Chapter Thirty-five


"Why didn't you show me this as soon as I got home?"

Rehvenge asked his doggen. As the servant flushed with shame and horror, he reached out to the poor male. "It's okay. Never mind."

"Master, I came to you when I realized you had returned for the day. But you were sleeping for once. I wasn't sure what the image was, and I didn't want to disturb you. You never rest."

Yeah, the feeding with Marissa had put him out like a light. First time he'd closed his eyes and lost consciousness in... God, whenever. But this was trouble.

Rehv sat down in front of the computer screen and replayed the digital file. It was the same as the first time he'd seen it: A man with dark hair and black clothes parking in front of the gates. Getting out of a truck. Coming forward to touch the mourning ribbons that had been tied on the iron bars.

Rehv increased the zoom until he saw the man's face clearly. Unremarkable, neither handsome nor ugly. But the body that went with it was big. And that jacket looked as if it was either padded or covering some weapons.

Rehv froze the image and did a copy on the date/time reading in the lower right-hand corner. He switched screens, calling up the files from the other camera that monitored the front gate, the heat-sensing one. With a quick paste action, he got the recording from that piece of equipment at exactly the same moment in time.

And what do you know. Body temperature of that "man" was in the fifties. A lesser.

Rehv switched screens again and got in real tight on the slayer's face while the killer looked at those ribbons. Sadness, fear... anger. None of which were anonymous emotions; all of which were tied to something personal. Something lost.

So this was the bastard who took Bella. And he was coming back for her.

Rehv wasn't surprised the lesser had found the house. Bella's capture had been news within the species, and the family's address had never been hidden from the race... in fact, with mahmen's spiritual advising, the Thorne Avenue mansion was well-known. All it would take would be the capture of one civilian who knew where they lived.

The real question was, Why hadn't the slayer come through the gates?

God. What time was it? Four in the afternoon. Shit.

"That is a lesser," Rehv said, punching his cane into the floor and rising quickly. "So we evacuate the house right now. You will find Lahni immediately and tell her the mistress must be dressed. Then you will take them both through the tunnel and drive them to the safe house in the van."

The doggen blanched. "Master, I had no idea that it was a¡ª"

Rehv put a hand on the male's shoulder to quell the wheel-spin panic. "You did well with what you knew. But move quickly now. Go get Lahni."

Rehv walked as quickly as he could to his mother's bedroom.

"Mahmen?" he said as he opened her door. "Mahmen, wake up."

His mother sat up in her bed of silken sheets, her white hair coiled in a cap for the day. "But it's... it is the afternoon still. Why¡ª"

"Lahni is coming to help you dress."

"Dear Virgin, Rehvenge. Why?"

"You are leaving this house."

"What¡ª"

"Now, mahmen. I'll explain later." He kissed both her cheeks as her maid came in. "Ah, good. Lahni, you will dress your mistress fast."

"Yes, master," the doggen said with a bow.

"Rehvenge! What is¡ª"

"Hurry. Leave with the doggen. I'll call you."

As his mother cried out his name, he went down to his private quarters and shut the doors so he wouldn't hear her. He picked up the phone and dialed the Brotherhood's number despising what he had to do. But Bella's safety had to come first. After he left a message that made his throat sting, he went to his walk-in closet.

Right now the mansion was sealed up tight for the daylight hours, so there was no way a lesser could get in. The shutters covering the windows and doors were bullet- and fireproof and the house was made of stone walls that were two feet thick. To top it off, there were enough cameras and security alarms so he'd know if anyone so much as sneezed on his property. But he wanted his mahmen out anyway.

Plus, as soon as darkness fell, he was going to open up the iron gates and roll out the welcome mat. He wanted that lesser inside.

Rehv stripped out of his mink robe and put on a pair of black pants and a thick turtleneck sweater. He wouldn't get out the weapons until his mother was gone. If she wasn't totally hysterical already, seeing him covered with metal was going to throw her right over the edge.

Before he went back to check on the progress of the evac, he glanced at the locked cabinet in his closet. It was getting time for his afternoon dopamine dose. How perfect.

Smiling, he left his room without injecting himself, ready to bring all his senses out to play.

As the shutters lifted for the night, Zsadist lay on his side next to Bella, watching her sleep. She was on her back, tight in the crook of his arm, her head at his chest level. No sheets or blankets covered her naked body, because she was still radiating heat from the remnants of the needing.

When he'd returned after his trip to the kitchen, she'd eaten from his hand and then snoozed as he'd made up the bed with fresh linens. They'd lain together in the pitch-dark ever since.

He moved his hand from her upper thigh to the underside of her breast and brushed at her nipple with his forefinger. He'd been like this for hours, petting her, humming to her. Though he was so tired his lids were at half-mast, the calm between them was better than any rest he could have gotten if he'd shut his eyes.

As she stirred against him her hip brushed his, and he was surprised as the urge to take her rose. By now he figured he'd be done with that for a while.

He leaned back and looked down his body. Through the slit in the front of his boxers, the head of that thing he'd used on her had escaped, and as the shaft lengthened, the blunt tip pushed out farther and farther.

Feeling as if he were breaking some kind of law, he took the finger that had been running circles around Bella's nipple and poked at the erection. It was stiff, so it moved right back into place.

