88: The Avalon, Regency St. Luxury Apts, Southside, Sunnydale
Observing his arrival, Nicolau’s favorite childe gasped eagerly, “You have returned early from the gathering, my prince.”
Unlike his minions whose Galician ancestry was similar to his own, all of pale olive-hued complexion, and dark nearly black hair, Isobel was fair by contrast. Once, she had been a courtier’s unmarriageable daughter, an independent wild child who caused scandal at every turn. Nicolau found her vibrant beauty and passionate nature irresistible.
Curiosity overshadowed self-preservation when she discovered his true nature. Finding him with fangs bared over the throat of a busty chambermaid, she waited and watched from the shadows as he fed. Nude, he had planned to couple with the wench, but seeing Isobel’s excitement rather than revulsion changed his mind. He had enjoyed her games of seduction, but had resisted the urge to feed from her. Too many willing subjects were available to waste her on that particular need.
Nicolau had dismissed the maid, after a short time, leaving her woozy, but alive. Blood clung to his lips. He licked it away as he approached Isobel. Stray drops trickled into his short black beard layering it with red. “Your heart flutters like a dove. Do I frighten you, Lady Isobel?”
Stepping closer, her bare hands explored his shoulders, the shape of his chest, lingering there for a moment in the soft patch of hair before trailing down his cool skin to the hard shaft that announced his arousal. Her skilled fingers teased his sensitive flesh tracing his ridges and finally curling around his girth and drawing a low moan from his throat.
Perhaps she meant to placate the beast within him, taming him with pleasure. “What are you?” If so, Nicolau indulged her curiosity, ever patient, enjoying the stroke of her fisted hand. “You warm to my touch. Are you not a man as any other?”
“More than a man, a vampire. I am the shadows in your room at night. The chill in the air.” Nicolau had always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Part of him wanted the fear she did not seem to possess, expecting a different reaction. “I hunger for blood. It gives me strength, longevity, powers beyond your comprehension.”
He widened his stance giving her better access to his aching jewels as her actions sped up. “Grip me harder,” he ordered only to have her wontonly comply.
Isobel’s attention dipped down to his erection as it swelled to a fuller, firmer state in her hand. Suitably impressed, she peeked up at him with a little smirk only to find that he had reached the limits of his patience. He curled a hand around her throat, tilting her chin up with one nudge of his thumb, and kissed her until the blood trapped in his beard smeared across her face.
“Please,” the soft sound brushed against his lips when he allowed her a breath.
It was not a plea for mercy, he recognized, as she clung to him. The unmistakable scent of arousal clung to her heated skin. Nicolau swept her up in his powerful arms to carry her to bed. Easily, he dealt with her voluminous skirts and white shift draping them over her legs as she parted them. The cage like pannier was less easily positioned, but it was no more a barrier than the ivory stockings tied above her knees with small silk bows.
Like the ladies of the times, Isobel wore no other undergarment. Her sweet little muff of blond curls framed a swollen pink slit already wet with her juices. Resisting the urge to plunge his tongue deep inside, he merely licked his lips anticipating the many things he was going to do before tasting her.
Nicolau slid his hand from her bare thigh along one silk-covered calf down to her delicate ankle. Lifting her foot, he began to unlace the bindings of her leather shoe, planning to enjoy every moment. He had no idea if this would end with their coupling, or if he would be forced to make her take her discovery to the grave.
Dark thoughts were distant ones as she beckoned him. “Do not undress me yet. I want you now.”
Kneeling on the bed, he reached beneath the layers of clothing to palm her ass, sliding around to close his big hands over her hips, and positioning the tip of his cock at her entrance. Before thrusting forward, he stared down holding her gaze to ask, “What do you think of me, little dove?” The mask of his humanity slipped away becoming rigid and angular, white teeth sharpening into jagged fangs.
“Must you talk so much?” Isobel hardly blinked at his shifting features having seen them already. Her complaint accompanied a pout as she flexed her hips as if trying to screw herself onto his cock.
With a laugh, Nicolau gave her what she wanted, something that would become habitual between them. If he had one weakness, it was Isobel. They were lovers for nearly a year before her father announced that his assignment in Galicia had come to an end. Isobel refused to go with him, and though he might have agreed to continue their relationship at the status quo, she wanted more.
