Authors: Lacy Danes
Tags: #Dragons;Vampires;Witches;Historical;Hot Brothers;Strong females
Marcus put the cards back in a stack and walked to the sideboard. He picked up the pitcher of water and three glasses and set them on the table. “This is simple but could prove hard. I simply wish to see where you are and if I can influence your skill.”
Astrid stood up from the table and moved the chair back. She was not about to be restricted by a chair. She wanted this. She could do whatever he asked if she simply tried hard.
She glanced back at Ilmir, who stood next to Ferrous. Her name-day wish was to bring the family back together. She closed her eyes. The image of Ilmir glowing as he touched that woman echoed in her mind. He’d offered her a chance to experience what she’d viewed. Ilmir deserved an answer before she failed or succeeded this night. If she failed, she didn’t want to make a decision out of melancholy. “One moment.” She turned around and went back to Ilmir and Ferrous.
“Is everything well?” Ferrous’s eyebrows rose.
“Quite so. I just need to speak with Ilmir.”
Ferrous stepped away to the table, where Marcus waited with his hands behind his back.
Ilmir leaned against the doorframe. His snow-white hair and beyond-pale skin contrasted against the dark rich eggplant-colored coat. He always wore deep colors that set off his complexion. Striking. “I simply thought you should have an answer before I did this. I have considered your offer, and I don’t know why, but I would like to watch.”
Ilmir’s pale lips curved up, and his blue eyes flashed with the glow that had lit up the room last night. “Watch? My offer was to show you.”
“Correct, to show me as you did last night.”
“And like in the carriage today.”
The carriage had made her lightheaded and giddy. The path his fingers had blazed on her hand tingled anew. She wet her lips.
“Astrid,” Marcus called.
She turned away from Ilmir and walked to the table, focusing on the sensations she’d experienced in the carriage that day. Ferrous stood next to Celeste and Jordan on the other side of the table.
Marcus dug into the pouch on his hip and pulled out a small bottle. He poured three drops of a brown liquid into a glass and added water from a pitcher on the table. He then pulled out another bottle and trickled two drops of a black liquid into the glass before adding water. The third glass he filled to the rim with water alone.
“From the gossip, you have an affinity with the weather. What I am going to see is if you can create weather from water and different kinds of oil.”
“I did not know that was possible.” How would she do that?
“I won’t help. This you need to figure out on your own.”
“Marcus, she does not know the language.” Ferrous fetched a book from across the room and returned to the table. “Give her what she needs.” He set a massive book on the table in front of her.
“All right, you can state the words after me.” Marcus slid the book aside. “Olie til skyer og vand at regne.”
“What does that mean?” Astrid tilted her head to the side.
“Oil to clouds and water to rain,” Ferrous stated from the other side of her.
Astrid concentrated on the tingling sensation she felt while standing on the bluff overlooking the sea. “Olie til skyer og vand at regne.” The energy rushed from her stomach up and out her fingers.
A sphere of lighting formed between her hands.
A huge grin burst to her lips. My! She stared at the water glass.
The water pulled from the glass and wrapped the ball of light she held in her hand.
“Olie til skyer og vand at regne.” The tingling sensation increased to prickles, but nothing happened.
She focused on the water and oil between her hands. “Vind, regn, skyer, luft, kommer til mig.”
The oil rose from the globe and formed dark puffy clouds. They rose to the ceiling. Thunder cracked through the small room and then lightning drew down to the glowing ball in her hands. Rain poured into the glasses set on the table.
She widened her hands, and the ball of light dropped to the floor, disintegrating into small sparkling embers.
Her heart raced, and a smile curved her lips.
She did it. She turned to Marcus. “I did it. I did it.”
“Capital.” He walked toward her and leaned in. “Vi bliver bundet til han løslader dig,” he whispered in a cool breath against her ear.
A chill pricked the back of her neck.
