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The Scientific Method, Page 8

Joey W. Hill

  Kane knew he wasn't supposed to be disrespectful to adults, either, so he didn't snatch the bar back like a wild animal. But after he took it, he didn't put it in his mouth right away. Instead, he studied Brian, his green eyes measuring the scientist's intent, thoughts whirling in his busy brain.

  If a vampire ate too much human food, they'd feel deathly ill for a day or so. Like seasickness, no amount of vomiting relieved the feeling. The person suffering would wish they were dead, for sure, but death was not the result. Just massive discomfort and, as Helga had noted, there was no aid for vampire indigestion. Most vampires only had to make the mistake once never to repeat it. No matter how many centuries they lived, it was a lesson that never faded from the mind.

  While Kane's parents and most of the estate had been trying to keep him from experiencing that, Brian had obviously decided that letting a child touch a hot stove was the best way to learn not to touch it, especially for a child carrying the genetics of two very stubborn people.

  But he also had their shrewdness. Kane considered Brian's unsmiling face. "Sick."

  "Very sick. But it won't kill you."

  "Tastes good," Kane complained.

  "Yes, it does. Want to see a way around it?" Brian put out his hand.

  After a considering pause, Kane turned over the candy bar. Reaching out, Brian clasped Debra's hand and placed the candy bar against her pulse point, smearing chocolate there. Then he lifted it to his mouth, tasting the sweetness just before he bit into the vein, a light penetration that nevertheless had her fingers curling so they grazed his chin. Brian's lips curved against her flesh. He took a small draught only, then closed the wound, licking the rest of the blood and chocolate off of it.

  He nodded to Kane. "Putting a flavor you like over the blood gives it a lasting taste in your mouth. It helps satisfy the urge without eating too much."

  He handed back the candy bar. "Beyond the issue of making you sick, it wasn't your candy bar. It was mine."

  "On her desk. Servant."

  They learn young, Debra thought, trying not to roll her eyes. She saw a similar flash of exasperation on John's face. All the human staff were familiar with vampire arrogance. John could probably vouch firsthand for just how early in life a vampire started cultivating the trait.

  Brian gave her a sidelong look. Vampire arrogance? Even me?

  I didn't mean you, my lord. She wondered if it was possible to pull off an inward version of a poker face.

  You're not good at the outward one. I like that about my servant.

  He gave her a lingering look, and returned his attention to the child.

  "Yes, it was on Debra's desk. But what's on my servant's desk is mine, because she's mine. Right? You take from her, you better be sure you have the permission of her vampire."

  She wished he felt that way about vampire social gatherings. Especially when Lord Graham was in attendance. She was already hoping they wouldn't encounter him in Texas, but that was pretty close to his territory. The very thought that he might join them at the Texas overlord's home had her tightening up, but she sent herself a firm admonishment. There was nothing she could do about it. She'd get through it, as she always did when she encountered him.

  With a start, she realized she'd drawn Brian's attention. His hazel eyes were suddenly much sharper, suggesting irritation. Anger? Because he'd been talking to Kane, she hadn't expected him to be listening. But even if he was, he didn't usually care about how she managed her solo appearances at vampire gatherings, anyway. He knew she'd handle them appropriately, for she'd proven she could, repeatedly. She tried to think of something to say to address whatever had aggravated him.

  Fortunately Kane distracted them both. He handed her back the candy bar with a dignified nod, though he directed his words to her Master. "I apogize, Brin," he said.

  Brian's mouth twitched at the solemnly mangled English. "Apology accepted." Then he broke off a small piece of the candy and handed it over. "Remember what I said."

  Kane's eyes lighted on John. The boy was already second marked by the young vampire and occasionally offered him blood, though his mother and father were still his primary source for the time being. Jo, a second mark on the estate, also served as his blood nanny when the demands on Lyssa as Council head made regular feedings difficult.

  John shook his head vehemently. "Forget it. You're not putting that sticky stuff on me. Let's go find Jo."

