“Shit,” Sebastian hissed, one finger fidgeting with the collar of his shirt, “this is taking a lot longer than I thought it would.”
“Shoosh,” I chided gently, helping him straighten his bowtie. “We already knew this was going to be a working dinner.”
He sighed. “I know…”
“And as such,” I continued, giving the tie one last tug, “you do what you have to do tonight, okay?”
Bringing his hands to cover mine, he pressed them to his chest. “It’s hardly fair to you, though. Especially considering how much you were looking forward to this.”
I smiled softly. Though tonight’s fundraiser was another Marvel affair, it was one of those rare times when I hadn’t been asked to attend in a working capacity. That meant Sebastian could take me strictly as his date for the evening, an opportunity he always pounced on whenever it presented itself. But it also meant that he had a specific agenda to follow along with his cast mates, and despite how much I wanted to have him to myself, he still had a job to do first.
But hey, if it meant raising more money to send underprivileged girls to see the forthcoming Captain Marvel movie, how could I not be supportive of the cause?
“I love you,” I said, lifting up to press a quick kiss to his lips, “but get your interviews out of the way first, and then you’re all mine afterwards.”
He gave that smirking smile I’d become so familiar with. “I am so yours. And I’d much rather be finding ways to work you out of that dress, rubinie.”
I grinned, biting down on my lip. The sleek black gown I’d chosen for the night had a high neck and no sleeves, and throughout the evening, Sebastian had taken the opportunity to randomly drop kisses to my bare skin whenever he thought no one was watching. Along with the high slit up my thigh, it was one of the sexier outfits I’d ever worn out in public, a fact I knew was driving him crazy at my side. “Four times earlier wasn’t enough?”
He smiled suggestively, his hands sliding down to my waist. “Hardly.”
I gave a laugh, kissing him again. “There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Now go. I’ll meet you upstairs after you guys are done.”
“Sure you’ll be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. Besides,” I arched a brow, “upstairs is where the food is, so I’m gonna go make a beeline for it.”
He laughed as he shook his head, well aware of my propensity for seeking out the best table spreads at these events. “I’ll see you up there soon. Promise.” And with that, he finally headed back over to where several of his Avengers cast mates were gathered.
With a smile, I turned and headed towards the elevators at last, navigating my way through the crowd with ease. Along the way, I was stopped by Chris Evans, who gave me a peck on the cheek and chatted with me briefly. At one point, he flashed me a smile—one that revealed his pearly white fangs—and then gave me a quick hug before heading over to Sebastian and the others.
Sweet man, I thought as I turned, pulling my phone from my clutch purse to check what time—
“Heading up alone, are you, darling?”
I automatically smiled, looking up as Tom practically parted the crowd with his approach. Lordy, but did he look dreamy in that tux…
“Always know where to find me,” I commented as he came to stand before me.
He raised an eyebrow, offering his hand to me. “You’re quite difficult to miss.” I placed my hand in his, which he brought to his lips. “You look absolutely stunning,” he said, pressing a kiss to my skin.
I smiled as I ducked my eyes from his, feeling a flush hit my face. “Thank you,” I said as he lowered my hand. “And to answer your question,” I lifted my gaze once more, “yeah, heading up to raid the hors d'oeuvres while Seb finishes up down here. I’m pretty close to starving, so I want to ward off the threat of ‘hanger’ now.”
“Would you care for company until he returns, then?”
“Don’t you have to do interviews, too?”
“Chris and I fulfilled our duties a bit earlier tonight, so I’m not needed at the present.”
“Ah.” Then my brow furrowed slightly as I looked at him—really looked. Those blue eyes were not as bright as usual; and the dark circles beneath them were rather prominent… “Are you okay, Tom? You seem a little pale.”
He smiled softly. “Just a bit famished myself, actually. That’s part of why I was heading upstairs. Olivia is my escort for the evening, and I asked her to meet me in the Grand Foyer. I’ll be requiring her services fairly soon.”
I drew in a discreet breath, understanding immediately. “Servicing” was a code vampires often used to convey the need to feed, and based on his current appearance, that made a great deal of sense. Already, I could feel a small sense of protection flair within me.
“Well, then,” I said, accepting the arm he offered to me, “I would love your company in the meantime. You ready to watch me eat a shit-ton of crackers and cheese?”
He chuckled warmly. “I’d be delighted to.”
And with that, we headed over to the elevators at last, enjoying pleasant conversation along the way. As the doors whooshed open, an immaculately dressed couple stepped out, giving Tom and me a private car all to ourselves.
“What floor is it again?” I asked as the doors closed.
The circular button lit when I pressed it, and I felt the usual sensation of the car rising. At the same time, Tom closed his eyes, bringing a hand to his temple.
I frowned. “Headache?”
“A bit,” he gave his head a shake, “but I’m alright, darling,” he smiled at me reassuringly.
