Elusive Hero, Page 1Joey W. Hill
An Elusive Hero...
Vampires drink blood, they're superior to humans, and they're sexual Dominants. Every vampire knows those truths. A vampire's human servant is property, plaything, pawn--and the only living being a vampire can trust. Though she may own him, body, heart and soul, a human servant keeps a vampire from feeling alone in her dangerous, political world. But Kaela has a secret. She's a vampire with a burning need to submit, to belong to a Master, and definitely not a vampire Master, who will use the advantage for political or emotional domination. But what kind of human male will consent to becoming a vampire's servant, a 300 year life of utter servitude, to be her Master behind closed doors? An invitation to Eden offers her the chance to discover her elusive hero...and indulge the bliss of surrender.
We are very pleased to issue your Invitation to Eden, an exciting series from 27 of the biggest names in romance. Join us as we take you on an exciting adventure to Eden, where anything--and everything--goes!
by Joey W. Hill
A book of the Invitation to Eden series and
A Vampire Queen Series novel
Elusive Hero A Vampire Queen Novel
Print ISBN: 978-1-942122-03-6
Published by Storywitch Press Charlotte, North Carolina, USA http://www.storywitch.com
Cover Design by Frauke Spanuth
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Joey W. Hill. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Table of Contents
Invitation to Eden's November Releases
More About the Invitation to Eden Series
This book ended up being a much bigger project than originally intended, so I owe a very special thanks to Lauren and Lee, two wonderful readers who did a proofing run in the eleventh hour for me, as did my critique partners Ann Jacobs, Sheri Fogarty and Angela Knight. Thank you so much, ladies!
I also wanted to send tremendous thanks to author Lauren Hawkeye/Lauren Jameson for launching the Invitation to Eden series and organizing the efforts of the 27 authors involved. Herding cats is a piece of cake next to herding authors! Lauren, you have my gratitude and admiration. Thanks for including me.
And thank you to the many Invitation to Eden authors who have been working to cross promote all of us throughout the life of this project, with special thanks to R.G. Alexander, Eden Bradley and all the Smutketeers. As one of the authors coming in during the last couple months of the series, I'm particularly appreciative of all the cross promo, and hope I was able to return the favor with my limited marketing skills!
Last, but not at all least, to my husband. Since this was our first independent publishing effort, he had sole technical responsibility, donning a publishing hat to learn how to bring Elusive Hero to all of you. I was far too busy writing it (not to mention I'm a technology dunce), so without his help, it might still be living only on my computer (laughter). He's a treasure, as always.
I hope you all enjoy Kaela and Garron's story.
"Your tithe is late. And you have no valid excuse for it."
"With respect, my lady, I told you why it was late. We've had trouble this quarter..."
"That is a lie." Kaela folded her hands on her desk and met the gaze of the male vampire. He'd sat down in her guest chair with a casual sprawl, stretching out his legs and hooking his ankles, as if the chance to study his powerful, handsome form was a special gift he'd brought only for her. It didn't impress her. She was all too aware this meeting could end with her tearing his heart out of his broad chest and spattering blood over every square inch of her home office. She should have held this meeting in the garage with its built-in drain, but that likely would have aroused his suspicions.
"You think I'm a fool, Greg. You want to test the female vampire overlord, see if she's really capable of controlling you, worthy of your obedience." She let the tips of her fangs show. "You will provide the funds you owe before you leave my property. You will also pay me the funds for next quarter, as a sign of respect. Once you make your payment, I want you out of my home and headed back to yours."
Her gaze flicked to the clock, mostly for effect, because every vampire over the age of fifty instinctively knew the time of day. She was tipping over a hundred and seventy-five years now. Young for an overlord, but female vampires tended to mature faster. A necessary survival trait.
"It's three hours to dawn, and you live two hours and forty-five minutes from here. Waste any of that time with argument and you'll be suffering a terrible sunburn."
She was gratified to see him straighten in the chair, his posture tensing. While she didn't shift by an inch, she was coiled to strike, ready for this to turn into a fight. She shut down any fear, any reaction other than what she'd been charged by Lady Lyssa to do.
Serve me well, Lady Kaela. That is what I require.
She'd done so, and would continue to do so. Until another vampire was able to kill her.
Everyone knew Lady Lyssa had appointed her. That would give any vampire pause, because the head of the Vampire Council was terrifying. Further, Lady Lyssa didn't make careless choices. So while the former might have them speculating that Kaela was Lady Lyssa's friend, under her particular protection, the latter would have them wondering if she was a far more lethal opponent than she might appear.
Neither of those statements had been true when she'd become overlord, but Kaela had learned how to do what needed to be done so now the latter was true. Lyssa had said the magical words, hadn't she? Words that, if she'd known the impact they had on Kaela, would have ironically kept her from being considered for the post, and she would be dead by now. Or worse.