  As Kane preceded him out of the lab, his stalk a short-legged, less steady version of the haughty sweep his mother had perfected, John gave Debra a hopeful look. "Can I stake him? Just once? You guys could bring him back to life, right?"

  Brian chuckled. "Dr. Frankenstein I'm not, John. And I wouldn't advise saying that around Lady Lyssa."

  "She threatens his life all the time." John, unimpressed, followed Kane out. A few moments later they heard the boys take off like a charge of cavalry, indulging their favored pastime of striking all the suits of armor on the main hallway that led back to the living quarters of the estate.

  Giving her a humorous look, Brian shook his head and turned back to his work on the counter. She studied his back. The nerves in her wrist were still tingling from his lips, her mind whirling at emotions he'd revealed as he delved into her mind. She wasn't sure what was going to happen later tonight, but he had her unbalanced, for certain. She was afraid, anxious, aroused...anticipating. But mostly afraid. Because her heart was considering the impossible.

  Brian was gazing into his microscope with that concentrated set to his mouth that always made her want to nibble on his lips. His hip was cocked, hand braced on the edge of the stainless steel counter, a lock of hair falling over his right eye, which was focused as a laser beam on what he was doing. She could almost feel his mind accelerate, the numerous calculations he was considering in that oblivious sexy pose.

  Sometimes when she was close to him working, she had the urge to be like Whiskers. The cat was often found in the furnace room, asleep in a flat, furry puddle on top of the machinery. All those complex interior parts working together to produce a heated, humming vibration. She wanted to flatten herself against Brian, just feel him thinking, breathing. The pulse of his heart and mind made her world work, heated her through and through, the way the furnace kept the house warm.

  God, she couldn't resist him. That was what scared her most of all. She really had no choice, when it all came down to it. She couldn't survive this attention if it wasn't going to last...if it meant nothing. If it turned out to be another lie.

  It was never a lie, Debra.

  Her stomach leaped like a frog. He didn't look up from the microscope, but she saw the tension in his shoulders, felt the flash of heat from his mind. She didn't want to follow up on that, didn't think she could. So she turned back to her own work.


  Brian had been clear. He expected her to wear the lab coat -- open -- over the lacy bra and panty set. He also told her to wear the one pair of stiletto heels she had.

  As she left her room and headed for the south lawn near midnight, she knew she might encounter someone in the hallways, but a servant in a state of undress didn't cause the bat of an eye lash in a vampire enclave. She still wasn't comfortable with it, but fortunately everyone else seemed to be.

  As if summoned by that wry thought, the first person she met was Jacob. Though he was obviously headed somewhere, striding with purpose, his step hitched as he got a full view of her, and he detoured from the intersection of the hallway to intercept her.

  She was still bad about blushing. Jacob's gaze was coursing over her with not-unpleasant male appreciation and she had to suppress the ridiculous urge to close the lab coat. He'd seen her naked plenty of times. Just not dressed provocatively like this.

  "Nice night to go out. You might get a little chilly, though." He was picking on her in that gentle way of his, trying to make her feel less self-conscious. Would she ever figure out how to accept this like the others did? How did they do it?

sp; When Jacob reached out to run a knuckle along her cheek to tease her about her blush, she stepped back, nearly bumping the suit of armor behind her. "Sorry," she stammered. "I can't."

  Brian had made something else clear before he left her at her door to prepare. It was a provocative mandate he'd never put upon her before, contributing even more to her unsettled state of mind. She knew she sounded like an idiot, so she cleared her throat, tried to grab hold of the maturity she used to present things to Council. It had been so long since Brian had treated her like this, she was acting like a nervous schoolgirl meeting her crush behind the gym.

  "I meant...Lord Brian specified that no male was to touch me on my way to this."

  Jacob's shift in expression made her suddenly aware of him as a very sexually confident male, one who had more than a touch of sexual Dominant as well. The submissive in her couldn't help but get flustered by it.

