Forbidden Blood: A House of Comarré Novella

BOOK: Forbidden Blood: A House of Comarré Novella
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Forbidden Blood

A HOUSE OF COMARRÉ NOVELLA

Kristen Painter

In accordance with the US Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected]. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

For Laura, who always knows what happens next.

Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Welcome Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Meet the Author

Also by Kristen Painter

Bonus Material

About Orbit Short Fiction

Copyright

Corvinestri, Romania, 2042

W
ith a wary eye on the vampire across from him, Dominic raised his glass of Brunello. “You didn’t call me all the way from Tesoro just to share a bottle of wine, Arnaud.” The trip from the House of St. Germain’s hidden city in Italy had not been so long or so tiring. But not knowing what such a powerful member of the Tepes family wanted of him? That set Dominic on edge.

Arnaud smiled and lifted his goblet as well. “Enough small talk, then.” He took a sip of the dark wine before putting the glass aside and leaning into the depths of the sofa cushions. With one ankle crossed over his knee, he began. “I have a project for you.”

Dominic relaxed slightly. The nobility often called upon him for his skills, some for very serious reasons, some for simple tasks. He doubted Arnaud’s would be one of the latter. “What can I do for you?”

Arnaud’s smile took on an unpleasantness that brought the tension back into Dominic’s body. “You have turned your gift of alchemy into something much greater than many of your house. How is that so?”

Dominic shrugged. “I study. I practice. I take my work very seriously.” And he was willing to use ingredients that others might consider questionable. “I do not merely rest on my inherent abilities. I strive to improve them.”

“Which is exactly why I knew you’d be the right man for this job.” Arnaud picked up his glass and strode to the bar. He waved the servants away. “Leave us.” As they filed out, he refilled his glass, then held the bottle toward Dominic.

“No,
grazie
.” All he wanted was to know more about this job.

Arnaud returned to his seat. “This task is not an easy one, I’m sure. Otherwise, someone else would have already asked you to accomplish such a thing, but I’ve heard you don’t shrink from the difficult.”

Dominic raised one brow. “So much buildup.” He swirled the wine in his glass, the thoughts of his past work doing the same in his head. “What is this task?”

Arnaud hesitated, his jaw shifting as his eyes flickered silver for a moment. Whatever this was, he wanted it badly. He cleared his throat. “I wish to be able to see the sun again.”

Relief flooded Dominic. He smiled and nodded. “That is not so hard.”

But Arnaud didn’t seem to share Dominic’s opinion. “I wish to be able to see it
whenever
I desire.”

“I understand. I can do this.” And he could have done it without Arnaud’s demand for a face-to-face meeting. He stood, buttoning his suit coat. “I will return home immediately and begin work. A few weeks, no more, and I will have something for—”

“Sit.” Silver rimmed Arnaud’s eyes. “I am not merely looking for a potion to drink or an unguent to spread over my skin. I want something more permanent. More…available.”

Dominic unbuttoned his jacket and sat back down, a sense of dread rising in his belly. “I cannot make you a daywalker permanently.”

Sitting back slightly, Arnaud splayed his fingers outward. “Of course. I understand that. We are vampires, after all.” He pinched the pleat of his trousers, straightening it. “I just want you to transform the blood of my comarré so that when I drink from her, I have twenty-four hours of immunity.” He tipped his head and his sly, crooked smile returned. “That is all.”

A slow, simmering anger wormed through Dominic’s veins. “That is all,” he repeated, not caring that his tone was less than respectful. “Hah. Such a small thing you ask.” He stood and paced to the far side of the library. His temper could ruin him—he knew that—so he struggled to control the urge to lash out at Arnaud’s unreasonable desires. “It is not possible.”

Arnaud laughed. “Oh, I think it is, my dear friend.”

They were not friends. Acquaintances, yes, but not friends. Not now. “You’re asking me to change the physiology of a living being. Permanently. So that she can act as…as…some kind of a miracle dispenser.”

The silver in Arnaud’s gaze tarnished. “This is a
comarré
we are speaking of. Their sole purpose is to provide us with blood. They exist for this. I am only asking you to enhance that blood.”

