Nicolucci saw the hand coming, but knew better than to flinch. Better to take punishment with chin held high than to encourage more wrath by acting weak and mortal. Angelo’s fist connected with the joint of Nico’s jaw, sending the vampire sprawling across the floor.
“Stay there,” Angelo growled.
Nico froze, his hands underneath him pushing up mid-way to his knees. His eyes, shifting shades of amber, flicked up to his mistress. M’Rhal stood aside, her expression disappointment veiled in distance, her posture stoic.
“At your age,” Angelo said. “You should know better than to go out during the pazzia.” He paced as he talked, his hands folded behind his back, his arm muscles flowing and flexing with the tension of his words. “You should know to clean up after yourself as well.” Angelo paused and scowled down at the vampire at his feet. “I don’t appreciate having to clean up four bodies because you thought you could handle it.”
“Mi dispiace.” Nico dipped his head, lowering his gaze.
With a snort Angelo turned away. “You owe Sidney a big favor. I suggest you get back on his good side as soon as possible.”
He paused in front of M’Rhal and brushed a hand down her bare arm. “Will you join me tonight after all?” Angelo asked, his gaze skimming over her outfit. Dressed to accentuate her slender form and pale flesh, M’Rhal raised a hand to take his and let him spin her in a circle. She shook her hips as she turned, presenting her body to Angelo. She offered him a small smile as he dipped his head to brush his mouth over her soft, full lips.
“Go, beloved,” she said. “Attend to your business and I will be waiting to soothe the stress from your body upon your return.”
Angelo arched his eyebrows and tilted his head in Nico’s direction. The vampire remained perfectly still, half sprawled on the floor. “Will you?”
“Yes. You know I would’ve.”
She lifted her chin and fixed him with her dark, rich eyes. “My Favored.” Her expression softened and she laughed, tender amusement enveloping them both. “Must we argue these things again? I think you have plenty to worry about tonight.”
He dropped another light kiss on her lips. Her arm circled his neck and her body melted against his while her fingers toyed with his long, black locks. When they parted, they said nothing, a smile shared relating their goodbyes and good nights before Angelo strode to the door and left without looking back.
Nicolucci glanced up but otherwise did not move. M’Rhal walked to a short bar and uncorked a bottle of wine. She poured a glass and swirled the fermented drink to stir its scent. Leaning over the glass, she inhaled deeply and then exhaled with a sigh.
“How I miss fine wine,” she whispered. She took a sip and then spit it back in the glass. She set the glass aside and moved to stand before Nicolucci. “Rise.”
Nico pushed up and stood, turning as he rose so that he faced her as he straightened his spine and rolled his shoulders back. He lifted his gaze and stared straight forward.
The softness of her voice startled him. His gaze darted to meet hers, her sad smile washing over him like a disappointed mother. He had nearly fifty years on her, but she could pull it off. She had her maker’s bearing as much as his blood.
“You know how to control it.”
He closed his eyes and dropped his head. “I had it,” he said quietly. He put his strength back in his voice. “I had it. It was fading. The next thing I know I’m stalking this kid on his bike. Stuck behind the fog of madness, I tasted his blood and watched him die.”
“I do not care about that.” She waved a hand between them, dismissing the deaths. She turned and moved back to the bar. She tipped the wine bottle under her nose and took a deep breath. After returning the cork to its place, she faced Nico. “I care about discretion. Nico, you taught me that.” She shook her head. “So why now? What happened?”
When M’Rhal gestured to a small divan against the wall, Nico sat. “I got cocky, M. I haven’t suffered a full-blown bout of the madness in three cycles. I had it under control, and then suddenly, I didn’t.”
She sat beside him. “This is unlike you.”
He met her eyes. “So am I.”
“We are only as eternal as we strive to reach.”
Nico laughed. “Another thing I taught you.” Her smile rewarded him.
“Be careful.” She patted his thigh and then squeezed. “I don’t need to tell you that, I know. I will not interfere with Angelo’s decisions within his territory. Nor should you expect him to pull punches in the future because of who you are to me.”
“Who am I now?” He put a teasing tone to his voice, but it was a question he couldn’t answer honestly.
“You are still my Favored, my love. Do not torture yourself with such things.” She kissed his cheek and then rose to her feet. “I do not wish to be disturbed tonight.” She paused in the doorway leading to Angelo’s private chambers. “Unless I am summoned to Blood Moon.”
“Of course,” he said, with a deferential nod. Curiosity ate at him about Blood Moon’s guests, but she was his priority, and so he’d remain behind with her, to watch over her. He’d catch the rumors when they flowed through the manor, like wildflowers, like a runaway train, like gossip among the Immortale.
Up Next: Alive On Stage