The next book in my Vampires Realm series comes out in May so now is a great time to catch up on the series. You can get the first book in the series, Prophecy: Child of Light, for only $0.99 right now too! More about that later (or see the sidebar).
Reunion is the sixth book in the series but the books stand alone and are joined by the world rather than plot, so you can read them out of order. Download Reunion now for FREE!
F E Heaton
The Law Keeper for the Venia bloodline, Marise doesnâ€™t want to return home but duty dictates that she must investigate the attempt on her lordâ€™s life by another vampire.
When she sets eyes on her lord, Marise realises that she might have been called for another reason and that the attack on her lord might not have been by a vampire after all. Her only source of information is a guard who was mortally wounded during the attack, a guard who turns out to be the man who broke her heart fifty years ago.
The sight of Jascha so close to death triggers a battle in Mariseâ€™s heart that will see her struggle to turn her back on him and her family again, and maintain her sense of duty. Is fifty years enough to forgive the one you love for breaking your heart? Will Marise finally confess to everything sheâ€™s held inside and kept hidden from him? And can Jascha convince Marise to listen to what he has to say and make her love him again?
Dull violet eyes greeted her as his heavy lids opened. He blinked languidly and with too much effort for her liking. Blankets covered him but she could see how badly injured his arms, neck and face were. A thick bandage wrapped around his throat, the side of it stained with dark blood, and gashes covered his arms, long lacerations that were edged with angry red and were weeping.
Marise shook her head and fought against the feelings inside her and the tears rising into her eyes.
â€œJascha?â€ she whispered his name again, wishing now that she could hear his voice and have him tell her that Timur was overreactingâ€”he was going to be fine.
He wasnâ€™t going to die.
Before she had time to stop herself, she was kneeling beside the bed, his right hand held firmly in hers and her cheek pressed against it. She closed her eyes and tears escaped them when his fingers closed around hers.
She wanted to ask who had done this to him. He was strong, far stronger than she had been, and yet someone had hurt him. No, this wasnâ€™t hurting. This was butchering. Anger boiled up inside her. Someone had butchered him and left him to die. Death could be as swift for a vampire as it was for a human. Whoever had done this knew what they were doing and they had made sure that Jascha wouldnâ€™t die that night.
This was a message. Someone was telling her species that they were stronger than them.
Her jaw tensed and she growled.
Someone was going to pay.
Jaschaâ€™s fingers flexed weakly against hers and he muttered something that made no sense. She raised her head, taking in the extent of the damage done to this face. It was covered in rich bruises and fine cuts. His split lip and swollen eye made her heart ache for him.
His eyes met hers, pupils dilating and contracting as he struggled to focus.
A tiny frown made his eyebrows shift.
â€œMari?â€ he breathed so quietly she almost didnâ€™t hear him.
The sound of that name brought back all the pain and she dropped his hand, standing and distancing herself from him as her heart broke all over again. She turned her back on him while she pushed all of her feelings back down inside and tried to lock them away in her heart.
â€œMari?â€ he whispered again.
She turned on a pinpoint and stared at him with cold eyes.
â€œMy name is Marise,â€ she said and steeled herself against the darkness that entered his eyes. It was what he deserved. She couldnâ€™t remember exactly what had been said during the fight that had parted them but she still felt the pain each day.
She moved to the foot of the bed, buying the time she needed to get back in control of the situation and herself.
It said so much.
She knew she wasnâ€™t the only one who had been hurt that day. They had both said things and done things that were the undoing of what theyâ€™d had together. Only she had accepted the position as Law Keeper and ran away, and he had been willing to heal the breach.
She folded her arms across her chest.
â€œIf youâ€™re up to it, Iâ€™d like your opinion on what happened the night you were injured.â€
He gave her a look that conveyed exactly what he was thinking. He was right. It was cold of her to stand here, distant and uncaring while he suffered, but that was what a Law Keeper did. They didnâ€™t mix business with pleasure. Pleasure was a thing of the past for them. To hold this position meant being impartial about the bloodlines and being emotionless. Emotions got in the way and clouded your judgement.
Like hers were right now.
