TUESDAY / NOVEMBER 28
“You were a warrior?”
Giovanni Guistini heard the note of interest in this redhead’s tone and saw the unconscious flex of her fingers.
Her name was Jessica, and she was gorgeous. Cosmetics were wasted on her already-angelic face. Her curly hair was long and thick and partially pinned up. A trendy faux suede short skirt and nearly-sheer white blouse accentuated her curves in an upper-class chic style. The matching stiletto pumps perfected the look.
But he couldn’t have cared less about her attire. His attention was fixed on the spark in her eyes that screamed, ‘I’m a naughty-girl.’
He liked naughty girls.
“Indeed I was.” His voice was little more than gravel in a blender. He was lucky to speak at all, evidenced by the scars that swathed his neck. He wore the knotted ribbons of flesh like a badge, clothing himself always in V-necks so no one would miss seeing what had been done to him.
Jessica had tried to keep her focus politely on his face and failed. Two minutes after he walked into the meeting room, dropped a file onto the table between them and sat, she gave up that futile task and simply stared, scrutinizing the grooves and pits of his skin.
Most importantly to him, her expression hadn’t fallen into one of disgust as she studied him.
He had reviewed her file. Her former years as a lobbyist intern had brought her—unwillingly, so the file claimed—to this bloody version of existence. An ambitious but unwise vampire named Luis had turned her, used her, and challenged the wrong elder. Luis was dead within days. She, having been Made without any of the required preparations, was delivered here to the Excelsior’s D.C. headquarters by the elder for assessment.
The Excelsior’s personal advisors had the task of determining if she would be able to transition to this existence, or if it was best that she be discreetly destroyed. Being the only advisor available, the assignment had fallen solely to Giovanni.
He checked the file notes again.
She was an essentially an infant—only a few months among the living dead—and utterly unprepared for it. Such telltale habits as the flex of her fingers indicating her excitement and desire to touch him needed to vanish. Bloodlust was a bitch to control, and therefore Offerlings weren’t Made until they had mastered themselves mentally and physically, severed ties with their mortal family, and accepted their haven as their only family. She, however, had gotten teary eyed as she babbled about the upcoming holidays; her mother, as was typical, had soundly rejected her.
Wiping her tears, Jessica had asked him to talk about himself for a moment while she regained her composure. After a glance at the two-way mirror, he shrugged, tossed the file back to the table and told her a short war-story.
She had forgotten her sadness instantly when he mentioned his battle expertise and rank. Talking about himself, he realized, had been a bad idea. This evaluation game was clearly going both ways and her method gathered more useful information for her than his straightforward approach did for him.
“How old are you?”
He looked up from her chest. “Honey, that isn’t polite.”
“Neither is staring at my tits, honey.”
He arched a brow. She looked much too classy to use a word like tits. “Some appetites don’t diminish with the loss of the day.”
She arched a brow back. Her lips crooked up on one end and she leaned forward, exposing more of her tempting cleavage to him. “Some grow stronger.”
It seemed she understood, somehow, that this interview meant her survival was on the line. It also seemed she had reasoned that fucking him would buy her some favor. Giovanni wasn’t above taking the merits of her talent into consideration. “Tell me honey. Which ones grew stronger for you?”
Jessica stood and came around the table. Straddling his legs caused her skirt to rise. The lace tops of her thigh high hosiery caught his attention, but she brought his focus up, whispering, “Guess,” as she unfastened the top buttons of her blouse. Sliding onto his lap, she unhooked the clasp on the front of her bra.
Giovanni’s breathing sped up.
“You believe Luis Made me because I know how lobbyists think and how they make deals. But he didn’t.” She gripped his forearms and wiggled her hips as if riding him. The movement caused the elastic on her bra to pull the cup fabric slowly to either side. Her hard nipples poked against the nearly sheer white fabric of her blouse. “That was just an extra perk.” She lifted Giovanni’s hands to make him touch her. “I know what I’m really good at.”
He felt himself swelling, hardening as he squeezed her, gently, thumbs rubbing over the erect nipples. Despite the fabric being in the way, his mouth opened and he bowed his head to take her between his teeth. Jessica exhaled a heavy sigh and ground herself against him.
Her hands found his belt. “Bite. Bite hard. Make me bleed.”
She sucked air through her teeth as his belt slipped free. She loosed his zipper and reached in to fondle him. “Give me this,” she whispered, squeezing.
“Take it,” he said hurriedly, hating to take his lips off her. He’d broken her skin and the sweet drops of blood were smeared into the cloth where he had sucked. He rose slightly from his seat, enough for her to push his trousers down and free him from the cloth, then she was upon him. She was tight and she smelled so good. Giovanni switched to the right breast, biting again as she requested.
Jessica gave a little squeal and pushed against his chest. “Sit up.” She lifted one leg toward his shoulder—he shifted his arm to the outside—then she repeated the move on the other side. The stubble on his cheeks scoured her smooth calves, tearing the fine hosiery. His hands ran up her legs then down and under as she leaned back and placed her palms on his thighs. With her legs straight up, using his shoulders as leverage, she fucked him as he’d never been fucked before.
