Please enjoy this taste of the forbidden.
Copyright 2013 Virginia Cavanaugh
Kierra stood in the thick woods, surveying the three floors of the brick mansion that housed the shape-shifting senators of the Order of Night for area four. She crept silently through the woods and slid behind the massive trunk of an old maple tree, concealing herself in its shadow. She peered around it, careful not to expose her form to their enhanced vision.
A strong masculine hand clamped around her mouth, and she drew in a shocked breath through her nose. A warm summer breeze glided past, rustling the leaves above her head and carrying the scents of pine, earth, and something else extremely tempting and forbidden. The muscles in her body—tense with need to react and defend herself—relaxed as she realized she had nothing to fear from the newcomer. His hand slid from her mouth and down her neck, causing her to shiver. The moonlight filtered by the dense canopy of trees partially illuminated the area. Soundless movement brought the vampire Kale around to stand in front of her.
Even though it was forbidden for her to mix with other races, she could not stop her body or mind’s reaction to him. Her gaze roamed over his form as her heart increased its tempo. He easily stood at six and a half feet tall and had pale blue eyes. Long black hair flowed over his shoulders and down his back. Full lips were turned up in a playful smile, revealing a small dimple above a strong jaw. The rippling muscles of his body were large and well defined. The black tank top showed them off to perfection and his black leather pants hung on his lean hips.
“Witch,” he stated in greeting.
“Anemic brat.” She cast him a contemptuous smile. She hated it when he called her witch. Her race took it as an insult. “And once again I shall remind you that the politically correct term is sorceress. I don’t chant, draw pentagrams, or brew potions. Now get back before they see you.”
“Which brings me to my first question.” He walked around the tree, coming to a stop behind her. “What are you doing here?”
His whisper sent heated breath across her neck and cheek. A mild shiver of delight traveled down her spine. She wondered if he had any idea of the effect his presence had on her. Part of her wished he would go crawl back under whatever rock he had crawled out from under while the other side wanted to know why he was here in the first place. She had taken a great risk in coming herself. So what motivated him? She looked at him over her shoulder. “I should ask you the same thing.”
“I was just out for a stroll. How about you?”
She rolled her eyes, refusing to rise to the bait. Could he ever be serious? She focused her attention back to the front of the house. Three black SUVs were parked in the circle drive with their motors left running. Two men, dressed in solid black, stood off to the side smoking. Their faces were illuminated faintly by the red glow of their cigarettes as they inhaled, but she did not recognize them. The bay window of the dining room revealed the five shape-shifting senators seated at a long table, along with ten other people who Kierra assumed were also shifters. “There’s a lot of activity going on in there.”
She felt the slight pressure of his body behind her as he peered over her shoulder at the house. A wave of heat washed over her as his chest came into contact with her back, and she found it increasingly harder to think clearly.
“I agree, but that still doesn’t tell me why you’re here.”
She drew in a tight breath. The effect he had on her was sinful. The heat radiating from his body made her want to lean back into his chest. Reminding herself that he was forbidden to her did nothing to cool her desire. She closed her eyes and prayed for the strength to resist her base urges where he was concerned. Feeling more in control she opened her eyes and answered his question.
“Earlier today, a group of five young sorceresses were attacked,” she whispered. “They all ranged between twenty and twenty-five years of age. Their powers were just starting to surface and were still very unstable. Three of the women were taken, and the two that returned were scratched up and bitten. They said they were attacked by a group of shifters they hadn’t seen in this area before.”
“Are the two that got away certain that the other three were taken and not killed?”
“They said they were being shoved into the back of a van. They only escaped because Emmaline shocked her captor and then reached out and shocked Catheria’s. They both ran for it as Emmaline placed a shield around them. They’re very lucky Emmaline was able to control her magic.”
“You know, even if the senators had something to do with this, they wouldn’t have been stupid enough to bring them here.”
“I know. But you have to admit that their absence during the Order’s biannual meeting last night, coupled with this abduction, is more than a little odd. No new shifters would’ve been able to settle in this area without the consent of their monarch and the area four senators. I want answers, and I figure this is as good a place as any to start getting them.” They were either here illegally with the blessing of the senators, or their monarch was involved with whatever they were up to. Without knowing, she couldn’t very well turn it over to the shifter triad member. She had to know if they were all corrupt or just the ones in front of her.
Kale stepped back. “And now you plan to just waltz in there with guns blazing? Without consulting the Order first?”
She turned to face him. “I’ve been a senator of the Order for ten years now, and you’re filling in as a senator as well as being a member of the triad, so now that we’ve talked, I’ve consulted. And I don’t plan on going in there guns blazing. From the looks of it, they’re getting ready to leave, so I am going to sneak in.” Her stare became fixed on the strong line of his jaw as he crossed his arms and cast his best that isn’t going to fly look.
“Do you really expect me to stand here and do nothing?” she asked, fixing her gaze back on his pale blue eyes.
“Such youthful impulses can get you into trouble.”
“I’m not a youth. I’m a hundred years old. Just because I wasn’t alive when the dinosaurs roamed the earth doesn’t make me a youth.” Twenty years ago, she’d moved out of the convocation dorms younger sorceresses lived in until they grew into their magic. As any other sorceress would have done, she’d declared her independence with the blessing of the convocation’s elders. It really irked her when he made references to her age, and she was beginning to think he did it on purpose. She silently cursed herself for rising to the bait this time and giving him the retort he had no doubt sought.
He rolled his eyes. “No, I don’t expect you to stand here and do nothing, but I’m going in with you.”
She placed her hands on her hips. There wasn’t a need for him to babysit her. “You can’t do that. The other members of the triad would have your butt in a sling for something like this.” No way in hell was she going to allow him to blame her if he lost his position with the triad. Why would he want to risk something like that anyway?
“My being part of the triad is how we’re going to keep our butts out of the sling.”
She threw her hands up in defeat, knowing there was no point in arguing with him. He could be impossibly stubborn when he wanted to be, and it seemed like any time he was around her, he chose to be.
She turned from him and peered around the tree again as the sound of multiple voices reached her ears. Senators Eric and Bree led the group out of the house, the dim yellow parking lights bathing their faces in a soft glow. Eric’s angular jaw was clenched tight. She knew that look. He wore it when he was extremely focused and determined. The breeze stirred his dark short locks. Bree held her head high as she marched toward the waiting vehicles, her long ponytail swaying against her back. Always so pretentious.
The lights in the house had all been extinguished, casting the rest of the group in shadow. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but from the tone, it appeared they were arguing. At times like these, she wished she had the super hearing the vampires and shifters had inherited. Kierra whispered over her shoulder, “Are you catching any of this?”
“Pieces. Eric’s pissed off that one of the others challenged his authority. Now Bree just told them all to shut their pie holes, in a not-so-nice manner.”
Kierra watched as Bree yanked open the lead SUV’s passenger door and climbed inside. For a person who shifted into a rabbit, Bree could be pretty pompous. The others got into the vehicles.
Kierra and Kale both lay flat on the ground as the SUVs passed by. The sound of dirt and rock crunching under the tires faded, signaling the coast was clear.
“So how do you want to do this?” Kale asked as he got to his feet and extended his hand to her.
“When I arrived I made my way around the perimeter and noticed a back door.” She jumped up and released his hand. “I believe it would be best to enter through it.”
“Lead the way, Witch.”
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