tagNovels and NovellasA Dangerous Legacy Pt. 11

A Dangerous Legacy Pt. 11

bymadam_noe©

Chapter Thirteen


From the timeline I'd been given, it was clear someone was killing every queen. The problem was that details were so scant. Always the same scenario arose; a secret lover, sneaking out, and sometimes the lover was killed too, sometimes not. It didn't take a detective to realize it was the same person.

But how could it be Alessandra? My wolves swore she was born just forty years before Sigrid's death but there was nothing on her birth or death in the book. She was just mentioned, but often as "Guardian." It seemed there had always been a guardian of my line, and large gaps between queens. One three thousand years earlier spawned the Council.

So in effect all I could surmise was someone had been killing queens, and that didn't even address the ones who never passed the tests and ascended. And so far only the Council had benefitted. How was I supposed to bring this up to my mentor, one of the three members of the damn thing?

Until I knew I could fully trust Val, I dared not let one word slip. There was no proof anyone wanted me dead, just a lot of paranoia. I no longer knew up from down, but I decided it was more important to learn to master my magic before I went off half-cocked. Once I mastered time-travel I could answer these questions myself. With that I pushed the dark thoughts aside and threw myself into the moment.

The second day of training had gone otherwise well. In the room reserved for transport I had brought us to Chicago along with a very startled Pierre, and Val was quite proud in his joy of my mastery. From Chicago I transported us to London to Val's home, and then back. While in London I conjured a piano and other large things to compliment the fine décor of his townhome. Once back on the island I let Pierre return with a kiss that had Valerius sighing impatiently over.

We dueled not to the death but so I could understand it, and after three tries I won. He produced the spell books of my line and I tried a few simple spells from them requiring ingredients to be summoned, and some that required the aid of another witch. Leafing through I saw things that terrified me, spells to reanimate the dead, raise dark armies, things that did not seem full of light. On the other side of the coin there were spells to bless a barren woman with child, or heal the tragically wounded. Magic was terrifyingly simple and complex all at once, and Valerius warned me never to attempt any of those spells until I had mastered all basic magic in, say, about a hundred years.

It was all exhausting, but Val smiled at me as we finished, almost paternal pride in his smile. I closed the books and he conjured towels for us to wipe our sweat off. At some signal a door opened and a wolf brought in a tray with bottled water, and she winked at me as she left.

Val watched her go with male appreciation, but I knew by then he was as faithful to his loves as any man could be. Sighing wistfully, he turned back and regarded me curiously. "Anna, may I ask what your life was like before Alessandra found you?"

I had been dreading this question from anyone, not proud of my origins, and it took me by surprise. "Um...it was not the life one would expect a queen to live, let's leave it at that." I stopped and watched him, trying to imagine him involved in a series of murders and cover-ups. Well, it was actually easy to imagine, but I thought the Roman wouldn't bother to hide his actions and pretend to be such a nice guy.

He stopped me as I turned to leave. "We have half an hour until your wolf comes. Anna, you must tell someone, there is a weight to you that you must let go."

I raised an eyebrow. "So another can take its place?"

His look was one of infinite patience which somehow made me feel more childish than a reproach would have. "So that you can rule from the light and never the shadow. I vow I will share it with none."

"How can I trust you?" Indeed, that was the question of the hour.

He held his palm up and looked every inch the imperial aristocrat he'd been in his human life, even in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. "I vow on the magic of my line I shall breathe not a single word of what is said here to another soul living or dead, for all of existence."

I felt the shimmer of magic and Diego, up until that moment sleeping in the corner, yipped as if signifying he had witnessed it. I didn't want to confess to anyone, but I knew someday soon I would want information from Val, and the best way to get was to give. Perhaps if we had a more intimate friendship I could find out just what the Council was hiding about the numerous unsolved murders of the Inrisdotti line.

"All right. I was sick as a child," I said as he conjured chairs for us in the little conference room we'd been using for practice. "I had epilepsy, do you know what that is?" He nodded.

"It's scary. I had grand mal seizures, not all that often, but every time there was great risk. Would I swallow my own tongue and choke to death, or would I hit my head and bleed to death if alone? It's not easy for any parent to deal with that in their child under the best of circumstances, but I didn't have the best.

