The fifth installment in the Haven’s Realm saga focuses primarily on Vincent, a long-standing member of the series and Council Elder. Vincent has long held within him a secret pain known only by Jason, his king, and Joshua, his brother in blood.
Readers of the series will know the Community is still searching for the woman who has been hunting vampires without discretion. Readers of Haven’s King will know she’s been captured, and Vincent acted in an unexpected manner, placing his position, and his very existence, at risk.
Secrets & Promises, and all the Haven’s Realm series, are available from Secret Cravings Publishing and your favorite online retailer. Don’t forget to comment for your chance to win an e-book from the Haven’s Realm lineup.
In the following scene, genetic scientist Charlotte “Chari” Vinetti iscaptured by a pair of vampires while on a hunting expedition…
Soon the snow would begin to fall. Already the tracks she’d made were being blown clear by wind-driven snow. Sudden movement caught her eye. She froze, her senses shouting signals to her brain. Vampire. She held still and waited, her eyes and inner self wide open and her mind firmly closed. He moved into the open a hundred yards ahead of her. Well, at least she would have a chance to see if the new serum worked. She slid the rifle down her arm and leveled the sight on him. After she adjusted the focus on the scope, she almost gasped aloud. It was him–the creature she’d shot over four years ago with one of her earlier compounds that proved disastrous on the second subject, who’d exploded within seconds.
But this one got up and walked away. Well, okay, staggered, but he’d survived! She lowered her rifle to the ground and winced at the slight crunch when its weight settled on the snow, unclipped her crossbow and raised it. This could be another of those mutants. A slight twinge of conscience tugged at her once more, making the crossbow seem heavier than usual. She firmly told herself taking him down was necessary. She was on to something. If she could unlock this mystery, she could help those poor, tortured souls back to the living world. Save them. Save Ross. For that, the death of one more vicious vampire was worth it. She brought the arrow level with his heart and put her finger on the trigger.
The weapon vanished from her grasp. She gasped and looked down. Her rifle was gone as well. An instant later, a cold hand clamped over her mouth. An arm went around her neck from behind. My God! A vampire! A soft female voice spoke–spoke?–low in her ear. Her tone was lethal. “Make a move or utter a sound and I’ll snap your neck.”
Frozen in sheer terror, her worst nightmares materialized before her eyes. At any moment, she expected razor sharp fangs to rip her throat open. The one she tried to shoot appeared–just appeared–in front of her. He radiated power like a thousand watt light bulb, his flaming eyes drilling into her, his anger gripping her heart. She wondered how long they would make her suffer before she died. At this point, there was no use fighting. So, why aren’t I dead? Why does he seem to be studying me?
She stared at the vampire, shocked. He seemed self-aware and intelligent. The control he exerted over his power was deliberate and practiced. He was seething. Even with her limited mental discipline, she sensed his rage more keenly than she saw it in his burning eyes. She couldn’t think past the shock of his actions, or the wonder that she was still alive, when every vampire she’d ever encountered would’ve drained her on sight. Or worse.
Confused, she asked probably the worst question imaginable. “Why are you alive?”
His brows drew downward, giving his gaze the power of a raging storm held tremulously at bay. “You sound disappointed.”
“No, I mean, I’m not, it’s just…you survived.”
“Others of my kind weren’t so lucky,” he growled. “You’ve visited deep pain upon my house. You killed my dearest friend, nearly undid my Realm, and set all of vampirekind on high alert. I wish to know why Devon had to die.”
A horrible realization struck her square in the chest. She cursed herself for her utter foolishness. The creature that so confounded her research was no mutant. The true mutants, if there were such, were the mindless beings invading her town. These creatures were sentient, maybe even civilized.
And they were pissed as hell.
Tears dripped down her cheeks. This was all her fault. She didn’t know how to answer the demands the man standing before her issued. She remained silent, certain her lack of action or response would be regarded as foolish bravado. In truth, she had no idea what to do.
The woman pulled her back against a nearby tree while divesting her of the sheltering cloak. Winter struck her skin full force, adding to her trembling. She wished she’d pulled a sweatshirt over her scrub top. She preferred to rely on her cloak for warmth because it allowed for more freedom and stealth of movement. She wondered if she’d have time to freeze to death. The man removed his belt, and for an instant, she believed he meant to thrash her. He folded it in his grasp, coiled to strike, his glowing gaze never leaving hers. She hid her relief when he tossed the thick leather strap to his female companion, who mercilessly bound her arms backward around the trunk.
She found voice enough to protest. “Please don’t. Let me go. You don’t understand.”
