Authors: Catherine Peace
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Vampires, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #A 1 Night Stand Story
She tried to picture him as a young child. The best summation she had came from watching
in school. Knickers, suspenders over a plaid shirt, and that adorable newsboy cap. Looking at him now…nope. The T-shirt and jeans had suited him just fine.
“Marguerite understood. She said she couldn’t give me the sun, but she could give me so much more. She rattled off a few things—eternal youth, cunning, speed—but when she told me how strong I would be, I started listening. And the more I listened, the more I liked. And the more I liked, the more I started to love it. I wanted that strength. If I’d had it on the ship, perhaps I could have saved my crew. If I took Marguerite’s gift, I would be able to prevent a similar or worse tragedy.” His voice cut out, sounding deflated. Defeated. Because he’d failed to do exactly that twenty years ago.
“She promised to teach me to control my urges, to hunt animals.” The words were strained, almost loathing. If possible, he stilled further. “It sounds so cliché now, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
“It’s not cliché, it’s admirable.”
With a shrug, he said, “Maybe. But all that changed with Willem’s arrival.”
Moira shivered. Kiernan hugged her closer.
“He challenged Marguerite for me. She accepted. In order to keep me alive should the worst happen, I had to drink from him; his blood would preserve me, and with her death, bind me to him.” He paused. “The worst happened.”
From his tone, she realized Willem had killed Marguerite, just like the bastard had killed her parents.
“Willem took me into his coven. Forced me to feed on humans. He had a brothel set up, humans willing to let us feed on them, use them however we wanted. Marguerite had ruined me, he’d said, weakened me, but he could teach me the true purpose of my change, teach me to use my gifts. I didn’t know what he meant until….”
She shuddered. “Until he butchered my parents. Right.”
“After that night, I….” He stopped again.
His muscles tensed; the unwillingness to continue his story turning him to stone. She stroked his hard chest with her fingertips and warmed at the ripple that went through him.
He placed his hand over hers. “I kept watch over you and ensured neither he nor any other vampire came near you.”
A pang tore at Moira’s heart. Brief memories of hisses and screams flashed across her mind. The Dufresnes had claimed bobcats were fighting over territory in the woods behind the house, but now…. “You fought them off.”
“Why?” Her heart pounded in her ears. He lay still but if she couldn’t keep her heart rate down, would he strike? Would he control his urges?
Inhaling, he squeezed her hand. “Because I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you.”
Her heart almost stopped. Her mind screamed to run, that this guy was nuts, but she believed him. For the first time in a long time, she believed someone with everything she had. Tears trickled onto her lover’s chest. Her lover. Her guardian.
“Humans…their blood….” He shook his head. “It’s difficult to explain. It’s almost musical to us. That song is the allure, and some vampires keep killing just to hear the music. It’s the one joy they cling to.”
“Does mine do that?”
With a smile, Kiernan kissed her hand. “Yours is the most beautiful melody I’ve ever heard.”
Warmth flooded her. “So what about Willem? Did he come after me?”
“A few times. I kept him at bay but could never deliver a killing blow. When he did stop coming around, I refused to trust my good fortune.”
She stiffened. “What did you do?”
“I hadn’t seen him in months, but the moment I believed you safe, he’d strike, and I’d lose you for certain. So I chose instead to hunt him down. End all of it. But I had to survive. I had to keep protecting you.”
A thousand questions assaulted her, all variations of
, but she wouldn’t interrupt his story. Sounded like he needed to say it as much as she needed to hear it.
“Even after I broke from the coven and started watching over you, his blood tried to force me back into the fold. My body burned with the strain of ignoring his calls. After months of ignoring him, I finally answered and found him at his favorite club.”
“Is it bad that I’m imagining some bordello or something?”
Kiernan shook his head, a weak smile playing on his lips. The first real bit of emotion he’d shown since starting his story. “It wouldn’t be far from the truth.”
. “Keep talking,” she said, though she wondered if she really wanted to know the rest.
