The Blood Rose Series: Enter a world of blood-starved mastyr vampires and the rare women who can satisfy their deepest needs…
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“Edgy and graphic…Roane is a master…” RT Book Reviews
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And now the details about EMBRACE THE MAGIC!
EMBRACE THE MAGIC follows the journey of Mastyr Ethan, introduced in the first book, EMBRACE THE DARK!
Ethan, mastyr vampire of the Bergisson Realm, never thought to find his blood rose, the one woman who could ease the blood-starvation he’s endured for decades. But Samantha carries a surprising level of power as her newly discovered fae heritage emerges and she connects with his personal realm frequency, a vibration that ignites his passion. His commitment to rule Bergisson, however, has priority, even over his driving need to be with Samantha. As desire rises, and Ethan finds himself drawn into the web of his driving, relentless need for her, will he be able to embrace his blood rose or will his guilt over past events prevent him from living life to the fullest?
How can she give up the life she planned…
Samantha can’t believe she’s a blood rose, a woman who can meet the needs of a starved mastyr vampire. Her plans never included the world of the Nine Realms in which mastyr vampires rule millions of realm-folk, but learning that she’s half-fae has changed everything. As Ethan’s blood-needs become a life-or-death struggle, and cast her into a war against the dreaded Invictus, how can she choose to embrace her new fae powers and change her life so completely? Will she take on the role forever as Ethan’s blood rose? Or will her desire to follow her life’s ambitions force her to choose against love, passion, and unbelievable fae power?
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And here’s the first chapter of EMBRACE THE MAGIC!
Mastyr Vampire Ethan stared down into Sweet Gorge where two of his Guardsmen hauled up a body on a sling carried between them. They flew side by side, matching their movements by long practice. The night air, though usually fresh in early April, carried a rancid edge, something he’d connected with this area for a long time.
But he’d lost another of his Guard here at Sweet Gorge, killed sometime this past week, but located by a search patrol just a half hour ago. And this was the fourth murder in a month.
Something was on the wind.
“Invictus?” Finn scratched behind his right ear. He was Ethan’s second-in-command, his long red hair a beacon in any situation.
Using both hands, Ethan shoved his own unruly hair away from his face. Sweat dripped from his forehead. The temp wasn’t too warm in Bergisson Realm this time of year, but when his blood-starvation reached difficult levels, he’d often perspire like he’d been battling for hours. “What the hell was Paul doing patrolling in this area?”
Ethan didn’t know Paul well, but he felt responsible for him, as he did for all his Guard. He’d built his force to three hundred strong, but Paul, as a new recruit, wasn’t well-known to many of the Guardsmen.
“He didn’t have orders to go out here, not with three other Guardsmen dead in the past few months along the eastern border.” Ethan let his gaze move from one end of the gorge to the other, then along the monolith to the east. A familiar heavy guilt clawed at his chest. This part of his realm was off-limits having been the place of a massacre forty years earlier.
“Maybe his body was dumped.”
Ethan’s frown tightened his forehead. “Most likely.”
There was a connection between Sweet Gorge and the Invictus. He just didn’t know what it was.
Sweet Gorge used to be a place of great beauty and had once been a modest resort, a place his family had been to a lot in its prime. Fae leadership had also met here often.
Now his mother, father and sister were gone, lost in the attack, along with many loved ones, over two hundred realm killed all at one time.
Afterward, the stream had dried up, the source cursed by a powerful fae of unknown ancestry. No one had seen the fae female or the deed, only that the stream was blocked and no amount of power had ever released it. A wall of crystals resided there and none of the fae he knew would go near it.
Besides, there was always the stench to warn realm-folk away, of something not right, very ancient, and deadly.
He glanced over the wooded ridgeline along the north ridge. A breeze picked up sending sharp pine scents through the air.
But something else struck his nostrils, the scent of dark fae magic, as though it waited there. His muscles flexed involuntarily along the insides of his arms. Yet in all these decades not a single fae of power, in any of the Nine Realms, had been able to figure out where all that power was coming from, not even Vojalie, the most powerful fae he knew.
He reset his long hair with the traditional woven clasp. He’d been flying through his realm for the past three hours, hunting the red wind of the Invictus, a sign that preceded an attack. He hadn’t found anything yet, but the night was young.
