He kissed her, caressed her—and sank his teeth into her neck.
LaCroix watched from the door, and raised a sardonic brow. From the other side of the mansion he had faintly heard his son’s words to Liselle, uttered in tones that had throbbed with true sincerity … or bloody self-deception.
So, then. All LaCroix’s preparations were for naught. He had plied the girl with wine and honey, and all the other delicacies that he could no longer enjoy himself. He had waited patient weeks to enrich her blood with the memories he planned to drink. Now, their taste was savoured by his protegé. This was not the first—and would doubtless not be the last—time that Nicholas’s scruples had betrayed him into exhilarating proximity to overwhelming temptation. Which was … infuriating; yet there was nothing to be done. LaCroix could fly across the room, but not across time. He could, even now, pull Nicholas off Liselle and pry his teeth from her throat; but he could not pour her blood back in her veins. Already her heart was faltering. He could hear its feeble intermittent beat from across the room. It was too late to intervene.
“It seems such a waste. Such a tragedy.” The words echoed in his mind. Nicholas deemed Liselle too lovely, too gentle, too pure to be a vampire’s victim.
LaCroix knew better. She had been pliant to his protection, after all—until Nicholas had dared to try to save her, and she felt his fair son’s arms around her and the press of his lips against her skin.
The last heartbeat stopped.
Nicholas let the corpse fall to the bed with dawning remorse. He still, LaCroix realized, had not quite grasped that his master had witnessed his betrayal. Her blood lay rich on his tongue.
In a sudden fury, LaCroix flashed across, seized him, and flung him back against the wall, pinning him there with a strong right hand.
Nicholas looked into pinpoint pupils, ringed with red-tinged anger. “I'm sorry! I'm sorry,” he begged. “I don't know…. I was only trying to protect her.”
Yet a trickle of her blood ran from the corner of his mouth. Nicholas’s offense demanded retribution (and his fear showed he knew it); but the scent of those last delicious drops was irresistible. LaCroix reached slowly to brush a finger up his son’s lip, collecting a rich red tipful. He licked it—her—onto his tongue.
“Intoxicating, wasn't she?” he said huskily. One brief savour, when she should have been a long, luscious draft.
Nicholas licked his lips, and ran his own tongue out and down for the final flicker of flavour. A hint of wine … of honey … and the pleasure of his kisses on Liselle’s shoulder, on her neck, as he stroked her and roused her. She had wanted him. He could taste her passion. She had wanted him—to grip her, and pierce her, and bring her to joy. He had drained her … all of her, body and spirit; and she filled him.
LaCroix struck. He sank his fangs deep into the vein throbbing in his son’s neck, and tasted his son’s passion and Liselle’s hunger. Her blood was fresh; and her memories flowed into him. Memories of wine, of honey. Of lust for a lovely lad who caressed her into joy. He drank Liselle through Nicholas.
He hardly felt the pain in his own throat.