After the others had left, Mira remained standing, re-reading some of the journal. When she looked up, she found Remy watching her.
“What more can you tell me about the Jaguar Lord,” Remy asked, after indicating to Mira she should return to her seat.
“He’s refined his powers to the point that women are helpless in his presence to do anything but want to mate with him. I suspect he’ll use that to dominate his queen, turn her into his pet and through her control everything she has. This is his revenge.”
“But will it work on a vampire?” he asked. “We have no urge to procreate, let alone the ability to.”
Mira said, “Nayeli would think that way.” Saying the name of the Master of the City was a bombshell Mira deliberately dropped. “She will think he cannot affect her. But the Jaguar Lord is well aware of her nature.”
She stepped close to Remy and then laid a gentle hand upon his arm. “You are very strong, Remy. You are always in control of your feelings. But tell me honestly. Are all vampires so strong that they have so completely left their humanity behind? Have they no emotion left, not even an echo of what you were when you were human?”
“Some are true monsters,” Remy replied. “And have no links to what they once were. Most are well-honed predators, with only the darkest of emotions left, and many are not even the slightest bit interested in sex, except, perhaps, rape and the power it might give them over someone. Or as a means to feed.”
“I don’t know, so I defer to your judgment. All I can say is that I have seen two futures. In one future, the Master of the City submits to the Jaguar Lord. In another, he submits to her command. The first is what will happen if we do nothing. The second is what will happen if we don’t do enough.” She looked at him searchingly, but the search wasn’t outward; it aimed inward as she looked for answers within herself.
“I will be frank. I might be able to help Nayeli. But I have no motivation to do so. My concern is to never again be a victim of this Jaguar Lord. If he takes Nayeli, perhaps he will have what he wanted and I’m off his list.” Perhaps others like her would be as well but since she was being honest, she couldn’t say she gave a damn about others being turned into his sex slaves. “That would mean he would control her, adding his own resources to her and he would have a stranglehold on all Mythic, as well as the territory he is coming to command in the land surrounding the city. Again, what do I care? I can always retreat to Faerie.”
“What about Rey,” Remy asked. “And Annabeth and Minerva.”
“If he has Nayeli, perhaps he won’t need or want them,” Mira said.
Remy looked at Mira for a moment, his face unreadable. “For the Jaguar Lord to get Nayeli but not the rest of the vampires of Mythic,” he said. “The Master of the City can give her to him.” Mira knew of Remy’s ambitions, but he was not in a position take Nayeli down. She was too personally powerful for him to do that, not yet.
“What if a particularly clever fae sorceress found a way to block the Jaguar Lord’s mating call?” Mira asked. “Might the vampire who protected the Master of Mythic be a most celebrated and close ally of the Master?” She let ideas of how being able to maneuver close to Nayeli could advance his own plans percolate in his mind. Mira seductively traced his arm up to his shoulder and back as she paced around him.
“The sorceress would risk being taken as a slave by the Master of Mythic for what she had done,” Remy remarked. “Unless said protection could be made to look like it came from the vampire alone.”
“Yes. A difficult thing since such protection would have to be made personally. By me. She would have to either believe without doubt I was yours or she would take me. I have no illusions about my ability to fight or resist an eight hundred year old vampire. But personal power, I am learning, often pales before political power.”
“You do not want the life you will have. The only way for me to do that would be to Bind you to me,” Remy replied. “You’d lose far more than you’d ever gain. You could lose all your magic, your sorcery, even your connection to the elements. You’d lose your freedom, for the Bound cannot stray far from their master’s side.”
Her eyes widened. She came around to face him again. “And then I would be useless to anyone,” she finished. Still she considered. It occurred to Remy there must be something she wanted very, very badly to even consider such risk. “What if I could tell you the likely outcome?”
She knew what she risked. If she tapped her power once more to read the future, she would lose any memory of what she predicted. She would be forced to trust that Remy would tell her the truth after rather than merely what he wanted her to know.
“I know that vampires can take shape shifters to be their servants.” She didn’t say how she knew that exactly. “I know that they are very valuable to vampires because they are more powerful servants than mortals can be and that vampires will pay even millions to claim just one. I cannot think that these shifters lose their powers when they are claimed by a vampire. That would make them worth no more than any mortal. What if some fae are similar to shifters in that they retain their powers?”
“Like Miss Lafitte?” Remy couldn’t help but ask. He knew Mira would never offer up her friend, but could she offer up other fae who could shape shift?
“Perhaps,” Mira said. She waved away the distraction. “I believe that without my help Nayeli will succumb to the Jaguar Lord. Their rule will be tyrannical and bloody if it is anything like the way they ruled so long ago. But it is a huge risk for me to step into the middle of that. I think what you say is right; if she sees what I can do, she’ll try to take me for her own. For me, that’s hardly better than being used for the Jaguar Lord’s breeding stock. I’d be inclined to stay far, far away from any of that and tell my friends to do so as well.