He’d used up a lot of precious energy, however, and he needed to feed again, the bane of his station as a true mastyr vampire. All the mastyrs he knew experienced desperate levels of blood-need and lately, for no reason he could figure out, his starvation had worsened.
His mouth filled with saliva as he drew his cell from the pocket of his battle leathers. He sent a quick text to one of his doneuses and wasn’t surprised at all when he got a message back to stop in for a quick tap. Bless the dozen women who serviced him.
Damn, he hurt, deep in his gut. He shifted away from Finn and took deep breaths as a couple of hard spasms pulled on his empty stomach once more.
As the two Guardsmen, levitating with the sling and the body between them, topped the ridge, Ethan stepped aside to give them room. Pines lined both sides of the gorge, trees like the ones in nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, the access point between his plane and the human world.
His realm had seen hard times for the past forty years and for all that time, he’d felt the weight of his realm on his shoulders, pressing down hard, just as it did on all the mastyrs, those nine vampires in charge of about a millions souls each.
Finn’s phone rang. He listened for a few seconds, then brushed sweat off his forehead with the back of his sleeve. “Shit. Well, that dumb-fuck’s been warned.”
Ethan stared at him. “Tom again?”
Finn put his phone away. “Yep. He’s at Club Prave.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ethan knew exactly what Tom had been up to: Violating one of Ethan’s strict laws about how humans and realm-folk interact at a human-based event.
Finn grimaced. “I’ll handle this.”
“No. I want to this time. That asshole has been warned long enough and now I’m locking him up.”
“Ethan, you’ve got better things to do than to police the human bars.”
“Not this time. Tom Brignall hides behind his cozy relationship with Ry. Time he learned who’s mastyr around here.”
“Then why the hell is he testing my laws and my authority?”
But Finn’s smile was crooked as he said, “Because he’s a vampire?”
At that, Ethan almost smiled as well. But the truth was harsher. Tom had a loyalty to Ry, and had caused dozens of problems in recent years because of it.
But Ethan’s other problem surfaced again, as his blood-starvation cramped him up again. He breathed through the pain wondering what the hell was going on with him. He’d never been quite this desperate where his blood-needs were concerned. And now, because of Tom’s breaking of the non-tapping law at human clubs, he wouldn’t have time to stop by his donor. But he’d make this quick, afterward get his blood craving slaked, or at least moved from critical to just slightly desperate, then jump back in the field.
He left orders for the Paul’s body to be taken to the morgue along with word that he’d check in to learn cause of death.
Before any of the men could so much as exchange a glance, or to complain again that he regularly took too much on his own shoulders, he headed south to Shreveport, levitating and flying quickly just a foot or so above the ground. He might have heard Finn grunting his frustration as he took off and he half-suspected Finn would find some excuse to follow in his wake.
Gerrod, the Mastyr of Merhaine Realm, had tried to warn Ethan that he needed to listen to his men more, to trust them more, but he was used to doing things his own way and his way was working just fine. So far, he’d kept the Invictus in check in Bergisson, and to-date, he had one of the lowest occurrence rates in all the Nine Realms.
Of course, reducing lost lives to a tolerable statistic, grated his nerves. There shouldn’t be any Invictus left to battle, but from the time the fighting pairs had come into existence several hundred years ago, there had simply been no way, at least not yet, for his world to get rid of them permanently. Some force resided behind the Invictus, maybe the same magic that had blocked the stream at Sweet Gorge. Mastyr Gerrod believed a vampire, known to the Invictus as the Great Mastyr, and bonded with a powerful ancient fae, was experimenting with the wraith-fighting-pairs, intent on some unknown long-term goal for the future of the Nine Realms.
But where either of these entities had come from, if they even existed, Ethan didn’t know, nor did any of the other realm rulers. Maybe this ancient fae had dammed up the waterfall and the stream, maybe she hadn’t.
He just had a terrible feeling that if he loosened his hold even a little, his Realm would see losses like never before.
*** *** ***
Club Prave gave Samantha Favreau the creeps. From the time she’d arrived two hour ago, one vampire after another had leered at her, asking her to dance, especially the slow-dances.
