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Part 1

"Up," Timothy cried out to the room at large, turning the bright overhead lights on. The low grumble of five sleeping youths followed in response to both command and the light, but no one dared to argue, even though they complained. You just didn't do that when Timothy was the one to wake you. Instead, you got up, got dressed and joined the queue in the hall, melting in alongside the fifteen other boys and hoping that, even with sleep tossed hair, scratchy eyes and fuzzy cheeks, you were presentable enough to pass inspection. Or at least not be noticed. So, that was what I did. I threw aside the blanket, rolled out of my bunk, and dressed at top speed, yawning all the while and too tired to pay much attention to any of my room mates. I had no idea how long I had slept but I knew it was not long enough to have done me any good. The bite on my thigh still throbbed. I felt awkward, knew I looked horrible, and had just enough sense left to me not to show anyone how cranky I really was. A Thrall was never cranky! The list of things a Thrall was not nearly matched the length of the list of the things we were. Things like docile, affectionate, responsive, good looking, easy going, intelligent, and silent. The last item most especially. Slaves we were not, and were told so by every Master that borrowed us, or every Mistress that played with us. We were, they told us, prized friends, quiet allies, and appreciated confidants. No, we weren't slaves. We were pets. Every time we were fed on, every time we were strutted about like fashionable accessories, and fawned over and remarked upon, we knew our place, we played our parts, and if we were lucky, we didn't end up dead. From his usual place of prestige at the head of the column, Timothy led us through the hallway and into the Big Room. With black marble floors polished to a mirror finish and four walls made of tinted glass windows looking out over the city from ten stories up, it was one of my least favorite places mostly because it was so empty. But not today: every Thrall, male and female both, all one hundred of us, including the five Wardens, had gathered in the Big Room. Hanging in the air like a poisonous cloud, the sense of fear--of strangeness--was palpable. Timothy harassed us with silent gestures and angry eyes into position with the others; brothers and sisters who I saw on the rare occasion that one of my handlers let me out of his or her sight. I was one of the special ones. No errands, or spying, or relaying messages. I was a Prize, as only a few of us could ever be and for that, even Timothy never dared to be too harsh with me. That also meant that I was the one that ended up with a persistent light-headedness that seldom was alleviated. If I had enough blood to run my brain at full capacity, I might have been frightened too. As it was, I didn't care much that the three of Them were strangers, that the Master of the House and his staff were nowhere to be found, and that a good sized regiment of soldier-looking types were guarding the two exists. I just wanted to go back to bed.

When he had finished bullying us into position, Timothy and the other four Wardens, formed a short line in front of us and kneeled. We were quick to follow their example, moving as one into the familiar position of submission. "Who among you is Prime?" This question, asked by a handsome young man too beautiful to be human, was said in a rich, melodious voice that was the purest I had ever heard. Timothy stood. "You have two choices, Prime," the man said to him. "You may continue to serve, or you may go with our thanks for bringing down the Renegade." Timothy bowed, and returned in silence to his place among the other Wardens. The man and his two companions then left the room with their many body guards. Once empty of all but my brothers and sisters, the Wardens stood, to tell us what had happened, and what was to come next. Unfortunately, it was a lecture I never got. Before the first word could leave Timothy's mouth, I fell into the lap of one of my room mates. The last thing I heard that day, and for a few days following, was my name. "Collan?"

Part 2
I woke with a start, not because anything had interrupted my sleep per se, but because of where I was. Or, more precisely, where I wasn't. Half in, half out of consciousness for a few days, I knew I had been transported out of the building and away from the city. I had flashes of memories: tall trees, unforgiving desert, and impossibly huge mountains. I knew I had been transported by car, ferried by plane, and then taken by truck to some place quiet and remote. Even so, I expected to wake in the room I shared with my brothers nearby, my familiar blanket tucked under my chin, and with one arm dangling over the side of my bunk. It was my blanket that I missed the most. The cover that had been thrown over me was white, quilted and stuffy, folded down to give my torso a chance to cool from the fever. The pillow beneath my head was too soft, too clean, and smelled like lilacs and roses. The bed was comfortable, but it wasn't mine, and it was too big to belong to anyone but a Master. He was awake already, sitting up in the bed beside me with folded legs, reading the Arts and Leisure section of a newspaper I didn't recognize. My body responded to his presence alongside me in its usual way and, like any good Thrall, I immediately removed myself from his bed, cupping my hands in front of my groin. I chomped down on the cry of surprise, but I was unable to hide the wince of pain that came from the deep wound in my thigh. "It would be better to rest a little longer," he said without lifting his eyes from the paper. "The servants won't be up for another hour or so." I looked around for a suitable rug to curl up on to follow his command. If Timothy ever found out I had actually slept in a Master's bed, even my Prize status would not protect me from the lecture I would receive. Dominated by the bed, there wasn't a whole lot of space left in the room for much else. A stiff backed chair was pushed under a writing desk, a large wardrobe stood beside it. Through an open door frame, I spied a bathroom, but there was hardly enough room there to fit its amenities, let alone my sleeping frame. I couldn't be found lying naked in the open and, since my clothes were not in immediate view, I assumed naked was how He preferred me. So, I did what seemed the right thing to do: I squeezed under the bed, closed my eyes, and waited for sleep to come. I heard the mattress above me shift. "Why are you under there?" There was a playful, teasing tone to the question that set my nerves on edge. A Thrall never forgot that he was nothing more than prey to the Vampire--a mouse to the cat. The Master who played was more dangerous because he knew already what he wanted from the Thrall. Sometimes, it was blood. Sometimes, it was sex. Sometimes, it was just the pleasure of reassuring himself that He was in charge. I took a deep breath to prepare myself for the bite; to assume a dutiful expression of rapture in being taken, and looked upon him with what I hoped was enough of a mixture of desire and longing to please him.