"When my mother met my father it was a one night stand. He was a long haul trucker, away from home pretty often. We didn't have much money, he spent a lot on drugs and his wife spent as much on beer and wine. They didn't want kids, but when I was just two weeks old I was left on the doorstep with a letter.

"I don't know why they took me and didn't just foist me into the foster care system. But for some reason they did and decided to raise me believing my step-mother was my real mother. They weren't good people and they weren't real smart, and they had no patience. My dad knocked my mom around plenty and she hit him back. They both took it out on me.

"I was good in school, it was my only escape. When my dad was on a long haul it was okay, mom would just drink until she passed out and left me alone to read. We had a neighbor, real nice woman. If I felt a seizure coming on I'd go to her and she'd help me." I almost smiled at the memory. Funny that; no matter how dark the past was, it was the happy moments that touched you most. "But when dad was home...he was so angry, all the time. I got good at telling people my bruises came from my seizures and god damn them all, they bought it.

"Everything was fine until I turned sixteen. When I say fine...when you live in that situation the best thing you can do is survive, and to you it's fine. But then one day it fell apart. Pops owed some people money, he was into meth big-time. They came to collect but there was no money, nothing we had of value to give them except the truck which pops loved. So he sold me. Nice, pretty sixteen year old virgin and he sold me." I couldn't meet Val's eyes and made sure to study the beach scene out the window as I went on. "I lost it. Started screaming, kicking, punching...somehow I got away.

"I ran for miles in the snow, made it into Duluth. It was hard. Begging didn't bring much money, and I was so thin and drawn people thought I was younger and called child services on me multiple times. I took to stealing. It started by breaking into empty houses to sleep somewhere warm, stealing food from stores. I'm not proud of that. I got into fights, I did...things I won't ever talk about. I made enough a year later to get on a Greyhound, but only to the Twin Cities. I decided to go on the straight and narrow after one last lie, and with a fake ID I got work as a waitress. I got my GED, and went to community college. When I was almost twenty I transferred to the U of M, worked my way through school and graduate school. I moved to Chicago with my best friend and I have to admit, went a little nuts. That hole in my soul left from that life I thought I could fill with meaningless sex, but it didn't work. I got older, less happy, less sure of life, and then Alessandra came.

"That's it, the short version. Even with your assurances I'll say no more, go no further."

Val was quiet for a long moment and then strode over to the window and leaned on the ledge. Outside on the beach four witches and their wolf packs were playing a game of volleyball, happy in the moment and gorgeous.

"It might surprise you, but my origins were humble. See, it was my uncle Lucius who was supposed to inherit the magic, the one who took the test. My father was born the third son, but the second eldest to survive to adulthood. There was no money and we struggled. I was a stable boy for uncle Lucius. My mother had been one of his slaves, my father, a poor artist, sacrificed much to buy her. I was forever regarded as the son of a slave, a worthless bastard as my uncle didn't sell her to my father until I was two. I was born a peasant bastard. Life was...harsh. When my uncle died in battle it came as a true shock that his wife had borne him two sons and three daughters all fathered by another man. My father then became the heir to magic and for the first time, when I was a man of twenty-three with my own wife, the witch of our line came to us and explained magic. Two years later he died. My father failed the second test and had his memory wiped. I succeeded, obviously."

I wondered why he shared that, and then he turned back to face me.

"Like you I was raised knowing nothing of this world, not a single word of it was spoken to me until I was a man grown with a wife, a family of my own, and a life I had carved. Even when we learned I never thought to prepare. My father was a wise and good man, surely he would pass the tests. But he didn't, and it fell to me. My wife left me when I told her what was to come, and they took her away, the witches, took care of her. Like you it was only after I passed the tests and ascended that they told me I had inherited a council seat.

"It's a constitutional monarchy, if you will, and in the times when there has been no queen, no princess waiting in the wings, being a Council member bears immense responsibility. I don't know exactly what you're going through, Anna, but I can understand better than most." He leaned back and folded his arms. It was hard to believe this young and handsome man predated Jesus, and was my great (several times over) grandfather.

