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Sidonie pushed herself up so she could meet his eyes. “Were you born that way?” she asked, her eyes full of a compassion he didn’t want.
“No,” he said simply, watching her reaction. “I was sold when I was five.”
“Sold. How can . . . by whom?”
He stared at her, trying to decide if he’d answer truthfully or not. “My father,” he said simply.
“Oh, Aden,” she breathed and hugged him tightly, her soft breasts crushed against his chest.
“It was a long time ago, habibi,” he said, stroking his hand down her back, feeling the need to comfort her, despite the fact that it was his story.
“But still . . . What about your mother? Where was she?”
“You have a lot of questions.”
“And you’re avoiding the answer,” she said, but then caught her breath. “Never mind. I’m sorry. I’m prying. It’s a bad habit. It comes with the territory . . . investigative reporter and all. I’ll be quiet now.”
Aden continued to rub his hand idly up and down the elegant curve of her spine. What would she think if he told her about his mother? That she’d given him up, because she preferred playing the whore for his father over caring for her own child. Would Sidonie hate his mother for him? Did he want her to?
Seeming to sense his reluctance, or maybe his indecision, she crawled up onto his chest and propped her chin on her hands, so she could smile into his eyes. “What about the tattoo on your back?” she asked, changing the subject for him.
He slid his hand down to cup her delicious ass, smiling when he saw her wince in anticipation of another spanking, catching the relief on her face when he only rubbed her firm little butt cheek fondly.
“The back tattoo is mine. It’s a phoenix and all it represents.”
“Why do it on your back? Is that significant?”
“I offended a wealthy man once, when I was still a slave. That particular man liked to inflict pain on those who couldn’t fight back. His preferred victims were very young women. I objected . . . forcefully to his torture of someone. He demanded satisfaction, and my mistress gave me to him in recompense. He had no interest in fucking me, he couldn’t even get an erection, a fact that I’m certain disappointed him. But there are other ways to humiliate a man, and there was always the whip.
“He had free use of me for three days and nights. I received no medical assistance and only enough water and bread to keep me alive and able to feel pain. My mistress wouldn’t let him blemish my face or genitals, but my back was so damaged it took weeks to recover. And even then, the scars were so numerous and so thick that I was in constant pain even after I healed.”
Tears shone in her eyes, but she swallowed hard and said, “But . . . there aren’t any scars now.” She touched her fingers to the back of his shoulder where he knew the tip of one wing could be seen.
“When I became Vampire, the scars began to heal. It took time, but eventually they vanished completely. Sometime later, I got the tattoo to make a point. My body is mine, and no one else’s.”
“What a bitch,” she muttered, presumably about Zaahira. “I hope she died old and ugly.”
Aden smiled in fond remembrance of Zaahira’s death. But that was a story for another time. “I do believe Zaahira—she was my whore mistress—eventually regretted the whipping. Not because she cared about me, you understand, but because I was unable to fuck her other clients while I recovered, and even then . . . it was never the same. Any pleasure I’d taken in the seduction of rich women was gone. I never again forgot that I was nothing but a slave, no matter whom I fucked.”
She frowned in concentration. “Wait. You said you were unable to fuck clients, that means—”
“It means I was a sex slave,” he said harshly, watching for her reaction. “A whore, just like my mother.” He pushed the words out, trying to conceal the anger they hid, daring her to judge him for his past. But, of course, she didn’t. Sidonie didn’t judge people on the actions of others. She rescued them instead.
“That’s why you hunted the slavers tonight, why it was important enough that you took time out from the challenge to see it done.”
He nodded slightly.
She ran a soft finger down over his shoulder, to his arm, and along the black line of his slave band. “I didn’t know vampires could be tattooed. I thought your bodies repaired everything.”
“It works as long as we mix our own blood with the ink. It takes considerable skill and patience. Kage is my tattoo artist.”
“Kage is the one with the buzz cut, right? With all the piercings?”
She indicated her left eyebrow where Kage wore a titanium bar. He also had a tongue stud, although Sid had no way of knowing that.
Aden nodded in response to her question. “Kage is the youngest of my vampires, though not young by human standards. He’s been the go-to guy for some time for all the vamps in Lucas’s territory who wanted tats, but he’s mine, so he goes where I go. Lucas will just have to find his own artist now.”
