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A vampires embrace, p.14
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       A Vampire's Embrace, p.14

         Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
 
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  ~ ~ ~

  Rez felt the power Cruce radiated, though he was surprised he could sense it through the blurred continuum walls.

  Cruce had never been as gifted as Stone, though he’d had more natural ability than Rez. But if he was working with Lanarae, then something they’d done together must have changed things up for the mastyr.

  A woman emerged from the bedroom looking rumpled and content. She had brown hair. His heart jumped then settled down. She was fae. Not a vampire. Not his daughter.

  Rez breathed a sigh of relief.

  He was adjusting to the sight of her, when a troll teenage female, with long blond hair and wearing a black leather dominance costume, also walked in. She hissed at Lanarae, levitated then flew at her.

  The troll’s legs were perpendicular to the floor and aimed straight for the dark fae.

  Lanarae merely waved a hand. The blond troll got hit with a boatload of power and started rolling through the air. She looked like she would hit the wall near the decanters, but she stopped herself to float in the air inches away. She sulked. Her mouth was bloody. She hissed again and this time Rez could see her teeth had been filed to sharp points.

  Cruce turned toward the troll and jerked his thumb in the direction of the bedroom. “Get that damn fae bitch hauled out of there and send for clean-up. She didn’t last nearly long enough. And leave Lanarae alone.”

  The troll immediately grew submissive. She landed on the floor, bowed to Cruce then headed toward the bed.

  Lanarae gestured with a toss of her arm toward the bedroom. “I take it my prodigy didn’t fare so well.”

  “She’s dead. She didn’t have sufficient power to fight back which leads me to the same damn thing. I want the female.”

  “I need you to focus on the end game here. That female will bring us the real prize.”

  “So you keep saying.” Cruce approached her, his lips turned down. He flared his nostrils and bared his fangs. He offered a couple of growls. “Why are you even here? I didn’t summon you.”

  She curled her upper lip. “I don’t need a summons. We’re partners, remember?”

  The troll returned to the room. “Housekeeping is on the way.”

  The lovely fae crossed the room and stretched out on the sofa. The troll bounced along behind her, sat down close then put her legs across the fae’s lap. The latter began giving the troll’s feet a rub. The troll purred her contentment.

  Cruce ignored the women. “I’ll ask again, why are you here?”

  “Because we’ve been infiltrated.”

  “By whom?”

  “I don’t know yet.”

  “Was this a vision?”

  She shook her head. “No. My fae instincts are on fire and you know how powerful they are.”

  Cruce scowled as he turned away. He had heavy features that most women would find commanding. He lifted an arm and rubbed the back of his head. He sipped his whisky again.

  “What do you suggest we do?”

  Rez thought it telling that he didn’t discount the fae’s instincts. This was a real partnership.

  Holly’s voice entered Rez’s head. We need to leave.

  We haven’t seen anything yet that can give us a clue where we are. Can you walk us back out? Maybe we can take a quick look around.

  We’re running out of time, Rez. Can’t you feel it? The dizziness? Growing physical weakness?

  She was right, but he felt a sense of urgency as well. Holly, move fast, then. But we’ve got to get a better look at these caverns if we have a hope in hell of finding this place again.

  Okay. But I’ve warned you.

  I understand and I know what I’m facing.

  When Holly started moving the time-path, she whipped it back the way they’d come as quick as lightning. Reaching the intersection of paths, she asked, Back the way we came or do you want to go left?

  Left.

  She moved slower since this was unknown territory. The hallway was the same as before with stone walls and a jagged rock ceiling. But the air seemed fresher.

  Holly guided them around the corner, then stopped.

  Rez spoke aloud. “What is this?” He stared at a massive cavern open in the distance with a view of snow-capped mountains, the same view from Cruce’s living room.

  “I don’t know. But look at that pen over on the right?”

  “I see it. Wraiths?”

