AN: My darling, lovely, super-faithful readers, here we are again… much later than I anticipated. My life has been insanely busy and just keeps getting in the way. Unfortunately, the whole writing process isn't going as quickly and easily as I'd like, and I know it's frustrating (for ALL involved). I'm facing facts that I am just not a fast writer. But no matter how long it takes, I'll finish this story- I have no plans of abandoning it. Also, I am apparently a dumbass and for the longest time, I couldn't figure out how to reply to PMs through ; if you did send me something and didn't get a reply, please don't be offended. And if you would like a reply from me, the best way to contact me is probably directly through my email (PMs still tend to confuse me). Also, a huge thank you goes out to Princess-Serenity-324 for being a fantastic beta for this chapter! Anyway, thank you for your patience and here is the sixth chapter of Bloodlust!
Standard Disclaimers Apply.
Darien marched down the hall with purpose, black leather boots pounding against marble. Something felt off ever since he'd awoken from hibernation and he knew it had something to do with Serena. And being the take-charge kind of man he was, he was going to find out exactly what was going on. However, his determined stride slowed to a stop as he came across a floor-to-ceiling painting of his wife looking down upon him regally.
He sighed. Last night had been good, but more than anything, it had driven them further apart. He craved her acceptance, for her to love him despite his shortcomings. But deep within, he knew how she truly felt; he knew she despised him for his flaws. Yes, she desired him, but he feared that was the extent of her devotion. She was disgusted by what he was and it probably wasn't going to change.
Blue eyes gazed sadly at the likeness of his beautiful young wife. He had hoped that a baby would make her feel something for him, even a little bit. Surely bearing his child would foster some kind of fondness for him, wouldn't it? Sometimes, it seemed as though she was taken with him, and other times… other times she looked at him as though he were the scum of the earth. And those times he couldn't stand it.
She was perfect for him… but was he perfect for her? His jaw clenched as he stared at her pristine face. He kept telling himself that she'd come to care for him eventually, even love him eventually, despite what he was. She was right when she called him a monster. The very same monster that screamed within him to feed until satiated also screamed at him to keep his mate safe at all costs; to claim her as his for eternity. He turned his back on the painting, the familiar mask of indifference falling back into place once more as he resumed his trek to the royal suite. Eventually she would learn to accept him, to love him. She had to.
Pounding on the thick ebony door resonated through the cavernous bedroom, breaking Serena's trance-like state as she stared in shock at the shattered test tube on the marble floor. Lunging for the towel sitting near the fertility equipment, she quickly mopped up the mess and tried to ignore her world spinning at the simple act. Should she tell him? If she did, she knew she would be confined to the palace for the duration of the pregnancy. A prisoner in her own home; perhaps she felt stifled now, but nine months below ground would be torture. No, she wouldn't tell him. Not yet.
Darien entered the room after a moment, and she stood just in time to meet his strangely docile gaze.
He looked at her uncertainly, taking a tentative step toward her. "I came to remind you of the banquet tonight… and…" He sighed, glossy ebony bangs falling into his remorseful eyes, "I'm sorry about last night… I just… it's just a part of me that won't change and I want you to understand it." His azure eyes dropped to the ground and he almost whispered his next few words, "I don't want you to hate me."
Her blonde head shot up at his words. Hate him? Far from it. Maybe they had issues… but hate? Hardly. "I don't hate you," she said, a note of confusion in her voice.
Taking a few more steps toward her, he struggled to convey the meaning of his words. "I don't want just that, Serena, I'm your husband…"
The world spun crazily before her and she was in no mood to discuss her innermost feelings at the time. "Please leave," she said quietly, turning away from him and hugging her body. The last thing she wanted was for him to catch on to her little secret… especially when she hadn't even wrapped her mind around it yet.
It was as though she'd struck him by the look on his face. He stood there, shocked for a moment, until he realized something was off about her; she was blocking him from reading her thoughts. "You're guarding yourself from me," he stated, hurt lacing his deep voice.
Grasping onto the ebony night table to her right, she tried to downplay how ill she felt yet maintained the barrier in her mind. "Please leave me alone. I'm not feeling very well."
Concern filled his eyes as he stared at her pale form. "Is it… because of last night? Did I hurt you?"
Well, in a way he was the cause of her pain, she thought wryly. "I don't know," she said quietly, refraining from looking him in the eye.
In a moment he appeared beside her, gripping her forearms and looking down at her with a mix of shame and concern. "What did I do? What have I done to you?"
Guilt was the first emotion she felt as his icy fingers wrapped around her thin limbs. Guilt for keeping such a monumental secret from him, guilt for making him feel as though he were completely responsible for her illness… the shame grew and grew the more she thought about it. However, the guilt quickly shifted to agitation as his jostling movements made her head pound. Her form tensed immediately at his sudden aggressiveness and she frowned. "I don't know what happened after. You can stop the whole 'I'm so worried about you' act because I probably have the flu," she said coldly, moving out of his grasp.
His eyes glinted dangerously at her jab. "You really think this is an act? I care about your well being, dammit."
"Oh yes, because what is a king without his queen, right? I almost forgot for two seconds that without me, there'd be no hybrid and you wouldn't be king!" she shot back, her pale face flushing with anger and resentment. She wasn't bitter… at least that's what she told herself.
"I would still be king," he ground out darkly, irises glowing ever so slightly.
Her eyes narrowed. "And that title wasn't supposed to be yours."
He froze at her words. "What are you talking about?"
Smirking, she took a seat on the large bed in hopes of alleviating the lightheaded feeling plaguing her. "Raye and I had a sisterly chat."
"You did," it was more of a statement than a question, "Then you know she's older than me. And I assume she gave you an abbreviated version of why she was not chosen to rule," he said bitterly.
She raised an eyebrow at his harsh tone. "Because you were genetically preferable?"
A frustrated sigh escaped his lips and he sunk down next to her on the bed. "I'm guessing that she forgot mention that she was once pregnant."
Her pale eyes widened at the new information. "What?"
