A Vampire's Embrace, p.8Part #2 of Blood Rose Time Travel series by Caris Roane
He supposed that made sense, but the whole thing seemed so strange. On the other hand, if what she said was true, they should limit their time in the continuum.
He glanced in the direction of the Invictus. “One thing is clear. I need to take care of the enemy right now.”
“I agree. But don’t use your battle energy while time-pathing. Vojalie isn’t sure, but she either thinks we could disrupt time or we’d end up killing ourselves.”
He glanced back at her. “What?”
“I’m scared and I really don’t know what to do.”
He recalled what it had been like as a rookie in the Tannisford Vampire Guard. There was so much he had to learn about battling the Invictus. Later, as a seasoned warrior and a mastyr, he’d trained many Guardsmen.
But this was a sensitive fae type. How could he possibly help her in this situation?
He reached for her and gently took hold of her arms. “Get yourself calm, okay? We’ll do this together.”
She nodded slowly. “Okay. But what I’m sensing is that you and I must stay physically connected while we’re in the time-path. I’m not sure why, but it’s important for what we’ll have to do next.”
He stared into her lovely hazel eyes. Suddenly, that was all he wanted in the world, to stay connected to her.
She’d surprised him more than once over the past few hours. She wasn’t who he thought she was. She took risks like knocking him into the street to yet again save his life.
He shifted his gaze to the Invictus. “I’ve been hearing rumors for the past couple of weeks, a lot of them during my visits to the black market.”
“A mastyr vampire, a bad one by the name of Cruce. I didn’t believe a tenth of what was being said among that pilfering lot. But two nights ago, I started hearing about a dark fae and the building up of another Invictus force.”
“You didn’t report it to Mastyr Stone?”
He shook his head. “Until this moment, I didn’t believe any of it was true. Now we have an attack in Boylbury right in front of us.”
He surveyed the group of five pairs. There was no way he could battle them all, by himself.
He needed to understand how the time-path worked. He thought if he did, he could use it. “Listen, Holly, can you take me somewhere so we can leave the time-path and regroup? Create a strategy?”
He met her gaze once more, his hands still connected to her arms. He couldn’t help but smile. “You sound confident.”
“It’s more like I know what I can and cannot do. I know my limitations. Only, I’ll need you to grow still again.”
The impression he had of the professor’s daughter had never been particularly favorable. He’d seen her as a spoiled woman who’d never had to work for anything. She’d lived in her careful university world, the daughter of a well-known scholar. Her life was very comfortable compared to the real world of the battling warrior.
Yet, here she was, ready to do what she could against an enemy she’d never had to face before. He was damn impressed.
“Where do you want me to take you?”
He glanced around. “Over there, to the west field, in the shadows of the beech tree.”
He relaxed and drew on his vampire stillness so she could concentrate. The moment he did, he felt her time-pathing vibrations grow stronger. A second later, she took them near the tree.
“Is this good?”
“Yes.” When he felt dizzy, instinctively he knew it was time to leave the time-path. “You can take us out now.”
He felt her time-pathing vibration dissipate and it was like taking a step into the present. In the distance, he watched the villagers scatter because of the sudden appearance of the Invictus. They dove into their homes, locked their doors and no doubt headed for their hiding places.
The Invictus moved along the street but there were no wraith-shrieks as there should have been. He suspected he was looking at this new, deceptive version of wraith-pairs where there were no real wraiths present.
Four of the pairs hovered above the street while a fifth pair approached the door an elven family’s home. It wouldn’t be long before they broke the door down.
The rest of the pairs appeared to be waiting. But for what? For orders?
Great. A sign of organization and training.
He felt Holly tremble. She spoke in a quiet voice. “Rez, we’ve got to get help. You can’t battle all these Invictus by yourself.”
“It’s not that simple, Holly.”
“What do you mean? Can’t we just call the Tannisford Communication Center? Call for a Guard patrol?”
“We’re too far out. By the time any of the troops got here, the Invictus would have ransacked this town and killed I don’t know how many of my neighbors. Unless …”
“Can we enter the past say a half hour ago and make a phone call?”
The expression of despair on Holly’s face shot adrenaline through his system. Several thoughts charged through his head, pieces of a puzzle he started putting together.
Then he got it. “We can’t change the past.”
“It’s critical we do as little as possible to affect past events. The smallest shift is a pebble in a pond. The rippling effect could easily make things much worse. This is the biggest, hardest lesson of time-pathing.”
She kept her voice low as she continued. “Vojalie drilled it into our heads: Leave the past untouched. She kept saying that each of our lives was at risk every time we interacted with the past. Our goal is always discovery, nothing else.”
“You collect information?”
She nodded. “Only to alter the present, though.”
He got it. His own family came to mind. Right now, he had foreknowledge of their deaths. But to go back in time and stop the tragedy would have enormous ramifications. He might save their lives, but would others die instead?
For a moment, he felt like being selfish, like forcing Holly to take him back there so he could save them all. What did he care who might get hurt if he could prevent the deaths of those he’d cherished above everything? It was a fierce call on his soul.
