There's a Fine Line Ch. 05byMazuri©
Short note: some aspects of this chapter, as well as the story in general, may not appeal to all audiences. Please take a moment to check the story tags if there are subjects you'd rather avoid.
Also, my thanks go out to my shiny new editor, Archangel_M, whose Red Pen of Doom has helped me make this chapter as error free as possible, and to my brainstormers/proof-readers, Jaisen & Mokkelke, who keep me in line and help me smooth out the rough edges. You guys are the best!
Reluctantly pulling away from the Pierce Estate, Blake watched his mate in the rearview mirror until a curve in the drive blocked her from his sight. His beast grumbled and paced at leaving Alicia behind with other vampires, especially when one of them was unmated, but was partially soothed to see that she stayed on the stairs until he had disappeared from her view as well. The only thing that prevented the creature from demanding they bring her back to their suite was the fact that he'd have to forbid her from leaving should he have to go to the office or attend a meeting. He didn't want to cage her and, at least with the Pierces, she had some freedom of movement. The wrought-iron gates latched shut behind the silver sports car and Blake shifted into gear with a sigh. No matter the reasoning, it was still difficult.
The road was deserted as he sped across the asphalt though his mind was occupied with thoughts of his beautiful mate and their night together. Their time in the elevator had been interesting, to say the least, and he'd already requested an associate with some basic skills in magic to look at the wall and see if it could be repaired. He was tempted to leave it as it was but it had seemed to upset Alicia on their ride down to the garage so he'd fix it if it brought her peace. Hell, he'd change buildings if that's what it took. Smirking ruefully, he shook his head at the thought. How his friends would laugh to see him so wrapped around the little human's finger.
It was clear, however, that he needed to spend some serious time with his mate in the playroom. He'd never seen anyone take to the flogger and the paddle the way she had. She'd even gotten sassy with him when she realized there was pleasure to be found in the pain. Grinning, he knew he'd have his hands full with his spirited little brat and he was eager to take on the challenge. Her susceptibility to subspace, though, had surprised him. He'd only had a few submissives over his many centuries that were able to fly beneath the flogger; he supposed he shouldn't have been surprised that his mate would be one of them. They were truly well matched.
Downshifting the powerful roadster to enter a sharp turn, Blake's musings had distracted him just enough that he didn't notice the large rocks that had been rolled onto the lane until it was too late. Clutch, brakes, and handbrake were all applied immediately as he turned the steering wheel sharply in an effort to avoid destroying his nearly two million dollar vehicle. The smell of burning rubber joined the shrill shriek of the tires on the asphalt as the car slid sideways towards the boulders. When the dust settled and his ears quit ringing from the noise, Blake was relieved to see that he'd stopped half a foot from the closest rock.
And then the figures emerged from the blowing dust.
From a small bush near the cliff side of the road, one vampire rose and began to slowly advance towards the car while another appeared from behind one of the large rocks. Blake curled his lip in a sneer as he watched them. Younglings. He took his time leaving the vehicle, unbuttoning his suit's navy blue jacket and tossing it carelessly into the passenger seat.
"I really wouldn't recommend doing anything...unfortunate." The elder vampire drawled as if bored while rolling up the sleeves of his pristine white shirt. "I'll get upset if I have to make a mess."
"There's gonna be a mess, all right." One of the younglings grinned, crimson eyes glowing malevolently. "But I think I'm gonna take that shiny toy you're driving after it's all been cleaned up. Ain't seen nothing like it except on the TV."
Blake merely smiled and leaned against the closed door with his arms crossed over his chest. His mind was racing as he worked out just how to dispose of the two vampires. The one who'd come from the bush and taunted him had stopped his advance and stood mirroring his stance. The other was moving as quietly as he was able...which counted for little in the face of Blake's age and skill. His age had also taught him patience, which the younglings had yet to learn. The chatty one's eyes darted around the ambush site, landing on more than just the single vampire on the rocks and their victim. There were more to this group than he'd originally thought.
