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A vampires embrace, p.3
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       A Vampire's Embrace, p.3

         Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
 
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  Her hand continued petting the top of his head. It was soothing in its way, except for one thing. He wished more than life itself he was drinking from Holly and that what he was feeling were her caresses.

  When Holly had stared at him, he knew exactly what had happened with her, though he wasn’t sure he understood why. She’d grown suddenly jealous of Wanda to the point she’d had violent thoughts of hurting his doneuse.

  A wave of Holly’s scent had then washed over him, that sweet geranium scent, though intensified with her desire for him. Holly had wanted him, maybe even craved him the way he desired her.

  For a moment, he got lost in the awareness of his own lust as he suckled.

  Wanda called to him. “Mastyr, too rough.”

  He eased back. How messed up was it that he was thinking about Holly while drinking from another woman?

  He had to end the session.

  He swiped his tongue over the small wounds, sealing them up, then drew back. “Sorry.”

  Wanda shook her head. “No, problem.” She then held his gaze, her eyes glinting. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Rez?” Her voice dropped to a honeyed whisper. “I’m willing if you are.”

  He chuckled. “Your friendship is way too important to me to go down that road. But I appreciate the offer. You’re good people, Wanda.”

  She sighed gustily. “Fine. And you’re probably right.” She rose to her feet and pulled the sleeve of her sweater back down her arm.

  He rose to his feet as well, but was surprised when he listed. But then again, he’d just been poisoned by a dark fae.

  He righted himself easily enough then ran his hands through his hair, pushing the mass away from his face. He’d chopped off the Guardsmen length when he’d refused to return to duty. Shoulder-length worked just fine.

  In the distance, he saw several members of the Tannisford clean-up crew headed his direction. Someone must have called to let them know there were four dead Invictus in Millerell.

  He worked most of the villages in this part of Tannisford, one of the more rural areas of the realm. From the time his family had died, he’d made it his mission to do what he could to guard the local, vulnerable hamlets from Invictus depredations.

  The final battle against Margetta on the coastal plain to the south, should have ended the Invictus problem once and for all. But a large number of wraith-pairs had escaped into the hills north of the battlefield though Rez had thought most of those had been hunted down, captured or killed. He was rarely called out anymore to battle the Invictus. So, again, where had these two pairs been hiding?

  His thoughts were drawn to a recent occurrence near his home in Boylbury. His neighbor and friend, another mastyr vampire, Devyn, had recently connected with a blood rose. From what Devyn had told him, he’d battled Invictus pairs that were both deadly and bizarre since they didn’t behave like normal Invictus.

  Was the sudden appearance of two more pairs, an indication of another surge of the enemy? If so, who or what was behind it?

  He realized Wanda had grown very quiet next to him. He glanced down at her and saw that her gaze was fixed on the corpses. “Don’t look at them.”

  “I don’t mind the gore. I see plenty from watching the shifters and vampires fight in the bar. But I thought this was over. Mastyr Devyn battled a pair a couple of weeks ago. And a really messed up mastyr who was somehow involved with a dark fae.”

  She levitated so she could meet his gaze. “I thought we were done with all this.” Her scowl sat heavily between her brows and the three ridges of her troll forehead were compressed.

  He understood. All Nine Realms had celebrated the end of the war against Margetta and her Invictus creations. “I don’t have answers. Wish I did.”

  “Well, I’m heading back to the Wild Boar.” She patted his shoulder. “Take care of yourself and as always, thanks for protecting our villages. I don’t know who else would have done it but for you. We’re at the ass-end of the realm and Stone’s Guardsmen could never have gotten out here fast enough.”

  He knew the truth all too well. “Thanks for donating.”

  She took off, rising into the cool night air.

  He turned to watch the troll crew bagging the bodies and loading them onto stretchers. Some of the smoky water from the fire had mixed with the blood. The street was a mess. But the village was well-governed and cleaners already stood by ready to take care of business.

