It’s time for this week’s Sunday Snippet from one of my paranormal romance books. While I’m away, my snippets are going to vary between full length chapters and teasing snippets. Which will it be today?
Nika stopped in front of the mansion, a short distance from the place where she knew she would find him. She took a deep breath. There was no reason to be nervous. She had walked past him countless times. In the winter, every morning and evening had seen her walk past him when she had been on her way to or from school. Tonight was nothing special. She had been away from the area for a few weeks and sheâ€™d had a few drinks before leaving work so her tongue was a little loose and her bravado was up, but that didnâ€™t mean that she was going to do anything. She would walk calmly by and steal a glance, the same as she always did, as though she had never been away.
And he wouldnâ€™t look at her, just as he never did.
The weather was bitter and inhospitable, the wind stealing all the heat from her cheeks and leaving them numb. Light snow whipped around and stung her face. She pulled the collar of her black winter coat up and tugged the sleeves down over her gloves, trying to eliminate any gaps where the wind could sneak in. The full moon shone behind the clouds, almost visible through their thin fluffy bodies. She had seen it a while back as it had been rising, fat and deep orange. She had taken a moment to stop on the narrow country road and watch it. It was a long walk from the nearest train stop to her village, but never once had she thought about calling her father for a lift. She liked the walk. She liked to pass the mansion without hearing her fatherâ€™s terrifying tales of its occupants.
She liked to see the man.
Stamping her feet to get some life back into them, Nika sniffled and sighed. Her breath turned to white fog and drifted away. She started walking again, ready for her glimpse of the man and eager to get home where it would be warm.
The men slowly came into view. There were two of them as usual. Her heart skipped a beat and pounded a little harder. Would one of them be her man?
She was going to walk straight past and just sneak a glance at him, but some part of her had a different idea. When she had passed him and seen his beautiful dark eyes, she ground to a halt. He hadnâ€™t looked at her again. She frowned, turned on her heel, and walked back to him. Standing opposite him, she stared up at his face. Neither man moved. They stood frozen to the spot, the tall blade-tipped staffs held resolutely at their sides and the large black wrought iron gate standing behind them.
He blinked. When his eyes opened, he still had them fixed on a spot in the distance over her head.
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€ she said. The remaining trace of alcohol in her veins made her brave.
The wind howled through the gate and she frowned when it battered her coat and dress, but didnâ€™t move the guardsâ€™ thick midnight black cloaks at all. Their black chest armour was visible on the side they held the weapon. She had never seen anything like it. It fascinated her. Moulded to mimic muscles, it would have been a fine body if it were real flesh and blood. The kind of male body that she had seen in magazines.
â€œDo you do this every night?â€ She tried again.
â€œAre you blind? Is that why you donâ€™t look at me?â€ She waved her hand in front of his face.
There wasnâ€™t the slightest reaction. He didnâ€™t even blink.
Losing her patience, she huffed and frowned at him.
â€œThe history of our village is written and in the books itâ€™s said that a man moved here centuries ago, a man with purple eyes and a penchant for bloody murder, and that heâ€™s lived here ever since. The tale goes that he feasts on the blood of virgins to keep himself young and that those who serve him are dead men walking.â€
Nika stood there a moment longer, wondering what she could possibly say that would draw a reaction from him. He faltered in her vision, distorting along with the other guard and the mansion behind them. The steady drumming in her chest became a staccato rhythm and her eyes widened while she watched the whole world shift before her eyes.
One moment the guard stood before her and the next a different man. This one sent a chill tumbling down her spine and spreading to her fingertips. His rough-hewn features gave him an air of brutality. Dishevelled black wiry hair tufted up, streaked with silver by his temples, drawing her gaze to his slightly pointed ears. A thick scar cut across one cheek, tugging the corner of his lips into it. It looked as though someone had sliced through his mouth to his ear.
She looked away from it, disturbed by the sight, and found her gaze meeting his. Hard, penetrating amber irises held hers. Their dark wide pupils made her tremble with the promises of violence and pain that they held.
Nika knew those eyes.
The wind blew, sweeping her hair from her face and making the plush grey fur collar of his coat dance. He smiled at her, revealing sharp teeth that made her gasp in recognition.
Before she could even think it, he twisted and growled, fur chasing over his skin as it stretched to fit new bones. She wanted to look away but found that she couldnâ€™t. She could only stare in horror and sick fascination as he transformed into a wolf before her eyes.
Suddenly, six wolves were with him and she was in the forest. Nika turned in a heartbeat, running away from them before they could reach her again. Again? She hazily remembered that she had done this before. She had already run away from these wolves. In the distance, the shack appeared. She had run there. The guard had saved her. Her leg had been broken.
It exploded in pain as she remembered and a red haze covered the world. It quickly faded to black. Unable to run any longer, she started to fall.
