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A vampires embrace, p.12
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       A Vampire's Embrace, p.12

         Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
 
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  “No. I had –”

  She broke off. When he turned to look at her, waiting for her to finish her sentence, she had two fingers pressed to her lips and her cheeks flamed. What the hell?

  He glanced back at the stone work. Suddenly, he understood and his face eased into a smile. One of Oregis’s side businesses was stone-masonry but the labor wasn’t exactly legal. Or the materials, for that matter.

  “Well, well, well. So, the professor’s daughter has feet of clay.”

  Her color only deepened. “I’m not proud of it. She stared up at the ceiling. Her gaze refused to return to his.”

  He started to laugh and couldn’t seem to stop. “Oregis uses illegals from the U.S. He smuggles them across the Access Point by paying huge bribes to the officials on both sides.”

  She sighed heavily. “I couldn’t have afforded it, otherwise.”

  He glanced around. “Wait a minute.” He even moved back into the hallway and stared at the kitchen. “That’s not a cheap fridge you’ve got humming back there.”

  “Okay, you got me. I buy a lot of stuff on the black market. Because you’re right. I teach two classes a week plus I sometimes run workshops in mixed media. My income’s a bit thin. You don’t need gloat.”

  “I’m thinking maybe I do. But I have to say I like you better for it.”

  “Well, lucky me.

  He laughed outright “How did you meet Oregis, anyway?”

  Her lips formed a soft twist and her hands slid behind her back. She rocked on her heels. She then cast her gaze toward the floor. No not the floor. Her feet.

  He got it. “You buy shoes on the black market.”

  “My budget isn’t small. It’s cramped.”

  He drew closer and caught her softly pointed fae chin. “You do it because it’s exciting and different. You can’t fool me, Holly. You’re a secret rebel.”

  ~ ~ ~

  Holly glared at Rez. “No. I’m not.”

  He didn’t say anything to her protest. He just grinned.

  The trouble was, the smile on his face of pure amusement made him look young. For a moment, she saw the kid he must have been. The errant thought wiggled through her mind: When do we lose our youthful enthusiasm? Our innocence?

  She knew when life shifted for Rez, of course. The night his family was killed and his daughter abducted. She’d read of the brutality in the newspapers. His loss had been severe.

  Her own had as well with the death of her brother. He’d been dismembered by several Invictus pairs, tortured in fact. Very few people knew the truth.

  She and Rez had two things in common. They had loved ones savaged by wraith-pairs and they were both connected to the black market. Three, when she thought about it. Each appreciated her father’s writings.

  Was he right? Was she a rebel?

  She’d never thought of herself in those terms. But maybe there was a grain of truth. She supposed he’d only meant to tease her, but here she was, taking the whole statement apart and holding it up to the light.

  When she’d healed Rez the first time, his face had been unrecognizable. Mastyr Stone had truly beaten him within an inch of his life. Later, the bartender at the Wild Boar, Wanda, had related the sequence of events to her. Stone had come through the door like a Valkyrie on a mission of vengeance. Rosamunde and Rez had been quickly working their way to taking their clothes off in front of the Goddess and everyone when Stone burst in.

  A wave of his power had swept through the bar and he’d attacked Rez. As big and as powerful as Rez was, the surprise and viciousness of the attack incapacitated him. He’d never had a chance, despite his size. Stone might be slightly taller, but Rez’s shoulders had greater breadth. And Holly would know. She’d held onto them when he’d pinned her to the oak.

  For a few seconds, her mind dropped down that rabbit hole. She became lost in the memory of having sex with him. Little lightning-like shivers chased over her body. She could feel his cock inside her.

  “Holly?”

  Her gaze snapped to his. “What?” A warm flush covered her cheeks, but she wasn’t embarrassed this time.

  He drew close. “What’s going on in your head because right now the whole room smells like your scent. You know the fragrance of geraniums? It’s edgy yet sweet. But it’s you, as well. I’m not saying I don’t like it because I do. But I’m not sure it’s what you want or what either of us should be doing right now.”

  She stared at him. “Rez –?” But the rest of the words were hard to find.

