I will give you
What you’re wishin’
I will give you everything
And you’ll be so numb
I’ll be tying you up
You will never feel a thing.
I will hold you
I will defend you
No more bullets
No more leaks
There is hope here
In the weather
You are mine now
You are free.
And I will come
I will come
I will come
I will comfort you
“I Will Come” by Alpha Rev from the album Bloom.
I Live ~ Jasper and Peter
The sound of a brawl in the alley next to the wood frame building was what drew their attention. From the number of racing heartbeats there were five men involved. The crunch of human fists against human jaws, the slaps and thumps, grunts and curses told them it was a vicious fight.
The damage they were inflicting on each other, and the blood they were drawing, would hide that fact that all of the bodies had been drained of the life giving fluid. The two had come to the medium-sized Texas town to find their next meal, and they were lurking in the shadows near the bars and bordellos. A practically perfect opportunity to feed was laid out right in front of them.
Maria and Jasper crept silently over the flat roof of the saloon and peered over the edge into the darkly shadowed alley, breathing in the enticing aroma of fresh blood, sour and musky sweat, and the pungent odor of beer and whiskey.
As they had suspected, there were five men involved; four of them beating each other nine ways from Sunday between the buildings. There was one battered and bloodied man lying unconscious on the trash-littered ground. There were two knives lying beside him. His left leg was twisted at an unnatural angle and his bruised, split lips revealed several teeth had been knocked out. He appeared to be dead, but they could hear the slow thud of his heart. He would be an easy meal. The vampires could leave him until last.
The other men were still fighting, though their punches and kicks were slowing and losing force. It looked as if three were after the one tall, blond human. His back was against the brick wall of the next building. Blood was oozing from a cut in his forehead and seeping into his eyes, but he lunged toward his attacker on the right. The blond grabbed the shorter man’s head and slammed it down on his upraised knee. As the attacker’s companions staggered back in surprise, the blond tightened his grip on his unconscious assailant and flung the sagging body down the alley.
Being able to feel her emotions, Jasper knew that Maria was impressed with the blond man’s strength. He had thrown the limp body about fifteen feet down the alley away from the quiet street.
Maria reached slowly for Jasper and gently brushed a lock of his honey gold hair from his face. “That one.” She nodded toward the blond man below them and whispered into Jasper’s ear. “Take him for me.”
Jasper’s thirst-darkened red eyes shifted to Maria’s. “Yes, Maria.” He knew Maria wanted him to bite the man so she wouldn’t get blood on her clothes.
He didn’t think they needed any more newborn vampires at the present time—they had a full squad of twenty-five and things had been relatively quiet for the past few months—but the tall one was skilled. He had disarmed and eliminated two of his attackers. He was sizing up the last two as blood dripped from his face and knuckles and seeped into the coarse fabric of his shirt.
The human fought well. That would certainly draw Maria’s attention.
That and he had blond hair that reached to the top of his shoulders. It was hard to determine the shade because of the blood matted through it, but it appeared to be lighter than Jasper’s own.
Maria had always preferred the blonds. Jasper himself was a perfect example of her predilections. The blond being attacked in the alley looked like he would match Jasper’s height of six foot three and had the same build as Jasper—wide shoulders that angled smoothly into slim hips. He was darkly tanned, as if he had spent hours and hours at hard labor in the fields. If he survived—the fight and the transformation into a vampire—he would make a strong soldier.
Jasper wasn’t worried. There weren’t many who were as strong as he was, and he did have an advantage. His empathic talent allowed him to regulate and manipulate the emotions of others—vampires and humans. He would be able to handle and control the blond just as he had all the other newborns.
Maria flipped her deep brown, waving hair over her shoulder. “He might even be very handsome—if you look beneath the blood and filth on his face.” She gripped Jasper’s chin and forced his face to hers. “He is nearly as handsome you, my love.”
Jasper contained his disgust at Maria’s false endearment. He’d learned decades before that she truly did not love him, and she never would. The love he initially thought he had felt for her quickly died with that realization, and her sadistic tortures. He knew his place. It was at her side, but only as her Major—the one who could lead her armies to victory and make her scream in her sexual release.
He was by no means her only lover, but he was her favorite even when he didn’t use his gift on her. The gift he had often considered a curse because he could feel what the humans felt as he took their lives from them. He experienced the terror and hopelessness of the humans he and Maria had bitten to change into newborns for her armies. He was stronger than he had been at first and could block most of the pounding emotions from the newborns, but he had to constantly be on guard against it. If he allowed the slightest crack in his defenses, they could overtake him.
After a particularly intense battle, Maria would tempt him with fresh blood and her petite supple body, and he would be trapped in a haze of lustful, brutal sex for days. Her deeply buried hate and resentment would only fuel the sexual lust they both felt after a victory and their blood and venom-slicked bodies would join and tangle together again and again. She wanted him because of his human military experience and his expertise in bed. She reviled him because he could never fill the aching emptiness at the loss of her mate.
