Pain. It tore at him. Shredded his flesh. Smashed his bones. Devoured his soul. Blood. He needed it. Ached for it. Hungered. Darkness. It consumed him.
A floral scent swept around him, invading his senses, driving back the darkness and the agony. Nature. He was somewhere green and verdant, beautiful and soothing. He could see it in his buzzing mind, and could see it for himself if he could just get his eyes open.
He yearned to run his fingers through the tall meadow grass. He longed to lift the wild blooms to his nose and inhale their delicate fragrance. He needed to lay beneath the mighty oak and let the dappled sunlight play across his tired body as the melody of the branches swaying filled his mind. He wanted to breathe deep of it all and let it fill his soul with light.
Vail forced his eyes open, filled with a hunger to see the nature that brought with it such a sweet, enticing scent.
Black stone greeted his eyes. The rank odour of mould overshadowed the soft floral fragrance.
Had he been dreaming of nature, a fantasy so real that it had crossed over into reality? He couldnâ€™t recall the last time he had dreamed. Nightmares were his constant companion. Never dreams.
But there was no nature in his dark damp cell. No sunshine. No flowers. No meadow grass.
â€œYouâ€™re awake.â€ The voice was female, edged with a quaver that spoke of fear, and a sense of familiarity.
He shifted his eyes down to her. Beauty and nature stood over him and he saw blue skies in her eyes and sunshine in the spun gold of her hair. A faint scent of wild roses clung to her. He didnâ€™t remember her, or did he? It was hazy. Her face seemed familiar.
â€œRemain still,â€ she said and he complied only because he wasnâ€™t sure he could move, not even to snap her neck or tear her throat out with his fangs.
Why would he do such a thing to the delicate little wild rose?
She trembled, her shoulders shaking so violently that her matted fair hair tumbled off them and down her front.
He wanted to reach out and sweep that hair back into place.
Vail became aware of the cold heaviness of manacles around his wrists.
Hazy things started coming back to him, slowly gaining focus in his weary mind. The demons had done this to him. He was sure of that. He recalled the fight and wanting death, and waking to this female. He recalled her saying he was bound.
They had him chained and had a female in his cell.
She was a trap.
Crushing weight pressed down on his chest and his throat clogged. They had sent her in to hurt him.
To abuse him.
He snarled and fought his bonds, desperately trying to break the chain between them. He was stronger now, although he didnâ€™t know why. Power flowed through him, strength he hadnâ€™t felt in as long as he could remember. He used all of it on the restraints, bowing off the cold stone slab as he fought them.
â€œPlease keep still.â€ She reached out to touch him.
To lay her hands on his flesh.
Vail bared his fangs at her and rolled off the slab, hitting the floor hard enough to knock the air from his lungs. He kicked off, scrambling as he attempted to rise to his feet and placing as much distance between them as he could manage.
â€œKeep away,â€ he said in English, using her tongue.
She shot to her feet and he growled at her, flashing his fangs in warning again.
â€œI cannot,â€ she barked and took a step towards him. â€œIf I donâ€™t heal you, theyâ€™ll punish me!â€
Fear shone in her blue eyes. Eyes that implored him to believe her as she took another hesitant step towards him. Her arms shifted, coming forwards, and metal rattled. His gaze dropped to her wrists and he blinked.
She wore the same heavy cuffs as he, and had worn them for some time judging by her scarred wrists. A foreign sensation bolted through him on seeing the pale streaks of silver and red on her delicate skin. A need that he didnâ€™t understand.
He felt compelled to take her hand in his and smooth his fingers over the scars, as if that action could erase the ugly marks of her captivity and restore her flawless skin.
He had no such power, not over flesh and bone. Not anymore. He had forsaken it long ago when he had severed his connection to his people and his powers had withered over the endless centuries since then.
And he had no reason to desire to use it on this female.
â€œPlease?â€ she whispered and he lifted his gaze back to meet hers. â€œI have to heal you.â€
What species was she? Many could heal and many of those appeared human.
