Here's an extra treat for those of you who take the time to come here. =)
I've worked out some of the creases with Mokkelke and so I'm going to post the chapter here while Lit is still pending with my submission. But don't forget to rate and comment once it's out!
I've worked out some of the creases with Mokkelke and so I'm going to post the chapter here while Lit is still pending with my submission. But don't forget to rate and comment once it's out!
However, Chapter 9 is still in progress... I have 5 assignments due in 4 weeks so that's certainly not looking good for writing. But I'll update as much as I can. =)
Fiona wasn’t exaggerating when she said Eian was cooking up a storm. Every available space on the dining table was filled with a plate of something- roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, stewed meat, creamy soups, risotto and various other dishes that Alaron couldn’t identify.
“This is to celebrate your pregnancy?” he asked in bewilderment.
“Uhuh,” nodded Fiona with a chicken drumstick in her mouth. “Eian says I need to eat more.”
“But you don’t even eat Fi… I mean we don’t even eat.”
She frowned at his words. Somehow that had escaped her notice. “I think the baby wants to eat,” she commented instead. “It’s still part wolf right? I can’t just survive on blood once every month alone.”
“Yes… but that doesn’t mean you stuff yourself,” he said in annoyance. “You’ll grow fat.”
Fiona stiffened then laughed happily. “Then I’ll be pregnant fat. That’s different,” she corrected, watching Alaron roll his eyes before turning to Erika.
“Would you like me to get you something?” he asked, unaware that Fiona had suddenly leaned forward in interest. Erika nodded and started to get up but Alaron was already walking towards the table, debating with himself over what to choose for her. Fiona watched as he plunked a bit of everything onto the plate he was holding.
“He never does that for me,” she said in amusement. “Although that doesn’t count since I didn’t use to eat.”
“Oh,” said Erika, unsure of what to make of that observation. Fiona was also staring at her in a strange way, making her squirm slightly in her seat. She was sure that Fiona was about to ask something embarrassing but was saved when both Eian and Alaron came into the living room carrying plates loaded with food for the women.
“Sweetheart, you need to eat more,” said Eian nervously, taking her empty plate away from her then standing to make sure she was eating and not throwing up.
“Seriously Eian, you’re going to make her fat,” said Alaron, even as he passed the plate he was holding to Erika.
Eian raised his eyebrow at the heap of food that Erika was now holding and then laughed, “Speak for yourself. At least I can finish her food for her, you can’t,” he said, caressing Fiona’s hair.
“Aren’t you going to eat Eian?” she asked, looking up at her husband. He flushed guiltily at her then nodded quickly before taking a few steps back.
“Err… I will, right after I’m done with the muffins,” he said before rushing off to the kitchen to tend to them.
“Your husband is such a romantic!” exclaimed Erika the moment Eian was out of the living room. “He’s sexy, smart, loving, protective and best of all, he cooks! He’s going to spoil you silly Fiona! Trust me, a guy like that will go berserk once the baby arrives. He’ll coddle you non-stop.”
The two women laughed heartily, chattering non-stop; first about the sex of the baby then clothes, then to the shop, then books, then men and finally back to the topic of babies. Feeling slightly ignored, Alaron walked towards the kitchen, only to find Eian sitting on the floor with his back slumped against the wall.
The Alpha wolf has fallen, mused Alaron to himself. It was clearly an unusual sight for him. Who’d thought this regal and commanding man could be utterly stressed out by the idea of a baby?
“Need some help?” asked Alaron. The shocked look on Eian’s face told him that the Alpha was obviously caught by surprise. For his heightened sense of hearing, this sure was unusual.
“Why are you here? Is something wrong?” he asked in panic, getting up quickly.
“Relax. You looked better when Fiona turned into a scary mind-control machine.”
Eian simply scowled at him. “That’s different.”
“How so?” he asked in amusement. “It’s just a baby, Eian…”
“But we never had a hybrid before. What if something goes wrong? What if I’m not there with her when she’s in pain? What if her labour changes her even further? What if she doesn’t eat enough food? Oh no! What if I gave her the wrong food!” his last words were almost a cry before he lunged towards the living room.
“You’re losing it. Seriously,” said Alaron, catching Eian by the waist and settling the tall, muscular man gently on a chair. In another situation, Eian might have bitten Alaron’s head off at such manhandling but at the moment, he just sat quietly, staring to the floor.
“She’ll be fine… you’ve got to believe it,” said Alaron in the most reassuring voice he could muster. Seriously, this was not a situation he wanted to be in. Draven would be a better candidate in this sort of ‘man to man’ talk. In fact, he was just a baby compared to these two ancient artifacts…
When Eian still remained silent, Alaron decided it was time for a change of topic. “What’s going to happen to my brother?”
The worry on Eian’s face was immediately replaced by a hardened look. “Why’d you want to know?”
“He’s in trouble isn’t he?” asked Alaron, watching the way Eian’s eyes looked at him curiously.
“I’m sure he knows how to take care of himself.”
“Especially since you’ve taken care of half the problem?”
A flicker of worry flashed in Eian’s eyes but it did not materialize on his face. He kept calm as he replied, “There is no problem, Alaron. Even if there is, you are too young to understand it and might cause more trouble for him.”
“But he’s my brother! I care for him.”
