Born to Bite / Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine


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Eshe stretched in bed and reached instinctively for Armand. It was something she'd done several times that night, at least the times that he hadn't woken first and reached for her, caressing and kissing her awake to join again. This time, however, rather than his warm body, her hand found cool bedsheets. She was alone in bed.

Eshe popped her eyes open to peer at the empty side of the bed and then heaved a little sigh of disappointment. It appeared playtime was over, but she supposed it was for the best. They couldn't stay in bed forever. He had a farm to look after and she had a job to do, saving his son from execution for something he might not have done.

Recalling what she was there to do, Eshe pushed aside the sheet covering her and stood to move to the bathroom. She took a quick shower, banishing the memories of her last shower from her mind when they tried to rise, then brushed her teeth, fiddled with her hair, and moved out to the bedroom to dress.

The house was completely silent when she stepped out into the hall. Eshe made immediately for Armand's room. It was empty, but she'd expected as much and barely glanced around as she made her way to the walk-in closet and the hidden refrigerator there. Armand had shown her where it was at one point during the night when they'd finally noticed they were in serious need of blood. He'd also made a run downstairs for food once and she'd woken to find him eating something called Cheerios off her naked body, placing the little rings strategically on her nipples and then sucking and nibbling them off. Eshe hadn't had any when she'd woken that time, but they'd finished them off through the night, her wishing the rings were bigger so that she could have played the same game with him, but not on his nipples.

Eshe had four bags of blood before feeling satisfied. Leaving Armand's room then, she headed downstairs, noting as she glanced out the window that it was still dark out. Knowing that, she wasn't surprised to find Bricker still up and in the kitchen, a coffee on the table and a paper in hand.

Eshe glanced from him to the clean counters and asked, "Did I hear you mention something about cooking supper as I was leaving the room earlier?"

Bricker glanced around in surprise at her arrival, but said, "Yep. Cooked stew, ate it, and then ate it again...the day before yesterday before bed," he added dryly. "It's Saturday, Eshe. You two slept right through Friday...Or didn't sleep through it, as the case may be," he teased.

"Saturday?" she asked with surprise, and then paused to think about it and supposed she shouldn't be surprised that much time had passed. She and Armand had been kind of...busy. Realizing Bricker was staring at her with one eyebrow arched, she shrugged. "I guess we needed the sleep."

Bricker chuckled with amusement, and then, sounding envious, said, "Right. It was sleeping you two needed so bad...after you got busy. You slept, woke up, got busy again and fell asleep again, and then woke up to do it all over, and over. You probably lost count."

"I was supposed to count?" Eshe asked, arching an eyebrow.

Bricker grinned again, but she was already moving to the refrigerator to see what there was to eat. Her eyes widened at the stuffed refrigerator. "Armand bought a lot."

"Yeah." Bricker chuckled. "And most of it junk food. He must have been hungry when he shopped."

Eshe nodded, surveying the different items more closely. "So is there anything good in here?"

"Oh yeah," Bricker assured her, moving to stand beside her and peer at the contents. "Loads of it tastes good. It's just not all that nutritious for you. But I guess that's not a major concern for us. We get our nutrients from blood." He leaned past her and opened the freezer door to retrieve an orange box. "These apple strudel things are delicious, and they only take a minute in the toaster."

"Thanks," Eshe murmured, taking the box. She moved to the counter and the contraption Mrs. Ramsey had toasted her bread in the day before. When she began to fumble with the box, Bricker was immediately there, taking it from her.

"I'll do this. You pour yourself a coffee," he suggested.

Eshe murmured her thanks again and then moved to find a cup and pour herself some coffee. "So what did you tell Mrs. Ramsey to explain our absence? She was here yesterday, wasn't she?"

"She was," Bricker agreed dryly. "And I didn't have to tell her a damned thing. She could hear you weren't absent."

"Oh," Eshe said, nonplussed.

Bricker snorted with amusement. "Woman, you've got some set of pipes on you." He shook his head. "Armand wasn't much better. It was like listening to opera. You couldn't understand a word, but knew exactly what was happening."

"Oh," Eshe said again, not at all sure how she should be reacting. She supposed she should be embarrassed, but didn't really feel embarrassed. She supposed she was too old to experience the sensation. Instead, she just felt kind of warm and fuzzy all over as she recalled what had brought on that opera.