He swung himself off of the bed and spread out on his belly on the floor. Resting his chin on folded arms, he wore a pair of flowing pajama pants in the same color scheme of his bed, his legs crossed at the ankle. One of the pant legs had fallen to reveal a silver chain that matched the bracelet on his left wrist. "Come on," he said in a soft, coaxing voice. "I know it's not comfortable under there. You don't have to hide from me." He reached out a hand, brushing a strand of hair from my face and tucking it behind my ear. Any reasonable person would have flinched at that. Living with one of Nature's top predators, you learned how to suppress such instincts, and do precisely the opposite thing. When a vampire gave chase, instincts tell you to run. So, you stop--it hurt less when they caught you that way. When a vampire showed you affection, your belly clenches, and your body tells you to shy away. So, you respond with affection instead, preferably the sort that would make them think twice about killing you. I turned my lips to his palm, his wrist, his forearm; kissing my way toward him as I crawled from under the bed. He scooted away, letting me follow, and sat up on his knees. Bowing before him, I took in the sweet aroma of his groin, breathing hot breath on the growing bulge in his pants. I tasted the clean flesh stretched tight against the muscles of his abdomen, grazed a hard, fleshy nipple with my teeth. He sighed and cooed at me, giving me the special gift of his sheltering embrace, even allowing a nuzzle against his neck. His grip tightened when I took his earlobe between my teeth to nibble as I climbed onto his lap, the raw force of his sex flexing inside the white prison of pajama pants when I settled myself onto him. My arms had tangled themselves around him, and if I had wanted to, I probably could have toppled him onto his back. I didn't, of course: I gave myself to Him, not He to me; He took me at his leisure, when he was ready, and not a moment before. I was the servant. He was the Vampire.

Part 3
It was gentle, the way he rebuffed my advances, as if he didnt want to cause me the pain of rejection, even though that was precisely what he was doing. I had just begun to present myself to him, drawing his attention to the places he could drink from me without leaving marks visible to everyone else. My neck, just above the collar bone teased his chin, the inner elbow of my arm slithering along his neck, the leg that was not yet punctured squeezing against his hip. I sensed in him the growing desire, and added to it by dancing the tip of my tongue along the crease of his clamped lips. I made the sounds I knew they liked: the Shuddering Sigh, the Pleading Moan, the Wanton Hum. I ground my naked body against his with just enough force to make it more of an effort for him to remain upright so that, when I eased up, he would overcompensate automatically--enough to hover over me for a split second that would put him in the dominant position. He started to respond, dazzling my tongue with the joy of his minty breath while I traced the edge of his lower lip. It was when I shied away from letting him kiss me on the mouth--a precaution to keep my tongue safe from being bitten--yielding my neck instead, that the spell between us was lifted. He ducked away from my pulse point, untangling himself from my arms while still holding me in his. His smile was soft, but his eyes were filled with sadness: an ache that made my head swirl when I was faced with its black depths. Master, I ventured, my education returning to me through the pink haze of my own lust, how--how may I please you? What the refused kiss broke, my question shattered. His grip on me slackened and the aroused tension in his physique melted into the ethers. He guided me to stand, and then to sit on his bed, while he kneeled between my legs to consider the landscape of my groin. Does it hurt? he asked, looking at the wound. I spread my knees farther apart in the hopes of tempting him to add his own set of puncture marks to the pair already present, filling the cavernous void I saw in him with my lifes blood, and followed the direction of his gaze. Just outside of the erogenous zone, where it would do the least damage to the nerves in my sexual organs while still giving up a good amount of blood to sate all but the most gluttonous of vampire women, the Mistress that had given it to me knew she was causing pain and hand enjoyed watching me squirm with it--delighting in the fear obvious in my eyes that she might forget the rules and take a chunk out of something more precious than my leg. Of course it hurt. But, I was too good at what I did to let him know that, at least outright. Instead, I smiled coyly, circling an area opposite to the already present bite on the other leg with a finger. Would it please Master if it did? I asked, scratching the area I had just highlighted to bring a

rosy hue to the skin. Vampire senses detected such things better than mere mortals and, in most cases, could send them into a feeding cycle. A little blood was all it took, as long as it was close to the surface, without actually breaking through. That privilege was reserved for them alone. No, he replied, pulling his gaze away from the activities of my hand to look me in the eye. It would not. Simple, forthright, an answer I could live with. As you wish. But, he countered, standing, that doesnt answer my question. He turned his back to me as he got to his feet, blocking the sight of his hard-on, forming a major disturbance in his pants from my gaze. Get some rest, he continued, moving toward the bathroom. We have much to talk about, you and I. Would Master like me to bathe him? I asked, half standing to follow in spite of his order, just delivered, to go back to bed. Sometimes, they needed reminding that you were there and that, while you were there, you did the sorts of things that they, as Vampires, should not have to do for themselves. He didnt answer. Instead, he closed the bathroom door behind him, locked it and, after a moment of silence, turned on a stereo to block out any sounds I might make--such as pounding on the door or crying myself into a shameful stupor. Which I wouldnt do. I had my order to get some rest. So, while the sound of water cascading onto the floor of the tub mixed with the electronically mixed vocals of the same voice in three different pitches, I curled up with the pillow that smelled the strongest of him, snuggled under the covers, and waited for his return.

