Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries

 

Magic on the Highland Moor

Chapter One          Chapter Two

 

This is an early, rough draft, subject to change, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Chapter One

Adeline Emery sat on the back seat of a huge black Land Rover, seething. Fuming. Smouldering. She was particularly fond of the word smouldering. And it so well described her mood: furious and hurt at the same time.

Just because she had climbed into the car voluntarily, didn’t change the fact that she was here against her will. And just because it was her sister who had asked her to get into this car didn’t mean she wasn’t upset. Devastated.

On the front seat, the two men ignored her, like they had for most of the past hour. No, not men. Vampires. Warriors. Members of the Crimson Circle, the elite of their kind. Huge and dangerous.

She had always wanted to meet a true Circle warrior, had imagined all kinds of breath-taking, blood-heating scenarios when her romantic nature got the better of her. But now that she was at the spitting distance of not one, but two of them, all she wanted to do was … well, spit.

Even after an hour, she still struggled to comprehend how she had ended up here. Abducted and on her way to Scotland as fast as possible. One moment she had been walking to work with her sister, Allegra; the next, she was fed an outlandish story of mortal danger that required she be instantly removed from London, her sister in tears.

Allegra’s tears were the only reason Adeline was still in this car. Without them, she would’ve made her escape already when they were in London. Now, as they sped through the nightly motorway 80 miles per hour, she would be foolish to try to escape. But they would have to stop eventually. She would flee then.

Provided it was somewhere she could find shelter for the day.

It wasn’t easy being a vampire who couldn’t face the sun yet. She wouldn’t burst to flame come sunrise, contrary to human belief. She would fall into a deathlike sleep, which wasn’t much better. Imagine being in a strange town, with no place to safely shelter in, incapacitated. Helpless. At the mercy of humans who hated her kind.

At a hundred and eighteen, a century from her fulfilment, of being made a vampire, she might still have another century ahead of her in night. Weaker vampires often took that long to be able to face the sun again. Her mother had. But she had begun to show signs of emerging within the next couple of years, decade at the most. She awoke ahead of sunset these days, and could move about a little, provided she remained indoors, and she didn’t drop into sleep at the merest hint of sunrise, like she had when her promise had been first fulfilled.

Her vampire gene triggered. Allegra always insisted she use the scientific terminology when talking about the change that took place when the vampire variation of the two-natured gene was activated to make an otherwise ordinary human a vampire. She had a doctorate in genetics and preferred science. Adeline was an English literature teacher at the Night University. Describing the process as fulfilling the promise, like vampires had done for millennia, suited her nature much better.

But she hadn’t won the sun yet, so once the sun rose, she would be dead to the world. If she wanted to escape, she would have to be in such a secure location by then that the men on the front seat wouldn’t find her. Because if they did, all they needed was to carry her back to the car, and she wouldn’t know anything about it.

There was a reason why vampire abodes were such fortresses against intruders.

But the night was young and she had hours until sunrise to plan her escape. She had overheard the men mention that they would spend the day in Edinburgh, as they couldn’t reach their destination before sunrise. She supposed she should be grateful they wouldn’t force her to the indignity of arriving unconscious. The warriors would be able to continue just fine. If they were a day younger than three hundred, she’d be very surprised. Astonished. Flabbergasted. Their mere presence filled the car with energy only the old vampires had.

But even powerful vampires wouldn’t drive non-stop all the way to Edinburgh, would they? Though, studying the huge warriors who filled the front seats with their muscled bodies, she wasn’t at all sure they would need to rest. Ever.

She wasn’t as robust, however; or at least she would make most of her delicate looks to force the men to make a pit stop. Preferably in a larger town. They were on M1 that had many large cities on its route, Leicester the next one coming up in an hour.

Would it be better to escape closer to London, or wait until they were almost in Edinburgh?

They would reach it well before sunrise, which would give her a couple of hours to make her escape. But the warriors had mentioned taking her to a Circle safe house. That sounded like a place from where it would be impossible for her to escape unnoticed.

No, she would escape before that. Because it was imperative that she didn’t reach the destination.

Bile rose to her mouth when she thought of what awaited her there. A husband.

She couldn’t understand what had gone into Allegra all of a sudden to arrange a marriage for her. Yes, her sister was a century older and had been raised with Victorian principles and morals that she hadn’t quite managed to shed during the twentieth century, despite being the head of their small household and a woman of science. But she had never even mentioned that Adeline should consider marriage. She hadn’t talked about marrying herself. Adeline was absolutely positive her sister wasn’t even interested in relinquishing her freedom to some man. Vampire women might slowly be gaining their independence, but vampire males were still very much entrenched in their ancient patriarchal beliefs.

