Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hearts of Warriors Ch. 15 teaser

Here is half of chapter 15 :)



Lily sighed sleepily and rolled over. She was immediately struck by the fact that she was alone in the huge bed that dominated what was now her new bedroom. She wasn’t really surprised that Mac had come and retrieved her from Liam’s room. She had a sleepy memory of his strong arms lifting her up and snuggling into his wide chest. What did surprise her was waking alone again. She’d only spent two nights in the bed since mating with her vampire and both times she’d woken to find him gone.

The subtle sound of movement by the window attracted her attention and she pushed her wild hair from her face and rolled over again to see Mac sitting on the loveseat with a pensive expression on his face. Midnight black eyes bored into her, making her feel unsure for a moment before she strengthened her resolve and met his gaze unflinchingly.

“You seem to have an issue with staying in bed with me,” she commented with a yawn, before moving onto her back and staring up at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Quite the contrary, sugar,” Mac drawled with a resigned snort. “Leaving you alone in bed feels like the most exquisite of tortures.” He rose and came to sit beside her, his long locks loose and falling over his shoulders as he searched her face.

“I don’t like arguing with you, Lily. I try my hardest not to but always seem to fuck up no matter how hard I try.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve been alone for so long, sugar. I don’t know how to be someone’s husband any more.”

Lily turned to look at him, her eyes questioning. “Husband?”

The slip of the tongue seemed to be the opening he needed to explain why he’d withdrawn the day before. But she looked so beautiful lying there with her hair fanning his pillows, and her face soft with sleep. He didn’t want to ruin the moment as he ran his greedy gaze over her features.

“Talk to me, Mackenzie. I’m your mate and whatever it is that’s bothering you, I’m here to listen. Please don’t shut me out.”

Lily’s soft words pierced him deeply and Mac took a deep breath, unable to deny that she had the right to know what was wrong as it affected her just as much as it did him. He knew he was being a coward trying to put the moment off for as long as possible.

Lily watched Mac, knowing instinctively that he was struggling with what he needed to say because he wasn’t shielding his facial expressions as easily as he usually did. She could also feel the roiling emotions he was experiencing through their mate bond. Whatever was on his mind was so important it was enough to unsettle him completely and that caused a shiver of fear to run through her.

What could be so bad to have Mac rattled so much? He’d handled all the revelations yesterday as if they were minor annoyances. Whatever it was must be personal and that meant it impacted on them as mates. She felt her fear ratchet up a little more and her wolf began to pace restlessly deep inside.

“Mac, what do you mean by husband?” Her voice trembled slightly on the last word. She knew that only humans usually used the ritual of marriage to bind themselves together. That her mate had chosen that word could only mean that in the past he had once been married before he became a vampire.

That was a surprise because the Mac she knew had always been a loner until he’d met her. It seemed strange to think of him being in love with someone else, of sharing tender moments with another even if it was so very long ago. Lily’s wolf didn’t like that train of thought, snarling so viciously that she quickly blanked her thoughts to pacify the beast. She somehow knew keeping control of her wolf right now was going to be one of the most important things she’d ever done in her life.

Mackenzie looked into Lily’s troubled face and reached out to cup her cheek. His touch was tender, lightly brushing her soft skin and marvelling at how perfect she was. He could feel her fear through their bond and knew his next words would cause her nothing but heartache. His Lily didn’t deserve to be tied to him for the rest of her life. She didn’t deserve the world of hurt that was about to come her way.

Taking a deep breath, Mac let it out slowly and tried to calm his thumping heart. There was no avoiding this conversation and he needed to be in full control to ensure that should Lily’s wolf react badly, he’d be able to contain the beast before it became too feral.

“I was married once, a very long time ago.” He paused and let the words sink in, giving his mate time to digest the news and taking an extra few deep breaths to calm himself further.

“Her name was Maria and she had the sweetest, gentlest of dispositions. Her hair was only a shade or so lighter than yours and her eyes were a deep emerald green.” Mac closed his eyes seeing Maria’s smiling face as if he’d only seen her a few days before. Describing her to Lily helped him to remember his wife as she was and not how he’d last seen her.

“When I was human I was a farmer, brash and not very good with ladies. I was rough and spoke little, but for some reason Maria saw through all that and found something worth loving in me. It was a different time then, Lily. Ladies didn’t approach men and show their interest. I guess Maria got tired of waiting for me to court her and despite being so shy decided to court me.”

Mac smiled, closing his eyes as he remembered the day he’d finished seeding the bottom pasture and made his way back to his modest holding. He’d been surprised to see what was obviously a lady’s horse chewing grass in the nearest pasture. On further inspection, he’d noticed the small figure sitting on his porch steps with a cloth covered basket at her feet.