Hearing the scrape of a boot on the rocks to his right, Blake dropped to the asphalt as the vampire made his move. Had the situation not been quite so dire, he'd have laughed when the enraged youngling hit the road face first. Instead, he quickly rolled beneath the Bugatti to grab the pair of pistols he kept in a magnetized box attached to the front passenger wheel well. Sliding off the safety, he took aim and shattered the ankles of his talkative attacker and the rock diver. There wasn't enough space between the roadster and the rocks to use the car as a barrier, so he rolled back out the way he came in. In a single smooth motion, Blake rose to one-knee and quickly put two rounds into one of the screaming vampire's heads, removing him from the equation.
"Who paid you to commit suicide?"
"Fuck you, Simons! You ain't leaving here alive." Chatty snarled as he waved to someone over Blake's head. "Get him!"
The smell of brimstone filled the air just seconds before a stream of fire singed the elder vampire's hair. Cursing, he dove towards the back of the small vehicle and searched the sky for his attackers. Hovering about ten feet above the ground were three short creatures straight from nightmares and fantasy novels. Neither male nor female, they needed no garments to cover their leathery, humanoid bodies. Approximately four feet tall with broad bat-like wings, the lesser Infernals were a deep brick red and completely hairless. They bore only three digits on each hand and had hooves instead of feet. Upon their heads were two small horns that curved back away from faces that held large black eyes and a canine snout above a set of vicious fangs. A thin, whip like barbed tail completed the horrific image. The creatures grinned down at the trapped vampire as they gathered the energy needed for a second fiery attack.
"Mephits?" Attempting to hide his concern, his scornful words were directed to the vampire he thought of as Chatty, who was clearly the leader of this little band. "Someone is getting a bit desperate to be working with the cockroaches of the Lower Planes."
One of the mephits snarled and dove for the trapped vampire. Blake nearly grinned as he easily dodged its clumsy attack and grabbed the Infernal's tail, yanking him from the sky. A quick twist, a slash with his razor sharp incisors and there was one less fire-throwing creature to worry about.
"You can't win, Simons. Four against one ain't good odds, no matter how old you are."
Four? Blake took a quick glance around the site in an effort to find the missing fourth attacker. Since Chatty hadn't counted the dead vampire in his numbers, it stood to reason that the dead mephit wasn't included either. His beast growled. No matter the numbers, it was eager to dive into the fray. The human held it back for the moment but soon, it would be allowed out to play.
As he scouted his surroundings one last time, he managed to pinpoint the hidden vampire. Snorting in disgust, he realized it was slightly older but still little more than a youngling. Either he was being insulted by the caliber of his attackers or he was being severely underestimated. He didn't appreciate either option. Widening his stance and checking the slight difference in weight of his guns, he got ready for the rest of the fight.
"Time to show me what you've really got, kiddies!" he murmured with a wicked grin.
Once the Bugatti had disappeared into the trees, Alicia had returned to her duties in the Pierce household. Given the task of cataloguing the extensive library at the Estate and entering each book into a computer tracking program, the job was slow and rather tedious. On the bright side, it had greatly helped her become more familiar with a computer, a skill she'd lacked during her homeless months. She rather suspected the job was 'busy work' given to her simply so she'd feel better about staying in their home, but appreciated the chance to do something productive. It also gave her time to think—not always a good thing.
Shifting in the hard chair for perhaps the hundredth time since she'd come home, Alicia once more pondered her rather unique experiences with her mate. She knew enough of so-called normal relationships to have an idea that hers and Blake's was anything but. Several of the women with whom she'd shared a makeshift home in secluded alleys had come from abusive backgrounds with spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends who'd left them bruised or worse. Some had spent time in the ER; others bore physical reminders of past disputes. All bore scars upon their souls. Why was it, then, that she was justifying her own marks as anything different? Was it truly as simple as the fact that she'd wanted him to place them on her?
And then there was the annoying man himself. Though she'd been home for less than thirty minutes, already she was feeling antsy - wanting to be with him, needing to be with him. It was annoying, really. It didn't help that every time she moved, she was reminded of their night together. Sitting was uncomfortable on the hard, wooden chair. Standing made her wince as the raw marks rubbed against her jeans. Bending over was equally stimulating as the bruised skin stretched over her rear. No matter what she did, it was as if her entire body was trying to remind her of the pleasure she'd found in her mate's actions even as her mind was struggling to accept her needs. Her thoughts were running in circles, and she needed some way to come to terms with all that had happened.