Nikaâ€™s eyes snapped open and she stared at the sloped wooden ceiling. Her heart hammered against her chest, her breathing fast and panicked. She slowed it down, drawing careful even breaths. It was hard to figure out what was real and what had been just a dream. Her leg ached. The wolves had been real. Her head rolled to one side and she stared at the man sleeping in the corner of the shack. So was the guard.
Who was the other man?
She rubbed her face and sat up, grimacing when her whole body protested. A thick black blanket covered her. No, not a blanket. The manâ€™s cloak. She moved it aside and saw her own coat beneath it. He had covered her to keep her warm. She glanced at him again. The air in the room was icy at best. He would be freezing.
A frown married her fair eyebrows when she saw her left leg. He had bound it with what looked like part of her dress, some wood and some leather straps. It hurt, a dull throbbing pain, but nowhere near as badly as it had done last night. She looked at the windows. She couldnâ€™t tell what time of day it was now. The light was golden, that of either morning or evening. What had happened to the night?
Panic lanced through her.
He would be worried sick by now. She should have returned to the village hours ago. What if he came out looking for her and the wolves attacked him too? She tried to move and a wave of nausea crashed over her, sending her mind spinning and her skin burning. She pressed her hand to her head, feeling the heat of it and the damp layer of sweat. Was she infected? When she had been a child, the wolves had attacked the village and many had fallen sick from their wounds. The doctors had said it was blood poisoning and had sent the people away. She held herself, wrapping her arms across her chest. Did she have blood poisoning?
Nika jumped when the man in the corner stirred. Winter. She vaguely remembered him saying that was his name. Winter looked at her with dark eyes that she couldnâ€™t read. There was no emotion in them. In all the times that she had seen him and looked into them, they had always been unreadable, but she knew there were feelings inside him. She could feel them.
He stood, crossed the small room to her, and inspected her leg and her cuts. His eyes grew darker. He frowned.
â€œI feared it would be this way,â€ he said in a heavy voice laden with the emotions finally surfacing in his eyesâ€”anguish and despair. She wished those hadnâ€™t been the first feelings that he had shown her.
â€œWhat way?â€ The sudden appearance of his feelings made her panic. Blood poisoning. It had to be.
He moved towards her, his face expressionless even when his eyes shone with what looked like fear.
She closed her eyes when his palm pressed against her forehead, cool and refreshing. His touch sent waves of relaxing calm through her and she leaned back against the headboard of the bed, her whole body humming softly.
â€œDid any of the wolves bite you?â€
Those words chased away the calm and brought fear crashing back. Her eyes shot wide and she stared at the opposite wall, her thoughts running a million miles an hour through what had happened last night.
â€œThe big one, with the black fur and grey mane,â€ she said and looked up at Winter. â€œI remember it from when I was small. The wolves came to the village one harsh winter. My father protected me.â€
Winter was silent. His expression turned grim, sending fear into her heart.
â€œIf it bit me, am I sickeningâ€”will I die? Iâ€™ve seen others die from a fever like this.â€ Her eyes searched his, heart holding onto the hope that he would tell her she would be fine. If he told her, she would believe him. He had said she wouldnâ€™t die last night and she hadnâ€™t. Perhaps if he told her that she would get better, she would.
He shook his head.
â€œNo…â€ He sat beside her on the bed and removed his hand from her forehead. He placed his other one against her cheek. It was so cold that her eyes slipped half-shut again as she savoured the cooling effect that it had on her body. â€œYou will not die. You will heal and you will grow stronger than you have ever been.â€
Her eyes opened again.
â€œHow?â€ She looked at her leg and concentrated. â€œIâ€™m healing. I can feel it. The pain is almost gone, but the fever… whatâ€™s happening to me?â€
A look that spoke of discomfort crossed his face and he stood, walking to the end of the bed and then turning to face her, as though he needed the distance. She willed him back to her. Whenever he was close, she felt safe and as though nothing could hurt her.
â€œYou are becoming like them,â€ he said in a near whisper. He had to be joking. People didnâ€™t become wolves. His gaze met hers. His eyes held nothing but honesty. Waves of panic rocked her, one after the other, each stronger than the last. They tightened her chest until it became hard to breathe. â€œWithin the next few days, your transformation will be complete.â€
â€œIâ€™m becoming a wolf?â€ Her voice was a high squeak of hysteria. â€œWhat crazy idea is that? You canâ€™t become a wolf from being bitten by one!â€
â€œThey are not wolves,â€ he said, emotionless.
â€œTheyâ€™re not?â€ She laughed but stopped when his face remained serious and it became even more difficult to breathe. She had to do something to dispel this growing fear inside her. He couldnâ€™t be telling her the truth. â€œNext youâ€™ll be telling me that youâ€™re not human and weâ€™re not in a shack in the woods.â€
He took a step towards her, hesitated, and then curled his hands into fists. When he spoke, his voice was one of pain and anger.
