A Vampire's Embrace, p.10Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
But she wouldn’t think about that.
Nothing felt as good, after a prolonged time-path, as hot water beating on the back of her neck and across the tense muscles of her shoulders.
So much had happened in so short a time, she could barely process any of it.
She’d healed a man she’d been craving, then she’d sought him out because of pure sexual need and let him take her against an oak tree. And, she’d fed him.
But it was the experience later in the kitchen that came to mind, of meeting his mother and of hearing Marion speak of the future.
What was going on?
Her head still swam with time-path lethargy. Or maybe she’d entered a new phase in which time was becoming more and more relative.
The night wasn’t over, either.
By the time she left the shower, she was a little more relaxed, yet more confused than ever.
Knowing that Rosamunde, Stone and Rez were waiting for her, she dressed quickly in jeans and a violet silk blouse. Adjacent to the bathroom was a deep, built-in closet, which housed her treasure of over a hundred pairs of shoes.
Her heart beat rapidly as she entered her secret palace. She’d designed her closet with her shoes in mind and adored each pair.
She had something specific in mind. She chose black loafers, Italian, impeccably made, and which could not be purchased anywhere else. The black market was a true guilty pleasure.
As she slid her feet within, she thought the cushioning alone was worth the money. But it was the style she loved with the sweetest pair of tassels juxtaposed with studs across the heels. She wondered if Rez would like them, or if he was like most men and never noticed footwear. Probably the latter.
Her long, tangled locks required some work. She combed out her hair all the way to the ends until it was in a semblance of order. She donned a wide silver, hammered bracelet and amethyst studs. She’d never met a queen before, though technically Rosamunde had resigned her crown when she bonded with Mastyr Stone.
A new, disturbing thought arose. She was a blood rose and Rez had gone after her. That’s why Stone had beat him to a pulp.
She glanced down at her hands. They were once more in the shapes of claws.
Blinking several times, she realized she didn’t like the thought that Rez had been ready to feed from Rosamunde. She didn’t like it at all.
She forced herself to calm down. She put a hand to her chest and felt the extra supply she’d been building. She didn’t want this, yet from what Vojalie had told her, she was genetically pre-dispositioned to function in this way.
When she returned to the living room where she’d left Vojalie, the fae was on her phone, her color heightened. “I know, my love. Me, too, but I don’t know when I’ll be home. Oh, I didn’t know that. Excellent. I’ll see you soon.”
Vojalie stood facing the wall of windows overlooking a northern panoramic view of the Dauphaire Mountains. Holly had chosen the location for exactly this reason. The snow-capped peaks formed the opposite range to a forested valley that led to the Sterling River. Her view was nothing but distant forest and so beautiful it was breathtaking.
Vojalie smiled softly as Holly drew near. She lifted her phone. “Davido will be joining us as well.” She frowned suddenly. “Oh, dear.”
“Sometimes, I can be so dense. I always think romance first, that he’s coming to dinner to see me. Now, I know it’s because of what’s going on with you and Rez, what it all means.”
Holly once more touched her chest. Her heart wasn’t laboring yet, but it would be soon. “What is going on?”
Vojalie slid her phone into the pocket of her long blue tunic. She wore a pair of black silk pants beneath and her hair was in an intricate crown of braids. She was a mother again of a troll baby named Bernice. “Well that’s just it, Holly. I don’t have an answer to that kind of question. Do you?”
“Me? No.” She snorted. “I mean I’m caught up in events I don’t understand involving strange Invictus wraith-pairs and I’m a blood rose. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.”
Holly was somehow relieved by Vojalie’s somber expression. She released a long difficult sigh. She was still feeling time-lethargic.
“Can I help a little more with that?”
Holly nodded and closed her eyes. Vojalie had done this several times before when she’d been too long in the continuum.
As the powerful fae touched her and healing cascaded through Holly’s mind, she swore nothing felt better. Not even the soothing hot water from the shower matched the peace she felt as Vojalie shared her healing waves.
Holly began to breathe more easily and a lot of the night’s tension dissipated.
When Vojalie withdrew her hands and the powerful healing energy ceased, the remnants of her lethargy were gone. Her mind felt clearer as well.
“Yes, thank you. Did you know I fell asleep against the bakery wall at Boylbury?”
Vojalie chuckled. “When I was first learning to time-path, I did that more than once myself. I couldn’t have stayed awake for anything.”
She smiled then realized there was one thing she wanted to discuss with Vojalie. “I had sex with him, with Rez.”
Vojalie’s brows rose. “So soon?”
“I know. I know. I know.” She put a hand to her cheek.
“What a foolish thing to do.” But her eyes danced.
“You’re laughing at me.”
Vojalie smiled. “A little.”
“I’ve never done anything like that before. Been so reckless …”
“So out of control?”
“Not once in your life?”
She felt defensive. “I think we women need to be careful. More than we realize.”
“There is much truth to that. So, then you must really trust Mastyr Rez.”
Holly opened her mouth to speak, but her thoughts got jammed up. Did she trust him? On some level, she believed she did. “The problem is, Rez isn’t my type, not even close. He’s, well, he’s a Neanderthal, if I have the earth-term correct.”
