Redemption Ch. 03byElianna©
"So what else is going on in the world?" Kieran asked sipping his brandy.
"The Africans have decided to officially close their borders to the Arabs...again." Darian said with an irritated sigh.
"Idiots," Kieran sneered. "They're crippling their own economies." He paused thoughtfully. Perhaps there would be a way to work the current dispute to his advantage. ALG Inc. had been hungering to invest in a couple of African companies...
Darian chuckled starting him from his reverie. "I wouldn't count on it," he commented.
Kieran sighed. Darian was just as good at reading thoughts as Alexander was, and even better when it came to him.
"The whole thing is a power ploy. T'hatset seems to think that by sealing his borders, the Arabs will be isolated and come begging for the resources his kingdom has to offer and they'll sign a few exclusive trade agreements."
Kieran shook his head. "You'd think that after all these centuries, they'd finally learn how to just negotiate."
T'hatset had been the vampire king in Egypt for eons; an ancient pharaoh. He was the oldest vampire alive; even older than Alexander. However, as Ancient Egypt's dominion faded, the vampire pharaoh's kingdom also diminished. He currently ruled the continent of Africa, though at one time his rule had run north past Mesopotamia, pushing the borders of Western Europe. Kieran always thought he was a trifle mad. Spending several centuries revered as a god did those kinds of things to a person's grip on reality.
"The council wants someone to go over there and smooth things over," Darian said. "I get the feeling that 'someone' is going to be me."
"Alexander would be better," Kieran said. "Everyone's talking about him again. I guess people forgot how old and powerful he is."
"Well," Darian chuckled, "Alexander's a little busy these days."
Kieran snorted at that. Busy was one way to put it.
"I suppose it's my turn anyway," his friend sighed.
"Yeah, except T'hatset hates you. It's the blond curls and silver eyes. He's still pissed because everyone bowed to you as some, what was it ... ah yes, 'God of the Moon' all those centuries ago. That's a tough blow to someone who wants to still be revered as a deity."
Darian chuckled and tossed his head a little. "I do look more the part don't I? Perhaps they'll remember how much they liked me when I return to negotiate. It might give me a bit of an edge."
"Are you so eager to leave then?" Kieran asked feeling a slight twist in his gut. Even though there were times Darian drove him crazy, he'd been a father and a friend for more than a millennia. It was never easy to see him leave. Alexander would miss him, too.
Darian's eyes glittered slightly; a sign that he was using his abilities. "Actually no. I have a strong feeling that I still belong here."
Kieran arched a brow.
Darian growled and rose to pace. "Angel's power is..." he paused, gesturing with his hands for the right word, "alarming. She sees things with far more clarity than I do."
"Alexander will take care of her."
"It's not that," Darian said pacing with even more agitation. "It's a feeling. I'm still...needed."
Kieran stared at his mentor as he walked back and forth his silver eyes glittering and staring at something that only his eyes could see. He was used to Darian's moods, and he recognized when he was struggling to reconcile his 'feelings' with a proper vision. Sometimes the ancient vampire would spend days irritable and frustrated as he felt a 'tingling in his spine' that said something was going to happen, and yet have no clear vision about what it was. Today seemed like it was another one of those days.
The door to his bedroom opened, and the maids who'd been drawing Mara's bath silently departed, remaining as unobtrusive as possible. While he didn't pay much attention to them, Kieran's hyper-sensitive senses had noted them all the same the entire time they'd been in the bathroom with Mara. He resisted the urge to growl in irritation again at Darian's presumptiveness. If Darian wanted that mouthy woman so comfortable, why didn't he put her up in his rooms?
Suddenly he froze. It was like being in a head-on collision with a semi-truck; absolute devastation. The scent of clean flesh wafting behind the maids made his powerful body lock down. He clutched his brandy glass as his body reeled. It was pleasant and warm; slightly floral but not overpowering. It stirred something deep inside him; a growl, a need, a longing...desire.
Even thinking her name sent a little shiver of anticipation down his spine. She was fiery, demanding, and mouthy. He imagined stopping one of her tart comments; closing his mouth over hers, feeling the softness of her plump lips. He imagined the sweet flavor of her mouth, inhaling the scent on that lovely skin up close, feeling her softness under his fingertips.
