Authors: Carol Lynne
Neo joined Haig at the window and stared out over the lush green grass. He hated to leave the worried werewolf, but he’d need Michael’s blood if he would be of any use in the search for
and Kern. “I have to leave for a few minutes, but I’ll be back.”
“I won’t wait for you,” Haig replied in a matter of fact tone.
“I wouldn’t expect you to.” Neo stepped away and concentrated on his home. He came back to himself in the study. It took a few moments to clear his head. He briefly wondered where Joseph was. His loyal servant had always seemed to anticipate his arrival.
heart ached when he realised he’d never again be greeted by his friend. Pinching the bridge of his nose to keep his emotions at bay, Neo went in search of Michael. He found him in the kitchen preparing a pot of soup.
With a silent sigh, Neo wrapped his arms around Michael’s waist. “How’re you feeling?”
Michael’s body stiffened. “Okay. Hungry.”
Neo knew firsthand some of the tortures Michael had been subjected to. It would probably take him a while to feel safe again. He wanted to swing Michael up into his arms and carry his beloved to the safety of their bed, but there was still Richard to deal with. “Richard took
Michael gasped and turned to face Neo. “Do you know where?”
“No, but I need some of your blood so I can help Haig and the others search.”
Michael’s expression clouded momentarily before he tilted his head to the side. “Take what you need.”
* * * *
As Michael’s feet ate up the running path, he continued to doubt
true feelings. The only reason Neo had come back to the house was because he needed Michael’s blood, wasn’t it? Neo had barely taken the time to ask Michael how he felt before asking for it. The thing that made him feel really stupid was that he couldn’t bring himself to deny Neo anything. What would happen if he told his mate no? Would Neo still claim to love him?
Michael shook his head and tried to concentrate on his running. He was only on his second lap around the vineyard and already his legs felt like they were on fire. He knew it wasn’t the sun. He’d thoroughly covered himself in
and protective clothing.
Coming up on the tasting barn, Michael slowed. Ramiro had Gunnar locked in the large building until they could satisfy the bloodlust that came with being a newly-turned vampire. Hands on his hips, Michael paced back and forth in front of the building, trying to get his breathing under control.
Before he had a chance to knock, the door opened a crack and Ramiro quickly motioned him inside. Ramiro looked like shit, but then, he’d not been given the chance to recharge his body with sleep.
“How is he?” Michael asked.
“Sleeping, finally,” Ramiro answered, taking a seat at one of the tasting tables.
“Why don’t you do the same? I’ll stick around in case he wakes up.”
Ramiro shook his head. “He’s still in the throes of his transformation. It’ll be days before he can be trusted with anyone. I’m a lot stronger than you are, and even I won’t sleep knowing he could rip my throat out at any moment.”
Although Ramiro had a few lights turned on, the windowless room was still heavily shadowed. Michael searched the perimeter. “Where is he?”
Ramiro gestured towards the far right corner. “I had a mattress brought in. For now, he’s sleeping like a baby, but
a baby, he’s been waking every few hours to feed.”
Michael stood and wiped his hands on his sweat pants. “Can I sit with him?”
Ramiro started to shake his head no, but Michael stopped him. “Please. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”
With a sideways glance, Ramiro shook his head. “If something happens to you, I wouldn’t live to see the sunset.”
Breaking eye contact, Michael bit his lower lip. “I don’t think you have to worry about Neo. He’s too busy searching for Richard to worry about whether I live or die.”
“That’s bullshit. Whatever gave you that idea?” Ramiro asked.
Michael knew he’d come off sounding like a spoilt brat if he voiced his concerns. “Doesn’t matter. Are you going to let me see Gunnar, or not?”
Ramiro looked at his watch before retrieving a large bottle of blood from the shelf. “Just in case he wakes up,” he explained, holding up the bottle.
Michael followed Ramiro to the corner of the room. It took his eyes several moments to adjust to darkness that shrouded Gunnar, but once they did, Michael’s heart nearly broke. The once handsome man could only be described as grotesque. “Will he shift back to the way he looked before?”
Ramiro nodded. “I think so. It generally takes at least a week for a human turned vampire to gain the control necessary to shift back and forth, but I really have no idea how long it will take a shifter turned vampire.” Ramiro narrowed his eyes as he stared down at Gunnar. “Even at this stage, physically, he’s the strongest vampire I’ve ever come across. I’m not sure how, or if, he’ll be able to adapt to his regular life again.”
Michael rubbed a hand across his midriff, trying to ease his tightening stomach. “Are you saying there’s a possibility that he won’t be my friend after this?”
“I don’t know,” Ramiro sighed, running his hands through his thick black hair. “This is foreign territory for all of us.”
Kneeling beside Gunnar, Michael reached out and rested a hand on his friend’s lower leg.
It’s my fault, all of it, Gunnar, Joseph and now Kern and
“I wouldn’t blame him if he never spoke to me again.”
“He’s a trained guard, Michael. We all know going in what we’re signing up for.” Ramiro grinned. “Besides, if you liked the pig-headed asshole before he was changed, odds are you’ll like him regardless.”
Michael nodded. Gunnar and Ramiro had butted heads since the first night they’d met. Michael had suspected the two men were too much alike to actually become friends, so why was Ramiro the one to take charge of Gunnar’s transition? “If you dislike him so much, why are you sitting with him?”
Ramiro chuckled. “Because there isn’t anyone else available that can control him.” Ramiro shrugged his heavily muscled shoulders. “Besides, we now have a common bond that will always be present.”
