouth, and a small, disappointed whimper slipped from Yasha, before he was lowered to the bed where Charlotte instantly snuggled against him. A bit boneless, Yasha pulled her into his arms before tucking his face into the crook of her neck, simply enjoying the feelings dancing along his nerves and the lack of pressure in his sinuses, indicating his venom glands had been depleted to a comfortable level again.

There was some noise of Mayerling moving around, but Yasha ignored it as he was perfectly content to remain where he was with Charlotte. After a few minutes, the mattress dipped as Mayerling joined them, and Yasha opened his eyes to meet the amused face of the pale vampire over Charlotte’s body.

“I would ask if you enjoyed yourself, but considering the rather euphoric expression on your face, that is a moot point,” remarked Mayerling, reaching out to drape an arm over both himself and Charlotte who was snuggled between them. “Although I have to confess a bit of concern on how you did not verbalize what you wanted. Unless that is normal for you?”

Sighing, Yasha slipped out of their arms to sit up, resting his forearms on his updrawn knees. “What I have with you two is different than when I was with Raman and Sharma, trying to figure out my own desires and crazy biology,” he admitted, his voice soft as he gestured to them with one hand. Charlotte’s eyes were open and more aware than he was expecting, but he wasn’t going to complain as it would keep him from having to explain a second time. “I don’t know why, but it is harder to voice what I want with you.”

Charlotte smiled and reached out to rest a hand on his arm, and he blinked at the simple contact. Yet another thing he wasn’t used to anymore. “This is new for all of us, and we will undoubtedly have some problems as we figure out how to fit together,” she soothed, gently tugging him back down to cuddle, and Yasha followed her silent request, snuggling back against her as Mayerling’s arm once more found its way over his waist. “But I have faith that we will figure things out.”

“Perhaps it is an issue of control,” mused Mayerling, and Yasha looked up at him, curious to know where the Noble was going with that train of thought. Mayerling shrugged his shoulder. “You yourself said that you have to be in total control of yourself as the hunter, and I do not doubt that you retain much of that control when you return to take up the mantle of the prince. With Raman and Sharma, it is as you said, you were learning about yourself and the need for control wasn’t there. However, with Charlotte and myself, we have seen you as both the hunter and the prince, the only two roles that you have allowed us to see until now.”

Mayerling huffed a laugh and shook his head. “Even with the generals, it took alcohol to get you to lower your walls and release a great deal of your control.”

Was it really that simple of an explanation? Yasha didn’t want to think so, but then he wasn’t sure if he would be lying to Mayerling or himself. A strong hand slid into his hair, pulling him up for a kiss, and Yasha shivered, surrendering easily to that grip as his mouth was plundered by Mayerling. Apparently, it was that simple of an explanation, and he melted against Charlotte as he surrendered to the strength and request for control that Mayerling had in his fingers and lips.

Yasha didn’t know how long the kiss went on, Mayerling stealing his breath and drinking in the tiny sounds the dhampir was making, but he could feel pleasure starting to sparkle along his nerves again. Before he had any time to register that Mayerling wasn’t kissing him any longer, Charlotte was there, her mouth covering his in an equally fierce kiss, and Yasha sighed as his eyes fluttered shut, surrendering to her as much as he had Mayerling.

“Give us one of your fantasies, my prince,” Mayerling growled in his ear, an order that Yasha knew he could disobey but had no intention of doing so. “Let us fulfill it before you return to the road.”

There were so many that Yasha wanted to offer up, curious to see which one they would pick to fulfill, but Mayerling had demanded one not many, meaning Yasha had to pick which one to give them. Then his mind seemed to stop on one particular one, and he let a tiny smile curl his lips. That one would certainly be interesting as well as see what Mayerling would do with it. “I’m drugged and kidnapped from my bed, whisked off to some Noble’s palace only to wake up chained and dressed as a pleasure slave. I’m alone, powerless, and unable to stop anything as I’m trained for my new life, and the trainer doesn’t stop until they are satisfied.”

“And in such a situation, what you have for your safe words, my prince?” inquired Mayerling, interest coloring his words, and Yasha’s stomach clenched in excitement at the realization that Mayerling was giving serious consideration to his words.

“Bless for slow down, cross to stop, and blood to keep going,” Yasha stated, huffing a laugh when Mayerling flinched slightly at those words. That had been the main reason he had chosen them with Raman and Sharma so many centuries ago as they caught a vampire’s attention nearly immediately and would make them focus on what he was saying instead of what was happening. “No asphyxiation, fire, bathroom waste, or mutilation.” He did not believe that Mayerling was going to do any of that, but better to get his NO list out there before he forgot.

“Very good words, Yasha,” praised Mayerling, the hand in Yasha’s hair moving to stroke down his face, and Yasha greedily leaned into the touch. “It will undoubtedly take a few days to get everything arranged, but before you leave again, you shall have your fantasy. And I will respect what you do not want to happen between us. I find those are rather distasteful acts myself.”

There was a thrill that filled Yasha, a pleasure that accompanied that praise, and he wanted more of it from Mayerling. A strange sensation, but he was getting used to those when he was with these two. Then he was being kissed again, and he moaned into Charlotte’s mouth as her hot hands ran over his chest, gently pressing. He wrapped his arms around her as she pushed him onto his back, and she laughed into his mouth as the action pulled her on top of him, her dark hair falling around her face like a curtain.

“You may not speak much, Yasha, but you certainly make up for it in other ways,” she remarked, sliding a leg across his hips to settle just above his cock. He grinned up at her, his hands coming down to rest on her hips as she leaned down to kiss him again. She hummed and broke the kiss, looking at him curiously. “What was that bit about permission asked and permission granted?”

“He was asking for permission to bite me while granting permission to be bitten in return,” Mayerling remarked, moving between Yasha’s legs, and the dhampir automatically spread them to give the vampire more room. “It is one thing to bite a human, but it is the height of rudeness to bite another vampire without expressed permission. Many have been killed in the past for their laps of judgement.”

“Well, both of you have permission to bite me,” she announced with a slight toss of her head, and Mayerling laughed as he pressed himself against her back, pushing her down onto Yasha who had no trouble supporting both of them.

“Thank you for that, my love,” purred Mayerling, and there was the snap of a bottle being opened with one hand as the scent of lubricant teased Yasha’s nose. “Now, please remain as still as you can. I don’t want to accidentally hurt you.”