Marise turned her back again and paced across the room. She didnâ€™t need the distance it broughtâ€”she needed the darkness. It robbed her sight of its sharpness and meant she couldnâ€™t see his injuries so clearly.
â€œA simple nod or shake of your head will suffice. That is, if you can manage it?â€
Jascha gave her a tiny nod and grimaced, his hand coming up to touch his throat. His eyes closed and she could see the pain in his face and feel it in her blood. She had forgotten the wound there. A part of her said to give him time to recover before questioning him, but the rest overruled it and said to get it over with and get out before the feelings stirring inside her became dangerous.
He was a soldier. She was sure he understood. She needed answers for her investigation and so she could judge whether this case required a Law Keeper or not. This couldnâ€™t get personal. She couldnâ€™t go there again.
â€œDo you think thereâ€™s a reason you were left alive?â€ Marise held the tremble from her voice so he wouldnâ€™t know how much the sight of him so injured was affecting her.
â€œI think so too. Timur hasnâ€™t a clue what happened. You do though, donâ€™t you?â€
He nodded again and swallowed with a grimace.
She moved a step closer so he could see her better through his one good eye, but kept far enough away that she couldnâ€™t clearly see his wounds.
â€œWho did this to you? A vampire?â€
A shake of his head, tiny and almost imperceptible.
â€œI didnâ€™t think so. Were they human?â€
He hesitated. There was uncertainty in his eyes.
â€œNiet,â€ he said, voice strained but the accent that had always melted her was still there.
It was just like him to fall back on his native tongue. She hoped he would keep his answers simple. She never had grasped the language.
â€œDid they look human?â€
â€œDa,â€ he croaked and rubbed his throat again.
Marise stepped closer and had to look away when fresh blood seeped into the bandages around his neck. Her stomach roiled at the thought that she was hurting him by making him speak. She wanted to ask him to stick to nodding or shaking his head, but she couldnâ€™t let him see how much it was all affecting her.
â€œDo you think they were demon or were they wholly human?â€
â€œYa ne paniâ€™mayu.â€ His voice sounded tight and he pushed himself up as he coughed.
Blood trickled down from the corner of his mouth.
â€œDamn it, Jascha! I told you to shake or nod.â€ She stormed across the room and sat down on the bed beside him. Her hand was against his cheek, holding him and forcing him to look at her. Everything she was ready to say slipped away and instead she wiped the blood off his chin with her thumb.
She took her hand away from him, gathering herself while she wiped her thumb on the dirty cloth beside the bed.
There was a canister of blood and a stained glass pushed to the back of the small table. They were feeding him old blood? How was he supposed to heal? Anger stirred inside her and she shot a black look at the door. She could sense Timur outside with the guards. Was Tynan there too? Surely he wouldnâ€™t let Jascha suffer like this?
Marise undid the buttons on her jacket sleeve and pushed it up her arm before setting to work on the buttons of her shirt cuff. She rolled it up and tugged it out of the way.
Thinking about what she was doing, she justified it by telling herself that a dead witness was of no use to her. This was about the case. This wasnâ€™t personal.
She extended her claws and pressed one into her wrist.
Blood beaded against her skin.
This wasnâ€™t personal.
She looked at Jascha. He was lying back on the bed again, eyes closed and his jet-black hair falling loose from his ponytail. Rogue strands of it criss-crossed his face. She ignored her temptation to clear them away and extended her arm to him.
His nostrils flared.
His eyes rolled as he opened them and gave her an incredulous look.
She moved her arm closer, frowning at him, but silently pleading him to drink. Without fresh blood, he would never heal. Her blood would suffice until she could get Tynan to hunt for her. Was there any way she could have words with Timur about the canister of blood without it looking as though she was bringing her feelings into this?
Her eyes widened when Jaschaâ€™s mouth latched onto her wrist and she gasped when he bit her. It was the last thing she had been expecting. She half closed her eyes when he began to drink, stirring all too familiar feelings inside of her. He was the last person to do this to her. She looked at his face, studying him and taking everything in.
Was it really fifty years since she had seen his face?
No. She saw it each day in her dreams. He was always with her. She was just too stubborn to admit it.
