Devil’s Descent III: divided Sneak Peek #5

Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

Devil's Descent 1-3 Omnibus Cover

It’s been much too long, hasn’t it? I’m such a pokey writer and I’m always working on several projects and then new ones pop up. *whew* Anyways, here’s another snippet for Lily and Julian. Remember, this is a rough draft so changes may occur in the final version. I hope you all enjoy. :)

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Julian rocked back on his heels, noting how easily Lily shed her clothes in his presence. He would’ve liked it better if she was naked, but this was enjoyable as well. Satisfaction trickled through his desiccated heart as he studied the very nice backside of his little toy. What Lily lacked in height she more than made up in proportion. Her lush body once more made a strong case to sway him against the slim, elongated lines he had always preferred.

Lily was built to be a concubine. She just doesn’t know it yet.

His hands quickly itched to touch her. Julian imagined pushing Lily to the ground. He pictured the look in her eyes and grew hard from imagination. Innocent madness lit within, red mouth parted in wonder as he entered her body one thick inch at a time, all serving to make his dark girl the loveliest he’d ever had the pleasure of bedding.

Lily, fucking you is going to be worth all of this. I’ll make you crave me so that it doesn’t matter how I fuck you—as long as I do. You’re a born masochist, darling, and it’s going to be so rewarding to show you how far I can take you.

Julian approached her, eyes hooded and lust pulling his nerves taut. She stiffened before continuing her movements. Lily’s dress was on, cinching her tiny waist and flaring out along her gorgeous hips. Her arms were at broken angles as she maneuvered the zipper. He reached out and brushed her fingers aside.

“Let me, darling.”

Lily took a second to answer, face stubbornly away from his gaze. “Sure.”

Julian closed his eyes, safe from her eerie stare, and slowly zipped her shut. Immense pleasure overtook him. Julian wished to be responsible for dressing and undressing her from that point on. He could adorn Lily in stockings, dresses, and heels for weeks to come. She’d have a different outfit for each hour, all chosen and worn solely for his favor. Julian would also buy jewels for her hair along with dainty netted hats.

He’d spoil her for sure. It would be a dark delight for as long as she lasted. His fangs lengthened, pricking his lips as his hands settled low on her hips.

“Julian?”

He purred in answer.

“What are you doing?”

Her voice, tiny and tight as he imagined her cunt to be, thrummed high. Julian discomforted Lily with his closeness. He could be merciful and do something nasty to her. Perhaps yank her hair or scratch her smooth skin with a claw. Lily responded well to his vicious teasing. It set her firm on the path she thought she wanted to take towards him.

Stupid girl has a death wish.

Julian’s lips parted. He scented her. Lily’s essence entered his body, communicating with him in a way words could never fully explain. His eyelids drifted shut. This little female bedeviled him with her disrespect, temper, and with just being her.

So why was he so drawn to Lily? Why did he just want to stand here forever, at peace and in silence, no poisonous words dripping with malice running the current between them? Madness edged every bit of their interactions so that should be enough for him to keep distance.

Yet, here he was standing behind her simply holding onto her body. Not breaking her neck, not draining her for the sheer pleasure of feeding.

Lily Walker was a dangerous pill to take.

Devil’s Descent III Sneak Peak #4 & Omnibus Cover

Estimated reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Hey Everyone!

I wanted to share another DDIII snippet and to show off the compilation cover for Devil’s Descent I, II, III. Nice, huh? (Note: The cover may be adjusted further before print but I’m pretty sure this is it.) I just love Lily’s little face! I plan on releasing each part separately in ebook and print and one with all three parts together. Very much looking forward to it.

So here’s another snippet for Lily and Julian. Remember, this is a rough draft so changes may occur in the final version. I hope you all enjoy. 🙂

“Do you finally obey me without a prolonged debate?”

“You got lucky this time.” Lily cocked her head and smiled. “Time is ticking, Julian. We really have to hurry.”

“Truer words have never been spoken.” Julian reached out to adjust the water. Once satisfied, he held the washcloth beneath the tub’s faucet while keeping one hand on Lily’s knee. He balled the soaked cotton in his hand, squeezing it several times, until it dripped slightly. “Close your eyes, darling.”

Lily tilted her head back. Julian gently ran the hot cloth across her face. He paid special attention to her closed eyes and mouth. Her shoulders relaxed and she found it easier to let her hands grip his leg for support.

“Does it feel nice, sweet?”

“Very.” Lily heard his smile and felt his goodwill through the careful strokes across her cheeks.

“Good.”

Julian rinsed the cloth many times, making Lily wonder just how bad she must’ve looked. She avoided looking at herself in the mirror just for that reason.

“Julian?”

“Yes, darling?”

“Do you like taking care of me like this?” Julian stopped washing her neck. Lily clenched her eyes shut and said in a rush, “I mean do you really like it when I don’t fight you? When I’m…well…I mean, when I’m not such a bitch?”

“Perish the thought Lily loses all her spine.”

“So is that a no?”

Julian chuckled. “Continue as you are and you’ll find me quite accommodating.”

Lily peeked at him from beneath slit lashes. His exquisitely beautiful face was so close to hers. Familiar yet different. Same face, different person. She braved touching his chin. “I can almost forget you were ever anything different than who you are now.”

“Thank you, darling.” Julian rinsed the cloth out.

“How can you be so different? My other life with you seems like a dream, something I can barely remember even though I know I should.”

“Do you really need those memories?”

“I guess not,” she sighed. “All it does is divides me. That can’t be good.”

Julian ran the warm cloth over her face one final time. “There, all better. Now all we just have to do something with your hair and you’re done. But before that…” He tilted Lily’s head back and warned sternly, “Don’t use the Spirit again for this or I’ll take you over my knee.”

Lily’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You’re threatening to spank me!”

“It’s not a threat. It’s a promise.” Julian smoothed the backs of his fingers against her cheek. “You know how bad it is for you to use that power now, don’t you?”

“There’s a lot of bad things I do. Seeing you is one of them. Should I stop that as well?”

“You can try, but it will be an exercise in futility.”

“Really? Well, my whole life has been an exercise in futility.”

“Perhaps, but I suggest you not try it, darling.” Julian kissed her forehead before gathering the tiny girl in his arms. “Now, no more using the Spirit when we fight.”

Lily felt the familiar pulse from the Spirit. Her brow creased in confusion.

“What is it, darling?”

“It appears She agrees.”

“Of course she does. She wants to continue using you as a meat suit.”

Lily expected the Spirit to show her displeasure at Julian’s disrespectful words. All she received was silence.

“Huh. Well, ain’t that a bitch.”

PS. I have finally created a mailing list for Claudia D. Christian. Please sign up if you want to receive news of Claudia’s latest releases. I won’t clutter up your in-box. Promise! I only plan on contacting you when I release something under Claudia D. Christian. You can sign-up in the sidebar on the right (under “About Claudia”) or using the following link: https://tinyletter.com/CDChristian

Devil’s Descent III: divided Sneak Peek #3

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

Hey Everyone! Miss Krissy needs her DDIII fix so I’m very happy to oblige. 😉 It is a rough draft so please excuse the messiness. PS. I really, really want to get this out this year so just know I’m working hard to make that happen.

“How could you be so stupid? You were almost cut in half, you idiot!” Julian hissed in Lily’s ear as he hauled the near-dead girl up to her feet.

Blood seeped poison-thick from her chalky lips. Lily laughed, a terrible gurgle vibrating in her throat as the price for misplaced mirth. “I’m not stupid. Things like this happen.” Lily pitched forward and braced herself to hit the ground. She clenched her fists, keeping the sword handles firmly within her grasp. Julian caught her with his forearm before the gravel could dig into her face.

“Be quiet.” Julian pressed his hand against her back. He felt the hard splint of bone. Spitefulness made him prod the torn muscles longer than needed. Lily didn’t respond. “Did you feel that?”

