Aden and Felix had come in the front door like everyone else. Aden could see people coming out of the back room and they walked to booths at the far end of the room and closed curtains around them. He saw men being taken to the booths and could guess what was going on there.
They looked around the club for a while when Aden spotted Cyrus. He had cloaked himself somehow and Aden wouldn’t have caught him if he hadn’t been there searching for someone else in the shadows. Cyrus had a ghoul caught in his grasp and killed it in the shadows. He must have sensed Aden’s gaze upon him because he looked right into his face.
Aden fought to hide his surprise both from seeing Cyrus alive and from seeing him as he was; scarred and hideous. If he hadn’t seen Cyrus close up and recently he might not have recognized him. His clothes were dirty and Aden wondered how the man got into the club undetected. He wondered how it was no one seemed to notice him. The place was dark once you stepped away from the dance floor lights, and many of the people in the club dressed up as vampires or zombies. It was the only explanation as to how he was able to move about the club without causing alarm.
Aden had no idea how long they stood there as they were. He watched the ghoul fall as Cyrus released it. He took a step toward him and thought the man would flee, but he stopped his movement and grew still. He appeared to be listening to something, or reflecting, Aden wasn’t sure which, but Cyrus looked up at him and stood there waiting.
Felix found them and couldn’t stop staring at Cyrus. There was joy in Felix’s expression at first when he recognized his master, but as he approached he saw Cyrus’ disheveled appearance and scarred face and his expression changed to pained sadness.
“Bronte is here,” Cyrus told them. “Behind the curtains near the bar. There is trouble.”
Aden glanced toward the bar as a tall vampire walked through the curtain there and disappeared into the darkness. He hated those vampires. They were hired muscle, slow and stupid.
“Will you come?” Aden asked as he looked back to Cyrus.
He shook his head. “She mustn’t know.”
“She loves you,” Aden said.
“In less than a month she has found someone. I have seen them together,” he said. The pain was there in his eyes as he considered the handsome warrior and thought about his own scarred face.
“Dylan has been assigned to protect her Cyrus that’s all,” Aden told him.
Cyrus shook his head again. “Her father has given her to the Immortal.”
“She will have no one but you regardless of her father’s wishes,” he said.
Cyrus was becoming agitated and his power to cloak himself slipped. He felt it and closed his eyes to concentrate on keeping the cloak in place.
“I have nothing for her,” he said and his eyes moved to the place he claimed she was and then back to Aden. “The Immortal can care for her properly. If she thinks I am dead she will eventually accept him.”
“You’re wrong Cyrus.” Aden wanted to say more. He knew what hell Bronte was going through. He thought she would grieve herself to death over him. Bronte and Cyrus had been wronged and he felt the injustice of it as Cyrus shook his head again. Cyrus did not want Bronte to see him as he was. “Why are you here Cyrus?” He asked.
“Same as you I would say,” he answered. “I search for Seth, he is near, but not here,” he said. “Now, go find her. She is in need of you.”
He stood there waiting for them to go. He said nothing to Felix; he knew Felix would obey his wishes and say nothing of seeing him. He felt no such assurances with Aden.
Aden turned to walk in the direction he saw the tall vampire disappear to when Cyrus’ hand came to rest on his forearm. He looked down at the hand and saw more scars before looking back to Cyrus.
“Say nothing,” he said. “Let her have a better life than this.” He pulled back and moved his long coat about him as though he could magically disappear within it. Aden looked to Felix to gauge his reaction and when he looked back to Cyrus the man was gone. His eyes swept the room, but Cyrus was no longer in the club.
Aden motioned to Felix to follow him as he approached the black curtain and slipped in. He pulled out both 9mm automatics. He had no intention of fucking around with those eight foot tall bastards.
* * *
Sitting in the car looking at Aden she felt the world spin. She had heard him clearly. Cyrus was alive. Her mind raced to the memory of the figure and the ghoul. If he had been there why hadn’t he come to her? Did he not love her? He had never claimed to love her, but she was sure there was something there. If they had been given the chance she was sure he would have loved her.
“Why didn’t come with you?” she asked.
“He didn’t want you to see him,” Aden replied. He wondered how she would take the news. She was shocked, no doubt, but she didn’t look joyful as he thought she might. He didn’t want her to get her hopes up about seeing him. Cyrus was adamant about not wanting her to see him now. He thought she deserved to know that he lived. He thought it might help her to go on.
“He doesn’t want to see me?” She asked.
“You have to understand Bronte,” he said. “Cyrus isn’t the same now.” He wasn’t sure how to tell her. He had been honest and he was going to stick with that. “He’s been scarred severely.” He watched her carefully as she took in that information.
Again she thought of the figure with the ghoul on the dance floor. The man had looked as tattered as the ghoul and that was not Cyrus’ style. He had impeccable taste and would never allow himself to be unkempt. She put that thought together with what Aden had told her and she knew she had to see him. She had to tell him that it didn’t matter that he was no longer the Vampire King, it didn’t matter if he had nothing, it didn’t matter if he was scarred. She loved him.
“I don’t care Aden,” she said. The resolution in her voice made him wonder at the wisdom of telling her. “I want to see him.”
Dylan moved in the seat and she glanced at him. He had said nothing, but he wasn’t happy. She didn’t care. She could think of nothing but seeing Cyrus.
She sat back looking out the front window as they made their way to the hotel. It had started to drizzle out and Dylan turned on the windshield wipers low. The easy rhythm set a tempo that she tried to concentrate on. The shock was wearing off and she needed to keep her heart from bursting from her chest. He was alive. She shut her eyes and listed to the wipers. Dylan cracked his window and she could smell the rain. Aden reached over and turned on the heater and the warmth helped her to relax.
She leaned her head to Aden’s shoulder and sought comfort there. He turned his head to kiss her hair and then went back to looking out the window.
It was late and she wondered where Aden and Felix were staying. All of a sudden staying the night with Dylan felt like a bad idea.
She sat up as they stopped and she watched the valet come to take the keys from Dylan. She followed Aden out of the car and watched as Felix pulled up behind them. Aden walked to the car and opened the door as she stood there looking up at him.
“Maybe I should come with you,” she said.
Aden looked at Dylan as he stood near the front entrance of the hotel waiting for Bronte to join him.
“We are staying at your parent’s home,” he said. “They are still there.”
Bronte wasn’t ready for that. She had no idea what would happen if her parents found out Cyrus was still alive. If Aden told them what he had seen of Cyrus they may not want her to go to him. She shook her head and stepped away from the car.
“Don’t go to him alone,” Aden told her. He wasn’t sure what Cyrus’ state of mind was. The man had been unjustly stripped of all that mattered to him and then tortured and scarred. It might not be safe for Bronte to go to him. Cyrus might use her to seek revenge on Rohan and the Circle. “I will take you to him.”
