Saturday, February 11, 2012

Caveat Emptor: Determined Lover
by Zenobia Renquist

Cover art: Marteeka Karland
BIN: 05536-01773
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Interracial/MultiCultural, Vampires, Magic
Series: Caveat Emptor (#6)
Length: Novella
Page Count: 46

Medusa and Darius have escaped with their lives, but to where? The location is an unknown, like their relationship. After nearly two hundred years apart, Darius is ready to move forward, but Medusa cannot reconcile her present self with the past she purposefully forgot. Medusa must decide if dealing with the pain of her past is a fair price for loving the man who would be her future.
Caveat Emptor: Determined Lover
Zenobia Renquist
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Zenobia Renquist

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His breath was coming too fast... panting. She could barely feel his heart beating beneath her hand where it rested on his chest. His lean, muscled body was wracked with visible pain. Medusa knew Darius was dying despite his earlier denials.
She wouldn't let that happen. They had been reunited after nearly two centuries apart. Medusa had never thought such a thing possible, but she hadn't known about Darius's immortality. Or perhaps he wasn't immortal when they met. Whatever the case may be, his immortality hadn't come with invulnerability. The spell he'd cast to help them escape death at the hands of his cohorts had stressed his body to the breaking point.
Medusa had to save his life before she could think about reveling in their renewed relationship. Only a few things kept her from acting. First, neither of them had any clothing since they had fled capture after a round of getting re-acquainted sex. Second, Darius's escape spell had landed them on the side of a very high mountain with no path down. Medusa could jump it, but not with Darius in tow. She couldn't use a magical transport spell either. Transporting without knowing where she was or where she wanted to go had its own dangers, but the strain of more magic running through Darius's body might kill him.
That left the cave at their back as shelter against the elements and possible attack. She glanced over her shoulder at the wide opening of the cave. Her vampiric sight, able to pierce any darkness, couldn't make out the back of the cave, which meant it was deep. She couldn't tell if it was inhabited.
Darius wheezed before coughing. His cough had a watery sound and a coppery smell. He had blood in his lungs. She smoothed her hand through his kitten-soft hair in a soothing gesture. The motion calmed her as much as him. She loved petting his hair and watching the light shimmer off the scattered strands of blond and red combined with the brown. She wouldn't lose him.
Medusa didn't have time to worry about what dangers the cave held. She could handle any animal, no matter how big. She needed to get Darius to a safe, secure spot so she could help him recover.
She lifted him against her chest and rushed inside the cave.
"I should be carrying you," Darius whispered. He tried to laugh but it came out as a cough instead.
"You need to shut up and save your strength."
He grunted but didn't try to speak again.
Medusa carried him to the depths of the cave. It went back a fair distance. Good. That meant she would see any intruders long before they saw her. She expected Darius's cohorts any second. There was no way the mages would pass up recapturing an escaped vampire and a mage traitor.
Low growling from an animal stopped Medusa. She placed Darius on the ground behind her, propped against the cave wall, and then faced the oversized lump ahead of her -- the one she had mistaken for a rock a moment ago. It unfolded itself into a very large, very grumpy bear.
"Quiet. I'll deal with this and then help you." She stayed close to the wall as she paced forward. A quick snap of her metal ring-covered, floor-length dreadlocks near the bear's head would frighten the animal into running from the cave.
She turned her head in a quick jerk while adding a small telekinetic push with her hand so one lock would hit the bear. Except it didn't. Her hair waved forward as though pushed by a breeze and then settled against her side once more. The usual sound of metal links clashing against one another was absent. That was when Medusa remembered her haircut at the time of her capture. The mage holding her had sheared off her hair at the roots and had taken great delight doing it.
The hair grew back in a matter of seconds, resuming its rope-like style as it grew, but the metal links she used to adorn her hair, turning it into twenty lethal chains the use of which she had honed over the last two hundred years, were gone. She had to come up with another method to deal with the bear, who had only grown more agitated with her movements.
She had vampiric speed and strength as well as sight in the inky darkness of the cave, but she didn't want to hurt the bear, only convince him to leave. Maybe a show of power would do it...
She rushed the bear. He smacked her with his paw, and she let the blow knock her to the ground. It was her turn to grunt when he brought his front legs down on her shoulders. The attack might have crushed a mortal, but she hadn't been mortal in a very long time. Sick as the bear was, she could easily have overpowered him, but instead she let him think he was winning.
He went for her neck, ready to rip her throat out, but she grabbed him in a tight hug. His teeth sank into her shoulder as he tried to pull free. She ignored that pain to see her plan through.
The bear had tasted her blood. She knew what that meant for a human -- a mental connection between them, and for the human, longer life, faster healing, and enhanced strength and speed. She only hoped the same held true for other mammals. "Hear me and understand."
The bear stilled. Medusa could smell fear again, but she didn't have time to reassure him. He could understand her. That was all she needed to know.
She loosened her hold. "Let me up."
He released her and jumped back.
She sat up and held her hand out to him. "You didn't hurt me. I did that so you could understand me." She wiggled her fingers at him. "Come here."
He looked at her one way and then the other before stepping forward so she could touch his head.
"Good boy. Good boy. You're a big, beautiful bear, aren't you?" She smiled when the bear grunted. "My friend and I only need shelter. That's all. We didn't mean to disturb you. Can we stay?"
She smiled when he licked her hand.
"Thank you." She gave his head a pat and then turned her attention back to Darius.
His was another heartbeat that didn't sound steady. Unlike the bear, she couldn't feed Darius her blood. Renewed relationship or not, he was still a mage. He might have helped her escape and professed to love her, but that love might not extend to sharing blood with a vampire. Besides, she had something better to share.
She returned to him and knelt at his side. "Darius?"
His odd eyes -- one blue and one brown -- looked at her, but they were unfocused. He tried to speak, but she covered his lips with her finger. She smiled when he kissed her finger.
"You aren't healing. You need power. Take it from me." She placed his hand over her left breast, above her heart.
Darius rasped, "Such beautiful breasts." His fingers twitched as though he would have squeezed the small yet pert mound but he didn't have that much strength.
"Yes, they're lovely. Now take the energy you need."
"Kill you. No." He pulled at his hand, but she held him.
"It won't kill me. I can die one hundred mortal deaths and still be fine. Take my energy, damn it. I won't lose you again. You said you wouldn't die. Have the centuries turned you into a liar?"
Darius sucked in a breath as he closed his eyes.
She thought he was breathing his last until she felt it. His power. He drew on her life force, pulling the energy through her body and into his own. The more he took, the better he got, but the weaker she felt.
The world turned fuzzy and then black. She really hated mortal death. She liked to avoid it at all costs. Only for Darius would she endure it this time.

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