His drinking slowed and before she knew it, it was over and he was licking the wound on her arm. She held it there for a moment when he stopped, the smallest part of her heart hoping he would continue. He didnâ€™t. He lay back on the bed, his eyes still closed.
â€œJascha?â€ she said and he looked at her. It seemed to take a lot of effort. Her blood was probably making him drowsy as it worked its way into his body. It wouldnâ€™t quicken his healing as fresh human blood would, but it would restore some of his strength, more so than the stored blood he had been given. â€œWas it a vampire hunter?â€
â€œDa,â€ he said.
â€œBut not one like weâ€™ve met before?â€
â€œNiet,â€ he whispered and closed his eyes again.
Marise smiled now that he couldnâ€™t see her. Ghosting her fingers down his cheek, not brave enough to touch him, she looked at him a moment longer and then rose from the bed.
â€œIâ€™ll arrange for fresh blood for you. I have more questions I need to ask. If you remember anything, please ask for me.â€ She hated how cold she sounded.
Rolling her sleeve down, she stopped when she saw the marks on her wrist and stared at them. They were shallow and it wasnâ€™t because he was weak. It was because he hadnâ€™t wanted to hurt her. She ran her fingers over the marks and then buttoned her sleeve, covering it with her jacket.
Marise walked to the door, paused and looked back at him. It hurt to see him, to have the memories of their time together come back, and to see him in so much pain. She hurt so much. He had taken her feelings and smashed them. That much she could remember. They had broken each otherâ€™s heart that night.
She wanted to say something more but couldnâ€™t bring herself to go through with it. She had already brought enough emotion into this investigation. If anyone found out, she was likely to be punished.
She reached out behind her and took hold of the door handle.
Turning, she opened the door.
She hesitated a moment when he spoke.
â€œDa sviâ€™daniya, lubov moya.â€
Marise held the smile inside on hearing such familiar words. Was she still his love?
â€œIâ€™ll see you tomorrow,â€ she said and closed the door behind her.
She killed all her feelings the moment the door clicked shut and turned to look at the people in the corridor around her. The two guards were still there and she didnâ€™t recognise either of them. They looked wet behind the ears. Younglings no doubt.
Her eyes sought out Tynan but he was nowhere to be seen so they settled on Timur.
â€œI will have more questions for him come sunset tomorrow. For now, he must rest. His injuries are extensive, severe enough that a full interrogation may be the end of him. If that happens, I will have no answers to support my involvement in this situation and you will have no Law Keeper to protect you from this human.â€
Timurâ€™s eyes widened, showing the white around his irises and exposing his fear to her again. He fidgeted and she frowned. He was petrified of the thought of this human coming after him. Having seen what this person had done to Jascha, she could understand that fear, but as lord of his bloodline, he shouldnâ€™t allow himself to be ruled by it. He was safe in his home. Or did he think that he wasnâ€™t?
â€œI will speak with the other guards and see what they know,â€ she said, hiding her true intention. She had to find Tynan. It was unlike him to leave Jascha suffering like this. She wanted to know what had happened to change him. â€œEnsure that only your guards are allowed out to hunt for the house.â€
Timur swallowed, hard enough that she saw it.
â€œWhat is it?â€ She didnâ€™t give him an inch as she stepped towards him, straightening to her full height and staring down into his eyes. He was still hiding things from her and all the secrecy was starting to annoy her. How was she supposed to do her job if she was being kept in the dark about things?
â€œNo one is allowed to hunt,â€ he muttered under his breath.
She frowned, her eyes narrowing.
â€œAre you insane?â€ She was tempted to take hold of his shirt collar and rattle him. Either that or she was going to throttle him. She took a deep breath and forced herself to remain calm. If he saw how shaken she was by the sight of Jascha so hurt, he wasnâ€™t going to give her the respect she needed and deserved.
â€œThey are still out there.â€
Marise ignored his worried look and the childlike pleading in his eyes.
â€œYou are weakening your house. You are letting Jascha die!â€ She clenched her fists and struggled to rein in her anger.