The smile faded. “He was waiting for me that night, sitting alone at one of his shadowed tables, watching the other vampires toy with their human companions. When I sat down, he didn’t look at me, just stared past me at the mass of writhing bodies. His progeny. All as cruel and twisted as he.”
He nodded, as though he had more to say. She debated prodding him for more information, like
why the hell
someone would be okay with Willem creating more vampires in his image, what the hierarchy was, if the obscene amount of vampire novels in bookstores had any accuracy at all, but the faraway look on his face stopped her. Pulling him out of the memory now would make it that much more difficult to start again. He deserved to tell his side of the story.
“He’d always been able to read me,” Kiernan continued. “No matter how I tried to mask my emotions or intentions, I became an open book in his presence. ‘I knew this day would come,’ he said. ‘You were never meant to be a true vampire.’ He sounded hurt and disappointed, like a parent whose child had never quite measured up. ‘I should have destroyed you when I destroyed Marguerite.’”
“He challenged me. The other vampires stopped moving, and I think the music may have died then. Everything faded away until Willem struck.”
A shudder passed through him. Should he keep going or should she stop him now? She could imagine the rest.
“I needed him dead to make sure you stayed safe. By the time I killed him, the club looked like two rabid tigers had gone to war within it.” Another long pause. “There is no easy way to say this—in killing Willem, I killed the entire coven. The ashes of Willem’s progeny covered the floor. I survived because Willem was not my maker. Marguerite’s blood had created me, and it protected me.”
Sitting up, Moira looked at her new hero. He faced straight ahead, eyes still closed. She traced the line of his jaw with her index finger. “You’ve been through so much.” Emotion choked her voice. “For me. I can’t understand it.”
He turned toward her. His weary eyes looked her over. Retelling the ordeal seemed to have aged him. “Neither can I. But you’re the first thing that’s mattered since my transformation. To lose you would be to lose myself.” He threaded his fingers through her hair and kissed her.
She nearly melted into a puddle. His kiss was the kiss of someone who loved her. Desire pooled in her belly and spread lower as she opened her mouth to him. Just one kiss, and she burned for him, ready and willing to give him everything she had.
She needed him inside her, filling her. Grabbing his erection, she maneuvered her body until he brushed her opening.
He gasped then knelt between her thighs, dragging her to him, lifting her so she sat astride him, face-to-face.
Chest heaving, she wrapped her legs around his waist. He kissed her again, stroking her tongue with his.
Hours earlier, he’d been a stranger, someone she’d feared, but with his arms enfolding her in protection and affection, she couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.
She’d found perfection, but it wouldn’t last. She would continue to age while he looked as youthful and beautiful as he did now. Kissing his neck, she ran her hand over his chest and smiled when he shifted and held her tighter.
“Did it hurt?” she murmured.
“Being changed.” She nibbled along his jaw, seeking his lips.
When he stiffened, she gave up her search and leaned back to see his face. His eyes were closed, mouth in a taut line. Maybe he didn’t want to remember. Maybe she shouldn’t have asked.
Minutes passed before he spoke again. The grandfather clock in the main room ticked in rhythm with her pulse, one second for every two beats.
“It was hell.” In the dim lighting, pain flickered in his eyes, dulling them for a moment. “And it’s a hell I would never wish on you.”
“Even though I’ll die? Even though you’ll have to watch it happen, someday?” She placed her hands on either side of his face, ensuring he couldn’t look away. “I have spent two decades living in fear. Living in denial. I’ve never been in love until now. Tonight. With you. You can’t deny what’s between us. What’s here.”
“I never have. What would you suggest?”
Good question. As it was, they were incompatible in the most important way—longevity. But with all the old fears giving way to new ones, what could they do?
Then it dawned on her. “Change me,” she said before she lost her nerve.
“You don’t know what you’re asking.” He lowered her hands. “I’ve kept you safe all this time, and you want me to make you what you hate? I can’t do that to you.”
“I hated one vampire. And if you did it, you wouldn’t have to keep me safe. We’d be together. I’d be as strong as you.”