"So that's us. Val, if you understand where I am coming from, why the games?"

One dark eyebrow rose. "Games?"

He had vowed nothing said would leave the room, so I took a chance. "You want me to have a child so that I have a consort you can control."

Once more I faced a Roman general unable to accept defeat, reevaluating the opposition's charge. "If that were true, Anna, wouldn't I have someone in mind I was steering you towards? And have I tried to force you towards anyone?"

He hadn't, but that didn't mean he wouldn't. "Then why do you keep pushing me to find someone?"

"To keep you safe. Think I do not know the mind of a young woman? Anna, you can't choose your wolves as consorts. The witches will never accept them."

"Perhaps I will rule with none."

Pity backlit his eyes for a moment and flattened his lips. "Do that and your people will know they are a power behind the throne. They would make good advisors, but the witches will never tolerate such.

"Look, Anna, it is for them to tell you their tales, but I know them all well. Witches have fought in many wars, and so has your Pierre. A finer military mind you could never find. Andre is a tactician unequaled by any witch or man, I have seen it with my own eyes, and your Julian...a better repository of knowledge or secrets has never been. They would be excellent advisors, but the only way to use them and have your people accept them is with a consort."

"I don't think that everyone feels wolves are inherently inferior."

Another sigh escaped his lips. "Sebastian champions wolves as equals, as do many witches. But what they say and what they will actually do when the time comes are two different things. The reigns of wise princes are often foiled by the mobs of fools. You are my descendent and shortly will officially be my queen. Protect yourself, Anna. Find a strong consort who will calm the rabble. Love your wolves in private and make policy with them, but never forget it is witches you rule, and not wolves."

I really hated arguing with someone who used perfect logic. He was right, damn it, I knew of too many rulers who had been in the same position. The choice of consort and advisor was often the difference between life and death. How could I argue with him? Simply, I couldn't.

I stood and checked the clock on the wall. "Andre is waiting for us by now. Come on, Diego." I patted my thigh and my faithful familiar came trotting up to me as I headed for the door. I turned back and found Val studying me, puzzled. "Val?"

"Yes?"

"You do realize that whatever I decide to do I won't ever sleep with any witch you introduce me to."

He laughed, and I had no idea what to make of that. "Wait, Anna!"

"What?"

"That book I was going to send over, our history?" With a wave of his hand it appeared, and to my relief and amusement it was actually a Kindle reader.

"I'm seeing a Roman general in a Hawaiian shirt holding a Kindle reader...this seems wrong."

He crossed to me and put the device in my hand. "Welcome to the world of witchcraft." With that he disappeared, leaving me to wonder if he was an ally, adversary, or both.

Once more Andre waited for me, smiling. He wore jeans with the cuffs rolled up and no shirt, his dark auburn hair loose. The same small thrill I felt at the sight of any of my lovers rolled through me, even as Diego ran up to him and rudely buried his nose in Andre's crotch.

"Down boy," we both said at the same time and laughed.

Smiling softly Andre smoothed a loose hair from my ponytail back behind my ear. "Feeling better? You've been out of sorts for some time."

"Dark thoughts burn off with the sun," I said, quoting a line from a poem I could never remember the title of nor who wrote it. Truthfully, sharing my story with Val had lightened my load. Strange since I had even deeper suspicions of Val and the Council now.

"Would you like to go hiking before dinner, instead of swimming?"

I followed his gaze to the volcano and knew this meant he wanted to speak alone. With a small wave of my hand I changed my dress sandals to hiking boots and my dress to shorts and a tank top. Kneeling to Diego I ruffled his fur. "Go back to the bungalow, sweetie, scratch at the door or splash around. Julian will feed you."

He licked my face and trotted off dutifully. Andre and I watched him go and then he took my hand as we followed after at a slower pace. "Did the lessons go well today?"

"Very." I held up the Kindle reader. "Got homework and everything," I said with a laugh. I summoned up a backpack with supplies and slid the Kindle into it and then we walked down the beach.

