Tears of the Fallen Ch. 01byJazCullen©
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, May 2013 bring you much joy and happiness! :)
To new readers...please visit my Lit Bio to find the order list to read these stories in. This is a continuation on previous stories and will be hard to follow otherwise. Tears of the Fallen begins right where Hearts of Warriors ends, so it is best to read the other stories first.
To my established readers...are you back here again???? ;) tehehehehe. Rubbing hands anticipating all the name calling, shrieks of disblief, tales of laughter and also of tears. Welcome aboard for another rollercoaster ride. Please feel free to comment/abuse/threaten bodily harm... etc etc etc. You know I love hearing from you. LOL!!!!
Caleb stared down at Rhianna, seeing confusion in her eyes but unable to separate the actions of the vampire queen from his mate. What she had done...it would rock their society to its very core and more importantly, it would place them all in danger and played right into the hands of the paranoia surrounding the European vampires. She had stripped a vampire of their immortality! Dear God, the repercussions of that one act would change everything.
The noise had receded within the room until the only sound was Reasa's weeping, but even that had faded to a subdued moan. Caleb tried to gather his thoughts, tried to look past the events and think of how to start trying to repair the damage that had been done. He had to put his personal feelings to the side until he had time to think about it.
"Caleb?" Rhianna whispered his name once more and he couldn't answer her. Inside, everything was locked down and despite the plea in her voice, he couldn't bring himself to reach for her to give her comfort. He knew he was in shock. They all were. He knew his emotions would kick in but for now, he couldn't feel anything. Long, dormant instincts surfaced and the man he had once been pushed for dominance. He refused to give in to Callain, but it was enough to spur him into action.
"Demetri, take Rhianna home and stay with her. Don't let anyone other than myself or Gard into the mansion. Ensure you have adequate backup. If anyone doesn't like it, tell them they can speak to me."
The coldness of Caleb's tone stirred a slow, burning anger deep within Gard. He knew the enormity of Anakatrine's justice would have major repercussions, however, Caleb's reaction to his sister wasn't something he could accept. For too many years she had been his to protect, and though so much had changed since then, his instincts kicked in.
Gard turned to Rayne, his eyes troubled. "Do you have this?" His kept his voice low as his gaze flickered from his mate to his son, who, for once, didn't have a mocking smile on his face as he stared at Liam and Reasa.
She followed his gaze, a frown marring her brow. "Go do what you need to. I'll take care of Kothari." She understood his dilemma. Caleb's detachment, and the way he was looking at Annie, was frightening. Her mate had spent his life protecting his sister and the need to do that was ingrained into him. He had to decide who needed his protection the most and, at the moment, that person was Rhianna.
Gard felt his heart swell as he looked into Rayne's deep green eyes and saw complete understanding there. She was perfect for him and that was why life or nature had bonded them together. He stroked her cheek gently, his eyes expressing everything he wanted to say. "I love you."
"I love you too," she whispered, rising on tiptoes to brush her lips against his briefly, before pulling back. "Go protect Annie. Keep her safe. We all need her."
He turned and moved over to his sister, cutting Demetri off as he approached with Mara. It seemed inconceivable that the tension in the room could get any higher but it did as Gard positioned himself between Rhianna and the other vampires. "Annie comes with me, Caleb, and no one else. When reason returns, we'll discuss this more, but until then, you stay away from her. You and all those who follow you." He heard Demetri hiss but he ignored him, his lavender gaze never wavering from the Ancient vampire.
Caleb's eyes remained cold, though inside, he felt his rage ratchet up another few notches at Gard's defiance. Did he really believe he would allow anyone to harm Rhianna, including himself? He may be struggling to come to terms with today's events, but the whole purpose of sending his mate home with the person he trusted most in the world was solely for her protection. His fury escalated. "You dare presume I would allow harm to come to her?"
"I don't know what you're thinking right now, Caleb, and until I do, Annie stays with me. You want to come through me to get to her then go ahead. You want to finish the job Thereasa started and cause civil war among all you love, then be my guest because I am not backing down. This is not open to discussion." His words were resolute and everyone in the room automatically tensed, waiting for the explosion to happen.