She'd fight him at first, but it would only make her acquiescence that much sweeter in the end. He shifted slightly as his body throbbed at the thought. Mara was a mix of dichotomies; prickly on the outside but the sweet scent of her flesh wafting through the air was soft and warm. She moved with the caution and deadliness of a trained warrior, but her body was curved and sensual. Her large brown eyes were calculating and sharp, but their color was warm and soft like a doe's.
He imagined those eyes darkened with passion, her lips red and swollen from his kisses, her cheeks flushed with arousal...
"What has you staring off into space?" Darian asked interrupting his thoughts.
He grunted in response as he floated back to reality.
"It's the girl."
Kieran rolled his eyes. Why did he ask if he already knew? Probably one of those old habits left over from long ago. When he was just a Little One, Darian had patiently raised him, earned his trust. He spent countless hours teaching him to harness his intense physical power, and impressed upon him a moral code, which he still lived by (well, sort of). When he was young and foolish, Kieran thought that when Darian asked him questions, it was because he didn't know the answers. He'd been so ignorant about his mentor's powers back then.
Darian continued to at him thoughtfully, his silver eyes flashing with his power. Suddenly his eyes widened and then he smirked a little. Kieran wondered what he saw, but after enduring centuries of moments just like this one, he didn't bother to ask. Darian would tell him if he wanted to.
"It's still a couple hours before sunrise," the blond vampire commented, rising suddenly. "I should probably make sure things are running well back home."
Kieran eyed his friend carefully. That wicked smirk was on his face and he looked stupidly pleased with something. Friendship with Darian was a blessing and a curse; moments like these when he grinned with the knowledge of a secret was the curse. It drove Kieran absolutely crazy, which of course, Darian knew.
"It's probably a good idea," Kieran replied blandly. Let the old bastard figure he didn't give a shit, which he really didn't. He had other things on his mind. "I need to check up on an investigation anyway. Angel's vision was about the abduction I was telling you about last night."
Darian nodded thoughtfully. "It has something to do with us, then."
He shrugged. "Perhaps. I get the idea that Angel and Mara shared blood, so it could be her connection to Mara, too. Mara was upset when it happened. Something about the whole thing struck a chord with her."
"I imagine it would," Darian agreed. "She was abducted, and by a very powerful and wicked vampire. Paola wasn't the type to treat a woman well."
Kieran grunted at that. He didn't want to think about what Paola might have done with her.
"The three of us would do well to earn her trust," Darian continued. "I've got a feeling about her."
Darian smiled again and stood. "Yes. I've got a definite feeling about her. Keep an eye on her. Try to be gentle with her, and don't let her escape. She's still thinking about it."
"Don't worry," said Kieran grinning a little wickedly, "I have no intention of letting her out of my sight."
Darian chuckled and his eyes flashed playfully. Once again, Kieran wondered what had amused the old bastard.
"Well," said Darian. "I'll leave you to entertain your houseguest, then."
Kieran stood and escorted him to the door.
"Remember about what I said about being gentle," he added in parting.
He rolled his eyes. He wasn't a complete monster. He knew how to get what he wanted out of a woman.
When he finally shoved Darian out of his rooms, his shoulders slumped just a little in relief. Having his maker around set his teeth on edge. Sometimes he felt like the young rascal the ancient vampire had pulled off the street; foolish, living by instinct alone, uneducated, unrefined. Sometimes Darian treated him that way, too.
He went to the bar, poured himself another drink. Moments later the maids returned and listened to them as they bustled about in his bedroom chattering softly about the clothing they'd brought and giggling. He rolled his eyes. Women. He could hear slight splashing in the bathroom as Mara luxuriated in the water and growled a little again. His place was going to smell like her now.
He paced and tried to focus on something, anything but the woman in his bathroom lying naked in his bathtub. Her caramel hair clinging to her face...