Eian gave a long sigh. If the young Vampire intended to take his mind off Fiona and the baby, he surely did succeed but there was no way Eian was going to discuss Draven’s problems with a youngling. Alaron was prone to fits of unreasonable anger and actions. He might rage against Aramis or worst, go to Amber and make her remember things that should otherwise be kept buried.
“If you won’t tell me, then I’ll just ask Fiona. You know she’ll tell me.”
Eian turned to look at him in alarm. “No… please don’t do that. She might get upset and I don’t want her to worry... the baby… Please Alaron.”
Alaron was taken aback by Eian’s behavior. He had expected the Alpha wolf to threaten him, knock him against the wall or something but instead he was just pleading.
“I’m sorry,” said Alaron slowly, aware that it was the first time he’d apologize to Eian. Taking a seat beside him, Alaron looked up to the ceiling and sighed. “I know my brother’s been sniffing around with that she-wolf of yours. At first I had thought it was just sex but then again, I don’t think so when I found out that you’ve ordered for some major alterations to her name and memories.”
Eian stiffened and turned to face Alaron. “How do you know all this?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he shrugged. “What matters is that I know but I’m not going to do anything about it unless his life is in danger. He went back to the castle earlier today and I’m just worried.”
“He’s back in the castle?” Eian was surprised that Draven would return so soon. He had thought the Vampire would have hidden out in his New York home for a few months at least.
“Yes and I suspect he’s going to talk to Father. You know how he is right?”
“Father. He’s going to overreact to everything that Draven says and then try to take everything into his own hands.”
“What do you mean?” asked Eian in alarm. Surely he wasn’t going to sanction a hunt for Amber without asking Eian’s permission right?
“Well, I mean just take Fiona for example. You take her to him to have her fed and what does he do? He arranges for you two to get married. I’m just saying he’s going to do the same thing to Draven. If he finds out that Draven’s in love with Amber, he’s just going to force him to get married to someone else to settle the issue.”
Eian felt relief wash over him for a second, replaced only by a feeling of sadness at the knowledge that what Alaron told him might actually be possible. Separating mates while both were still alive was already a cruel act and now to force Draven into a marriage he does not want would wipe the reason for living out of the Vampire. But…
“It is for the best Alaron…” he said softly. “Unlike you, your brother does not have as much liberty when it comes to his life. He was born to take the title, to be exactly what your father wants him to be. He is a Pureblood.”
Alaron understood that. Although he, Fiona and Draven shared the same family name, they were in fact of different classes. Draven, conceived by two Purebloods was born as one. He on the other hand was born to a human mother and Pureblood father, making him an Augustus. However, seeing that he had turned Fiona, though still of Noble blood, she was a class below him; a Caesar.
The Purebloods were a dying class, he knew. At the moment, there were only thirty five Pureblood families left and the Council had been trying to encourage the Purebloods to intermarry for the sake of the continuity of their species.
“Does he love her?” he asked suddenly.
“Okay.” Alaron gave a resigned sigh. He felt bad for being envious of his brother in the past. Right now, he could bet that Draven wished he was in his place instead. Eian was right. He does have more liberty than his brother in choosing the paths in his life. Even if he chose to mate with a human, there would be no violent objections from his father. In fact, he didn’t think that the Lord Culzean would mind at all. He already had the best of both worlds; an heir to retain their Pureblood status and a granddaughter that would provide an heir to a Duchy. He didn’t really need Alaron.
The thought made him sad.
“I’ll leave you to your muffins now,” he announced as he got to his feet and walked away.
“Keep this to yourself Alaron,” said Eian gently, watching the young Vampire nod wordlessly.
“Hi, umm, Professor. We met the other day at the auditorium remember?”
Amber stared at the beautiful black woman in front of her and nodded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name the other day,” she said with a smile.
“Oh, I’m Natasha. And you are?”
Amber frowned slightly at the woman. Perhaps she had misheard; surely this student knows her name?
“Actually, I’m running late for my next class. Are you here to see me for a consultation?”
Natasha had no idea what a consultation is but she had promised Draven to keep an eye on the wolf so she was.
“Uh… I’m going to the same class you’re going,” she replied instead, watching Amber’s eyes lighten up in delight.
“Oh that’s great! Do you know where tutorial room sixteen is? It’s only my second week on the job so I’m still not familiar with the place.”
Damn. Okay, I can handle this… I’m a trained, experienced enforcer. How hard could it be to find the tutorial room?
It turned out much harder than she expected. By the end of the hour, both women were panting, having climbed various stairs and run across various corridors.
“Are you sure you’re a student here?” asked Amber, leaning against a wall to catch her breath.
“Yes. It’s kind of my first term here. Sorry…” apologized Natasha. “I think the class is over by now. Do you want to grab a drink before the next one?”
Amber looked up at Natasha and grinned. “Okay.”
When they were seated at the school canteen, Natasha pondered over the drinks menu while Amber sat quietly, observing the stranger sitting in front of her.
“What would you like?” she asked.
“Anything cold is fine,” she replied sweetly, taking out her purse and passing some money to Natasha. The enforcer stared at her in surprise then shook her head.
“My treat,” she insisted, pushing the money across the table to Natasha. “You’re still a student. I know you don’t have much. Go ahead. Get whatever you want,” she said with a smile.
Natasha got up as quickly as she could and dashed to the drinks counter. Was that woman just naturally sweet or was she glazed with honey every morning? That kind of sweetness was just abnormal! Every woman has a bitchy side to them and as much as she could tell from this Amber person, she had no notion of what it is to be angry, sad or hurt. Natasha wished that she could read this wolf’s mind but that’s akin to talking to a dog she supposed.
