Trials (The Forever Series, Book 6) (8 page)

BOOK: Trials (The Forever Series, Book 6)
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“Oh now what do you take me for? I can assure you I was an
accomplished lover by the time I got to her.”

“At sixteen?” I croak.

“Weren’t you?” he asks back just as slyly and I shake my
head in honesty.

“No. That wasn’t our way back then. I was ridiculously
naïve. Before I met CK the only man I had been with was my husband, and that
wasn’t exactly a normal setting.”

“Husband? Huh. I find that hard to believe.”

“Well a thousand years has brought me out of my shell a
bit,” I say dryly and he laughs again.

“A bit? No, in all honesty I was fairly innocent. It was
what attracted her to me the most.”

“Yes, innocence can be seductive,” I say, thinking of my own
sire and his wonder at me being so sweet. “Her name?”

“Sasha,” he says and I think I see a small shadow pass over
his features.

“Did you feel anything for her?”

“Other than contempt for what she was? No,” he says almost
too forcefully.

“Do you feel contempt for me?”

“I did,” he says warily. “Having gotten to know you a little
better I see that you are more than just a bloodsucking leech.”

“As are most of us,” I point out.

He shrugs. “I am only concerned about you. You are a productive
member of society. Pay your taxes, give back. You have morals, such as they
are, towards feeding and killing. Well at least now, I assume that wasn’t
always the case. I like you,” he states to my surprise. “But I won’t ever
forget what you are.”

Hm. “I like you too. And I too won’t ever forget what you
are.”

He chuckles, “Well then, we should have a very successful
business relationship. For however long it lasts.”

“It could last forever,” I say with a feral grin.

He huffs at me, “Why do you insist on bringing that up
almost every time we speak?”

“I just like to remind you that you have options,” I say,
tapping my sharp nails on the table.

“No thank you. I quite like being human.”

“I think you would quite like being a Vampire,” I tease him.

“If I said now, okay, Liv, turn me. You would just do it.
Easy as that?” he asks, changing tactic.

“No, not easy as that. It isn’t something you just do. You
have to be completely sure because there is no going back. And I wouldn’t do
it. I would have to find someone else to do it.”

“Why not you? You are the only one who can bite me,” he
says, now interested enough to pursue this conversation.

“I am not sure what my elevated status would bring with a
siring. And I can just picture CK’s face if I told him I would have yet another
bond to ‘nurture’ as he calls it.”

He laughs long and hard at that, “Oh, Christ. So can I, now
that you mention it!”

I laugh with him, enjoying his company. I say, “I am
intrigued though…can Hunters be turned? You know, due to the fact that your
blood incapacitates?”

“Yes,” he says. “There have been a few who have gone to the
dark side. As you well know, a Vampire doesn’t have to drain to sire.”

“Good to know,” I say with a tilt to my head and he shakes
his at me. “And yes, that is true. Jess aside, I myself was fatally wounded
when CK turned me.”

“Well, Queen Liv. I fancy that option even less than you
sucking me dry.”

“What if I gave you another option?” I say, suddenly
serious.

“What do you mean?”

“What if you could live a longer life, not age, but not be a
Vampire?”

“How would you propose to do that?”

“I have a theory but it needs testing,” I admit.

“You want me to be a guinea pig?”

“Only if you want to. Haven’t you already noticed a
difference in your behavior after the blood oath you swore to me?” I ask.

“What do you mean?” he asks confused.

“I mean you may have started out with this job because you
said you know how to pick a side, but don’t you feel differently now?”

He stares at me for the longest time and doesn’t look all
that happy as he says, “Yes, I suppose I do.”

“I…I am not used to having humans around me, working for me
so closely. I get too attached, it will sadden me when you…you know…” I admit
then cautiously.

“Oh, bless you,” he says. “You will miss me when I am dead.
I am flattered,” he jokes, but I am not joking.

“Cade,” I say. “I am being serious. Just think about it.
Please? Thirty-odd years is a lot for you. It’s nothing to me and it will go by
quickly. Even then you will have to stop working before that time is up.”

