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Chapter Four

Francisa waited for her words to reach through the maudlin haze into which Nicholas had fallen, but he lay very quietly, with an arm flung across his eyes. He gave no sign that he heard her at all. Francisa turned over and, tentatively reaching out, she quested forward with her hand. After a short span of crisp muslin her fingers encountered the hard muscle of his upper arm, then slid into the fine hairs sprinkled across his chest. His flesh was so chill, and smooth like the finest porcelain, with no blemish to mar the pristine surface. She felt she caressed a statue. The thought disturbed her, and she lifted her hand from his chest, but he captured it in his own before she could draw away.

His lips brushed across her knuckles, then he returned her hand to his chest, encouraging her to continue her exploration however she saw fit. Searching like one who was blind, Francisa ran her fingers lightly over his chest once again until she found the small peaks of his nipples. She leaned forward guided by touch alone, for the dying embers of the fire provided little light for her human eyes, and took the nearest nipple into her mouth. Her teeth teased the tip of flesh to hardness before her tongue swept over it to give him pleasure. Her lips trailed across his chest to capture his other nipple in her mouth. She sucked greedily on the firm little peak, eliciting a moan from Nicholas. Her hand slid downward, trailing warmth past his flat stomach and over his belly before moving to wrap her slender fingers around his flaccid penis. She heard him catch his breath, but still he made no move to return her caresses. He seemed content to lay back and accept whatever sweet torment she cared to inflict. Smiling knowingly to herself, she released him. She was not ready for him quite yet.

Francisa explored every inch of his pale skin, touch taking the place of sight. Her lips followed along the line drawn by her fingers, bestowing tiny, maddening kisses to the wave of each rib, both nipples and the hollow of his throat. Her teeth found his earlobe, and she nibbled playfully, before her breath rushed out in a husky whisper.

"You are so still, my love. Is there nothing you wish to do?" she teased seductively.

His own breathing grew harsh in her ears, yet he lay unmoving beneath her, the predator waiting for the perfect moment to strike at his chosen prey. The mortal knight, her lover and protector, held the beast at bay with great difficulty, but he wished to give the young beauty as much pleasure from his body as he would eventually find in her blood. Remaining still was torture, but resisting only built the desire burning inside him to a fevered pitch.

She glanced down and could just spy the rising of his shaft in the dim light. Abruptly, her hand darted down to seize it; her fingernails raked across the sensitive glans, massaging the head and length of his stiff member with a secret rhythm all her own. His hips moved in time, seemingly without his consent. Francisa deepened her massage, sliding her fingers more and more quickly, until his flesh absorbed her warmth, and pulsed hotly within her cupped hand.

A deep growl was her only warning that she had finally broken through his calm shell. His arms snaked around her waist, and suddenly she was beneath him, his cool flesh pressed along the length of her body. She shivered from the chill, and Nicholas had the presence of mind to snatch the bedclothes from the edge of the bed and pull them over their entwined bodies.

His eyes shown golden, lit from within by an unearthly glow, and when he smiled down at her, his feral canines just touched his lower lip. Yet the look he turned upon her was gentle and passionate, and Francisa was not afraid. His mouth plunged down to capture hers, stealing the breath from her lungs. Her tongue darted into his parted lips, fencing with his tongue, but he parried the tender flesh away from the danger of his extended fangs. As he broke the kiss his eyes turned a bit wild with hunger and his lips strayed to the slim column of her throat, but she was more than ready for that part of the desire. To her surprise he simply kissed her cheek, then buried his nose in her lavender-scented hair, perhaps distracting himself from the sweet aroma of her blood.

Francisa raised her arms, and trailed a lazy spiral up the center of his back, fingers tracing the ridges of his spine from his waist to the planes of his shoulder blades. Her breath warmed his ear as she placed a delicate kiss on its outer fold. Her lips strayed to the sensitive flesh of his neck, and he convulsed at the erotic sensations her tongue had stirred in him. It seemed Nicholas had reached the limit of his restraint, spurred on by her tantalizing touch. Pushing upwards on arms turned rigid with desire, a knee spreading hers apart, he plunged into the moist heat of her tight sheath. The young woman was a virgin, and the initial entrance hurt, but the bliss that spread throughout her limbs a moment later far overshadowed any discomfort she might feel.