Yet, out of the blue, Allegra had declared that she had arranged a marriage for Adeline. Who did that anymore? And with a complete stranger. A man who lived in Scotland of all places remote. And she hadn’t mentioned it to Adeline until the contract was already signed, blindsiding her with her underhanded action. Allegra had never done anything so … malicious before. Adeline had lived over a century believing her sister was incapable of meanness.

Her stomach ached thinking she didn’t know her sister at all. Worse yet, she had thought they were good friends with Allegra, but this showed that Allegra didn’t know her at all either, if she thought Adeline would meekly go to Scotland and abide to the marriage she had negotiated for her.

Adeline didn’t for a moment believe in Allegra’s excuse that it was to shield Adeline from a mortal danger. How mortal a danger could it be if it was possible to counter it with a marriage?

A scream of rage threatened to rise within her and she squeezed her hands into tight fists to keep it in. She wouldn’t give her abductors the satisfaction of her anger.

For further measure, she sat on her fists to halt the urge to punch the seat in front of her with everything she had. She was sitting behind the driver, and it might cause an accident. There were limits to what she was prepared to endure to end this nightmare. Crashing the car at 80 miles per hour wasn’t within them.

She tried to breathe evenly to control her rage, but it wasn’t helping. Was it her rage? Or was she losing the control of her rider?

Shock like ice cold water poured over her, and her rage subsided. She had never had trouble with her second nature, the entity within her that made her what she was, a two-natured instead of one. That didn’t mean the creature wasn’t capable of wrenching free, a high emotional turmoil exactly the kind of leverage it would use. Bad things happened when a vampire’s second nature was in charge. Carnages. Massacres.

Her only hope, should her rider overpower her, was that the two warriors would be more than capable of controlling her. But she didn’t want to be at their mercy in anything, not even in preventing her from going berserk.

She sat absolutely still, listening within, but while her second nature was restless, it was under control. This anger was all hers.

As if owning the anger gave it strength, her rage surged anew, and suddenly she couldn’t take it anymore. The roof of the car seemed to press on her, crushing her. Her pulse beat in her throat like a racehorse, making it impossible to breathe. Her sight was going dim. A scream escaped from her mouth, startling even her.

“Stop the car! I have to get out.”

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Chapter Two

Nicholas Fortier startled when the woman on the back seat screamed. She’d been so quiet so far that he had almost forgotten she was there.

Almost, but not quite.

The car jumped as the driver, Jeremy Grayson, twitched and kicked the throttle. He got the car instantly back under control and glanced at Nicholas. “Fuck. Is she for real?”

Nicholas turned to look at the woman on the back seat. “I think she’s having a panic attack. Best pull over.”

“I can’t exactly do that on the motorway.”

“Find an exit quick. She’s not looking well.”

She was panting, and sweat was glistening on her forehead, visible to him even in the darkness of the car, his vampire vision superb. She pressed her head to her knees, as if fighting dizziness, not an ailment vampires suffered often.

Is she faking it? Jem asked mentally, not wanting to alert the woman.

I don’t think so. She smells panicky.

Jem took a whiff too, and pushed the car to a highly illegal speed. Fortunately an exit ramp soon came up and he drove the car out of the motorway to a much quieter country road. A bus stop provided a good place to pull over, so he did.

You go calm her, Jeremy ordered with a surety of being a century older, even if, as warriors and patrol partners, they were equals.

Me? You’re the one who’s mated. I know nothing about females.

I know enough not to get close to one when she’s hysterical.

Cursing to himself, Nick exited the car. Cold, damp November air hit him, briefly chilling him before he shrugged off the sensation. The woman had already opened the door on her side, and was sitting sideways, her legs hanging out of the car, her head still pressed to her knees.

You should get out of the car too, in case she tries to run, Nick said to Jem.

Small thing like her? I’ll soon catch her. I’ve had a plenty of practise of running after women.

Nick smiled at the comment. Jem’s mate Corynn loved running, and dealt with the complications of being a newly-made vampire by running herself to exhaustion.

Besides, it might do her good to run a little, Jem added, sounding more concerned now that the woman just kept panting, with no sign of her panic easing.

Worried too, Nick rounded the car and crouched in front of the woman. The smell of her panic was still strong, but beneath it was a scent more delicate, like dewy grass on a spring morning. There was nothing artificial about that scent; most two-natureds didn’t use perfumes as too strong to their sense of smell. It was her.

