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Authors: Kate Pearce

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BOOK: Blood of the Rose
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Christopher let out his breath. “Do you think he knows who you are?”

“I should imagine so. Unlike his sisters, he was brought up in England. And female Vampire hunters named Llewellyn are quite rare.”

“I suppose they are.” Christopher stared out of the diamond-paned window and murmured, “I still can’t believe they are Vampires.”

Rosalind caught his hand in hers. “Christopher, you have to make a choice. You cannot allow your feelings for the Boleyns to jeopardize the life of the king. I thought the Ellis family swore to kill Druids, not aid and abet regicide.”

He brought her hand to his lips and nipped her fingertips. “I’m not a fool. You don’t have to lecture me on right and wrong.”

“Are you sure about that?” Rosalind broke off, aware of the chill of the undead behind her. She breathed in honeysuckle and closed her mouth.

“My, my, are the lovers quarreling?” Anne Boleyn moved closer and stroked Christopher’s sleeve. “But then, when passions run hot, sometimes an argument can be as welcome as rain during a thunderstorm.” Her fingers lingered on Christopher’s arm and Rosalind stiffened. “In the old days, we used to fight all the time, didn’t we, Kit darling? But the making up was all the better, sweetened by a kiss.”

Christopher smiled, but to Rosalind’s relief he stepped slightly away from Lady Anne. “That was a long time ago, my lady.”

“And both of us have moved on to different conquests.” Anne flicked her fingers over Christopher’s cheek. “Yet there is no harm in reminiscing, surely? Lady Rosalind was probably kissed at least once before you claimed her.”

“Indeed.” Christopher slid an arm around Rosalind’s waist and drew her close to him, shielding her from Lady Anne’s avid gaze. “But I’d rather be the last man a woman kisses than the first.”

Anne clapped her hands. “You are such a romantic, Kit! Who would’ve thought it?”

There was a disturbance at the door and King Henry and his entourage swept in. Anne immediately turned away from Rosalind and Christopher and walked over to the king. She swept him a low curtsy.

“Your Majesty, I was just teasing Lord Christopher Ellis about his devotion to his betrothed.”

The king smiled at Anne. “All men should be devoted to the women they love, should they not?” He beckoned to a page hovering behind him. “And bring gifts for their beloved too.”

Anne gave a little shriek. “Oh, sire, you have something for me?”

Christopher leaned down and whispered in Rosalind’s ear. “He does indeed have ‘something’ for her. He just received a packet containing many of Queen Katherine’s jewels that he demanded back from her. Lady Anne will enjoy that. In truth, she was probably the one who insisted he reclaim the jewels in the first place.”

Rosalind shivered as his warm breath danced over her sensitive skin. “I don’t think she likes me, and I don’t appreciate the way she keeps pawing you.”

“Are you jealous, my love?” His soft laughter made her want to lean in to him and just surrender to his strength.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

The grip around her waist tightened, and he backed them both out of the royal presence and then against the nearest wall. He lowered his head and his lips touched hers. She opened her mouth to him and his tongue tangled with hers, the delicacy of his touch sending shudders right down to her toes. He leaned in to her and deepened the kiss, the press of his body trapping her against the wall.

He tasted of exotic spices, of danger, and mostly of himself, and she craved him more than she wanted to breathe. When he raised his head, he was smiling.

“I also have a gift for you.”

Rosalind gazed into his eyes. “You do?”

He removed something from the leather pouch slung around his waist and took her hand. “It’s a betrothal ring.” He slid a heavy gold band decorated with rubies onto her finger. “I had it made for you while you were gone.”

Rosalind studied the gold band. “You were so certain I would return?”

“I knew the Llewellyns would never keep you out of a Vampire fight, and I guessed there would be more trouble at court before long.” He hesitated. “I also had some forlorn hope that you might return for me.”

Rosalind cupped his chin in her hand. Perhaps it was time to give him something back for his honesty. “If there were no war between our families, I would have come back to you.”

His smile grew cocky. “I knew it. I am irresistible.”

“And a terrible flirt.”

“Perhaps.” He kissed her. “I promise you, Rosalind, I will help you stop Anne from gaining power over the king. Just give me the opportunity to do it my way before you resort to killing her and her brother.”