  “Yes. At least a dozen and they’re caged up.” The enclosure rose clear to the top of the cavern maybe forty feet high. Wraiths floated all through the space.

  “Some of them are weeping.” Wraiths, by nature, weren’t bad. It just happened that their blood could be used to form the Invictus bond. Once bonded, whether by choice or forced, they became crazed, even maniacal. Rez knew damn well some wraiths were forced into the Invictus bond.

  Holly held the time-path steady on what was essentially a much higher overlook. Rez suspected Cruce came here often to survey his domain.

  But what was he looking at?

  There were tents as far as the eye could see, the smell of meat grilling and the sounds of metal weapons clashing against each other. This had the appearance of an army.

  Another Invictus army.

  “Take us closer.”

  “Rez, we’ve really got to be going.”

  “I know. As soon as we make a final pass. Take us along the line of tents.”

  As Holly sped past the tents, Rez heard sex more than once.

  “They don’t even bother to close the tent flaps.”

  “I’m seeing that as well, though I’m sensing something else here. A lot of these couples are bonded, aren’t they? As in with an Invictus bond.”

  “You’re right. They are. But again, no wraiths.”

  “Not a one.”

  The time-path slowed to a stop at the forest edge beyond the tents. Suddenly, he felt it as well. “We’ve got to go, don’t we?”

  “Now.”

  “Take us back.”

  Holly’s time-pathing frequency faltered several times as she struggled to get them back to her home and to the present.

  Rez held her close and encouraged her to keep going.

  Once at her home, there was a final jerk and they landed in a heap in the present.

  He heard Oregis say, “Did they actually leave? All I saw was them disappear and now they’re on the floor.”

  “The time-path brought them back to the present at the same moment they left.”

  “Weird. Can’t wrap my head around it at all.”

  As at the village of Millerell, Rez could hardly move. He found it difficult to focus on anything.

  He lay on the living room carpet with Holly in his arms. She was shaking. The whole thing had been too much. He shouldn’t have pushed her so hard.

  He stared up at the beams on the ceiling and heard the shutters coming down. Warning vibrations rolled up and down his spine and only stopped when the shutters clicked into place.

  Daylight was on the way.

  Time for vampires and other sun-sensitive realm-folk to be tucked away until the sun made its descent once more.

  He was vulnerable like this. He couldn’t move a muscle. He’d have to be wiser if he moved forward with Holly and time-pathing.

  Oregis came into view off to Rez’s left.

  His ears swiveled in different directions. “At least they’re breathing, but what’s wrong with them? Maybe they had sex somewhere in the past and wore themselves out.”

  Davido again. “Not likely. They’re experiencing time-lethargy, like a time-travel jet-lag.” His face emerged from above Rez so he was looking at the ancient troll as though upside down.

  Davido didn’t say anything. Instead, he knelt behind Rez and placed his hands on Rez’s head.

  Rez closed his eyes as the most amazing vibration passed from the ancient troll’s fingers and into Rez’s brain. It was like having warm water washing through his mind. He didn’t want it to stop.

  He must have fallen
asleep for a minute or an hour. He couldn’t tell. When he opened his eyes, Holly sat on her knees next to him, blinking slowly.

  Oregis said, “What good is time-pathing if they end up like this? Anyone could kill them. Even I could slit their throats and they wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it except bleed to death on Holly’s fine carpeting. You know, I got this carpeting for her at a huge discount.”

  Rez slowly sat up. Davido rose to stand near Holly and put his hands on her head. Oregis now sat on the end of the coffee table, his booted legs crossed at the knee.

  Davido glanced back at Oregis. “You’ll have to help them, my friend. They’re going to need you come nightfall.”

  “What? Hell, no. I’m not going back in time only to return like a limp dick. Speaking of which, I need to get home. My wife will be wanting me by now.”

  “Vojalie said you have a gift and you’re going to use it.”

  “What gift?”

  “I believe she referred to how comfortable you are in the black market. She said it will be one of the ways we can find the Tannisford Underworld.”