As always, he let her have her way. Nicolau had defied clan tradition not only by siring an outsider, but transforming her into a childe of the blood. Those who might balk at his actions would have no power over her. Only the Master of Solaris could prevent Isobel from taking her rightful place in the hierarchy of the clan, and being so focused on his worship of Amolon and the power promised to them, the master cared little for politics.
A hundred and fifty years later, Isobel was still viewed as an outsider. The nature of his people made them wary, but she was treated with deference. Obeyed, when she asked for it. They adored her beauty, but knew her charm could turn deadly. She was just as likely to kill out of sheer annoyance, as she was to seduce you into her bed.
Nicolau could never get enough. The sire bond between them was unbreakable, and the feelings that warmed his heart seemed exponentially stronger. As a vampire, Isobel was wilder and as uncontrollable as ever, but admittedly, he liked that. When their interests clashed, she bent to his will, but often defiantly found a way to remind him of the power she possessed over him.
Isobel never needed to make an effort to look seductive. A man need only look at her to want a taste of her lips, or to feel his cock harden with need. Being a vampire made it worse with his enhanced libido. Some days it was difficult to do anything except get lost in her arms, keeping their bodies connected through touch or sex.
Looking at her now, Nicolau could see more questions forming on her rosy lips. Kalesh’s direct involvement signaled that the day of the ritual was finally near. Isobel wanted the details having earlier voiced her complaint at being excluded from the meeting.
Her mouth was a soft circle of temptingly pink lips, her deep blue eyes wide and alert as she wisely chose to let her curiosity slide. Nicolau was in no mood for answering dozens of questions. Kalesh’s cavern gathering had left him irritated rather than inspired.
Allowing himself a momentary distraction, he paused long enough to kiss her with cool, sedate control. With a seductress’ skills, Isobel attempted to distract him with the flick of her tongue along his lips and by deliberately pressing her hand between them to cup his sex through the thin barrier of his tailored pants. Hardening fast at the delicious friction, Nicolau determinedly grasped a handful of golden tresses pulling her away when she might have succeeded at making him forget his duty.
Now was not the time to get lost in passion. “We will continue later.” The promise of it burned in his eyes as Nicolau gently kissed the corner of her mouth.
Isobel’s pretty pout vanished. She knew well enough that only matters of the greatest importance would cause him to put a stop to their mutual pleasure. She was far too intelligent and confident of her own role to doubt that.
“Nico, tell me of your troubles. I will bathe in the blood of any who oppose you or the House of Solaris.”
Her temperament suited him perfectly. When the situation called for her to play his lady, her decorum was normally above reproach, although her natural curiosity combined with her demon instincts in a way that made it hard for her to fit in with those who practiced patience and restraint. His Isobel was a vicious, blood-thirsty killer and she knew how to suck the marrow out of a man in any number of ways.
When the time was right he planned to hold her to her sanguine promise. “Come along, my dove,” he clasped Isobel’s wrist to guide her across the room. “Let us take a dip in the Jacuzzi. I have had an appalling evening.”
Having brought a few of his most loyal followers with him, Nicolau had tasked them with turning their temporary domicile into something loosely resembling the comforts of home. Considering that these were the most luxurious apartments available within the city limits, the series of connecting suites felt cramped and bare compared to his palatial estate.
Nicolau and Isobel discussed the events of the gathering finally deciding that it was time to come up with a solution. When called to join the master vampires the minions eagerly obeyed though they discovered quickly that it was not an invitation to join them in the bubbling waters. If they were disappointed that this was a strategy session and not a prelude to something sexual, they did not show it.
Besides, one never knew where Nicolau’s generosity ended and Isobel’s frolicking would turn deadly. That was how they had been turned, after all. Learning obedience, knowing when to speak and when to act was all a part of the game. Those who learned the meaning of loyalty and survived long enough were promised their fair share of a reward upon Amolon’s arrival to this world.
Arranging for his minions to follow up on the crosathnam demon’s information, Nicolau described the vampiress. His orders were simple, “Find her.”
“What if the human is already dead?” After all, humans were usually good for a quick bite.