“Do you know where he is?” She asked.
“I think so,” he offered.
“I’ll wait for you here,” she said and as he nodded he got into the car and they drove away.
She turned and saw Dylan waiting for her. She didn’t know what to say to him. She thought about getting her own room. She walked toward the hotel and fell in step with him as they walked inside.
* * *
“I should get a room,” she said as they walked through the lobby.
“That really isn’t necessary Bronte,” he told her. “I can sleep on the couch. Besides, I will know you are safe if you are close.”
She nodded. He was right. After their little experience in the club it was best to stick together. He knew things had changed, he offered to sleep on the couch, and even without her mother’s words she knew Dylan could be trusted.
Inside the hotel room she looked at the closed doors that led into the living room where Dylan lay on the couch. She would never be able to sleep with her mind so restless. The bed was comfortable and warm. She had showered and put on her pajamas. She was safe, warm and comfortable, but she felt as though she would come right out of her skin. He was alive. She would see him tomorrow and she looked at the clock beside the bed thinking of the hours until the next sunset. She was reminded of Cyrus’ lesson about the passing of time. He had been right. She could feel every second as it turned into a minute, and every minute as it turned into an hour. The light slipped through the curtains and she watched the gray turn to blue.
She thought of what she would say to him. She went over in her mind what would happen when they saw each other. She wondered what he would say or do. Her mind raced on until finally it gave up and she fell to sleep without knowing it had claimed her.
* * *
She heard the shower and turned over to look at the clock. It was 2 p.m. and Dylan had allowed her sleep in. She had already showered so she got up, and took the time while Dylan showered, to dress and go out to the kitchenette to make coffee.
She was drinking her second cup when he came out. He was dressed, but his hair lay wet against his skin and slightly past his shoulders to his shirt where it left a water mark down his back. He sat down at the table across from her to put on his socks and boots.
“What will you do?” He asked as he tied his boots.
“Aden will come for me tonight and take me to Cyrus,” she answered.
“Is that safe?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” She set her coffee cup down.
“Are you certain that Cyrus won’t seek revenge on your father through you?” He sat up and waited for her answer.
“Cyrus would never harm me,” she said. Cyrus had done a lot of things, but he had not hurt her. She didn’t believe for a moment that he would take revenge on her father by hurting her.
He nodded to acknowledge her answer. She was going to go and there was nothing he could do to change her mind.
“What will you do now?” She asked him.
“I plan on seeing your father. Telling him what we did. Getting my punishment and taking my next assignment,” he said. What else was there to do?
Bronte wondered what kind of punishment her father would find for Dylan. She had never given such things much thought, but now she knew what her father was capable of and she felt concern for Dylan.
“Let me talk to my father first,” she offered.
“What for?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t want you punished unjustly.” Her mind saw the net of crosses when she spoke.
“I lied to my king, disobeyed him and endangered his daughter,” Dylan said, “Whatever punishment I am given will be just and deserved.”
“I can ask Aden to say nothing and we won’t have to tell him,” she reasoned. “You can just say that I got away from you.”
“Then we would both be liars,” he said. “You don’t want that and you know it. I would rather take my punishment so that I can still claim integrity and demand respect.”
Bronte understood those things were very important to Dylan. She wouldn’t want him to lose that part of himself that made him who he was. She felt the very same way. He was right; she would not want to lie to her father. She would do the same at some point and tell him all. Not until she had seen Cyrus, but soon.
“I’m sorry Dylan,” she said. Dylan had offered so much and in return got nothing. Bronte wondered if life was so unfair to everyone.
His eyes caressed her and his hand reached out to cover hers on the table. He rubbed it gently and pulled away.
“Don’t be sorry for loving someone so much that you would do anything for them; dead or alive,” he told her. “I hope you find everything you hope for. And if you don’t, I hope you will remember me.”
“I won’t ever forget you Dylan,” she said. “And if I ever considered anyone else I would find you.” She didn’t think there would ever be anyone else for her but Cyrus, but she was young and life could be long. If Cyrus did not love her she would have to learn to go on. Looking at Dylan she thought she would do well to have him, anyone would. He nodded in acceptance to her words and they fell silent.
Bronte busied herself with cleaning, but her eyes continued to search out the clock. Dylan left at 5 p.m. to seek her father. By the time Dylan had explained everything she would be with Aden and they would be on their way to see Cyrus.
* * *
Aden picked her up alone in the car she had seen Felix drive. They headed out to Virginia to what used to be Cyrus’ home.
Aden thought Cyrus would use the house since it was now ruined and abandoned much like himself. He would wait outside and if Bronte needed his help he would be ready.
Bronte felt her heart race as they pulled on to the long driveway that led to the house. The night sky was still overcast, but it had not rained. It was dark, but a few stars found their way through the clouds. It might clear up yet.
The headlights hit the house and she felt sadness at its sorry state. It looked mostly intact, but the windows were broken and one side of the house had been burned. The front was untouched by the fire and even with its obvious abuse it still welcomed her because he was within. She felt her markings grow warm and knew he was here.
Aden parked and rolled down the window. It was cold and he would sit inside with the heater on, but wanted to hear clearly in case she called for him. She got out and walked toward the house.
The place was dark inside. With the fire had gone the electric power. A large window in the front was broken and the glass lay shattered at the base of the window. A curtain blew across some of the shards that still clung to the window and it was tattered from the cloth pushing and pulling across the sharp glass.
The wind had been warmer, but the last few hours it grew so cold and strong that it penetrated her warm sweater and kissed her skin. She wrapped her arms around herself in a futile effort to find more warmth. She looked up at the windows high above her and they were like empty sockets staring down at her. Nothing moved within. Her eyes found the front door and she moved up the steps to lay her hand on the doorknob. It was icy cold to the touch, but she turned it easily and pushed the door open.
The wind followed her in even after she closed the door. It whipped the tattered curtain and moved it like a blood red ghost shackled to the curtain rod. She strained to see within the dark confines of the room in which she stood. She had come prepared and brought out a large flashlight to begin searching for him. The light illuminated only a small area at a time. Inside the house was so dark that anything outside the light's limited perimeter fell to blackness. Bronte wondered where he was. She wondered if he knew she was there. She wondered if he were hiding from her.
"Cyrus!" she called out to him. She hoped he would answer, but doubted it would be so easy. She held very still and listened. She listened for his voice, for his footfalls, for the house to call out and give him away.
There was no answer. She looked first to the stairs and considered the chambers above. She realized that she knew he would not be there. He had lost everything that mattered to him. He would be in the darkest recesses of the house, brooding. She turned and began to look for the cellar.