  Rez listened to this exchange as though he was underwater again. His hearing wasn’t working and his thoughts jumped around. One thing stood out. He had to tell Stone, to warn him about what he’d seen. Battle plans needed to be made.

  “Why has that fire entered Rez’s eyes?” Oregis again. “Maybe he’s thinking about his last hard-on.”

  Rez ignored him. He shifted his gaze to Holly and watched her rise from the floor. “Thank you, Davido. You have amazing abilities. I feel a thousand percent better.”

  “Holly, what’s wrong with Rez?” Oregis again.

  As he recovered, still prone on the floor, he continued to stare at the beamed ceiling. His mind was caught up in the cavern images. Certainty of purpose came to him, full-blown. All his naysayers were wrong. He loved Tannisford and would do everything he could to protect his realm.

  Right now, he needed to take Cruce on which meant he also needed Holly.

  More than at any other time in his life, he knew the course he had to take.

  One final thought flooded his mind with determination. Was it possible his daughter had been taken to the Tannisford Underworld? Had she been there all this time? Was that why he’d never been able to locate her?

  He wouldn’t consider the possibility she’d become a victim of Cruce’s bedroom sadism. He wouldn’t go there. He would hold to the belief she was still alive until faced with specific evidence to the contrary.

  While on his back, all three faces appeared this time. It took him a moment to even register them.

  Davido shifted his gaze to Holly and said something to her, but Rez couldn’t make it out. All he could think about right now was his daughter and how to stop Cruce from attacking Tannisford.

  ~ ~ ~

  “Will you, Holly?” Davido asked.

  Holly was surprised by the question, mostly because she hadn’t heard the part preceding it. She had no idea what he wanted her to do.

  The old troll had never looked more intense as he caught and held her arm. “Will you, Holly? I must know. It’s important.”

  “Will I what? Remember, Davido, I’m still coming out of time-lethargy.”

  “Will you accompany Rez on whatever mission he sets for you both? No matter how difficult?”

  She felt her mind grow very liquid, though she wasn’t sure if it was time-lethargy or the troll’s charisma. Her lips curved. “Are you trying to charm me, old man?”

  At that, his eyes filled with laughter and a chuckle left his throat. “I adore how you just said that to me. Old man. Well, I am old, indeed.” No one knew Davido’s true age, but it was rumored he was over two millennia in years.

  Holly had gone with Rez in the time-path because it was essentially a very safe journey. They’d been protected in the continuum. But every fae sense she possessed told her the next part of the mission wouldn’t be so simple.

  She glanced down at Rez. Though Davido had healed his mind, he was still finding it difficult to revive. Yet, Oregis was right. There was a fire in his eyes.

  Could she do this again? Or something even more difficult? More frightening? “I don’t know, Davido. But I promise, I’ll do what I can. I won’t retreat, if that’s your concern.”

  Davido patted her hand. “Of course, you must weigh every consideration.”

  Rez finally sat up, though he put his head in his hands. Davido went to him once more and settled his thick troll fingers on his head. Rez moaned softly as the healing flowed.

  Holly knew exactly what he was experiencing and the relief the troll was delivering. That Rez was suffering more wasn’t a big surprise. She’d been time-pathing for two years. He’d only had a few trips in the continuum and this one had been way too long. She’d struggled to bring them home.

  She moved away from Davido and Oregis and headed to the fireplace. Rez might like some privacy while he came back to himself and she wanted to think.

  As she stared into the empty grate, suddenly, her mind was taken back to last week’s dinner at her parents’ home. Her father had asked her the strangest question.

  “Are you bored, Holly?”

  She’d responded, “No, of course not. Why do you ask?”

  She recalled now that she’d been staring out the front window of their tree-lined street near Tannisford University. Her parents lived in a large elegant townhouse. The maples in the parkway had started greening up. Spring in their realm was a beautiful season.

