Okay, here is the teaser for chapter 11. I will try and get the full chapter submitted up to Lit before Christmas. Hope you all enjoy :) Oh and it's not edited so apologies for any mistakes etc :)
Demetri turned from watching the blood gush from his friend’s torn throat. Ordinarily the wound would have been healing by now but the poison lacing Pietro’s body kept the wound raw, allowing the tainted blood to flow unhindered.
Grabbing one of the empty bottles beside the bed, he used his vampiric speed to clean it out in the bathroom sink while Joshua was still outside with the humans. He returned to the bedroom, his gut wrenching painfully as he collected a sample of Pietro’s blood and ensured it was left somewhere safe for retrieval later.
He pulled out his cell phone and hit the first speed dial number. “Stay with me,” he whispered as the call was answered. He wasn’t sure if he was talking to the man on the bed or the person on the other end of the call. All he was sure of was the coldness seeping into his bones as his humanity slowly ebbed away.
“Please carry on without me. This is an emergency call.”
Mara’s sweet voice echoed in his ear as she excused herself from most probably a Council meeting. He listened as her footsteps echoed over the marble floor he could picture as if he were there. The small amount of steps she took told him she’d entered one of the quiet rooms just off the main Council chambers, a place she could speak in complete privacy.
“Talk to me, baby. Tell me what’s wrong.”
A long tortured sound escaped him. “Pietro’s dying. His body is ravaged with poison. His only hope is for me to bleed him out and try and replenish him with untainted blood. I have to use humans and I’m afraid I won’t be able to retain enough reason not to kill them to save him. I need you.”
His wife’s pained gasped sounded in his ear. He was too far away to sense much from their mate bond but he knew she was hurting. She adored Pietro, loved his quirky sense of humour. His death would be a blow to her if he couldn’t save him.
“You listen to me, Demetri Bozic. I don’t want to hear any of that defeatist crap from you. You damned well can maintain control and you will. I’ll be right here with you every step of the way. Do whatever it takes to save Pietro.”
She had her Council voice on, that no nonsense tone she adopted when she was serious about something. It cut through the blackness surrounding him and brought a faint smile to his lips. His woman was something else and she was all his. Her confidence in him helped to clear his head and he gave himself a mental shake.
“Well, you know how I hate to disappoint a lady,” he sighed. “Guess I’ll have to do as I’m ordered.”
“I should be recording this call. Demetri Bozic actually doing something he’s told for once.” Mara’s teasing tone was full of love, so much warmth that reached out to wrap itself around her husband. “I know you doubt yourself sometimes but I have faith in you, baby. I’ll always have faith in you. You can do this. Just let me know what I can do to help.”
Straightening his shoulders he turned back to the bed, saw the flow of blood trickling slowly now. Pietro’s eyes were closed, what was left of his skin that hadn’t rotted, so pale it was almost translucent.
“I’m going to hand the phone off to Joshua in a minute. If he judges the need he’ll place it to my ear. Just talk to me when he does that, ground me and remind me what I’ll lose if I surrender to the darkness.”
“Always, Demetri,” Mara whispered softly maintaining the warmth and love in her tone so he knew he wasn’t alone. She was frightened for Pietro and terrified for her husband. He was so far away with none of his safety lines available to touch him, to hold him close when the monster came calling. A phone link was the best they could do. It had to be enough.
Demetri strode out of the bedroom walking straight into Joshua and the five humans. He reached out instantly with his mind, ensnaring the humans and using his abilities to place them in a light trance. It was the first time he’d attempted to do this in a group environment and he was surprised at how easy it was.
He handed the phone to Joshua. “My wife is on the other end,” he informed him. “If the humans’ lives are in danger tell her I need her and then put the phone to my ear. Don’t speak directly to me; don’t attempt to interfere in anything I’m doing. Just hold the phone out to me.”
He waited for the other vampire to signal his understanding and then ushered them all into the room. He scrutinized the humans carefully, trying to view them as people and not food. There were three males and two females, all healthy looking with pink cheeks and tantalising blood flowing just beneath their skin.
