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His power lashed out, cutting through vampires like a barbed whip, saturating the air and spraying the walls with blood. Vampires screamed and died, and dust joined the bloody miasma filling the shabby room. Some of the slavers seemed to recognize him then, or at least recognize the brutal nature of his ability and the strength behind it, but even here he didn’t draw on the full depths of his power. He didn’t need it for vermin like these. And like vermin, they scurried for the back of the house, thinking to escape, but Freddy and Kage came roaring in through the kitchen door, and the fight was all but over. The slavers went down with disappointing ease. This wasn’t like the challenge battles that Aden would fight in the coming days, including the inevitable showdown with Silas. Tonight’s encounter was a bloodbath. None of these vampires had the juice to offer him even a semblance of a challenge. They were puffed-up line vamps who wouldn’t be alive if not for Lucas’s willingness to step in and keep their hearts beating after Klemens died.
The last slaver made a dash for the hallway where the captives were being kept, intent either on escape or mayhem. Aden was across the room and on top of the coward before he’d gone five feet down the hallway. Grabbing the vampire by the throat, he lifted him off his feet, watching dispassionately as his face first flushed with blood, then began to purple with a lack of air.
“Mercy, my lord,” he managed to gasp.
Aden bared his fangs. “Shall I show you the same mercy you gave these women? I know masters who will pay to own a gelded vampire. One whose will has been burned out, but who still walks and talks. Is that the mercy you’d have of me?”
The vampire’s eyes went wide in shock and fear, and he struggled to shake his head in denial. “Please,” he ground out.
Aden studied the vampire, not bothering to conceal his disgust. “I think not.” With a quick twist, he broke the vampire’s neck and dropped him to the floor, then, wielding his power with a fine control, he carved into the vamp’s chest and destroyed his heart.
“Aden, what—” Sidonie’s voice cut off mid-sentence. He could feel her behind him, but the violence storming through his veins was so great that he didn’t dare turn to face her.
“I told you to wait,” he growled.
“I did wait,” she retorted, or at least she tried to. Her bluster failed her on the last word, betraying the fear he could sense making her heart pound, a fear that he drew in like the sweetest air. It made his fangs emerge; it made his dick hard. He wanted to take her right there, to put her up against a wall and pound into her with the blood and ash of his enemies still fresh around him.
“Aden?” she asked, her voice still a little shaky.
It was too much. He spun around and snagged her by the waist, slamming her against the wall and holding her there with the full length and weight of his body. His cock was a hard bulge against her belly, and he saw her pupils flare the moment she felt it.
“I told you to wait,” he murmured, his lips right against her ear. Cupping her ass in one hand, he lifted her high enough that his cock fit neatly where it belonged.
“Is this what”—she swallowed before continuing—“is this what happens when you fight someone?”
He grinned, letting her see the length of his fangs. “Only when I kill them, habibi. Only when I drain their blood.”
“Oh.” Her tongue darted out nervously, and Aden caught it, covering her mouth with his, sucking on her tongue and closing his teeth over her tender lower lip.
“Sire, there are sirens.”
Aden kept his gaze on Sidonie’s flushed face. “Tell the others to load the women into the van. I want everyone gone in five minutes.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Let me help,” Sidonie said, her voice steady as she met his gaze. “Please. At least let me talk to the women and tell them what’s going to happen next. They probably don’t speak English, but I know Spanish.”
Aden regarded her silently, then nodded his head once, letting her slide down the wall until she was standing on her own. “You have the same five minutes, and then you’re coming with me.”
Rising up onto her toes with a little smile, she lifted her mouth to his and kissed him. “Thank you,” she whispered, then slipped away down the hall. She went directly to the second bedroom and opened the door. A chorus of hysterical cries greeted her, and he heard her soothing the women in Spanish, telling them it was all right, that they were safe. Freddy and Kage hurried past, and Sidonie reassured the women again, embracing a very young girl, telling her not to be afraid, gripping the hand of another woman as she repeated that these men were here to help, that they’d take them to a safe place.
Aden stared at her, feeling something in that moment that he hadn’t felt for a woman in . . . He struggled to remember how long it had been. Centuries. Not since his mother had chosen her luxuries over the life of her only child. Not even when he’d met his vampire Mistress, the woman who’d changed his life forever.
