Dragon Lord introduces a different kind of vampire to Haven’s Community. The third Haven’s Realm tale brings an ancient and enigmatic creature to light when Ronan and HSA field agent Tyler Jenkins cross paths, and end up captured, in the headquarters of a group of international criminals. Tyler Jenkins has just survived the most bizarre interrogation (and torture) she could ever imagine, and has been returned to the cell with Ronan, who she believes is dead, where she collapsed and passed out beside his drying pool of blood. Before he submitted to restorative rest, Ronan hypnotized Tyler, changing her language and her name so their captors wouldn’t learn her secrets. Now she must face truths no sane person would believe…
“Spider, get up.” Tyler tried to reply, but her throat refused to respond. She lay surrounded in a warm mist nothing could penetrate. It was seductive, compelling. She wanted to stay in the safety of the mist. She didn’t want to wake.
“Tyler.” The soft voice filtered into her mind, but she couldn’t make herself react in any way. She really didn’t want to. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder.
She surged to her feet, ready for battle.
“Whoa now, girl,” Ronan said quickly, using the language he had given her. “You’re back in the cell.”
She stared at him for a moment, reconciling reality against the disjointed imagery of her dreams. Then she started to sink to her knees, but he quickly put his arm around her and led her to the bunk. More than a minute passed before she trusted herself to meet his concerned gaze. His eyes were blue again, but instead of stark light-blue rings around his pupils, he had bright flecks of gold. She thought she saw hints of actual flames burning inside his pupils, but when she blinked and looked again, they were solid black and fathomless. A look of understanding flickered across his face.
“Most people don’t notice my eyes,” he said in an odd tone.
“Why aren’t you dead?”
It seemed to take him a few moments to realize why she’d asked that question. Seating himself on the edge of the bunk, he said, “I’m a very sound sleeper, as you’ve no doubt noticed.”
“No,” she insisted. “You weren’t breathing. When they came to take me, I yelled loud enough to…to wake the dead, no pun intended.”
“I am sorry,” he said. He put a cool finger on her chin and studied her face, then tenderly touched the bruises on her cheekbone, temple and jaw line. “I meant to protect you, and it seems I can barely take care of myself.” He lifted one of her hands in his and examined the swollen wrist. “Was it bad?” he asked softly.
The feel of his hands on her flesh, the coldness of his skin on hers, sent a shiver up her arm. “Bad enough,” she answered, retrieving her hand.
He looked at her, his face practically inscrutable. She had the strangest feeling he could see into her soul. He turned his attention to his abdomen, relieving her of his gaze, and plucked at a piece of tape. “Tell me about Spider.”
“Don’t do that! You should give it time to…” She let her sentence trail off when she saw the unmarked flesh beneath the tape. He rubbed the irritation from his skin and picked at another. “How the hell…?”
“I heal quickly,” he commented as he peeled the tape from below his shoulder. “Spider?”
“People don’t heal that quickly.”
He heaved what sounded like a sigh of resignation. “I am unlike any person you’ve ever known. And you haven’t answered me.”
“That’s because I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She had a feeling he saw through her guarded tone.
He grunted, dismissing the subject. “What did they tell you about me?”
Her mind jumped to her recent nightmare while he picked at the tapes on his legs. “They were talking nonsense,” she told him. “Personally, I think Courleon is insane.”
He glanced up at her, then turned away without comment and motioned for her to remove the tapes on his back. As she fumbled with them, her wrists sent reminders of their trauma, along with the vivid memory of the most unusual interrogation she’d ever witnessed. After removing the last tape, she rubbed his skin with the backs of her fingers, taking in the firm, cool flesh and absence of even the slightest hint of injury.
“My God, can it be true?” she whispered.
He leaned toward the wall, braced his arm against it, and met her gaze. “That I’m a vampire? Yes.” His voice and manner were casual, matter-of-fact, as if his admission wasn’t unusual.
“There’s no such thing as vampires.”
“You only believe there is not.”
She scooted herself against the wall and drew her knees to her chest. After moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue to relieve their sudden dryness, she said, “Okay, then, show me your fangs.”
He leaned forward, bringing his face to within a foot of hers. The gold flecks in his eyes seemed to sparkle for a moment. He inhaled slowly, apparently taking in her scent, while her own breath caught in her throat. “You would rather I did not,” he said, his voice suddenly tight.
“Are you going to bite me?” she asked, her voice coming out barely louder than a whisper.
“Not if I can help it,” he replied, straightening again.
“Can you? Help it, I mean.”
“I don’t take the blood of innocents.” He stood up to retrieve his clothing. “Not unless they ask me to.”
“I’m no innocent.”
“You are strong and experienced. You have had a very hard life, and that has toughened you against the world. But you have not shared your bed with another. You’ve never felt the heat of passion. That makes you innocent.”
“How do you know so much about me? Damn it, get outta my head!”
“I need not get into your head, as you so delightfully put it. You are broadcasting your thoughts so loudly any human with moderate talent could hear them.”
“But your condition…If I understand at least half of what you’re saying, then you really, really need blood. P-probably a lot of it.”
“Yes,” he answered while buttoning his shirt casually. “Unfortunately, that is so. If it were up to me, I would starve rather than take your blood. I can’t tell you what would happen if my life came to an end. I promised to protect you, but if no other meal presents itself, in the end I’ll have to take you. I promise to hold off as long as I can.”
His manner and tone of voice were too casual, as if merely predicting the outcome of a sporting event. There was nothing casual in the way she took the threat. She relaxed against the wall, too much in shock to fully appreciate the gravity of her situation. “Great. I’m stuck in a cell with a hungry vampire.”