  Rez helped load the heavy, Guard-sized vampires from the cobbled street to the back of one of the vans. They’d been big men. Their female wraith-mates, in strong contrast, were rail thin and light as a feather.

  But as the last wraith was settled into the van something caught his eye. “Hold on. Let me have a look.”

  “Of course, Mastyr Rez.” The troll leaped down from the back of the van.

  Rez climbed in and took a hard look at the wraith’s face. That’s when he realized he wasn’t looking at a wraith at all, but a lean fae woman with dark lips and yellow eyes. She wore the long red gauzy gown most wraiths wore. She’d levitated easily as well. Her stringy black hair had covered her face while she fought.

  The battle had been quick and fierce with one against four, so he hadn’t noticed the profound discrepancy until now.

  When he heard the second van’s engine roar to life, he called out to the troll to hold up. He checked the second female. She wasn’t a wraith either. What the hell?

  He went back to the first pair to check her out once more. He didn’t get it. The woman had some wraith qualities but she was fae. He’d bet his life on it.

  He drew his cell-phone from the pocket of his leathers and called the Tannisford Communication Center. He provided the information as an anonymous caller, not wanting to wrangle with anyone about his identity. Having refused to rejoin the Vampire Guard after his family was slaughtered had given him a bad reputation among some of his former fellow Guardsmen. By many, he was considered a deserter.

  At this point, he didn’t care what any of them thought. He’d simply made a personal vow to devote himself to the safety of as many of the unprotected communities in the northeast part of Tannisford as he could.

  Given how many Invictus he’d fought and killed in the past two years, he had no regrets. He’d do it all over again even if he took a lot of heat for his decision. His friends, like Devyn and several other Guardsmen, had accepted and at times applauded his decision.

  Again, he didn’t really care. He had to do what he had to do.

  In the meantime, he was an outcast.

  He let the vans take off. He’d done his duty and reported the aberration. The physician at the morgue could give a better report to Mastyr Stone anyway. He’d be able to provide a scientific explanation for wraiths-that-weren’t-wraiths.

  Glancing around the village square, he saw that the leading citizens had control of the situation, the fire was out and the cleaners were detailing the cobbles. He had nothing more to do. He said good-bye to a few villagers who thanked him again for his service.

  He took off into the air and headed to his home in the nearby village of Boylbury to clean up. His ancestors had lived there a long time, though several had died because of the Invictus. His father had operated the old smithy, which he’d later converted into a proper home with the arrival of the automobile. He’d grown vegetables and planted fruit trees. He’d kept a few horses in the pasture beyond. There was even an old oak tree in the back pasture Rez used to climb as a boy.

  He touched down on the back lawn. Drystone walls kept his property separated from his neighbors on the east. A wide lane ran along his land to the west which encompassed Devyn’s farm.

  He’d long since sold the farm where his family had been killed. All he’d kept were things he thought his daughter, Isobel, might like once he found her and brought her home.

  He sighed, but forced his despair away. He would find her. He would bring her home. Nothing else mattered.

  He didn’t go inside right away. Fir
st, he checked his cell to make sure it was powered up and turned on. He was always ready to take calls if he was needed. Though, he doubted he’d receive another summons tonight. Then again, what had happened in Millerell was a mystery. Was Tannisford under attack again?

  Scanning the skies, he turned in a slow half-circle. It was a long-held habit of his, watching for the enemy. Low green hills lumbered along the northern horizon. Oaks dotted the hills as far as the eye could see.

  To the west was more of the Sterling River Valley that transected Tannisford.

  He stepped into the side yard and checked the skies once more. A few miles to the south, but down a nice slope of land, was the river itself. Tall beech trees formed a riverside woodland for miles.

  Boylbury was situated in pretty country.

  Though he knew he was healed up from the poison, he felt jittery. Maybe it was from almost dying, or maybe it was being with Holly again. Hell, it might even have been the shock of discovering neither of the Invictus pairs had a true wraith in the mix. Without a wraith, where had the fae and the vampire gotten so much power?