“You are being completely serious now, aren’t you? You want
me to stick around,” he says.

“I do.”

“Hm. Well, it isn’t ever something I have thought about, but
the answer is still no, thank you. It’s unnatural and therefore falls into the
category of Supernatural.”

“We’ll see. And I prefer Paranormal.”

“It just annoys you, doesn’t it? That I don’t want to be
like you.”

“I wouldn’t say annoy. I’m just surprised. Do you know how
many people would love to be in your shoes? Asked to be turned instead of
asking?”

“No, can’t say as I do,” he says. “How many have asked you
and you declined?”

“Hundreds. More probably.”

“Really? That many?” He sounds surprised.

“Yes, that many.”

“I guess I am more surprised that you told that many people
what you are.”

“A thousand years worth of Feeders and acceptors is a long
time, Cade. A long time to be alone.”

“You don’t seem very alone to me.”

“Not now, no. But there was a time when I was very much
alone.”

“Want to tell me more about this Lance? It might help with
the research,” he says casually.

“Erm, well as I said, he was evil. He took me and held me
captive for about twelve years,” I say just as casually, still tapping my nails
on the table.

“Captive?”

“That’s the nice word for it.”

“Oh. I guess then you don’t really want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Did he hurt you?” he asks softly and I am more intrigued as
to his tone than the actual question.

“Yes. A lot. But it was a long time ago and he is dead now.”

“Is he?”

“What do you mean?”

“Seems to me, he lives on.” He taps my temple and I pull
back.

“Maybe. I think it’s time you tell me more about your
ex-bosses as well. Are you considered a traitor?” I ask.

“Yes, so is Nico and the others who have defected.”

“Are you in any danger?”

“Yes, if I get found, but it doesn’t seem likely. Those
Romani you have are pretty damn powerful.”

“They have you cloaked?” I ask.

“Yes. That is why Nico has been safe for so many years. I’m
not worried,” he says casually.

“Okay, but do let me know if you feel you are being hunted,”
I say with a frown at him, but his face has closed off completely and I know I
will get no more out of him that I already have. It’s quite a bit though and I
am glad we had this chat.

I sense Cole at the door and magick on a robe now to Cade’s
amusement. I am grateful to see my husband after this weird day.

“Want me to stay?” Cade asks as I get up to kiss Cole.

“No, you have been more than helpful today. You may go and
do your own thing.”

He nods. “I will see you in the morning, then. Just yell if
you need me.”

“You’ll hear?” I ask smartly and he laughs.

“I won’t be far away, Queen Liv.” He waves and leaves us
alone and Cole is looking at me with raised eyebrows.

“You two seem to be getting on well? Is it something to do
with that blood oath? Should I be worried?”

“Yes it is but no, definitely not,” I state. “Now come here
and kiss me. I have missed you.”

“Mm, I have missed you too. I want a long bath. Can I
interest you?”

“Oh, of course,” I say to his delight and off we go.

Chapter 4

“Liv?” Devon asks from the doorway.

“What?” I open my eyes from my bliss of bubbly water,
champagne, and my wet, naked husband.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he says, not actually sounding sorry
at all. “We are going out. Wanted to let you know and ask if you wanted to come
with?”

Cole looks at me from across the massive tub and shakes his
head. “Sorry, no. But you have fun. Not too much fun,” I state with a glare at
Jess who is hanging onto Devon like a barnacle. “Where are you going?”

“There is a place, where we can go and be…who we are,” he
says.

“Oh. Well, be careful and take Grayson with you.”

“No need. Sebastian is joining us.”

“Oh?” I sit up now, somewhat intrigued. Devon’s eyes drop to
my naked breasts while Cole glowers at me and Jess just looks away.
“Sebastian?”

Devon nods, “Yes.”

I blink at him and he returns my look with his CK impassive
impersonation. “Is he here?”

“No. Why?”