Good day to you, Jonah,” Maria called out, a shaky hand fixing a pretty deep green bonnet on her head. “I was in the area and thought I’d stop by. I was planning to find somewhere to rest and eat on this lovely summer’s evening but was loathe to dine alone. I hope this isn’t an inconvenience.”

Mackenzie stared at the petite beauty before him, conscious of how hot and sweaty he was, and that she was a lady of worth, the Banker’s daughter no less. Why had she travelled out of her way to his meagre holding? There was no way she had been in the area. He lived in a secluded spot far from town or neighbours.

“Begging your pardon for my state of undress, milady,” he managed to stammer out when he remembered his basic manners. His chest was bare and he reached for his leather vest tucked in the waistband of his breeches. “If you give me a moment, I’ll get cleaned up and presentable.”

He moved around the house and out back, using the water trough to clean the worst of the sweat and dirt from his body and dunking his head in the cold water. His unruly black locks dripped moisture down his already wet body as he wrung his hair dry as best he could.

Mackenzie quickly hurried inside his holding via the back door and dripped water all over the dusty wooden floors as he walked through the small living room and into his bedroom. Grabbing a cloth to dry himself, he selected his Sunday best, a pair of dark brown breeches with course cotton shirt and matching brown waistcoat. He dressed and ran a bone comb through his hair before tying it back and grabbing his best hat to hide the messy locks as best he could.

It had been an age since he’d been to a proper barber. He couldn’t really afford to visit one so he tended to hack away at his hair with his knife until it was out of his way enough to work. Mackenzie was conscious that the delicate creature outside waiting for him was far above him with her pretty green dress with its bright yellow brocade of silk and lace. Why she had come to visit him was a complete mystery.

As Mackenzie stepped out the front door, he was once again struck by the beauty of Maria Malone and could only stare at her in awe as she turned to face him. She shyly appraised him with her emerald eyes and a faint smile curved lips that appeared a bit wide for so delicate a visage.

“You dress quickly for a man, Jonah,” she smiled. “Men always say it is ladies who take forever to attire ourselves but Papa always makes us late for a dinner party. Of course, our hosts always assume I am the cause of our tardiness but it is Papa. Only don’t tell him I breathed a word of that fore I shall be in trouble if he were to find out.”

Maria was aware she was chattering nonsense but her heart was fluttering wildly as she stared into Mackenzie’s steel grey eyes. From the moment she’d grown tired of waiting for him to court her and decided to do the deed herself, it appeared her heart had had a mind of its own.

Watching him stride back from the pasture, his manly chest glistening in the late summer sun, had almost made her swoon on the spot. The sweat and dirt were the signs of a good day’s honest labour, something for which Jonah Mackenzie was renowned throughout town for. His hard muscles had bunched and flexed as he’d moved with a feline grace that had taken her very breath away.

It was watching him approach and his attempt at courtly manners which had convinced her she was right in what she was doing. Being in love with Jonah Mackenzie was a heady thing; something she had considered was possibly a day dream rather than genuine emotion. Now she was standing before him in his finery and she knew her emotions were true.

“I’m relieved to have met with your approval, milady.” Mackenzie turned back inside and came out with his best table which he sat in the sunshine in the middle of the yard. He took the table cloth covering the food in the basket and laid it over the table before Maria shooed him away.

“I have cutlery but a chair or two would be helpful, Jonah.”

Mackenzie watched her begin laying the food onto pretty china plates she retrieved from the basket and then headed inside to get two chairs. They weren’t very good chairs, nothing fit for a lady, so he grabbed the hand embroidered cushion his Mama had made years ago and was his only remaining possession of hers. He noted, as he laid the cushion on Maria’s chair, that it was a lighter green than her dress and appeared perfect for the occasion.

“Why thank you, Jonah. That’s most thoughtful of you.”

The petite beauty’s praise made him blush and he looked down at his boots wishing he’d taken an extra moment to shine them properly. Truth be told, he was way out of his league with this lady and had used up most of what he remembered about the manners his Mama had taught him.

“Sit, Jonah, and please stop calling me milady. My name is Maria and I’d count it a great honour if you would address me as such.”

“Certainly, mil…Maria.” Mackenzie sat down, wishing on one hand the ground would open up and swallow him, while on the other, he was mesmerised by the pretty brunette sitting across from him.

One more glance into the sparkling emerald of her eyes, one more soft curving of her sweet, delicate mouth and he knew his life would never be the same after this day.

“She sounds lovely, Mac.”

Lily’s soft words broke him out of the memory and he was surprised to realise he’d told his mate the story of his first real meeting with Maria. He’d never shared that moment with anyone before. It was special to him and his now dead wife.

It felt good talking about it, remembering Maria in all her simple beauty, the elegance of her movements, her demure genteelness. It didn’t feel wrong sharing it with Lily and from the tender expression on her face, it hadn’t upset her or her wolf.