"I'm leaving with Gard." Rhianna's quiet words had all eyes turning to her. Her face was pale, her expression so neutral it was surprising. She was usually so animated, so full of smiles and laughter. Now her expression was blank, her eyes devoid of all emotion as she looked first to her mate and then to Demetri and Mara.
Her friend was close to tears, clearly feeling the strain of the events. Mara held a hand out to her. "Annie, we would never hurt you," she whispered, pain in each word.
Demetri was scowling, fury dancing in his green eyes as he tried to skewer Gard with his gaze. To say he was livid was an understatement. Everything that had happened stunned him, but what stunned him the most was Caleb's reaction to it. Even as he was angry at Gard's implication, he could also understand it because he was concerned about Caleb's state of mind too. "Listen to Mara, Annie. You know you are family. You know I would die for you."
A sad smile crossed the petite redhead's face as she regarded them solemnly. "I know, Demetri. I do not fear for my safety with you and Mara. I never have and I never will. No, I will leave with Gard because it's the right thing to do." Her gaze slid to Liam cradling Reasa and her smile saddened more as she stared at them. "We all need time to come to terms with what has happened and how we are going to move forward. We need more than time. We need space too. I will be safe with Gard."
Her gaze turned back to Caleb who was watching impassively. His expression remained closed, only the slight tightening of his mouth an indication that he didn't agree with what was happening. He had never looked at her so coldly and pain engulfed her as she watched him. Anakatrine had done what was required, and, in doing so, it appeared she had destroyed something that everyone had believed unbreakable.
"When the time is right, you will know where to find me, Caleb."
His lips tightened further, his golden brown eyes narrowing. "Still you defy me, insult me by implying I would harm you or allow harm to come to you. Your lack of trust is staggering, Rhianna."
Trying hard not to flinch at his tone, she met his gaze levelly. "As is yours, my mate." There really wasn't anything further to say, so she turned to Gard, threading her hand through his proffered arm. Rafe's anxious gaze met hers and she tried to give him a reassuring smile, knowing he was as torn as all the rest of them.
"Annie?" There was a hint of her brother in the word but, mostly, it was the Alpha of the Armand-Hanlon pack who spoke.
"She has three souls to heal, Rafe. Guard her well and find forgiveness in your heart. I know you can do it, I have faith in you. I have always had faith in you."
The big man moved, coming to stand before his sister, concern on his face. "Where will you go? Will you be okay? You can come to the pack any time you need to, Annie. You know that, don't you?" He was afraid for her, his natural protective instincts kicking in even though he feared the repercussions of the day's events.
The smile she gave him was a little stronger than the last one as she moved to give him a hug. His arms pinned her tightly to him in a crushing embrace. "I know, brother mine," she whispered. "Don't worry, I'll be in touch soon. Just guard her, Rafe. Please, do that for me or all of this will have been for nothing and hearts will have been broken needlessly."
There was so much emotion in her words, so much pain leaking through her tough mask. Rafe tightened his hold, feeling every ounce of misery she was experiencing. His Annie was trying so hard to remain strong but underneath she was crying, her heart breaking at Caleb's coldness. "I will, Annie, I promise I will." He couldn't deny her some solace, even as he wondered just how he was going to keep his word to her. So many wanted Thereasa's death for her actions. Keeping her safe within the pack would not be an easy thing.
Rhianna moved away from him, once more turning to Gard for support. He was there in an instant, flanking her small frame, keeping a barrier between her body and the vampires.
"If you do this..."
"Don't, Caleb." Rhianna's quiet words halted the Ancient vampire as he began to speak, though she didn't turn to look at him. "Don't say anything now that can't be unsaid." She held her breath, afraid he would continue and say the words that would surely break them forever.
He was silent for a long moment, his amber eyes boring into her back. Finally, he swallowed hard and his cold eyes met Gard's. "If any harm comes to her I will personally rip you limb from limb and to hell with the consequences."