Part 4
If he was angry with me, he gave no sign of it when he returned from his shower, dripping with water and wrapped in a black towel with red trim. Instead, he was smiling, humming a tune in time with the music playing in the background, and looking very pleased with himself. It was the first time I got a real chance to behold him in all of his glory; it would have been the height of scandal for me to look upon him at any other time without being told to first. And, though I could recall every Master and Mistress I had spent time with, I was also not allowed to remember what they looked like lest that image be taken from my mind by an enemy of the House or, worse yet, cause distress to one of the others when they took me. Like all of his kind, he was a beauty to behold to any human that cast an unsuspecting glance in his direction. As vampires went though, he was a truly remarkable specimen: full thick hair the color the night sky, alert gold dusted brown eyes, and a noble face reminiscent of Roman statuary. He appeared, of course, at the age marking the point in his development that his body had stopped growing toward adulthood--captured on the cusp that marked the boundary of growing old. If I had to wager a guess, I would have put him somewhere between seventeen and twenty-two, but no older. His physique was athletic and lithe; his buttery soft skin was light in complexion, not bleached, but not quite tanned either. A vision of perfection in every way. I squeezed his pillow a little tighter to my body, daring to let my mind wander over each line and curve of the memory before I was forced to give it up. It was a shame too, because his was an image I wouldnt have minded holding on to for those nights I lay awake in my bed, or suffered sharing a Master with a Thrall not worthy of the title. He was also, I noted with some trepidation, no longer aroused. The only bulge created in the towel came from his cock in its relaxed state. Attractive though it was, the loss of his hardness meant extra work for me. I was up to the task, as I had to be, but thwarted once already, I knew he would take me with a vengeance. Parts of my anatomy trembled in anticipation of what promised to be a very long, very enjoyable, and no doubt painful experience. I reminded myself to protect the thigh wound from him as I responded to his presence, sitting up with the grace and ease of a dancer at the height of his career. I let the blanket slither away from my upper body while keeping the rest of me covered, tracing my fingers along the crest of my collar bone before supporting myself in a reclined, seated position. He followed my movements, of course. I was exercising every technique in vampire seduction I had to keep him interested in what was his to take. I forced a blush to warm my cheeks, flexed the muscles in my arms and legs to pump blood through my body and make my scent stronger. I exhaled my breath in a slow, measured way, directing it toward him. I even lowered my chin to hide my throat and thus tantalize him with the mystery of discovery. When I had finished putting myself in position, I added one final touch to the picture I was making for him: I tucked half of my lower lip between my teeth. The Innocent Form worked on every vampire I had ever served and even a few of my brothers as well.

It worked on him insofar as I detected a twitch of his eyebrow and a miniscule movement in his towel. Some damned fool on the other side of the door decided that was the perfect moment to intrude on us. Without knocking, a Neophyte pushed into the room with a burden of cloth spread between his arms. I could forgive him the impropriety because he was, as yet, too young to know everything that would be expected of him when he earned his title of Thrall. It was beneath my Master to notice him at all, yet he turned his attention away from me to the boy. The child sent me a dimpled grin, blue eyes flashing pride in carrying out his mission, and then faced the Master. Mom said this should work, Master Mikel, the boy said, holding out the delivery in his arms. I jumped into action, forgetting my goal of reawakening the flame of lust in the vampire, to take position of the delivery in my Masters name. The shock in the boys face at being confronted with my duty was parallelled in the vampires at my action. I dropped to a knee to relieve him of his burden, setting it on the bed. Why are you naked? he asked, slack jawed and wide eyed. Did you just take a bath, or something? I chucked him playfully under the chin and ruffled his golden mop of hair. Later, little one, I promised. Go back to your chores. The warm presence of my Masters hand on my shoulder, squeezing gently, but firmly, was the first sin I had from him that I had done something wrong. The next came after he had dismissed the boy from his Presence and locked the door from future interruption. I had not moved from my position on the floor, and when Master Mikel turned to me, I settled my self on both knees, lowering my gaze to the level of his ankles. Get up, he said in a surprised tone. I obeyed. Look at me, he added when it was obvious I would not do so without his prompting. Again, I obeyed, mentally evaluating my footing in preparation for whatever it was he planned as punishment. There was no anger in his eyes, no malice in the touch of his finger tips as they swept through my hair and settled at the back of my skull, applying a light pressure to pull me toward him. I need you to listen very carefully, okay?

I nodded, feeling more like a scolded child than a Thrall of twenty. I appreciate what you did, he said, and I understand why you did it. But next time, please, cover yourself in front of others. I wanted to ask him why--impertinent a question as that would have been. Instead, I submitted. As you wish, Master, I said, shamed. Please, forgive me. Collan, look at me, he repeated, lifting my face. While youre in this room, please call me by my name. As you wish, Master Mikel. No, he laughed. Just Mikel. I did my best to hide the surprise from showing on my face, but I knew I couldnt keep it from him. He let it pass, however, releasing me from his too gentle grip and drawing my attention back to the package. Thats for you, he explained. Tell me how you like it. The black, Pharaonic skirt was made, I was sure, of linen but of such a high quality that it flowed like silk and felt like satin. The accompanying broach used in place of a button which would be used to secure the garment around my waist was lined in gold, and depicted a white glyph against a crimson background. I knew the outfit as formal wear; the uniform of the Thrall that accompanied his Master to certain functions. It showed off the wealth of the Master in the form of expensive materials, but more importantly, in the quality of the Thralls flesh. Once, I had worn a similar garment, though it had been blue, see through, and held up by a belt, when I went with the Master of the House to a neighboring Mistress. The same, in fact, who had given me the bite on my thigh. I gave thanks that the marks were not visible when I stood upright. As skirts went, the one Master Mikel gave to me to wear was very conservative, falling to the end of my shins in the front and draping down the back to the top of my heel. It drew attention to the parts of me left exposed without effort, and in a tasteful manner. Holding it in my hand, I turned to Master Mikel. Thank you, Ma--Mikel. I pray I will do you honor in it. I was caught off guard by the short, simple kiss that followed. And, as I bit back the urge to turn my face away, I realized it was my first kiss.

From a vampire, anyway.

Part 5
There was something about the way he kissed me, some undefinable characteristic in the press of his silken lips fitting against mine, that made me forget myself. I knew, for instance, that the appropriate response should have been the unworking of the towel around his waist. By the way he caressed the apple of my cheek with his thumb, I should have knelt before him and payed tribute to the hard extension poking me through the towel. I knew also that, when he broke the contact between our mouths, I should have given thanks to whatever divine power watched over me that I had come away from it with my tongue still attached and not a hint of coppery tasting blood welling up in my mouth. Instead, I sank against him, longing for the feel of his touch, the cool whisper of his breath, the soft warmth of his embrace. I felt like an idiot, even as I wanted more. Wanting was not something I was used to. The Thrall served the wants of the vampire. The Thrall had no wants himself or, if he did, he never let them show. Thats better, he whispered at me, stroking the line of my back in a way that made me shudder with the heat rising up from my loins and moan into the flesh of his neck without reserve. Part of me wondered if he werent working some vampire magic on me: some mesmerism that I had not learned to recognize. Surely, no vampire could ever really care about the needs of his Thrall the way I was beginning to suspect Mikel did--as if I were closer to being his equal rather than the truth of being so far beneath him that I could barely stand in his presence. And standing, I discovered, was growing more difficult with each tremble of the knee, every pass of his fingers along the ridge of my spine and through the tangle of my hair. Lust I had aplenty, but what he incited went beyond that by such lengths that I had no word to adequately describe it. Yes, I admitted, picking up the thread of our earlier conversation, it does hurt. In fact, with so much blood pumping in the area in question, it wasnt just hurting. My thigh was positively throbbing with a sharpness nearly as unpleasant as the delivery of the wound itself. He needed no further explanation than that. Taking the clothing from my hand and draping it over the back of the desk chair, he bid me to sit down on the edge of the bed and open my knees for his inspection. There would be no infection, I knew. Vampires had certain skills in their arsenal that stopped such things from happening. From the age of five, when I began my training, I had gotten sick only once. From the age of sixteen, when I took up all of the duties of a Thrall, I had never been healthier. I had no headaches, no body aches, and with the occasion of being bitten, the pain usually only lasted a few days following the incident. And, depending on whether the vampire who took me was male or female, my rear end would smart, but even that passed with liberal application of healing balm. I bit back the cry that came to my lips when he brushed an investigatory finger along the raised,

