Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
"It won't hurt me, human." Kass stood there, the wind whipping through her hair. Now that I saw her closer, I could tell that she was about my height and had the blue eyes to go with that vibrant red hair.
"I carry silver ammo, kitten." I kept my aim trained on her. "What are you doing here?"
"You need to leave Josh alone."
Oh come on. "I need information. Are you going to talk to me?" I lowered my gun.
Kass' eyes swept the area around us. "Can I come in?"
"Um, yes?" The question threw me off guard, but it was probably safer inside. I holstered my gun and then let her in. "Why did you fake your death?" I walked through the living room where a lone couch and TV sat and then to the small dining room table off to the side of the kitchen.
"I had no choice, Lucius arranged it."
I motioned to the table and she took a seat.
Lucius. The name had turned up in other cases, but he always eluded me...and killed my contacts. Fuck. "You're directly connected to him?"
"You know that you put yourself in danger by being here, right?" I sat down across from her.
She nodded. "But you being near Josh puts him in more danger."
I wasn’t as concerned about Josh. "The police are convinced that you're killing people."
"As a panther, yes."
"I've been losing control."
I raised a brow. "You've been a panther all your life."
"Lucius." It was a simple response and I knew what was going on.
"He's controlling you."
"He owns us."
That was serious stuff that I didn't want to mess with. "You need to go, I don't want you...hurt."
"What will you tell the cops?"
I sighed. "I don't know yet." I stood. "But I have what I need."
She followed my lead, her chair scraping across the floor. "And Josh?"
"Won't be contacted." I lied. Pieces of the puzzle didn't fit, and I felt Josh could put them together for me.
Kass looked relieved as I showed her out. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, locked the door, and decided I wanted some sleep before Josh called.
England Early 1800's
His lips met mine as our sweat covered bodies entwined. He whispered against my cheek. "I love you." We sprawled on the layers of soft handmade quilts near the fireplace. The cabin walls held in the warmth, or maybe it felt that way because we were so close.
"My sweet, sweet Josh. You are my world." I kissed him and stroked a hand down his cheek. "Goddess save us."
"What is wrong?" His brow creased in concern.
I gave him a sad smile. "They will come for me."
"I will not let them take you."
"You would be killed for going against them." I could not bear the thought of his death on my hands and looked away from him.
His lips brushed against my neck. "A life without you is no life."
I knew in that moment that he would do anything to save me when they came. I would not pass their trial, I would be charged of witchcraft and Josh with treason for protecting me. I laid my head on his chest. He stroked my hair until we both fell asleep entwined in each other, his words echoing in my mind.
A life without you is no life.
My eyes shot open when I heard a noise in the living room. A glance at the clock told me that the day was just starting. Another crash had me reaching for the gun at my bedside.
A figure appeared in the doorway and my gun was up, aimed and ready to fire. "It's Josh and Kass, don't shoot." His voice sounded strained. I flicked on a lamp with my other hand and pointed the gun at the floor. Josh stood in my doorway, leaning heavily on it and cradling an unconscious Kassity.
Well, didn't this case just keep getting weirder? "Put her on the couch, I'll be there in a sec."
Once he left the room I slipped out of bed and threw on my jeans and a shirt. I tucked my gun in my waistband just as a caution. With both of them here and Lucius involved, I didn't want to take any chances.
A few minutes later I walked into the living room with a first aid kit. I knelt by the couch and went to pull the blanket off of Kass. "I've never cared for a lycan before."
Josh put a hand on mine to stop my motion. "She'll heal, she needs food and rest. Please don't turn us out. Lucius attacked us and he owns this city. We have no other place to go in order to heal."
"I'm not going to send you away." I ran a hand through my hair. "I had a feeling this was going to happen."
Josh's head snapped towards me, his eyes narrowed. "You knew this was going to happen?" A strange chill went through the air as he started to call on otherworldly powers.
I shivered at the small display. "I didn't know she had a link to Lucius until we talked. A lot of my cases lead to him, then he tends to kill my contacts."