Despite that, Maria let him know how much she appreciated his other talents. If nothing else, Maria was cunningly intelligent, strikingly beautiful, and Jasper enjoyed the sex.
The stocky human with the short dark hair spit on the ground. “You’re a goddamn cheat and we’re takin’ that money back.”
The tall man let out a pitiful sounding (to the vampires) snarl and bared his teeth at the two who were after him. “That’s what those other guys thought, too. I won that hand fair and square.”
Maria’s appreciation increased. She was pleased that the blond still had his teeth. She preferred them that way. And what was a vampire without teeth?
“Yes,” she said breathily in Jasper’s ear. “He will make a fine … soldier for me.”
Jasper repressed another surge of disgust. Maria should just admit what she really wanted him for. He knew the blond would make a fine addition to her bed.
The man lunged at his foes, his large hands clamping tightly around each of their necks. They both choked and gagged and desperately tried to break his grip, but he slammed their heads together and stumbled back as they dropped bonelessly to the ground.
“Collect him while I feed, my love.” She squeezed Jasper’s shoulder as she stood, preparing to leap into the dark alley. “He has fought well.” She cocked her head as she studied the scene below them. “We won’t even have to dispose of the bodies this time.”
Jasper rose to his full height and looked down at Maria. “He beat the shit out of them. They’re bleedin’ like stuck pigs. There may not be much blood left in them.”
“There will be enough for the both of us.” Maria gestured impatiently toward the man. “Now take him.”
Jasper dropped lightly into the alley behind the man, making no sound as his knees bent to cushion his landing. He ignored the burn of the thirst he felt in his throat. There was so much blood splattered around the alley it was nearly impossible to ignore it, but he would have his chance at it soon enough.
The man’s chest was heaving with his ragged breaths, and he stumbled to the side away from the two men he had just knocked unconscious. He sagged wearily against the brick wall and lifted his left hand stiffly to push the blood-soaked hair from his face. He was relieved, but he was becoming worried.
Jasper watched him bring a hand to his chest and heard the thick, liquid gurgles deep inside him. The man had broken ribs that must have punctured a lung. Jasper took one step closer and tapped his shoulder before stepping back away from him.
The man spun around more quickly than Jasper expected him to. He was impressed.
Though the bedraggled man was exhausted and swayed back and forth unsteadily, his large hands clenched into fists and drew up; ready to fight again. “I’ll kick your ass, too, motherfucker,” he rasped out at Jasper. “You a frienda theirs? What the fuck do ya want?” He spit a mouthful of blood on the ground next to Jasper’s boots.
The sweet scent of the blond’s blood and the sharp scent of whiskey flowed around Jasper. He crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head at the man as he stared into his bright blue eyes. “You,” Jasper answered him in a low voice. He could feel the man’s anger shift to puzzlement.
“Me? What?” he asked as he staggered again. He tried to wipe the blood out of his eyes and brought his hand back down into a fist.
“What’s your name?” Jasper asked in that same low voice. He normally didn’t ask because he didn’t care, but he was nearly as impressed as Maria, though for different reasons. Not only had he been thrashed by four men, the human had been cut several times, though the slashes didn’t appear to be deep, and Jasper had not seen a human take the punishment this one had and remain standing.
“Uh, Peter,” the man answered without thinking. His left leg buckled beneath him and his shoulder slammed into the brick wall of the building next to the saloon. He coughed roughly, spit out more blood, and peered up at Jasper. “Are you one of them fuckin’ queers? I ain’t no fuckin’ queer.” He struggled to stand upright against the building, pushing himself away from it with his left hand. Then he started to laugh.
His breath wheezed wetly and Jasper could smell the fresh, hot blood. Peter’s lungs were filling with it, and he wouldn’t last much longer. Jasper was surprised he was still on his feet.
Peter coughed another harsh laugh, and his right hand went to his ribs as he bent over, gasping for breath. He slowly looked up at Jasper. “You’re so goddamn purty, I bet you are one of them fuckin’ queers.”
Surprised again, Jasper’s eyes narrowed at the blond. The man was literally drowning in his own blood—dying as he stood there—and the son of a bitch was taunting him.
Maria dropped soundlessly into the alley several yards behind Peter and spoke quickly so the human wouldn’t hear her. “Major, stop toying with him and take him before he dies. Even a human would be able to hear the blood filling his lungs. Hurry, it’s nearly dawn.”
Jasper’s black eyes flicked to Maria and back to Peter’s red smeared face. A smirk grew over his lips. “Do you think I’m pretty?” he asked with a purr.
“I said I ain’t no fuckin’ queer.” Peter swung his fist at Jasper.
He was fast for a human who didn’t realize he was dead yet, but he wasn’t faster than Major Jasper Whitlock.