The scent suited her. She was delicate too, almost fragile looking. Short; the top of her head had barely reached his clavicles when they had briefly stood side by side as he helped her into the car. Then again, he was over six foot two himself. Not as huge as some warriors of the Crimson Circle, namely their leader and his sons, but he had turned a few heads when he had grown to his full height. That had been in 1760s when human men had tended to be much shorter than two-natureds. Both of his parents were vampires, as were their parents for generations, which generally produced larger offspring.

But it wasn’t her height that made her appear delicate. It was the dainty structure of her bones that seemed more suited for a fairy or some other imaginary creature. Even with mouth-watering curves that he usually associated with more earthly, sturdy frames, she didn’t appear larger than her bone structure allowed. Head pressed down, her back curved like an elegant bow. Her long, golden hair fell down her legs, almost brushing the ground.

His hand twitched, the need to gather the heavy mass to his hands to make sure the dirty ground didn’t sully such beauty sudden and strong. He didn’t dare to touch her, however, not in her current, fragile state.

“Hey. Look at me,” he said as gently as he could. There wasn’t much use for such a tone among the warriors and he was out of practice.

“I can’t.” Her voice was tight, as if she had to force the words out. “If I do, I have to punch something until my knuckles bleed.”

Nick blinked; the answer not at all what he would have expected. Such a delicate woman shouldn’t have a violent urge in her cells. He made a quick reassessment.

“That can be arranged. If you promise not to hit me in the face. I’m a bit vain about my looks.”

That earned him a startled laugh. Still leaning her chin to her knees, she lifted her hands to part the veil of hair from her face, revealing a pair of the most astounding eyes he had ever seen. The light inside the car was just enough for him to see the extraordinary colour.

“Are your eyes … turquoise?” The question escaped before he could reconsider.

She arched her light brown brows. “Is that important right now?”

Never breaking the contact with her eyes, he nodded. “Yes.”

She sneered. “I guess you’ll have to be frustrated, then.”

He most definitely would be.

Straightening, he offered her his hand. “Come, let’s stretch our legs before the pummelling commences.”

She stared at his hand for a few heartbeats, clearly gathering herself. Then, with a sigh so heavy it felt like the entire world was on her shoulders, she accepted the hand. A tremor ran from the contact point, up his arm to his spine, causing small hairs in his neck to shoot up. His grip tightened around her hand, but as she stepped down from the seat just then, she didn’t notice his reaction.

We’ll take a small stroll down that lane, he said to Jeremy.

I’ll keep watch. Don’t go far.

They weren’t so far from London yet that the enemy would’ve given up the chase, should they have noticed their flight. Nick would keep his vampire senses open too.

They walked in silence down a dirt lane between two meadows, muddy from the recent rains, she on one side, he on the other. He was wearing tan leather Oxfords instead of the trusty boots he wore at work. They weren’t exactly made for a country sojourn, but soiled shoes were a small price to pay for calming her down.

“I’m Nicholas Fortier, by the way, in case you didn’t catch my name in the excitement of our departure. My dapper friend in the car is Jeremy Grayson.”

“Adeline Emery,” she answered curtly—and unnecessarily. He had been briefed about her as he was given this assignment by Gabriel Hamilton, the First Son of their leader Alexander, and the day-to-day operations leader of their organisation.

Born in 1901 in London, a middle child of three siblings, all there was left of the Emeries after their parents and extended family died in Blitz. An English literature teacher at the Night University. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

He startled, but there was no denying it. She was stunning.

She was promised to another.

The sobering thought stiffened his spine. This was a rescue mission, nothing more. He would see her safely to Scotland, to her intended, and return to London, likely never to see her again.

His rider stirred inside him, expressing its displeasure. He had no comfort to offer for his second nature.

“How much do you know about what’s going on?” he asked her. She had been whisked away rather abruptly, and it could be her panic was caused by not knowing why. He wanted to keep looking at her, but he forced his attention to their surroundings, to detect any danger that might be coming their way.

“Nothing. I know absolutely nothing.” She sounded bitter, which baffled him. She was headed to be mated with a son of a powerful family. Surely that at least should make her happy?

“All I know is that my little prick of a brother is neck deep in debt and willing to sell me to some bastard so dangerous that the only way to thwart him is for me to marry a stranger and ruin my life.”

Ok, that definitely didn’t sound like a happy bride. It was also an understatement of her brother’s actions.

“That’s one way of putting it.” He rubbed his face with both hands, thinking furiously. He wasn’t supposed to get involved, but she needed answers. “Here’s what’s happening.”

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Magic on the Highland Moor is published on April 30th, 2020. You can preorder it on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo and B&N.