She gripped his arm suddenly. “Let it go, Rez. Please. You’re not meant to save your family and we’re using up valuable time.”
He squeezed his eyes shut and forced the images of his family away. Instead, he focused on what was at hand and the lives he could protect in the here-and-now.
When he opened his eyes, the compassion he saw on Holly’s face tore at his heart. He had no doubt she understood his struggle. He’d made a vow on the lives of his family to save others in their stead and to honor their deaths. “All right. Let me think.”
He heard the Invictus pounding on the door and shouting at the family. “Can you take us in and out of the time-path at will, as you just did? Can we do that repeatedly?”
“Yes. But it will take a toll.”
“All right. Let me think.” His mind whirred. There were ten Invictus. “What if, as I take on these bastards one pair at a time, you pull us back into the time-path the moment I call for it.”
“I can do that.” He saw the tightening of her lips. He approved.
“This will be dangerous and I can’t guarantee the outcome. But I promise I’ll do everything I can to destroy these monsters.”
Her eyes filled with sudden tears. “I know. I also know there’s a chance we won’t make it.”
“You don’t have to do this, Holly. I can battle on my own.”
“Like hell.” She straightened her shoulders. “I’m here and this has been given to me to do. I’m in.”
Again, he marveled at her courage. He knew she was frightened and she should be. But she also insisted on joining him in battle.
Because it seemed the right thing to do, he drew close then planted a kiss on her lips. “Let’s go.”
~ ~ ~
Holly had never been so scared, but the kiss helped. She even sensed his approval, which meant something.
Before tonight, she’d only seen the Invictus a couple of times in her life. Now she’d witnessed four dead in the Millerell town square and the arrival of five pairs in Boylbury.
“Hey.” He placed his hands on her arms again.
She lifted her gaze to meet his concerned light blue eyes. She was breathing too fast.
“You can do this, Holly. From what I’ve seen, Vojalie has trained you extremely well. You can do this.”
She nodded, but she felt like she was having an out-of-body experience, completely untethered.
A vibration flowed from his hands and it helped. A lot. A wave of peace rolled through her.
“Good. Let’s reenter the time-path. I want you to take me to the pair by the front door. Once there, move us into the present. Keep to the shadows if you can then make the call to the Com Center and send for help. I’ll take on the wraith-pair. If this is a trap, I have no doubt the other eight will make a move right after the battling begins.”
“When do I pull you out?”
“I’ll path with you, okay?”
He thought for a moment. “You may have to use your judgment as well.”
Holly forced herself to grow calm. She even accessed the vampire side of her nature and called on her stillness skills. She’d never used it much before. But right now, it seemed to bring her panic down to a manageable level.
With his hands still releasing a calming effect, she accessed her time-pathing abilities. A moment later, she pulled them both into the continuum. She focused on the sidewalk near the elven house.
“Ready?” She asked.
She let her power roll and felt the time-path move to the exact spot she’d visualized as well as the point-in-time. They were west of the entire group, but in the shadow of a lamppost where Holly planned to stay. They were also closest to the pair Rez wanted to fight.
When she took them to the present, it was like stepping through an invisible wall.
Rez’s hands were still connected to her arms. He released her then moved in the direction of the pair now pounding on the door. She could feel him gear up his battle power.
The Invictus pairs were shouting and laughing, encouraging the vampire at the door. His mate levitated and flew wildly back and forth, her red hair a tangled mass around her shoulders. She wore the long red gauzy strips that constituted traditional wraith garb. But Rez was right. She wasn’t a wraith at all, but a fae female dressed as one. Yet she had yellowed eyes and dark lips as though partially transformed. Wraith blood, perhaps?
The vampire, now Invictus, had all kids of metal bars piercing his arms. He wore torn leather pants and his long black hair was matted and filthy. “Open the door, elves. We’ve got business with you tonight.”
“Over here, Invictus.” Rez’s voice filled the otherwise silent and now empty street.
The vampire pivoted. He held a heavy axe in his right hand and pumped it a few times as he started to move toward Rez. “I’ve got him,” he shouted to his team.
The wraithlike female looked as though her legs were bruised. Holly realized they were just dirty. She smiled, but there were no wraith-fangs, just teeth that had been altered and sharpened. Holly’s stomach turned.
A wave of power radiated from Rez. Mastyr power. She’d never been this close to a warrior charging into battle before and definitely not one that was raising his fighting frequency in order to engage the Invictus.
His mind slipped into hers. Call the Com Center. Let Stone know what’s going on. Time to rock n roll.
She pulled her phone from her pants pocket and got the Tannisford Communication Center on the line. The Center was a recent addition to the Vampire Guard. “We have an Invictus sighting in Boylbury. Five pairs.”
A deep, Guard voice returned. “Five? Are you sure?”
“Positive. We need help. Please.”
“I’ve got a patrol ten minutes out. They’re on their way.”
“Anyone closer?” The vampire and wraith separated a few feet, each planning to attack Rez from a different side.