“You do, but are you sure about that?”
Holly shook her head. She recalled Rez’s study and the inscription in her father’s book. “No. I’m not sure at all. He’s a conundrum.”
“Holly, I say this with kind but firm intentions. You must open your mind. Your thinking is too rigidly generally. Too many boxes and everything and everyone stuffed inside them.”
“You think I judge people too severely then?”
“That’s just it. You shouldn’t be judging them at all. We’re realm-kind. None of us is all good or all bad. We make mistakes, then we strive to do better as we are able. We’re each shaped by the trials of our lives and sometimes what afflicts us is more than anyone can bear and not come out the other side unscathed.”
“You’re talking about Rez. You think I should be more compassionate toward him because he lost his family.”
“I was talking about you.”
“What do you mean? I’m fine.”
“You are two different people, the woman you were before your brother, Scott, died and the woman you became after.”
Holly looked away, her gaze shifting to the distant peaks. Had his death affected her so much? Altered her view of life, of people, of her understanding?
“I loved Scott so much. He was my best friend.”
“But I’ll think about what you’ve said.”
~ ~ ~
At least Rez was all cleaned up when he arrived at Stone’s home on the outskirts of Sandismare. Stone had given him time to shower again. He’d put on slacks and a long-sleeved shirt. He was presentable.
He hadn’t seen Rosamunde since that terrible night. When she brought him a single malt, Stone moved in close to stand next to her. She was a beautiful fae woman, but with strong wolf sh
She greeted him warmly and handed him the tumbler. “I thought you’d like this. Or you might even need it. Stone filled me in on the details. Difficult night?”
“You might say that.” Before he could take his first sip, however, he needed to extend his apology to Rosamunde. “I’m sorry about what happened two months ago.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Mastyr. And it wasn’t really mine either. Or Stone’s. None of us knew what was going on or how dire the ramifications could be. If I’d had that kind of understanding, I would never have gone after you as I did.”
“You went after me? What do you mean?”
“I went to the Wild Boar specifically to find you.”
“You did?” He’d never been more surprised.
“Yes. So, I hope that relieves your mind a little. I wasn’t there by chance. I found myself in a difficult situation. I’d only been a blood rose for a short while and,” here she glanced up at Stone, “my man and I weren’t on the same page yet. So, I remembered you were a mastyr and I’d always liked your looks.”
Stone cleared his throat and slid his arm around her waist. “I’m right here, Sweetheart. I can hear what you’re saying and I’m not sure I like it.”
Rosamunde’s eyes sparkled as she looked up at her bonded mate. “I’m not sparing your feelings right now, Darling, because Rez should have as much comprehension of Holly as he can right now. He’ll need to protect her.”
Stone frowned slightly. “I’m remembering.” He shifted to look at Rez. “I turned Rosamunde away when she needed me. Don’t make that mistake. It’ll backfire like you wouldn’t believe.” For a moment, Stone looked solemn. “Nothing dimmed my rational brain so thoroughly as Rosamunde offering her throat to another man.” He appeared to work to calm himself.
“Hey,” Rosamunde called softly to Stone. He turned to her with a quick intake of breath. He nodded several times. Maybe she was pathing with him as well, offering a few soothing thoughts.
Rez felt the need to give them some space and stepped several feet away to take in the backyard. Stone’s house was surrounded by trees. It was fully landscaped with big boulders and an extensive lawn, a large back patio and a lit-up pool.
He’d heard Rosamunde was pregnant, a sort of good-luck omen for fae women when they married. Stone had a wife now.
A blood rose and a wife.
He tightened his grip on his glass as he stared out at the pool. He took another sip of whisky. A nice line of profanity ran through his head.
Without warning, the memories returned like a knife straight to his heart. He was in the home he’d built for his wife on their acreage not far from the smithy house in Boylbury. It was a perfect place for a small family with a good-sized vegetable garden, fruit trees and a pasture for sheep, goats and horses. It was a great place to raise his children.
He could smell the pies baking. His wife had loved to bake. He could hear the laughter of his children.
He’d served in the Guard at the time. He’d loved serving. He’d loved his family. He’d had security measures in place since they’d lived in a relatively remote area. But his electronic security had failed that night because of storms coming out of the north.
He tried hard not to think about what followed. But he couldn’t help himself. The memories rained down on him, forcing him to look, to feel, to watch as they died.
The Invictus had killed all the animals on the farm as well.
He’d built the pyres himself.
His grief had been … still was … profound, beyond bearing.
Something had happened to his mind that night. He’d gone to a very dark place. He’d drunk too much and awakened sweating and shaking from nightmares.
Making his way back to a functioning state had been a slow process and had involved hunting Invictus, on his own, at night. He wanted information about his daughter and he wanted revenge.
The only thing that kept him moderately sane was knowing that his daughter hadn’t died. He’d lived with the hope he could find her.
He’d refused to return to the Guard. Where had they been when his family needed saving? Too far away as they were from all the remote villages of the realm. Calls had been made to the Communication Center, at least six sightings from Boylbury alone. But the nearest patrol had gotten to his home twenty minutes after the attack.
Twenty minutes too late.