He separated the strongest looking male from the group and led him over to the bed.
“This won’t hurt,” he said in a deep soothing voice watching the man shiver as his compulsion washed over him. He turned his gaze to Pietro, barely able to see the rise and fall of his chest. He was too weak to feed so Demetri would have to orchestrate everything for the moment.
He gently opened the vampire’s mouth forcing his mind to be calm as a piece of rotten flesh from his friend’s chin came away in his hand.
“Lean over,” he coaxed the human, his talons elongating as he helped the man line up his throat with Pietro’s mouth. “You’re with a pretty woman, my friend, walking along a beach holding her hand. The sun is glinting in her hair, laughter dancing in her eyes as she’s looking up at you…”
His talon sliced the human’s throat even as the man’s eyes glowed with happiness imagining himself in the environment Demetri had conceived. Hot, fresh blood pumped out splashing into Pietro’s mouth and beginning to leak out of the corners.
“Swallow, Pietro. I know you’re tired. I can feel your pain. But you have to feed so swallow. You said you would do this. You know why you cannot fail. Take what is offered to you.”
Pietro heard a voice from far away. It pulled him away from the edge of darkness he was rushing towards. He didn’t want to go back, knew he would feel the burning agony if he did but the voice speaking to him was insistent, refusing to be denied.
It could only be Demetri. The man was arrogant and stubborn and refused to fail at anything. He’d often wondered if Alexei and Andrei had gotten their own stubbornness from hanging around the Ancient so long or if they were all just such similar personalities they’d naturally banded together.
He swallowed, his throat raw and painful, the hot blood oozing into his body seeking to replenish what was lost. Everywhere ached, there wasn’t one piece of his body which didn’t burn with an agony so unbearable he was ready to give up and return to the waiting darkness.
More blood choked him and he swallowed again, cursing Demetri for tormenting him, hating him for being so demanding. If he was ready to give up then why wouldn’t Demetri? He’d done his job. He’d alerted the others to the danger. Wasn’t he entitled to rest now?
“Lady, your husband needs you,” Joshua breathed softly into the phone before he held it out to Demetri’s ear. He didn’t touch him, tried not to even breathe close to the other vampire.
He had crossed over almost instantly once he’d shed the first human’s blood. Demetri’s eyes were black, his fangs out, and his talons wicked and sharp as they clutched the dying human tightly.
The man had lost a lot of blood, his expression still pleasant though the healthy pallor of his skin was gone. Another few minutes and he’d be past the point of return. They would have to consider Siring him if Demetri didn’t stop.
“Do you remember the first time we met, baby?” Mara asked with a small sigh. “You scared the life out of me in my kitchen. I tried not to show it but I was terrified at the time. Still didn’t stop me admiring you though. You looked so gorgeous, so impossibly beautiful I had to acknowledge it even when I was sure you were going to kill me. I’ve never told you this before. I didn’t want to feed your male ego.”
Demetri laughed, first silently in his mind and then a soft sound into the room. “I was admiring your ass,” he answered as he drifted back to that night, closing his eyes to savour the memory. “You were wiggling it in time to your music and I was thinking of what it would feel like in my hands. I’ve always loved your ass, wife.”
He opened his eyes slowly as she laughed and called him a rude name. The room came into focus and he looked down at the human bleeding out into Pietro’s mouth.
“Thanks, beautiful,” he whispered and then pressed his hand against the man’s neck. He felt Joshua step away as he bent his head and quickly sealed the wound on the human’s throat. The man was weak and could barely stand but he was alive.
Demetri led him over to the wall and helped him sit down. “Sleep now, my friend. We are thankful for your generosity.”
The humans hadn’t come willingly to the party but they deserved some respect for what they were unwittingly doing to save Pietro’s life. He nodded his thanks to Joshua and selected the next healthy male.
Again he planted a scene of beauty into the man’s mind before he made the incision to begin pumping fresh blood into his friend’s mouth. This time Demetri was able to retain enough of himself to watch the transfer, his keen gaze raking over Pietro’s body.