He growled at her, unable to stop himself, a reaction to that word that would stay with him until death finally embraced him. She didnâ€™t flinch away. She bravely stood her ground this time, although her heart missed several beats and he sensed the fear she held buried deep within her.
Not only fear of him. She feared the demons too. And something else.
Something unknown to him, but something he needed to understand. He wasnâ€™t sure why. It ran deep in his blood, a compulsion he couldnâ€™t comprehend and that made no sense to him. It tied him in knots, twisting his insides, making him feel useless and weak.
He narrowed his gaze on her, studying her delicate features and the way she held herself, drinking in everything about her, searching for a clue as to the reason for his strange reactions to her. Perhaps they had drugged him. It was all a ploy to weaken him and lure him into her trap. They wanted to watch her bring him to his knees. They would laugh as he suffered at her hands.
They were attempting to play on his compassion, but that had been their mistake.
He had no compassion left.
It had been wrung out of him thousands of years ago.
â€œPlease?â€ she said again and gestured to the slab. â€œIâ€™m not going to hurt you. I just have to heal you.â€
He didnâ€™t want to lay on it and allow her to touch him. He didnâ€™t want her hands on him. Caressing. Fondling. Groping. He snarled and flashed his fangs again, and she shrank back, a little gasp escaping her.
â€œI would do as she asks, Mate. She isnâ€™t going to hurt you, but if she doesnâ€™t do as ordered, the demons will hurt her.â€ The deep male voice was little more than a snarl and Vail cast a glance off to his left.
A male with long dark hair streaked with gold occupied the cell opposite his, casually leaning against the thick deep grey stone wall. Green eyes locked with Vailâ€™s, holding him fast. Fae markings tracked up the maleâ€™s arms, flushed with blood red and ash black, a sign of aggression. He was handsome too, despite the thick dark beard. He folded his arms across his muscular bare chest, the twin cuffs he wore clanking and filling the heavy silence, but they had no chain between them.
If this male spoke the truth, then she did too, and the guards would punish her for her failure. Vail pressed his hands against the sides of his head, dug his fingers through his blue-black hair and clawed his scalp, raking his nails over it. Gods, he missed his claws. He missed his armour. He needed it back. It was the only thing that could ground him.
The male pushed away from the wall and moved to the bars. He wrapped his hands around them and his gaze slid to the female. Lingering. Possessing.
Vail bared his fangs and hissed at him, barely maintaining the human appearance of his eyes and ears. He had to hold on to his veil. He couldnâ€™t let these people know what he was. Who he was.
The man shrugged and kept staring at the female. â€œI warned you, Little Girl. You play with vipers and youâ€™ll get bitten.â€
Did you enjoy today’s snippet?
Tempted by a Rogue Prince
An elf prince on the verge of losing himself to the darkness, Vail is maddened by the forty-two centuries he was under the control of a witch and forced to war with his brother. Now, he roams Hell seeking an escape from his terrible past and the heads of all who bear magic. When demons of the Fifth Realm capture him, he sees a chance to end his existence, but when he wakes in a cell to a beautiful female, he finds not death but his only shot at salvationâ€”his true fated mate.
Captured by the enemy of the Third Realm when the war ended, Rosalind has spent months in the cells of the Fifth Realm with her magic bound, forced to heal the new kingâ€™s demon warriors, and haunted by the lives she has taken. When sheâ€™s brought to heal an unconscious man, she discovers her only hope of escape has come in the form of her worst nightmare and the first part of a prediction that might spell her doomâ€”a devastatingly handsome and dangerous dark elf prince.
Unwilling to fall under the control of anyone ever again, Vail must escape before the Fifth King can use him as a pawn in a deadly game of revenge, but he cannot leave without Rosalind, the woman who looks at him with dark desire in her stunning eyes and awakens a fierce hunger in his heart. A witch who drives him mad with need even as the darkness within whispers she will enslave him too.
Can Rosalind escape her fate as they embark on a journey fraught with danger and resist the temptation of her rogue elf prince? And can Vail overcome the memories that madden him in order to seize his chance for salvation and the heart of his fated female forever?
If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the books in the Eternal Mates 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: