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Chrysalis - TribulationsBOOK TWO
By M.L. Lacy
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 M. L. Lacy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNovember 2007 - Esmeralda's office at the Council Building
Esmeralda stood at the window in her office looking over the gardens. She watched a tall figure approach. His velvet cloak shimmered in the sunlight and the air he stirred by his quick stride caused it to billow wildly behind him as he approached the steps.
He's early, she thought to herself. Admirable. She noted his broad shoulders, the way he held himself. His stride was purposeful, confident. That's a pleasant change. His blond hair was ruffled by a gust of wind as he reached the top landing and she lost sight of him.
She continued to busy herself in her chamber. She would make him wait until the appointed time. He would learn to follow her schedule. She was in charge and he needed to understand that. Just as Thomas had been made to follow her orders, so would he.
The communication orb on her oak desk pulsed yellow and the young voice of her assistant emanated from it.
"My Lady, Marcus DeLeon has arrived."
She spoke softly, "He's early. Have him wait, offer him some refreshments, but watch him. Tell me if he paces, let me know when he grows restless, then I will see him. He will learn. Oh, and Jonathan, ensure the eyes can see."
The assistant pressed the earpiece he wore as he listened to the instructions, then smiled and addressed the visitor, "Sir, My Lady is attending to Council business at this time and asks you to please be patient; she will be with you shortly. Can I offer you some tea, coffee, or water?"
"Do you know who I am?" the visitor asked casually.
"Yes," the attendant looked a little confused. Had he not just heard him announce his name? "You're our ten-thirty appointment."
Marcus leaned forward, his fists rested on the desk, his gray eyes darkened but his thin lips lined a small smile as he asked, "Do you know what I am?"
The assistant swallowed, "Yes, you're a vampire." Clearly, he did not understand where this line of questioning was headed.
"Then, you know I do not thirst for tea, or coffee, or water."
The confused look on the assistant's face turned to one of recognition, "Of course, how rude of me. Do you prefer it warm or cold?"
"Warm, it is most enjoyable when it's warm." He walked back toward the leather chair, sat and crossed his leg. He drew a case from his vest pocket, extracted a slim cigarillo, and lit it. The white smoke curled lazily upward.
The attendant coughed as he took in a whiff of the smoke when he handed him his precious red liquid. Marcus took another draw on the cigarillo; a smug smile lined his lips. "Does this bother you?"
"No," he spoke through another cough, "not in the least." The attendant went back to his desk. Very indiscreetly, he moved the crystal dragon that sat on the corner of his desk, ensuring the eyes were facing Marcus. He took his seat and resumed his work, but kept his senses trained on him.
* * *
Esmeralda sat at her computer. With a few keystrokes, the eyes of the dragon gave her a clear view of her outer lobby and her guest.
She watched him as he sat patiently. He held his drink in his left hand. Slowly, he swirled the remaining portion of the precious red liquid in the crystal glass before he downed it in one large swallow. He licked his lips, not allowing any of the drink to go to waste.
His relaxed manner made her uneasy.
Smug, I don't know if I like that. He'll be a challenge. However, I do enjoy a good challenge. Turn this way, I want to see your eyes, she coaxed.
She knew he couldn't hear her, but she coaxed him just the same. And he turned and stared straight at the dragon for her to see his eyes, his dark gray eyes, and they were not happy.
She pushed back from her desk, unnerved by his action.
Just my imagination, he cannot possibly know I am watching him, but those are strong eyes. He will complete his mission; oh yes, he will end her life.
This bit of knowledge began to excite her. She allowed a smile to light her face as she smoothed her hair, straightened her robes, and moistened her lips. Now she was ready to see him. She spoke into the orb, "Jonathan, I am available now. Please, show our guest in."
* * *
Esmeralda sat behind her desk shuffling her papers, putting them into neat piles. She looked up and smiled, "Marcus." She stood and extended her hand as she moved to greet him. "I'm so pleased you came. Sorry you had to wait, Council business ... you understand."
Marcus said nothing. He accepted her hand with a bow and a quick kiss to the ring on her finger, then stood straight and waited for her to sit before he took his seat in front of her.
"I have gone over your proposal. Everything is in order and I would like to offer the mission to you starting in December. Do you have any objections?" she asked as she met his eyes with a sweet smile.
"I thought you wanted this done now. Why December? I can have this over in a week's time. She is a mere mortal; this should have been handled easily some time ago. I'm not a patient person when there is a job that needs to be done. I have others wanting my time."
"Thomas has been with me a long time. He has assured me he will finish the job. But, I'm tired of waiting. I will only give him one more month and then the task will be yours. I want the child gone before year's end. I have thrown in a bonus," she spoke her words without looking at him.
"A bonus? And what would that be?" His eyes narrowed on her, he knew the contract mentioned nothing of a bonus.
