Authors: Robyn Peterman
Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #Romantic Comedy
No one moved and no one spoke. The silence was charged. I knew every eye in the room was glued to my back and I didn't give a shit.
"Back off, Jean Paul," Raquel told him as she stared daggers at me. "He won't hurt me."
"No one can hurt you, Princess," I said as I placed my hands on either side of her, effectively caging her in. "Your outer shell is so hard it's impossible to break. God knows I've tried."
Her scent and her eyes trapped me more than my arms trapped her. Her lips were a breath away from mine. My fangs descended and my cock stiffened painfully. Maybe it was time to take the decision out of her hands and make it for her.
She placed her hands on either side of my face and slowly pulled my mouth to hers. The feeling of being home shot through me and my need for her burned so intensely I forgot we had company.
"Ummm… while this is all kinds of awesome, we have a Troll and a motherfucking Wraith problem at the moment. Maybe you guys can work this out a bit later," Astrid chimed in gleefully.
"Oh my God," Raquel mumbled as her cheeks blazed red.
"This is not over," I whispered as I ran my thumb over her swollen mouth. "I'm taking this out of your hands. We clear?"
She nodded quickly and slipped from my embrace.
"I'm the only one that can banish the Wraiths," she said as she regained her composure. "I would never ask anyone I cared for not to be who they are, or to forgo using their power to save the ones they love."
"Ohhhhhh snap," Astrid shouted as she danced around the room. "Guess she busted your ass, Heathcliff."
I nodded absently at my certifiable cousin and kept my gaze on Raquel. Was I one of the ones she loved?
"It's one of my gifts," she said.
"It's almost sundown," Ethan said tightly to his sister. "You're no good to me."
She was flanked by her guards who looked ready to do battle. The only one who was unhappy was Jean Paul. He was positively furious.
"I can last through the fight if I have the blood of three Master Vampyres," she said evenly and stared hard at her brother.
"It might be helpful to know what happens to you at sundown as we will all be counting on you," I said in what I considered a reasonable tone. Apparently I was the only one who thought I was reasonable.
"Get off her ass," Astrid grunted as the others nodded their agreement. "She's got some whopper super uper duper mother humper of a secret, but if she can suck the ghosts back into Ghostville, I'm good with cryptic right now. You can get the goods on her when you get into her pants later."
Ethan made a guttural noise of disgust and pinched the bridge of his nose. He then sighed and shook his head… resigned. He couldn't possibly be considering her offer. Ethan stared at the ceiling for a long moment and then shrugged.
"Today must be my lucky fucking day," Ethan muttered, barely hanging on to his composure, "because we happen to have three Master Vampyres in the room. Astrid and Heathcliff, roll up your sleeves. Raquel needs to feed." He rolled up his own and approached his sister. "Are you sure about this?" he asked as he took her face in his hands.
"Do we really have any other choice?" Raquel asked as she took his wrist. "Let me be good for something."
"This really is completely fucked up," Astrid informed the room as she rolled up her sleeve and offered up her wrist. "After Heathcliff finds out your secret identity or that you're really a man or something more frightening than that, I get to be let in on the secret too or else I'll go gangster on your ass. Sound fair?"
"Perfectly," Raquel said as she bit back a small grin.
"Heathcliff, start reciting baseball stats in your head and bring your sorry fighting ass over here. We're going to feed your mate so she can obliterate a hundred invisible evil asscankers."
"I'm not his… " Raquel started.
"Enough of that shit," Astrid snapped. "I’m right and you’re wrong." She got in front of Ethan and shoved her wrist in Raquel's face. "One Master Vampyre coming up."
Raquel glared at her. It was clear she wanted to clear up any misconceptions, but Astrid was having none of it. Her hair was flying all over the place and she was starting to glow. Even Raquel knew better than to screw with a pissed off Astrid.
"Bite me and then go kill the fuckers. Now."
"As you wish," Raquel muttered before she bit down.
I stood next to Ethan and watched as I waited my turn.
It was one of the hardest things I'd done in my very long life. However, it was not my place to question my Prince or defy him. My duty was to him and my people.
"I don't want you to do this," I told Raquel as my fists clenched at my sides.
"I know," she replied quietly. "But it's what I do. It's what must be done."
I closed my eyes and willed myself not to grab her and run—to take her to a safe place where no harm would come to her, but it wasn't my right or my privilege.
I went last. As she took my blood, Raquel refused to make eye contact. The pleasure and the pain of what she was doing almost undid me. My fangs descended and the moment became so personal and sexual all in the room looked away. This was more damaging to me than the fight with the thirty Vamps I'd indulged in earlier, but it was part of what needed to be done if we were all to see tomorrow.
She finished and stumbled back. Jean Paul caught her. Her skin took on an iridescent glow and she'd never been more glorious. I realized in that second that Raquel wasn't just an ordinary Vampyre who needed my protection. She was a deadly force of nature—a ruler of an empire and not someone to be fucked with. It gave me some solace, but my irrational need to shield her would not disappear.
"The timing of the attack is interesting," Raquel said as she rolled her neck and shuddered with the sheer amount of power she now held within her body.
"Why do you say that?" Ethan asked as he armed himself with several more long swords. "Bennett," he instructed, "have the men and women get rid of their daggers and strap on swords. Short blades are useless with the Trolls."
"Yes, Sire." He bowed and left the room.
"It’s at the same time as the Summit and your troops being depleted. What did the Trolls ask for?" Raquel inquired as she slid a katana into a holster on her back.
"Samuel and the one who dies," Astrid replied as she hooked several grenades to her belt. "They’re stupid motherfuckers. We're already dead."