“But the fact is I’m in a bad spot, one I can’t extract myself from. My Duke has made me the Sorceress of his Dark Duchy, but it is a gilded collar. He uses it as a tether to enforce his commands, something he is able to do to me because I willingly broke his law by showing you dark, hidden ways through the Fae Realm. I can’t go against his will, not alone. I need help.”
“If I do this,” Remy said, his voice more serious than she’d ever heard it before. “You will be mine, with everything that entails. My servant. And I will treat you as such, and you’ll just have to, how do they say it, suck it up. You might not find serving me any better than being under your Duke’s thumb.”
She asked, “Is that the only thing that can protect me from Nayeli’s power? And is it enough to shield me from my Duke’s power?”
“I do not know how powerful he is,” Remy freely admitted, “but it should help you resist things he tries to make you do.”
“Would you have to treat me any differently than you do now?” There were some times they had been at vampire events. In these events, she had only posed as his servant and knew what she had to do in order to maintain the guise. She wondered if what he spoke of was different than that.
“Because of the Bond, I may,” Remy said. “My instincts can compel me to act in a certain way. If you become Bound, you’ll be mine.” He watched her face, and he knew she had some idea of what he meant. She’d never seen or heard of him abusing any of those he considered “his”. “And once you’re mine, that will never change. The Bond is irreversible.”
A number of emotions passed through her, some echoed on her face. Suddenly she understood that what she wanted was a kind of sacrifice on his part, as well. A troubled look on her face appeared when she realized that being “his” mean she would have to end her relationship with Drake. Remy would expect that. It meant the risks he took affected her and the risks she took affected him. There were a million very good reasons she should not do this.
What would Rey say? Or Less? If they found out about this, would it cost her friendships? She wouldn’t risk telling them if she went through with it. She couldn’t. But the alternative was so much worse. She knew very well that as soon as the Duke stopped playing around and took serious steps to end Baron Carnifex, he would put the Golden Mesa in his sights. He’d force her to betray her friends. That, even more than the risk of being taken by Master Nayeli or the Jaguar Lord, horrified her. She would do everything in her power to never have to turn on them.
Would Remy force her to turn against Rey or Less? She thought that possibility rested at least partly on her own shoulders. She was in position to help maintain a peaceful coexistence between Remy and her friends so that it did not happen. This was not the case when it came to the Duke’s will.
Mira had had a taste of what it was like to be “his”. Remy’s. She knew he could reward as well as place demands on those that served him.
There remained a hundred unknowns in her mind. What would he have to do to her? How might it change her? Would she really lose her powers? If it did, it would all be for nothing. The future would be set and her fate tied to Remy’s. She would have lost her independence, her powers, and Drake for a fool’s cause.
She swallowed, nearly shaking with fear. Remy could hear it in the thundering beat of her heart, see it in the paleness of her face. She looked to the journal in her hands, flipping through the pages looking for an answer she knew wasn’t there.
“I know this is not the only way you can be free of the Duke,” Remy said softly. “We just haven’t found it yet.”
She closed the book and looked up into his eyes. His face was open and honest. “Maybe you are right,” she said. “But we should be prepared in whatever way is necessary. Then we can look for a better way knowing that if we fail we have one recourse.” Despite her fears, she displayed cool level-headedness.
“It takes at least three nights in a row to do,” Remy said, “and it will weaken me.” He shook his head. “The risks are very great, Mira. Not just for you. Having a servant, even if you still play the mortal, will bring me square into Nayeli’s sights. Becoming a “hero” will only make that greater.” It was something he was concerned about, as it would make his ambitions even more difficult to obtain than they already were.
She nodded. “Yes. I understand that you risk much, too. But I think the alternative makes your and your allies’ survival in the face of a combined Jaguar-Nayeli alliance even more difficult. I would rather I was wrong about that, but I keep seeing visions of all the people, enemies she had, sacrificed to her. I can’t help but think that if she had the power to remake her world into a vision of what she once had, she would do it.”
“Most certainly,” Remy replied. “It has to be prevented, but I can’t help but wonder what could be accomplished if we combined forces with your friends.” He also couldn’t help but think that, perhaps, she had no problem abandoning them to their fate if it meant she was safe from the Duke. From what she’d implied before, they faced the same dangers he did, but in a different way.
Mira nodded. “We will need them, but until I have protections of the same kind I hope to create for Nayeli, Rey and I can’t face the Jaguar Lord.” The result of going against that guy without some kind of defense had very humiliating consequences she didn’t like to think about. “But I think there are a lot of things we can do to set the stage. Once I give Nayeli a way to resist the Jaguar Lord’s seductive power, we might buy the time Rey, Less, and I need to come up with a solution to get them both off all our backs. They are both dear friends and besides, neither of them are going to take to the idea of running and hiding from the Jaguar Lord very well.”
In Remy’s opinion, Rey would be more likely to spit in the Jaguar Lord’s face, but he did not say that to Mira.
“If I have to give Master Nayeli protection from the Jaguar Lord, then she needs to be aware there is a danger, that the Jaguar Lord is near and he is not friendly to her.” Mira supposed that before anyone could get close to Nayeli, close enough to deliver protection from the Jaguar Lord, they would have to supply a very good reason for Nayeli to allow it.
