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 (9 page)

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
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“I’ve managed it.” Alex strode up the wharf. “I’ve booked three passages leaving within the hour. Captain doesn’t usually ferry this late in the day, but he’s agreed for us. We’ll be in Greenock in just a few hours’ time.”

“Well done, Alex,” Roque grinned.

Alex cocked his head. “I’ll have you know being with the Ministry of Defense has its privileges. Well, come on then. Best get you both tucked away out of sight.”

The paddle steamer was even more wondrous on board. A long flat-bottomed hull, it supported two levels of deckhouses with the captain’s wheelhouse on top. Alex had shut Edeen and Roque in one and then had run off, saying something about food in passing.

He returned just before the paddle steamer shoved off with bags of food and odd assortments of clothing. Edeen stared through the window as large lumbering trolls lifted the gang-plank. She shook her head at the strange sight. Trolls, ghouls, creatures who thrived in their dark tunnels and caves, walked about the world openly.

She sat on the bed with Roque and Alex and devoured what the men called meat pies and tatties. Cramming the food in their mouths, none of them cared that the meat smeared their faces. ‘Twas the most splendid meal Edeen had ever partaken of.

They were all so famished, no one spoke. Afterwards, Roque handed her a bundle of clothing and hustled her into a small attached type of garderobe with a large mirror.

At least she knew what to do with the bowl and pitcher of water, though she could not say the same about certain pieces of the clothing Roque had given her. Some of them resembled weapons more than something designed for a woman. Then again, being accustomed to carrying a slim dirk in her belt, the women of this century must have need of their hidden weaponry as well, they were at war after all, though she could not fathom how to use it.

She sponged the dirt and sweat off herself, never so happy to get out of her ruined chemise, and set about figuring out the clothing.

Lifting the stretchy white piece up, ‘twas obvious the cups were meant for her breasts, but she couldn’t decide what the little round toggles hanging from some sort of rock sling had to do with smallclothes.

Puzzled, she tested the band, fascinated as it snapped back.

Getting into the top piece was simple enough. She tackled the short breeches-like small clothes next, sucking in a breath as she wiggled into them. Sweet peace, the cloth was constricting. ‘Twas surely meant for torture.

The white blouse came next and Edeen marveled at the small clever fastening toggles that looked like small pearls, but felt entirely different. She shimmied into the short tight version of a gown, liking the less cumbersome freedom of movement her exposed legs gave her. She turned her attention next to the nearly sheer hose. How the flimsy material was to keep her legs warm she couldn’t fathom, nor how to hold them up. There weren’t any cross ties in the things Roque had given her.

Bleeding hell, they were too sheer to be of any use anyway. She left the stockings on the counter beside the water bowl and pushed the door open, peering into the room. She suddenly felt self-conscious. What if she didn’t measure up to the women of Roque’s time? The thought startled her.

Why should she bloody well care? She was going back to her own time, but…Roque lounged on the bed, long legs crossed at the ankles, the empty wrappings of their hasty meal around him. His head craned up as though he felt her presence—he most likely did—and everything inside Edeen quieted.

A powerful yearning washed over her heart.

He sat up, looking her over and Edeen felt self-conscious again. She stepped into the room. If anything, Roque’s smile deepened and Edeen melted. His gaze tracked over her form and down to her bare legs. Her heart sank. Mayhap she had made a blunder by not putting on the long stockings.

Coming off the bed, he came to her and took her hand. Heat instantly sparked between them.

“You’re beautiful.”

Edeen’s cheeks burned at the compliment. She had many would-be suitors exclaim the same thing before her brothers harried them away, yet no such endearment pierced her soul in quite the same manner.

Her heart pounded. Her skin felt flush.

“Where’s Alex?”

“Went to see about a radio.”

“Ray-dee-oh,” she repeated the strange new word and Roque smiled, guiding her to sit on the only chair in the small deckhouse.

“Allow me.”

He picked up a brush from a side table and walked around behind her. Long fingers worked through the tangles in her hair. Edeen could barely breathe. Heat washed across her skin.

“Roque?” She swallowed, afraid to ask. Afraid to learn the answer.

“Mmmm?”

The hair brush pulled through her hair. Edeen’s pulse picked up.
 

“What’s become of my brothers?”

The brush stilled. A terrible throbbing started behind her throat and eyes. “I know ‘tis something horrible.” Her voice caught. “Ye and Alex are keen to not speak of it.”

She felt Roque sigh. Putting the brush aside, he came around the chair to kneel in front of her, dark head down.

Gods, nay
. What had happened to her brothers?

Roque took her hands. Hers were so cold, his felt scorching.

“Sweetheart.” He lifted those dark fathomless eyes to hers. “We don’t know much. The histories are quiet on what exactly befell the last four guardians of Clan Limont. But I will tell you what I do know.”

Last four guardians
. Edeen nodded, her throat too raw to speak.

Roque’s fingers curled around hers. “The sibling guardians battled a witch upon a hill.” Roque’s head canted to the side, eyes narrowed. “Do you remember?”