A dark look entered his eyes and for a moment she thought he was going to remind her who ruled their bloodline. She couldnâ€™t believe how weak he had become. She couldnâ€™t believe that he was risking the lives of everyone in his house because he was frightened of a vampire hunter.
â€œI am sending your guards out to hunt whether you like it or not. This house needs fresh blood. You have to keep your people strong or they will be lambs to the slaughter should this vampire hunter attack with allies.â€ She didnâ€™t wait for a reply. She turned and stormed down the hall towards the guardroom.
Fury fuelled her as she took the steps down into the basement level of the house. It had been given over to the servant ranks and the guards long ago, before she was turned. The guards had their restroom down here and the training rooms. She was sure she would find Tynan there. How could she have thought that it had been his choice to feed Jascha old blood? She shouldâ€™ve known that he would never willingly allow Jascha to die like this. Timur had effectively tied his hands behind his back and forced him to watch his brother die.
Pushing the door to the guardroom open, she strode in and scanned the faces. She recognised some of them. They all looked stunned to see her. Before she could locate Tynan, he was standing beside her, silent as always. She didnâ€™t acknowledge him, instead she kept her eyes fixed on the others.
â€œYou are to hunt in groups. Bring fresh blood to the house. Timur will not punish you. I have seen to that.â€ She held their gazes and then whispered out of the corner of her mouth to Tynan, â€œI need a word in private.â€
He nodded and left the room. She waited a moment and then followed him out into the hall. Looking around, she caught a glimpse of him heading into the armoury. She casually walked to it, her whole body shaking with the release of emotions that the idea of speaking to him brought. She knew that with him, she had no chance of remaining cold and business-like. Her heart said that he would never tell anyone about how she acted in private with him, and it seemed to give her feelings free rein to do as they pleased. She couldnâ€™t control them no matter how hard she tried.
It was a dangerous way for her to feel.
â€œI need a moment,â€ Tynan said as she entered the room.
The guards gathered there nodded and left without questioning Tynanâ€™s order. He must have gained rank in their time apart. Her eyes traversed the room while she waited, taking in the assortment of swords, spears, bows and axes that lined the dark walls.
She had never liked it in the armoury. It was gloomy and reminded her of death. Her family never took up arms lightly, so being assigned to work in the armoury was almost a punishment. No one came here and the long hours each guard had to work were often passed alone.
Tynan turned to face her.
Marise avoided looking at him for as long as possible and then lifted her eyes to meet his. He looked concerned. She wished he didnâ€™t. She was having enough trouble holding herself together without him encouraging this revolt by her feelings.
He sighed, his broad shoulders heaving with it. He was taller than Jascha and had a far broader build, but other than that they looked so similar. Their hair was black as midnight, although Tynanâ€™s was short, and they were both incredibly handsome, their fine features lending them an unusual air of grace and distinction.
When she had first met Tynan, she had never seen a man as beautiful as he was, until the night she had seen his brother Jascha.
He had made her feel as though her heart was pounding even when that was impossible.
Tynanâ€™s dark eyes searched hers. She was glad that he differed from his brother there too. It meant that he could never wholly remind her of Jascha.
No one had eyes the stunning colour of Jaschaâ€™s.
And no one could set her heart on fire with a single look like he could.
Marise paced the room and fought for control, gathering her scattered emotions. This was no time to fall apart, not even if Tynan would keep her secret for her. She had to be strong, as a Law Keeper should be, and stick to procedure on the case. Her old feelings for Jascha shouldnâ€™t be allowed to interfere with her work. Even this meeting with Tynan shouldnâ€™t be taking place.
She convinced herself that if she could get Jascha on the mend again by having this talk with Tynan, then she could get on with her work and forget about him again. Not that she had ever forgotten. He had always been at the back of her mind. The trouble was, now he was at the front of her mind and she couldnâ€™t concentrate. She had to find a way to put him to the back of it again and this seemed like the most reasonable solution.
â€œTheyâ€™re feeding him old blood,â€ she said, barely holding Tynanâ€™s gaze for a split second, but it was long enough to see in his dark eyes that he already knew and he didnâ€™t like it.