Remy knew that very well. Nayeli had a level of paranoia earned through centuries of survival that made her quite controlling of her Mythic City vampires and very cautious about who she allowed to be close to her. His advantage was that by having his power base in Santa Fe, he possessed more autonomy than many of his Mythic rivals. It meant he could have access to resources Nayeli didn’t know of. Mira had encountered a were-jaguar both in Phoenix and in Mythic City itself, and so he could claim knowledge of the arrival of a dangerous, and expanding band of hostile jaguar shifters in the area. This should get Nayeli’s attention because, as far as he knew, she hasn’t had a shifter servant at all in recent memory. If she is this jaguar queen, she might be keen to recover the assets she once possessed.
That could affect the timetable in terms of when the Jaguar Lord and Nayeli meet. However, if he was able to control at least what information reached her ears about the jaguars, he might be able to predict and prepare for the coming confrontation.
The best course was for the Jaguar Lord and Master of the City to never meet. The worst course was if they should meet they join forces, resulting in an overwhelmingly powerful control of the supernatural in this city. This is what Mira’s visions indicated was the far more likely course of the future -- unless her allies, which possibly included himself, intervened.
Complicating the matter was the fact that if the Jaguar Lord prevailed, it seemed likely he would be a threat to the fae. Specifically fae women he wanted to use to breed more powerful were-jaguars. To avoid that eventuality, which Mira claimed to be very likely given this “alpha power” he’s developed, she wanted to give Nayeli some kind of defense against it. In turn, she would need protection from Nayeli who, as he had pointed out, would likely seize Mira for herself otherwise. Mira was a useful advantage.
Only his protection could prevent that. Once he’d explained what it meant, it was obvious the idea terrified her. She recognized the seriousness of it. Yet she was even more concerned about this Duke of hers forcing her to turn against her friends. So much so, she was willing to risk everything for his protection, knowing that will make her his. That protection gave her short-term protection from Master Nayeli, and something of a shield against her Duke in the long term. He could see why it was difficult but necessary thing for her to go through.
Also not easy for himself. In all his long years, he’d never chosen to bond with anyone. He never wanted any mortal that close to him or his thoughts. It counted more as a liability than an advantage.
On the other hand, Mira was different. She had powers and skills that were useful to him. She was an immortal being in her own right. That meant she had her own powers and wouldn’t be reliant on him teaching her the limited powers mortal servants of vampires might need just to survive. He also disliked the idea of someone else stealing her away from him or worse, using her against him. The Bond would prevent that, permanently.
All these thoughts were rapidly processed and filed away. If she wanted to start down this path, then he had much to gain by taking her and binding her to him, but it would be inappropriate to let her think he intended this to be an equal partnership. The thought that she would belong to him alone pleased him and the more he thought about it, the more he desired it.
“To give you the protection you want, you must be bonded to me by blood,” he stated softly. “It will not happen all at once, but you must come to me each night until it is done.” Then, you will be mine and nothing will be able to change that, he thought to himself.
“Remove the robe.”
She took off the silk robe and laid it across the back of a dining room chair.
He put his hands on her shoulders, eyes roving over her nude form. “Now, kneel,” he said softly.
She sank to her knees.
He extended fangs and tore open a vein in his own wrist. Blood welled. He pressed the wound to her lips and held her head there when she reflexively tried to draw away. When the taste of his power touched her tongue, however, she struggled no more, as he knew would happen.
When he pressed his bleeding wrist to her mouth, Mira had expected cold, dead blood. Her stomach had turned in anticipation of the foul taste, but it flooded her mouth and she swallowed. Power flooded her senses and filled her vision. Her body tingled with shock and excitement the taste of his blood elicited. She clung to his arm drinking him in.
Too soon, he pushed her away. She fell back and gazed up at him with a mixture of excitement, a little fear at what they’d done, and hunger for more. A drip of his ruby blood that was running down the length of his hand to the tip of his finger drew her attention.
Some of his blood had dribbled down her chin, following the smooth curve of her neck to trace its way around her left breast. The sight of it on her aroused something both sexual and monstrous in him. He’d prevented this very thing for so long for fear of what it might lead to that now that the course had been set he felt only a heady rush. It was a taste of the power he might have over her very soon.
He took her elbow and helped her to her feet. “Clean yourself up,” he told her in that same, quiet voice that hid his excitement, his victory. “You have work to do,” he told her.
Mira leaned against him for a moment, her head resting on his chest. Then she stepped away and gave him a deferential bow of her head before retreating in the direction of her quarters.
After cleaning the blood away, she found a lovely blue dress in the closet and put it on, then found shoes and stockings to go with. For the first time she felt hope that might might escape the grim cycle that kept her tied down to a tangle of Unseelie Court politics and threats. Her body buzzed with the power that single taste of Remy’s blood had given her. She brushed out her hair, even applied just a little makeup to enhance her eyes.
She looked at herself in the mirror before she left. She thought she looked strong, in control, powerful. A faint smile appeared when she thought of the taste Remy had given her, but she put the thought aside. He was right; she did have a lot of work to do and short time in which to accomplish it.