Instead of being angry at the suggestion, Nicolau calmly pointed out that the situation was not ideal for the Varstrae’s captor to catch a meal. “The demon was doing battle with the Slayer. She would not have placed herself in such danger simply for prey.”
Isobel agreed. “Perhaps this girl is special, a human minion, or a pet perhaps.”
There were a number of theories, but it was decided that there was still plenty of moonlight left to begin gathering information. Their enthusiam reignited his. The thought of capturing Amolon’s Pure One invigorated Nicolau mentally and physically. He pulled Isobel across his lap guiding her hand down to his erection. He watched her sink below the water, the strands of her blond hair floating to the surface as she took him into her mouth.
Nicolau closed his eyes, his head tilting back at the pleasure he was receiving. It was almost an afterthought when he waved his minions away, “Go now. Return when you have news.”
“Faith will turn up when she’s ready,” Giles assured Wesley as they emerged from the car. Having had no luck in locating her at either her rented room or at the library, the two men decided to return to Giles’ apartment.
Wesley was not looking forward to another night on the couch. Events had moved rather quickly and they had never gotten around to arranging his accommodation. He had considered renting a room at the Downtowner to be near his charge— until he had gotten a look at the place. It was quite puzzling that the old motel with its apartment rentals was not located in the downtown section of Sunnydale.
Still affected by jet lag, Wesley felt a bit bleary eyed, but he was alert enough to notice the dark figure seated on the front stoop, leaning up against the door. “Good Lord! There’s our missing Slayer.”
Inquiring after her health, “Faith, are you well enough to stand?” Giles hurried over to her side with Wesley following close behind.
She cracked a smile, hard to do with a split lip. “I got here, didn’t I? It just looks like I was run over by a Mack truck.” A grimace appeared as Faith leveraged her way to her feet by pressing against the stone step and the wooden doorframe.
While Giles fumbled with his keys trying to get them inside before they disturbed his neighbors, Wesley continued to watch Faith. The brief glimpse of pain he had caught vanished behind a determined mask as she met his gaze, holding it with equal intensity. Realizing that he had never finished introducing himself before the police interrupted, Wesley made another attempt.
“I’m your new Watcher, Miss Le—”
“Faith,” she cut him off. Never one to stand on ceremony, she had no intention of being formal. “You’re Wesley, right?”
After a pause where he considered whether or not it was appropriate for a Slayer and Watcher to address each other so informally, Wesley nodded curtly. “We have been searching for you all over town.”
“Then you should’ve looked here first,” Faith snapped back. She followed Giles inside as soon as he opened the door.
Wesley opened his mouth to retort only to close it again when Giles commented, “We were both concerned about you. It will take a while for your injuries to heal.”
“It’s nothing,” Faith shrugged it off moving past him to lean against the back of the couch. “A hot shower and I’ll be fine.”
Slayers possessed amazing healing abilities, Wesley knew. He could already tell that the swelling along her mouth and jaw had lessened during the past couple of hours. Although, he winced inwardly, the dark bruises were still evident. “Perhaps you should take—”
Faith cut him off again, addressing Giles as she asked, “Where is Cordelia? If you two have been trailing me, I’m guessing she’s okay.”
Put out by the rather rude interruption, Wesley decided to allow it to slide. After all, her concern for her friend was obvious even if she tried to sound rather blasé about it. Perhaps it was just the fact that having a stranger present, Faith was not willing to reveal her true feelings on the matter. After all, she did claim to have killed the girl’s grandmother albeit accidentally.
“Angel found her,” Giles explained which seemed to come as no surprise at all to Faith. “Apparently, Drusilla had taken her. I am afraid that I don’t know any details. Only that she is safe.”
Faith seemed to relax, her shoulders dropping a notch. Asking, “Where?” to which Giles explained simply, “The mansion.”
Wesley did not find that answer half as comforting as the two of them did. Was he the only one who saw something wrong with a young woman staying alone with Angelus at his own lair? Soul or not, he was still a vampire.
There would be plenty of time to explore his own interests in studying Angelus’ transformation into an ally of those who fought the Good Fight. For now, Wesley was curious to discover the reason why Faith was released from police custody. Giles had hinted that there was conspiracy afoot.