“Do you really think she will stop just because you ask her to?”

“I don’t know, but at least let me try.”

“But you will lay yourself open to her malice.” Christopher stepped away from her. “Why would you think that? She must know that the Ellis family is allied with the Vampires. She will not be surprised by my taking her into my confidence.”

“But she also now knows you are betrothed to me, and thus you must be suspect.”

He reclaimed her hand. “There is an element of risk in all of our choices, isn’t there? I have to try and find out what Anne and George are up to.”

Rosalind grimaced. “I suppose you do.”

He looked down at her. “Aren’t you pleased that we are of one mind again?”

“You haven’t let me into your mind,” Rosalind retorted.

“Nor have you let me into yours.”

“That is hardly surprising.” She changed the subject. “Do you want to talk to Jasper and Rhys about the Boleyns?”

“I suppose I should. Not that either of them will welcome my presence or my participation in their affairs.”

“I’ll ask Rhys to find a quiet spot for us to meet tonight,” Rosalind said.

“And in the meantime, I’ll go and talk to the Lady Anne.”

Rosalind stroked his cheek. “You will be careful, won’t you?”

“Of course I will.” He kissed her forehead. “She’s hardly likely to try and kill me in full view of the court.”

Rosalind allowed Christopher to walk her to the entrance to the stables. She watched him go with some trepidation. Despite his confidence, Vampires were notoriously unpredictable, especially when cornered. And it was highly likely that Anne Boleyn was playing a very deep game indeed.

Chapter 7

A
fter the king’s departure, Christopher took advantage of the ebb and flow of courtiers and approached Anne Boleyn, who sat clutching the small golden cask full of Queen Katherine’s jewelry as if she held the treasures of the entire kingdom.

Christopher bowed. “May I speak to you, my lady?”

“Of course, Kit.” Anne patted the seat beside her.

“In private?”

Anne’s pointed eyebrows rose. “I’m not sure the king would approve of that at all.”

“Then perhaps you would take a turn with me around the gardens?”

Anne stood and shook out her full blue skirts. “There can be no harm in that.” She placed her hand on his arm and scanned the mass of courtiers. “Unless your betrothed objects. She seemed a mite possessive for my taste.”

Christopher smiled. “You did, perhaps, bait her a little.”

Anne laughed. “Well, perhaps I did, but then I’ve always believed in living dangerously.”

“So I’ve noticed.” Christopher drew her out of the room and into the grounds. Like an obedient flock of birds, her ladies followed along behind.

Anne threw him a sidelong glance. “And what is that supposed to mean, old friend?”

“Only that you are aiming high these days.”

“And that pride comes before a fall? I’ve been told that many times, but I refuse to believe it.”

“What makes you think you will succeed when so many have failed?”

Anne’s fingernails dug into the black silk of his doublet. “You of all people should know that.”

“How so?” Christopher resisted the urge to grab her wrist and pull her hand off him.

“You’re an Ellis.”

“I belong to that family, yes. But what does that have to do with you?”

Anne laughed softly. “Oh, Kit, you are so amusing. I know why you are here. The Vampire Council sent you to protect me, didn’t they?”

Rather than look down at Anne, Christopher contemplated the hazy skyline and the spire of the local church. “Is that what they told you?”

“They didn’t need to tell me. I already knew your family protected Vampires.”

Christopher took a deep breath. “Until recently, I didn’t even realize you were a Vampire.”

“Did you not? I assumed your uncle would have told you.”

Christopher had no intention of revealing his uncle’s lack of faith in him. “You have been a Vampire this whole time I have known you?”

Anne patted his cheek. “Dear, sweet Kit, I have been a Vampire for the last three hundred years or so. That is why there isn’t an accurate record of my birth into the Boleyn family. We manufactured something, of course, but I understand the dates were rather muddled.”

“And George, too?”

“I turned George.” Anne’s smile turned sensual. “He has become quite important to me.”

“Ah.” Christopher contemplated his next move. Anne was in a remarkably confiding mood, so perhaps he should take advantage of it. “My lady, what exactly are you and the Vampire Council planning to do with the king?”

She stopped walking and faced him. “Surely you know.” “I’d rather you told me in your own words.”

