Staring up at the house, my head warred with what my blood was telling me.
It can’t be…
When Master had asked me to track my blood, I thought it a fruitless exercise. But seeing the look in his eyes – the intensity of his need to know shining through them – I’d had no choice but to agree.
Master or not, I would not have denied him anything he asked of me with that look in his eyes.
The pull had been instantaneous.
As was the direction of my eyes when they opened, looking for the source.
The old woman’s house?
It made no sense. I was close enough to be able to get an impression of everyone inside.
There was no light.
There were no fairies inside.
But my blood pulled me in two directions. The old woman’s house called to me more strongly than the other, but I chose the second option, needing to see.
Wanting to search for the light of the Fae.
But now only finding the sleeping mind of a human.
Was this their home? Were they my human kin?
That we were connected at all left me confused, but the proximity of the portal put me in mind of the human saying about chickens and eggs.
Had that human family been chosen to breed with by my Fae kin because of the portal on their land?
Or had the portal been created there because they were my kin?
Which came first?
But there had been other humans in attendance at the predator’s funeral, so it could have been them I sensed in the Stackhouse home. My kin weren’t necessarily the old woman and oaf.
Perhaps they lived here as well?
I preferred that option over being related to the vile man who had met his end by my hand.
His voice pulled me from my thoughts and I could feel he was raging on the inside. My own curiosity had gotten the better of me, so I hadn’t stopped monitoring our connection since we’d been in the field the night before.
He’d desired me then.
He’d wanted me like I’d wanted him.
But in spite of the fury flowing through him now, the whisper of my name leaving his lips left me aware of something else through our connection.
He was worried for me now.
“I don’t understand.”
My mind was still on the dual pulls I felt. I didn’t understand why my blood had been drawn towards anyone when I’d been sure any human kin I’d had left perished on the day of my birth, so my reply was to that.
While I also didn’t understand his feelings for me, I was too weak – too far gone in my affection for him – to want to question the why of his own.
Just like I didn’t want to question why I apparently had human kin, refusing to believe the impossible, with my head and heart at war once more.
The Fae couldn’t lie, therefore it was impossible for Great-grandfather to have lied to me.
Perhaps he hadn’t known of their existence.
Thankfully, he guessed correctly to what I’d been alluding to and asked, “Do you sense someone inside who shares your blood?”
I’d felt a third pull. Much weaker than the first two and different in a way that I could at least understand. When I’d followed the path with my blood, it had led me to and through the man at my side. The source was located much farther away, hundreds of miles to the north, so I would guess it was his child, Pam.
We’d both had the blood of our Master. I now knew I could track her through him if need be.
And not sensing any others told me we had been the only two to have had his blood.
A gentle tug on my hand made me refocus. My eyes met his. My vision cleared. No longer concentrating solely on the blood of my own, my mind opened. And the first thing to fill it left my lips in a single word.
A half dozen snarled red minds clouded my own. Coming at us from all sides, they were moving in fast, and no sooner had the word left my lips when my magic automatically reached out. My hand dropped his and the familiar weight of my swords was felt in each of my hands a second later, with his confusion giving way to understanding, just as his free hand reached over his shoulder to grab the hilt of his own where my magic had strapped it to his back.
The sound of his fangs snapping down rang out while I kicked off my shoes and leapt down from the porch, seeing the first of the wolves break through the tree line. The heavy thuds of clawed paws could be heard hitting the rooftop at the same time and my mind tracked Master’s upward trajectory when he’d flown up to meet them head on, while my eyes stayed trained on the wolves before me.
Even without my telepathic gift, I would have known from sight alone these wolves weren’t a part of the Royal Guard. I’d studied them all, in both human and wolf form, so I didn’t hesitate to behead the first one to reach me.
The next was impaled through the heart.
I managed to evade the snapping jaws of the third coming up from the rear by jumping up just in the nick of time and piercing his brain stem with my blade. Tearing it free through his neck while my body twisted around, it left his head hanging by nothing but sinew as I landed on my feet to his rear.
A part of my mind registered the waking mind of the human within the house, but I paid it no attention when I came across the telltale void moving towards me, still unseen in the darkness of the woods. Too far away from the Stackhouse land, I didn’t believe it to be one of Master’s guards and I was proved correct when she finally came into view.
Slight in build, with short dark hair, I guessed her to be roughly half the age of Master. I was certain I had never seen her before and her lips curled into a snarl as she spat out, “You dare to attack my child’s home?”
The home was owned by a vampire?
There went my kin theory.
But the house could have been owned by Oberon himself and I wouldn’t have cared.
This was Master’s kingdom and I would end anyone I deemed a threat to him.
The sound of the battle taking place on the roof still held most of my attention, but I knew better than to end a vampire without just cause. So I waited for her to make the first move and baited her by answering, “All land within the Amun Kingdom belongs to the king, Eric Northman, regardless of whose name is on the deed. Perhaps if you’d taught your child that very basic and fundamental rule, they wouldn’t be facing their true death, charged with treason. I will end any creature who dares to bare their teeth towards him on any land.”
