Books: Volume Twelve
After The Forbidden, Before The Damned
*Spoilers Warning! If you have not read The Forbidden, you might not want to read this installment!
He didn’t know quite what to expect when he’d been taken into a room in Madame Ophelia’s house and told to wait, but it most certainly wasn’t the beautiful, shy girl who slipped into it, looking as afraid as he felt. She’d gently shut the door behind her with a noticeable gulp and kept her gaze fastened to the floor. Her hands were trembling as she clasped the front of her fire red kimono closed, and sipped air like a sparrow that had spied a cat too near her.
There’d been no book like Rider had told him about. No thoroughly seasoned, buxom redheads, brunettes, or blondes to rival cyberspace, except the one that met them at the door and took Dan by the arm with a knowing smile. What was this fragile, scared beauty doing in his room? She wasn’t a whore. Wasn’t what he imagined one would look like. She was destroying his entire sense of world order.
Sunlight put red, teal, and gold streaks in her long black hair that hung to her waist. Her exotic brown eyes glittered with fear, and her smooth, brown skin seemed flushed, every shuddering breath making her seem like she was either about to bolt or pass out.
Bobby glanced around the fancy room and at the oversized four-posted bed he was sitting on the edge of, wondering if he should have taken a seat in a chair instead as protocol, and then stood. The girl backed up so quickly that her back hit the door.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he said, putting his hands out in front of him. “I’m not like that. You don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to.”
She stared at him mute, huge tears beginning to form in her wide eyes.
“It’s cool,” he said. “You shouldn’t even be in a place like this.”
She shook her head. “Please. Don’t be angry. I’ll do whatever you want, sir. Just don’t send me back downstairs, because then they’ll send me home.”
“Huh?” He began to pace, outraged. “No way. First of all, it’s illegal to make some chic do stuff like this against her will. Where are you from?”
“Thailand,” she whispered.
“Oh, shit. Who runs this joint? We’ll have the feds shut ‘em down for—”
“No, no, please,” she said, dashing across the room and barreling into his arms. “She saved me from much worse than you over there. I’ll be good to you. I didn’t mean for it to sound like I’m not grateful… you’re just my first.”
For some inexplicable reason, he found himself hugging her, stroking her back, and making promises he had no idea of how he’d keep. “Listen, we can get you out of here. My squad and me, we’ve also come up against a whole lot worse, and the last thing I’m gonna do is see some really scared, really nice chic caught up in some sex slave bull crap.” He held her away from him, and then patted the revolver in his shoulder harness. “Trust me, if we have to shoot our way out of here, then Dan and Rider will have to get over it—but you are not staying here doing Johns, if you don’t want to.”
Even though tears streamed down her face, she suddenly laughed and covered her mouth, and then touched his cheek. “They told me you were truly sweet. They were right.”
“I’m not gay,” he said, becoming indignant.
“No, no, no,” she said shaking her head. “Honorable. Sweet, like in your spirit, soul.”
“Oh,” he muttered and looked away. “So, listen, you wanna make a break for it, or what?”
“It’s very complicated,” she hedged, seeming to become calmer. “Where would I live, what would I eat, who—”
“Got a house in Arizona, food, clothes from all my Guardian sisters, money. We can take one more in. Mar won’t turn you away. You don’t have to live like this. We’re so outta here, then we can figure it out.”
She neared him again and placed a hand in the center of his chest. “I’m sorry I scared you,” she said quietly. “You really are a Guardian, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s what I do,” he said, standing taller as her gorgeous eyes searched his face.
She smiled and cupped his cheek. “Wizard or warlock?”
She swallowed away another smile and glanced over her shoulder at the dresser behind them. Small crystal bottles of massage oil had moved forward, seemingly on their own volition, and the tassels on the lampshade were wildly dancing.
“You’re about to come into your season, aren’t you?”
“Okay,” he said, stepping away from her to cross the room. “Start at the beginning. I missed something here.”
“You draw power,” she stated simply.
“I don’t have any special powers, like the other guys, other than feeling stuff in my gut sometimes,” he said quickly, and then censored himself. “But, how do you know so much about the supernatural, anyway?”