  He frowned suddenly and planted his hands on her shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

  “Vojalie said something to me and I have to pay attention to it. I know I’ve expressed my dislike that you didn’t return to the Guard. But she also said it seemed to her I trusted you on an instinctive level.”

  “Why would she say that?”

  “Because of the oak tree. I mean, what we did against that tree, what you did to me... I’ve never done that before in my life. I’ve never been one to hop into bed. Ever.”

  “Wait a minute. You told Vojalie we had sex?”

  She chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Sorry. But at the time, it seemed important.”

  “Did she disapprove?”

  “No, not at all. I did.”

  “Your standards again?”

  He eased the grip on her shoulders, but he didn’t let her go. His touch was warm and comforting.

  This time, his dark unruly scent filled the room. Her breath caught as she held the eucalyptus and thyme fragrances in her nostrils and took apart the strong, erotic layers.

  As she stared into his eyes, as she felt his hands on her shoulders, what was blood rose came alive all over again. How easy it would be to fall into bed with him.

  He leaned into her and sniffed her neck, her face, the line of her throat. A soft rumbling growl returned as he switched to telepathy. I can smell your blood, Holly.

  She planted a hand on his chest and gave a gentle push. She didn’t want to disconnect completely, but she needed to tell him something.

  When he drew back, and with his hands still on her shoulders, she held his gaze. “I want your protection, Rez.”

  He narrowed his eyes. “Of all the things you could have said right now, I wasn’t expecting that. What exactly do you mean?”

  She found it hard to breathe. “I have a terrible feeling that I will be hunted by another mastyr vampire, someone vile. And the part of me that is a blood rose will respond without discrimination. I’m frightened of that possibility. Will you protect me?”

  “Of course, I will.”

  “Are you sure, Rez?”

  “You don’t think I’m up for it? Not as strong as, say, Stone?”

  She shook her head and wrinkled her nose. “Well, no. That’s not it.”

  “Is he not good enough, either, Holly? A ruling mastyr?” Rez’s lips curved. There was nothing malicious in his expression. He seemed amused.

  She had to think for a moment. “I guess I always saw myself with a fae. That’s all I’ve ever dated. Not that I’ve dated all that much. How about you?”

  “I’ve dated. A lot.”

  “No. I mean what was your wife like?”

  At that his smile dimmed. “She was lovely. A good woman. An excellent mother.”

  “Was she a vampire?”

  “She was.”

  Holly wondered if sex with a vampire always included the sharing of blood. The thought of it caused her gums to throb in two specific, very vampire-like places. She thought it odd and wondered why she was experiencing a vampire teething process. Maybe it was her imagination.

  He released her fully. “I will protect you. I know enough about this phenomenon to understand how attractive you’ll be to other mastyrs. I’ve been there.

  “The problem is, I don’t see where this is going, either. Why have you and I come together? It makes no sense. You want someone no doubt more like your father, an intellectual, a fae. As for myself, I don’t want anyo
ne.”

  Holly had always loved the why of things. For her, it was the most intriguing part of any situation. Why does anyone fall in love? Is it to procreate? To meet the deepest needs of the other?

  When she dated, she often engaged in the why questions with her man. Of course, the hardest ‘why’ to ever answer was always the same: Why did she keep breaking up with the men in her life? Why were the men she dated never good enough? And even sometimes the worst one of all: Why was she never satisfied?

  Now, Rez had come into her life. So, why was he here, of all men?

  She grew very still as another question rose to mind. Was her desire for him only because she was a blood rose?

  ~ ~ ~

  “Why are you looking at me like that?” She appeared as though a strong wind had blown across her face for about an hour.

  Her brows rose. “Like what?”

  “Like you’re stunned, but curious at the same time.”

  “Do you think the Goddess or Fate or whatever wanted us to come together?”

  “I was never big on the concept of destiny.”

  At that precise moment, the air rippled near the wall of windows. Rez reached instinctively and pulled Holly behind him. He bent his knees wishing like hell he had a weapon with him. Even so, he began winding up his battle energy preparing to fight.