She shook her head slightly at Draven’s reminder not to call Amber any form of animal. Well… that was quite a hard thing to do, considering how Vampires had been groomed from young to shun the Weres, thinking of them more as an inferior race. But then again, the humans were worst. They were helpless against both Werewolf and Vampire attacks.
Right, I’d better stop being such a racist or Draven will kick my butt.
Ordering two Pepsis, she headed back towards their table.
Amber smiled as she took the can and poured it into the paper cup that Natasha had passed to her. Taking a sip, she stared at Natasha over the top of her cup.
“Is there something wrong with me?” asked Natasha.
“You said you two are siblings? You don’t look very much alike.”
It was then that Natasha realized how lame their cover had been. No wonder Amber was suspicious of her! She was Black with an obvious Russian accent and Draven was clearly Caucasian with an Irish/Scottish thing going on.
“Oh well, we’re step siblings I suppose but he doesn’t like to say that. His mother married my father and so on. Long story. Boring. Let’s talk about you.”
“Me?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah. Tell me about your family; how many siblings you have and all that.”
“Oh,” amber frowned as though trying to recall something; faltering a few times but eventually shaking her head and apologizing. “I’m sorry… I can’t remember…”
Oh oh. Someone’s been tampering with her memory.
“It’s okay… why don’t you tell me about your work. You said this is your second week?”
Amber’s face lit up slightly as she nodded. “Yes. I was fortunate enough to get a place here. I used to practice before this but now I feel more comfortable teaching. So which field are you planning on majoring in? I mean, I know you won’t get to decide until you finish your first year of residency but it’s always good to have a goal in mind.”
Why did I ever volunteer for this job? I have no clue what she’s talking about and worst of all, I can’t go back and erase her memory if I make a mistake!
Somehow, Natasha was saved by the sound of her ringing phone. Grateful for the reprieve, she quickly picked up the call.
“I’m coming over in half an hour. Make sure she stays within your sight at all times.”
He hung up before she could say anything.
“Problem?” asked Amber in concern.
Natasha tried to smile but she was clearly worried. If Draven was going to arrive on such short notice, it could only mean one thing- bad news.
“Umm, Professor, do you think you could keep me company for another hour maybe? I haven’t made any friends here and I’m just a little afraid of being alone.”
Understanding filled Amber’s eyes. “It’s perfectly fine Natasha. I know it must be daunting to be in this strange place all by yourself. You’ll make friends soon, I’m sure. Why don’t we go to my office? That way you could keep me company too while I do my work.”
“Oh, thank you Professor Amber.”
Amber went rigid at the sound of the name. “I’m sorry dear, you must be mistaken. My name’s not Amber. You can call me Professor or Doctor… but I suppose I’m not sure if it’s the norm to address me by my first name.”
Natasha stared open mouthed at the woman in front of her. This is not Amber?
“I apologize um, Professor. Perhaps we should go to your office now,” she suggested instead. Inside, Natasha was feeling a sense of dread. Would Draven be angry if she was taking care of the wrong woman? There was only one way to find out… she’ll have to look at the name on this woman’s office door.
Natasha followed behind the red haired professor, keeping a focused eye out for any impending danger. They continued walking down a corridor before entering the faculty offices. It was relatively quiet but a quick scan around told her that there were a few humans around. In fact, they were all human, except for this woman in front of her. Natasha didn’t think that even the redhead knew that she was a Werewolf.
“My office’s kind of messy at the moment. I hope you don’t mind,” she announced before opening her door.
Ambrosia A. MacFarlane.
“Oh boy… wrong woman…” muttered Natasha under her breath. She stopped by the door and took out her phone to call Draven.
“Answer damn it.”
She waited quite some time before he answered. “I just parked. Where are you?”
“In her office… or I think this is the right one. This is the same red head we met the other day right?” she whispered, walking a few doors down to make sure Amber did not hear her.
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“Hell yeah. She says she’s not Amber.”
“I see. It’s okay. Keep her safe. I’m coming.”
“Why? Don’t trust me to take her on a run on my own?”
There was a slight pause before he answered. “I’m coming to bring her home.”
“What?! You’re bringing her straight to her own death?”
“I’m becoming desperate Sasha. My father is unyielding but It thought… since he has worked with her before… he knows what she’s like and. I may be a fool for thinking he might change his mind… but I’ve got to try.”
“And what if he doesn’t?”
“Then I’ll stay with her in wherever he chooses to hold her. I’m not staying away from her one more minute. It’s killing me.”
“How much time do you have to convince him?”
“Not too long; about a day or two at most. I think he plans for me to marry on the equinox.”
This time, it was Natasha who kept silent. When she finally spoke, there was worry and understanding in her voice.
“Don’t do it Draven… please…”
But he already hung up.
Natasha cursed as the line disconnected.
He had searched under MacFarlane and found Amber’s office location. He was aware that her first name was registered under something else but he had no doubt that she was the same woman he loves.
Striding down the corridors, he finally reached the offices and trailed after her scent, leading him into a small room that had been labeled with her name on the door.
The moment he entered, his first command was directed at Natasha although his eyes were solely on Amber.
Get to the Dean’s office and to whoever else in charge of this place and make sure you wipe their memory of ever having her here. You can leave this office as it is but just make sure no one knows I’ve taken her.