She had seen Felix bring wine up from somewhere near the stairs on the first floor. She walked past the stairs and found the door. She opened it and flashed the light onto the stairs leading down to the cellar. She waved it around the dark room, but it was too hard to see anything clearly and she walked down the stairs to see if he were there.
The smell of dirt and dust was obvious at first, then the mildew came later. It appeared that she was wrong, and that Cyrus was not in the cellar as she suspected, but as she turned to leave she heard him breathing. He was near. She knew he did not have to breathe and wondered if secretly he wanted her to find him. She went further down the stairs into the darkened cellar.
Cyrus was very aware of her. He knew she was there before she ever came into the house. He did not want to see her. He was broken and worthless now. He had nothing to offer her and had no idea why she had come. He was very still and waited for her to leave, but the sight of her, even in the darkness of his self-imposed prison, made his heart begin to beat. She had turned to go and he wanted to reach out to her, to touch her, to feel her skin, to smell the vanilla and flowers that seemed to be a part of her natural scent. Without thought he brought the air into his lungs as though he could bring her to him that way. It was there in the air just as he imagined it; vanilla and flowers. It was at that moment that he realized all he had lost. It was more than his position as vampire king, more than his pride and his wealth, he had lost himself somewhere along the way. He wanted her to heal him. He wanted her. The thought became a point of light and it was all he could see. He would have given anything to have her, and now she had come to him. He had every right to take her. Taking her like this, wild and uninvited, would take away his one chance to regain his power, but he found that the power meant little to him. She was power. Thinking of her fed him power. He felt as though his sanity was slipping away and the last shreds of it told him that she was in danger. It wasn't from Seth this time, it was from him. He wanted her so desperately, but he would not take her like this. Not having her would likely kill him, but taking her by force would damage her in a way he was not willing to do. Selfish bastard that he was, he could not hurt her, not for gain and not for longing.
She had stopped, and then began to move further into the cellar. Cyrus felt fear for her and struggled with what he should do. If she came too close he might not be able to control himself.
"Go away Bronte," he whispered. He could no longer compel her to do his will and he hoped she would be reasonable.
His voice caused her heart to skip and then race at a painful rate. He was here. He asked her to leave, but she had come so far to see him.
"I want to see you Cyrus," she said into the darkness. "I won't leave until I see you."
At first there was only silence, but then she heard movement. She trailed the light in her hand to where she heard sounds and it shown brightly on a tall standing shelf. The light remained there and she saw movement, then Cyrus appeared in the light. She felt her quick intake of breath at seeing him. She scrutinized his appearance and felt tears threatening. He was pale and gaunt and his beautiful face was scarred. He wore the clothes she saw him in at the club and they had muck and dirt on them. He had not fed. She was in great danger, but she cast the thought aside and took another step forward toward him.
"I will harm you Bronte," he told her as he stood frozen in the light. "I do not wish it, but should you come too close I do not know that I can control myself."
She stopped then. “I’m going up stairs,” she told him. “I will be sitting on the stairs waiting for you, and I will not go until I have said what I have come to say.” She thought he might need to collect his composure. If needed, she would wait until he had fed. She wondered if it would be safe to offer herself.
He would not have it. He did not want her to see him like this, and it was dangerous for her to be there with him. He had suffered much to keep her safe, and he refused to be the one to harm her now.
“I don’t want you here,” he said with low measured tones barely holding his anger and desperation in check.
“I want to be here,” she replied and took another step forward. “I belong here,” she said and then took another step. She lowered the light so that it wasn’t directly in his face. She knew she was foolish to go near him, but she knew what he had sacrificed for her, and she would be damned before she would allow her fear of him to keep her from helping him. Once he fed he would be fine. She was just concerned about how she would be able to feed him, and still be able to offer him power. There was no way to separate them without losing something. To give him power she would have to give herself to him. To feed him without losing the chance at power she would have to give herself to him.
She looked at him with the realization that she was about to give everything to him. She thought of all the times he had kissed her, touched her. She thought of the times she had wanted him beyond all else, had fantasized about him. She wanted him now. Even as pale and frightening as he was standing there looking more like a vampire than she had ever seen him look, she wanted him. She wasn’t just about to sacrifice her blood and her body, she was about to give him her heart and her life. With a mixture of awe and fear she realized that she was in love with the creature standing before her regardless of what he had become. She took one more step and her fate was sealed, there would be no turning back.
* * *
He took her and pulled her close to his cold body. The flashlight fell to the ground and rolled back and forth until it came to rest, lighting the ground and the wall beyond.
He turned her around to pull her back against him and he breathed in the smell of her hair, the smell of her skin, the smell of her blood. He could feel her heart beating like a little bird and her fear washed over him, feeding him, telling him to take his fill of her. He swallowed hard as he fought the urge to taste her.
“What if I kill you?” He asked as a warning, still able to allow her to go if she were to flee at that very moment.
“I hope that you will grieve for me as I have grieved for you,” she whispered.
“I tell you to stay and you wish to go. I tell you to go and you insist on staying,” he said breathing hard against her neck. “You defy me,” he whispered along her skin. “You deny me,” his lips raked a path to her ear and kissed her lobe. “Now you come and offer yourself to me. What am I to make of you?”
Her mouth was dry and she could only whisper. “Make me yours.”
She turned in his arms and placed her own around his neck to pull him to her. She kissed him softly, but he did nothing. She molded her body pliant against his and felt the evidence of his desire for her as he grew large and thick. It gave her courage to continue and her tongue caressed his bottom lip as she begged for entrance. She felt him relent and as he kissed her he became savage to take her in, to taste her, to feel her.
“Your skin is cold,” he said as his mouth kissed her face, her jaw, her neck.
“Will you warm me?” she asked as she tried to catch her breath.
“Not here,” he said.
She felt herself being lifted and he carried her out of the cellar and into the library. He set her in one of the winged back chairs and went to the fireplace. She could smell smoke from where the house had burned, but nothing in the library had been touched. The windows were still intact and everything was in its place. She wondered if Cyrus had cleaned the room himself.
She watched him build a fire and she could feel the warmth reach her, but the room itself was still cold. He stood there with his back to her staring at the newborn flames and she wondered what he was thinking. She didn’t care what anyone thought, she didn’t care about right or wrong, she only cared that she was with him. She waited for him to speak and tell her what she must do.
“I am not as I was before Bronte,” he finally said without looking at her.
“I know,” she said. “Neither am I.”
“I hope to kill Seth and greet the dawn,” he admitted to her. He knew no other life than that of a king. He felt low for his weakness, for his inability to beat Seth, to save his people from what Seth was doing, for what they had done to him.