“You understand nothing of the ways of alchemy.” Dominic shook his head, Arnaud’s superiority so typical of Tepes nobles. “It’s not a matter of pointing a finger and muttering a word. This isn’t the dark arts of the House of Bathory; this is alchemy, an unpredictable science at best. I cannot take a frog and make it forever a sparrow. Temporarily, with the right experimentation, I could transform it for a few hours, but it would always remain a frog beneath its feathers. To take a human and make them something else…the experimentation, the testing, the possibility that something could go irrevocably wrong… No.” He threw his hands up. “I will not do this. There is no amount of money.”

Again, laughter. “You are both right and wrong. No, there is no amount of money because this job is going to be your gift to me. And, yes, you are most definitely going to do this.”

Dominic narrowed his eyes. “I think not.”

Arnaud casually walked back to the bar for another glass of wine. “And I think you will because you value your life.”

“You’re threatening to kill me if I do not agree?” The Tepes house was known for its bloodthirstiness, but he’d not expected his life to be in danger over a job.

“Not kill you, no. Not directly anyway. Merely expose you.”

A chill settled into Dominic’s bones. Surely Arnaud did not know enough to accomplish that. “Expose me how?”

“The special services you offer? I’m sure the Council of Dominus would be very interested to hear about those. How many have you turned to ash over the years? Ten? Twenty? More?” He drained the last drops of red into his glass and discarded the empty bottle. “I have evidence of only three, but the precision with which you work, the confidence with which you enable your
clients
to move so gracefully into their end, well, that speaks of practice, doesn’t it? And you did say that’s how you’ve become so good at your trade.”

Dumbstruck, Dominic stared at him.

“You should not trust the kine to keep the secrets of their masters.” Arnaud tapped the side of his temple. “So easy to persuade.”

“I helped them.” It was the best he could come up with in the moment.

“I have no doubt of that. But you know as well as I that killing another vampire is the one unbreakable rule among our kind. Doesn’t matter if they ask you to kill them. Or even if they pay you. It is still a crime punishable by death.”

Dominic stood very still. His “special services,” as Arnaud referred to them, had paved the way to his fortune. So many vampires grew tired of eternity, tired of the endless nights, the repetition of hours with little more to do than struggle for something to occupy their time. He provided them a painless way out of the life they no longer desired.

He straightened, smoothed his jacket, and lifted his chin slightly. He had no wish to follow after the clients he’d helped. “So the comarré has agreed to this?”

Arnaud shrugged. “She will do as she’s told.”

“And if something goes wrong? What then?”

Arnaud pursed his mouth. “Do you expect something to go wrong?”

“No. But it is a possibility.” Dominic tried to appeal to the man’s pocketbook. “Surely you won’t expect me to reimburse you for her blood rights?”

Arnaud snorted. “No. She’s a good comarré—from the Corvinestri Primoris Domus—but her blood rights cost half what they should. Seems she’d caused some trouble for the headmistress and the woman was willing to let her go cheaply under the condition I would not return her.”

Dominic’s curiosity rose. What kind of trouble could a comarré cause? His had some attitude problems, but nothing he’d really call trouble. “You expect me to explain things to her?”

Arnaud yanked a bellpull near the door. “Do what you need to. You’ll take her home with you for two weeks. After that time, you’ll both return here and I’ll expect her transformed.”

“Two weeks? That’s hardly enough time to—”

A servant entered. “You rang, my lord?”

Arnaud nodded. “Send her in.”

“Very good, my lord.” The servant disappeared.

Dominic tried again. “Two weeks is insufficient for what you ask. I need two months at minimum.”

“A month. Not a day longer.”

A knock this time.

“Come in,” Arnaud called.

The door opened and his comarré entered, head down, her golden glow suffusing the room with the warmth it had been lacking. The sweet aroma of burnt sugar followed closely behind. Dominic’s gums ached as the perfume invaded his senses.

She nodded at Arnaud. “Master.”

Arnaud ignored her to speak to Dominic. “Is there anything you need of her before you leave?”

Dominic began to shake his head, his gaze still lingering on the blond creature before him. She was no different in coloring than his own comarré, Catarina, but he spent little time with her due to his work and her increasingly poor attitude. She usually sent him blood so that he never had to leave his laboratory, an arrangement that worked well for both of them. Seeing this one up close reminded him what extraordinarily beautiful beings they were, and the part of him that still clutched the last shreds of his humanity stirred with longing. “No, I can’t think of anything—Wait, yes. I need to know her name.”

She lifted her head and her crystal-blue eyes pierced him to the bone. “I am Marissa.”

BOOK: Forbidden Blood: A House of Comarré Novella
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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