November is, of course, National Novel Writing Month! This year I'm working on Book 3 of the Blood and Fire series: and adventure through Russia called Winter Hearts. During November, our regular Free Read posts will feature excerpts from this year's (as yet unedited) project.
Shortly before dawn, Rhiannon Donovan stood naked at the wide balcony windows of her rooms at the Zhurov’s tavern, cold, pale flesh untouched by the icy wind as it blew in around her.
“You liked the little blonde brat in the dining room, didn’t you?”
Vivienne, languid across the rumpled sheets of the room’s one bed, stretched in a long, luxuriating motion, like a cat twisting in a pleasant spot of sunlight.
“I can always tell when you’ve got another conquest in mind,” she purred at Rhiannon. “Ever since London...I can see the wanting in your eyes, ma chere. I can tell you are thinking of fucking her.”
Rhiannon smiled, never turning from her vigil, and her hand came up to toy with the fangs in the vial at her throat.
“Liebling, you know me too well. She appealed to me, yes.”
Vivienne laughed, kicking her dainty feet in the air. “Always looking for trouble! She had such a filthy little mouth.”
Now Rhiannon glanced at the shadow-walker over her shoulder. “I like the ones with filthy mouths.”
Vivienne rolled onto her belly and slid to all fours on the floor, crawling towards Rhiannon. She faded into the darkness almost immediately and re-appeared behind the vampire, wrapping long, dark arms around her and lowering dark, lush lips to her neck.
“They did poison the drinks, you know,” she purred against Rhiannon’s skin. “Your sweet little blonde treat didn’t know it, though.”
“I know,” Rhiannon said. “I tasted the silver.”
“Mon dieu, mon tigresse! And you drank it all, and more beside? You might burned from the inside out!”
Rhiannon snorted, tilting Vivienne’s face up for a kiss. “Silver only sickens vampires, you know it well. Besides, I told you. I’m different.”
“You weren’t so different before,” Vivienne mused.
“And how many attempts on my life since London, do you think? How many chalices of blood laced with silver or holy water or octopus venom?”
“It’s a long story.”
She pulled the shadow-walker closer and kissed her more deeply. “One Solvä evidently considers humorous and appropriate for parties, since I keep getting love notes inked with the stuff and roses with thorns dipped in it.”
Vivienne made an odd, disapproving face.
“I thought it might behoove me to build a tolerance to the more common modes of poison,” Rhiannon explained. “One of the advantages of being kin-born, of course, is that I can develop a tolerance. Unlike you—” She tapped Vivienne’s nose with a grin. “—who will have to fear shavings of cold iron mixed into your elixirs for the rest of your life. Ah, well...such is the cost of being eternal and unchanging, ja?”
Vivienne wrinkled her nose and hissed.
“Oh, shut up, pussycat.” Rhiannon kissed her again.
Vivienne took the kiss and pressed her hips against Rhiannon’s waist with an eager, mewling sound of pleasure.
“Please, ma tigresse,” she murmured. “It is nearly sunrise. Close these doors and come make love to me again before we sleep.”
“In a moment,” Rhiannon said, gently nudging Vivienne back toward the bed. “I’m waiting for a message.”
“But whose message could be more important than fucking me?” Vivienne pouted. She gave a haughty little huff. “It is another woman. Some lovely ravishing paramour you do not want to share.”
“Oh, she’s a woman, and beautiful,” Rhiannon replied. She returned her gaze to the lightening sky and caught the familiar shape of a messenger bird winging its way toward them, finally. “To my deep disappointment, though, no matter how often I have propositioned her, she always turns me down. A will of iron, that one.”
“She turns you down?” Vivienne asked. “Her loss.”
Rhiannon put out her wrist, where she still wore her leather bracer. Taj, her hunting falcon, swooped low and landed in a graceful perch. He held a roll of parchment in his beak.
“Please, do tell her so,” she said to Vivienne as she took the scroll, sending the falcon to roost in one of the trees below the window. The message was brief, written in a hasty hand.
The Sanctus Incendia has received a dispatch from the church in Tsarkoye Selo; the artifact is in their possession. According to my contacts a delegation is dispatched to retrieve it. They travel by train and should arrive within three days of your receipt of this message. We are certain you can find it first.
No surprise. Rhainnon let the parchment roll in on itself again and tossed it to the room’s dresser as she closed and sealed the double set of balcony doors, shutting herself and her night-bound lover away from the coming dawn. She joined Vivienne on the bed, sinking down into a deep embrace. She ran her palm over the shadow-walker’s belly.
“Now,” she murmured. “Where were we? A little south of here, I think...”