“She was,” he sighed softly, taking Lily’s hand in his and running his thumb over the back in slow movements. “I think I fell in love with her that day. It was very difficult not to love Maria, the whole town did. I expected her father to object to us courting as I wasn’t wealthy like he, but Maria had a strong backbone when she wanted something and she wanted me. I still don’t know why, to this day, she chose me when there were so many other more prosperous bachelors around.”

“Maybe she saw the same in you that I do?” Lily answered with a small smile curving her lips. “You’re one sexy male and you have an integrity that shines out for all to see. You are just so easy to love, Jonah Mackenzie.”

She rolled the name on her lips, amazed that her mate had hidden his full name from the world for so long. Jonah Mackenzie. It had a lovely ring to it and she wondered if maybe Maria had been the only person other than his family to call him Jonah. Perhaps that memory was so special to him he didn’t want to taint it by having others use his birth name.

Lily was surprised that she didn’t feel any jealousy or animosity towards the long dead woman who had once held Mac’s heart so completely and still resided in it from the expression on his face when he spoke of her. Her initial reaction had been to be jealous and her wolf had most certainly not been happy about another’s claim on her mate.

But as Mac had told his story, she’d been transported back into another time, a world so different it was fascinating to listen to. Mac’s happiness meant everything to her and she’d learned her lesson from the last time she’d learned about his more recent past and reacted without thinking.

Her mate had had a life before her and that was something she had to accept and could never change. And it was hard to think badly of anyone who had given her mate such happiness before they’d met, and her wolf seemed to feel the same way too as she’d settled down now and appeared less agitated.

“Maybe,” Mac answered after a slight pause. He could see questions in Lily’s eyes and was aware the time for procrastinating was long past.

“We didn’t court for long,” he continued. “Maria and I married that fall. She had no qualms about coming to live on my small holding. It took her some time to come to grips with her new world, but she dove into the farming life enthusiastically. We saved up for a few years until we could afford to add on an extra room and then Maria became pregnant with our daughter Sophia. The day my little angel was born was the happiest day of my life.”

Lily stiffened in shock, her gaze searching Mac’s face as he stared off into space, adoration shining in the depths of his dark gaze. Her mate had been a father? All this was new to her, something kept so secret that she doubted very many people knew of Mac’s history. To realise he’d had a daughter unsettled her wolf who began to prowl inside her again.

What had happened to Maria and Sophia? Why, even as Mac’s eyes shone with adoration as he relived the birth of his child, did she sense such deep sadness down their mate bond? Lily wanted the story to stop now, feeling her heart start to pick up at beat. Something told her what came next was not something she wanted to hear.

But she knew she couldn’t avoid it. Mac had changed yesterday at the compound and as he spoke the pieces started falling into place. He’d been fine up until her mom had mentioned having children. Now he was telling her about a child he’d once fathered. Her heart raced a little harder and she sucked in a deep breath to await the ending of the story.

Mac turned his gaze back to his mate and saw realisation beginning to dawn on Lily’s face. She was so intelligent, putting two and two together and getting the right result. In her eyes was a hint of fear and he could hear her heart beginning to race. Did she know what was coming or was she just guessing it was something bad?

His grip of her hand tightened and he kept her gaze glued to his as he went where he never wanted to go ever again.

“I was working the furthest away pasture one day when something told me I had to get home as quickly as I could.” Mac’s voice faltered as he struggled to keep control as the memory returned in an instant.

Running so fast, his heart beating wildly and in danger of bursting. ‘Have to get home!’

The urgency of the thought was like nothing Mackenzie had ever experienced. One moment he was working away and the next the compulsion to go home was upon him and he was moving before he even realised what he was doing.

“Maria!” Mackenzie burst through the last pasture, seeing the overturned washing basket with the clean linen lying in the dirt.

Maria would be annoyed at seeing her clean laundry getting dirty like that. Had Sophia overturned the basket? His two year old was rambunctious for her age, a little power house of independence but with a sunny disposition. It was hard to be stern with his daughter when she smiled her pretty smile at him. She well and truly had him wrapped around her little finger and his wife was always telling him off for spoiling her.

Somehow Mac knew that the spilled laundry was not due to his child. The sense of foreboding which had come over him earlier was stronger now, the image of the laundry increasing the unease he felt.


His wife usually answered his call in an instant. This morning there was only silence. He’d barely been away from the holding, an hour, maybe just a little more. He’d left Maria tussled and replete in their bed, the afterglow of their loving shining in her eyes and her breathy words of love ringing in his ears as he’d dressed for work.

