“I love this time of year in your realm. The colors are beautiful and the air feels fresh and alive.”
“It’s my favorite season too.” I turned back to look at the door that had started my journey. It was bittersweet going back to Vancouver. I was going to miss so many people, but they didn’t need me anymore. The new government was running smoothly and I had just been sitting and nodding for the past three weeks. This wasn’t my home and it was time I got back to where I belonged.
“We’re going to miss you, Cassandra. I know it’s time for you to go, but please promise me you’ll come back. I’ve lost so many people that I’ve loved, I don’t want you to be one of them.”
I took his hand and enjoyed our exchange of power. “I’ll come back and visit. I love you and Ruby and, if I don’t come back, she’ll come to Vancouver and drag me here.”
“I would help her. The fae owe you such a debt. If you ever need anything, please ask. You’ve brought hope and light back into my life.” He looked back at the door. “Maybe even love.”
I knew it. He and Ruby had grown close. I knew there was a romance brewing. A relationship between a brownie and a fae would have been frowned on once upon a time, but maybe now in their new enlightened society, relationships of any kind could be accepted.
The government was made up of all fae for the first time. I had brought that in and it was the best thing I had ever done. I had entered a captive and exited royalty. I thought the door would always remind me of what happened to Declan, but now it was a symbol of how much I had grown and how much I had accomplished.
If Na’min feeling free to love a lesser fae – someone who had strength, integrity and beauty all in one diminutive package – was even a tiny bit my doing, then I was going to think of this place as something good in my life. The fae had a government that represented all its people. Declan would always be in my heart, but I was ready to let go of the guilt his death had caused and remember this place as something good.
I reached up on tiptoe and kissed Na’min’s cheek. He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. “Shall we go?” I just nodded. I was ready.
I laid my head on his chest. One last journey using fae magic. I was determined to stay conscious this time. Na’min was one of the most powerful fae in the realm. If he couldn’t make it a smooth ride, no one could. The wind stopped its attack and we were in our own space, between here and there. I could still see my surroundings, but they were shrouded in gauze.
With my head still on his chest, I gripped his shirt as he held me tight in his arms. My whole body felt numb and then pins and needles prickled under my skin. Things turned dark and icy cold. I shivered and Na’min tightened his grip. It was hard to get a full breath. Just before panic started to set in, the journey was over.
The sun was once again in the sky and I welcomed its warmth on my back. I stayed in his arms until I felt I could stand on my own. Once my eyes adjusted to the bright light, I realized we had landed just outside a large building, which I hoped was the Edmonton airport. Na’min wasn’t strong enough to get me to Vancouver. I had made arrangements with Lucius to have everything I would need to travel home waiting for me at a Mail Boxes Are Us in the airport. That way, I could leave whenever I wanted.
We had already said what we needed to. Na’min and I had started this journey and it seemed fitting that he was here to send me home. He and I weren’t done with each other. We would meet again. I hoped it would be at his and Ruby’s wedding. When we exchanged our last hug, I didn’t want to let go. Pulling away, I ran for the terminal, turning once to wave good-bye, but he was already gone.
I was supposed to stay in the fae realm for another two weeks, but Ruby knew I needed to leave. I was crying when I thought about missing her and I cried when I thought about how much I was missing Lucius. He had been gone only three weeks and we talked every night on the phone, but I missed him terribly. I woke up this morning and decided it was time to go.
Na’min had hit the mark and he had taken us right where I was supposed to be. The airport was bustling with people and the noise drowned out any coherent thought. I hadn’t been around so many humans in a long time. We really are a loud and smelly race.
Lucius had left to find Quintus. His sire had been missing long enough that foul play seemed a certainty. He tried to convince me he had everything under control, but Lucius wasn’t a very good liar, at least not to me. His voice was strained and, as the weeks went on, he avoided talking about what was going on. I got vague statements like, “We are making progress” and “Things are getting better.” It was like dating a politician.
My gut told me things were bad and he was trying to protect me. He was searching for Quintus and running his territory. We were a team and I was going to show him things were better when we worked together. I had been Quintus’ personal assistant for five years; I knew I could shoulder some of the burden.
For once, everything in the airport went smoothly. I retrieved the small overnight bag that had been left for me. Thank goodness he remembered. I changed into my human clothes, which were much too rough and stiff, bought a ticket, just made it to the gate, and, in under a half hour, I was in the air.
When the plane touched down in Vancouver, I had to restrain myself so I didn’t push everyone out of the way in my rush to get home. It was like proximity fueled the urgency to be where I belonged. I could feel his arms around me.
Despite my impatience, in no time, I was in a cab riding towards Quintus’ home. I hadn’t been there since the night we fought and Killian had kidnapped me. I was so focused on seeing Lucius that the reality of being back hadn’t hit me. Everyone was going to know I was with Lucius and not their boss.
It didn’t matter; this was my home and I was going to be here for Lucius, even if it meant that some of the people who worked for him weren’t going to be happy to see me. I had survived the fae and some of them had wanted me dead. Some of them had tried to make that wish come true. I could survive being hated by a few vampires.
