There were clothes on the end of the bed when Rayna woke, including under-things. She raised an eyebrow as she picked up the panties and bra. Black lace and see through. Surprisingly, they were her size and not so skimpy they would be uncomfortable to wear. Jeans, a royal blue shirt, and socks were also there. Beside the clothes was a bag that held toiletries and a perfume that smelled faintly of flowers.
She didn’t want to even think about who picked out the clothes, especially the black lacy things, and dressed quickly, brushed her hair and teeth, slipped on her shoes and walked out of her room. She glanced at the door as she pulled it shut behind her. She was sure she’d locked it before she’d lain down. She shrugged her shoulders before heading down the hall.
The smell of food drew her to the kitchen and the man who had driven the SUV the day before was by the stove, cooking. He turned to look at her and motioned to the table with a nod of his head.
Sabriel was there, reading a newspaper and sipping something from a cup. He was dressed casually again and the scene looked so domestic she almost laughed. Seeing a vampire doing things that seemed so normal wasn’t what she expected.
He must have sensed her presence for he turned and smiled at her. “Good morning… well, evening, I should say. Please, have a seat. Luther will have your breakfast ready in a few more minutes.”
Rayna looked at the table, noticing then there was another place setting beside her own and it wasn’t sitting in front of Sabriel. “Are you expecting company?”
“We are.” He sat his newspaper aside and stood, pulling out the chair next to him and waited for her.
She sighed and debated on not cooperating. Her stomach didn’t give her much choice, though. It growled, loudly, and her cheeks heated before she walked to the table and sat down. “Thanks,” she said, quietly, as Sabriel slid the chair under her.
A soft, “you’re welcome,” followed before he once again took his own seat. “Did you sleep well?”
“As well as could be expected after being kidnapped and taken to only god knows where.”
Rayna cut him a quick look when he replied. New York? Her pulse raced all of a sudden. They were close to Bluff’s Point. Well, depending on where in New York they were, but she was still close. If she could make her way home, she’d at least be among people she knew and could get back to Wolf’s Creek and back to Garrett. She hoped her face didn’t reflect what she was thinking. “What are we doing here?”
Sabriel smiled and picked up his cup. “Waiting.”
“So you’re not running the show, then?”
He looked at her, his eyes full of amusement. “No, Ms. Ford. I’m just one of many.”
“You’re a member of this Collective?”
He nodded his head. “Yes. Most of the Breed leaders are.”
So Sabriel was a Breed Leader. She wanted to question him what exactly Breed leaders did, and what gave them the distinction, but finding out who these people were seemed more important. “And how many Breed leaders are there in the Collective? Are they just wolves and vamps or can any creature play along?”
Sabriel stared at her for a few moments before he chuckled. “I had forgotten you were a reporter. Do you interrogate everyone, Ms. Ford?”
“Most of the time, especially when I need to know things I’m not privy to.”
“Well, let me make this easy for you then.” He took a sip from his cup, sitting it back down before looking over her shoulder.
A plate was sat down in front of her filled with bacon, eggs and toast. It smelled wonderful and she hated talking when she was so hungry. She had a tendency to not listen closely when she was concentrating on her food. She was sure her new appetite had something to do with the wolf. She ate like a cow now but thankfully her figure hadn’t suffered for it.
She looked back up at Sabriel. He was watching her, a tiny smile playing on his lips. “Your eyes have taken on a lovely shade, Ms. Ford. Not quite that of the wolf but not exactly blue anymore.”
“Interesting,” she said, but not really meaning it. “So, tell me what’s going to happen once the Collective has me.”
He leaned back in his chair and nodded to her plate. She wanted to refuse to eat until he’d spilled all his information but she humored him and picked up her fork, pushing her eggs around before taking a bite. “So, these breed leaders… how many are there in the Collective?”
“Sixty-four active members. There are still forty who are undecided and another thirty-three who are definitely against the plan.”
Rayna stared at him wide-eyed. “I didn’t know there were so many.”