I smiled back, facing the front of the car. After a moment, I commented, “Hell of a turnout tonight.”
“Yes; Brie is so damn proud, as she should be.”
“Oh yeah. Hell, I can’t wait to see the movie. I didn’t get a chance to go to the premiere out in—”
I gasped when the car suddenly jerked to a stop, and Tom reflexively pulled me close to keep me from stumbling. The lights momentarily went out, and after a few moments, the dimmer emergency lights flicked on.
“Dammit,” Tom breathed. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” I answered, slightly aware that my palm was pressed against his chest. “That was really abrupt. Are we stuck?”
“Looks that way,” he reached over to press one button, then another. Another. Nothing happened. “Bloody hell.”
“Lovely,” I muttered, looking around the car. “There an emergency phone in here?”
“Should be one down below, I think—ah, yes,” he stepped away from me to press the emergency call button.
It took a few tries, but I breathed a sigh of relief when a maintenance man finally answered on the other end. While Tom explained our predicament, I pulled out my phone and texted Sebastian, informing him of our current situation in case he got worried. I could only hope that he was frequently checking his phone tonight.
“—and please hurry.” The urgency in Tom’s voice had me lifting my head from my screen. “Time is critical at the moment.”
“Understood, sir,” the maintenance worker replied. “We’ll do everything we can to get you out of there soon.”
“Thank you,” he said, easing back from the call box and bringing a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.
“Tom?” He said nothing. I blinked, my concern growing as I came over and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I need to get to Olivia,” his said, his voice uncharacteristically shaky.
“Tom,” I pressed. “You’re not okay.”
“No,” he exhaled, turning as I encouraged him to look at me.
My jaw nearly dropped. Even in the dim light, his complexion seemed to have worsened, and now his face was covered in a light sheen of sweat. Jesus…I could feel my heart sinking. “When was the last time you fed?” I asked pointedly.
“Earlier this week, but I—” He trailed off as his features contorted into a grimace of pain, and I gasped when he started to slump against me. I managed to catch him, though, keeping myself pressed against him as I eased him slowly down to the floor.
“Oh God…Tom?” I asked, pulling him back against my chest as I tried to get him to respond. “Tom?”
“Need Olivia,” he wheezed, grimacing again as groan of discomfort tore from his throat. “Emily…”
“Shit!” Pulling out my phone, I immediately dialed Sebastian, my eyes never leaving Tom’s face as the ring tone sounded in my ear.
Hold on, Tom. Hold on…
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. “Emily?”
Thank God. “You’ve gotta help us,” I said, and despite the way my voice waivered, I managed to keep my tone even. Panicking would do nothing to help my friend. “It’s Tom. Something’s wrong with him—I mean, really physically wrong, and I don’t know what to do. I think it has to do with feeding.”
“Okay, stay calm,” he said, but even I could detect the edge of concern in his voice. “Tell me what’s going on.”
I nodded, even though I knew he wouldn’t see. I then proceeded to tell him everything I could about his symptoms, from his complexion, his unsteadiness, to the obvious pain marking his face as he practically collapsed in my arms. “I don’t understand; I’ve never seen him like this before.”
“You said he was suddenly covered in sweat.”
“Yeah.” I carefully cradled Tom’s head in my lap, who peeled his eyelids open as he strained to look up at me. Something about that affected me deeply.
“Is it a cold sweat, or warm?”
That made me pause. “Ah…” I brought a hand to Tom’s forehead. “Cold.”
I heard him curse softly in Romanian. “He’s never told you, has he?”
“Told me what?”
“Have you ever heard of sanguine mellitus?”
My brow furrowed. “No.”
“It’s a condition Tom has suffered from ever since his transition. It’s basically like a vampiric form of diabetes. It’s rare, but for those who have it, it can be incredibly painful.”
“Oh God,” I could feel my stomach drop. It certainly wasn’t an affliction I had any knowledge about, as most health issues pertaining to vampires tended to be few and far between. As such, they tended to be pretty tight-lipped about their ailments unless they were amongst others of their own kind. “So instead of drop in glucose levels, this is dealing with—”
“Severely insufficient blood nourishment from previous feedings. Can you put me on speaker? So I can talk to him?”
Hitting the speaker icon, I told him, “Go ahead.”
“Tom? Hey, Tom? You hear me?”
His brow furrowed, but he turned his head toward my phone. “Yeah, Seb…” God, he already sounded so weak!
“Hey, handsome.” Hearing that sentiment had us both smiling faintly, and I was grateful to him for that small gesture. “I know your schedule’s been pretty hectic this month, but can you tell me the last time you got a chance to feed?”
He took a couple of breaths. Then, “Early…earlier this week: donor center in Sydney. I thought…I thought it’d be enough to sustain.” He winced, hissing in pain yet again.
