Read The Vampire And The Highland Empath Online

Authors: Clover Autrey

Tags: #Time Travel, #Vampires, #Historical Romance, #Magic, #Fairies, #Fae, #Empath, #Shapeshifters

The Vampire And The Highland Empath (3 page)

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
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An ache pierced her heart at the thought of her youngest brother and what might have befallen him. The last she remembered was Aldreth the witch attacking her family on Crunfathy Hill.

The man in the boat still held his hand out to her. She would go with him mayhap, but not without Roque.
 

A wave carried her closer to the thin hull and she panicked. Taking a short breath, she dove back under. She couldn’t see anything and her heart took a sudden dip.

Chest tight, she dove down farther, hoping to find him.

Something grabbed her behind the shoulders and hauled upward. She broke the surface again, kicking and fighting. “Let go! Let me be.”

Strong arms pulled her in close. “What were you doing?”

Roque? She stilled in his arms, blinking water out of her eyes. A wave splashed over them both. When it cleared, she squinted against the salt water. “I was going to help you.”

The hard line of his lips softened. “Well…” He sloughed back his wet hair. “I had it handled. Get in the boat. Alex.” He practically shoved her up into the waiting arms where the young man hauled her over the side, hitting the cross seat on her back.

“Welcome aboard, ma’am.”

Roque rolled inside, shouting, “For the love of God and country, Alex, get us out of here.”

The boat tipped and a clawed hand curled over the side. Roque spun, kicking at it.

“Is that?” Alex paled.

“Go!” Roque slammed his heel down on the scaly fingers and the boat lurched to life, its nose lifting and crashing back onto a crest of a wave as it charged forward.

Alex fought the snarling, smoking iron beast tethered to the back of the boat, hands clasped around some sort of a rod that he steered the little monster with.

Edeen rolled to her stomach. Roque kicked again and the claw-hand lost its grip. The Wulf rolled away in a swath of spray.

Roque knelt by her and shouted above the little beast’s roar. “You all right?”

“Roque!” Alex shouted from behind and pointed with the hand not taming the noisy monster. “You’ve been hit.”

Both Roque and Edeen followed his gaze to a patch of crimson seeping through the side of Roque’s shirt.

He pulled the wet material away to finger a small hole.

“Huh.”

Chapter Four

“He stabbed you?” Edeen grabbed onto Roque’s shirt where he knelt, pulling it up for a better look. She didn’t recall seeing a knife. The hard muscles of his stomach flinched. She found the bleeding wound on his heated side and pressed her hand against it.

Alex pulled the boat to a sliding stop and came over, his face creased with little lines of worry.

“Keep going,” Roque snarled. “We need to get her out of here. Did you see who that was?”

“I saw.” A muscle in Alex’s jaw ticked. “I saw when they came onto the road at the top of the cliffs. I had just enough time to scramble out of there and secure this magnificent craft.” He spread his arms wide. “You’re welcome, by the way. Now let me see how bad and then I’ll save your hide for the second time today.”

Roque’s lips hitched upward and he spread his arms to let the young man get at the wound.

Alex gaped at Edeen’s hand on Roque. “Ma’am?”
   
  

She wasn’t ready to relinquish her hold. ‘Twas foolish, but she felt as though she was the only thing keeping the man’s lifeblood inside.
 
“Are ye a healer?”

Both men looked at her askance. Alex bobbed his head. Water droplets flicked off his blond hair.
 
“No, ma’am, I’ve not the gift, but I’ve had field training.”

Edeen searched his face. ‘Twas difficult without her gift to know what to believe. He seemed sincere, though much of that could be due to his youthful innocent appearance. But he had already plucked them from the sea and Roque seemed to trust him. She bristled at the unbidden thought, wondering why that should matter when she didn’t know if Roque himself was someone she could trust. Her neck throbbed. He had done something to her after all.

She withdrew her palms from his circular wound though she leaned in for a better look at Alex’s probing.

Roque sucked in a hiss when Alex spread the skin around the wound. More blood poured out.

“So that was him?” Alex said. “Geschopf.”

“In the flesh.” Roque clenched his jaw. His pallor was graying. “Or whatever. He won’t be far behind us in securing his own boat. Are you satisfied? Can we go now?”

Alex wiped his hands on his thighs. “You’ll live.”

Roque snorted like it was a jest.

Edeen replaced her hands over Roque’s wound. “He needs a healer.” She turned on him. “Take me to my brothers. A healer travels with them.”

Something indefinable shifted behind Roque’s eyes. A strange look passed between the men. Edeen stilled.

Unease sank into her heart.

“We’ve no time for that.” Alex took his place back near the smoking little beast. “We’ve wasted enough as it is.”

“You wasted,” Roque muttered.

The boat rocked on a swell. Edeen started ripping at the hem of her underskirts. Why was she in this finery anyway? She hadn’t been wearing this on the hill by their village. And where were her belt and dirk?

The boat lunged forward again. Anticipating it, Roque grabbed her arms to steady her.

She met his gaze. “Ye’re losing too much blood. D’ye not care?”

“I have enough to spare.”

His indifference to his own well-being made her angry. She pressed the torn cloth to his side. “I do not understand ye. You or yer friend. This wound is serious.”

His hand covered hers, emitting warmth and strength. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Even without her empathic skills, she knew he was barely holding onto consciousness. The boat’s hull pounded beneath them.