“Just make sure you are safe. All of you.” I glare at Jess,
“And remember, no feeding…”

“From humans,” Devon says. “Lizzie, I got this okay?”

“Fine. Please let me know when you return.”

“I will. Christ. You are being very mother hen today. What
is with that?”

“Just stuff,” I say mysteriously and he cocks his eyebrows
at me. “Tell you later,” I mutter.

“Fine. You two enjoy your soak.”

“We will,” Cole says.

They leave and I move forward so I am now face to face with
him. “How was your day then?” I ask and he starts.

“I don’t think you have ever asked me that before.”

“No? Am I really just a selfish bitch?” I ask somewhat
seriously.

“Err, what brought that on?”

I shrug, “I don’t know, Cole. This bad feeling is getting
worse.”

“How?”

“Dream manifestations. Weird arse shit.”

“Like what?”

“Lance,” I say and he grimaces.

“Baby, he’s dead. You killed him, he can’t hurt you
anymore.”

“I know. It isn’t like that though. They are happy dreams.
For the most part.”

“Happy? What do you mean?”

I explain it to him, minus the baby part again, and he is
less than impressed. “Liv, that is just weird. Why would you be dreaming that?”

“I don’t know,” I say and splash my hands into the water in
frustration. “I don’t want to think about it. Not when I have you here and I am
going away for a couple of days.”

“Away? You are going away?”

“It’s for the best, my love. I have to go and I don’t really
want to stay here. It’s not right.”

“Where are you going?”


Ponte
.”

“Of course you are. Any excuse to drag you back to your home
together,” he says bitterly.

“It isn’t our home,” I say.

“Not any more but will be again.”

“Cole,” I say, desperate to change the mood.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to think about it.”

“Me either.” I lean forward and kiss him, curling my arms
around him and pulling him close. “I love you.”

He stands and takes me in his arms, carrying me to the bed
where he takes me with great abandon, wet as we are, again and again until I am
spent and fall asleep.

“We’ll try this again,” Lance says to me with that smile.

“Try what again?” I ask him, confused.

“Getting you to our bedroom so I can have my way with
you. Once the baby comes we won’t have much time to be alone.”

“The baby,” I say in wonder as I look down and stroke my
stomach.

“Our baby,” he says as he pushes a door open to a room
that is clearly our bedroom.

“Oh, Lance,” I say to him with a smile as I notice the
bassinet in the corner. “It’s beautiful.”

“Not as beautiful as you.” He kisses me, running his
hands gently over my bump, and I kiss him back, wanting him.

“See, I told you I didn’t have to try very hard,” he says
with a chuckle.

“And I told you, you never do. I love you.”

“I love you, Aefre. We belong together,” he whispers.

“No!” I wake myself by shouting out.

“Liv? Baby. Was it one of those dreams?” Cole asks from
across the room.

Panting, I put my hand over my heart. “Yes.”

He crosses to me instantly and hugs me tightly. “Tell me.”

I shake my head, “I want to forget it.”

“Liv, this is getting serious. Why do you keep dreaming
about him in this way?”

“Someone wants me to,” I say, knowing that Cade is right
about that. “I have to figure out who and kick their arse.”

“I will join you,” Cole says forcefully and I smile at him.

“You should go, you’ll be late,” I say, glancing at the
clock.

“No, I’ll stay.”

“It’s fine. I have to get ready to go anyway.”

He looks at me sadly and says, “Please stay. Please don’t go
to him.”

“Oh baby. Don’t ask me that.”

“Just this once, choose me,” he begs me.

“Cole, you are my husband. I did choose you. Again and
again.”

He crushes his mouth to mine in desperation and I cling to
him, trying to give him the reassurance that he wants. I know he is worried
because of where we are going. I perhaps shouldn’t have told him.

“Just promise me you won’t sleep with him. I mean actually
sleep with him. Go to your own bedroom. The one you showed me.”

“I will,” I say, knowing that I can’t promise him that but I
can try and agree to his request.