“I will see you at the theater tomorrow.” Marcus turned to Ferrous, Celeste and Jordan. “Good evening.” Astrid watched as he walked out the door of the library. Her brow pulled tight. “Did I do the act wrong?” And where had Ilmir gone?
“That was good, Astrid. You are quite eager.” Ferrous came around the table and wrapped his arms about her. “What did Marcus say to you when he leaned in?”
“I don’t know. The words were in the spell language.”
“Could you repeat?”
“I think so. Vi bliver bundet til… Pardon. I cannot remember the rest.”
“Very well.” Ferrous’s shoulders relaxed “That means ‘we are bound till’. Without knowing the rest, it is hard to say. Possibly his way of bringing you into his fold for sætte i lære.” He walked to the table and wrote down what she stated to him. “You do not have to accept his guidance, Astrid. Think all this through.”
“Thank you, Ferrous. I will.”
“Do you know the words you spoke to make the clouds appear?”
“No. They just flowed out.”
“Vind, regn, skyer, luft, kommer til mig. Wind, rain, clouds, air, occur to me.” He picked up the book he had set on the table. “Read this.”
Ilmir walked to the parlor and flipped open the inkwell. He dipped his quill and then flicked ink on the parchment before him. He wanted Hudson here and with haste.
Odd darkness here in London. Need your opinion. Come with urgency.
If Hudson came, all would be well. Ilmir’s chest tightened, and he blew out a hard breath. In past years, Hudson had tried to kill them all. So why the hell did Ilmir feel this way now? The past didn’t matter—she did.
He walked out of the parlor as Marcus exited the library. Ilmir gritted his teeth and fisted his hands. The damn warlock. His throat tightened, and he cleared the constriction away. He wouldn’t let him have her.
“She is worth the effort.” Marcus took his coat from the butler. The butler retired back toward the kitchen.
“Not from you.” Ilmir stood still and watched Marcus. What was he thinking of doing with her? To her? Ilmir’s right cheek twitched. He had seen others who had an affinity with the weather, but there was something about her power that was pure.
Marcus shrugged into his greatcoat. “Certainly mine.” He buttoned up the front.
“You are not welcome in my home again.” The words blew with the force of a whip that cracked in the air.
A red lash rose on Marcus’s left cheek. A burst of laughter tipped his head back. “I am a weather warlock. You are nothing compared to me. I control all you are. Air. In fact, you and your brother Jordan, the water Zir, are puppets to me. Water and air make a storm. Shall you challenge me again, I will have my way with you.”
Ilmir stared at him. Marcus had spine. “I am immortal and so much more than air. What could you do to me? You are a simple human.” In one powerful punch, Ilmir knocked Marcus in the chin. A loud crunch of bones echoed in the hall. Pain spiked up Ilmir’s wrist and dissipated.
Marcus slid sideways, smashing against the wall. His hand caught between his body and the molding to the sitting room doorframe. He held up his other hand. “Lyn.” A thin line of blue energy streamed from his outstretched palm.
Ilmir punched the bolt midstrike. The light cut straight through his hand.
“Enough!” Jordan rushed down the hall. “What are you doing, Ilmir?”
“I was simply showing our guest out.” He tucked his hand into the pocket of his coat and cringed. The fabric would be destroyed by his blood.
Marcus rolled his eyes. “Certainly.” He clutched his broken paw to his stomach. “I will see you tomorrow evening.” He opened the door with his good hand and stepped over the threshold.
Ilmir slammed the door behind him.
Astrid lingered in the library with Celeste. “It felt strange. Good and strange.” She sat down next to her friend. “Talk. Please.”
Celeste turned toward her. “You are spectacular. I don’t have power like that. I know how much you love your walks in the rain. I never thought there was a reason beyond…well, you being a bit mad.” She beamed at her. “I simply wish you could find someone to make you happy like Jordan does me. Marcus, maybe?”