When Francisco entered to tend to business of his own, Alicia continued to work even as she pondered discussing it with her friend. She knew Blake would most definitely not approve of her speaking of their private moments with the newling vampire, but she had no one else to turn to at the moment and her mate was on his way back to his office. Besides...she didn't want him thinking she was totally pathetic with her indecisiveness. Perhaps if she volunteered the information later, he'd be less likely to get all bent out of shape over it? With a snort, she truly doubted it but it was worth a try.
"Cisco?" Rising from her small desk, she stretched and felt a twinge in her backside causing her to smile and blush faintly. "Got a minute?"
"Sure, McNugget." He grinned at her, closed his laptop and pushed it aside. His smile only broadened as he noticed her wince and subsequent blush. It seemed his Sires were correct in their assessment of Blake's sexual proclivities. "What do you need?"
"I've got a few questions and...well, I dunno who else to ask. Blake's busy and, besides, he'd probably give me one of those looks that says I'm being stupid without actually saying I'm stupid and then try to kiss me to shut me up. Then I'd get mad and things might get broken again. Or melted. Or whatever." Rolling her eyes, she plopped onto the sofa, forgetting her bruised derriere. A yelp of pain and an even deeper blush had Francisco rising to pour a drink so he could hide his laughter.
"First off, I doubt your mate would think you're stupid no matter what you say to him. Secondly, you seem to be in some pain. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." With her cheeks a fiery red, Alicia's light brown eyes looked everywhere but at her friend. "Okay, okay, no, I'm not. Well, I mean I am but...fuck! This is all messed up."
"Deep breaths, okay? I have all day." He placed a glass of orange juice in her hands before sitting beside her on the sofa.
"Thanks." Taking a long drink, she frowned slightly. Why was everyone pushing juice on her all of a sudden? Emptying the glass, she twirled it round and round in her fingers as she worked out just what to say. "Okay. So, yeah, I hurt a bit but it's not what you think. Or maybe it is." She narrowed her eyes at him. "You're looking awfully innocent over there."
"Perhaps it is, McNugget." Francisco chuckled softly. "Look, did you like whatever happened?" At her somewhat dreamy smile and nod, he smirked. "Did he like whatever happened?" Another, more definite nod followed. "Then what's the problem?"
"It's not normal to go smacking around your significant other or wanting him to beat your ass black and blue!"
"Bah, what's normal? It's a setting on a washing machine, nothing more." He waved one elegant hand dismissively. "Also, I think you've got your terms a bit confused. Your mate didn't "smack you around" nor did he "beat" you; not in the way most people understand the terms. You make it sound like he used you for a punching bag, McNugget."
"But what's the difference, Cisco? A bruise is a bruise, right?"
"The difference is in the execution. A "smack" or a "beating" generally stem from anger from one of the people while the other is unwilling. Was Blake angry?" Alicia shook her head. "Were you unwilling?" Though she blushed, she shook her head and shifted on the couch. The twinges of pain actually seemed to help settle her agitation. "Then there is your difference, sweetie. If he'd really hurt you or you didn't enjoy it, then it'd be a problem. He'd be an abusive ass and I'd be severely pissed. But, Alicia, as long as you're both consenting adults who enjoy yourselves, then no one and nothing else matters." She was still unconvinced and he tugged her into a friendly embrace. Alicia prayed her mate wouldn't rip his arms off if he found out about this. "I'm not going to ask for details, my friend, but if you need to talk and work things out then let me reassure you that you will find no judgment from me."
The young human was quiet for several minutes, nearly convincing her vampire friend that she'd chosen to keep her own counsel on the matter, but then she began to speak. She told him what had happened in the elevator, and how gentle and kind Blake had been to her afterwards. She stumbled over confessing that she'd been the one to suggest that he persuade her to speak her fears and fell into an embarrassed and awkward silence when she arrived at the point where he'd brought her to the most powerful orgasm of her young life. Finally, she rushed through the events of the morning before falling silent. She sat very still, nervously expecting some sort of condemnation or contempt for her actions.
