Pain. Blinding. Debilitating. Sickening. Pain.
It rocked every inch of him. Throbbed deep in his marrow. Lived inside him and refused to die, no matter how hard he struggled to contain and obliterate it.
There was peace too though, a strange sense of calm and warmth that felt as though it was trying to subdue the pain and drive it away. There was also a weird notion that he hadnâ€™t been alone.
Snowâ€™s head thumped the hardest, fiery lightning splintering across his skull and causing his eyes to ache. He opened them a sliver but the light pierced them, increasing his agony, and he screwed them shut again. He tried to rub the salt and grit from his eyes and grimaced when steel cuffs bit into his wrists, causing sharp lances to jab across them.
His ankles blazed too.
He managed to crack his eyes open enough that he could see his wrists. Shackled and scarred. Multiple lacerations. Dried and fresh blood.
Snow focused on them and his body, taking mental note of any injuries and how weak he felt, trying to gauge how long he had been chained to his bed. Possibly a few days. His senses came fully back online.
He wasnâ€™t alone.
His gaze slid painfully down to the male sitting in the wooden chair beside him to his right.
Snow spoke but it came out as a gravelly rumble. He cleared his throat, realised it was sore, figured he had been screaming his head off as usual, and tried again.
â€œHow long have you been in the room?â€ It took a lot of effort to get that many words out. He drew in a deep breath and it wheezed past his throat and rattled in his lungs. Snow changed his previous calculation to over a week without leaving his bed. He didnâ€™t normally feel this refreshed after an extended period lost to his insanity though.
Perhaps he was wrong about how long he had been lost to his bloodlust. He might have screamed more than usual this time.
It would help if he could remember what had triggered his latest round of crazy.
â€œNot five minutes,â€ Antoine said, his voice a low steady rumble that spoke of fatigue. His brother looked like hell too, dishevelled and weary, and that made Snow look away.
Guilt gnawed at his heart. He had worried Antoine again. Hurt him.
â€œI sensed you calming and came to check on you, and found you sleeping soundly so I thought I would stay a while to keep you company.â€ Antoine raked his fingers through his thick brown hair. It was longer than usual. Definitely more than a week. More than two? â€œI did not mean to wake you.â€
Snow frowned at his brotherâ€™s odd words.
â€œYou did not wake me. I wasnâ€™t sleepingâ€¦ I meanâ€¦ I was at least conscious.â€ Snow looked himself over, the pain in his eyes fading as they adjusted to him using them again. Clearly, he had missed something. He didnâ€™t remember sleeping. He remembered the rage, the dark hunger for blood and violence, the insane craving to kill everyone who came near him but being unable to get free and satisfy that desire. He remembered feeling trapped in his body, caged by his bloodlust, unable to break its hold over him. He recalled coming around from bouts of unconsciousness to rage all over again too. He had been doing neither of those things prior to this moment. â€œI was asleep.â€
Antoine nodded, a glimmer of hope and curiosity in his blue eyes, and rose to his feet. â€œAnd you are awake now. Very awake.â€
Snow understood why he looked curious and what he was implying. His bloodlust had receded. Receded but not gone. Snow could feel it lurking within him. Something had driven it back but it was waiting to seize hold of him again. Something that had made him sleep too. He never slept before coming around from one of his attacks. He was always unconscious or came out of it while awake.
Antoine took some items from the ebony nightstand to Snowâ€™s right. Cotton wool and antiseptic by the looks of things. His brother doused a wad of the white padding and moved to Snowâ€™s feet, and began cleaning the blood from his ankles.
He looked at his younger brother and frowned, unable to shake the feeling that he hadnâ€™t been alone, and it hadnâ€™t been Antoineâ€™s presence he had felt.
â€œNo one was in here with you?â€ he said and Antoine shook his head, came up beside him and began cleaning his neck and shoulders. â€œYou did not hear anyone singing?â€
â€œNo.â€ Antoineâ€™s expression darkened, as though the thought of someone being in here with him disturbed him. Had he been that far gone that Antoine had wanted to keep everyone away from him? Someone must have come regardless. He sniffed and smelled Antoine and Sera, and lily of the valley mixed with snow. No one at the theatre smelled that way. â€œPerhaps you were dreaming?â€
Snow hoped his brother was right, but the sense that someone had been here with him plagued him, together with the song. It had been familiar. His brow crinkled as he struggled to remember it, the tune and lyrics drifting towards the surface of his mind only to slip through his grasp and disappear again, teasing him.
He growled. â€œSomeone was singingâ€¦ I swear it, Brother.â€
Antoine moved to sit on the bed beside him and gave him a sympathetic smile. â€œDo not push yourself. Will you take a little blood?â€
Snow forced himself to nod. He wasnâ€™t hungry but it would ease Antoineâ€™s mind and help Snow maintain his current mental state. It would also take his mind off the feelings he couldnâ€™t shake. Maybe Antoine was right and he had been dreaming. He had long ago made it a habit to forget his dreams upon waking, because he never saw anything good in them. His dreams were where the past waited to punish him.