warm area of the puncture. He sensed the distress I held back, and moved instead to scanning it with his vampiric gaze, looking at the damage in a way I could only imagine. Whoever it was, got you for good, thats for sure, Mikel remarked, looking sour, as though the thought of anyone but him biting me was abhorrent. Messy, like they didnt know what they were doing. My Master required a favor from her, I explained. The price was a night with me. She tried to turn you, he continued, looking directly into my eyes to impart the significance of his words. That explained the loss of consciousness and the days of missing time. Blood Delirium was one of the dangers a Thrall lived with. When a vampire tried turning a human whose blood did not sing to them, a fever of mind and body was, in most cases, then followed by death. Why the Mistress would have tried to turn me into one of them was beyond me. I was fine serving my Master and, truly told, I felt a little indignant that anyone would try to steal me away from the House of my proper owner. Yet, there I was, sitting on the bed of the man who had done just that. I was not without faculties: I understood what had happened. I had been given to Master Mikel and him I would serve until it was time for me to make the ultimate sacrifice for him. When that time came depended entirely upon him, but I had no doubt that, at some point in the future, I would give every drop of lifes fluid I had to my Master. I felt his breath dance across the wound. This is going to sting a bit, he said to me. Let me know if it hurts too much, and well stop for a few minutes. Okay? I realized with a sudden chill what it was he meant to do and braced myself. A vampire could not heal a wound that he did not himself make. He was going to reopen the puncture marks and, if I had to guess by the size of his other attributes, it would be a deep bite indeed. He proceeded with a great deal of care, slipping his head between my legs, turning his face to my wounded thigh. If the sight of him thus was not already arousing enough to make me hard, the way he moved his lips along the outer edge of the puncture marks would have been. I could not help but groan, closing my eyes, succumbing to the ripples of pleasure that were racing along the nerves in my lower body. And then he bit. I expected the sting, and the gurgling sound in his throat as I bled into his waiting mouth and he swallowed it all down. I did not, however, expect the muscles that control my cock to lose control, spasm like an epileptic and empty the burden of my nuts across my belly and chest. A low chuckle rumbled deep in his throat when he turned to look at the mess I had made on myself. The wound had been healed, leaving only a pink patch of newborn skin that would blend

in with its surroundings in another day. Breathing hard, I grinned--surprised by the boldness of my body. Your turn to shower, he said.

Part 6
My presence at Mikel's side created only a minor stir among the servants as he led me through the corridors of the sprawling palatial residence beyond his sedate, conservative quarters. Freed from the pain in my thigh and with none of the usual light-headedness that came from being tapped, I was able to keep pace with him with relative ease. I walked as a Thrall--a proper one, anyway--should when being escorted by a Master: with my hands folded over the broach, my fingers forming a triangle to frame the seal, my head respectfully bowed in submission but high enough to see and avoid anyone, or anything, I might bump into. I lifted my gaze only when I sensed the presence of another vampire nearby and then, only to throw a quick, teasing glance their way. The effects of my flirtation were varied, ranging from a receptive grin to a staggering clumsiness. The former came from a vampire whose youthful countenance belied his ancient grey eyes; the latter from a teen not yet full grown and whose resultant collision into a potted plant drew Mikes attention. Dillan! he chided, setting the youth back onto his feet. With the exception of the flecks of green in his eyes, he could have been a younger version of Mikel. He wore his dark hair long, and in a modern way contemporary to human youths his age. Sorry, Mikey, he replied, his voice cracking once with each word, having not yet decided whether it would be deep and sonorous, or keep its soprano for another year or so. He brushed off the soil that had spilled onto his jeans--too tight and cut too low in my opinion--before righting the toppled plant. Mikel nodded to one of the servants hovering nearby who sent the boy a scandalously withering look, and then went to work cleaning up the mess, shoving him out of the way of her hand held vacuum cleaner. I thought you were grounded, Mikel said, resuming the walk. I took my place a step behind them, keeping my ears perked for any subtleties of conversation that might need to be recalled later. I wasnt grounded, Dillan replied indignantly, Im just not supposed to leave the grounds. He cast a look over at his shoulder at me, receiving another of my distracting glances, and leaned toward Mikel. Whos he? I heard the smile in my Masters voice when he replied, A friend. He reached behind himself to take me under his arm between them. Collan, he continued, this is my brother, Dillan. Dil-wad, this is Collan. Be nice to him. I am nice! I was talking to Collan, he answered back, giving me a squeeze. As you wish, I replied.

