Under his claw, p.1

Under His Claw, page 1

 

Under His Claw
 


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Under His Claw


  Under His Claw

  Viola Grace

  Traded for a blood debt, in service to a vampire, and loaned to a shifter, Zora never thought to find pleasure…

  Zora has always felt the stigma of being born to a family tainted by vampire blood. That family legacy becomes vividly real when her great-great grandfather tracks her down and trades her for a blood debt owed to the local vampire king. Zora finds a way to use her particular skill set in the vampire court and her first week goes well, until the vampire king decides she needs the comfort of a warm shifter next to her at night.

  Dragon shifter Rigeck has come to see the woman his friend wants him to heat up. The shy miss surrounded by salivating potential suitors is just what he’s been looking for. Her blood will confirm if his instincts are correct. But first, he’ll taste the rest of her, for his own entertainment.

  Will their one night together be enough to keep him from taking her to his lair, or will instinct win the day?

  eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement of the copyright of this work.

  UNDER HIS CLAW

  Alpha Series

  Copyright © 2015 VIOLA GRACE

  ISBN: 978-1-936387-84-7

  All Romance eBooks, LLC Palm Harbor, Florida 34684 www.allromanceebooks.com

  This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events, or locales is coincidental.

  All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever with out written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  First All Romance eBooks publication: February 2015

  Chapter One

  Lela felt a sense of unease as the door opened. Cool night air cascaded through the hall until it crept up her skirt.

  “Lela? My love? Are you up?”

  Relief flickered through her as she heard her husband’s voice. “I am in the morning room, Fonso.”

  She looked toward the door, and he was illuminated by the flames in the fireplace. She could smell the alcohol on him, and his staggered steps made her sigh in resignation. Married only three months, he still sought out the local tavern more than he did her bed.

  “I need you now, love.”

  She doubted he would be capable, but she put her sewing aside and rose to her feet. “Come to bed.”

  He moved with incredible speed. “No. Now.”

  Lela squeaked in surprise as he pinned her to the wall near the fireplace. His hand clawed at her skirt and he forced himself past her resistance, pounding against her in a fever of motion.

  Lela ignored the discomfort and tried to sooth her husband by stroking his head and neck as he thrust into her. Instead of the heat which normally filled his body with each rock of his hips, he was getting colder.

  The scent of blood filled the air, and it was not from his rough treatment of her; she saw the slow flow pumping out of the two puncture marks in his neck.

  He looked at her, and she saw the red flames flickering in his eyes. “One last time, Lela.”

  He shuddered and arched against her, throwing his head back and showing his newly lengthened teeth.

  Tears in her eyes streaked down her cheeks as she drew back her hand and snapped his head back. He dropped like a stone and she scrambled free of him, his seed trailing down her thighs under her skirt, cold and icy.

  Lela flipped her sewing chair and pulled out the two silver blades her mother had gifted her with on her wedding day. In no nightmare had Lela ever imagined using them against her husband.

  “Lela, Lela, my dear gypsy bride. You don’t think I married you to have your blood mix with mine in my children, now did you? You were always destined for sacrifice.”

  She held the blades down at her sides in the folds of her skirts and watched him straighten his head and stand up with an unnatural motion.

  “Why then?”

  He turned toward her, his golden hair ruffled and his amber eyes glowing with red fire where his soul should have been. “Ah, gypsy blood is strong. The best thing for one of my kind to start their new life on is gypsy blood.”

  “I am your wife.”

  “And yet another reason you have to die, Lela. The wedding was only to keep you with me while I waited for my master to consummate the change. I cannot be a rising vampire with a living relative. Not in today’s age of vampire politics where everyone watches for weakness. I am afraid your bloodless body will be thrown from the parapet. Your awkward life as a filthy gypsy amongst good people will have become too much for you and no one will mourn.” He stepped toward her in a rush.

  When he caught her in his arms, two blades stopped him. He staggered back and she cut his face, slicing her fear and devastation into his flesh.

  She kept cutting, working at him until he was on the floor in a quivering heap. “You never could stand to go up against a prepared opponent. You will leave me alone and I will sign an annulment. We have no children and the local priest is carrying it with him. It will be done before I leave town, but do not think you can ever take my blood.”

  The handsome man that had swept her off her feet lay there hissing and twisting as his skin reformed with red welts where the silver had burned him. She pressed the heel of her boot into his palm and stripped off the wedding band that her family had offered him.