Silence comfortably settled between us as we watched the witches and wolves at play. We had three hours before dinner, and I didn't know how much hiking we could get done, but I supposed talk was the point. We passed by Pierre who was playing tug with Diego in front of our bungalow and he waved. After that, it seemed we were alone at the base of the volcano which had dense covering at the bottom. I hesitated, eyeing it, and Andre laughed.

"Scared of spiders?" He let his fingertips dance down my bare arm imitating a spider.

Tickled, I jerked away, though I actually rather liked spiders. "Not at all, but the tropics do have fauna I'm not overly familiar with."

Grinning he pulled me into his arms and spoke with a dramatically lowered version of his already deep baritone. "Don't worry, I'll protect you."

This was so uncharacteristically silly of him I was stunned for a moment, and then laughed. "Glad I have my own big bad wolf."

He set me down and gave me a quick kiss. "There are many spells on this volcano and entire island, and one of them keeps anything dangerous at bay...except me."

That sent delicious shivers over my spine. His attitude was quite relaxing, and the worries of the past several hours seemed to melt away. In the mood to tease, I ducked from his arms and ran up the closest thing to a path. A low growl was the only sign he understood the game and then there was silence.

Even with my magic-aided grace I thrashed about the fronds and plants I could not name like a lumbering beast and there was no sound of Andre. I raised my hand, preparing to do another spell to make me silent but a hand snatched out and grabbed mine, pulling me back into his arms.

Andre kissed me deeply, his taste filling my head as his body rubbed lazily against mine. Pulling back his hazel eyes glittered with mischief. "No magic just yet, little witch."

Then he disappeared. How a six foot four man with reddish hair could disappear into a green jungle was beyond me, but he did it.

Determined to get away, I changed directions and thrashed about some more until I emerged onto a clearly defined path. I broke into a run but then he stepped out and I would have smacked into him if he didn't grab me.

Another searing kiss and chills exploded when his hands left my arms to grasp my tank top. And then he ripped it and I gasped as Andre bit my lips softly. I struggled back but he grabbed one arm and then ripped my bra off.

Once more his grin was as playful as it was dark and sensual and I fought the urge to cover myself. Instead I jerked from his grasp and stroked my own breasts, and when his gaze dropped I ducked around him and ran in a full out sprint. Once I stopped I was almost a quarter of the way up the volcano, and the path got steep ahead. Andre was nowhere in sight.

The view was incredible. I could see the back of the hotel and knew it was dug into the ground to add height, never rising above four stories. There were rooms with balconies facing the volcano, but no one looked up. Perhaps there was also a privacy spell along with all the others. For people trying to hide an entire land mass from others who could work magic, whoever ran the island had never heard of subtlety.

Suddenly thick arms grabbed me and I was whirled to an equally beautiful view. Andre grinned and then kissed me, and it was pure Tarzan to my Jane. My body softened and heated, and I purred knowing the same quick tumble into ecstasy that I had come to expect was coming.

To my shock Andre pulled back and smiled. "My love, you've had to suffer the lusts of three wolves who have not known the full joy of a woman's body since thirteen eighty nine. This week I think you have seen the stamina we wolves are known for. I don't want you thinking we're lacking."

"I don't find you lacking at all. Hell, I was only celibate for a short year and I haven't slaked my lust yet to a point where I can be patient with you."

"Then I'll make sure you behave." He turned me back to the vista and wrapped his arms around me, settling behind me.

His hands rested beneath mine, and my breasts ached for his touch, but Andre seemed pensive for the moment. Testing the water I used magic to summon a bikini top and he made no comment. Something had changed him fro sensual and playful to this. "What's up?"

"I was about to pounce on you, drive you wild, and realized I wasn't just playing at being a ravening beast, but had become one. You deserve something nicer."

"I deserve a good proper fucking if you ask me."

He laughed and kissed my temple, and then we lapsed into silence.

After a long moment, I gave in to the curiosity that had taken seed when Val I had spoken in privacy. "Valerius mentioned something to me. He said you're a master tactician. What did he mean?"

"Oh, he did, did he?"

"We talked about the past today. It seems he understands me better than I thought. But he made me realize I still know so little about you."

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