She smiled and lowered her intense gaze. “Because I’m a witch. Almost. An initiate.”
“Jesus H. Christ—Rider is outta his fucking mind.” Bobby just stood there in the middle of the room, bewildered for a moment. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m out. You should be, too. This place is crazy. Rethink that decision, before you do anything permanent, that’s all I can tell you. I’ve seen some shit recently that makes me know going that way has some serious consequences.”
“I know,” she said softly, “that’s why I’ve been stalling the final steps.” She walked away from him and sat on the edge of the bed, seeming even tinier, like the massive mattress and thick, white, embroidered satin duvet might swallow her up. “I’m not a bad person,” she added quietly. “But I had no choice at the time, and the lady that brought me to this country felt sorry for me. She’s very, very nice in her heart.”
He sat in a nearby, overstuffed Queen Anne chair with a thud, staring at her battling awe and confusion.
“I was five when I saw my first vampire. But I was too small to… they didn’t find me as pleasurable as the grown women, so I was passed over, and I suppose I didn’t have enough blood to make the killing worth the trouble. But I saw it all.” Her eyes sought his and held them for ransom. “My mother serviced the trade. I do not know my father, nor does she know which human client made me. All I’ve heard is he was from the Philippines. I was a burden. So, she sold me… maybe they took me for the price of her keep. I don’t know. But I was luckier than my brother and sisters, who were older. I was always so small, too skinny, and none of the men wanted me. I cleaned up the rooms after they were done.”
“Damn…” Bobby murmured, thinking of what his suburban life had been like in comparison. “I’m really sorry, but really glad you were too skinny.”
“So am I.”
She smiled and pushed her long strands of hair that had spilled forward back over her shoulder. He watched her do that with a fluid, graceful flip of her slender wrist, mesmerized.
“But, then I started to look more like a girl,” she said with a sad sigh. “I was thirteen. It would have only been a matter of time before I had to earn my keep. They wouldn’t let me clean up blood in the chambers forever. Either that, or I’d become food.”
Bobby shuddered and stood, and then began to walk in a circle. “That’s really fucked up.”
She nodded, but her expression remained serene. “Then this lady came to me and asked if I was still unsoiled. She wanted an initiate. One that had the gift of touch and sight,” she added in a small voice just above a murmur. “She paid a lot for me.”
“Then what did that bitch do, bring you here and put you to work servicing assholes? Some bargain!” he said shouting and not sure why.
“She made me study, and I also cleaned for her during the day, so I’d be safe from any of the night clients that are often very treacherous—the ones that can walk through walls and hypnotize you. She kept me safe, and didn’t make me do the day trade. I was more valuable to her by helping her see.” The girl sighed and looked away. “You would have been my first, if I hadn’t messed up. If a virgin is with a virgin, then the magic she’s teaching me stays in tact. Pure. I’ll still be her initiate and have time to decide. She won’t make me work the Johns. Don’t worry.”
Bobby came to her and sat next to her slowly. He wasn’t sure that he liked the fact that the pretty girl sitting beside him flat out knew his condition, so he wasn’t about to admit to the charge. Rather than do that, he focused on what she’d said about possibly getting in trouble for not taking her next step in whatever crazy bull was going on in the brothel. He’d step to Rider later, and give him a piece of his mind.
“Hey, you didn’t mess up. We both sorta wigged, is all.” Bobby let his breath out hard. “How about if you hang out with me, I’ll lie and tell ‘em you rocked my world, and we can just act like everything is cool?”
She reached out and touched his face with warm, trembling fingers. “You’d do that?”
He shrugged. “I gotta wait for my ride, anyway. If I go downstairs all in a huff at this point, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
She giggled. “I think your brothers would be very upset.”
“Sis, you have no idea,” he said, laughing. “Okay. So, we have a plan for today, but what about tomorrow, and the day after that? You’ve gotta get out of here.”
“You can’t be my hero, Bobby.”
For a moment, they stared at each other.
“Why not? Why can’t I?”
She closed her eyes and laid her head on his shoulder. “I have made it to eighteen, have been educated so that I can read, and I’m still alive working for a lady who has a heart.”
