Into the Vampire's Lair Ch. 10byArtForm©
NB: Credit goes to wildheartedangel, my editor for helping me weed the kinks out. It must be tiring to edit two chapters straight but she did it so I hope it will be a pleasant read for all.
This series is coming to an end soon so most of the things have been resolved here and the rest will be dealt with in the next chapter or two. =) Happy reading!
"Take her upstairs," said Aramis; in a tone that was firm yet gentle enough to let Draven know that he cared.
The moment Draven left, Aramis turned to Alaron and spoke in a serious tone, "I'm leaving the hosting of the event in your hands for awhile. Don't let me down."
When he moved, his stride was purposeful and his eyes focused, as though hunting- which was precisely what he was doing of course. He had caught the brief whiff of her scent brushing pass during the announcement and knew that she was up to something.
Josephine was more trouble than anything and he had to get to her before she got to Draven...
He had no idea why she had come tonight and more importantly, how she came to know about the event. He had explicitly avoided sending the invitation to her whole family and was sure that none of the other families told them. Everyone was aware that the Culzeans and the Draefends had fallen out of each other's favour the night Josephine left the castle.
"That woman tests my patience," he cursed as he found himself trailing after her scent. Even though he was annoyed, he couldn't deny the tiny flickers of heat gnawing at him, at the memory of her scent. He never loved her --or so he told himself --but she was his first... and no one forgets their first.
He followed her scent along the secret corridors that only the family members knew of and knew that he needed to move faster...
A flash of chestnut hair caught his eye.
"Josephine!" he called out and was relieved when she stopped.
The second her eyes turned to face him, all he saw were two silver orbs staring at him. Aramis felt his body stilling. He recognized that look.
"What are you seeing?" he asked, suddenly concerned. The only time he had seen her eyes that way was when... she left him.
"They're coming..." she whispered; her voice breathless. "The wolves..."
Draven laid Amber gently on his bed since he had no idea where his father kept her previously. If it was the dungeon, there was no way he's letting her sleep there. Truthfully, he was still in shock that his father had conceded so readily. It made him slightly wary about his father's true intention. It must have been something he missed because Aramis Culzean never made any uncalculated move.
He wanted to turn back and question his father for a satisfactory answer but the woman beside him was his first priority. Her eyes were closed and he could tell that she was exhausted physically and mentally. When he tried to enter her mind, it was nearly impossible to penetrate for she had put up some sort of shield against him.
That knowledge alarmed him. Weres' minds were generally impenetrable and the only reason why he could read Amber's mind was because of the special bond conferred between mates. But if she was putting up barriers against him, does that mean that their bond had weakened? Or worse... broken?
Dread and panic washed over him as he desperately stroked her hand, hoping to rekindle some memory of them being together.
"Little wolf... I know you can hear me... please, please don't leave me," he pleaded, resting his head on her abdomen. "I finally have you... I can't lose you now. Please... don't cut me off like this."
Shaking off his suit jacket, he undid his bowtie and the top three buttons of his shirt, before slipping under the covers, fully clothed.
Amber was still dressed and he could smell the perfume on her skin, the make up on her face and the wax in her hair but he didn't care. He curled behind her, spooning her body and pressed his face to the top of her head.
I love you Amber... my little wolf. Don't leave me...
A small tear slid out of his eye as he held her close, hoping that his mental plea would reach his beloved's subconscious.
Amber? That's her name... right? Then someone was calling out to her but whoever it was seemed so far away...
Amber found herself walking towards the source but she wasn't really sure where she was. It was really dark and beneath her feet was more darkness- as if she was floating instead of walking.
You are too valuable to the pack for me to let you go rogue.
"Who said that?" she asked suddenly, looking around her in panic. The voice sounded so familiar and she felt such a strong connection to that voice but who was he?
Amber... this pack needs you. Please don't think of death so readily
Again that voice.
"Pack? Wait... am I dying?" she called out to the darkness but there was no answer. Amber was confused and scared; desperate to get out of all this darkness.
She continued walking, thinking about that last voice. Who needed her? And what is this pack? Like... wolves? Yes, isn't that what Draven had said?
At the far plane of the darkness, she saw something... or was it someone watching her?
"Are you here to help me?" she whispered but somehow the sound seemed magnified, almost echoing within the darkness. Moving closer, she managed to make out her companion's features...
"A wolf..." she whispered. "Like a pack..."
Kneeling down, she beckoned the golden brown wolf closer to her. She had no fear for the animal, somehow knowing that it was a friend...
The feel of the animal's fur felt so real against her skin that looked so pale in the eternal darkness. It was as if, the two of them were the only ones present in the void, glowing in an attempt to shine light upon themselves.
"Am I... here to die little wolf?" she dared herself to ask although she instinctively knew the answer. The wolf nodded.
"I see... are you dying too?" It nodded solemnly.
Can you live with the pain of loving your mate from afar?
The wolf wasn't talking... but that voice sounded familiar. Where had she heard it before? Unlike the previous two, this was spoken by a female...
"Our mate?" she asked the wolf and saw it nod once more. She wasn't sure she understood what it meant but she could tell something was wrong. "Is he dying too?" The wolf shook its head. "Oh..."
Amber tried to think who this mate was and why she was dying... was it from the pain of loving him from afar? She didn't think that was possible... was it?
Ruffling the wolf's fur, she whispered, "I don't want to die little wolf... who is this mate? Did he hurt us?"
She thought she heard the wolf whimper in her arms and the next thing she knew, she was thrust into one vision after another:
White walls, white sheets. Antiseptic scents. Sterile and cold.
Wild heat. Hard muscle against soft skin...
"I will never be your mate... because you won't even remember meeting me..."
She could feel his hand around her neck, so warm... and yet as brutal as the sound of his fangs at her neck...
If after you've mated with me and you still believe you're not my mate, then I'll let you kill me.
She recognized her own words and this time, realization and comprehension finally kicked in...
"I'm dying... because you do not want to be my mate..." she whispered to herself. "I am nobody's mistress... Draven."
Being unwanted by a mate was like dying a slow and painful death; every strand of their bonds breaking off one at a time. When two minds and hearts accepted the mating bond, it was as though they become one and to separate that, well, it's like severing your own limbs without anesthesia.
In the real world, a tear managed to escape from her eyes even as her fragments of her memories fueled her towards her own agonizing end.
"Help me... please..." she whispered in her sleep.
Many miles away, Eian jerked up from his bed.
"What's wrong Eian?" asked Fiona sleepily, pressing a hand over her husband's chest.
"Amber just called out to me. She's in distress," he replied. "She should have no awareness of being a Were... so she must be in dire straits for her to subconsciously call on her Alpha."
"Where is she?" asked Fiona, sitting up fully alert.
"I... I can't tell. The signal's weak... it's like she's already dying. I have to go Sweetheart."
"I'm coming with you," she said stubbornly, getting up on her feet. Instantaneously, his hand came around her waist and he pinned her down gently.
"No. You must stay at home," his voice came out almost in a snarl. He couldn't help it for his wolf had become exceedingly possessive and paranoid ever since he found out about her pregnancy.
"I'm fine Eian. I am a pack member too. I want to help," she said defiantly.
"Sweetheart, I know you do... but you're pregnant and I get irrational and protective when it comes to you so could you just humour me, please?" Eian tried to smile, hoping to charm his wife.
She narrowed her eyes slightly at him then gave a sigh, "Alright... just this once. But just so you know, I can run much faster than you or your wolves."
He snarled at her. "Not in your condition you won't. No running, no heavy duty, no... nothing. You're confined to the bed as of right now Mrs. Keiran MacFarlane... and no arguments."
With that, he pressed a kiss to her lips and left the room.
As he pulled on a pair of jeans, he sent a distress call to all his Beta wolves. It may be two in the morning but he knew they would never question or deny his orders.
