Promise Me - Book 6
In a desperate effort to halt her transformation to vampire, and stop her longing for the sultry Devlin, Sarelle willingly takes a drug to kill her desire, even as Danial prepares for the introduction of their son Theoron at a Vampire Gathering on New Year's Eve. Faced with Theo's betrayal at the eleventh hour, Sarelle must either trust in Danial to save her, or join forces with Devlin, revealing her secret desire for him.
“Get moving!” I said anxiously over my shoulder. “We have to hurry today.”
My white German Shepherd, Ghost, looked over at me, then buried his head back in the high grass, searching eagerly for mice with Darkness, my black German Shepherd. I walked off without him, striding fast. My feet tangled in the tall pasture, slowing my passage and making me curse. Darkness bounded up beside me before I’d gone ten strides. Ghost followed, eager not to be left behind.
It was a beautiful October day, about fifty degrees or so. Despite the dark sky, the winter sun was out, its weak warmth barely registering. Yet I closed my eyes and basked in it anyway, thinking sadly of Danial. He would never feel the sun on his skin again.
Danial was vampire. I’d met him a little more than three years ago. From the moment he’d entered my world, everything had changed.
We’d had our ups and downs, especially when I’d chosen his best friend Theo over him. But when Theo was taken right after we’d become engaged and my world had collapsed, it was Danial who’d seen me through, and helped me raise Theo’s daughter, Elle. We’d also had a child of our own, a son named Theoron. Despite we weren’t together now, I still wore Danial’s fang marks on one side of my throat, and the choker he’d given me with his symbol of the golden fox head around my neck, its twin ruby eyes twinkling. Most of my reasoning was security. I’d been hunted by one vampire or another the last few years. Manir, the vampire who’d attacked Danial’s home a month ago in an effort to kidnap Theoron and me, was still at large.
Manir wasn’t what had me upset today. I was worried about seeing Danial and spending the night with him, wondering how my husband Theo was going to take it.
Theo had survived his overseas capture and torture, which had lasted more than a year. I’d discovered him living in Wyoming six months ago in a tumultuous relationship with a werecougar, one of his own species. We’d married soon after, and he’d returned to New York with me, going back into business with Danial. But what had seemed so simple had quickly become a mess of epic proportions.
Elle had a hard time accepting Theo’s return. Danial was her dad as far as she was concerned, and she didn’t want another. Theo and she had grown closer in the months that he’d been back, but she still favored Danial.
Theoron had remained with Danial when Theo and I moved back into my old house. I could hold my son now, and he no longer tried to bite me for my blood, but he was still aging much quicker than a human child, faster even than Elle was as a werecougar. He was the only dhamphir known to exist. Vampires were sterile by nature. Though a potion existed that had been formulated to let male ones become fertile, it almost never resulted in a pregnancy, and had never before worked well enough to produce a child. Because of Danial’s success with me, many vampires were now very interested in our baby and me.
One of those was Devlin, Danial’s brother. When he’d saved me from an evil gangster a month ago, sustaining wounds I’d given him blood to heal, he’d turned on me, seducing me with the threat of force. Sometime in that day we’d spent in pleasure, he’d fallen in love, or so he swore. He was in South America now, waiting for me to join him wearing the choker he’d sent me. But I wasn’t going, even though the thought of him still weakened me with desire.
Aside from the fact it was morally wrong, I couldn’t risk it. I’d developed symptoms of turning in the last month, either from the years with Danial, the intense lovemaking with Devlin, or some mix of the two. What that meant was I’d become afflicted with wantonness as soon as I was around a vampire, my body’s only thought on how to finish the turning process. Worse, any vampire capable of turning me was also drawn to me in this state. A week ago that had become apparent, when uncontrollable desire struck Danial and I, compelling us not only to have sex but exchange blood.
Afraid, we’d consulted Terian, Danial’s half-demon sorcerer. He’d suggested weekly sessions for me with Danial, and round the clock guards, so I’d not be able to find any unscrupulous vampires to bed or give my blood to. Danial himself would sate my desires with sex while making sure not to exchange any blood or bodily fluids with me. Supposedly, I’d change back fully to human when enough time had passed, though the actual time span wasn’t known for certain.