Draped across his arm, Lily closed her eyes, wanting to give into the pull singing so sweetly from the lake. She imagined the peace to be found settled at the bottom, the living world a dream of filtered light and monotonous current.

Fire speared her, pinning her firmly this side of death.

“Goddamnit!” Lily drove her elbow into Julian’s kidney, taking instinctual care to make it an attention-grabbing move versus a debilitating one. “Did you just poke the back of my lungs?”

“No, but close.” Julian pulled his hand out of her back. Her warm blood painted it like an imperfect crimson glove. “Next time I ask you a question, kindly answer it. Unlike you, I don’t speak just to hear the sound of my voice.”

Lily drove her swords into the ground and used them as leverage to push her body off him. “What are you doing here anyways?”

“Taking you home.”

“No!” Lily yanked her blades out. She suffered every millimeter it took to sheath them. Shallow breaths competed for the dwindling energy to speak. “Go away, Julian. I don’t need you.”

The vampire’s eyes burned red as the fresh blood dripping from her slashed open back. “Lily, your suicidal attempts to try my patience will one night get you exactly what you deserve. Now listen to me carefully, darling. We’re going home before you damage yourself further. Now be a good girl and take my hand.”

“I said no.” Lily tried to wipe the blood off her lips. A thick smear marred her chin and stretched across her unnaturally pale cheek. “I’m not trying to be rude, Julian. I just can’t go home right now.”

“Lily, I’m not asking.”

She jumped back from him, nearly using all of her remaining energy. Staggering against an oak tree, Lily choked down a scream as her raw back made contact with the ridged bark. “My mama…she can’t see me like this…not until…”

“I’m not always a monster, darling.” Julian flashed before her, pinning her against the tree. “All you had to do was explain.”

Lily closed her eyes. His scent brought warmth. “You smell nice.”

“I disagree. I smell rather disgusting. I smell like your death.”

She smiled, daring to lean her head against his chest. “No. You smell wonderful.”

Julian tugged on her ponytail. “It’s rather endearing to hear such pretty words from your mouth for a change.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

Devil’s Descent III: divided Sneak Peek #2

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

Hey Everyone!

I’m sharing another sneak peek because Krissy asked so nicely. 🙂 Hopefully this will tide you over until I can get elbows-deep into Julian and Lily’s dreadful romance. Again, this is a rough-draft so please excuse any unnecessary messiness.

EXCERPT

“I can’t help but want to bite you, Lily,” Julian drawled while nuzzling her neck. “You’re so shameless in your desires.”

“And you’re such a flirt. If I didn’t hate you so much I’d be enchanted.”

Julian brushed his mouth against hers. “I say you’re enchanted anyways.”

“Over-confident ass.”

“With good reason.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.” He smiled and smoothed her hair back. “I can’t wait until I break you completely. It would please me so much to see you in pieces, darling.”

The mood melted, bringing dark, dangerous things into play. “You don’t scare me.” Lily’s eyes made her a terrible liar.

“Really?” His smile slid into a cruel smirk. Seeing the ugly truth tattooed into her haunted stare, Julian promised, “I’ll make it a priority to see I do.”

“I’m sure you’ll try. Now what about you?” Lily’s recklessness kicked in to save her from herself. She traced the curve of his mouth with her tongue. Once. Twice.

“What about me?” Julian’s hands settled on her hips and squeezed.

“Aren’t you going to change your clothes?”

“Whatever for?”

“Don’t you want to keep your suit clean? Otherwise, my mama will think you were rolling around in the mud just for fun.” Lily flicked his nose once for emphasis. “You would just have to take it because you’d never tell her the truth.”

“And what would that truth be?”

“That I kicked your ass.”

“One—it would never happen. Two—if it did I wouldn’t have to tell your mother a blessed thing. She knows you a bit more than you give her credit for, darling. Besides, my suit will be just fine. I only need to take off the jacket and tie to take care of you.” Julian pulled away but not before leaving Lily an ephemeral taste. His stare challenged hers as he removed both items and laid them down on the ground carefully.

Lily needed audaciousness to make her words create a lurid divide between them. She slipped off her shoes and lifted the hem of her dress. “It’s a good thing you’re wearing a black shirt.”

“Really? Let me guess…so your bloodstains won’t show?” Julian strolled back to Lily. His hand snaked beneath her gown and unsnapped her garters with appalling ease.

“Ha! You’re so amusing.” Lily obeyed the pressure of his fingers and placed her foot on his thigh. She shivered as he rolled down one stocking before repeating the sensuous process. Baiting Julian suddenly became much harder. “My blood’s not going to get spilled tonight. Too bad the same can’t be said for you, Douglas.”

“I’ve already warned you about my name, Lily. Need I remind you again?”

Cool fingers curled over the tender flesh of her inner thigh. She chose her taunts deliberately. “Douglas.Douglas.Douglas.”

“Bad bitch.”

The smell of blood decayed the air. Lily waited for the animal to step through the pretty, human wrapper.

Devil’s Descent III: divided Sneak Peek #1

Estimated reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

Hey Everyone!

I’m popping in (as always) to share a snippet of Devil’s Descent III: divided. I definitely have so many balls in the air right now when it comes to juggling Claudia D. Christian, Charlotte DeCorte, and D. Cristiana so it’s great knowing Devil’s Descent is still just as fun to write as it always is. 🙂

Hope you all look forward to it’s release later this year as much as I am!

PS. It is a rough draft so…just sayin’.

EXCERPT

“Where have you been?”

Lily had just turned off the engine when she found herself snatched out of the car. She pulled away but Julian’s well-manicured hand only squeezed harder until she submitted. Lily remained trapped and entirely too close to him. His cologne intoxicated. She swayed forward before remembering who he really was.

Nice doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Julian. He’s just waiting around until he gets to kill me.

“I asked you a question. Kindly answer it.”

“Out. Now let go.”

“Is that any way to speak to the man who’s courting you?” Mesmerizing eyes flashed red.

“I’ll speak to you any way I want to.”

“Will you?”

“Yes.”

His fanged smile promised retribution. “You are a slow learner, Lily.”

“And you’re an asshole.”

Julian pinched the back of her arm. “No dirty words out of you, darling. You’re in enough trouble with me as it is. Now where were you?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“Hmm, you might be correct.” He smoothed Lily’s bare arm in a mocking attempt to alleviate the nasty sting caused by his punishment. “However, I don’t think so.”

“Of course not. That would make you reasonable.”

“Answer my question.”

“No.”

“Have it your way, darling, but know you will tell me.”

“I don’t owe you any explanations, Julian.”

“Hush.” Julian dragged Lily up the porch. “Behave.” His devilish grin couldn’t disguise the fury electrifying his crystalline gaze. He knocked on the door once before entering with Lily in tow. “Mrs. Walker, your daughter and I will be strolling about the grounds if that is acceptable to you.”

Sleeping Poison Chapter One

Estimated reading time: 20 – 34 minutes

Chapter One
Among The Sheep…

Auvergne, France
March 1179

Cold, damp moss lay beneath Liana’s cheek. Her nostrils twitched and agony immediately possessed her broken frame. “I’m afraid,” she whispered to no one. Half awake, she opened her swollen eyes and saw not the black earth beneath her, but the black spirit lying inside.

“I’m afraid,” Liana repeated listlessly through torn lips, too tired to know one desperation from another. Her bloodied fingers curved as if to claw away at the images in her traumatized mind—or place them somewhere far more comforting.


“The world means nothing. It exists for us. It exists because of us.”

“I don’t understand.” Liana stuffed tiny fingers in her mouth and watched the sleeping woman warily.

The exquisite face remained smooth. No movement rose to betray her living thoughts. Ebony hair draped the luxurious bed, falling like cobwebs to the stone floor like it always had.

However, immense rage consumed the monstrous will beneath.

