Dawn was approaching and Cyrus did not want to wake her, but it was necessary. He looked down at her and was reluctant to let her go.
“Bronte,” he whispered her name, but she only moved in the bed. He was lying on his side and she turned to put her back to his front and he pulled in a deep breath as his body responded to her unknowing movements. She seemed to want to align her body fully with his and then she rested her head on his extended arm at her pillow.
When she had settled, the back of her neck and shoulders were exposed to him. In his mind’s eye he could see the marking on her that would only appear when he touched her there. His free hand came around her to rest on her stomach and secure her to him. She was far too tempting and the timing was not good. Still, his lips sought that spot on her shoulder and as he kissed her there he felt the power spring to life.
He heard her sharp intake of breath, but he continued to kiss along the length of the markings. The feelings the power gave him were exquisite and he briefly wondered if the hardness of him at her back would send alarm to her waking body.
His tongue slowly caressed the markings at the base of her neck and to his surprise her arm came around behind her to hold him there. He felt her body tremble slightly and could feel the deeper breaths she attempted to take to calm herself. He would have to stop now or there would be no stopping. He held still, but her arm had him in place.
“Don’t stop, Cyrus,” she begged. Her soft voice was like a blow to his body and it roared to life with need. He was calling upon his self control when her arm gently forced his lips back to her skin and she whispered to him, “Please Cyrus.”
His lips began to devour her soft skin along the sensitive markings. He felt his own grow warm at his back and the last of his control faded.
Bronte was lost to the sensations he created in her. There was no doubt left that she was his. She wanted to be his. The doubts that had been created when she discovered who he was had turned to something else. The discovery of her own markings opened up something inside her that called to him; that called for him. She knew something else as well; she had power. His power filled the room as their desire grew. And that place she had found within herself that could control her emotions opened up was warm along their skin.
The power was overwhelming as he touched her. It made her bold and gave her strength she never knew she had. She feared nothing at that moment and it empowered her. The smell of her desire increased the urgency between them and she moved her hips to caress his hard arousal with her bottom.
The power between them became thick in the air. It increased their excitement and Cyrus pulled her under him as easily as he would bend a blade of grass. Her breath stopped as she looked upon him. The desire there was intense and his look was gravely serious. He was magnificent to look upon and his power called to her in such a way that her entire body craved him.
The sound at the door caused Cyrus to call out in rage. His eyes turned blood red immediately and his fangs were bared. Bronte looked toward the door, unhappy at the intrusion.
“Seth sends a message to you Bronte.” It was Carol and her first knock on the door came from her fist. “Time to die,” Carol called out as the second hit to the door showed Bronte and Cyrus the sharp end of an axe.
Bronte felt the cold as Cyrus left her. He had his clothes on before she could get out of the bed. She felt the stirrings of fear as the axe made a second gash in the door. The power she felt from Cyrus still hung in the air, but it was different now. Away from his nearness she felt her own power fade and as she pulled the drawers of her dresser open to find clothing she knew her power was dependant on Cyrus somehow. She felt vulnerable again. The power that was still in the air helped her to hold her fear in check. Cyrus opened the curtains to her window and it was still dark out.
“Damn,” she heard him mutter and as she put on her jeans she looked to him.
“What is it?” she asked. He turned and looked at her. He still looked fierce, but she did not feel fear.
“Seth will have his ghouls out until daybreak. I had hoped we would make a silent exit just before dawn,” he shared. The sound of Carol’s insane cries as she threw the axe again into the door brought their attention around to it.
“How long do you think the door will hold?” Bronte asked him.
“Not much longer, but she is weak, she is still human,” he said.
Bronte threw on a sweater and her shoes. She looked around to see if there was anything she should take with her, but there wasn’t. She thought of Cyrus’ comment about the ghouls. She had never seen any ghouls that she knew.
“What are the ghouls?” she asked and it brought his attention from the door to her.
“Like the woman you saw outside the club that night,” he said and her mind raced back to the woman with the broken neck who moved so strangely. She heard him pause and looked up to him. He was holding something back.