Francisa moved beneath him slowly at first, then with more confidence as he murmured encouragement into her ear. He matched her rhythm, burying himself deeply inside her, and together they played a symphony of passion. Aroused beyond her ken, the mortal matched the feral growl of her demon lover with a sensuous purr of her own. Moving of their own accord, her slender fingers tangled in his blond curls and tugged insistently. Nicholas seemed lost in the feel of her lithe body as she moved beneath him, the heat her ardor had drawn from her satiny skin warming his own, and the dulcet scent of her blood inflaming his hunger. Yearning for the touch of his lips against hers, she raised herself up, hands braced around his neck for support. Her tongue traced the outline of his full mouth with maddening deliberation. His lips were mobile and somewhat pouty, and she could not resist taking the lower one between her teeth; biting down hard enough to draw blood, gained his attention. She fell back upon the mattress, her goal achieved.

His head angled down to study her as his tongue slid out to capture the single red drop of liquid that had formed there before the wound healed. Her hands had resumed their exploration of his back, her fingernails raking lightly over his skin. Relaxing his stiff posture, he lowered himself, crushing her small, firm breasts beneath his chest. Nicholas wound his fist in the ebony mass of her hair, and twined his legs through hers. With an easy maneuver, he flipped them over so that Francisa now lay atop him. Their hips ground together in an ever-quickening cadence, raising both mortal and immortal to a higher plane of existence. His mouth covered hers, silencing the increasing cries of abandonment. Her tongue brushed against one sharp incisor, the few drops of blood wetting the inside of the vampire's mouth and whetting his unnatural hunger with a brief appetizer of the full banquet to follow.

With another quick movement, he rolled them over once more, the bedclothes falling to the floor in an unwanted heap. Their bodies were pressed more closely than Francisa could ever imagine, and his weight pressed against her. Her skin was slick with perspiration, and the cool air hanging in the room dried her slowly. She had no time to be cold, for his hands, his mouth, gave her no respite from the heat of their building ardor. She felt she burned in a paroxysm of flames, yet he was a shaft of ice within her. Faster and faster, deeper and deeper he delved inside of her, her clitoris engorged and so sensitive that the friction straddled the line between pain and pleasure. His face was plainly etched with his need, his eyes gleaming with an unholy light and his lips barely concealing twin sabers of death. His tongue traced the blue line of her artery from jaw to shoulders and back again. The promise of her life eroded his control, and he pulled away abruptly.

Hanging suspended above her for a long moment, he threw his head back. She approached her climax, and he prepared to reach for his in the only manner permitted his kind. Eyes limned in crimson, and with a growl like that of a hunting cat, he sank his fangs sharply into her artery. The first hot spurt of her blood catapulted him to a state of euphoria that a mere bodily connection could never hope to match. He greedily swallowed the fruit-flower essence of her, the taste of peaches from her father's orchards crushed and distilled into her veins, the scent of roses just a hint of sweetness beneath the slight tang, as it flowed over his tongue. Francisa stiffened in ecstasy, the walls of her tight vagina convulsing around his thick shaft still encased deep within her. She gave a cry of exaltation, his name formed by her soft lips. Her fingers splayed across the back of his skull, encouraging him where he needed no encouragement. Nuzzling her throat, the predator greedily drew her blood from her body in great draughts, ignoring the faltering beat of her heart, and the rasp of her labored breathing.

A soundless keening wracked the young mortal's brain, and it felt as if her head might split asunder from the pressure. She dug her nails into his shoulder and the nape of his neck, locking them even more closely together. The pain was so great she thought she would lose her hold on the world around them, but the pleasure far surpassed her wildest imagination and she would give up no small part of the experience. Her veins were on fire, and she reeled from the heady sensations his suckling aroused.