In a flash, Yasha realized Mayerling’s plan, and he tightened his grip on Charlotte’s hips to keep her from moving. She gasped, her eyes widening as her head fell to rest against Yasha’s chest, and he could smell the arousal and lust rising from her skin as Mayerling prepared her for what was to come. Briefly, Yasha wondered who was going to be in her pussy while the other took her ass, but he trusted Mayerling’s control and direction.

Bending down slightly, Yasha nosed at Charlotte’s face, and she looked up at him, her eyes dilated from pleasure. Smiling, he leaned down and kissed her, doing his best to distract her from Mayerling’s actions even as he felt his body responding again. He could feel her nipples harden against his chest, and he flexed his fingers against her hips, wanting to shift her and slide his cock into her pussy, to feel her wet heat wrapped around him in a different way. But Mayerling was in control. Yasha had surrendered to the pale Noble.

It was so easy to get lost in that hot mouth, drinking down each little sound Charlotte made as her soft body was pressed against his, and he ran his hands up her back, marveling at the smoothness of the skin under his fingers and the thrum of blood beneath the surface. Her scent filled his nose, and he couldn’t get enough of those noises, of her.

“Now to make our lady’s fantasy come true,” Mayerling stated, one of his hands curling around Yasha’s hard cock, and the dhampir hissed in surprise at the sudden touch. He had gotten thoroughly distracted by kissing Charlotte and had forgotten about Mayerling entirely. He didn’t have time to wonder what was happening before Charlotte’s hips were being lifted, and he tensed with a growl as she slid down his cock, hot, wet, and perfect!

Yasha’s hand’s came back down to grip her hips, more to keep himself from moving than anything else, but she stretched, shivering, as she pulled his mouth to her, greedily seeking out his lips again. This was nothing like he had experienced before. Raman had never been this hot around him or offered up little gasps of pleasure that bordered on lustful moans that brushed his lips. He didn’t think he could ever go back to Raman’s bed without comparing her to Charlotte, and he did not believe that would be polite to the vampire general who had taught him so much.

Yasha gasped, his eyes flying open wide, as he felt Mayerling slowly press in, the thin bit of tissue separating them more of a tease than anything else. Charlotte ripped her mouth from his and cried out in pleasure as she was stretched around two cocks for the first time in her life. In a flash, Yasha realized that Mayerling was in complete control of the situation simply by his placement on top of their little pile. Yasha could move, he certainly had more than enough strength to throw them both across the room should he choose to do so, but by pinning him to the bed like this, it was a reminder that he wasn’t the one in charge nor did he have to be.

“By the Dark One,” breathed Mayerling, and Yasha could feel him shudder in delight as Mayerling’s hips came to rest against Charlotte’s upturned ass. For several moments, they lay like that, Yasha cushioning both of his lovers while Mayerling firmly pinned Charlotte and Yasha to the bed as Charlotte trembled between them. Finally, Mayerling managed to speak again, his voice sounding rough, almost animalistic as if he was fighting his own instincts. “Are you alright, my love?”

“Move,” she squeaked, and Yasha looked at her to find her eyes completely blown on lust as her fingers curled around his shoulders. With a slight start, he realized her nails were nearly embedded in his skin. “Please. Move.”

Mayerling laughed, a dark sound that rolled down Yasha’s spine to settle in his cock, and he looked down at Yasha with red eyes that glowed with lust. “Relax and let us do all the work, Charlotte.”

That was the only warning Yasha had before Mayerling started thrusting, and Yasha did his best to find a counter rhythm. It was distracting to feel the other’s cock sliding against his own in a way, and he had to focus on keeping the rhythm instead of simply choosing his own pace. It didn’t take long for Charlotte to forget about Mayerling’s instructions and started writhing between them, determined to find her own pleasure which threw Yasha off his stride as he found himself chasing his own pleasure.

A delighted laugh spilled out of Mayerling before his mouth fell to her shoulder, kissing the skin, and Yasha watched as his red tongue slipped out from between pale lips to lick her. Chants of ‘yes’ started falling from her lips, as she reached up to hook an arm behind Mayerling’s head, holding him there as if afraid he might pull away. Her other hand came down to Yasha’s head, pulling him to the other side of her throat, and a low growl of delight rumbled in his chest as he kissed her skin. Permission had been given by her, and he knew from what he had seen with the Servant’s help that she wasn’t afraid of this, afraid of them.

“Bite, my prince. Share this bounty with me,” growled Mayerling, and an animalistic snarl burst from Yasha as he was unable to resist that order. His fangs pierced her skin as easily as his cock pierced her body, and he shivered, hearing her scream of pleasure as she climaxed around him, tight muscles fluttering and clinging to him with such strength that he was afraid he would hurt her if he moved. Not that it mattered much as he felt himself coming, the faint sensation of another cock throbbing against his indicating Mayerling’s own climax.

But, oh, she was so rich! Her blood sparkled along his tongue and made his nerves light up like a beacon. He had to force himself to tease each drop out, not wanting to hurt her but not wanting this glorious sensation to end. He remained buried in her, lost in the sensation, before a hand gently pulled his head away from the injury, and he blinked up at Mayerling, dazed.

“She has passed out from the sensation, my prince,” Mayerling stated, and Yasha blinked his brain back on line to find that she had indeed passed out, her breath coming in soft pants that were slowing as she slipped into a deeper slumber. Yasha dipped his lead to lick the injuries his fangs had made clean as a sort of apology to her, and she moaned faintly, shifting in her sleep.

“Hold her while I get a cloth to clean us up,” instructed Mayerling, and Yasha tightened his grip on her, hissing slightly as he felt the pale Noble slide out of Charlotte. He twitched from being over sensitive, but he didn’t mind the feeling.

Mayerling left the bed, and Yasha focused on Charlotte, carefully sliding out of her to roll her onto the mattress. One hand roamed over her body, seeking out any damage that had been done instead of trying to stimulate or rouse her from her slumber. There were a few bruises on her hips that seemed to be the worst of the marks left on her, and even the wounds made by their fangs were already starting to heal, something that made Yasha’s heart relax to see.

“Normally, it takes me longer to get her to a point where she passes out from pleasure,” remarked, Mayerling, returning to the bed with a warm, damp cloth in his hand, and he didn’t give Yasha a chance to hold out a hand for the cloth before he was running it over Yasha’s cock and balls, getting a gasp and a shiver from the dhampir. Yasha had been very glad the cloth had been warm, and he settled again with a soft huff as Mayerling turned his attention to Charlotte.

