Authors: Christine Blackthorn
Tags: #Erotica, #vampire, #Paranormal
By My Choice …
A Valentine’s Day Story
By My Choice …
Copyright © February 2014 Christine Blackthorn
Publisher: Phantasia Carnalis
The right of Christine Blackthorn to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.
Warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language which may be offensive to some readers. As a book with adult content it is for sale to adults only as defined by the laws of the country of purchase.
Disclaimer: This book contains explicit sexual practices. Please, if you enjoy to imitate do so in a safe manner under the tutelage of an expert. Neither the author, nor the publisher, shall be liable for any indirect or consequential loss or injury (including but not limited to loss of goodwill, loss of business, loss of anticipated profits or savings and all other pure economic loss) arising out of or in connection with this work of fiction.
This book is a work of fiction and all events are the product of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and should therefore not be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, locales and events is therefore entirely coincidental.
To Rhonda, because you stand at my side
“You know, Fabian, I actually thought you were my friend.” So calm and collected. He hated it.
“I am, Jen.”
Her snort held more character than much anything in her voice or demeanour had for months now.
“Well, in that case, our definition of friendship differs more than I thought possible.”
He loved the way she spoke, the easy elegance, but the misery in her voice grated on him. They had nothing left, not even enough of a connection for her to bite his head off. Only quiet desperation. He could not let it matter, not anymore. That time had passed by, months ago, for both of them.
“I am your friend, Jen. More so than you understand right now. But in this I do not have a choice either.”
He wanted to see fire, see fury in those soft brown eyes, instead, there was only uncomprehending hurt, bottomless and bleak. That bleakness was audible in every syllable as she spoke. It had been visible in every line of her delicate face for too long, seemed even to reside in the dullness of her once so glorious mahogany hair. Now she seemed washed out, diminished somehow. The shadow of the woman he had once known.
“So you sold me.”
There was nothing he could add to make the accusation less stinging. In the end, there was nothing he could say in his own defence.
“If you want to call it that way.”
“How would you call it?”
Finally, some anger, some heat in those too placid eyes. He heard the temper in the voice of the woman he had loved more than a sister for so long, heard it and hoped, with all his heart, she would be able to forgive him one day.
The light died in her eyes, smothered by the wave of misery which had taken root in her for the last three years, ever since … ever since — that was the problem. He had no idea when, or how, the depression had started. There was no particular event which seemed to have precipitated the onset of the change in his chatelaine from a vibrant, warm woman to this distant husk of a barely functioning automaton. Her work was still exceptional, she fulfilled her duties with diligence and intelligence.
In some ways, her professional success as the head of the financial services serving the Vampire Court of Tirana had only increased since she had lost her warmth, her humanity. Some would have argued it to be efficient, certainly efficacious, for him to let her continue in her current track. In all probability the last Lord of this court would have done so. She was after all making him a ridiculous amount of money.
Jen herself had demanded he leave it be, leave her be. When had she snapped at him the first time, rather than laughing about his concerns? He remembered it well, the shock of being unable to ignore the changes in her anymore. It must have been at least two years ago now. He had come into that dank little office she had called her own in search of something, whatever that had been escaped him now.
Her head had been bent, laying on the pillow of her arms , as she took a moment of rest her head on the scarred second-hand desk before her. It had been the first time he had realised how thin, how fragile she had become. Her neck had seemed delicate, easily breakable, and it had been too easy to make out the sharp bones in her shoulders delineated under the heavy jacket. In normal life, no one ever noticed, her boundless energy disguising the deep-seated fatigue he had seen in her then. And he had realised, with a start, that the energy had not been boundless anymore, had not been so for a while now. She had become quiet and withdrawn.
He remembered stepping into the room, modulating his voice low so not to disturb her if she actually were asleep.
Her head had lifted from her arms, her movements slow and fatigued. There had been dark shadows under her eyes, in her eyes.
“Fabian.” Hands had risen to knuckle her eyes in a gesture of childlike allure. Seeing it had made him smile despite his worry. As was her nature, she had recovered quickly, her will of steel hiding her weakness under a cloak of dignified serenity. “Do you need me for anything?”
“No, don’t worry. I just …” Here he had paused and reversed direction. “Jen, are you all right? Am I working you too hard?”
She had frowned at him, a spark of her usual self flickering over her face once again. It had almost reassured him.
“Don’t be an idiot. I am fine. Just a little tired.”
But she had said this too often in the past and he had let it slip again and again, let her get away with something he should possibly have challenged before.
