A Vampire's Embrace, p.13Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
Davido didn’t respond to Oregis’s announcement. Instead, he glanced from Rez to Holly. “That’s just it. We don’t know. It’s going to be your job, if you’re willing, to find out exactly what this latest threat is. You’ll need to work together, that’s clear. But it’s Vojalie’s opinion and mine that a dark fae or even several of them working together, have been blocking the Fae Council’s ability to receive useful visions and intuitions about the future. Whatever is going on, it’s been extremely well-shielded.
“Tonight, however, they’ve tipped their hand with the poison attack on Rez then sending five wraith-pairs to Boylbury. Whoever they are, whatever their purpose, they’re serious.
“What we do know is that Underworld is involved.”
Rez leaned back in his seat. Underworld. It was the name for the darkest part of the black market and inhabited by the most powerful of the dark fae and other realm-folk attached to them. These folk engaged in the worst kinds of black market enterprises. Holly’s shoes and Oregis’s illegal workers were one thing. But Underworld trafficked in drugs and people, both human and realm.
“So, what do you say, Rez, Holly? Will you head into Underworld and see if you can figure out who the enemy is and what they’re up to?”
Rez felt a cold spot form dead center in his chest. He’d gotten within forty feet of the entrance to Underworld once and had to turn back. He’d never felt so much evil in his life.
One of Oregis’s friends had guided him there, a place heavily misted. Confusion had set in and made him almost delirious. He’d promised himself he’d never return, never again get that close to the place.
Yet, he was uniquely qualified to gather intel because of his proximity to the black market. He had dozens of contacts through the realms. He knew the back doors to all kinds of places. He was the right man for the job.
~ ~ ~
Holly had heard of Underworld, but she’d never seen it. Even the black market only sat at the fringes. In fact, she’d never really believed it existed as a physical space.
“Let me understand. Even with all the work Vojalie and I have done together, she never spoke of Underworld as an actual place with a physical location. I’d always thought of it as a term used to encompass any realm-folk who happened to be involved with dark forces. Or if anything, I thought it was another word for the worst parts of the black market. You’re saying it exists, in real time and space?”
Davido had never looked more solemn and the hard look in his eye scared her. Usually, his blue eyes shone with so much humor and good-will she couldn’t help but be drawn to him. Right now, she didn’t know what to think.
“Underworld is a location and there’s one in each realm. The vilest elements of our world and from earth frequent these establishments. But they are guarded with every manner of dark fae ingenuity possible.”
“Can’t Mastyr Stone and his Guard go in and clean it out?”
Davido shook his head slowly and Oregis mimicked him, but not for humor’s sake. The forest gremlin appeared equally solemn and his large pointed ears twitched.
“Why not?” She knew her voice sounded shrill, but she’d never been so frightened in her life.
She was fae. Very, very, very fae. She was feeling it now, as well, the future heading toward her like the proverbial freight train.
Sometimes the sensitive elements of her genetics could be so raw from sensation and feeling, she would sit trembling for half an hour. What she sensed now, as she opened those same sensors, was a darkness she’d never felt before. She’d only experienced something similar earlier when she saw the dark fae inject Rez with the poison.
She shifted her gaze to Oregis. “So, the black market isn’t part of Underworld?”
He shook his head. “We might be a thieving lot. But most of us have a code we adhere to especially concerning Underworld. But there are some, even among my kind, who prefer the more addictive aspects of the place.”
“Have you ever seen it?”
“No. Don’t want to. Sometimes gremlins go in. Mostly, they don’t come out.”
“Have you ever seen the entrance?”
“Hell, no. It’s said that once you’ve seen it, it’s too late.”
“How do we even go looking for it then?”
Both Davido and Oregis remained silent.
She realized Rez hadn’t been saying much. As she turned toward him slightly, she sensed something different. His gaze was narrowed and fixed on the opposite bank of windows or maybe the rolling forest and snow clad peaks beyond. He seemed deep in thought.
Rez?” She wanted him to come back. She needed him here, in the conversation.
She repeated his name with a sharper tone.
Though he finally turned to look at her, she could tell his thoughts were fixed elsewhere. His words illuminated what he was thinking. “I know what we have to do.”
“We need to go into the continuum right now and see if we can locate Underworld.”
~ ~ ~
Rez turned to look at the forest again. He knew in his gut they needed to use Holly’s time-path to locate Underworld. But his thoughts had run a completely different direction, something he couldn’t say to Holly right now.
Instead, his daughter had come sharply to mind. She’d been sixteen and so beautiful the night she’d been taken. She’d been shooting hoops with her brothers and had blown him a kiss. “Love you, Dad. Don’t forget the school play.” She was the lead in an old realm musical and the performance was at midnight. “I’ll be back by eleven.”
He’d come back to a nightmare.
But why was he thinking about Isobel now?
His heartrate suddenly doubled. What if the reason he’d never found her, not even in any of the realm morgues, was because she’d been taken to Underworld?
“You would do that? You would go to Underworld?”
It took Rez a moment to register Holly’s question. When he did, he also recognized the familiar disparaging surprise in her voice.