She felt his words hit her heart and fear filled it like blood. She could not live through losing him again. There had to be a way to make everything right again.
“Don’t say such things Cyrus. I can’t bear it,” she said. He did not reply and she felt desperation overcome her. “I love you Cyrus.”
He absorbed the words like the heat of the fire and both warmed him. He had longed to hear her say it. He shut his eyes and tried to imagine those words being said to him when he felt worthy of them.
“You need to leave Bronte,” he said. “I mean it.”
“Doesn’t it matter that I love you?” she asked and she could feel the sting of tears as they gathered without mercy and fell without thought.
He looked to her and her raw honesty tore at his very soul. Her tears would be his undoing and he needed her to stop.
“Stop weeping Bronte,” he said gruffly. “I can’t stand your weeping.” He turned from her to look into the fire.
“They’re only tears, they cannot harm you,” she tried to say it with conviction, but they came out in a whisper of grief.
He turned and as she looked at him she saw him move, and suddenly he was kneeling in front of her. She knew he was moving, but she didn’t see it actually happen. Her sharp intake of breath attested to her surprise and her head snapped up to look into his fierce eyes.
“Stop saying that!” he said and his voice rose enough to make her flinch away, but she looked back at him. “Stop saying that,” he forced his voice to be calm as he looked at her. “They do harm me.” He ran his hand through his hair but his eyes remained on hers. “They tear at me and I bleed inwardly.” His admission changed his features and he looked like a desperate man.
Silence filled the room as they stood locked in place by his admission. She reached out slowly and placed her hand on his scarred cheek. She watched his eyes close as he took in the feel of her. His face was no longer smooth. It was raised leather in places and she could make out the shape of crosses as her thumb caressed the length of his cheek. She moved her other hand to encase his face in her hands and bring him to her. His eyes opened and she watched him close them again as her lips met his.
The heat at his back from the fire was nothing compared to the heat of her lips on his. He wanted to drown in her, to somehow attach her to his being and never let her leave him. She moved from the chair to kneel in front of him, her arms brining him closer until he could no longer control himself and his body began to make demands of its own.
“I want you Cyrus,” she said as she broke the kiss and began to caress his face with her own. She didn’t care that he was scarred, she didn’t care that he had the earth upon his clothes. She only cared that he was near, he was alive and the only thing that mattered was that she loved him.
“And should I fear you Bronte?” He asked breathlessly as he pulled her mouth back to his. His mind became clouded by her nearness and he felt overwhelmed. Could it be that she would still want him as he was? He couldn’t understand it, but he felt his heart expand painfully at the thought of it. She was all he had left that mattered and if he let her in and she were to leave it would destroy him. Bronte would have the power to destroy him far more easily than Seth ever could. She was his weakness and she was his power.
“No Cyrus,” she whispered to him, “Do not fear me. Love me.”
A sound escaped him that was more bestial than human as he lifted her in his arms and began to kiss the long column of her neck. He stood and brought her closer to the fire. He wondered if he should build a fire in one of the bedrooms or gather blankets so there would be more comfort, but he could not bring himself to leave her. If he left her for even a moment she might turn into a dream and be gone when he returned. He laid her gently to the carpet in front of the fireplace and kneeled beside her.
She watched him as he removed his shirt. Other than his face and arms his body had been untouched by the crosses and it was as beautiful, as smooth and hard as it had always been. She reached out to caress his bare chest and her fingers danced across his skin in a pirouette until it fell to the top of his pants and her eyes turned to his. She moved her hand away and sat up. As he removed his pants she pulled her blouse over her head and removed her bra. She could not take her eyes off of his nude body. He was incredible and she felt her body tingle at the thought of touching him, knowing him. She began to pull her pants over her hips when he came to her and pulled them off. He removed her panties and his hands began to rub along her thighs.
He had never felt anything so perfect and soft. She was exquisite and she was his. She was his, and that thought echoed in his mind as he positioned himself between her silky thighs.
Her breath was coming in and out so fast she had to will herself to calm. She felt his powerful hand spread her legs and his skin was all around her. He spread her legs farther and lay his hardened sex atop her downy curls. He began to kiss her stomach and moved up to her breasts. Her breath caught in her throat as he licked her nipples and pulled one into his hot mouth. His hips began to move slowly, rubbing his hard sex like a caress to the outside of her feminine softness. She moaned her pleasure at the sensation it gave her and he pressed harder until the folds of her sex parted slightly and he was rubbing the length of his thick erection across the inside of her folds, and across that place where his tongue had so masterfully brought her pleasure when she was last with him.
She grew wet and the scent of her desire surrounded them. The longing surrounded them. Cyrus felt his fangs lengthen in anticipation as he kissed the edge of her jaw and claimed her lips. He knew he needed to be careful, he knew he could hurt her, but he would have her, he would claim her, and anyone who tried to take her from him would find only death at his hands.
She was lost in the feel of him. He placed his body over hers and she could feel her skin move across hers. He held his weight from her by placing his hands on either side of her shoulders and locking his arms at the elbows. He looked down at her and her eyes were captured by his.
“I want you to be what I am Bronte,” he told her. “I want you to be mine always. But, if you say ‘yes’ you must know that I will never let you leave me. Never.”
Her mind caught at his words and she grasped them with her heart. If she gave herself to him he would not greet the dawn. If she gave herself to him she could be with him always. He wanted her, and he wanted her to be as he; a vampire.
It was not a sacrifice to give up the sun. She wondered if she would be able to feed as he did, but Aden fed and did not kill; Cyrus fed and did not kill. She knew that if she became a vampire she would learn to desire the taste of blood. What she would give up was nothing compared to what she would gain. She would finally be immortal and her parents would be relieved, she would be a part of their world, she would be with Cyrus always.
“Yes.” Her one word filled the room; filled him.
He closed his eyes as though he savored her answer. When he opened them again they were blood red and filled with need. He leaned down to her and brushed a kiss to her neck. His tongue licked a path to her ear and he kissed her lobe.
“I need to be inside you Bronte,” he whispered. “I want you to relax and listen to me. I will not harm you. There will be no pain, I promise.”
His breath was hot on her skin and moved across her ear until it brought tiny bumps all over her skin. She felt his hips move and the tip of his large sex moved to the wetness at her entrance. He moved slowly and her eyes closed so that she could feel him as he moved just the head of his sex inside her. He stopped and she felt the need to move against him, but one of his large hands moved to her hip and held her still.
“I am going to fill you Bronte,” his whispers grew haggard as he fought with his control, “When I do I will take your blood and I will not stop until you belong to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” was all she could manage as her body cried out for his.
She felt him move slowly and she felt every inch of him as he filled her. Her breath caught as she felt him come up against the barrier that was her virginity and he pulled back.
