Kiss Before Dying
by
Aline Hunter

To my editor, who believes in my work and asks for more. Ann, you’re the bestest.

Chapter One

Tonight I will have him, my Master and vampire lord. And tonight I will die.

As a blood slave I have never known passion or pleasure. We are never to know what it means to be taken into bed. Our virginal blood is our worth, given in exchange to the lords who offer the most lucrative bargain for ten years of our servitude. When the time is served, our minds are cleansed of the past and we are allowed to return to the dregs of a society that know nothing about them.

Most blood slaves are born of the human families who—for generations—have served the lords and ladies of the keep in a place hidden within the mortal realm. These most cherished servants are treated with the utmost respect, for their bloodlines nourish and provide for their keepers and ensure survival.

Then there are those like me.

Mortal females snagged from a life of poverty, desolation and misery. There is no choice for us. Once we’ve been marked, all that is required is an unexpected happenstance with The Collector to seal our fate. The vampire slave hunter is known for his exceptional eye for beauty and grace, as well as his ability to see the aura of purity as it radiates from the source.

Although I resisted my entrapment, spewing every vile word in my vocabulary and demanding to be released, it wasn’t long before I met my Shellar—the stunning male who paid the price for my companionship and thereby held all rights where I was concerned.

Lord Sebastian Arsov.

It seemed destined that we should meet, as though it was meant to be. The moment I first laid eyes on him, I knew I would never be able to fight that which would occur regardless. With thick white-blond hair, vivid and impossibly bright mushroom blue eyes, a face beautiful enough to grace heaven and a chiseled body that moved with such intent and precision he actually appeared to ripple, Sebastian was unlike anyone or anything I’d ever seen.

Yet it was his tenderness in that first, tentative contact between us that proved to be my undoing. He enraptured and enthralled me, and I knew I had to be with him. No matter the price, regardless of the cost.

No longer am I content with his fangs at my throat, followed by the most heartbreakingly tender pulls as he feeds at my veins. I need more than the hours spent conversing privately about his past and my future while wrapped in sheets that know nothing more than the most innocent of touches as we sleep side by side.

The dichotomy has changed. I have changed. The seventeen-year-old girl taken from a harsh life on the streets has gone, replaced by a woman full-grown.

I want his kiss of sexual longing at my neck while his large hands explore my breasts. I want to feel the fullness of his cock buried deeply inside my untried body as his moans of pleasure echo inside my ears when he finds release.

Months of preparation have brought me to this place, sitting in a tapestry chair, to appear before him when he enters, having committed a betrayal of sorts. For the time with my lord is nearing an end, and the thought of never remembering Sebastian is more than I can bear, something I’m not willing to allow.

Although it will mean my death, I am content in knowing our last moments will be shared together, in the most intimate and beautiful of ways. And my beloved Shellar will be none the wiser until the deed is done and the piper is paid his due. It is vampire law. You must not bed those you drink from—as you can never fully wipe their memories clean—unless their lives are taken during the physical union.

Blood drinkers survived by one rule above all.

No one must know they exist.

It was amazing, when I thought of it. Mortals fail to recognize the supernatural creatures around them. Despite the fact they are as beautiful as the stories depict, lovely in their absolute grace and sensuality. But they are often isolated and separate from all those around them, which makes the vampire race lonely creatures.

Often Sebastian longed for nothing more than conversation as we sat before the roaring fire. It was how we spent a majority of our time, sharing and nourishing our chaste yet endearing friendship. We were as close as lovers, even though we’d never taken our relationship to that level and—if Sebastian had his way—never would. My Master wouldn’t consider such a thing. My life, to him, was worth far more than my death. A night of love and pleasure in his arms wasn’t worth the sacrifice involved.

I knew that, had tried to accept it.

Until I realized I’d only been lying to myself.

The large oak door opened with a protest of squeaking hinges, interrupting my thoughts and memories. Sebastian entered the bedchamber. His massive frame took up a large portion of the bedroom, as did his intimidating presence. He pulled the door closed, walked to the center of the room and stood before me. I knew what to expect. I had seen him come to those fortunate enough to grace his bed in those early days of my tenure. I’d been jealous of each one, even if it had been wrong to resent the poor creatures. True, they’d experienced what I longed for. They’d known the touch of my master as a lover. Yet even as they gloried in the pleasures of his body it was I who shared a portion of his mind. We’d become connected through blood, even if we were destined to be nothing more than friends. The only time I left his chamber was when he entertained, taking women to his bed, breaking my heart each time in the process.

