Jeremy Colbourne stared at the mahogany door, puzzled. The door had abruptly appeared in his study wall as he’d read the contents of the note that now lay forgotten on the floor at his feet. He looked at Makoto, who grunted, clearly unhappy with the situation. The samurai gripped the hilt of his katana so tightly the knuckles showed white and the sheath trembled in the waist of his hakata. “Be calm, Makoto.”
Jeremy opened the door, surprised to see an odd, oblong room, one that had never existed in Colbourne Manor. He glanced upward, and saw that the rounded walls curved inward, creating a domed ceiling with an unusual skylight. Enormous cushions and pillows were scattered against the walls, creating an ambience of oriental decadence.
The center of the room was dominated by a striking young man – bronzed skin, golden hair, deep sapphire eyes – and a shockingly brilliant smile. He gestured impatiently for them to approach, grinning as though he was meeting long lost friends.
The expletive shocked Jeremy. He turned to look at Makoto, fascinated by the heated flush crossing the man’s face. “You know this man?”
The crimson stain deepened. “Hai, danshaku-sama.”
“It’s been a long time since I visited Japan,” said the golden-haired man. That cheeky grin had become a definite smirk. “I did have a wonderful time, though.” He dropped a wink at Jeremy before striding across to snare Makoto in a tight hug. “Hello, Makoto. You’re still as sexy as ever.”
“Baka seirei!” Makoto struggled out of the man’s enthusiastic embrace. “Don’t be an idiot, Luka-san.”
Stupid genie? Did they truly exist? He’d thought them tales Makoto had thought up to entice a young boy into sitting still. “Genie?” Jeremy couldn’t keep the question from escaping.
“Have him tell you about it sometime,” Luka said with a smirk. “For now, though, it’s time to make introductions and start our little game of Truth or Dare.”
“Then get on with it, Luke. Charlie and I have better things to do than hang around with you.” The slender, dark-haired man across the room shoved his black hair away from his face. “And I’m hungry.”
“Calm down, Luis, and don’t be rude. We might know what’s going on, but I’m betting they don’t.” The tall, dark man beside Luis smiled. “If you’re hungry, this game should feed you nicely.” Lascivious humor colored those words. “Let’s get started.”
Feed? Clearly the dark-haired man was more than he seemed. Jeremy decided he would need to keep an eye on this man, at least until he had figured out the rules of this odd game.
Luka – Luke – snapped his fingers, and the light in the room obediently dimmed to sensual shadows. “Okay, everyone. Rules.” He ticked each one off on his long fingers. “One. You have to pick either Truth or Dare when I ask you. Two. Whichever you choose, you have to answer truthfully, or perform the dare. No exceptions. I’ve enchanted the walls of my lamp to turn orange if you lie. If you lie or don’t perform the dare, I get to choose the punishment.” He grinned lewdly.
Jeremy predicted incipient sexual mayhem in that grin. He suppressed his own smile. It might be worth it to lie, just to see what this…this genie could come up with as punishment.
“Three. I’m asking all the questions, and posing all the dares. Everyone understand the rules?”
Jeremy nodded, as did Makoto and the other two. This would definitely prove interesting. The man beside Luis had begun smiling in a dangerous, seductive way, and Jeremy could already see where this was heading.
“So, how about everyone go in alphabetical order, hmm? By first name, which mean’s you’ll go last, Takeshi.”
Jeremy’s jaw dropped at Luke’s use of his Japanese name. How in the bloody hell had the damn genie known that?
Luke ignored Jeremy’s stare and turned to the tall man beside Luis. “All right, Charlie. Truth or Dare?”
Charlie paused for a long moment. Then, with a diffident shrug, “Truth.”
“What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?” Luke’s sly smile broadened just a bit. “Remember, tell the truth.”
“Damn. You would ask that.” Charlie sighed, casting a sideways glance at the walls, a hint of red flushing his cheeks. “The first time Luis walked into my Dialects course, I got a boner in front of the whole class.”
Charlie looked at Luke and glared. “Tell Mark I’ll pay him back for that one.”
Jeremy tried to keep his face neutral as Luis sniggered.
Luke cut off the man’s laughter with a chuckle of his own. “You’re next, Luis. Truth or Dare?”
“Dare, of course. What else would I choose?”
“Then I dare you to feed from Takeshi.” Luke clearly enjoyed the power of his authority in the situation. “A nice, long feed.”
Luis looked at Jeremy, his eyes bright with a lusty hunger. “That’s an easy one. Here I thought you’d give me a real challenge.” He licked his lips and smiled at Jeremy. “You look particularly tasty.”
Before Jeremy could respond the man’s mind had touched his own, questing for…what? Jeremy caught Luis’s eagerness and realized the man must be some sort of psychic vampire, feeding on thoughts and emotions.
He struggled to keep his mind on innocuous things, but the rich, exquisite memory of his lover Morgan seducing him in the bath invaded his thoughts. The vivid images of Morgan’s fierce lovemaking, the sensation of Morgan’s teeth… Jeremy’s spine tingled at the recollection. He did his best to ignore the stirrings of his erection.