Sabriel smiled. “The Breed leaders represent a specific geographical area. The world is a large place, Ms. Ford. The breeds number in the thousands. Without proper leadership, you run the risk of interspecies wars. The leaders are the peacekeepers that see things run smoothly. They act as judge and jury for their kind. No one defies a Breed leader.”
“I see.” She took a few more bites of her breakfast, thinking about what he’d said. For a bunch of ole preternatural creatures, they’d organized themselves well. Looking across the table, she motioned to the other place setting. “Who are we expecting?”
“We’ll be meeting with Thaddeus Mears today. You met him at Malcolm’s dinner party. He’s the Breed leader for the cats in the north-east.”
“WereLions, mostly, but he also oversees a small pack of panthers that were left without a leader.”
Rayna tried to put a face with the name, Thaddeus. She’d met so many people at Malcolm’s little party, none of which she cared to remember. Well, no one but Sabriel, that is. Him, she remembered. “And what is this man’s purpose in coming?”
“To confirm I have you.”
She grinned. “What? They don’t trust you?” The look on his face wasn’t pleasant. That terrible itchy feeling covered her skin again and she knew her guess had been right. The Collective, for whatever reason, didn’t trust Sabriel. Interesting, she thought. “That must burn a bit, doesn’t it?” The prickling caused her to gasp before he looked away. Once the sensation stinging her skin vanished, Sabriel sighed.
“I apologize. I forget how sensitive you are to my moods.”
“It’s all right.” She frowned over at him, rubbing her arms. “I shouldn’t have teased you.”
The smile he gave her softened his features a bit. Sabriel wasn’t old. Well if you just went by his appearance he wasn’t. To look at him, he appeared to be in his early thirties. He’d told her yesterday he’d lived for three hundred years. That was quite a long time to still look exactly as you did the day you died.
His complexion was still smooth, no wrinkles appeared on his face and his lips were full and almost feminine in appearance. His skin was pale but he didn’t look sickly. The mass of dark hair framing his face, and falling to his shoulders, made her think of pirates. In slacks and dress shirts instead of tight pants and white lacy shirts. He had a very roguish look about him. Dangerous but sexy. She blinked as the last thought entered her mind before looking away.
The sound of someone knocking on the door drew her attention and she was happy for the distraction. She watched the driver, Luther, walk to the door and recognized the man on the other side of it immediately. She did remember him. He was the man who had sat beside her at Malcolm’s party and said she’d be lauded as a hero.
She’d disliked him then. Seeing him now didn’t change her first impression. She still disliked him.
He was dressed in a dark blue suit, custom made from the looks of it, and expensive. Like Malcolm, he had a very distinguished air about him. She placed his age somewhere in his mid to late forties. His hair was blonde and she couldn’t tell if any gray lingered in the strands. A few wrinkles around his eyes and mouth gave some of his age away.
The way he moved as he crossed the room caught her attention. It was almost as if he were prowling. His steps were slow, his stride a measured strut more than a casual walk. It was amusing and a little bit alarming. He was a cat shifter, Sabriel had said. Looking at him coming toward her, Rayna could see it.
A glance at his face left Rayna feeling uneasy. His smile looked genuine, but she could see a predator hiding behind that peaceful visage. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and glanced at Sabriel when he stood, offering Thaddeus a chair.
Once everyone was seated, the food on Rayna’s plate didn’t look very appetizing anymore.
Thaddeus stared at her before chuckling. “I didn’t believe you really had her, Sabriel. My apologies for not trusting in you.” Sabriel inclined his head to Thaddeus but the gesture went unnoticed. Thaddeus was too busy staring at her. “You look well, Ms. Ford. Lycanthropy agrees with you.”
“I wish I could say I was enjoying it, but I’m not.”
“Oh?” His eyebrows rose in surprise. “What’s not to like?”
Rayna shrugged her shoulders. “Tormenting pain, the thirst for things I’d rather not discuss, and fleas. Or so I’ve heard.”
Thaddeus had a wonderful laugh. She had to give him that much. It was the only thing that redeemed him in her book.
His eyes sparked a brilliant amber, much more vibrant than that of the wolf. “Beautiful and a sense of humor. The world will love you, Ms. Ford.”
