I smiled up at Jack. Even if I wasn’t entirely sure I believed that I was beautiful, I wasn’t stupid enough to mess this up. “Upstairs is good.” Good? Who was I kidding? This was already the best birthday ever, and the night was only just beginning.

“Right answer,” he said with a grin. Before I could react, he scooped me up in his arms and strode toward the big curving staircase.

After a fairly embarrassing squeal, I wrapped my arms around his neck and enjoyed the ride. He was a werewolf, after all, and plenty strong enough to handle my weight as he’d proved on the way into the house. My so-called master probably could have too, come to think of it, but he’d been too busy bitching at me for being overweight. He’d always found fault with each member of his harem. For years I’d wondered why he kept us, even fucked us, if he despised us so much. It was only recently I’d finally figured out that it was all just one big power trip for him—classic abuser mentality.

I took a brief moment to look around the room as we left it. Without the lights I couldn’t see much of the color in the room, but I got the impression of oversized, comfortable furniture, wood floors tossed with a number of area rugs, and a collection of large wooden sculptures. I couldn’t wait to see it with the lights on, and couldn’t help a pang of sorrow that I wouldn’t be able to in daylight. Sometimes being a vampire really sucked.

The staircase opened onto a wide gallery that looked out over the great room. There were bookshelves built into the far wall and two oversized stuffed chairs drawn up close to the rail, making a comfortable library nook. Jack carried me to the last of three doors that opened onto the gallery and into a bedroom designed on the same massive scale as everything else in the house.

I expected him to drop me to the bed, but Jack managed to surprise me yet again. He eased me down to my feet right at the door of a luxurious master bathroom.

“Just a sec. I’ve got to get rid of this.” With absolutely no self-consciousness at all, he switched on the light, strode over to the toilet and peeled the condom off his penis, which was still impressively hard. He dropped the used rubber into the toilet, flushed and turned back to me. “What? You look like there’s a question you’re dying to ask. Go ahead.”

“How do you… I mean…when you, you know, swell up. Don’t they break?”

“Ah.” He nodded and broke into a wide grin. “I should have known the researcher is always thinking. Ask me anything you want, anytime. They’re special order, made by a werewolf company in New Jersey. Designed to expand without breaking. They’re also a biodegradable polymer so they’ll break down after a day or two in the sewer. My clan is very big on environmental preservation.”

Of course. Such a simple, elegant solution. Special werewolf condoms. What next? Blood-flavored sex lube for vampires?

I must have said that last bit out loud because Jack laughed again. “They make it. But the flavor is a little off if you ask me. Anytime you want to try it, though, I can hook you up.”

I shook my head, more than a little stunned.

Jack stepped back up to me and used one hand to tip my chin up until we were gazing into each other’s eyes. “You’ve really had a very sheltered life, haven’t you, Ari?”

I nodded, licking my lips at the scent of him, so close, so alive. I craved another taste of his blood but not nearly as much as I craved him sexually.

“Tell me what you’d like to do. I’m game for anything. Any fantasy, any scenario you’d like to play out, just say it and I’ll do my best to make it happen.” He winked, making me stifle a giggle. “Call it a birthday present.”

Wow! I stood there, probably gaping like an idiot, eyes wide and mind whirling. What could I say? Where to even start? Just having sex with him in his living room had been beyond the scope of most of my fantasies. Well, maybe not fantasies. A century is an awful long time to build up ideas, even if you never plan to act them out. Frederic had done such a thorough job of convincing me I was unappealing that I’d never expected to see this kind of desire directed at me. To top it off, I’d never expected to see someone like Jack telling me that my wild fantasies were acceptable.

I shook my head to clear it, shooed him out of the bathroom while I took care of business and thought. Which fantasy to choose? Obviously it had to be one that didn’t require a whole lot of preparation. Something we could do here and now. I remembered the big bed in the other room. The posts were made of whole logs—nice and sturdy. I had my answer.

When I stepped back into the bedroom, he had turned down the sheets and was lounging against the pillows—still naked. He smiled at me with those wicked lips and the smile reached all the way to those gorgeous dark eyes. Yeah, I was a goner. I’d let this man do any damn thing he pleased.

“So have you decided?” he asked, patting the sheet next to him invitingly.

I sat beside him. Before I could settle into place, he’d wrapped his arm around me and pulled me up next to him. My skin was a little chilled from being in the bathroom naked, and he was like a furnace, radiating real heat as well as the sexual kind.

“I think so,” I answered thoughtfully. “If we can make it work. I’ve always thought it could be fun to be…tied up. I know I could probably break the ropes, but I think I could manage not to.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will work.” Jack bent down and kissed me, his lips moving hungrily against my own and his tongue seeking every corner of my mouth. “I’ve got just the thing.”

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