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A vampires embrace, p.6
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       A Vampire's Embrace, p.6

         Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
 
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  What the hell was happening here and why didn’t he get it sooner?

  “Holly, we need to talk.”

  “Forget it, Rez. You don’t owe me anything. Trust me. I’m fine.” She slid into her heels and adjusted the straps.

  She turned toward the deep red mist she’d made. He watched her focus, then wave an arm. Slowly, the mist dissipated until nothing remained.

  Mist. Of course. Now it made sense. She was a woman of extraordinary power. All the women he’d heard about who had Holly’s peculiar capacity were women of tremendous power.

  He knew one other thing as well. Holly had no idea what she was.

  “Holly, we definitely need to talk.”

  She lifted her chin and met his gaze. “I’m not going to date you, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

  She was so sure of herself, that some of his compassion for her vanished like the mist she’d just dispelled.

  “Really, Mistress McCrae? What? Am I not good enough for you? Is that it?”

  She folded her hands in front of her and once more lifted her chin, this time with an angled tilt to her head. “It’s not about being good enough. I’m sure you have many fine qualities …”

  “Sounds like code from the prim and proper daughter of a famous professor.”

  Her hand went to her throat. “I am not prim and proper. At least, not the way you’re saying it.”

  “Very prim. Very proper. And there’s nothing wrong with that.” He chuckled. “You are so not going to like what I have to say because you and me, we’ve got a monster, hairy-ass problem between us.”

  She threw her hands wide. “There’s no problem here. We had sex, great sex, something I confess I needed. But we both know we don’t suit. You’re a … well … you’re a drop out and I can’t live with that.”

  “That may be true, but we’ve still got a problem.”

  “No, Rez, we don’t. The next time you need a healer, you can contact someone else.” She drew her cell from the pocket of her jeans and began scrolling through it. “What’s your number? I’ll text you the contact info of a couple of excellent healers I know.”

  He decided there was no harm in giving her his details. She might need it someday. Probably sooner than later. She tapped in the digits.

  He added, “Don’t text the info yet. Wait until we talk this through.”

  She released an exasperated sigh. “Fine. But I won’t be available next time. Just to be clear. I don’t mean you any ill-will. Truly.”

  “I understand.” He drew close and narrowed his eyes at her. “So, how do you feel right now, physically, I mean?” He knew enough about the blood rose phenomenon to know which direction to probe. “Does your chest feel better than it did before we made love?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Lighter? Not so full?”

  “Well, sure. I just fed you.”

  “Right, except for one thing. That’s not something my doneuses would ever say.”

  She laughed. “That’s silly. If they donated, they’d feel this way. You know, lighter, here.” She pressed a hand between her breasts.

  “No. They wouldn’t. It’s not the usual reaction to feeding a vampire.”

  Somehow, that got her attention. “What are you saying?” She searched his eyes, but appeared only confused.

  He put a hand to his abs. “For the first time in twenty years, since I became a mastyr, I have no pain. None. Do you get it now?”

  Her head moved slowly side-to-side. “Have you been taking herbal anti-acids or something?”

  He could smell her denial, her complete unwillingness to understand what he was saying. “Let me spell it out for you. Holly, you’re a blood rose.”

  ~ ~ ~

  Holly had known the feel-good wouldn’t last long. But she hadn’t expected to be tossed into hell within a matter of minutes of riding to the heavens.

  The Goddess, who ruled the realm world and the afterlife, had to be laughing her ass off right now.

  “You can’t be serious. This isn’t possible. I’m not a blood rose. I don’t even really know what that is.”

  “You produce an extra supply of enrichened blood meant for a vampire like me. A mastyr.”

  She stared at him hard, maybe trying to mentally force him to take his words back. Her hands hung at her sides, yet kept balling into a pair of hammer-like fists. She wanted to throw a few punches. Hard.

  He was close enough. She even lifted her hands, but couldn’t bring herself to hit him. It wasn’t his fault, or maybe it was.

