Strength can be drawn from pain…if the heart can heal faster than...
In a world where humans are below Shifters, a tiger falls for a human...
He needs your heart to survive.
They have opened the door to the apex predator, and now it is hunting them.
Blood and Fire, 1
Aijyn, human slave to a ruthless vampire Lord, would never dare do anything to incur his wrath. Then, she fell in love... with his bride.
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Rhiannon Donovan, daughter to the vampire Queen, would rather die than be made a bride to a demon Lord. Aijyn, courtesan to the undead Daimyo of Kansai, can think of nothing more horrifying than his promise of eternal life. In the halls of the Blood Lotus Temple, the two women struggle against the chains of their fate, and find a solace in each other that could mean freedom for them both... or might cost each of them the ultimate price--their lives.
"Rhiannon-sama," she began again, well aware she might be broaching a subject Rhiannon would easily wish to avoid, even to the point of sending her attendant violently away.
"Hm?" the vampire murmured.
"Your bodyguard...she likes to see you in pain."
Rhiannon waited a long time before she answered.
"Perhaps I like pain, mortal."
Aijyn did not argue...but she had seen the expression on Rhiannon’s face when Sölva had tormented her.
"You must hide the scars from the daimyo," she chided gently. "And you cannot allow her to leave any more marks on you, if you do not wish to anger him."
"And if I do wish to anger him?"
"Do not be petulant," Aijyn scolded.
"Does he believe his bride will be untouched? That his kin-born bastard bride will not have experienced acts of the flesh? I am over half a century a living birth-child. Does he realize how most kin-born are meant to earn their keep in demon houses?"
"He expects you will be untouched for him," Aijyn said. "Whatever has gone before, now you are his. And Gohachiro is not a man to share his treasures."
"Doesn’t he like to use pain?" Rhiannon asked. She rolled over under Aijyn’s hands, lying on her side and reaching out to touch the scar she herself had left on the courtesan’s wrist. At the light caress of her finger, a delicious tingle of pleasure ignited under the skin, making Aijyn shiver as the vampire had a moment ago.
Rhiannon pulled Aijyn closer, and lowered herself over the wound to kiss it a second time. The warm arousal intensified, and Aijyn caught her breath as her body awoke to the sensation, nipples stiffening under the soft silk of her kimono.
"Here," Rhiannon whispered, reaching up to brush the dark strands of hair from Aijyn’s shoulder, revealing the tiny, neat scars of bites past. Scars that would never heal the way the vampire’s did, white little lines and half-moons, memories of Gohachiro’s affections.
"Doesn’t he give you pain…" Rhiannon said, following their contours with light but deliberate pressure.
"…so he may turn it into pleasure?"
"Rhiannon-sama…" Aijyn murmured vaguely. One hand had dropped into her lap; the other rested on the vampire’s warm, lean arm. Strange awareness filled her: the touch stirred up the first bloom of eagerness in her loins and the pit of her belly.
"Pain is what we are, courtesan. Pain, hunger, pleasure, death. We are the undead. I am just over half a century old, more than twice your age, and I have been Sölva’s for longer than you have been alive. There are scars you will never see, all over my body: the marks of her fangs, of her whip, the cut of her blade, the pierce of steel needles. And every one of them sings when she touches me, screams when she hurts me...and it is ecstasy."
Aijyn realized with some dread she had made a mistake. The vampire’s touch brushed against her, terribly light, terribly fleeting, but her voice...soft, beautiful, rich, like strong liquor.
Rhiannon’s hand came to rest on the back of Aijyn’s neck. She gently pulled the courtesan closer, resting forehead-to-forehead and searching deep into Aijyn’s wide, dark eyes.
"You do this for him, too?" she whispered. "You...perform anma for him? You touch his body with such delicate affection?"
"Yes," Aijyn whispered.
"And does it make him want to fuck?"
Before she could think better of it, Aijyn lifted up a hand and slapped her.
The strike was not a hard one. At least, to Rhiannon it would not have been hard. Aijyn’s palm stung as though she had struck it against solid rock, and she quickly pressed it in her other hand, hissing with pain.
Rhiannon did not strike back. She remained perfectly still, her expression unchanging. After a moment, once Aijyn had collected herself, the vampire leaned closer and pressed her mouth against Aijyn’s own.
"It makes me want to fuck," she said. Then she stood, one smooth, languid motion, and retreated to her coffin to at last submit to her daytime sleep.