Most workplaces had their share of gossips, but vampires were notorious for spreading rumors, whether they were true or not. I knew Lucius and I were the topic du jour for a great many jours when Quintus came home from Alberta alone. A few words behind my back were nothing compared to what I had gone through since I had opened the fae door.
The cab wound its way up the driveway. The glass front of the house shimmered in the sun, mirroring the ocean below. I paid the cabbie and ran towards the door. I paused there, took a deep breath, and barged in.
Chapter 2 I walked into a bustle of activity. It was nearing mid-afternoon and, by now, even some of the younger vampires were starting to join the fray of activity in the house. Quintus had the windows tinted so there would be no accidental burning of his employees. Windows that blocked UV were a very useful advancement for vampires. New faces swam among old friends and acquaintances, while I remained mostly ignored.
“Eli, do you…?” Well, I guessed Eli was ignoring me. He zipped past me with not even a blink of acknowledgement. I tried a few more with no success. Then I spied Christopher. We had started about the same time. He was a novice, which meant he had been turned less than ten years ago. He smiled when he saw me and I felt immediately better. Christopher owed me one. He had been having a hard time adjusting to life in Quintus’ employ. I knew he just hadn’t had the right job.
Christopher had been a computer programmer and they had him working on security. I put a word in with Quintus and, in no time, he was in charge of IT. He was happy and he brought every vampire kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.
“Cass, so great to see you back. I’ve missed you.” He scooped me into his arms and I was squeezed in a vise dressed in an oxford shirt and dark jeans. One swing around and he planted me back on the ground.
“You’re the only one who’s glad, I’m afraid.” I looked around the room at all the people who used to be happy to see me.
“Don’t mind them, Cass. They’ll get over it. Yes, it was like a Twilight convention in here for a while. Team Quintus was the main camp. They were fierce and the most vocal. They really wanted to see you guys together. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was the boss man and the one who paid them. There were a few Team Lucius, but they had to keep it on the down low. Quintus was easily angered when he came home.” He gave me another quick squeeze. “I was always Team Cass; you needed to be with the one who was going to make you happy. The silent treatment won’t last forever.”
Kill me now; I was a Twilight novel. “You’re sweet, Chris. It’s good to know I still have one friend here. Where’s Lucius? Is he here?”
“Yes, he’s in Quintus’ office. He asked not to be disturbed, but I know that doesn’t include you. I didn’t think you were joining us for a couple weeks.”
“I decided to surprise him. He isn’t expecting me, but I had a feeling he needed my help.”
“Between me and you, we can use all the help we can get, doll face. You know I love the boss man, but he practically ran this place alone and, with him gone, we’re lost and the learning curve is a steep one.”
I didn’t doubt for one second that was true. Quintus was a control freak; he had the energy, brilliance, and the experience to run things almost by himself. That was now biting his own people and the Seattle/Vancouver area in the ass. Killian would have been able to help with Seattle, but that certainly wasn’t an option.
“I promise I’ll do whatever I can to help out.”
“Just cheer up the big guy. He’s been growling and snarling at everyone.”
He continued on his way and I headed to Quintus’ office. My heart started to race and I had to slow myself down before I broke into a run. I felt like a giddy schoolgirl and I swear I almost giggled. My hand shook as I reached for the doorknob.
Walking in, the smile fell from my face. What I saw punched me in the gut and I had to hold on to the door to steady myself. I had pictured my lover sitting behind the desk, working away. Instead, Lucius was sitting on the couch and next to him – and by that, I mean glued to his hip and draped over him like a second skin – was the most stunning woman I had ever laid eyes on. Her flawless café latte skin was on display in a pair of tight shorts and a skimpy tank top. Straight, shiny black hair and bangs were a perfect frame for her amber eyes and plump lips.
His posture was open and comfortable. They knew each other; he was relaxed. She looked up first, barely glancing at me before turning back to Lucius. “Our food is here, Luca. Let’s eat. I’m starving.” She gave him a pat on his knee and leaned into him. I felt my heart being squeezed.
I couldn’t hear if she said anything else. My mind was racing. Our food. Vampires could drink from a human and make it no more exciting than eating a sandwich, but when they wanted to, they could satisfy other hungers as well. The feeling could be better than even the most mind-blowing sex. I could only imagine what it would be like for two vampires to drink from the same human.
I felt panic and tears threatening to surface. I choked them down, not wanting to give them the satisfaction. That schoolyard fear came back to me. I wasn’t good enough. He had finally seen that. It was a feeling that had been buried deep down. It didn’t come from my parents, it didn’t come from some psychological trauma. I was born with it. A fear that one day the people I loved wouldn’t love me back. I wanted to run from the room and throw up all over the driveway, but my second choice was going to have to do. With a smile pasted across my face, I stood my ground and waited for my boyfriend to notice I was there.
Lucius wore a puzzled look, which turned into a beaming smile. “Goldilocks, what are you doing here?”
I was in his arms before I could blink, leaving the mystery woman with only air to cling to. My hands laced around his neck as he swung me around. Filling myself with his touch, his smell, I tried to calm down. He gave me a brief peck on the lips. It felt like a slight, but I knew my perception of events was being skewed right now by the green-eyed monster.