Greg held her gaze. Kaela didn't twitch, holding that lock. If he attacked, he would come straight at her, using brute strength. A feint to the right should do it, an attack to the left, because he was right-handed. She would go for the throat, take out the meat of it. It didn't kill a vampire, but it was agonizing, crippling. As he writhed on the carpet, she could decide whether to stake him or let him live. He was thirty years older than her. Not a large margin, but male vampires tended to be stronger than females of similar age, no different from most species. It merely meant a female had to plan her attack more carefully.
Soon after Kaela had accepted Lady Lyssa's appointment, she'd killed five of the vampires in her territory, with the full support of the Council. The California territory had been rife with corruption and illegal behavior, thanks to the previous overlord thinking he was too far from the Council for his activities to be of concern. He'd gathered a group of stronger vampires around him, cronies he allowed to terrorize the weak
er vampires, circumventing Council rules, risking exposure to the human world with their bloodlust. She knew about it firsthand, because she'd been part of that territory, doing whatever she could to protect the weaker vampires and playing a dangerous game of politics to hold onto what she had, a string of personal security companies that gave her eyes and ears in key places.
Not bad for a made vampire who'd once been a Confederate spy.
Greg shifted, and averted his eyes. It was a point for her, but she didn't relax her guard, because it could be a ploy before an attack.
"Will you take a check?" he asked.
"A wire transfer. Fran is outside and you can give her the information. You may do that now and leave as soon as she verifies it."
He rose with a stiff nod. "My lady." This time he meant it.
She waited until he'd reached the door. "Greg?"
He turned to face her again, not giving her his back. "Yes, my lady?"
"I will not forgive this type of behavior twice. This is your only warning. You can benefit from being in my territory, profit from my leadership. I am fair. I will support and protect you as long as you follow the rules. If you do not, this was your last chance at leniency."
He gave her a short bow of acquiescence, and she marked with further satisfaction the way he was taking her measure, with more uncertainty and nascent respect. At her dismissal, he slipped out of her office, closing the door behind him.
She took a breath, one that went all the way down to the soles of her feet, and let it out. A tremor swept her, fueled by the sudden sick flopping in her stomach. She let the reaction have her for about thirty seconds before reining it back in again. Everything had its proper time, and she kept it all on a strict schedule.
She'd accepted the need to embrace a persona that really wasn't her own, but despite her hope that assumption could become reality, a much stronger part of her embraced something different. Something she could only indulge in a rich, solitary fantasy life in the short period before dawn claimed her for sleep. Or that brief time each night when she first woke. It was like one of those fairy tale curses, where she could go where she wished only in her dreams.
But she wasn't complaining. She was here to serve. Whether she realized it or not, Lyssa had given Kaela the one outlet in her real life that helped her balance the denial of the rest. Serve me well.
Less than five minutes later, her servant knocked and was granted entrance. "That was the fastest wire transfer I've ever done," Fran said, a twinkle in her somber brown eyes. "He's paid in full, with one quarter in advance, my lady."
"Good. Do you have my travel arrangements in order?"
At that, the twinkle disappeared. "Everything's in your carry-on. Front pocket has all the paperwork." Fran took a breath and stared a hole into the surface of the desk. "I also packed in case you changed your mind about me accompanying you."
When Kaela said nothing, Fran's jaw set. "I really don't like this," she blurted out. She flushed. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be impertinent. It's just...how will you get blood, my lady?"
"The same way I did before I had a servant. Don't question me, Fran."
Fran was an Inherited Servant, trained from birth to serve vampires, so the faint reproof was enough to have her dropping her gaze. Kaela was surprised the woman had been that forward, but Fran was worried about her. It touched her. It also made her weary, eager to be away.
"I'll be gone ten days. Take the money I've given you, take a vacation."
"You're going to Miami. How can you protect yourself during daylight hours? Do they know..."
"Stop it, Fran," she said sharply. "I'm quite capable of caring for myself."
It wasn't her servant's fault that she couldn't fulfill Kaela's true needs. Because Kaela understood what that felt like, only too well, she softened her voice, just enough. Everything always had to be so calculated. There were times she thought the precision of her life would slice her into pieces.
"You are a credit above and beyond the ranks of Inherited Servants, Fran. I am rewarding you by giving you some time off. Enjoy it. Be whatever you desire to be for ten days and don't worry about me."
"I am a servant, my lady. My only desire is to serve you."
That Kaela would think anything different obviously puzzled Fran. Kaela cursed her mistake. Though the possibility of terminal violence with Greg hadn't unsettled her in a way that could affect her judgment, the implications of this trip were something different. But she kept her mask in place.
"I know that. Which is why I'm commanding you to go enjoy yourself. Find a handsome Master in one of the clubs and offer him the pleasures only an Inherited Servant can give. You'll ruin him for anyone else." Kaela let her lips curve, her eyes glitter. "Come back with all sorts of lovely bedroom stories for your Mistress. We'll experience the pleasure of them together."
