This is the prologue from Vengeance Due, the third book in my Witches Knot series.
WITCHES KNOT: VENGEANCE DUE by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2006, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave
Lee Charvez sat straight up with a scream on her lips.
“Lee!” Alex sat up from a dead sleep, landing on the floor, ready to defend her.
Aidan came rushing in at preternatural speed, incisors out, bloodlust gleaming in his eyes. “What is it?” he asked, alarmed.
Lee was shaking so hard she could barely speak. The dream wouldn’t let go. She tried to wake up, tried to shake free of it. Running her hands up her arms, she expected to find blood caked there.
Aidan grabbed her upper arms and put his face close to hers. “Lee, wake up. Darlin’, wake up! It’s a dream. We’re here. You’re safe.”
Her eyes slowly lost their panicked terror and gained focus on him. Her muscles relaxed and she took in a huge gulp of air.
“Blood,” she managed to say through chattering teeth.
Aidan brought his wrist to his mouth and sliced it open and held it out to her. She recoiled with a cry of dismay, the scent making her gag.
“Baby? What is it?” Alex said calmly, quietly. Shoving his own fear as deep as he could, he reached out slowly. She was cowering against the headboard. He’d never seen her like this. Even while facing a demon he’d never seen her so scared.
Aidan’s hurt feelings at Lee’s flinching away from him tore at Alex. But he shoved that aside and put his concern for Lee’s panicked state ahead of that. He reached back, squeezed Aidan’s hand quickly and turned all his attention back to his wife.
“I’m going to touch you, okay?” He brushed against her leg with his fingertips. “Lee, honey, focus on me, okay? It’s all right. I’m here. Aidan is here. We’re in our house. Nothing can hurt you. Wake up, baby, it was just a dream.”
She blinked several times and grabbed his hand, pulling it to her cheek and he moved then, embracing her and murmuring against her hair.
Aidan hung back. Not entirely sure why she’d been so panicked by his blood—god knows they’d exchanged blood during sex many times before. But not wanting to make it worse, he watched Alex comfort her, trying to ignore the ache he felt at being excluded.
After several minutes, Lee kissed Alex’s lips softly and pushed him back. “I’m okay. It was a dream. It was awful. There was so much blood. My god, it was everywhere. So much it coated every inch of my skin. It was in my throat and nose. The stench. It was death blood. Torture blood. Pain. So much pain and suffering. I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t help and I felt so ashamed.”
Aidan sat on the edge of the bed and she leaned in and touched his hair. He moved his head into her hand, feeling calmed by the reassertion of their connection.
“Aidan, it was vampires who did it. He saw it, they left him for dead.”
Aidan’s gaze, which was on hers, slid away for a moment. “Darlin’, who are you talking about? Who was left for dead?”
“It was a little boy. Just a little boy.” Her voice caught as the memory slid through her.
“Lee, was it happening now? Will it happen? Can we do anything?” Alex asked urgently.
“I think it was a memory.” She grabbed Aidan’s chin and turned it so he was looking into her eyes. “Aidan, it was vampires. They slaughtered an entire family. They laughed. They laughed as they tortured and maimed and murdered them. They did it for fun.”
He sighed deeply and nodded. “Yes. They did. They do. They’re Oathbreakers, Lee. The scourge of our kind. They are an embarrassing reality that we do our best to eradicate and failing that, ignore.”
Surprise made her face blank for a moment as she tried to process what he’d just said. “What? I thought you said vampires don’t take blood from the unwilling.” She was on her knees now, facing him, trying to understand.
“We don’t. Most of us don’t. Lee, you have your rules, we have ours. We live by an oath. The Oath. Those of us born to it are raised with it much as you are raised with your values. When vampires are made, they are schooled in the Oath by their Scion.
“But some of them…some of us…are Oathbreakers. The Oath—it’s hard to explain but it’s more than just words to live by. There’s a magical component to it that ties us to our power—to our existence. Oathbreakers repudiate that and then they are forced to gain their existence through death and terror and fear. They feed on it like junkies.”
Alex stared at him, agape. “Jesus. Aidan, if the humans knew about this…” He didn’t need to finish, they all knew the potential for danger.
“Much as you have Keepers of the Accord in the wizarding world, we have Oath enforcers—Oathkeepers. A kind of police force of hunters. The Oathbreakers run in gangs. It’s my guess that the dream you fell into was an attack by them.”
“The question is, why?” Alex asked, concern still etched on his face.
“I don’t know. But I never dream like that without a reason. Something is happening…will happen…I don’t know. But it’ll involve us. God, it would be nice to have just a year without drama.”
Aidan kissed the top of her head and let himself be comforted by the texture of her curls beneath his lips. It had been seven months since Conchobar had woken from his coma and they’d celebrated his and Em’s marriage. They’d hoped the quiet would remain, hoped to have a nice, normal life. He sighed, knowing something big was coming and that it didn’t bode well.
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