“Do you often do this?” asked Yasha, watching Mayerling with a lazy feeling. His fangs had retracted to their usual size, and he knew without looking in a mirror that the red had faded from his eyes, leaving them pale blue again. Mayerling glanced at him with a brow raised in a silent question for clarification, and Yasha gestured at the cloth. “Take control of everything including after care?”

“It is what you needed, my prince, to have another take control so you could give it up,” Mayerling stated, dropping the washcloth off the side of the bed before he snuggled against Charlotte, his arm once more draping over both Charlotte and Yasha’s waists, and it felt like a proprietary movement. One that he certainly didn’t mind. “As for simply taking over after care, it is only polite to ensure that those under my care are taken care of.”

Well, when put like that, Yasha really didn’t have anything to complain about even if he was inclined to such an action. He stretched his own arm out, hesitantly resting it on Mayerling’s waist and sandwiching Charlotte between them once more even as he watched to see how such an action might be taken. He received a warm smile and a stroke from the hand on his waist.

“Rest. She will undoubtedly want more when she wakes,” chuckled Mayerling, his tone fond as he glanced at the sleeping woman. “And we have more to negotiate for your fantasy to become a reality.”

Feeling warm and wanted for just himself for the first time in memory, Yasha snuggled against Charlotte’s chest and closed his eyes as he followed Mayerling’s order. Yes, this had been a chance, a leap of faith in a way, to bring them back to Castle Dracul, and he was ecstatic with how it had resolved itself. For once in his long and lonely life, Yasha could honestly say that he had not one but two people who wanted him for him instead of anything else.

Life was good.

 

Chapter 11

 

Alan frowned out the window as Ace drove off on his scout bike to get more supplies and information. It had been about two weeks of slow traveling with the Heart family, and now the lumbering transport was parked outside of Garucia, one of the rest towns that often dotted the Frontier for those that risked traveling. Not the first supply area they had stopped at, but each time, Ace went off by himself for supplies and information that Alan was never privy to. The one time he had asked Ten why Ace was the one to always go out, she made some comment about the teen getting the best deals before dragging Alan to her bed, thoroughly distracting him with a marathon of sex.

It was the little things that Alan had noticed that he was putting together now that Ten was giving him a few minutes to think as she took a nap. It was adding up to a nagging suspicion about his traveling companions beyond the fact that Ace was the only one apparently permitted in town. The transport never actually went through any permanent settlements, always parking far enough out that it would take a determined scouting group to find them. Anytime Alan started asking questions, Ten would offer up a vague and unhelpful answer before dragging him to bed with a wink and a smile which always seemed like a great idea at the time. Ten also started wearing a long white dress that was similar in style to what Charlotte wore, but considering how she would stumble on the hem of her skirt, she wasn’t used to wearing such an outfit. Jack had glared and growled at Alan each time the two of them crossed paths, and Ace hid in his room unless the family were sitting down to eat together, something that usually happened at dinner time when the transport was secure for the night.

Either the family was doing everything they could to keep Jack hidden for some reason, or Alan was traveling with a group of criminals who were doing everything they could to keep him ignorant of their past. As much as it might be easier on his consciousness to believe the former, he had a strong suspicion that it was the latter. Especially with how Ten continuously kept distracting him with sex.

Turning away from the window, Alan slipped into the small storage area where he had stuffed his luggage when he first stepped aboard the transport, and he knelt next to the small suitcase. It and what it contained had cost a small fortune when he had started traveling for his father’s businesses early in his life, but both had been worth every dala.

Placing his thumb on the latch, Alan waited for the sophisticated scanner to take a sample of his DNA before the lock popped open, and he lifted the lid to reveal neatly folded clothes. Ignoring those for now, he reached for the tiny bit of decorated embroidery placed on the inside of the lid and pressed his thumb against a couple of leaves stitched in golden thread. The hidden sensor was attuned to only his DNA like the first one, and he smirked as the panel unlocked, folding down to reveal a handgun with multiple clips of ammo in a waist holster and a hand tablet with the shield of the Capital’s law enforcement office on the back. It was not normally found outside the Capital, but Alan had convinced his father to purchase it by pointing out that it would help keep them from working with any criminals. He had honestly forgotten about this little emergency kit when he had grabbed this suitcase to pack, but now he was glad to have it.

Turning on the tablet, he typed in the name ‘Ten Heart’, and he clipped the gun to his belt as he waited for it to connect to the Most Wanted network. It took a few minutes, but Alan frowned as he scrolled through the list of charges that were listed under his lover’s name. Extortion, bad credit, theft, blackmail, and various con games that revolved around relieving people of their money were the big ones with multiple counts while there were only a few accessory to murder which explained why the bounty for her was only twenty thousand dalas. There was also a rough description of her with an artist’s sketch that sort of looked like her, but there was enough for reasonable doubt.

Curious, he pulled up the rest of her family. King and Queen heart had similar crimes but in much greater quantities as they had more time to perfect their game with equal bounties and descriptions, and Ace barely had any mention, only listed as a ‘person of interest’. Which certainly made sense as to why Ace was the only one who dared to enter a settlement. He was young and on the edge of the group, and no one would know of his connection to the group if they didn’t see him with the family.

Jack’s sheet had Alan very glad he had the handgun now. Not only was there a very detailed picture, a snapshot it looked like from someone brave enough to face his wrath, but the bounty on his head was twenty million dalas, dead or alive. His crimes seemed to center around murder, often of the very people the rest of the family were trying to bleed of money. That was undoubtedly where the accessory to murder charges came from for the others.

He slipped the palm sized tablet into his back pocket as he absently kicked his suitcase closed which automatically closed the hidden panel, and he adjusted the holster on his belt, glad for the handgun now. While it didn’t look like much, the sonic blast that came from the muzzle left a hole large enough for a grown man to put his head through with room to spare. There was no way to cripple someone with this gun, only kill them, and he was perfectly fine with that. He slipped the extra ammo into his front pockets where he would be able to get to them easily even as he left the supply room.

They outnumbered him four to one, but if he got the drop on them, Alan should be able to gain the advantage. Especially if he showed he wasn’t above using lethal force to get his way. He just had to keep his cool, and he would teach them that it was unwise to cross or attempt to manipulate Alan Elbourne.

