The room we ended up in was furnished in a classroom theme. I rolled my eyes, but the other rooms were occupied. Raimes—Tobias, locked the door behind us. He gave me a smile that set my skin tingling.
“This—this is a bad idea.”
He shook his head. “You think too much. I think it must be because you don’t talk enough.” He grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me another kiss that promised a myriad of carnal delights.
I kissed him back. He pressed me several steps backward until I ran into the desk. Tobias grabbed my thighs and lifted me up onto it without missing a beat.
He grabbed my shirt and tugged, pulling it off over my head and tossing it onto the floor. He started kissing my collarbone, rubbing his hands over my chest.
He paused in his frenetic kisses and looked up at me through his lashes. My heart skipped a beat.
“You never answered my question. What are you? If I’m going to have sex with someone, I like them to be honest.”
He smiled. “I worked in Israeli secret service, but it wasn’t my true calling. I thought I’d be a rabbi, but I don’t have the wisdom. What I did end up with, however, you have guessed.”
“You have the magics. The clay shaping.” I put my hand on his arm, rubbing my thumb over the ink. “Golem maker.”
He quirked an eyebrow. “It’s true.”
“Am I now privy to all your secrets then?” I took them hem of his polo shirt between the fingers of my other hand.
He smiled. “I could hardly sum them all up in so few words. Don’t worry now, we’ve got time to swap secrets.”
I was used to being the most mysterious person in the room, but Tobias took the damn cake. Bastard. “All right then. I’ll take that as a challenge.” I pulled his shirt off him. “I want things even between us.” All that golden skin…there were scars, a bullet wound at his lower abdomen, small caliber, a pair of knife wounds and the telltale shimmery scar tissue of a burn splayed like a hand over his ribs. He was still beautiful. The scars made him…him.
“All right. Care to explain why you hypnotized me then?”
“Not really.” I decided I wasn’t surprised.
“I thought you wanted things equal?” He stood up. “Or would you like to play this as a penalty game?” He gripped the loops of my jeans. “I can think of all sorts of penalties.”
I put my arms around his neck and kissed him. If there was one thing I’d learned from my father, it was that distraction was the best defense against thoughts of violence. Telling Daddy I loved him had worked for a few hundred years before he caught wise. Hugging worked for a bit longer than that. I thought a kiss would be fair distracting for Tobias.
I was right—for about five minutes.
He pulled away and frowned at me. “Why did you hypnotize me?”
“You are very demanding for someone who has actually told me all of two things about himself, when you know all about me. Not a peep about your family have I heard.”
He undid the button and fly of my jeans and tugged them down to my knees. He pulled off my shoes and then my jeans followed. “Penalty one. You want my pants off, you tell me why.”
“Or I could walk away right now.”
“In your briefs? How daring.”
“I’ve been more naked around more people.”
“That little tidbit might be enough for an undone button.” He gave me a smile. “Care to try for the zipper?”
I growled. “I had to hypnotize you. I had to eat and you would have asked unnecessary questions.”
“How hard was that?” He undid the buckle of his belt, sliding it slowly through the loops in his trousers. The action made my heart skip. I was drooling a little, I can admit it. He stripped off his pants and drew me to him for another kiss. I took the opportunity of my position to wrap my legs around his waist, locking him to me and pressing more sensitive parts of our anatomy together.
“How hard is that?” I returned with a leer.
He shook his head and pinched me. “Behave.”
“No.” I fluttered my eyelashes just like my sister taught me to an age ago and pursed my lips. “It would be out of character.”
“Then I’ll make you behave.”
I grinned and kissed him. “You can try,” I whispered.
He took that challenge very enthusiastically. I was going to have to revisit my opinion on the attractiveness of polo shirts, I really was. Besides, any man that can leave me forgetting my own name in the middle of sex is definitely a keeper.
At least—for now.
I woke up in an unfamiliar place. Not the schoolroom fantasy we’d had our rendezvous in, but a properly soft bed with fresh clean sheets—Egyptian cotton by the feel of them—in bright sky blue. My head rested on a pillow filled with down and as I looked up at the ceiling I saw metal supports and wood.
I propped myself up a bit better and took a look around. I was in a tall bed with a cast iron headboard. It was on a raised platform in the middle of a large bedroom with dark wood floors. A few sheepskin rugs were scattered. There was a set of double doors, closed, and a single open door. Through it I could see a long marble counter and mirror—no doubt the bathroom.