He’d kissed Sophia’s sleeping head, gently stroking her black curls before leaving her room before he disturbed her awake. Maria liked half an hour to herself to get organised before taking on the whirlwind that was their daughter. He’d headed out to work with one final kiss for his wife, the routine which had become their daily life.

Now Mackenzie ran towards the open front door, a feeling of dread in his heart as he heard no sounds from Maria or Sophia. He slipped entering the house, falling to his knees and putting out his hands to stop himself. He connected with warm, thick liquid, frowning as his eyes adjusted to the darker interior. Had Maria dropped the coffee pot?

Colour came to Mackenzie and his heart stuttered in his chest as he stared at his hands. Red…so crimson as he turned his hands it looked almost black. Still warm but cooling fast. Still warm…


The anguished cries couldn’t be coming from him lips. The animal sounds, the disbelief and utter agony couldn’t be coming from his soul. Mackenzie tried to get up but slipped in the liquid again, an acrid scent invading his nostrils. He’d scented that smell before, when one of the horses passed.

“SOPHIA! MARIA!” Another anguished scream left him as he crawled across the floor following the crimson trail towards his daughter’s bedroom. The door was closed and Mackenzie staggered to his feet and burst inside.

Blood, everywhere, coating the once pink walls in an ugly spatter of red. The stench in the room was overpowering as was the sight before him.

Maria was lying on her back on the floor, her once emerald eyes coated with the white sheen of death. Her throat was missing, her no-nonsense workday dress saturated in blood instead of the plain dark grey he was used to. Her face was remarkably untouched, so white in pallor. Her right arm was stretched out towards a red and white bundle of rags lying half under Sophia’s small bed.

“No,” Mackenzie groaned, his heart shattering as he stared down at his wife. Bile rose in his throat and a ragged sob escaped him as he sank to his knees beside her. “Maria, please God no, not my Maria.”

It was as if he was possessed, denial blazing in his heart. He grabbed his wife by the shoulders and shook her, ignoring her missing throat. “Get up, Maria! Sophia needs you! I need you!”

Her head flopped sickeningly and the last of her warm blood pumped out of the tear in her neck. Mackenzie felt his soul die as he hugged Maria’s lifeless body to his and began to sob his anguish into the room.

“Not my Maria,” he wept. “Not my love. Dear God, please don’t do this to me.”

Mackenzie had no idea how long he wept as Maria’s body went cold in his arms. It didn’t even register in his mind that she had still been warm when he’d arrived, that whatever had happened to take her from him had occurred probably only a handful of minutes before he got back to the holding.

There wasn’t much rational thought in his mind until he remembered his daughter and stilled in his rocking of his wife.

“Sophia.” The word whispered out of his lips. He hadn’t thought anything could be worse than finding Maria dead but the fear in his heart for his daughter surpassed even that. Maybe she had escaped whoever had done this to Maria?

Again he knew he was in denial. Maria had been injured in the living room and had run to Sophia’s bedroom. A mother always runs to protect her child when danger is around and Maria adored Sophia as much as he did.

Mackenzie’s mind snapped back to the initial scene when he entered the room, Maria lying on her back with her hand stretched out…

“No! No, no, no, no, no!” He heard himself chanting even as his gaze returned to the bundle of rags half under the bed and saw a tiny white foot poking out.

Mackenzie’s heart stopped beating; horror invading his soul as he gently lowered Maria to the floor and haltingly moved towards the bundle. With gentle hands he reached for the tiny body covered in her bloodstained nightgown, and picked up the lifeless form of his daughter.

Someone was scraping cut glass through his body. They were doing it over and over again as a fire of agony tore through him.

“Wake up, Sophia,” Mackenzie sobbed, cradling his daughter in his arms and pressing his large hand against her ravished throat. “Please wake up for Papa, angel. Please.”

But he knew Sophia would never wake again. The deathly pallor of her skin and the coldness of her little body told him she had been dead longer than Maria, that his wife most likely had had to watch their daughter die before she was killed.

Mackenzie sat sobbing in a pool of blood beside his wife, cradling his daughter and holding Maria’s limp hand against their child’s body. They were a family and they did everything together. The only time they were apart was when he was out in the fields. If he’d been home today when whatever monster it was that had come calling had arrived, he’d have been lying beside his family, as dead as they were.

The tears wouldn’t stop; the cut glass grating through his body wouldn’t stop. His life was Maria and Sophia. They were his heart and soul and now they were gone, their end something so hideous and terrifying. He couldn’t bear the thought of how they must have suffered. He couldn’t bear the thought of living a life where they no longer existed.

Mackenzie still felt tears streaking down his face as he gently settled Sophia in her mother’s arms and took his knife from his belt. He wasn’t crying for himself but for the two beautiful angels who no longer graced the world.

“I’m coming, Maria,” he whispered as he lay down, their daughter safely between their bodies. “Papa’s coming, Sophia.”