Casually, he wandered through the transport and stepped outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin as he leaned against the metal vehicle. He hadn’t truly realized just how isolated the Hearts were keeping him, but since they were trying to drain him of his money, it made sense that they didn’t want him to wise up to their activities. Or figure out they were criminals and potentially turn them in for the rewards on their heads.

Well, things were going to be changing one way or another.

“What are you doing out here, lover?” Ten’s sleep filled voice came from the door of the transport, and Alan glanced over to find her standing on the steps in another of those long dresses. She was rubbing at her eyes and her hair was a tangled mess, indicating she had been abruptly woken from her nap. Probably by her parents when they realized he was outside, and they were afraid he was going to leave, taking his money with him.

“Go get the others, Ten,” Alan ordered, his voice unyielding and authoritative as he stared at her. “I think it’s time we all had a chat.” He rather enjoyed the way she paled before she turned and stumbled up the stairs, nearly tripping again on her skirt. That was another thing he was going to have to address along with everything else as he finalized his plans. A lot was going to depend on how they reacted to his announcements.

It only took a few minutes for Ten to return with the other three present members of the family, and Queen huffed as she folded her arms under her breasts, an annoyed look on her face. She stepped down from the steps with King and Jack flanking her, but before she could say anything, Alan pulled the tablet out of his pocket. Queen and King both paled when they saw the emblem on it while Jack’s face grew red with temper as Alan calmly began reading off their lists of crimes. Ten turned ashen and swayed a bit while anger flared in King’s eyes. Queen, however, had a touch of calculation in her gaze, as if she was trying to figure out the best angle to salvage the con.

Jack took a threatening step towards Alan but stopped when he realized Alan had the gun in his hand, pointing at the volatile young man.

“Try anything, Jack, and I’ll enjoy being reimbursed what I’ve paid all of you so far with the twenty million dalas bounty on your head,” drawled Alan, sliding the tablet back into his pocket.

“What now?” asked Ten, her voice hoarse as she stared at Alan. He could see her shaking, probably in fear of what he could do with that information, and he tilted his head slightly, enjoying the feel of power he currently had. It was nice being in charge where his word was law. Was this what his father felt before he died? If so, Alan could understand why the old man clung to his power for so long.

“Can you find my sister’s body at Castle Chaythe if it’s there?” Alan demanded, his voice hard and unwavering. That was the pretense they had brought him out here under, and he wanted a definite answer before he fully committed to the plans running through his head. “Or was that just an excuse to get at my wallet?”

“You bastard!” snarled Jack, taking a step towards Alan, and the gun in Alan’s hand let out a whomp as the concentrated sonic shockwave burst from the nozzle. Ten screamed as the scent of burnt leather and scorched wood filled the air as the tree behind Jack exploded. Jack was too busy shaking off his leather coat to examine the burn on his arm where Alan had shifted his aim just that much to brush past him instead of strike him.

“That was your second and last warning, Jack,” drawled the blond man, adjusting his aim once more to focus on the other’s chest, “As long as your head is identifiable, I’ll get the bounty on it. Care to test me?”

“Ace and King can!” Ten blurted, and Alan saw her wringing her hands out of the corner of his eye even as he kept most of his attention on Jack. “I didn’t lie about that!”

Alan inclined his head as he continued staring at Jack while his words were directed towards all of them. He was not about to let his attention waiver from the unpredictable and temperamental murderer. “As I am paying for this expedition, I am now in charge,” he announced, leaving no room for argument in his tone. “There will be no more unneeded stops, no more dragging things out, and no more withholding information from me. At all. Ten, stop wearing those dresses before you kill yourself in them.” Now for the carrot that would tempt them even as they realized he also held a stick. “I can’t marry a corpse after all.”

It was almost amusing to watch her realize exactly what he said as the fear in her face faded under her surprise and confusion. “Marry?”

“Of course. I am not an unreasonable man,” remarked Alan in a lighter tone, and he felt the tension fade from three of the four. Jack still had a good chunk of his attention, and Alan wasn’t going to let his guard down because the younger man wasn’t acting on his temper right now. “As three of you have only vague descriptions and rather poor artist’s renditions of your pictures, it would be easy for you to live the rest of your lives in my home as my wife and her parents.” He smirked at the young man, uncaring how his next words might be taken but not finding it in him to really care at the moment. “Jack, I’m willing to pay you a small fortune to walk away for good and never come near my home or my soon to be wife and in-laws again. You’re far too recognizable to be connected to me after all.”

Taking a chance, Alan lowered his gun a bit, waiting to see what would happen. “All this would happen after we find my sister, of course.”

Because there was no way he was going to spend this much time and money without ensuring Charlotte returned home with him where she belonged.

Dead or alive.

Her head was swimming and her emotions were in a tangled jumble as Ten tried to figure out what was going on.

She had laid down for a quick nap, exhausted after constantly distracting Alan from his questions with sex. It was a standard practice for her, but he was proving to be nearly insatiable once he got started, leaving her wrung out each time. With Ace going for supplies and Jack supposedly watching Alan, Ten had been comfortable with the idea of taking a well deserved nap.

Only Jack had pounded on her door and snarled at her that Alan was outside. Worried that their golden goose was going to head to the nearby settlement, Ten had staggered out of the transport only to be met with a forceful and in control Alan. The meeting he had demanded had revealed what she had feared.

He knew about their pasts, and he was armed.

Her hope that Jack might be fast enough to disarm Alan so they could figure out what to do about him was dashed when Alan demonstrated that the small handgun he was holding was devastating when it came to damage.

She had been sure at that point Alan was going to march all of them into Garucia to collect the various bounties on their heads, but instead, he had demanded the truth about their ability to locate his sister. It felt like a bit of hope being offered even as she quickly reassured Alan that they could do what they promised. Alan taking charge of the expedition had been expected, but his announcement of his plan to marry her had completely blindsided her. Especially as he had included her parents in the offer to live out the rest of their lives in luxury. A part of her wasn’t surprised that Alan was willing to pay Jack to vanish into the Frontier nor that all of this would happen only after they found his sister.

“What about Ace?” Ten asked, her conscience prodding her to ask about her younger brother. Alan hadn’t mentioned anything about plans for Ace. Was he just going to be forgotten? Left out of plans so he could move about more efficiently?