She’d refused, of course, since in her opinion, vampires were just above slugs in terms of real earthly value.
But that was the point. They weren’t human. They were from a different plane entirely, one somehow attached to earth.
From the time the world of the Nine Realms had made itself known to the citizenry of mortal earth, and started opening up these border clubs, more and more humans had become acquainted with what were called generally realm-folk.
She wouldn’t be here at all, but her sociology professor had suggested using the club as a basis for one of her papers this year. He’d also upped the stakes by giving double points for studying, then writing about any aspect of the realm-world so long as the research included at least three interviews with any of the species of Bergisson Realm.
She’d already interviewed a fae female and a male troll. She was hoping one of the elves would show up. She really didn’t want to talk to a vampire and the shifters in particular seemed very aggressive. Two had been thrown out already this evening for improper display of fur on the premises.
At least the club had rules, which apparently needed enforcing constantly. For instance, there was no blood-sucking allowed, but one of her classmates, Mary, had happily agreed to donate and was doing so across the room.
Samantha could see her seated on a vampire’s lap, just barely visible through the throng of dancers from Samantha’s vantage point. His name was Tom.
She shook her head.
Tom, the vampire.
It just didn’t sound right somehow.
Leaning her back against the bar, she sipped her cosmo slowly. Her gaze shifted from one specie to the next, from the quick-footed trolls who moved like beautiful maniacs, to the lithe elves, taller than most other realm-folk, who swayed elegantly when most of the dancers jerked, twisted, and bumped, then finally to the male shifters who all looked like they could work at Chippendales.
But mostly, she avoided watching the vampires. She could at least admit she found them strangely attractive and it didn’t help that most of the males were over six feet and each carried a lethal air.
From her studies, she knew the basic structure of Bergisson, that a Mastyr Vampire ruled the realm, though each of the towns and hamlets were incorporated and had governing councils. She also knew about the enemy, the Invictus, which never travelled past the access points, at least not that she’d ever heard of.
The Mastyr of Bergisson, therefore, had built up a Guard of over three hundred vampires and as she glanced at the several inching closer to her one-by-one at the bar, she’d bet each was a Guardsman. She didn’t think any of them were under six-three.
She could feel their eyes on her and she could sense their hunger as though their well-known craving for blood became a kind of vibration in her bones.
She huffed a sigh, scoping out where she could go next to get away from the leeches. At least she didn’t feel in any immediate danger. The owner of the club had a staff of shifters who were quite happy to tangle with the vampires and throw them out if they misbehaved.
For that reason, she knew it was only a matter of time before Tom-the-Vampire and her classmate, Mary, got in serious trouble.
The music blared, couples bounced up and down, strobes flashed. A shifter walked by, his fingers turning furry then returning to normal a couple of times as his human date squealed her excitement over this absurd trick.
She rolled her eyes.
One more male just looking to get laid.
She turned once more toward the dark corner where she could just see Mary’s white thighs above her black boots, her butt cheeks almost showing beneath a short red skirt.
Sitting sideways on the vampire’s lap, Mary wasn’t exactly having sex, but giving up a vein to a pair of fangs was about as close as you could get. Her body moved in a back and forth, slow seductive rhythm, as the vampire sucked steadily.
The movement, very familiar in a sexual way, reminded her just how long it had been since she’d been with a man, been in a relationship, even been interested for that matter. Sometimes she wondered if there was something wrong with her, that she couldn’t seem to sustain a long-term relationship with a man.
But as she watched the couples getting to know each other and all the touching, the excitement of dating, she realized part of her would be okay with a one-night anything.
Just not with a vampire.
She released yet another sigh. Okay, so she missed sex, but this wasn’t exactly her idea of a pick-up bar. On the other hand, maybe she’d start making an effort to date again, if only she wasn’t so easily bored with the men she usually went out with.
Samantha scowled into her drink.
The movements in the corner became more pronounced and this time, more was showing than Mary’s skin. Tom’s hand now pushed into one of her butt-cheeks. Donating in public anywhere in Shreveport was strictly forbidden. But what else could she expect from realm-folk at a low-life club like this one?
“Come here often?” The vampire to her left finally made his move.
Samantha’s scowl deepened. Had she really just heard those words?