The whole time I’d been speaking, I’d sensed the approach of another Were, silently stalking towards me from behind. While her eyes had widened hearing the king’s name, her lips had formed into a calculated smile.
My eyes remained on her, so I saw it disappear when my left arm came down in a wide arc, as I thrust my sword into their chest.
And my smile replaced hers, seeing the apprehension form on her face.
A head, an arm, and a leg dropped to the ground in between us – belonging to the last of the Weres I’d counted in my mind – just as Master landed at my side. Covered in blood and with a victorious smile on his face, he looked radiant.
His eyes flicked over towards the female vampire, who looked truly fearful for the first time, but he ignored her for the time being. A sultry look overtook his face when he gazed back at me – one I recognized from the night before – and he put his sword tip down onto the ground, casually leaning against it, and whispered conspiratorially, “You’re not wearing any panties, are you?”
“No, Eric. I’m not.”
I didn’t try to keep my voice down or try to hide my amusement.
For a king, he certainly seemed to focus on the oddest things at times.
And perhaps I matched him in that aspect because I thought it prudent to add, “And I killed four to your two. I won again.”
His eyes darkened in lust, not anger. His face and our bond told me so. So it wasn’t all that surprising when he said, “We would both win – many times – if we weren’t continually interrupted when we got to the good part.”
With that, his eyes darkened again. In anger, not lust.
His face and our bond told me so.
Straightening more than just his posture, he glared at the female vampire still standing there and there was no playfulness in his voice or expression when he said, “Lorena. Compton didn’t inform me you were visiting.”
She’d said this was her child’s home.
This was the Sheriff’s house?
Fury filled my veins and my swords rose up of their own volition. While I still didn’t know who it was inside of the house, it didn’t matter.
My blood told me they were my kin and I would kill anyone who threatened them.
The Fae were vicious when it came to defending one’s own.
It was a trait I’d inherited.
Focusing on the now awakened mind within the house, I could feel their fear, of both the sounds of the battle that had been waged and now of what would happen when their master returned.
It was impossible to bite back the growl when an image of Compton’s angry face filtered into their thoughts.
“I only arrived just now,” she offered. “My visit was a surprise, so he doesn’t even know that I’m here.”
I didn’t need to be a telepath to know that she was lying. Her eyes gave away her deception. I couldn’t be sure Master picked up on it, but I could feel his derision when he said, “How fortunate. You can claim his remains immediately after I end him for treason.”
Her fangs snapped down and hatred filled her face as she took a menacing step towards him.
I had warned her.
The sound of my swords hitting the ground rang out when I was on her in the blink of an eye, having teleported myself directly in front of her, so I could look directly into her shocked eyes as I thrust the stake I’d called to my hand into her chest.
Her body was still disintegrating, with her ashes barely hitting the ground, when I heard, “You don’t play fairly, lover.”
The sound of his sword hitting the ground rang out when he was on me in the blink of an eye, having vamped towards me with his preternatural speed. The stake dropped from my hand, just as he spun me around, with the sultry look back upon his face as he declared, “I like it.”
I had no response, which was just as well since his lips crashed down onto my own.
I liked it.
But instead of feeling my back hit the ground – as I’d expected (and hoped for) – we remained upright, with his hands remaining on my hips.
At least until he’d needed them to pull my face away from his own.
Using my hair in his hands to hold my head still, his lips and fangs blazed a trail from my collarbone to my ear, where he breathed out, “Compton will be here at any moment. He would have sensed her presence and her true death. He will come to investigate.”
My mind was filled with nothing but lust and hearing the traitor’s name only served to reignite my bloodlust. So without thinking, I just reacted and pushed my body against his own, teasing us both and taunting him with my next words.
“Perhaps you’ll be quicker this time and can kill him before I do.”
His head reared back, with his amused lustful eyes meeting my own, belying his authoritative tone as he replied, “You dare to mock your king?”
“Never,” I playfully denied. My hands moved of their own accord to grip his rear, while I rubbed against the front of his body, mixing the blood of our kills in the process, and said, “I dare to mock my lover.”
His word, so he couldn’t deny it. Even if it wasn’t true in the technical sense.
His lips turned upward as he dropped his kingly façade and smirked, “You will be the death of me.”
So I returned his smirk and teasingly asked, “Have I not proven myself at being adept in keeping you alive?”
“That and your aversion to undergarments,” he nodded with a grin.
“Perhaps if you made it a royal decree that all of your subjects were required to wear them, I would remember to be more mindful of your modesty, your Majesty.”
He tugged on the strands of my hair still wrapped in his hand, bending my body backwards, while his lips returned to my neck as he warned, “You play with fire, little girl.”
“I am of the Sky Fae,” I rambled out in a breathy whisper, no longer able to keep my wits about me. So my mouth spewed out nonsensical truths from my mind we’d had yet to discuss. “I can hold sunlight in the palm of my hands. It burns much hotter than any fire, so I have nothing to fear.”