  He gave her a nod. "That'd be my move, if you were mine. Atta boy, Brian."

  Tossing her a fond look, he stole a quick tug of her hair as he resumed course. Though not technically an infraction, it pushed the edges of it. She gave him an exasperated look and continued on her way, but she did feel a bit steadier.

  It was a beautiful night. A full half-moon over the south lawn made the thick grass a pale silver-green. Slipping off her heels, she carried them through the landscaped gardens. Since she always enjoyed the rose arbor and it wasn't out of her way, she took the winding path of stepping stones through it. The fragrance of the blooms clustered so close around her inspired her to stop and take a quick sniff of a light pink one, enjoy the feel of the silk petals against her nose and cheeks.

  There's a pair of shears sitting on the bench. Brian spoke in her head. Clip one off.

  When she hesitated, she heard his velvet chuckle in his head. I already asked Lyssa if it was all right. We're safe from her wrath.

  She smiled at that. Picking up the shears, she wondered how he'd anticipated her path.

  I'm a little more observant than my servant thinks I am.

  It was an unnerving thought, one that sent a shivery cascade of feeling through her. Carefully snipping off the bloom, leaving a half foot thorny stem, she put down the shears and brought the blossom back to her nose for another pleasurable inhale.

  Trail it between your breasts. Over them.

  She did, her breath catching at the sensation and his command. The scent wafted up as nerves tingled along the curves, held up plump and enticing in the bra he'd wanted her to wear. Jacob hadn't been able to look away from them.

  I'd advise you not to bring up his name again tonight.

  It was an easy command to follow. There was only one name she wanted to think about.


  Slide it lower. Along your thighs.

  She put the shoes down and obeyed, making a hum in her throat as the weight of the bloom aroused her clit under the silky panties. It was already engorged and wanting attention.

  Then come find me and I will attend to it.

  Clasping the rose and reclaiming her shoes, she moved along the stepping stones. Once emerging from the gardens close to the house, her bare feet sunk into a carpet of grass. She was on the main stretch of the south lawn, four acres of lush green dotted with trees and hedge groupings, backed by a thick forest. But a servant always knew where to find her vampire.

  On the western corner of the mowed area, a trio of live oaks provided his stargazing spot. A nice flat stretch glided down a slope to a pretty man-made pond with a fountain. The soft rush of water was like the sound of the wind. She saw the silhouettes of the ducks sleeping on the banks, since a mallard pair and their annual crop of babies lived there in the warmer months.

  Then she saw Brian, and everything else disappeared.

  She did pick at him about his pocket protectors and sweater vests, but he was never rumpled or mismatched -- except for the occasional need to straighten his tie as she'd done earlier. When he wore one, he tended to pull at it while working. Otherwise, his clothing was always high quality. He wore slacks and crisply ironed shirts, matched with tailored coats when needed. Inside the lab or out, he looked like a wealthy man, a successful scientist who ran his own facility, ready to present to his benefactors or direct a full lab staff as needed. He didn't really do casual.

  Tonight he had. In a way that had her swallowing, hard.

  He wore a pair of belted jeans and nothing else. The body she'd enjoyed touching for such a brief time in the bedroom was on mouthwatering display, the sculpted pectorals and tight abs, the shoulders just the right breadth. The jeans weren't tight, but they were worn enough to cling the right way to groin and ass. He was stretched out on a blanket on his side, head propped up on one hand, his body sprawled out like a lazy predator, an impression enhanced by the sharp focus of his eyes, covering her from head to toe.

  "Put on the shoes, then come to me," he said.

  She'd maneuvered on the four-inch stilettos well enough in the halls. Maybe better than well enough. That pendulum sway to her hips the unstable shoes required had been another thing Ja -- those she passed -- noticed.