Astrid grasped Celeste’s small hands. “I don’t need anyone, Celeste. I get all I need from this family. Having this fantastic thing happen for me simply makes me feel more a part of the house I grew up in. I am no longer simply a human who lives among the otherworldly.”
“You have never been that. You are our sister.”
Astrid leaned in and hugged her. “I should get to bed. I am tired from the day.” And she was. She pushed back her chair and headed up the steps to the attic. She rounded the top of the stairs and walked into the guest room.
She stared at the door. If she closed it, Ilmir could walk right by without her hearing. Leaving it open seemed the best way for her to talk to him again this night. She slipped off her shoes and sat down in the small chair that sat beside the bed. She flipped open the book Ferrous had given her to read.
Leaning her head back against the cushion, she stared at the wood beams on the ceiling. She had made it rain from water and oil. She smiled. What would she do next time?
Ilmir stepped into the third-floor hall. A warm glow came from the guest room’s open door. He stepped into the light and peered into the room.
Astrid sat in the yellow chair beside the bed with her head tilted back. A gentle snore came from the space.
His lips curled up. She slept. He turned away and took two steps in the direction of his room. She would be sore in the morning if she slept all night with her head leaning back that way. Not that he should care that she awoke sore, but if he lifted her to the bed, he could feel her body in his arms. After the power he’d just witnessed in her, he needed that. To feel her. To know she was well. Indeed. He would put her to bed.
He walked into the room and then stood staring down at her as she slept. The book of the magic language lay open on her lap. Based on the family’s expectations of her, he half expected to see the page flip on its own. He chuckled to himself.
The page slowly flipped.
He stared at the book. Impossible. She was what they said. Special. Though he always knew that.
He was the outcast. The killer. “All you do is kill and kill and kill.” Her words still made him frown.
He clenched his jaw. He would show her how to have pleasure. He was good at that. For now, he would let her sleep in comfort. He lifted the thick book from her lap and placed it on the gold-and-blue carpet that covered the floor by the chair.
He slipped his arm under her knees and stared at her face. She did not stir from sleep. His heart beat like a drum in his chest. He wanted her to sleep. He needed to be slow, to be gentle. He was good at that too. He slipped his fingers gently behind her neck, then down below her shoulders. He lifted. Firm curves nestled into his arms. For being so small, she was certainly strong…and heavy. Her head leaned against his shoulder. She snorted, then continued to snore.
His lips curved up, and he held in a chuckle.
In slow steps, he turned to the bed. Damn. The covers lay neatly folded down. He should have pulled them back before picking her up. Wind might do, but such an effort would surely wake her.
He walked to the bed and gently placed her head on the pillow and freed his right hand. He then slipped his hand to hold her firm bottom up. Damn, the round swell in his palm was not the distraction he needed at this moment. He concentrated on not squeezing the flesh he so wanted to taste. The blankets. He pushed down the covers and slowly moved his arm to lay her feet down.
He blew out a breath.
“I don’t need a chill.” Her sleepy voice called his attention to her wide-awake face. Damn.
He pulled the covers up over her. “Pardon. I didn’t want to wake you. “
Her eyes narrowed on his fingers wrapped about the blanket, and then to the large gash that Marcus’s magic had caused. “What happened to you?” she asked.
“It is nothing. It will heal by morning time.” He pulled his hand back and shoved it into his pocket.
“How?” She shook her head. “Never mind, that was a mad question. You are a Zir.”
“Zir is not the reason I will heal. I had human blood today.”
She pushed up onto her elbows and stared at him. The muscle in her cheek twitched.
“I guess that rendered you speechless.”
“You killed another woman?”
“This is what I do. You know this.” He did not need to go over this again. His jaw clenched, and he turned and walked toward the door. Her contempt for his behavior angered him. He was air in the hands of a weather witch. He stopped. When had she developed this ability? How had she become a witch? He should have known…and he did not. He needed to understand. He had thought he knew all about her. He turned back to her. “How did you know you had power?”