"Mrs. Ramsey was worried a couple of times though," he told her, and then added with a laugh, "Both times when you guys went quiet. She made me go upstairs and check on you before she'd leave at the end of the day. You'd gone quiet again and she wanted to be sure one or both of you hadn't died."

"You checked on us?" Eshe asked with surprise.

"Well, I didn't open the door," Bricker told her dryly, opening the box and then some sort of plastic cellophane to pull out two rectangular pastries. As he dropped them into the toaster, he added, "There was no need, I could hear the pair of you by the time I reached the top step. You were both snoring. I turned around and went down to assure her you two were fine and that she should go home."

Eshe nodded.

"I should warn you, her eyes were all sparkly and she couldn't wait to get out of here. I'm pretty sure she rushed right down to the market or the diner to continue spreading the news. Your antics are probably the talk of the town by now."

Eshe groaned at the suggestion, thinking she wasn't eating in the diner again while she was here. The last time had been bad enough. Now...well, she wasn't given to blushing at her age, but felt sure that would be the most uncomfortable meal of her life.

Sighing, she took a sip of coffee and then grimaced at the bitter taste and turned to open the refrigerator and look for cream for it. The coffee she'd had the first morning here had been much nicer, but Mrs. Ramsey had put cream and two sugar cubes in it. Eshe poured some cream in and then put the container back in the fridge and began to look for the little bowl of cubes.

"Speaking of Mrs. R.," Bricker said idly, "she mentioned that Armand has hired someone to replace his old manager."

Eshe glanced at him with surprise. "He did? When?"

"While we were out questioning Harcourt. I guess he went to the diner for dinner and left having hired a new man. She said he is the son of one of his neighbors. A good boy. Hard worker. Armand's out showing him around right now."

"Hmm." Eshe smiled. That would mean he'd have more free time and they could-

"What the hell are you looking for?" Bricker asked as she began to root through cupboards.

"Sugar," she muttered.

"Here." Bricker picked up a bowl of little white cubes and offered it to her, asking, "So what's the plan today?"

Eshe stared at him blankly for a moment before realizing that it wasn't going to be dragging Armand into bed. She had a job to do. Shaking her head to try to clear her thoughts, she murmured her thanks for the sugar he held out and dropped two cubes into her cup. She found a spoon to stir her drink as she tried to recall what they should be doing today. Well, really what they should have done yesterday, she supposed, and frowned as she realized they'd lost a day while she and Armand had been in bed.

"We still have to question Susanna's brother and sister," Eshe said finally, relieved she could think at all. This life mate business really messed with an immortal's head, and not wholly in a good way, she decided.

"Not gonna happen," Bricker announced, and when she turned a questioning eye his way, explained, "I went past the Maunsells' farm last night and then again tonight. I only got back five minutes or so before you came down. Both times the house was dark and the vehicles gone and there was no answer at the door. I'm beginning to think they've gone away or something."

"You went there by yourself?" she asked with surprise.

Bricker made a disgusted face. "I was sent to help you, Eshe. You were otherwise engaged, so I thought I'd go question them myself. However, as I said, they aren't home." He raised his eyebrows. "Is there anyone else we can question?"

Eshe considered the question, but shook her head. "Those are the only people Armand mentioned to me when explaining the deaths of his wives."

"What about Rosamund's family?" Bricker asked.

Eshe glanced at him with surprise. She hadn't even considered Rosamund's family, but now she did and shook her head. "I doubt they were around when he was with Susanna."

"Why not? The Harcourts were," Bricker pointed out. "How did he say he'd met Rosamund?"

"He said they were friends before they married," Eshe said slowly, recalling his words.

"Friends?" Bricker asked, one eyebrow rising. "She was what? Twenty when she died?"

"Twenty-one, I think," Eshe murmured.

"And they married a year before that, so she was twenty then." He raised his other eyebrow. "And they were friends? How?" Bricker shook his head. "I bet he was a friend of the family just like he was with Althea."

Eshe sighed, irritated with herself that she hadn't thought to ask about Rosamund's family. They might have been in Armand's life for quite a while before he and Rosamund married, and might be able to tell them something of use. It was certainly worth finding out.

"Right." Bricker clapped his hands together and then paused to ask, "I know you're the one in charge here, but may I make a suggestion?"

Eshe nodded her head reluctantly. "What's that?"

