Bronte could still feel the warmth of Cyrus’ blood as it coursed through her, but it did not stop her from drawing near the fireplace in the antechamber. Her father looked upon her with some concern as he finished stoking the fire. She wasn’t shivering, but the warmth made her feel better. It wasn’t pleasurable like the warmth of blood, but it felt nice.
The others arrived one at a time, but no more than fifteen minutes apart. Lucas arrived first and accepted Cyrus because Rohan and Rylan had. Lucas was close to Rylan and respected his judgment. He had also felt guilt at what they had done to Cyrus and his readiness to accept the vampire attested to his need to make amends. His keen senses told him that Bronte had been claimed by Cyrus before anything was said. He could smell the sex and he could see the change in the vampire. Cyrus had always stood apart from them, but he now felt very much a part of them again.
Nolan arrived and took in the scene. Rylan had told them all that Cyrus was alive and intended to challenge Seth. They knew of the markings and hoped that Cyrus would be able to prevail without their aid.
Cyrus walked to Nolan and shook his hand. He wondered if his claim on Bronte had changed him, because he felt a kinship to the only member of the Circle that had offered him fairness. The human had meant very little to him in the past, but he found an interest in Nolan now that caused him to reflect and consider a new relationship with that man.
“I thank you for your attempt at serving fairly at my trial,” Cyrus offered.
“That is what we do as kings,” Nolan smiled and shook Cyrus’ hand firmly.
“No,” Cyrus corrected, “That is what we do as men. It is in us, or it is not.”
Nolan considered the statement and looked to the others as they spoke quietly near the fire. He had always felt respect for the kings of the Circle, with the accept ion of Seth. Even Pierce had his good points.
“Don’t fall victim to what they did when they judged you my friend,” Nolan told him as his eyes fell back to Cyrus. “Our judgment is easily clouded by love.”
Cyrus nodded in acceptance to Nolan’s words. It was his own belief in that same statement that kept him from wanting revenge on the immortals.
The elevator doors opened and Pierce walked in. He was dressed for business, much like Nolan and as his eyes passed over the other occupants they stopped at the sight of Cyrus and then passed on to Aden.
“It may come to haunt me one day,” Pierce said as he approached Aden, “that I did not take your power from you when you became a vampire.”
“You gave your word Pierce to leave Aden be,” Rylan said as he, too, approached Aden. “His allegiance is no longer to you and he falls to the protection of myself and the Vampire King.”
Pierce backed down and smiled to Rylan. “Which Vampire King is that?” He asked.
Bronte left the heat of the fire as the tension filled the air. She weaved her way through everyone to reach Cyrus who was still near Nolan. Cyrus’ expression at Pierce might have melted her had he not changed it when she touched his arm, claiming his attention.
He brought her within his embrace and her arms wrapped around his waist and beneath his heavy leather jacket. She felt her power respond to his nearness, but held it at bay. His power flowed into her freely and she warmed.
“Cyrus has the right to challenge Seth,” Rylan told Pierce. “You agreed to this before you came here.”
Pierce glanced at Cyrus and back to Aden. He was far more concerned about the power he felt coming from Aden than who ran the vampire world. Aden was a witch, and Pierce, the King of Covens. It was not wise to let one man hold so much power. It was not wise to let one witch hold so much power.
“If Cyrus is King again and has shared his blood with Aden there will be an imbalance of power and I cannot accept that,” he said to Rylan, but shared with all the kings.
“This is why we should not mix our races,” Rylan offered. “It happened and you allowed Aden to keep his power when it served your purpose.”
Aden had been born a witch, and had served Pierce through the Brethren, the keepers of the law for witches. Aden left the Brethren for reasons only he and Pierce knew. When Aden was made a vampire to save his life a rule of the witches was broken. There will be no mixing of races. Most all of the kings had that rule except for Nolan. Aden had helped when a powerful member of the Circle thought to give up her seat and create her own powerbase. Aden’s half-witch and half-vampire lifestyle had been very helpful then and Pierce had agreed not to take notice of the broken rules. But Pierce was like that and they all knew it; if it served his purpose he bent the rules. Now Pierce felt Aden’s power to be too strong and he felt threatened by it.
“It no longer serves my purpose and it is my right to take the power that comes from the covens,” Pierce challenged.
Bronte looked up at Cyrus and worry wrinkled her smooth brow. Pierce could not be trusted to be fair with Aden. She worried that Pierce might do something to make Aden weak, or make it easy to kill him. She doubted that Pierce would kill Aden outright since Aden was cared for by so many in the room.
“It was your right when you had the chance Pierce,” Cyrus spoke and the tension rose. “You relinquished your right to Aden and now he is mine.”
