Freya sat at her kitchen table trying to ignore the noise that was grating on her nerves. It had been going on for the last hour and her irritation levels were spiking in response. Why had she agreed to this? When it had been presented to her, the idea had appeared logical but now she was reconsidering her decision. Seriously, how could anyone weep that long without reprieve? Why couldn’t the woman in the guest bedroom just be quiet?
After leaving the Alphas, Dayton had hypothesised that there was a strong possibility that Reasa would be able to relate more to Freya than anyone else in the pack. After all, she had once been a strong female vampire. His logic was sound, so they’d agreed it would be wise for him to take Elina over to the Hanlon Pack to visit with his family while Freya settled Reasa into their home.
Freya had gone over to her brother’s home to collect the woman, spending some time reassuring her nephew that she would care for her as if she were family. Technically, she was not; however, from the adoration in Liam’s eyes it was clear that one day they would all have to accept the former vampire into their family unit. For that reason alone, Freya had concluded Rafe had made the correct decision in asking her and Dayton to look after the human.
Now she was regretting it, wishing she had put up more of an argument as she rose from her chair and glared at the closed door that separated the back of the house from the main living areas. Unlike all the other family dwellings in the compound, Freya had chosen a home on a single level. She preferred to mirror the hidden retreat high in the mountains that she had once shared with her brother Nors. The secluded hideaway was now her sanctuary, the place Dayton whisked her off too when pack life became too overwhelming. The house wasn’t quite the same design as the retreat, but there was enough similarities to make her feel comfortable.
Crossing the great room that covered the entire front part of the house, she made her way to the closed door, grimacing as the noise became louder the moment she opened it. This had to stop soon or, regardless of her best intentions, she may be forced to break the oath she’d made to her nephew. She couldn’t put up with the appalling wailing for another minute, much less the duration of Reasa’s stay.
“Enough.” The word growled from her lips before she’d fully swung the bedroom door wide. The figure on the bed stiffened instantly in surprise and Freya was glad she didn’t turn her head to look at her. She was just as surprised at the amount of venom in her quiet word and wondered at what her expression may have revealed.
Hadn’t she gotten past the darkness within? Surely after all this time with Dayton, she had changed enough that her vampiric nature wasn’t as dominant as it had once been? Yet, the woman who’d just spoken was the one she remembered well, the pre-Dayton Freya who wouldn’t think twice about meting out punishments to anyone who got in her way. Taking a deep breath, she entered the room and moved over to the bed, her movements careful.
Stopping beside the bed, Freya stared down at the woman curled on her side. Reasa’s ebony hair partially hid her expression so she couldn’t discern much from that, however the stillness of the other woman’s body was a clear indication she was alert to the danger surrounding her. At least she was exhibiting some signs of intelligence.
“How did you ever survive the European covens?” Again, Freya’s tone was cold and threatening, and she had to fight with the rising disgust filling her soul. The emotion was largely directed at Reasa but some of it was self-reflective. She didn’t want to disappoint her mate by regressing into old habits, but she found it difficult to quell her vampiric instincts. “Answer my question. How did you survive the European Covens?”
“I was stronger than most,” Reasa finally responded, her voice low but the vampire had no issues hearing her. “I had my abilities to influence minds weaker than mine and the coven I eventually ended up in was one that suited my needs perfectly. Louis saw my strengths and raised me into a position of power.”
Freya nodded her understanding even though the other woman wasn’t looking directly at her. “Sounds logical. What is illogical is why you’re lying there irritating the hell out of me with your incessant weeping. Would you have shown this level of weakness in your coven?”
Reasa moved, rolling over and sitting up in one fluid motion. There was an inherent grace to her movements and Freya could see that, had she retained her former speed, she would have been an impressive vampire. Not as impressive as she was, but clearly strong enough to hold her own against most lesser males.
“I am not in a coven and I am no longer a vampire,” the other woman hissed out, eyes flashing with fury. “How would you feel if someone came along and took away everything that made you who you are?”
Freya paused for a long moment, considering the question very carefully before speaking. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose her vampiric abilities, but she was truthful enough about who she was as a person, and knew that her nature would not allow her to just accept what had happened.
