The female was going to kill him, Zane thought dazedly, dispassionately.

She'd won him, however long ago she'd fought for him - one day? Two? Weak as he was, he'd lost track of time. All he knew was that she'd tried multiple times to bed him. But she needed a hard cock for that, and he hadn't given it to her.

Denying her had delighted him.

Now two of those wretched Amazons stood around him, staring down at his naked body. If he hadn't been half-starved and teetering on the brink of total collapse, those stares would have sent him into a killing rage. He hated being looked at as much as he hated being touched.

He'd spent too many centuries as the demon queen's whore, hers to use, hers to hurt. And he'd suffered those indignities willingly, all for the love of a woman. A slave, as he was supposed to be now. Marina, that detestable queen, had promised to set his beloved free if Zane pleased her until she grew tired of him. But she'd never grown tired of him, and Cassandra, his chosen mate, had begun to hate him as a result. Yet, still he'd stayed, determined to finally win his prize.

And then Layel, the vampire king, had done the impossible and drained the demon queen, finally freeing both Zane and Cassandra, and he'd thought to earn back her love. After all, everything he had done had been for her. Only, she'd fled him. For another man. Perhaps that was for the best.

Zane was not the man he'd once been. He eschewed females and wanted no part of them. Wanted no part of sex. He shuddered at even the thought of it. The things he'd done...the things that had been done to him...sickness churned in his stomach. Had he eaten that day, he would have vomited.

But then Nola had walked into his life. Beautiful, passionate, fierce Nola. A woman who hadn't wanted him, who had rebuffed him. A woman he'd craved with every ounce of his being, despite what had been done to him. A woman the gods had taken from him. He did not know if she'd survived their island game or if the gods had set her free, but sometimes he would swear that he smelled her sweet scent, felt the gentle glide of her hands.

The first time he'd seen her, he'd thought her a gift from the gods. For why else would he have been able to endure - no, enjoy - her touch and no other's? Now, he thought that perhaps she'd been another curse. He craved her still, yet like Cassandra he could never have her. What did I do to deserve this?

"I'm strong," his "owner" said now, drawing his attention, "so of course he desires me. I mean, look at what I did to my competitors! Eighteen against one, yet I owned that arena. But he's too weak to be claimed."

"He needs blood," another said.

"Yes, but if he's given blood, he'll be able to raise his head and bite me."

Both of the females shuddered.

Did these Amazons - who abhorred the biting of flesh and the drinking of blood and who thought to rape him to steal a child from him - not realize the child of a vampire would most likely need to bite and drink blood to survive?

Would they kill the halfling if it proved to be more vampire than Amazon? Even through the haze of weakness, rage sparked inside his chest. He would kill them first.

Perhaps they meant to feed the child as they'd fed him, he thought next. The idea mollified him somewhat.

Before his last escape attempt, they'd kept him nourished by allowing him three small cups of blood a day. Who had donated the blood, he didn't know. Didn't care. What they didn't realize was that he never took from a living source. He only took from those he'd killed. As he was too weak to hurt them, they were in no danger of being bitten. Even starved as he was.

He would be lying if he said he didn't enjoy their fear and distaste.

But all of that was moot, he knew. He would never leave a child of his behind. What was his, was his.

"Did you try manipulating his rod?"

"Of course. He's not my first slave, you know."

"Well, give him blood, then bind his mouth. That way, he'll be strong enough to bed but unable to nibble on you."

"Oh, excellent idea! Grab a goblet." The pink-haired woman - he hadn't cared to remember her name - palmed one of her daggers, sliced a groove in her wrist and held the wound over the offered goblet.

His mouth watered at the sight and smell of that crimson nectar; his fangs elongated.

She approached him and held the cup to his lips. Thankfully, her skin did not touch his. "Drink."

He obeyed, swallowing three precious mouthfuls. Instantly, warmth spread through him, followed on its heels by strength.

"It's working. His color is returning." The cup was removed from his mouth, and he found his gaze locked with that of his captor. She was pretty, if he cared for such things. He didn't. He only cared that she had pink hair rather than black, brown eyes rather than turquoise, and she did not smell like Nola. Like sea and storms and flowers.

There was a pause, then a purr of agreement. "He's beautiful, isn't he?"

"Don't forget he's mine," was the snapped reply.

"Well, his cock is still flaccid, so you won't be claiming him any time soon," the other Amazon lashed back.

As the blood continued to work through him, the lethargy that had plagued him all these many days dissolved, leaving energy in his muscles, a sizzle in his bones. Escape, he thought, a growl working its way past his throat.

Both Amazons jumped away from him with a yelp.

"Hurry! Let's bind his mouth."

"Don't touch me!" Growls intensifying, Zane jerked at the chains circling his wrists and ankles. He hissed and snapped, kicking as much as he was able as the Amazons maneuvered around him. "No touching! Do you hear me? I'll kill you."

Suddenly a golden ray of light spilled inside the tent, and he would have sworn he caught a glimpse of Nola.

"No - " He stilled, his heart slamming against his ribs.

His captor moved, reaching for his neck, blocking the vision.

"Out of my way!" he shouted, bumping his hip against hers and sending her toppling to her face. He'd imagined Nola before, there in the battle tent. This vision, he planned to enjoy as long as possible.

Sure enough, there was a shimmering outline of long black hair, a glow of turquoise eyes, as Nola tried ineffectually to tug his captor away from him. He lost his breath. So lovely. His shaft hardened quickly and painfully. Nola. His sweetest tormentor.

Sadly, the illusion didn't last more than a few seconds. He wanted to scream and hurt and maim. To kill and be killed. The desire came too late, though, his stunned immobility costing him. The Amazon was able to leap to her feet and easily hook a thick strap of material around his mouth.

"Finally." Sighing with satisfaction, she leaned away from him, crouching on her haunches and smiling smugly. "And just as I suspected, your rod is - " Her words halted and her smile faded as his cock withered before her eyes. " were...why..."

He had only imagined Nola; he knew that, but he couldn't stop his gaze from searching for another glimpse of her. To his dismay, he saw only furs, carved furniture and weapons. Even as his captor attempted to arouse him once more, stripping for him, caressing him, he did not stop searching.

Finally, exasperated with him, the Amazon dressed and stormed from the tent, leaving him alone with his insanity.