Mackenzie rasped the knife across his throat, closing his eyes as he felt his blood begin to flow…

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Poll Results

Happy Saturday!!!!!

Yes it's the weekend and the sun is shining here in my part of the world. Oddly, I am awake O_O hahahaha.

So I was going to let my recent poll run for a while because I thought it would take a while to build up a reasonable number of votes to get a true feel for the question posted. But you guys have been so great at responding that I don't feel I need to leave it up any more.

Thank you so much for taking a moment to vote in the poll. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and I'm so happy to see that, for the most part, I'm still managing to keep enough freshness in this world to keep people entertained.

You guys ROCK!!

Poll Results below:

So recently I've noticed a few readers commenting on characters in FTI world being repetitive, objecting to the reactions of the males and what I read as being dissatisfied with the general world and it being perceived as being 2 dimensional. Thoughts? 


Mostly Agree: 3

Sorta Agree: 13

Don't Agree: 80

Total votes cast: 96

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shadow Walking Ch. 02

Here is chapter two of Shadow Walking. This story is certainly in 1st draft and isn't edited in any way. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to leave a comment on how you think it's progressing :)


The Golden Eagle appeared from nowhere. One moment Flame was tensed, trying to find the object of her unease, and the next there was a huge bird of prey sweeping from the high ceiling, amber eyes glowing with intent as it bore downwards.

The speed the bird moved told her it wasn’t a normal avian. She had barely enough time to register the dark brown wings tipped with veins of gold before she was shooting off a volley of flames and rolling through the doorway into the dining hall. It was a moment's reprieve as she heard the eagle shriek its displeasure.

Día Volar! It had to be. No other vampire would be awake at this time and there was no way in hell the vamps would have any guardians that were not of their kind. Flame was disconcerted at meeting up with what she’d previously considered a legend, but knew she didn’t have time to marvel over it.  This Día Volar was intent on killing her and she’d have to use all her wits to escape the situation.

She was already mentally incanting, drawing the heat of the earth faster and a bit too deeply for comfort. Clio was always warning her about channelling too much power but she figured, in these circumstances, too much was better than not enough.


Étienne managed to avoid the ball of flame shot at him with relative ease. The Artisan hadn’t really targeted too well being more concerned about diving to safety into the dining hall. He let out an irritated shriek even as his form began to shimmer and he dove to the ground.

He landed in a crouch on booted feet, uncurling his large body in one fluid movement and rising to his full 6 foot 5 inches in an instant. Another instant was all it took for his grey eyes to track the fireball and watch it connect harmlessly against the marble tiled wall. It scorched the tile but the material wasn’t flammable so the flame extinguished quickly.

He had to stop the woman from shooting out flames and quickly. The dining hall wasn’t as flameproof with the tables being rich cedar wood and the chairs sumptuously cushioned. If a fire started in the castle it would be disastrous. He wouldn’t be able to secure the sleeping vampires to locations safe from the sunlight, which meant he had to think of another way of dealing with things.

“Witch!” He hadn’t meant it to be maligning of her species whom he knew had a fierce pride and detested the misnomer, but his hissed out word certainly achieved a reaction from the female.

 “Oh, you did not just call me that!” The soft voice had a hard edge, disbelief echoing from the words. “Artisan, you ignorant blood drinker! We are Artisans!”

Flame was so incensed by the vampire’s word she paused in the gathering of her power and waited to see what his next move was going to be. She couldn’t believe he’d just called her a Witch. She’d have been less outraged if he’d called her a murderer. It was the biggest insult anyone could give her.

Her response made Étienne’s lip curl slightly. “Believe me I didn’t mean it in that connotation. Artisan,” he countered dryly, moving to stand against the wall he knew she was hiding behind. He moved so silently he was certain she wouldn’t be aware he was so close with just the wall separating them.

“Do you have any idea how expensive that marble is?” he asked, trying to keep her off-balance as he scanned the wall seeking her heat signature. With the amount of power she was holding onto to it should help him to determine exactly where she was.

Flame ignored his question, frowning as his words hit home and his voice appeared to slide over her skin like a gentle caress. It was deep and rich, and completely intoxicating the way the words rumbled from his lips. The timbre of his voice was entirely at odds with his words.

He was angry she’d shot flames at him? He’d been attacking her! Of course she was going to defend herself. If that burnt his precious castle then who was he to call people names?

Flame didn’t know why she was feeling so offended by his words. It didn’t make sense that she was experiencing such anger when she needed to have a cool head and analyse the situation to enable her to escape.

She shook her head trying to clear the unnatural thoughts from her mind. Realisation dawned and she let out a startled gasp. The sneaky bastard! He was inside her head!