The wound in his neck, being the most recent one, was closing. A small amount of blood was leaking out but most was being retained. He thought he detected some of the shallower cuts beginning to heal too but it was hard to tell at this stage with so much damage still visible.
By the time the third male had donated his blood Demetri was relatively confident he could hold onto his control. Pietro was stronger, healing slowly as the untainted blood bolstered his system. His working eye was open and the pain didn’t appear as severe as before.
“Can you feed?” he asked his friend.
Pietro tested his fangs and they elongated painfully but they worked which was more than he could manage earlier. “Think so…” he managed to wheeze out.
“Joshua, bring one of the females. Help him feed. If it’s too difficult for him call me. I need a moment.”
Demetri took the phone and headed out of the room. He stepped outside into the night, leaning against the side of the cottage. “God, I love you, Mara,” he sighed wearily. “I wish you were here right now. I need to bury myself in your scent, to feel your softness against my body, to remind me that I’m not a monster.”
“The humans are alive, Demetri. You haven’t hurt them. So they’ll be a little tired for a while and need some extra iron. The situation isn’t ideal but it was necessary. That you care about what you’ve had to do is a sure sign that you’re not a monster.”
Mara paused to let her words sink in, soothing her mate as her heart broke for the anguish she could hear in his voice. Most people would miss it but she was so attuned to his emotions she could hear it clearly.
“Is it working? Is Pietro going to be all right?”
Demetri rubbed a hand over his face taking a deep breath before answering. “He’s stronger; there is some evidence of healing, the most recent cut and the shallower ones. I don’t know about the deeper wounds though. I guess we’ll find out when I feed him my Ancient blood. I think there will be some scarring and I don’t know about his eye. There’s also his mental state to consider. He’s been in a world of agony for days, Mara. It could make him cross over.”
That was his major concern at the moment, that they could heal most of the physical damage only to lose Pietro to insanity.
“He’s strong, baby, mentally strong as well as physically. He won’t give up easily. He loves life too much and he’s always been that little bit more human than most of you. If anyone can get through this Pietro can. Have a little faith.”
He groaned and smiled, staring into the darkness. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
Mara laughed loudly. “About five minutes ago but please feel free to tell me as often as you want. I love you too, Demetri. Now how about you get off this phone and get Pietro well enough to come home? Our bed is lonely without you in it. I want my husband back as soon as possible.”
The sultry drop in her tone was enough to have him groaning again but not for the same reason as the last one. “Keep our bed warm, beautiful. I’ll be home soon and then I’m going to keep you captive there for at least a week. So if you have any Council meetings planned…cancel them!”
“Yes, dear!” she laughed pouring false meekness into her tone to have him laughing too.
Demetri ended the call and headed back inside, feeling so much better after talking to his wife. She always knew the right tone, the correct line to take to ease his worries and bolster his resolve. If she thought he was joking about cancelling her meetings she was in for a rude shock and he was looking forward to getting home and showing her just how serious he was.
When he walked back into the bedroom Joshua was just resting the last woman beside her friends and urging her to sleep. The signs of healing on Pietro’s body were most noticeable, his breathing a lot stronger. Demetri breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the right eye beginning to regenerate.
“How’s the pain?”
“Manageable,” Pietro answered his voice still very weak. “I don’t want to try moving in case I misalign any broken bones. My shoulder?”
“I set it for you before the last feeding,” Joshua answered coming to stand beside Demetri. “The untainted blood appears to be working but it’s limited. You need vampire blood now to really kick start the regeneration process. I have to warn you the healing process is long and you will be susceptible to slow healing from new wounds for a while. The previous case of this, the vampire took a month to fully recover and he was in no way as bad as you.”
“A month!” Pietro ground out, shocked at the thought he’d be weak for so long. A month was an eternity for a vampire to be injured.