He kisses me again and leaves without saying anything else,
leaving me alone in our bed, miserable because of his pain and worried about
who is trying to manipulate my dreams and the bigger question, why? To what
end?

“Ready?” CK says as he pops into existence and I blink at
him. Seeing me as I am, he says, “Clearly not. Aefre. It is 6 AM. Time to go.”

“Six? No it’s only just gone five.”

“No, my sweet, it is six.” He points to the clock and it
does say 6:01 AM. Where did the last hour just go? I look down at myself still
sitting naked in the bed in the exact position when Cole left me. “Are you
feeling all right?” he asks me, overly concerned now that I am still not
moving. He sits next to me on the bed and takes my hand.

“Yes, I’m fine. I guess I must have gone back to sleep after
Cole left,” I say. “Just give me a minute.”

“Of course,” he says and waits patiently while I go shower.
Well of course he is going to wait patiently for that, I think a bit grimly,
still baffled as to where that time went. Dreams are one thing. Blackouts are
something else. I get out of the shower and take my time getting ready, needing
some time to think. I move around the room wordlessly as he watches me with
narrowed eyes.

“Aefre,” he says eventually.

“Yes?”

“You don’t seem very happy. I thought you would be more excited
to go to
Ponte
,” he says in a tone that suggests he is worried as to my
answer.

“No, I am happy, my love. I love going there. I love it when
you take me there. I still can’t believe that last year was the first time in
over two hundred years since I was there.”

“I would have brought you sooner but I didn’t think you
wanted to go,” he says uncertainly. “Something is bothering you, though. Is it
because of the last time we were there and what happened with…Gustav?”

“No. No, it isn’t that. Although, thanks for the reminder,”
I mutter. “I am just tired, that’s all.”

“You haven’t fed, have you?”

“No,” I admit in a small voice.

He sighs, “Why am I not surprised?” He holds his hands up.
“I am loathe to do it this way but I fear offering you my blood won’t sustain
you for very long. I have plans for us that include you being at your best,” he
says with a small pout and my eyes widen.

“Oh, really? Well a girl isn’t going to snub the offer of
the century. I have been dying to get my hands on you. In a Dragon-feeding
way.”

“Hm, yes, well. Don’t get used to it. I am only offering
this to you because I want you alert and focused.”

“Gee, selfish much?” I say to him as I step closer.

“I told you a long time ago, Aefre, I am a selfish creature.
Especially when it comes to you.”

I take his hands and he cringes slightly and I tilt my head
at him, saying, “I can go and find Xane if this offends you.”

“That offends me more. What am I if I can’t sustain you?
Even in this way.”

“The love of my life,” I say to him before I pull on his
energy and he scowls at me as it leaves him and enters me. I relax as I get
stronger and I release him and step back, giving him some room to process.

“To your satisfaction, I trust?” he says.

“Quite the boost, my love. Everything I had hoped it would
be and more.”

He peers at me curiously, “You really thought about what it
would be like?”

“Of course. It may not be for you but it is just as intimate
for me as the bite,” I tell him shyly.

“Well in that case, you will only ever do this with me and certainly
not the Demon,” he says emphatically and I chuckle.

“Still so possessive.”

He grins winningly at me, pleased now that I am back to
normal and no longer moody and brooding. “Only for you. Now, can you tell me
why you had a million dollars transferred to my account?”

Taken aback a blink at him before answering, “You paid off
Cole’s mother to stay away from him. He didn’t want to be in debt to you.”

His turn to blink at me. “Who told you I paid his mother a
million dollars?” he asks.

“Nico,” I reply, confused. “Didn’t you?”

His hesitation has me most concerned and when he carefully
answers with, “Why, yes I did,” I pounce.

“What aren’t you telling me?” I demand.

“Nothing,” he says innocently, but he isn’t fooling me.

“CK,” I say sternly, crossing my arms.

“Aefre,” he says back. “I took care of it. Leave it now. It
was unnecessary for you to give me the money.”

