Canny and ferocious, with the power of an ancient Goddess in her belly, Rowan Summerwaite is the only person who can renegotiate the fragile Treaty between the Vampire Nation and the Hunter Corporation, the last line of defense for humanity. A meeting of this Joint Tribunal, as well as her new status as Liaison, sends Rowan straight to the last place on earth she wants to be, the childhood home she’d escaped so many years before–The First’s Keep.
Raised at the knee of The First–the oldest Vampire and leader of the Vampire Nation–honed into a weapon by the Hunter Corporation, wielding ancient knowledge from the Goddess within, Rowan must navigate bloodthirsty Vampires and Hunters alike. And she’s got to do it while managing a politically awkward but undeniably deepened romance with Scion Clive Stewart. Failure in her role as Liaison could mean all-out war, with humankind in the crosshairs. No pressure.
Walking the path between her two lives has already made Rowan a pariah. The choices she’ll have to make will mean she becomes something even more Other and as a result she may lose those last shreds of home she has left.
BLADE TO THE KEEP by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2013, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Carina Publishing
They climbed the curved staircase and she made every effort to wrestle her emotions back into place. Most Vampires would still be in their rooms until twilight. But Theo would be awake and working. He’d start his day by catching up on his stories. The soap operas he’d been watching for years and years. Enzo would read him any important mail or messages. Then his tea before twilight arrived.
Usually. Sometimes he would wake up in a rage and everyone would cower or make themselves scarce if they were fortunate enough to not have to serve him directly.
She needed to get her shit together before she went to him. He was, for all intents and purposes, her father, yes, but he was unpredictable at best and psychotic at worst. He could pat her head and give her candy or whip her until she bled for not being in control.
Though she wasn’t that child anymore and she didn’t doubt The Goddess would unleash fresh hell all over him if he tried to teach Rowan any more of his lessons. But part of her job was to stand toe to toe with him and she needed to own her shit and do it herself.
David paused in his room, which adjoined Rowan’s. “What do you require of me?”
He was concerned, clearly, but he gave her enough emotional space not to get caught up in it and she appreciated that very much. “I’m all right. Valerie and Celesse should be here in an hour or two. Relax until then. You’ll need your strength to deal with all that.” She lowered her voice as Enzo slipped next door to do whatever he did. “Politics starts now. Just keep your game face on. If you need anything, hit two-three-three on the phone. That’s directly to Enzo. He’ll take care of you. This wing is highly guarded so no one from Hunter Corp will be wandering through. I need you to ping me when they arrive. Don’t go to them. Not without me.”
He nodded. “You’ll be…”
She took a deep breath and pushed the past away. It was touching that he cared, but she was a badass bitch and she needed to remember that if she expected anyone else to do the same. She squared her shoulders.
“I am the Vessel. I am a Hunter. I am the foster daughter of the First. I will survive.”
He bent to one knee, making her smile. “Deesse, I am yours to command. Always.”
She touched the top of his head, energy flowing between them. Calming him. Filling him with assurance she also had needed and received in turn. And things were all right by the time he stood.
“I’m going to get changed and have some tea with the First. You know where I am if you need me. I’ll have my phone and Enzo will also be available. Rest while you can. I’m sure there’s porn on the televisions. Probably Vampire porn though.”
The look of horror on his face made her laugh as she headed through to her rooms.
“They have such a thing?”
“Yes. Weird huh?”
“I think I’ll read instead,” he murmured faintly and she kept laughing until she came in to find her things being unpacked and placed in drawers and the closet. The room had not changed. Not even a tiny bit.
Drawings she’d done of the various household staff still sat in frames on the shelves. Her books remained in the floor to ceiling cases. A throw she’d used when she’d read near the fire on cold evenings lay folded neatly on the back of the wing chair she’d favored.
“He ordered it left exactly as you’d had it,” Enzo murmured from her left. So many contradictions, had Theo.
She picked up a leather-bound book of poetry. Pablo Neruda. She’d been reading it right before she’d left. It still had her bookmarks here and there.
“Would you like help changing from your road clothing, vasallus?”
Rowan blinked hard as she put the book back on the table in the sitting room. Enzo had opened the heavy draperies and snow fell gently just on the other side of the glass. Calm and quiet. Cataline stood after she’d finished putting Rowan’s underpants away and looked her over critically.
It wasn’t so much the being examined, that was normal. Or that Rowan doubted she looked a little bit like a woman who’d been traveling that day. But the title, which she’d not heard in a long time.
“No one has called me that in many years. Rowan will do fine now, Cataline. You look well. I’m glad to see you.”
Vasallus was the Latin word for vassal. It had been her title from birth. Enzo’s title now. She had been that once but she was no longer. And that did not make her sad.
She’d serve him tea, because she loved him in her own way. And because it was part of their relationship. But he did not own her, or her future. She was not his vassal.
The Goddess burned bright within Rowan’s belly, strengthening her.
Cataline, who’d been one of the servants on this wing since before Rowan had been born, nodded once. “As you wish. He did send some things for you to wear. If you would like.”
The look on her face told Rowan Cataline felt very strongly that one of the gowns should indeed be worn. And as she moved to the closet and saw them, Rowan agreed.