Even as she thought it, the wall suddenly erupted and two strong arms wrapped around her body and heaved her through the destroyed bricks and drywall. She had time to let out a startled yelp and then she was pinned to an undamaged section of the wall, long fingers gripping her throat. She stared up into the greyest eyes she’d ever seen and knew she was looking at death.


Étienne had surprised the Artisan so much that the tingle of gathered power evaporated and he knew she’d let go of her magic. He pinned the female easily to the wall by the throat, using his lower body to keep her trapped for his perusal.

She was no beauty…well not in comparison to his women. Female vampires were artfully beautiful, classically so with no imperfections. This female was pretty enough but she had a small scar over her left eyebrow which detracted from her pale, clear skin. There was a second thin scar which ran from just behind her left ear and along her jaw line, almost reaching her chin.

If it hadn’t been for those scars she would have come close to matching the beauty of his kind. Her skin was flawless apart from them, her eyes a deep chocolate brown with tiny flecks of green around the pupils. Her lips were full and enticing, her cheekbones high and defined.

He surveyed her objectively, taking in her apparent youth. Artisans could conceal their years just as easily as any other race but he had a feeling this female was young. She appeared to be in her mid twenties and the ease with which he’d captured her seemed to support that.

She had to be a Shadow Walker. No ordinary Artisan would have managed to breach the borders so easily. Whilst he didn’t go out of his way to terminate other Shadow Walkers unless threatened, he had no qualms about executing this one. She had invaded the vampires’ inner sanctum. Death was the only punishment.

“Foolish little girl,” he sighed tightening his grip on her throat and applying pressure. He watched her eyes widen as she began to struggle in his grasp.

Her body rubbed against his and he felt his loins stir at the feminine contact. He blinked once, surprised that his body reacted to hers. His involuntary reaction caused the Artisan to still, her eyes widening in surprise.

She tried to say something but it came out in a choked sound. Étienne loosened his grip on her throat enough to hear what she was saying.

“Get off me, you perverted animal!”

The unexpected shriek was so not what he expected to hear that he snorted out a laugh. Seriously, the stupid female was worried about her virtue when he was about to take her head off? It was so ridiculous it was hard not to laugh.

He threw his head back and laughed loudly and then realised his mistake. The instant he did, the female’s knee connected between his legs and he let out a grunt of pain, releasing the hellion in his surprise.

His skin tingled and he threw himself into the dining room, his supernatural speed making him appear to vanish in the blink of an eye. He felt the rush of heat whoosh past him singeing the arm of his shirt an instant before he felt a burst of pain in his arm.


Flame knew it was pure luck she’d hit the vampire. She hadn’t even been aiming at him, more desperate to get away than anything else. She heard a grunt of pain but she was already incanting her spell as she streaked towards the chink in the steel shutter.

The air moved behind her and she knew he was coming back at her, using his deadly speed to trap her before she could escape. She had precious little time and she didn’t waste a second of it. Her body shimmered just as she felt the vampire’s cold breath on her neck and then she vanished into red mist, swirling through the opening and into the noon sky.

Étienne grunted in surprise when the Artisan vanished. The burn on his arm was already healing, his regenerative powers kicking in quickly. He’d had worse injuries over the years, so the minor burn hadn’t even slowed him down.

He was almost on top of her when he felt his skin tingle again and then the hellion was gone in a haze of red mist. He tracked the mist escaping through the damaged shutter. ‘So that’s how she got in!’

He made a mental note to ensure all shutters were checked and repaired as soon as darkness fell but now he was in quandary. The castle had a weakness and others could enter the same way the female had. If he chased her he would be leaving the Crown Prince unguarded and it was hours before sunset.

But if he let the witch get away she would be able to give away the location of the seat of power of the vampire nation and the Gods only knew what else she’d managed to glean from her short time in the castle. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

Étienne was pulling open the front door and securing it behind him before he’d realised he’d made a decision. He told himself it had nothing to do with his pride that he’d decided to catch the Artisan and execute her. It was simply more dangerous for her to share her knowledge than it was likely that another Artisan would enter the castle while he was away.

He secured the door and cast his grey gaze upwards. She had a head start on him but his enhanced eyesight made it easy to track her. He took off at a run, shape-shifting into his Golden Eagle form as he did, catching a thermal and spinning up high into the sky. Powerful wings beat upon the air as he quickly began to gain on the faint red mist before him.


He was behind her, she knew he was. Not only that, he was gaining fast.   The huge eagle would overtake her soon and then what? He couldn’t touch her in mist form but he could get in her way keeping her from the boundary line. She’d tire soon and have to revert to her normal form and then she’d be at his mercy…or lack of mercy.

Buggeration! Why had she let curiosity get the better of her? ‘Because you think you’re invincible?’ a little voice whispered in her head. Her mama had been right. It brought little comfort now but at least she could admit it before she was ripped to pieces by a pissed-off vamp.

