Refined Instincts, Book 5 in the Instincts Series
Troy Raines wants it all to end. His pain, his heartache, his regrets. Having been in hiding to avoid capture from the Tribunal, he returns to Chicago believing since that’s where everything began for him, that’s where it should end, as well.
Renart Bellerose has known many regrets in his long life as a vampire, but few are stronger than what he has regarding Troy Raines. As the one to make Troy a vampire, he gave him power, money, anything he thought Troy wanted, but he restrained on giving him what they both needed.
When Renart and Troy face each other again, anger and passion explodes between them. Renart wants to help Troy find redemption, but as danger closes in, it might be too late to set right the wrongs of the past.
Troy fell silent. Renart had shown mercy. He couldn’t believe it. Maybe everything that’d happened had changed his master, deeper down than what he was showing on the surface. But that was Renart. What he presented on the surface didn’t always coincide to what was beneath. He knew from being one of the few who Renart had once revealed his deeper thoughts to.
Troy slowly brought his gaze to Renart. “Then the followers who stayed loyal to you, they were willing to accept back the ones who’d turned against you?”
“That was good of them. I’m sure, though, those sentiments wouldn’t be extended toward me. Accepting back those who’d been led astray is one thing. Bringing back one of the ones who’d misguided them, that’s another. Aren’t you afraid of what’s going to happen when your followers find me? If I stay here, it’s only a matter of time before they do. Some of the sharper ones could be sensing me now.”
“Your aura is weak. It was hard even for me to sense you and track you down. And here in this building, there are so many vampires it’s hard to pick out the presence of one in particular unless they’re a very strong vampire. Besides, I doubt many of them would recognize the…feel of you.”
“But you do know I’m in danger from them. And so are you, if they find out you’re hiding and protecting me.”
Renart paused for a long moment, staring to the side away from Troy. “Yes. You’re correct on both.”
“Then why are you helping me?”
Renart unbuttoned the cuff of his deep red silk dress shirt, rolling it up his forearm. “I’ll tell you another time.”
“No, you’ll tell me now.”
Renart brought his gaze to him in a sharp look, his voice firm. “No, I’ll tell you when I so choose, if I so choose.”
Troy gazed at him. There was the master he knew, assertive, answering to no one unless he chose to. All Renart was doing for him was Renart’s choice; Renart wanted to care for him. He couldn’t begin to understand why any more than he could understand why his heart pounded faster with excitement at Renart’s assertiveness.
Renart pushed his sleeve above his elbow. “Now, before you wither away, you need to feed.”
Troy looked at Renart’s bared wrist, blue lines of thick veins beneath Renart’s pale skin. Saliva flooded his mouth as his hunger awakened with need so strong, he could feel his control slipping. “You’re offering your blood?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
Troy frowned. “Now who’s the argumentative one?”
“Pardon, but you’ve got me on the defensive. Oui, I’m offering you my blood. It’s not the first time you’ve taken it.”
“No, but the last time was when I drank it to become a vampire, then you never offered it again. You just let your other apprentices feed me while I was going through my Turning.”
“And I regret that very much, for not giving you more of my blood then or later. I should’ve taken better care of you. I should’ve taken better care of all my Turned, but you especially. Is that why you grew to hate me?”
“I…” Troy’s throat tightened. Damn it, the truth wanted to come out, but it was so hard to let it. “I never really hated you. I made myself believe I did, but it was never true.”
“Why did you even make yourself feel that way? What had I done to make you despise me so much?” Renart moved his gaze over Troy’s face, traveling lower to his chest, the skin smooth, the pectorals thick and defined. “You were always special. I tried to let you know that, but I very obviously didn’t do a good enough job. I handed you power, making you my second-in-command. I gave you money, a car, anything else I thought you desired.”
His voice low, rough, barely above a whisper, Troy said, “Those weren’t things I wanted from you.”
Renart fell silent for a long moment. “I see.” His tone came gentle, understanding of what hadn’t been spoken. “Those things were poor substitutes for what I should’ve been giving you, my attention, my care. Being denied those things from someone I wanted them would make me hurt and angry, too. Maybe had I given you more of my attention and care, you would’ve understood how special you were. Hopefully if I give them to you now, you’ll understand how special you still are.”
So many emotions and needs spun through Troy, he couldn’t sort through them all, but he felt in Renart’s words, he’d been given the answer to why Renart was helping him. What Renart said, it was more than owing him as a master. He was almost afraid to entertain even the smallest possibility of it being true, but it sounded as though Renart genuinely cared for him.
Renart reached toward him, brushing his fingers through Troy’s hair, tucking a few strands behind Troy’s ear. “I like that you’re wearing your hair longer now.”
Troy kept his gaze down. His cock hardened beneath the water, and he knew there was little point in trying to pretend he wasn’t aroused. Renart would sense it from him. But he still couldn’t bring himself to relent. Too many months of living in hurt and pain wouldn’t allow him. He cleared his throat. “It’s only because I haven’t cared to get it cut.”