He swore and poured himself more brandy downing it with a gulp, allowing the burn in his throat to distract him. The maids were talking to her again, their voices echoing in the bathroom, but it wasn't their voices he was listening for. He smiled as he heard Mara growl at their offer to help her 'wash.' For a moment he pictured her glorious, muscular body as the water ran down her curves tracing her sleek form. He wondered if she'd turn down his offer to 'wash' her. He downed his drink in two quick gulps. What the hell was wrong with him?
Irritably he pulled out his phone.
Alexis awoke snuggled in soft sheets. Her thoughts were foggy and her body was slightly numb as though she'd emerged from a deep sleep. She tried to roll over and look at the clock to see what time it was. It seemed like she'd been sleeping for a long time. God. She hoped she wasn't late for work. This would be the third time this month and her boss had already had the 'talk' with her. Even thinking about him made her groan. Why were all office managers slimy little weasels?
"I like that sound," said a dark voice near the foot of her bed.
Alexis froze. A man? In her bedroom?
"You'll make more music like that for me tonight, won't you pretty one?" the voice purred. For as much as that voice sent shivers of terror down her spine, it was beautiful. She couldn't remember hearing a more beautiful male voice.
She felt the mattress dip. Suddenly she panicked. Her bedroom wasn't nearly this dark normally. She reached out to grab the covers and pull them over her naked frame. Satin? She didn't have satin sheets.
Oh shit. Shit.
The car. She remembered the car. She remembered getting into it even when her mind screamed that she didn't know either man. It was like she couldn't resist their command. She began to pant as she recalled the drive. They way they ripped her clothes away and surveyed her like some piece of meat; determining her value. She wanted to fight. She wanted to scream at them and struggle, but she'd just sat there. She just sat as one man twisted her nipples painfully and ran his fingers down her front right into her dry sex. He fished around in her folds tearing and bruising the tender flesh with his fingers, with a look on his face that seemed more intent on assessing her worth than the fact that his fingers were worming through her most private places.
Still she just sat. Her mind screamed at her. Move. Fight. Scream. But she didn't. She just sat. She sat as the other man chuckled and started fondling her. She allowed them to move her as they pleased, thrusting their fingers in every intimate place commenting on her size and tightness. When she saw the fangs she decided that she truly was in a nightmare; and she screamed as the man bit into her groaning and sucking her life away. But the scream was only in her head. She couldn't do anything. It was like watching her own rape from outside her body.
"Come back, pretty one," called that dark voice. He was closer now. He'd crawled over her body. From the weight pressing around her, she could tell he wasn't small.
"No," she cried in fear, grateful for the use of her voice. Finally!
She felt his body rumble with a growl and even though it was pitch black she saw a flash of something. She froze in horror. That flash was a pair of glittering eyes.
Mara had never had "help" with a bath before. She growled at the maids as they tried to towel her off and took the towel and did it herself. What was it with these rich idiots? Couldn't they even bathe themselves?
"Here miss," said one of the maids, staring at her warily.
"You got me a change of clothes?" Mara asked, staring at the pile of garments for a moment.
The woman nodded mutely.
Mara chuckled at her wide-eyed stare. She guessed that most women in this place were a little more mild-mannered than she was. She dropped her towel and donned the nice, lacy lingerie and then a pair of charcoal wool pants and a long-sleeve, cream cashmere sweater. For a brief moment, she longed for a pair of ratty, body-hugging jeans, but she decided that she just couldn't spend another night in those bloody clothes, and she wasn't sure what happened to all her other stuff. Maybe Kieran's people had managed to salvage her things from her SUV. She bit her lip, she wasn't too sure if she wanted to ask him for anything, though. Men like him always extracted a high price for their services.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror and smiled just a little. She did look nice.
"Would you like to try the shoes, miss?" asked the maid holding a pair of strappy heels out proudly. Mara guessed that they had been encouraged by her pleased smile when she looked in the mirror. Looking at the shoes, though, she shook her head.
"No way am I wearing those things. It's flats or boots, girls," she said in her 'don't argue with me' tone.
"Umm," said the maid uncomfortable once again. "We'll have to look for a different pair, then."
"You do that."
"Would you like me to dry your hair, miss?" the other tried eying her even more warily. It was pretty obvious that her prickly attitude made them uncomfortable.