By now, though, his own opinion of her had softened and he’d begun to comprehend she had reasons for believing everything she’d heard about him as well.
“Of course, I would.” He even smiled.
Her brows rose. “Right. Neither of us are what we seem.”
“That was my thought.”
“Okay.” She nodded three times in a row, swift bobs of her head. “And you want to do this now?”
“Why wait? If we go on the offensive, we’ll have a better chance of surviving.”
Both Davido and Oregis dipped their chins in agreement.
She took a deep breath. “Okay. I think. Sweet Goddess, I never thought I’d go to a place like Underworld.” He watched a shudder pass through her. But she rose to her feet anyway.
As he joined her, he needed to keep reminding himself she was a very sensitive fae woman. Her reactions would never be a strict emotional response. The powerful fae he knew had connections to the future and could sense events. Getting close to Underworld, which would be laden with streams of dark fae energy, might prove very difficult for Holly.
To her credit and without hesitation, she lit up her time-pathing ability.
Even though Rez had only been in the continuum a few times, the unique vibrations were already familiar to him. The moment Holly pulled him in, he recognized the blurred edges all-round the living room. Because they were essentially still in the present, both Davido and Oregis appeared frozen in time. Each was still and unmoving. The trees beyond the windows didn’t sway in the breeze either.
It would only be as they went back in time that they’d be able to watch events unfold, though safely ensconced in the continuum. He understood the profound advantage they would have in terms of surveillance.
Holly shook her head. “I’m not sure what to do since I don’t know where Underworld is.”
“Can you picture the dark fae? The one that injected me with poison?
“You’re right. It would. She has to be part of this whole thing, whatever it is.”
Holly’s eyes darted back and forth. He felt her nerves riding her. He placed both hands on her shoulders. “Dial it down, Holly. Look at me. Take a deep breath. What you’re feeling is a kick of adrenaline. Is your heart racing?”
She nodded in more jerks of her chin. “I’m sorry. I’m shaking. I can’t seem to stop.”
He pulled her into his arms and held her close. He pathed, This is all new to you and what you’re experiencing is normal.
I fear this place. Underworld, I mean. I have the worst feeling.
With his arms around her, he could tell some of her trembling began to subside. He rubbed her back. Think of it this way. Wherever we go, we won’t be visible. No one can see us. We’re basically going on long-range reconnaissance. We’ve got a pair of high-powered binoculars we’ll be using at a safe distance and no one will be able to see us. How does that sound?
Better. And you’re right. That’s exactly what this would be.
He felt her grow very still, as a vampire might. He continued to rub her back and kept holding her until she pulled away.
He released her, but watched her carefully. She was a rookie he was taking into battle.
Her eyes didn’t jump around anymore and her shoulders had relaxed. She put her hand on his chest. “Better. Thank you.”
“You ready to do this?”
This time, she moved to stand next to him but reached up and put her hand on his shoulder. She closed her eyes and huffed a sigh then pathed, I’m picturing the dark fae as I remember her from Millerell. You didn’t see her, but when I went into the past and watched her inject the poison, I caught a glimpse of her. Her hair was blond, long and straight. She braided it with peacock feathers. Beyond that I didn’t see her face. Her clothes struck me as upscale.
Focus on her then. Find her in the past.
Her time-pathing vibrations beat heavily now, a solid drum against his shoulder. He felt a jolt as she pathed, I know her or at least of her. Her name is Lanarae. She’s on the Sidhe Council’s watch list. I remember seeing several dark fae on a poster once. Vojalie showed it to me, maybe for this reason.
Another shudder went through her and her eyes opened.
Rez covered the hand on his shoulder. “You can do this. She won’t see us. Remember that.”
“Right.” He realized she wasn’t scared. This was something else. Excitement. Holly, the rebel. “I’ve got her location. It’s as clear to me as the warmth of your hand on mine.” He gave her fingers a squeeze.
She turned and smiled up at him.
His heart responded with a stumble then a tightening that made his eyes burn.
Her smiled broadened. “Shall we go spy on the bitch?”
Holly faced forward and nodded. A strong vibration began and the time-path moved swiftly. He tried to detect a specific direction. Were they heading north or south? He could almost tell but they were moving so fast.
The continuum stopped abruptly and there, ten feet away, was the blond dark fae Holly had described. She stood near a long wood worktable through the blurred walls of the continuum. She had several vials of blood in a holder in front of her. She wore a teal woven gown, to her feet, with wide gold bands on her sleeves at the wrists. Upscale was right.
Lanarae frowned suddenly then looked around.
Holly whispered, “I think she knows we’re here.”
“It would appear she’s aware something’s up.”
Rez had no idea the extent of the woman’s power, but after a moment, she seemed to relax. She put the vial back in its place then returned the holder to a small, nearby fridge.
When she started to leave the room, he pathed to Holly, Follow her.
The time-path moved swiftly as did the dark fae.
A stone hallway followed, then a branching of halls. All were made of gray stone, but the ceiling of each was made up of jagged rock, as though chipped away unevenly from a cavern.
I think we’re in a cave, Holly said.
I would agree. Keep the time-path moving right at Lanarae’s heels.