"Since we can't question the Maunsells today, I think you should go out and talk to Armand to find out everything you can. Not just about Rosamund's family, but if there is anyone else who's been in his life these last five hundred and sixty-odd years."

"But he's showing the new manager around," she reminded him.

"It's evening, Eshe. He won't make the kid work at night, he's just showing him what's what so he's on the ball for tomorrow and then he'll let him settle into the house while he does whatever it is I should have done last night for the animals." He grimaced at the thought of these unknown things, and then added, "If they aren't done already, they probably will be soon, so why don't you go change and I'll make a picnic lunch for you to take out to him as an excuse, and then you can grill him on what we need to know."

"Change?" Eshe asked with a start, glancing down at herself. She'd donned one of the new pairs of jeans and one of the new T-shirts when she'd gotten dressed. It was all she had besides the leathers. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"It's fine," he said quickly. "I just thought you'd want to look...er..."

"Yes?" she prompted, glaring at him now.

"Never mind," Bricker muttered, turning to begin opening cupboards and pulling out items. "Why don't you find something to pack the picnic in while I make it, then, if you aren't going to change?"

Eshe continued to glower at him briefly, but her mind was on to the fact that he didn't think she looked nice. She peered down at herself and supposed the outfit wasn't all that titillating. On the other hand, she was supposed to be asking Armand questions. Wearing something titillating wasn't going to get her answers. It was difficult to talk with his mouth on hers. Not that she needed to wear anything titillating for that to happen. This life mate business really was something of a nuisance at times, she admitted with a sigh as she started to search for a suitable container to pack a picnic in.

Bricker definitely knew his way around a kitchen, Eshe acknowledged as she headed out the back door of the house some fifteen minutes later with a cooler in hand and a blanket folded over her arm. The man had been quick and efficient and packed a rather delicious-looking meal for the two of them. She'd left him seated at the table, selflessly devouring the apple strudels he'd made for her, all so that she didn't spoil her appetite and they didn't go to waste. He was such a selfless guy, she thought with amusement as she stepped off the back porch and quickly crossed the fenced yard to a small gate.

Eshe pushed through that and headed for the barns, her gaze sliding to the manager's house as she passed. There were several lights on in the building, and she saw someone moving around in the front room, so supposed that meant Armand had finished with the new guy and would be alone when she found him. That was a good thing...sort of. The other man's presence would have kept them from trying to jump each other's bones, which would have been handy, but he was also new, uninitiated, and would have seriously hampered her ability to ask the questions Eshe needed to ask. She could hardly start asking about Rosamund's parents and if they were still in his life, and who might have been in his life over five hundred years ago, with a mortal around.

Eshe guessed that meant she'd have to be strong, seriously strong, and not allow her body to rule her head for a change when she was with Armand. It would be difficult, she knew. But if she wanted to solve this case and save Nicholas Argeneau, it was seriously necessary. And Eshe definitely wanted to solve this case. She'd started out wanting to because Nicholas was an enforcer like herself, but now there was also the fact that he was Armand's son, and she suspected Armand would never forgive her if his son was executed and he found out she had been there investigating to try to save him and had never told him the truth. He wouldn't care that it was because Lucian had ordered it. He would see it as a betrayal, and probably rightly so, she thought with irritation. She was his life mate; she should be telling him the truth and really saw no reason not to now that he had been pretty much crossed off the list of suspects.

Pausing halfway between the house and the first barn, she set down the cooler that held their picnic, laid the blanket on it, and quickly retrieved her phone from her pocket. Eshe punched in the number to Lucian's house. It rang three times before he answered, and he sounded less than pleased to be receiving a phone call. Eshe was guessing she'd interrupted him and Leigh or something, but simply took a moment to arrange her thoughts and then said, "We've checked at John and Agnes Maunsell's several times over the past few days, but they weren't in. Bricker suspects they may be out of town. We did talk to William Harcourt, however, and he was with Armand when Rosamund died so Armand couldn't have been involved in her death. And William assured us that Armand couldn't have killed Althea because he didn't know where they were," Eshe said, and then quickly explained the tale of Althea's death.

"So Armand probably didn't kill Althea and definitely didn't kill Rosamund," Lucian murmured.

"Yes," Eshe said quickly, and then added, "Which makes it very doubtful he is the culprit we're looking for."

Lucian grunted.

