Sunday, July 13, 2008
Guest Blog from Devyn Quinn!!
Hi everyone! It's my day to blog, but a fellow Aphrodisia author, Devyn Quinn, is doing a blog tour this month and I volunteered to be a stop on her whirlwind tour :)
So, enjoy the excerpt below and leave a comment for Devyn, and you could win a copy of her book! :)
One hand resting on her protruding stomach, Rachel Carnavorn struggled to lower her awkward body into a chair. Feeling her rear connect with the cushion, she smiled in relief. “Whew, for a minute I was afraid my butt was bigger than the seat.”
Devon Carnavorn hovered anxiously at his wife’s side, ready to offer assistance. “Are you sure you should be up, darling?”
Rachel tilted her head back, treating him to a flash of her dazzling blue eyes. Black hair a tousle around her face, skin stained with the flush of her efforts, she smiled. “I know the doctor ordered me to rest, but I’m so tired of being stuck in bed, looking at the same four walls.”
Her gaze turned longingly toward the back gardens. Outside the bay windows the darkening horizon was a mixture of pinks and deepening navy hues. In another few minutes the sun would disappear into the west and night would spread its velvet cloak over the sleepy sky. “It seems like forever since I’ve been outside the house.”
Devon caught her hint. “Maybe you’ll be up to sitting in the garden a little this evening.”
“I’d like that.” As if caught unawares, she suddenly gasped and shifted uncomfortably. Her grip on his hand tightened subtly. She hesitated a beat. “Oh, good one.”
Devon frowned, concerned. “You sure you’re all right, darling?”
Stifling a groan, Rachel forced a laugh. “I’m fine, I think.” She patted the voluminous tummy protruding from her robe. “I swear I’ll soon be giving birth to football players.”
Throat aching with happiness, Devon offered another light peck, this time finding her soft lips. “As long as the babies are healthy,” he whispered, “I don’t care what they grow up to be.”
He bent, placing a light kiss on her forehead. Even hugely pregnant and perspiring, Rachel still looked desirable. Her flawless skin was fair, almost translucent, her cheeks lightly flushed with a pink tint. Her slender body had filled out, breasts and hips offering lush and feminine curves. He felt blessed that this incredible woman had consented to join his world and become his life-mate. “Just don’t tire yourself.”
“Easy for you to say,” she groused good naturedly.
A female voice behind them interrupted. “Are you ready for breakfast, sir?” Nocturnal, the Kynn reversed normal habits, living night to day, rather than day to night. Though able to function during daylight hours, their energies waned. The coming of darkness returned their strength—and renewed their many hungers.
Devon straightened up, nodding toward one of the kitchen maids. “Yes, Anne. Thank you.” He looked to Rachel. “What would you like, darling?”
At the mention of food, Rachel blanched. “Just a cup of tea, please.”
Devon felt his guts twist. “Nothing to eat? Some crackers, or maybe a little fruit?”
Rachel wanly shook her head. “I’m a little nauseous,” she admitted. “If I eat anything, I’d just be sick. Tea will be enough.”
Devon quickly seconded the order. “Just tea for me, too, Anne. Don’t make it too strong.” He would eat later. Why force Rachel to watch him perform the simple function she could no longer manage. He knew her inability to keep solid food down had become a torture. Instead of enjoying all the strange cravings a pregnant woman would normally and delightfully indulge in, his wife couldn’t eat without vomiting a few minutes later.
“Yes, Lord Carnavorn.” Dropping a quick courtesy, Anne hurried off.
Trying not to show his worry, Devon took the chair opposite hers. Something was wrong, very wrong, with Rachel. Looking at her, he couldn’t fail to notice how much worry had taken a toll on her mental and physical state. This in turn vexed him. These last months had been difficult, unforeseen events slowly turning their joy into dread.
Less than a month into her pregnancy, Rachel’s hungers had taken a strange deviation. She no longer seemed to need the sexual energies of a victim to recharge her waning energies. Her rapidly diminishing appetite had strangely become stripped down to a single element.
Her thirst was insatiable, becoming difficult to satisfy. There were no clear answers as to why her cravings had taken such a turn. Unlike sangre vampires, the Kynn did not subsist wholly on blood; the act of taking blood was a very small part of the ritual allowing them to feed off human sexual energies. To meet Rachel’s need for constant feedings, Devon was liberally bribing a blood bank attendant.
The look on Rachel’s face said she wasn’t pleased with this strange turn of events. “I wish I understood why this is happening to me.” A tear slipped down her cheek, the beginning of a torrent driven by frustration and fear.
Devon hated to see his wife cry. It made him feel weak, helpless. Her emotions were strung tighter than a harp wire. He feared that she was going to have a complete mental breakdown.
He laid a hand on hers. “Pregnancy is unknown among our kind. The doctors have said they’re sure it’s only temporary, your body’s way of nourishing the fetuses.”