Seeing his brother every night and knowing what he had done to him all those years ago was punishment enough for his sins.
Antoine left the bed and walked around the foot of it to the cluttered black dressing table on the left side of the room, opposite the door, his bare feet silent on the wooden floor. He picked up the small metal canister there, unscrewed the cap and brought it to his nose. He sniffed, smiled, and picked up a glass and returned to Snow, settling on the bed beside him again.
Antoine poured some blood into the glass and held it out to Snow.
Snow reluctantly nodded, closed his eyes and opened his mouth. He hated cold blood, but it was all he had known for centuries now. He could no longer remember what fresh blood straight from the vein tasted like.
Antoine carefully brought the glass to his lips and tipped it, allowing a steady flow of it to enter Snowâ€™s mouth. He swallowed it down and grimaced, suppressing a shudder as it chilled his throat. Disgusting.
It did what he needed it to though. The moment it reached his stomach, his body began to absorb it, using it to restore some of his strength. With his returning strength came memories that had eluded him. The black empty stage of Vampirerotique bathed in blood and entrails. An unfamiliar female and a child. Payne defending them. Males attacking his brother.
His brotherâ€™s blood spilling.
Snow growled and bucked against the restraints, the image of Antoine bleeding from wounds across his chest driving his bloodlust back to the surface. He ground his teeth as his fangs elongated, filling his mouth, and threw his head back and roared.
â€œSnow!â€ Antoine pressed his palm against Snowâ€™s forehead and pushed his head down onto the black pillows, effectively restraining him. â€œLook at me, Brother.â€
Snow rolled his eyes open and sought Antoine. Antoine knelt over him, concern shining in his pale blue eyes.
â€œI am well. See for yourself.â€
Snow dropped his eyes to his brotherâ€™s chest. No blood marred the dark material of his shirt. No wounds. Antoine had already healed. Snow breathed slowly to calm himself and kept his eyes locked on his brother. He was well. Not bleeding. Not hurt.
Not dying because of him.
â€œBrother,â€ Snow said and Antoine frowned at him. He ached to be free of his bonds so he could take Antoine into his arms and hold him. He needed to reassure himself that his brother was unharmed, alive and with him. He longed to feel that he did have the power to break the hold of his bloodlust even when he feared that he didnâ€™t. All he could do was ask though. â€œYour injuries are healed?â€
Antoineâ€™s dark eyebrows knitted into a confused line.
â€œIt is a simple question. How are you feeling?â€ Snow tried again, needing an answer this time, afraid that if Antoine didnâ€™t reassure him, he would lose his mind again and the bloodlust would claim him.
Antoine released his forehead only to stroke it. â€œAre you feeling alright?â€
Snow frowned at that. He had asked the same damn thing and Antoine hadnâ€™t answered. Was Antoine still injured? Had he not healed?
â€œI am fineâ€¦ but your injuriesâ€¦ tell me you have healed, Brother.â€ Snow tried to touch him and the cuffs sliced into his wrists again. He winced at the fleeting stab of pain. Antoine took some more cotton wool from the black nightstand and cleaned the blood off his wrists for him, and then cast him a worried glance. â€œWhat is it?â€
Antoine sat back on the bed and Snow could sense his concern and frustration. He lobbed the bloodied cotton wool into the bin near the nightstand, drawing Snowâ€™s attention to how full it was. Some had fallen out, littering his wooden floor. How long had he been lost to bloodlust?
â€œAntoine. Answer me.â€
His younger brotherâ€™s expression grew even more concerned. â€œI do not understand a word you are saying, Snow, and you are beginning to scare me.â€
Snow frowned now and thought about the words that had left his lips. They had seemed normal to him.
â€œI never learned the language of our familyâ€™s homeland.â€ Antoine refilled the glass with blood and rested it on his knee.
Snow stared at him, struggling to take in what he had said. He had been speaking the old language?
His eyes shot wide and he tried to sit up, only to have the cuffs around his wrists jerk him back against the pillows. Antoine hastily set the glass down on the nightstand and grabbed his shoulders, his fear flowing over Snow. Evidently, he thought Snow was having a relapse.
For once, it wasnâ€™t the case.
â€œThe prince andâ€¦ homeland. Prince.â€ Snow knew he wasnâ€™t making any sense and it wasnâ€™t because he was speaking the old language this time. He was speaking English. The look in his brotherâ€™s eyes as they darted between his and the glass of blood said he definitely thought the blood had had a negative effect on him, driving him back to insanity.
â€œAre you okay, Snow?â€ Antoine moved his hands to Snowâ€™s face, cupping both of his cheeks.