“Don’t be stupid, Liana!” it snarled in hatred. “You know what to do!”

“No, I don’t.” Fat tears made the little girl’s world warble and shake. “I don’t know how…” Liana wanted to run away. She wanted to take her sleeping brother’s hand and flee. Her green gaze slid to the door. Instead of granting freedom, the iridescent barrier mocked her.

“Cristophe, brother, wake up. Please.”

Low laughter hummed with beautiful menace. Liana startled

“You don’t need him. Cristophe is as good as dead for all the help he can give you.”

Liana’s gaze skittered to the fair-hair boy sleeping in a forgotten corner. “He’s not dead.” Although shaky, her voice held an undeniable note of mutiny.

“I know what you want. Just do it.”

Liana shook her head frantically. She started singing, desperately trying to drown out the voice in her mind.

“He can never wake. He can only dream and as long as he dreams, the door will never open. We’ll be trapped here, Liana. Forever. Do you want to live forever in this room?”

Liana rocked back and forth. Betrayal linked arms with her. She wanted to see what lay beyond this pile of stone. She did NOT want to rot away in this prison.

The woman’s body seemed to gleam with triumph.

“You want to see the world? Well then, Daughter, destroy it all. Destroy it all and be free.”


Blood pooled in her mouth, making swallowing a torturous function. Mud flaked from Liana’s broken nose, speckling the ground.

Vivid images of recent destruction mapped their presence in Liana’s mind, effectively overlapping with the past. The ground grew red with phantom blood.

“No…”

Terrible cries of suffering echoed in Liana’s ears, loudly proclaiming her no different than the demon who spawned her. Mangled bodies littered her clouded sight, making Liana remember the price of freedom.

“I did what I had to. I’m not like her. I’m not like her. I’m not like Hel—” Liana’s parched throat closed up. The past remained lodged in her thoughts like a parasite.

However, it receded when faced with the present agony lashing away at Liana’s flesh.

She shifted and violent spasms shook her. Her lips quivered with hideous delight. She eagerly welcomed the pain, knowing it would summon something stronger than guilt or fear.

Self-preservation.

I can’t stay here much longer but…

Without looking down, she knew blood continued to soak her already waterlogged dress.

Stupid. Not gone more than a day and this is what I let happen to me.

Liana’s chaotic trip down the river ended when she had impaled herself on a submerged tree. Its wicked branches had sunk deeply into Liana’s chest, stomach, arm, and thighs. Although she had eventually managed to free herself, torn muscle and ligaments lamented the brutal method.

My leg is broken. So is my arm. And my face. I’m losing blood fast and there’s no one in sight to give me more.

Involuntary shudders continued to torture her. Liana pushed past the anguish churning madly about the edges of consciousness. She crawled forward, leaving a trail of scarlet mud in her wake.

However, Liana only managed to drag herself an insignificant distance before collapsing.

“Oh, damn…”

Liana gritted her teeth in frustration. It was too early to panic and far too early to stop. She may have temporarily thrown the Trackers off her trail by jumping in the river, but they would’ve discovered that amateur ruse by now.

Filthy Trackers. Would that they stayed rotted in the ground instead of looking for me.

The Trackers would destroy anything in their path searching for her, but Liana didn’t fear physical retribution. Those half-dead shadows didn’t have the power to hurt their prize. However, they would inform the one person who did.

Cristophe.

Her brother would find her. It was only a question of time. However, what happened next was entirely up to obliterating chance.

Cristophe, you won’t understand. And because you don’t…

Unholy destruction shot across her sight. Never had she fought her brother. Never. But now…

Damn the Court for tricking him so well!

Her guardians until yesterday, the Court still held her brother tightly within its corrupt grasp. Cristophe fervently believed in their public convictions, never looking through the surface humility to see its private deceit.

Cristophe saw the Court as their saviors, sent down from God himself to free them from the vile creature known as Hel.

And Mother.

Duty bound to a code she could never accept, Cristophe would never let their familial bond interrupt his honor. The pain of her own brother hunting her down was almost too much to bear.

I can’t think about it right now.

Liana dug the fingers of her good arm into the soft ground and pulled herself forward. Every limb throbbed in agony. Pebbles and twigs scraped her clammy skin but Liana kept going.

I can never go back to Court. I have to keep moving.

Wheezing, struggling in a pitiful showing of single-minded obsession, Liana cleared the bank. Beads of sweat stung her eyes. She blinked quickly and ragged pants filled her bloodied ears.

I will not fail. I will not!

Suddenly an angel’s song courted her earthly suffering.

Liana froze, suspended between fear and enchantment. Beautiful and haunting, the siren melody dulled her pain. She held still, not for cunning, but a crazed curiosity to know the creator.

“My days mean nothing against myself
I cry out for salvation
Mayhap one day the Lord will hear my fear…”

She dared inch forward. The exquisite voice grew closer. Liana desperately needed to hear more.

“I bask in humbleness
Throw ashes in my hair
Mayhap one day the Lord will see my purity…”

The heavenly pitch swelled. Spasms seized her chest, forcing Liana onto her back. Colorless light tinted her vision. She wondered vaguely if the singer’s grief was meant for her.

“I wait in misery
My solitude is my downfall
Mayhap one day the Lord will feel my devotion…”

Trees collapsed, sending down a flurry of lamenting leaves. The sky grew grey. Before she could understand fear, Liana felt the remaining strength flow from her body. Dumbly, she realized too late nothing had changed except her.

He was singing to me. Angels do know my name. This means there is something more…more than I wreak.

Liana’s life continued to bleed away. An enigmatic smile lifted the corners of her waxen mouth. She closed her eyes and waited. Silent parting drifted on bittersweet currents.

Cristophe, I’m sorry for what I said…for what happened. I will miss you more than anything. I’ll find a way to tell you how much…

However, instead of dying, Liana witnessed the end of melodic deliverance.

“I pray for understanding—”

The song died in mid-verse. Soft footfalls approached. “My God, what happened?” The horrified whisper belonged to its owner, obviously never meant to fulfill its function as a question.

Liana’s eyes fluttered open. What she saw filled her weary heart with joy.

An angel.

The pungent scent of male human sweat filtered through her weak senses. Weary lids slid closed in disappointment.

Maybe not an angel then. Apparently, Death isn’t ready for one like me.

Irrational fury took hold of her, much like the kind that destroyed half a castle and a small village the day before.

It may not want me, but Death will be ready for this one.

The stranger crouched beside her motionless body, never realizing Liana’s homicidal intent. Rough fingers touched her shoulder. Liana could feel his hesitation. Fear drenched the air, but surprisingly it wasn’t because of her. Rather it was for her.

Why do you care?

Curiosity salted her instinct. Liana remained still and waited.

“Is she dead?” Twigs snapped as he shifted his footing. He carefully lifted Liana’s sodden hair away from her face. The quick inhale of breath told Liana how horrible a countenance she presented. “What or who did this to you?”

My stupidity.

He gently touched her grotesquely swollen cheek. When she didn’t stir, the man let out a muffled whine. “Mama, what should I do? I can’t fix her but…”

But what?

“But if I can’t fix her, I won’t leave her to die alone.”

Liana’s eyes slid open. Gray orbs slick with tears met hers.

“Can you hear me?”

“You can fix me.”

He leaned closer. “What?”

“You can fix me.” Liana lunged for his throat.


Update for April 17, 2009

The poor man screamed and tried to stumble away from the broken mess of a woman. He failed. Even in her miserable state, Liana had more than enough strength to keep him trapped within her greedy arms.

She sank her blood teeth deep within his neck. He struggled, whimpering and crying for mercy. Liana shook him once in an attempt to silence him. The man whined, a high-pitched ugly thing, before falling unconscious. Liana sucked deep, tasting and relishing his essence with gluttonous glee. His stench no longer was repellant. Instead, it wafted beneath her nose with a curious mixture of innocence and promise.