ADEN LAY BACK on the pillow-strewn bed and watched the Lady Na’ima finish dressing. He wasn’t supposed to know her name, wasn’t supposed to know that she was married to the second wealthiest man in the province. But Aden’s owner, Zaahira, was a smart woman, and this was her brothel. Whorehouses were one of the few businesses that a woman was allowed to own outright, and they were allowed that only because no man would sully himself with providing such a service. That didn’t stop those same men from using the service. Although if they knew how many of their wives made use of it, if any of them understood that Aden was far more than the bodyguard they thought him to be, those fine gentlemen might have been far more motivated to shut down Zaahira’s operation.
As it was, however, Aden’s particular set of skills was very profitable for Zaahira. She’d trained him personally, beginning on the day she’d bought him from Hafiz. For three years, she’d kept him as her personal toy, teaching him all the ways to please a woman. By the time he turned fifteen, Zaahira’s female customers had begun to inquire about him, and his mistress was nothing if not a businesswoman. She’d presented the idea to Aden with honeyed promises of money and gifts, but they’d both known if he’d refused, she would have simply ordered him to fuck whomever she’d wanted, and he’d have had no choice. He was a slave. Zaahira’s personal slave, perhaps, maybe even her favorite, but still a slave. The tattooed bands on both his biceps announced his status to the world, including the expensively-dressed ladies who showed up in the afternoons looking for the kind of attention they were never going to get from their husbands.
Zaahira knew the true identity of all of her carefully-veiled female customers. She made sure of it before she permitted them into Aden’s bed. Not because she cared that much about Aden, but because she cared that much about her business. Blackmail was the best kind of insurance for a woman like her to have.
Aden didn’t need Zaahira’s files to tell him who the women were, or even why they came to his bed. Half their time with him was spent complaining about their husbands’ many infidelities with both women and men.
Zaahira had never offered Aden to her male customers. It was mostly because he was too big, his looks too masculine, even when he was younger. Customers who came seeking that particular entertainment generally preferred pretty, delicate boys, ones who couldn’t fight back. But it was also true that Zaahira had a woman’s appreciation of Aden’s beauty—or so she’d always told him—and wouldn’t see him ruined by the kind of brutality those men favored.
Besides, from the very beginning, he’d been more than busy enough with his rich ladies . . . like the lovely Lady Na’ima. Soft-skinned and doe-eyed, she’d been married at fourteen, and now, barely nineteen years old, she had already been dismissed from her husband’s bed.
Na’ima finished dressing, pulling a heavy veil over her face before turning to him with a smile in her eyes, the only part of her face he could see. It seemed a ridiculous conceit, since he’d been buried between her tender thighs only a short time earlier, but if his ladies wanted to believe this candlelit room was too dark for him to distinguish their faces, who was he to deprive them of that?
For his part, Aden made no effort to cover his nakedness or to conceal his arousal. Lady Na’ima ducked her head in embarrassment, which only made him harder. He loved the power he had over his women, loved that he, a lowly slave, could reduce such fine ladies to begging for his touch.
He gave Lady Na’ima a wide, inviting smile, and he could almost feel the heat of her blush from across the room. She was the youngest of his customers, sweet and eager, and so very compliant. Tearing her gaze away from his body, she pulled her veil even higher and opened the door slowly, checking the hallway before hurrying out and leaving his door open.
Aden took his time getting up, unbothered by the open door. Living in a brothel made one very casual about nudity. He pulled on a pair of linen pants, tying them loosely and letting them hang down on his hips. Na’ima was his last client for the day. Afternoons were his busy time, his evenings almost always free. The female whores—and that’s what they all were, what he was, a slave and a whore—saw most of their business in the evening, when the fine gentlemen had finished with work and family. They came to the brothel seeking to entertain themselves with women who couldn’t say no, especially if their desire was to explore the more perverse practices. Zaahira gave her clients a wide berth when it came to such perversions. As long as the whore wasn’t left too scarred or too damaged to work, it was allowed… for a suitable fee, of course.
Aden changed his mind abruptly and stripped off the linen pants. He needed to get out of the brothel for a few hours, needed to feel like a man instead of a whore. By law, he was required to keep his arms bare, his slave bands in view at all times. But he was the son of a free man, the grandson of two free men. And on occasion, he chose to live as a free man. If only for a few hours.