“You will not fight to the death,” Lily proclaimed in her soft voice. “But you will continue to engage each other until only one of you is left standing. It is she who will earn the right to bed the vampire.”
And when that winner tired of him, she could pass him on to her friends if she so chose. Increasing Zane’s humiliation.
Mating season had never bothered Nola before, but it bothered her now.
Leave. After Nola’s own experience with the gods’ cruel contest, she had no desire to watch another. For Zane, however, she would watch. And she would wish.
Every female in the ring assumed the battle stance.
There was only a slight pause before Kreja said, “You may begin.”
Immediately the women leapt into action. Metal clanged against metal, grunts abounded, and sand was flung in every direction. Seconds bled into minutes. Minutes to what seemed hours. An eternity. Bodies began collapsing, cries of pain echoing, one pink-haired female savagely working her way through the masses.
Soon, she was the only one standing.
Nola wanted to vomit.
“And so we have a winner,” Kreja decreed proudly. She motioned to Zane with a wave of her hand. “Claim your prize, beloved. Know that we are pleased with the strength and tenacity you have demonstrated this day.”
As the female approached, Zane trembled. In rage. Perhaps in fear.
I’m so sorry, vampire. “I won’t let her have you,” Nola vowed, though she knew there was nothing she could do to stop what was to come.
THE FEMALE WAS GOING TO KILL HIM, Zane thought dazedly, dispassionately.
She’d won him, however long ago she’d fought for him—one day? Two? Weak as he was, he’d lost track of time. All he knew was that she’d tried multiple times to bed him. But she needed a hard cock for that, and he hadn’t given it to her.
Denying her had delighted him. Still did.
Now two of those wretched Amazons stood around him, staring down at his naked body. If he hadn’t been half-starved and teetering on the brink of total collapse, those stares would have sent him into a killing rage. He hated being looked at as much as he hated being touched.
He’d spent too many centuries as the demon queen’s whore, hers to use, hers to hurt. And hurt him she had.
Many times, she’d forced him to drop to his knees and “worship” her with his mouth. Many times, she had forced him to clean each and every one of the horns covering her body. Again, with his mouth. Many times, she had forced him to do the same to others while she watched.
But the worst… He shuddered, hating to remember. But just then, his memories were all he had. They filled him up, consumed him, eating him bite by rancid bite. She’d blindfolded him and bound him to her bed. He had not known who kissed and touched him. Male, female. Demon, another slave. He hadn’t known.
He hated, hated that there were people in Atlantis who knew of his humiliation and subjugation. He hated that those people had seen him naked, tasted him, brought him to climax in terrible ways, yet he did not know who they were.
Bile rose from his stomach into his throat. Demon whore. That’s what he was, all he would ever be. Demon whore, demon whore. He squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to cover his ears, but could not. His arms were tied, true, but even if he had been free, he was too weak to move.
How could he have allowed such things? And he had. Allowed them. He could have walked away at any time. Yet he hadn’t.
All for the love of a woman. A slave, as he was supposed to be now. Marina, that detestable queen, had promised to set his beloved free if Zane pleased her until she grew tired of him. But she’d never grown tired of him, and Cassandra, his chosen mate, had begun to hate him as a result. For all he knew, she could have been forced to watch him with the queen.
Yet still he’d stayed, determined to finally win his prize. His Cassandra. If he couldn’t have her as a mate, he’d at least wanted her to be happy. And as he well knew, no one could be happy without freedom.
But then, his actions hadn’t mattered. Layel, the vampire king, had done the impossible—what Zane had craved but had not yet had the strength to do—and drained the demon queen, finally freeing both Zane and Cassandra. He’d thought to earn back her love. However necessary. After all, everything he had done had been for her. Every hated touch, every blinded session. Only, she’d fled him. For another man.
Perhaps that had been for the best.
Zane was not the man he’d once been. He eschewed females and wanted no part of them. Wanted no part of sex. He shuddered at even the thought of it, and sickness once again churned in his stomach. Had he eaten that day, he would have vomited.
One bright light. Remember your one bright light.
Finally, his stomach calmed.