“No pain,” he said.
His hand left her side and buried itself in her hair. He pulled her head to the side so that her throat was bared to him. She heard his labored breathing as his lips touched softly to her skin. As she felt him surge forward inside her, his teeth sank into her and he was everywhere. She had never felt anything like it. Her body convulsed at the extreme pleasure of it. It felt as though her skin, her entire body, was caressed into orgasm. It was so intense she cried out and wrapped herself around him.
He moved inside her, wrapped in her heat. He could feel her tightness convulsing around his hard sex. He drank her in and lost all control. He needed to touch her, to feel every inch of her. Her blood was sweet and it was power. His body warmed and then grew hot. His skin tingled at his back where his marks once told the world he was a king. It was pleasure beyond his experience, and his experience was vast. He continued to drink her in as he sought to make her come again. His fangs locked her to him and he could control her desire there. He felt such male satisfaction as he heard her cry out again and her heat convulsed around his sex as though it could milk him that way.
He removed his fangs from her and licked her wounds to close them. He moved so that his upper body was straight and his hands fell to her sides so he could continue to move inside her as he held her still.
Her eyes found his, still blood red and full of need. Her body belonged to him, wanted him, craved him. She didn’t want him to stop. Every molecule of her being was alive and on fire with pleasure. She could feel every inch of him move slowly inside her.
He watched her face as he pulled back and almost out of her. He reveled in her fear that he would stop, that he would remove himself from within her. His hands tightened on her as he surged deep inside her. He heard her intake of breath as he filled her and he continued to torture her with intense pleasure.
He ran one hand beneath her to her back and pulled her easily against his strong chest. The other hand came to his throat where he cut a deep gash there with his sharp nail and brought her lips to the wound. He could not compel her to want the blood and waited to see if she would accept it. He continued to move inside her as though that could will her to want him. When he felt her mouth open and her tongue lap at the blood and begin to drink him in, the pleasure of it overwhelmed him and his arms pulled her close as he surged within her hard and fast. The more she drank the harder and faster he moved inside her.
He lost track of time and sanity as he felt his back grow hot to the point of pain, but he loved it. His hand moved to her back where her markings still called to him and when he touched them he felt his body cry out in pleasure and he spilled his seed within her, crying out her name.
The room seemed to spin as they both held still. He was still holding her, crushed to his chest, his heart beating so erratically that she could feel it upon her breast. They were still joined and she realized her body had grown hot as her mouth released him. She could taste the sweet coppery blood and her head fell back as she felt something inside her shifting, changing, growing wild. Then, his lips were on hers and the velvet softness of his tongue lapped across her own and it was so sensuous she began to kiss him back in earnest.
The heat of her body seemed to be absorbed by his and suddenly she grew very cold and began to shake. For the first time she felt fear and she pulled back to look at him.
“Don’t be afraid Bronte,” he whispered and stroked her hair gently. “You are mine now. I will not let harm come to you. You are changing. Lie still with me and I will await you.”
The fear was replaced by understanding and she grew tired. She was sleepy and she felt herself being lowered to the carpet. Cyrus moved, but they were still joined. She felt her eyes grow heavy and she was still cold. She wished she was closer to the fire, but sleep claimed her and she rested peacefully.
* * *
The kings of the Circle of Seven woke at the same time miles apart from one another. There was a shift in power and it was incredible. The power moved through them and disappeared. Something was about to change, something terrible was about to happen.
Raven felt the bed move as Rohan sat up. He threw the covers from him and stood to walk to the window. Whatever the power was it was hot like revenge and warm like desire. He glanced down at the markings on his arm and felt them as they cooled. What power could be so strong as to challenge the power of the Circle?
“What it is Rohan?” Raven asked from behind him.
“Power. Unimaginable power,” he whispered to her in the dark.
* * *
Bronte was unsure of how long she had slept. She was cold, but she not so cold that she was willing to leave Cyrus who rested beside her. She didn’t want to move. He was still within her and she was loath to part from him.
“Bronte?” The voice was Aden’s and he was outside the closed doors.
Cyrus’ head snapped up at the sound and was alert. He recognized the voice of the vampire outside and he looked to Bronte to gauge her reaction.
“Wait Aden,” she instructed and then looked to Cyrus. “He brought me here to find you.”
“I know,” Cyrus told her. He had felt the presence of the other vampire when Bronte arrived. He wondered what would bring the man inside to disturb them. There was little doubt that Aden would detect their lovemaking.
Cyrus did not want to part from her, but in order to find out what the other man wanted they would need to dress. He looked at her and saw the signs of what he had done. She was shivering cold and her eyes were as pink as an albino. She would need to feed soon, and he would have to hunt for her.
His hand caressed her face and he kissed her gently on her mouth. Already he could feel his body stir and his desire for her grow. There was no time and he cursed the other vampire for the intrusion.
“Tell me,” he whispered to her.
Her entire being responded to his voice. She wanted to stay right where she was, despite the cold. She did not want to part from him.
“I love you Cyrus,” she offered, knowing what he needed to hear.
“You are mine Bronte,” he said, “You belong with me.”
“I know,” was all she offered before kissing him.
He kissed her, tasted her, knowing she now belonged to him. His masculine pride caused him to smile as his tongue caressed hers. He had wanted her and now she was his. There was no one like her. There was nothing like her.
“If we do not stop now, I’m afraid our guest will have a much longer wait,” Cyrus told her.
She felt the cold increase as he moved away. The loss of him within her made her reach out and take his hand. She couldn’t bear not having his touch. She needed him. He seemed to understand as he threaded his fingers in hers and pulled her to her feet to stand next to him. He kissed her again and she felt panic as he stepped away to dress.
Looking into her eyes he knew she felt as he did. He did not want to be away from her, indeed he wanted to be back inside her, making love to her. She followed his lead and began to dress. He finished before her and walked to stand in front of the fire and extended his arm out to beckon her to him when she finished. She threw herself in his arms and he caught her body close to his, holding there so that he could feel her heart beating from memory and from something so potent not even death could keep that organ still.
“Come Aden,” Cyrus called out.
As the vampire entered the room Cyrus watched him. Although he knew Bronte did not desire Aden, he felt protective and possessive of the treasure clinging to his body. He watched Aden take in the scene presented before him.
“What have you done?” Aden asked of Cyrus.
“I have claimed her,” Cyrus said calmly, “She is mine.”
Bronte said nothing. She felt cold, but Cyrus’ words warmed her and she felt the markings they once shared grow warm in answer to his claim.
