[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]
As far as trades with a vampire went, ‘giving him your blood’ was not exactly unexpected. And Tam had Jared as a living example that someone could give Rainier their blood and be relatively all right the next day. Tired, maybe, but that was a fairly reasonable trade-off too.
Tam came around and slid onto the couch, giving Rainier a smile. It seemed to surprise him; for a moment, those cold blue eyes just went round—and then he was beaming back, wide, showing sharp teeth.
“I think it sounds entirely fair,” Tam said honestly. “I wouldn’t ask you to help me if I didn’t help you too.”
“See, that’s good,” Rainier said cheerily. “You understand, right? It’s a lot easier when we’re both on the same page with these things.” He’d put the controller down and scrambled closer, hands planted on the couch, gazing up into Tam’s face. “So? You want to negotiate, then?”
“Just a little,” Tam said. “I’m going to try to rescue my brother tomorrow, so however much I give tonight, can you try to stop at the point when it won’t leave me totally exhausted tomorrow? I don’t mind coming back an extra night in return.”
Rainier considered, then shrugged, shuffling his hands forward until they were on Tam’s thighs instead. “Sounds fair to me,” he said. He smelled nice somehow; his cologne was more reminiscent of apple pie than old spices. “So what do you need?”
Tam blushed a little, glancing aside to watch Link idle on screen. “You should go to menu,” he blurted out. “One of those midboss skeleton giants pops out around that area when it’s night.”
Surprised, Rainier leaned back on his heels. Then he grabbed the controller, hit the menu button, and slammed his hands back down on Tam’s thighs, apparently excited. “You play too! New price, when you visit to give me blood, help me find shrines!”
He didn’t mean to burst into laughter, but he couldn’t contain it either. “That’s not a price, that’s an incentive!”
That reaction seemed to confuse Rainier as well; he tilted his head left and right, more like a confused dog than Sahil had ever been. “Well, good. Convenient! Good. We’ll have fun, then, you and I.”
“I hope so,” Tam said. He didn’t even have to try to let warmth seep into his voice. There was something cute about this strange small vampire lord, and maybe it was just the charisma that Jared had warned him about, but it wasn’t exactly effort to drape his arms around Rainier’s hips as Rainier climbed into his lap.
Rainier smirked at him.
Tam brought things back to business. “So. I’m not going to need you guys to go against her directly—I’m almost certainly going to go after her during the day, ’cause I don’t really want to face a Malificar at night. You said one night of feeding for information, right? Or two, I guess, since you won’t take much tonight. What can you tell me about the witch Bella Istem?”
Rainier rolled his eyes. “Ugh, Bella,” he said. “We’ve met. I fought her once, it wasn’t fun and she got away, but I got my thrall back. She’d gone after him because he had witch blood, and I guess she made some bogus agreement, but I had a more solid legal hold on him since he was my thrall and she gave up contesting it when I went after her.”
“You fought for him back?”
“Witch blood is tastier,” Rainier said with a shrug. “Even just in potentia.”
That was somewhat interesting information; Tam filed it away. “Anything useful about how she fights?”
“Living is understandably important to her. Getting by without making too much trouble for herself,” Rainier said, tone thoughtful. “I mean, I get it, you get to a certain age and power and it’s like, you’ve got your passions and everything else is hard work. I’d like to see her run out of town for good, if that’s in your plans.”
Tam held his breath unintentionally, waiting to see if Rainier would ask him about those plans—if he’d bring that force of charisma to bear, and if the geas would hold.
But Rainier, it seemed, didn’t care. Maybe because he wasn’t being asked to risk any of his people, it didn’t even seem to occur to him to learn more.
“To that end,” Rainier added, “I guess the key thing to keep in mind is that she’s a sadist and she knows what she wants, but if you, in particular, are too much work, she’ll drop you and your brother. Cut her losses and just go after easier prey for a while.”
“I’d like her not to go after any prey at all.”
“Mmm, baby boy, that’s a cute idea, it’s sweet,” Rainier said, and put a palm on Tam’s cheek, patting. “But that’s not how things work down here. You know that, right? Or you wouldn’t be in my house at all, right?”
“Right.” He had to admit it, though it still didn’t feel great. Well, maybe he could find a way to get her blacklisted after. If nobody took her deals, she’d be out of luck anyway.
