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Authors: Tracy Cooper-Posey

Tags: #romance

Bannockburn Binding (Beloved Bloody Time) (10 page)

BOOK: Bannockburn Binding (Beloved Bloody Time)
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“We hope,” Nayara agreed. She looked at Brenden. “What about Ophelia?”

“Don’t be daft!” Brenden snapped. “She’s rather stake herself out on the Sahara with her eyes glued open.”

“She’s Ezra’s twin sister,” Nayara said. “If he’s in trouble she’ll help and I know she’s been to that time before. She knows the marker. Bring her in.”

“She’s not even an active traveller anymore and besides, she’ll blame me for all this.” Brenden scowled even harder.

“Do it now, Brenden,” Ryan said quietly.

“Alright, already.” Brenden strode across the department, heading for his office, while the others working in the room quickly ducked their heads and looked busy. None of them wanted to draw his attention right now.

His office door slammed shut long before the automatic opener could do it for him.

“Why send in someone right now?” Ryan asked Nayara. “Ezra has been gone how long?”

“Nearly two weeks. He’s a day overdue, but it’s not like Natália’s situation. Ezra has been working continuously for nearly six months. He hasn’t had a chance to feed and he was tired when he took this client. The client insisted on going right now and paid a big bonus to get his way.”

“A day overdue becomes a concern. I agree.” Ryan glanced at Brenden’s office, where the big man was talking to his phone, his face red with frustration. “Let’s hope Ophelia can pause long enough from castrating Brenden to come and help me.”

“You?” Nayara’s green eyes widened alarmingly. “No, Ryan. I forbid it. You haven’t travelled in nearly fifty years, you’ve never done Paris, you don’t even speak the language….” She hesitated. “Or do you have French tucked up your sleeve, too?”


Je parle français assez bien au passage
, Nayara.” He frowned. “What do you mean by ‘too’?”

She sighed. “Of course you would know French. Christian rattled off what I can only assume was medieval Scots without pausing for thought.”

“Naturally,” Ryan replied. “Tally taught him.”

“Oh.” Nayara could find nothing else to say.

Ryan gave her a small smile. “Ophelia will go with me,” he continued. “She has the marker and if Ezra is in trouble, it might take two of us to get him home.”

“You shouldn’t be travelling, Ryan. You’re the president of the agency. You’re needed here.”

He waved at the board. “Who else can go?” he asked reasonably. “Everyone is already travelling, not rested enough, or doesn’t know the time and place well enough to pass. I have at least been there.”

Nayara cast around for an answer, but could find none. She scowled. “At least come back on time,” she told him. “I don’t want to have to send more good people after you.”

Ryan grinned. “You mean you wouldn’t come after me yourself, Nia?”

Her breath caught. It had been years since Ryan had used the short form of her name. The last time…the last time…

The memory leapt into her mind, clear and fresh as if it had just happened. A sense/vision of Ryan’s hard body pressed against hers, holding her against a cold wall. Shielding her, while dark shadows moved amongst the inky black of a darker night. The vampire patrols that had been a part of the early Censure years had created more fear amongst humankind than vampires ever had…and more misery and true death for vampires, too. “They caught me by surprise,” she had whispered to Ryan, by way of apology.

“Beidh mé
i gcónaí
anseo
ar do shon
,
mo
Nia
álainn,
” he had murmured, turning her face into his chest to hide its paleness from the patrolling censure enforcers.

Nayara hadn’t understood his whispered words then, but she had memorized them. It had only taken a year to learn Irish and what a vampire learns they never forgot.

“I will always be here for you, my lovely Nia.”

But Ryan never again used
Salathiel’s
name for her…until now.

Nayara held out her hand. “Ryan…don’t go.”

He hesitated. She could see him pause. His gaze roamed over her face, as if he were trying to unearth something hidden to him. Then it fell to her throat and away. “Ezra needs help,” Ryan said shortly. “I’ll be back when he’s safe.” He turned and walked away, heading for the wardrobe compartment.