He watched her body, watched her shoulders roll as she moved up and down, watched her abdominals clench as her hips rose, watched her arch her back and push down on him again, watched her tits shake as she found her rhythm. It was part acrobatics. Part exotic dance.
He was enthralled.
Her arms shook with this exertion. Her legs trembled, too. His fingers were drawn to her breasts again, and he ripped the blouse open to see her pink nipples, dancing mesmerizingly before him, smeared with blood.
He had to touch them, pinch them. When he did, she cried out and began clenching around him.
Swiftly, Giovanni reached behind her, lifted her, and slammed her backside onto the table, pinning her with his body. He bit her and suckled her, thrusting furiously. “On my word, you either live,” he growled into her ear, “or,” he gasped as he began filling her, then finished “you die.”
When he stopped moving, her fingers slid under his jaw and forced his head up roughly. “I’ll do anything you want, warrior.”
He jerked her hands off him and straightened his spine so he could glower hatefully down at her. “Really, honey? I’ve never heard that line before.” He disengaged himself; she grabbed at his arms to keep him close.
“Did you hear that word ‘anything’, warrior? I meant it. I’ll do anyone you tell me to, any way you want me to.”
“Sluts are a dime a dozen, honey.” He pushed her backward onto the tabletop, then turned away to refasten his trousers.
“How many sluts know exactly which politicians sympathize with vampires? Which ones trade political favors for kinky favors?”
Giovanni spun toward her slowly.
She rose up on her elbows, keeping her legs bent and her knees open so he wouldn’t miss seeing her sex. “How many sluts do you know that can connect you with the politicians who can be bought? How many sluts do you know that can name the politicians who want to become one of us—and will make deals to that end? How many sluts do you know, honey, that can make you more powerful?”
“You were an intern. Not upper echelon.”
She sighed and let her head fall back. The pose made his breath catch in his chest. “Nobody ever asked me who my daddy is.” She lifted her head and fixed him with a serious look. “I mean my real daddy.”
Face smeared with her blood, he stepped between her legs again, leaned forward, took her by the hair, and brought her lips close to his. “Will you kill when I tell you to kill?”
Jessica wiped her face against his until she was wearing the same red mask. “Don’t doubt me.”
She moved in for a kiss.
Giovanni’s grip on her hair kept her a fraction away. She slipped her tongue against his lips. With a yank he thrust her downward again, then walked to the door, opened it and nodded to the guards. “I think she’s ready for another round, boys.” He gave her one last look before leaving the room.
Jessica grinned and blew him a kiss.
Near the end of the hall he heard a voice inside the Advisory Room where he and Mero typically held meetings with the Excelsior. He paused at the open door.
“…how many are dead?” It was the Excelsior’s voice. “No, you idiot, how many wærewolves are dead?” Pause. “Did we get the Domn Lup?”
Giovanni’s eyes widened. We?
Since Giovanni had returned from his excursion to Cleveland, the Excelsior had barely given him notice. He knew that due to his actions in Ohio he’d lost favor with Deric, but, had he not heard this himself, he would not have believed the Excelsior made a strike without consulting him.
The Excelsior hit a button on his smart phone and threw it across the room. When he noticed Giovanni leaning in the doorway, he said, “Get in here. Shut the door.”
“I wanted to inquire about Mero. I haven’t seen him lately.”
“He is recuperating.”
“Recuperating?” What else is Deric keeping from me?
“While in Cleveland with the shabbubitum he was brutalized by the Domn Lup.” His eyes scoured Giovanni. “You heard what I said?”
He nodded. “A little. You’ve retaliated?”
Would you have retaliated so severely if I were the one who had been ‘brutalized’? He did not think it would be so. Mero had long held more favor with the Excelsior. But then he wasn’t scarred. Neither was he violently aggressive. I am the devil on Deric’s shoulder while Mero is the angel.
Maintaining a blank expression to hide his true thoughts, Giovanni nodded, but offered no opinion. It hadn’t been requested. He ached to ask about the strike, but unless the Excelsior offered to discuss it, he dared not ask anything. “How long will Mero need?”
“Another night, maybe two.”
Must be pretty bad. Poor, poor bastard.
“He lost one of the shabbubitu to Menessos—the one named Talto. Ailo was slain. Liyliy is still missing.”
He failed you and still you risked war to defend his honor. I know damn well you wouldn’t have done the same for me. So why would you for him?
Though he knew more about Liyliy’s disappearance than he would admit to the Excelsior, Giovanni acted surprised. He needed to find the missing shabbubitu. She was a powerful ally, ruthless and violent. Combining Jessica’s sweet sexual coercion with Liyliy’s savage hostility…he could trap and manipulate his way into real power.
He assessed Deric again. He’d long thought the Excelsior was little more than a corporate stiff, playing the politician’s paper games—signing bills and debating for rights—when he should just reveal the monster underneath and make them all cower at his feet.
After a silent moment passed, Giovanni asked, “What can I do to best serve you, Excelsior?”
Deric considered. “I want to send another team to Cleveland. Let’s talk strategy.”