“As Ace’s sheet is practically nonexistent, he will be free to make his own choices,” Alan remarked, although his eyes were still firmly focused on Jack. “He can stay or he can accept a sum of money and leave.” Alan’s smirk was as cold and sharp as a blade. “I only have an issue with Jack at the moment.”

“As it is a mutually beneficial plan for all involved, I accept on behalf of the Heart Family.” Queen’s voice rang out, confident and sure, but there was a slightly distracted quality to her words. Ten glanced over at her mother to discover her eyes were unfocused, and she realized Queen was using her ability to See if this was a beneficial path or not. Ten knew King would agree with Queen, trusting her sight, and Ten had learned the hard way to trust her as well. She still had that scar on her lower back where she hadn’t bothered to listen to her mother’s advice and her mark nearly killed her with a stab to the kidneys before Jack had violently broken his neck.

Ten gave Alan what she hoped was a delighted smile, but it felt a little brittle, like thin ice in the sun. “I’ll just go get changed,” she stated, but it seemed to come out more like a question. Tension slid out of her shoulders when Alan nodded, and she hiked the ridiculous skirts up to her waist before bolting for her room.

Her hands were still shaking as she somehow managed to get the dress off without ruining it, and she changed into a short skirt and a button down shirt that she tied between her breasts. That was about the time her legs gave out, and she collapsed on the bed, wrapping her arms around herself as she shook, giving in to the mix of feelings.

Ten realized that this truly was both the best scenario and the most terrifying. This was the chance to live the life she deserved, the one she had started dreaming about at Alan’s breakfast table, but at the same time, Alan was more ruthless than she originally thought. It was one thing to ensure someone died of poison or a medicine overdose, but it was completely different to stare someone in the face as the trigger was pulled.

Ten had thought Alan was weak willed and easily manipulated into being led around by his cock. The Alan Elbourne she had just run from was not weak at all, yet he was willing to offer them a life of luxury despite their less than honest intentions towards him. Queen had agreed to his offer, meaning he wasn’t planning on betraying them to the authorities, but it would be hard to leave with his money without raising suspicion.

Rubbing her face with her hands, she tried to calm down and get her thoughts in order. She needed to think through this logically so she could make her own plans for the future, because she wasn’t going to leave everything in Alan’s hands. Not with the information he now had to hold over them as leverage. Mainly because she didn’t trust him to not turn on them should it become more convenient for him.

Any money she got, part of it was going to have to be put aside as an escape fund with a small bag of clothes tucked away where she could grab it on her way out the window. If she couldn’t grab it, she’d just have to make sure she grabbed her emergency money. Meanwhile, she would just keep Alan happy, and she could live in luxury. Ten was sure her parents were making the same sort of plans, and she hoped Jack was smart enough to take the money and run.

Jack might be a problem considering his recent attitude. He had always been protective of her, and she certainly had enjoyed him as much as he had enjoyed her in bed when they were between targets. But ever since Ten had returned with Alan, Jack had been acting possessive, as if she was his favorite toy that Alan was trying to take away. She really hoped Jack didn’t do something stupid to ruin this chance for her, but Ten was pragmatic enough with a healthy dose of self preservation to not interefere with anything Jack did unless he tried to hurt her golden goose in Alan.

The unofficial motto for their group was “everyone for themselves”, but they knew they worked better as a team. Yet, Ten had seen how casually Alan threw his money around, had dined in the luxurious manor, and slept on high count sheets. While there had been tentative thoughts to hang onto that wealth and enjoy it, most of her thoughts had been more fantasy than reality. Mainly due to not wanting to add the “Black Widow” tag to her various activities. Those who wore such a tag were often snapped up quicker than the ones who simply bled a victim financially. She had always been careful to never marry her targets because that would have only complicated things greatly, making her more visible than she already was.

So, all she had to do was survive this trip, ensure Alan survived as well, and then the two of them could live happily ever after in rich comfort. It was a much better plan than an empire of thieves, criminals, and cutthroats because then she wouldn’t have to sleep with a gun under her pillow and a locked door for safety. Her parents would do whatever her parents wished, and she was sure Ace would be willing to do what he wanted once he had his options. Only Jack was the wild card in the group, but a bounty of twenty million dalas was nothing to sneeze at.

To secure her rich and comfortable future, Ten had no problem with collecting that bounty if she had to.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Shivering, Ace tugged the collar of his coat closer to his neck as he watched the snow capped mountains roll past. They were traveling faster than they had in the past two weeks, and Ace was still trying to figure out if this was a good thing or not.

Garucia had been the turning point, and he briefly wondered if things would have played out as they did if he hadn’t been sent on a supply run. Alan Elbourne had discovered the family’s true profession, but instead of turning them in for the bounties, he had offered them a deal. Or at least that was what Ten had been bragging about when Ace had returned with news of the dhampir hunter passing through Garucia and the crazy old cyberhorse builder turning on the sheriff. Elbourne had taken the news about the dhampir hunter with a frown but seemed more bothered by the lack of information about Meier Link’s black coach as well as the apparent disappearance of the Marcus Brothers.

That was another thing that had changed. Now Elbourne was getting all the information while Jack hid away, sulking or fuming. Ace wasn’t sure which, but he had a feeling it was going to end badly for someone. He also hated how he’d been ordered to stand before a seated Elbourne and give his report, like he was a peasant reporting to a ruler. King and Queen calmly sat to one side, deferring to Elbourne with each decision while Ten was practically curled in his lap like a well fed cat accepting pampering from her master.

A few more days were added to their trip when they found the bridge on the road to Castle Chaythe had been destroyed by what looked like some sort of bombs. There were also some slightly melted silver arrows that Elbourne identified as the prefered weapon of Borgoff Marcus, leader of the Marcus Brothers, and some bloodstains indicating that someone was either seriously injured or died. Undoubtedly there was some sort of confrontation that happened, but it was impossible to see whose blood that was because any corpse was missing. Probably dragged off by scavengers.

Now, they were in the mountains that surrounded Castle Chaythe. Another shiver slid down Ace’s spine, and he huddled deeper into his coat even as he had the suspicion the chill had nothing to do with the weather. Everyone knew vampires, Nobles especially, were cold, heartless creatures with ice for blood, so it made sense that the longer they occupied an area, the colder and more barren it became. And the Bloody Countess Carmilla had occupied Castle Chaythe for centuries if not millenia.