  “I mean, why don’t you apply to teach more classes? Surely, your budget must be tight.”

  She’d been offered a dozen times to expand her contract, but she’d always refused. She knew she had something of her father’s gift for teaching. Her classes were mostly full. It was a great compliment.

  She recalled glancing at her mother who had a pottery business. She had a workshop in their small backyard. She loved her kiln and her wheel. She loved throwing clay, the creative process, and the physical nature of the work. Holly knew she had some of these gifts as well, though she preferred her easel and paints to making pottery and figurines.

  She remembered feeling so restless as she’d turned back to her father. “I haven’t found my niche, like you and mother. I don’t know why, but I just don’t know what I want to do.”

  “You’re an excellent teacher. I thought you were headed down that path.”

  “You know something, I thought so, too, at one time. But I don’t have your passion. I know that now.”

  Her mother had announced dinner and the subject was set aside for a beautiful roast chicken, scalloped potatoes and glazed carrots. She’d drunk more wine than usual, maybe to keep from thinking about all that restlessness.

  She turned now to look at Rez. He finally rose to his feet, though he staggered a bit and threw his hands wide until he got his balance. But it didn’t take long. He was on his way to recovery.

  Then she realized he was staring at her.

  Something had changed.

  He appeared almost as somber as Davido, except there was an additional tension about him.

  Determination.

  Resolve, maybe.

  She was surprised by it. “What?” Had she missed something? Had the men been talking while she’d thought about her father’s question?

  Rez crossed to her and planted his hands on her shoulders. “I have to do this, Holly. But I can’t do it without you. From the time my family was killed, I made a vow to serve where Stone and his Guardsmen couldn’t. I battled on the fringes where the people of our realm were most vulnerable.

  “That vow hasn’t changed and it seems to me Underworld is the same thing. It’s on the fringes where the Guard can’t go, at least not yet.

  “You’ve been given a tremendous ability to time-path, to work the continuum and gather information. If we can locate Underworld, Stone can take the Guard in and clean out this viper’s pit before Cruce can launch an assault. We can avert a
realm-scale calamity.”

  Holly stared into his blue eyes. On one level, she knew she had to make up her mind for her own reasons. But the blood rose in her felt almost compelled to do anything he asked.

  Then she felt it, a very fae sensation, a heavy vibration this time and not just about the future. “Rez, I know there’s something else, isn’t there, something you’re not saying. I need to know what it is.”

  A shiver went through her. His palms were hot on her arms. She lifted her hands and touched him in the same way, holding him just above his elbows. They’d made a complete circuit.

  “It’s about my daughter, Isobel.”

  Without warning, the vision came to her, of a young woman, a teenager, held captive. She had shackles around her ankles and wrists from which a powerful vibration flowed. She lay on a sheet-less mattress on the floor. She was bruised, painfully thin and wore a dirty shift. She’d been a prisoner for two years. The walls were stone and damp and looked familiar.

  Within the vision, the girl whispered, “Goddess, hear me. Help me. Please.” Holly felt the girl’s life expectancy. She’d come to the end. She barely had a night left to live. Two at the most.

  When the vision faded, she blinked several times. Vibrations sprinted over her arms and traveled to Rez and back. His eyes glowed. He’d never looked more revved up.

  “Was it a vision?” He asked.

  “Yes. Did you see it as well?”

  “No. But I felt it.”

  All the pieces of the puzzle came together. Holly had always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Teaching was part of that and it formed the center of her self-discipline.

  She’d embraced time-pathing for the same reason. She knew her gift might be used to help others. She’d saved Rez’s life more than once tonight because of it.

  “Rez, there’s something you need to know.” She didn’t know how to tell him. She drew a deep breath and swallowed hard. “I’ve seen your daughter. She’s alive, but she’s in Underworld. Lanarae and Cruce are holding her captive. She’s the one Lanarae has been torturing, the one Cruce called for. But she’s very much alive.”

 
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