â€œI am not human, Nika, and neither are you… not anymore. Rest. You will be weak until you are healed.â€
She couldnâ€™t believe what she was hearing. Was she still dreaming? Was she delirious?
â€œRest? You tell me that Iâ€™m not human and neither are you, and then you tell me to rest?â€
He just stared at her.
â€œThere is nothing we can do. You cannot move until your leg is healed and even then it is dangerous to move you before your transformation is complete.â€
That word made her sick. Transformation. He kept saying it as though it was really happening. She was becoming a wolf. How was that possible? People really didnâ€™t turn into wolves when one bit them. She frowned at her leg. Winter had said that the wolves hadnâ€™t really been wolves. Had the man in her dream become the wolf?
This was insane. She had to get out of here and away from this craziness. If she did, then maybe she would be fine.
â€œI canâ€™t stay here. My father will be worried and the wolves might return. This shack wonâ€™t hold… and youâ€™re clearly as demented as the man in the mansion you protect!â€
He said nothing. He stood still a moment and then walked to the window and stared out of it. The broken glass let the frigid air in. How could he stand the cold? Her gaze fell to his armour. The back of it was as detailed as the front, shaped like black muscles and intricately decorated with silver lines. His thick black shirt and that armour couldnâ€™t be keeping him warm. His hands had been freezing.
â€œWhat kind of lunatic do you protect that demands you wear such an outfit? Itâ€™s the twenty-first century and youâ€™re wearing armour.â€
He whirled to face her, expression dark and deadly, eyes black as midnight. â€œMy lord is none of your business. You would do well to keep your questions away from him.â€
Nika leaned back into the bed in an attempt to avoid the cutting edge of his tone and the violent darkness in his eyes. She hadnâ€™t meant to provoke him, or perhaps she had. Her father would be worried about her and everything that Winter said seemed impossible.
When she opened her mouth to speak, his eyes narrowed, silencing her.
â€œYou must stay here,â€ he said, his tone still rough. He looked at the window again and then back at her. This time when he spoke, his voice was softer and full of feeling. â€œIf the wolves return, which is likely since their leader will now see you as his, then I will protect you. He is no match for me, but with the others, I will be at a disadvantage. I am not demented, and I was not lying to you when I said that I am not human, and neither are you. I see no point in this conversation. You cannot change what happened…â€
Nika winced when her leg hurt and curled up, drawing her one good leg to her chest and holding it. His words had started out so nice, but the cruel brutal edge they had gained made her heart ache. For a moment, she had thought that he was kind to want to protect her. Why had he spoiled it by reminding her about the wolf bite and her supposed new inhuman status?
Surprise claimed her when Winter sat beside her on the bed. He sighed. Was he upset about something other than what she had said about his master and her insistence about going home? She sighed along with him, wishing she understood what was happening. He stared down at his lap. He really was handsome, and very pale. Perhaps his position kept him away from the sunlight, or maybe the black clothing and his dark hair was the reason his skin appeared milky.
It suddenly sunk in.
It was an utterly ridiculous thought that made an impossible amount of sense.
â€œIâ€™m a werewolf, arenâ€™t I?â€ she said, still looking at him, studying his face for a reaction to her words.
He nodded. Not a flicker of feeling crossed his face. Anyone else would have laughed at her suggestion. Then again, anyone else would have insisted that she was human and just had a case of blood poisoning, not that she was turning into something else.
â€œAre you one too?â€
A shake of his head this time.
â€œSomething else?â€ she said, wondering what he could be.
He nodded again.
â€œWhat?â€ Nika had to ask. Winter had said that he wasnâ€™t human. If he proved that, perhaps she would be able to start believing that she was becoming a werewolf.
His gaze slid across to meet hers. Her eyes widened when the colour of his irises gradually changed from deep blue to a rich purple. He straightened, turned his head to face her, and slowly smiled. His lips parted to reveal sharp pointed teeth. When he grinned fully, she realised that they were his canines. Fangs.
Her heart thumped erratically against her chest. Fear pounded down on her. Her instincts told her to run but she kept still instead, standing her ground in the only way she could. This man had saved her. He had offered to protect her when the wolves returned, regardless of how outnumbered he would be. He wasnâ€™t going to harm her.
She swallowed when his gaze raked over her, slow and assessing, somewhere between an animal eyeing its prey and an amorous man eyeing a potential bedmate.
His eyelids dropped, hiding his stunning purple irises, and he inhaled, slow and deep, as though savouring the smell of something.
â€œYou still smell of blood… the temptation…â€
Her, apparently. He liked the smell of her blood. Blood, fangs, pale skin, never aging. She should have spotted it before. A vampire. That meant that she was definitely becoming a werewolf. Or was she still trapped in that dream?