“I always wanted a tattoo, but I never got up the nerve.”
“I like your skin the way it is. Leave it.”
“Says the guy who covered his back to prove it was his.”
“Says the guy who will spank this sweet ass if you go against me on this,” he growled, cupping her butt cheek.
She shivered, but that wasn’t fear in her eyes, it was remembered pleasure, and he smiled.
“It’s not like I was planning on doing it,” she grumbled.
Aden laughed and rolled her beneath him. “How’s that slick pussy of yours, Sidonie?” he murmured, rubbing his hardening cock against her belly.
Her eyes went wide in surprise, but then she wrapped her legs around his hips, tightening her hold possessively. “Are you going to tease me again?” she asked with mock severity.
“No,” he said thoughtfully. “I’m just going to fuck you until you scream.”
SIDONIE LAY BONELESSLY across Aden’s chest, exhausted, drained, completely washed-out. Aden had been true to his word . . . several times. She found it interesting that the Vampire virus, or whatever it was, left a male capable of getting an erection over and over again, and yet incapable of actually producing offspring. It was an interesting evolutionary twist, but one her mind was too exhausted to ponder overmuch right at that moment. For now, she’d simply count her blessings that she not only had a vampire lover, but one who had apparently learned the art of lovemaking from the best… even if the bitch had enslaved him to do it. She frowned, not liking that part.
“Why are you scowling?” Aden’s chest rumbled beneath her ear, making her smile.
“I love your chest,” she said, cracking a huge yawn. “It’s very resonant.”
“Resonant,” he repeated drily.
“It’s big and deep and so very strong, oh wonderful one.”
He squeezed her butt cheek in warning.
“You’re entirely too obsessed with my ass.”
“I love your ass,” he said, smacking it lightly. “It’s very resonant.”
Sid laughed, sitting up to stare down at him in surprise. “You made a joke.”
“Call the press. Oh, wait. You are the press.”
“It’ll be front page news,” she said, yawning again as she stretched her arms over her head and cracked her neck from side to side. “What time is it?” she asked, glancing around for a clock.
“What time is . . . Oh. Do I need to get out of here?”
He hesitated, then nodded. “The suite will lock down, so will the elevator entrance. No one comes or goes until sunset. And I won’t exactly be a sterling conversationalist in the meantime.”
“Oh,” she repeated stupidly. She should have thought about that. Aden and all his guys would be sleeping helplessly, while she . . . she could probably do anything she wanted. She could kill them all, and they’d never know. She stared at Aden in sudden alarm. If she could get to them, maybe someone else could, too. “Do you have security? Like guards or something to be sure no one sneaks in here?”
“We have guards,” he assured her, reaching up to brush tangled curls away from her face. “And our sleeping quarters are very secure. We’ve been doing this a century or two.”
She nodded, her throat suddenly too clogged with emotion to permit words. She was overcome by the brutal image of Aden lying helplessly asleep, his muscular body stretched out naked, one arm thrown over his face in complete abandon, while a faceless form, dark and malevolent, crept through the shadows and…
She shook her head to clear the horrifying picture and felt tears threatening. She turned away so Aden wouldn’t see and was struck by another terrible thought. Oh, no. No, no, no. She could not be falling for him. She wasn’t that stupid, was she? This was supposed to be a bad boy fling, not an affair almost guaranteed to break her heart.
She climbed off the big bed and began gathering her clothes.
“I’ll be out of here in a minute,” she said, without looking at him. “It won’t take me long to get dressed. I can shower—” She squeaked in surprise when he was suddenly right there in front of her, forcing her to look at him. He was so beautiful. Evolution had gotten that much right, at least. Beautiful and deadly, the perfect combination for a predator.
Aden was studying her curiously. He ran a thumb under her eye, catching a lone tear with a gentleness that was surprising in a creature capable of the kind of violence she’d witnessed earlier.
“You’ll come back later,” he told her. There wasn’t even a hint of a question in there. He was either completely self-assured, or just plain bossy. Unfortunately, either way she didn’t have the strength to turn him down. Not yet. She wanted to keep her bad boy a little longer.
“I will,” she agreed. “Any particular time?”