“What else?” Rainier pushed. “Just the info?”
“I don’t know,” Tam admitted. “Depending on if I steal my brother away and she wants to go after us, I might need to lie low somewhere safe, somewhere that civilians won’t get hurt. Your place sounds good to me, if you can promise us safe hiding here.”
Rainier considered, then shrugged. “It’s gonna be the same price whether or not you use it,” he said easily. “Either way I’ll be opening up my place to you. So like I said, twice a week for a few months—say, the number of months equal to the number of days or nights you decide to stay. Like, three months if you stay three days. Sound fair?”
“Sounds very fair,” Tam agreed. “Let’s plan on three days, and I might have to extend it if we actually make use of it. And… that’s it, but I need to give you a warning. She was supposed to have put protection on my family and I to avoid attack. I have some evidence that she removed it at some point, but I don’t know for sure. There’s the possibility that, when you bite me, it might bite back.”
“Oh, baby, no no no,” Rainier said, laughing lightly. “It’s definitely gone. You smell like you’ve just been peeled. Someone under protection has their own blood scent we can pick up. Someone who was never under it smells different from someone who previously was. You smell real fresh, like you’ve been sous-vide and the chef just popped you open to cook. It’s the good stuff.”
Tam blinked. “Are you sure?”
“Sure enough to bite you,” Rainier said cheerily. “Guess you’ll find out in a moment.”
“Guess I will.” Tam swallowed, his heart rate picking up a little as he thought about what he was about to do, but he tilted his head back and to the side regardless.
Rainier licked a warm swipe up Tam’s neck, making a little noise of pleasure at the taste of his skin. “You got witch blood too, huh?” he mused aloud, and then bit.
True to his word, it didn’t exactly hurt. There was a sting, a bit like the jab of a needle at the doctor’s, and then a rush of warmth and pleasure as Rainier began to suckle at his throat. It felt like getting a hickey, warm and wet and a little painful and actually pretty good, and there was another thrill underneath it—the thrill of feeling his life being drawn out, the sound of Rainier swallowing it down, the press of his body against Tam’s where he was sitting in his lap.
It wasn’t quite sexual—not yet, anyway, but it was definitely already feeling like foreplay. Tam could very much feel how it could quickly get there, the erotic pull of lips on his body and skin, the pressure and closeness…
He was just about to start squirming under Rainier’s thighs when Rainier lapped at the wound, pressed against it hard with his tongue, and then pulled back, smirking, his lips stained red.
“Oh, you liked that,” he said, smugly. “Good. It tastes so much better when someone does! Discomfort has its own flavor, you know?”
“Does it?” Tam asked breathlessly, a little dizzy.
“It does.” Rainier slid back, putting a little space between them. “As a man of my word, I stopped after a few gulps, so you’ll be fine tomorrow. Just have some juice and a cookie before you sleep tonight, all right?”
“I’ll, uh, keep that in mind,” Tam said.
Rainier grinned again. He seemed pleased as pie, the metaphorical cat with the canary. “Is tonight one of the nights you needed to add to the protection list? I’d let you, though with the cost as planned. We can play games, if you do!”
Tam let out a slow breath, forcing himself to focus more. As tempting as the offer might be under other situations—it wasn’t as though the cost itself was particularly bad—he wasn’t sure if it would be the best place for him to stay tonight.
But where was the best place? He could go back to Lithway again—they were sure to be full of energy after a show, and probably in the mood to celebrate. Sahil had given him a key and offered him the bed; plus, that would mean he could get all the weredog news first thing in the morning. Antoine had kept the offer to crash at his home open, and he could even go home and sleep in his own bed, if he felt ready to confront his parents.
Wherever he went, he’d need to be able to think about solidifying his final plans, though. As soon as he heard his brother’s location tomorrow, he’d need to start pulling pieces into place, because tomorrow was the final day before Istem could pull Ash through the gate. He’d text the lawyer tonight, he reminded himself, confirm that what he’d learned about the protection being withdrawn was a loophole, and then… just have to act as soon as he heard back.
But other than those last couple of confirmations, which were out of his hands anyway? It seemed as though he had all the information he was going to get.
[Please suggest an action in the Comments.]
[Completed Parts: Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 29 | Day 30 | Epilogue | Author’s Notes]