Enemies by circumstance of Creation
Sworn to their purpose, the Vampire and the Witch
were created to battle over the fate of mankind.
He was the First
Until one Vampire sought a Higher Purpose.
She was the Beginning
And one Witch’s faith brought Darkness into the Light.
Their love would turn the course of the Ancient War…
Before the Prophecy, an Ancient Queen and the Vampire she loved
would forge the path for those that would follow.
Ancients of Light #4
Tristan liked that the witch was not composed enough to hide her shiver and the responsive widening of her eyes, but he did not like the apprehension he viewed there. He could not ascertain whether her tremble was due to terror or because somewhere, deep inside, her need rivaled his own. Having witnessed her bravery in their earlier confrontation, he tended to believe it was the latter, even if she was too inexperienced to recognize that truth. Intensely satisfied that he had her under his control – even if it was only for this short period – her closeness eased his raging, predatory instincts.
Leaning down to issue his gentle-toned inquiry, his breath stirred the tendrils of sun-bleached gold near her ear, “Do I scare you, Alia?”
Alia knew it was reasonable to be terrified; one of the darkest warriors within the enemy ranks had abducted her. Drawing back to look at him, she had no doubt that he was the stronger between the two of them. Those tips of teeth peeking from behind his upper lip should have her screaming in fright and begging for her life, but the longer she peered into that brilliant blue gaze, the more she calmed and her senses acclimated to their surroundings.
The sound of cascading water came to her, and almost simultaneous to that she felt an internal pull. Disbelieving, her gaze flit to the mouth of the cave. During her hurried inspection on arrival – her oversight most likely attributable panic – she had failed to identify its most extraordinary feature. Standing deep within the recesses, hundreds of feet from that opening, Alia had been mistaken in thinking that the overcast weather was responsible for the wall of gray visible beyond the entrance. Now, coupling her recognition of the sound with a second look, she realized that it was not a foggy haze but that a waterfall curtained the opening.
Those of her Caste were strongest when surrounded by nature’s bounty, which was why her kin settled within forests. It was also the reason they most often chose to bare their skin in a manner that was just short of improper. The feel of the rays of the sun and even the very wind against their flesh pulled at their magic. Understanding was in her eyes when they narrowed and shot back to him. It was obvious that he had been waiting for her to understand the significance of this location.
Her command over water and lightning was a new facet of Nature magic never before displayed by her kind, but her captor had witnessed her abilities firsthand. The more wild those elements, the more responsive her magic, and yet he had brought her here. His smug expression conveyed that his choice for her temporary prison had been deliberate and Alia was most certain that Tristan realized that her strength would be magnified being near such a powerful manifestation of one of the elements that she controlled.
Clever Vampire… Skatosita … She did not want to like him, but this one was making it rather impossible to relegate him to the pile of degenerate monsters that populated his breed. She had already determined that the Witch leaders were wrong in their assessment of his race. Rather than a rabid beast, Alia had witnessed the intelligence in this Vampire leader. During their first encounter, she had also glimpsed a side that suggested much more was lurking in him. Now he intentionally brought her to a place where she would feel strong, not powerless. A myriad of questions formed, and seeing her bemused expression, Tristan smirked and lifted a brow in invitation to speak her mind.
Her lone question was accusatory, “How did you know?”
Tristan refused to believe she was as upset with him as her tone implied, but he was not going to pretend to be something that he was not for the sake of charming her. Alia was a divine creation while he had been spat from the pits of Hell. He was resolute – between them there would be no skirting what either of them was, or the bloodied history between their breeds. For that reason, he gave her the truth, “I told you that we know much about the Witch. Your breed spills secrets from its lips as rain falls from the sky… and even was your Caste not of the same ilk, your kin reveal their secrets as willingly as all the others with the proper incentive.”
It sunk into her slowly what he meant by incentive, and she whispered confirmation of her understanding, aghast that he would broach the subject with her and have the audacity to gloss over it, “Torture.”
The word lingered between them and held no hint of question; the little witch had already convicted him. Tristan could have comfortably avoided the blatant confirmation, but he gave her a curt nod to make certain she had no room to doubt her conclusion. He did not want her young and fanciful imagination to make him into something more valiant than he was.
She did not move, but her eyes stabbed him, followed by words that were pious and clipped, “I would imagine, as a General in the Darks, that you are particularly adept at such practices.”
Alia was acting as though the Vampire were exclusive in their use of such abusive techniques. Her youthful innocence was endearing, but her illusions about the moral fabric of her leadership required correction. Rolling his eyes over her naiveté, his arms folded across his chest. The response he offered was calmly given, not defensive, “I am no more adept than your own leaders, Alia.”
There were rumors, of course, about the methods used by the Queens to interrogate the Vampire, but she had seen no such practice herself. She remained self-righteous, “I would not know, but I cannot think that our ways would be as twisted as those that the Darks employ and…”
Tristan snapped, leaning in, his sharp words interrupting her defense of her breed, “That is because you are young, Alia. You are foolish to believe that those you follow are so far above what I am and what I am required to do in order to fight this war.”
Starring at him for long moments, Alia realized that while she could allow his impatient interruption to push her into arguing, she was reluctant to fight with him. While she would not take his claim as fact merely because the handsome Dark proclaimed it, she would also neither ignore it. Many of her beliefs – beliefs that had been postulated as truths by her Queens – had been challenged recently, but she needed time and distance from him in order to form her own conclusions. The best choice was to move to another topic.
He had yet to withdrawal after those last words and his close presence was stealing her focus while her magic seemed to be coursing manically through her veins. The combination was leaving her feeling flushed and off balance. When she returned to his very first question, Alia was conscious that her breathy words most likely revealed too much of her attraction, “Should I be afraid?”
Tristan experienced a surge of triumph when she turned the topic rather than answer his harsh words in kind. The grin he gave her was a reflection of his pleasure and an entreaty to trust him, “There are parts of you that already know that answer…”
Leaning in closer still, it required only a small movement on his part to close the small gap that remained between them. The beauty did not retreat. Her nearness had his eyes shifting black while they lowered to observe the delectable pulse dancing beneath the sun-kissed skin of her neck. Still the witch did not move away…instead, her gaze was waiting for his when it lifted, and sparkles of magic blossomed there in response to his entreaty, “Listen to those parts, Alia… something inside you already knows that you belong to me.”
When she did not immediately deny it, Tristan could not help but wonder what it would be like to drink sunshine.
About the Author
Heather Fleener lives in Indiana with her husband, D.A. and their twins, Thomas and Alexandra. Professionally she has spent her career working in the area of Intellectual Property law.
Reading has been a passion of hers since she was young and she has adored romance novels her entire life. The romantic styles of Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood are her inspiration, though she has read and loved the stories of countless other authors. Her fascination with the paranormal began to form at the young age of six, watching late-night ghost and vampire movies with her Grandpa. Unfortunately, as a result, she also remains afraid of the dark to this day.
Combining her love of epic romances and the supernatural was a natural progression for her overactive imagination. When the idea for the Ancients of Light series began, it was an abstract story line rambling around in her head to help kill a few miles on the treadmill. As the stories and plotlines continued to grow, it finally became necessary to put the words to paper and build the characters that had been living in the Realm and having conversations in her head for months.
The series is a testament to many miles on the treadmill and lots of characters that insist on having their stories told.