Dark Solace

Promise Me - Book 9

by Tara Fox Hall

With Theo facing deadly odds in a fight to the death, Sar makes a pact with Lash, agreeing to give Devlin another chance in return for Theo's life. Reforging her relationship with her handsome vampiric lover mends old wounds, even as Theo moves to regain Sar just for himself. But Devlin's old enemy Ulysses appears, taking Sar prisoner and burning Devlin badly in a surprise attack. Rescued at the eleventh hour by Lash, Sar nurses Dev back to health, Theo bristling at a distance. Yet Lash's own day of reckoning is here as his long life ebbs to a finale, leaving Sar to face the decision of offering him salvation, knowing that the price is her own humanity.


Chapter One

On August thirty-first, the kettle that had been simmering for so long finally exploded.

I was spending the day with my werecougar son Devon at Danial’s home, feeding and playing with him while Devon’s father Theo and his faerie-demon colleague Terian were out on a job. Devon had already doubled in size since his birth, and his eyes had opened the day before. His ears were just beginning to stand up on their own. He was still drinking milk, though he also liked processed chicken.

It was so nice to sit here with him, and simply hold him. To feed him myself, to touch his tan spotted fur, to know he was mine. My body hadn’t changed, so the milk I was feeding him had come from a cow and was dispensed via bottle. Both Theo and I had come to the conclusion the reason for my lack of breast milk was because I wasn’t werecougar. I was less sure of that, though, wondering if all my exposure to the vampire virus in the past few years—particularly now having birthed two dhamphirs—might have made me unable to provide milk of my own. But really, here and now, it didn’t matter if either was the truth. My child in my arms was the last baby I was ever going to have. I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

Holding Devon and sharing this happy moment with him brought more than its fair share of guilt, though. Devon’s fraternal twin, my daughter Venus, was miles away at Hayden with her father, Devlin. I had barely seen her since her birth.

 I assuaged my guilt with the knowledge that I had been told by my doctor that until my half vampire daughter came to see me as something other than food—a real enough danger with a dhamphir child—I was not to hold her or get within striking distance. Also, having seen the change in Devlin since he’d welcomed his child into the world, I had to give credit to Danial. He’d been right; Dev was going to take good care of her. I’d been wrong to think he wouldn’t. I’d been wrong to think he wouldn’t make a good father. Maybe I’d been wrong about him, too...

Stop right there, Sar. In that way lies madness, and a lot of pain. Leave it alone and remind yourself to ask Danial for a little sip of blood when he wakes up. Your longing for Dev is just an effect of the vampire virus in your system ebbing below needed levels.

Having a resistance to the vampire virus I’d been so much exposed to was a boon, as it meant I would have a much longer lifetime than a normal human, so long as I had regular infusions of vampire blood to keep me in a kind of “half-turned” state. A side effect of that was being in thrall to the donating vampire, if he gave me too much blood. That exact thing had happened last winter, when Devlin had saved my life with more than a little donating on his part. I’d fallen in love and lust, which had led to giving him an Oath, which I’d later regretted. He’d broken it, of course, just like he’d broken my heart.

Leave it alone. Focus on the positive; you’re able to get blood from Danial now with no adverse effects.

Putting Dev out of my mind, I focused again on Devon, taking the bottle away from his grasping paws. “You can’t eat anymore, piglet,” I said affectionately, when he growled at me, extending his sharp claws to try to get the bottle one last time. “Your stomach is already round and hard. I don’t want you to get sick. Go to sleep.”

Devon yawned, then went to sleep, purring softly. I began to drift off, then was bluntly awakened by the front door slamming. Devon awoke immediately, and began crying. I comforted him, but stayed where I was, my arms wrapped protectively over him. If this was something bad, like an attack, I had to protect him. That meant staying where I was and keeping him quiet.

“Sar?” Theo called weakly. “Sar—”

I got up as quickly as I could, and went to the door carrying Devon. Theo was sitting on the stone bench in the mud room, swaying and holding onto the wall for support. He was hurt, covered in bruises and blood. It looked like it was all his own.

“Oh God, Theo!” I cried, going to his side. “Danial!”

Devon was screaming by this time, his claws digging into me. I held him close, trying to comfort him, not knowing what to do for Theo. He didn’t seem to be healing up his injuries at all. What if he was mortally wounded?

Danial arrived, took one look at Theo and then put his arm around him. “Come on.” He helped Theo into his bathroom, me following with Devon. I closed the door, then put the yowling baby werecougar down on the floor. Together Danial and I helped Theo strip off his clothes.

Danial removed his now-bloody bathrobe and handed it to me. “Sar, I’ll help him wash off the blood and dirt. You get some alcohol and bandages ready, and a needle and thread. Cover the bed with an extra sheet and towels, and wait there. Some of these wounds are deep.”

I did as Danial asked. Devon had calmed down some, so I laid him down gently on Danial’s bed, and got moving. By the time Danial and Theo got out of the shower, I was ready.

Danial brought him out and laid him on the bed, beside Devon. I had put huge bath sheets down and they absorbed the water and some of the blood that was still leaking out of him.“Why isn’t he healing?” I asked worriedly.

“Probably poison-laced blades,” Danial muttered.

"Dark Solace" by Tara Fox Hall


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