All of which drew him back to the present and to Holly. He had to continue hunting for his daughter no matter what. He also knew he could never return to family life, which left him in a serious quandary where Holly was concerned.
He hated the idea of another mastyr going after her. But they would. She would reciprocate as well. Just as Rosamunde had said, if she built an extra supply of blood, she would need to donate.
Only one solution came to mind that seemed even halfway tolerable to him. He would need to find an appropriate mastyr vampire for Holly himself.
Rosamunde called to him. “Need a refill, yet?”
He turned back to her and saw that Stone didn’t look quite so distressed. Rez shook his head. “I’m good.”
Rosamunde moved in his direction. Stone tagged along. “Stone tells me that you and Holly defeated ten Invictus, five pairs, out at Boylbury. He also said that Holly engaged time-pathing. Stone and I know a little because of a few things Mastyr Devyn shared with him a couple of weeks ago.”
Rez explained about Holly having been apprenticed to Vojalie for the past two years.
“I’ve heard rumors a few times over the years about the continuum, but I never thought it was possible.” She chuckled and shook her head. “You know, in the same way the blood rose phenomenon wasn’t real.”
Stone looked as grave as ever. Rez decided he wanted two of the most powerful people in the Nine Realms to know what the experience had been like and how he and Holly together had approached the difficult situation.
He took his time and relayed the battle point by point. Both Stone and Rosamunde listened intently, each expression growing more serious by the second.
Rosamunde’s brows were pulled tight together. “Time-lethargy sounds like a dangerous condition.”
“It is. It was. If another Invictus had attacked, we both would have died. Stone saw the state I was in and, hell, Holly fell asleep sitting up.”
Rosamunde glanced at Stone. “Is that true?”
“Sound asleep.” He then lowered his head and shook it back and forth a couple of times. He looked like a bull ready to paw the earth. “I thought we were done with this. Dammit, we finished Margetta off out at Tannisford Plains. My Guardsmen have scoured Tannisford. I thought we’d captured what was left of Margetta’s army. But five Invictus pairs. Only they weren’t really Invictus since there were no wraiths.”
Rez stared at him for a hard moment. “Exactly. So, what are we looking at, because even while I was battling, I could see that the wraith-like mates all had yellowed eyes and dark lips. They’d cry out as well, not exactly a wraith-shriek, but similar.”
Rosamunde looked from one to the other. “I don’t understand. I thought Invictus pairs had to include a wraith each time.”
Stone shook his head again. “Looks like we’re dealing with something new here.”
A quiet disturbance in the air had them all turning toward the foyer. But even before he saw the arrivals, he knew Holly and Vojalie had joined them.
As his gaze landed on Holly, his hand went to his stomach. He experienced two powerful, overwhelming reactions simultaneously. First, he became acutely aware once more that her blood had taken away all his pain, decades of agony. Second, she looked beautiful beyond words in a violet top, snug dark blue jeans and black shoes.
Just like that, he wanted her all over again.
The sensation was profound and sudden. What he couldn’t wrap his head around was how on earth he would ever
~ ~ ~
Holly couldn’t do anything except stare at Rez. All she was as a newly-formed blood rose craved him. Yet, she still had strong reservations about the man. It didn’t seem fair to want him this much, when her rational mind wasn’t willing to follow.
Vojalie’s words rang in her ears once more, that she was too harsh, too judgmental and put everything in her life into neat, tidy boxes.
But she’d never seen it that way.
A woman should have her standards and Rez had dropped out of the Guard when his family was killed. Maybe Scott would still be alive if Rez had done his duty.
She’d heard he had a connection to the black market, the one run by forest gremlins and other outlaw realm-folk. Her conscience tugged with her next thought. She, too, made liberal use of the black market which made her a terrible hypocrite.
Stone stepped forward and greeted Vojalie with a kiss on her cheek. Rosamunde did the same.
Despite Holly’s concerns, she drew close to Rez. Not only did it seem appropriate since they’d just fought a major battle together, but she couldn’t have stopped her feet from moving in his direction if she’d tried.
When he took her hand, she didn’t pull away. If anything, the warmth of his skin against hers calmed her down.
“Rez and I were talking,” Stone said. “It seems there weren’t any wraiths present among the five pairs you and Rez battled.”
Vojalie shook her head. “But what does it mean? I don’t understand.”
Stone huffed a sigh. “That’s what we were trying to figure out.”
Rez said, “The pairs you’re referring to behaved as though mated.” He then described how one of each pair had yellow eyes and dark lips, both of which were wraith-like qualities when Invictus bonded.
“They did,” Holly added.
Everyone fell silent, each no doubt trying to puzzle it out.
Vojalie finally said, “Margetta wasn’t the only fae who could forge the Invictus bond. She’d taught many of her underlings how to go about the business. But as far as I know, a wraith was always part of the bonding process. That doesn’t mean other dark fae haven’t experimented and found another way around the problem. Wraiths, on some level, however, would have to be involved. Their genetics or their blood is critical to achieving the bond.”
A Vampire's Embrace by Caris Roane / Romance & Love / Mystery & Detective have rating 4.6 out of 5 / Based on41 votes