At one point Aden had refused to acknowledge Pierce or Cyrus and had claimed Rylan as his king. Rylan could be trusted. Now that Aden had exchanged blood with Cyrus all that had changed. Aden felt the connection to Cyrus, and to Bronte. Seeing Cyrus with her caused Aden to feel sure of his allegiance to the vampire.
“You are king of no one, yet,” Pierce turned his attention to Cyrus as he made his statement.
Bronte felt the ill will Pierce had for Cyrus and her power flared hot as she turned her attention to Pierce. The power that flowed into her from Cyrus acted as a conduit and she sent the heat of her power into it and fed Cyrus’ powerbase. When the two powers merged the room filled with it.
Nolan felt it first and his eyes grew wide as he stepped away from their warmth as though it might burn him. They all felt it just as they had when Bronte and Cyrus had first merged. The power was so great that each king, in turn surrounded themselves with their power. Rohan reached out and brought Raven close to him.
“You are mistaken Pierce,” Bronte told him calmly. She would not have Pierce threaten Aden or Cyrus. Neither she nor Aden was bound by the rules of the Circle and she would have no problem trying out her new found power on the King of Covens. “He is the Vampire King. Seth only needs to die now and all will be well again.” Her statement conveyed her belief that Cyrus would kill Seth that Pierce had to stop and reflect.
She watched Pierce look around the room. He was cunning and he would not wish to make enemies of so many. She felt him pull on the power she and Cyrus had released into the room as though he were examining its strength.
“Perhaps you are right,” Pierce conceded. “But if Aden belongs to you he should be put on a short leash.” The last was said for Aden’s benefit as Pierce looked back at him in thinly veiled distrust.
Cyrus smiled and it reached his eyes to make them glow. He had often considered needling Pierce a perk of his seat. He wondered if the man realized how transparent he was. His eyes found Aden’s and conveyed exactly what he felt, that Aden would never answer to Pierce.
The tension began to subside and Bronte pulled back on her power. Cyrus’ hand came up to place his finger to her chin and raise her eyes to his.
“We will talk of this later,” he promised as his lips touched hers lightly. He had felt the surge of power travel along his and build it into something greater than his own. He wondered if they had to touch to make it work. He wondered what she did to make it happen.
Bronte nodded and said nothing more. She did not want everyone to know that they were only just beginning to learn about the power between them. She wanted them to think, for Pierce to think, that the power that had just filled the room was at their command.
“Let us ready,” Lucas called out to them as he opened the door that led to the chamber of the Circle.
Everyone moved in mass, with Bronte and Cyrus allowing everyone to enter first and following Aden in to ensure Pierce didn’t try anything untoward.
Raven, Aden, Bronte and Cyrus were placed in a cage to the side of the room. This was an official waiting chamber within the room and as long as you remained within it you were offered protection by the kings.
The other’s took their place, not in the circle of podiums as they had before, but to the front of the room where there podium lined side by side. Pierce was to lead this time and it made Bronte nervous. Pierce knew many things about the Circle and would not put it past him to use his knowledge to his advantage.
The kings were called to order and the challenge offered for consideration. All were in favor, including Pierce.
“Seth, the Vampire King, is not here and I move that he be called by the kings and the power of the Circle of Seven,” Pierce announced.
All were in favor and Bronte watched them as they grew very still. She felt the power of the kings fill the room as they called to Seth. She sat between Aden and Cyrus, but her eyes drifted to her mother who was watching Rohan intently. One day she would join her mother and her Aunt Tory in the antechamber where mates usually awaited the kings if they came at all. Her Aunt Tory was the mate of Lucas, the King of Lycanthropes, and the parents to her best friend Jordan. Lucas would not allow Tory to come to DC while Seth ruled the vampire world. Bronte guessed that both Jordan and Tory were somewhere in Chicago, where Lucas did most of his business transactions. There was a strong lycanthrope population there and she knew from experience that their home in Chicago was well protected.
“I don’t feel him connecting to the power,” Pierce said into the room. “Could it be that he can cloak himself from us?”
“I don’t know, but I want this done tonight,” Rohan said as his eyes caressed the two women he loved. “Bring Cyrus to the Circle and let him feed his power to us.”
Pierce considered it. He had no stake in the vampire world and like Rohan he wanted this over. He nodded to Cyrus and called him to them.
Bronte watched Cyrus stand and felt his lips brush her knuckles as he released her hand. His long jacket brushed against her as he opened the door and stepped out.
Cyrus walked the familiar path to the place that was once his. It was only wood and steel, but it was home to his power. It was home to him. He took his place beside the kings and looked out to Bronte. This was how it should have been in the beginning.