Nola had walked into his life, chasing away the darkness. Beautiful, passionate, fierce Nola. A woman who hadn’t wanted him, who had rebuffed him. A woman he’d craved with every ounce of his being despite what had been done to him. A woman the gods had taken from him. Why did he want her so damned passionately? He hadn’t known then, and he didn’t know now. Yet still he craved her. As if she were necessary to him. To his survival. As if, the first moment their eyes had met, hers as haunted as he knew his were, she had become a part of him.
Would he ever see her again?
He did not know if she’d survived their island game or if the gods had set her free, but sometimes he would swear that he smelled her sweet scent, felt the gentle glide of her hands on him. A touch he still did not mind.
A touch he needed. She…soothed him.
And, actually, the first time he’d seen her, he’d thought her a gift from the gods. For why else would he have been able to endure—no, enjoy—her touch and no other’s? Now, he thought that perhaps she’d been another curse. He craved her still, yet like Cassandra he could never have her.
What did I do to deserve this?
“I’m strong,” his owner said now, drawing his attention, “so of course he desires me. I mean, look at what I did to my competitors! Eighteen against one, yet I owned that arena. But he’s too weak to be claimed. That’s the problem here. Surely.”
“You’re right. Clearly he needs blood,” another said.
“Yes, but if he’s given blood, he’ll be able to raise his head and bite me.”
Both of the females shuddered.
Did these Amazons—who abhorred the biting of flesh and the drinking of blood and who thought to rape him to steal a child from him—not realize the child of a vampire would not be trainable, as the Amazon queen had said? A vampire needed blood. Blood was nourishment. Life. That was not something that could be “trained” away.
And so, any child of his would be killed. That’s what the foolish queen had implied.
His baby. Killed. Even through the haze of weakness, rage sparked inside his chest. He would kill them first, he thought, once again struggling against his bonds.
They expected him to leave his child behind, to be raised by them. Abused by them. Something he would never do. What was his, was his. He did not share. He did not abandon.
“Weak, but still fighting,” the pink-haired Amazon said with awe.
“Yet still no hardened shaft,” the other tsked.
Calm. Or they will stop feeding you altogether. Though every bone in his body screamed for him to do otherwise, he relaxed against his pallet.
“You’re going to have to feed him.”
“I know. But even now, I think he would bite me if I got too close. What is to happen when he’s stronger?”
Before his last escape attempt, they’d kept him nourished by allowing him three small cups of blood a day. Who had donated the blood, he didn’t know. Didn’t care. He didn’t like to take from a living source, only from those he’d slain. So he’d pretended the blood came from one of his victims.
“Let’s think this through, then. Perhaps there is another way. Did you try manipulating his rod?”
“Of course. He’s not my first slave, you know.”
“Well, give him blood, then…bind his mouth. Yes, that might work. That way, he’ll be strong enough to bed but unable to nibble on you.”
“Oh, excellent idea! Grab a goblet.” The pink-haired woman—he hadn’t cared to remember her name—palmed one of her daggers, sliced a groove in her wrist and held the wound over the offered cup.
His mouth watered at the sight and smell of that crimson nectar; his fangs elongated. She was not dead, he couldn’t pretend otherwise, but he would still take from her. Sacrifices must be made in times of adversity.
She approached him and held the cup to his lips. Thankfully, her skin did not brush his. “Drink.”
As though in a trance, he obeyed, swallowing three precious mouthfuls. Instantly, warmth spread through him, followed on its heels by strength. So good…
“It’s working. His color is returning.” The goblet was removed from his mouth, and he found his gaze locked with that of his captor. She was pretty, if he cared for such things. He didn’t. He only cared that she had pink hair rather than black, brown eyes rather than turquoise, and she did not smell like Nola. Like sea and storms and flowers.
There was a pause, then a purr of agreement. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?”
“Don’t forget he’s mine,” was the snapped reply.
“Well, his cock is still flaccid, so you won’t be claiming him any time soon,” the other Amazon lashed back.
As the blood continued to work through him, the lethargy that had plagued him all these many days dissolved, leaving energy in his muscles, a sizzle in his bones. Escape, he thought, a growl working its way past his throat.
Both Amazons jumped away from him with a yelp.
“Hurry! Let’s bind his mouth.”
“Don’t touch me!” Growls intensifying, Zane jerked at the chains circling his wrists and ankles. He hissed and snapped, kicking as much as he was able as the Amazons maneuvered around him. “No touching! Do you hear me? I’ll kill you.”