I whimpered when he pulled away from my skin to look into my eyes, with an arched brow above one of his own. But sensing the rapidly approaching void, I answered his questioning gaze with a hissed out, “Compton.”
It was an assumption on my part that proved to be true and we straightened up, separating our bodies in just enough time for him to break through the trees and come to a stop in the clearing. Bloody tear tracks trailed down his face, just like the blood that covered each of us, and his eyes zeroed in on the pile of ashes at our feet. But he looked up just as quickly, with them darting from the house, to the ashes, and back to us, only questioning, “Your Majesty?”
No longer Eric, my lover, or even Master in my mind, he sounded every bit the King of the Amun Clan when he ignored Compton’s question and asked his own with, “Who is in the house?”
“Your Majesty?” he repeated, pathetically trying to avoid the inevitable.
But hearing the king’s question made me focus back on the mind within the house.
My kin, apparently.
“Did I stutter?” he asked.
He didn’t, but my heart did, hearing a single thought coming from the otherwise empty void before us.
“Hadley is inside?” I asked, causing both heads to turn towards me. But I ignored the one at my side and only stared at the one in front of us, adding, “The Stackhouse woman’s granddaughter, Hadley?”
Knowing all that she’d been put through at the hands of her – our, I supposed – kin, only to be subjected to the likes of the treasonous Sheriff made my blood boil. I didn’t know the girl. I had no attachment to the Stackhouses other than our shared blood.
But that was enough to make me murderous on her behalf.
His eyes had grown wide with my questions, surely wondering how I would possibly guess correctly at the impossible, but I didn’t care.
Nor did I wait on an answer.
I had seen the armory back at the estate and called one of the contents to us, magically wrapping his body like a spring with the silver chain, and leaving him there while I darted up the steps and kicked the front door open. Following her panicked thoughts, I found her cowering, shackled to the wall in a small room hidden underneath the stairs.
Just like the wizard boy from the books Great-grandfather had given me, Harry Potter.
I growled again, with my hatred for the Dursley’s coming out.
Her eyes bulged and she screamed out in fear, but seeing an image of myself form in my mind, I supposed it was to be expected. My hair was just as wild as the look in my eyes. My teeth were bared through lips that were swollen from stolen kisses, when I should have been tending to her. I stood before my blood covered in the blood of others, from my head down to my now dirty bare toes.
But given her fearful state, I figured using magic to clean myself up would only frighten her more, so I remained still and softened my features and my voice as I said, “Hadley? We’re here to help you.”
I couldn’t be sure if it was because I now knew we were related that I could see more of a resemblance between us, but not knowing how we were related, I fell back to what was familiar to me and softly offered, “Cousin, I mean you no harm.”
Her eyes widened even more, but she said nothing. I felt his approach before he came to stand behind me and upon seeing the familiar face of the king appear over my shoulder, the girl collapsed to the floor and began crying in earnest with relief.
I knew from her thoughts her greatest wish had just come true.
I knew from our bond he was seething with rage on the inside.
But none of his fury was present in his demeanor when he slowly moved forward into the room. Crouching down, he gently took her ankle into his hands and broke the shackle free from her leg before picking her up and gently placing her on the dirty cot. Her arms had wrapped around his neck, while she sobbed into his shoulder and she didn’t appear willing to let him go any time soon, so he lowered himself beside her and allowed her to cry. I stayed in the doorway, watching the images flit through her mind as she replayed her time held captive by Compton and my simmering blood came to a boil once more.
He’d had her all along. Snatched her one night on her way home from a friend’s house. Kept her as a blood slave. Raped her repeatedly. Shared her with his Maker.
I wanted nothing more than to kill him – painfully – but knowing there was more to his betrayal than holding the girl captive, I locked my limbs in place and merely repeated everything I learned in whispered Old Norse.
With my eyes trained on them it was easy to see his muscles tense with every word I’d spoken. His fury reignited in his blood, but his hands remained gentle as he slowly removed hers from around his neck. Wiping the tears from her cheeks, he smiled softly at her and said, “Susannah is going to take you to my home where you can clean up and a doctor will come to check on you. You have nothing to fear and when you are ready I will return you to your grandmother myself.”
“I’m not leaving,” I argued in Old Norse.
“You are taking her back to the estate,” he argued back in the same language. “She needs food. A bath. Clean clothes and medical attention.”
My resolve to remain only strengthened with every word spoken – something he likely felt – because he turned to face me and said exasperatedly, “She is your blood!”
That she was – even if I didn’t know how exactly we were related – but she was safe now.
And I agreed she had needs that should be seen to.
But it changed nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Something that – after all that we’d been through in our short time together – appeared to shock even him when I said as much out loud.
My hand came to rest on my hip, with my fingertip stroking over the mark of my destiny, and his eyes glanced there briefly before meeting my own as I agreed, “She is.”
But my tone became much more serious when I stared straight into his eyes and added in all seriousness, “As are you. So tell me Your Majesty, how many more must I kill in defense of your life before you take to heart that you are my only concern?”
Because I would slay the entire world if that’s what it took.