Ghosts Ch. 04byzombiegirl28©
After a moment his whole demeanor changed and he went still, silent as a lion before the kill as his lips hovered above my neck. And very soon the stillness became unnatural as he waited, distressingly immobile even as I felt his excitement thrum around me. Protective instincts kicked in and I stopped breathing, stepped outside myself, focusing on calm, calm, steadying my heart rate, lowering my blood pressure, simply existing. Zen. And then he unfroze with all the creepiness of a manikin coming to life, licking up the side of my neck and nipping at my ear.
"You're pretty good at that power-meditation stuff. You must have had some practice."
I knew he was playing with me, testing my reactions, learning his prey. He trailed his fingers down my arms, then began edging his hands under my shirt, rubbing small circles over my stomach, slowly moving upwards over my ribs. I wasn't wearing a bra, and his thumbs quickly found my nipples, tweaking them, toying with them until they were stiff and aching.
My nerve was breaking. I began to breathe in shallow gasps as I tried not to move. I had Victor to thank for my intense aversion to touch. Nausea rolled through me as he cupped my breasts, rolling them in his palms. He dipped his head and trailed kisses lightly across my collarbone. The worst thing was that I had no idea what he wanted from me. Did he expect me to respond readily to his seduction now that my freedom was on the table? I wished I was capable of it. I suddenly wanted desperately to make him happy, to hold his interest.
"You're shaking now," he murmured.
That was an understatement. I was trembling violently, and everything in me was screaming to jerk away from him. Dread filled me. If he wanted my enthusiastic participation, I would never be able to give it to him. He pulled back, examining me at arm's length, and I tried not to shudder with relief.
"Ahh, the stakes are awfully high at the moment, hmm?" he asked, his voice full of false sympathy. "Awww, look at you, you're absolutely terrified of displeasing me."
My freedom from his touch was short-lived. His oddly rough fingers traced the scars over my arms, and he raised my wrist to his mouth slowly, his gaze piercing. I tried to avoid looking at the centers of his eyes, which were glowing with an unearthly sort of light. The pain raced up my arm as his fangs punctured the vein, his venom working its diabolical magic on my blood. It crashed in waves over me, obliterating all my concerns, until nothing else existed but the sensation. He was holding back, compared to when he had fed from me earlier, because it was overwhelming but tolerable, and to my surprise I began to calm. My shaking ceased, and my head cleared. I felt like someone had just trickled cool water through the feverish mess of my consciousness.
He only took a few pulls of blood before releasing me and regarding me with an extremely pleased expression. He brushed a lock of hair out of my face and I flinched, unable to suppress it, but thankfully he ignored it as he tucked the strands behind my ear.
"Don't worry, peiyla," he drawled, his smile conspiratorial. "I'm completely confident in my ability to gain your undying devotion. It's just going to take some time."
He grabbed my hips and hoisted me off the counter. "Can you stand OK?"
"Great. Load the dishwasher."
I took the opportunity to observe him discreetly as I did so. He was sprawled on the couch with the sort of casual contentment and boneless grace that I'd formerly only observed in housecats, studying an electronic tablet that cast a dim glow on his features. As far as attractiveness went, he above average, but not to an extreme degree. He wasn't tall- I guessed him for about 5'9, though that still put him at nearly a foot taller than I was. He had dark, slightly curly hair and large, expressive eyes with thick lashes, a strong nose, and sinful lips that were almost always quirked in a slight smirk. It was difficult to say what, exactly, marked him as inhuman, or even threatening, other than the unsettling energy that seemed suspended around him, or the strange fluidity of his movements. Yet despite physical appearances, I couldn't think of him as anything remotely resembling a human man. He was a carnivorous, otherworldly creature with unfathomable motivations, and I wondered if I was crazy for believing he might possibly be an ally in the fucked-up existence that was my life.
After I finished cleaning like the dutiful servant I was apparently expected to become, I didn't really know what to do with myself. I paced the kitchen aimlessly for a while, finally pouring myself a glass of orange juice and curling up in the armchair across from Lex. He was, of course, completely unaffected by my awkwardness, absorbed in whatever the hell he was doing on the tablet. I lost myself in thought as I distractedly scratched the neck of the giant wolf-dog that was rapidly becoming my new best friend. When Lex finally stood and strode towards the door with his unnatural quickness, I nearly jumped out of my seat.
"Come on, little one. It's time to go shopping."