We took the back stairs down several levels, landing on the ground floor in a kitchen busy with the work of providing sustenance to human and vampire alike. Three full grown sheep were hanging by their rear legs against the opposite wall, draining into a large vat ringed by heating coils to keep the blood warm, and churned with a three bladed mixer to keep it from coagulating. The scent of livestock was overshadowed, however, by the aroma of baking bread, hearty stew, crisp greens and roasting pig revolving slowly on a spit above a fire in the gathering twilight outside. My stomach rumbled. Hungry? Mikel asked, guiding me toward the table tucked into a corner that was covered with finger foods and fruits while Dillan made for the sheep. He left me to my selection and joined his brother, speaking to one of the kitchen workers in a white apron covered in fresh scarlet. I watched just long enough to see the gore stained man usher them both through a hidden door in the wall behind the butchered animals, and then turned my attention to the spread before me. Of the food gathered on the table, only the fruit held any sort of interest to me. I took an apple, bit into its crisp flesh, and waited for my Masters return, observing the kitchen folk go about their business, carrying on conversations and, in general, letting me be. Until He walked in. Trestles of honey-wheat hair framed his oval face, with shimmering eyes the color of sapphires. His skin was porcelain white and milky smooth. He had wine colored lips, perfect for smiling, for kissing--for just about anything lips could be used for. He had the body of an athlete, which he hinted at by leaving the top three buttons of his black silk shirt undone. There you are! he said in his angelically tuned voice, spotting me as I tried blending in with the wall and throwing me a huge grin. Without further introduction, he wrapped me in a tight hug. Damn him for smelling so good! Ive been looking for you, he continued, feeling better? Years of being a Prize reasserted my self-esteem, if on shaky grounds before the wonder that He was. Yes, I replied. Thank you. And you are? He blinked. Zeke, he answered. D--dont you remember me? How I had forgotten him was as much a mystery to me as how I knew him. I apologized, more for my own benefit than for his, and admitted that I hadnt a clue as to who he was. Well, he said, you were sick when you were brought here. I didnt know you were that sick, though. Zeke, Master Mikel, emerging from his meal behind closed doors, pitched his voice so low as to be a growl. He was at my side in an instant, standing between me and the other Thrall.

Zeke bowed. Master, he said, I didnt realize you were here as well. Collan and I were just--reminiscing. The tension in Mikel's shoulders eased, but only a little. You were warned once, Thrall, he said in a tone dangerous enough to put a halt to the kitchen staffs work. Master, I whispered, daring to slip my hand into his. It was a calculated risk, for his skin had gone icy. He spun around at my touch, fixing me with his vampiric gaze. The warmth was gone from his eyes, replaced by the lust of a predator seeking to kill. His lips, still blood stained, curved back into a cruel imitation of a smile meant to show me his descended fangs. Dillan rushed toward us. Mikey? Mikel began to turn his face toward the youth. Though not yet full grown, the younger brother was old enough to produce the special pheromone that Thralls were sensitive to, and which could be perceived of as a threat. I knew that, if it came down to it, he wouldnt stand a chance against Mikel if I were not able to calm him. Master, I whispered again, stepping into his chest to draw his attention back to me. Once sure I had him focused on me alone, I waved Dillan away, including Zeke in the gesture. Quietly, the kitchen staff followed suit, leaving the two of us alone. I made no protest as he backed me up against the wall and took both of my wrists into his crushing grasp above my head. Are you challenging me? he demanded, taking me by the throat but not quite squeezing. No, my Master, I answered. I forced a blush into my cheeks, sliding a knee along the outside of his leg, providing him enough incentive to move the hand away from my neck to hold my thigh against him. His hand slipped up the skirt, fingers reaching for and then finding the heat between my cheeks. I gave forth a sigh when his index finger grazed the ring of muscle, clenched tight to excite him; to distract him long enough for the others to remove themselves from the vicinity. He cant have you! he growled, prodding me with his finger but gaining no entry. I am yours, I said. As you wish, Master. The anger melted from his eyes, the strangle hold on my wrists left. He lowered his eyelids, snapping his mouth shut, and took a deep, shuddering breath through his nose, falling into my neck to calm his rage. His hand slid away from my ass. Oh, God, he whimpered into my nape after a few more breaths, Im so sorry, Collan.

I nudged him playfully with my shoulder to dislodge him and make him look at me. The danger had passed, so I smiled, and hugged him, thankful that no lasting harm had been done. I am yours, I repeated.

Part 7
The silence of the empty kitchen pressed in around us, wrapping us tighter to one another than any bond or spoken oath could have. I saw the regret in his eyes; shame for what he had nearly done showing in the curve of his hunched shoulders. He was calmer now, sedate enough to feel something other than the urges of a predator. His control was not yet complete, though. His senses were still peaked with instinctive awareness: ears hearing things too quiet for a human to detect, nose flared to breathe in the scents of those who had left. All I could do was distract him from relapsing until we were in private again. So, I pressed my lips to his neck, guiding his hands to follow the course of my back. I tasted his flesh, peppery with cologne, salty with heat, sweet with hunger. He let go a low, throaty sigh when I moved my fingers along the narrow zipper of his pants, purring softly and holding me against him like a cherished toy. But, when I would have moved to lower his fly and treat him to a carress of my knowledgeable fingers, he stepped away. Im sorry, he repeated, adding in a trembling voice, I--I have to go. Mikel... I took a step forward to follow. No, he said, holding me back with an outstretched hand. Just--just leave me alone for a few hours. Ill have Dillan show you around. A few hours turned out to be the rest of the night. His brother came to collect me, looking relieved to find me intact, just after the kitchen staff returned to their work. I was not given a grand tour--instead, the young vampire showed me to his room and entertained himself with video games and movies. I had the distinct impression that I was supposed to be enjoying myself, and I gave a passable imitation of that for the youths ease of mind. He was a kind enough boy, but when I asked him why his own Thrall was not present, he laughed outright at me. Im too young, he explained without pausing the game. Mom and Dad are old school like that. They said Mikey was too young too, but when he saw you...I guess they made an exception. He finished with an ungraceful shrug. I started serving as Thrall to a young Master not much older than you, I said. How is it your parents deny you? Whats to deny? he asked. The simple magnitude of his innocence impressed me. There was only one delicate way for me to answer the question, and even that would be laced with innuendo. You have needs... That did make him pause. With a great deal of care, he set the video game aside to fix me with a curious gaze. Sex?