“I did not know.” She pushed up farther, and the covers slid down to her waist. She turned her head toward the window and then back to face him. “I love the weather and to watch the storms out on the sea. They make me feel energized. I did not know I had powers. I found out when I made my name-day wish.”
“You wished to become a witch?” He walked closer to her.
“No. I wished to bring you back into the fold of this family.”
His lips tuned up, and a gruff laugh burst out of his chest. “Now, that is a jest.” Why would anyone wish such a thing? For him?
“Do you know the vapors you bring to your brothers’ lives?”
So it was not for him, it was for the Zir. “No more than they bring to mine.” He gritted his teeth.
“They have guilt when they bite. You—”
“Enough!” In a quick move, he stood over her in the bed again. He leaned down so he was a mere breath away from her face. His heart pounded in his chest. He cupped her chin in his palm. Velvet skin caressed his fingertips. Damn, he wanted to lie atop her on the mattress—but he would not.
“I am not going to make excuses or tell lies to make you or anyone feel better,” he said in a steely whisper. “I am what I am.” He rubbed his thumb along her cheek until he reached her lower lip. “Not you, me or all the lies in the world will change the monsters that society says we are. All of us are killers. You will soon see that, as you too are part of this world now. ”
“I would never harm anyone.”
For her sake, he hoped not, but things she said never to often arrived… He leaned back and stood straight. “As like last night you would never let me show you, and today you accepted my offer.”
Her cheeks turned a warm pink. “It’s different.”
He nodded. “So it is. As you also accepted the offer of another man.” His jaw clenched.
Her bows pulled together and twitched, then her lips pursed. “I did not accept his offer.”
“Yet.” Though she had not said never to Marcus.
She said nothing.
He should let her sleep with that thought in her mind. Her and Marcus. A chill raced up his spine as he turned to leave. Her book lay beside the bed. He picked it up and handed it to her. “You were reading in your sleep when I came in. You may want to continue with that education.”
She stared at the book in her hand. “Ilmir. Tell me something noble and good about you.”
He sat down in her chair. “I brought you to the Isle.”
“Beyond that. I know that. What are you proud of about yourself?”
He shook his head. What was he thinking, coming into her room and trying to be nice to her? A simpleton he was not, and nothing ever came from being nice…
Well, except for pleasure, and that always ended in death and oblivion.
But this was her, and she asked to know more of him.
He stared at her.
She patiently waited, her slim fingers playing with the frayed edges of the leather book cover. He met her gaze. Her eyebrows rose, and she tilted her head to the side.
His chest tightened. He could tell her. He would. “I have never bitten someone I love.” He actually said that. He rubbed the jade stone on his ring. What would she say?
“You are proud of that?”
He nodded and stared at her. More, give her more. “Loving and killing the one you love is unacceptable. Maddening.”
One side of her mouth tipped up. “I guess it is a good thing you have never been in love, then.” She flipped open the book in her lap but didn’t look down.
He tore his gaze away toward the ceiling, and then directly back to her soul-filled brown eyes and sighed. “I have.”
“I have never seen you with a woman whom you have not killed. When?” She leaned forward on the bed again.
She wanted to know, and she needed to know. “You have hardly seen me with any women at all. It is not as if I bring them to the Isle.”
She nodded. “Very well. Still, when were you in love?” Her tongue darted out and wet her lip. Every movement she made seduced him. She was not graceful. Her movements were practical, strong, purposeful.
He stared at her hands. She continued to fiddle with the book pages. He closed his eyes and tensed his jaw. There was a destiny in this conversation, and no matter how much his brain said it was a bad move, he could not stop now. “With my years, this love is relatively new to me. But in your years, I have been only recently.”
“You are, at this moment, in love?” She disbelieved his words, as he knew she would.
She would trust this even less, and if it were not the truth, he would be enjoying the twistedness in this folly. Instead, his palms itched, and a small trickle of sweat slipped down between his shoulder blades. “Indeed.” He opened his eyes and stared at her huge doe eyes. “With you.”