Natasha looked up in alarm at Draven then flicked her gaze to Amber who was staring at them in confusion.
She can hear you!
I know. Just go Sasha. I’ll handle this.
No. Why don’t you just run? You have resources… you can live in seclusion.
Draven took his eyes off Amber for a few seconds to glare determinedly at Natasha.
And be labeled a rogue? Deserting my position is one thing but kidnapping a Were sounds like a crime to me. The hunters will go after our heads without question.
What the… and bringing her home is not kidnapping?
She’ll be my guest and my wife. That’s different. Now just get the hell out Natasha. I can’t stand not being near her anymore.
Natasha glared at him for one last time but got up to leave as instructed. She did not approve of what he was about to do but knew that there was nothing she could do; short of physically restraining him on the floor and she really didn’t want to do that.
Meanwhile, Amber was staring at Draven with what looked like fear mixed with curiosity. She had obviously heard most of the conversation; at least the parts where Draven was communicating and she was scared. Her body was tensed, her fingers gripping her table until her knuckles went white but her eyes seemed to recognize him and were intrigued.
“Who are you?” she asked softly, watching the way his eyes flickered with pain at her question.
“I’ll explain later. Come,” he replied, moving closer towards her and clasping his hands around her wrist.
“No! I’ll… I’ll scream and… call security!” she squeaked, pulling her hand away and backing towards the window. This man was planning to kidnap her!
Hurt was now evident on Draven’s face as he watched Amber moving away from him. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him for he had caught flashes of her curiosity but her fear of him broke his heart.
I won’t hurt you again… I promise.
Her eyes widened in shock. “Did… did you just speak to me? But… in my head?” she stammered. Draven nodded. “What do you mean by again?”
“Do you trust me?” he asked, offering his hand to her. He kept his gaze gentle and unthreatening even though his heart was pounding with adrenaline, hoping that she would take his hand.
He watched as her natural blonde lashes fluttered against her cheeks when she looked down at his outstretched palm. Draven noted how she seemed to be on fire now that her red hair was in the glow of the sun. She was still beautiful.
She must have heard his thought for her eyes looked up in shock once again at his face before blushing lightly.
“Please don’t be afraid of me. That is the last thing I’d want from you,” he said pleadingly.
“But you’re going to kidnap me!” she blurted out before desperately turning around to find something to use as a weapon. Her eyes rested on her long umbrella resting at the corner of her desk.
“Please don’t,” he said wearily. He didn’t even need to read her to know what she was about to do. He looked at his watch and noted that while they didn’t have much time, he needed to convince her to follow him. If this was the Amber he had known, she’d have jumped at him by now- a thought that brought a wry smile to his lips.
So after closing her office door, he sat down quietly on one of the chairs in front of her.
“Why are you sitting down?” she asked in surprise.
“To convince you that I’m not a kidnapper… well, at least not in the traditional sense.” He saw her eyes widen and quickly amended him words. “What I mean is, I want to bring you home to meet my father. It’s a matter of life and death… for both of us.”
Her eyes roamed expectantly on his face then narrowed suspiciously. “Why should I believe you?”
“Because a part of you acknowledges that you know me… intimately even.”
Her suspicion didn’t wane. “But why should I meet your father? I don’t even… know you.”
Draven closed his eyes for a moment. This was really not the time and place.
“Sweetheart… we don’t have much time. I will explain more later. To convince you that I’m not a kidnapper or some criminal, I’d let you take all your things, including your phone and whatever else you need from this office. If at any time you feel I’m dangerous and you’d like to call the police or whatever enforcements, I won’t stop you.”
Amber inched forward, grabbed her handbag from her desk and rifled through the things to make sure her phone and wallet was inside.
“But I won’t hurt you… I promise,” he said in an almost sad tone. Getting up, he offered his hand to her once more.
Amber’s expression softened slightly at the tenderness in his voice and she placed her palm in his. For a moment, their hands stayed one on top the other, before his fingers curled up over hers reassuringly as though telling her that from that moment on they needn’t be apart anymore.
“Come,” he urged, tugging her hand gently and was grateful that this time, she followed, hurrying after him; heels clicking against the concrete pavement before entering his car.
He didn’t say anything to her as he started driving but his tensed demeanor gradually became relaxed the moment they were out of the main city area and driving on the expressway.
She had been alarmed when his hand had reached out to hold hers but she didn’t pull away; his hand was broad and warm, covering her slender fingers effortlessly. Amber was afraid of him but at the same time she found a strange bout of comfort in the way he was touching her.
“What is your name?” she asked, watching him turn to glance at her for a second before looking forward again.
“You don’t remember?” he replied in lieu of an answer.
“I… I would remember if you had told me before won’t I?” her question was uncertain. “I don’t think I would forget such a person like you.”
Draven smiled at her innocent admission. It felt as though they were just getting to know each other all over again and realized how right Eian had been. Mates would always gravitate towards each other, subconsciously or not. However, the woman sitting beside him was certainly not the same woman that he had fallen for in that hospital room but he’ll work on her memories later.
Truth was, Draven had never resurfaced buried memories before. All his life, he had either read them or buried them so deep within one’s subconscious that it was as good as being erased. The erasure of memory was a painful process and the reliving of them would be equally painful, if not more.
He didn’t want to hurt her anymore, so they will take it slowly.