Liana’s face repaired itself. The time between ruin and perfection lasted less than a mortal’s moment. Yet, the rigor of undergoing transformation wore Liana down. Her eyes drifted shut. Her mouth slowed its deadly languor. The thought of finishing her meal plied the vampiress with delicate fingers, massaging both her ruthlessness and conscience.

Liana remembered his beautiful song. She recalled the genuine worry gnawing away at his fine silver gaze.

He was worried about me. He had no reason to care, no reason to stop, but he did. He did.

Liana’s smooth brow betrayed her patrimony by furrowing in a human manner. She released her prey with a small gasp. He rolled off her body without a sound. Sitting up, she studied his complexion with a keen eye. He was deathly pale, lips colorless, barely trembling with breath. Despite his poor condition, Liana knew he was going to survive this encounter.

Thank you, Sir. You’ve done much good this day.

Her blood teeth receded. If she smiled all anyone would see was a normal human smile. Her father’s blood was instrumental to keeping a mortal façade. Neither she nor Cristophe suffered from outward signs of vampirism. Liana knew of other weaker vampire lines that were forced to remain out of the light for fear of instant death. They also needed to feed continuously unlike Liana.

Thanks to the Samaritan I won’t have to have a bloodletting for at least another month. Good. It gives me to time to figure out this mess.

Liana looked about her in grim study, wondering if the Trackers were on the wood’s edge yet.

I don’t have time for this.

Her gaze dropped back to the man sprawled next to her before flitting away.

If I leave him like this then I will be no better than my mother. I kill only when needed, not for ambition. He tried to help me and help me he did. He deserves more than to be abandoned in the woods like an animal.

She bit her lip and whipped her head about. Penetrating the green shadows with her burning gaze, Liana forced her mind to clear itself of panic and fear.

The Trackers are not going to win today. Neither is the Court.

Decision made, she settled back on the poor creature who had nearly given his life to her. Once he woke he’d have memories of what transpired between them. Liana shook her head. That would never do. Although she obviously didn’t agree with the Court, she did believe in keeping humanity relatively ignorant.

They’re too simple to be complicated unnecessarily.

Placing a white hand upon his brow, Liana allowed a tiny portion of her power to pool in the fingertips. She reached into his mind, respectful of not viewing anything beyond the past moments spent in her dubious company.

When you awaken you will do as I say. You won’t remember me but you will obey my commands.

Liana waited for him to stir, unsure of how much longer it would take. Her moody stare flickered with annoyance. Obviously, being bound so soon by a Samaritan act was not what she had intended when she escaped from Court.

This world is not quite what I expected. I don’t know if that angers me or not.

Liana understood she was somewhere in France but was unsure of exactly what year. Dread yawned widely in her gut as she quickly came to realize she was several centuries off from her intended target. What Liana lacked in knowledge she fostered in uncanny detail—which only added to her fear. She studied her clothing for the first time with an apprising stare. A voluminous kirtle fitted her form from arm to waist. Its color reminded Liana of a bruise. The chemise underneath had dried stiffly and scratched at her skin. Her shoes, a victim to the river, had been made of leather—she was sure of it. She touched a hand to her hair. The waterlogged locks still held onto their plated style.

To regular eyes, Liana appeared as a noblewoman or the daughter of a merchant. In a word—rich. In another word—helpless.

Of all the times to land in, why couldn’t I have come several centuries closer to what I wanted? I’ll draw too much attention to myself like this. People will expect me to be married, pregnant, and hidden away in some fortress. Not wandering about in a forest chaperoned only by the wind.

Liana shot a glance to the fallen man, ensuring he was still unconscious, before groaning in dismay. Granted, she hadn’t really had much time to plot before escaping the Court, but now that she was in this time, Liana had no real idea of what she was going to do or how she was going to hide.

Tears helplessly welled up in her eyes. She snorted with anger and impatiently wiped them away. Crying over her circumstances wouldn’t make them disappear or make her assimilation into this time any easier.

Liana blew out a cleansing breath, folded her hands, and waited. She waited for the Trackers. She waited for the Samaritan to awaken. She waited for her life to begin.

If the Trackers came they’d crowd her, trying to enter her mind so they could force her through the portal. Failing that, they’d bring Cristophe who could pull her through to the Court’s dimension where she’d be imprisoned without respite. All the niceties they’d given Liana in an attempt to keep her placated would surely be withdrawn. The Court might seal her, exactly how they did to her mother—the mythical Hel.

Cristophe would pray for me, plead my case to the Elders, but he’d never lift a finger to free me. I’d be imprisoned in my own mind for however long they see fit to keep me.

She thought of the poor human still incapacitated by her side. The Trackers might very well kill him rather than have him carry tales of shades, portals, and a woman who had the ability to hold a grown man down for his blood.

I cannot let them hurt him. I won’t carry the sin of his murder on my shoulders. I’d prefer not to send this forest into Hell but I’ll do it if I have no other choice.

Liana glanced up at the sky, seeing the overcast weather as a portent of days to come.

But if I do that he’ll die. If I let the Trackers at him he’ll die as well. If he walks out of here he’ll eventually die. Either way he dies. Does it really matter how? Perhaps I’m over thinking this issue.

A weak cough rent the air. The man moaned pitifully. He rolled his large body from side to side, reminding Liana of an infant learning to crawl. Once he sat up, she watched his lax face tighten with confusion. She stood and beckoned for him to stand as well. Still on the edge of a waking dream, the man obeyed, albeit clumsily.

Liana bade him to follow her. Once she led him a hundred paces away from the riverbank, she scanned their surroundings one more time. No Trackers. Satisfied from her reprieve, Liana spoke in a soft, compelling tone. “You will remember nothing from the time you saw me until now. You will go home and leave this place. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

His speaking voice was as lovely as his singing. Liana experienced a tiny sliver of regret at not having the chance to finish listening to his song. “You will awaken once you reach the spot you were before you walked to riverbank. I want you to go now.”

“Yes.”

Liana waited for him to turn around. He walked with lethargy, heavily muscled thighs stomping away without care for the brush or path. She let out a sigh of relief once he was gone from her sight.

One problem solved. Now onto another.

Liana returned to the riverbank. Eying the ground, she saw several areas where her blood and fluids had stained the rocks, dirt, and vegetation. She had to erase all traces of her presence before leaving.

Liana held her hand out. Energy skimmed down her arm and burned brightly in her palm. Blood droplets beaded on the ground before levitating into the air. They hovered lazily before flying to her hand. The white ball of energy quickly burned crimson. Once every bit of evidence was collected, the bloodied orb sank back into Liana’s body.

She nodded in satisfaction, shook her skirts out, and turned about. Her feet were bare and unfortunately conjuring was beyond her capabilities, but she needed to find the nearest lord’s castle. Liana had enough knowledge of how things were done in this approximate time and she knew she’d need human protection if she were going to blend into the populace.

Once before the lord she’d plead for assistance. She’d conjure some tale of being attacked by robbers, left for dead—violation a given but never spoken—and then she’d cry prettily. Given her beauty, clothing, and delicate demeanor it’d go very far to convince him of her noble status. From here, the human lord would feel honor-bound to give aid. If not, Liana would be sure to persuade him to listen to reason and give her what she needed—information.

Afterwards, I can take all the gold, horses, men, and supplies I need. The Court won’t think I’m bold enough to hide in plain sight of man. They’re expecting me to run far away, hide myself where none can see me, all because they assume I’d be too scared to do otherwise. Fools.

Liana scented the air, looking to find the nearest concentration of humans when she scented the familiar again. Moments later the Samaritan crossed her path. Again.

“My lady!” He blinked curiously. “What are doing in these woods? It is far from the road and filled with dangerous creatures for the unwary. Are you lost?”