“Yes. Right before they see me morph into a monster and shoot me on sight. I can hardly wait.”
“Sarcastic as well,” Sabriel added, smiling.
Rayna shot him a look and pushed her plate away. “Look. I’m really not up for pleasant conversation with people who are about to make a very big mistake. I want to go home. Now. Either let me go or I promise you, once Garrett finds out I’m here, you’re in for a world of hurt.”
Thaddeus gave her a mocking smile. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. And as far as Garrett is concerned, he won’t find you before we’ve accomplished our goal. Once the world knows we’re here, his vengeance will be for nothing.”
Rayna snorted a laugh. “I think I know him a little better than you do, Mr. Mears, and trust me when I say, when he comes for me, regardless of the fact I’ve shown the world your little secret or not, he isn’t going to be happy. Pissed won’t even begin to describe his mood when he learns you’ve kidnapped me.”
“And how will he know?” Thaddeus looked smug and Rayna wanted to reach across the table and slap the smile off his face. “From what I hear, you were leaving the mountain. Besides, you’ll be in front of the media tomorrow. There isn’t time for him to find you. Even if he did know we have you, Carmen will see that he doesn’t make it in time. She can be very… persuasive.”
At the mention of Carmen, the wolf slid against her bones. Rayna knew then she’d been duped, in more ways than one. The challenge Carmen issued her was undoubtedly a ruse. She didn’t want to fight her as much as she wanted Rayna to tuck tail and leave, which she’d done. She gritted her teeth at the thought of playing into that bitch’s plan. She practically handed Garrett to her and she might as well have sought the Collective out herself. That had been Carmen’s ultimate goal.
She stared at Thaddeus, watching him smirk at her, and wondered how she’d get out of this in time. She’d yet to find a phone and if the Collective had plans for her to go before the press tomorrow, she had little time to hope for a rescue.
Of course, her wolf couldn’t be called on demand and the thought gave her a little hope. She smiled to herself and crossed her arms in front of her on the table. “I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, Mr. Mears, but you’ve got one wrinkle in this plan you weren’t counting on.”
“And what’s that?”
“I’ve yet to shift. It’s going to be a little hard to call my wolf when she hasn’t even been born yet.”
* * * *
Bryce stared at the door, counted to three before knocking, and went inside. Lydia was still in the bed.
He sighed in relief. He didn’t want to talk to her. Didn’t want her to look at him. He wasn’t sure why seeing her left him feeling so… wired. He hated the sight of her, the very thought of her being in the house, yet every time she looked at him he felt mesmerized. He wondered again if the tales of vampire magic were true. Could they really bespell someone with a look? Enthrall a person with a single glance? Heal with a touch? At the moment, he hoped it was true. It would explain things he didn’t want to think about.
Carrying the mug to the table by her bed, he sat it down and willed himself not to look at her. The mantra worked for a whole two seconds. She shifted on the bed and without much thought, he turned his head to where she lay.
She was staring up at him. His pulse leaped to rapid life, his heart raced and when she sat up, her gown fell off one shoulder and revealed the top of her breast. His entire body tightened at the sight of her bare flesh.
The riot of curls that framed her face, and fell in a blanket around her body, looked soft. The light spilling in from the open door shined off her hair and his fingers itched to touch it. He wanted to bury his hands in the strands and feel its texture. To inhale the scent of it until he’d memorized every nuance of her.
Looking back up at her face, he met her gaze, and he felt that odd sensation again. His skin danced with warmth, the feeling of something soft caressing his flesh, and he cleared his throat before looking away. “I’ve brought you something to eat,” he said, pointing to the mug on the table. She continued to look at him and after long moments of staring at her, he turned and walked back across the room. When he reached the door, he heard his name.
It was a mere whisper and if it weren’t for his keen sense of hearing, he’d never have heard her. He stopped, one hand on the doorknob, and willed himself to turn around.
Lydia was standing by the bed, the oversized gown she wore pulled back onto her shoulder. She looked so tiny, so frail. “You don’t like me.”