“You’ve been silent.”

Ace turned his head from the window as Ten plopped down next to him, her usual revealing clothes exchanged for an insulated jumpsuit, sturdy boots, and a thick coat. It was refreshing to see that he wasn’t the only one affected by the stubborn cold.

“What’s there to say?” he asked, shrugging his shoulder. “A decision was reached without anyone asking me which tells me all I need to know about my place in this group.” His long term goal hadn’t changed at all, but he couldn’t shift his attitude without raising questions. At least not yet. He had to make sure he survived Castle Chaythe before he could finalize any plans to escape. It felt like their arrival at that foreboding castle was a point in time balanced on the tip of a knife. Poised to fall in any direction, but not knowing where it would go until something happened.

It was a new feeling, different from his usual Scrying, and Ace wasn’t sure he liked this strange knowing in the back of his head. Was this what it was like for Queen when she used her own talent to See the best course of action for the group? If so, Ace would rather go back to being ignorant about the future.

“There wasn’t time to wait for you,” sighed Ten, shaking her head as she shoved her hands into her coat pockets. She offered Ace what he thought was supposed to be a reassuring smile. “Besides, this works out for all of us. He’s willing to let you leave if you want or stay and live in a lifestyle that we deserve.”

Ace shook his head and went back to staring out the window. “Words are worthless without action to back them up,” he countered, parroting an early lesson in this family. They made their living lying to people so why would they believe they wouldn’t be lied to in return? Especially with a deal that was far too good to truly believe it was real. “In other words, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

A broken, dark shadow appeared in the distance as the transport rounded a mountain, and a feeling of dread slid down Ace’s spine like Death had reached out to touch him before it settled in his stomach, twisting up into an uncomfortable knot. Castle Chaythe. There was no doubt he was staring at the remains of that fearsome place.

Sliding out of the window seat, Ace glanced at Ten. “Better get ready. We’re almost there.”

He didn’t give her a chance to reply before he was slipping off to his little room. There wasn’t much for him to do, but he readjusted his knife, moving the sheath from the back of his pants to the front where he would be able to grab it much faster than before. The only people who willingly went to a vampire’s castle were the vampire hunters, the desperate, and the foolish, and Ace really wished he wasn’t stuck with the latter. At least hunters would be much more prepared for what was waiting for them in that cursed place. Ace lingered as long as possible in his room, trying to calm down even as every bit of self preservation shrieked at him to run as fast and as far away as possible from the very place they were heading. Taking one last deep breath, he forced himself to leave the dubious safety of his room and join everyone in the driver’s compartment.

King was casually steering the transport to the ruins which grew closer with a surprising steadiness, and Ace was thankful that the sun was rising in the morning sky. It would give them more protection than if the sun was heading towards the horizon. A glance around showed that Elbourne was standing in such a way that he could keep an eye on Jack who was leaning in a corner with his usual snarl on his face, and that feeling of Possibility seemed even sharper between those two. Whatever was going to happen, Ace knew it was centered around them.

Great. Stuck between a psycho and a sociopath. Just where Ace wanted to be, especially in this place. Maybe he’d get lucky and could run when they turned on each other. That was a nice thought, but he brushed it aside as the rough road under their wheels smoothed out into a well tended surface or at least the illusion of it.

“Get as deep into the ruins as you can,” Elbourne ordered, his voice uncompromising. “We’ll start searching there unless Ace can narrow down where my sister’s body might me.”

Ace shrugged a shoulder as he considered his options. He had never Scryed for a body before. “I’ll need something personal,” he stated, tearing his eyes away from the castle to focus on Elbourne who was still paying more attention to Jack than anyone else. “It’s the only way it will work.”

Elbourne dug into his pant pocket before handing Ace a small gold ring that seemed to vibrate in the young man’s palm. “That belonged to Charlotte, and she never took it off.”

Meaning it was soaked in years of his sister’s energy. That always left an imprint behind, and Ace could use that. He pulled a silk cord out of his pocket and tied the ring onto it to form a strange sort of necklace. Grasping the silk in one hand, he dangled the ring over his open palm like a pendulum, and he focused his ability on trying to find where Charlotte Elbourne and the ring were separated. That would be a good starting point for finding her body at least.

At first, the ring just hung there, twitching with each movement of the transport. Ace held his breath even as he kept his mind focused on his goal, and after an eternity, the ring began to slowly swing towards the left as if it was being dragged that direction by a magnet.

“To the left,” Ace called, his eyes focused on the ring’s movements, not even blinking. He felt the transport slow and turn, but otherwise ignored what was happening as he called out directions whenever the ring changed its momentum.

Slowly, they crept through the ruins, directed by Ace and the ring, before the transport came to a stop, snapping him out of his concentration. Ace blinked very dry eyes and looked up to find rubble rising up around the transport, and he knew they would have to go the rest of the way on foot. Absently, he dropped the silk cord over his head before pointing straight ahead.

“That is where your sister and her ring were separated,” Ace announced, feeling a lot more secure in that certainty than ever before. “If she’s dead, that’s where her body should be.” Unless scavengers or monsters got to it first, but Ace didn’t think anything stupid enough to come here would last long.

“After you,” drawled Elbourne, and Ace flinched slightly because it was clearly an order that he had no way to disobey. Shoving his hands in his pockets to hide their trembling, Ace stomped out of the transport, muttering obscenities under his breath to hide how much he did not want to go out there now. Or ever.

Gravel crunched under Ace’s boots, and the young man glanced back at the transport when he noticed the compartment that held the scout bike wasn’t being blocked by the rubble crowding around the vehicle. Taking that as a good sign, Ace turned back around and started climbing over what looked like broken marble as he heard the others finally leaving the transport to follow him.

Their progress was even slower now as Ace had to pick his way through the ruins, and the damage was still fresh enough that a great deal of the rubble was still settling. More than once he had to scramble to safety as the floor suddenly collapsed under his weight or something fell from the ceiling trying to crush him, but Ace pressed on, pausing now and again to check his course with the ring. Ducking under what looked like a huge marble support beam that had somehow been cut free, Ace froze at the sight that greeted him, his heart in his throat.

At the top of a tall dias was an open coffin that looked like some sort of macabre bed, a fact that was emphasized by the rust that ran down the side and cascaded down the stairs. There were large splatters of rust across the floor like someone had taken buckets of paint and thrown them around for whatever reason, and Ace’s eyes followed a smaller trail of rust to a small puddle.