Liana resisted the urge to snort. Was she lost? What did he think? However, this disobedient man who should’ve done exactly what he was told might come into further use. After all, she needed to see the lord quickly before nightfall and before the Trackers came upon them.

“Yes.” She smiled shyly. “I don’t know where I am.”


Update May 1, 2009

His face flooded with color. He dropped his gaze and stumbled over his words. “This is the province of Duc La Tour.”

“Oh?” Liana’s mind whirred with the implications. The name meant nothing to her but the title was good. It meant power. “Is he far from here?”

“Duc La Tour?”

“Yes.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, unease clearly resonating in every part of his posture. “Not too far for one like me, my lady.”

Liana ducked her head to further his implication of her supposed weakness. “Will you take me there?”

“To the Duc?”

She resisted the urge to force herself into his mind. His stupidity truly tested the limits of her patience. “Yes.”

The youth shifted from one foot to another. Fear clogged his pores and overshadowed the musky sweat odor.

Liana noted his obvious discomfort with an assessing, yet discreet, eye.

He looked at her and inhaled deeply. “I can do it, my lady.”

“Thank you.” Liana wondered at why he didn’t question her further. Surely he had curiosity over why a well-dressed lady was wandering about in the woods. Superstition had to play a part in his daily beliefs.

But he just accepted my excuse of being lost. He hasn’t asked where my retinue is…nothing.

She cut him an accessing gaze. Perhaps, he wasn’t stupid at all but a rather clever human trying to lure her to a bloody end. She grinned, lips cunning and eyes burning with promised vengeance.

Play me dirty and see just exactly you reap.

Liana followed him at his urging. She studied his broad back, noting the play of muscles beneath the rough fabric. The cut of his clothes proved his peasant status. However, his height and features spoke of a different story.

The face, while not the angular angles of pure aristocracy, did have a certain fragility. He really was quite pleasing to the eyes, at least hers. His build bespoke of powerful lineage, that of a generations of men used to war. His muscles were taut but lacking size. Liana sniffed. He didn’t eat meat very often, if ever.

His diet kept him smaller than his lineage demanded.

Why? What were you doing out here?

She trailed the Samaritan at a respectful distance. Liana could force him into another waking dream, ferret out all the information she needed, and then dump him in the forest.

I do that and then it’ll take longer for me to find any other possible enemies. No, let him keep to this. If he’s innocent then there’s nothing more to fear. If he’s not then my appetite will be sated for quite some time.

He looked his shoulder and gave her another scraping bow. “It will take some time to reach the Duc’s castle, my lady. Your feet will hurt from the walk.”

Liana expected him to offer to carry her, a favor she’d accept, if only to continue her charade of weak femininity and to get to the Duc that much faster. She couldn’t resist looking over shoulder, eyes seeking the shadows to see if the damnable Trackers were poised to rush them.

Nothing.

“My lady?”

“Yes?” she answered gently, ready to protest over his generous offer.

He asked nothing of the sort. Instead, he asked the one question she never expected.

“Why are you running?”

Liana glanced at the awkward man-child sharply. Her melodic voice held the ferocity of a wolf. “Why do you ask?”

He ducked his head in apology. “I meant no disrespect, my lady. Forgive me.”

She felt something hot slither about the bowels of her suspicion. It was guilt. Looking away from him, Liana murmured stiffly, “I’m your equal. There’s no need to give me an honorific.”

“My equal?”

She heard the hope spring forth from his well of loneliness. “Yes.”

“Then may I ask…”

His voice trailed off when she met his clouded gaze squarely.

Liana expected him to fall beneath his discomfort and cowardice. Instead he surprised her.

He cleared his throat and finished his query. “May I ask your name?”

“Liana.” She raised her chin in perfect challenge. “My name is Liana and I mean nothing to no one and that’s why I ran away.”

She immediately closed her eyes and cursed herself. Why did she tell him anything close to resembling the truth?


Update for May 8, 2009
I can clear it out of his mind but why did I even bother to answer him at all?

Liana drew herself up. “How did you know I was running?”

He dropped his gaze. “I just…I just knew.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“No!” he rushed to assure her.

“Then how did you know?”

The young man hemmed and hawed, extremely uncomfortable to answer yet obviously trying to find the courage to reply. Liana wondered again if his reticence was an act designed to lure her into comfort.

He answered just as she was a hairsbreadth from grabbing him by the throat.

“You have the look of someone who has reached her limit. You’re like a wounded bird needing to fly.”

Liana was surprised by his perceptiveness. “What is your name?”

He startled. His liquid gaze met hers shyly before darting away. “Laurent.”

“Laurent.” She tested it slowly. “Laurent?”

“Yes, my lady?”

She thought of admonishing the use of that title but changed her mind. Her request for him to address her by first name was hasty and much better forgotten.

“Who are your people?”

He drew inside himself. The gentle smile died, leaving Laurent as stark as the trees surrounding them. “I am alone.”

“Alone? Completely?”

“Yes.” Pain oozed from his emotional skin, blinding to Liana’s perceptive mind. “My mother died.”

Liana’s throat knotted in empathy. “I’m sorry.”

He jerked his chin in acknowledgment.

Liana’s vivid irises dulled. She intimately knew the feeling of grief for a fallen mother. Unlike Laurent, she mourned for what never was while he obviously mourned for something very real.

“Laurent?”

“My lady?”

She pushed by his despondency. “Would you forgive my intrusion if I stayed with you tonight?”

Laurent jerked away as if slapped. “You cannot!”

“Why?” Liana belatedly reminded herself of the required decorum for her supposed station.

“It would not be seemly for you to stay with me, my lady. I am not fit to speak to you much less accompany you anywhere.”

“You’re speaking to me now.”

Laurent backed away, much like a frightened animal. “Am I offending you, my lady?”

“No.” Liana’s stomach coiled with pity for him. While suspicion still remained, she couldn’t deny the very true fear roiling off him in nauseating waves. Laurent’s abject distress affected her. His outward demeanor reflected what she had suffered for years at the hands of her mother.

Did I look this pitiful while I begged?

Liana’s white brow dampened as well as her palms and feet. She forced herself to continue. “Laurent, I’m lost. I don’t know where I am other than I traveled very far. You are the only person I know in the whole world now.”

Laurent lost some of his anxiety. He answered in a low, trembling voice, “You are the first person I’ve spoken to in a long time. That is why my tongue is too loose. Forgive me.”

Liana swallowed down her questions. She wouldn’t continue to probe at his very obvious wounds just for the sake of her curiosity. She also wouldn’t  invade his thoughts. That violation just couldn’t ever be forgiven. Although Liana was guilty of many sins, that was one she would never willingly commit.


TBC…
Image Credit: somadjinn @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Sleeping Poison Prologue

Estimated reading time: 18 – 30 minutes

PROLOGUE
“Twenty-one Makes a Dream Die”

Biting wind whipped Liana Moreau’s hair wildly about her waxen face. Violent shivers possessed her small frame, mimicking the panic thundering in her chest as she stood on the precipice of a fifty-foot drop.

But it wasn’t the threat of falling that commanded Liana’s churning fear.

“Don’t do it.” Puffs of air punctuated each drawn out word. “Just don’t.”

“Don’t do what? This?” A glittering smile broke with jagged glee. Long, translucent nails stroked the trembling woman’s exposed stomach. “But this excites me, little bird. Can’t you taste her fear?”

Liana’s nostrils flared imperceptibly. Rank terror polluted the space between them. It entered her body, clinging to the roof of Liana’s mouth and coating her insides with human frailty.

“It’s good, yes?” The elegant creature’s gray orbs sparkled with malicious insight. Touching Liana’s secret obsession, his throat possessed the tenor of a demented lover. “It’s so good having complete power over someone’s life…so very, very sweet…”

Liana swallowed back her useless denials. He had stopped listening to her long ago. Even so, Liana couldn’t help but listen to him and what she heard slashed her to the core.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Knowing that this thing’s existence is only of your choosing. Omnipotence is just so addictive…” Sculpted cheeks hollowed and a bitter smile creased his lips. “No wonder you love it so much.”

