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 (5 page)

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
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“Come away, ‘tis not far.” Squeezed beneath his arm, their shoulders both bumped into the earthen walls on each side, even as Roque leaned farther in against her.

Alex walked closely behind them, bringing the bag. “Let me take him.” He was practically on top of her, ready to catch Roque up should he suddenly give out.

“In a moment.” The aid would be appreciated, even though she was loathe to give up his warmth. Each faltered step, Roque leaned more heavily into her. She was barely managing beneath his weight as ‘twas. “A few more steps and the tunnel widens. The way out is not far beyond that.”

She stepped on the bottom of her dragging gown and stumbled, jarring her shoulder into the wall.

Alex caught her from behind, while Roque shifted his weight away from her.

“Ma’am?” Alex kept her steady.

“I’m fine. The water’s dragging these skirts down.”

“You need use of your hands to hold up your dress,” Roque said. “I’ve got if from here.”

Pushing off the wall, he began walking.

Edeen frowned at his retreating back. “He’s a bit of stubbornness to him, has he not?”

A grin coated Alex’s voice. “You have no idea.”

They followed Roque, the beam from Alex’s curious little light bounced along the uneven walls as he walked.

The tunnel widened enough for the three of them to walk apace. Without asking, Edeen and Alex immediately flanked Roque, each slinging one of his arms over their own shoulders.

Apparently none too soon as he sank against them, his steps more dragging than supporting his own weight.

Heat poured off him. When the light passed across him from Alex’s gait, Edeen could see fissures of steam lifting off Roque’s wet clothes. The wet ends of his dark hair curled at the nape of his neck.

Once again, she sifted through her essence, trying to find the missing source of her empathic abilities and get a hint of what Roque truly was, yet there was nothing there. The absence of her gift frightened her. She’d rather have lost the ability to walk.

“Please tell me that’s not your way out,” Alex said.

Edeen lifted her head and the world nipped out of her grasp. Alex played the light over the space where their exit hole should be, but ‘twas no longer there.

The space where the opening should be was obvious, but it had been sealed off by stone and mortar.

They were trapped.

Chapter Five

This wasn’t right. Why would anyone build a wall across the entrance?

And so quickly.

Shaw had stashed a bunch of supplies here, in case things went bad with the witch, only two days ago when their small group left on the foray to search out Aldreth’s castle for weaknesses and rescue Toren.

The supplies that were now gone.

“I do not understand. How is a wall here?” She demanded as though Roque and Alex had anything to do with it.

Propping Roque against the earthen tunnel wall, Alex squinted at her. Roque looked done in. His slight glance toward her revealed glassy eyes as Alex helped him slide down the wall to sit.

Edeen sank down beside them, worry knotting her insides. She had led them here to this trap when Roque desperately needed a Healer Sorceress.

Could this be Aldreth’s doing? If the witch knew about their clan’s hidden stashes, she would be keen to cut them off from it.

Yet this had been such a small cache, hardly worth the effort. Also, Edeen felt no trace of magic humming across it, like the magical barrier that surrounded Aldreth’s castle.

Of course, Edeen could not rely on her senses to ferret out magic at the moment.

But…her empathic ability aside, her instincts were wailing.

Everything was too strange, somehow off. The noisy magical boat, the men’s strange manner of dress and speech. Both Englishmen, yet she couldn’t make sense of some of their words.

Her heart clenched in her chest.

The last memory before waking in the smugglers cave was of Aldreth hurting Toren while she heedlessly ran to stop the witch. Everything after that was gone.

Oh, Toren, what have ye done?
As a sorcerer, he could send her through a rift in time. But why? If indeed ‘twas what happened. Why would they not have taken her to
Reolin Skene
and the Shadowrood?

They would have if they had been able.

Her heart wrung tighter.

Sweet peace
, what happened to her brothers?

“We have two choices,” Alex said, opening the bag.

Roque’s lashes lifted, the only indication he was still with them and listening.

“Go back the way we came to the sea. Of course, we no longer have a boat and Geschopf is most probably still skulking about.”

Roque grunted.

“Or get that bloody bullet out of you right here.”

Roque lifted his hand weakly. “
That
I’m in favor of.”

Alex smiled.

The situation couldn’t be much worse. They had enemies behind them, a wall to the front and a man spilling his life’s blood that he could not afford to lose.

She should not have brought them here. “Forgive me.”

Roque took her hand within his warm grasp and squeezed. Emotions rolled through her, vague and indescript, yet there like a forgotten dream lying just at the edge of remembering. Her gift. Edeen gasped and her essence wavered. She tried to clasp onto it, yet the feeling floated away as wispy as mist through her fingers.

Roque stared uncertainly at her.

“This is going to hurt.” Alex produced a short blade that folded out from a smooth iron hilt of the same size
. A small hidden folding blade. Ingenious.

They needed to get Roque out of here. Get him help, but that wasn’t possible. Alex seemed to know what he was doing.

Edeen shifted on her knees. “How can I help?”

“Hold this.” Alex slapped the light rod into her hands. “I need to get the bullet out.”

“Bullet?” She tried the foreign word. Had the tip of a blade broken inside of Roque? The term was unfamiliar. This was definitely not her time. Toren must have sent her through time.