She couldn’t help herself. Laughing, she turned and met the vampire’s gaze straight on. “You gotta be kidding me? Can’t men, despite the species, invent a better line than, Come here often?”
But the vampire wasn’t in the least deterred. He blinked a couple of times and his nostrils flared. “Sweet Goddess, but you smell good.” His chin quivered.
Samantha didn’t like the way a pinkish sheen came over his eyes as he shifted his shoulders in her direction, licking his lips. She thought of Little Red Riding Hood and other warning tales from childhood.
She tried to move to her right, just to get out of range, but she bumped into another vampire, this one in jeans with lots of chains attached. His nostrils worked like bellows, which really freaked her out.
Did human women smell different from vampire females?
She pushed away from the bar and felt a hand on each arm apparently intent on stopping her, but just as quickly, the same fingers fell away, which was a good thing, because she would be all too happy to start shouting for the club’s owner.
She turned to glare at each of the men, but found that neither was looking at her. Something else had caught their attention and each now scanned the crowd at the front entrance to the club.
The music stopped abruptly and to Samantha’s great surprise the entire club fell silent.
She had no idea what was going on until a deep, booming voice filled the air. “Where are you, Tom Brignall. I’ll have your head for this.”
Samantha stood very still as she watched the crowd part, realm-folk moving back swiftly, dragging surprised human partners with them, until the new arrival came into view.
A big one, with wild, honey-brown hair, long and somewhat curly, that flowed away from his face, most of it trapped behind in what she knew to be a woven clasp that a lot of the Bergisson Guard wore.
Then time slowed to a halt.
She blinked as a tremor ran through her head-to-foot. She’d never seen a man like this before. He had to be six-five and built, with shoulders that went on and on. He wore a traditional Guard uniform, similar to the outfit Mary’s vampire wore, a black leather look that seemed to loosen Samantha’s knees.
As he moved past her, she caught a scent, something wild and pungent, almost erotic, yet tough, like it grew on rocky hillsides. She shook her head, trying to clear her head because the vampire’s scent was doing something to her, affecting her ability to reason, and warming things down low.
She felt a profound and quite irrational instinct to follow after him and shove her hair away from her neck.
She realized that her heart had started to pound, hard and heavy until even her throat ached.
She reached back for the bar to steady herself.
Then strangely, her vision shifted as the strobes softened and the light rose so that she saw him as if in late afternoon light, the kind when the shadows were long and the air golden. But how was it possible she could see him like this?
Right now, though, she didn’t care.
He was a beautiful man, yes that was the word that came to her. Beautiful.
He had a soft indentation at his chin, high cheekbones, straight eyebrows that sat in a scowl over his brow. His eyes were smoky brown, like gray and light brown combined.
The uniform, she decided, was sexy as hell with leather boots that climbed his thighs and silver buckles down the sides. He wore a soft woven maroon shirt beneath a leather, sleeveless coat.
But it was his hair that struck some strange deep chord inside her, a long curled mass, pulled back by the clasp but hanging almost to his waist. She knew the Guardsmen in particular wore their hair long, a signal maybe to their enemies about their military status in the Bergisson Realm.
Her gaze slipped past him to the realm-folk who watched him sweep by. What she saw startled her because most of them appeared to be in awe, while a few low-lifes were downright scared shitless, and some of the fae women held deep lust in their eyes.
Samantha knew she must have looked like that as well, hungry for the man, a reminder that she’d been alone way too long.
She forced herself to look away from him as he headed to the far wall, setting her cosmo on the bar behind her with trembling fingers.
She drew a couple of deep breaths then heard Mary crying out, “What are you doing to him? Stop it. Oh. Oh, Mastyr Ethan, I’m…I’m sorry, but what did he do wrong?” Mary wasn’t the brightest woman around.
Mastyr Ethan had come to Club Prave? The ruler of Bergisson Realm? What did this mean?
As quickly as Ethan had disappeared into the crowd, he returned hauling his prey by the thick collar of the Guardsman’s coat. The vampire looked wobbly from feeding, his eyes sunken, his fangs glistening red. “Ry won’t stand for this.”
“You know the rules.”
“Ethan, we’ve got him.” Another male voice sounded through the club.