“And?” he said, making her look up at him. “Like, that doesn’t give her the right to make you do vamps, or werewolves, or whatever else she keeps in a dungeon around here, plus, regular Joes who are cheating on their wives. Shit, if you can read, you can get a regular job. If you can—”
She pressed her fingers to his lips. “The owners of this establishment would hunt me down until I paid my debt. They are worse than the Mafia, especially the warlocks.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve got an aunt in Manhattan who owns a slammin’ joint like this, from what I hear, and she’s in a coven or something—my mom went nuts when she found out, that’s how I know, and I also know my aunt would take you in, give you artillery back up, if you didn’t wanna live with me. I mean, with the team in Arizona. Aunt Gabrielle had our backs before, so I can’t believe she’d leave you—”
A soft kiss stopped his babbling. He just stared at the girl who’d kissed him when she pulled back.
“You don’t have to be a witch, if you don’t want to, is all I’m saying,” he whispered.
Another kiss again stopped his words.
“If you’ve got special powers, like touch or second sight, you could—”
This time her kiss opened his mouth and a gentle tongue twined with his.
“I wouldn’t mind being your hero,” he said quietly when they came up for air and she ran her hand down his chest.
“If this is my fate, then I don’t mind having you as my first… I was foolish to be afraid. You’re a gift, Bobby. My mentor is very, very kind, in her way… and wise. She didn’t have to send me into your room.”
“But you’re a virgin,” he said quickly and then stood, panicked. “That’s a lot of responsibility.”
She smiled. The heavy Queen Anne chair moved across the floor an inch, and the pedestal mirror flipped, catching the light as it spun in its frame.
“I know,” she whispered. “One must be gentle.”
He raked his fingers through his hair as a crystal bottle inched forward and then crashed on the hardwood floor. They both stared at it for a moment.
“I’ve got plenty of experience,” he contended. “I’m talking about the whole thing of this being your first time, and all. I don’t wanna hurt you. I mean, I could get caught up and forget and think you were like, experienced like one of the other girls I’m usually with. So, we can just hang out, no pressure, you don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do, okay?”
“Take off your gun, Bobby.”
He looked at her wide-eyed. “No, see, I always keep my gun on in situations where there could be vamps in the house.”
She covered her mouth to hide her smile as she glanced at the bright sunlight. “I understand.”
He unfastened the shoulder harness, but didn’t fully disarm. “I’ll take it off, if carrying heat is making you nervous. Only ‘cause it’s daylight.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Is there a difference between wizards and warlocks? Like what’s that all about?” he said, walking around the room and giving her wide berth, and keeping his gun on. “Or is there really a difference between witches, like, seriously, are there good ones and bad ones?”
“Wizards are good, warlocks, not so good. There are white witches; we call them white-lighters, and dark ones. I have been reading a lot for five years.”
“Yeah, like my brother says, knowledge is power.” Bobby nodded, going to the window for some air, and then remembering they were all sealed to keep in the air conditioning. Damn the room felt suffocating. Stifling. “It’s good that you learned where the line is.” He turned and looked at her. “Have you decided yet what kind of witch you’re going to be?”
“What do you think I should be?’ she asked quietly.
“Definitely the white-lighter type.”
She giggled, seeming very flattered as her gaze slid down his body. “You, then, would be all wizard.”
“Really? Ya think so?”
She nodded and flopped backward on the bed, staring at him upside down. “You are definitely that.”
He lifted his chin and squared his shoulders, flattered beyond her comprehension. “You said something earlier about coming into some sorta season—for wizards, you mean?”
“Yes. I think you’ll be a very powerful wizard who will be able to zap things across the room, or cast good spells that help people.”
He squatted down near the opposite side of the bed and peered at her, resting his cheeks on his fists as his elbows dug into the soft bed linens. “Awesome.”
“It is,” she said, and flipped over on her belly to smile up at him.
Her red silk robe had opened a bit when she’d flopped on her back, and the quick turn had allowed it to gap even more. The small swell of her tiny, cone-shaped breasts drew his attention for a second, and he looked away, ashamed that he’d glimpsed her like that. But she seemed like a gorgeous, exotic butterfly that had lit on a orchid, her wings a drape of bright silk against the stark white bed, her hair a silken spill of jet blackness, and her butter-cream skin as though pollen dusted.