Wild panic began swelling in her chest, the truth daggered and brutally sharp.

Roque’s soft grunt wrenched her back to him. He curled over his wound, his hand pawing the loose soil beneath him.

Alex had one palm flat on Roque’s stomach, the other held the small knife, rooting around in the wound. “Hold still.”

Edeen held the light steady, choking down the nausea welling up along with Roque’s blood. She grasped Roque’s hand, stopping him from digging. He latched on to her with an intensity that was jarring and ground his head back against the wall. The tendons in his neck bulged. His eyes squeezed shut.

“Breathe through it,” she coaxed.

“Hurry it up, dammit. I can—feel. It,” Roque panted. “It’s burrowing deeper.”

Alex’s head snapped up, lines of worry creasing his forehead. His troubled gaze sought Edeen before lowering his eyes back to his task. “Just hang on. I’ve got this.”

Jaw clenched, Roque nodded, putting all his trust in his friend and Edeen’s heart went out to these two men.

Beads of perspiration broke out across Alex’s brow. A muscle in his cheek jumped every time Roque flinched, though his hands remained steady.

And Roque…low tremors rolled through his body. Steam lifted from his hot flesh as though fire burned from within. His head rocked side-to-side along the wall, yet he remained as still as he could bear. The amount of endurance and trust Roque showed was stunning.

His breathing grew shallow, ragged. Edeen squeezed his hand in an attempt to anchor him. She wished Charity was here.

“Got it,” Alex gritted out. “Elusive little bugger.” He twisted the blade, blood-coated fingers up to the last knuckles within the wound.

Roque sucked in a breath between his teeth, every muscle stiff as a plank.

He screamed as Alex pulled a hissing glowing oblong bit of bloodied metal from his flesh and immediately went limb, losing his hold on consciousness.

“Whoa, whoa.” Alex tried to steady Roque without letting the
bullet
touch his skin.

“I have him.” Edeen drew Roque’s head and shoulders into her lap. “What is that?” She gestured toward the small piece of iron Alex pulled from Roque’s side.

“The bullet?” He frowned at it for a moment before putting in a pocket sewn into the sides of his breeches. “It’s trouble.”

He glanced about the cave. “I need something to stop the bleeding.”

“Here.” Edeen eased Roque’s head from her lap and got to her feet. She reached behind her back to loosen the cross ties of her gown. ‘Twas wet and cumbersome anyway, though if her brothers caught her traipsing about in only her underskirts, well, that couldn’t be helped at the moment. She shimmied out of it and let the heavy material drop to the ground. Shivers prickled her skin through the lighter fabric of her chemise.
 
“Give me the knife.”

“Your skirts?” Alex held the knife to her hilt first, his gaze averted to her feet, one bared. She’d lost both slippers and a stocking in the sea.

She looked down at herself, at the way the thin wet material clung to her, revealing her skin beneath. Her brothers would be furious with her, which brought a touch of warmth to her chest, imaging their ire, knowing it would never last as far as she was concerned. She took the blade and began cutting into the gown, ripping out a strip that she immediately pressed to Roque’s wound. His head rolled to the side and his features screwed up in pain.

Alex took the knife and began cutting the bottom of her gown into more strips.

“Ye were going to tell me of this
bull-et
.”

“I was?” Alex’s tone was as flat as an anvil’s head.

Edeen arched a brow, tired of evasive answers.

Alex’s lips pulled down and he nodded, seeming to come to a decision. Twisting, he grabbed something out of his long bag and held it out for her to see. “Okay, then. Modern weaponry in a jiff. This is a gun.”

Edeen nodded at the odd shaped black metal. It had an obvious handle and a short hollow shaft. Alex yanked a thin box out from the handle and took a pointed oval silver piece from within and held it up to her. “This is a bullet. One of these was shot into Roque.”

“From this
gun
.” She ran a finger along the gun’s stock, imagining how the little silver bullet fit perfectly within the hollowed inside. “Shot like an arrow?”

The corner of Alex’s lip lifted. “Similar. No strings, but a small explosion in this chamber here, propels the bullet forward.”

Edeen nodded, getting the concept, but not liking it. ‘Twould require little skill or strength to use these weapons. “Those men on the cliffs, they used these guns upon us.”

“Yes.”

“Theirs were longer.”

Again, Alex nodded. “Rifles.”


Ri-fuls
,” Edeen tested the new word, her stomach queasy. “This
bull-et
that found Roque… ‘tis different.”

Alex’s eyes went hard. He lifted the little piece of metal like it offended him. “Engineered especially to take Roque down.”

She withdrew the fabric to inspect Roque’s wound. The bleeding had lessened quite a bit. In fact the skin around the edges already seemed less rough, as though they were smoothing together. She’d witnessed ruined flesh knit together a few times before, but only under the hands of a Healer Sorceress.

“What is Roque?”

Alex looked away, troubled. He wiped the blood from his hands.

“I know he’s more than human,” she added. A muscle twitched in Alex’s cheek at his slight half-grin. “You figured that out on your own?”

“Alex.”

The grin slid away as though it never existed. “That’s Roque’s place to tell.”

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
7.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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