The deep baritone request, vibrated in her heart, halting her actions. Turning in the direction of the voice, she came face to face, with the source of her abrupt discomfort.
Broad shoulders, massive strong arms, long muscle corded legs, everything about his generously proportioned frame screamed ancient warrior.
A wave of black hair disappeared behind his immense shoulders. A well-trimmed mustache and goatee added emphasis to his iridescent skin. White pearly fangs completed the picture of the flawless vampire.
Disbelief consumed her. Perplexingly, she could not find one solitary fear, to allow her to withdraw from this manifestation. Mere men, in her reality, were enough to cause her panic. Yet here she stood, opposite of the source that nightmares were made of, feeling only the torture and torment of his battered soul.
Her body went rigid at the first brush of his fingers against her cheek. The necessity to pull away, quickly replaced with a consuming need to ease his heart. With trembling hands resting against his solid chest, she sought out the heartbeat that pounded in time with hers. Her eyes drifting closed as the pitter-patter tapped against her fingertips.
The sensation of lips pressing against her own overtook her. Terror washed over her, pushing herself to freedom. Her shaky fingers came to her lips, touching the place he had just caressed. Tear filled eyes collided with his. “I don’t trust men.”
“I have never found any good that came from fraternizing with witches.”
“Then why are you here?”
The large beast of a man looked about the emptiness. “Where is here?”
“This is my private world.” Desiree responded with a sweep of her hand. “My meditation, that draws me closer to the Spirit.”
Wicked laughter filled the void engulfing them. “Tell me, witch, how does a vampire enter a realm that seeks out a God?”
Fire filled eyes bore down on her, demanding some sort of plausible answer. The only thing that came to mind was how fascinating those eyes were.
“Answer me, witch, why did you summon me here?”
Her voice cracked, turning away, to break the spell of those eyes. “I would never summon a man into my world, much less a vampire to my meditations.”
“Then why am I here?”
His hand wrapped about her arm. His heated breath drifting over her, stirring to life desires she never believed she could feel. Yearning washed away long placed reserve. The temperature, of her once peaceful abode, rose to suffocating heights. The strain of her breasts pressing against their bindings, arousal ignited. The normal stir of dread from such proximity of a man was absent.
The sensation of his large form, towering over her overwhelmed her essence. Feathery fingers wisped her dark gold locks to one side. The sharp points of fangs grazed the sensitive flesh just below her ear. Fear, the logical emotion, failed to enter her heart.
Powerful arms wrapped about her waist. Heated lips brushed against her neck, stoking the fire building between her thighs. The awareness of her dress, slipping from her body, failed to sound her internal alarm. The freedom of her aching breasts, for the brief moment, before his large hands enclosed them within their gentle grasp, only betrayed her customary rejection.
He stirred desires from her body it never experienced before. The liquid heat of a place, once so battered and abused, now ached painfully with wanting. He answered its silent plea. Long fingers brushed against its fire, stoking, fueling, and igniting.
Her body shook with anticipation. Stilling the moment his finger entered her. His thumb gently rubbed against her clit. His finger moved enticingly in and out. One strong arm held her firmly against the powerful chest, as her body went weak.
Craving for more, overwhelmed her. The rise of his stiff member, against her back, intensified her hunger. Her hips rubbed against him. Her nails dug into the tight muscles of his legs. The wash of ecstasy, jerked her body from within.
Her breathing came in rapid bursts. Her body lifted from the ground. She came face to face with him. Her legs wrapped tightly around his waist. One strong arm wrapped securely about her bare bottom.
The sting of his fangs entering the soft sensitive flesh of her breast should have ignited terror. Her fingers entwined in the lengths of black hair, drawing him closer, encouraging his feed.
When he lifted his eyes, her blood still dripped from the white points of his teeth, rimming his mouth.
“You are not the only one who senses things, witch.” His voice, a low unsteady growl, echoing in her chest, “Why, with the torment of your heart, do you allow me to touch you in such a manner? Why am I here?”
Anguish filled her senses, a sensation all too familiar to her. The crushing force in her chest, stole the breath from her lungs. The need for isolation from this pain grew in strength. As her form faded into the midst, she heard him roar.
“I will not tolerate trickery from any witch. Not even one whose beauty outshines her peers.”
* * * * * * * * *
His words rang out in her ears, even in the safety of her tiny cabin, as the mist faded to memory. Her heart came to her throat with the banging at the door.
