Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(16)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(16)
Author: K.F. Breene

He thought I was an illegal bond.

I huffed out a laugh. “I haven’t had any vampires hanging off my neck, I can assure you. Well…except for that one time, but I was college age. That doesn’t count.”

He stopped in front of an iron door with a large cross stenciled into it. After turning, he stared down into my eyes. I could tell he was trying to read me.

“Question,” I said, my curiosity now running rampant. I didn’t know much about vampires, and this seemed like a great time to learn. “Does iron affect you? Like…burn you or whatever?”

His brow furrowed. He swung his hand back and placed his palm on the door. I listened, but couldn’t hear a sizzle.

“Let me see?” I waited while he complied, staring at me all the while. His hand was silky smooth. “Not one for manual labor, I see. Or does roughness smooth out when you become a vampire?”

“Both. You do not have a bond-mate?”

“No. Question: do crosses burn you? I see one on the door, but you didn’t touch it— Ah, okay. So crosses stenciled on doors do not burn. You can remove your hand again, thanks. How about crosses on a person? Let’s say I had a cross blessed by a priest, and then I whipped it off and pushed it against your cheek. Would that leave a mark?”

“We are wasting time. Tell me what allows you to see in the dark.”

“We’re wasting time because you’re a narcissist and only think your questions matter, is that it?”

“Yes. Tell me.”

I had to hand it to him: he was honest. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

His exhale would’ve fluttered my bangs if I’d had any. “Come. I need to get a few supplies.” Face glossed over with annoyance, he dropped his insistence on learning my secrets and pushed the heavy door inward.

A pulse of magic drew my eyes to the door handle. I ran my hand in front of it. A potent spell pushed back at me. I reached a bit closer and received tiny, invisible pinpricks of pain. The spell was a nasty one.

“Does this work on vampires?” I asked, pulling my hand away. Then I rolled my eyes. “Pretend I didn’t ask that—”

“Who else would be this far into our domain?” he asked, incredulous.

“Sorry! I spat out the question before I thought it through.”

“I was led to believe you were intelligent.”

“I didn’t think it through, okay? Give me a break. It’s been a long day.” I finally pulled my attention away from the large door and felt a surge of adrenaline. This was his private quarters. I could not believe what I was seeing.

Chapter Seven

Light filled the chamber, dancing off a crystal chandelier hanging above a round table with fragrant flowers in the center. Behind that was a huge four-poster bed topped with a canopy that swooped down, attached to the posts by tasseled ropes. On each side hung ceiling-to-floor paintings depicting people from Roman times pointing or fighting or just idling around half-naked. Oil paintings and other artsy items littered the other walls, many in gilded frames. A desk sat in a corner, off to the side of a massive marble fireplace.

Where does the smoke go? I wondered vaguely.

Vases that were probably priceless decorated the mantelpiece, along with golden candelabra. The other side of the room housed a quaint area for sitting and chatting, complete with velvet couches and a marble coffee tabletop supported by golden-looking scrollwork. That style was mimicked in the dining area, a large room off to the side, accessed by grand double doors that currently stood open.

“Vampires eat, then?” I heard myself ask, blinking at decor that had to cost a bloody fortune and currently existed a long ways underground. “How the hell did you get all this down here?”

“I am ready.” He came away from a gold-looking cabinet on the other side of his ridiculously huge bed with a sword strapped to his back and a leather satchel draped cross-wise on his body. The two leather straps made an X across his broad chest.

I tapped the leather pouch surrounding my hips. “This baby makes it so you don’t have supplies hanging off you like a donkey.”

“It is still hanging off you, just in a different place. Donkey.” He sniffed in humor. Or was it disdain? It was hard to tell with him.

“Anyway, this place is sure something.” I waved my hand through the air, encompassing my surroundings. “I’m impressed. Why the light, though, if you see in the dark?”

“Light makes everything shine and sparkle. The room is much more magnificent that way.”

“So you’re vain, then.” I smiled at him. “That’s all you had to say. You’re vain, and light helps demonstrate your glory. Got it.” I surveyed his satchel, which was nearly full to the brim. Vain, and had a bunch of money for spells. That, or he had a bond-mate to make them for him.

“Do you have a bond-mate?” I asked, following him out of his private quarters.

“No. The press of duty to protect that mate is too steep of a price to pay for any benefits I might acquire.”

“Yet you offered it to me, in so many words.”

“To bind you to us. Vlad would approve. His approval would be worth any inconvenience. Not to mention that my duty, currently, is to protect you in this endeavor. At the end of this affair, should you not prove to be the asset we’d hoped, I’d merely kill you. The short-term torment of a bond-mate dying would be worth the regained freedom.”

“Very logical, Watson. One problem. Vlad does not a group of elders make.”

“Vlad is the elder on which our whole faction hangs. He rarely gets involved in such trivial matters. That topic is left to other competent overseers, such as myself.”

“So you are an elder.”

“Of course.” He reached the door, turned the handle, and pushed it open while stepping to the side—all with a sort of flourish that didn’t exist in this century. It was fun to watch, but the whole rigmarole was time consuming.

“I hope this gentleman thing is only for non-combat times, or you’re going to kill us both.” I straightened up as I went through the door. His presence seemed to require good posture.

“I am not a simpleton, Reagan Somerset. A left just there.”

“So, back to you, something I know you love talking about. What about holy water? And you never answered my question about the blessed crosses.”

“There are many religions in the world. Vampires are not a product of any of them. As such, their murmurings do not affect us. Neither do their trinkets. A right here, please.”

“Yet you have a huge cross on your door.”

“It was because of religious-fueled hostility that I was made. I now embrace the irony of it. Your turn—another right followed quickly by a left. What is your unique scent? I’ve never smelled its equal. Are you fae? I have heard they have an unusually delicious scent, though I have never smelled it.”

“You’ve never smelled a fae?” We came to another door. My palm was nearly on the handle before I felt the magic. I yanked my hand back. “What’s this all about?”

“I wondered if you would kill yourself. Alas.” Darius stepped forward and palmed the handle. A quick turn and thrust, and the door swung open on well-maintained hinges.

“Look.” I held up my hand and stopped. Turning to face him, I refused the urge to take a step backward due to our proximity. “I am part human, and as such, I get tired. When I get tired, I make mistakes. If you are planning to constantly test me, this isn’t going to work. I’m not asking for a partnership by any means, but I do need a heads-up if you know a death trap is lurking. Savvy?”

He analyzed me for a moment. “I will take up my duty as soon as you make it to the surface.”

“Something you might’ve hinted at before we set off.” I slouched and continued up the way. He no longer deserved my good posture.

“You have admitted a few times that you are only part human. Yet you have not volunteered your specific type of magic. What are you hiding?”

“Whatever it is, it’s none of your business. Which way?” I waggled my finger between right and left at the next intersection. The walls in this area weren’t lined with stone, showing instead the raw substance from which they were carved, which may have been dirt, but was just as likely to be magical mud of some kind. “Do the elders and important folk not travel up this way?”

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