Vividly. For her it had happened a mere day ago, not seven hundred years in the past. She nodded.

“Something happened between you and the witch. You were caught within a deep slumber that even a sorcerer as powerful as Toren Limont could not awaken you from.”

The witch Aldreth had unleashed her powers upon Toren. She was going to kill him. Full of fear and anger, Edeen ran at her, thinking that if only she could touch the witch with her empathic gift, she could throw Aldreth back into her memories, throw her off the attack. Aldreth was hurting Toren when he was already so battered and weak, she had to do something. But it had all gone horribly wrong.

The witch’s magic had attacked Edeen’s essence, a darkness latching onto her gift, then…nothing.

Until she awoke to Roque hovering over her and a scorching ache in her neck.

“The sorcerer tried everything he knew. He searched for years for a way to awaken you.” Roque told her.

Edeen startled. “Years? So Toren survived the witch? They defeated Aldreth.”

Roque frowned at her. “Luv, you know they’re all long gone.”

“In this time.” She rose, moving around him. “I intend to go back.”

Roque stood, placing his fists at his waist. “How?”

“Find a sorcerer, convince him to open a time rift…” Her words tapered off at the sadness that crossed Roque’s features.

“Edeen, there are no more sorcerers.”

Terror sank like teeth into her throat. “But…”

Roque came to her, took her hand and spoke gently. “I’m so sorry. When your clan passed into the Shadowrood, they took the Fae’s magic with them. Your brother Toren was the last of the sorcerers.”

“But there’s magic here. I’ve seen it. The ghouls and trolls. And you…”

Roque nodded. “Your brothers didn’t defeat the witch.”

Edeen shifted back, but Roque’s grasp kept her in place. “The witch took Shaw and with him a new magic, dark magic, filled the void the Fae’s magic left. Dark magic overcame the world. Have you not seen it here?”

“Shaw? But he took our people into the Shadowrood.”

Roque shook his head. “Shaw came to the hill. The witch captured him, turned him,
 
and dark magic consumed the world.”

This time, Edeen did pull away and he let her go. “Nay.
 
Shaw would never give in.”

Sorrow filled Roque’s eyes. “He may have been forced, or gone insane through torture. We don’t know. But he did give in. Darkness overcame. Ghouls. Trolls. Gremlins. Wizards.” His arms spread wide. “Vampires…every evil magical creature once relegated to shadows roams the earth freely.”

“This Hitler? He too is of dark magic?”

A faint smile touched Roque’s mouth. “It turns out humankind is capable of creating a far worse monster than vampires or ghouls.”

Edeen covered her mouth. Tremors rolled through her.

Roque took a step toward her. “I am so sorry. I would do whatever I could if there was a way to get you home. I promise you I would.”

A low roaring pressed against her temples. Her vision went cloudy. Shaw turned, he turned, destroying his soul. Dark magic overcame the world, and Toren and Charity? Oh gods, Col… Edeen swayed.

She was suddenly lifted into strong arms. A steady heart beat next to her ear. Lips kissed her forehead and Roque whispered, “Shh, shhh, luv. You’re all right.”

But she wasn’t. She was lost and alone, her family gone. Tears blurred her vision. “I cannot get home. I…” She hiccupped. “I cannot help my brothers.”

She curled her fist in Roque’s shirt. “Roque. What happened to them? Ye must tell me. What of Charity?”

“Shh, you’ve learned enough for now.”

“I’m not a child. Tell me.”

His sigh rumbled through his chest. He sat on the bed, keeping her in his lap. His hand smoothed down her hair.

“Toren used the last of his strength to preserve you within the smugglers cave. It was a powerful spell.” He shook his head, his chin rubbing across the top of her head. “After that we don’t know. We know the healer was with him and they simply disappeared off the pages of history.”

Edeen sniffled. “He did not attempt to save Shaw?”

“It was too late. Shaw too powerful…”

“And Col?”

Roque stiffened. Heat shot off his skin. Edeen snapped her head up to face him. “Col?”

Roque’s eyes shimmered. She glimpsed a grief of his own in them, exposed and unbearably defenseless. “Nothing more was mentioned of him after the battle on Crunfathy Hill. We assume the witch killed him.”

Everything stopped.

Col, her youngest brother, light of their family, gone?

A low keen escaped her throat.
Col, Col
. Low tremors hissed beneath her skin. Roque folded her within his strength, a warm hand cupping the back of her head. She turned her face into his chest and sobbed.

Everything they’d set out to stop, had happened anyway… And Col was dead.

Gods, they were all dead, rotted to dust long ago while she slept.

Tears burned her eyes, choked her throat, dampened Roque’s shirt. He crooned soft assurances she couldn’t make out above her own pain-filled gasping.

She was lost. She was lost. She was lost.

But not alone.

She didn’t feel alone in Roque’s arms.

Seeking, she was not sure what, she pressed closer to him, listened to the strong certain beat of his heart, felt the heat of him shimmer off his skin. Her palm flattened above his heart—

Images poured into her essence, potent emotions full of young bravado, and fear.