“I would be plotting how to punish them; how to take from them what they had taken from me.” It was in her nature to be honest and therefore she didn’t consider answering untruthfully. She would. find a way to punish whoever had hurt her, even if it meant using someone else to do it. Her answer appeared to surprise Reasa, who sat up a little straighter and regarded her with a bit less suspicion.
Reasa hadn’t paid much interest to where she was being moved to earlier. The only thought in her mind at the time was she would be away from Liam and his mother. Now, she scrutinised the vampire before her, surprised to find that she could still estimate her age at a rough guess.
The woman was an Ancient, the first female Ancient she had ever come across before. Given that the lifespan of a European vampire was a lot shorter than a Northern America one, Reasa wasn’t very surprised. The simple fact that the Covens erupted into violence on a regular basis denied them the longevity to reach the two thousand year mark.
She mulled over the female’s name Freya. She felt her pulse quicken as it sparked memories of her youth. As a Youngling she’d heard that name before, mentioned in stories of a wild vampire who had visited Europe. They were tales of terror and pain, of a female vampire with such fearlessness she’d taken on stronger males and overcome them. The stories had ceased after a while and Reasa had assumed the vampire had finally met her match. Maybe she had been in error… “Have you ever been to Europe?”
There was a slight tilt of Freya’s lips, her multi-coloured hair shimmering in the waning sunlight coming through the window. She inclined her head in admission, moving to the vanity table beneath the glass. Her movements were unhurried as she picked up the vanity chair and placed it beside the bed and sat down. Intent green eyes met Reasa’s as the vampire’s lips twitched once more.
“I have been everywhere and nowhere, Thereasa. I have walked in the darkness and I have lived in the light. Sometimes I was visible for all to see and others I was but a ghost. Yes, for a time I travelled Europe, one of the many dark periods in my life. The violence of the area appealed to me. I was quite at home there.”
Reasa was spellbound by her expression, catching her breath at the wistfulness in the vampire’s tone. There was such longing there, as if Freya wished for a life she’d left behind. This female was the story of legends, told to younger females in the covens so they might know that they too could grow to greatness. Watching Freya and seeing the raw power in her gaze made Reasa’s back stiffen further, more of her inner strength fighting to make its way forward.
Earlier she had thought that she would never trust a vampire again, but this woman called to a part of her soul she thought had been lost. “The Freya I heard tales of was one to be feared above all others. Why did you leave Europe? You could have ruled covens.”
Soft laughter chimed on the air, a hint of derision within. “Why would I have wanted to do that? You Europeans have never had any concept of who you are or what you were capable of achieving. The covens were killing grounds and only fit for sport. Lead a bunch of animal fodder? I hardly think so.”
It was hard not to jump to her coven’s defence, even if she was no longer a vampire. Reasa’s eyes flashed with fury at the mockery in Freya’s tone. “Animal fodder? Really? It must stick in your gut that we animals have the means to wipe out your exulted asses then.”
The laughter grew louder as Freya shook her head, the trace of pity in her eyes only serving to infuriate Reasa further. “If I a ran a talon over your throat, girl, your foolish mouth would cease uttering words and I would finally have some much needed peace and quiet. If not for Liam, I would do so, and to hell with Annie’s annoyance at me.”
The stark truth of the vampire’s words, in addition to the cold menace in her gaze, was enough to have Reasa hold her tongue and consider her options. She was mortal now and could die at anyone’s whim. She supposed she could push Freya to the point of no return. That would end her suffering and hurt Liam, thereby hurting the witch who’d taken everything from her. It seemed such a good idea, and yet, part of her wanted to live, and it was beginning to grow stronger.
She met the vampire’s gaze once more. “You claim kinship to Liam?” Freya’s mentioning of the Vârcolac had incited her curiosity.
Freya rose from the chair, moving back towards the door as if she didn’t trust herself. “He is my nephew, the child of my brother Nors. He is…special to me; therefore anyone who would harm him does so under the threat of death.”
The answer stunned Reasa so much her mouth dropped open in surprise, and she had to clamp it shut quickly as the vampire turned around to regard her with another piercing look. “That makes no sense to me. Why have you allowed me in your home when I came here to kill him and others of his kind?” She watched the other woman’s expression harden and cold darkness seep into her eyes in response to her question.