His eyes opened and he stared straight into hers. His gaze slid down to her neck and then moved across, narrowing with contempt. Was it her gold cross that made him look that way? In the movies, vampires hated crosses. Perhaps it was true.
She removed her hand from her arm and looked down at her palm. Crimson stained it. She held her hand out for him to see and trembled when he took hold of it, his skin cool against hers and his touch gentle. With wide eyes, she watched him, unable to move as he leaned towards her. He closed his eyes, dipped his head, and licked the blood from her palm.
Her heart rocketed when he drew her hand closer to him, forcing her to lean forwards, and then opened the slit in the arm of her dress with his other hand. His tongue swept across the cut and then his mouth closed around it. He gave a shallow suck, as though removing poison from a snakebite, but she didnâ€™t feel the sting of the wound as it reopened. The pleasure from such a sensual caress drove it to the back of her mind along with the dull ache in her leg. He licked the wound again, sending desire spiralling through her.
When he pulled back and released her hand, she felt bereft and cold. She looked at him and his eyes opened, meeting hers. They were blue again.
He blinked slowly.
â€œIs your lord a vampire too?â€ If he were, it would explain the story about him being centuries old.
Winter spat onto the floor.
Nika looked at the dark red wet mark on the dusty wood.
â€œWe all are,â€ he said in a distant voice and wiped his lips.
Nika frowned, trying to ignore the fact that he hadnâ€™t swallowed her blood. For some reason, it offended her.
â€œThe village tales are true then. Fell creatures roam our land and they have the form of man,â€ she said in a false light tone and then frowned again at the dark patch of blood on the floor by Winterâ€™s booted feet.
â€œHow is your leg?â€ he said with a glance at it.
â€œFine,â€ she snapped, unable to help herself. He had spat out her blood not seconds after saying he wanted it. â€œI thought you were tempted by my blood?â€
His eyebrows knitted together and he stared pensively at the floor. â€œI am, but it tastes… it is tainted. The werewolfâ€™s saliva is changing you and the process is not yet finished. When it isâ€”â€
â€œIâ€™ll be like them.â€
Winter nodded and kept his face bent towards the floor. â€œI came as fast as I could.â€
Nika studied his face, surprised by his words and wanting to see if there was truth behind them. He had? There was such pain in his eyes, and regret. He looked vulnerable as he sat with his hands in his lap, his head bent and his profile to her. Something about the air of hurt around him made her want to reach out and cover his hand with hers, to reassure him that what had happened wasnâ€™t his fault. His shoulders heaved in a sigh.
â€œThey killed your horse,â€ she whispered, feeling ridiculous and cruel for mentioning it when his eyes closed in visible pain.
When they reopened, he was looking at her. He straightened and turned to face her, their eyes meeting. Tears filled hers as she thought about everything that had happened. Her life was over. She was becoming a werewolf and a vampire had rescued her. It was all too much and none of it made sense even though she knew that it was true.
She kept waiting to wake up from the nightmare. She kept waiting for Winter to tell her that it was a joke and that none of it was real. He was only joking. He wasnâ€™t a vampire. She wasnâ€™t turning into some kind of hellhound. Her stomach roiled and flipped, burning with acid and her tumultuous feelings. A longing to bury her head in her hands and cry until she was sick filled her but she denied it. She didnâ€™t want to be weak. Not in front of Winter. She wanted to smile even though she was falling apart inside. The way he looked pained her, brought out her fear and shattered what little strength she had managed to retain. She wished she could smile for him, could alleviate all that sorrow in his beautiful blue eyes, but she wasnâ€™t strong enough. A tear tracked down her cheek, another quickly following it. She let them come, let them quietly slip one after another, not sobbing, just surrendering to her feelings and the weakness that filled every inch of her, right down to her heart and soul.
Winter gave her another pained look and brushed the backs of his fingers across her cheek.
Her lips parted and a tear rolled down her cheek to her jaw.
Instinct made her lean into his touch and draw comfort from it.
He broke the silence with words that made her heart ache.
â€œI am only sorry I could not save either of you.â€
F E Heaton
Their lord drinks blood and they are dead men walking. The tales of the mansion donâ€™t stop Nika from falling for one of the guards, but when wolves attack her and he rides to her rescue, she discovers that her knight is anything but saintly. He is a vampire and she is becoming a werewolf, and love between their species is forbiddenâ€”the penalty death.
Winterâ€™s world is shaken beyond salvation and his allegiance to his bloodline tested as he watches the woman heâ€™s fallen for turn into a werewolf. His heart demands vengeance and that he protects her, both from the werewolf now hunting for her and from himself, but she tempts him more than he can bear and it isn’t long into their journey before heâ€™s torn between upholding the law and succumbing to desire.
Will Nika be able to convince Winter to leave his world and stay with her or will she spend eternity dreaming of Winter’s kiss?