  In her frustration, she planted her hands on his chest and shoved him, or tried to. It was like trying to push a concrete wall.

  He caught her arms at the wrist, though gently. “I’m not the enemy here. I didn’t create this.”

  “The hell you didn’t. I wasn’t a blood rose before tonight, before I healed you of that poison. That was when this began, this heaviness in my chest.”

  “And now it’s light, isn’t it?” He released her wrists.

  “Very.” She pressed both hands to her face. “This can’t be. It’s the last thing I wanted.” She dropped her hands away. “When I came to the Wild Boar, I wanted sex. That was all. I was hungry. Needy.”

  “But that’s part of it. Don’t you see?”

  “Sex?” The word came out on short huff.

  “Yes, the insatiable cravings between us. It’s part of the package deal.”

  For a moment, her mind took her back to what she’d just experienced with Rez. No wonder it had been beyond amazing. She was a blood rose, a phenomenon in the Nine Realms built for a mastyr vampire, to ease his suffering.

  She rubbed her forehead with her knuckles, trying to push the memory away. She took a moment to calm down then lifted her gaze to him once more. “You’re not what I want.”

  “You’re not exactly my type either. But I know one thing. Your university boys never sexed you up like that, did they? Before tonight, you were as uptight as any woman I’d ever known.”

  He was right.

  “Maybe. But what about you? Your soul is a walled off citadel.”

  His lips thinned out and his nostrils flared. “I have nothing to give. I won’t make a pretense otherwise.”

  “Bull. I’m calling you on this, Rez. Maybe I’m not right for you either, but that doesn’t change that you dropped out at a time when Tannisford Realm needed you. I know you lost your family, but it became a poor excuse in my opinion for the choices you made.”

  “What the hell would you know about that kind of loss? They were my world, my wife and my children.”

  She shook her head. “You think you’re the only one? Every realm person I know has lost someone because of the Invictus. As for me, I lost my best friend who also happened to be my big brother, Scott.” She hit her chest. “I feel his loss every day, a pain here that never goes away. But you don’t see me hiding out in a place like the Wild Boar.” Her eyes stung with unshed tears.

  He stared at her for a long, hard moment. His jaw worked back and forth and his eyes glittered. “I made myself a promise when my wife and my two boys died and when my daughter disappeared that I would never explain my actions to anyone. I would only do, from that moment forward, what I believed was right. I knew they were vulnerable to Invictus attack because our home was too far out in the realm for any of the Guardsmen to reach them in time. But I did my duty and three of them died. My daughter –” He couldn’t say the words. He couldn’t talk about the likelihood she was part of a wraith-pair. “Anyway, I won’t justify myself to you or anyone. Not now. Not ever.”

  He turned away from her and headed out from under the oak tree.

  “Where are you going?”

  He held the tank and thong in hand. “I need a shower.”

  Holly wasn’t about to be left alone in the pasture. All kinds of fears kept pressing in on her. If this new threat of Invictus had been in Millerell, where else might they be?

  She was in uncharted waters and
for now, Rez was her only compass.

  She lifted into the air and caught up with him.

  You fly well. His pathing voice was deep as it hit her mind.

  Thank you. Papa wanted all our skills developed.

  I approve.

  A sharp retort stung the tip of her tongue. But she kept her lips and her pathing shored up tight. She didn’t need to lash out at Rez. Her current situation may or may not have been launched because of him. But, she must have always had the capacity whether he was present or not.

  She followed him as he rose higher into the air to clear the tall stone wall that separated the orchard from a landscaped backyard.

  She’d been too wrapped up in her earlier lust to notice his garden before. She warmed up her realm vision then slowed in her flight so she could have a good look. This is very pretty.

  What? He slowed with her, but he was scowling.

  She spoke aloud. “Your yard.”