Samantha turned to her right, in the direction of the entrance, and at least six Guardsmen created a new flurry of excitement as they marched in.
They were an amazing presence in matching uniforms and had the females in the club panting. The foremost, with shocking red hair, hurried forward and grabbed the prisoner by the arm.
“Finn, what are you doing here?” Mastyr Ethan asked.
“Just thought we’d drop by, scope the scene.” His voice held a teasing note.
Ethan didn’t seem pleased, however, but Samantha had no idea why. “All right. You can take care of him, but I want him locked up for this.” He then flung Tom in the redhead’s direction, the one called Finn, sending the offender sprawling. The Guardsman picked him up off the dance floor. Another of the Guard grabbed his other arm and without missing a beat, they hauled him back to the entrance, then outside.
Ethan, now opposite Samantha, appeared ready to leave as well. He even stepped forward then stopped dead in his tracks.
His nostrils flared, just as the vampires had done on either side of her just a few moments ago.
She felt uneasy suddenly, like she was walking the railroads tracks and she could feel the vibrations of a train coming right under her feet but she couldn’t seem to move to safety.
She also became painfully aware that her heart still pounded as she watched Ethan, and not out of fear or even desire, but out of a need to give him her most essential life-force.
What the hell was happening to her?
* * * * * * * * *
Ethan smelled the woman first, a scent like crushed raspberries mixed with wine, like something he could lick with his tongue and savor for a lifetime.
He had meant to follow right after Finn and the other men, but the scent stopped him. Beneath that fruit-laden aphrodisiac, he caught another layer of scent: The woman’s blood, and it was like nothing he’d ever smelled before, like she had rivers of it and it was meant for him.
That one thought, rivers of blood meant for him, made him turn toward her and stare hard.
A recent memory surfaced, of Mastyr Gerrod, a fellow mastyr vampire, who had been ready to tear Ethan to shreds for touching a woman like this one, a woman with rivers of blood, a woman in his realm-world known as a blood rose.
Gerrod had met a human named Abigail, who had relieved him forever of his blood starvation.
Sweet Goddess of Life, the woman standing alone at the bar, with vampires moving away from her on either side of her, was a goddamn blood rose.
His stomach cramped hard in anticipation of taking from her.
She must have registered his desire because she lifted her hand and pressed it against her neck as though trying to hold her vein steady. He could feel her blood singing for him, a soft vibration that forced another cramp through his stomach.
She shook her head and he could see she was bewildered. She had no idea what she was or why he, and every other vampire in the place, leered at her.
He knew the crowd was still there, waiting on him. The moment he’d entered the club, the owner had cut the music. Yet for a long, terrible moment all he could do was stare.
The woman was tall. He liked that. Shapely. Nice breasts. She wore her thick black hair straight and to the shoulders with a slight upward curve at the ends. Her eyes were the lightest blue he’d ever seen, almost unearthly. She wore jeans and a short-sleeved purple blouse, nothing fancy or even welcoming. He could smell her sex, though, her desire for him; she couldn’t disguise what she felt, what she was experiencing.
Sweet Goddess, a blood rose in Shreveport, right next door to the Bergisson plane.
He walked toward her but only because he couldn’t seem to help himself even though he could see from the way she wrinkled her nose that she wasn’t exactly happy about what was happening.
Well, he wasn’t either.
Maybe Mastyr Gerrod of Merhaine had found bliss with his blood rose, but Ethan wasn’t interested in this kind of liaison. He’d watched Gerrod become possessive and lose himself in the woman, the last thing he wanted to do with any woman, human or otherwise, yet still he moved toward her.
“What’s your name?” he called out.
She glanced around, growing more uncomfortable by the second. Everyone in the place stared at them both. He was used to that kind of attention; being in charge of an entire realm did that to a man, but she looked ready to run away.
Then she got mad. He saw it in the glint in her eye as she lifted her chin. “Samantha Favreau. And you’re Mastyr Ethan.”
“What do you want here?”
“What do I want?” His voice boomed once more. He glared at her now, angry that her body offered what he was unwilling to take, yet something he hungered for.
He was about to force himself to turn on his heel and leave her the hell alone, when he saw something in her eye, not just a flash of anger, but this time a flash he’d often seen in the eyes of powerful fae women as they slipped into a vision.