There was a rattan leaf bladed fan with a bulbous golden glass light fixture in the center of the room, still given that the heat was on. I could hear the furnace working. I could smell coffee and eggs. I took another sniff, under the coffee I also smelled—meat. I took an assessing look at myself. I’d healed from the bruises and scrapes I’d gathered during last night’s escapades.
I was hungry.
I slid out of the bed and padded out of the bedroom, throwing open the doors, and walked into the similarly posh living room. It was an open floor plan, a loft, and I could see Tobias at the kitchen centered portion in the corner cooking on a very expensive steel gas stove.
“Are you rich or something?” I ran a hand through my hair and yawned.
Tobias looked up and quirked an eyebrow. “Are you planning on putting on clothes?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Not at the moment. I spent two years in Fiji completely naked. It was glorious.”
“Okay…you’re weird, but more to the point, if you’re coming in this kitchen it’s with pants on. Or would you like to have hot grease splash on you?”
He gave me a look.
“Fine. Fine. Where are my pants?”
He frowned. “Uh—borrow a pair of mine.”
“Great.” I’d liked those jeans. Those might have been my last pair without blood on them. Damn. “Now I have to go shopping again. I hate shopping.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It might be fun to take you to a department store, play dress-up.”
“I’m not a toy,” I called on my way back into the bedroom. I’d overlooked a pair of mahogany wardrobes set against the same wall as the bed. I opened one—polo shirts. A rainbow of polo shirts. It looked like someone bought the entire contents of a Ralph Lauren catalog. There were a total of two button-down shirts, one white and one black and a stack of folded white t-shirts were at the bottom.
I grabbed a t-shirt and went to the other wardrobe. He had his pants, even his jeans, hanging up. His jeans were a couple sizes too big, but there were belts. I pulled on a pair of jeans, cinched it with a braided leather belt, slipped on the shirt and went back into the living room.
He looked me over. “Those jeans are too big.”
“Your waist is thicker,” I replied.
“Should I be offended?”
I made a face. “No?”
He gave me a very dirty look. “Do you want breakfast?”
“No. I mean. You look great.” I smiled at him brightly.
“You suck at that. Sit, I’ve got a plate for you.”
I sat down at the counter and accepted the plate and a fork. “Thanks.”
“After breakfast I assume we’ll be going back to Hide to get those things from your enormous friend.”
I nodded. “Sounds like a plan.” I wolfed down the eggs and steak on my plate.
Tobias ignored my bad manners and sat down with his own plate. “I suppose then we have that ritual of yours.”
“Well, we’ll have to go see my father for the blood.”
“I get to meet your father?”
I considered that. “Wear a scarf.”
“Why?” He stuck a fork in his eggs. He’d put ketchup on them. Weird.
“You have a very tempting neck, even if he doesn’t fuck men he does drink from them.” I wrinkled my nose. “It’s just better to remove temptation.”
“Oh, and my brother, Aramis. You should probably just ignore him.”
“Of course, I’m the baby.” By four hours. “Aramis thinks it’s his job to look after me.”
Tobias snorted. “I have an older brother myself. He is similarly afflicted.” He looked into my eyes. “His name is Eli. He’s married, has two children and constantly reminds me that I have been single for the past four years. I think he’s jealous. His wife is a harpy.”
I smiled. “Aramis was married once. She left him for a werewolf.”
Tobias had a nice, warm laugh. “Oh?”
“He was a storm cloud for years. To be fair, it’s become a state of being. I sort of thought he was dead until a few days ago. He’s always picking fights.”
“Sounds like a real peach.”
“You have no idea.” It dawned on me then that not only did I not have my clothes, I was also minus one wallet and the cell phone Daddy had given me. “Where’s my phone?”
“With your pants.”
“I’m still trying to remember. They could be back in that fantasy classroom.” He frowned and then smiled. “Remind me to buy a ruler.”
I did my race justice by not blushing. “Hurry up and eat. I need that phone, and my pants.”
“We’ll take my car.”
I nodded. What I remembered of last night was amazing. I just wished I could remember how I got from Hide to Tobias’ apartment. Must have been the bottle of rakia I drank after sex. That was the only explanation. It had been a long time since I got that drunk. I forgot that it left my memory spotty. Stupid me.