Now I am more than concerned. I am downright worried. This
is sounding less like a payoff and more of a payout to “take of it”, or her as
the case may be. I don’t get to answer as Cade makes his entrance then.
“Ready?”

“Yes.” I narrow my eyes at my sire, but I know it will be a
fruitless venture to pursue this topic with him. I suppose all I need to know
is that she won’t come bothering Cole, I will just have to overlook the fact
that I don’t know any facts. Never a good sign.

“Where are we going?” Cade interrupts my thoughts.

“Italy,” I say to his surprise.

“Oh? That’s…far away.”

“Not when you can get there in the blink of an eye. Or in my
case a swirl of dark inky fog.”

“I suppose,” he says. He looks uncomfortable.

“Come,” I say and hold out my hand.

“You are taking him?” CK asks.

“Well you take him then. I’m not fussed.”

“Err,” Cade says. “You might not be fussed, but I am. I will
go with you.”

CK looks offended at that but I placate him with a smile. “I
will take both of you.”

“You are going to usher me to my own house?”

“Yes,” I say decisively and take both their hands and swirl
off before either of them can protest further.

We land in the grand Entrance Hall of
Ponte Sull’acqua
and Cade grips my hand tighter to steady himself. “That is not a normal way to
travel,” he says grimly.

“How many times do I have to tell you, we aren’t normal?” I
chide him.

“No kidding. Hello, Nico,” he says, turning around.

“Cade,” Nico says.

“Well, we will leave you two to get sorted. Nico, please
show Cade around. Cade, make yourself at, home,” CK says with a somewhat pained
expression. Back in the day this place used to be packed to the gills with
Vampires from all over the world. Every night was a party and every day was
filled with laughter and fun. Nowadays it is completely empty save for
Marguerite and sometimes Nico and of course us when we are here. For some
reason his castle has become his island. The place he goes to get away.

Cade takes in his surroundings, mouth agape. “Fuck me. Is
this a castle? You said ‘house.’”

“Yes, it is a castle. A very, very old one and everything in
it is priceless. Do be careful where you go and don’t touch anything. I don’t
trust your clumsy human reflexes,” CK grouses at him and I bite my lip to stop
the smile.

“Aefre. If you please.” He holds out his hand, clearly
expecting me to do all the work here. I don’t mind though. He spent over four
hundred years ferrying me around, it’s the least I can do.

“Oh, Nico. Will you please show Cade the library? He may
find it useful, for his…research.”

Nico nods at me and Cade bobs his head in understanding.
“Good. We will see you anon,” I say and grab CK’s hand and Astral us off to his
bedroom, remembering Cole’s plea earlier. I will try my very best to do as he
asks but when I am with my sire I tend to forget about everything else.

“Glad to see you tidied the place up a bit,” I say, casting
a glance over the now clean bedroom.

“Yes well, I wanted to leave everything as you left it last
June.”

“You have a tendency to want to do that, don’t you? Leave
things the way I left them.”

He looks a bit embarrassed. “I can’t help it. When you
aren’t here, it’s all I have.”

I don’t really know what to say to that so I stay silent.

“You will live here with me when it’s time, won’t you? You
said that you would,” he asks suddenly.

I did? I try to remember when I said that. Oh yes, when we
spoke about the terms. “Yes, I remember. Of course I will, but…”

“Yes, I remember you saying that you wouldn’t come alone,”
he says, clearing his throat abruptly. “I want this to be our home again,
Aefre. Yours and mine.”

“Well it was never mine,” I say with a wistful smile.

“I will make it yours,” he says quickly. “I will put your
name on the deeds with mine.” He moves closer. “I want everything to be ours. I
want to share everything with you.”

I am stunned into complete silence now. I am not even
breathing as he takes my hand. That is some show of commitment from my
commitment-phobe-of-a-sire. A ring is one thing. It can be taken off and
forgotten. Giving me half of his ancient, precious, beloved estate, sharing it
with me, making it ours? This is something I thought he would rather die than
do.