  He slowed even more to hover in the air near her. “My mother laid it out a long time ago, before I was born. She died when I was young, but my father always paid a gardener to maintain it and I’ve continued the tradition. She’s done an excellent job.”

  The lawn was an oval with shrubs around the perimeter all leafing out and blossoms sprouting here and there.

  “This used to be a smithy back in my grandfather’s day. A lot has changed since.”

  He flew once more the short distance to the backstairs. She followed again and landed easily on the pavers at the bottom of the steps.

  He waved his hand to encompass the stairs. “This leads to the second floor. Street level is a guest room and bathroom. It’s a small compact home.” Throwing his hand to the right, he added, “Down there, past the stairs, is a potting shed.”

  To the left, Holly could see a stone path that led to a cozy sitting area with wrought iron chairs and a small table. Next to the stone wall of the house were more neatly trimmed shrubs.

  Holly had an odd feeling about what she was looking at, something she didn’t understand. What had happened to Rez’s parents? Where was his birth family?

  A terrible fae intuition told her Rez was alone in life. She might have lost her brother in the war against the Invictus, but she was still blessed with a large extended family as well as her mother, father and sister.

  As she climbed the steps, she noticed that a clematis vine was slowly making its way up an outside corner lattice. It would undoubtedly create a verdant flowering mass by mid-summer. Tannisford had reasonable weather and beautiful summers.

  The carved wood back door opened onto a tiled hall. To the right was a small, enclosed kitchen, so Holly only had a glimpse as she passed by. Everything looked old-fashioned.

  A room to the left held a twin bed. Rez had lived here as a child once, but there’d been no other children.

  The front part of the house opened to a decent-sized living area with quaint dormered windows overlooking the Boylbury Main Street. Inside shutters would have protected the vampire family from the day’s sunlight.

  He offered her a beer.

  She saw the decanters on a shelf to the right of the fireplace and asked for a scotch.

  He responded with a wry smile. “Good choice after this night’s revelations.” He headed to the compact set-up. A wood bookcase with three shelves had been set into the wall next to the table.

  She moved close feeling like she kept getting knocked out of stride. She supposed it was one thing to have opinions about a man based on the kind of bar he frequented. But it was quite another to have them suddenly shift about wildly when she entered the home he grew up in. His grandfather’s smithy had been remodeled by Rez’s father as horses gave way to the automobile. Rez’s birth family was now gone. He’d married and raised his own family, but they were gone as well, save a missing, presumed-wraith-bonded, teenage daughter.

  Sweet Goddess her heart hurt.

  He poured her a scotch. “This is from Walvashorr Realm. Not a blend. Elves make it. The name eludes me, though. Something about a wolf.”

  She smiled. She thought she knew. “Houndstreath?”

  “That’s it.” He poured two glasses.

  “Terrible name.”

  He chuckled. “Not exactly memorable.”

  “I believe it’s an ancient family recipe. My father loves it as well, the only thing he’ll drink.”

  “So, the professor’s a scotch drinker?”

  She nodded as she took the glass he handed her then sipped. Once. Twice. Then to hell with it, she took a long, burning guzzle. She might have regretted it halfway down, but the flaming sensation would pass soon enough and she could always add a healing flourish.

  She closed her eyes and waited.

  There it was, the soothing sensation as though all the muscles in her body relaxed at exactly the same moment.

  “Better?”

  She opened her eyes and met his gaze. Damn. She forgot how handsome he was. “You could have been a model, you know.”

  He looked taken aback. “That was the last thing I expected you to say.”

  She rocked her glass. “Whisky works fast on me.” She released a sigh.

  He took a swig of his own then set his glass back on the small silver tray. His lips parted and a faint frown pinched his brow. He looked as though he wanted to say something, then sighed. “I’ll be back in a few. Make yourself at home. Look around. There’s a hearty bean soup in the fridge and some excellent bread if you want a quick meal. My neighbors take care of me.”

  “Thanks. I’ll fix some for us both, if it suits you.”

  He dipped his chin. “More than you know.”