We finished up breakfast and Tobias loaned me a pair of shoes—two and half sizes to big—and we headed back out to the club. The place was dead, but with Joker expecting me the front door was unlocked.
He grunted when he saw me, he wasn’t really a daylight kind of guy either, and pointed to a cloth bag on the counter. “You forgot that last night.”
I grabbed it and opened it. My clothes, phone and wallet. “Sorry.” I picked up the phone and quickly checked the call log. Daddy called once to check on my recovery. I sent him a text message and then tucked the phone into the pocket of my borrowed jeans. “Did you get the stuff?”
“I did. It’s four thousand dollars.”
I didn’t bother arguing about price. “Done. I’ll make the transfer to your account.”
He nodded and brought a black lacquer box up from under the counter. The box was a good eighteen inches across and half as deep but taller than the span of my hand with a flat top painted with flowers, a Russian design.
He nodded again. I opened the box for a quick peek inside, saw that all was accounted for and sighed. Now I just had to get the blood from Daddy.
I made a pit stop at my apartment for a fresh pair of underwear, and to change into my own clothes. Tobias’ jeans made me feel like a child. Given my typical status in my family, I did not need help steering toward that mental state.
My father was waiting for us in the lobby of his hotel. He raised an eyebrow at Tobias and then smiled at me. “Caspian, do you have everything?”
“Just one thing left,” I replied.
He nodded. “I would have you do this in—safe keeping.”
In other words, where he could keep an eye on me. I raised my eyebrows and gave him a look.
“I got a room for you.”
That was slightly better. “He stays.” I jutted my chin toward Tobias.
“And he is?”
Tobias stepped forward with his easy smile and an outstretched hand. “Tobias Raimes, your son’s partner.”
My father stared at him for a moment, before smiling back and taking his hand. “Zahari Marek.”
I blinked, and tried to remember the last time my father had given anyone his real name. I couldn’t, and that was the most bizarre thing. Father was smiling a real smile, not his mask smile. Very strange.
“We should hurry,” I said.
Daddy nodded. “Yes, of course. I’ll show you to the room.”
I was not surprised that the room was just next to his suite. He’d brought in medical equipment, a heart monitor, IV’s and other things I couldn’t name offhand.
“Just in case,” he answered my unspoken question. “Shirt and shoes off, lie down on the bed.”
I set the case of ingredients down on a steel cart. “Have you ever done this?” I looked at my father, feeling my nerves.
“No, but I have helped with many a master vampire’s ascension. I have faith.” Daddy turned to Tobias. “I want you to sit on the bed next to him, keep a hand on his skin. An anchor is very important to these sorts of things.”
“Is it dangerous?” Tobias looked at me.
“About one in every fifty vampires who make the attempt succeed,” I replied. I did not add that there were approximately three dhampir masters in record.
“Is this sort of risk worth it?”
I looked Tobias in the eyes. “My chances of surviving if Swift comes after me with the intent to kill me are zero, so yes.” I stripped off shirt and shoes and laid down on the bed. I had no doubt Daddy had studied that book thoroughly before giving it to me. He was a better candidate to oversee my transformation than I was.
It wasn’t just a physical thing, but mental…metaphysical. Some might even say spiritual, but I wasn’t religious this century.
Tobias sat down next to me and put a hand on my arm. “So you survive, and then what? Can you take Jonah Swift?”
“Not on my own, but I’ll stand a good chance of not dying in a fight.”
“Sounds like a lot of work. Can’t you just run?”
I clenched my jaw and then relaxed, looking up at the boring taupe of the hotel room ceiling. “No. I cannot.”
I don’t know what specifically had that answer sounding so determined, but the minute I said it I knew it was true. I was very tired of running away. My family was being threatened, again, by Jonah Swift, and I wasn’t going to let him take anyone else away from me. If I had a way to put myself on equal footing with him, I was going to take it.
And then, if I could, I was going to put a stake through that smug bastard’s heart.
Tobias took my hand and squeezed it.
My father took a slim blade and opened up his palm. Blood polled in his cupped hand. He looked down at me. “Do you accept this blood of your own will?”
He pressed his hand against my mouth, and I drank. And I remembered.