You’re wrong. I never loved having it over you.

Somehow Liana couldn’t make her throat form the words. Instead, visceral shame forced her to look away.

“No protests, little bird? Not even one pretty tear?” He brushed his mouth against his captive’s damp cheek. “She’s crying for me but you’re not. Don’t disappoint me this quickly, my love.”

Liana smarted beneath his mockery. Familiar guilt burned her eyes.

Now is NOT the time for regret. Deal with him like you’ve done before. Get him under control quickly!

Liana blew out a slow, steady breath, vainly trying to keep her mind from splintering into habitual purgatory.

This is what I have to do. I can’t feel sorry for anything. Not right now.

Drawing aristocratic dignity about her, Liana leveled the unstable being with an imperious emerald stare. “Come to me, Laurent.”

Thick, black lashes drifted shut. His perfect countenance slackened in potent consideration. Laurent’s arms loosened, giving his terrified prey a whisper of freedom.

“That’s it, darling” Liana coaxed, instantly shedding cold dominance like an unneeded skin. “Just come to me. I’m not angry. Don’t be afraid.”

“You’re not?” Laurent’s husky voice shifted, abruptly sounding young and unsure. “Truly?”

“No, my love. I’m not. Come inside and let us go to bed. Quickly!”

“Quickly?” Laughter seeped from Laurent’s rosy lips. Beginning as a whisper, it swelled into a cacophony of pure doom.

Liana resisted the urge to clap her hands over her ears. Tears filled her eyes while she whispered, “Laurent, please stop…”

The laughter died, leaving absolute loathing in its place. Laurent cocked his dark head in contemptuous amusement. “I’m not your dog anymore. So burn in Hel’s fire, you bitch.”

As if summoned by that Norse goddess of ruin, demonic wind suddenly whipped Liana’s thin sleeping gown up. She looked down in dismay, barely noting the whiteness of her naked limbs or the ice beneath her toes. All Liana saw was distance.

Horrible distance.

What am I going to do? The space between the inner bailey wall and the outer curtain seemed insurmountable. How am I going to stop this? Will he just let them both fall if I jump? I can’t take that chance yet.

Liana raised her hand in wary supplication. Desperation tinged every husky word. “If you won’t come to me, at least let Tanya go. Please, Laurent.”

He looked down vacantly, gradually remembering the existence of the person in his arms.

“Tanya.” Laurent said it slowly, savoring the syllables in his mouth. “I’ve never heard that name before. It’s beautiful.” He leaned forward and whispered, “Do you know what it’s like to die, Tanya?”

A small whimper escaped Laurent’s helpless captive. Her pallor matched the billowing lab coat she wore. Glassy blue eyes bulged with terror even as they prayed for help.

“Our f-f-father w-who art in h-heaven…”

“God is not talking to you. I am. Do not make me ask again.”

“I-I don’t w-w-want to die!”

Liana winced. Wrong answer. She recognized the sadistic game Laurent was playing. No one understood the calculated moves better than Liana. After all, she had played the role of mouse to his cat for centuries.

“I didn’t ask if you wanted to die. I asked if you knew what it was like TO die.” Laurent turned Tanya around and carefully brushed back her hair. The graying blond strands clung to his slender fingers perversely even as their owner quivered in near-hysteria. “Do you know what it’s like, Tanya?”

“N-No.”

Her choked whimper inspired a lopsided grin. However, it did nothing to erase the maniacal cast of Laurent’s face.

“Ah, Tanya, that’s most unfortunate—especially because you ARE going to die. Ssh! Don’t cry! I can tell you what’s coming.”

Laurent’s frenzied tone dropped into listless confession.

“I know what it’s like.”

Liana’s face hardened, seemingly oblivious to Tanya’s plight.

You can’t end it this quickly. You’ll play with her more and when you’ve mentally broken Tanya, then and only then, will you let us all know if you ever really wanted her dead.

I can outwait you.

Unaware of Liana’s detached reasoning, Tanya’s knees buckled and she sagged in Laurent’s hold. “If I die, God…God will…”

“Will what? Welcome you to heaven? Don’t let your faith deceive you. There is nothing there.”

Laurent’s clipped words were relentless, meant to shatter all illusions of hope.

“Death isn’t peaceful, Tanya. It’s bloody. It’s hellish. It’s brutal. Just like…”

Laurent shifted his stance. His gaze instantly found Liana.

“Just like…”

The exquisite mask splintered, giving birth to equal parts rage and despair. Laurent’s inhuman glare bored into his former lover, gutting her with pure condemnation.

“Just like…”

She held his stare, but Liana tasted despair inside the frail shell of courageous observation. Mute pleas littered Liana’s convoluted mind like rotting dreams.

Don’t. Don’t feel that way, Laurent. Please.

“Just like…”

Laurent continued to repeat his two-word lamentation, wearing on the emotional membrane of both his victims.

The staccato rhythm became profane, raping the barrenness inside Liana. She already knew what he was going to say. She had already tasted the wound he’d expose when he broke faith with repetition.

“What am I saying? You know what Death is like. I’m sure you do.”

Tanya vomited denial along with pieces of her dinner.

A pitying frown pulled at Laurent’s brow. He ignored the bile staining his boots. “You know it, Tanya. You’ve known Death if you’ve ever loved.” A shiver of regret lurched across his beautiful face. “I loved, Tanya. I loved and then I died.”

Laurent’s pained whisper sank into Liana, draining her of all color. She faltered in her resolve and showed him her corruption. “Laurent, it didn’t have to be this way—”

“I know what it’s like,” he interrupted harshly, “because I’ve done it hundreds of times.” Laurent pinned Tanya with his enraged stare. Cold madness glinted deep within his silver orbs. “But you already know that, don’t you?”

Tanya shook her head slowly, mindless with terror.

Laurent leaned forward, as if to share his secrets in perfect confidence. “I’ll even bet you watched me die, Tanya.” He smiled terribly, bringing long fangs closer to his prey. “Haven’t you?”

Tanya turned away, forcing her dirtied chin into her shoulder. “Mme. Moreau! Please make him stop!”

“Why keep bullying her when it’s so easy? She’s just a human!” Liana shouted gamely, emerald eyes brightening in morbid challenge even as her heart clenched with indescribable misery. “Take me instead, my lord. I provide much better sport.”

Laurent’s wild laughter sent chills down both women’s spine.

“I already know what you’re capable of, little bird. There’s no justice in it for me. Besides, this is infinitely more rewarding.” His lily-white hand caressed Tanya’s jaw. “After all, you seem to care whether this piece of meat lives or dies.”

A cruel smile graced Laurent’s lips, casting his face in murderous perfection.

“Don’t you?”

Liana stood still, thoughts scurrying in nauseous chaos and disrupting her cunning. Which way should I go? Care or don’t care?

“Don’t make me ask you again, little bird.”

She swallowed once. “I do.” Liana saw the satisfaction creeping into his flinty stare. “You know me. You already know why.”

Laurent shrugged, his velvet-encased shoulders rising with easy elegance. “I don’t know anything about you. Never have. That’s why we’re here.”
Tossing Liana another mocking grin, Laurent quickly spun Tanya around. He ignored her frightened gasp and clamped one hand on her bruised wrist while the other returned back to her waist.

“M-Monsieur, please…”

“Ssh, Tanya. There will be time for begging later.” Laurent settled his chin on her shoulder. “It bothered you to be called a piece of meat, didn’t it? Made you feel insignificant, worthless?”

Wise to Laurent’s expectations, Tanya whispered, “Yes.”

“Mmm. I understand. It doesn’t feel good to be looked at as a thing without feelings and value.”