Her plea might’ve never been uttered, for all the consideration her captors gave it. The woman pulled the belt so tight she felt certain at least one of her arms would dislodge from its shoulder at any moment. The rough bark dug into her flesh through the thin cotton of her scrubs. When the woman stripped the quiver from her thigh and tied her at the knees with her scarf, she was pulled more upright against the tree. The flesh on the insides of her arms tore, sending shocks of pain through her nerves. The skin at the center of her back and down low behind her hips was forced against the trunk by her own muscles’ protests at the strict position. But the tears in her eyes were not brought on by pain. She was still reeling from her horrifying epiphany.
The woman circled into Chari’s range of view. She recognized the stunning redhead on sight. She’d recently been all over the news—a police detective who’d been taken down by, of all things, a drunk driver. Obviously, the facts regarding the woman’s demise were either misunderstood or unknown by Carrington’s authorities. Her jade eyes flashed with ethereal power. “You deserve whatever punishment the Council chooses. You don’t know what you’ve cost us.”
The two moved away from her. While she watched, the man pulled the erstwhile detective into his arms. Then, one by one, more vampires emerged from the woods. Here was a young man with hazel eyes and long, curly dark hair. His youthful face held an expression of barely restrained violence. His companion was an older man, judging by the gray at his temples and the beginnings of crow’s feet at his eyes. Yellow malice burned in his gaze.
A slender woman with black satin hair, onyx eyes and remarkably pale skin came next, and she moved among the gathering as if she were floating instead of walking, so exceptional was her grace. When she lifted her dark gaze to look at Chari, her eyes flashed red fire brighter than her blood red lips. Then a blond man, accompanied by a couple she’d never seen together, but recognized with a deeper sense of dread. One was a man she’d believed dead. After all, how could he survive one of her arrows? That he stood in judgment of her did not bode well. His female companion was the young mortal she’d met briefly in the woods later that same season. She hadn’t understood the woman’s assertions at the time, or why she’d chosen to marry a vampire. She’d called her a fool.
After a few moments, the forest broke apart to admit a creature darker than the shadows surrounding him, bigger than big, and as all-powerful as they come. Just the sight of his massive height and thickly layered muscles turned her own muscles to jelly. The thought of the things a man like him could do to a weak and deserving mortal such as herself made her stomach turn to mush.
She struggled vainly against her bonds while more vampires arrived. They circled her in ethereal silence, communing while they studied her with varying degrees of anger and disdain. Mental power and rage snapped through the air around her like static bursts, sharpening every time one of them met her frightened gaze.
She closed her eyes, trying desperately to block their thoughts to no avail. Their anger burned through defenses she battled to maintain in the face of so many powerful beings. Shrieks of pain raced along her nervous system. With a deep, bracing breath, she opened her eyes again, resolving to face her impending doom with dignity instead of cowardice. Her eyes lit first on a newcomer, and for reasons she struggled to define, his gaze captured and held her. It was the difference in the way he studied her that set the hairs on the back of her neck prickling–that, and an absolute surety she was going to die.
He was tall, say maybe six-one or two. Slender, though every bit as powerful as his companions. His chestnut hair framed his face like a mane. And, oh, what a face! He was absolutely beautiful. His sensitive features belonged on a poet, or maybe a musician, not a vampire. His eyes were glowing with strange blue fire while the tension in his demeanor grew.
The other vampires were discussing her fate. They wanted her life. They had to, after what she’d done. Her limited sensibilities were picking up the waves of rage filling the air. She had no way out at that point, so she didn’t bother paying attention. At the moment, only one creature commanded her focus. His lips were drawn into an increasingly thin line. His delicately arched brows dipped lower and lower over his burning eyes. Powerful emotions played in his gaze. She intuited with growing confusion that he was on the verge of panic.
Her attention broke from him only when the female with black hair grabbed her chin and forced her gaze. The sharp tone in her voice made her threat a promise. “You will wish for death long before you find it.”
“No!” The chestnut-haired man suddenly stood in front of her, knocking the woman aside to take a surprisingly defensive stance. “Lei appartiene a me!”
She didn’t understand the words or the language he spoke, but his declaration lit the deepest reaches of her heart, bringing warmth she didn’t recognize. His voice resonated with challenge. Most of the vampires stared at him in shock and disbelief.
The vampiress hissed at him.
He shot her an evil glare. “You heard me, Antonia. Back off.”
“You dare!” she snarled, her eyes blazing. “You! After all this woman cost us! Can you so easily forget, Vincent?”
His jaw ticked with tension. “I cannot, yet must I set aside my anger. I swore my fealty to her long before you and I ever met.”
His words confused Chari. Antonia’s anger was much easier to understand. “I’ll rip your heart out and feed it to the bitch.”
“Try,” he invited, the blue flame in his eyes flickering with intermittent red sparks–his stance that of a man prepared for battle.