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Authors: Kate Pearce

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BOOK: Blood of the Rose
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Without speaking, she marched off in the direction of the Clock court, Christopher muttering behind her. How could she trust him when she didn’t know his relationship to the Boleyns? He’d seemed on familiar terms with George, but she had yet to see him with the Lady Anne. Whatever he said, and despite his kisses, she couldn’t afford to relax with him yet. For all intents and purposes, he was clearly allied with her enemies once more.

Chapter 4

“A
h, Lady Rosalind, have you returned to court to prepare for your wedding?” King Henry asked, as he extended his beringed hand for Rosalind to kiss.

“My betrothal was certainly part of my desire to return to court, Your Majesty.” Rosalind inhaled the king’s over-perfumed scent and could detect no hint of a male Vampire’s animal stench. As a rare female Vampire slayer, she had an ability to sniff out Vampires purely by scent that was highly valued. To her, the males tended to smell like animals, the females like flowers.

She breathed a silent prayer of relief. Although a faint hint of flowery fragrance hung around the king, he hadn’t been turned by a Vampire—yet.

The king raised her to her feet and then sat in his ornate gold chair. Apart from the quiet presence of Sir Henry Norris, the king’s groom of the stool, who remained at the door out of earshot, they were alone in the king’s most private chamber. In the year of her absence, King Henry had gained several pounds and the chair creaked ominously when he shifted his weight.

“As your grandfather’s ill health makes him unable to attend court, I would be more than happy to stand up for you in his place at your wedding.”

“That is very kind of you, sire. I hardly deserve such a great honor.”

King Henry leaned toward her. “Indeed, you do, my dear. I believe I owe you my life.”

Rosalind bit her lip. “As to that, Your Majesty. There are fears that another Vampire plot is in the offing, so I would urge you to be careful.”

“Another plot? Is that another of those reasons for your return to court that you spoke of?” The king scowled. “I had hoped that by putting my wife away from me and distancing myself from her foul Spanish servants, I would be safe.”

With great difficulty, Rosalind bit back her instinctive desire to defend Queen Katherine. “There are Vampires in every country of the known world.”

“Even
English
Vampires?”

Rosalind thought of Elias Warner’s perfect English complexion and cold smile. “Indeed, sire, you should never discount anyone, even those who are closest to you.” She had no evidence to bring against the Boleyns yet, and she wasn’t foolish enough to blurt out her suspicions to the king before she was prepared. Many had died for much less.

The king narrowed his eyes. “A year ago, I wouldn’t even have entertained the thought that these creatures existed. The idea that my father made a pact with the Druids to win the crown of England still befuddles me.”

“But remember, sire, my family also made a pact to protect yours, and we will do
anything
to stop the Vampires taking power.”

“As you proved last year, my lady.” The king sat back. “I know better now, and I can assure you that I will be wary.”

Rosalind sank into another deep curtsy. “I am glad to hear it, Your Majesty. I would hate for harm to befall you.”

“In the meantime, you will stay at court to guard my person, Lady Rosalind.”

“Yes, sire.” Rosalind hesitated. “Do you wish me to resume my service with Queen Katherine?”

The good humor drained from the king’s face. “No, you can serve the Lady Anne Boleyn. She is much in my presence and she keeps a godly and pious state. You will do well with her.”

Rosalind doubted that, but at least it would give her the opportunity to find out if Jasper’s guess was correct and that Anne Boleyn was indeed a Vampire.

The king nodded to Sir Henry to open the door. “Let me know when your wedding is due to take place.”

“I will, Your Majesty.” Rosalind offered the king one last smile and escaped from his presence. It was unnerving to deceive her monarch, a man so powerful that he could have her killed with a single word. And she had much to conceal from him—not only her sham wedding preparations, but her need to gather evidence against the very woman he had raised above the queen.

Rosalind took a deep, steadying breath and straightened out the skirts of her crumpled riding habit. If she was to meet the Lady Anne, she needed to look her best and be prepared for anything.