His explanation failed to placate her. “Not that any man would find big, fat me in the last bit attractive.”
He made a tsking sound. “Fat or thin, you’re beautiful. As soon as the children are born, you will go back to normal.”
Rachel sniffed, looking at him through a tear-jeweled gaze. “But what if I don’t?”
Leaning forward, Devon cupped her chin with one hand, wiping away her tears with the other. Just touching her caused his body to heat up in an unsettling way. They hadn’t had sex in months and he hungered for his wife’s intimate touch. “You will.”
A whisper of a smile touched her lips. “You think so?”
“Oh, I know it.” He kept his hand in place, his gaze steady. Soft and smooth, her skin still felt like silk to his touch. Enjoying her, he brushed his thumb over her lips. “Once the children are born, you’ll go back to your old self.” He arched a suggestive brow. “Remember her? That sexy vixen who captured my heart?”
Amused, Rachel sniffed and shook her head. “I barely remember being thin,” she groused good naturedly. “Much less sexy.” A grin caught hold despite her negative thoughts.
Devon cocked his head to one side. “Oh, trust me. You are one very sexy woman.” He found her hand, lifting it to his lips. “And you’re the love of my life.”
“At least I’m something to you.” Not the first time she’d hinted of her unhappiness.
To spare Rachel’s feelings, he’d settled on a course of discretion by keeping his victims away from his home. Just as a man had to separate work and play, he now had to separate his craving for raw sex from that of his desire to make love to his wife. A very thin line to walk, but he was determined to make a success of it.
He placed a hand over his heart. “You’re everything to me.”
Gaze sharpening, Rachel looked at her husband. A small frown marred her forehead. There was a pause while she digested his words. She didn’t look entirely convinced.
“Am I?” She shivered as if a chill wind had swept through the room. Devon knew doubt lingered behind her acceptance of the Kynn’s open sexuality. She still had trouble believing he loved her even as he fucked other women. Burning up with curiosity, she’d never questioned him even though she knew the late hours he kept weren’t always due to work.
Clearing his throat, Devon reached for her hand. “Absolutely and undoubtedly.” He said it with such firm conviction he thought that maybe he wasn’t trying to convince her, but himself as well.
Truth be told, he hadn’t relished the idea of his wife making love to other men during her pregnancy. She carried his children, a joy he didn’t want to share with any other man. This change, however unsettling, meant that he would have her to himself just a little while longer. Later he’d have to let her go, knowing she must physically embrace other men. She would be a predator, her chosen lovers the prey. It was inevitable.
And hurt like hell.
The secret pain he’d always have to hide within himself.
She closes her eyes and pretends I rake no indiscretions, he thought. He felt no bitterness, only resignation. Embracing the cultic realm always exacted a price. Just as I will have to pretend she’ll make none.
A burden they would always bear, but together.
Rachel glanced down at their linked fingers and exhaled. “You always were a smooth talker. No wonder I couldn’t resist your seduction.”
Tucking away his own melancholy mood, Devon gave her hand a light squeeze. “I did my damnedest to get you,” he said. “And I intend to keep you.”
She laughed. “Flattery will get you everywhere.”
Feet back on solid ground, Devon relaxed. “Feel better?”
She winced, patting her tummy. “Fine. If only our twins would stop punting my kidneys.”
Anne arrived with tea just as Simpson, his majordomo, arrived bearing a large box. “This parcel has just arrived via private courier, Lord Carnavorn.”
Devon eyed the package, plainly wrapped in brown paper and neatly addressed. “I wasn’t expecting anything.” Most anything he received was usually delivered to the nightclub he owned.
Simpson set the parcel in front of Rachel. “It’s addressed to Lady Carnavorn.”
“Ah, that makes sense.” Since word of her pregnancy reached the Kynn collective, presents of all sorts had been flooding in for his wife. All were eagerly anticipating the successful birth of the first born Kynn.
Rachel rolled her eyes. “It’s been nothing but Christmas every day for months. My God, I’ve gotten so many baby things I could open my own store.”
Such adulation pleased Devon to no end. “You are their queen, darling.” He sipped his tea, piping hot Earl Grey with an extra helping of sugar. “Get used to the spoiling.”
Rachel stood up so she could better handle the size of the box, about a foot high and a foot wide in circumference.
“Spoiled rotten already.” She tore away the first layer of paper, revealing an elegant hatbox. “How lovely.” Using her butter knife to cut the ribbons, she lifted off the lid and peered inside. A look of dawning horror crept onto her face. The scream that followed was as sharp and fractured as shards of glass.
Face paling alarmingly, Rachel gagged. “Oh, God. I think I’m going to vomit.” Pushing the box away, she clamped a hand across her mouth and squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
Devon rushed to his wife’s side. Glancing into the box, he slammed the lid down. Fear bit with the force of an arctic front. He ignored it. He had to be strong.