â€œNot crazy for a change,â€ he snarled and instantly regretted it when Antoine released him and picked up the glass. â€œPrince. The song. Winter skies. Snow.â€
Antoine lifted the glass to Snowâ€™s lips. â€œDrink a little more. You need to sleep. Do you feel you can sleep?â€
What he wanted to do was slap his brother into the next century and get him to listen, but any act of violence right now would have Antoine calling in Javier and restraining him until he forced blood down his throat and possibly stuck him with a lion-sized dose of sedative.
Snow didnâ€™t have good memories of the last time they had tried that one. He had hallucinated for days about all manner of weird creatures and demons jumbled in with flashbacks of his past, hadnâ€™t slept at all, and had come out of it worse than before they had tried to tranquilize him.
â€œI will try,â€ Snow said and allowed Antoine to pour a little more blood into his mouth. It was cold on his tongue and he swallowed it quickly. A sense of calm returned as it flowed into him, making him sleepy. â€œPrince. Snow. Winter skies.â€
It swam around his head, the melody haunting him and chasing sleep away.
â€œI am sure it will come to you, Brother.â€ Antoine set the glass down again and sat beside him, his closeness comforting Snow and easing him. â€œDo not push yourself.â€
â€œStay a while,â€ Snow mumbled, struggling to keep his eyes open. He didnâ€™t want to be alone. â€œWill you?â€
â€œOf course,â€ Antoine said.
Sleep tried to overcome Snow but he fought it, not wanting to waste this precious time with his brother. He didnâ€™t know when the bloodlust would win and grip him again, and right now he feared next time it wouldnâ€™t let go. Right now, he wanted to be normal again.
â€œHow long was I out?â€ he whispered and blinked rapidly, trying to keep sleep at bay a little longer. He should have refused the blood. It always made him sleepy when he was recovering. â€œYou look like shit.â€
Antoine smiled but it didnâ€™t lift the darkness from under his eyes. â€œIt was over three weeks ago that Chica took you down.â€
Twenty-one days. It scared the hell out of Snow.
Antoineâ€™s voice was hoarse, strained as he spoke. â€œI thought I had lost you this time.â€
Tears rose into Snowâ€™s eyes, mirrored in Antoineâ€™s, and he fought to stop them from falling. He didnâ€™t know what to tell his brother. He wanted to tell him that if he had known that he had been scaring him, he would have battled his bloodlust and overcome it to take away his fear and his pain, but it would be a lie. How many times had he lied to his brother?
Too many times, and always about the same thing.
He had promised Antoine that he would fight and he would live, and he would never succumb to the temptation death presented.
It was becoming impossible to keep that promise.
â€œI am back now,â€ Snow said, voice thick with emotions that felt more like a burden each day longer that he lived.
Snow wished he could offer his brother more comfort. He wasnâ€™t sure if he would come back from the next bout of bloodlust. He was surprised he had come back from this one. He glanced at his wrists again. The blood on them had been fresh when he had woken, no more than an hour old, yet all the cuts had been nothing but scars.
Snow fell quiet, allowing Antoine to talk to him, his mind elsewhere. The healed cuts and the sleep. The sanity. Someone had been with him and whoever they were, they knew how to calm him.
They had sung to him in the old language.
That was why he had spoken it to Antoine.
Snow couldnâ€™t recall the last time he had spoken it before today. It had been centuries or possibly more. Had he spoken it since Antoine was born? He didnâ€™t think he had.
It hadnâ€™t been a dream.
Someone had been here in this room with him.
A female who smelled of lily of the valley and snow.
A woman who had sung in the language of his homeland.
A song for a prince and an angel.
Did you enjoy today’s tease?
A powerful vampire lost deep in his bloodlust, Snow is a savage animal, mindless with rage and a thirst for violence, and trapped with no hope of awakening from an endless nightmareâ€¦ until a song draws him up from the abyss, restoring his sanity but leaving him haunted by the sweet feminine scent of lilies and snow, and fragmented familiar lyrics.
When the mysterious and beautiful songstress reappears in Snowâ€™s room at Vampirerotique, she awakens a fierce protective streak and stirs dark desires that drive him to claim her as his female, even when he knows his touch will destroy her innocence.
A single forbidden taste is all it takes to unleash emotions in Aurora that she shouldnâ€™t possess, tearing her between duty and desire, and luring her into surrendering to her wildfire passion and embracing hungers that burn so hotly they threaten to consume them both.
One act of kindness can lead to one thousand acts of sin though, each a black mark against the bearerâ€™s soul and another grain of sand that slips through an hourglass. The clock is ticking and time is almost up. Can beauty save the beast?
You can get your hands on the first book in this series, COVET, for FREE right now on selected Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks Stores. Find out more at my Paranormal Romance Ebook Offers page.
If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the books in the Vampire Erotic Theatre romance series yet, they’re all available at major ebook retailers and in paperback, and you can find the links and samples of the books at my website:
Covet (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #1)
Crave (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #2)
Seduce (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #3)
Enslave (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #4)
Bewitch (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #5)
Unleash (Vampire Erotic Theatre Romance Series #6)