Theo wasn’t happy about this at all, but I’d told him I was going ahead with it. Tonight he was going to give me his answer on whether he was going to stay with me, or wanted a separation. I wasn’t worried, upsetting as that option was to me. Danial had already asked me to stay with him if Theo left. We’d gotten through something similar years ago when I was pregnant, and I had faith in him...
I put my foot squarely in a mud puddle. Swearing under my breath, I yelled again for the dogs. “Hurry up, guys!” They bounded up beside me, and then passed by, trotting alertly down the woodland path. I followed them, trying to let the peacefulness of my surroundings calm me down.
The forest was serenely beautiful. The last leaves had fallen in a huge rainstorm last night, and the cloudy sky could be seen through their bare branches. Instantly the blue reminded me of Theo’s eyes. I let out a sigh.
Asking my husband for permission to bed his best friend made me ashamed, no matter the reason was logical. But what worried me most was that this crisis I was going through would drive Theo back into the arms of Aspen, the woman I’d found him with in Wyoming. My only relief was in knowing that the other woman he loved named Tasha was already the wife of someone else, and with the way he’d left things with Aspen, she was unlikely to ever take him back.
Ghost came running up. He was carrying a soggy mouse nest in his mouth. “Drop it,” I said and kept walking. He promptly did, then picked it up again when he thought I wasn’t looking. I smiled, despite myself, then the smile dropped from my face. I was home.
Resolute, I crossed the yard and walked up the steps. Theo was there waiting for me, his expression serious. “Can you come inside?” he said.
“Sure,” I said uneasily, and followed him in. I gave the dogs each a Cheweez, and then sat beside him on the couch, tense as a spring.
“Sarelle—” Theo began.
He was using my whole name, not my nickname. This was probably going to be bad. I steeled myself.
“I thought a lot about this, and I don’t want to share you. When we first got together, I told you I only had one condition, that you be only with me.” He took a breath and let it out. “But I understand this isn’t you wanting him, not the real you, anyway. This is something you don’t have any control over. Most of all, I get that unless I say yes, it’s going to be the end of us.”
I wanted to sigh with relief, but didn’t dare say anything yet.
“You’d go back to Danial if I said I couldn’t handle this, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” I said uneasily. “I can’t stop what’s happening to me. He’s the only vampire I know I can trust.”
“Strange you don’t include Devlin in that, since he saved you,” Theo replied, curious. “But then I still don’t really trust him either, no matter how good he’s acted lately.”
“I don’t trust him,” I said, carefully keeping my voice very neutral. “Besides, he’s in another country.” Thank God.
Theo nodded. “I’ll take care of the dogs while you’re gone Saturday nights.” He reached out and grabbed my hand. “But I have some conditions, Sar, that I want you to abide by.”
I nodded. “Go on.”
“The vampire virus evolved with the side effect you’re going through now to ensure humans who are partly turned don’t stay that way, that they become full vampires. I know Danial agreed not to take your blood, or have unprotected sex. But if his resolve fails, I want you to tell me immediately. I don’t want you to become vampire, or get any closer to turning.”
“Neither do I. What else?”
“I want you to go to Dr. Camlyn at least every other week to keep track of the virus in your system. If it increases at all, you two are to stop seeing each other. And when you are fully back to human, I want you to stop spending Saturday nights with him.”
I nodded again. “That’s the plan, and he knows that, too.”
Theo squeezed my hand. “If you become pregnant with our child, Sar, I won’t let you go to him like this, no matter if you’re still partly turned. I don’t care if it’s safe or not.”
Birthing Theoron had hurt me inside, but being partly turned, I was healing slowly with the help of the vampire virus. It was my dearest hope that the virus wouldn’t finish the process before I’d gone back to human, because I’d decided I didn’t want any more children, no matter that Theo did. “I’m on the pill,” I said quickly. “Besides, Dr. Camlyn told me it’s not possible yet.”
“I know that,” Theo said, nodding. “But there’s always a possibility.”
There wasn’t, but I nodded anyway. “Anything else?”
“Yes,” Theo said. “I don’t want you being intimate with him at his house when I’m around. You can stay over on the Fridays that you work for the night, or on Saturday nights, and have one of the other bodyguards drive you back the following morning. Also, I need to know how often you’re going to be gone. I don’t know what you’ve planned with Danial, if you’re going once every two weeks, or once a week. I care more that you’re honest, so don’t say it’ll be less if you’re going to need more.”
“Once a week?” I offered. “Then as the virus ebbs in my blood, most likely less. I don’t know, honestly. We aren’t even sure this will work. Terian was very vague when he suggested this.”
Theo nodded. “I get that. The last thing, and the most important, is that I don’t want you coming back to me smelling of sex with him. Shower and change into clothes that you haven’t been wearing for him. Can you do that for me?”
Agreeing to the last made me feel like what I was doing was dirty. That made me angry for a moment, then the anger was replaced by despair. This situation was repugnant, and it would soil me in a way I couldn’t wash off. But the worst thing was I had no choice. “Yes.”
“I can smell you’re sad,” Theo said, pulling me into his arms. “I’m sorry that you have to go through this at all.” He kissed me affectionately, and then pulled back to look in my eyes. “I feel I should warn you that I’m going to go a little crazy this first time you leave. The night’s going to be hell, stuck here alone while you’re there with him in bed...” Theo stopped, the jealously already thick in his voice, and then started again. “Please forgive me for what I’m going to say.”
I waited, but he didn’t speak. “Um, you were saying?”
“That I’m going to say things I probably shouldn’t. I want you to know now that I won’t mean them. I’ll try not to say them in the first place. But if something slips out, just ignore it.”
Was he going to call me ‘vampire’s whore’ or something like that? I didn’t want to ask. “I’ll try.”
“I’m going to call Danial now and tell him these same conditions,” Theo said. “If he agrees to them, I’ll bring you the phone to arrange tonight.”
I nodded, despair flooding me again.
Theo went in the other room. I watched some TV, trying not to think about what he was saying to Danial. About ten minutes later, Theo came in and wordlessly handed me the phone. Then he went to the door, and called Ghost. Ghost didn’t need a second invitation; he bounded to the door. Theo quickly let him out, then turned to me, his eyes anguished.
“I’m going for a walk, Sar.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but he left before I could, slamming the door behind him. I closed my eyes, tears threatening and took a few deep breaths. Then I put the phone to my ear. “I’m here,” I said, trying to sound normal.
“I know he’s upset,” Danial said gently. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. But this isn’t easy.”
“No, it isn’t,” Danial said, and sighed. “You and I already talked about Saturday nights, which Theo confirmed. Most weeks that will be fine for me. I cleared out all of them for this coming month.”
“What’s your plan for how to handle Elle? Theoron is so young he’s likely not to notice.”
“She’s going to spend Saturday nights with the foxes at the werecompound. Cia will be watching over Theoron at night, as she has been. Terian will be on guard duty.”
“When do you want me to come...um, arrive?” I blushed, cringing at my choice of words.
“Arrive before dusk,” Danial answered, amused. “About three or so. You need to get some sleep, Sar. This first time will likely be the worst, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I think it’s best if we leave plenty of time.”
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound brave. “I’ll be there.”
“I’ll see you then,” Danial said. “A client has been waiting on hold to talk to me now for a good fifteen minutes. I’ve got to get back to him before he hangs up.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Good-bye.”
“I love you, Sar. Good-bye for now,” Danial said tenderly, then hung up.
Hanging up the phone, I decided impulsively to take a bath. Theo would be gone at least an hour in his mood. I needed to make the most of my time alone, not sit here feeling sorry for myself. Besides, it would give me a chance to sing, something I did too seldom lately.
As I ran the water, I hummed a few songs, then began “Think of Me” as I sank contentedly into the warm water. Darkness lay beside the tub, her eyes watching me intently.
“He improved my voice a lot,” I told her with a sigh when I’d finished. “Why did he have to be such a bastard?”