“Listen, you hang in there, alright? There’s help on the way, and they’re making sure they have the exact location of where you stopped. We’re gonna get you out of there. And you’re with the best possible company right now, so I know you’ll be alright.”
At that, his smile broadened, even if only briefly. “Absolutely…right about that.”
My heart swelled, and if I hadn’t been so concerned about Tom’s well-being, I might have teared up.
“I’m staying on the line with both of you until this is over, okay?” And then Sebastian’s voice became a bit muffled, indicating he’d pulled the phone away to call out, “Get a medic over here! We have a case of hypo-sanguinia in there!” When he came back to the receiver, he asked, “Did he have an escort tonight?”
“Yeah. Olivia,” I said.
“What’s her last name? I’ll make sure she’s notified…”
He rattled off a few more questions, and all the while, my hand continued to stroke over Tom’s damp forehead, doing what I could to keep his focus on me. It was no wonder he’d been so insistent on needing his escort’s services, and when I saw his face tighten in pain again, I felt my heart clench right along with him.
“Sebastian?” I heard myself say.
“What happens if he doesn’t feed soon? For all we know, we could be stuck in here for a while.”
There was a pause on his end. Then I heard him sigh heavily. “The pain will only continue to worsen because of lack of proper oxygen to his cells. And if it continues to escalate, his organs will begin breaking down from the inside, and I think you can draw your own conclusion from there.”
I closed my eyes. Those were the very sentiments I was dreading to hear, and when I opened my eyes again, I ran a hand through Tom’s copper curls. They were surprisingly soft. For what felt like a long moment, his blue eyes held mine, such adoration shining in their depths. But then his face twisted in pain yet again, and I released a long, slow breath through my nostrils. “Sebastian.”
“I have to help him,” I said steadily.
He was quiet on his end, but then I heard him release a breath of his own. “Da, rubinie,” he replied, equally as calm. “Please help my friend.”
Thank you, my love. “Stay with me.”
“You have me.”
Always. Setting my phone on the elevator floor, I maneuvered Tom so that I could bring my wrist to his mouth. He inhaled sharply, though, turning his head away.
“Tom,” I pressed. “Tom, listen to me: you need to feed.”
“Please,” I brought my wrist closer, “I don’t want to see you like this. You have to do this.”
With my wrist so near, I could see the quivering of his lips, and then those blue eyes rolled up to mine. “You are not…mine to…to take.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but then—
“In this moment,” Sebastian clearly said from the phone, “she is. Emily has made a clear decision, and we both know it’s the right one. She’s offering to service you, Tom. Please do not insult her by refusing the gift of her vein.”
I felt a slight tremble rock through him as he exhaled, a curious mix of uncertainty and wonder in his eyes as he gazed up at me. And such a gift has no equal, he whispered in my mind, bringing a shaking hand to grip my wrist.
I drew in a quiet breath as he dragged his lips across my skin, followed by the quick wetness of his tongue. That alone was enough to get my stomach stirring all over again, my other hand reaching up to stroke his curls once more.
“I trust you,” I said softly, even as I felt his fangs elongate against my wrist. “Take what you need.”
And that was when I felt the points of his fangs sink into my flesh. I gasped, but not in pain, and hearing his low growl had me moaning gently in response. The pulling force on my vein was stronger than usual, but with him in my arms, I could detect his restraint; that conscious part of him that never wished to bring me harm, despite his desperate need for nourishment.
“That’s it,” I soothed, “that’s it.”
“Mmmmm…” he murmured, taking another pulling draw.
I closed my eyes on a shuddering breath. Feeding was always going to involve a degree of eroticism that couldn’t be suppressed, and I couldn’t help but moan at the heated pleasure coursing through me as he continued to take from me. Sustaining his life with my own.
And knowing how he’d wanted me in the past…
My eyes were still closed as I gave a shaking gasp, suddenly seeing thoughts inside my mind that were not my own. No; they were his thoughts—Tom’s—the strength of our bond allowing me a glimpse into the deepest, darkest pleasures of his own mind. Visions of me in his arms, reliving the night he’d first kissed me in that alley; fantasizing about holding me close, my chest pressed to his; his lips moving against mine as he lowered me to a bed; his pulse racing as I let my head roll to the side, a surge of lust rushing through him as he lowered his mouth to my exposed neck…
Desires that hadn’t faded with time. The thought had my head falling back against the wall behind me.
In the back of my mind, I eventually became aware of my mild fatigue from loss of blood, and the appreciative groan against my wrist…and the distant, echoing voice that cut through the haze in my mind, gradually pulling me out of the trance I was in.
“…with me, Emily. Stay with me. Stay with me, please…”
Recognizing Sebastian’s voice made my heart skip a beat, and I felt myself smile as I turned towards my phone. “I’m here,” I said, softly, but clearly. “I’m here, Sebastian.”