“Bleeding hell,” Alex shouted.

Roque’s head snapped up.

Two vessels gave chase, the smaller lifting and falling with the waves. The slightly larger vessel gave the impression of a hag tottering on a cane in comparison. Smoke billowed from her aft as she fell quickly behind the other boat.

Alex furiously worked the strange mechanism, coaxing their little skiff to greater speed. Edeen’s knees banged against the bottom. Grim faced, Alex searched the shoreline.

Edeen scanned the cliffs too. She knew this area. “Alex,” she called out just as Roque slumped into her, as loose as though he were a hay-stuffed doll, pushing her over beneath his weight.

Alarmed, she slipped her hand onto his chest, waiting for the expansion of an exhalation, breathing with him when it finally came. The sea thumped beneath her bottom. She struggled to push Roque up enough that she could see over the side.

The smaller craft was gaining on them.

She’d lived her entire life on these wild cliffs and knew them as well as she knew her own heart. The water line was higher than she thought it should be though.

“Alex, over there.”

She stretched her arm out wide to where a cleft cut into the foreboding cliffs where swollen rains ran off.

Alex’s mouth formed a hard line.

“I know these seas!”

“But the landscape has changed—“

“Roque is unconscious. He needs help. Have you a better course?”

His knuckles squeezed around the steering stick, his arms tight, wrestling the roaring little monster.

“We cannot let that man near Roque.” As she shouted it, she knew the truth of those words. That
Geschopf
had hurt Roque before and would do so again. Anger gushed over her skin. “I’ve played among these cliffs since I was a child. I know a place those men will never find us.”

Alex stared hard at her, his body strung tight like drying leather. Jaw clenched, he gave a brisk nod.

“Over there.” Edeen pointed at a natural outbreak in the cliffs. “Take us close to that outcropping.”

Though there was nothing but steep cliff walls and the surging slapping sea, Alex yanked the handle and the boat rose up on her side in a tight turn. Edeen slid with Rogue into the side.

“Closer,” she yelled, her words snagged away by the buffeting of the waves and roar of the smoking monster. She searched for recognizable crags within the stone face. Cliff-nesting birds raged from their mud nests at their approach.

Alex brought them along the inside of the outcrop, out of sight of the other boats. For the moment.

“Here. ‘Tis here.”

He shut the little beast up and the boat slowed in the water. “There’s nothing here,” Alex hissed.

“Help me get him into the water.” Edeen began pulling Rogue closer to the side.

Alex stumbled over, feet braced wide against a large wave that crashed into the cliff walls and slapped back over them.

Edeen shook her wet hair out of her face. “There’s a cavern right under our feet with a passage that leads to the top of the cliffs. Only a few from my village know of it.”
        

He studied her sharply, obviously not liking it, but what choice did they have? With more strength than she had given his slim frame, Alex rolled Roque up and over the side. As the boat dipped, Edeen slid into the water with him, wrapping around the tall unconscious man, one arm hanging onto the side of the boat, grateful when Alex leaned over to pull Roque back up.

“You got him?”

“He’s heavy,” she admitted, gasping under the burden as water splashed into her face.

“Hold him a second.” Alex let go and Edeen struggled to keep Roque’s chin above water, more impossible with the rough choppy waves splashing over them. Alex’s face popped back over the side. The lout was grinning. “Clear the boat.” Unlooping his belt, he ran off toward the back.

Edeen shoved away from the side, kicking furiously to keep both herself and Roque afloat. Damned skirts fluffed up around them, but at least they were not tangling around their legs this time.

The smoking beast roared, spinning around and with a high-pitched shriek the boat sped back out toward open sea just as Alex dove off the back, a long bag on his shoulder.

A few broad strokes brought him to Edeen and immediately the majority of Roque’s weight was taken from her.
 

“Hang onto us.” She nodded, salt water slapping her face.

Alex laughed. “I’m pretty much committed now. Ready?”

Edeen smiled, liking his unflappable spirit. He reminded her of her younger brother, Col. “Aye.”

With Roque between them, they took deep breaths and with a nod from Alex, they dove down. Noise and wind and slapping water against rock abruptly shut off.

They swam downward. Whatever was in Alex’s bag was heavy, weighting them. Edeen hoped it wouldn’t be too hard to pull up once she found the cavern.

It was dark. The sea water freezing and stinging her eyes. She guided them along the submerged cliff face, feeling for the familiar rounding and smoothing like the belly of a woman swollen with child, which meant the entrance was close.

Roque’s legs and arms dragged. The water should have revived him. She could barely see. Though bunched together, the men’s faces were little more than hazy orbs in the dark. Roque’s longer dark hair floated in front of his face.

She gripped her fist tighter in Roque’s shirt, continuing to feel her way down the wall.

Here.

Relief burned through her lungs upon finding the small opening that would take them to an air-filled cavern. The need to take a breath was overpowering. A building pressure inside her ribs. They wouldn’t be able to hold their breath much longer. And Roque? Unconscious, he had not been able to fill his lungs before they dragged him under.

Pausing only long enough to get Alex’s attention, Edeen slipped into the narrow hole and grabbed Roque by the shoulders, pulling him in with her. There was not much space for them both, but that would only last a little while. She wished she had been able to warn Alex about how tight the tunnel was going to get and hoped he was not adverse to cramped dark spaces underwater.

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
2.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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