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A vampires embrace, p.11
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       A Vampire's Embrace, p.11

         Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
 
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  Rez shook his head. “So, we could be looking at another scourge.”

  “It’s a possibility.” Stone’s deep voice, edged with his temper, hit Holly square in the chest. “I was sure my Guard had gotten rid of all the Invictus in Tannisford. I mean we scoured every square mile.”

  Rez added. “More than anything, we need to find out where these Invictus are coming from.”

  Rosamunde gave the subject a turn. “I don’t mean to disrupt the conversation, but I have a lovely soup waiting, chilled wine and a fabulous bread my former housekeeper sent over from Ferrenden. You’re in for a treat. Anyone hungry?”

  The men responded immediately in the affirmative.

  Holly was grateful for Rosamunde’s interruption. Both Stone and Rez were powerful men of war and the more they focused on the recent battle, the more their energy kept ramping up.

  Rosamunde took Vojalie’s arm and led her toward a formal dining area beyond the living room. The table was set with a unique collection of stones alternating with small vases of lavender rose buds.

  Vojalie said, “My husband will be here in another minute. He had some emergency in his garden shed.” All the Nine Realms knew of the troll’s love of horticulture.

  As the ladies took their seats, Davido arrived. He greeted everyone, then went straight to Vojalie, caressed her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. Holly thought it a beautiful, smart thing for the man to do. Vojalie caught his hand and gave it a squeeze.

  The dinner eased Holly. She hadn’t even known how hungry she was until the aromatic soup was placed in front of her. “This smells wonderful.”

  “Thank you. I hope you enjoy it.”

  Throughout dinner, Rosamunde kept the table talk from turning to the night’s difficulties. But once coffee was served, the critical subject resumed about the apparent new strain of Invictus.

  The entire conversation had turned Holly’s mind back to the main street in Boylbury. She could picture the dead and dying Invictus and now recalled each part of the battle as though her mind was trying to tell her something important.

  She finally excused herself and went into the living room. She made her way to stand overlooking a well-manicured backyard that included a pool. Beyond the pool, was a confer wood, the treetops forming a beautiful skyline against the dark starry night sky.

  Her realm vision warmed everything up, of course, though right now she preferred looking out at the night. Somehow, it seemed fitting.

  She could hear quiet chatter from the dining area and softly spoken words. Maybe they were trying to protect her.

  But what was it Rez had said: They needed to find out why the Invictus had come to Boylbury. As surely as night followed day, she knew what would be required of her. Rez and Stone, the women as well, would want her to use the time-path to locate the origin of these Invictus.

  She wasn’t a warrior. She was a teacher and she’d built her home from scratch, one nail at a time. She liked to buy shoes and in her off-hours, she spent a lot of time in her artist’s studio at the back of her house.

  Artist. Teacher. Builder. Herbalist. Time-pather.

  Did any of these occupations suggest a woman who would enjoy going to war?

  Now Rez was in her life and she would need to feed him soon. The thought of it, and what it had been like to service him last time, caused shivers to travel down her neck and over her abdomen. Even from several feet away, she could smell his eucalyptus and thyme mating scent and it aroused her even more. She was humiliated by how out of control she felt.

  She began to tremble. Through no fault, or desire, or will of her own she was being forced down this path. She didn’t want to be a blood rose. She didn’t want to desire Rez as much as she did. And she sure as hell didn’t want to be battling Invictus monsters.

  As though all the stress of the night fell on her at once, she eased her way to the nearby sofa, sat down then promptly burst into tears.

  Through her quiet sobs, she felt a lot of movement and heard the sliding glass door to the backyard open then close.

  Vojalie sat down beside her and squeezed her shoulders. “This is a perfectly natural reaction. Don’t think it isn’t.”

  Rosamunde sat down on the ottoman opposite Holly. “It’s very unsettling, isn’t it?”

  Holly lifted her gaze to Rosamunde. “What do you mean?”