“Yes, the logic escapes me also, especially as you were also intent on killing my daughter. I believe your talons were tipped in poison when you gouged into her wolf form while she was trying to protect her cousin.”
Ice flowed through Reasa’s veins as she stared in mute shock, remembering the female Vârcolac she had fought against. She could see the resemblance was there, looking at the vampire before her. Freya was the mother to a Vârcolac? How could this have come about? The woman had been a legend for centuries, cold and ruthless, with a body count so high most European vampires had stopped keeping track. How could she mate with a Were? How could she allow herself to be tainted that way? Why hadn’t she killed Reasa on the spot when she’d harmed her offspring?
“Why am I still alive, Freya?”
“You breathe because my Alpha asks it of me. My mate and my daughter expect it of me. My nephew’s heart demands it of me.” Freya’s dark gaze bore right through her for a long moment before she stood up and turned away. “You also live because Annie saw something worthy of redemption in you. She believes in you, so much so that she risked her heart, her mate, and her happiness when she made the choice to spare your life.”
Heading towards in the doorway, the vampire looked over her shoulder, her expression thoughtful. “Why she bothered is beyond me. You are clearly ungrateful for that sacrifice, choosing only to concentrate on what was stolen and blindly ignoring the gift that was given in return. Now, enough of this nonsense. Get up and come eat. You’re lucky you’re meeting the new Freya, girl. In any other situation, your death would have been long, slow, and as painful as I could have managed it. I suggest you make the most of this reprieve and celebrate the fact that you are alive.”
Freya smiled as she walked back to the front of the house. The woman brought out a side of herself she’d missed for the last quarter of a century. She took comfort in knowing that it still existed beneath the more mellow part of her personality. She wasn’t unhappy with the way her life had changed; how could she be when it had brought her Dayton and Elina? Sometimes though, she did wonder if being in the pack made her soft. That a day would come when she was needed, and she would hesitate and someone she loved would pay for that hesitation. It was good to know that she remained fundamentally the same strong vampire she had always been.
She was surprised by her lack of animosity towards Reasa. Sure, the human was no longer a threat towards her loved ones; but that wasn’t what had her at ease, even though she had just rattled off a long list of reasons why Reasa was safe in her home. The predominant reason she lacked animosity towards the girl was the fact that she understood her.
It wasn’t so long ago that she had been like Reasa. Her motivations may have been different, but the drive had been the same. If Freya had believed in anything so whole-heartedly, she would have moved heaven and earth to achieve her goal, much like Reasa had, despite the basic error of her thinking. She could relate to that drive as she could relate to the rank Reasa had attained within the covens in Europe. It spoke of her strength and power as a vampire. Louis had never been known to be a fool or a misogynist. Reasa had lucked out joining his coven.
That was an interesting turn of events, unearthing Louis’ involvement. It was gratifying knowing that he still lived, too. His coven had been one of the younger ones when she had visited Europe. It was for that reason she had aligned herself with him; it was easier to be accepted, as he needed every powerful ally he could find. She would need to talk with Gard before he headed over there. She could probably give him a few pointers on how to deal with the Frenchman.
Pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator, Freya mused over what it all meant. Louis had never been one to set himself up on the losing side. Why was he getting involved in matters that weren’t his concern? Had he set Reasa on her task? That didn’t fit the Louis she remembered. He’d had much more intelligence than that back then.
Reasa entering the great room interrupted her line of thought. The human hesitated for a second before she headed over to the kitchen area. She’d washed her face and changed her clothes. There was a sense of determination radiating from her, as if their conversation had worked to give her a bit of backbone. Freya approved.
Tossing a recipe book onto the workstation, she inclined her head. “You need to learn to cook as you now require food. I’m not going to wait on you and neither are any of my family, just because they eat too. Ingredients and instructions, you may begin. I will assist if you have any problems.”
It was gratifying to see the former vampire didn’t argue with her, merely started to leaf through the book with an air of concentration on her face. There was hope for Reasa and that in turn meant there was hope for Liam. They just needed to work on her errant thinking and convince Ashleigh to accept her into their family. That thought was enough to make her groan, but she held it in. Nors and Liam could work on Ashleigh; she would do her best to work on Reasa.