“Being vampires?” Michael asked.
vampires,” Ramiro corrected. “Francois was my sire.”
The news shocked Michael. He wondered if Ramiro had endured the same torture as Neo. “How did you escape?”
Ramiro shook his head. “Doesn’t matter, it was a long time ago. The important thing is seeing Gunnar come out of this with his mind intact. As you’ve witnessed firsthand, not all vampires are sane.”
helped me,” Michael felt compelled to say.
case it wasn’t a weak mind that held him captive, but a weak body. You must have strength in both areas to break away from a coven as strong as
When Gunnar’s leg twitched, Michael quickly pulled back his hand. “I think it’s time to eat.”
“You should go,” Ramiro said, uncorking the bottle.
Michael got to his feet. “Will you let me know when I can visit him?”
“Yes. I’ll let you know either way. If he doesn’t come out of this…” Ramiro broke eye contact and stared down at Gunnar for several moments. “I’ll let you know.”
Michael left the tasting barn with a heavy heart that no amount of running would fix. He started back towards the house as tired and unsure as he’d ever been.
* * * *
By the time Neo caught up with Haig, the were guards had circled the chalet and were fanning their search outward. “Anything?” Neo asked Haig.
Haig stopped and pointed towards a circular statue garden on the lawn. “I can smell
and Richard. I just haven’t been able to find the entrance.”
“What about Kern?”
Haig rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I don’t know. I can smell him, but I can’t feel him like I should be able to.” Haig sighed. “He may not be down there. Could be what I’m smelling is his scent on
Although Haig seemed calm, Neo didn’t think it was the time to bring up the likelihood that Richard was in control of Kern’s mind and body. For the moment, Neo decided to concentrate on finding them. “I know the rooms inside were searched but did anyone bother looking for a secret passage?”
“Fuck! I assumed the vamps would’ve picked up on one, but now that I think about it, they were in a pretty big hurry to get out of here before sunrise.” Haig turned on his heels and began running back towards the chalet.
Neo beat him there, and began searching the rooms closest to the alcove, in the direction of the blood drops. He heard a noise behind him and turned. With tears in his eyes, Haig shifted into his wolf. The tawny-coloured wolf began smelling
blood, going as far as to dip his tongue into the biggest of the congealing pools.
Neo gasped at the action. He’d been around
most of his life and knew what the taste of blood did to a wolf. Haig was so desperate to find his mate he’d just bonded himself to
. Through the blood bond, as it was called, Haig would be able to track
. Although it didn’t mean the two of them were mated, Haig would always have a connection to
. In nature, a
would be able to track a kill that managed to escape alive, thus ending the prey’s torture. Which meant the bond Haig had just established could only be broken by
death, something Neo refused to let happen.
Neo glared at the wolf. “You hurt him and I’ll have your head.”
Haig broke eye contact and began smelling his way across the highly polished marble floor. He stopped at a door and scratched at the floor several times before looking back at Neo.
“I’ve already looked in there,” Neo said, opening the walk-in coat closet.
Haig pushed past Neo and started scratching at the far wall. Neo elbowed the wolf out of the way and pushed against the wall to no avail. He began looking for a lever, something that would trip whatever switch had been used to seal the door shut. A quick twist of the hangar-bar and the entire back wall slid back, revealing a staircase off to the side. Unlike the dungeon, the hidden passage was obviously a new construction.
“What’re you waiting for, let’s go,” Haig said from behind Neo.
Before descending the stairs, Neo turned to address Haig. “I meant what I said.”
“I know you did, but if
done something to Kern, nothing you can do to me will stop me from killing him.”
done something to Kern, I’ll kill him myself and give you the carcass as a chew toy,” Neo answered honestly.
They made their way through the passageway, finally coming to a large round room. Three bodies lay sleeping on the packed dirt. Neo took in the scene before him. Kern and
were both nude, sleeping on their stomachs.
Haig took a step towards Kern. “Even in sleep I should be able to feel him.” Haig glanced towards Richard, sleeping peacefully on his back. “What did he do to him?”
Neo withdrew his sword and moved to stand over Richard. The smug bastard was asleep with a satisfied smile on his face. Neo took a moment to study the chamber. Lined with sheets of iron there was no doubt Richard believed he would never be detected in his underground hideout.
“I think Kern’s being controlled by Richard,” Neo explained. Part of him hoped Richard would open his eyes and see the sword coming down upon him, but it wasn’t the time to push fate.
“Over,” Neo said as he removed Richard’s head with one swift blow. He cleaned his bloody sword on Richard’s pristine white dress shirt before sheathing it. “You should be able to wake Kern now.”
When he received no reply, Neo glanced up from Richard’s body. “Haig?”
Instead of waking his mate, Haig was leaning over
“Don’t do it,” Neo warned.
Haig shook his head and pointed towards the smaller man. “Do you see what I see?”
Neo stepped over Richard’s corpse. The first thing he noticed was the dried sperm on the back of
thigh, but that wasn’t what held Haig’s interest.
attention moved to follow Haig’s gaze and felt his heart sink.
It was obvious Kern had mated
Haig took several steps back, away from Kern and
. “How could he have done that?”
The expression on Haig’s face telegraphed the hurt going on inside of him. Neo rushed to reassure Haig. “It wasn’t Kern. You have to believe that. We both know he’d never have gone with Richard without being charmed.”
When Haig refused to acknowledge him, Neo was left with no choice but to reach out and shake the heavily muscled guard. “You can’t blame him. You can’t let this destroy all the years you’ve loved each other.”