He closed his eyes and, with a wince, captured the arousal in his palm. When he stroked it he was surprised at how the soft skin slid over the hard core. And the sensations were weird. Not unpleasant, really. Actually, they kind of reminded him of being inside of Bella, only not that good. Not by a long shot.

God, he was such a sissy. Afraid of his own... dick. Cock? Penis? What the hell should he call it? What did normal males call themselves? Okay, George wasn't an option. But somehow referring to it as... it, just didn't seem right anymore.

Now that they'd shaken hands, so to speak.

He let go of the thing and slid his palm under the waistband of the boxers. He was queased out and nervous, but figured he had to finish the Lewis-and-Clark routine. He didn't know when he'd have the heart to do this again.

He shuffled the... dick, yeah, he'd start with just calling it dick... around so it was inside, but out of the way, and then touched the balls underneath. He felt a shock ride up the erection's shaft, and the tip tingled.

That felt kind of nice.

He frowned as he explored for the first time what the good Virgin had given him. Funny that all of it had been attached to him, hanging off of him, for so long and yet he'd never done what young, post-transition males no doubt spent whole days doing.

As he brushed over the balls again, they got tighter and the dick got even harder. Sensations boiled in his lower body, and images of Bella popped into his mind, images of the two of them having sex, of him stretching her legs up and going deep into her. He recalled with bone-aching clarity what she felt like beneath him, what that channel of hers did to him, how tight she was...

The whole thing started to snowball, the pictures in his mind, the rolling currents of energy spreading out from where his hand was. His breath grew short. His mouth parted. His body did some kind of surge thing, his hips jerking forward. On impulse, he rolled over on to his back and shoved the boxers down.

And then he realized what he was doing. Was he jerking off? Next to Bella? God, he was a nasty bastard.

Disgusted with himself, he released his hand and started yanking the boxers back up¡ª

"Don't stop," Bella said softly.

A frigid blast shot down Z's spine. Busted.

His eyes went to hers as the blood hit his face.

But she just smiled at him and stroked his arm. "You're so beautiful. The way you arched just now. Finish it, Zsadist. I know that's what you want to do, and you have nothing to be embarrassed by. You're beautiful when you touch yourself."

She kissed his bicep, her eyes going to the tent of his boxers. "Finish it," she whispered. "Let me see you finish."

Feeling like an anxious fool, but curiously unable to stop himself, he sat up and got naked.

Bella made a little noise of approval as he lay down again. Taking strength from her, he slowly slid his hand down his stomach, feeling the ridges of his muscles and the smooth, hairless skin that covered them. He didn't really expect to be able to continue¡ª

Holy shit. The thing was so hard, he could feel his heartbeat drumming through it.

He stared into Bella's deep blue eyes as he moved his palm up and down. Starbursts of pleasure began to shoot off and flow through his body. God... having her watch worked for him, even though it shouldn't have. When he'd been watched before¡ª

No, the past was not welcome here. If he lingered on what had happened a century ago, he was going to lose this moment with Bella.

With a shove and a slam he locked away the memories of what had been done to him in front of an audience. Bella's eyes... see them. Be in them. Drown in them.

Her gaze was so lovely, shining up at him with warmth, holding him as if he were in her arms. He looked at her lips. Her breasts. Her stomach... The gathering need in his blood took a geometric leap, exploding so that every inch of him felt an erotic tension.

Bella's eyes drifted down. As she watched him work it, she took her bottom lip between her teeth. Her fangs were two little white daggers, and he wanted them in his skin again. He wanted her sucking on him.

"Bella..." he groaned. Fuck, he was really into this.

He cocked one of his legs up, moaning in the back of his throat as he moved his hand faster and then concentrated the motion at the tip. A second later he lost it. He cried out as his head punched back into the pillow and his spine curved up to the ceiling. Warm jets hit his chest and belly, and the rhythmic releases went on for a time as he finished himself off. He stopped when the head was too sensitive to touch anymore.

He was breathing hard and dizzy as hell as he leaned to the side and kissed her. When he pulled back, her eyes showed how clearly she read him. She knew that she'd helped him through this first time. Yet somehow she wasn't looking at him with pity. She didn't seem to care that he was a lame-ass who up until now hadn't been able to bear touching himself.

He opened his mouth. "I l¡ª"

A knock cut off the declaration he had no business making.

"Do not open that door," he barked, wiping himself off with the boxers. He kissed Bella and pulled a sheet over her before going across the room.

He braced his shoulder against the door, as if whoever was on the other side might crash into the room. It was a stupid impulse, but there was no way anyone was going to see Bella in her postneeding glow. That was for him only.

"What," he said.

Phury's voice was muffled. "The Explorer you shoved your phone into moved last night. Went to the supermarkets where Wellsie's been buying the apples for the solstice festival. We've canceled the orders, but we've got to reconnoiter. The Brotherhood's meeting in Wrath's study in ten minutes."

Z closed his eyes and leaned his forehead on the wood. Real life was back.

"Zsadist? Did you hear me?"

He glanced at Bella, thinking their time together was over. And going by the way she gathered the sheets to her chin as if she were cold, she knew it too.

God... this hurts, he thought. He actually felt it... hurt.

"I'll be right there," he said.

Dropping his eyes from Bella, he turned and headed for the shower.

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