“Mmmm, that’s quite a feast.” Luis licked his lips in sensual appreciation. “He’s quite daring, Takeshi.”
Jeremy snapped out of the emotionally-charged enjoyment of the remembrance. The use of his Japanese name was a gift he’d given to Morgan, and was not meant to be shared with an upstart vampire. He broke the connection with Luis’s mind, driving the other out with some force.
Luis stared at him in shocked surprise, mouth slightly agape at the abrupt severing of the mental link.
Beside him, Charlie covered his mouth in silent laughter. “You’re no match for this guy. You may be a psychic vampire, but he’s a real one. Teeth and all.”
Jeremy stared at the dark man, letting his sense of smell and his mind reach out to Charlie. Exotic, sensual, commanding, wolfish, and…blind?
“You’ve got a nose as good as a werewolf, baron,” said the calm voice in Jeremy’s public mind. “Forgive my lover. He’s never had to develop the skills to recognize a true Alpha, and he tends to let his stomach rule his good sense.” Another pause, followed by a strong mental chuckle. “A living vampire. I’d taught about your race in my Magical Creatures courses, but Searchlight has always believed your kind went extinct in the Middle Ages.”
Jeremy laughed aloud at that comment. “Not quite, Master Wolf. Not quite. We still exist, even in your time, which has not yet come for us.”
“All right, you two. Pay attention.”
The interruption brought Jeremy’s attention back to the game, and away from the fascinating riddle of just who Charlie was. Alphabetical order should mean Makoto was next in the game.
“Makoto—” the genie almost purred the words— “Truth or Dare?”
Jeremy knew Makoto’s answer before the samurai spoke.
Of course. Makoto would never take anything as unreasonable as a dare. Besides, the man never lied, no matter the circumstances.
“What was your most memorable sexual experience, and who was it with?”
Luke’s face positively glowed with some inner amusement, as though he already knew the answer. Across the room, Charlie and Luis moved a step or two closer in their curiosity.
Makoto looked at Jeremy for a moment. Then he lifted his eyes to stare directly at the genie. “Your skill at seduction is estimable, Luka-san. I quite enjoyed sharing a bed with you.” Makoto’s normal stoic expression broke into a delighted grin, one that had always made Jeremy think the man among the most handsome of his mother’s warriors. “But nothing can ever compare to the pleasure and privilege of guiding my master in his first adult feeding.”
New memories surged to the front of Jeremy’s mind, and he heard the amazed gasp of Luis as the vampire picked up the edges of those images. Jeremy remembered it fondly – Makoto’s hand guiding him, the first taste of hot blood flowing past beneath his lips while his host shuddered beneath Makoto’s skilled caresses.
“Can you stop that, please?” Charlie sounded peeved. “Luis is getting overwhelmed.”
Jeremy complied with a smirk, dampening the emotion-laden memory.
“Ok, Takeshi, it’s your turn. Truth or Dare?” Luke’s voice left no doubt that he’d been equally affected by Makoto’s memory, although how the genie had picked up the emotional nuances, Jeremy couldn’t say.
“Truth.” Not that he intended to tell the truth. He had a keen interest in learning what Luke might do for punishment.
“Other than your lovers, which sex partner have you had the most fun with?”
Jeremy wondered just how much Luke knew about the Chi no Kami. Enough, apparently. He guessed that Luke had stayed with a Yamakawa branch family during his time in Japan.
No matter. It was time to add some spice to the game. “The mother of my oldest son,” he lied. Yuriko had been enjoyable, yes, but he’d always had the most fun with Thorven until the man’s madness. But he wasn’t going to discuss that.
The walls of the lamp turned a lurid, burnt-umber, the orangey brown glow casting dreadful shadows over the faces of everyone present.
“You lied!” Pleased astonishment filled Luke’s voice. “Testing me? Or just curious?”
“Does it matter?” Jeremy tried not to smile at the genie’s excitement. Did he really seem like the always truthful type?
“So what’s his punishment?” Luis sounded almost as gleeful as Luke. Avid anticipation showed in his face.
The sly smile on Luke’s face warned Jeremy.
“Feed from me.”
“Wait, Luke, are you sure Mark would be all right with this?” Charlie’s concern was evident. “I thought you two didn’t – “
Luke cut him off before he could finish that sentence, but Jeremy understood it well enough. It didn’t matter even if Luke and his partner did share. Jeremy no longer did. This was going to be torture.
On the other hand, he’d never tasted genie before. He bared his fangs. “Shall we start?”
* * *
Characters from Hunter’s Claim and the Dragon in Training series by Emily Carrington used by permission. To read more about Charlie, Luis, Luke, Jeremy, and Makoto, you can buy the books at:
Luke: Dragon in Training by Emily Carrington
Luis and Charlie: Hunter’s Claim by Emily Carrington
Jeremy and Makoto: Blood Sworn: Salva Me by Autumn Montague
Autumn’s newest book Siren’s Daughter is also now available from Loose Id, Amazon, ARe, and wherever fine e-books are sold.