Flame considered trying to find somewhere to hide but knew the vampire wouldn’t give up. He’d simply wait her out and either way she’d most likely end up dead. Her only option was to keep going and hope she could stay in mist form until she reached the border separating their lands.


Étienne was on top of the mist before she got too far ahead of him. He was rather impressed with her ability though his eagle form was obviously the superior mode of travel. Still, she could get through smaller spaces in her alternate form. That would be a handy skill to have.

He swooped down, barring the forward motion of the mist and screeching his satisfaction as she had to shift direction to try and go around him. He quickly outflanked her, getting in her way once more.

There was something rather exhilarating about sparring with the Artisan. Étienne found he was enjoying blocking her path and imagining how frustrated she was getting at being balked at reaching her goal.

He knew if she crossed the boundary he’d have to let her go. He didn’t intend to lose this one though. She was his and nothing she could do would prevent him from detaching her pretty little head from her body.

His eagle relished the hunt as did his vampiric nature. There was nothing quite like tracking prey and closing in for the kill. The harder…the better. It made for great sport and he was up for great sport.

Maybe he would have a little taste of the Artisan before he killed her? Just the thought of tasting her blood made his hunger grow sharply. It had been almost a week since his last good meal. He’d only snacked the last few days at the closest Farm. He preferred his food not to be dripping in fear.

Étienne detested the Farms though he conceded the need for them. With so many of his kind refusing to feed others because of the power they had to share, Farming was the only way to keep his people in the supply of blood they needed to survive.

And it made the Adjutants very wealthy, not to mention the Crown Prince. Farming served a dual purpose for the Vampire Nation and his disgust at the shivering wretches in them was negated by that need.

The Artisan changed course abruptly and dived downwards towards some trees. He watched the red mist vanish into a crack in a large trunk and hovered above waiting to see where she would appear next.


Flame was tiring and needed to rest. She was close to the border but not close enough. Sighting a hiding place, she slithered into the crack of a large tree trunk and took a moment to gather her thoughts. She knew the vampire was above waiting for her to come back out. The question was could she find some way of exiting without being seen?

Pretty soon she was going to have to release her spell. She’d used up too much of her strength, first crossing into the vampires’ lair, and now escaping. Usually she could hold mist form for as long as required but that was without an enormous eagle forcing her to change direction every two seconds.

Drifting slowly within the trunk, she spied what she thought could be an escape route. It was low to the ground and under the canopy of the branches. If she could sneak through, and stay low, then she should be able to make a fair distance before the vampire realised she’d slipped the net.

Praying to all the Gods she could think of, Flame slipped through the crack in the bark and skimmed the forest floor trying to stay beneath the branches. She listened for sounds of pursuit but the air above her was silent.

Finally something was going her way! She would have laughed if she had the capability in her alternate state. As it was, all she could do was keep putting distance between herself and the stupid Día Volar waiting for her to appear miles away.

Her strength was waning and she knew she was going to have to revert to human form soon. The invisible border was now less than a mile away. She could run fast but not as fast as a vampire could move. Would she make it in time?

The air shimmered and Flame rose to her full height. She raced from the cover of the trees, hearing the shriek of the eagle as it sighted her and took up pursuit. The final mile looked like it was a hundred miles. The thunder of swooping wings crashed on the afternoon air as she sprinted for the border.

She wasn’t going to make it! The air burned in her lungs as her strength waned further and the noise of wings grew louder. What a screw-up she was as a Shadow Walker. Killed by a bloody vampire because she had more courage than sense!

Flame ran knowing she was out of luck, tensing as she did, and waiting for the razor sharp claws of the eagle to shred her to pieces.


Étienne sighted the Artisan the instant she appeared from the trees. For a fraction of a second he was startled that she’d eluded him so easily and then he soared after her. He could see she was tired and had no hope of making the boundary line. Success was in his grasp and his hunting instincts kicked in granting him more speed. Not that he needed more but the urge to sink his fangs into the woman fleeing him was dominating his thoughts.

From the moment he’d considered feeding from her, the urge had become a rampant need that surged through him like a wildfire. He wanted her blood and he’d have it. There was no escape for her.

Something glinted in his peripheral vision and he had but a moment to swerve before a thin lance of ice whistled past where he’d been.  Surprised by this new turn of events, his large wings banked to the left and he saw the shape of a man standing within the tree line across the border.


He should have expected he’d cross paths with the other Shadow Walker one day but he was still surprised to see him. Shrieking his irritation, Étienne shifted shape as he swooped to the ground, coming to land just on his side of the invisible boundary line.

The Artisan was lying panting on the grass, not three feet away from him, her chest heaving with the strain of her escape. She was so close and yet a million miles away.

