Margaret Turrow, his human housekeeper, turned when he entered the bedroom.
"Keep your voice down," she warned with a glare.
Blaise curled the side of his upper lip in a menacing gesture. It didn't mean anything. It was just a habit. He still snarled at Margaret, even after she'd been in his service twenty-eight years. True, a quarter of a century was nothing to him, but sometimes it seemed he'd known Margaret as long as he'd known Aubrey. The woman deserved his respect, if only for the fact that she'd put up with him for all that time. The Literati had good reason to be wary of Blaise's dark moods, but Margaret knew for a fact she could do nearly whatever she pleased in Sanctuary and Blaise would only bark at her for her impertinence before he let her do whatever she wanted.
Most of the time, anyway.
He walked around the four-poster bed where Margaret sat. He hadn't seen the woman when he entered because the posts were draped in a white diaphanous fabric, blocking his vision. She lay on the amber silk sheets completely nude with the exception of the two elbow-length black gloves.
He came to a halt as if he'd just realized he was about to walk off a cliff.
"She still hasn't awakened," Margaret said as she raised a sponge from a basin of water and squeezed. The sound of the trickling liquid barely penetrated his consciousness. He followed the glistening trail of dampness as it swept along the curve of a hip to a narrow waist, and then along the woman's ribs. The sponge whisked against the smooth skin of a small, perfectly shaped breast before Margaret withdrew it and dipped it again in her bowl of water. The contrast between pale skin and the dark hair between her thighs was electrifying. The pink, relaxed nipples also stood out markedly atop creamy flesh.
No wonder Morshiel wanted her so much. It was like staring at life distilled. For a full five seconds Blaise sensed her blood zooming through her veins, thousands upon thousands of rich rivers nourishing sweet flesh. Her heartbeat throbbed in the center of his brain, calling him, pulling him.
For a stretched moment, he couldn't breathe.
With extreme effort, he jerked his gaze off her. He blinked in disbelief when he realized his incisors were extended. Sweat had gathered on his upper lip.
And he was harder than stone. Thankfully, Margaret was still turned away.
"Why the gloves?" he asked.
Margaret threw an admonishing glance over her shoulder, still washing the girl's belly. Apparently he'd spoken too loudly for a sickbed.
"She becomes restless when I remove them," Margaret said. "Worse than restless--agitated--although she still doesn't awaken. Do you have any idea why that might be?"
Blaise kept his gaze on Margaret. He didn't look at the woman again for the entire meeting.
"No idea," he said.
Margaret's blue eyes sharpened on him. "She is powerful, though. Isn't she?"
He quirked up one brow. "When did you start to sense vitessence?" he asked wryly, referring to the life force that surrounded all living beings. The woman who lay naked on the bed had the most powerful vitessence he'd ever seen in his five hundred and fifty plus years on the planet. Her energy was even more powerful than Elysse's had been.
He could see vitessence with his physical eyes, although a human like Margaret could not. This woman's was a brilliant gold shot through with millions of minute specks of zipping, flickering white light. He saw it now, from the corner of his vision. It beckoned him, taunted him. Like Morshiel, he was a vitessence-parasite. He sustained his physical body by drinking blood or sex juices--bodily fluids infused with the energy of the spirit. As one of the soulless, Blaise possessed no vitessence, but his craving for it was every bit as powerful as his degenerate clone's.
"I don't have to see her aura to sense she's special," Margaret said dismissively. "Is that why you brought her to Sanctuary?"
"I brought her here because Morshiel wants her. Perhaps you've noticed it's in my nature to deny Morshiel anything he wants."
Margaret sniffed. "Aubrey says she'll come to if we just give it time. For now, it's best for her to rest. What do you plan to do with her?"
"Do with her?" Blaise asked roughly. "I don't plan to do anything with her."
"She'll be relieved to hear that, I'll wager," Margaret said under her breath.
"One does not do anything to a prisoner, save keep them imprisoned."
Margaret glanced around sharply. "Prisoner?"
"I said it, didn't I?" he barked.
Margaret looked for a moment as if she might argue. This time, his snarl wasn't meant for show. Margaret's response was to frown a threat right back at him.
"I'll not keep her behind bars. She'll have some freedom. I'll eventually have to take her to Delraven, I suppose," he growled, referring to his country estate in Scotland. A woman such as she will wreak havoc among the Literati. For now, just see to it that she stays far away from me."
"That shouldn't be too difficult," Margaret said as she drew the silk sheet over the woman's body. "No woman in her right mind would seek you out voluntarily with that savage manner of yours...unless she had an invitation to your bed."
A smile tickled at his mouth, but he did not succumb to the fancy. "You work at Sanctuary of your own free will and you have never shared my bed. What does that say about you?"
"Most would say I'm a great fool, but I say I'm the greatest of saints," Margaret muttered under her breath.
Her words made him recall that he must contact his brother, Saint Sevliss. He'd video-conferenced with Saint just this morning, and it was because of that communication that Blaise had known something was amiss at the unused British Museum tunnel. How had Saint known about the powerful crystal appearing in London when he resided in Chicago?
Something wasn't right, and it wasn't just him who thought so. The other Sevliss princes shared his confusion and suspicion. Saint had been strange and elusive in his communications for several weeks now--ever since he'd somehow accomplished the impossible and vanquished his clone, Teslar.
He became distracted from his thoughts by the vision of Margaret standing and briskly tucking the blanket around the slender woman. She made a shooing motion, as if he were an annoying flea instead of a six-foot-five-inch, nearly two-hundred-pound male.
"You hang about a great deal for someone who says he wants to be left alone. Be gone with you. Let her rest in peace. She'll have enough to deal with upon awakening."