The snarl had been vicious and too loud for the quiet room. She had never before spoken to him in this tone, not once in the years they had known each other, and it, more than anything else, had warned him of the depth of the problem. Jennifer Ashton was not, had never been, not even as a recalcitrant teenager, a being of anger. There were flashes of fury, sure, but never against people, never against him. She was not so much laid back as composed of a calm dignity which went bone deep. She also was too intelligent. By the time a situation angered her, she had normally already worked out the wherewithal to change it to suit her intentions and desires.
“Jen?” The shock in his voice must have gotten through to her, stopped her instinctive defensiveness. He remembered how remorse and contrition had softened her features into an expression more normal for her.
“I am sorry, Fabian. I think I might have dropped off and you startled me. You know I wake up without manners and a sense of humour.” A reason, but not the reason.
“What’s going on, Jen?”
He had come in, had sat in the chair across from her, hoping, wishing, to rekindle their familiar closeness. Her brown eyes had been bloodshot, not from tears if he was any judge, but from lack of sleep. What had been happening to his friend?
“I am worried about the court finances. I cannot get the electrician to commit…” Another of her prevarications.
The profanity had shocked her into silence, as he had known it would. He never swore in front of her.
“Are you ill, Jen?”
It was his deepest fear, had he let her see it for that. A blatant manipulation, for sure, but by that stage he had been reduced to trading on her guilt to make her speak to him of anything important, anything personal. She had just shook her head in a silent negation.
“No, I am fine.” When he had not looked convinced she had continued, appeasing, or at least trying to: “Honestly, I went to the doctor three weeks ago. Physically, I am completely healthy and in good shape.”
That simple act had said enough about her own fears. Jen had always had an unreasonable terror of doctors, for her to have gone to one, out of her own free will and in secret, was more of an admission than anything else. But neither that afternoon, nor any following it, had she been willing to discuss the matter with him. He had dithered, his attention again and again distracted by court matters and, he had to admit, the hope she would come back to him out of her own accord. But when her answers shifted from prevarication to outright hostility, when she pushed him away with a reminder that he had no grounds to complain as long as she did her job, he had been unable to ignore her unhappiness, or her unwillingness to face her depression, anymore.
And so they found themselves here in his study, facing each other across the desk as if they were enemies, not friends. Fabian was only too aware she did not comprehend his actions, very possibly could not, but he had reached the end of all options. Yes, he had sold her — had sold her to preserve what was left. His suspicions had proven all too real.
If she stayed here, she would tear apart the court in the next few days and whilst he might be able to protect her and the court from the consequences of what was about to happen, she might also tear apart herself, and he could not live with that risk. He was not simply her friend and her employer, he was her liege, her lord, and as such he could not ignore a threat to the well-being of one of his own. Not even in the face of the deep betrayal in her eyes, or the baffled bitterness in her voice. Fabian resisted the temptation to explain. He had tried to do so before, but they had moved too far apart.
There was another reason, though. One he was less comfortable with. He had given his word, understanding why he was asked to do so. Knowing this made it not any easier to deny her even the small solace of answering her next question with the truth she was not ready to accept.
“What gives you the right to choose my life? To even interfere in it?”
Fabian wanted to hold her close, to thaw that cold tension with his own warmth — but knew she would not allow him to touch her, not now, not here, maybe she would never be able to allow him that intimacy ever again. The pain of that realisation was a clawing animal in his gut. He could not let his own misery matter either; he had a responsibility to her.
“I am your friend and your Liege. I took you under my care the day you joined my court, the day you swore an oath which gave you into my keeping.”
Fabian waited for the spark of heat this would bring to her eyes and was gratified to see it rise, and linger, if only just for a moment. Possibly there was still hope.
“I did not
your court! We came here together. The oath I swore was never meant to give you any power over me. I swore it as nothing but a formality and you were very well aware of that little condition.”
“Jen, the oath has always been more than a formality, I just chose not to remind you before. You have grown up in a vampire court, lived among paranormals all your life; you are not as ignorant of our ways as that.”
“So you say now.” No one could have missed the deep disillusionment in her words, the betrayed trust, as she continued: “I thought you found most of that vampire etiquette as stupid as I do.”
“I do. But it’s not a question of etiquette. The issue is by far more fundamental. I know you won’t, possibly can’t, accept that, but it does not change the facts.”
She was too much a modern human for her mind to grasp something so absolutely elemental to him. It was almost ironic for her modern mind to be the divisive force in their relationship. In the beginning it had been that mind which had forged their bond, years ago, when he had come to her home, the Court of Venice. Even though they were years apart in age, the fifteen year old waif and the thirty year old vampire in the eternal body of twenty, had become friends. In comparison to the decades, often centuries, that separated them from the others, those few years were negligible. And she had always been an old soul, a guide for him in those early years, spanning the gulf between his still too human experiences and the world he had entered. But now, for the first time, he realised that she was so much more human in her mind than he had been for years.