“You can call me Draven. What would you like me to call you?”
He felt the woman stiffen at his question for she was aware that he wasn’t asking what her name was. When someone asked how you’d like them to call you, it denoted some sort of familiarity and intimacy.
“Would you mind if I called you Amber?” he asked casually. “I know your name is Ambrosia but I’d like to imagine you as a precious stone.”
“Okay,” she whispered shyly. “That’s a pretty name too.”
“Yes it is. A pretty name for a beautiful lady.”
Draven smiled when he felt the pulse in her wrist throb faster. God! Just what did Fiona do to his Amber such that she was now behaving like an innocent virgin?
“Where are you taking me?” she asked, pulling her hand gently away from him.
“To my home,” he replied, unaware of the fright registering on her face. It was only when he glanced in her direction that he saw the way her eyes stared at him in desperation. He smiled as reassuringly as he could, “I won’t do anything that you do not want me to Amber… trust me. I will explain everything when we get there.”
Draven didn’t say anything. He noticed that Amber had placed some distance between them and was now pressed closer towards the window. It was difficult for him to accept the fact that she was afraid of him. It made him even more eager to begin resurfacing the memories that had been forced into seclusion.
When they reached the castle, he sensed that she had tensed up. Was it because she remembered coming here during Fiona’s wedding or was she intimidated by its dark and gloomy exterior? Draven guessed it to be the latter. He just hoped that his own quarters on the entire west wing of the castle would not seem too morose for her taste.
“You live here?” she stammered partly in awe and fear. Draven didn’t blame her. Culzean Castle does have that certain gothic Dracula thing going on. It wouldn’t surprise him if she started anticipating seeing bats and various coffins lying around.
“Yes and this will be your home too for the next few weeks at least,” he replied, offering her his elbow in the courtly fashion. His lips curled up in pleasure when she slipped her hand at the crook of his elbow; feeling almost as though he was bringing her to a ball rather than a Vampire’s lair.
As an afterthought, he realized that he’d like that; bringing her to one of those ridiculously lavish balls, showing her off to the other Purebloods during their biannual gatherings…
“Young Lord,” greeted the majordomo the moment he stepped through the front doors; his eyes wandering briefly towards Amber then back to Draven’s face. Draven gave him a polite nod. He knew that the domestic never meddled in the affairs of his masters and never spoke of anything unless asked. That was for the best because he wanted to spend some time with Amber before speaking to his father about her.
“Please help me prepare something for my guest to eat,” he said before walking away. The domestic would understand what he meant for he would have scented that she was not the blood drinking type.
His quarters were decent. He never considered them as lavish as Eian’s castle had been but it was still cozy enough to entertain guests. Draven had thought of bringing her straight to his room but decided against it for he didn’t want her to think he was only trying to get her into bed. Of course, he did want her in that sense but that would have to wait a little longer.
“Please, sit,” he offered, ushering her towards one of the plush sofas in front of his unlit fireplace. Crouching down, he struck a match against a slab of charred wood, hoping that it would start burning in a while. He hadn’t much use for the fireplace but he wanted to keep Amber warm, even if she was shivering, although not from the cold.
He watched as she gingerly sat, placing her palms gently on her thighs before looking up at him. Her face was one full of questions, worries and excitement. Draven liked that last bit. It made him hopeful that he could make her remember.
Kneeling down, he came closer to her and rubbed his knuckles tenderly across her right cheek; hearing the soft sigh escaping from her unwilling lips. It was an instinctive response- the kind made by a long lost lover. It made him desperate to kiss her and make love to her right there and then but he had to reassure her first of the reason why she was here.
“Amber… do you remember who I am?”
She shook her head but her eyes seemed confused and hesitant. Draven tried again.
“Do you know what I am?” he asked instead, watching the confusion escalate even more in her eyes. Still stroking her cheek, he whispered, “I’m what humans call a Vampire… and you my darling are my mate.”
Her eyes widened in shock then he saw what looked like denial flash in her eyes as she turned away from him. One step at a time, he told himself. She had shown no awareness that she’s a Were and from what he could tell, she did not believe in Vampires either.
“Why am I really here, Draven?” she asked. “You said you’ll explain… but you’re not. You’re scaring me… and I don’t want to be here.”
Draven sighed sadly and cradled her face with both hands. She struggled and pulled away at his touch.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to see into your mind,” he said simply but she was batting away his advances.
“First of all, no one can see into another person’s mind. And second of all, you don’t have touching privileges yet.”
Draven raised his eyebrow questioningly. It seems her feisty nature was shining through and he knew it was because emotions and personalities were very difficult to mask even with a lack of memory.
“Trust me Amber, once I’ve found a way to heal your mind, I’ll definitely want those privileges… again.”
Ignoring her gasp, he quickly placed one palm at each side of her cheek and felt her sag against the sofa. He didn’t like seeing the blank look on her face but it was necessary for him to try and see what exactly were left of her memories. He knew that Fiona could not wipe them but she had put a powerful suggestion over her that doesn’t seem reversible at this point, or at least not reversible by anyone other than herself.
However, what he saw alarmed him. Fiona had built layers upon layers of suggestions such that he could not actually see the bottom of Amber’s mind. It was as good as burying her memories, he thought but only in this case, she was able to replace them with some very powerful images and ideas that were antithetical to who and what Amber was. Only a very powerful and old Vampire could uncover her real memories and Draven doubted he was either.