* * * * *

 

Sitting high enough to be occasionally hidden by clouds and tucked deep inside a fold of the Scottish highlands, the half-built remains had the virtue of being one of the most remote in Scotland. The stone construction had begun life as a monastery, but the building had never been completed. The good brothers had abandoned it in favour of a site in northern England, where the politics were more stable.

It was here that Rob’s woman and unborn babe were brought and it was here that Rob was truly acquainted with the facts of Natália’s life.

It began with the building. There was an extended cellar system in place and some solid rooms above it. In the most distant and hardest to reach cellar, Christian had planted a device that wrote figures in light, marking time. The concept of tracking actual minutes and hours was novel enough to Rob, let alone the device that marked it.

“There is a lot you are going to have to simply accept,” Christian had told him in his clear and proper Scots. “Natália doesn’t have time for us to be coy or discreet. Besides, the things you will experience in the next few months would take more than your lifetime to explain, anyway.”

The novelty of the atomic clock, as Christian had named it, swiftly fled as people began appearing out of that cellar. More and more of them, carrying equipment that Rob could not begin to name…until he spotted a hammer amongst the more bizarre tools.

In two days the modern construction crew had built a solid roof over the half-built rooms above the cellars. It had the virtue of looking authentic to Rob’s eyes, but was utterly waterproof. “And likely to outlast the stone it’s protecting,” Christian said, translating the words of the head of the building crew, as the man had assessed his work with evident satisfaction.

The work crew had wended their way into a different cellar after that and not returned. In their place came more of Natália’s people. These ones she knew and welcomed as friends in her strange tongue, her face lighting with happiness.

That had given Rob pause. He’d barely spared thought for Natália’s people even when he’d thought them to be folk of his own time. Natália was simply there. His.

But these men and women all greeted her in genuine friendship.

“These people are my family, Rob,” she told him. “They are not kin the way you measure it, but we have lived and worked together for many years. They would have happily paid your ransom, if they had known about it.”

Natália’s people began to furnish the rooms and cellars with luxuries beyond Rob’s wildest imagination. The rooms were cleaned to the point of sterility and turned into soft, well-lit, warm cocoons completely sheltered from the weather outside.

“This is how you live, in your time?” Rob asked, looking at the long table that was being prepared for a meal. There was enough food to feed a family of four for nearly a month.

“Not exactly,” Natália said and hesitated.

“What is it?”

Natália glanced at Christian, who had paused from his activities in the kitchen area to study them both. He had heard the question, too. Rob’s heart began to race, for there was pity in Christian’s glance.

“What is it ye keep from me?” he demanded of Natália.

She laid her warm, small hand on his cheek. “Rob, my love, I hold very little back from you and what I do is for very good reasons. But there is so much to tell you. So very much to tell and so little time, that I must pick and choose amongst a thousand facts. I…don’t know where to start.”

He caught her hand in his and held it. “Then start with this. Tell me why this is not how you live at home.”

Her eyes glistened with tears. “This is my home. For now.”

“Tell me,” he insisted.

Christian spoke quickly in their native tongue. But Rob had been listening carefully for many days now and caught a few words he knew. They were enough to alarm him.

“Why should I be afraid of Natália?” he demanded.

Again, the two of them glanced at each other.

Christian put down the knife he had been using to chop the strange food he called vegetables, yet were unlike any such vegetables Rob had ever seen. “I didn’t say you would be afraid. I said you had no reason to be afraid of us, because you have never heard of vampires and don’t know their history.”

“You are…vampires?”

“Not here,” Natália said swiftly, reassuringly. “Here in this time, we are very human.”

He laid his hand on her belly, which even now was beginning to round out. “You can be naught else,” he said roughly.

Abruptly, the tears in her eyes swelled and rolled down her cheeks. “So much to explain,” she whispered.