"So," Eshe went on, "I was wondering if we couldn't tell Armand the real reason we're here now."

"No."

Eshe rolled her eyes. No explanation, no nothing, just no. "But he might be able to help us," she argued quickly. "He could tell us if there is anyone besides the Maunsells and the Harcourts that has been in his life since Susanna."

"No," Lucian repeated.

Eshe growled with frustration.

"Is there anything else to report?"

"No," Eshe growled, and taking a leaf from his book, snapped the phone closed without saying good-bye. Muttering some rather unpleasant things about Lucian Argeneau under her breath, Eshe slipped her phone into her pocket, picked up the cooler and blanket, and continued on to the first barn where she could see the door was open and the lights inside were on.

It was the horse barn and she found Armand in there, cleaning stalls. Her gaze slid over the mostly empty stalls and finally to the two occupied ones before stopping on the empty stall he was working in. It appeared he'd already done the mucking-out part of the job and was now using a pitchfork to spread fresh hay around. She could only think that was a good thing. Eshe loved horses, but had always had servants to handle this part of caring for them. She somehow doubted Armand would have much of an appetite had she arrived as he was removing soiled hay and manure. Besides, at this point he was nearly done and might be ready for a break.

Pausing outside the stall, she peered at the back of his head and smiled to herself as she teased, "And you're seriously considering giving all this up to do something else?"

Armand straightened with a start at her voice, and turned to glance at her over his shoulder. Smiling wryly, he stopped what he was doing and turned to face her, his gaze moving over her slowly and then pausing on the cooler and blanket she held. He eyed it curiously as he murmured, "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

Eshe smiled and then gestured to the cooler she carried. "Bricker said you'd probably want something to eat by now and made us a picnic."

"That was thoughtful of him." Armand set his pitchfork aside and removed his gloves as he moved out of the stall and then paused and glanced from the cooler, to her, to the bales of hay at the back of the barn.

"Maybe we should eat outside," she suggested, thinking that if she wanted to get any answers at all, it was best not to eat anywhere that was conducive to reclining. Eshe knew from experience that a roll in the hay could be fun.

Armand turned back with a wry grin. "Good thinking, Batgirl."

"Batgirl, huh?" she asked with amusement as he tossed his gloves aside, took the cooler from her with one hand, and slung the other around her shoulder to steer her out of the barn. "I see Lucian isn't the only one who watches television after all. Maybe Agnes isn't the one who arranged for cable for you."

"She is," he assured her as they stepped outside and started around the barn. "But I've been known to watch an episode or two of Batman with Cedrick. He's a big fan."

"Cedrick?" she asked. It was a name she hadn't heard before. In fact, it was a name she hadn't heard in a hundred years or so. She was sure someone somewhere had named their poor child that, but it hadn't been popular in quite a while.

"He's my first," Armand explained, and then smiled wryly. "I guess I've never mentioned him before."

"No," she agreed, her interest more than piqued. First was an old expression, medieval-type old. It had usually been used to refer to the highest-ranking soldier, or next in command under a titled lord...Armand had been a baron. "How long has he been with you?"

"I guess it was the fourteenth century when he came to work for me," Armand murmured thoughtfully.

"And he's still with you?" she asked with surprise.

Armand nodded. "He has enough money to set out on his own twenty times by now, but seems content where he is."

"And where is that?" Eshe asked, her mind working. Here was someone else they could question.

"He's running one of my farms. He also does the books for all of them and mostly rides herd on the other managers," Armand answered, and then drew her to a halt. "How about here?"

Eshe glanced around to see that while they'd been talking, he'd led her to a spot almost under the trees a good distance behind the barns. There was a large covered stone well for them to sit on. It was a nice spot, with a lovely view of the lights from the house as well as the stars overhead.

"Perfect," she assured him and quickly laid the blanket out over the stone cover.

They settled on the blanket and unpacked the cooler. Armand pulled out several wrapped sandwiches as well as two drinks, two bags of blood, and a small plastic container of something with a piece of tape that had the words open last on it in marker. Eshe shrugged when Armand glanced at her in question.

"I was busy trying to find something to pack this in while he was making it. It took me a while. I finally found the cooler in the garage, but by then he'd made and wrapped everything," she explained.