A young boy with a dark fringe of bangs obscuring his eyes screamed, dropping beside a pale broken woman.

“You killed her!”

Lunging up, he flew at a man, fists pounding into his chest. “You killed her you killed her.” Fire erupted, engulfing both man and boy, though neither burned, their skin unmarred beneath licking flames.

The man slapped out and the child fell to the ground beside the dead woman. The fire from the boy jumped to the woman. She exploded in flames, catching on fire quickly as though she were made of dry kindling. Vampire. The boy screamed, trying to pat out the flames consuming the dead woman. His young gaze snapped up, hazy behind tears, and Edeen recognized Geschopf.

“She would never have given you up.” Geschopf picked up the wailing boy, hauling him over his shoulder and walked away as the beautiful child stretched out his arms. “Mama, Mama.”

The vision wrenched away, though Edeen reached for it, clawed to get it back, to have control over her gift once more.

“Edeen!”

Roque held her by the arms and gave her a little shake. “Edeen!”

She nodded, pulling in an unstable breath.

“What was that?”

She winced, hand going to her head.

“Your abilities?”

She nodded.

“They’re coming back?”

“I’m not sure. I had no control of it.” She looked into his face, glimpsing the young boy in him.

“What did you see?” His voice was uncertain.

“You. As a child. Geschopf took you from your mother.”

The air filled with charged energy. The giant paddle wheel churned outside their deckhouse.

Roque’s stared hard and then his features softened and he smoothed a lock of hair off her cheek. “I’m glad for you. Glad you have your gift back.”

“Though it makes me more of a threat to your people.”

“Or an aide. With or without your gifts, Edeen, Hitler won’t get near you.”

Chapter Ten

Roque held Edeen close while the last of the tremors rolled through her. She had seen a piece of his past, a part he kept buried and separate. Although Alex knew some of what happened to him as a child, Roque wouldn’t share details. He knew It had been in his official dossier and as his military handler, Alex would have seen it.

Yet Edeen’s gift had flown straight to the worse moment of his life and somehow that had felt right as though she were the only person in this messed-up existence he
could
share it with.

Frowning, he tried to collect his feelings. She felt right in his arms. She was right. She had nestled her way under his skin and gods help him, he wanted to keep her there.

He held her while her pulse slowed, drifting into the soft cadence of sleep and then he laid her gently on the bed, smiling when she murmured and turned over on her side.

Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to fall into the soft rasp of her even breathing, the soft hum of blood drifting through her veins. She was lovely. When she’d stepped from the washroom, barefoot and tousled-hair, he could barely breathe. He wanted her so badly it was a physical ache.
Treasure
.

Beneath them, the hull pushed through the water, another type of pulse, steady and as old as the earth that had seen battles and wars, yet still remained.

Where the hell was Alex?

It didn’t take this long to radio in to Greenock.

Instantly alert, Roque cracked the door open and the salty air ruffled his hair. They were close to the shipyards. He could make out dark outlines of boats and buildings against the darkening sky, quiet and surreal, all lights extinguished for the evening’s blackout.

The scent of troll grew heavier as he made his way up to the wheelhouse. Nasty smelly beasts, their scent covered everything and was almost too much for his senses. He supposed he should be grateful since a troll’s vision was keen enough to traverse the Firth after dark in a blackout. A human captain would never have risked crossing this late.

Roque stood outside the wheelhouse, listening for irregularities. The captain was inside; his five-chambered heart beating heavily, almost too loud for a vampire’s sensitive hearing. Between the stink and the noise, a throbbing pressure was building behind Roque’s eyes. The sooner they got to Greenock, the better. Two more trolls were near the bottom aft, most likely searching the waters for shoals. The heartbeats of the three trolls nearly overpowered all the other heartbeats, a few humans, a few non-humans.

Roque concentrated, searching for Alex’s rhythm beneath the noise.

He found it, surprisingly faint, just inside the wheelhouse. Roque looked through the window, finding only the captain inside at the wheel, nothing out of the ordinary. Just the troll and Alex who he could not see. Something was off.

Quietly, he lifted the latch, ready to burst inside when a soft snick penetrated the quiet.

A tiny light fluttered in the breeze and went out.

Roque froze.

Slowly, he turned.

Geschopf came around the back of the wheelhouse and leaned against the railing, gloved hands cupped around his mouth to shield a cigarette from the wind.

Of course. A dragon’s heart ran quieter, smaller, easy to hide beneath the clamor and stench of trolls. Geschopf had been on the paddle steamer all along.

“You should put that out.” Roque’s voice came out steadier than he’d thought. “Blackout and all.”

Geschopf’s lips turned down like a shrug. He took a long drag and then flicked the cigarette over the side into the water.

Roque watched it disappear, his heart racing with violence. Geschopf was so close, within reach. Edeen was just below, asleep and vulnerable in their deckhouse. And Alex…what had Geschopf done to Alex?

BOOK: The Vampire And The Highland Empath
5.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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