She looked casually around the room, letting her eyes fall on him before she spoke, "Thomas has until the end of this month to bring me the child. If he does not, you will bring me Thomas and I will take his heart, among other things. I will torture him," she said dryly as she looked hard at him. "I will torture him not you. I want him to know how much he has displeased me. I want you to bring me the child, and I prefer her alive. I want him to watch me cut her heart out, before I take his life. Thomas is your bonus. You may even take his clan, all of them. I'm sure you will find his females desirable."
"Why would I want his females? I have my own."
"Then do with them as you want. I don't care, but I want his clan destroyed."
"That will cost you more," he informed her. "My contract with you was for the girl."
"I will double your price. Now, do we have a deal?"
He sat relaxed. He rubbed his right thumb and index finger together as he held her gaze. His eyes pierced hers as he tried to read the deep thoughts she held close.
"I know a great deal about Thomas. He's a strong male, a formidable opponent. Surely there is a reason why this has dragged on as long as it has."
She studied his face. His jaw muscles were relaxed; his square chin gave him a strong appearance. His eyes were fixed on her, and they were still angry. His sandy blond hair looked soft and thick. I'd love to feel how soft it really is. His lips were thin and smooth and she suspected very soft. His kisses, she could only assume, would be intense and very pleasurable. Yes, I shall know those lips. I shall know his passion.
Her eyes softened on him before she spoke, "Thomas ..." she stopped to choose her words carefully, "the child has an uncanny way of softening the hearts of those around her. Thomas was no exception. He's just like any other man that has watched over his prey for so very long. It's my fault actually. I allowed it to continue. I thought him stronger, but I was wrong and she was able to use her magic to gain his love. Oh, be sure, she has bewitched him as she does with all her men but he has assured me he will succeed." She gave him the sweetest 'pity me' smile she could muster. "However, like I said, he has been with me for a very long time and I have a want for him to succeed. I want Thomas back in the fold," she pouted. Her pout turned to a wicked smile while her violet eyes took a menacing hold over him and suddenly her voice switched to anger. "I want this deed done by year's end. My patience has run thin. I want it over and you will not mention the 'bonus' portion of our contract to anyone."
"Thirty-two years was a long time to wait," his eyes narrowed into slits, there was more to her explanation than she offered. "You have nothing to fear, the child will not soften my resolve," he tipped his head as he spoke. "And if Thomas should succeed in killing her, what of my payment?"
"You will be paid either way. As long as she dies, I am happy and I will pay for the happiness it brings me. I can be very generous when I'm in a good mood." She continued to smile her wicked smile, "And you do want me happy, I can assure you."
She took a pen from the top drawer of her desk and started to sign the contract, but stopped for his assurance, "Do we have a deal?" With a simple nod of his head, she signed her name to the bottom of both contracts - sealing Bree's fate ... as well as Thomas'.
Ft Worth, TX - November 2007
Bree's three-story home sat far back off the main road. Tall trees lined the sides of the long gravel lane that wound its way toward the circular driveway in front of the massive home.
The wide porch wrapped around the house. From one side it expanded into a large deck in the back, and the other side stopped at the garage. Rocking chairs and swings lined the porch to make several comfortable sitting areas. Flower baskets hung from the rails and all were in need of a little attention. The summer plants were done and winter color was needed to replace them.
The deck extended the complete width of the back of the house making it large enough to hold five large picnic tables. Umbrellas were anchored to the hard wood tables to keep them from being launched in the Texas winds. Lounge chairs, rockers, and wicker chairs were placed all around affording ample seating for Bree's growing clan.
Large rock boulders sat at the base of her home. Texas limestone intermixed with granite, river rock, and heavy, dark wood gave the structure the sturdiness the frame needed to bear the weight of such a big home. Solar panels were placed inconspicuously on the roof to supply all the power, heating and cooling.
A large entryway supported a very rustic chandelier. An oval mirror was on one wall and a matching sized oil painting of a field of Texas bluebonnets hung on the other. Hardwood floors, polished to a glossy sheen, led the way to the wide staircase that seemed to vanish into the ceiling. This, along with the kitchen and upstairs guest bedroom had been the extent of Bree's decorating choices for her rustic home. Nick, her ex-husband, insisted the decor be Victorian, and when Nick insisted on something, Bree had learned the hard way to let him have his way.
The rooms of the home were huge. The two guest bedrooms on the first floor had their own baths as did the four guest bedrooms on the second floor and the master bedroom took the entire length of one side of the second floor. The third floor was one long entertainment room, complete with theater, pool tables, an old rustic bar, and game machines. It was entirely too large a home for two people and Bree was at a loss to explain why her grandmother was very insistent on her buying this home when she married Nick, and why she now needed to hang on to it. At one time, Bree was able to imagine it filled with children, her own and those of her cousins. Unfortunately due to her 'accident' in early February, Bree's children will never come.
* * *
The sun was bright and warm, the winds were calm this day, but two rockers on the front porch moved very slowly. Two fine mist forms, sat in the rockers.