“What else is supposed to happen?” he asked quietly, all exuberance gone from his tone. Suddenly he felt very serious and not as nervous as he’d been.
She reached across the duvet and took his hand, her eyes holding his. “Your specialty will come in. You have touch awareness, right?”
“I don’t know,” he said, not able to look at his own palm as long as her eyes met his. “My Dad’s a healer, but that happened by accident.”
“There are no accidents in the Universe.”
He smiled. “Now you sound like my teacher.”
“Very wise teacher, then.” She allowed her palm to slide against his in a slow rub back and forth. “Then your mind eyes will open,” she whispered.
The rhythm of her touch and what it possibly suggested had given him wood, but he’d never let her know that. She was just an innocent, sweet, very betrayed soul that needed a hero, and he was not gonna be a John to her. If anything, like him, she needed a friend.
“You’ll probably be able to work with the natural heat of the elements,” she said quietly, making him ache so badly he nearly closed his eyes. “You have metal, maybe fire in you, that’s why you are so magnetic—you draw things to you… maybe like me?”
“I guess,” whispered, wishing he could draw her to him for just one more kiss. Her mouth was so soft, so natural, pink, and unpainted… her eyes so pretty, and he could only imagine what her long, black hair felt like. Suddenly it was in his hand as she took her palm off his and a thick section of her hair dragged over her shoulder and filled it.
“I didn’t mean to… I was just wondering, I mean, I wasn’t trying to—”
“It’s all right. My hair wanted to be there, your hand wanted to touch it.”
“But I’m not like those other guys,” he said, his tone urgent, desperate for her to understand.
“No, you’re not like them at all,” she said softly. “You are very dear.” She opened his other hand and shook her hair into it. “You aren’t violating me by touching my hair. Your mind asked permission, my hair said yes.”
He stared at the riches that had filled his palms, almost closing his eyes at the sensation, but unable to stop watching it cascade between his fingers. “It’s so beautiful,” he whispered, nearly hypnotized as it washed through his fingers. Reflex made him lower his nose to it and breathe in the sensual, floral fragrance that wafted from it.
She leaned up on her elbows and shook her hair forward for him, but in doing so, accidentally exposed her breasts. He could see her tight brown nipples between her gorgeous drape of hair, framed by red silk, but she didn’t seem aware that she’d done that. Smiling with trust in her eyes, she simply reached out and touched his hair, pushing the mussed strands off his damp forehead. The way she moved seemed totally natural, uninhibited, and completely unaffected by modesty. He stopped breathing for a second.
“Yours is nice, too,” she murmured, referring to his hair.
His legs were cramping and going numb, but he didn’t want to move from where he was, or make her think he was trying to get closer to her than she wanted. Keeping the wide expanse of bed between them, him on one side, her in the middle of it and able to control how much touching happened, seemed best. But doing a runner’s squat in jeans with an erection was killing him.
“I gotta stand up,” he finally said, unable to endure.
“Okay,” she said, balancing her face between her hands and watching him.
She’d bent her knees and was swinging her legs behind her with her ankles crossed like a school girl might, and standing up in front of her was the last thing he wanted to do.
“Uh…” he stammered. “Maybe—”
“I have second sight, too, and already know. I’m not upset. I’m flattered that you’re hard. Means you like me.” Her smile widened to a dazzling brilliance. “I like you, too.”
His face flushed hot, but still he couldn’t stand.
“You mind eyes will open soon, too. Don’t worry.”
Unable to bear it, he popped up, turned his back to her, and then sat down. “You aren’t supposed to say stuff like that.”
“I’m sorry. Okay.”
He glimpsed her over his shoulder. “You like me, too?”
She giggled. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I?”
“You opened the strap, but never took off the gun.”
“Oh, yeah. My bad.” He fumbled with the weapon, and almost dropped it.
She covered her head and squealed.
The sound of her voice climbed up his back so quickly and so intensely that he almost shot himself.
“I’m gonna put it on the dresser,” he said, jumping up, and almost tripping on the edge of the duvet.
“Turn the barrel to the wall,” she said, covering her eyes and peeking between her fingers.