Among other things, I said. Companionship; someone to play video games with, for instance. Its not like Im lonely, living here, he replied. I have a lot of friends. Jared goes to school with me, and he doesnt even care that we belong to different Houses. But, thats only during the school year, he added. And during the summer? He shrugged again. Im usually busy, he lied. The facade broke under the polite stare of disbelief. Okay, okay. So, Im pathetic. Mikey used to hang out with me all the time but now... Now you have to entertain yourself, Zeke finished. He had appeared at the door with neither of us sensing his approach. Have you finished boring Collan with your game? Good. Its time for bed. I rose automatically, relieved to be released from my babysitting duty--for that was what I really had been doing--and gave the youth a bow. Handsome boy, isnt he? Zeke remarked as we walked toward Mikels room at the end of the corridor. Very much like his brother. I nodded, sensing an agenda in his question. I wasnt used to thinking of other Thralls as rivals, but it was clear from the way he engaged me that Zeke considered me one. Still, it was relaxing to be in his presence, one of my Brothers, from whom I did not have to play perfect with. In a few more years, he continued, theyll look like twins. I hope theyll keep long enough for that. Then again, thanks to you, I might not have to wait. Mikel stood outside of his door. At seeing Zeke, he went rigid, but did not move to attack. Instead, bidding him good night, he ushered me into the room and locked the door behind him. Truly told, I was happy to be rid of him as well. Were traveling tomorrow, Mikel announced, not looking at me as I unbuckled the skirt and slipped naked between the sheets. Its not far, he added, turning at last. As you wish, I agreed. May I help you out of your clothes? He clutched his button down to his chest like a nun holds on to her rosary, actually blushing. No--I have it Thank you. He lifted his eyes, looked away again, and took a deep breath. Im sorry for running away like that, he said, unfastening his shirt. Im--well, Im still new to all this. Master Dillan told me you were too young to have a Thrall in service, I replied. Why is that?

A smile crept up his face as he removed the garment and kicked away his shoes. Im not anymore, he explained. My family believes very strongly that Thralls are for the mature. That, to them anyway, is old enough to drink, drive, vote and be drafted, all at the same time. I just celebrated my twenty-first birthday... And I was the gift... He paused, bent over at the waist to gather the trousers collected around his ankles, and reflected a moment before responding. It was supposed to be Zeke, he conceded. The fight with the Rogue House--I had to help, once I heard what was going on. And then--and then, I dont know--its like I was drawn to this one room. I guess they were just going to leave you there but, when I saw you...Anyway, he wasnt too happy when he found out. Id noticed. Forgive me, Mikel, but why not take both of us? He shrugged, much more attractive than his brothers gesture, and slipped in alongside me. Im not as interested in him, he admitted. Then, Collan, do you like me? Not master-servant like but, you know...youre not just pretending to like me, are you? For the first time in my life, the layers of training pulled away under the uncertainty I sensed in his voice; the self doubt I saw in his handsome face. I... I smiled. Ive never let anyone kiss me on the lips before. Really? Too dangerous, I said. So, if youre asking me if I am happy to be here, then the answer is yes. I--I prefer you. But you dont like me, he replied, hiding his true feelings behind a mask of neutral indifference as fake as the screams of rapture I had given to so many others. Whether I do or not, I am yours. But, for now, yes--I do like you.

Part 8
Traveling as the attendant Thrall to a vampire was always an interesting experience. The self important type traveled in the height of luxury, surrounded by all the little comfort he required to be at hand. The less important, but still powerful, were fond of driving themselves around. In my years of service, I had experienced the plush surroundings of a stretched limousine, the bucket seats of a sports car, and the homely interior of the public transit system. Never a motorcycle. Mikels was red, with helmets and sporty leather jackets to match it. Of all the other vehicles parked in the oil perfumed garage--the black sports car, the green compact, the white sedan--it was to the bullet bike he went, caressing the aerodynamic curves before sitting astride it. Between having my life sucked out of me under the torturous bite of a ravenous vampire and being splattered across the highway in an unsightly sprawl of broken limbs, it was the former death I would have chosen for myself. A fact apparent in both my hesitation to join Mikel on the back of the crotch rocket and the expression of terror on my face when he gestured me toward him. Beautiful, isnt it? he said to me, admiring the grips of the handlebars with both hands. The only thing I found admirable about the infernal machine was the way it forced Mikel to mount it, accomplishing with the seduction of horsepower and danger what my own allure had yet to. Oh, hed been affectionate enough, holding me to him, delivering sweet kisses, and looking on me with that special grin that foretold of passion. He just hadnt done anything about it yet and there was only so much a Thrall could do before crossing the line of service and entering the realm of selfishness. Even with the attractive positioning that made his blue jeans look incredible and the tee ride up along his back (a perfect opening to slip a hand up his smooth skin and entice a nipple or two) I would have rather been sitting in the comfort controlled cabin of a vehicle that would survive me leaning to the left, instead of the right. I dont get to take her out as often as I would like to, he continued, and Ive never let anyone else on it before. Donning one of the jackets, he handed the other to me and tapped the seat behind him for me to get aboard. Fighting instinct, I lifted one leg over the vehicle, sat in the indicated portion of the saddle, and sent off a silent prayer to whatever power watched over me. Our helmets were added to our ensemble as the garage door opened. Hold on tight, he said, his voice coming from an earpiece in the headgear. Not that tight, he added with a strangled grunt once my arms were secured around his middle. I relaxed my grip enough for him to draw breath, but no more, and squeezed my eyes shut. The motorcycle hummed into life beneath me with a numbing vibration that intensified as we moved. For what seemed like an eternity, I gripped myself to bike and vampire, thankful he wasnt trying