Holy fuck, the woman wasn’t just human, she was part fae.
And he’d bet his last Goddess be-damned farthing that she didn’t know, or hadn’t known until this very second, that she carried realm-blood in her human veins.
* * * * * * * * *
Samantha reached to either side of her and grabbed hold of the bar, anchoring herself. She didn’t understand the sensations that now poured over her, a strange vibration accompanied by images that began commanding her mind.
An entire scene came to life as though she was watching a movie, the colors rich and vivid. An event was taking place at night, a kind of fair, she supposed, with tables laden with food, trinkets, musical instruments, stuffed animals, the usual kind of carnival-ware.
At one end of a wide, playing field, lively, round canvas tents lined the grounds. They were painted with all kinds of pictures, some of woodland settings, some of animals, some of children playing games.
The vision caused her to pan to the right and over to a distant hillside, up which a beech-wood climbed to the top. But the trees grew red with what looked like fire at first, but couldn’t have been since the foliage didn’t catch and burn.
No, the red seemed to be a kind of wind and then she remembered from her studies that when the enemy attacked, the wraith-pairs called the Invictus, a kind of red aura would appear, followed by the fighting pairs.
As though she stood in the middle of everything, Guardsmen suddenly flew past her in their strange levitated-flight, some high in the air, others just a foot above the ground, Mastyr Ethan in the lead. On they raced in the direction of the hill, the trees, and the red wind.
The vision took her with Ethan, something that made sense since his appearance in front of her at the prave had set the strange vision off in the first place.
She watched the men, maybe fifty of them altogether, join in battle though she stayed back, yet found herself levitating high in the air. Her gaze was drawn to whatever place Ethan seemed to be as he moved up and down the line.
Pairs of strange beings, joined in some mystical, powerful way, appeared in the red wind. Jolts, like an electrical force, moved from the pairs to each individual Guardsman. A light show emerged of red and blue sparks and streams of energy, from one side to the other, back and forth.
Daggers and other weapons emerged as well, thrown, sometimes connecting. At intervals, Guardsmen rushed the pairs and brought them down screaming.
She knew what made up the battling pairs: a wraith and some other enslaved realm-folk. She’d even heard that sometimes humans could engage in the same way, which made her shudder. Other than being bitten by a vampire, she couldn’t think of a worse fate.
The vision suddenly tunneled down to Ethan. She could sense him faltering as he called out for Finn, his second-in-command. She could feel their bond, that they’d been brother-warriors for decades.
Finn took charge as Ethan fell to the ground.
She hovered over him now, within the body of the vision. She felt how weak he was and that it had to do with a lack of blood. Mary had told her about the mastyr vampires, those men of stature in the world of the Nine Realms who served as leaders. Something about their natural power used up donated blood at light-speed so that they constantly needed their supplies replenished but were never really satisfied.
Yes, another shudder.
She drew closer and felt herself moved to offer up her vein, because she could feel that he was close to death. Once more, her heart pounded and she touched her neck.
“He’s dying. By the Goddess, we need help here. Mastyr Ethan is dying!” Finn’s panicked voice rose above the sounds of the battle.
In the vision, Ethan’s eyes closed. His skin paled out. Somehow, from deep within her mind, she heard him call to her, Help me, Samantha. Only you can save me. You’re a blood rose and you can help me.
Samantha struggled to leave the confines of the vision, but Ethan was so desperate. She felt, she knew, she held his life in her hands because she was something called ‘a blood rose’.
She placed her wrist over his mouth.
She heard him groan.
She saw his fangs and felt him clutch at her wrist holding her fast.
Maybe it was the force of his touch or that she could feel those sharp fangs penetrate her skin, but she somehow wrested herself from the powerful hold of the vision. She held both hands up as though warding something or someone off.
Slowly, the club came back into view, still silent.
Ethan stood in front of her, just a few feet away, but he was blurred as though the strange vision had affected her eyesight. She breathed in heavy gulps and dizziness threatened to pull her to her knees.
She heard Ethan saying something like ‘back off’ or ‘get back’, she wasn’t sure. Even her hearing needed to catch up with the present.