Astrid’s mouth dropped open, and she shook her head. She could not have heard him right. Or she was still asleep. “Oh, for certain you are.” That was not the truth.
Or was it?
In a smooth, tiger-like stretch, he was on his feet. “I wish you a good night, Astrid.”
It had to be a jest. She would have known if he loved her. “But wait. You cannot say that and then wish me good night. I—need to know more.” She pushed back the covers and threw her feet over the edge of the bed. “I will follow you to your room if you do not sit back down.”
He stared out the window. “There is nothing more say.”
“There has to be.” She stood and walked to him. When she placed her hands on his chest, his heartbeat pounded an intense tempo against her touch. “Please.”
He stared at her lips. Her tongue slipped out and traced them. His finger touched the wet surface of her lip, pulled the plump flesh down, exposing her teeth and tongue, then released. Saliva filled her mouth, and she swallowed hard. She wanted his lips to follow this touch, but now was not the time. The faint scent of lilacs in spring surrounded her.
His ice-blue eyes stared into hers. “You are learning to control air. I can become air. Shall we see if you can pull me back into the room?”
Could she do that? “I do not know where to begin.”
“Look in the book for words that are directions—up, down, left, right, north, south, etc. Also learn grasp, cut, push, come, leave, close, open.”
She turned around and grabbed the book. “So many words.”
“Indeed, but you seem to have a natural ability to learn it. It took me months to master the basics, and I have never been like Ferrous. He can use his powers and the language for anything.”
She flipped open the book. The worn edges and yellowed pages spoke of years of use. If he tried to leave the room as air, what would she need to do? Close the door. Blow the door closed? But with that I may just push him out the door too, or he may slide under the door.
She could swirl the air into one of the circle clouds she saw over the sea and then shut the door and run. Indeed. She would try that. She flipped the pages to C. Circl… Circle
She repeated the word three times in her mind. Then flipped the pages A. Air… Air: Luft.
She repeated the word three times in her mind. Then flipped to W. Wind: Vind. Then B. Blow:
and Breeze: Brise.
She set the book down.
“Are you prepared?” Ilmir stood two paces from her. His head slightly tipped to the side, his shoulder-length, snow-colored hair hung in waves about his angular face. The contrast of the soft curls and the high-peaked cheekbones was startlingly attractive. And then his eyes. The palest of blue gray—unless he was seducing someone.
The vision of his bright blue eyes and glowing skin from the night before tickled her memory. She shivered. Stop thinking of that.
She closed her eyes. Concentrate on the task. Air, come to me. “Luft Kommer til mig,” she stated into the room. Heat bloomed in her core and out through her palms. A burning glow covered her hands; the hair on her scalp tingled. As a clatter came from the direction of the window, she opened her eyes.
The windowpane jiggled and then snapped open. A light breeze blew into the space and against her face.
Ilmir nodded—“Very nice”—then rubbed his ear. His body shimmered and slowly turned translucent, then to purple mist as he disappeared. “Is there more to this, or am I going to leisurely float out into the hallway?” His voice was a whisper in the space.
What did she say next? Air circle? Air swirl? Air contain this space? To be certain, she would say them all. “Luftkreds. Luftstrømhvirvel. Luftfyld og rummer dette område.” Heat scorched her hand once more, and the light breeze that had fluttered in the room slapped against her face. The pages of the book, open before her, flipped and fluttered, then lifted into the air and circled before her. Light burst from her hands and formed a glittering ball between her fingertips. “Let og lukker luft denne dør og tilbagevenden til mig.” Sound burst from her mouth as she thought the words. “Light and air, close the door and return to me.”
A line of pure white energy spun from the ball to the door, and the door swung closed with a loud thud. The light returned to the ball, and with it the wind threw her back with a force that knocked all the air from her lungs.