Except that wasn’t rust.

He swallowed his heart out of his throat again as he stared at what he now knew was to be a great deal of dried blood. He didn’t know what happened for that much blood to be spilled in such massive quantities, but this was where the ring had parted with Charlotte Elbourne’s hand.

A glint of something on the far side of the chamber caught Ace’s attention, and he cautiously made his way around what he was beginning to believe was a battle site. The others were very noisy as they stumbled into the room, cursing and swearing, and Ace could hear Elbourne start making demands of everyone, wanting to know where his sister’s body was. Ace ignored the man as he crouched next to his find, his eyes drinking in the details.

It was a sword that looked to be made out of some golden metal, and a dragon connected the blade to the hilt with the outstretched wings creating the cross piece. Two tiny rubies made up the eyes which seemed to glitter with a sort of intelligence in the light while the tail curled down around the blade itself. It was a massive weapon, and Ace didn’t want anyone else to find it. There was something compelling about the sword and dragon, something warm and protective in this place of cold and death, and he wasn’t going to leave it here. Besides, it might be useful later. A quick glance around revealed a torn and tattered tapestry partially buried in the rubble, and he grinned, realizing he could use that to help carry the strange sword.

Ace braced himself for the weight of the sword only to stagger backwards at how light it was in his hands. Whatever material this was made of, it wasn’t brass or anything else he was familiar with. It also carried a strange warmth, as if the owner had put it down a few moments ago, and he quickly shrugged out of his coat, managing to wrap it around the distinct hilt with one hand, hiding the dragon from sight. Scurrying over to the tapestry, he used his knife to cut a chunk of the cloth off of what was buried in the stone, and he fashioned a clumsy but effective harness for the sword. He slung it across his back where it rested comfortably like it had belonged to him from the start. Turning back to the others, he noticed Ten and Queen were huddled in their coats, haphazardly poking in various corners, but for whatever reason, Ace wasn’t feeling the cold any longer.

“She’s not here!” growled Elbourne, and Ace watched him stalk over to the dried bloodstains and glared at them as if they held the answer to what happened to his sister. Ace shifted slightly, and Elbourne’s head snapped up, his eyes almost glowing with a sort of desperate madness that made the young man wonder just how much of his sanity was still hanging around. “You! Find her now!”

Nodding if only to appease the second crazy man he found himself with, Ace lifted the ring from where it had been resting on his chest to eye level and focused on locating the woman who had worn this ring last. The circle of gold rotated on the silk cord only to stop when the opening was fully visible. There was a shimmer in the opening as if a curtain was being pulled back, and his eyes widened as he caught sight of the woman that must be Charlotte Elbourne for the first time. She was lovely, laughing in delight as her dark hair flowed around her while she danced in the arms of a pale Noble who was smiling back at her.

“Alive.” The word slipped out of him on a breath of air before he could stop it, and he caught a glimpse of a banner behind her on a wall with a stylized dragon on it before hands gripped his shoulders. He yelped as those fingers dug into his skin, and the ring thumped against his chest as his concentration was broken. But not before he knew with a deadly certainty that Charlotte Elbourne was with the owner of the sword strapped across his back.

“Where? Where is she?” snarled Elbourne, shaking Ace hard enough to rattle his teeth. He could almost feel his brain shaking around in his head, and he bit back a whimper of fear as the realization he was in just as much danger from Elbourne as he was from Jack. His hands flew to the waist of his pants, and he fumbled with his knife for a few precious heartbeats before yanking it from the sheath. There was a slight sting from his left hand but he ignored it as he swung at Elbourne.

There was a ripping of cloth, and Elbourne yelled as Ace staggered backwards, away from his attacker. He barely managed to keep ahold of his knife as his back hit the dias, and he didn’t take his eyes off of Elbourne who had one hand pressed against his stomach. Something wet dripped off of Ace’s left hand, but he was more concerned with the gun in the older man’s that was being lifted.

“You little bastard!” hissed Elbourne, and the gun didn’t waiver as it was aimed at Ace. The young man could feel his heart pounding in his chest as the precarious balance he had noticed on his way here was starting to sway in his head. “Give me one reason to not put a hole in you.”

Ace bared his teeth in a less than friendly grin as his fingers tightened around his knife. “Because without me, you’ll never find your sister,” he taunted, using that certainty as a shield before he threw up a distraction to pull Elbourn’s attention off of him. “I saw her dancing with some pale Noble and having the time of her life.”

If anything, the fury in those blue eyes grew as Elbourne’s face turned a dangerous shade of red. “Liar!” snarled Elbourne sounding as dangerous as any Noble worth their fangs, but Ace didn’t think the accusation was meant for him. A fact that was proven correct by his next words. “That bitch lied to my face and took my money. She must have had a good laugh at my expense. Her and that damn dhampir! I’ll kill them all!”

“Not if you’re dead first, Elbourne!” called Jack, and Ace actually screamed as the crack of a gun echoed through the chamber.

Elbourne stumbled before whirling to face jack, and Ace stared at the smoking hole in the back of Elbourne’s coat. Through the destroyed fabric, there was a glam of metal, and Ace realized why neither he nor Jack had done more damage to the crazed blond. Of course the rich bastard was going to have armored clothing.

“That was your last mistake, Jack,” drawled Elbourne, bringing his gun up, and Ten screamed as there was a sort of whomp sound, like a fist hitting a pillow. Ace swallowed the scream locked behind his teeth as he sat down on the dias stairs when Jack’s head vanished in a bloody mist. The body actually stood there for a couple of seconds before it crumpled to the ground, blood pouring from what was left of the neck, adding to the mess already on the floor.

“So much for the twenty million dala bounty,” drawled Elbourne, and Ace’s blood turned to ice at at casual Elbourne sounded as if he was discussing the price of crops or a business deal that fell through instead of the cold blooded murder of a man. There was no way Alan Elbourne was sane, not with that sort of emotional shift. Ace gulped as Elbourne’s gun pointed at him once more. “Now be a good little boy and find my sister.”

Laughter rang out around them, cold, mocking and quite feminin. Ace whimpered slightly as he noticed just how much fresh blood had been rather carelessly scattered around a Noble’s castle. And if the hunters had lied about Charlotte’s death, what else had they lied about when it came to the vampires?