  All of it weighed on his mind.

  Satisfied the skies were clear, he went into the house and headed straight for his shower. He stood beneath the steaming hot water and let the spray pummel his shoulder muscles especially the poison’s entry point.

  Pleasure was what he felt. Sometimes, nothing beat a hot shower for taking some of the sting out of the night, literally. He was sure the Goddess, herself, had created hot water to ease the suffering of the world.

  He turned around and pressed his hands to the tile wall then leaned forward to let the water hit the back of his neck. His thoughts turned toward Holly and as natural as anything, he slid his fist straight for his cock. Images of her watching him suck on the inside of Wanda’s arm then smelling her mating scent had him hard as flint.

  He wanted to fire one off. It would be so easy. Yet, he held back.

  What he wanted, more than anything in the world, was to be inside Holly and to release everything he had into her. Repeatedly. To lay so much of himself inside her sex, she’d be branded forever.

  Rez was just shy of a hundred, but he’d never experienced this kind of powerful draw toward a woman as he did for Holly McCrae.

  He let his hand drop away and without giving it a thought, he flipped the lever to cold. He shouted a couple of times as the icy water flayed his heated skin.

  It had a good effect. His cock settled down.

  Later, dressed in a fresh set of leathers and a black tank, he headed back to Millerell only this time to the Wild Boar a quarter mile east of the village square.

  As soon as he opened the door, Wanda called out, “We’ve got us a hero, boys. Let’s hear it for Mastyr Rez and another four bad guys in the ground.”

  Shifters, trolls and vampires, even a few hardened fae males, turned in his direction. Applause, shouts and shrill whistles followed. There wasn’t a realm-person present who wouldn’t celebrate the demise of the murderous Invictus.

  He lifted an arm but all he cared about right now was a tall mug. He headed straight for the bar and by the time he got there, Wanda held up a beer for him, foaming and ready.

  He took it by the handle and began to drink. Those nearest, slapped the wood bar with both hands. “Chug, chug, chug.”

  He might not have taken it all the way down to the bottom, but it was close. One more long swig, and it was empty.

  He tapped his glass on the counter. “Stick, close, Wanda.”

  She grinned. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.” She took his glass and filled it up.

  Rez released a heavy sigh as he took the cold brew in his hand once more.

  Rachel, the owner, had built the Wild Boar to accommodate the shorter trolls who worked pouring drinks. They were waist height at bar level because they moved on a central platform. Very smart.

  Wanda was a pretty troll and had been after him for a long time. He was always tempted because he’d heard some stories about her skills in the bedroom. But he had a strict policy about not sleeping where he drank. The Wild Boar was his world.

  He finished his second and Wanda refilled.

  His cell rang. He recognized the bluesy tone he’d set for his foreman. “Oregis.” The man was a forest gremlin with a gift for administration.

  “Are you at that bar again?”

  “Of course, I am. Home away from home.”

  “Pffft. You should be heading over to the black market. See what’s what. I’ve heard Cruce is bringing in a new shipment.”

  Rez ground his teeth and took another swig. He’d hated having Cruce’s name invoked. He was a real bastard, a dealer in human flesh, a mastyr vampire gone bad. Real bad. He brought teenage runaways in from the nearby U.S. access point of Somerville in Massachusetts to sell to the thriving sex trade of Underworld.

  Of course, no one could prove he did this since Underworld was a secret, hidden place. He’d never been there himself. Rumor was all any of them had, but it was consistent enough to be believed.

  Rez used the black market constantly himself. With the profit from his ruby mine, he paid off a lot of seedy realm-folk night-after-night in hopes of getting word about his daughter. The mine had been passed down to him through the generations. Oregis managed it for him and the steady dig kept him flush with cash. He spent nearly every penny he made trying to locate his daughter.

  Two years later, he still didn’t have a lead.

  On a normal night, he would head straight to the black market, spend his money, work his contacts. But after battling two bizarre wraith-pairs, his gut told him to stick close to Millerell. He had an uneasy feeling things were going to head down the rathole.