Aden looked at Cyrus and then to Bronte. Cyrus had turned her, had made her a vampire and Aden felt unsure of the implications. What if he had delivered her to Cyrus and he took her by force? He had not heard a struggle, and in fact could feel the desire that still clung to the air. Looking at them he knew she had not been taken by force. She had given herself to him. Bronte loved him, and by the way Cyrus held her to him he had no doubt that Cyrus truly felt that she belonged to him.
“Is this what you want Bronte?” Aden asked, looking at her tenderly.
“It is everything I want Aden,” she answered.
He stepped closer to them, to the heat and then they heard his quick intake of breath.
“Cyrus,” he said in wonder, “Your scars…they’re gone.”
Bronte turned to Cyrus as she watched his hand run along his face. She had not noticed. She was so intent on her love for him she had not noticed the change. The scars were gone as if they had never been. His skin was smooth and beautiful. He turned to look at her as though he needed confirmation and she threw her arms around him, nodding.
She clung to him and he pulled her closer. His chin rested on top of her head and placed a soft kiss there before resting his chin again.
“I felt power coming from the house,” Aden told them. “I have never felt anything like it.”
The power had drawn him to them. It wasn’t just that he was curious about the power, but it had called to him somehow and he felt compelled to seek them out.
Bronte felt warmth that did not come from the fire behind them. There was warmth coming from Cyrus. Her hands ran along his back to his shoulders and she felt it. Her markings answered to the touch and drew away from him. His expression spoke of surprise and he could only look at her. Her hands found the buttons of his shirt and were shaking as she slid the clothing from his shoulders to pool at his feet.
“Let me see it Cyrus,” she told him as she stood back to give him room.
He knew what she would find although he wasn’t certain how it had happened. He felt the warmth of her touch and the heat of markings on his back. He turned around to face the fire and give his back to Bronte and Aden.
“Oh my God,” she whispered.
She was shocked, and unsure. She was afraid of what it meant, that the legend was true and Cyrus now had what he needed from her. Her eyes caressed his back and she could not speak. The tribal markings that had matched her own and marked him as a king of the Circle of Seven were there, but there was more. The markings started at his shoulders and traveled down to end at the small of his back. They covered his skin there in intricate black vines, tribal and fierce. Bronte’s hand touched his bare skin and she felt the power surge through him and into her. Her quick intake of breath caused him to turn and he caught her hand suspended in the air as he turned.
He pulled her close to him and the raw possession in his eyes made her heart beat rapidly. He pulled the back of her shirt up enough to insert in hand beneath it. The large hand caressed a trail to her markings and as he touched them they both felt the power of their desire flair and fill the room.
“What is it?” Aden asked as he too felt their power. He could feel the desire they had for each other and was in awe of it. He had not been willing to believe in the legend that bound Bronte to the Vampire King, but looking at them and feeling the power between them left no doubt that it was true.
“Bronte had given herself to me and I have claimed her,” Cyrus said to Aden, but his eyes fell to Bronte’s. “Her power is alive and it is mine.”
“What does that mean?” Aden asked as he stepped closer to the fire and finally felt some of its heat.
“Do you not feel it Aden?” Cyrus asked the man. “Do you not feel the power of your king?”
Standing there Aden looked at Cyrus. He could feel it. It was even more powerful than before. Cyrus was again the Vampire King, but Aden could feel an imbalance. There was something wrong.
“I feel it,” he admitted. “But there is something else Cyrus. I feel torn. Something is not right.”
Cyrus looked then to Aden. He sent out his power and he felt it right away. Seth was still the Vampire King as well and it was causing a tear in the power of the Circle.
“I feel it,” Cyrus told him. He looked back to Bronte and removed his hands from her markings. Her head fell to his chest and she was tired. “We must care for Bronte first,” he said to Aden. “Bronte must feed, then we will take care of Seth.”
Aden knew that this night would be hard for Bronte. He recalled the first night he awoke as a vampire. His senses were so powerful and hard to control, and the hunger tore at him like nothing else. Cyrus looked up at him again.
“I want you to stay with her while I hunt,” Cyrus instructed. “I will only allow her to feed from me. No one is to go near her, but me. No one is to touch her, but me. Do you understand?” The possession in his tone made Aden pause and reflect. He looked to Bronte who seemed unmoved by Cyrus’ demand. He nodded and watched Cyrus pull away from her. She moved with him as though she could not stand to be parted from him, but he motioned for her to stay near the fire as he brought a chair to her and seated her near the heat.
He kneeled in front of her as though he was proposing and his hands fell to her knees. Their eyes locked in mutual knowing; that they did not want to be parted, that they could not stand to be away from each other, but that it had to be this way.
“I will not be long,” he told her. “Aden will stay here with you.”
“And what if Seth felt our power as Aden did?” she asked and he could hear the fear in her voice. “What if he comes while you are away?”
His hands ran soothingly across her legs as he thought. It was possible that Seth could come looking for him and follow the power to Bronte. He worried that Aden would be compelled to do as Seth asked since he, too, was Vampire King. He could not let Bronte go through the night without sustenance, and he would not allow her to feed from anyone but him. He felt very strongly about that. It was too intimate, to close and he would not allow anyone to know her like that, but him.
He nodded to her and stood to face Aden.
“Come here Aden,” he said.
Aden walked to stand in front of Cyrus. Cyrus would care for Bronte and Aden would do all he could to help him.
“Aden, Seth may be able to compel you and I cannot allow that to happen,” Cyrus began, “I need you to be strong enough to resist Seth so that you can protect Bronte. The only way I know how to ensure that is to exchange blood with you.”
Aden’s immediate reaction was to step away from Cyrus. He did not want to exchange blood with the Vampire King. It would connect them for the rest of their lives.
Aden looked from Cyrus to Bronte. She was shivering and she looked so vulnerable that for an instant he was angry with Cyrus. But, Bronte’s eyes shown so clearly with her love for him that Aden could not bear Cyrus ill will. Cyrus was right. As long as there were two kings Aden would be in danger of succumbing to Seth’s will. This was the only possibility left to them. Aden reclaimed his position in front of Cyrus and nodded.
Cyrus slashed his wrist in the same fashion he had slashed his throat for Bronte. Aden placed the wound to his mouth and drank, but his eyes never met Cyrus. The rush of hot power and rich blood hit Aden and filled him. When Cyrus pulled his wrist away Aden found it difficult to let go. Cyrus was patient and Aden willed himself into control and released him. Aden felt his senses grow even more acute and he could feel the power of Cyrus surrounding him inside and out. Each molecule expanded with power and when Aden finally looked up to the Vampire King his eyes had gone blood red, and his face went expressionless to hide all he felt.
Bronte watched as Cyrus moved closer to Aden. Aden wiped the back of his hand across his lips to remove the remnants of Cyrus’ powerful blood. He stood motionless, seemingly unsure of what was expected of him. When Cyrus lifted Aden’s wrist he made no effort to stop Cyrus from taking the blood that pulsed through his radial artery.