As she stayed with Lanarae, the hall branched over and over. Each side path was a different tunnel. Some had stone walls. Others were simply the uneven rock of caves.
Holly kept pace with the dark fae. This must be an entire cavern system.
But which one? Tannisford had at least two dozen extensive systems that he’d explored at length. Yet, Rez had no idea where he was.
He felt it then. A dark fae spell covered the entire area and blocked his usual ability to know where he was in Tannisford.
I think Lanarae has be-spelled this system.
I have no doubt of it.
As Holly moved the time-path down the hallway, she thought she could hear the distant sounds of a woman weeping. She wanted to stop. Somehow, it seemed very important. But the dark fae was moving too fast.
Rez, do you hear that?
A woman crying? Yes. Probably a captive.
Did you see a door or anything? She slowed down slightly. Her fae instincts kept tugging at her.
No. His clipped response didn’t bother her. They were both on edge. Stay with Lanarae.
I will. She sped up.
Don’t lose her.
Holly turned the time-path hard to the right, but shouted her dismay. The dark fae was right there.
The time-path was moving fast, too fast. She passed right through Lanarae. She wasn’t really there, of course. She and Rez were witnessing things that had happened at least a half hour prior. But it was disconcerting.
I thought we would run her down.
As she turned and viewed Lanarae from the opposite side, she reminded him how the time-path functioned.
And she really didn’t see us or feel anything?
From what Vojalie told me, there can be no interaction between the continuum and any event we observe. Contact can only occur within the continuum itself or if we stepped into the past.
Confusing as hell, but good to know.
Lanarae remained in one place. She faced the wall of the tunnel, her eyes closed, chin lifted, nostrils flared, fingers extended.
Holly recognized these movements. She’s tasting her environment, Rez, with each of her senses. Her faeness knows something is going on, but she doesn’t know what. This is good.
The dark fae turned the other direction and followed the hall as it curved and passed the previous intersection.
Holly pressed on.
A pair of heavy wood doors appeared. They were guarded by two of the biggest, bulkiest, half-naked shifters Holly had ever seen.
When Lanarae stopped outside the doors, the shifter on the left stared straight ahead. But the one on the right met her gaze. “You need me tonight?” His lips curved and his eyes narrowed.
“Yes. Bring a young female. Human this time.”
“I am at your command, Mistress.”
Holly felt a heavy wave of sex come from the couple. Her gaze landed on the shifter’s powerful shoulders and certain unfortunate thoughts went through her head. The next moment, Rez had an arm wrapped around her waist like a steel band. He pulled her hard against him and growled into her ear.
The sound hit the back of her knees. She would have fallen, if he hadn’t been holding her up. Stop looking at the wolf.
For what felt like an hour, her mind drifted back to the oak tree. She was right there, feeling him inside her, his body moving over hers. She wanted him again. She wanted him now.
All these thoughts were extremely inappropriate especially since they couldn’t stay in the continuum very long.
Lanarae nodded to the shifter, who in turn opened the door.
Rez leaned close, Take the time-path inside.
Give me a sec. Let me catch my breath.
No. We don’t. The reality they’d used up at least half their allotted minutes already, forced Holly to gain control of her over-stimulated senses. She took a series of deep breaths and with each one, his grip on her loosened as though he, too, sensed she was calming down.
A few seconds later, she blew through the now closed door.
The vista surprised her. The room had a deep patio cover across a large bank of windows. In the distance, she saw the snow-capped Tannisford range.
She blinked several times.
Holly peered at the vista. What part of our realm would hold that kind of view, I mean besides my own living room?
Hundreds of miles of Tannisford mountains, I’m afraid.
The room itself served as both a sitting area and an office. A massive dark wood desk sat in front of the windows. There were papers everywhere. A large stone fireplace to the right was flanked by two couches in charcoal gray leather. On the stone floor was a strange floor-covering that looked like a hide of some kind.
Rez, what’s that rug made of? I mean it’s not really a rug.
Sweet Goddess, I think it’s skin.
She drew close to Rez and this time slid her arm around his waist. He was right. She could feel it now with her fae senses, that someone or several people had been skinned. Her stomach turned.
Don’t look at it.
Lanarae called out. “I need your ass in here.”
After a moment, a large, dark wood, sliding door opened with a slow, grating sound. “What do you want? I told you, I was not to be disturbed.”
“For this you’ll want to be.”
The vampire was rough-looking with long black hair and dark eyes. He tied the belt of his navy silk robe, but didn’t close the doors as he crossed into the living area. He moved to the small table to the right of the door, poured himself a whisky, then tossed it off.
Holly felt Rez’s back muscles tighten where her arm still held on.
You know who he is, don’t you?
Rez ground his teeth. Mastyr Cruce, one of the meanest sons-of-bitches you’ll ever want to meet. It’s all starting to make sense. Cruce and this fae are working together. They’ve found a way to create Invictus without wraiths. My guess is they operate Underworld as well.
A Vampire's Embrace by Caris Roane / Romance & Love / Mystery & Detective have rating 4.6 out of 5 / Based on41 votes