"She's lucky to be alive. Did she tell you what was going on?"
I nodded and sat in a recliner. "She said she had no control."
"Lucius controls her beast."
And that confirmed what she had told me. Great. "So what now?" I leaned back on my hands and looked at him.
"We hide and lick our wounds until we can either fight back or run."
"How strong is he?" The wheels started to turn in my head. I could use this to my advantage and get to Lucius.
"Too strong for you to handle, unless-" He shook his head, and I caught a glimpse of sadness in his eyes. "Never mind."
"Nothing. Thank you for letting us stay." He turned back to Kass.
I noticed his stiff movements, unlike the fluid vampire he had been at the bar. "Do you need patching?"
"No, I will heal." He kept his back to me.
I stood. "There’s a leftover steak in the fridge for her."
I stretched and started back to my room, but paused. "The second room has blackout curtains, you'll be safe there." I didn't wait for a response. After going to my room, I locked the bedroom door and went back to bed.
"Mae," Josh's voice was distant, a whisper on the wind.
I tried to open my eyes, but nothing happened. My heart pounded as panic started to build. Bile rose in my throat when I realized that not only could I not see, but also I could not move.
"Run, Mae!" His voice still sounded so far away.
My vision came back to an unexpected view of Lucius. His dark hair was tied at his neck with a leather rope. His black eyes held my gaze. The panic grew as I realize that he was controlling me and I couldn't break his gaze. I couldn't remember how he got in the house or my room. Trying my best, I still could not shift my gaze.
"Bare your neck to me." His voice moved through me and caused tingles to march down my spine.
My head moved to the side and my hand pulled my hair away from my neck. I knew what he wanted. My trembling body refused to listen to me when I tried to stop.
His cold lips pressed against my neck and I felt nothing as his fangs pierced my skin. Not until he slowly started to draw blood from me.
With each pull I started to feel weak, but part of me wanted more. My body shook as a little noise escaped my lips, part sigh of pleasure and part protest.
Josh was right. Lucius was strong, powerful, and I wanted him to do this.
"Stop." This time Josh's voice bounced off the walls as he yelled.
Lucius pulled away and then shoved me away from him. I found that I could move again, but there was a firm arm around my waist as another vampire pulled me against him. I tried to struggle until I saw Josh. He had been forced to his knees with a cluster of vampires behind him. Silver chains glinted in the light, wrapped around his wrists and leading to another vampire who held the end in his hand with a leather glove.
"You fear for her?" Lucius turned his back to me to face Josh.
I could see the pain in Josh's eyes as the silver chains burnt his skin. He bowed his head when I tried to meet his eyes. "Yes, it's my fault she's involved, leave her out of it. Please."
Lucius shook when he chuckled. "She was involved long before you joined me. She has killed many other vampires and animals. She has jeopardized my lands, slaughtered my people, and you want me to show her mercy?"
I could see Josh's eyes widen. I licked my lips and tried to keep my voice steady. "They were killing people. It's what I do, Josh."
He gave me the slightest nod. Lucius laughed. "Take these two back to the mansion. I'll deal with them after I find Kassity."
Well, at least I knew she was alive and running. I was the person holding me jerked me towards the front door and led to the back of a black SUV. Another vampire grabbed my wrist there and slid a needle in my vein. The last thing I saw was Josh breaking free of his guard and screaming for me as he ran for the SUV. When the others tackled him to the ground my vision went black as I slipped into a blissful sleep.
"So you are the girl the village is talking about, the witch." Josh's voice was lighthearted as he watched me feed the chickens. "Is it true?"
"No, and keep talking like that and you are likely to get me killed." I spread some seed on the ground and watched as the chickens pecked.
He laughed. "This village has yet to convict anyone of witchcraft."
"And I do not wish to be the first. What are you doing here anyways?" I finally looked up.
He gave me a cheeky grin, and I was instantly taken with his looks. "I wanted to see what the fuss was all about."