She blinked several times and finally he came into focus. Her heart once more thudded and she found it hard to breathe. He was the one she wanted, had always wanted, would desire until the day she died.
The remnants of the vision drifted away. A calmness came over her. He held her gaze steadily, looking both worried and angry, almost outraged as though she’d done something wrong.
But what had she done? What the hell had just happened to her? What was it she’d seen? Was this something that would soon happen and if it was, what responsibility did she have in this situation?
Her chest ached and she planted a fist against her sternum and rubbed. In the vision, he’d called her ‘a blood rose’. What did that mean and was this why her heart beat so hard in her chest? Ethan’s gaze fell to that fist and he shook his head back and forth as though he couldn’t help himself.
My God, did the vampire actually expect her to donate? Was that what it meant to be a blood rose? Well, if it did, he’d be waiting a really long time.
“I need to go home.” She pressed her lips into a resolute line making sure he understood her intention, despite the fact that something so outrageous had just happened.
His lips parted and he swallowed hard. He dipped his chin and looked away from her. “Yes. You should definitely leave and it would be best if you didn’t come back.”
“Wait, I don’t intend to return, but why would you say that?”
He lowered his chin. “Because I won’t be responsible for what happens to you next time.”
Her temper flared. “You weren’t responsible this time, Mastyr Ethan. I can take care of myself.”
His gaze shifted back to her and an odd light flitted through his eye, something close to respect. “Fine. Then come back as often as you like.”
He glanced around, his hard gaze landing on one male vampire after another. He watched as each faded into the crowd, never again looking at her yet at the same time avoiding Ethan’s glare.
She wasn’t sure, but she sensed a wave of possessiveness flow in her direction from Ethan, as though in some realm-like way, he’d staked his claim on her, warning other vampires to keep their distance.
In one sense, that wasn’t a bad idea since vampires gave her the creeps in the first place. But in another sense, the same possessiveness clung to her like a velvet cloak, and against all instinct, she wanted more.
If he glared, she returned his expression in full, which made her think that he didn’t like the situation any more than she did.
She said nothing more, but turned and headed back through the crowd, toward the entrance. Time to head home.
But had she actually had some kind of vision, a foreshadowing of the future? How the hell was that possible?
* * * * * * * * *
Ethan watched the woman move in the pathway that led through the crowd all the way to the front door. She held her head high, but he sensed the depth of her confusion. She didn’t know what she was and no doubt she’d never had a vision before.
He’d wanted to detain her, to talk to her, even to offer some sort of reassurance that she wasn’t out of her mind, but some instinct held him back, a serious warning that the woman was trouble on all fronts.
Sweet Goddess, a blood rose in Shreveport.
Despite knowing that none of the realm-folk would return to their fun until he’d given permission, all he seemed capable of doing was watching her walk out of the building.
Then, with the disappearance of his blood rose, his current need for blood roared back to life and he listed on his feet. Nausea swept over him and he gasped. A female vampire came up to him, one of his doneuses, thank the Goddess.
“Mastyr?” she asked quietly.
He nodded and took her by the elbow.
She knew the drill. She stepped up on his left foot, with her left foot, slid her arm around his neck, and the crowd made an even bigger pathway.
He flew her swiftly from the building rising higher into the air to breach the cars in the parking lot.
As he did, he felt a call on him, down and to the left. As he flew forward, he glanced into the dark parking lot below, and as his vampire vision warmed, he saw Samantha turn and look up at him, her eyes wide with astonishment. Maybe she didn’t frequent the prave so she probably hadn’t seen a vampire in flight before, or maybe not flying quite this high.
At the same time, his personal frequency vibrated and her thoughts were suddenly in his mind. That should be me. I should be feeding Ethan. Oh, what the hell am I thinking? What’s wrong with me?
So, she was capable of pathing, of telepathic communication. She probably didn’t know that either, but it was one more indication the woman had fae blood.
He shut down the accompanying flow of frustration and disbelief. His power was ebbing and thank the Goddess that the tree-line wasn’t far away.
As soon as he reached the first row of pines, he descended swiftly, the woman hopped off his booted foot, pulled her hair to the side and he was on her, his fangs nipping quickly, setting the blood to flowing. As he sucked down what was so necessary to him, but which he knew would barely satisfy his needs, his thoughts turned to Samantha, and he sucked harder, groaning against the woman’s neck.