“What is it Cyrus?” she asked. “If I’m going out there I’ll need to know.”
His expression was very serious as he walked toward her and it sent cold chills down her spine.
“Like the whisperers,” he said to her then and watched the horror envelope her. She backed away from him as though she could deny his words that way. She was shaking her head already and any bravado she felt was gone.
“I can’t,” she whispered to him. She looked now at the door and saw it with a new knowledge. Once Carol took the door down the whisperers could come in.
“Listen to me carefully,” he said and grabbed her shoulder to bring her attention around to him. “The ghouls will fear me, but there are many and they only fear me.” She was looking at him as she attempted to follow what he was saying. “You will need to stay close to me Bronte,” he told her. “Do you understand?”
She didn’t want to understand, but she did. They would not harm Cyrus because they were afraid of him, but if she were not right next to him they would take her.
She could hear them then. They grew louder not from volume, but from number. There were so many voices she covered her ears. Carol sent the axe through the door again and it shattered enough that they could see her.
“Hi Bronte,” she said calmly as she looked in at them. She sounded like Carol, her friend from college, not the insane disheveled woman that stood there looking in at her.
Cyrus moved in front of Bronte then as he saw the movement of ghouls behind Carol. There were so many of them he wondered how he would get Bronte out, but he moved forward and held Bronte’s wrist behind him so that he knew exactly where she was.
As soon as Cyrus took hold of her she felt better. She couldn’t say why, but she did. She knew what was about to happen, but she was able to locate her fear and tuck it away. She did not look around him. She did not want to see those things just yet. She didn’t want to see them at all, but it was inevitable.
There was a loud pop and she saw Cyrus’ head snap up and he walked faster toward the door. The sound repeated again and again and Bronte moved enough to see around Cyrus now. Carol wasn’t there. No one was standing there and as Cyrus opened the door she saw no ghouls. On the floor was Carol with a bullet hole in her head. Bronte thought she would be sad, but she felt nothing until Cyrus let go of her wrist. Then the sadness filled her as she stared down into the open eyes of her friend. She had no time to grieve, that would have to come later.
Bronte looked into the hallway at the dark figure standing there holding a gun. Cyrus moved beside her as the figure walked into the soft light of the hallway. He was just shy of six feet tall and broad shouldered. His bulk spoke of a muscular frame, but was hidden beneath a long dark leather duster. As he lowered the gun she saw his handsome features change from deathly serious to deep concern as he recognized her. Her eyes filled with tears as she recognized the soft brown curls of his hair and the blue-green of his eyes. She ran to him as tears fell from her eyes and she threw herself into his arms. He caught her gently to him and his cheek fell to the top of her head and he kissed her there.
“Aden,” was all she could manage to say as she began to weep in earnest. He held her to him with one arm and the other lay at his side with the still smoking gun in his hand. She wasn’t home yet, but home had come for her. He said he would find her and he did. “I knew you would come,” she finally managed and she looked up at him then.
“I came with Cyrus as his servant, and was let in,” he said and planted a gentle kiss on her brow. He thought of the now dead servant at the front door and wondered if his death would be an alert to the others in the house.
To him she looked like the five year old girl he had held the first time he ever saw her cry. It wouldn’t matter to him how old she was, or that life had changed her into a beautiful woman, he would always see that child when she cried. His heart swelled with his love for her, but his eyes moved about the darkened house. They landed on the approaching vampire who did not look happy about his holding Bronte. Aden didn’t care. Vampire or no, he did not answer to Cyrus.
Bronte saw Aden’s eyes and she backed away to look into the hallway knowing the danger was not over. As she turned she saw Cyrus standing there and he looked down at her. She felt so much for him at that moment she threw her arms about his neck and pulled him to her. He had not expected it and looked down at the top of her head until she looked up at him.
“You brought him to me?” she asked indicating Aden behind them. Then another thought occurred to her, “You came here to get me?” Cyrus would not have brought Aden if the purpose of his visit was anything other than to rescue her.