He shook his head, a mix of sadness and anger playing on his handsome face. "She disobeyed all of our laws… she chose a human for her mate; a human who refused to be turned. So when she became pregnant, it was an incompatible joining. Our people had already tested such procreation and knew of its incompatibility. Children born of humans only live a few days… if they even last nine months. Raye refused to terminate the pregnancy."
"Well could you blame her?" she exclaimed, throwing her arms in the air in disbelief at his callousness. "There's always a chance…"
He grimaced at her response, ebony bangs falling into his eyes as he shook his head. "You need special genes in order to give birth to a healthy hybrid. Human genes aren't… enough to produce a viable fetus. We knew that. It's against our laws for a reason and she chose to ignore us! She… she abandoned us and ran off with the human. Somehow she managed to carry the fetus to term."
Her brow furrowed. "Then how…?"
He sighed and the pained look on his face was unsettling. "It barely lived an hour past birth. When she finally talked about it, she said its cries were unearthly… each breath pained it. And when it died, the human abandoned her. She returned to us, and although we accepted her back, she was deemed unfit to rule. Her foolish choices nearly exposed our world and needlessly hurt an innocent life. She showed complete disregard for our laws and had to be punished. I was eleven years old when she returned."
Her eyes swam with tears at the thought of Raye's tragic situation. "Oh God…" she breathed.
He nodded solemnly. "I imagine her animosity toward you stems from the fact that you can have children and she wasn't able to. And that you will rule in her place."
"I… feel sorry for her," she said quietly, sadness permeating her delicate features.
His navy eyes darkened as he stared at her. "You shouldn't. She made those decisions knowing all of the consequences," he spat, any traces of sadness or regret from earlier gone.
She scowled and willed her tears away. "How can you be so heartless? The woman lost her child and was abandoned by the man she loved. A parent should never have to bury their child."
"For someone who has never carried a child, you're awfully concerned about her motherly feelings."
Careful to ensure that her thoughts were still masked, her expression turned steely. "Call it empathy."
His eyes narrowed as he took her form in suspiciously. "Empathy implies sharing a common experience. And we all know that you are still not with child."
At his words, her blood began to boil. If he was going to be a stubborn ass then maybe she could keep a secret or two! "And it all comes back to what really matters to you! You've made your point; now get out of my room." Her command was spoken slowly and clearly, like the queen that she was supposed to be.
"Our room," he corrected stubbornly, yet made no effort to move.
His refusal of her wishes simply fueled the fire already burning with her. "Get out of MY room, you selfish bastard!" she demanded, her voice rising in pitch and volume as her anger grew.
"Why are you so-"
"GET OUT!" she bellowed, eyes glowing a threatening bright blue as she stood menacingly before him.
And as the room filled with her silver-white glow, they noticed a strange occurrence. Instead of the blinding light searing Darien's skin as it normally did, he began to… absorb it.
Energy seeped into his pale skin, causing it to glow with a foreign warmth. "Well that's new," he commented absently, examining the pinkish skin on the backs of his hands.
She gasped as she felt him absorb her blast of energy. She tried to fend off a wave of dizziness and grasped onto the bedpost as she glared at him, eyes still a glowing stormy blue. "That should have hurt you."
A sly smile crept onto his flushed face, "It would seem so. However, I suspect our bond is beginning to provide a buffer against injury. The last time you burned me it wasn't nearly as severe… the longer we are bonded, it seems the effects of our powers lessen on one another."
Scowling, she took a seat on the bed as her world tilted crazily. Carefully masking her equilibrium problems, she continued to glare at him. "Why the hell would I get weaker from being bonded to you?" She nearly spat the last word out, pointing a finger at him shakily.
He sighed as he leaned back on his elbows beside her. "I'm not entirely sure… a bond such as this has never been successfully completed before. I think my body is becoming acclimated to your gifts as an act of preservation. Good thing, too, since you seem to have quite a temper."
Noticing her quickly reddening cheeks and irate expression, he sighed. Taking her hand, he tried to get her attention but to no avail, as she stubbornly continued to look away from him. He lightly rubbed his thumb in circles against the palm of her hand, but it did nothing to lessen her rigidity. "Our souls are tied together now, whether you like it or not. If one of us dies, both of us die."
. She hated how he switched from arrogant asshole to the man of her dreams almost instantaneously. If he were constantly an ass, her life would be so much simpler. But ever so often, he would throw her off-kilter, showing her a glimpse of someone she knew she loved. He had to complicate things. "Then I guess I'll have to find other ways to hurt you," she ground out bitterly, tearing her hand from his grasp.
His eyes narrowed at her iciness and he immediately grew defensive. "Look, is this about last night, because I already-"
"Get out of my room, Darien. I don't answer to you," she said defiantly, head held high.
"How dare you."
She turned to face him then, her expression icy. "I may be your wife and I may be bound to you until death, but you do not own me. Now leave so that I can get ready for your little get together."
He appeared wounded as all traces of anger vanished from his face. "Serena…"
"Now, Darien!" she said firmly, turning around so she didn't have to look at him anymore.
An hour later found Serena walking regally out of the master bedroom in a shimmering floor-length silver gown. The backless design made her feel way too exposed and her breasts felt too sore to be pushed as far as up as they were, but she was in the mood to kill and wanted to look the part.
Her heels clicked against the marble floor as she entered the dining hall. Her spine tingled as the bond alerted her to his nearby presence and her jaw tightened. As she anticipated, his hand reached out from behind her and grasped her upper arm. She wrenched it out of his grasp, whirling around to face him.
"Feeling better?" he asked, agitation from their previous altercation apparent in his voice.
"Hardly," she responded coldly, turning back around and walking faster to avoid him.
He followed and rapidly caught up, stopping her once again at the entrance to the dining hall. "Are you really going to play that game?"
She rolled her eyes toward the cavernous ceiling. "I assure you, none of this is a game. You aren't worth the effort," she said coldly.
At her words, he stilled. Something in his eyes changed and she was sure she hadn't seen such a broken expression in him before. Instead of dwelling on it, she took a seat at the customary place by his side at the long ebony table in the center of the massive hall.