She watched Aden’s expressionless face as Cyrus bit down. She wondered if Cyrus’ bite felt the same to everyone, if it was pleasure beyond belief and for the first time she looked upon Aden as a man and wondered at his desires. She could feel that he was a vampire. That surprised her. She could feel that he was more to her now than ever before. She swallowed hard as she watched Aden succumb to the feelings he tried so desperately to hide and his eyes closed to lock away the evidence of those feelings. It wasn’t sexual, but it was pleasure.
Bronte felt a sudden curiosity toward Aden. She had only considered him as family, as a close friend, never as a man. She wondered what his blood would taste like. She wondered he would feel pleasure from her as he was from Cyrus. She wondered if she were going mad as she tried to struggle with her vampirism.
“Stop,” she said to them.
Cyrus did so immediately. Aden’s eyes opened, but his expression was still void of emotion. Neither acted as though they had done anything wrong, or anything intimate and she wondered if she was overeating.
Cyrus has closed Aden’s wounds and let his wrist drop. He turned to her and studied her face. Aden never moved, never gave anything away.
“Your need of blood is great,” Cyrus said gently. “It will be difficult for you to control your senses, your thoughts, until you have fed.”
Bronte considered this. She knew that she would need to feed, and she knew Cyrus would give her his blood. She felt certain she could take from Cyrus, but she was not so certain she could take blood from strangers, or even from someone she cared for, like Aden. That thought caused her to look upon Aden and her head cocked to the side in curious wonder.
“And would you have Aden provide for you?” Cyrus’ question held something in it she was unable to decipher. She glanced at Cyrus then and thought about the question.
She cared for Aden and there was no doubt that she felt something for him now that she never did before. She examined that feeling and found it to be much like love, much like what she had felt for him all along, but it was different. The love she had for him before still existed, but there was something in addition to that and she had to step closer to Aden and look at him as she tried to identify it.
Her hand reached out to caress his face and she found he would not look at her. Was it because he was afraid something had changed between them, or because she had witnessed his pleasure at Cyrus’ lips?
“You and Aden are the same now Bronte,” Cyrus said as he walked up to stand at their side. “What do you feel for him now?” Again there was something in Cyrus’ tone that made her want to dissect the question.
She concentrated on Aden and the feeling she could not quite identify. It was warm and caring, but not romantic. She knew it was not romantic and that thought offered her a measure of relief. Feeling no romantic attachment made it easier to examine the feeling in more detail. It was possessive. She felt that Aden belonged to her. It was the want to see him happy, to give him happiness, pleasure, guidance, blood.
“He is mine,” her surprise was evident, but only to her. Cyrus stood there knowingly, watching her, waiting for her to tell him what he already knew. “He belongs to me somehow.” Aden’s eyes moved and rested on hers. “Do you feel it Aden?” Her eyes held an intense curiosity at this new found feeling.
“Yes,” Aden answered.
“And, now that Aden belongs to you, what would you have of him?” Cyrus’ cryptic questions were beginning to sink in.
Aden belonged to her because Cyrus had claimed her, and Cyrus was Aden’s king. She knew that anything she asked of Aden would be considered. She did not think Aden would give in to all of her demands, but he would consider them. He would not be able to look upon her as a child any longer. He would always feel compelled to obey her. He was strong willed and would fight anything he did not want to obey, but he would feel compelled.
She considered Cyrus’ question again. She considered all of his questions. Looking at Aden she felt some sadness at the change in them; to them.
“I would ask him to feel nothing for me that he did not feel before,” she said, looking into Aden’s eyes that had gone back to blue-green. “I would not ask him to provide for me. That is your privilege alone.” She turned now to Cyrus. She would not take Aden’s blood, not that of anyone but Cyrus. Feeding looked too intimate and she did not want to share that with anyone else.
Cyrus was pleased with her answer. He looked to Aden to measure his reaction, but there was nothing there. The vampire was cool and hard to read. He felt him with his power then and Aden turned to him to acknowledge that he knew Cyrus was trying to read him with his power. A wall went up and Cyrus was blocked, his surprise was covered by a slow smile. Aden was strong, and he was also a witch. Cyrus was pleased to know that Aden would acknowledge him as his king, and he felt that having Bronte for his mate would ensure the loyalty of the strong vampire before him.
Cyrus looked down at Bronte and pulled her away from Aden and into his arms.
“When Seth is dead you will feel the power of all vampires,” Cyrus told her. “They will all be yours, as they are mine.”
He kissed her soft lips and drew her back to the chair in front of the fire. He placed her there again and stood before her.
“I will hunt,” he told her, “And I will back soon to care for you.” He looked then to Aden. “I leave her to you. I have no doubt she will be safe, but watch for Seth’s tricks. He can cloak himself, but not his minions. I should be less than an hour. You may want to find accommodations for yourself here. A fire in my room would be appreciated.” He smiled then. He would not be able to dictate to this man, but he knew he could work around that. Men with conscience always had a weakness. He knew; it had almost cost him his life. He liked Aden. More importantly, and surprising was that he trusted him. How foreign and novel a feeling.
Cyrus was gone in an instant and Bronte was left staring into the fire and feeling his loss like the coldness that surrounded her. Aden walked to and sat at the foot of the chair staring into the fire as she was. Her hand went to his shoulder, touching him for reassurance from habit.
“I don’t want anything to change between us Aden,” she whispered to him.
“You will find that your nature will change Bronte,” he said and it held a hint of sadness to it. “You will be fundamentally the same, but the nature of a vampire is not the same as a human, and things will be different.” He seemed to be reflecting and she wondered what he had lost when he became a vampire.
“We can still be the same can’t we?” She asked and felt her heart beat faster as she awaited his answer.
“It would take work to keep our relationship the same as it was,” he shared.
“What relationship worth having doesn’t take work?” She asked.
He said nothing as he stared into the fire for some minutes. She saw it when his body relaxed and he turned his head toward her. His large hand came up to rest on hers at his shoulder. She felt the tension leave her as he smiled.
“We’ll work on it,” he said. “And everything will be as it was.”
Bronte felt relieved and joined Aden in his silence. The power that was her and Cyrus still filled the room and she did not want to leave it. After some time Aden excused himself and went upstairs to find a safe place for them to rest.
The cold was overpowering and she moved the chair closer to the fire. She didn’t hear the door open and was startled into a short cry of alarm when she heard a familiar voice.
“So he had claimed you,” Seth whispered into the room. “And then flew away leaving you unprotected.” He made a tsk sound as he shook his head as though he were disappointed in Cyrus.