Cyrus wasn’t sure how to answer her. He did not care for the display between her and the other vampire. It was too intimate. Still, she had not kissed him, nor had Aden done anything more than embrace her and try to calm her. He seemed to be benefiting from his decision to include the other man in his attempt to free her from Seth. Of course the other man had every intention of coming with our without him, which was infuriating. Cyrus could not deny that it had been for the best as he thought of how Aden had cleared the hallway. That thought made him scan the area again and he knew the ghouls were near.
“We need to go now,” Cyrus said to Aden and he lifted Bronte up into his arms. He was not going to allow the ghouls to take her or attempt to harm her. He kept her close to him as they turned and ran down the stairs.
* * *
As they walked out of the house Bronte hid her eyes in Cyrus’ shoulder. She did not want to look upon the castle as they loaded her into a vehicle and began to drive away. Cyrus was driving and as Bronte looked forward from her seat next to him she could see the darkness just beginning to fade.
“Here,” Aden was behind them in the back seat of the four wheel drive jeep. He handed a pair of dark sunglasses to Cyrus and he put them on. Next came a pair of black leather gloves that Cyrus put on.
“The sun comes,” Cyrus said into the vehicle, but Bronte knew it was for Aden. She looked back as she heard him moving about. He was putting himself inside a long black body bag and began to zip it up. It would hold out the sun and keep him safe. She wasn’t ready to have him taken from her yet and she hated the sun at that moment. He saw her looking at him and as she reached out he grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
“I love you Aden,” she said and she felt the tears well up again.
“And I, you, little one,” he smiled at her and dropped her hand then. He zipped the bag up as the sun broke through and covered the jeep in its rays.
Bronte turned around and looked outside. It seemed like an eternity had passed since she was outside. She brought her legs up onto the seat and leaned back against the locked door. She wanted to make herself into a small tight ball and wait for Aden to rise. She shut her eyes and wondered about her father.
“Did my father really tell you to check on me?” she asked without opening her eyes.
“No,” Cyrus said and that made her look at him. “If your father knew where you were he would have been there whether or not it was against the rules,” he said with confidence.
“I don’t understand the rules,” she said in a tiny voice and he glanced at her. She saw herself reflected in the dark sunglasses for an instant before he turned back to watch the road.
“This is a vampire issue and falls under my domain,” he explained. “Your father could only claim blood as his right to fight Seth since you are his daughter, but it would weaken my reign and the members of the Circle would not look kindly on either of us for it.”
“Oh,” was all she could manage. She knew the Circle held its kings to many rules, but she never thought much about it until now. “Where is my father?” she asked thinking of her family now.
“He and your mother are still looking for Carol in Minnesota,” Cyrus told her. “They are quite distraught as I’m sure you can imagine.” He looked at her to gauge her reaction to his next comment. “Rohan suspects me of taking you.” She looked at him, but he could not tell what she was thinking. “He was most impolite when he showed up on my doorstep.”
He wasn’t sure what he had expected from her, but a smile was definitely not it. When her smile grew to encompass her eyes he reached out to touch her face. She was beautiful when she smiled like that.
At his touch she looked back to him from her internal musings. She had no idea what would become of them. She had almost given herself to him only hours ago and now she could only think of getting home.
He saw the emotions play across her face. She was confused and he could understand that.
“You want to see your parents?” he asked. He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear what was going on in her mind.
“Yes,” she sighed.
“They love you very much,” he said.
Bronte felt a rush of cold déjà vu when he said those words. She thought of Seth and how he had tried to confuse her. Cyrus saw the concern and fear there.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Seth said I would cause my parents grief when I died,” she admitted to him as though she were ashamed.
He glanced at her and saw the vulnerability there. Seth was a bastard and he deserved to die. Bastards like that didn’t always get what they deserved, but Cyrus felt confident that in Seth’s case there would be justice.
“If you were to die everyone who cared for you would grieve, that is the way of life,” he said as he took her arm and indicated that she should come closer to him. She did and as she leaned into him she felt better. “But, Bronte you will not die,” he promised and that made her look up at him. “Your parents would never allow it. By my hand or by another, you will be immortal,” he said it with such conviction she didn’t know what to say to him. Had her parents planned to find a way to make her immortal? She didn’t know. Cyrus seemed to believe they would. It was a better answer than what Seth had given. She didn’t like to think of grieving her parents.