“Des, are you home?” Raven’s voice sounded from the other side, drowning out the vibrations left behind from the mysterious stranger, bringing instant relief.
“Raven, I’m so glad you’re here.”
Her friend’s eyes went wide. “What’s wrong? You are as white as a sheet, and I mean all of you.”
Desiree realized her state of dress, was just as it had been moments ago, in her meditations. Blood still seeped from the two punctures at the swell of her breast. “He invaded my meditations again. Raven, how is this possible? He demanded answers I could not give.”
Raven grazed the puncture points, sealing them easily with her fingertips. “Are you positive it was a meditation? Could this be astral projection?”
Her hands shook profusely. She lifted her dress from the floor, sliding it over her head. She felt his hands against her flesh, the sting of his bite, the torment of his soul, all still fresh within her memory. “I cannot explain the blood, my state of dress, but one thing I know for sure nothing that happened was in my reality. Yet, here I stood before you, blood still easing from my body, in the very state of dress I left him in.”
“I’ve spoken to Aunt Rose. She seems to believe there is some connection between the two of you. Are you sure you have never met this vampire?”
“You and Dragon are the only vampires I know in the flesh, on a personal level. All others only come to me for my healing qualities.”
“And you’re sure of this? Maybe back at the…”
“Vampires did not reside there!” Desiree was quick to cut off the reminder of her past.
“And you’re sure he’s a vampire? Maybe a werewolf?”
“I know the difference between the two!” Her words came out on a harsh snap.
Raven’s dark eyes went wide. “He has really shaken you, hasn’t he?”
She sank down in one of the two chairs at her kitchen table. Tears spilled from her eyes. Her face fell into her hands. Raven placed a loving hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Des, it’s okay, I’m sure he’s not like the others.”
“Man or vampire, it doesn’t matter, I never want to know another one again. Yet, as you full well witnessed, what I want does not seem to matter anymore.”
Raven pulled out the other chair sitting, taking her hands in hers. “I wish I could heal the scars of your heart as easily as I healed the eight hundred year old scars on Dragon’s chest.”
“Just having your friendship has been a prayer answered by the Goddess.”
“Not all men are like those you’ve known. Maybe it’s time you learn that for yourself.”
Desiree stood, pacing the small room. “Do you know how long it took me to finally free myself from that place? I spent twenty-seven years locked away in that hell. Seventeen of those years spent…” Her words choked to a halt.
“You’re free now. Free to choose the life you want.”
“Am I? If that were so, then why does he come to me every time I go between the worlds? His heart is tortured. He hates…no, he despises witches and the very air they breathe. So why would someone with that much vengeance toward our kind, come into the meditations of an Air witch? Why would he torture not only me, but himself?”
“Because you are the very essence of change, my friend. A change, I believe you fight against within your own self, as he must be fighting against some change in his own life.”
Pulling back the curtain of the single window, she peered out into the darkness. “It has been a year this month since I obtained my freedom. I know what you say is true. I do fight against the changes I feel blowing in on the spring breeze. I never thought these changes would have anything to do with a man.”
“He’s not just any man, Des, he’s a vampire. I opened the door to allow interaction between the witch’s world and the vampire one. These children I carry now within me, they too will help deepen that bond between those worlds. Maybe, just maybe, your purpose is something even greater.”
“My purpose has been to help you bring those children into this world. To help guard against the evil forces, we both know await them. Have you told Dragon of your visions or that of what I have seen?”
Raven’s hand went protectively to her swollen stomach. “No.”
“Why? He is their father.”
“He does not even know there are two of them. Only you and I know any of this and that is how it will remain until after their birth.”
“Sahara’s daughter, Capri, grows stronger. Her numbers rise every day. How do you intend on keeping these children safe, if there are no more of you than three?”
“We defeated Tristan, Sahara, and the armies they each built to rule this vampire world.”
“Raven, you learned the hard way, arrogance has no place in your world. Capri’s numbers are already greater by a hundred than either Tristan or Sahara’s combine. You made grave enemies of both lairs during that battle. Once the word is out, you and Dragon produced heirs, they will come for them, and when they do, if your numbers are still only Dragon, your father, and you, they will succeed in taking those children from you.”
“You know our views on transformation, Desiree.”
“I know sometimes we must make sacrifices. You are so ready for me to accept the changes that await me. What about you? Are you ready for the changes that will soon await you? What are you willing to do, to keep Draven and Ragon safe?”