 

 

Christopher finally cornered Elias Warner in the great hall and maneuvered him into a more private area near one of the massive fireplaces. Despite his ability to disappear at will, Elias allowed himself to be gathered up, his smile affable, his gaze amused. That alone was enough to rouse Christopher’s suspicions. Elias was an old Vampire who had been the liaison between the Ellis family and the Vampire Council for centuries.

“What’s going on, Elias?” Christopher demanded. Elias blinked slowly like a cat. “I’m not quite sure what you mean, my lord. Is there something in particular that is worrying you?”

“You know why I’m worried. Why has Rosalind Llewellyn returned to court?”

“She has?” Elias sighed. “I was expecting that Welsh clodpole Rhys Williams would have married her by now, and got her with child.”

“Lady Rosalind is betrothed to me.”

“Ah, yes, so she is.” Elias stared into Christopher’s eyes. “And you wonder why I am reluctant to reveal anything about Vampire politics to you.”

“When Rosalind was here before I didn’t betray the Vampires. In truth, we helped you destroy a rogue who threatened the king.”

Elias waved a careless hand. “You did help, that is true, but you are still suspect.”

Christopher set his jaw. “The fact that Rosalind has returned indicates that the Druids are aware of the Vampires gathering around the king again. They obviously believe there is another threat, and I agree with them. If you do not keep me informed, how am I supposed to counteract the Druids?”

“That is an excellent point, Lord Christopher. Why don’t you ask Lady Rosalind?”

“Because she won’t talk to me either! And you know why.”

Elias looked politely puzzled. “I’m not quite sure what you mean, my lord.”

“The letters I gave you to send on to Rosalind. The letter she wrote to me.”

“Ah, that.” Elias shrugged. “I was quite willing to help you, but unfortunately, those above me, whose power I fear, ordered me not to send the letters anywhere.”

“What did you do with them?”

Elias met Christopher’s gaze. “I read them, as I was instructed to do, and then I burned them. There was nothing of interest in the letters—apart from your inability to construct a good rhyming couplet.”

Christopher ignored the provocative comment. “How can I be certain that you burned the letters?”

“I do have some scruples, my lord.”

“Not that I’ve noticed.” Christopher knew he would get no further with Elias, and in truth, there was little he could do about the letters now. He steered the conversation back to other important issues. “Don’t you understand that because you refuse to cooperate with me, I’m unable to do the job I was brought to court for—to protect the Vampires?”

“I can see that must be frustrating for you.”

“And yet you don’t intend to do anything about it, do you?”

Elias’s smile died. “Be at ease, sir. We don’t need your help.”

Christopher stiffened. “My uncle will be most surprised to hear it. The Ellis family has been your right hand for more than a thousand years.”

“And we will not forget your service when we rule this land. We’ll allow you to live.”

Christopher studied the other man’s inscrutable face. As usual, he found it impossible to know whether Elias was telling him the truth. “You believe you are in a position to take over the whole kingdom?”

“We will be presently.” Elias looked over Christopher’s shoulder. “And now I must go. I believe your uncle is lodged in the Clock court. I suggest you speak to him about your concerns.”

“I most certainly shall.” Christopher bowed. “You have been your usual unhelpful self.”

“I strive to please.” Elias inclined his head. “Give Lady Rosalind my best, won’t you?”

Protected by Christopher’s broader form, he disappeared before Christopher could frame a reply.

Christopher punched the stone wall and took a moment to gather his thoughts. Elias’s confident prediction of Vampire domination unsettled Christopher deeply. Like most Druid slayers, he only wished to live in peace with the Vampires; they were, after all, allies in their defense of Christendom from what he’d been taught to believe was a dangerous cult. Only the most fanatical members of the Mithras Cult dreamed of the Vampires turning every human in the land.

