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Personal StuffThe Family Christmas Ornaments
The Prince and his Enforcer
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Stifling a yawn, Prince Daniel Markus lounged lazily on his throne, gaze drifting around the room as others engaged in their own games of feeding and play. Not even the mortals within the palace gave him what he desperately wanted: a challenge. He needed something more, something dangerous and different.
"Not tonight, Lucas," Daniel sighed. "Maybe later."
The young man nuzzled Daniel’s thigh. "Yes, Excellency." With a soft kiss to Daniel’s leg, the mortal left the dais, sliding effortlessly into the orgy playing out in the rest of the throne room.
Standing to the left of the throne, Phoenix did his best to keep his attention on his job. Being new to the court, he had yet to get used to its atmosphere, and the scent of blood made him slightly on the twitchy side. Keeping a carefully neutral expression plastered on his features, he avoided staring at any one place for too long a time.
Daniel had almost drifted into another world entirely when movement at the door of the throne room snapped him back to Earth. "Yes?"
His secretary, Laura Pritchard, seemed to glide across the floor and came to a stop just before the dais. She bowed low, then said, "Your Excellency, Lee Barrows is here to see you."
"Show her in," Daniel said, sitting up in his throne.
Laura returned to the door and opened it. When Lee stepped into the room, Laura left, closing the door behind her.
Seeming used to the goings on in the court, Lee slowly approached the dais. "Your Excellency, I have the report you asked for on the mayoral election coming up."
"Ah, yes." Daniel gestured to her to move closer. He barely heard the click before the stake was launched.
Phoenix had already stepped forward and down the dais, not trusting in having the mortal that close to his Prince. It left him as the only one in position to react quickly enough to the tiny sound. Without thought, his motions a blur, Phoenix was in front of Daniel between the Prince and the gun. Instead of Daniel, Phoenix’s body caught the stake.
Frozen for a split second, Phoenix then collapsed to the floor as chaos broke out around the throne room. Several other enforcers rushed from their positions to bring down the woman.
"Get her out of here!" Daniel’s voice roared over the chaos and the other enforcers dragged the screaming woman out of the throne room. Only then did Daniel look down. "Damn. Get Vivienne in here!"
Dropping to his knees, Daniel grabbed the end of the stake. "Easy," he said to Phoenix. "Help is on the way." Closing his eyes to steady himself and send his youngest enforcer a bit of calm, Daniel pulled the stake out slowly.
Phoenix lay motionless at the foot of the dais. Though aware of everything around him through the haze of pain, he couldn’t move at all.
When Daniel removed the stake, movement returned to Phoenix, and his face tightened with the pain of having a hole in his chest. The bloodstain steadily increased, soaking the front of Phoenix’s shirt. Even making an concerted effort to heal the wound, his ability couldn’t counteract the poison tainting his blood from the stake.
"Can’t heal it." Phoenix gasped the words out as Vivenne came rushing in the room. His wide, frightened eyes stared up at Daniel as his hand tried to cover the wound.
One look at Phoenix and Vivienne whispered, "poison."
Daniel nodded and stood, stake still in hand. "Jim, seal the palace. No one goes in or out. I want Phoenix taken to my chambers."
"Yes, Excellency." With a nod, Jim started barking out orders and the throne room quickly cleared. A few minutes later, he picked up Phoenix and followed Vivienne and Daniel to the prince’s bedroom.
Phoenix didn’t make a sound when he was picked up. Blood still pouring from the wound, saturated his shirt though it was obviously he was making a controlled effort to control the flow of blood.
As they moved up the stairs, Vivienne and Daniel followed behind them. The safest place in the palace would be the Prince’s private quarters. All around them, others scurried to secure the palace and its grounds.
Inside the bedroom, Jim laid Phoenix on the bed, and Vivienne removed the enforcer’s shirt as carefully as she could with Jim’s help.
"Some kind of poison is stopping him from being able to heal this. It has to be magical in nature."
Pressing her hand against the wound, expert fingers began manipulating the flesh around the wound to seal it shut.
Daniel chewed on his thumb as he paced back and forth at the foot of his bed. He stayed well out of Viv’s way, knowing her temper when anyone got too close. "Why?" The question hung in the air and Daniel met Jim’s equally concerned gaze. "Why attempt an assassination, in the middle of court?"
"Lee is being questioned right now, Your Excellency." Stepping back, Jim moved towards him. "Obviously she didn’t expect to get out of it alive."
Casting an impatient look at Daniel, Vivienne said, "I need you over here, Daniel. He’s lost too many blood already. You’re going to have to feed him."
The whole time Phoenix had said nothing through the pain throbbing through his body. When he heard Vivienne, his eyes widened as they flew to the Prince. Of course, he’d already tasted the Prince’s blood. He had been given a glass of wine laced with Daniel’s blood when he first came to the palace to insure his loyalty. But this was far different, and it just wasn’t done.
Daniel looked from Jim to Viv and then to Phoenix. "This goes no farther than this room," he said quietly. Moving toward the bed, Daniel unbuttoned his shirt and let it slip off his shoulders. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked into Phoenix’s eyes. "Tell no one," he whispered. Then he leaned over Phoenix, slipping a hand under his enforcer’s neck to draw him to the cut that opened on his throat.
Even as weak as he was, Phoenix did try to resist. Feebly, he lifted his hand to try to push Daniel away, but his effort lacked any strength. When his lips pressed to the wound, they fastened greedily on it.
Ever practical, Vivienne arched her brow as she looked at Daniel. "Protocol can go to hell, Daniel. He’s lost too much blood. Your blood stands a better chance of nourishing him and slowing the poison until I can make the anecdote."
Fingers tightening instinctively to the back of Phoenix’s neck, Daniel barely stifled the moan that crept up. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself, praying the brief flicker of pain would drown out the effects of someone feeding from him. The only time anyone did, it had been one of his ghouls and sex generally followed. This…was not one of those moments.
As Phoenix fed, his hand curled against the bare skin of the Prince’s chest. He badly needed the blood and couldn’t fight the hunger or need for the flavor of it. A soft growl rose in his throat, slowly strengthening in tone as he drank.
Paying no attention to them, Vivienne finished sealing the wound on Phoenix’s chest as best she could. "This isn’t going to hold very long. Damn."
Straightening, she motioned to Jim to follow her. "You’re going to have to help me in the work room, Jim. I don’t think we really have a lot of time."
A deeper growl answered Phoenix, Daniel’s eyes closing as he swallowed back the urge to do anything more. The hand on his chest wasn’t helping. Every pull on his throat sent messages to parts of him that did not need to listen.
Without a backward glance, both of them left the room, shutting the door behind them. Already several enforcers stood guard right outside the door.
The sheer power of the blood was something Phoenix wasn’t used to at all, and the bridge between 2nd and 3rd formulas was a wide one. His free hand slid up to circle the back of Daniel’s neck, not yet willing to give up his taste. The pain of his injury had already faded, and the hunger had begun to dim with the strength of Daniel’s blood replenishing his own.
"Phoenix…" Half-growling, half-groaning his enforcer’s name, Daniel shivered. Dear God.
Hearing his name, the greedy pull on Daniel’s throat finally slowed. Unfortunately, he had needed the blood. He’d be near to total unconsciousness from the massive blood loss. Softly, his tongue licked at the wound, yet he lacked the ability to heal. The poison in his own blood blocked Phoenix’s natural healing power.
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