Taken by a Vampire (Vampire Queen) - By Joey W. Hill Page 0,2

her, but everything came up. Only steel through the heart could kill a third-mark servant . . . or beheading, which killed pretty much everything, so she could be a skeleton with skin stretched over it and endure to serve.

Those fingers whispered over her flesh, distracting her. When they disappeared from her view, she drew an unhappy breath, but they returned covered in paint, which they started to swirl across her flesh. He’d meant it quite literally. He was painting a picture. This was obviously another hallucination, which meant Stephen would turn it into something horrid, but she’d take the respite. She wanted to hear that voice again. But a servant didn’t ask for anything.

The figment of her imagination created a sky across her stomach. Blue, green, a touch of rose. The muted red and orange he’d applied first became a hazy sunrise. His touch soothed. She didn’t want it to go away, but she was at her Master’s mercy. She’d betrayed him once, but she would resist him no other way. She would honor her training that much.

An abrupt sting in her arm told her something new was flowing through her veins. Lord Brian, perhaps trying something different. But she kept staring at those fingers. More details were coming into focus. The new male wore a ring, a heavy pewter band with markings on it. As he drew his hand away, he grazed her bound one. She managed to latch on to the middle finger that bore the ring and tried to make sense of it, like a blind person reading Braille. He stilled, letting her hold on to him with that awkward, weak grasp. A servant didn’t touch a vampire unless invited, but this wasn’t real, so it didn’t matter.

“Time is a great healer. That is what the ring says, in Hebrew. My ancestral language, so to speak.”

His voice was thoroughly masculine. It seemed absurd to call a man’s voice masculine, but Stephen’s hadn’t struck her that way. She thought of the Edgar Rice Burroughs story, where the hero described a trusted brother-in-arms as “fully male,” meaning he had all the best qualities a man could have. So perhaps it wasn’t so absurd.

He had no definable accent, typical of a well-traveled vampire with a few centuries in age, but she’d guess American. Whatever Lord Brian had injected seemed to be clearing her mind. Her body twitched, then went into a rigid, muscle-grinding spasm. She clamped down on that ring finger as her other hand convulsed, fingers jerking into a splayed, spiderlike rigor. Her thighs strained, pressing her hips hard into the table, her neck arching. A cry struggled free of her throat, crossed an inert tongue, dry lips.

“Easy . . . dinnae fash yourself, lass.” Another new voice, Scottish, came from directly above her. Though he had a different accent, this man had a tone like the other man’s. Gentle, irrefutable command that told her she should do her best to obey—once she determined what fashing was and why she shouldn’t do it—and that obeying their will was a port in the storm. A shelter.

She was looking up into tawny brown eyes. Dark brown hair was carelessly pulled back from his strong-featured face. He was a big man, towering over her like a concerned oak. If she put her slim hand on his jaw, she expected it would look like a child’s in comparison. When he put his hands on her head, cupping her ears, her jaw, it emphasized his size.

Her lashes brushed her cheeks as she looked downward again. The hazy sun painted on her abdomen now shone on a green meadow dotted with white flowers, all of it smeared and dreamlike, like an Impressionist painting. The man with the ring tugged the sheet down as he decorated her mons, the tops of her thighs, expanding the meadow over the terrain of her naked body.

Even in this state her body was trained to respond to a vampire’s touch. An unbidden tear rolled out her right eye, sliding along her temple. The Scot caught it on his thumb, made another reassuring noise. He bent, brushed his lips across her strapped-down forehead. It told her he was this vampire’s servant, for no vampire would ever act with such tender sentiment, especially not in front of Lord Brian. But he didn’t seem like any servant she knew. Stephen was obviously still playing with her mind, her own broken dreams weaving among his vicissitudes like creeper vines in a crumbling castle

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