He sat down in a high-backed chair beside her, that odd expression still playing on his handsome face. If she weren't so angry with him, she might have melted at the look. However, she felt incredibly ill and it did little to assuage the anger bubbling up within her.
As she coolly surveyed the other occupants of the room, she groaned inwardly. Apparently it was her lucky day- the entire royal family was present for the dinner, along with several other vampires that she did not know. The high and mighty Lily sat beside her husband, across from Serena, cold eyes boring through her disapprovingly when she scooted as far away from Darien as possible.
Luckily they never had to wait long for dinner service. Before Lily could even open her mouth to make a statement sure to send Serena into a fury, servants entered with gold-plated trays. Serena stared down at the plate placed before her and she made sure to refrain from wrinkling her nose. A massive steak… a massive steak cooked so rare it was practically raw. Stabbing at it with a fork, the juices ran out of it, very much resembling blood, and she almost wished for Lily to strike up an uncomfortable conversation. Everyone began eating and drinking in silence and Serena decided she'd stick to drinking instead. She moved to pick up her glass when she realized drinks were also out of the question; while everyone else was given a goblet of blood, she was customarily served a glass of potent red wine. She could only hope for a blood-free dessert and that nobody would notice her not eating or drinking.
The air was thick with tension as usual, and Serena kept her head bowed, concentrating on being inconspicuous… she was never very good at blending in though.
And as predicted, a voice sliced through the silence. However, it came from one who always stayed silent at these occasions. "Why do you stay, Serena?" Raye's cold voice tore through the silence in the dimly lit room.
Serena tensed at Raye's question. She lifted her head to meet the gaze of the vampire princess and the dark-haired woman simply stared, awaiting her response with ruby eyes full of thinly-veiled malice. "Excuse me?"
Raye smiled cynically, resting her chin on her hand, as if raptly waiting for a response. "You've said it yourself… you don't like it here. So why stay?"
Serena stared at the bitter woman solemnly as her stomach churned. She felt pity for the scorned vampire after what she'd learned from Darien, but she wasn't stupid; the woman would tear her limb from limb if she had the chance. "My parents made a promise that I have to honor," she answered, deciding that even if it was only part of the reason she stayed, it was truthful enough.
"That's all?" Raye prodded, and Serena realized she was attempting to play puppet master with her as the weakling, strings pulling her in each desired direction. But Serena was no puppet.
"Yes," Serena replied coolly, refusing to take the bait. She knew that everyone was readying to silence the woman if she went too far out of line. Even without the bond, she knew that Darien's ire was ready to boil over. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed his pale hand gripping the hell out of the intricately carved table. To say he was pissed was an understatement.
Another voice entered the conversation and Serena inwardly groaned. "A promise that you have not yet fulfilled. You have not produced a hybrid yet," Lily added, crimson eyes narrowed at Serena accusingly.
A shudder passed through Serena at her mother-in-law's words. She described the child as a thing; not a boy or girl, but an object. Serena may have been terrified of the changes her body was undergoing, but there was already an attachment that she couldn't deny. The tiny life growing inside her was hers, and it disturbed her to hear Lily's cold utterance. Darien's inner discomfort rang out in her mind through the link, and she wondered if it was from his mother's callousness or from the fact that she hadn't borne him a child yet. Probably the latter, she thought bitterly.
Damien put a hand on his wife's shoulder, whispering her name in an attempt to calm her. Serena didn't know what was going on in the ancient man's mind, but she knew that he at least understood her importance. He took his wife's immaculately manicured hand in his larger one and squeezed, signaling her to calm down. Lily clenched her teeth, clearly restraining herself from saying anything further.
And in the background, Raye smiled with a look of satiation on her face. Suddenly Serena remembered who had orchestrated all of this and decided to make things interesting. "Oh Lily, rest assured that I will bear Darien's child. You'll have the hybrid," she said with saccharine sweetness. "And I will have fulfilled my end of the bargain," she finished, the sweetness corrupted by the bitterness she harbored.
Darien swallowed at Serena's words. For a moment, he almost thought… he almost thought she liked the idea of bearing his child. That she had accepted her place by his side. But then, that one last comment under her breath had blown his delusions all to hell. She still saw him as an obligation, not as he truly wanted her to. And it hurt more than he wanted to admit. He gripped the ebony beneath his fingertips until his knuckles turned pure white from the exerted pressure.
But Raye was not about to let this go… not when she was stirring up such controversy. "And after that? What will you do once you have the hybrid?" Raye asked curiously.
Everyone at the table stiffened noticeably at the princess' words. Serena closed her eyes for just a moment, attempting to calm herself and ignore the ache that continued to run rampant through her limbs. A resounding crack broke her concentration and she looked to her left to find that her husband had snapped off the edge of the tabletop in his anger. No other occupant had the courage to look up at their king, but Serena looked up at his stony face, a question plainly written on hers.
"I don't know," she whispered honestly. "Will I be free?" she asked quietly, anticipating an explosion from Darien.
But no such explosion came. He merely turned his head to look down at her with disinterest. "No," he stated simply, and his attention shifted to the meal in front of him as his vigorously began cutting his steak.
Her voice became louder at his dismissal. "But I will have fulfilled the terms of the treaty! I will have carried the hybrid you want so badly. I'll have no further use," she finished bitterly.
Another snap rang out in the silent room as the plate split in half. He turned to look at her once more, dark bangs falling in his eyes that now appeared as a mix of navy and violent ruby. "You will never leave," he ground out, slow and enunciated so she caught every syllable.
Anger was rolling off of him in waves and everything rational within her told her to retreat. But she pressed on, tired of feeling like a captive in his charge. "I can leave whenever I want after I fulfill the terms! You can't control my freedom," she shot back, rising from her chair even though her body protested the abrupt movement.
He followed suit, except he disappeared and reappeared directly in front of her, his massive frame looming over her petite one. The temperature in the room began to drop and Serena heard a jumbled mass of angry thoughts of his in her head. It was really a shame she hadn't practiced reading him through the bond more. He was within an inch of her face, his hot breath tickling her lips and almost making her forget what they were fighting about. "You will never be free of me. The moment you said 'I do' you abandoned your right to leave me," he said darkly, bluish-red irises burning into her.
