tagRomanceThe Sanguine Chronicles Ch. 04

The Sanguine Chronicles Ch. 04

byLadySanguine©

Alina practically stumbled from the main house through the field that led to her shack. Her feet felt as though they might fall right off and she couldn't say she'd be sad to see them go. From the moment she'd arrived at the villa she'd run from one task to the next, carrying load after load of laundry, supervising and cooking meals, cleaning and polishing every bit of wood and silver in the damn place. And that had been just the beginning.

The last hours had been spent with Yulia in her chamber. Alina had bathed, waxed, dried, and buffed her mistress until she was sure that her fingers had been ground to mere stubs. Her shaking hands, cracked and bleeding in places had then been put to the task of styling Yulia's mass of black hair. It was naturally bone straight and the bitch was dead-set on having it curled all over. Alina was sure that this was a decision made purely to torture her. She'd get the last laugh on that one though -- more than a lock or two of Yulia's famous hair had burned off in the process.

Once her hair was done, Yulia had directed Alina to cake layer after layer of make-up onto her face. By the time she was finished, Yulia looked more like a Painted Lady than the daughter of a knight. Yulia was well pleased. Had Alina not been so worn down, she might have laughed.

Now, though, Alina would have to set to the task of making herself presentable enough to serve at the ball. The last thing she wanted was to stand out, and covered in grime she surely would. Glancing at the sinking sun, she surmised that had no more than an hour to bathe and change. Perhaps she'd have just enough time to finally get some food into her belly and rest her tired feet. The thought of a small respite was enough to spur her on a bit faster.

She pushed the door to her shack open and the sight of the empty space brought on the realization that Corina was truly gone. The pain of her loss hit Alina afresh. Her exhausted mind tried to reach for a silver lining in the situation, but she came away only with -- At least I'll have the cot to myself.

Then aloud she sighed, "But I will surely freeze in the night without the extra body heat."

Refusing to allow the ever-encroaching despair to swallow her up, Alina snatched up the simple black dress she'd be wearing for the night as well as some simple toiletries and made her way to the creek at the bottom of the hill behind the shack. She'd bathe and change there, then hurry back home for a quick bite to eat.

{|*|*|}



Balior raked a frustrated hand through his longish sable hair and heaved a sigh. He'd visited five villas today, each time hoping that his mate dwelled within only to be left wanting at every turn. It had taken the entire day just to get through those five and he worried now that the search might prove nearly endless.

Where are you, Ahlia? He mused. Do you hide yourself from me even now?

He realized he'd truly been wandering, had lost track of time, when he looked around at his surroundings. He was on the edge of the forest and as he gazed over the rolling meadow he saw that it was dotted with little shacks. Servants' quarters?

In all his long years of life, this was one thing he had yet to see for himself. The servants back home lived in medium-sized villas scattered throughout his family's massive estate. Hell, he thought, they live in opulence compared to this!

His family's servants were treated as members of the household, never overworked or abused. They were happy, choosing to stay with the Sanguines. Many of them had inherited their place in the Sanguine household and as they married and their own families grew, the new additions were welcomed into the fold.

The sight of these shacks, such poverty, was incomprehensible to him. How could the lords of this land let their people live this way? Then, he realized that much of this was his own fault. He'd long ignored his seat at Lyrisa, choosing instead to dally in the capitol, far from any real responsibility.

'Honor, Blood, and above all else Love.' That was The Sanguine Creed. Such was his honor? The more he looked at this place, peeping through glassless windows to view even further symptoms of poverty, the angrier he became - mostly with himself. I will remedy this forthwith, he vowed.

He was just about to turn back and make his way to the castle to start his own meger preparations for the night's ball when a delicate scent, carried so lightly on the wind, caught his attention.

"It's her!" he breathed, too excited to focus for a moment. Then, with great effort, he calmed his racing pulse, closed his eyes and concentrated on the direction the scent was coming from. When he opened his eyes, he was looking south, closer to the forest. The meadow dropped off into a ravine and when he listened more closely, he could hear the sound of slowly running water.

He quickened his steps, all but breaking into a run as he passed more of the decrepit little shacks that dotted the landscape. When he reached the top of the hill, he was hit full on with the delectable fragrance of her blood. Human. And yet...not?

His eyes darted over the length of the ravine and it was several seconds before he spotted her. Just there, no more than thirty yards away from him she stood. Naked.