The top layer was a suggestion that she was a thirty-five year old human who had gotten tired of her practice so she had taken a job as a lecturer at the university. Draven frowned as he tried to remove it. It then occurred to him that he had never removed suggestions before. Perhaps it was better to delve in and understand more before tinkering with anything.
Frowning, he went deeper, seeing the second layer: Her name is Ambrosia and she has no known family but she’s happy with her life and has no worries. Draven nodded before delving deeper, this time encountering a few meshed up layers as though Fiona had given a suggestion then taken it back before placing another thought. This went on for a few layers until he came up with the one that suggested: there is no such thing as Vampires or Werewolves and that only humans roam this earth.
Draven stilled at that knowledge. Suggesting that there are no such things as Vampires or Werewolves meant that the concept of mates would not resonate with Amber any longer. In other words, she needed to be wooed all over again. But then, what about her wolf? Surely that animal is aware of the pseudo memories imposed on its’ host?
His own mind was tired but he pushed on, searching deeper for the wolf’s subconscious. Draven never had the opportunity to look into a Werewolf’s mind before and it provided him with a wealth of knowledge at how amazing it was. It was almost as though there were two minds blended into one and yet they could keep separate from each other; one choosing to be more dominant than the other.
He had caught the image of a pair of blue eyes flashing lazily at him before it disappeared. Draven was sure that was the wolf. Pressing on, it annoyed him that he could not read anything anymore but instead had been overwhelmed by the fatalistic emotions of dejection and withdrawnness. He wanted to look deeper but was suddenly expunged out of her mind so suddenly that he stumbled backwards and fell on his bottom.
“Are you okay?” he heard her ask in concern. She had gotten up from the sofa and was kneeling beside him, holding his arm in alarm. Amber had no idea what had happened for she recalled snapping at Draven about something and then the next thing she knew he was on the floor.
“Yes… I’m fine… but I’m afraid you’re not,” he whispered, moving to a sitting position. “I should have taken care of your memories on my own.”
“Yes, well, I think the medical word for it is amnesia. You recognize me but you can’t seem to recall from where or why… am I right?”
Amnesia? Amber didn’t think she was having amnesia. If she was, wouldn’t she be in a hospital… or at least with a family member to get her through her life? But as far as she knew, she was alone and she just got a job as a lecturer and was happy… right?
But this man in front of her, with his beautifully sculpted face and wavy black hair was telling her that she should remember him or at least recognize him. A part of her wanted to agree with him but the other part was afraid he’d hurt her. And most importantly he was… weird. He was ‘talking’ to Natasha in their head for godsake! And he was planning on kidnapping her… and did.
“So maybe I might remember you… but what’s the significance?” she asked warily.
He simply smiled then murmured, “Would you mind telling me what you feel when you see me?”
She blushed as a response, getting up to her feet instantly and turned her back to him. Even if she didn’t remember him, she was certainly attracted enough to envision him naked and doing all sorts of things that might have been illegal in some places. Some of those images had been so vivid she was almost convinced it had happened.
Damn! Who gets the hots for their kidnapper?
“Oh, I see,” he grinned. She had literally shouted out her thoughts even though it was not verbalized. So that she remembers. Ok, that’s a start…
Clambering back to his feet, he moved closer until he was a few inches away from her body. Her back was still turned from him but he could hear the sudden rush of blood through her arteries. There was anticipation in them, he mused… but of what?
His hands slipped smoothly around her waist, finally bringing their bodies in contact with each other. He could sense that she was hesitant but somehow curious enough to stay still. Head tipped down, he took in the scent of her hair and reveled in the warmth of her body. Definitely a Were’s body; no human could be this warm.
“God, I miss this scent…” he breathed out, nuzzling behind her ear and down her neck. He was aware of the throbbing vein suddenly exposed to him and recoiled at how much he wanted to bite her for a taste. He’d bet that she’d taste as delicious as she smelled.
Her soft whimpers were starting to take effect, he realized and sighed. This woman hadn’t even done anything and he was already hard thinking of all the lustful things he’d do to her. He turned her around slowly gazed into the piercing blue eyes that he’d missed so much. And those lips… lips meant for kissing was slightly parted as though calling out to him. He wanted to kiss her so bad.
Amber didn’t really want to believe that she just heard his thought out loud and she was fighting with herself whether to let him act them out or not. She didn’t really trust him but her body seemed to have an instinct of its own. It wanted… no, it craved for Draven.
“Would you like to?” he heard her whisper and his eyes immediately went up to catch her gaze. So she could still read him. That’s good. He nodded slowly.
Yet, her eyes were hesitant. “Are you controlling me, Draven? Making me… want this too?” she asked suspiciously.
Hurt flashed briefly across his face before he shook his head.
“What you feel is entirely your own,” he whispered sadly. And he was going to make sure no one else forces her to feel or think she was someone else. Never again.
“Would you let me?” he asked tentatively, never taking his eyes off hers. She was still fighting within herself, he could see but her rational self was losing out…
Her mental plea was permission enough for him. His mouth immediately covered hers, his sigh signaling his relief and desperation at holding his mate in his arms. She was here now and yet she wasn’t.
It pained him but somehow the hungered way in which she was kissing him suggested that all was not lost. She was reacting to him instinctively, molding against his body like a tailor made suit. Draven managed a smile as he deepened the kiss, parting her lips slightly to tangle his tongue with hers. One of his hands was at the back of her head, bringing her closer and tighter against him and he was aware of her fingers clutching painfully on his shoulders as though desperate to hold on.