“Then the Council didn’t send you.”

“In a manner of speaking. My uncle compelled my presence here at court.”

“Your uncle Edward is a cunning and devious man.”

“He is, indeed.” Christopher paused and made himself look into her dark eyes. If the eyes were indeed a window into a person’s soul, Anne’s soul appeared to be shrouded in blackness. “You still haven’t told me your intentions.”

Anne licked her lips, and he caught a glimpse of her fangs. “If you don’t know what the Council asked of me, I’m not going to enlighten you.”

“I only wished to warn you that when the Vampire Council is involved, things are not always as straightforward as they might seem.”

She laughed in his face. “Are you suggesting I could get hurt, Kit?”

“I’m suggesting that you should have a care for your safety. Even here at court, Vampires are not without enemies.”

Anne continued walking again, now seeking the leafy shade of the trees. Up close, Christopher could clearly see the thick coating of white leaded powder she used to protect her face and neck from the power of the sun.

“I assume you are talking about those ridiculous Druids your family hunts.”

He pictured Rosalind in full fighting mode and imagined her facing Anne. “I wouldn’t sound so contemptuous, my lady. They are a force to be reckoned with.”

Anne lifted her chin and gave him a short curtsy. “I appreciate the warning, Kit, but nothing will stand in my way. And with you to protect me, what do I have to fear? Perhaps I will see you later.” She turned on her heel and marched back toward her apartments, her entourage immediately surrounding her like a swarm protecting their queen.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, my lady,” Christopher murmured. He hadn’t gained as much information as he’d wanted, but he had confirmed that Anne was up to no good and allied with the Vampire Council. He stared at the departing courtiers, a hollow feeling in his gut. It seemed he had to take a stand against his former friends, to take this information to his Druid allies and hope they would use it wisely. Even though he knew it was the right thing to do, he still hated it.

 

 

Rosalind paused to look up as an owl hooted from the top of one of the elaborately twisted brick chimneys that adorned Hampton Court. There was no sign of any other disturbance, so she continued on her way, using the outside hedge of the maze as her guide toward the apple orchard where Rhys had told her to meet him. There were no lights in the palace gardens. Most of the court was either still carousing in the great hall or abed.

She heard a blackbird’s call and smiled. Rhys was ahead of her, which at least meant she was going in the right direction. She whistled back, and bent her head to avoid the low branches of the first of the apple trees. The blossoms had long gone and the hard buds of the apples now adorned every leafy branch.

“Rosalind?”

She made her way toward Rhys, who waited beside an old shack that smelled sweetly of cider and pressed apples. Beside him stood Jasper, who inclined his head a formal inch.

“Is Christopher here yet?”

“I’m right behind you, my lady.” Rosalind turned as Christopher emerged from the gloom. His expression was pleasant, but his blue eyes were guarded. He stopped beside her, one hand resting on his dagger. “Master Williams, Master Llewellyn.”

Rhys stuck out his hand. “It is good to see you again, my lord.”

Christopher returned the handshake. “It is good to see you too, Rhys. Thank you for taking care of my lady.”

Rhys snorted. “I would like to say it was a pleasure, but you know how she is.”

Rosalind sighed. It seemed they were back to jesting about her again, but at least that was better than fighting. “Jasper, have you met Lord Christopher Ellis?”

“Indeed, I have.”

“He will be working with us to bring down the Boleyns.”

Jasper frowned. “Verily? I heard he was ordered by the Vampire Council to protect them.”

“Who told you that?” Rosalind asked.

“I believe it was Elias Warner.” Jasper opened his hands wide. “There is no reason for him to lie about such a thing, is there?”

Christopher took Rosalind’s hand. “Elias always lies. He enjoys it. I am not in favor with the Vampire Council, nor am I in league with the Boleyns.”

Jasper didn’t look convinced, but at least he kept quiet. Rosalind was just about to continue when Rhys interrupted her.

“Can you prove you’ve not working with the Boleyns?”

Christopher let go of Rosalind’s hand and squared up to Rhys. “I can give you my word that I am not.”

“But why would you offer to help us bring down another Vampire?”

“For my own good reasons. Reasons that I have no intention of sharing with you.”

BOOK: Blood of the Rose
10.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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