Her back was to him so he marveled at the fall of silken blonde hair that tumbled in a fall of damp curls to her waste. Which of course drew his heated gaze to her ass. He could not have dreamed a better one. It sat high and firm, the lithe muscles flexing as she bent forward to pick up her shift, offering him a glimpse of....

Heaven. He was hard instantly, his mind scarcely able to process each new thing he wanted to do to that soft pink flesh before a new idea sprang to the fore. I must go to her.

He'd just taken his first step to descend the hill when a male voice sounded from behind him.

"Are you lost, My Liege?"

Balior whipped around, sure that he would kick every part of Maksim's ass for interrupting this first meeting with his female, but he was stunned to find a tall man of middle age assessing him with a suspicious expression.

Tear out the throat of the one who come between us! His instinct roared for this man's blood. His conscience, however, reasoned that the man had meant no harm. So, instead of savaging the man before him, Balior cleared his throat and asked, "Pardon?"

"Do you often wander the servants' quarters of the estates you visit, Highness? I try to not venture this far from the main house myself." The man extended his hand. "Sir Grigori Antonov, Lord of Viorel Estii, and acting Steward of Lyrisa."

Balior shook Grigori's outstretched hand, but spoke sternly, his tone one of rebuke. "Lyrisa has not been appointed a Steward, Knight."

Lord Antonov inclined his head to the prince. "Indeed, but I fear that someone needed to take the reins in your...," he considered his words carefully, "...absence."

Balior was shocked to hear a touch of an admonishment in the other man's tone. It made his hackles rise. That he would dare! But he also recognized the truth of Antonov's words. Had he not just been castigating himself for the same transgression?

With a stiff nod at the knight, Balior released Grigori's hand. "Indeed I am indebted to you."

"Truly," Antonov chuckled darkly before motioning for the prince to follow him back to the main house. He began to speak on the affairs of the village, its financial status and other such things.

But Balior's mind was back on the exquisite creature who bathed in the creek. He was reluctant to leave her, every cell in his body wanting rail at the growing distance between them. Nevertheless, he recognized that it would not have been wise to lead this man to his mate while she was in such a state of nudity. Had he caught sight of this man ogling her fair body he surely would have acted on his initial plan and ripped out his throat. She's already frightened of me, he thought. Her first sight of me should not be in the throes of a bloodlust.

His mind turned then to a new set of questions. Why did she bathe so far from the main house? How had she found the distant creek? To which house did she belong?

And why had Grigori Antonov lingered in the meadow, so close to his bathing mate when he'd said that he rarely ventured to the place? Balior cast the main a scathing look of distrust from the corner of his eye, a look that he was barely able to check before he found himself in the foyer of the knight's massive villa.

"Welcome to Villa Viorica!" Antonov said proudly, sweeping his arm in a semi-circle to display the expansive atrium of the place. It took everything in Balior not to wrinkle his nose at the gaudy excess that assaulted his eyes.

Solid gold fountains spewed crystal clear water high into the air and huge silver vases held exotic flowers from all over the region. Rugs made of rich furs lined the floor, which was inlaid with large tiles of pure white quartz.

Antonov displayed his wealth unabashedly, effectively announcing his fortune on every still surface in his home.

"Shiny," Balior said finally, simply - and he was pleased with the frown that briefly shadowed his host's mien.

But Antonov would not be so easily downcast. He bounced back swiftly and plastered a bright, albeit forced, smile onto his face. "Stay for a drink?"

Balior shook his head. "Not tonight, Sir Antonov. I must make preparations for your ball. But I shall return another day to discuss matters of state."

"Very well, Your Highness," Antonov relented, but brightly added, "be ready for a night of merriment upon your return."

"My thanks, Your Lordship," Balior replied as he walked back to the door.

"And, My Liege..." Antonov called a last time.

Balior turned, struggling to hide his contempt for the man who seemed intent on keeping him in his sights. "Yes?"

"Be well prepared to meet my daughter, Yulia. She is the fairest beauty in all the land."

Balior felt his pulse quicken and irritation abate. Antonov had a daughter? Perhaps she was the creature he'd seen bathing by the creek. That would explain Antonov's presence in the meadow earlier. The daughter of a high-ranking, if admittedly pompous, knight? A worthy mate indeed.

Balior wore a smile as he left Antonov's villa, eager to return and meet the fair Yulia face to face.

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