Mara growled irritably. "Look. I know you're trying to be helpful and everything, but this whole pampering thing just isn't me. I'm sorry. I'm just an air-dry no makeup kind of girl."
The maids nodded and left without another word leaving the strappy heels on the counter.
Mara ran her fingers through her tresses slightly scrunching the strands to bring her natural waves into play. She flipped it to one side, frowned and flipped it to the other. It didn't look right. She ran the brush through it, straightening it out, then scrunched it then smoothed it. Growling at herself she ran her fingers through it, teased it at the scalp and turned away. It annoyed her even more when she peeked at herself as she walked out and smoothed her hair down with her hands.
What the hell was wrong with her?
Yeah. Who was she kidding? She was as nervous as hell to leave the relative security of the bathroom to face...oh shit. She'd masturbated in his bathtub! How in the world was she ever going to stare him straight in the eyes again? She peeked at her reflection in the mirror and sure enough, her face was beet red.
Growling at herself, she squared her shoulders. Since when did she get embarrassed? She'd been through hell and back. She'd face him like she had all the other shit life had thrown her way; head on. She stepped out of the bathroom and took a deep breath to calm herself.
Her entire body throbbed as she took in his scent. It was incredibly strong in his bedroom; the musk of his skin, the spice of his cologne...oh my. His smell alone overwhelmed her senses and made her hands shake.
So much for 'head on.'
Good God! Why did he affect her this way?
Fear. That's it. Fear, she reasoned to herself. She felt this way because he frightened her. He could hurt her just like Paola, right?
If she was so damn afraid of him, why did she get off imagining his lips on hers? Why was her groin warm after just smelling him?
She swore at herself silently. Crushing on Kieran; bad idea. Remember?
With the purpose of a soldier, she marched into his living room with her most serious 'I'm so not putting up with this shit' stare on her face.
And she stood...
Kieran completely ignored her and talked on the phone, pacing. She wasn't stupid enough to assume that he was so focused he didn't know she had emerged. No. He was just ignoring her like the rude, good-smelling bastard that he was. She wondered what was so important and strained to hear the caller's words.
"We've found the owner of the vehicle; human. Car reported stolen three days ago."
Kieran snarled at that angrily. "Surveillance video from the bank across the street?"
"We're working on enhancing the images."
"What about the woman?"
"We have one woman reported missing today so far and she doesn't fit your description. However, it sometimes takes a few days to realize grown, single people are missing."
Kieran took a breath and nodded his agreement.
"Sir," said the voice. "Have you considered this wasn't a kidnapping at all? Perhaps she knew the vampires and she has already returned home and to her work."
He seemed to think about that.
Mara wanted to run over there and snatch the phone away from him. Angel dreamed about this woman! Angel saw the poor girl's abduction; no more than saw, lived through, and he was about to blow this off like it was nothing? Not only was that beautiful woman being tortured, but Angel was being tortured vicariously!
"I have good information that leads me to believe this was a kidnapping, and that the woman is being tortured, maybe used for blood and sex," Kieran said. "Keep working on it."
"Yes sir," was the reply.
Kieran ended his call and for a moment he didn't move at all. His body was rigid, tense, almost like a spring ready to snap. Then he took a deep breath and turned around to look at her with that same superior and irritated expression he always had.
"No trace huh?" she said trying to keep her tone neutral.
"The café owner might know her," she suggested.
"My people are working on it."
"Yeah. Your people seem so bent on finding her that they question if she's even been kidnapped," she snapped in return.
"I train them to question everything."
His eyes flashed and he took another breath as if trying to calm himself.
"Are you hungry?" he asked.
She wanted to deny it. She wanted to turn down the rest of his 'hospitality,' especially after the bath, but she couldn't resist. Even though the idea of getting sustenance from this arrogant prick irked her, it had been a few days since she fed. She was getting weak.
He didn't wait for her to respond. He took two glasses from the cupboard and opened the refrigerator; it was full of blood bags. It seemed the powerful vampires had their own personal donors; they didn't have to rob blood banks to get what they needed. Seeing all that blood neatly stored away made the vampire in her growl with hunger.
"How many humans do you guys keep here?" she asked trying to hide her desperation.