Nicholas knew he must stop now or kill her, but her life filled those places in his heart, his soul, that had not been satiated since he had parted from his vampire family some years before. The once-strong heartbeat fluttered weakly, her chest barely rose with the intake of breath, and her skin had chilled alarmingly. Her hushed cry of anguish reawakened the knight, and he fastened onto the low sound of pain like a lifeline. He had to withdraw, yet her blood was a life-giving elixir, a cure for his sundered heart, the nectar of the gods, and he took one more swallow and then another.

Francisa walked in an orchard, the redolent scent of peaches thick on the summer air. A doorway stood in her path, and a great lady filled the framework, a brilliant white light obscuring her form. She was dressed all in silver, and a sparkling tiara graced her fair brow. A veil covered her face, yet Francisa had the impression that her eyes were large and compassionate, and that her fine lips curved in a welcoming smile. The woman raised a hand and beckoned Francisa closer. A warm breeze blew, stirring the hem of the young mortal's silk gown. The guide spoke nary a word, yet Francisa understood everything; it seemed birds sang, but the sky was clear, not even a cloud to mar the deep and perfect blue. The mysterious woman stepped aside and gestured through the archway to the brilliance beyond. The invitation was so tempting. Francisa knew instinctively that the doorway led to light and warmth and eternal peace, and away from the world she knew. Yet a sound pulled at the edge of her awareness as she began her approach to the strange portal. The sound was familiar, and she paused to listen. Words were being spoken. No. One word. One word of a familiar shape, formed by a familiar voice. Her name. His voice. Nicholas called her name. With a cry of joy, she turned her back to the guide, the portal fading into the distance as her feet flew along the desert sands. The light was left far behind, and an all-encompassing, encroaching darkness surrounded her. A carnelian waterfall cascaded over her. She opened her eyes.

Her heartbeat faded completely from his awareness, and he tore his fangs from her throat with a cry of despair. Too much, too much, he berated himself. It must not be too late. Raising a trembling hand to his mouth, he ripped a jagged wound in his wrist and pressed it against her lips. Massaging her throat with the fingers of his other hand, he nearly uttered a prayer to a higher power, but stopped himself before he could commit such blasphemy. The wound healed, and Nicholas savagely tore at it again and again, inflicting a great amount of damage to keep the wound bleeding freely. He returned her blood, now tainted with the demon seed, to her body, willing her to live.

Whispering at first, and then with greater volume, he spoke her name over and over, begging her to return to him. "Francisa, Francisa, turn away from the light. Follow my voice. Francisa." The movement was so slight he thought he had imagined it, but with a sudden intake of breath, her mouth opened over the wound in his wrist and she began to suckle like a newborn babe. Her eyes flew wide; they glowed golden with the promise of immortality.

An unsteady hand rose to press his wrist more firmly to her mouth. Small fangs budded and pierced the vein running just beneath flesh that no longer felt cold. He once again hardened inside of her, his passion aroused by the insatiable pull of her first feeding. A whimper escaped her as Nicholas pulled his wrist from her weak grasp. He slashed open the artery in his throat and pulled her up to feed from that more bountiful source. As soon as the scent of his blood filled her nostrils, Francisa plunged her fangs into his flesh with a desperate hunger that would not be denied. Nicholas supported her with strong, steady arms that grew less so as she drew her life back into her own veins.

Although the pleasure he felt was nearly overwhelming, he pushed her away after only a few moments, finally withdrawing from her body as he disengaged her fangs from his throat. She had entrusted her life to him and he had returned it, as promised, on the other side of the gateway between life and death. Francisa would need to sleep for several hours, and then he would guide her through her first kill. The fire she showed, and her unquenchable spirit, would make of her a magnificent vampire.

Nicholas smoothed a heavy lock of raven hair from her forehead, and placed a gentle kiss there. Smiling drowsily, her eyelids fluttered closed, and her breathing deepened in slumber. He whispered close to her ear, "Sleep, my love, and when you awaken, we shall feast."

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