“It can’t go off without—”
“Yes it can, yes it can,” she said, as he carelessly set it down. “Turn the barrel away from the bed, trust me. It will go off.”
He glanced at the smashed bottle of oil on the floor. Maybe she had a point. He turned the muzzle away from the bed, hoping no one was in the next few rooms. Still, now that she knew she’d given him a hard on, there was the delicate question of how to casually sit beside her again. He hesitated. She solved the dilemma with a soft smile and a gentle pat on the side of the bed. Okay, now all he had to do was get his legs to move. It was awkward but he reached the bed and sat down hard.
“She made me read a lot about Guardians.” Taking both of his hands in hers, she kept her voice a murmur. “She said, of all the types of men in the world, you guys are the best.”
“Yeah… well, I guess we’re all right.”
“I know you are,” she said, issuing him a sly, sideline glance. “I was also told to watch all those years, to learn. I’ve never seen a Guardian, that wasn’t allowed. But, I’ve observed a lot of different types of males, even though I haven’t been with one.”
“Hold it,” he said, laughing. “She made you watch? Get out of town.”
“I was never in the room, in case it got rough… but she said I needed to know what could be expected—so I wouldn’t be shocked.”
“Like in a two way mirror or something?” He glanced around the room, thoroughly unnerved. The fact that her robe was now wide open and he could see her full front didn’t help.
“No, silly,” she said laughing and pushing herself back on the bed. She crossed her legs Indian style and began talking with her hands. “To open my mind eyes. She would tell me a room, and then say, ‘tell me what type of entity is waiting?’ I would answer. Then she’s say, ‘which girl went in to service him?” I would answer. I was wrong a lot, at first. Then she made the tests harder as I got better at it.”
Intrigued, he laid on his side, watching her while propped up on one elbow, mesmerized by her unique experiences, and blown away by her casual nudity. Try as he might to keep his focus on her lovely face, ever so often his gaze would slide down her delicate neck, linger on her petite breasts, glide down her flat belly, to become fixed on her clean shaven mound, marveling at how even that looked like a flower.
It was hard not to stare. He was captivated by the way her fruit had layers of soft, fringed, pink petals that seemed to grow to a deeper shade of rose as they disappeared into a moist, secret place that made his mouth go dry. The insides of her thighs appeared to be as smooth as fine porcelain. She was telling him something about the mind eyes, and or maybe her eyes, but at the moment, his were literally crossing.
“Finally,” she said, her smile magnetic, “I got to the point where I could concentrate on a room, and see exactly what was going on. I learned a lot the easy way.”
“I said that all I had to do was concentrate hard on the room I was being tested on, and I could tell her everything that was happening inside that room. It was an easy way to learn.”
“They don’t let the seers do that in the house compound,” he said, not sure why his voice was deeper than normal.
“Oh, well, I guess not,” she said, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “You guys are family. That wouldn’t be right to look in on each other.”
“But, here, anything goes.”
“I’ll bet they’ll have you guess weapons or how somebody is standing in a fight formation?” she said, sounding excited and curious.
“Uh huh,” he said, addressing the valley between her thighs.
“It must be dangerous, what you do?”
He just nodded as his voice forgot the way out of his throat.
“Are you ever scared?”
He simply looked at her, this time finding her eyes. “Scared to death.”
“Why?” Her voice was tender as she leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
“I’m not sure what to do and I don’t want to hurt anybody, if I mess up.”
“Ohhh,” she whispered, coming forward and lying on her side to face him. “You just have to take your time.” She stroked his chest.
“Not sure I can.”
She nodded and then leaned forward, scooting closer, sealing her body to his, and then kissed him slowly. Every instinct in him made him want to roll her beneath him, but he had on rough jeans and hadn’t even taken off his shoes. Her skin was so soft, she’d bruise, and that was the last thing he wanted to do to her.
“If you taken them off, it’ll be easier,” she said, reading his thoughts. Then, without waiting for him to hesitate again, she tugged at his shirt.
He sat up quickly and ripped it over his head, stopped, looked at her, and waited for her to nod. The moment she did, he kicked off his shoes, almost fell as he got up, fumbled with his zipper, and yanked off his jeans and underwear, wishing he’d thought to pull back the covers so he could jump under them. But the way her eyes slowly went down his body and her smile faded before her gaze found his again, was very reassuring.