Somehow, Ace pushed himself to his feet, and he ignored everyone as he raced for the hole in the rubble where they had come in. Let Elbourne and his crazy family deal with the Bloody Countess. Cold, ghostly fingers brushed over his cheek, but he swatted them, leaving a smear of his own blood on his cheek, even as he slipped on the pool by Jack’s body. There didn’t seem to be as much as he would have thought lying on the marble, but he pushed that thought aside in favor of getting the hell out of there.

“How delightful,” cooed a saccharine voice that seemed to come from every corner of the chamber, and Ace forced his legs to keep moving towards the exit. “You brought me a virgin maiden with such sweet blood. I’m going to enjoy draining you dry, lovely.”

Ace snarled, his anger giving him the strength to make it the last few feet to the exit. Queen and Ten were no way considered virgins, and Jack was already bleeding out. Which meant Crazy Carmilla was talking about him. “Fuck you, bitch,” he growled over his shoulder. “I’m a guy!”

There was another whomp and a furious shriek followed Ace out of the room, and he raced through the ruins, heading for the transport. All his previous plans for escaping his family were abandoned in his wild flight as he focused simply on getting as far away from Alan Elbourne as possible. Considering the casual ease at which Elbourne shot Jack, Ace had no illusions that his life expectancy was for however long he was useful to Elbourne. That was an even worse limit than with the Hearts.

Scrambling over a pile of crumbling marble and twisted metal, Ace yelped as what looked like solid floor suddenly vanished beneath his foot, leaving a gaping hole leading only into darkness below. He managed to claw his way back onto the rubble and started carefully crawling his way around the pit. Damn Nobles with their fucking head games! Once he hit the transport, he was grabbing the scout bike  and running. The only question remaining was where to run to? Where could he go to ensure he was protected and safe from not only his family but murder happy Elbourne who’s pockets were undoubtedly deep enough to buy himself clean of a lot of criminal charges?

The air in front of Ace rippled, reminding him of heat rising off the road, and for a brief moment, he was sure there had been a broken marble pillar about to fall on his head. A quick glance showed a sheer drop into the pit on his right, and he knew he would have thrown himself in that direction to escape from being crushed by the non-existent rubble.

“Nice try, bitch,” he snarled as his foot slid on a bit of polished stone, and the sword on his back shifted a bit with the movement. There was the feeling of those ghostly fingers plucking at his clothes, but he ignored them as he kept moving. “Not gonna fall for your cheap tricks.”

That laughter rang out again, but it sounded hollow, like there wasn’t enough of Carmilla left to support it. “Such sweet blood you have, my little virgin,” purred that voice in his ear, but like the laugh, it was hollow and lacked any power behind it. Like the wavering illusion. “Won’t you share more with me? Together, we can take care of all your enemies and you can live your life how you want to.”

It was tempting, oh so tempting, to know he’d be free of Elbourne and his family. Ace could hear screams and yelling behind him and knew it would only be a matter of minutes before he was caught. But if he shared a bit of blood with Carmilla, she would be strong enough to deal with them. Permanently. His fingers flexed on the handle of his knife, and Ace paused, looking down at the sharp blade gleaming in the dim light. There was a promise in that sharp edge of a painless parting of his skin. All he had to do was draw it across his wrist to release the crimson liquid in his veins, and he would be safe for the rest of his life.

The ice cold metal against the hot skin of his wrist snapped Ace out of the spell he had fallen under, and he screamed in denial as he heaved the knife into the pit with all his strength. The clatter of it falling was drowned out by a furious shriek from Carmilla, and Ace was panting like he had run across the entire Frontier by the time he made it over the rubble and onto solid ground. That had been too fucking close!

“Little pest!” hissed that voice in his ear as a freezing gale spran up, and Ace groaned as he collapsed to his knees, his arms wrapping around himself in an effort to hold onto every bit of heat he had. “I’ll freeze your very bones!”

The young man couldn’t respond with how badly his teeth were chattering, and he racked his brain for what happened to his coat. He needed his coat if he was going to survive. He had it when he walked into the bloodstained room. Then he saw the sword and… His mind screeched to a stop. The sword! He had wrapped his coat around the hilt of the sword! Ace’s fingers were stiff and partially numb as he reached back to yank his coat free of the sword. There were a few precious seconds of tugging when his coat got caught on something, probably the dragon wings, and he groaned in relief when it came free.

“That sword!” shrieked Carmilla as the gale died. Ace wrapped the coat around him as best he could with a giant sword strapped to his back. “It’s his! You’re under his protection? Is that why I can’t touch you?”

Ace didn’t have an answer for her, but he wouldn’t tell her even if he did. If this strange dragon sword kept her off his back and out of his head, it had just become his new best friend. He did his best to close his ears to the ranting and raving about the mysterious him that alternated with the coy pleas to share his blood, focusing on getting to the transport. A few more times illusions wavered in front of him as if trying to form enough substance to force him towards another direction, but he ignored them getting more shrieks of thwarted fury.

Staggering around one more pile of twisted metal and broken stone, Ace laughed in hysterical relief to find himself staring at the transport. Ignoring the false safety that the transport itself represented, he yanked open the side compartment, hauled out the scout bike, and slammed the compartment door shut, hoping it would give him a few more minutes as they figured out where he was. Ignoring the pleas and curses that were growing even more faint with each thump of his heart, Ace jumped on the bike and opened the throttle, tearing out of the ruins at a breakneck speed.

King could track him, and with Elbourne’s money, they would have a lot more resources to find him. Ace needed someone who couldn’t be intimidated or bought and wouldn’t mind accepting his skills as payment for that protection. Like that Noble that grabbed Elbourne’s sister who was somehow connected to the him that owned a sword that scared Carmilla. Ace might be trading one Noble for another, but the pale Noble was at least amiable towards humans. Definitely better to take a chance with him and the dragon sword than wait to see what Elbourne had in store for him. He only hoped he could locate his target before his own hunters caught him.

Okay sword, lead me to the one who wielded you, Ace thought, managing to split his focus between the bike and sword. He had never attempted such a thing before, but necessity was the mother of innovation after all. This would either work or he would lose what lead he had every time he stopped to Scry.

A subtle nudge had him turning away from Castle Chaythe, and Ace grinned, fierce and triumphant, as he let the sword guide him to what he hoped was safety.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.