“Get Lady Carnavorn back to her room,” he ordered Simpson in a tight voice. To the hovering Anne, he barked, “Call Rachel’s doctor. Get him here. Immediately.”
“Yes, sir.” Confused and upset, Anne hurried off to make the call.
Panting through her mouth, Rachel didn’t want to go. “Devon, what is—” she started to ask.
He cut her off. “It’s nothing, darling. A cruel prank. Let Simpson take you to your room.
Rachel shook off Simpson’s hands. She swayed slightly, gripping the edge of the table to retain her balance. “I—I’m all right.” She regarded him narrowly, her grimace frozen across her lips. She was trying to be brave, and failing.
Devon insisted, his voice sharpening with authority. “Please, Rachel. You’ve had a bad shock. The doctor is coming. He’ll want to check you out,” he told her flatly. “Think of our children.”
His words seemed to convince her. She flinched, jaw clenching in a spasm, but made no protest. “All right,” she said quietly and reluctantly let Simpson take her upstairs.
Alone, Devon returned to the box. It sat on the table, a specter bearing unspeakable evil. His senses reeled, but his mind remained amazingly clear.
Inhaling a steadying breath, he let it out, slow and shaky. A grim expression settled on his face. “What fresh hell is this?”
Though he didn’t want to, he lifted the lid. The sight had the impact of a hundred pound anvil. Inside was a mummified skull with a few hanging wisps of black hair. The identifier was in the silver charm cleaving the center of the forehead.
Devon’s entire body went weightless, his vision tunneling toward the single spinning vision. His chin trembled slightly until he clenched his teeth. He fought to keep his nerve, too well aware that he was close to failing. “Oh, shit. This isn’t good.” He drew a shuddering breath, wanting, needing, to deny it all. He couldn’t.
The charm had belonged to Lilith. The head, too, had been hers.
Seeing it, a million confliction feeling poured through him. She’d had several of them made—had even given him one in an earlier time. The gruesome part of his mind led him to wonder if the charm had been introduced before—or after—her death. Either way, the vision wasn’t pleasant.
Tucked beside the head, a plain white envelope beckoned.
Hand shaking, Devon retrieved it. A bold hand had incised a message across its smooth white face: PAYBACK IS HELL
A thin smile warped his lips as conscience prodded with a sharp barb. Guilt shredded his soul into tiny little pieces. Gasping in bitter misery, the past had just circled around and bit him squarely on the ass.
The avenger was now being pursued by the man he’d avenged himself on. The realization struck the wind from his lungs and the hope from his heart. For a moment he couldn’t think. The scars of old memories were ripped open, again becoming as fresh as they day they were inflicted.
He didn’t open the letter. He already knew what it would say. Just as he knew who it was from.
Adrien Roth. The man who’d brutally slain Ariel Van Sandt, his sire.
Tucking the envelope back in the box, Devon closed its lid. Temples throbbing with tension, he sat down and passed his hands over his numb face. A man he’d thought long ago dead and buried had just crawled out of the grave.
“Apparently I’ve been mistaken.” An understatement.
Mistake or not, he realized his wife and unborn children were in very real danger. Adrien had made sure that Rachel would open the box.
Fear banged in his chest, not for himself but for his wife and the babies she carried. Despite the warmth of the evening, he was suddenly freezing, chilled to the bone.
“He’s not just after me,” Devon murmured. The shock alone could have caused Rachel to miscarry the babies—far too premature to survive at this vulnerable stage.
That wasn’t going to happen. Not by a long shot.
He needed help. No, he couldn’t call on the collective. He’d helped turn Adrien against his will. The Kynn were not about force. That in itself was a crime by occult justice.
Kill an avowed enemy. That was fine. Fair.
Make him what he despised.
Punishable by death.
Anxiety knotting through him, Devon pushed the fatalistic thought out of his mind. He had no intention of meeting his maker if it could be at all avoided. Because Adrien had never become a member of the collective, formally he wasn’t recognized as Kynn. That was good. It would give him a chance to clean up this mess without facing a tribunal.
Swallowing the panic lodged in his throat, a curse slipped out under his breath. “Lilith promised she would control him. I shouldn’t have let her have him.” He swiped his tongue over his parched lips. “I should have killed him myself and sent his miserable soul straight to hell.”
Hands clenching into fists, Devon glanced at the hatbox. Undoubtedly Adrien was thinking the same thing.
Regret. Remorse. No. He refused to feel either. The only thing he’d done wrong was trusting Lilith to keep Adrien. Somehow she’d lost control, and had paid dearly.
He wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Plans crowding his mind, Devon already knew he had to meet this threat head on, but quickly and quietly—and without further involving his wife. He couldn’t afford another mistake like that. Gut-level aggressiveness kicked in. He needed someone outside the Kynn collective, but within the cultic realm.
He knew just who to contact, too. Everything could be accomplished with no fuss, no muss and without getting his own hands dirty.
To catch a slayer, you send a slayer.