Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries


Magic on the Highland Moor

Chapter One          Chapter Two


Chapter One

Adeline Emery sat seething in the back seat of a dark car racing through the night. No, fuming. Smouldering. She was particularly fond of the word smouldering. She so seldom had a chance to use it, and it so well described her mood: furious and hurt at the same time.

Just because she had climbed into the huge black Land Rover 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. Heartbroken.

In the front, the two men ignored her, like they had for most of the past hour. No, not men: males. Vampires. Warriors. Members of the Crimson Circle, the elite troops created to protect their kind. Huge and dangerous.

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

Even after an hour she 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, Allegra had fed her an outlandish, tearful story of mortal danger that required Adeline be instantly removed from London.

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

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 so young she couldn’t face the sun yet. Contrary to human belief, she wouldn’t burst into flames come sunrise. She would fall into a deathlike sleep—which wasn’t much better for her well-being. Imagine being in a strange town, with no place to safely shelter, incapacitated. Helpless. At the mercy of humans.

At a hundred and eighteen, a century after her fulfilment, of being made a vampire, she might still have another century ahead of her in the night. Weakest vampires took that long before they were able to face the sun again. But Allegra had emerged in a little over a century, which gave her hope she would manage the same.

She had already begun to show signs of winning the sun within the next couple of years, a decade at the most. She awoke ahead of sunset these days and could move about, provided she remained indoors. And even though sunrise still was an instant lights-out for her, she didn’t drop into sleep at the merest hint of dawn like she had when her promise had been first fulfilled—when her vampire gene had been triggered. Allegra always insisted Adeline use the scientific terminology when talking about the change that took place when the vampire variation of the two-natured gene was activated to turn an otherwise ordinary human into a vampire. Allegra 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, as vampires had for millennia, suited her nature much better.

But she hadn’t won the sun yet, so once it came up, 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 in the front seat wouldn’t find her. Because if they did, all they would need to do would be 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 they would spend the day in Edinburgh, as they couldn’t comfortably reach their destination before sunrise.

She supposed she should be grateful they wouldn’t force her to the indignity of arriving unconscious. For their part, the warriors would be able to continue through the day just fine. If they were a day younger than three hundred, she would be very surprised. Their mere presence had an impact in Might like only old vampires had, making the energy that powered the two-natured twirl and brush against her skin until she felt like she was in the middle of an electrical storm.

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

She wasn’t as robust, however. Or at least she could make the most of her delicate looks and force the men to make a pit stop. Preferably in a larger town. They were on the M1 from London to north 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 so that it would be easier to return home, maybe even before sunrise, or wait until they were almost in Edinburgh?

They would reach the Scottish city well before sunrise, which would give her a couple of hours to make her escape and find shelter. 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 have to escape before that. It was imperative she didn’t reach her destination.

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

She couldn’t fathom what had possessed Allegra to arrange a marriage for her all of a sudden. As a century older, her sister had been raised with Victorian principles and morals that she hadn’t quite managed to shed during the subsequent 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 would have told Allegra that she wasn’t ready for it yet. A little over a century might seem like a long life lived already, but she had spent most of it in darkness. Once she was able to face the sun, she would head out into the world and see all the wonders she had only read about until now. There was no place for a husband, a mate, in those plans.

Allegra hadn’t talked about marrying either. Adeline was absolutely positive her sister wasn’t even interested in relinquishing her freedom to some man. Vampire females might slowly be gaining their independence, but vampire males were still very much entrenched in their ancient patriarchal beliefs. Allegra wouldn’t tolerate those any more than Adeline did.

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 the Scottish Highlands, of all the places remote—blindsiding her with it after the contract was already signed. Allegra had never done anything so … malicious before. Adeline had lived all her life believing her sister was incapable of meanness.

Worse yet, she had thought they were good friends, but if Allegra thought she would meekly go to Scotland and abide by the marriage she had negotiated for her, she didn’t know her at all. Her stomach ached just thinking about it.

Adeline didn’t for a moment believe in Allegra’s excuse that it was to shield her from 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.

She sat on her fists to halt the urge to punch the seat in front of her with everything she had. She was 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 eighty 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 control of her rider?

Shock poured over her like ice cold water and her rage subsided. She had never had trouble with her second nature, the entity within her that made her two-natured instead of one. That didn’t mean the creature wasn’t capable of wrenching free, and high emotional turmoil was exactly the kind of leverage it would use.

Bad things happened when a vampire’s second nature was in charge. Bloodbaths. Massacres. Carnage.

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. So she sat absolutely still, listening within.

Though 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 down on her, crushing her. Her pulse beat in her throat like a galloping racehorse, making it impossible to breathe. Her sight was dimming. 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 jumped in his seat when the woman suddenly screamed. She had been so quiet so far that he had almost forgotten she was there.

Almost, but not quite.

The car jerked as 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 in the back seat. “I think she’s having a panic attack. Best to 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 the assertiveness of an elder, even if as warriors and patrol partners they were equals.

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

Women were strictly for fun and sex, their inner lives as great a mystery to him as it had been when he was a boy two-and-a-half centuries ago. He saw no reason to change that. He could protect them just fine without.

That was what he was here for tonight: get the woman trusted to his care to safety, at all costs. Nowhere in his briefing had it said ‘calm a hysterical female.’

But Jem wouldn’t budge: I know enough not to get close to one when she’s in that state.

Cursing to himself, Nick exited the car. Cold, damp November air hit him, briefly chilling him before he shrugged off the sensation and rounded the car. 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 plenty of practice running after women.

The comment made Nicholas smile. Jeremy’s mate Cora, who loved running, dealt with the complications of being a newly-fulfilled 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, Nicholas 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 they were too strong for their sense of smell. It was all her.

The scent suited her. She was delicate too, almost fragile looking. Short; the top of her head barely reached his clavicles when they had briefly stood side by side as he had helped her into the car. Then again, he was over six foot two. Not as huge as some warriors of the Crimson Circle, namely their leader and his sons, but he had turned a few heads after he had grown to his full height. In the 1760s, human men had tended to be much shorter than the 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, which seemed more suited for a bird, or 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 around her legs, almost brushing the ground.

His hand twitched, the need sudden and strong to gather the heavy mass in his hands to make sure that dirt didn’t sully such beauty. 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. She wasn’t struggling to contain her rider, was she? Because this turned into a different beast entirely if her second nature got free. Literally. There wasn’t a vampire so delicate and small that their rider couldn’t turn them into a killing machine.

“If I do, I’ll have to punch something until my knuckles bleed.”

Nick blinked, the answer not at all what he had expected. Such a delicate woman shouldn’t have a violent urge in her cells. Not without her rider out anyway. But she didn’t smell like the creature had wrenched free. The anger was all her.

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. Her head still between her knees, she parted the veil of hair from her face with slender fingers, 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 eyebrows. “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 it. 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 she didn’t notice his reaction. He released the hand the moment she was steady on her feet.

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

I’ll keep watch. Don’t go far.

They weren’t so far from London yet that the enemy would have given up the chase, had they 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 used at work. They weren’t exactly made for a country sojourn, but soiled shoes were a small price to pay for her calm.

“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. Gabriel Hamilton, the First Son and the day-to-day operations leader of their organisation, had briefed him about her when he had given Nicholas the assignment.

Born in 1901 in London, a middle child of three siblings, all there was left of the Emerys after their parents and extended family died in the 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’s promised to another.

The sobering thought stiffened his spine. This was an escort 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.”

Okay, 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 going on.”


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