“What’s a month compared to death?” Demetri snorted rolling his eyes. He couldn’t fully hide his relief that they’d pulled his friend back from the brink of death. He wasn’t usually so lax in front of strangers but Joshua had proved himself today.
“I said a month for our vamp. It’s likely to be longer for you, Pietro,” the blond was saying with a frown on his face. In all honesty he was guessing at how long it would take the vampire to recover, if he ever fully recovered from his injuries.
“Why didn’t we know about this first instance?” Demetri couldn’t help slipping into his Ancient role. If vampire poisoning had happened before the Council should have been advised at the time.
Joshua picked up instantly on what he meant. It was hard not to smile at the arrogance of the Ancient. “You forget we don’t follow your Council over here, Demetri. They may think we do but we’re not responsible for their misapprehension. When was the last time any of your Council crossed the ocean? I don’t think I can recall an instance in my living memory.”
Demetri couldn’t recall one either. Maybe Joshua actually had a point. How could you lead people when you couldn’t even be bothered to visit them once in a while? It would be something to discuss with the other Ancients when he returned home.
“Anyway,” Joshua continued. “We had no idea what was wrong with our vamp. He was newly Sired. Our coven leader assumed it was a reaction to the Siring and we had no reason to think otherwise. If I’d known I would have called Caleb.”
Pietro was still unhappy, barely listening to the conversation going on over his head. His mind was clearer now. He was able to compartmentalise the pain and push it back until it wasn’t all he could think about. He couldn’t be out of action for a month, possibly longer. The woman was out there somewhere. She was hunting the children he had no doubt about that. He had to be back on his feet so he could track her down and neutralise the threat.
“Stop fidgeting or your bones won’t heal properly,” Demetri growled, irritation dancing across his face. “I know what you’re thinking and you can just stop it now. I’ll need to check with Rafe but probably the best place for you to recuperate will be with the pack.”
He motioned Joshua to begin feeding Pietro. At least with his fangs sunk in the other man’s wrist his friend wouldn’t be able to argue with him.
“The pack has its various protections in place and the children are there so you’ll be protecting them while you heal. That should soothe your wounded pride. You know the twins are going to insist on it once they find out what’s happened.”
Pietro wanted to argue but the rich blood flowing through his body was too intoxicating. Joshua was old enough to have quite potent blood and he could feel his healing beginning to pick up a pace. Strength was flowing into his body and he thought he could detect a little bit of light from his right eye.
Too soon the vampire was moving away from him and he fought to contain his disappointment. He listened as Demetri and Joshua discussed plans for the humans and then he closed his eyes as they picked them up and took them outside.
A few minutes later Demetri returned and sat down on the side of the bed. “Joshua is taking care of the humans. It will take him a while so it’s just you and me. Are you strong enough to take more blood? I was thinking afterwards we could get you cleaned up and moved to one of the other rooms. Joshua will bring clothes back for you.”
Pietro opened his eyes to look up at him a soft smile curving his lips. “I think this is going to be the one and only time I thank you for being a stubborn bastard, Demetri.” He made it sound like a joke but underneath the teasing his true emotions bled through.
In answer his friend brushed his hair away from his shoulder and raised Pietro’s head up enough to reach his neck. “Shut the fuck up and feed,” he growled.
Stunned Pietro could only stare at the thick vein pulsing with what had to be some of the richest, most powerful blood in the world. That Demetri offered the vein in his neck was an honour unparalleled. A vampire would only offer such trust to a family member or their lover. Demetri was baring his neck to him, trusting him implicitly.
“I can never repay you,” Pietro whispered tears gathering in his eyes as he sank his fangs into the rich vein and felt the power of an Ancient overwhelm him.
Demetri cradled Pietro’s head gently, blinking the moisture out of his eyes as he gave his essence to help his friend heal. He stroked his fingers through the matted hair as he felt the warmth of Pietro’s tears against his skin, soothing him with a gentleness he normally reserved for the two women in his life, Mara and Annie.
“You already have, Pietro. You fought and you survived. You stopped me from having to learn if I’m more monster than man. You laid your life on the line to protect those I love. This little thing I do now is small in comparison. You owe me no debt.”