  “Not wanting to care about a man while at the same time feeling this desperate need to jump his bones one minute out of every two. Then having to feed him because you’re so close all the time? The whole thing is deeply unsettling. It’s too much. What was the Goddess thinking creating something like being a blood rose? She’ll have some questions of mine to answer when I pass from our world.

  “I mean, I might have been lonely in the castle, but I confess I miss it, at least sometimes.”

  The way she expressed her frustration, even though it was clear she was madly in love with Mastyr Stone, made Holly’s tears dry up. If nothing else, at least one person in the room understood her dilemma.

  “Oh, I think it goes beyond being a blood rose,” Vojalie said. “I think it’s hard being in love with a man, period. I mean, there are times when all I want is a bubble bath, just a little alone time. I’ve poured myself a glass of my favorite sweet imported German wine, and I have Vivaldi playing softly on my cd player. I’ve climbed in and I’m just sinking into the soothing, floral scented warmth, then Davido comes in. The moment a man catches sight of your bare breasts, well, he starts doing things to you, the water starts sloshing and there goes your peace and quiet.”

  Rosamunde laughed and Vojalie joined her.

  Holly looked from one to the other and she got it or at least part of it. Love was knocking and she kept opening the door part way, feeling how wonderful it was, then trying to slam it shut.

  The trouble was, the current circumstances of a new Invictus threat and her ability to help, weren’t giving her space to even breathe. “I’m very independent. Dammit, I built my house by myself. I mean I contracted the plumbing out and had a carpenter help me install the cabinets. I had roofer. But I was in charge, I hammered most of the nails myself, and it was my house. I just don’t know how to get through this or what to do or even what this is. And I really don’t want to love this man.”

  Both women turned to stare at her. Rosamunde spoke first. “Stone has a short temper that still troubles me.”

  Vojalie sighed heavily. “Davido has more secrets than forest gremlins have orgasms.”

  Holly was shocked. Rosamunde covered her mouth with her hand but squealed her laughter. “Oh, my gosh, have you been around Joseph? He talks about his wife and sex all the time. He’s hopeless.” Joseph was a thieving forest gremlin who had helped save Stone’s life a couple of months ago. Holly remembered reading about it recently in one of the Tannisford blogs.

  “What about Oregis? He’s a gremlin friend of Rez’s.” Vojalie lowered her voice. “He and his wife do it three times a day. No. I am not kidding. Davido told me. He arrived at Oregis’s office one day, and she was there, doing him, in the bathroom. Davido kept chuckling as he told me the story. Apparently, she’s a real squeaker.”

  The images were too powerful to do anything but make Holly laugh and forget her troubles, at least for half-a-second. Holly knew Oregis well, herself, though with her he’d been more discreet. He was her black market contact. He’d helped her line up cheap labor while working on her house and he always let her know about new shipments of shoes.

  What she hadn’t known was that Rez considered him a friend.

  Rosamunde patted Holly’s knee. “Let me get a you a drink. Whisky okay?”

  “Whisky’s perfect.”

  She watched Rosamunde rise from her seat. Except for looking a little bluish beneath her eyes, she was glowing and beautiful.

  She was also the woman who’d been so desperate to get rid of a built up extra blood supply that she’d sought Rez out at the Wild Boar. Holly at least understood this much, sinc
e she was now building a supply for Rez. She was sure it would cause her injury if she didn’t donate in a timely manner.

  When Rosamunde returned, Holly said, “There’s something I need to know.”

  Holly took the glass Rosamunde handed her. “Sure. Anything.” Rosamunde resumed her seat on the ottoman.

  “That night, two months ago, when Stone beat up Rez, if Stone hadn’t come when he did, would you have had sex with Rez? I mean I know you would have fed him, but would sex have followed?”

  Rosamunde’s eyes went wide and her fingers touched her lips. Tears brimmed and Holly instantly wished the question unasked. “I’m sorry. It’s too personal. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

  But Rosamunde reached out and as she had before, she patted Holly knee. “No. No. You’re right. It’s the exact question you should ask.

  “The truth is, I’m beyond grateful Stone arrived when he did. I was so lost in my blood rose need to donate that once I’d set my sights on Rez, I won’t deny I was thinking sex, too. It’s as though they’re a package deal and it’s frightening when I look back. So, the answer is yes, I would have had sex with Rez. And if that isn’t bad enough, I swear I would have climbed on his lap, right there in the middle of the bar and done him without thinking twice. How awful is that?”

  “So, it’s not just me? What I’m feeling?”

  “I’m afraid not. You’re a blood rose and this is your new normal. But this craving? It will not discriminate. You will feel the same powerful drive toward every unbonded mastyr you meet. You will want to feed him and the sex will follow.”

  Rosamunde sat up suddenly. She was known to have visions.

  “What is it?” Vojalie asked. “Invictus?”

  Rosamunde shook her head, but her eyes were wide. “Worse. The men are close to fighting again. And this time, I think they’ll kill each other.”

  Chapter Seven

  Rez had steam coming out his nose or the nearest thing to it. He stood by the pool, a lit cigar in hand. He’d only had two puffs before the bastard started in.

  “Don’t be so damn defensive. Just admit you should have returned to the Guard.”

  “I had better things to do.”

  “Like hiding out in the backwoods while other men, men of real courage, served Tannisford? We lost good men in our battle against the Ancient Fae. You weren’t there.”

  Rez’s nostrils flared as he took a step closer to Stone. “You’re a prick, you know that? A Goddess be-damned, self-righteous prick. You’re just pissed because Rosamunde wanted me that night. And I could have had her.”

  Stone launched at him and Rez was ready. He blocked Stone’s punch then threw his own but it never connected.

  Instead, it was as though his arm shoved through several layers of thick clouds. His momentum, however, carried him forward and the next thing he knew he was rolling on the ground, yet not the ground.

  He was on the floor, but nothing he recalled from Stone’s house.

  He looked up and saw Holly. Her eyes glinted. “I’m going to have all kinds of trouble with you, aren’t I?”

  Still on the floor, he looked around. The air was blurred. “You took me into the continuum again. What am I doing here and where is here?”

  “My house in the mountains.”

  “What the hell? Take me back to Stone’s house. Now. I have business with that asshole.” He rose to his feet. His face felt tight and pinched and his hands kept making fists.

  “Not until you calm the hell down.” She turned and waved her arm. The blurriness disappeared and he was fully in the present.

  But she hadn’t returned him to Stone’s house.

  The need to finish things with Stone had him pacing. He wanted to leave, but he couldn’t teleport and he had no idea where he was. He hadn’t been to Holly’s house before. “So, this is your home.”

  “It is. Would you like another drink? I, too, have a fine single malt, though not Houndstreath.”

  She moved away from him toward the left then disappeared behind a wall. He realized he was in a large stone foyer and the door was behind him. Opposite was a long hall with a bank of skylights that angled down a pitched ceiling. He could see stars.

  To the left was a living room and to his right, a large kitchen and dining room that opened to a vista of forest. “You really do live in the mountains.”

  “I do.” He couldn’t see her, but he could hear the clinking sounds of glass as she prepared a drink.

  She peaked around the corner then jerked her head in the direction of the hall. “There’s a guest bedroom and bath down there. My art studio and my fae workshop as well.

  She stepped into view and waggled a tumbler at him. “More scotch?”

  He nodded, but couldn’t seem to move. He had a strange mixture going on in his blood. He had too much adrenaline from a broken-up fight and confusion from having been time-pathed to an unfamiliar environment. He wanted to punch something.

  When she rocked the glass again and offered a smile, he finally put his feet in motion. He all but grabbed the glass and took a deep swig. He’d been smoking a cigar. He wondered where it had gone to and what kind of apologetic note he’d need to send to Rosamunde.

  Damn all the elf-lords to hell.

  Fine.

  Whatever.

  As he moved into the living room, he was impressed. The ceiling was very tall, at least fifteen feet and angled to another bank of windows that had an incredible forest view. Her home sat on a hilltop and the Tannisford forest rolled in the distance for miles and miles. The opposite peaks were still capped with snow. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful, Holly. This must be a custom home and it must have cost a damn fortune.”

  “It would have, but I did a lot of the framing and sheet work, even some of the flooring. I only used a troll contractor when I needed him. I did have him do the roof and sometimes we’d work together. But I did most of the interior work myself, including the plumbing and electrical. Well, not the rough work. I’m on a septic system.”

  He frowned as he turned to stare at her. “You’re serious. You built this house?”

  She turned and poured whisky from a decanter into a second glass. “I refuse to be offended. I loved every second of it. The experience was worth all the torn nails, cuts, bruises and wrecked work boots.

  He noticed a hallway beyond the bank of windows. “What’s over there, past the fireplace?”

  She turned to look. “The master. It’s not big, though the closet’s a good size. But it suits me.”

  A couch sat opposite the windows and a stone fireplace flanked the wall shared by the master bedroom.

  She moved closer. “Feeling better yet?”

  He pivoted toward her and watched her eyes sparkle with amusement as she brought her tumbler to her lips.

  He took another hefty swig. “Not yet.” His gaze was caught by a modern painting above the table that held three decanters. “This looks familiar.” It was an abstract of an oak tree, beautiful, rugged, dramatic. For a long moment, he couldn’t keep his eyes off it. He saw movement as well, like wind through the leaves.

  “I’ve seen this before. Somewhere.”

  “Probably my father’s office if you were ever there. I believe you might have taken a class of his?”

  “I did.”

  “The two paintings are similar. I worked on them at the same time to explore some of the technique. But I took each a different direction depending on my mood.”

  He turned toward her, his mouth agape. He waved his glass toward the two-foot-high painting. “Wait a minute. You did this?”

  “Why do you look so surprised? No, shocked. You don’t think very much of me, do you?”

  He held her gaze, but remained silent, considering. “You’ve had an easy life, Holly.”

  “I know I’m young by Realm standards, but I don’t know anyone’s life that’s easy. And my father didn’t exactly pamper his children.” For whatever reason, her lips curved.
“Did you really call the ruling Mastyr of Tannisford a prick?”

  He chuckled. “Guess I did.”

  “And didn’t the same man once beat the crap out of you?” She sipped her whisky again. “So, what made you so mad?”

  He stared into his glass, his jaw working all over again. “He pushed me about not having gone back to the Guard.”

  She turned so that she faced him fully. “So, why didn’t you?”

  He saw and felt the accusation, same as Stone. He’d been asked that question a hundred times. He responded as he always did. “I had better things to do.”

  “Like riding your bike?”

  “My Harley? That’s one of them.”

  “Whoring?”

  “That’s definitely another one and I won’t apologize for it. I like women.”

  He expected her to give him a dressing down, instead she frowned.

  “What is it this time?”

  She shook her head. “Something my father once said to me.” She seemed reluctant to continue.

  “Spill it. I respect Professor McCrae”

  She appeared to think for a moment, then shrugged. “He believes a man who chases a lot of women has a hole in his heart so deep all his realm goodness has started to leak out.”

  He finished his whisky and set the tumbler on the console by the decanters. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his forehead.

  He didn’t want the memories to come but they rushed over him anyway like a tsunami, like they always did, just as they’d done earlier at Stone’s house. He could still smell the bodies of his dead sons burning on the pyre. Their throats had been torn out viciously.

  “Rez, I’m sorry.” He felt her hand on his arm.

  “What are we going to do here? You and me?”

  “I don’t know.”

  He glanced around the room and turned toward the fireplace. His gaze fell on the rough thick dark wood mantel and the surround. “Did you do the stone work?”

 
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