As required, I donned a black mask embossed with blood-red jewels that revealed only my cherry-stained lips and darkly kohled chocolate brown eyes, which worked in my favor. It was essential to keep my identity hidden. Fortunately the lords preferred to think of their bed partners as little more than disposable pleasures. None of them enjoyed killing, even when it was necessary. The mask also held an enchantment, obscuring my unique scent. Otherwise Sebastian would easily recognize the fragrance of my blood and, by association, my identity.

To enhance the illusion, I chose a long pale blonde wig to disguise the brunette waves collected beneath. Sebastian loved my hair. He claimed it was a prize of its own. Masking those heavy strands was as important as obscuring my face.

He continued standing in front of me, impossible to ignore, observing me with a trained and critical eye. He was covered in expensive materials, each piece custom fit to his frame. The black jacket molded to his wide shoulders had been left open along the center to reveal the crisp white shirt beneath. Pearly white buttons were opened at the collar, displaying a tantalizing flash of flesh.

“Rise,” he murmured in a thick voice, slightly accented and entirely erotic.

The mere word caused my thin panties to become drenched with hot, liquid arousal. I shivered, goose bumps making me painfully aware of my sexual need. Wantonly, I envisioned the lips that uttered the order against my breasts—sucking, biting, exploring. My nipples hardened at the prospect, forming into beaded points. I shifted uncomfortably in the chair, clit throbbing, trying to steady my breathing.

Sebastian chuckled at my reaction. “Rise, little beauty, and come to me.”

This time, I did.

The four-inch heels I’d chosen were odd to walk in, but they were necessary to add to the illusion and to alter his perception. I purposely rotated my hips with each step, every stride bringing me closer. I had to force myself not to peer into the magnificent face of the man I had decided to give myself to.

The man I was willing to die to be possessed by completely.

“You are exceptional,” he breathed. Reaching out, he pushed aside the thick red velvet cape around my shoulders to reveal the—until now unseen—treasures hidden beneath.

The heavy material clung to the clasp at my throat and allowed him uninhibited access to my body. He started at the base of my neck, fingers skimming across the surface of my chest. One large hand cupped my right breast. He massaged the mound through my thin corset as his thumb caressed the hard bud beneath. Knowing he enjoyed hearing the sounds of the pleasure he created, I didn’t mute my soft moan.

“Tonight I want to hear my name on the tip of your tongue each time you come.”

It wasn’t difficult to make my voice husky and unrecognizable, not with the heat in his gaze, his attention riveted entirely on me. “Tell me your name, sire.”

“Sebastian.”

I repeated the word in a heady tenor, voice quaking, “Sebastian.”

As his face descended, I waited, captivated. How many years had I longed for that plush mouth against my own? To know exactly how he tasted and smelled? His blood was thick, spicy and masculine.

Would the rest of him be as well?

Just before our lips made contact, he whispered, “Tell me your name, sweet.”

Panic almost ruined everything but I quickly recovered, remembering the ruse, how important it was for my plan. “Arianna,” I expelled in a rush, using the middle name I had never revealed to him or any other in his enclave.

“Arianna.” He sampled the name, rolling it off his tongue. “A beautiful name to match a sensual vixen.” His grin made my pussy spasm, heat building between my thighs. “I approve.”

Lips met and parted, tongues darting out. As expected, his taste was intoxicating.

The headiness of his nearness swept through my entire body. The laps of his tongue were tender, brushing against mine as he coaxed a response. Unwilling to disappoint I mirrored his actions, thrusting my tongue into the cavern of his mouth, reveling in his throaty groan of approval.

His hands trailed down to my waist and cupped my ass. Each squeeze became harsher, nearly bruising, but it was the most delicious kind of agony. Years of longing were finally being fulfilled and I wanted to experience it all—both pleasure and pain. The slick wetness between my legs became a raging fire and I moaned at the empty ache.

“Christ, your scent,” he growled, lifting me into the air and forcing me to wrap my legs around his muscular waist as he strode purposely for the bed.