She swallowed and backed up a fraction of an inch. "So vampires don't do the whole divorce thing?" She knew she shouldn't say it, but she was so tired being an obedient lap dog.
As soon as she said it, she knew that she said the wrong thing. At her simple question, his eyes blazed a furious crimson and he let out a roar of fury that chilled her to the bone. He overturned the table, sending it flying into the opposite wall as nearly all of the vampires cowered and retreated into the shadows. After taking his rage out on the furniture, he turned and stalked over to her. "Vampires mate for life. There is never divorce. There is never another!" he bellowed, then quieting so his voice was nothing but a threatening whisper. "You gave your soul to me when we forged the blood bond. You owe me an eternity."
Her eyes glowed a silvery blue in response to his crimson ones and she had no qualms about getting up in his face. "I owe you nine months of my life," she said coldly, acutely aware that her words would make things worse.
"And you would leave your own child?" he asked incredulously. "You would abandon your husband and child for your own selfish desires?"
Before she had a chance to respond, Lily cut in. "She's a Day Walker! What do you expect?" Despite the fact that Serena's skin glowed slightly silver, Lily marched up to the petite blonde. "I should have killed you in your mother's arms twenty years ago," she said cruelly.
Serena stood in shock at the woman's words. How dare she… how dare she-
"You are out of line, Mother," a deep voice ground out, and Serena's shock intensified as he stepped in front of her, body tense and rigid as he stood in a protective stance. "You had no right to say such a thing to my wife. You mean to do nothing but drive us apart and I refuse to let you antagonize my queen."
"Enough!" Serena shrieked, so unbelievably tired and hurt from the past few weeks. She turned Darien around, pointing a finger at his black-clad chest accusingly, "You are enough on your own to drive us apart. Yes, your mother is a scheming uptight bitch, but you're much worse." She took a shaky breath, "And I'm done," she said with finality, stalking away from him in disgust. She ignored his mother's cry of outrage and his deep intake of breath and broke into a sprint, flying down the halls to her bedroom.
Before she knew it, she had reached the royal suite and moved to pack her things when she realized that nothing there belonged to her. Her lungs burned for air and she felt so weak, but she had to get out of there before he came back.
But she was too late. He suddenly materialized before her and she looked up at him with dread. She was expecting his demonic form to be practically snarling at her, fangs exposed and hissing like mad. But that was not the sight before her. His eyes were a stormy blue and glittered as he stared at her in complete and utter sadness. She felt as though she'd been punched in the gut at the forlorn look on his face, but did her best to remain aloof as he approached her.
"You can't be done with me," he whispered brokenly.
She looked away from him, melancholy emanating from her petite figure. "I can't take it anymore. This seclusion, constant derision, you-"
He shook his head in denial. "No. Please don't say it's me." She got the feeling he'd never begged for anything in his life. But somehow, he was in front of her pleading.
Her form was shaking. She loved him… she had to accept it. But she didn't love how he acted at times. And she wasn't about to let him learn this information by reading her mind; she would die before that happened. There were so many things that she resented about the entire situation. "It would be a lie if I didn't. This isn't what I imagined in a marriage."
"This is beyond marriage." He hung his head for a moment before blowing out a shaky breath. "I… I need you," he confessed, looking completely and utterly vulnerable for the first time since she'd met him.
She was ready to cave when that cynical voice she'd grown to hate spoke within her. "Yes, you do. You need my eggs for the half-breed! I know, you've told me!"
He sighed. "No, I mean I need you, not your ability to produce hybrids, not your powers, just you. If you left…" he looked away from her then, "I'd go insane."
She scrutinized his defeated form, searching his mind for any sign of deceit but couldn't find a trace of dishonesty. "And if… if I didn't give birth to what my father thought I would…?"
"I would keep you as you are, my Queen for eternity."
"Eternity is a long time," she said doubtfully.
"Not nearly long enough," he replied, a slight smile gracing his full lips.
"With a queen your people don't accept? Who isn't of your kind? Who has a mind of her own?"
He shook his head at her in disbelief. "Are you sure you can read minds?" When she looked at him questioningly he sobered. "If you've ever read a single thought in my mind, you would know I chose to bind myself to you because you're special to me. Vampires… are not exactly good with complex emotion."
"No?" Serena quipped sarcastically.
Darien sighed. "Vampires know lust, hate, pride… it comes second nature. But I saw you at that party and you made me… feel," he confessed, embarrassed at his difficulty in articulating his feelings.
Her heart melted at his awkward confession but she stopped herself from falling completely. "But… maybe you conveniently developed feelings for someone you inevitably had to be with," she pointed out, yet at the same time she hated the 'psychobabble' she was spouting.
"Hmmm… maybe. But I also could have had you captured, had your eggs removed surgically, and killed you. Forgive the bluntness, but that would have been a possibility for me if I didn't want you. But I do, completely."
"I… I don't understand…" she said softly. "Why?"
"Because you evoke things in me I didn't know existed," he said honestly, eyes soft and glimmering as he looked down upon her.
She brought a shaky hand up to smooth skin of his cheek. He was a jerk, undoubtedly. But he was her jerk… and she loved him despite her better judgment. He closed his eyes and leaned into her hand, planting a kiss on the pulse at her wrist. The simple brush of his lips against her flesh sent a tingling sensation up her arm and she made a slight noise from the back of her throat that caused him to open his eyes.
"Serena," he purred, lighting a fire in her belly. Without warning, he picked her up and placed her on the edge of the burgundy bed. He gently stripped the shimmering silvery fabric from her body, softly planting a kiss on the mark he left on her neck. Before she knew it, he was down to his black silk boxers and hovering above her like so many times before. But instead of him pouncing on her like he normally did, he pulled the comforter out from under them and proceeded to tuck them in, hugging her body to his.
She turned in his arms to face him and looked up at him questioningly. He sighed, planting a kiss on her forehead. "You're ill… you said so yourself and you obviously need rest."
"I almost forgot about how crappy I feel," she said sheepishly.