Bronte couldn’t move. Only her eyes followed Seth from the darkened doorway to the fire before her. Her heart beat so frantically it was painful and the fear filled the room until it drowned out the desire that once filled it.
“He took the power and has left you,” Seth said. “Do you really think he will return?”
Bronte’s mouth had gone dry and she did not answer him. Cyrus would return she did not doubt that. Seth was trying to make her question Cyrus and she would not allow it. He would return for her.
Seth grew near and kneeled before her. His hands fell to either side of the chair and rested on the arms.
“I was thinking that, since I am the Vampire King, I could only stand to gain by taking you for myself,” his voice became smooth and hypnotic. Bronte wondered if this was the power the Circle had given him. She should not feel any compulsion, but she did and she had to fight hard not to fall victim to his melodious tones. “Whether Cyrus has claimed you or not, I may still find power should I take you.” His hand fell to her thigh and she jumped as though it stung her.
“The only thing you will find here is death,” Aden’s voice echoed in her mind and broke the spell Seth had been weaving there.
It was obvious that Seth was surprised to see Aden there. Cyrus’ blood had allowed him to cloak himself and Seth looked upon Aden as a puzzle as he backed away to prepare to fight the other man.
“Aden,” Seth said the name in that same hypnotic tone. When Aden showed no signs of succumbing Seth’s expression turned dangerous. “So you have chosen sides and stand against me?” He asked.
“I don’t need to choose Cyrus to stand against you Seth,” Aden answered.
“But you have taken the blood of Cyrus, I can feel it,” he accused.
Aden smiled without comment. He felt the power of Cyrus’ blood running through him. He had cloaked himself from Seth with that power.
The sound of breaking glass put Bronte to her feet and she moved away from Seth. Seth never took his eyes from Aden so she backed away until her progress was stopped by the wall next to the fireplace. Her heel hit something that clanged and she noticed the poker and immediately picked it up as a weapon.
“That would be my men,” Seth smiled to Aden. “They belong to me and they will kill you, traitor.”
“I don’t think so,” was whispered into the air just before the poker was driven into Seth’s heart.
Seth cried out in rage and pain as he turned to stare at Bronte in surprise.
“Aden belongs to me, and I will kill anyone who tries to harm him,” she told the bleeding Seth.
As Seth lunged toward her Aden grabbed the poker handle at Seth’s back. The man screamed in rage as Aden used the leverage to swing Seth around and throw him out of the room and into the darkened hallway where he heard Seth’s men coming toward them. Seth was screaming at his men to remove the poker. Now that Seth was the Vampire King it would take more damage to kill him. The poker was only cast iron, Seth’s heart would heal, but Seth would need to feed immediately to make up for his loss of blood.
Aden closed the door and pushed the couch in front of it. It might only delay them for a second, but he needed all the time he could get. He looked around the room and ran to the window that was covered with a heavy velvet curtain. A sheet of metal covered it and it would take too much time to remove it. He looked around the room and chose a corner near the fireplace. He ran to Bronte and took her arm as he began to pull something from his pocket.
“Stay here,” he said to her as he placed her in the darkened corner.
She watched Aden as he began to spread the white powder around the room, starting at the door. She could hear him speaking in a language she did not recognize, but she could hear that what he said he repeated over and over. He walked quickly as he spread the powder in a circle along the window and back toward the fireplace. Bronte screamed as someone hit the door and Aden’s head snapped around to look. One more hit and they would in.
“Come here Bronte,” Aden said and she ran to him. He used the last of the powder to close the circle and then turned toward the door.
She watched him take out a knife from a sheath at his side beneath his jacket. He walked to the outer rim of the white circle of powder and stopped. He sliced a deep wound into his hand and when the blood hit the white powder she heard him say the words again, and she watched the blood hit the powder and it ran as though it were a fuse, along the circle turning the powder red. When the red ring closed, the door of the room shut hard and no longer moved under the weight of those outside.
Aden faced the door until he heard Bronte’s hurried breathing. He turned toward her and saw her fear and vulnerability. He also saw confusion as her eyes met his.
The knowledge that Seth was near left her frozen in her fear. She needed to feed to feel strong, she was so cold that not even the heat of the nearby fire warmed her, and she wanted to throw herself into Aden’s strong arms and hide herself in his embrace. She looked at him and felt unsure. Before everything had changed, before she became a vampire, she would not have hesitated to run to him for security. She would have been in his arms right now, but she wasn’t certain if she should. She looked at him, wondering if he would welcome her; wondering if it would feel the same to be held by him.
Aden didn’t move, but continued to look at her and let her make her own decision. He didn’t want to do anything that would make her even more uncomfortable, but the strain of her frustration and fear began to show and her tears tugged at his heart. He looked at the chair that she had been sitting in. It was within the circle and he walked to it and set it back a few feet from the fireplace, which was just outside the circle of protection. He sat down facing her.
In his mind he saw her at five year’s old. The first time he had ever seen her cry. He was sitting in a chair very similar to the one he sat in now.
Bronte watched his every move, longing to be free to go to him. When he sat in the chair she recalled the same memory and knew he was offering her that same safety in his arms. She went to him then, just as she had when she was five. She placed herself in his lap like a frightened child and he embraced her. She didn’t feel anything amiss; it was all there just as it had been those many years ago. Aden was comfort and love and safety. He would hold her and keep the devil at bay.
“Aren’t you the clever vampire,” Seth’s voice rang out from beyond the door. There was a pause and Seth spoke again, using the compulsion he had tried before. “Bronte, open the door for me,” he cooed.
Bronte felt the need to open the door, but instead she threw her arms around Aden and buried her head beneath his neck. After a long moment Seth spoke again.
“The sun comes, and before I leave this house I will have it set afire,” he promised.
There was movement outside, and then only silence. Bronte could feel herself becoming weaker and wondered if it was from the lack of blood, or the coming sun. Her fear rose as the first smell of burning wood reached her sensitive nostrils. Aden’s arms tightened as he, too, smelled the smoke. They were trapped now between the rising sun and the flames. If they tried to run before the sun was in the sky they would be captured by Seth and his men, or they would wait and greet the dawn, either way they would be dead.
“We can try to run,” Aden offered, but his tone told her he knew their odds.
“If we do Seth would capture me and kill you,” Bronte offered, “I would rather die than let him have me.” She looked up into Aden’s eyes to let him see for himself that she meant it. She would rather die in the flames of the fire, or the rays of the sun than to let Seth touch her.
Her words affected him and he was unable to mask his feelings. She saw the sheen of tears gather in his eyes, but they refused to fall.
“I do not wish to watch you die,” he told her.
“Then close your eyes,” she whispered to him, “and let us die together.”