Darkness didn’t answer, her eyes still locked on me. I lay back in the water, suddenly disgruntled despite all the happy bubbles all around me. As much as I wanted to stop thinking about how I’d acted with Devlin and all that he’d made me feel, the merest thought of him always brought my memories back in living, vivid color. Then all I wanted was to be back there with him as he sang to me and loved me with his masterful touch. I wanted to see him again, see those golden eyes of his that I loved so much...
I shifted uneasily. Guilt lay heavily on me as it usually did in these stolen moments. Anger welled up at the unfairness; right now, I was just a woman who’d enjoyed a man and wanted to remember him. I pushed the remorse away defiantly, letting my memories flood in.
Devlin’s eyes had been filled with fire and lust, no matter how many times we’d coupled, their radiance undimmed. But they had been most beautiful at the night’s end, when he’d declared his love for me so passionately. I closed my eyes, remembering his kisses, the brush of his fangs over my skin, the whisper of his words as he quoted me poetry, the feel of his body in mine, caressing me so skillfully...
I let out a long wistful sigh. Then I got out of the tub and went to the bathroom mirror, and pulled out a small vial. Settling back in the tub, I inhaled deeply, shivering in pleasure.
I’d never attributed any particular scent to Devlin. In the time I’d spent with him, I’d either been too nervous, scared, pissed off, or in the case of our interlude, overwhelmed with the many other wonderful things I was experiencing to notice one. But when I’d been in the midst of a craft fair with Elle and my mother two days ago, I’d known the singular scent instantly.
It had taken the better part of a half hour to search though the table of scented candles and essential oils where the smell was coming from. Part of that was my instinct to first try scents I considered sexy, like musk, sandalwood, leather, and even Danial’s particular scent, which was like spicy nutmeg and cedar. It wasn’t until I’d given up on the candles and reached the more unlikely named oils that I found what I was looking for: Myrtlewood.
I’d held the vial in my hands, knowing it was a mistake to buy it. I wanted to so badly, desperately. So I had taken one last smell, then reluctantly put it back. Later that day, as we were leaving, my mother had surprised me with the vial as a present.
“I could see you liked it,” she said with a smile, handing me the package. “I know they’re overpriced, but it’s only money.”
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing the bag in my eagerness. “You shouldn’t have.”
The clock chimed in the other room. Reluctantly, I conceded it was past time for bed. I put the vial back, pulled the bathtub’s plug, and put on pajamas. Then I stoked the fire, loading on enough logs to last until morning. The nights were cold now, with winter almost here.
When I let out Darkness, my large black cat, Cavity, was waiting on the stoop.
“What are you doing out there?” I asked him. “Theo must have let you out by accident. Get in here.”
Cavity didn’t need a second invitation. He dashed inside and curled up near the wood stove next to a sprawled out and sleeping Jess, my black and white cat of the same age.
I let in Darkness and then turned off the lights, leaving one on for Theo out of affection rather than need. He had an animal’s night vision, and could see in the dark as well as our pets could. I smiled, thinking of the evening we’d first met, when he’d been wearing sunglasses at night. Sure, he was impulsive, and quick to anger. Yet he was also very easy to love.
As I lay in bed waiting to sleep, I thought back over how we’d first been drawn together years ago. A shared, magically-induced dream had started it, the catalyst a kiss. Still, we’d remained apart, not knowing we’d each shared the dream. After Danial and I had split months later, and he’d moved on to an old rival of mine, Terian had admitted dosing me with a spell that made a shared dream possible. When I’d called Theo to tell him what had happened to us, he’d come to me. It was that same, shared dream Terian had recreated last Spring that had called Theo back to me, causing him to split up with Aspen. We’d married that same morning.
I smiled again, thinking of those few days I’d spent with him out West. They had been uncomplicated, just him and me, sun and sex with the mountains all around us. I wanted to be back there now. But perhaps the reason those days had been so good was that they hadn’t lasted long. They had taken on a golden quality for me, as the dreams we’d shared did.
I looked over at the dresser. The cougar Theo had carved for me was there, in front of it the carving he had done of me naked, my hair falling down around my body to cover me. Though they’d been carved years apart, I always thought of them as a two-piece sculpture, The Woman and The Cougar. Strange, I never remembered to tell him that...
As I eased into sleep, Theo came in. But he didn’t speak and neither did I.