"I know I'm an ass, Serena. But I'd protect you with my life. And I want to see you happy. The underworld isn't ideal for someone like you, but… but I'll do what I can," his voice was soft with emotion and it made her smile.
Maybe it was just her imagination, but the ache and weakness that had plagued her since she'd awoken seemed a little less troublesome, a little less severe. She snuggled into his chest as she felt herself quickly drifting off. It was probably her imagination.
A month passed, and the weakness Serena experienced evolved from fatigue to full-fledged illness and she found it harder and harder to shield her mind from Darien. While he may have been a little thick, he wasn't completely stupid and she knew he was aware that something was wrong. He kept insisting that she see one of their doctors, but she felt less than comfortable seeing a doctor who viewed her as a more of a snack than a patient. Well, that and she'd have to tell him she was pregnant.
Serena sighed as she readjusted herself on the large four-poster bed, throwing the magazine that she was reading to the side. She was going to tell him. But if she did… everything would change. Everything would be different; and she didn't know if she was ready for their tentative relationship to change. She scowled at her cowardice. That's exactly what she was; a big fat coward.
"Why are you a coward?" the deep timbre of Darien's voice startled her out of her self-chiding.
Damn! She needed to be careful about her wayward thoughts. She smiled softly at her husband as he crawled into bed with her, planting a feather-light kiss on her forehead. "Eh… no reason really. I guess I'm just down on myself because I've been practically useless these past few weeks."
A skeptical expression crossed his features briefly but it left as quickly as it came and a small smile played on his face. "I know what might make you feel better."
Her eyes narrowed at his expression. "Please don't tell me you've scheduled an appointment with a vampire doctor! I told you before, I won't go!"
He smirked as he wrapped his arms around her frail body, nuzzling her pale neck. "Contrary to popular belief, I am capable of listening." He lifted his head to look her in the eyes. "Close your eyes and hold onto me, love," he commanded softly, brushing his lips ever so slightly against hers. "I want to show you something."
She cursed herself for succumbing so easily to his slightest touch as she wrapped her arms around the enigmatic man before her. Blaming it on hormones, she closed her eyes. As soon as her eyes drifted shut, she felt a rush of freezing cold air then felt solid rock beneath her bare feet. Her eyes flew open, only to find that she stood before a large ebony door in a wing that she was not familiar with.
Tugging on her hand, he opened the door and led her into a dark room. Suddenly, light filled the room and Serena gasped at the sight. A state of the art laboratory was before her, filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of technological equipment.
She noted that a small metallic cell phone sat on the black marble counter, right beside a laptop. Turning around, she looked up at him in confusion.
"It's yours… all of it. I had it built so you can have something that's yours alone…" he blushed. "I thought you could have a little of it back, you know with the hematology…" he trailed off, almost bashful.
At that moment, he looked so… so human. His normally tense, overwhelming form was relaxed and he smiled genuinely at her. "So… you like it?"
She lunged at him, throwing her arms about him as she pulled him into a kiss. Pressing her lips to his again and again, for the first time, she felt normal. She felt like a normal couple in a normal relationship, even though the situation was far from it. She felt him care, and the simple thought of it filled her body with warmth.
"You like it then?" he asked once more, pride clearly written all over his chiseled features.
Her eyes began to tear as she looked up at him with liquid blue eyes, her fingers tracing his cheek. "You don't… you don't know how much this means to me."
"I would've done it sooner…"
She shook her head, snuggling further into his embrace. "It's perfect."
Weeks turned into months and ever so slowly, she began to notice the subtle changes in her body. First, she was so exhausted… but that she could hide. Then, she started getting physically ill… that was harder to hide. Now, her lower abdomen curved ever so slightly… impossible to hide from her perpetually horny mate who preferred her naked whenever they were behind closed doors. She placed her hand on the slightly convex surface and tried to imagine what could be growing there. It scared her, the life growing inside of her. Having a baby was scary enough… but a baby that could most likely tear you limb from limb? She was downright terrified.
A wave of dizziness overtook her as she leaned her head back under the stream of warm water. Usually a shower was enough to soothe her nerves, but she had a feeling that the apprehension would not cease anytime soon. Darien was out hunting and she was left alone with thoughts that threatened to drive her mad. He had an uncanny ability to permeate her mind when she was nervous or upset, similar to the feel of a cool rain on a hot summer day. When she let him in, that is. And she rarely did, because she was so afraid of upsetting the already fragile relationship they were beginning to build.
There was an abrupt rush of frigid air against her back and suddenly, the small space of the glass shower was filled with two bodies.
"Hello lover," he purred into her ear, wrapping his muscled arms around her body. He ran his tongue along the salty skin of her neck, causing her to shiver beneath the warm spray of the shower.
She leaned back on his granite chest, butterflies filling her stomach as his kisses grew wetter up her neck. "I missed you," she murmured throatily, a small smile on her lips as she felt his wet, naked body against her.
His pearly white teeth gleamed as he grinned against her neck, "Of course you did, baby." His long fingers danced along her abdomen, sending chills up her spine. Slowly, his hand crept lower and she gasped as he started to move his fingers against her. "I missed you too," he confessed roughly, his other hand squeezing her breast.
She nearly lost her balance as he slipped a finger inside of her. "Darien," she mumbled, leaning back against his body for support.
"Serena," he answered back, nuzzling her bite mark and licking at the slightly indented skin there. "I'm still hungry."
His wet black bangs tickled the side of her face as his tongue circled her bite mark and she let out a shaky breath. As if it were second nature, she turned her head to give him full access to her neck. She knew how he liked it, and it almost made her feel powerful to know that only she could please him so.
Her fingernails dug into his muscled thighs as his fangs sunk into her neck. He groaned in pleasure as his tongue began to lap up the blood that began to flow from the wound. She sighed, the tingling warmth she always felt when he bit her spreading through her body.
He closed his eyes in ecstasy, her sugary sweet blood pouring from her veins down his throat. Holding her slick body even closer than before, he began to suck vigorously at the open wound.