Grabbing a clean t-shirt from the pile of folded laundry, he started towards the door and began thinking of all the possible locations to begin searching for her. Amber was their healer and also the only female Beta. He needed her for the stability of the pack and was regretting his decision to have her housed so far from the pack's safety. He had thought it was best to keep her far away so her memories wouldn't be triggered so easily... but perhaps he was wrong. Whatever it is, his pack wolf needed him and he wouldn't let her down.
By the time he got to his front door, three of his Betas were already there: Mike had already pulled up his SUV; a feat within record time. Eric and Stephan were also there, stifling their yawns. It was only after he locked the front door that he saw Dominic jogging towards them. He couldn't blame his Beta; Dominic's house was the furthest away from his own home.
"Alpha," said Dominic in a serious tone that was unlike his usual cheeky self. "Is it Fiona?"
"No, she's fine. It's Amber. Dominic, here are the keys to my SUV. I'll brief you along the way," he ordered, throwing his keys towards Dominic. Turning to the other three, he began his briefing.
"I received a distress link from Amber just a few minutes ago. I'm very sure it's her subconscious calling out to me because she's in dire need. So we're going to split into two teams. Dominic will come with me." The three men nodded.
"My last intel from the younglings was on Friday and she was still in school then."
"But it's Sunday now. Anything could have happened," Mike pointed out and Eian nodded.
"They did say that she didn't turn up for her last class but said that she must have gotten lost. But on hindsight, I should have asked them to check on her. So, I want the three of you to head down to the University and scent her out. Follow her trail from there. Dominic and I will head to where her mate is. He might know where she is." If she's not already with him.
"Yes Alpha. I'll report our status every hour," said Mike, moving to his SUV to start the search.
His vehicle left just as Dominic rolled Eian's own SUV out of the garage.
"Where to?" was his first question when Eian got into the passenger seat.
"Culzean castle. It's the last place that Draven was said to be at. I'm calling him to check."
The dial tone kept going forever.
"He's not picking up," said Eian dryly even as he punched in another number. "Come on Alaron... pick up."
"So are we still heading North?" asked Dominic.
"Yes. Better be safe than sorry," replied Eian.
Meanwhile, Aramis found himself leaning Josephine against a pillar along the corridor; simply waiting for her to return to her normal state. He really didn't want to play babysitter right now but she had gone mum after her few warning words earlier and Aramis needed to know how much time he had before Keiran came barging into his castle.
That might be ugly.
He had to evacuate the guests soon and then get to the she-wolf. If Keiran was coming, having her in a coma-like state was bound to get him in trouble. Family or not, Keiran would not think twice about annexing his father-in-law's title and position within the peerage system should he consider Aramis an untrustworthy ally. Not only that, he had nine generations of wolf packs loyal to him throughout the region. Their sheer numbers alone could outlast the few Enforcers within the Council.
Vampires may be stronger and faster but not all of them had abilities that could prove advantageous against the wolves. What good was mind reading for example when wolves have impenetrable mental shields? And most importantly, not all of them were Purebloods who could heal fast enough in battles without the need to replenish blood continuously.
"Josephine, you've got to wake up soon or I'm leaving you here," he said, giving her shoulder a shake but she was like dead to the world.
Folding his arms impatiently, he stepped away and leaned against another pillar and just stared at her. Had it truly been five centuries?
She never looked a day older than the four and twenty that she was when he first met her but he had seen her eyes; they echoed of a much older woman's wisdom and sadness.
The sadness in them clawed annoyingly at the back of his mind but he chose to ignore it for now. Moving forward, he knelt down and gave her another shake.
This time, she responded.
"Yes, yes, stop your caterwauling," she complained even as her eyes blinked back to normal before widening in surprise at how close his face was to hers. Her lashes fluttered slightly but she forced herself to turn away. There was no need for this right now.
Aramis seemed to have come to the same conclusion for he suddenly backed away and thrust a dispassionate question at her.
"How much time do we have? Are they already on the way?"
She looked up at him, masking her erratic heartbeat with an irritated look on her face. "You know fairly well time collapses when you're looking forward or back. All I can tell you is that it is dark; probably night or early morning. Possibly even now."
"How many of them?" he demanded, pretending he couldn't hear how fast her heart was beating... for him.