  He felt Holly’s hand on his back. Though he’d only experienced the continuum a couple of times, he recognized her time-pathing vibration.

  Not yet, he pathed. Let’s see who’s decided to pay us a visit.

  Two realm persons arrived, both familiar: Davido and Oregis. The latter had his back to the room. He was floating in the air in front of Davido.

  Rez relaxed and dialed down his battle energy. He would have offered his greetings, but his forest gremlin foreman appeared to be in the middle of an argument with Davido.

  Forest gremlins were the smallest of all realm-folk and generally despised unless you really got to know them. “And I said I refused to go. I was headed to the black market where I thought he’d gone. I wanted to find out for myself if he was dead or not.”

  Davido extended his arm in Rez’s direction.

  Oregis shifted his gaze to Rez. His thin eyebrows rose. “Well, what do you know. The grapevine got it wrong. You’re not dead at all. But you’re supposed to be.”

  Rez had no idea what Oregis was talking about. He would have asked, but Holly moved past him. “Oregis. Davido. Though I’m not sure what has brought you here, welcome to my home.”

  She leaned down to embrace Davido first, then shook Oregis’s small hand.

  He was tall for a forest gremlin at eighteen inches and a full-grown, full-blooded male. He had a familiar glint in his eye as he bowed over Holly’s fingers and kissed her hand.

  Oregis cut a dashing figure in brown suede hip boots, tan leathers and a black vest. He had long black hair. He wore the front section braided to hang in front of large, pointed ears that added another four inches to his overall height. His eyes were coal black, his complexion suntanned. He had no aversion to sunlight. He was muscular, compact and sexed up all the time.

  There wasn’t a forest gremlin around who didn’t know just how to provoke another realm male.

  As Holly turned to speak with Davido, Oregis moved in close to Holly. Behind her back, he humped his hips a couple times and winked at Rez when he did it.

  Unfortunately, Rez’s blood rose craving had put him off-kilter and he launched at Oregis. He didn’t make contact, however, because he found a sudden wall of power as Davido simply waved his arm. Rez hit the field of energy and fell to the floor.

  “What the hell?”

  He leaped to his feet ready to do battle once more, but Holly cried out, “Rez, what are you doing and would you please dial it down? You’re battle energy is burning my face.”

  He saw her horror-stricken eyes then glanced at his hands. They were white hot and ready to fire. Only Davido’s enormous power had kept him from killing Oregis.

  “Damn.” He kept staring at his hands as though they didn’t even belong to him.

  Oregis, secure in Davido’s protection, levitated to sit on the troll’s shoulder. He crossed his booted legs at the knee and grinned like the devil he was.

  Davido rose in the air so he could meet Rez eye-to-eye.

  Oregis smirked. “A little short-tempered are we, Mastyr? You need to get laid.”

  “Why aren’t you at the mine, is what I want to know.”

  Holly drew close. “What mine?”

  Oregis glanced at Holly. “Lover boy owns a ruby mine and I manage it for him. He’s a catch. You’d do well to nab him right quick.” When Holly turned to stare at Rez, Oregis made a circle with his hand, winked again, then shoved his finger through the hole back and forth several times.

  Rez could feel his battle energy warming up again. But Davido intervened.

  He slapped a hand on Rez’s shoulder. “Ignore him. We have much more important things to discuss like how you and Holly are going to stay alive for the next two nights.”

  Rez scowled. Davido wasn’t fae. He didn’t have abilities to see into the future. Or if he did, he’d never mentioned them.

  “Do you know something I don’t? Did Vojalie have a vision?”

  Davido had counseled him after the loss of his family. He’d also encouraged him to keep looking for his daughter. His drive to find her had been one of the reasons he hadn’t rejoined the Guard. He needed to be free at a moment’s notice to head to any of the other Nine Realms to search for her, though often in morgues.

  The black market had become a family of sorts. At the smallest whiff of a rumor, they’d send word to him about any vampire female seen, dead or alive, in a wraith-pairing. Until the final battle against Margetta, he’d head to a different realm every night.