His fingers were doing wicked things to her in combination with the pleasurable sensation of being sucked on by her vampire lover. Her eyes snapped open suddenly as the world seemed to spin beneath her. One of her hands gripped his larger hand at the apex of her legs but that did nothing to deter him. Another wave of dizziness overtook her and she moaned. "Darien…" she whimpered slightly, her other hand moving to hold her head.
He ceased his feeding for a moment to place a kiss on the bleeding wound. "Yeah, baby?" he said hoarsely, clearly in a haze of desire and bloodlust.
She shook her head to try and regain equilibrium, but it only worsened until black spots danced against the edges of her vision. "Darien, I don't think… I…" she murmured weakly, swaying slightly in his arms. And before Darien could question her strange behavior, she crumpled to the marble floor of the shower.
Amidst the vacant darkness she felt a slow warmth washing over her… and she rarely recalled feeling warmth within the frigid stone walls of the Onyx Palace. Opening her eyes fully, she found her husband lying next to her in front of the fireplace in their bedroom.
His smooth, bare chest was pressed flush against her naked torso and his alabaster skin looked almost golden under the amber glow of the fire. A soft fur blanket covered their bodies, amplifying the heat her body desperately craved.
He smiled tenderly at her, brushing her cheek with the pads of his long fingers. "Hi," he whispered, the single syllable conveying so much more than a simple greeting.
"Hey," she replied drowsily, basking in the rare warmth around her. "My hair is dry," she said absently, a touch of drowsiness still apparent in her voice.
His face showed slight amusement at her statement and he smiled. "You've been out for a while. How are you feeling?" his voice was soft and warm and wrapped around her like a blanket.
She closed her eyes for a moment to assess her current state. "Better," she murmured, a slight smile playing on her lips.
"I'm sorry I bit you."
Her eyes fluttered open and she stared at him questioningly. He'd never been sorry about biting her before; quite the opposite in fact. "Why?"
A slight frown marred his perfect features. "I didn't know… your body can't handle the blood loss. You're anemic as it is and excessive anemia isn't good for you or the baby."
She stilled and analyzed his pale face. His navy eyes bore into her yet did not give anything away. "The... baby?"
He nodded, "You're about four months along," he said quietly, his large hand gently moving to rest on the slightly convex surface of her lower abdomen.
"You know," she said quietly, almost to herself. Her smaller hand clutched his convulsively, not knowing how to proceed. He knew… and her secret was no longer hers.
"I know," he confirmed. "Your fatigue, illness… it all makes sense. And here I was beginning to think that you were suffering some vitamin deficiency from lack of sunlight," he finished, a slight note of self-deprecation in his tone. "I should have known… but you have a nasty habit of shielding your mind when you want to."
She blushed at his words. "I'm sorry," she whispered earnestly. "I didn't know what to do… I still don't know what to do," she finished honestly.
He smiled slightly as he moved his hand from her abdomen up to stroke her cheek. "I don't either… but it's not your burden to bear alone anymore. We'll be okay."
His words were spoken with such surety that she simply had to believe he was right. "I have to say, you're taking this incredibly well." She felt her heart swell a bit as he gazed at her with something akin to adoration.
Shrugging, he leaned back on his elbows and stared at the dancing flames in the fireplace. "While I would've liked you to tell me, I know I can be a little intimidating."
His optimism was contagious and she smiled playfully in turn, "You are the Lord of the Underworld, remember?"
He smirked. "And don't you forget it," he mumbled, nipping carefully at her neck, making sure not to break the skin.
At his affectionate advance, she suddenly realized their state of undress. "By the way, is there a reason why we're naked?"
"Body heat," he replied easily.
She raised a blonde brow at the comment. "You, sir, are always cold." To prove her point, she placed a small hand on the cool surface of his chest.
A wide grin spread across his face, his razor sharp teeth glinting as he smiled at her and removed her hand, using the leverage to roll on top of her. "Maybe my intentions aren't as honorable as you thought," he suggested.
Wrapping a leg around his, she freed her hand and pulled his face down to meet hers. "Maybe I don't mind."
In the past month since the vampire clan had learned of her pregnancy, the air inside the Onyx Palace had completely changed. Those who had once glared at her with piercing, glowing eyes treated her with reverence and adoration. It was as though her pregnancy gained her immediate acceptance in the people's eyes. They even went so far as to support her hematological research, assuring her that she would find a way to curb their bloodlust. Everyone being at her beck and call was certainly a change, and slightly unsettling.
Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine a vampire doctor would be practically cooing at her as she had an ultrasound. Nor did she think that their medications would do anything for her crippling illness and fatigue. Miraculously, as her belly began to grow and she continued their prescribed treatments, her symptoms began to subside a bit and she was able to resume a somewhat normal lifestyle.
She sat cross-legged on the massive bed, looking over pictures of slides of her most recent samples on the sleek laptop Darien had given her. He lounged next to her, navy eyes fixed on the flat-screen television mounted on the opposite wall. Glancing up at the screen, she stifled a groan. Football. As she'd learned over the past few months, just because vampires lived underground, they still enjoyed their fair share of professional sports.
"Why stifle it? The groan in your mind is much louder," he commented, his eyes still glued to the television.
"Hey!" she whined, grabbing the silk pillow behind her lower back and attempting to smack him in the face with it. Unfortunately, his reflexes were beyond that of a normal human's and he caught it mid-swing, completely unfazed.
Tossing the pillow out of the way, he shook his head at her. "Will you ever learn?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Will you ever learn! You know I hate it when you do that."
He sighed. "I can't help it. It's natural for me to want to know what's going on inside your head. You're my mate." His dark eyes glittered as he stared at her and her heart beat a bit faster.
This made her slightly angrier, only because he was softening her up purposely! "You are pure evil, you know that?" she bit back, but there was no malice in her voice. He'd accomplished his task.
"Never doubted it," he said cockily, turning off the television.
"You want to know what's going on in my head? I'm trying to figure out why I can't grow these erythrocytes as quickly as I want to," she gestured in frustration at the picture of a slide on the laptop screen.
"I love it when you talk dirty," he murmured, shutting the laptop closed and crawling closer to her.