His wolf slid against his flesh when she spoke and a shiver raced up his spine. Her voice sounded like a tinkling of glass chimes. It cut him to the core and even though it was so soft he could barely hear it, the sound affected him as if she were screaming. He cleared his throat to dislodge the lump forming there. “I don’t like any vampire.”
She smiled and the feeling of warmth in his limbs increased. It felt as if he’d been touched. Goose bumps began to pimple his skin, the sensation much like a lover’s caress on his flesh, and it would have been so easy to fall for whatever magic she was weaving over him.
He stared at her, wondering why she’d chosen him to play with and hated her even more for not knowing. Whatever magic trick she was using on him wasn’t amusing in the least. So, why him? Was it because she’d bitten him? Because he was the one to feed her?
Shaking himself, and the feeling’s she produced, he met her gaze. “Judith has some clothes for you. She’ll be up in a little while with them. Garrett has given his permission for you to come out of your room. You’ll have free rein of the house but the first person you try to make a snack out of, you’ll meet the sun. Is that clear?”
She nodded her head to him and with an effort, Bryce turned back to the door and walked out, pulling it shut behind him.
He stood staring at the floor for long minutes. What the hell was that girl doing to him and why? The sound of footsteps drew his attention and he shook himself free of his musings when he saw Judith top the stairs. She smiled as she neared him, her arms loaded with garments.
“Is she awake?”
“Yes,” he said. “I told her she was allowed out of her room but keep your eye on her. I don’t trust her.”
Judith laughed. “She’s barely a threat to anyone, Bryce. She’s still weak. It will be a while yet before she has enough strength to be a danger to us.”
“Even still, watch yourself around her. Vampires are tricksters. They know magic and they’re not afraid to use it.” He knew that first hand.
He walked away with Judith’s light laughter ringing in his ears. He knew then that Lydia had spun a spell on Judith as well. If she hadn’t, why would the woman like her? Why would anyone like a vampire? They were vermin and, in his opinion, needed to be exterminated.
* * * *
Thaddeus didn’t look pleased. Rayna wanted to laugh at the look on his face but refrained. No one had harmed her yet but she wasn’t going to take any chances by pissing off a Werelion and seeing if he’d be the first to take a swing at her.
He was quiet for long moments before he stood, walked across the room while reaching into his jacket pocket. The cell phone he produced made Rayna want to jump to her feet and wrestle him for it.
She looked over at Sabriel when she felt his gaze on her. “What?”
“Nothing,” he said.
“Then why are you staring at me?”
He smiled and that tiny prickling skated across her flesh again. His smile grew and she knew then, whatever he was doing to make her feel things, he was doing it on purpose. “Your news will upset the other Breed leaders.”
She shrugged. “Good.”
“Not for you. They won’t let you go, Ms. Ford. Not until you’ve done as they wish.”
Rayna sat back in her chair, crossed her arms under her breasts and stared at him. “I get why you want this. You gave me your reasons but have you ever thought about what they, the humans, will do once they know? Do you honestly believe they’ll just welcome you with open arms and embrace the monsters?”
He was silent for long moments before tilting his head. “Everyone fears change. Once they’ve had time to get past their fear, they’ll see the benefits of having us around.”
“Benefits? What benefits? Blood suckers who will have free rein to walk the streets and snack on whomever they want? Shifters who terrorize and chase everything that moves?”
“You’re one of us now, Ms. Ford. Do you not want to live as you once did?”
“Not if I’m going to be seen as an outcast and feared. And you will, Sabriel. No one is going to welcome you with open arms. People will fear you. Me. All of us. And fear causes people to act before thinking. Get enough scared people in one place and you have nothing but trouble. What’s to keep them from banding together and killing every preternatural creature they find just because they can?”
“And why do you assume they won’t embrace us?”
Rayna laughed. “You’re deluded if you think people will love you for what you are, Sabriel. You may have a few who think its ‘neat’ but the majority will think you an abomination. They’ll want us all destroyed.”
He stared at her and looked as if he was about to say something but Thaddeus rejoined them. “I’ll be taking you to Victor.”
She sat up straight in her seat. “Who is Victor?”
“Victor Carroll. Breed leader of the wolves in this area.”