to carry on a conversation. I was certain that, if I had opened my mouth to speak, the only sound he would have heard would have been the retching coughs of getting sick inside the nice helmet. When we finally stopped, it took him saying my name three times before I could respond, and let him go, with reasonable surety that all of my internal organs had caught up with the rest of me. We had landed upon the concrete driveway of a multi level dwelling made to resemble a cabin. The front yard was all lit up by the solar powered sconces lining a stone walkway, and a few street lamps standing at the edges of the property. Parked alongside us was a practical sport utility vehicle with a long tabby cat stretched out to warm itself on the ambient heat of the hood while another perched, sentry like, on the roof. Both animals began mewing when Mikel removed his helmet, crowding his ankles to gain his affection. Did Chad forget to let you guys in? he asked the cats in a baby drawl, bending to scratch one by the ears and the other on his furry belly. To me, he added, Chad doesnt like cats much; says hes more of a dog man. I nodded as if I understood, still too happy to be on firm earth that wasnt zipping by underfoot and a little resentful of the attention the animals were getting. I would have gladly let him pet my belly. So, what do you think? He motioned toward the house. Nice, I replied. Of its remoteness, with the wilds of the woods threatening to reclaim the manicured lawn, I said nothing. I knew the estate from which we had just left was in the middle of nowhere, and we hadnt gone that far from it. Judging by the surroundings, I would have hazard that we had moved from the middle of nowhere to the edge of it, where nature dominates and civilization is just a shadow. Who lives here? I added. Mikel dimpled. We do, he answered, leaving the cats at last to wrap me up in his arms. The scent of leather was almost as intoxicating as the whisper of his lips brushing against mine. But I thought... That I lived in that monstrosity my parents call a home? he finished for me. I may be a Noble Blood, but even that is too extravagant for me. Mom and Dad wanted to keep me close, of course; we get an occasional nest of rogues every now and then too. So, we agreed on this, he swept a hand out to encompass the whole property. Its not like the old days, he continued, setting a course for the front door with me tucked beneath his arm. Telephones, the Internet--they pretty much changed the way we live. I think thats why so many rogues are gaining so much power so quickly. You dont need an army to ruin your neighboring Houses anymore. If it werent for the web, in fact, we never would have

known about your old House, or been able to stop him in time. He gave me an additional squeeze. If it werent for the Internet, it would be Zeke in my place, and I would probably be dead, or serving some other Master or Mistress collecting a debt from my previous owner. Incorrect though it was for me to be so, I was thankful, and expressed it by returning his one armed hug and resting my head against his shoulder. Chad, a man of no less than forty, was a broad shouldered, beefy armed, foot ball player type, with eyes too small for his face and a head too bald for his age. He was replacing a light bulb on the front stoop as we approached, swearing mumbled invectives under his breath and sweating his tank top yellow. Hairy beyond reason, I couldnt decide whether he resembled a bull dog or a mountain gorilla more when he turned to greet us. Sorry boss, he said in an accent that made me think of bayous, back hills and pastoral farms all at once. I was hopin t be done afore you got here. Las storm knocked the place up good. The cats, having followed us up the path, weaved between his feet and I saw in him the deep desire to kick them away. Instead, with their owner present, he suffered their ministrations by denying their existence altogether. Fridge is stocked, he continued. Fraid I don know what ya like to eat, son, he said to me directly, but if anythin aint right, just ring an Ill bring it by. Thank you, Chad, Mikel said, preempting him from continuing on with whatever list he had prepared to report on. From his pocket, he pulled a set of jingling keys. I held out my hand for them automatically. If he thought it strange, he made no comment, putting them in my palm and making a polite exit. I watched him leave in the SUV with a small sense of regret that he was taking the only vehicle that did not scare the piss out of me. The cats preceded us into the house, running toward the back where, I assumed, they would find supper already laid out for them. Just to the left of the door, alongside a small table, stood a coat stand. Onto that were placed our helmets and riding jackets, and the keys in my hand settled into the empty stone work bowl on the table. Why dont you go make yourself comfortable in the front room, Mikel instructed, nodding to an door-less frame a few feet away on the left. I have a surprise for you. Master, I replied, Ill be happy to help. Mikel, he corrected. And here, youre not a Thrall. Youre just Collan. So, go sit down, he gave me a playful push, and let me play host. I agreed, but only on the condition that he kiss me again. Which he did gladly.

Part 9
The front room embraced me like a friend returning from a long trip away. A fire crackled happily in its place opposite the door, with a screen pulled across its mouth to keep embers from catching the bear skin rug alight. For those times when the hundreds of books lining the inset shelves on every wall were not enough of an entertainment, Mikel had a whole system of electronics to lounge before: flat-screen television almost to big to exist, video devices, gaming console and a surround sound system connected to both TV and the stereo that stood as tall as my waist. A comfortable sofa with a rainbow colored Afghan stretched across its back had been pulled before the screen, with tables on either side to set drinks, food and remote controls on. By the magic of interior decorating, the parlor blended into the dining room but with such a subtle distinction that there was a palpable change of atmosphere between them. Beyond that, a sprawling kitchen and breakfast nook, looking out onto a raised back deck and shimmering pool. This place had never been anything but a home and, as I breathed that gentle understanding in, I relaxed under its simple guidance, leaving the last remnants of the terrifying bike ride to melt away before the warmth of the fire. Here, there was no hurry to please anyone; no rush to give a vampire what he wanted and then leave again when my duty had been done. I felt a hidden weight on my chest relax and closed my eyes to relish in the therapeutic energy of Mikels;s house: not Master Mikel. Just Mikel. I sensed him enter the room without needing to see or hear him, trusting to an instinct I had that had never needed to be trained into submission; what we called the Servants Sense. It was weak in some Thralls, but I had it in full measure, enough to detect a vampires state of mind, intuit what they needed, and even to get an idea of what they looked like. My mind provided the details: his state of being was a jumble of emotions ranging from an eagerness to please, to a dark ambition of relieving me of my clothes. He needed a companion; not a pet or a servant, or even a meal, but someone with whom he could speak in confidence, curl up alongside in sleep and give his gift of affection to. In his hand, he bore a tray of drinks and nibble food, which he relieved himself of as soon as a flat surface presented itself. It was the first time Id gotten a good read on him at the conscious level. With the ordeal my body had gone through, the danger of Blood Delirium, the change of surroundings, the new ownership and having to protect Zeke, Dillan and a whole kitchen staff from Mikels thirst, I had been blocking all but the most basic of information from myself. It was at once both a relief to have regained access to my Servants Sense, and a burden for, what Mikel wanted from me, went against my Thrall education. I could no more be a friend to a vampire, a superior being, than a fly could be to a spider. I could show him affection, converse with him of private things, let him fuck me if that was what he wanted. But love? It was an effort not to recoil when he wrapped me in his arms from behind, molding his front