The words were hard to say, but Rob forced himself to them. “Ye are scaring me, Tally.”

She brushed her tears away and took a breath. “Damn, but I seem to weep at the drop of a hat.”

“The babe does that,” Rob said with calm authority, even though his heart was pounding. “Please, Tally. Explain to me why I bargained with my cousin for a release from his army and brought you to this place where no other man will ever venture? Why should ‘vampire’ fill me with fear?”

She took a deep breath. “I will tell you.” And she did.

Christian continued to prepare the meal he was making. He did not seem to find the chore a demeaning one unfit for a man. He seemed more adept at handling food than Tally, whom Rob thought would have had more practice.

As Tally told her tale, Christian occasionally interjected with comments and observations, or to supply facts as Tally needed them, as she painted for Rob a most incredible fairy tale…only this one was true. Rob knew it was true because he had seen, more than once now, Christian’s ability to move through space. He knew, too, that Christian and Tally could talk to each other with their minds, although they found it tiring to do so.

If those things were true, then the fairy tale about vampires must surely be true.

Just as the facts about their future home had to be true. Rob had seen people come and go from nowhere in the cellars and the degree of comfort and luxury in these rooms spoke of science and knowledge far, far beyond anything known in his world.

It had to be true, then. Vampires, these creatures that mankind would come to know and dread, really existed. Christian and Tally were both vampires.

“It is because we are vampire that we can travel through time” Tally explained. “We have such long memories, you see. And it is because our memories are so perfect, that we can remember a time in our past well enough to jump back to it. Humans have imperfect memories.”

“And such short ones,” Christian added.

“How long a memory do ye have?” Rob asked. “How old are ye?”

Tally pressed her lips together. Then she sighed. “Using the calendar you know, Rob, I was born in 1695, in a country called Romania, far to the east of here.”

Rob looked at Christian.

“1859,” Christian said. “The country where I was born doesn’t exist right now.”

Rob drew in a breath and wasn’t surprised to find he was trembling. “That doesn’t tell me how old ye are.”

“I’m as old as you are,” Christian said. “I was made when I was twenty-eight. I figure you’re about that age, too.”

“I’m older than ye, but not by much,” Rob said. “And only if we’re counting human years. Ye’ve lived more years than that, though, haven’t ye?”

“If you want to call it living,” Christian replied, putting down the knife.

“Lee,” Tally said softly. “Not now.”

Rob looked at the both of them, puzzling it out. “Then there’s a downside to living forever. I suspected it would come at a price.”

“Oh yes, there’s a price,” Christian agreed, his voice low and harsh.

Tally stood up. “Enough,” she said sharply. “Lee, finish the meal. Rob, I’d like to take a walk.”

Rob stood, too. “No,” he flatly. “Tell me the rest. Tell me what it is that is worrying you, Tally. What is it about your nature that sends you into a panic every time you think about it?”

She shook her head, her face pale. “Not now. Please, Rob.”

“You won’t put him off now, Tally,” Christian said, his voice back to its soft-spoken norm. “He’s suspicious. And he’s dogged.”

Rob turned to Christian. “So ye tell me what Tally will not.”

Christian put the knife down again. “Tally’s baby. Your baby. It must go back with us once it is born. But it will have Tally’s vampire blood…her symbiot…in its veins.”

Rob frowned at the odd words and strange concepts and Christian held up his hand. “You must learn a thousand years of biology as you go, Rob.”

Rob nodded. “This—symbiot—is what makes you vampire?”

“Yes. When we come back in time, it goes into stasis. It goes to sleep. And we become human again.” Christian held out his hand where a small nick showed red. “We bleed and can be killed, just like a human. Tally can get pregnant, just like a human. Human babies, when they are born, carry their mother’s blood for the first few weeks, before they start to create their own.”

BOOK: Bannockburn Binding (Beloved Bloody Time)
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