Fran had been an active Inherited Servant for nearly thirty years. She'd served at the Council headquarters for twenty years, and been Kaela's second-mark for the remaining ten. Kaela understood Fran had been placed with her initially as eyes and ears for Lyssa. So when Lady Lyssa granted her permission to claim Fran, give her the third mark that would make her Kaela's full servant, all hers, a permanent addition to her household, it had been another sign of Lyssa's approval and trust. Inherited Servants were highly valued, trained to serve high-ranking vampires.
Kaela had treasured the honor, but indicated she was satisfied having Fran in her household as a second mark. During the years since, Kaela had made it clear as often as appropriate that she was very satisfied with Fran's services, yet willing to let her go if Lyssa wished to assign her to another vampire who wanted to fully mark her.
Lyssa had not yet reassigned Fran, so that was where the situation stood. Kaela knew she was unusual, a hundred and seventy-five year old female vampire who hadn't taken her first full servant. The Council head had never questioned Kaela about that, so Kaela assumed Lady Lyssa understood the solitude and self-discipline a female vampire in a leadership position faced in their world. Perhaps Lyssa leaving the Inherited Servant with her this long, even as a second mark, was yet another statement of her support of Kaela in her overlord appointment. Kaela hoped so, even as she bore the guilt of denying Fran what every InhServ wanted most. A vampire who claimed her fully, all the way down to her soul.
Fran was a treasure and an asset, no question. An excellent assistant, intelligent and infallibly courteous, she was also passionate and well-trained in the sensual arts. She was beautiful as all InhServs were, with soft skin, a lush body, curling copper-colored hair and eyes brown like polished creek stone. She responded with enthusiasm to everything her Mistress offered her. The second mark allowed Kaela access to Fran's mind, and the few times she delved there, she saw the shadows, indications that Fran knew there was so much more her Mistress could give. According to Fran's training, it was just a matter of proving herself worthy, but Kaela knew the InhServ was more than worthy.
The problem was her Mistress wasn't the proper receptacle for such a generous gift.
Kaela often enjoyed Fran's body when she took blood from her, and she made sure to give the girl pleasure when she did. She was able to do that most successfully when Fran told her "bedtime stories" about her sexual service for past Council functions, describing in detail the creative performances that had been demanded of her and other servants, a part of almost every social vampire gathering.
Fran probably thought what aroused her Mistress so much during those recitations was Kaela imagining herself as one of those vampires, restraining Fran with use of rope, chain, cloth, doling out stinging or thudding punishments against lovely, supple flesh, forcing orgasms that would make her hoarse with her own screaming. But it wasn't the vampire's point of view that captivated Kaela.
Fortunately, Kaela's suggestion that Fran bring her back more "bedtime stories" from her vacation trip made the InhServ's gaze light at the implication. She nodded, though she couldn't conceal the wistful note in h
er voice. "Very well, my lady. You know where I am if you need anything. I am yours."
No you're not, dear girl. But hopefully one day you will belong to someone the way I wish I could, but never will.
Ten days. She was free for ten days. Or she was making the biggest mistake of her life.
At a little after one a.m., Kaela made the transition from the jet in Miami to the puddle jumper that would take her to the Eden resort, located on an island in the Bermuda Triangle. She'd boarded the plane without comment, though the female pilot had looked surprised by her nonchalance, as if used to passengers who were nervous about the dragonfly-sized plane with its bumpy ride and roaring engines.
For her, crashing in a plane meant a long walk through water to get home. A miserable prospect, but certainly nothing to fear.
Kaela embraced the cocoon the loud engine provided. She just wished it could drown out her thoughts. At least she didn't have to converse with the pilot. The absurdly young woman guiding the plane wasn't intrusive, however. She'd picked up on Kaela's unwillingness to chat and matched it with a comfortable silence. With Kaela's enhanced hearing, she could sometimes hear Joely--the pilot--humming to herself. She didn't know the tune, but it was pleasant, a good mesh with the growl of the engine. The girl smelled good as well. Engine oil, soap and cotton. A light perspiration odor, feminine and appealing. Her blood would probably taste like her personality. Complex yet simple, possessed of a lovely humor and grace, with a trace of poignant anguish beneath the surface. A daisy.
Kaela needed to feed, but it wasn't critical yet. She'd been told that need would be amply met when she reached the island. The invitation she'd received weeks ago had promised her a lot of things.
There's no such thing as vampires. That was what most humans believed.
There's no such thing as a vampire submissive. That was what all vampires knew.
The human world thought vampires were a supernatural fantasy that happened in movies and books, because that was what vampires took great measures to ensure the most prolific species on the planet other than insects believed. But whatever species one happened to be, whether unicorn, fairy, vampire or cockroach, one tended to trust one's reality. A vampire could be just as skeptical about magic as a human. The reality was she really shouldn't be on this plane, believing in a fantasy that could get her killed. Or worse.