  Brian's eyes glinted, acknowledging the wisdom of her self-editorializing. Balancing herself precariously, she put on one shoe, then the other. The only way to walk across the few feet of grass in stilettos would be carefully, on her toes, a mincing gait that made her breasts quiver in a way she could tell he liked. He even pushed himself up on one straightened arm to get a better look. For her part, she couldn't take her eyes off his bare chest, the corded throat, his muscles layered and stretched over his abdomen, drawing the eyes to denim molded around his groin. He was aroused, evident by the sizeable strain in that area. She moistened her lips.

  Right before she stumbled.

  She'd never been good with the blasted things, even on solid surfaces. For the most part, Brian had always been fine with her wearing modest one-or two-inch heels for Council events or vampire formal occasions to save her embarrassment. As a result, this was the only pair of spiky heels she owned, purchased early in their relationship when she was learning what vampires liked to see their servants wear. When she first wore them, Brian hadn't seemed that intrigued, so she'd put them away.

  She expected a face plant in the grass. Instead, she found herself caught against that solid chest, his arms around her as he steadied her, drew her back to an upright position that pressed her lace-clad breasts against his bare skin. He smiled down at her. "Kick them off."

  She did. She was average height without them, but right now he felt so much taller.

  "Next time I'll have you wear your canvas sneakers," he said. "That old ratty white pair you like so much."

  "It wouldn't go so well with this outfit."

  "I think it goes perfectly with you." He slid the light coat off her shoulders so she was in bra and panties alone. Then he bent and placed a kiss on her back, below her left shoulder blade.

  Directly over her third mark.

  The significant, tender and yet possessive gesture made every nerve ending in her body yearn toward that spot, her heart somersaulting. Every full servant bore a mark, a cross between a scar and a birthmark that appeared during the third marking. When he'd fully marked her all those years ago in the lab, her third mark had appeared on her back, positioned over her heart. It looked like an X, with the two top ends thickened.

  The shape of the mark was dictated by forces beyond vampire understanding, usually an unmistakable meaning to it. She hadn't yet figured out what hers was, but just having his mark had always been meaningful enough to her.

  He brushed his lips over it again. "Sweet servant," he murmured. "Down on the blanket. On your back."

  As she complied, he stood over her, watching, and it stole her breath, his arousal prominent against the jeans, his unapologetic virility. It was a side of Brian very few ever saw. This version of it was new to her as well, but entirely welcome.

  "I'm glad my servant approves." He gave her a faint
smile tinged with sensual warmth, telling her he wasn't chiding her. "Spread your legs for your Master."

  She did, and he moved forward, hooking his foot under her right knee and moving it so it bent outward. Understanding, she did the same with the other, so her thighs formed a wide, empty cradle. The position also stretched her panties over her swollen cunt.

  "You're nice and wet already."

  "Yes, Master. For you."

  His gaze flickered up at the uneven sound of her voice. She was trying not to let the emotional interfere, but her heart was starting to race like a freight train. She didn't want to have a panic attack, wanted to live in the moment and not worry about what this did or didn't mean. But she couldn't seem to be objective.

  When he stood over her like this, he seemed so much bigger, larger than life. Like when they'd met. But that wasn't why she'd fallen for him. It was when she realized he was a complicated mix that he'd won her heart. He was a genius, yes. He could also lose ten pens a week because he couldn't remember where he'd put them down. He'd break off in mid-conversation with a high-ranking vampire simply because he went somewhere else in his head to solve a problem. Though it didn't happen too often, she'd seen him lose his temper, break the top of a table with his fist. It had been yet another test of the serum cure for the Delilah virus, another failure to find an alternative to killing servants.

  She was the one who'd convinced him they needed to take a short break on that project. Give it time to breathe and come back to it. They would find the solution that would save both servant and vampire eventually. She was sure of it.

  It had been a while since she'd remembered so vividly that dangerous strength he possessed. He could crush her in his arms, yet she never feared his hold on her. Not for that reason.

  She knew he was in her head. She could tell by his changed expression. But he didn't say anything about those thoughts. He was her Master. It wasn't his job to reassure or explain. She embraced that idea, even as the gaps it left felt like open wounds.