"She'd be home soon, Winston." The words floated from his lips on a breath of air. His tall wispy frame melted into the chair. He still sported the scratchy beard he'd had at the time of his death. His weatherworn cowboy hat still sat atop his head and he still chewed on his favorite pipe, the tobacco long gone now. "I'd hoped they was successful, gettin' those two back together," he spoke in a lazy tone. "She needs watchin', takin' care of. We kin only do so much, sittin here. Can't hold nothin', can't stop nothin'." His gaze kept watch along the tree line - alert to anything that moved out of the woods that shouldn't.
"I know, Jake, I know. Their eyes can't see what we see. They'll be back and he'll be with her and so will the clan. They will keep her safe. I so miss my granddaughter, it'll be good to see her smile again," Winston's words came with such longing.
In life, he'd been a tall man with broad shoulders and large hands, strong facial features. In death, he'd remained the same, but the strength was gone from his arms and hands. He couldn't grab and hold. If he could, he would have choked the life out of Nick a long time ago, but his hands had passed right through him each time he'd tried to stop him from striking Bree. He could taste the hate he had for Nick. It was the only taste he remembered from his life and he knew it well. His anger whipped the small amount of wind into a fury.
"Winston, calm yu'er self. I know you're thinkin 'bout the boy again. Ain't nothin' you kin do, what's done is done. Let the dead lay still," Jake advised as he took a drag from the tobacco-less pipe.
"That's just it - he's not dead. I wish to the heavens he was. If I had been alive, he never would have gotten to her. She would have married Steven a long time ago. I'd be damned if we would have succumbed to their demands. My granddaughter, she's a stubborn one. Hell, you would have thought she had my blood as stubborn as she is." He smiled at his memories of watching her through his misty eyes as she grew into a beautiful young woman.
"All in time. Once she comes home, she'll do us right. The spell will lift and then we kin talk with the livin'. You kin talk to yer granddaughter. Say yer 'goodbye' to yer woman and we kin move on. Mill's suffer'd long 'nough, time to let 'er go."
"Millie," he smiled her name. "Ah, that she has. She needed me though, and I couldn't help. Thankfully, we had strong grandsons; they have been a blessing. Millie needed them and they have never let her down. My two sons grew weak, fearful. Never thought I'd see the day," he laughed his haunting laugh. "Time we made the rounds, I think I saw a dark mist slithering around the creek last night. Their presence is becoming more apparent. Her clan will need to stay vigilant."
Jake and Winston floated on the breeze, guiding their wispy forms toward the woods and out of sight.
* * *
The rockers settled as the stillness grew. A dark shadow rounded the corner of the home, looking for a small crack in the foundation to melt into. Finding nothing, it moved back toward the woods and out of sight.
Late night at the Royal Castle - November 2007
Esmeralda sat in the dimly lit room of the gathering hall, waiting for her companion to join her. She sipped her drink, letting the liquor warm her throat, quieting her anger. He was late and that was one thing she couldn't accept. Punctuality was important to her and if there wasn't a satisfying reason for his lateness, he would pay dearly.
The hour was indeed late when the doors opened. Thomas entered quietly, his cloak draped over his arm. His eyes stayed with her the entire time as he lifted his wrap to the cloak hook.
His long coal black hair shimmered as the low light caught it. His face remained placid as he walked to the bar; filled his glass with ice and poured the whiskey. He quickly drank the first glass of the amber liquid then poured himself another.
His footsteps were quiet as he approached her. His fingertips raised her chin so he could look into her eyes.
"Are you upset with me Essie?"
"You're late. I don't like being kept waiting, and Thomas you have kept me waiting. I do hope you have a good reason."
"Is doing my job reason enough?" he asked softly, trying to soothe her ruffled feathers.
"It is if you have something to tell me. Do you have something to tell me Thomas? Does the child live?" She laughed as she stood and pushed by him, "Of course she still lives. Why would I think any differently?" She was resigned to those words. She refilled her drink and leaned against the bar, watching him.
He suppressed a grin, "Essie, these things take time. You want it done right, don't you? You don't want to be suspected of killing her, do you? Everyone knows your..." he paused, grinned his sexy grin, "dislike for her. You made your feelings quite clear in Vegas. If you remember, I counseled you on that." He swirled the amber liquid in his glass. "I told you not to have her appear before the Council, but you did not heed my warning and now I have to tread lightly. I have to keep the fingers pointing away from you." He took a drink of his whiskey; his eyes never left her.
She studied him for a long moment before she spoke, "So what is your plan?"
"I have had them followed, the clan has returned home. The protection her family had placed on her home is still solid. We can't enter without being invited, and her clan will never leave her by herself. We must wait for them to slip. She's engaged to Steven now," he knew that would bring anger to those violet eyes of hers and he was finding pleasure in that.
"That union must not take place, do you hear me? I want her dead, and I don't care if fingers point at me," she spewed.
Excerpted from Chrysalis - Tribulations by M.L. Lacy Copyright © 2010 by M. L. Lacy. Excerpted by permission.
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