After a minute, however, of being lost in the dream of drinking from Samantha, he realized his doneuse was pushing against him.
He drew back appalled to see tears in her eyes. “Anita, I’m so sorry.”
“It was just…rough. Mastyr, are you all right?”
Shit, because he’d been thinking about the blood rose, he’d gotten carried away. “Who the hell cares if I’m all right? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She rubbed her neck and as his vision warmed again, he saw the bruising.
“Sweet Goddess, I’m so sorry. A thousand apologies. Do you want me to summon one of the fae healers?”
But at that, she smiled. “No. I’ll be fine in an hour or so, I was just surprised. You’ve never been like that before. Was it the woman, the human?”
He waited for her to say more, to mention that Samantha had fallen into a vision, but she didn’t say anything. And he really didn’t want to reveal the truth to her. “No, I was stupid. I let my blood starvation reach a critical level.”
“Stupid is right when you know we’re all here to serve you.”
“I know that.” His doneuses were a real blessing in his life. Early on he’d used them as much for sex as for blood, but the combination had caused too many bonding issues so that in recent decades he had a non-involvement policy with the women who donated. “How’s your mother?”
“She’s fine. One of the fae healers gave her a poultice and the ulcers on her legs went away within a week.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Do you want to go back to the prave? I’ll take you back if you like.”
“No, that’s okay.” She chuckled softly and once more rubbed her neck. “I think for now I’d better head home.”
“Oh, Goddess, I’m sorry.”
“Stuff it, Ethan. You’re a good guy. We all think so and you’re allowed to make a mistake now and then.”
With that, she headed north, away from Shreveport and toward Bergisson. He turned and glanced through the trees, noting that his Guard had returned and now hovered above the ground at the edge of the parking lot, waiting for him.
Time to go kick some Invictus ass.
But as he sped in their direction, he wavered slightly and almost tipped into the pavement which would have sent him crashing into a nearby Ford truck. At the last second, he righted himself.
Well, that had never happened before.
As he landed close to his Guard, Finn called out, “What the hell was that?”
“I think I took the draw too quick.”
A chuckle went through the men. What vampire hadn’t been a little tipsy after slaking a blood-thirst too fast?
Of course the trouble was, Ethan knew that wasn’t the real problem at all.
The real problem was that his blood rose had arrived in a half-human woman who didn’t know she was part fae, and whose blood would finally ease his starvation, but for many reasons she was off-limits.
When he’d handed out orders for the next few hours, he took Finn aside and told him about Samantha. He needed at least one other person in on his current conundrum.
“What do you plan to do?” Finn kept his voice quiet. “I mean, will you take her on since she could resolve the starvation?”
“That she could take care of my blood-needs permanently is the only part of the equation that tempts me. The rest has the appearance of a nightmare waiting to happen. I felt her power, Finn, she’s on Vojalie’s level, or if not hers then some of the more powerful fae in the Bergisson Guild.”
Finn whistled. “And she has no idea.”
“Well, she does now, but she seemed pretty shocked out when she left here.”
Finn’s phone rang, one of the Guard lieutenants informing him of an Invictus-pair sighting not far from Caldwell in the northwest, about thirty miles from the realm’s wastelands. “Are you coming with?”
Ethan frowned. For one of the few times in his career, he didn’t have a quick answer. Something about Samantha held him back. He shook his head. “I think I need to sort things out here first. You get the Guard on this, but if you need me, call right away. In the meantime, give me updates.”
“You know I will.”
As he watched Finn, and the rest of the Guard take to the air, he felt the familiar pull to be with them, his brothers in arms, to be fighting alongside them, which only made him resent even more that Samantha existed.
What a fucking mess….
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I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from EMBRACE THE MAGIC! Let the Blood Rose Series become a new journey for you!
He desperately needs his blood rose, but how can she give up the life she had planned…
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Caris Roane is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-nine paranormal romance books. Writing as Valerie King, she has published fifty novels and novellas in Regency Romance. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, loves gardening, enjoys the birds and lizards in her yard, but really doesn’t like scorpions!
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