She remained close to Cyrus for the remainder of the drive, which was only a few hours. They arrived at the same private airfield where her nightmare had began only the plane she saw she recognized as Cyrus’ that had brought her to DC.
There were people outside the plane and when Cyrus got out they came and took Aden’s body to the plane. There were very few things left in the jeep and within fifteen minutes of there arrival at the airport they flew out.
Cyrus closed all the shutters to the windows and turned on overhead lights. Aden’s body was put into a makeshift hammock and secured.
Bronte looked at the phone in the wall of the plane near Cyrus. He caught her looking and moved to another chair.
“Call them,” he said indicating the phone.
“Not yet,” she said and the sound of her voice seemed far away even to herself. She wanted to see her parents and she wanted to relive their fears about her safety, but she hadn’t had time to formulate what she would say to them. She wasn’t sure how much she should tell them. She wasn’t sure what to say about Cyrus.
She walked to couch to rest and think. She knew Cyrus was tired and so was she. She shut her eyes and within minutes she fell to sleep.
* * *
The plane touched down near Washington DC and the limousine was awaiting them. Bronte watched as Aden’s body was taken out and loaded in the back seat of the limo and she gazed out at the horizon. It was still light out and would be for a few more hours. By the time they arrived at Cyrus’ house it would be dusk.
Cyrus had retired to a private area of the plane and Bronte was alone when she woke. He had left a note telling her to join him if she cared to, but thought it best to let him rest. She had so much to think over.
Now that was away from the influence of Seth’s violence and the influence of Cyrus’ nearness she thought about the last few weeks. She was still thinking about it when the plane landed and Cyrus joined her in the limousine.
She had been quiet and reflective looking longingly at the black bag in the seat across from them. Aden would listen to her and he would give her sound advice. She wanted to talk to him about everything that had happened. She had hoped to get the chance before she saw her parents, but that wasn’t going to happen.
In the plane she had counseled herself and thought she knew what she wanted. Regardless of how much she had tried to live in the world of humans she hadn’t been successful. Carol’s death was proof of that. It was time to admit that her life was not like everyone else. It was one that acknowledged the preternatural world. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad, it just was.
She wondered why she had ever tried to live any other life. Her parents had not wanted her to be a part of violence, which did often run rampant in the preternatural world. The fact was that it ran rampant most everywhere. True there were a wider variety of horrors in the preternatural world, she concluded as she thought of the things that lived in Seth’s castle. But, what were child molesters and rapists? They were the human world’s answer to ghouls. Every world has monsters.
Her parents lived their lives amongst the immortals. The people she loved were not human. Not even Jordan, her best friend, was entirely human. Why not take a vampire lover? Why not become a vampire herself? The thought should have frightened her, but it didn’t. It caused her to look at the man beside her. He was sitting away from her now looking out the window on his side and saying nothing. She knew why. She had not spoken very much to him and he had no idea what was going to happen when they arrived. She wished she could read his heart. If she thought he loved her she would defy her father and go with him. But, she would not give up all for a passing affair.
He sat with one hand on his chin as he stared out at the moving landscape. One hand sat on the seat beside him and when she reached out and touched it gently it brought his attention to her.
“Come to me,” he beckoned to her. She threaded her fingers into his and smiled at him.
“Come to me,” she countered teasingly.
He stared at her for a moment and then pulled her to him. She gasped as he pulled her over the seat and up close to his body. She smiled then and felt the tiny butterflies come to life.
“That’s cheating,” she accused and then looked away because his expression had remained serious. She wanted to dispel some of the tension in the car, but she wasn’t sure how. “Are you nervous?” she asked wondering if he thought about her parent’s reaction as she did.