She smirked, "Not exactly dirty, but I'll take it." Her hand snaked behind him to pull him in for a kiss. Just as their lips were about to meet, they were interrupted by frantic pounding. Someone was banging on their door as though the palace were on fire.
"Your Highness!" It was muffled, but Serena was able to hear the frantic voice of a vampire outside the thick ebony door.
"What?" Darien barked back in annoyance, glaring at the door. His hand traveled up to her breast and he gave a light squeeze, as if to defy any call to duty.
"Your Highness I must request entry!" the frantic voice pled.
Groaning, Darien released Serena and almost instantaneously appeared at the door, allowing the harried vampire in.
The ruby eyed vampire was dressed in all black leather and looked from Serena to Darien frantically. "It is urgent, Your Highness. We have an intrusion at ground level."
His expression immediately darkened. "Who?" he barked, his muscles immediately tense.
"It's a Class Five Intrusion, my Lord," the dark haired man responded grimly.
Darien's navy eyes widened at the man's answer. He turned to Serena, a whisper of dread apparent in his eyes. "I have to go. You have to stay here," he commanded sternly, a note of panic in his deep voice.
Serena stared at him, bewildered. "Darien, what's a Class Five Intrusion?"
He shook his head, disappearing and reappearing across the room as he threw clothes on. "It means you're not safe. You have to stay here." Cursing under his breath, he slammed his fist into a seemingly blank wall twice, until the wall began to shift and what looked like a large hole appeared. Reaching inside, he grabbed two handguns from what appeared to be a makeshift armory in their bedroom… an armory that she never knew existed.
"You're scaring me," she said worriedly, getting up from her position to inspect the portion of the wall that had shifted.
He affixed a dagger to his side and strode toward her. "You should be scared. Promise me you won't leave this room until I come for you," he demanded as his hands gripped her upper arms.
She didn't know what to think… all she knew was that Darien rarely panicked. "I… what's going on?"
"You are a target and I won't let something happen to you. Promise me."
"I… I'll stay here," she stammered hesitantly. She could feel his fear through their bond and it only served to heighten her nervousness.
He pulled her to his chest then, his large hand threading into her flaxen hair as he held her almost desperately. "You'll stay here," he whispered, almost to himself as reassurance.
Lifting her head so she could look at him, she lightly stroked the side of his face. "I'll be fine. Be careful," she said softly, pulling on the nape of his neck so that she could reach his lips.
She sensed a note of utter desperation as he pressed his lips to hers again and again, his large form completely covering hers. He pulled away, only to place a soft kiss on her forehead. "I'll be back soon," he reassured her, and before she could reply, he vanished.
Five minutes seemed like five hours as she sat, alone in an overly large and lavishly decorated room underground while she waited for her husband to deal with some "Class Five Intrusion." She could hear the bustle of vampires moving about outside her room, barking orders for more security in certain areas, and it only increased her anxiety.
When the gilded doorknob began to turn, she let out a sigh of relief. Finally. Finally, he was… not there.
Raye stood before her, not dressed in black leather like everyone else, but another trademark red gown of hers. She smiled that same condescending smile at Serena and her stomach turned.
"Attempting to take out the queen while your brother is away? Brilliant, Raye," Serena said defiantly, attempting to mask her fear.
A cold smirk graced the princess' pale face. "Now, now, give me a little credit, sister dear. I do learn from previous mistakes. You should know me better by now."
"What do you want? What have you done and how do you want to torture me with it?" Serena asked, an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach as she glared at her sister-in-law.
"I just wanted to tell you… your brother is a very nice man. Very friendly."
"How do you know my brother?"
Her smirk turned into a full-fledged grin. "He was simply elated to find out about your pregnancy."
The pieces started to come together in Serena's mind and her heart began to pound. "No… you didn't."
"He was just grateful to hear about your progress from someone who cares about you so much. Someone who would let him onto the grounds to see you."
Serena tried her best to remain calm and knew that she was failing miserably. "Why would you do that?" she asked shakily.
"Dear Queen… so privileged," she cooed. "You just waltz into our keep, get knocked up by my fool of a brother, and instantly, you are adored by all… their beautiful Queen. Your life must be so wonderful. How would it be for you, I wonder, if you were despised for carrying a child? Banished for your abomination?" Raye's tone changed from mocking to cruel in an instant.
"Raye," Serena attempted to placate her, knowing that she was running out of time. "I know you've suffered."
Apparently, she had said the wrong thing. Raye's ruby eyes glowed eerily as she advanced on the blonde. "You know NOTHING of suffering! You know nothing of sacrifice! I want you all to pay for the ease with which you go about your perfect lives," she spat ruthlessly. Abruptly, her scowl shifted into a malicious grin. "And soon, you will know a semblance of my pain… of my suffering."
"You… you bitch!" Serena shrieked, shoving her inadvertently across the room as she began to panic.
The back of Raye's head slammed against the wall, but it did not seem to affect her. "You're not the first to call me that." She reached behind her to touch her scalp and her fingers were tinged red with blood. "Oh, and Serena? A class five intrusion is a direct threat to the queen… punishable by death," she finished, a look of satisfaction on her face as Serena raced out of the room.
She bounded up the stairs of the keep as best she could, her heart pounding and her lungs working furiously. Multiple vampires approached her as she ran, screaming for her to stop, but she paid them no heed. Her skin glowed silver, warding off any who dared approach as she made her way to the surface.
The air was rank with blood and every hair on her pale skin stood on end as she stepped onto the onyx dais. Everything within her told her something was very wrong. The ground was soft from recent rainfall and her small slippered feet sunk into the earth with each step off the dais.
She looked down at the ground only to find a bloody, severed limb at her feet. Shrieking, she jumped away and bumped into something solid behind her.
"What did I tell you?" a deep voice reverberated through her and her stomach lurched.
Turning around, she faced her ragged-looking husband. Clad in black leather, his uniform was torn by what looked like scratch marks and the material was slick with blood. She cringed as she noted his fangs were out and gleaming, although his eyes remained the dark blue she loved. "Who was the class five intruder?" her voice trembled as she looked up at him.