She paced across to the other side of the room. Tynan leaned against a table and folded his arms across his chest, making it clear to her that he was waiting to see why she had wanted a word with him.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you get him fresh blood?â€ She didnâ€™t give him a chance to answer before stepping up to him, a frown darkening her face. â€œYou should have gone out to hunt regardless of the orders from Timur. You know as well as I that the lord of our bloodline is not thinking clearly. This vampire hunter has made him weak with fear.â€
â€œI did,â€ Tynan said.
The sound of his voice made her think of Jascha, lying in his death bed with no company and no comfort. She bit back the tears and reminded herself of her duty and her position.
Tynan stepped past her, running his fingers over his short black hair and sighing heavily. â€œI hunted for the first two nights, but Timur threatened me… if I disobeyed his orders again, I would be tried.â€
â€œTried?â€ Marise frowned, trying to understand just what was happening in her house.
â€œFor sins against my bloodline.â€
â€œRidiculous. The Law Keepers would never condemn you for trying to help your brother.â€ She turned on the spot, following his progress around the room.
Her senses told her that he was agitated, angry, and she had witnessed how he could be when enraged. Timur had been treading a very fine line with him.
â€œWere you with Jascha that night?â€ she said.
He paused, eyes fixed on the floor, shoulders tense.
â€œDid Jascha say anything when they brought him in?â€ She took a step towards him, torn between giving up her questioning and continuing. She didnâ€™t want to cause him hurt by reminding him of his brotherâ€™s plight, but he might be able to give her the answers she needed to make a decision about this case.
â€œNo, nothing coherent.â€ He hesitated a moment and looked at her. She knew that look. It was about what had happened between her and Jascha. He was scared of bringing up things from the past. â€œHe mentioned your name.â€
She froze, feeling as though he had just hit her in the stomach and knocked the wind from her. She hadnâ€™t expected that, but then, when she had gone into the room, Jascha had known it was her and he had called her by her old nickname. He had thought about her all these years too. It wasnâ€™t a ridiculous idea in the slightest. He had been the one willing to reconcile after all.
â€œNothing else?â€ she said, regaining her focus and pushing away from the dark, sharp thoughts trying to creep in at the corners of her mind. She didnâ€™t want to remember that night. She didnâ€™t want to remember how painful it had been and how it had felt to leave him.
Marise stared at him, hating how much he looked like his brother. It brought images of Jascha back, lying in that bed, covered in cuts and blood. Stinking like death.
Turning her back on Tynan, she straightened her cuffs and lightly ran her fingers over the marks on her wrist. He had been so gentle with her, even in his dire state. She had expected him to be rough if anything, greedy with hunger, but he had taken barely a sip. It spoke volumes to her, pages about how he didnâ€™t want to hurt her. In a way, it had felt like an apology. She wished she could accept it.
â€œI have to call this in.â€ She went to leave but stopped herself and looked at Tynan again. â€œJascha needs fresh, strong blood. Hunt for your brother.â€
She was about to turn around again when he spoke.
â€œDid you find out anything from him?â€ His voice trembled the tiniest amount and his eyes showed her that he wasnâ€™t just worried about his brotherâ€”he was worried about her too.
It had felt horrible to see Jascha like that. It still felt horrible. She couldnâ€™t erase the sight of him from her mind and couldnâ€™t imagine how Tynan had felt on seeing him beaten and broken. It must have been worse for him than the night Jascha had been turned and killed, reborn into his world.
She shook her head and gave him an apologetic look, wishing she could bring herself to shrug off the restraints of her position and comfort him.
â€œHe was in too much pain,â€ she said and then smiled. â€œHeâ€™s speaking Russian at me. The boy still hasnâ€™t learned that I donâ€™t speak the language.â€
Tynan smiled but she could see the sadness in it.
â€œBe careful tonight, Tynan. Whoever did this is still out there.â€
Leaving him, she walked along the corridor and up the stairs to the ground floor of the expansive mansion. She tried to gather all the evidence in her head and thought about what she was going to tell the others. She couldnâ€™t leave here without finding out more about this vampire hunter.
She couldnâ€™t leave until she knew Jascha was well again.