The massive four-post structure was situated against the far wall, next to the old stone fireplace. Sebastian kept his resting place there for the sake of his bedmates, to keep them warm. His body temperature depended on the stretch of time since his last feeding. As I was his provider, I knew it had been several days. It was to be expected that he went to his lover thirsty. Bedmates were loved well before they were drained. Afterward their bodies were taken to the basement and turned into ash inside the incinerator.

Those thoughts were cast aside when Sebastian released my ass and brought my heeled feet to the dark wood floor. He unlatched the toggle at my throat and the red velvet cape pooled at my feet in a cascade of crushed crimson. The outfit beneath matched the material. The red-and-black lace, combined with patches of matching velvet, molded to my curves. The bone corset was incredibly tight, accenting my waist and enhancing the rounded swell of creamy white at my breasts.

I had chosen the colors thinking of him, inspired by the blood-red satin sheets adorning his bed. They were changed daily, but one thing remained consistent—the shade.

“Exquisite.” He exhaled the compliment, bringing his hands to my mask. “I want to see all of you.”

“Please, don’t,” I cried out in alarm, capturing his much larger fingers in mine. My voice trembled when I explained, “My face is marred, sire.”

For a moment he hesitated, and I worried the ruse had failed. Vampires had an uncanny ability to filter through and sense lies. After a moment he smiled, returning his focus to my body. His touch was impossibly soft, fingers barely whispering over my breasts. Somehow the teasing caresses were erotic, each brush leaving me yearning for more.

“Your skin is as warm and soft as silk left to bask in the sun. I can’t wait to taste you.”

Unable to resist, I arched into his experienced hands and pressed against him. My breasts went flush against his crisp white dress shirt, the mildly starched cotton painful against my tingling nipples. The skin beneath his clothing would be much better to touch—cool, pale and smooth.

Completely brazen, I purred, “Allow me to undress you, sire.”

He lowered his hands and his lips curved into a sinfully delicious smile. “As you wish.”

He removed his coat, and I started removing his shirt at the buttons near his throat, unhindered by my trembling fingers. I revealed his smooth alabaster skin bit by bit. When each button was undone I slid the material from his shoulders, dropping the garment to the floor and baring his torso. The muscles along his chest and stomach were cut and defined, each curve and crevice solid and smooth. Although fair, his skin seemed to radiate health and vibrancy from within.

“May I?” I asked and licked my lips.

He tilted his head, watching me closely, and answered, “You may.”

Starting at his chest, I pressed the lightest of kisses to his flawless skin. The flesh was cool and firm, the surface impossibly silken. Going lower, I followed the ripples of his abdomen. Darting my tongue out to taste his skin, I focused for a moment on his bellybutton, rolling the tip of my tongue around the indention. Sebastian’s breathing turned ragged, thickening into a moan. Suddenly his hands came onto my shoulders and applied subtle pressure. I didn’t resist and he lowered me to my knees.

“Finish undressing me, sweet.”

Chapter Two

The button on Sebastian’s slacks gave me trouble. He remedied that by reaching down with one hand and undoing it himself. Heart pounding and hands beginning to shake, I slowly pulled the zipper down. I’d never seen Sebastian naked, nor had I seen a naked man. Although I had pored over the books in his collection for guidance—including the ever-valuable sex manual the Ananga Ranga—I was excited but nervous.

When I pushed his slacks down his thighs his cock sprang forth—solid, long, thick and hard. The pink flesh was engorged, blue-hued veins prominent beneath the surface of the slicked skin. The length strained forward, a temptation and promise.

I brought my hands around that impressive part of him, caressing him in the manner that the books described as pleasurable. The rounded, plumlike head was swollen and large, much broader than the root. As I worked his length a bead appeared at the tip, like a crystalline diamond at the thin slit. I stared at the shimmering drop, mesmerized, longing to taste him.

“You may,” he groaned and shifted his hips, fisting the base of his shaft along with the heavy sac beneath in his hand.

I took the cool bead from the bulbous head with the tip of my tongue and brought it into my mouth. It was a slightly salty taste, bitter but not entirely unpleasant. I savored the gift, finally knowing more than the delicious flavor of his blood. Intrigued, wanting to explore him further, I moved in for a second lick. Every part of Sebastian was magnificent. This was certainly no different.