  “I’ll be at the Wild Boar for a while. Got a bad feeling.”

  Oregis’s thin, high-pitched, forest gremlin voice, hit Rez’s ear. “Oh, goody. I suppose you’ll be needing me, then. But I should warn you, my woman’s headed over here in about an hour and I don’t miss her visits, as you well know.”

  Rez’s lips curved. “You don’t need to tell me twice.” Oregis and his forest gremlin clan made the rest of their realm-folk brethren look inadequate when it came to sex. They were an active bunch and didn’t hesitate to bring the subject forward. Often.

  Rez put his phone away, but lost his smile. Visions of sitting next to the low wall came back to him, of going blind, failing to breathe, blood flowing between the cobblestones. He felt the scowl form on his face.

  Glancing around the room, he noticed several women eyeing him. He’d bedded more than one of them. Sex was just what he needed right now which of course brought his thoughts swerving back to Holly and how much he craved her.

  Wanda leaned in, drawing his attention back to her. She wore fresh clothes as well.

  She spoke in a low voice. “What’s put the hurricane in your eye, Mastyr? I haven’t seen you this troubled in a long time.”

  “I’m pissed, is all.”

  “About what? Those wraith-pairs?”

  “Everything.”

  She leaned back. “I see what it is. Rez, you need to get laid.”

  She’d said it exactly right.

  Holly’s lustrous hazel eyes took over his mind again. He gritted his teeth. “I’m fine.” He guzzled.

  “Yeah, you look fine.” Wanda chuckled. She drew a damp towel from under the counter and went down the bar cleaning up water rings, sloshed drinks, and peanut shells.

  She was a good sort, one of the reasons Rez liked being at the bar. She could have pushed him, but that wasn’t her way. His type, usually a bit more beat up by life than the usual customer, didn’t need grilling.

  But she was right. He needed to get laid, only no one in the bar, no matter how desirable, would suffice.

  After telling a couple of loud shifters to bring it down a notch and watching the wolves obey, Wanda returned to him. “Holly’s got something going on, doesn’t she?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “She’
s riding a lot of power these days. I mean, I saw her vanish. Who can do that? She’s teleporting, right?”

  Rez shrugged. “I don’t know. But she healed me when I was staring death in the face.”

  Wanda scowled. “So, it wasn’t just your usual mastyr-related blood starvation when I donated?”

  “No, it was fae poison.”

  The three ridges of her troll forehead rose. She whistled softly. “How? When?”

  “During the battle, I got stuck with a poisoned needle.” His hand went to the entry point at the back of his shoulder once more.

  Rez heard the line of bells jingle on the door and felt a cool rush of air. A shifter’s voice called out. “Wanda! Whatever you’ve got on tap. Now.”

  Wrong move.

  Rez recognized the devilish glint in Wanda’s eye. Nobody ordered her around.

  He smiled as Wanda filled up a mug, then with a flick of her powerful troll wrist sent it airborne toward the shifter in a high arc, completely upright.

  The wolf had to leap for it and ended up being showered with beer and foam. “Damn you, Wanda.”

  The bar busted up laughing, Wanda included. “Don’t shout at me from the door like I’m your Goddess-be-damned maid.”

  “Fine. Sorry.” The shifter licked a line up his bare arm.

  From the opposite corner, way in the back, a three-piece band started up, adding another layer of noise to the bar. Rez loved it.

  Wanda leaned in close once more. “If you need a little back room action, my offer still stands. Of course, I think that’s probably true of about every woman here tonight. You have your pick.”

  He had to admit, flattery helped ease his mood and he chuckled. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

  When a vampire at the end of the bar lifted his hand, she went to him.

  The trouble was, Wanda was right and her not-so-subtle second offer settled something in his mind. Hell, maybe even his soul. For whatever reason, Holly McCrae had something he needed.

  Right now, it was time to figure out what that was. The only way to do it was to go after her.

 
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