Rayna studied him for long moments. “Was Malcolm a Breed leader?”
Thaddeus laughed. “Not hardly. Malcolm barely had control over his own pack, let along the ability to control hundreds.”
Malcolm wasn’t a breed leader? Then how did he fit into all of this? “Why did he get the privilege of deciding who would out you to the world?”
“He didn’t.” The confusion she felt must have shown on her face. Thaddeus smiled. “Malcolm acted on his own. He’s the one who contacted the others. Once we were told of his plan, and that he already had someone bringing you in, the others decided to let him continue. He assured us you were perfect for our transition and after doing our own research on you, the majority agreed.”
“So one crazy man speaks and the rest of you follow along like good little puppies?” Her entire life had been turned upside down because one man got a wild hair? The anger that followed the thought brought her to her feet. “Do what you think you must, Mr. Mears, but be aware of this. I don’t do tricks and I’ll be damned if I’ll make this easy for you. You want my wolf? You’ll have to force it out of me.” She turned and walked back to her room, slamming the door behind her. She paced the floor and tried to think of a way out. She needed a phone and quick. She had to call Garrett and let him know where she was.
Running a hand through her hair, she sighed in frustration. Before the night was out, she would be moved again. What if they didn’t tell her where she was? How would she be able to tell Garrett?
Tears of frustration burned her eyes and she scrubbed them away before flopping down onto the bed. She stared at the ceiling, trying to come up with a plan. Maybe she could just… sneak away. Climb out the window and run for it.
Jumping from the bed, she reached for the window, unlocked it, and lifted it. She only moved it a few inches when an alarm went off, the noise cutting like daggers inside her brain as the shrill screeching blasted through the house. She covered her ears, screaming as pain laced her brain at the sound, and jumped when someone grabbed her and reached past her to slam the window shut.
The noise stopped a few moments later and Rayna stared up at Sabriel. He was speaking but her ears were still ringing. She couldn’t hear anything.
He sighed and just stood there staring at her. When the ringing inside her head died, she pulled her hands away from her ears. “I’ve gone deaf.”
He smiled. “I doubt it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me the place was secured?”
“I thought you were smart enough to realize it. I was almost certain you would have tried to leave once I left you alone early this morning.”
Leave this morning? Rayna felt stupid then. She hadn’t even thought of leaving once Sabriel went to bed. Why hadn’t she? Escaping should have been her first thought but it never even entered her mind. All she’d been worried about was a bath and food, a few hours sleep, and a telephone.
She’d encountered no one when she explored the house but not once had she tried one of the doors. Why hadn’t the thought occurred to her? Seeing Sabriel standing there smiling at her, she knew why. “You did something, didn’t you?”
“Not at first,” he said. “I was almost asleep before I remembered.”
“What did you do? Some Jedi mind trick to make me forget about leaving?”
Sabriel laughed and Rayna sucked in a breath as the noise trickled over her. The man was handsome when he did nothing but stand still but when he laughed, the effect was almost criminal. He should be locked away to save every woman who looked at him from falling at his feet like a lovesick fool. She shook her head and looked away.
“I’ll assure you it was nothing as spectacular as Jedi mind tricks. It was but a simple persuasion, Ms. Ford. Nothing nefarious involved.”
Rayna stared at the floor, trying to think her way out of her current situation when Thaddeus appeared at the door. “The car is ready, Ms. Ford. We’ll leave whenever you’re ready.”
“Oh well, in that case,” she said. “The sun will burn out before we leave. Should Sabriel set you up in one of his other guestrooms or are you going to wait in the car?”
Thaddeus didn’t look amused, not that she thought he would be. He scowled at her before turning his head to Sabriel. “Victor wishes to see you as well, Sabriel. I’ll await you both.”
When he turned to leave, Rayna looked up at Sabriel. “How can you be a puppet for them? I didn’t figure you for a man who took orders from others.”
He gave her an odd look. “I have no choice.” He turned and walked across the room. “Grab the things I left for you and meet me outside. Thaddeus isn’t very pleasant when provoked.”
Read Chapter Nine
A Night Breeds Novel
© 2011 Lily Graison