“What’s your name?” he whispered as she shed her robe and blanketed his body.
“Jasmine,” she whispered into his mouth.
“Like the flower…” he murmured, closing his eyes to the sensation of her skin. “Beautiful, like you, too.”
“Follow your instincts,” she said against his ear. “Study me slowly with your hands, first.”
He looked up at her briefly, overwhelmed by the heat her small body produced against his. She stared back at him unblinking as his hands flowed over her soft curves, the swell of her hips and buttocks, and then the silken, fragrant curtain of her hair. She gently guided his hands to touch her breasts… he’d never touched breast before in his life, and took great care with the privilege. When she moved against the throb in his groin, he bit his lip to hold back the sound that was trapped in his diaphragm.
“Let it out,” she whispered. “It feels better when you do, I think.”
Her kiss crushed his mouth, and her tongue found his, sucking the deep groan up and out of him. She was so right. His hands instantly sought her hair while her kiss caused sudden delirium. But her skin… it drew agony up and out of his pores, making him sweat. Two more bottles rattled on the dresser, and another crashed to the floor. Yes, she was a delicate butterfly, flitting her tongue over his neck and his shoulders, stopping to flick at his nipples until he arched… her tongue, searching for body nectar, danced at his navel until tears stung his eyes; he should have unloaded his gun. When she went down on him, he said a prayer, and stopped breathing.
Without warning she stopped and looked up at him. “Am I doing it right?”
Tears rolled down his face. A gasping inhale was all he could respond with.
“You sure I’m not doing it wrong?” she asked, gripping him tightly when he didn’t immediately answer.
“But you’re so quiet… that’s not how it’s supposed to be, is it? I’m doing this wrong, and you’re just being nice.”
“Oh, God… It’s perfection.” he said arching, “Just don’t stop.”
“Ah, that’s what I didn’t hear before,” she said, as though a grand epiphany had come to her. “Okay.”
This time when her warm mouth sheathed him, she pulled at his body with studious authority that sucked an audible gasp from his lungs with a deep moan behind it. If all she needed was voice coaching, he’d be her cheering section. Words wouldn’t form, only guttural reminders that she was awesome. His head dug into the duvet as her exploration made him grab the bed linens in his fists. If she stopped again, his heart might, too.
The building pressure from her soft tongue twining around him with each hard drag along his shaft almost made him sit up. The special attention she paid to the head had nearly made him sob out loud. The chair was practically walking across the floor. The armoire doors had banged open. The curtains were pulling along their rods. Everything on the dresser was in jeopardy. Was the safety on the gun; was the safety on the gun? Oh shit, what she was doing felt so good!
The convulsion hit him in body-slamming waves that made him do jerking sit-ups till his voice rent the room in halting jags. A fast as it had happened, it was all over, leaving him flat on his back, gulping air, eyes glazed over just staring at the ceiling. From some remote place in his mind, he felt her move up to lay beside him. When he could finally focus, he looked at her. She stared back at him with a serene and curious smile. He’d kiss Rider’s feet when they got outside.
“Are you ready to lose your virginity, or do you just want to talk for the rest of the afternoon? Either way is okay, if you’re still nervous.” Her tone was completely open and non-judgmental.
He just nodded.
She glanced down his body and let her hand slide across his erection. “It’s still hard, or do we have to wait until you go to sleep and wake up?”
“I think if it’s hard, it still works,” he said, panting out his reply.
She tilted her head to the side with a question in her eyes and then kissed him.
“I won’t hurt you, if you climb on top,” he murmured, returning her kiss harder. He broke from her mouth, and stroked her hair, still breathing hard. “That way, you can stop if it hurts. It was probably best that you did what you did to me first… I’ve learned patience from you.”
“Your mind eyes just opened.” She took his mouth tenderly and held his face in her hands as his covered hers. She straddled him and lowered herself down on him slowly. “I will never forget you, Robert Berkfield,” she whispered, and then winced. Tears wet her lashes as she closed her eyes. “Oh, my God… you are such a gift, sweet wizard. Today, be my hero.”