"And is it what you expected it to be?"
"You are a lot prettier than I had expected. I thought most witches were ugly old women." His voice told me that he was joking, but I gave him the answer he wanted.
I met his eyes. "That is only a rumor, most of us are young and pretty. We blend in well."
I woke, my ankle trapped with a shackle and a long chain. My panic and fear took my breath away. A soft bed cradled me, the only warm thing in the concrete room. I hesitated as my eyes swept the room and took in the grey walls. "He plans on changing you." Josh's voice made me turn to look at the other side of the room.
Chains held him to the wall. His face looked pale and sunken and his eyes were tinted red. Hope drained from me when I realized we were both trapped.
"What happened to you?"
A small smile formed. "I fought for you. As much as I could after they drugged you."
My heart pounded and my breath seized as I remembered what I saw before I passed out. Images of him hanging flashed in my mind and caused bile to rise in my throat as my heart stopped. "He's going to kill you."
"After he makes me watch your change. Tell me something, Mae. Why did you come looking for me? Truly?"
"I was called in for one of Kass' murders. I was told that she was the only suspect and I learned that she was supposed to be dead, but you were her family. I had been dreaming about you. I knew I had to find you."
"When did the dreams start?" Something brightened in his face, just a bit.
I touched the arm that had the burn scars. "When I got caught in a fire."
"You remember me." A statement.
I nodded to confirm it.
"When I saw you enter the bar I knew it had to be you. After all these centuries you've finally come back to me." Blood tinted tears dripped down his cheeks and my heart sank.
I slid off the bed and I moved to him, thankful that the chain was long enough to let me reach him. "I saw you hanged."
"The night before, my maker offered me eternal life, promising me that you too would be offered it. It wasn’t until you were gone that I realized he'd lied."
I remembered that night. Images of the stranger coming to me filled my mind. He made me no such offer, but told me he planned on stealing my lover. I gave a sad smile. "You were always too trusting. Just my luck that I came back as a human." I rose on my toes and gave him a kiss.
To my surprise he welcomed it. As his tongue parted my lips and heat ran through me. My body ached to be with him and I swore my toes curled as I melted into his kiss.
"Touching, truly. Shame I'm going to kill him." Lucius' voice filled the room.
I fell to the floor as he yanked the chain and then proceeded to drag me to him. My hands scrambled against the concrete, but did not hinder my movements.
"She'll make a great vampire, don't you think?" He pulled me up by my hair and forced me to face him.
His eyes captured mine again and I relaxed. He moved my hair to the side and I tilted my head for him. No pain again as he drained my blood and with each pull I felt my life leaving me. He lowered me to the ground as my body gave in. He placed his wrist to my mouth and something warm dripped on my tongue. Blood. His blood. Without my command my mouth locked over his wrist, hungry for his life source.
My body jerked with pain as I felt fire make its way through my muscles and bones. My voice echoed off the walls and Josh's screams followed mine. He called my name while I lay dying. When the pain faded and I came back to myself I stood, wobbly, as my body didn't seem to be my own. I tried to run to him, but Lucius grabbed the chain and pulled me to him. I swallowed and I met Josh's eyes. "A life without you is no life."
I felt, more than saw, Lucius rush past me and slam a dagger into Josh's heart. I closed my eyes as Josh's body turned to dust and crumbled into a pile on the floor. An unearthly wind swept around us and carried the particles away. Lucius touched my cheek. "Welcome to your new life."
I opened my eyes and looked at the empty chains. Something wet dripped down my cheeks as my heart shattered. I touched the back of my hand to my face and it came away with red tinted tears. Emptiness filled me as I realized there would be no return for Josh. Turning, I faced Lucius and tried to come to terms with my new reality.
er body shook from side to side as a panicked voice growled at her. “Kassity, wake up.”
Kassity’s eyes shot open as she recognized the voice. Her gaze met Josh’s black eyes as he shook her again. “You need to run.”