Cool lavender eyes met his, a sardonic expression crossing the Guardian's face. "Really, Caleb? You feel the need to say that? I failed my sister once when I left her in your care. Remember? I will never fail her again, which is why she comes with me now. You've already killed her once, Callain. You will never have the opportunity to kill her again." He watched the barb hit home and the smile he gave the Ancient held no warmth. Caleb was intent on destroying what Gard loved and his allegiance was firmly with his sister. He would do everything within his power to protect her.
Without another word, Gard ushered Rhianna from the now silent room, ignoring all he passed on the way out. He could tell how distraught she was by the fact she didn't protest, merely let him lead until they were outside. The front yard was full of Praetorians, Karn looking up from a fallen male lying on the grass. His pale blue eyes tracked them as they headed towards one of the waiting Jeeps.
"No, Gard, I need to be outside," Rhianna whispered, pulling away and glancing back towards the house. Large tears welled up in her eyes as she stared forlornly at the place where her heart lay. Her defences were crumbling and she needed to get away quickly. Turning on her heel, she took off running as if all the shades of hell were behind her, racing into the waiting tree line.
Her brother followed her, long auburn hair flying in the wind as he raced beside Rhianna, matching her pace silently as she tried to work through her emotions. Any tears that may have fallen evaporated in an instant, but he could feel her heartbreak through their bond and his own pain reached out to join hers.
She took the most difficult path, weaving into the most densely populated trees. He had to react fast to stop the branches whipping and tearing into her skin. Rhianna appeared oblivious, or maybe she wanted the branches to flail the skin from her bones, as if somehow this was to be her penance for her actions. He couldn't allow that to happen, though, so he shielded her as they ran.
She never faltered, never stopped until she reached the border. Only then did she halt her forward movement, staring across the wide Lake Huron, her frantic eyes darting in all directions.
"Annie, where are we going?" He stood close but not touching her. He was afraid if he touched her again she would hare off in another direction. It took everything in him to stand quietly at her side and wait for her response.
"I don't know, Gard," she finally whispered. "I don't know anything anymore except that I need to get away as far as I can." Tortured eyes turned to his and he felt his heart break that little bit more at the agony he read on her face. He reached out, pulling her tightly into his arms, trying to ease some of the misery he saw.
"My Annie doesn't run away, no matter what," he breathed into her hair. "So, we are going to take a few days out, just to gather your thoughts and then we're going to address this and work out how to fix this. Okay?" He injected as much confidence as he could into his words, knowing they had a mountain to climb to fix things.
"What did I do, Gard? How could I let Anakatrine do that to Thereasa, knowing what it would do to Caleb and me? He warned me. We argued before we got to the compound. He was already showing discontent with Anakatrine's influence, and I still gave over control to her knowing it could be the end of us. How could I hurt him like that?" Rhianna's voice broke, the weight of what she'd done beating down on her. A loud sob escaped, followed by another and then another as her legs buckled and he was all that was holding her up.
Gard held his sister close as her emotions overwhelmed her, the sobs turning into broken cries as if shards of glass were tearing at her. His own tears fell unhindered, his helplessness to do anything to help her frustrating him and breaking his heart. He hated to see her like this, to hear her pain filling the air around them and floating over the calm waters of the lake. If he could have done something, he would have, but all he could do was hold her as she wept brokenly.
They stood together by the water until Rhianna finally quietened, a few hiccups echoing around them as she slowly calmed. When he was sure the worst of this moment of grief was over, he began to speak, telling her of a time long past that he had never shared before.
"You are not the first to perform that spell, Annie. When you were but a babe in arms, our mother was put in a similar position when one of her own broke a law so taboo it could not be left unpunished." He paused, his mind sliding into the past. "The funny thing is, I couldn't tell you what that law was, but I can remember the punishment clearly. I knew what you planned to do at the compound and felt the same sense of foreboding as I did when our mother exacted her justice."
His words captured her attention and Rhianna pulled herself up a bit straighter. Her heart felt as if it was in a million pieces and she missed Caleb's touch so much. Their bond was still closed to her, though it was open on her side. It was he who didn't want to be with her and that was hard to take. She could feel another wave of melancholy threatening and she forced it away to listen to her brother's words. "What happened? Why did I never know of this?"
