Pain.

She thinks it, and it happens. It tears through me like white lightning, setting my flesh on fire. I can't stand; the white marble rushes up to cradle me. My nails scratch against it as I convulse, explosions going off behind my eyes.

It is more than just pain. It is her pain. I feel her enormous anger in it, her great suffering, her total fear. Jane is in the fire. Her memories are echoes in the agony shredding my veins. For an instant, I see darkness and flames. I smell burning flesh. I feel the ropes bruising my skin, tying me to the pyre.

They tried to burn my poor, sweet Jane alive as a witch. Her screams echo in distant places, dim through the centuries that have obscured them. I relive her experience, my gift responding to hers. I am in the midst of the agony, blinded by it, yet illuminated by it. I feel her in it.

Jane releases me. The agony subsides, leaving me weak and relieved that it is over. She stands over me, her unearthly red eyes burning with fear and concern. She did not want to hurt me. I was her rescuer. It was I, who pulled her from the flames. I, who sank my teeth into her porcelain skin. I, who sent the venom screaming into her veins. I had to turn her, or lose her. Both she and her brother were too far gone, too burned, near death. Then, I killed all of them in the village. I killed them to keep our secret.

No, that is not the truth. I killed them for Jane.

Innocent, vindictive, lovely, murderous Jane, standing over me with such piteous concern; she is afraid… afraid of my reaction, afraid of my retaliation, afraid of my disapproval. But she did as I asked. She showed me her gift, and let me experience it.

I have never felt anything like it, never seen anything like it, not in three thousand years. I have held many hands, seen into many minds, explored many pasts, but never felt such powerful and delicious physical agony.

It mirrors my emotional anguish, in a way. Her memories obscure my own. The physical pain took them from me, for a mere moment; made me forget my sister, my actions, watching her splinter to pieces under my bare hands. I had to stop her from taking Marcus away from me. I saw her shock but an instant, but the reflection endures in my gaze. Now that Jane's torment has subsided, the memories return with a different kind of pain.

"Master…" she whispers, fear causing her voice to quiver.

Felix stands over her shoulder, his dark gaze intent on me, prepared to punish her at my command—as if I would ever turn on Jane! Caius leans forward from his throne with interest, and Marcus shows no interest at all in the proceedings. He endures pain of his own, pain he will not share with us, the pain of loss. I am the cause of his pain, though he will never know it; his anguish is no less than mine, though mine alters nothing.

"My dear, sweet Jane," I say at last, gazing up at her with admiration. I hold out my hand and she takes it, allowing me to project my admiration through my thoughts. She relaxes slightly and her fingers grip mine with intensity. I rise and kiss her forehead, causing her to sigh with relief and contentment. The tiniest of smiles curves her pretty little mouth as I reclaim my throne. Glancing at me, his expressionless tone implying his disinterest, Marcus asks, "Well?"

"That was…"

I search for the appropriate word, a word to convey the intensity of having my insides burn, my veins turn as red as Jane's eerie, blood-colored eyes. The impression of it lingers in my skin, a whisper of a memory I will carry with me into eternity.

At last, I find it.

"Exhilarating."