Vlad's cool gaze considered her. "You think you're honoring humans by not feeding from them, but you're actually hurting them. Animal blood won't suffice long term, and blood supplies are chronically low because not enough humans donate. Those bags you drink from might mean the difference between life and death for some humans in an emergency room, and if you have them, they don't."

He emphasized those two last words with a challenging c**k of his brow. Kira found herself thinking that all the actors who'd played Dracula in the movies had it wrong. Vlad wasn't a pasty-faced dandy with a Euro-trash accent, nor was he an aging aristocrat with claws for nails and a monstrous appearance. No, Vlad was a thirtyish, striking man with a compelling presence who had a brutally honest outlook on things. One he wasn't shy about sharing, it seemed.

And he had a point. Her feeding preferences shouldn't endanger anyone, and if she kept her diet limited to plasma bags, they would.

"You're right," she said. "I'd appreciate it if you would send for whoever you have as a donor, then. I'm hungry enough that it's starting to concern me."

He smiled, making those stern features all the sudden charming. "Of course." Then he spoke into his cell phone, asking someone named Mordred to "send up Lewis." Kira lingered where she was, unsure. Should she sit down? Or was there a special room she was supposed to feed in? The kitchen seemed like the obvious choice, but in this weird windowless vampire hideout with its stone walls, floors, and echoing acoustics, who knew if there was a kitchen?

"Are we underground?" she asked.

"Not quite. We're in the side of a mountain. This used to be an old mining station, but it's long been deserted. I renovated it a few decades ago for a more comfortable, yet private, environment."

If there were abandoned mine tunnels still underneath them, that would explain the echoes. "Where did Mencheres go?"

"To make an important call. Can't have him using my cell, then our location being traced that easily, not with whom he's calling."

That's right, Mencheres wanted to meet with the other Law Guardian, the one with the Latin name for truth: Veritas. Hopefully, Veritas would live up to her namesake and not attempt to ambush Mencheres if she did agree to a meeting.

Kira wondered if the other reason Mencheres wasn't here yet was because he was stalling. She had no intention of just forgetting about the fact that he'd tried to commit suicide-by-ghouls.

A russet-haired young man walked into the room from the opposite way that Kira had entered. He bowed to Vlad, which struck her as strange, then he knelt.

"Not me, Lewis. Her," Vlad said, with a careless wave of his hand toward Kira. "Have you done this before?"

She assumed the question was to her, since Lewis looked like a pro. "Once."

"Use the hand, then. Less chance for a mistake there."

Same thing Mencheres told me, Kira thought wryly. Was all of this Vampire 101? If so, what was in Vampire Advanced Courses?

Lewis smiled at her as he approached, holding out his hand. Kira glanced around. The floor was stone, so she wouldn't ruin anything if she spilled a few drops.

"Let's, um, sit down," she said.

Vlad just watched from his spot on the couch, amusement decorating his chiseled features. Kira squared her shoulders. She could do this by herself. No sweat.

"Do you want to be put under first?" she asked Lewis as they sat down.

"Huh?" he replied in confusion.

Something like a cough came out of Vlad that jerked her head up. Vampires didn't need to cough. Was that a muffled laugh?

"You know." Kira's eyes flashed green at Lewis, and her fangs seemed to jump out of her gums. "Get bespelled so you don't feel or remember this."

Lewis appeared even more confused. "If that's what you want." I will not ask for pointers from Dracula, she swore to herself. I will not. "Yeah, I'd feel better about that. So, ah . . . look into my eyes."

Another strangled sound came from Vlad's direction. Now Kira was sure it was a laugh. She determined to ignore him.

Lewis obediently stared at her, and Kira tried to make her voice sound confident. "You don't feel anything. You're not afraid."

"I am," came Vlad's immediate reply. "If you tell him wolves are the children of the night next, I might hurt myself laughing."

"I'm trying to focus," she gritted out, those pains inside her growing worse. Then as delicately as she could, she lifted Lewis's hand to her mouth, seeking that same throbbing vein between the thumb and the wrist that she'd bitten into yesterday. Her fangs almost ached with need as she slowly slid them in, a little moan escaping her when that first hot taste met her tongue.

Kira forget about Vlad after that. Forgot about everything except the controlled bliss of feeding without damaging the fragile hand in her grip. By the time her hunger ebbed, she'd realized her eyes had closed in enjoyment . . . and when she opened them, Mencheres was in the room.

Mencheres entered silently, knowing what was going on before he saw Kira. Though the entrance of the house was almost impossible to see from the exterior of the mountain, once inside it, voices carried. Then he'd watched her feed from the human with a mixture of pride and arousal. Her expression was so sensual as she fed - and his trip to the hospital to secure those three blood bags had not been needed, it seemed.

Then her eyes opened and fixed right on his. For a moment, he felt as if everyone else in the room vanished. If they had truly been alone, he would have thrown himself on top of her and kissed her until her nails dug deliciously deep grooves into his back. His power swirled inside him, wanting to touch her as well. Everything about Kira made him come alive. He'd only been away from her for a few hours, yet that time dragged and burned across his subconscious until it was almost painful.

She pulled her mouth away from the male's hand, closing the holes as he'd shown her before more than a couple spare drops fell onto the floor. Then she rose, coming toward him with her gaze still dazzling green.

"Before the two of you get too far along, what did Veritas say?" Vlad asked.

Mencheres shook his head to clear away the images of all the different ways he was going to take Kira as soon as he had her back in the bedroom. "She'll come," he replied shortly. "Tomorrow."

"Afternoon or evening, right?" Kira asked, her sultry expression being replaced by one of stubbornness. "Not morning?"

He smiled faintly. "No, not morning." As if he didn't see that argument coming.

"Good." Her expression didn't change, however. "I'm going to take a shower. And then, after that, Mencheres, we need to talk."

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