"It's not safe out here," he said firmly, his bloodied hands grasping her bare upper arms as he ignored her question. "Who let you out? I gave explicit instructions for you to be kept in the palace," he ground out.
Her pale eyes narrowed at his tone and she wrenched away from his grasp. "Maybe if you told me what these ridiculous code names meant I wouldn't have to find out for myself! Now tell me what the hell you've done!" she demanded of him.
"I need to get you inside," he insisted, a note of urgency in his eyes as he attempted to guide her back into the underground palace.
At his change in expression, she grew even more suspicious. Moving past him, she ignored his cries of protest and came upon the most gruesome sight she'd ever laid eyes on.
Twenty feet away lay the barely recognizable, dismembered body of Sapphire. All of his limbs were severed and his torso was an unearthly white as a cloaked female vampire continued to feed off him.
"Sapphire!" she shrieked, sprinting toward the body of her fallen brother. The female vampire looked up from feeding and her glowing amber eyes stared up at Serena coldly.
Without even taking notice, Serena glowered at the woman before her, tears flowing from her eyes as she telekinetically sent her flying away from them until the vampire slammed up against a tree nearly one hundred feet away.
Falling to her knees, she cradled the clearly dead body of her brother. He'd been sucked dry, multiple bite marks puckering on sheet white skin. Perhaps what was worst of all was the look of sheer terror frozen on her fallen brother's face. "No no no no no…." she whispered over and over, shaking her head in disbelief. Sobs racked her body as she clutched what was left of his form, blood spatter seeping into her clothing.
As she continued to cry, she placed a palm on his lacerated chest, attempting to use her healing powers. Over and over, she would blast energy into his mutilated form, but to no avail. "Not you, Sapph, not you…" she whimpered, giving up as her attempts drained her.
Laying his body on the muddy, blood-soaked ground, she slowly turned to face her husband. "You… killed my brother," she whispered in disbelief, blue eyes wild. Her voice began to get louder as she stood and began to walk toward him, "You killed my brother. You killed my brother!" At the end she was screaming the words.
"He was trespassing. I didn't know-" Darien stammered, navy eyes full of worry as he reached out to her.
She slapped his hand away. "You killed my brother!"
His eyes were contrite as he stared down at her. "Serena, you need to come inside. You're not safe-"
Her form was shaking violently and she began to retreat from him. "I'm not safe with you!"
"You know that's not-" he grabbed her wrist as he advanced on her.
"Don't touch me!" she shrieked, blue eyes wide as she tore her arm from his cold hand. Wrapping her arms around her body, she stared at him brokenly. "How… how could you?"
His eyes narrowed as he stared at the corpse for a moment. "I remember him. I remember him from your aunt's house, standing over me as the silver nitrate poisoned me. The fucking bastard tried to kill me!"
She couldn't breathe. She couldn't believe that this was happening, that everything was falling apart so quickly. "No, he saved you, you moron! He helped me drag you to the car so we could escape!"
Darien faltered at her words. "But I remember-"
"You were going into shock and he saved you! And you killed him!" she screamed at him, eyes leaking crystal tears as she struggled to breathe.
He inhaled sharply at her words. "I… I didn't know…"
"You killed him!" she accused once more. No matter how many times she said it, it just seemed so unreal, so impossible.
"He was trespassing on our grounds with a package." He motioned to a brown box tossed casually by the wayside in the mud.
Serena stalked over to the package and tore the box open, only to find… a mobile. Each branch of the mobile had crystal hearts dropping from them, with various photographs of Serena, her parents, and even of Sapphire embedded within. Beneath the gift, she found a note that read, 'So your baby will always know its family. Love, Sapph.'
She felt as if though someone had knocked the wind out of her. He'd come to deliver a baby gift… and had been killed for his efforts. Sharply, she turned to face Darien. "You want to know why he was trespassing? You want to know why he was fucking trespassing on your precious territory? He came to give YOUR child a gift! And you slaughtered him!" she spat.
Darien froze at the discovery. "I didn't… I never would have…"
"My family was right," she muttered in a disgusted tone. "They were so right. You are a monster."
His expression darkened at her words, "I know you're upset, so I'll excuse your words."
"Oh thank God you'll forgive me!" She mocked. "I don't need your fucking forgiveness! You are nothing but a monster. Only a soulless bastard like you would be capable of such carnage."
It was only then that she realized how light the sky had become… reds and purples painted across the early morning sky, casting a dim light on her bloodied surroundings.
Her words angered him, but he suppressed the rage due to the precarious position they were in. "We can discuss this inside, Serena."
She scoffed at him. "I'm never going inside that God-forsaken palace. Ever!"
He shook his head and approached her once more. "You don't know what you're saying. You are a vulnerable target for our enemies when pregnant with the half breed and being above ground isn't safe!" He tried to plead with her.
She backed up as he advanced, and she felt the ache within her grow a bit more. "I'm much safer out here than I ever was with you."
His eyes widened as he looked at her, stricken. "You don't mean that."
"Oh, I do. I don't trust a word coming out of your filthy mouth," she bit back.
The increasing amount of daylight was beginning to irritate his pale skin. He winced, "Serena, I didn't mean to..."
"But you did! You knew exactly what you were doing as you tore him limb from limb! I hate you, Darien. You've taken everything from me…" she sobbed brokenly. "I hate you."
"I do. I hate you Darien, and I wish I'd never met you."
End Chapter Six
AN (PLEASE READ): Over the past cringe year or so, I've received a fair amount of e-mails/PM regarding the status of the story and when I am going to update. I know that I am really bad about responding (sorry!) so the best way to find out about the progress of the story is to look at the update section on my profile page. When I'm working on the story, I try to update this part of the page and it's probably the best place to find out about any recent progress (although I really don't mind the e-mails- I love hearing from you!). And please, if you can, let me know what you thought of this most recent chapter. When I'm feeling muse-less and lost, I look back at my reviews and think, hey, at least somebody's reading this. So reviews really do make a difference, even when I take 5 million years to update. Let me know what you liked or didn't, what you'd like to see more or less of, or basically anything else as long as it doesn't completely destroy my fragile ego. Again, thanks so much for reading!