"Alicia, you've seen the dynamics in this house, right? Elizabeth is the matriarch of this particular coven and not just because she sired both Johannes and myself. Like you, Johannes is a masochist and likes a bit of pain with his pleasure. He prefers a range of physical sensations from bunny fur, ice, and hot melted wax on up to floggers, whips, or even knife and fire play. I, on the other hand, am a bit of a wimp." He grinned down at her and she gave him a tentative smile in return. He was glad to see that she was listening most avidly to his words. "I prefer the more mental aspects over the physical: public humiliation, being ignored or used as furniture, or simply a well-played mental mind-fuck."
"But what about l...love, Cisco? I don't know if I could handle being beaten every time I wanted to have sex. D'you think, sometimes, Blake would be content just to cuddle or...or make love without strapping me down to something?"
"Hasn't he already shown you that he cares deeply? Last night, he held you when you were upset and, from what you said, he was very gentle when you awoke this morning. Wasn't that the cuddling you seem to think he's incapable of?" Frowning slightly, Alicia nodded as she looked back on the past twenty-four hours. She'd been so focused on the kinkier aspects of their night that she'd been overlooking his gentler side. "He also knew you needed to talk to him but were too scared to do so had he just held you. Just because you ended up with a bruised bottom doesn't mean his actions didn't prove his love and care for you. In fact, your need and enjoyment of the punishment he doled out was a sign of your trust and care for him. Not everyone is a flowers and a movie kind of person, sweetie. I think he's shown quite plainly just how capable he is of love."
They sat holding each other in silence, each lost in their thoughts. Alicia's mind was spinning with revelations and possibilities. She'd never considered that Blake's penchant for floggers and restraints could be a sign of his affection for her just as she'd never considered that her need for them might show the same to him. Did she care for the annoyingly arrogant yet surprisingly sweet vampire? Sighing softly, she was very much afraid that she did. Did he care for her at all, though, or was it all a matter of instinct and fate? Could the man love her as much as the vampire appeared to desire her?
"You're working yourself up again, McNugget." Francisco kissed the top of her head and rose from the sofa. "Stop overthinking this. Haven't you ever wondered just how the fantasy of love at first sight began? It wasn't a result of romantic dreams and wishful thinking; it was from the mating of a nonhuman with an Ancient Greek playwright. A water nymph, I believe, but my history on the subject is a bit fuzzy. Mates don't just fall madly in lust, though there's much to be said for a good tumble between the sheets; they connect on a level that is beyond mere human love. Never worry that your mate won't love you, Alicia. He may get annoyed with you, turn your bottom black and blue, or want to string you up by your toenails, but he will always, always love you."
Shocked, Alicia watched her friend scoop up his laptop and leave the Library. Though she was sure that his words had been intended to help her muddle through the tangled mess that was her emotions, she was now more confused than ever. Unlike this instant meeting of eyes, minds, and hearts that Francisco spoke of, she still wasn't certain she even liked her arrogant vampire much less loved him. He had his moments but she wasn't sure she could tolerate his domineering attitude forever. She was certain there'd be more than a few times she'd want to slap that smug smirk right off his face though, in light of his age and obvious strength, perhaps the times she actually did so might not be as numerous. Would he hurt her in the painfully pleasant manner from the night before or would his anger rule and allow him to do her actual harm?
Inside her, the shadowy portion that was her nonhuman self scoffed at her doubts. Stronger than before and more inclined to interfere with the human whose body it shared, it showed Blake's dominance over them, his contained strength, and his fiery passion, and then it switched to his gentler side, his love and care. It was certain that here was a male worthy of them; one who would guide, protect, and nurture them for the centuries to come. Doubts were the anchors that held down the weak and had no place in the minds of the strong. And it was a strong creature, indeed. If the human would simply accept and welcome its presence then, together, they would be a formidable force.
Blake strolled into his office at noon and stopped just inside the doorway when the scent of an intruder assaulted his nose. With the memory of the attack still fresh in his mind, his fangs descended as his eyes turned murderously crimson. His nails grew into short claw-like talons as he scanned the outer office. Finding nothing, he closed the door quietly behind him with barely a click. Stalking with cat-like grace into the room, the sound of a strong heartbeat guided him to the infiltrator's location. Easing the door open to his personal sitting room, he moved with preternatural speed and tackled the creature from the sofa. When his fangs were inches from the man's throat, a burst of power hit him in the chest and threw him to the side.