Nodding, Armand set the container aside and picked up the bagged blood. He handed her one and then took the other himself and they started with that. The moment that was done, Armand opened the two drinks, handed her one and then handed her a sandwich as well, and they began to eat. They were both silent at first as they concentrated on eating, but Eshe was also concentrating on trying to come up with a way to bring Rosamund into the conversation so that she could ask about the dead woman's family. She was still thinking when halfway through the meal, Armand said, "Tell me about your first life mate."

When Eshe blinked at him with surprise and hesitated, he pointed out, "I've told you about my wives, but we've never talked about your husband or past."

Eshe glanced down at the sandwich she was eating, and then asked, "What do you want to know?"

"You told me how he died," Armand murmured, "but how did you meet?"

"I was very fortunate," Eshe said quietly. "I was only thirty when I met him."

"And how old was he?"

"Twenty," she said with a smile, and then answered the original question and said, "He was one of my father's soldiers."

"Immortal?"

Eshe shook her head. "He was mortal."

"So was Susanna," Armand said quietly and then added almost guiltily, "It's much easier with us both being immortal."

Eshe nodded with understanding. "No difficult explanations needed."

"How did Orion take it when you explained?" Armand asked curiously, and Eshe gave a laugh.

"How do you think?" she asked dryly and grimaced. "He was horrified at first. We lived in very superstitious times. Orion was positive I was some soulless demon. It didn't help that we had to feed off the hoof back then," she pointed out dryly.

Armand nodded. "Susanna had trouble with that issue as well. Nowadays it's a little easier, but in earlier days they had to love you deeply and trust you fully to get past that part of it."

Eshe nodded.

"I gather he got past that though?"

Eshe hesitated and then admitted, "Well, my father kind of helped with that."

"Your father, Castor, helped with Orion?" he asked curiously. "What did he do? Sit him down and talk some sense into him?"

"Not exactly," Eshe admitted reluctantly, and then sighed over her own reticence. She would tell him eventually anyway. Grimacing, she admitted, "He was going to wipe his memory and send him away, but the idea so crushed me that when he read Orion's mind and saw that aside from being a possible life mate, he had really come to love me before he knew what we were, Father changed his mind. Instead of wiping him and sending him away...which would have left me to search for a new life mate for possible centuries..." she pointed out.

When he nodded, she continued, "Father took us both out into the jungle, chained Orion to the ground inside a hunting hut he'd built long ago, and then told me to change Orion's mind using everything I had."

"And?" Armand asked curiously.

Eshe shrugged. "I used everything I had. Fortunately, his love for me outweighed his fear and he came around. It was a close call though. At one point I felt sure my father would have to wipe his memory and send him away, but it all worked out in the end."

Armand was silent for a moment, and she knew he was curious about what she meant by "everything she had," but then he simply said, "And you got to spend eight centuries with him, you said?"

She wasn't surprised that he sounded envious. He'd lost his Susanna so quickly.

"Yes. As I said I have been very fortunate," she murmured, almost feeling guilty for her first life mate's longevity. She was silent for a moment and then simply blurted, "Did you know Rosamund's family as you did the Harcourts?"

Armand was obviously surprised by the abrupt change of subject, but answered, "Yes. Not for as long though. I only met them about two years before Rosamund and I married."

"Were they happy about your marriage?" Eshe asked, more out of personal curiosity than in an effort to further the investigation.

"Yes. They knew it was what Rosamund wanted and trusted me with her well-being." His voice turned grim on the last part, and Eshe reached out to cover his hand with her own.

"You've had some bad luck, but it wasn't your fault," she said, trying to ease the guilt she could see in his expression.

"Well." He smiled faintly. "Perhaps some of your good fortune will rub off on me."

"I sincerely hope so, Armand," she said huskily, and then cleared her throat and looked away when she noticed that his eyes were focused on her mouth, and the silver glow was growing in his eyes. "Where are her parents now? Do you still have contact with them?"

"No." He cleared his throat and said, "They moved back to the States just before Rosamund died. She was their fourth child. The others were all born in the States and lived in the South there. They decided they didn't like the winters and moved back that way." He smiled wryly. "They sent several letters urging us to move down there."

"But you didn't?"

Armand shrugged. "All my farms were here...I did consider it, though, so Rosamund could be closer to her family and Jeanne Louise could have grandparents, but then Rosamund died."

Eshe nodded solemnly and popped the last of her sandwich into her mouth. It seemed Rosamund's family would not need to be found and questioned then. They hadn't been around during any of the deaths and couldn't know anything helpful.