“Sorry, Ma’am. Boylbury is one of the easternmost villages. But our men are on the way. Can you seek shelter?”
Holly thought about the Time-path. “Yes.”
“Go there now.”
She ended the call and returned it to her pocket. With Rez moving backward and watching both flanks, she pathed to him. Guardsmen. Ten minutes out.
Good. You might want to slip away for this.
Not on your life. Get ‘em, Mastyr.
She was sure she heard a telepathic chuckle.
Rez flew suddenly in the fake-wraith’s direction. She flitted upward, shouting in a high voice, yet not a true wraith shriek. He didn’t take the bait, but pivoted swiftly. The vampire was already on him, his battle axe high overhead.
A blue stream of energy flew from Rez toward the raised arm, the vampire cried out in pain as the axe flew from his hand. The sound of it clunking on the cobbles was something Holly thought she would remember the rest of her life.
Despite his wound, the vampire launched at Rez, who whipped to the side, avoiding the hit. The Invictus shot past him and tumbled once in the air.
Rez, maybe from fighting experience, flipped so that he levitated on his back. He held out both hands as the fae-wraith flew straight for him. He released his battle energy in quick bursts from his hands and arms, then whipped in a roll toward the street.
The wrath shrieked and writhed in the air. Rez had injured her. The vampire went to her and caught her before she hit the cobbles.
Holly felt it now, a full revving of Rez’s battle power. He let the couple have it. Both flew backward and landed on the street, bodies smoking and unmoving.
At the same moment, Holly sensed the rest of the Invictus moving in as a unit. She flew swiftly toward Rez.
She grabbed him and with a thought pulled him into the time-path. The village and the remaining Invictus appeared frozen in time through the familiar blur.
Rez sat down on the cobbles, sweating. The air in the time-path had a metallic smell that was partially battle energy, the rest was him.
He stayed where he was, breathing hard as he looked up at her. “You did good.”
“We can’t stay here long and when we leave, you’ll be disoriented.”
He nodded then glanced around. “Move us to the alley just beyond the bakery on the north side of the Main Street. Can you see it? That will put us well behind this crew. I’ll be able to take them by surprise.”
She grew very calm, more vampire than fae, as she saw where a street met the main road in a T. She gathered her time-pathing ability and using both hands, swept the time-path to the alley.
Once there, it felt good to be cloaked in the shadows.
“Take us to the present.” Rez stayed sitting. Another smart move.
She brought them forward to the present and the time-path dissipated.
“I’m dizzy as hell.” Rez spoke quietly.
Holly remained standing. She was dizzy, but because Rez had been battling and wasn’t used to the time-path, he would be feeling it now.
After a moment, he gained his feet as more pounding sounded and a couple of the wraith-pairs once more taunted the villagers. Holly understood the ploy. They were trying to draw Rez back into the battle.
“They’re going after the same house. We’ve got to take them on.”
“What can I do?” She asked.
Rez stared at her for a long, hard moment. “How brave are you, Mistress McCrae?”
Her lips tightened once more. “I’ll do whatever it takes in this situation. I don’t want one realm-person hurt because of these monsters here tonight.”
He dipped his chin slowly. He laid out their strategy and Holly
She was pumped, though, something she’d never experienced. Maybe it was the vampire in her, but she wanted this.
At his command, they flew out of the alley together. She could feel him powering up his battle energy at what she knew was full-bore. He wouldn’t be making the screen the Guardsmen were famous for, the shield that could keep all kinds of weapons from getting to either of them.
Instead, he needed his battle frequency at killing force, which was how he went in.
He struck one of the nearest vampires in the head, and his wraith-mate in the stomach. Both fell to the cobbles. Two pairs down.
He shifted slightly as a third pair flew straight for them. He let loose again and he hit home. Three pairs on the ground.
When the remaining two headed for them, shouting in their rage, he pathed into her head, Now!
The command was sharp. She launched toward him, touched his shoulder as several weapons hit the air, then pulled him into the time-path.
She took them back to the alley and dumped Rez into the present where he rolled on his side and lay face down inert.
The process of battling and moving in and out of the time-path was quickly taking a toll. But they weren’t done yet.
She could hear shouting from the street.
His voice was once more in her head. Holly, can you heal me of this sickness? We’ve got to move fast. If they break into any of these homes, we’ll have big trouble on our hands.
She dropped to her knees and settled her hands on his head. She felt sick to her stomach and lethargic as well, but she had to do something. He’d be useless soon then who knew how many villagers would die. She let her healing power flow.
He breathed a sigh of relief. Better. That’s better.
After little more than twenty seconds, he rose to his feet once more. He turned away from the main street and began to run. This way. I need to attack from a different vantage.
He took off into the air soon after. She trailed him, staying low to the buildings as he did.
As it turned out, Rez was right to approach from the west this time. The two pairs that had survived the previous attack waited for them to come from the east.
A Vampire's Embrace by Caris Roane / Romance & Love / Mystery & Detective have rating 4.6 out of 5 / Based on41 votes