"They want me," Raquel said simply.
Ethan froze and the rest of the occupants of the room looked around in confusion.
"Why do you say that?" I demanded in frustration, staring at the Vampyre I loved.
Raquel exchanged a look with her brother and turned back to me. "I am the one who dies. I am the one they want."
"What the fuck does that mean? Tell me."
"I can't," she said.
"You won't," I shot back.
"She can and she will, but not now. Not here," Ethan said. "There is no time for debate."
"Correct," Raquel said, avoiding my stare. "It's odd that the Trolls would know."
"There is no way they could have the information without someone betraying you," Ethan said angrily. "Who knows?"
"Our brothers and sisters, our father, Pam, and Jean Paul," she told him.
My eyes immediately narrowed on Jean Paul. The bodyguard took several steps back, but held his head high. I stepped forward to kill him but stopped as Ethan held up his hand.
"I would rather die than betray my Princess," he said levelly. "It was not me."
"Bastard's telling the truth," Martha said as she ripped the tape from her mouth.
"And how would you know that?" I demanded in a tone that made the old Vampyre cower.
"It's the damnedest fucking thing," she croaked out. "Since I've become a bloodsucker, I can tell when people are lying."
"She can and it sucks ass," Jane volunteered. "I can't cheat at cards anymore or give her the wrong change or have sex with her boyfriend or… "
"Oh my Hell," Astrid snapped. "First of all, you two are asexual. I refuse to picture either of you getting it on with anything. And second, if this is a joke you are both going to die violently today."
"No joke," Jane said truthfully. "It's real and it sucks donkey balls."
"True that," Martha added, holding up her right hand.
"Fine," Ethan said. "But I have no idea who it could be. This makes no sense."
"While it would be helpful to know what the fuck you are discussing, I beg to differ about not knowing which family member could have revealed a secret," I said tightly as I watched the realization hit. Raquel's mystery was killing me, but she clearly didn't want me to know. This ate at me viciously, but it was what it was.
"No freakin' way," Astrid shouted as sparks flew wildly from her fingertips. "I am going to kill her this time. She is screwing with my child. Of course it would be lovely to know what she blabbered to the Trolls, but I'll leave that for her to tell me when I torture her ass."
"Juliet?" Ethan asked as he paled even further and shook with fury.
"It has to be," Raquel added with ire that made her skin sparkle.
Juliet was the half-sister of Ethan, Raquel,
Astrid--complicated and bizarre, but what in our world wasn't? Astrid and Juliet shared the same mother. Raquel, Ethan and Juliet shared the same father. Bottom line, Ethan and Raquel were blood related. Astrid and Ethan were not.
Juliet had been the one who had changed Astrid into a Vampyre against her will. It was a fucked up plan of their mother's to take over the world. But it had failed. However, Juliet had gotten away and now it appeared she was back with more deadly trouble. No matter. Her time in this world was getting short, if I had anything to do with it.
"The Trolls aren't intelligent enough to summon Wraiths. She knows I can send them back to Hell so she came at sundown."
"Samuel I get, but why does she want you?" Ethan asked as he scanned the monitors again and studied a map of the grounds.
"Of course she wants Samuel because he's a True Immortal. From me? She wants my blood—all of it," Raquel stated pragmatically. "She can only summon Wraiths. She would need to drain me to take my power so that she could banish them."
"Juliet is so fucked up… and so fucking dead," Astrid muttered as she handed Samuel to Martha and Jane. "Take him to the Panic Room and lock the door. No swearing. You open it for no one except me or Ethan. Take the Baby Demons too. They'll kill anything you can't. Do not under any circumstances let Sammy nap. He can't go walking in anyone's dreams right now—too fucking dangerous. If we don't come back to you by morning, have the Baby Demons summon my Uncle Satan. He'll know what to do."
Both Ethan and Astrid went to their son and hugged him tightly. My throat knotted with anger that they had to leave him.
"He's a Dream Walker?" Raquel asked, shocked. "Impossible."
"Not impossible," Astrid said wearily. "He's a full-on, out of control, magical nightmare."
"Yay me!" Samuel yelled as he pumped his little fists in the air.
"Yep baby, yay you," Astrid said as she hugged and kissed him again. "You be a good boy and I'll get you a present when this clusterhump is over. Okay?"
"Another baboon for Blobbityflonk to play with?" he asked with wide eyes and a grin.
"Ummm… sure," Astrid mumbled.
Ethan's gasp of shock made me smile despite the impending shit show we were about to walk into. I caught Raquel's eyes and she giggled. For a moment I pretended what had passed between us hadn't happened, but she turned away quickly and reality came roaring back.
"If we're going to do this we need to go now. My Princess has limited time," Jean Paul said.
"Until what?" I inquired coldly. "Until she has to go and destroy a few more lives elsewhere?"
"Stop," Ethan commanded harshly. "Leave the personal out. No room for distraction. If we all come out of this alive, then we will have a sit down. Am I understood?"
"Yes," I said respectfully. He was correct. Loss of focus would be deadly.
"The Trolls aren't moving," Astrid said as she studied the monitor. "Why are they all just standing on the perimeter?"
"Because they're inherently cowards," Venus said as she stepped forward and took Astrid's hand in hers. "They will wait for the Wraiths to weaken us and then attack."
"She's correct," Raquel said in a brisk, business-like tone. "Each time a Wraith goes through you it will drain some of your power. Everyone needs to keep moving constantly. It's difficult for them to attack a moving target."
"I'll communicate that to the generals," Venus said as she raced from the room.