He kept stroking his hair, kept soothing him as Pietro wept through his feeding reliving the horror he’d just been through, a horror which would probably haunt him for the rest of his life. Demetri couldn’t take the horror away but he could offer basic comfort until maybe Annie or one of the pack healers could work to help repair the mental damage to his friend’s soul.
Pietro fell asleep after his feeding. Demetri was loath to leave him in the filthy bed but he needed his hands free for the moment. He left the blood-soaked room with the sickening stench of rot still in his nostrils. In the main bathroom he turned on the shower careful not to have it too hot. He filled the bath too.
He quickly examined the cottage trying to find any hint of the poison used but coming up empty. The room downstairs where Pietro had obviously been imprisoned was just as bad scent wise as the bedroom, the bloodstained chains having his fury building again and he had to work to stifle it down.
Heading back to the bedroom after a desultory glance at the dead vampire in the basement, he was already mentally working out how to clean up the mess. He considered calling Caleb but figured Mara would take care of that. The entire cottage would need sanitised once they left and there was still the unknown woman out there somewhere and Michael.
The pungent aroma of the bedroom assaulted his nostrils once more and he stifled down a groan and quickly crossed to the bed. The change in Pietro was staggering. His skin was no longer black though still covered in angry red scars. It was pink and so fragile looking Demetri was afraid to touch him for fear of hurting him.
“Wake, my friend,” he urged softly. “I can’t leave you lying in this shit any longer. It’s disgusting.”
Pietro’s eyes opened instantly and Demetri blinked in surprise as he stared down at him. “Well, that’s going to get the ladies attention,” he smiled, feeling the first real amusement since he’d arrived in Scotland.
“What?” Pietro’s voice was still weak but getting stronger the longer the untainted blood had to work.
“Your regenerated eye…it’s black like Mac’s.”
Pietro frowned, closed his eyes and then opened them again. His expression asked a silent question and his friend’s smile just deepened.
“You’re not shitting me?” Brown was his dominant eye colour though they were flecked with green to create the hazel hue. Or they had been until he’d lost his right one. “My eyes are different colours? Fuck!”
Demetri reached down and very carefully helped his friend from the bed ignoring the blood and dead skin coating his clothes as he touched him. “It’s quite striking. I’m sure the ladies will love it,” he quipped distracting the other man from his pain.
He could have carried him to the bathroom easily but Pietro needed to feel as if he was in control. It had been taken away from him by his abductors and he wasn’t the kind of male who ceded control to others willingly. So he supported his friend into the bathroom teasing him about his new eye the entire way.
“Shower first to get all this shit off and then a soak in the bath,” he told him opening the shower door.
He stayed close watching to see if Pietro was strong enough to shower unaided. When it became apparent he wasn’t, Demetri stripped off his shirt, boots and belt and entered the cubicle with him clad only in jeans.
Pietro let the water wash over him closing his eyes so he couldn’t see the debris falling from his body. The scent of it was vile enough and he was still in shock that his eye hadn’t retained its natural colour. The water hurt the new skin which was regenerating but at a much slower rate than normal. He was afraid to look in the mirror and see the evidence of his capture.
Would he be scarred? He’d overheard enough of Demetri’s conversation with Mara despite being weak at the time. The very thought of bearing a permanent reminder was enough to make him shudder. Vampires were vain. They couldn’t help it. Something happened when they were Sired, their genetics mutating and enhancing their physical attributes.
Pietro was used to being perfect and now he wasn’t. Already he had a flaw with his eyes. Would his skin be marred too? Would he carry more permanent reminders of his utter humiliation at the hands of his abductors?
Now safety was guaranteed, now he didn’t have to court death, his emotions were rebelling deep within him. He was used to being strong, invincible. Having to admit that his own arrogance had been his downfall was hard to take. Having to admit that he’d been taken, stripped naked, his body abused and tortured at the whim of others...he couldn’t accept it, couldn’t deal with the humiliation.