Desiree could tell the mention of her children’s names struck a chord with Raven. Falling to her knees before her, she clasped the young woman’s hands in her own. “No sacrifice is too large, when it is for the greater good. We both have seen their future. They are destined to stop this evil. It is our job to see to it they reach that destiny.”
Agonizing pain ripped through Desiree’s heart, causing her to clutch her chest.
“Do you feel that?” Desiree stuttered out.
“That heartache? How can any one man or vampire endure such pain?” Tears filled her eyes as the intensity of the sensation grew. “How did he find me in this realm?”
“He is here?”
“Very near, I am afraid. This torment is deeper on this level than in the meditation world. It is much like a knife to the heart, or in your case a stake to the heart.”
Raven stood, jerking back the curtains, peering out into the darkness. “There is no one here.”
“Maybe he is invisible?”
“I would see him. You forget I am not only Fire witch, but vampire as well.”
“This feeling grows stronger the closer he comes. He will break into the clearing soon.”
Her lungs tighten. Her breath trapped inside. Was this him, or was it, the same old fear, that rose up within her, whenever a man’s presence overwhelmed her.
“What does this vampire look like, Desiree?” Raven’s eyes never left the window.
“What does he look like?” Raven demanded more firmly.
“He looks much like your Dragon only his eyes…”
“Are like a raging fire.” Raven finished for her.
“Yes, how did you know?”
“He’s my father.”
Her body went faint with Raven’s announcement. “But your father lives among witches.”
“Apparently there are things about him I do not know.” Raven jerked the door open to reveal her father standing on the doorstep.
“I believe you have some explaining to do.”
Shock washed over Flame’s face as he came face to face with his daughter. “Grant him permission,” Raven’s voice now low with rage. “Grant him permission now!”
The blood left Desire’s face as she stared at the warrior like vampire of her visions. Raven’s hand wrapped tightly in his shirt, her features distorted in her anger.
“Come in.” She managed to squeak out, just as Raven jerked him fully into the room.
“Damn it, Raven, you’re pregnant. You can’t be behaving like this.” Flame’s deep baritone voice shocked Desiree’s memory of it.
“Why do you hate witches, father?”
“I don’t hate witches.”
“You cannot lie to a witch, or should I say, you can’t lie to me any longer.” She hissed.
“Leave it alone, Raven!” Flame roared. The sound of the scurrying woman, running to hide behind the curtain to her room, drew his attention. “My business is with that!”
“Leave her alone!” Even with her pregnancy so close to an end, Raven’s speed was still greater than his, moving between them.
He heard the woman gasp as the fire in his eyes rose. “What do you want from me, witch?” He demanded. His chest rose and fell with his fury.
“I don’t want anything from you, or any other man for that matter.”
“I am not just any ordinary man, and you know it.”
“Stop it, father. Desiree does not want anything from you. What haven’t you told me?”
“So that is your name, Desiree.” His eyes ran up and down her petite body as a satisfying smile crossed his lips. “Don’t be fooled by the powers of witches, my daughter. You are still new to this world we live in.”
She came out of hiding. Hands on hips, her legs spread in a warrior’s stance, as she prepared to confront him. “How dare you! You interrupt my meditations morning, noon, and night, then have the audacity to accuse me of wanting something from you! What do you want from me, vampire?”
Harsh laughter filled the room. “You witches are all the same. You play tricks with one’s mind, turning the tables at your will.”
“Father, what did she do to you?” The weakened voice of Raven put a hush over the room.
“Who?” Desiree asked, coming to Raven’s side, assisting her friend back to the table as her coloring turned paler.
“My mother. I thought you left us for our protection.”
“Leave it alone, daughter. There are things you should never know.”
“I knew her too, or have you forgotten?”
“She was your mother.”
“And obviously, not the only one who grew bitter from your split.”
“I never said I was bitter.”
“You didn’t have to. What really happened between you that caused you never trust her kind…our kind again? How deeply did she truly hurt you?”
His eyes flashed to Desiree’s. “Look at what you have done! Why can you witches never leave well enough alone? Why do you always have to meddle in people’s lives? Just because, I am a vampire, does not mean I cannot feel things. I feel deeper than you know.”
“I know how deep your feelings run. I felt them when you drew near to my home. The pain of your heart took my breath right from my lungs. How do you live each day with that eating away at you?”
His fangs slid from their sheaths. His tongue slid over his lips, a sharp reminder of only moments ago. “The very same way you live out your existence. You may feel what resides in my heart, witch, but have you forgotten, so easily, I have tasted your soul?”