"Oh good, Bricker sent dessert too."

Eshe glanced to Armand to see that he'd opened the plastic container. It contained two slices of something layered with a chocolate bottom, a creamy center, and then a creamy chocolate top. He handed her a piece and took the other for himself.

"Mmm," Eshe said as she took her first bite. "Delicious."

Armand nodded with agreement, eating the treat in two large bites. Eshe shook her head with amusement but a moment later wished she'd been as quick when she felt a drop of liquid hit her hand. It was quickly followed by a second and a third large drop.

"Crap," she muttered, glancing skyward to see that the clear, starry sky overhead was no longer clear. Storm clouds had moved in quickly while they'd been distracted eating and talking, and were apparently eager to dump their contents down on them. Eshe had barely had that thought when the heavens opened and it began to pour.

"The shed," Armand said as they scrambled to their feet and began collecting the remains of their picnic. Eshe had no idea what he was talking about until he grabbed up the hastily packed cooler, caught her arm, and rushed her through the storm to the closest building, one much smaller than the others.

Eshe hurried inside, eyes sliding around the darkness as Armand followed and pulled the door closed behind them. He too then turned to survey their shelter.

"What is this place?" Eshe asked curiously, noting a small table and chairs and the lumpy old couch against the wall. It barely fit in the small building.

"I'm not sure," Armand admitted. "It was here when I bought the place five years ago. I think it was a fort or something for the kids of the last family, but I don't know what it was originally used for."

"So that couch has been sitting out here for at least five years?" Eshe asked, imagining all the little rodents that had probably scampered across it, or possibly even nested in it.

"We shouldn't have to wait long," Armand murmured. "Storms that come on this quick and hard usually move on just as quickly."

Eshe nodded in agreement, and then watched wide-eyed as he set down the cooler and took out the blanket he'd stuffed inside when packing up. She was glad his back was to her as he spread the blanket over the lumpy couch. She knew he expected they could sit there and wait for the storm to pass, but Eshe wasn't keen on the idea. While she'd roughed it at a time when today's roughing it would have been considered the lap of luxury, she was definitely a city girl now and had no intention of sitting on the couch...even for him.

When Armand finished and started to straighten and turn toward her, she quickly swiveled on her heels and began to pace the tiny interior.

"Come sit down," he urged quietly. "We shouldn't have long to wait."

"I'm fine," she assured him.

"Eshe," Armand murmured and was suddenly beside her, taking her arms to turn her to face him. She could see that his expression was concerned as he peered at her, and it confused her until he asked, "Are you afraid of storms?"

Eshe was about to shake her head when he suddenly said, "If so, perhaps I can distract you."

She froze then as his mouth descended on hers. Perhaps it was the rain, or the fact that he thought she needed calming, but this kiss was different from any of the others they'd enjoyed. This kiss was soft, gentle, and sweet...at least at first, and she melted against him with a small sigh as her mouth opened for him, and then moaned in protest when he broke the kiss to whisper, "You're soaked through. We should take this off."

"Yes," Eshe whispered, raising her arms when he began to tug her T-shirt upward. She shuddered as it came off over her head and then shivered a little when he moved to lay it over the blanket-covered couch. He then quickly removed his own soaked T-shirt before turning back to warm her with his hands and body.

Eshe moaned as his arms went around her, her back stretching and arching her breasts against him as his hands slid over her naked back, and then he kissed her again and the gentle moment passed as passion rose up through both of them as wild and violent as the storm crashing outside. Eshe tangled her hands in his hair, her mouth becoming demanding even as his did. Her body met his push for push so that they ground into each other almost feverishly, and then Armand suddenly tipped her back onto the couch. Eshe didn't even notice let alone care; her attention was on what Armand was doing as he bent to undo and remove her jeans. They had been tight to begin with, but were almost impossible now they were wet. When they finally came off, her cotton panties went with them. Armand tossed them over the back of the couch with their shirts and then scooped her up and settled on the couch with her in his lap, his mouth claiming hers as his hands began to play over her body.

Eshe moaned, groaned and gasped by turn into his mouth, her body writhing against his as his fingers moved over one breast, then another before dropping between her legs. He caressed her then with a purpose, driving them both mad with desire until she couldn't take it anymore and pushed his hands away.