Gard shot her a rueful smile, moving to find a spot on the grass to sit down and waiting for her to do the same. "Mother forbade me from telling you. She didn't want you practising the spell. The vampire's name was Elijah and he was one of Mother's closest confidants. I think they may have been lovers but I was too young to be certain of that. Elijah did something and the punishment was to strip him of his immortality."
Gard frowned, relieving the memory as he spoke. It had been worse than what had happened at the compound, and most likely, what led later to the newly formed first Vampire Council rising up and murdering Anakatrine and Callain three millennia ago. The display in power that day, the knowledge the vampire queen exhibited, it had been too much for the rest of them to accept.
"It was different to what you did, Annie." His frowned deepened. "I think maybe something went wrong when Mother did it, because he didn't show signs of the same distress Thereasa did. Maybe that was down to gender, I don't know. Something tells me there was a difference though, having seen the spell performed a second time. Elijah did smell human after the event, I remember that. "
Rhianna's curiosity was piqued and she listened avidly. It had been so long since she had heard tales of her Mother. Gard hadn't spoken of her since he'd come back into her life. "How did Mother deal with it?"
A shadow crossed her brother's face and he turned grim. "She was pretty much like you at first, consumed with guilt for her actions. Elijah was led away from our nation, and cast off to fend for himself for however long he had left to live. Whatever happened to him, no one knows, as he was never seen again. Mother, on the other hand, became withdrawn after the event, distrusting most of her previous advisors. It was as if she couldn't get over the fact she had been betrayed by someone she loved so much. "
Rhianna frowned, wrapping her arms around herself as she stared across the water. She knew what came next; he had explained it to her when she was a little girl. "Is that why she did what she did, Gard?"
Her brother reached across, pulling her tightly to his side as his own memories threatened to overwhelm him. "I believe so, Annie. I think she just couldn't accept what happened and that was why she built a pyre in secret and chose to leave the world forever."
She was slightly divorced from the pain of their mother's suicide, Anakatrine feeling the impact that bit more and she wasn't in attendance. However, it didn't stop more tears gathering in her eyes as she mourned a woman she barely had any memories of, but whose death left a scar on her heart. She had been three when her mother died and Gard had taken over her upbringing. It was ironic that in this incarnation, a similar incident had occurred to leave her in Rafe's care, only this time her parents' death had been an accident.
How events mirrored each other, the web of the past crossing millennia to influence the future. Rhianna wept for a mother she never knew, knowing that she hadn't loved her children enough to live. It was the major reason she had never spoken to Caleb about the secret knowledge she now harboured deep within. Keeping secrets from her mate hadn't sat well with her and for the last week she'd been mulling over when she would tell him. It would appear it was a moot point now anyway. Caleb had made it plain he did not want to be with her again.
Scrubbing at her face, Rhianna stood, turning to look down at Gard. He was watching her intently and she gave him a brief smile. "Thank you for telling me. It will make processing this a bit easier. I've decided where I want to go." She pointed to the left.
"Toronto?" Gard quirked an eyebrow at her in surprise.
"Lots of people. It will be easy to get lost in the mix until I've worked out a plan."
He shrugged and nodded his head in agreement. If she wanted to go to Toronto then that was where they were going. "You intend to run there or can we buy a car?"
"A car will be fine." She looked over the lake once more, wondering what had happened to her mother's lover, Elijah. In that time, death was around every corner, which was why so many chose the life as a vampire to survive. At least Thereasa was not alone and had others to protect her. Liam and Rafe would keep her safe. She took comfort in that.
As they turned to head back towards civilisation, Rhianna sighed as another memory crossed her mind, one of Anakatrine's. "Do you think we made the wrong choice coming to the new country, Gard? If we had stayed in Europe centuries ago, do you think events would have been different?"
He echoed her sigh, walking closely at her side. "Northern America is so powerful now. Having an enemy here at our backs may have been a worse position to be in than we are now. Europe is fragmented, therefore easier to deal with. As soon as you've decided what you're going to do and I'm confident in your safety, Rayne and I will go over to Europe and find out what the hell is going on."