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"What is the penalty, Adrian? Repeat it back to me so that I know you understand."
"M-master, I--" Adrian's voice was cut off by Lucien's tightening grip around his throat.
Lucien's voice was so full of anger, something I'd heard more and more of in recent months. No matter how much Adrian didn't like me, or me him, I couldn't stand by and watch him be brutally punished for a simple shove. "Damn it, Lucien! Let him go."
Lucien growled in my direction. "Stay out of this, Peter."
"I will not stay out of it!" I stepped toward them both and stood behind Adrian, who was on his knees. I rested my hands on Adrian's shoulders, attempting to reassure him that things would be okay. "It's as much my fault as it is his. He shoved me by accident and I took it the wrong way and shoved back. It was no big deal."
"So now you will lie to me to protect him?" Lucien's lips pursed tight. "Since when is lying your forte, Peter?"
"Since when are you an angry, out of control Master who leads his coven by his cock? What are you trying to do, Lucien? Prove the rumors to be true?"
"How dare you speak to me like this in company?" Lucien snarled.
I swatted Lucien's hand away from Adrian's throat and pulled Adrian back. "You may go, Adrian, but do not leave here without word from me. Understand?"
Adrian looked from me to Lucien, his eyes wide in fear as he got to his feet. I gave him a look of warning and he nodded once, before retreating. "Y-yes, Master."
Lucien glared at me as the door slammed shut behind Adrian, shaking his head. "I cannot believe that you just did that."
"From what Iunderstand, this is just as much my coven as it is yours. I will not stand by and let you do this over and over again in some misguided attempt to shelter me from the world of which I'm now a part."
"A world that I should have kept you out of."
Oh, Christ. Not again. This argument was exhausting, at best, and if we started it in motion, we'd do nothing but argue in circles for the rest of the night. "You have to stop being the protector who runs after each and every bully that pushes me around on the playground."
"This playground could get you killed."
"Oh, it could--but it won't. Not by our own people."
"Right. Our people." He sighed and strode to the desk, pouring himself a Scotch. "Half our people hate you. They cannot stand the sight of you, much less the fact that you are to be treated as Master. They would rather kill you and face the consequences than submit to you."
"You truly believe that, don't you?"
"Humans were never meant to take the throne." He downed his Scotch and poured another.
I stalked over and knocked the Scotch from his hand, sending the glass flying across the room to crash against the wall. "And whose fault is it that I am what I am? If you had kept your promise months ago, tensions might have eased and they would have realized that I'm a permanent fixture around here. But no ... you keep me here, you keep me human--day after day, month after month. I'm starting to wonder if it's not about having a steady fuck and feed rather than a companion."
"So now you question my love for you?" Lucien growled, yanking me closer by my shirt collar.
"I question everything," I said, teeth clenched in anger. "The thing I question most, is that if you truly love me--as you say you do--you would not keep me in limbo. You would do as I asked, begged, and you would turn me."
Lucien let me go so suddenly that I stumbled. He made no attempt to help, just walked right past me to stand at the long window looking out over the club. "And as always, no matter what the argument started out as, it leads back to this."
"You don't understand..." I stared at his back, shaking my head.
He held up a hand to silence me, but didn't look back. "You cannot keep undermining me, Peter."
"I won't let you punish someone on a whim."
"I am Master here; I will decide what warrants punishment." Lucien shook his head. "I cannot have you questioning my authority, or they will do it as well. The Council has already made inquiries as to my abilities to maintain the coven in recent months. Every single time you interfere, things only get worse."
"Right," I said softly. "The Master who leads his coven by his cock. The overprotective Master who will punish his own vampires for an angry, or even lustful glance in his companion's direction. The Master who promises one thing, but never really means it."
"No, that's okay. I'm going." I walked toward the door, but paused as I grasped the knob. "You know? I wish I knew what it was that made you change your mind--made you stop loving me enough to make me your equal. But remember this, Lucien: I'm not human anymore. Whatever I am? You did this to me."