"What-?" Armand began, but cut off the end of the question when she slid off his lap. The moment she was upright, Eshe caught him by the hand and drew him to his feet so that she could drop to her haunches and undo his jeans. She got as far as pushing them off his hip so that his erection sprang free and then paused to press a kiss to it before finishing removing the jeans. Armand didn't give her the chance to fold them over the couch with the other clothes, but suddenly sat down again and drew her onto his lap so that her knees were on either side of his hips.

Eshe would have dropped to sit on him and take him inside her then, but Armand stopped her, catching her by the hips, keeping her upright.

"Such long legs," he murmured, his voice a hungry growl, and Eshe glanced down, realizing that his face was a bare inch higher than her pelvis, positioned as she was.

She peered at him through the darkness, and then realized that it was silent. The rain was no longer thundering down outside. It had been a short, hard rainfall. Licking her lips, she whispered, "The storm has stopped."

"No. It hasn't," he assured her, and shifted to slouch down on the couch, then urged her forward with his hands on her behind and pressed his mouth to the core of her. Eshe sucked in a gasp of air and squeezed her eyes closed, her head going back and hands knotting in his hair as he found the center of her excitement. Pleasure exploded inside her and then receded, only to be replaced with another stronger wave, along with an echo of the first as his tongue rasped over her. She felt his hands clench on her behind as he too was struck by her pleasure, and then she wasn't aware of much other than the passion flowing between them as he drove them both crazy.

When her legs began to shake, Eshe cried out and braced her hands against the wooden wall behind the couch and pleaded with him to stop and not to stop all in the same breath. Just when she didn't think she could take much more, she felt him press a finger up inside her and screamed as her body began to buck helplessly. She heard Armand roar with his own orgasm and felt the sound vibrate against her body. She started to collapse then as darkness swept in to claim her.

Armand woke to utter darkness and complete silence, and his face cuddled between Eshe's warm breasts. Smiling to himself, he eased her up a bit so that he could shift to a more comfortable sitting position, and then paused as a creak sounded outside. He glanced toward the door and listened briefly, but no other sound came and he decided it had been an animal of some description, a raccoon or possum. And probably an upset one if they were presently inhabiting its home, he thought with a smile as he settled Eshe back down on his lap.

The action made him bite his lip on a moan as he unintentionally rubbed her over his lap and his body leaped with excitement. It seemed he couldn't get enough of the poor woman. He would exhaust them both with his needs at this rate, Armand thought, but found that didn't stop the erection that was coming persistently to life.

Asleep or not, Eshe appeared to still be connected to him in her thoughts. She moaned sleepily and shifted against him, sending another shaft of excitement through him that had him sliding his arms around her back and hugging her close in an effort to still her. But that just pressed her breasts against his chest and stirred even more sensation in them both. It also began to rouse Eshe from sleep, and she issued a little sigh and shifted on him again.

"Eshe," he groaned. She was killing him here.

Her head lifted slowly then and she eased her eyes open to smile at him sleepily, and whispered, "Hi."

That was all it took. Little Armand sprang to full attention between them and big Armand found himself unable to resist kissing her. The moment his mouth covered hers he was lost, and Eshe with him. Their hands began to move, finding every pleasure point, and Eshe shifted in his lap, rubbing herself against him even as her breasts slid across his chest. Armand was bombarded by a double assault, his own pleasure as her wet, hot core slid across his shaft, and hers as well at that, plus little pings of added pleasure as his chest hairs tickled across her nipples in multiple tiny caresses.

Armand groaned into her mouth and caught her hips to press her more firmly against himself, then when she took over the action, raised his hands to slide them between them and catch her breasts in a fuller caress. He toyed and tugged at her nipples briefly, his tongue battling with hers in the kiss, but neither of them had much fortitude for putting off what they were heading for. He was relieved when she raised herself up slightly, allowing cool air to brush across his heated erection, and even more relieved when she lowered herself onto it properly, taking him inside herself.

Afraid he might bite her tongue in his excitement, Armand broke their kiss and quickly shifted his mouth to her neck as she closed over him. Big mistake, he realized a moment later as she raised and lowered herself again and he felt his fangs pushing outward. But it was too late, his fangs were piercing her skin and she raised a hand to cup his head, giving him silent permission as she continued to ride him.

"Yes," she gasped, as this new pleasure was added to the others and then they both screamed and slipped into unconsciousness again.

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