A painful degree of madness and self-control was what it took to release her and step back. He saw the disappointment and lust in her eyes but he remained in his place.
“I didn’t bring you here for the sole purpose of satisfying my insatiable lust for you,” he admitted. “There’s something important we need to discuss…” And then we can jump onto each other…
Her eyes twinkled in amusement at his thought, bringing a smile to his lips.
“I didn’t know you jump from first to second base so quickly,” she pointed out.
“Are you denying that this chemistry between us?” he was grinning; a wild flicker of lust on his handsome face. It made Amber tick.
So instead, she ignored his suggestive question and posed her own, “So what are these important things we need to discuss?”
“Do you believe that I’m a Vampire?” he asked carefully. She shook her head.
“There are no such things as Vampires… are there?”
Draven pursed his lips as a response, trying to think of another way to put his question.
“Surely you could scent how different I am from you?” he asked, knowing that one’s senses will still function despite the lack of a memory to associate it with.
“Of course,” she replied and he felt relieved until he saw the blush creeping up her neck. He must have looked confused for she explained, “You smell different because you’re a man…” She paused, looking at him with uncertainty in her eyes. “But you also smell so intoxicating… like a good bottle of wine or maybe a slice of cheesecake…”
“Cheesecake?” he asked suddenly, alarmed. Did she just associate him with a confectionery?
Her eyes suddenly fluttered in embarrassment, “I only indulge in it once in awhile… it’s my favourite sweet treat… and you remind me of that.”
Draven tipped his head back and let out a rumbling laugh. “So I’m good enough to eat?”
She blushed again and he knew he was right.
“Okay, I won’t tease anymore,” he said after awhile, grinning at her. Guess this change in approach didn’t help either. They kept gravitating to the topic of sex.
“I guess there’s no other way to this but the truth,” he said, pausing to make sure she was listening. Reaching out to take her hands, he gave a gentle squeeze and continued, “I know you don’t remember me and you can attribute that to amnesia for now but I’m sure you cannot deny that a certain part of you acknowledges that we have been intimate and that I’m not lying to you.”
She gave him a considering look and paused for a minute, as though shuffling inside her own mind for the truth to what he was saying.
When she finally nodded slowly, Draven felt as though a large stone had been taken off his chest.
“You are very special to me and we can hear each others thoughts and communicate intimately if we so wish.”
At her doubtful look, he spoke in his mind. I want you to be my wife
Her eyes widened and almost bulged out upon hearing his words. Gasping, she covered her mouth with her hands and shook her head.
“I don’t even know you!”
“Yes you do… you just don’t remember it, my love…” he replied sadly. “But I will try and help you recover. I promise.”
Amber felt the first strings of caution wear away. This man was very likely telling the truth. “Did I love you, Draven?”
Her question stumped him. Did she?
“I don’t know for sure my love… but I know I love you.”
She looked sad at his admission but nodded nonetheless. “Then I hope I would learn to love you back,” she whispered.
“I’d like that too,” he replied, clutching her fingers tighter. “I’m telling you this because I need you to understand that there’s no one else that I’d want other than you. I only want you.”
Amber was crying as she listened to him but she had no idea why. She was relieved that she stopped thinking of him as a criminal but still his admission didn’t soothe her. Shouldn’t she be happy that a man as gorgeous as Draven was telling her he loved her and wanted her? She could tell he was sincere and almost desperate for her to believe him… Then why was she so sad? The tears were escaping her eyes even though she did not will it.
“Amber…” he called, capturing her attention once more. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re safe and that we can be together…” He paused to give her hand a reassuring squeeze. “I was hoping my father would come to like you and make things a little easier for both of us.”
It was his turn to cry now; blinking his tears back in a last attempt to retain his dignity.
“But there’s something that’s stopping all this isn’t there?” she asked softly before looking down sadly. “It’s more than just my amnesia isn’t it?”
“I have to produce an heir.”
Her eyes fluttered up to his, expressing the understanding in them. “I see…” Then she pulled her hands from him and tried to walk away. “So you want me to stay here and be your mistress.”
It sounded worst when she said it that way.
Draven tried to place a hand on her shoulder but she merely shrugged it off.
“Amber… please listen to me,” he pleaded. “I want you to be my wife, not my mistress.”
When she turned to face him, he wasn’t expecting the sharp slap on his face but he supposed he deserved it. It was his entire fault that she was in this state.
“Do I look stupid or naïve to you?” she exclaimed in exasperation. “You live in a castle… you’re not just any working class citizen. And you said heir, not child! You do not have an heir with a common woman like me!”
She was clawing at him, slapping his chest in raw anger. Draven didn’t know what to say. It pleased him that she was jealous but it also pained him to know she was trying to mask her hurt with anger.
“Are you saying that once you get a child you’ll divorce her? Is that why you’re keeping me here?” she asked. Draven didn’t even dare to answer her. In her anger, she hadn’t noticed that her claws had elongated and she had slashed his shirt and his chest, drawing blood.
She was absolutely seething as she turned from him. “How cruel of you to do that to her! Imagine having a child with your husband who doesn’t love you and wants someone else! Having a baby is not a transaction, Draven! And worst… I can’t imagine you sleeping with her… then with me. It’s just not… right.”