“You ARE the reason for my life!” Liana shrieked angrily, hurt and enraged by Laurent’s insinuation. “No one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever looked at you that way!”

Laurent ignored Liana’s outburst and continued his sadistic conversation.

“Your mistress is very odd, isn’t she? Always has been. Quiet when she should be shouting, shouting when she should be quiet. Now, let’s go back to where we were, Tanya. How do you think I felt being called a…what was it? Ah, yes. A case study?”

Spittle flecked the crusted corners of Tanya’s drooping mouth. “I’m s-s-sooo s-sorry.”

Liana blinked back furious tears. Once more Laurent was backing them both into a corner. Except this time, Liana had no idea if she could sidestep Fate again.

One wrong move and it’s over.

“You’re sorry. Hmm.” Laurent mulled over Tanya’s answer for several moments before letting out a relieved sigh. “Since you’re sorry, surely you’ll accept my apologies for what I should do, won’t you?”

“No! Laurent, why are you doing this? You’re not capable of hurting anyone…” Liana’s voice faltered. “Please just stop!”

“Shut your mouth, Liana.” The soulless growl made Tanya scream in panic. Laurent turned his rapacious attention back to his hostage. He clucked his tongue and cooed, “Now look what you made me do, little bird. You made me scare her.”

Liana clenched the edge of her nightgown. Her nails tore through the sturdy cotton, piercing her naked thighs. Although her voice quaked, she managed to rasp, “I’m not scaring her, Laurent. You are.”

“On second thought, maybe Tanya isn’t afraid at all. After all, she’s bloodless—isn’t she?” He pursed his rosy lips in contemplation. “Only someone bloodless and without a conscience could help keep me in that hellish nightmare.”

“It wasn’t Tanya’s fault, Laurent. It was mine.” Crimson rivulets snaked down her legs. “I’m the only one you should hurt.”

The scent of Liana’s blood instantly intoxicated Laurent. He swayed forward, mouth open wide for nourishment before his long limbs locked in place. Ugly shame twisted his countenance and Laurent’s disgust for her became obvious.

“Oh, I am already quite aware of that, you bitch.”

Liana dropped her gaze. “Then punish me all you want. I won’t fight you. I swear it.”

“You won’t fight me.” Laurent turned his head slightly. With treacherous lips against Tanya’s ear, he murmured, “She tells me I should just hurt her. But doesn’t she understand that hurting you hurts her more?”

“Please don’t…I beg you…p-p-please don’t…I didn’t mean to…”

Laurent placed one finger against Tanya’s mouth, effectively silencing her. He released her wrist only to wrap a graceful hand around her throat. Laurent kissed Tanya’s ear with painful tenderness.

“Now let’s see what your mistress will do if I snap this skinny neck.”

Liana’s eyes widened in panic. “Killing Tanya makes you no better than me, Laurent!”

“Wrong. It does make me better. At least, I’d be showing her mercy by ending it now.” Venom threaded each softly spoken word, binding Liana with cords of hatred. “Unlike what you’ve given me, little bird.”

Liana quickly calculated the distance between herself and the precarious pair. I have to do it. I have to jump.

“Move and she’s gone.” Laurent tightened his hold on Tanya. He backed them both to the edge of the outer wall. Less than an inch separated predator and prey from a mortally fatal fall.

“Don’t! I’ll do whatever you say.” Liana’s gaze darkened to black when she saw him ease back defiantly.

Please let me stop this. Please!

Laurent lowered his head. Ebony hair fell over a smooth brow, tumbling along exquisite cheekbones. “Tell me something, little bird. Is your concern real or just a mask you wear to inspire devotion?”

When Liana didn’t answer quickly enough to suit his pleasure, Laurent drew a line across Tanya’s stomach, forcing out a broken cry from her parched lips.

“It’s real!”

He ignored Liana’s shout, keeping intense focus on the terrified woman beneath his hand. “Ssh, dear,” Laurent consoled with cruel kindness. “Don’t weep. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it could. Trust me—I know.”

“Damn you! Stop playing these games with me, Laurent!”

“Keep braying your orders, Liana, and you’ll see how much I listen.”

Indecipherable insanity tickled the tiny hairs on Liana’s neck. The absence of mercy found within his iron gaze compelled her to whisper, “Forgive me, my lord. I beg you, please don’t.”

“My lord.” The honorific rolled off his tongue, hinting at the bitterness of Laurent’s thoughts. “Was I ever really your lord, Liana?”

“Please…” Pitiful sobs quickly clawed their way past her shredded pride.

“You’re begging me. Me! You truly have become pathetic,” Laurent sneered. “There was a time when you would’ve taken her head yourself before debasing yourself before anyone. Surprising. Compassion isn’t something I expected from you, little bird.”

The caustic words cut deeply. Liana’s voice came out heavy and labored. “My lord…Laurent…don’t do something you’ll regret.”

“I’d never regret this.” He nuzzled his prey with the softest of kisses. Several moments crumbled with latent decay. “Tanya’s scent is divine…it makes me spin inside.”

Liana shifted her stance, grinding several pebbles beneath bare feet. Hearing Laurent’s obvious adoration for her employee made Liana sick with dread and jealousy.

As if aware of those tainted emotions, Laurent gifted her with a rakish grin. “Or maybe it’s not Tanya at all. Maybe it’s the air.” He inhaled deeply. Laurent’s eyes glittered with feverish anticipation. “Do you know what I smell?”

Liana shook her head slowly, watching her entire world disintegrate. There was no longer any doubt where this was headed.

If there ever had been.

All I did, sacrificed—suffered for us both—and this is where it ends.

“You don’t know?” Laurent lifted his hand up. Tiny carmine drops stained the long, elegant fingertips. “I smell something better than blood or even your cunt, little bird.”

Ruthless commitment possessed his smile.

“I smell freedom.”

Cold tears spilled forth in lamentation. Liana reached out one last time. “Don’t abandon me, Laurent. Please.”

Liana’s pleas cut through his hate, leaving raw agony to ravage his immortal beauty. Laurent’s smile faltered. It transformed his mouth into an ugly slit.

“Remember what I told you once? Remember how I told you I’d kill you, burn your body, rend your limbs apart, and let your ashes regenerate for what you did to me?”

Her shoulders bowed. Liana’s heart clenched and a broken sigh was born. “Every time I look at you I remember.”

“Do you?” Hollow laughter swelled in mimicry of absolute triumph. “Well…now I’ve finally found something worse to do.”

Hunched over, dangling by a heart sore thread, Liana felt her obsession grow. “Not possible, Laurent.”

He bared his teeth. It was an unmistakable warning. “You won’t control me anymore. Not another moment. Not ever again.”

A feral snarl mated with Liana’s quick intake of breath. She closed her eyes tightly. “If it were the other way and you had the power to keep me, would you?”

Silence judged her. A ribbon of grief tightened its noose about Liana’s neck.

“I had the power, my lord. I had the power and I used it. Not to condemn you, not to control you, but to save you. To fix what I had broken and save the man I love above all others.”

Liana swallowed once.

“Just like you did for me, my lord.”

Laurent’s conviction faltered—as did his heart. Tanya may have remained in his arms, but he stood alone on a precipice made of more than just stone.

Countless lifetimes breathed in his ear, pushing him towards the fey woman he lost his soul for.

“I love you, Laurent. I know you feel the same…though you don’t want to.” Tragic perfection curved Liana’s full lips even as her eyes wept. “Let me show you what is now. Let me show you how else I can love.”

He longed to set the hysterical woman in his arms free and capture the other in his cage. Laurent desperately wanted to hold Liana, take her to his prison and love her until he died.

“Don’t force me to show what else I can be. Please?”

But he couldn’t die. Neither could she.

Laurent clenched his jaw, grinding his teeth until they threatened to shatter. Cages weren’t enough. Memories weren’t enough. Nothing could justify Liana’s treachery.