  He gestured past her to what was the westerly side of the house. “There’s another bathroom there, if you want it.” He then nodded to her, turned on his heel and headed the opposite direction.

  Her gaze followed and new cravings beat at her. The vampire was bare from the waist up. The man was Guardsman-sized and his shoulders went on and on. She’d gripped them in both hands while pressed against the oak. She remembered how incredible it had felt to hold onto so much muscle.

  She only realized her lips were rimming the edge of the glass when he disappeared from sight. She’d just had sex with Rez, but one view of him from behind and she was tingling all over.

  She rolled her eyes and decided she’d take him up on his offer and make use of his other bathroom. She finished her whisky then headed into the small, retro space that had a shower curtain around a claw-foot tub.

  She turned the water on then stripped out of her jeans and shirt. A minute later, she stood with her hair wrapped up in a towel and her neck bent beneath a pleasant stream of warm water. It felt so good, so relieving. Combined with the whisky, a lot of her tension eased away.

  She forced herself to take deep breaths and to try not to think too much about all that had happened.

  It worked for about a minute, then one question rose to mind. Why was she a blood rose?

  It had originally been thought the blood rose phenomenon had arrived on the scene to help defeat Margetta. Goddess or destiny or whatever had intervened to keep evil from swamping the Nine Realms.

  But even as these thoughts rumbled through her head, her fae senses warned her that becoming a blood rose, at this precise moment in time, meant something critical. But what?

  She knew Rosamunde had become Mastyr Stone’s blood rose through a series of harrowing events. Their journey had culminated in the defeat of the Ancient Fae.

  Now, Rez had battled and almost died from a vicious Invictus attack coupled with a dark fae, time-pathed poisoning.

  What was going on?

  Cleaned up and feeling better, she got dressed then used her fingers to work her long, thick hair into a reasonable state.

  When she left the bathroom, she’d expected to find Rez in the living area, but he wasn’t there. Instead, much to her surprise, she could still hear his shower running.

  The man had been through hell, though. He
d walked the very edge of death and survived. A long shower was a good thing.

  She returned to her tumbler, poured out a little more scotch then took another sip. Glancing at the three shelves of books, she scanned the titles.

  Most of them were antique-looking tomes with leather bindings. Several covered the earth country of France and its history. Earth was a massive place, so much larger, yet far shorter-lived than the Nine Realms.

  Realm scholars, like her father, were experiencing a golden era with the history of so many cultures and geographies to study and absorb.

  She was working on her own history of the Nine Realms but had been unable to find the right slant to interest a reading public. It didn’t help that most of their history was oral. There were a number of ancient manuscripts to peruse, but nothing like earth.

  Her eye was caught by the partially opened door past the bathroom she’d just used. With her whisky in hand, she moved down the short hall and entered what she could see was a study. More books lined the west wall. A lot of books.

  She hadn’t expected this, not in Rez’s home. These couldn’t be his books. He’d said this house had belonged to his parents. Maybe his mother had been a reader.

  A well-used brown leather chair sat in the corner with a reading lamp nearby. On the wall opposite the books was a desk, a container of pens and pencils, a heavy-looking pewter replica of a Harley, very Rez. There was also an antique wood box, a leather desk protector, and a note pad. A stack of receipts sat in a tray.

  She avoided looking through them as a point of honor, though she was tempted. Who was this man? What kinds of things did he buy? Was he more than a Guardsman deserter? Did it even matter?

  She turned back to the wall of books and perused the titles. There was an entire group that would have appealed to her father. Then she saw a title that stunned her: Purpose and Materialism in Realm Life, by Joseph McCrae.

  Her father’s book.

  A scholarly work.

  She drew it off the shelf and opened the hardback cover.

  Another shock. It was signed. To one of my best pupils. Keep the faith, Mastyr Rez. Then her father’s unmistakable signature with a single oversized J and his last name in an illegible scrawl.

 
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