“Well met, Étienne,” the tall, white-haired Shadow Walker called as he walked towards the woman. He stared down at her for a moment and then rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Thank you for escorting this child home.”

“This child is mine to punish,” Étienne ground out through clenched teeth. He was furious at being thwarted, his hunger gnawing at him. His eyes glowed red, his fangs beginning to sharpen and elongate as his gaze remained riveted on the woman before him.

“Such a harsh punishment you have in mind for one so young and impetuous,” Hunter countered quietly, pale blue eyes watching alertly for any sign of movement from the vampire. “Has the blood lust overcome you, old adversary?”

To be accused of succumbing to blood lust stung Étienne as nothing else could. Only immature vampires lost control in such a manner. The other Shadow Walker’s words had the desired effect, snapping him out of the haze of need engulfing him and he took a deep breath, retracting his fangs and pushing back his hunger.

“She trespassed on the Crown Prince’s castle, Hunter. The penalty is death, no matter how young and impetuous she may be!”

“Come and get me, Étienne,” Flame goaded, rolling over onto her stomach before pushing herself up to her knees. She was amazed she’d made it to safety and was feeling confident now there was another of her kind beside her.

“Hush, child, before I decide to let him have you.”

She looked up at the ice man and scowled. She had no idea who this Hunter was but it was evident that he was an Artisan and a Shadow Walker. Why he would side with a vampire she had no idea.

Hunter turned to look back at Étienne, his expression serene. “The last time we met I returned what belonged to you. This time I keep what belongs to me. A fair trade, don’t you agree?”

Frustrated, Étienne glared at the woman. He couldn’t cross the border or he’d break one of their oldest treaties. And he couldn’t deny that Hunter had allowed him to retrieve his vampire all those years ago. But that paled in comparison to the fact this witch had been inside Tobiah’s castle.

For the second time that day he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. And all because of the woman staring up at him with smug laughter in her eyes. How he wished he could slit her throat and watch as that laughter turned to stunned shock as the life slowly bled from her body.

With a frustrated hiss he bared his fangs at her, the ends of his fingers curling into talons. He let his transformation take over his features, knowing it was probably the first time she’d seen a vampire convert. From the surprise in her eyes and the way she scooted backwards, he took some small satisfaction that the view of his ridged brow and dripping fangs frightened her.

Étienne pointed one gnarled finger at the woman, his eyes glowing red with menace. “The next time we meet I will disembowel you, witch. I will do it slowly ensuring I keep you alive for the maximum amount of time. I will rip you open with my teeth and feast on your insides as you scream for mercy.”


Flame swallowed hard, both repulsed and fascinated by the creature in front of her. In full vampiric state, Étienne wasn’t as attractive to look at, in fact, he was downright ugly. She wondered idly if he mated while in full vampire mode. Imagine waking up next to that!

“Charming,” she quipped back, rising to her feet. “Does that usually work on girls because quite frankly it’s leaving me a bit cold?”

She didn’t know what she expected his response to be but when he threw his head back and laughed she took another step back. There was clearly something not wholly right about this vampire’s mind. Maybe Día Volar were all insane and that was a trade-off for being able to walk in sunlight?

Étienne’s gaze turned to Hunter as he let go of his vampiric side and reverted to normal. “Take good care of your, child, Shadow Walker. She has been marked for death and is stupid enough to feel brave because she eluded me once. She will not do so again. Heed my words well.”

He spun and shimmered in the air, soaring high in his eagle form, before swooping back towards the castle.

Hunter watched him go for a moment, and then turned to peruse the woman at his side. He groaned inwardly at the exultant expression on her face. So this was what the Shadow Walkers were coming to? Children who had more bravery than sense?

“Who holds your leash, child?”

Flame bristled, shooting a dirty look in his direction. “No one holds my leash and I am not a child! Who are you anyway? And why are you friends with a vampire?” Her tone was suspicious as her expression changed to mirror it.

Hunter rolled his eyes again and leaned forward casting a quick incantation. He straightened and turned back towards the surrounding forest.

“Run home to Clio, child, and ensure you recount everything that’s happened today. I will be sure to ask when I see her next. Should she be oblivious to today’s events you will wish for the Día Volar’s tender mercies over mine.”

Flame gaped at him as he vanished. He’d just threatened her! She was a Shadow Walker just as he. He had no right to threaten her!  Standing there on her own she tried to imagine what Clio would have to say about the current events. Her mentor wouldn’t be very happy and an unhappy Clio meant hours of lecturing.

Maybe she could…no the look in Hunter’s eyes had made it clear he would ask Clio the next time he met with her. There was no escaping the fact she’d have to relate the day’s events to her mentor.

Sighing, Flame turned in the direction of home knowing the next few days were going to be very trying indeed.