Her heart beat faster as she watched him take his place. Pierce instructed them to send out power and bring back Seth. When the power filled the room this time she felt her own self-satisfied smile curve her lips. Cyrus had taken his place and the kings felt his power enter them, and this time it remained.
The boost in power entered the Circle and it welcomed Cyrus home. His markings grew warm and in his mind he could see the power traveling out across the water, across the highways and throughout the city. He saw Seth surrounded by vampires and ghouls somewhere in a dark room. There were screams, but he could not make out who was being harmed. There was bloodlust in the room and pain. The power of the Circle wrapped around Seth and he turned as though he could see it behind him. He looked surprised and he looked pained. The Circle would not take no for an answer and it beckoned to Seth, and the vision faded.
All the kings saw the same thing. Seth was coming, and there was little doubt that he would be bringing his army of psychopathic vampires and hideous ghouls with him.
* * *
They were sitting in the antechamber again, but the tension there came from preparing to battle, and not from amongst them. Bronte’s eyes constantly sought Cyrus as he stood across the room speaking to her father. She and her mother loaded their weapons and began placing them on their person.
Seth was coming and the thought of him made her sick. She was tired of being afraid, but she couldn’t help it. He had had her beaten every night she was with him, he had sent the whisperers to keep her from sleeping. He wanted her, or he wanted her dead. He was powerful, cunning and psychotic as all hell.
She heard static coming from Rylan’s two-way radio. Seers had been sent out into the city to find out what was happening there. They were to report on all vampire activity within the city. If the vampires lost control the Seers were to join the immortals and lycanthropes to bring them down, to kill them all.
She watched Nolan approach Rylan and listen to the message coming in. A lot of vampires were gathering at one of the clubs downtown, and another group had just left in a limousine heading their way. She could hear Nolan speaking softly to Rylan, he had a team of special ops he had sent in to help.
“Have them work with Rowen,” Nolan was saying to Rylan, “Rowen is weapon’s expert. Special weapons” He emphasized.
She heard Rylan speaking, but her attention fell to Aden who had come to join she and her mother. Her eyes caught sight of Cyrus and he was glancing at her then his attention fell back to her father. Aden filled her vision as he stood before her.
“Nothing like this has ever happened,” Aden was repeating what Rohan and Cyrus had been discussing. “They aren’t sure if Seth can kill a king of the Circle by using his men to do it for him or not. There seems to be some doubt.”
“What are you saying?” Bronte asked.
“They don’t think the target will be the kings, or even Cyrus, but you,” he said, then looked to Raven. “And you, perhaps even me. Seth is looking to hurt as many of the Circle as he can, however he can.”
“What’s the plan?” Bronte and Raven said at the same time and watched Aden’s somber face twitch at his lips in amusement to their shared question.
“The Seers will report on outside activity, the lycanthropes and some of Nolan’s people will watch over the city and the immortals will ensure that Seth plays fair. Anyone coming in this building uninvited is the enemy. We stay below with the kings and make our stand here. Cyrus will await Seth and the challenge will be made.” Aden could see that Bronte was having a difficult time concentrating on what he was saying. Her eyes continually sought out Cyrus and she wasn’t paying attention. He couldn’t let her do that, this was too important. “Bronte,” he snapped and her eyes came up to his. “What did I just tell you?”
She didn’t hesitate. “Seth’s people are fucked, and anyone in this building who isn’t us dies,” Bronte looked at him without expression.
He said nothing for a moment as he processed her statement. Then Raven moved between them and brushed up against him to gather his attention.
“See,” she smiled, “She was paying attention.”
Aden said nothing as Raven walked on to meet Rohan. He turned back and smiled at Bronte, shrugging his shoulders in resignation.
“Bronte,” Cyrus’ voice brought her to him. “Stay near your father,” he instructed. “No matter what happens I want you to stay with him, promise me you will.”
He looked so serious she felt the first pangs of fear enter her heart. She wondered if Cyrus worried he would lose to Seth again. She knew he would not, but she didn’t know how to tell him. She walked up so close to him that his arms naturally encircled her to pull her to his body. She placed her hands on either side of his face to bring his lips close to hers.
“Know that if you die Cyrus,” she whispered as she stared into his eyes, “I will follow you.” Her tone was so serious it captivated him, forcing his heart to beat wildly of its own accord.
“Then I will not die,” he offered. His slow seductive smile was mirrored by her as she kissed his lips.
“No, you will not,” she promised.
She kissed him again, never hearing the message that came to Rylan, but she heard his words as he shared it.
“Vampires on the roof,” Rylan called out. “The immortals are coming.”