And he was unable to do anything, because no one was talking to him. Sometimes he cursed his mother for leaving him between two worlds, neither a Vampire nor completely human. Christopher let out a frustrated breath. There was nothing else to do but brave his uncle Edward in his chamber. He would probably find out little, but at least he would have tried all avenues open to him.

 

 

Rosalind followed the king’s servant into the suite of rooms that the queen would usually have occupied. Laughter and music rose from the many groups of courtiers scattered around the large, sunny chamber. Rosalind recognized many familiar faces, but there were also a disturbing number of new ones. Younger folk with an avaricious gleam in their eyes, their desire to be seen and noticed by the woman seated in the center of the room far too obvious to ignore.

Although the chamber was large and well aired, Rosalind detected at least fifteen different Vampire scents blending with the more usual human smells. If the Boleyns weren’t Vampires, they seemed to attract them like flies. Rosalind waited as the servant delivered the king’s note to Anne Boleyn.

“Ah, Lady Rosalind.”

Rosalind took a deep breath and stepped forward to curtsy. The sickly smell of honeysuckle assailed her nostrils, and she fought the urge to clap a hand to her mouth and retch. Either Anne Boleyn was a young Vampire who had no ability to mask her scent, or she was flaunting it. Rosalind guessed the latter. A woman who had come this close to entrapping a king would not be afraid of much.

“The king tells me I should add you to my ladies.” Anne looked down at the note. Her light voice still held traces of her French upbringing. “He says he holds your family in high esteem.”

“Yes, my lady. The king has been most generous to us.” Reluctantly, Rosalind rose from her curtsy and fixed her gaze on Anne Boleyn’s long white fingers and the black and silver roses embroidered on her elaborate bodice. For some reason, Rosalind was reluctant to look into the Vampire’s face. She felt naked without her weapons. It was highly likely that Anne had heard of the Llewellyn family. They were hardly unknown in Vampire circles.

“The king also says that you are betrothed to a gentleman of the court and that you are preparing for your wedding.”

“I am betrothed to Lord Christopher Ellis, my lady.”

“Kit Ellis?” Anne’s musical laugh forced Rosalind to look up into her dark, almost black eyes. Rosalind detected interest, curiosity, and a hint of hostility. “Why did he not mention it? I wonder.”

Rosalind kept smiling and tried not to breathe in too deeply. The cloying scent of honeysuckle made her feel ill.

“If you are betrothed to dear Kit, of course you are welcome among my ladies.” Anne clapped her hands as if she were indeed the queen. “Lady Wilkinson will make provision for you.”

Rosalind curtsied again and turned away, glad to escape both that piercing black gaze and the tainted aroma of Vampire. As she followed a chattering Lady Wilkinson from the room, a heavy feeling settled in Rosalind’s stomach. Lady Anne Boleyn was indeed a Vampire, and probably an old one at that, and the king was in love with her. How on earth was she going to tell King Henry? She wasn’t sure if she dared.

“Ah, Christopher.”

“Good morning, sir.” Christopher shut the door and walked toward his uncle Edward, who sat by the fire. Since his last illness, Edward never seemed to feel warm. It made the small room stiflingly hot, and Christopher wished he could take off his doublet. He studied his uncle’s smooth, waxen face and, as usual, was unable to gauge his feelings at all.

“What is the matter?”

Without being asked, Christopher took the seat opposite his uncle. “I was just speaking to Elias Warner. He gave me some worrying news.”

Edward raised his eyebrows. “Master Warner likes to imagine he knows far more than he actually does. What scandal broth is he brewing now?”

“He suggested that the Vampires are close to ruling the king.”

“In truth, I
have
noticed a new influx of Vampires to court.”

Christopher clasped his hands together between his knees. “He also said the Vampires didn’t need any assistance from our family.”

“That seems unlikely. We have aided them for centuries.” Edward paused. “Unless he meant you, specifically. The Vampires have no reason to trust you now, do they?”

BOOK: Blood of the Rose
12.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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