"Five. But one of them is the Alpha. It's in his eyes."
Aramis locked his gaze with hers for the briefest moment before breaking away. "Stay here. I need to let the guests out," he informed her and on hindsight, added, "If I don't find you here when I return, I'll hunt you down Josephine... to every nook and cranny of this goddamn country."
Then he disappeared into the shadows.
"How romantic," jeered Josephine as she got up to brush the dust off her dress. This was exactly the state he left her after she told him about her vision the last time. It was obvious that he didn't trust her any more than she trusted him. That's why she kept certain things to herself- like seeing her son in pain.
She needed to get to her baby and his mate.
Moving along the dark corridors, she followed her instinct and sense of smell alone to navigate her way to Draven's quarters. As expected, there were guards stationed outside his doors.
Blending into the shadows, she slipped into one of the secret passageways that the domestics used. She remembered it well because it was through there that she escaped from the castle.
The stuffy passageway was littered with cobwebs by now; a sign that it hasn't been used in years.
"The servants probably don't need to carry hot water to the bath anymore. They have plumbing now," she told herself. "Just as well. I don't need them mouthing off to Aramis about anything."
She continued walking until she reached the bathroom.
It still looked the same, she realized... and for a moment, her eyes went totally silver once more.
She was in the bathtub, soaking and cuddling baby Draven; giggling as he kicked and splashed around. Oh, she'd never let any of the maids wash him for it was her special bonding time with her baby.
Josephine blinked and this time she saw only herself in the tub but she felt warm, strong hands caressing her neck down to her...
No! She wouldn't let her visions continue. Josephine clenched her eyes shut, disrupting the memories from materializing and willed herself only to think of her son. Her son.
As her eyes slowly returned to it's usual brown hue, Josephine forced herself to take deep breaths to calm down. The only reason why she came here was for Draven and there was no way she was going to let that old bat creep into her mind.
She missed her son so much and it was all his fault that she wasn't allowed near the child. Of course, she had kept up with any news regarding his development- gasping in fear when he went out for war, clapping in delight when he got his first job in the Council... and crying with pride when she found out he expressed the ability to read and erase minds. There was only a fifty-fifty chance that he would inherit the gene from her and she was glad he did, for it was evidence that she played a part in his life once.
And now once more.
She came because she had a vision of him crying. Her baby never cried, ever. Though she promised she wouldn't interfere in his life, as per Aramis's request, she couldn't bear to see that vision over and over again.
Opening the bathroom door quietly, she tiptoed into the bedroom and was relieved to find him there, snuggled with the wolf. A smile crept at the corners of her mouth.
"Take that you old bat," she murmured to herself. He may have agreed to let them marry but she was betting that it was driving Aramis insane that his Pureblood son would want to mate with this wolf. It was against his supremacist policy. Moving closer towards the bed, Josephine was glad that the children were decent --fully dressed actually --and reached out her hand to shake Draven to wake up.
But before her hand could touch his shoulder, she felt her wrist being grabbed suddenly and viciously. The strength of it almost broke her bones but she didn't flinch.
"Very good instincts," she commented, as though his hold on her was nothing more than a gentle caress.
"Who are you and how did you get in here?" he growled; eyes shining dangerously in the dark even as his fangs elongated threateningly.
Josephine tried not to recoil at his question. Perhaps it was dark and he couldn't see her features distinctively... but she knew she was deluding herself. There were no paintings or portraits of her anywhere around the house and odds are, her little baby never got to see his mother's face.
"What?" there was an edge to his voice as his eyes widened in shock. Then it was gone, replaced by suspicion. "Are you here to kill me, mother?"
Josephine was smiling even though her son was looking at her murderously. She had forgotten that he could read minds!
"You've been crying. Is it because of her?" she asked softly, settling herself at the edge of the bed.
"That's none of your business," he growled, holding Amber closer to him, as though afraid that his mother would harm her. He had no idea how she knew about him crying but there was no way he'd let her wheedle her way into his life. His father had told him she was merciless and five hundred years of absence proved it.