against my back in a way that spoke of his profound desire to please me rather than himself. It was even greater work to respond the way he wanted, to pretend not to know that, with a quirk of timing and exercised will, I could entice him to bite me. Thank you for coming with me, he said, resting his chin on my shoulder to gaze into the fire. The Thrall Creed played like a broken record in my mind: Please your Master--be for him what he needs. You are his. You are his. Please your Master... I hate motorcycles, I admitted, opening my eyes. If you want to take me somewhere, take me in a car. Insolent, rude, but pitched to playful banter, I shrugged away the part of my consciousness that was scandalized by my brash response. why dont you like motorcycles? he asked, releasing me. When I turned to answer, he wore the expression of a child that had just been scolded for tracking mud over a freshly mopped floor. I pulled a smile onto my face to cover my surprise at bringing this out of him. They scare the shit out of me. He nodded, a wolfish grin tugging at the corners of his lips. That explains the death grip, he teased. I kinda liked it... I squared my shoulders, coiling my muscles to pounce on him. You liked it? I said in a menacing growl. Ill show you death grip... He took a step back, mock fear (for how could I really hurt him?) playing on his face. What are you doing? Im gonna kick your ass. You gotta catch me first! He bolted from the room, and I pursued, chasing him through the kitchen, the dining room, and completing a circuit around the first floor. He cheated by using his superior speed to disappear up the stairs without touching a single step, and hid himself from me. I could have cheated, following my sense without pause to the room he was trying to lead me to. Instead, I made a thorough search through two guest bedrooms, an office, and a bathroom before entering the Master suite. Much larger than the room we had left behind at his familys House, there were several places he could be hiding in. Two closets, side by side, with mirrored doors on sliding tracks reflected my image as I peaked into one, and then the other. I found only clothes therein, and several dirty magazines hidden under a pile of sweaters on the shelf that I promised myself to revisit later. The space beneath the antique writing desk was already filled by a high backed executive chair. In

the master bath, I found only a brown and green spider, scuttling up the wall behind the toilet, and a jetted tub just begging to be filled with bubbles and my body--our bodies, if I gauged the size right. A glass door leading onto the balcony with two chairs and a telescope had been opened in an obvious attempt to misdirect me. That left only the space beneath the canopy bed and the loft above, gotten to by a wood ladder tipped against the wall. He was there, pleased as punch, tucked into an oversized bean bag chair with his hands behind his head, eyes closed and trying very hard not to smile. He knew I was there, sneaking my way toward him, just as I had known he had been there the whole time. It was then, when I had crept up to him, that I learned Mikels secret. He burst into laughter as I dug my fingers into his ribs, unsuccessfully fending me off (on purpose). He tried to roll away, but I caught him, straddling his hips and taking out my frustrations on his sides, paid in gasping pleas to stop tickling him, which I promptly ignored. I realized too late that he had noticed me yelp when he brushed a hand against my side and soon, our positions were reversed, with me writhing beneath him. Youre gonna learn, he threatened playfully. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, to love that motorcycle! No! I cried out between laughing breaths. Oh, yes, he hissed. He opened his mouth to say something else, but I caught him in the ribs again before he could get anything out. He pinned my hands above my head in response, using just enough strength to keep me from breaking free and renewing my assault. It would have been easy to roll my hips to dislodge him. His lips were just too close to ignore. So, I kissed him, drawing his face to mine, going lax beneath his pleasant weight. My trepidation at feeling his mouth open gave way to fear. He meant to kiss me for real, his tongue meeting the barrier of my lips to slip between them. A curious, Mew? sounded alongside his. His tongue was withdrawn, leaving me wanting more and feeling the loss like it was a broke promise when he turned to look at the cat. Bright green eyes stared back at me without apology. I was beginning to understand Chads displeasure with Mikels pets.

Part 10
The full moon had begun its descent toward the west, captured in the high circular window on the other side of the bedroom wall at the same level as the loft. Lending its soft, pearly glow to the muted light of the electric sconces, the loft, the bedroom, and everything within took on a magical quality. I felt it wash over me like a physical presence that lifted the hairs on the back of my neck and lit the fires of anticipation in my belly. As it danced along Mikels profile, throwing him into sharp focus, part of me--the deepest reaches of my being beyond the touch of my Thrall training--shifted. I was aware of him, not as a Thrall to a Vampire, a servant to his Master, but as one man to another. I could no longer sense him with my special ability that made me the ideal Thrall. You feel it too, dont you? he asked me, continuing to stroke the cats velvet soft fur. His voice had changed, dropping into a husky whisper dripping with liquid desire; no longer the perfectly tuned pitch of a vampire. I did feel it, though I had no idea what it was. The dark glamour that surrounded vampires had been removed from him, leaving only a young man, perhaps a year or two my senior, but with such a naive bend in his shoulders that I could well believe him to be the same age as Dillan. He turned then to look at me, innocent eyes pretending confidence, lips trembling to maintain the roguish grin but succeeding only in creating a boyish smile that imitated the adult expression. He reached out to me, nervous fingers tucking an errant strand of hair behind my ear. He took his time, tracing the line of my jaw to feel the stubble, and then my chin to angle my face just right to receive the soft press of his lips. There was no danger; no fear. I wanted you to see me like this, he explained, leading me down the ladder and onto the bed. We were removing each others clothing at an easy, unhurried pace; I lowering his jeans, he removing my shirt. Then, we were under the covers, my head sinking into the pillows, his shoulders supporting my knees. It doesnt last very long, he continued, unless were outside. I grunted, opening myself to him, letting him occupy me to the base of his cock. His sigh of rapture at being enveloped by my heat sent a chill down my spine. The full moon--its light--makes us vulnerable. He was silent for a while, thrusting into me with all the care and fear of a virgin savoring his first taste of sex. Then: You need to know this, Collan. To protect yourself. And, if you ever have to turn a human... A long, low moan, conjured from the bottom of my soul, filled the air between us as he picked up speed, reaching deeper with every thrust.

He pressed his forehead to mine, mingling the beads of sweat--the wetness of perspiration--together. I felt my mind crack open like an egg, to be emptied and then filled again. Can I turn you, Collan? he whispered. I understood then. The only time a vampire could make another, was also the only time they could be killed: when the light of the full moon, filled with its own, special magic, stripped him of his immortality to give him something infinitely more precious. Will it hurt? I asked. No, he replied. Not if you love me.