“What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you for at least two weeks.” He sounded so happy to see me. After what I had just seen, it made me want to do something extremely violent.
I was angry, hurt, jealous, and a thousand other things, but under it all, I was so happy to see him. It was just muted by everything else. “You sounded stressed on the phone and I wanted to come help.”
The long-legged slut, I mean, woman, rose up and glided across the floor. “I guess this isn’t lunch, then?” She looked at me like she still considered me on the menu.
“No, sorry. Cassandra, this is Ysabelle. Ysabelle, this is Cassandra.”
“Nice to meet you, Cassandra.” Her face didn’t look like it was nice to meet me.
“Nice to meet you, Ysabelle.” Neither of us made a move to shake hands, not even a fist bump.
“Ysabelle is an old friend. Quintus and I have known her for a very long time. I was at the end of my rope between running the territory and trying to find Quintus, so I called her to co-ordinate the search. She knows him almost as well as I do. If anyone can find my sire, she can.” Oh good, an old friend he depends on in a crisis. The only way it could be better was if she had big boobs. Oh wait. Nope, it really couldn’t get any better.
“Do you have any leads?”
She flipped her silky tresses over her shoulder. “Nothing concrete, but I haven’t been at it very long. I’ll find him. I always do. Don’t I, Luca?” What was with the Luca? Gag.
She had a slight Italian accent and it made everything sound like sex on a stick. “You haven’t failed me yet, Bella.”
They have nicknames for each other; how sweet. “Has Quintus gone missing before?’
“Missing, no, but when we’ve gone our separate ways, I could always count on Bella to help me find him when I wanted to get in touch.”
“I’ve found you a time or two as well.” She flipped back her head, a melodic titter tinkling the air. Not the loud guffaw I was famous for. Her hand touched his arm and she looked up at him with doe eyes.
“Yes, you have.” He looked down at her with a warm smile. Things in the emotional department just got a whole lot easier. White-hot anger threatened to boil over at any minute. I was clenching my jaw so tight, my teeth threatened to crack.
“Well, I’m sure you two want to catch up. I have a few leads I want to follow up on. Hopefully, I’ll have news for you soon, Luca.” She hugged him, kissed both cheeks, smiled, and left the room. What? I don’t get a kiss?
When she shut the door, Lucius tried to pull me into his arms, but for some reason, I was resistant. “Cass?”
He started laughing. There was no respect for rage-filled women these days. “Are you jealous?”
“Jealous of who? Sophia Loren? Of course not. Why on earth would I be jealous of someone who looks like her, hanging all over you like a second skin, calling you Luca, and thinking that all I am is a tasty snack.” Well, maybe I was a little jealous.
I knew the minute he saw I was hurt and not sharing his joke. “Jesus, Cass, please don’t do this. You’re the only woman for me. Quintus and I have been friends with Bella for almost 600 years.”
“Friends?” My voice caught in my throat, leaving part of the word unsaid.
He paused a second too long. “No, more than that. We’ve been lovers, but that was a long time ago. Hundreds of years ago. We’ve been just friends for a long time. Bella is a free spirit. She doesn’t like to stay in one place too long. Bella isn’t someone I would want to spend my life with.”
“Okay.” Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t cheat on me, but he had called her and asked for help. He hadn’t asked me and that was what truly felt like a betrayal. I should have been the one he relied on for help. “I’m glad you were honest. Were you really going to share a meal with her?”
“No, I respect what we have too much for that. I’ve been having a hard time eating lately. Little sips here and there, but no one tastes as good as a certain jealous blond I know.”
I felt silly for being jealous. Well, not silly – that woman was sex on heels – but I knew Lucius was mine and only mine. I should have never questioned that. “You should eat soon then.” I leaned into him, tilting my head to expose my neck.
His chest began to vibrate. “Sorry, babe, I have to take this. It’s the emergency line.”
He fished a cheap cell phone out of his pocket and answered. “Liam, calm down and talk a little slower…Are you sure?...Okay, I’ll be right there. Who tipped you off?” He was growing redder and redder, anger distorting his face.
“I’m not a fucking idiot. I know this isn’t good. You want to tell me anything else, Einstein? Fuck.” He threw the phone across the room and it shattered into a million pieces.
“Lucius?” I had seen him angry before, but not like this.
He looked defeated. Running his big hand through his hair, he shook his head in resignation. “I have to go, Cass. I need to take care of something. Why don’t you settle in and I’ll be back soon.”
“No way; I’m coming with you. Something big is going on and I haven’t been kept in the loop. That’s going to stop.”
“I… I don’t think…this isn’t exactly legal, babe.”
“Lucius, no more games. On the phone, you acted like everything was going well. I need to know what goes on here. I need to understand your life. If we’re going to be together, then no secrets.”
We stared at each other in silence. If he thought I was changing my mind, we were going to be here for a very long time. “Fine, let’s go. I know better than to argue with you once you make up your mind.”
Blood and Revenge is available for preorder and will be released on May 14th.