Something fell from his hair to land on the shower floor and he moaned pressing both hands against the wall as his knees weakened and he had to hold himself up so he didn’t fall down beside the red and black clotted *thing* lying in the drain.
“I’ll do it.”
Demetri’s quiet words reminded Pietro he wasn’t alone. While he was relieved to be able to lean on his friend and avoid what he couldn’t face at the moment, another part of him screamed in denial as Demetri began to shampoo his hair.
He was like a helpless baby. For the last two days he’d been fucking helpless, alternating between screaming in agony at the pain and crying like a child.
Helpless! The word banged through his skull, taunting him, laughing at him, adding to the awful humiliation he couldn’t shake. All the time Demetri’s strong fingers stroked through his matted hair, shampooing and rinsing over and over again as chunks of something unknown landed with a thud on the shower floor.
“It’s okay to cry, Pietro,” Demetri voice was low and gentle. “There is only you and me here and nothing will leave this room. I understand. You’ve been through a terrible ordeal and the pain has to come out. I will not think less of you, my friend. I would be honoured that you trust me enough to allow me to help you through this vulnerable moment.”
His words were like turning on a faucet. The instant Demetri spoke, Pietro’s head reared back and he uttered an anguished scream up to the ceiling. His knees buckled and he fell, strong arms catching him from behind to hold him tightly as he screamed again.
Every second of the pain had been like an hour, every cut, every punch, the talons imbedded in his eye. He couldn’t escape the painful memories and he couldn’t assuage the feelings of helplessness, reliving the moment when he was ready to give up and he’d prayed for death as the only end to his agony, the poison burning him like a furnace as the torture raged on.
The bastards had broken him, he who was so strong in his world, so powerful and feared by those beneath him. He was broken and he didn’t think he would ever be able to fix what they’d done to him.
A loud hiss in his ear, bands of steel squeezing his chest.
“You are NOT broken,” Demetri hissed his voice full of fury. It was those words that made him realise he’d been whispering the word ‘broken’ over and over again as he sobbed like a child.
“I wanted to die, Demetri!” he admitted hoarsely. “I prayed to die before you arrived and when you came, when my body was eating itself apart, I wanted to beg you to end it so I didn’t have to suffer anymore. I was willing to abandon everyone, the children, my friends.”
The self-loathing in Pietro’s voice cut Demetri to the quick. He knew what it cost his friend to admit that, how he would view himself as a coward for wanting his torture to end. He understood because he knew he would react the same way if their roles were reversed.
He didn’t know what to say to him. He was no Annie; he didn’t have the perfect response when someone’s soul was so shattered. He tried to think what she would say.
“You did not die, Pietro. You stayed strong until help arrived and you did not ask me for mercy. No sane person would have thought any differently in your situation. Most sane people would have given up and stopped fighting. Only a stubborn, crazy bastard like you would keep going. You like to piss people off.” It was possible Annie would have phrased it a bit more eloquently but he figured it was close enough.
“I don’t know how much of me is left,” Pietro choked out. “I don’t know if I will ever be the same man again, Demetri.”
“You’ve eternity to work out just who you are going to be from this moment onwards, my friend. Know you limitations. Don’t try and work it all out when you’re probably having your first ever shower with what has to be the sexiest male specimen to walk the planet. It’s too much sensory overload.”
Loud laughter burst through the room. It bordered on hysterical but it was better than the anguished sobs Pietro had been spilling for the last ten minutes. “You fucking suck as a counsellor.”
“That’s because you’re not my type. Now if it was Mara in my arms she wouldn’t have time to be worrying about whether she was broken or not,” Demetri laughed.
Pietro laughed again struggling back to his feet, standing a little straighter even though he still felt raw inside. His friend’s diversion tactics were helping and he latched onto it. “I’m done with the shower. Just don’t think you’re climbing into the bath with me.”
Keeping up his light tone, Demetri headed out of the cubicle. “Nah, I measured it. Won’t fit both of us...”