A warm smile rose to Renart’s lips. “Either way, you wear it well.”
His voice a rough whisper, Troy mumbled, “Thanks.”
Renart touched the backs of his fingers to Troy’s cheek and drew them down. “Will you feed now?”
Troy gave a single, tight nod.
Renart slid off the tub’s edge to kneel outside it beside Troy, extending his wrist to him. “Give me pleasure or pain. It’s your choice.”
Troy slowly lifted his hands from the water, placing one beneath Renart’s wrist and gripping the forearm. So much time had passed since he’d taken Renart’s blood. He was human then, so he never really got to know Renart’s taste or feel his essence. He almost couldn’t believe he was about to now.
What he couldn’t believe more was the trust Renart was putting in him. If he wanted to, even biting in the wrist, he could cripple Renart with pain, and while weakened, attack and go for his neck. All he needed to do was bite and it could be the first step to killing him. Renart was too wise and experienced to not know that. Yet there he knelt, baring his wrist to him.
Focusing on one large vein, Troy touched the tip of his tongue to it and followed the length of it toward Renart’s hand, coating Renart’s skin in his saliva with the healing qualities all vampires had to allow their bite marks to heal quickly. He licked over Renart’s pulse point, feeling the quick throb against his tongue. He closed his eyes, using all his willpower to suppress a moan. His fangs lengthened. His stomach clenched with craving and hunger, all while his cock ached with desire. He knew he wouldn’t satisfy the latter, but he was helpless to not satisfy the first.
Without needing to look at him, he knew Renart’s gaze was locked on him. Renart’s breathing had quickened ever so slightly, his pulse rate picking up. Though his own vampire senses were weakened from not feeding, he could still feel Renart’s arousal. Knowing Renart wanted this crumbled the last of his willpower. Drawing his lips back from his fangs, he sank their tips into a full vein.
Renart gasped, his body flinched, but he held his arm steady.
Troy knew the pleasure shocked Renart, and in truth, he was shocked at his desire to give it to him. The ability to rationalize became lost to him as Renart’s warm blood slid over his tongue and down his throat. Rich and thick, the taste and texture was like no other he’d ever fed from. Renart’s essence, it radiated strength and virility. He’d always known his master was a powerful vampire, but he knew now how he’d underestimated the depth and magnitude of that power. And along with Renart’s strength, warmth began to spread through him.
He sucked harder at Renart’s wrist, and a loud moan passed over Renart’s lips. Troy peeked out the corner of his eye. Renart’s head was bowed, eyes closed, mouth slightly open as he panted quick breaths and moans. He couldn’t deny it, Renart looked so beautiful.
Troy pulled more of Renart’s blood from the vein. Renart sank his fingers into Troy’s hair, clenching it in a fist. A deep moan finally escaped Troy. He took one more swallow and reached satiation.
Troy tossed his head back, gasping for breath, savoring the lingering taste of Renart’s blood on his tongue. He stole a glance at Renart, finding him just as breathless, and Renart still hadn’t released his hold on his hair. His inhibitions dropped from feeding, Troy took Renart’s face in both hands, lifting his head. Before Renart could open his eyes, he leaned out of the tub and over the edge, pressing his lips to Renart’s.
Renart made a small, startled noise in his throat, but his surprise vanished quickly as he cupped Troy’s cheek and parted his lips.
Troy eased his tongue into Renart’s mouth, thrusting deep. Renart sucked gently on Troy’s tongue, and returned the movement by thrusting his tongue slowly into Troy’s mouth.
Troy felt the shift in Renart taking control of the kiss, and his own willingness to surrender to him. And that was something he wasn’t ready for. He wasn’t sure if he ever would be…no matter how good and right Renart’s lips felt on his. All he’d wanted was to give paybacks for the single kiss Renart had given him after Turning him. But like then, he found himself falling into lust, emotions surging high, and wanting more of Renart.
Troy pulled back from the kiss, turning his head to the side and licking his lips. “I…I think I should rest now.”
Renart remained quiet, unmoving. He took in a long, slow breath. “Of course.” He pushed to his feet. “Is there anything else you need?”
Troy shook his head.
“Then I’ll leave you to your peace. You can take my bed—”
“No.” Troy snapped his head up. “I’ll take a guest room.”
Renart gazed down at him, silent for a long moment. “Very well.” He turned, striding toward the door. “I’m going to change, then return to the restaurant. I’ll write down my new cell number and leave it on the bed with some clothes. If you need anything, call or text me. Otherwise, make yourself at home.”
Troy nodded, but said nothing, despite how he wanted to call Renart to come back. He just didn’t know what he’d say to him, or if he could resist having him so close again. The best thing for them both was Renart walking away, and him doing the same, if he could find the strength to do so.
Copyright 2013 by S.J. Frost and MLR Press