“We could just do an IVF and she doesn’t even have to stay here,” he suggested hopefully. “I do not want to make love to someone I do not love Amber… otherwise it would be like rape.”
“And have her pregnant with the baby all on her own without you? Then what of the child? Who’s going to take care of it?” she slashed out at him.
Draven admited that this was not turning out well for him. His own temper was starting to rise.
“I’ve already told you that I only want you. Everything else doesn’t matter to me; not the woman, not the child. I’m only doing this for my Father and for your safety. So to hell with everything else. You are the one that I love.”
Her eyes flashed with irritation and anger. “Yes, but I have not loved you back.”
Her response stunned and incensed him all at once. He could feel his temper rising as he grabbed her by the arm forcefully and began to pull her towards the door. When she began resisting too much, he simply scooped her up and let her claw at him for all she wanted.
Aramis was sitting quietly in his office when his door burst open and Draven came in carrying a woman that seemed as fiery as her head of hair. He raised an eyebrow at him curiously but didn’t rise from his seat until Draven had settled the woman on her feet.
“Father,” he greeted tersely. “I am here to blatantly express my desire to marry this… woman as soon as my duty is done. As of now, she is officially under my guardianship and I will not tolerate any harm done on her, even if it comes from you.” His eyes were cold and hard as it met his father’s gaze.
Aramis seemed pleased with this news, despite the fact that his son had just threatened him.
“Very well,” he replied.
Draven gave his father a weary look. That was too simple.
“I’m serious Father. I will marry whomever you choose for me for the period of one year, in which during that time I will ensure that she bears a child, inside or outside of her body; I don’t care. Once the baby is weaned, she is free to go. But in the meantime, if you hurt even a hair on this woman, I will hunt you down.”
Shock was clearly on Aramis’s face at his son’s proclamation. Had he really passed down this selfishness to his own son? Had his treatment of Draven’s own mother resulted in this retribution?
“Are you really this cruel, my son…?” Aramis asked sadly.
“I am not the cruel one,” replied Draven in a cold voice. His gaze stayed sharp on his father’s daring the latter to challenge him.
Indeed, Aramis broke away from the gaze first. It wasn’t like his eldest son to burst out into unreasonable anger like this. Draven could always be counted on to do anything. He was the one that kept everything in order when it was chaotic… he was the perfect son.
Sighing slowly, he turned his gaze to the red haired woman that was standing still beside Draven; her eyes watching him expectantly. Aramis frowned as he stared at her for she was giving out such confusing scents. Shaking his head solemnly, he decided to address the matter at hand first. He will seek her out later to confirm his hunches.
“Where do you plan to keep her? In the dungeon?”
Aramis ignored the sharp gasp from the woman and observed the way Draven stiffened and narrowed his eyes.
“I have said that she will not be harmed. She will stay in my quarters.”
“That doesn’t sound much different than a prison, my son. You are still locking her up.”
Draven looked like he was about to argue his point but closed his mouth instead, shaking his head.
“And where will your new wife stay?”
“She can stay in the dungeons for all I care.”
“Draven!” the shrill exclamation came from the woman and Aramis watched with interest as she slapped his son so daringly in front of his own father. Leaning back, Aramis decided that keeping her might prove entertaining.
They were staring at each other so intensely that Aramis was sure a fire would start if he didn’t break them apart. It was obvious that Draven was communicating with her in his mind but Aramis found it interesting that she could read his mind back when she wasn’t a Vampire… just what is she?
“Who is she, Draven?” he asked, suddenly aware that his son hadn’t even bothered to introduce them.
Draven stared at his father in shock. Didn’t he remember?
She’s the woman that was with us when Fiona gained her powers… in New York… Don’t you recognize her?
If Aramis was surprised, he didn’t show it for his gaze was unflinching as he looked first at Draven then at Amber. He supposed it was the hair that threw him off. She had been… blonde before wasn’t she? And she had distinctly smelled like a Werewolf then… and yet here she was sending him mixed signals. Interesting.
“It doesn’t matter who she is and I do not care where you want to house her. But you do not disrespect my guest. Your potential brides are all aware of this arrangement and are only arriving here out of pure courtesy.”
Draven didn’t say anything. He was holding his breath, waiting for Aramis to continue.
“I will house her in the east wing; far away from you such that she will not be subjected to your disrespectful behavior.”
“How much are you paying her family Father…?”
Aramis raised a lazy glance at Draven and shrugged. “Enough.” Then looking at Amber, he smiled, rather uncharacteristically. “Will you take care of the baby after that?”
“Me?” she responded in surprise. Obviously she hadn’t expected to be part of this deal at all. “But why?”
“Ah, but you are my son’s mate aren’t you?”
“How did you…” stammered Draven.
Aramis shrugged nonchalantly. He didn’t feel like sharing such knowledge with his son seeing that he had been clearly treated with disrespect.
“Come with me young lady,” he said instead, getting up and moving towards Amber. “It seems we have much to talk about.” He knew she was eager to get away from his son at all cost and offered a hand towards her, not surprised when she took it.. Draven however was.
“Father! What are you doing?” he asked angrily but Aramis was already leading Amber away, towards his reading room, waving lazily at Draven.
“I won’t kill her, I promise.”
“You are not drinking her blood!”
“See yourself out my son.”
The connecting door to his reading room closed sharply against Draven’s face, leaving him flabbergasted, annoyed and extremely worried.