“One night, and you’re willing to throw away your life for me?”
“One night, and I’m finally willing to start my life. I’m yours, Kiernan, now more than ever.”
“You’re certain?” Kiernan glanced at the clock. One hour before sunrise.
Moira nodded, her hazel eyes glowing in the minimal light.
“What about your friends?”
“This isn’t about my friends. This is about me. And you. And us.”
“You’ll never see the sun again.”
“I work in a lab from sunrise to sunset. I don’t see the sun now. Besides, I’m Irish. We don’t do sunshine.”
“You can’t have chocolate or meat. No coffee, no tea, no soda.”
She winced. Food always made his point for him, since humans could never imagine living without their favorite treats. She pursed her lips while she considered everything she’d miss out on. Probably thinking about never having a wedding, or babies…. Hell, even getting sick was worth the cost of being human to him. Through illness, a person appreciated the benefits health bestowed on him. Being a vampire took that away, too. He floated through every night like a wraith, lacking fulfillment.
“Eternity is a long time,” he reminded her. “And a vampire’s strength doesn’t guarantee you’ll live forever.”
“It would be worth it to be with you. If it’s just twenty years, it’d be worth it.” She smiled wryly as tears slipped down her cheeks.
“This is a huge decision, and this has been a crazy, wonderful,
night, but I need you to think it over.”
She swallowed and buried her head in his chest, sniffling.
Drawing back, he lifted her chin with his finger so her watery eyes met his. “Moira, I love you.” He wanted her to feel the weight of each word. “I want you forever. I always have. But for your sake, and for mine, please take time to think through your decision. You’ll miss out on so much if you do this.”
“I’ll miss out on even more if I don’t.”
miss out on the possibility of a beautiful life together if he refused to turn her. Still, the other possibility he hated considering lingered. “I could kill you.”
Her eyes widened.
“I mean, the process could kill you, and I—”
“Stop. Just stop there.”
Determination filled her voice. “I know what you’ve been through. Let me tell you what
have been through. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since I was a kid. I have dealt with nightmares in which I relive the attack every single night, and because of those nightmares, I have been
. No one but my best friend even knows about what happened, and I can’t tell anyone else without sounding like a freaking lunatic.” She took a few deep breaths, but even in the darkness, he sensed her trembling. “Maybe to you, it isn’t worth it. But I…I can’t keep living the way I am.” After several minutes of silence, she excused herself, grabbed a robe out of the armoire, and headed into the living room.
Moira beelined to the already-uncorked wine on the counter and poured herself a healthy glass. What the hell had happened? Oh right. She’d confessed her love to someone she’d practically just met and asked him to change her into a vampire.
And he’d said no.
Maybe that’s best
. Settling onto the sofa, she took a long swig of wine and let the alcohol loosen her mind. After all, she’d hated and feared vampires for as long as she could remember, and now she wanted to be one?
But she wanted to be with him. Loving someone meant sacrifices, right? And she’d be more than willing to make those sacrifices if it meant being with the person she loved, the one who’d outlive her otherwise. Willem had brought them together through the worst way imaginable. Tonight, they’d finished forging a bond that couldn’t break, and now they had a chance to build something beautiful on the foundation a vampire with crimson eyes had intended to destroy them both.
This was the way for them to be free of him. For good.
If only Kiernan would understand….
As if on cue, he opened the bedroom door and leaned against the frame, waiting, and something she’d read a long time ago crossed her mind. “It is true that you can’t come in unless invited?”
With a wry smile, he shook his head. “Mere superstition. I’m just being polite.”
Nodding, she patted the empty space next to her. “We need to talk about this.”
“There isn’t anything to discuss.” He joined her, but kept some distance between them. “I cannot do that to you.”
After setting the glass on the coffee table, she angled her body toward him. “I need you to listen to me. I forgive you. I love you and want to be with you, but it’s not feasible if….”
“If I don’t change you.”
“You need to think this over, Moira. I want you to have the choice I didn’t.”