The function of Blood Money (trendy name, right?) is difficult to describe. Basically, it's an exclusive social club that also functions as a sort of pet-supply warehouse for the Vampire elite....and select human participants. Part bar, part mall, park salon and spa, part brothel, Blood Money provides everything a rich Aussie vamp could need to clothe, style, enjoy and exploit their living toys as completely as possible. I didn't have a lot of fond memories of the place.
Lex clearly was new to the area. His surprise was noticeable as he pulled up to the massive building with its flashy and stylish exterior, and he paused outside the towering wooden doors, taking it all in. "I thought there were only perhaps a hundred and fifty Ghosts on the entire continent."
I swallowed, staring at the door and wanting very much to get back into the car. "That sounds about right."
"Jesus." He contemplated the situation for a moment, then shrugged. "Well, let's see your dead-eyed stare."
I was well practiced at that. I turned my face into a mask of blankness, looked straight ahead and forced my eyes to completely unfocus, stood up straight and let my arms hang limply at my sides. And then I was following him inside, and it was exactly as I remembered it from almost a year ago. Dimly lit with a haze of smoke, it was full of first-generation vamps and obviously wealthy humans. I spotted a few government officials, and an aging movie star. There were a few females here and there, but they were all vampires except for the attractive bartenders serving up cocktails to our left. And then there were the Ghosts, who milled about in various states of undress. A tall brunette danced topless on the bar, her movements lithe and sensual, but her blank, unnerving eyes revealed no awareness of the situation. She was a graceful automaton, and nothing more. This was the main room, which we had to walk through to get to the stores and salons further into the building. I wove through the crowd, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, strangely reassured by Lex's grip on my hand.
He led me straight to the salon. I recognized the sickeningly cheerful curly-haired stylist from my last visit, and she recognized me. She threw her arms around me, smiling and giggling in her over-affected way, all porcelain veneers and facial implants. I just stared ahead, zombie-like, as she circled me and immediately began to examine my hair at different angles.
"Ohmigod it's Kylie!" the use of my assigned Ghost name made me cringe inwardly. She turned towards Lex and gave him a dazzling smile. "It's been FOREVER since I've seen this one. She's so cute and tiny. Isn't she so cute and tiny?? You must be her new owner. I'm Katie." She thrust out a perfectly manicured hand with multicolored fingernails. After a moment, Lex accepted it and shook, staring at her as if she were the alien life form in the room, and under different circumstances it would have been hilarious to see a Vamp look so utterly dumbstruck.
He recovered quickly though, and donned snakelike charm, smiling back at her. "I'm Lex. I just got her this morning. And honestly," he leaned forward and lowered his voice as if he were letting her in on a secret. "I've only been in this country for a little over a week. This is all-" he waved a hand "-very new and very intriguing."
She gasped and her eyes widened as if he'd just told her something of grave importance, then her expression turned to one of delight and she clapped her hands together, bouncing on her heels. "Oh honey, don't you worry about a thing. We will get you ALL set up." She grabbed a portable scanner off the counter and pulled the edge of my shirt up, zapping the barcode on my lower back. She pushed a button and two neon-green tickets printed out of the device, which she presented to Lex with a flourish.
"OK. You should take one of these to David in room 8. All her measurements are in the system, so he should be able to set you up with a wardrobe. Whatever kind of stuff you're into. And then you can take the other one to Ramon in room 10, and he can get you..." she made a vague gesture and giggled, actually blushing slightly "...anything ELSE you might need. In the meantime I'll get started on her hair. God, it's BAD right now isn't it. She'll need a new dye job for sure."
She studied me critically. It was kind of bad, because I certainly hadn't given a shit about styling it in the Center. It was way too long, and the lower half was jet black, and the upper half was the bizarre assortment of colors that was my hair's natural state.
He shook his head. "No, just cut the dye out of it. Cut it however you like, just not too short."
She looked very dismayed, gave him a skeptical look and waited for a moment as if she was expecting him to change his mind, but he said nothing, and she gathered herself. "OK. And should I do mani and pedi? A facial? How about her eyebrows? Ohhh, they took her earrings out. She should probably have them re-pierced, don't you think?"
Lex smirked and glanced sideways at me, his eyes twinkling. "Absolutely. Do the whole package. I'd like to explore the place anyway. And I think you two-" he clapped me on the back "-need to get reacquainted. I'll be back in a few hours."
I allowed just enough awareness to creep into my face to properly glare at him, and he flashed me a grin before leaving me at her mercy.