“Nervous?” he asked. Looking at her he realized she was. She was young and inexperienced and he wondered if she was overly concerned about her parents and what would happen when they saw them. He shook his head. “No,” he answered honestly. He had more concerns at that moment. He wondered what Seth would do for revenge and if now was the time to take the case to the other kings and request that Seth be sent to Dark World, the prison for creatures of Seth’s kind; monsters. It was time to put Seth’s antics to rest. Cyrus knew about the clubs and the selling of vampire’s blood. It had to be stopped and it would have to be done in such a way that all those who followed would fear discovery enough to deter them from that path. The vampire world was about to bleed and Cyrus felt the weight of it resting on his shoulders.
They were near his home now and he pulled Bronte close to him so that he could kiss her. He marveled at her acceptance of his kiss and wondered at the peace she could bring him even as his mind turned to such unpleasant duties. How had they come to be here? When had she softened toward him? If he knew he would certainly repeat his behavior so that she would continue to soften toward him. That made him smile. Perhaps it was not her that softened, but himself?
“What is on your mind?” he asked in low melodious tones.
She loved it when he spoke like that. The texture of his voice caressed her and she wanted to be closer to him.
“I wonder what you’re thinking,” she told him seriously.
“I am thinking of duty, responsibility and revenge. And you?” he said it as though it were a natural thing, but she frowned at him and he realized he had answered wrongly.
Her look said he had hurt her somehow and she moved to dislodge herself from his embrace. He refused to let her go so she stopped struggling and looked at him.
“I was thinking,” he said as he corrected himself and brought her even closer so that he could kiss away her frown and feel her heat, “I was wondering really,” and his eyes bore into hers with the heat of his thought, “how I would entice you to join me in my bed this evening so we could finish what we started last night.”
She stopped and looked at him then. “And is that a part of duty, responsibility or revenge Cyrus?” she asked. She found that she meant it. She wondered where his mind was and where she was going to fit in. Her own confusion and trepidation stole into her voice and he pulled back to look at her seriously.
“I can’t deny that it could have something to do with all three,” he began and as she tried to pull away he stopped her. “But it doesn’t change the fact that I want you.”
She wondered how it was that he could seem so caring and attentive one minute and then be ice the next. He wanted her still and it had to do with responsibility, not his heart. She still had worth to him and that had not changed. Why had she thought it had? Her heart ached just a little at the thought. She had made up her mind to give herself to him in hope that he would find the power he sought and that it would help him to defeat Seth and those like him. Cyrus was a bastard, but he wasn’t a monster. She nodded at him and that caused him confusion.
“I’ll give you what you want Cyrus,” she said evenly. “Then I’ll be free of all my prisons, and you’ll have the all the power.”
It was an odd thing to say he thought. He continued to look at her as though the answer to the riddle was in her eyes. It was. There was hurt there and as he wondered why the answer came to him so he thought to share it.
“You’re in love with me,” he said to her. When her eyes grew wide and fearful he knew he was right. He studied her slowly, his eyes raking over her every feature. He had been feared and he had been desired, but no one had ever knew him enough to claim love, not in hundreds of years.
“Let me go Cyrus,” she said. She did not like the way he was looking at her. She felt like a bug under a microscope. He seemed more curious than anything else. She never claimed to love him, at least not aloud. He was arrogant and she would not admit such a thing to him.
“Say it,” he said then and his eyes went to hers and burned her with their intensity.
“Never,” she spat at him and continued to struggle to get away from his scrutiny and accusations.
He looked surprised by her answer and looked her over again. He was so sure he had seen those feelings there.
“Why won’t you say it?” he asked with true curiosity.
She stopped struggling then and looked back at him. “Do you think you deserve it?” she asked.
That caused him to smile at her and she became angry. “If I got what I deserved,” he began, “I would not be a powerful king with a beautiful woman in my arms I assure you.”
He let her go. She moved away from him, but her eyes watched him carefully.
“You did not deny it,” he said and then turned back to watching out the window as though nothing had transpired between them.
She would not get the opportunity to reply as the car pulled into the long driveway she knew led to Cyrus’ house and her thoughts turned to her parents and her freedom as the house came into view.