“Aefre?” he says, worried. “Is it too much? I don’t mean to
scare you off, I just want everything to be perfect.”

“Too much?” I gulp. “Yes, it probably is. For you. For me it
is everything I ever dreamed about. Oh Constantine. Why do you always come with
the goods at the wrong time.” I take his face in my hands. “Your timing is
epically, epically bad, my love.”

He looks chagrined. “I know. I am stupid. A fucking idiot
for ever letting you get away from me in the first place.” He takes my hands in
his and says, “Never again. I will wait this out now that I have seen the
future and we will be together then forever.
Semper et in saecula
. And
this time we are sticking to it.”

“I will hold you to that, you know. Now come here and make
love to me. I want you to undress me completely and make it to the bed this
time.”

“Such a romantic,” he says to me with his made-just-for-me
smile before he claims my mouth with his and proceeds to give me exactly what I
asked for.

 

 

Sometime later I awake from another Lance dream. This one I
don’t even want to recount as it makes me want to be sick. His hands on me,
mine on him. Ergh. I feel myself go green at the thought. Strangely, CK is
sleeping next to me. That is highly unusual for him. I glance at the clock. It
is only 4:30 PM. Not unusual for me to take a siesta but it is for him. Jet
lag? Or Astral lag? I watch him as he slumbers. It is one of my favorite things
to do. I don’t want to wake him but I have to touch him. I trail my long red
nail down his chest and he grabs my hand and brings it to his mouth giving me a
kiss. “You’re sleeping,” I say.

“I was until you touched me,” he says with his eyes still
closed. “No way can I continue to sleep when your hands are on me.”

“Why are you sleeping?” I giggle. “It’s late afternoon.”

“You fell asleep. I wanted to sleep with you.”

My smile fades as I remember that I am not supposed to be in
here sleeping with him. I snuggle into him, putting my head on his chest. I
fall into a doze again then I am suddenly jolted out of my rest by an image
that flashes through my head: CK, Sebastian, and Vivienne. Here at
Ponte
.
I jump out of bed, being led by something other than my own actions and he
looks up startled from his desk in the corner. “Aefre?”

I ignore him and grab my robe. “Aefre?” He stands and asks,
“What’s wrong?”

“You,” I say to him, “you were here with her.” I spit it out
at him with such venom that he looks confused, then worried as I barge out of
the room and he follows me. I march down the corridor from his bedroom, past my
old room where I hesitate for a moment--though I am unsure why--and then carry
on a bit further down.

“Aefre!” He grabs my arm as he catches up with me. “Where
are you going?”

“Here,” I say, pointing to the door in front of me. “You
were in here with her. And Sebastian. You brought her here, to fuck her, to the
place you want to call our home!” I turn towards him with tears pouring down my
face at the betrayal and he looks back at me fearful, sad, and almost lost
before I pass out.

“Aefre,” he says to me quietly as I open my eyes. My head is
banging and I have three worried faces staring at me. I sit up, rubbing my
forehead with my hand. What happened?

“Why am in the middle of the hallway?” I ask.

“You don’t remember?” CK says, almost relieved.

“No.”

“Liv,” Cade says. “It was that…thing again.”

“You felt it? Here?”

“Felt what?” CK says. “Aefre, what are you not telling me?”

“Nothing,” I say. “It’s nothing for you to worry about.”

“If it is affecting you, then I will worry about it. Cade?”

I glare at Cade to keep his trap shut but he sighs, “Sorry, Liv,
my job is to protect you, not your secrets. You should tell him.”

I growl at him but he just looks back at me blandly and
asks, “You or me?”

I stay rebelliously silent so he says, “Fine. I will tell.
There is something manipulating Liv’s dreams. Distorting reality, making her
think things are different.”

CK gulps. “What do you mean making her think things are
different?” he asks. He sounds guilty, which is a bit odd.

“She is having these dreams of Lance. I am going to assume
you know who he is?”

BOOK: Trials (The Forever Series, Book 6)
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