Indeed there was. Wesley never had a great love of politics back home much less in small town America. There were members of the Watchers Council possessing political connections necessary to the success of their mission, but Wesley never aspired to those ranks as his talents seemed focused elsewhere. He found it quite interesting to learn that the path of a Slayer and a politician could lead to such intrigue.
“Mayor Wilkins knows all about Slayers and vampires,” Faith told him. “I think he knew who I was even before we met.”
A cursory glance at Sunnydale’s municipal structure had listed the mayor’s name and his status as a seemingly uncorrupt figure, a smiling, kind-hearted man who showed great interest in creating a safe, caring environment for its citizens. That in itself should have been a red flag.
Faith went on to tell him that the mayor had befriended her. “I fell for his shtick hook, line and sinker.”
There was no doubting that it made her angry. She did not react well to having a vulnerability exposed. Having read Faith’s file thoroughly Wesley understood why she might be led astray by a seemingly kind man whose only intention was a fatherly interest in her wellbeing. That she might think he was safeguarding her secret rather than planning to exploit it.
Fortunately, it sounded as if Faith had cottoned on to his act and brought up her concerns with Giles. There was something the mayor was planning, something big that would affect the whole town. He had not revealed it yet, but Faith was certain that he would if she continued to maintain his trust.
“I’m supposed to keep an eye on B,” Faith’s explanation merely confused him. Who the devil was Bea? The kidnapped girl was Cordelia Chase and the dead woman Beverly. He rattled off a mental list of names only to feel his cheeks flush when Faith caught the confused glaze in his eyes. “B as in B for Buffy.”
Wesley darted a glance toward Giles who was wearily rubbing at his temple. “We haven’t told Buffy about any of this,” he said to Wesley’s surprise, “just to keep up appearances. I’m not certain how well she would deal with keeping such a secret from the others. Knowing would only endanger them. We’ll fill them in when the time is right.”
“Naturally I will say nothing,” Wesley assured them, “but what makes you so certain that the mayor is evil?”
Faith’s jaw tightened as she stared back. There were many reasons. The kind of undead, demonic company he kept, for instance. Only one example was really needed to make her point. “He wanted Bev dead.”
According to what Giles had told him, Mrs. Quinn had no connection to any Slayer activities with the exception of being the grandmother of Cordelia Chase who was described to him as being a friend of the Slayers. Wesley pushed his empty cup and saucer away as he leaned forward to ask, “Why?”
“Something about his plans for the bingo parlor,” Faith shrugged as if she did not get it either. “Or maybe the fact that there were a few seniors in town who wanted Bev to run for mayor. It had nothing to do with Cor. Wilkins wanted me to kill her as proof of my loyalty.”
Horrified, Wesley glanced back at Giles who was slowly sipping at his tea, lost in thought. The casual comment and the fact that Faith had already confessed were rather damning. There was only one conclusion that Wesley could make regarding Faith’s quick release from police custody and the lack of charges. “The policemen who arrested you are involved in a cover-up.”
“As dirty as they come,” nodded Faith pushing away from the table. “There’s just one problem. I didn’t actually do it.”
“You didn’t?” Wesley perked up at the news feeling rather relieved that his Slayer wasn’t guilty of manslaughter. “Your friend will be relieved to hear that.”
A glum expression appeared as Faith slowly rose from her chair. “Cordelia can’t know the truth, Wes. Not until this mess with the mayor is done.”
Wesley barely noted the abbreviation of his name. He hung on to every word as Faith described what happened. The demon had wrested the dagger away delivering a killing blow to Bev Quinn when she got in the middle of the fight. Nevertheless, Faith considered herself to be fully responsible. “If I didn’t accept that dagger from the mayor, Bev might still be alive. The truth doesn’t change the fact that she’s dead.”
The last few words came out with a shout as Faith whirled around and sent a ceramic lamp crashing into the nearest wall. Then she went to the wall kicking it, punching at it with wild fury, fists coming away with fresh wounds and her long hair flying free around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly, standing completely still with her head dipped and her bloodied hands still curled into fists at her side.
Wesley gaped at the sight uncertain what to say or do. An uneasy silence settled around them until a single sob brashly broke the quiet and then faded into a long sigh.