I could practically hear his sigh of relief. “Help is on the way, guys. They’ve got your location, and I’m already on the way up. I’ll be there as soon as they get the doors open. I’m coming for you, Emily. I’m coming…”
I know, I thought looking down at Tom. I didn’t care about the weakness overtaking my limbs; it was a damn relief to see the color returning to his handsome face. “I’m here,” I soothed, stroking the side of his face with my thumb. “You’re gonna be okay.”
I don’t know how much time passed before Tom’s shoulders lifted, and he removed his fangs from my arm with a breathless moan, sagging back against me as deep, panting breaths left his lips. Now that our bond was broken, I could feel the dull throb in my wounded wrist, but I hardly paid it any mind as I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, and the slow manner in which his tongue licked away the remaining traces of my blood from his lips. All the while, he maintained his hold on my wrist, the grip of his long fingers stronger now that his nourishment had been partially restored…and as my eyes drifted downward, I couldn’t help but notice the prominent erection tenting his black slacks. I felt my lips twitch; an inevitable side effect of feedings.
“Shhh,” I brought my other hand to his cheek, caressing him gently, and doing so prompted him to open his eyes. God, they were so much clearer now, and just as beautiful as I’d always known them to be.
As he continued to gain control of his breathing, he smiled, and despite how faint it was, I could practically feel the warmth behind it. Thank you, my darling, he whispered in my mind.
I smiled, bending down to press a kiss to his temple, and Tom sighed as he closed his eyes, resting peacefully in my lap as we waited for help to arrive.
It was some forty-five minutes later that the maintenance crew began to make progress on our car. Sebastian kept the conversation going from my phone, and I reported back to him while Tom licked my wounds shut. When they finally managed to wrench the doors open, we both moaned appreciatively at the sudden rush of cool air on our sweaty skins.
“Everyone alright in here?” Someone inquired, and as soon as the doors were completely wide open, Sebastian made his way past the maintenance workers.
“Slava Domnului,” he exhaled, coming to kneel beside me as two medics followed him in. “Are you alright? Are you both alright?”
I wasn’t surprised when I caught a glimpse of his extended fangs; it was a natural response vampires had when they were feeling particularly territorial about their mates. “I’m okay,” I said, listening as the medics asked Tom a variety of questions and checked his vitals. “We’re both okay.”
His lips covered mine, kissing me soundly. “Rubinie meu,” he sighed, glancing down at my lap. “Tom?”
Tom lifted his eyes to us, a smile spreading across his lips. “Never better, my friend.”
An incredible warmth wafted through me as I looked at him, a feeling that was only amplified when Sebastian reached down to place a hand on his shoulder. By their expressions, I could tell they were telepathically communicating again, and I gave them their time. Next thing I knew, Sebastian was kissing my forehead. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you for saving my friend.”
I closed my eyes, resting my forehead against his.
I watched from the commons area as the medics emerged from the elevator at last with Tom, pleased to see that he was standing rather steadily on his own two feet. Almost immediately, a lovely woman in an emerald gown—Olivia, presumably—rushed over to his side, a worried look marking her features. Thank goodness; he would get another chance to feed.
“I didn’t think it was possible to love you any more than I already do,” Sebastian said, kissing my bare shoulder again, “but I see what a foolish notion that was.”
I laughed gently. Sebastian had carried me out of the elevator so I could get the medical attention I needed, and he’d been perfectly content to keep me in his lap the entire time. Even now, his upper lip still quivered if someone merely walked by, those fangs conveying warning for anyone who came too close.
“I wasn’t about to let him suffer,” I said, seeing them guide Tom to one of the leather couches adjacent to ours.
“I know,” he replied, turning my face to his, “and things could have taken a turn for the worse, but you didn’t even hesitate. Neither he nor I will ever forget the sacrifice you made.”
I leaned in to kiss him, reveling in the low growl emitting from his throat as I cupped his cheek. “Thank you for trusting me.”
“Always. And now,” he said, wrapping his arms around me, “as soon as we know he’s alright, I am taking you out for a gigantic burger, and getting you the biggest fucking hot fudge sundae you’ve ever seen. Then, I am taking you home,” his hand brushed the bandage that was now covering my forearm, “and I insist that you let me pamper you for the rest of the weekend.”
I giggled softly. “Careful: I might get used to that.”
He grinned. “That’s the idea, rubinie,” he kissed me, “especially when you get back to your full strength.”
I shook my head, biting down on my lip. “I love you.”
“I love you,” he said, pulling me close to bury his face in the crook of my neck.
I sighed as I held him to me, lifting my eyes to see Tom drinking from the wrist Olivia had offered him. As if sensing it, he opened his eyes and met mine, causing my stomach to secretly stir as I saw the renewed intensity behind those blue orbs, even from a distance. I couldn’t help but smile. His eyes never left mine as he continued to feed.