Not the first time or the countless ones after.

And while Laurent watched her, loathing choked his regret. He wanted to crush her and he knew exactly what to do.

“You’re wrong, little bird. Seeing you now, watching you snivel, I know it without a doubt.” Laurent let his narrowed eyes roam up and down her figure. His fine lip curled in disdain. “I don’t love you.”

A terrible cry of anguish rent the night. Liana doubled over and shook her head frantically. “That’s not true. You’re lying!”

“I don’t lie—unlike you. So that’s why I say this clearly—never again, little bird. You will NEVER see me again after this moment.”

Liana’s strangled sobs suffered an abrupt death. She turned her head. “You don’t understand what never means.” From her bowed position, Liana’s wet gaze glowed eerily. Terrible power vied with maddened passion. “Just as you don’t understand that nothing you can say will ever change my love for you. Nothing.”

Laurent’s bravado disintegrated. Liana’s insatiable truth devoured him—nearly picking his bones clean of resistance. He shook his head, desperation manning his only weapon.

“Even if I say I’d rather love a sow than the one I married? Even if I tell you I don’t want you anymore? That when I dreamed I dreamt of fucking anyone but you?”

Liana straightened slender shoulders. Her beauty shifted, becoming utterly still, utterly dangerous. The wind, previously a separate entity, now seemed to emanate from her. It howled angrily, promising eternal vengeance if not appeased.

Terror asphyxiated the last of Laurent’s courage, causing his knees to buckle. He swayed forward and his heels left the ground. Only Tanya’s shrill shrieks kept him from pitching them both forward. Locking his limbs, Laurent jerked back but kept his gaze trained on the barren ground below.

Although away from Liana’s petrifying stare, Laurent felt his lips begin to tremble.

He truly was pitiful, just as he always had been. Bastard that Laurent was, he never learned what it was to have dignity. The only person who had ever given it to him freely was the same one to strip it away.

Then and now.

“Liana…I…”

“Come to me, Laurent, and I’ll forgive every word you said. Defy me and we’ll both regret it.”

Laurent’s choked sob echoed a much softer one. He reluctantly shifted his attention to the fragile female in his arms.

In one moment, Tanya’s filthy face proved to be his salvation.

This woman was evidence of love gone wrong. This woman was proof of what lengths Liana would go to continue orchestrating an obscene lie. This woman was confirmation of the kind of creature his wife really was.

Inconsolable grief ruined Laurent’s smile. “So be it.” He tightened his hand, choking off his savior’s incoherent pleas. “I’m sorry that I’m your monster, Tanya,” he whispered sadly as he leaned forward once more. “But I’m more sorry you helped expose mine.”

Laurent suddenly flung Tanya towards Liana. Screams rent the silence before losing to the power of deafening sirens.

Liana caught the flailing body in mid-air. Without care for Tanya’s overwrought emotions, Liana tossed her onto the walkway behind them and continued her mad dive to the outer wall. Liana’s feet barely skimmed stone before she anxiously scanned the barren plain and forest beyond.

But it was too late. Laurent was already gone.

Liana stared bleakly into the shadows. A cacophony of noise continued to assault her, each rhythmic set growing more and more distant. The electronic wailings proved Laurent had penetrated straight through the estate.

Liana dug her fingers into the ancient wall. Several nails split, tearing into tender flesh. Her legs threatened to give way and the night sky blurred beneath the weight of bitter tears.

You’ve broken the cage door leaving your little bird behind. Damn you for doing this! Damn you for not understanding!

Dozens of feet pounded across the inner walkway. The esteemed scientists of Solange Incorporated flocked to their employer, feeling courageous now that Laurent was gone.

A miserable smirk twisted her lips. Liana could already hear their questions and observations.

“Where did the breach occur?”

“Our data shows M. Laurent was in a comatose state. He shouldn’t have woken at this stage.”

“What will we do now that our subject is missing?”

Indeed. What will we do now?

Liana schooled her tortured features into a bloodless mask before turning towards her audience. Standing together with identical lab coats, they reminded Liana of bleached crows. She raised her voice to benefit their mortal hearing.

“Cut the sirens and relay tonight’s footage to my office.”

Allain, a man who Liana had employed for the better part of three decades, called out, “Everything or just the cameras in Quadrant P?”

“All of it.” Liana watched as several enfolded Tanya into their ranks. “And take her to the Infirmary. She has a shallow scratch on her stomach as well as several scrapes from her fall. Tonight has been very traumatizing. I suspect she’ll need sedation.”

“What about Security? Should we dispatch them in pursuit?”

The very idea sickened her. She would never send Trackers after Laurent. Liana kept her tone emotionless with much effort. “No, Allain. GPS is enough for now.” Liana returned to her previous position, troubled eyes staring far into the night.

Their dismissal obvious, the group shuffled away.

“Thank you for saving me, Mme. Moreau.”

As intended, the hoarse whisper reached Liana easily. Something akin to guilt stabbed her. Liana nodded her head, not bothering to turn around. Once more, she raised her voice and answered, “I’m sorry for what you went through tonight. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ll make sure a generous bonus is added on the next pay cycle.”

“You’re most kind, Mme. Moreau.”

No, Tanya. You are.

Liana’s green eyes hardened as a new sound colored the landscape. She didn’t need to see the time to know New Year’s had just arrived—and with it the twenty-first century.

I should’ve seen this coming. I always lose right before twenty-one. Always.

Brilliant threads of silver, purple, and crimson stitched the night sky. Shrill whistles echoed across the French countryside as more fireworks glittered in celebration of a new year.

We were supposed to share this new century together. Even though you were sleeping, I was going to be by your side, Laurent. Like always. And now…

Tanya’s gratitude was unnecessary. Liana didn’t do it for her at all.

She did it for Laurent.

Everything Liana ever did was for Laurent. Always.

And now I’ll begin the hunt, my love.

Poisoned eyes glowed with an intensity rivaling the display in the sky. With renewed conviction, Liana ghosted her grief. She turned away and leapt into the barren courtyard. There were hours of footage to study and countless lines of data to analyze. No sleep for her staff tonight and definitely none for Liana.

Everything’s changed, Laurent, but nothing’s changed for me in eight hundred years. Where do you think you can hide that I can’t find you? But I’ll let you run for a bit. Run and see that the world is something you can’t tolerate. Then you’ll understand my kindness in keeping you here.

Run, my love. But never forget that I will always be behind you.

And I will find you because I won’t let you go—no matter how far you run.

Image Credit: Onatos @ Stock.Xchng

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Sleeping Poison – Cast of Fools

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

“I wronged you. I’ve admitted a thousand times before and I’ll admit it a thousand times more. But how can I give you up? You taught me to trust in something other than blood. Your innocence brought me from the void threatening to swallow me whole. I love you, Laurent, and I’ll send the world to Hell before I let  you go.”

—Liana

“You’ve ruined me completely and all I ever, ever did was love you. How can you be this monster? How could you let me become one? You trapped me for centuries, a helpless pawn to your vanity. Now that I’m free I’ll never be under your thumb again…even if my heart threatens to rip free to go back to  you.”

—Laurent

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Sleeping Poison – Copyright

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

Copyright © 2009 by Claudia D. Christian

All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by:

DelSin Publishing, LLC
www.delsin-books.com

Image Credit: dimitri_c @ Stock.Xchng

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Sleeping Poison

Estimated reading time: < 1 minute

Liana doesn’t have to wonder how the fly feels while lying in the spider’s web for she has been both. Obsessive in her love for Laurent, she has played many parts to keep their love alive—victim, slave, seducer, murderer…spider and fly.

But what happens when Laurent decides to walk away from the tragic play that has consumed them for centuries? Will Liana’s love be greater than her obsession or will Laurent finally break free from the web entangling them both?

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