  Davido waved a hand to the couch, gesturing for all of them to sit down. They had details to discuss.

  Rez glanced Holly’s direction and saw the tightness of her shoulders and the way she compressed her lips. He was used to battle, but Holly knew none of it. He recalled seeing her weeping at Stone’s house. He had to keep reminding himself she wasn’t just a rookie, she was a fae artist who liked building things and teaching her classes. She wasn’t exactly built for war.

  He sat down beside her, slid his arm around her shoulders and gave a squeeze. “Listen, Holly. We’re in this together. And you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

  “Like you, not serving in the Guard.”

  For the first time, he didn’t hear nearly so much judgment in her voice. “Yes, exactly like that. We all have a part to play. At the same time, we each must do what we believe is right for ourselves. Beyond that, the world can suck it.”

  Oregis, now perched on Davido’s shoulder, screwed his lips in Davido’s direction. “This isn’t going very well.”

  Davido took his time sitting down to make sure he didn’t unseat Oregis, then smiled. “My friend, I think this is progressing just fine.” The three ridges of his forehead were barely rumpled and his blue eyes glowed. His thick wavy brown hair was combed straight back. He wore expensive Italian loafers, a red silk shirt, and tailored pants. He was ugly as sin, yet his charisma lit up the room.

  Rez addressed his foreman. “What did you mean you wanted to see if I was alive?”

  “Right. I was sitting in my favorite jump seat at Dinah’s when, a couple tables down, some messed up shifter said, ‘Heard Rez bought it out at Boylbury.’ I choked on my bloody Mary.”

  Rez didn’t know what to make of this. How could a rumor like that even get started? It didn’t make sense. “There was a battle on Main Street, but no, I’m not dead.”

  Oregis turned to Holly. “Speaking of bloody Mary’s, have you got some tomato juice?”

  “I do.”

  But when Holly moved to get up, Rez put a hand on her knee. “Forget that for now. This isn’t a social call.”

  Davido confirmed his statement. “No,
it’s not.” He leaned back enough to give Oregis a scolding frown.

  “What? I didn’t get to finish my drink because you showed up with your tale of the apocalypse then you brought me here.”

  Rez ignored the gremlin and addressed Davido. “What apocalypse?”

  “Our gremlin friend exaggerates.”

  “Oh, yeah?” Oregis called out. “How else would you interpret, in your words, “Then the Nine Realms will cease to exist as we know it.’”

  Holly broke in, “Davido, what’s going on? I’m sure Vojalie must have told you that Rez killed five wraith-pairs in Boylbury and two more pairs in Millerell.”

  He nodded solemnly. “She did.”

  Rez rose to his feet. “You’d better give us some answers. Now. What the hell is going on? What has happened in the past fifteen minutes, because Holly and I haven’t been here longer than that.”

  “After you left, we reached a consensus. First, none of us knows what’s going on, where the wraith-pairs came from or why there seem to be regular realm-folk taking on wraith characteristics. But your near-death in Millerell then five wraith-pairs showing up out of nowhere in your home village, tell us something critical is in play and that you and Holly are at the center of it.”

  Holly asked, “But no vision from the Sidhe Fae Council or even your wife?”

  Davido had never looked more solemn. “Only one. From Vojalie.” When he turned to stare at Holly, Rez felt a kind of dread he hadn’t known in a long time.

  He sat back down, closer to Holly than before.

  When Davido didn’t speak, it was Holly who broke the tension. “In the past two years, when I’ve studied time-pathing with Vojalie, I guess I knew it wouldn’t just be for fun.”

  “No, Holly. It’s not.”

  “So, what you’re suggesting by your careful avoidance of your real point is that I’ll be putting my life on the line, but to do what? And stop trying to protect me. My father might be a fae intellectual, but my mother is a vampire. Understand? And I built this damn house, so get on with it. Spit it out.”

  Oregis, still perched on Davido’s shoulders, crossed his arms over his chest and grinned. “I’ve always liked her. She’s my kind of woman. Reminds me of my wife. Got strength, that one.” He glanced at his watch. “BTW, gang, I’ve got an appointment in a few.”

 
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