As part of my Readers Appreciation Month, one reader just claimed Her Last Words as their free story, and I thought I'd post a teaser from it. Her Last Words was only my second release back in 2005. How time flies! Here is a moment between Master Vampire Gabrielle, and her Childe Erik.
“Did I ever tell you how pretty you are when you pout, my Childe?”
Indignation battling with shame, Erik tried to discipline his features even as his Sire continued to laugh.
“I am not pouting,” he claimed, teeth clenching despite himself. “I am no child.”
Gabrielle was still laughing lightly; Erik looked at her, his eyes throwing daggers. His horse snorted and took an unsteady step, and he realized he had been twisting the reins. Trying to control his temper and relax, he remained silent, staring straight ahead into the night.
“You are no child,” Gabrielle conceded when her laughter had faded. “But you are jealous as one.”
“I am not…”
The high pitched, angry tone of his voice was making it all too clear that he was, indeed, jealous, and Erik forced himself to be quiet.
“I wasn’t my Sire’s first Childe,” Gabrielle continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “Nor was I ever his favored Childe. So I never had much of a reason to be jealous of Childer he made after me. But I saw how his favorite acted, whenever he went to seal a new Pact. And you, my dear, are acting exactly the same way. As a spoiled Childe who is afraid he will lose his Sire’s attentions.”
Erik had nothing to answer to that, simply because it was true that he was worried—not afraid, simply worried. He had been standing by Gabrielle’s side for seven years, now, her first and only Childe, her partner when she fought demons, the lover in whose arms she spent her days. And as much as he hated to admit it, he was worried of losing his place in her life.
A village had been founded, a few weeks back, on the edge of the territory that Gabrielle protected. Its council had soon started approaching Gabrielle about sealing a Pact with her, and she had accepted. Erik had been rather excited at first. A larger territory meant more work for them, but also more artisans at their service, and a new supply of fresh blood. It still felt strange to him, sometimes, to accept blood from people he had grown up with, and the new village would send someone new to the lair each day to offer blood to them in tribute.
What Erik hadn’t realized until this night however was that Gabrielle would choose someone from the new village to make her Childe, just like she had chosen him, seven years earlier. Standing a few steps to her side while she had talked to her potential Childer after the shared blood ceremony, he had had a perfect view of her reactions to the candidates, and of what said candidates had looked like.
It was all too easy to imagine she would grow fond of one of them enough to give him Erik’s place in her bed and heart. After all, it had only taken her a few hours to decide to turn him and make him her lover.
He was still thinking of these young men and women and wondering which of them he would need to deal with when they reached their lair. Gabrielle startled him when, having slid of her horse, she tossed the reins at him.
“Enough with the dark mood,” she said, the laughter from earlier completely gone from her eyes. “Take care of the mounts, and try to clear your head of this jealousy of yours before you join me.”
Although he bowed his head in submission, Erik had no intention to stop worrying, certain that if he did, he would without a doubt lose his place. He would need to be stealthier about it, though, he reflected. Maybe try to influence Gabrielle into choosing a woman, or an older man she would show no interest in bedding.
And once she did choose a new Childe, he would need to make it clear to them that he was Gabrielle’s favorite, and that he would let no one take his place. She had to have more Childer, not only was it the custom to seal the Pacts, but it was also necessary to have enough fighters to protect a given territory. But nothing said she had to treat each of them as she had treated him since the night he had risen.
It was with a newfound determination that he finally joined her inside the lair, having secured the horses in the stable and quickly brushed them down. A village worker would come in the morning to take care of them.
Striding inside the lair, he closed the heavy wooden door behind him and followed the scent of his Sire to the bedroom they shared. The lair had two more, currently unoccupied, and Gabrielle had drawn plans to have more rooms added in time, but until now they had only used the bedroom and the feeding room, where they received each day their blood offerings.
He paused by the bedroom entrance as he took in the sight of his Sire. Vampires didn’t feel the cold, but he had long ago discovered that Gabrielle loved anything that could warm her skin; she was now standing by the fireplace, in front of a roaring fire, completely nude. The demon part inside of him flinched at that, warning him of the danger of flames, but Gabrielle seemed to have no such instincts.
“The night I first came to your village,” she said coolly, her back still turned to him, “I was determined not to choose a Childe right away. I wanted to take my time, and pick someone who would make the best possible companion for me, be it man or woman. I wasn’t looking for a lover. All I wanted was a Childe.”
Erik had started walking toward her as she talked, but he paused, confused.
“I thought… I thought all Sires bedded their Childer.”
She finally turned toward him, and for a moment he was too captivated to listen to her words. She usually kept her long hair in a braid that fell to the small of her back, but she had undone it tonight, and the soft auburn waves framed the deceptively delicate curves of her body beautifully. He belatedly caught on to what she had said and frowned in incomprehension.
“But you took me as your lover,” he started, and she interrupted him with a shake of her head.
“Did you listen to me? I didn’t want to choose anyone the night I chose you. But you…you stood above the rest. You caught my eyes, and my curiosity, and before I even bit you that night I knew you’d eventually get my heart, too. And I was right. You did.”
In seven years, it was the first time she had ever came close to admitting she had more affection for him than what their blood bond provided, but he saw through her words, right to what she wasn’t saying. One of the first things she had ever taught him was that vampires didn’t use the word ‘love’; they were reputed not to be able to experience the feeling. But Erik had realized that it wasn’t true, because he had fallen in love with his Sire, and loved her more than, as a human, he had ever loved anyone.
Something in him demanded that he reciprocate the declaration, but he knew that Gabrielle would not appreciate hearing the actual words. At a loss as to what to say, he simply walked to her and put one knee to the ground in front of her. He had been in front of her like this when she had first talked to him; he remembered, too, what he had felt when her gaze had fallen upon him.
“Still worried, my Childe?” she asked with a slight smile as she caressed his cheek with the tips of her fingers.
He thought about it for a second or two before giving her a truly honest answer.
“Then come to bed.”