  “Tell me now that you will never seek out me and mine and I will give you what you need.”

  He blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?”

  “To gain your position, to fix your change, you need to consume gypsy blood. I will give you what you need and leave it in a goblet next to the fire. What you tell your sire is up to you.”

  “You would do that for me?”

  “I would do it to cut ties between us. Swear it. You will never come after me or mine.”

  “I will never come after you or yours.”

  She nodded and sliced him a few more times, running to their chamber to gather what she could. Jewels, clothing and a set of pistols were tucked away before she returned to the morning room where he was staggering to his feet.

  Lela set a goblet down and sliced her left palm, bleeding into the cup until it was full. She bound her wound and faced Alfonso’s hungry expression. “Take it and never speak my name again.”

  He dove for the cup. She escaped the house through the underground tunnels; the sire would have put watchers on their house.

  The sudden flare and flicker of light behind her told her what she needed to know. Her home was gone and he was hiding the fact that she was not.

  The flames made her smile through the tears of disappointment. She had imagined a life with him, a family, and he had only wanted her as a sacrifice. Lela looked around at the empty marshlands and closed her eyes, finding her family. They would not take her in as a member now that she had broken with them, but they would protect her and let her live on the outskirts of their caravan.

  She would start her life anew as a pariah, but she would be alive.

  ****

  One hundred and twenty-four years later…

  Zora shivered in the rain and looked up and down the open street before she crossed. She always tried to get home before sunset, even though the dark siders were supposed to abide by the standard daylight laws. There was always a look in their eyes that said they might not feel like playing by the rules for a night.

  She walked down the street with her head bowed as she tried to avoid getting soaked, even though she was fairly sure she couldn’t get any wetter.

  She sidestepped an oncoming woman with brilliant green eyes and didn’t look over her shoulder to continue trying to figure out what she was. The feel of the g
aze on her spine let her know it was some sort of predator.

  Getting to her building didn’t make things any easier. A hunched shadow sat near the door, and she opened the outer door with a practiced twist, turning to pull it closed behind her.

  Zora climbed the three floors and wished for enough money to be able to afford a building with an elevator. She opened her door and closed it, latching all nine locks, one at a time.

  There was no dignity to squelching across her tile floor and stripping in the bathroom, but the hot shower felt amazing.

  An hour later, she was sitting in a long-sleeved jersey dress with a glass of wine and the wreckage of her dinner next to her. She flipped through the channels and was just settling in for a Friday of investigative television when a knock sounded at her door.

  Zora looked over at the door with irritation. “Who is it?”

  The knock sounded again.

  Zora pulled a shawl around her shoulders to hide the fact that underwear had not been on the evening’s agenda, crossed the room and looked through the peephole. A pair of red eyes stared back at her.

  “Tsura Charani Maloney?”

  Zora stepped back, away from the door. No one called her Tsura. No one was supposed to know the name. She was Zora Charity Maloney on all of her legal documentation.

  The door rattled in the frame and Zora ran to get her great-great-grandmother’s blades. Cutting a vampire went against everything she had inherited, but it was her only chance.

  She held up the knives her great-great-grandmother had used to fend off her husband, and she backed up against the wall. Her confidence that a vampire couldn’t come into her home without her permission was shattered when the door burst in.

  He was tall, lean and elegant, but it was her resemblance to the face she saw in the mirror which filled her with horror. The scars on his face sealed the resemblance to her ancestor. “That’s impossible.”

  “Why? I am your blood, darling, and you are mine. It is about to make me a very happy man.” He rushed her and before she could get her knives up, he had clamped a hand over her mouth and nose, making soothing sounds as her lungs screamed and her world went black.

  Chapter Two

  She was being carried, and her senses were vibrating with the nearness of a gathering of vampires. For over two decades, Zora had fought what her senses were telling her, but now, there was no choice. She was in danger and her life was about to take a sudden shift.

  Zora opened her eyes just enough to see and looked at the elegantly dressed men and women around her. She tried to keep her breathing calm, but her heart was pounding in a staccato beat.

  “Easy, child. This will be over shortly. We have to wait our turn.”

  She whispered as softly as she could. “How did you find out about me?”

  He chuckled. “The Internet is an amazing thing. Genealogy websites are just fascinating.”

  She winced at the thought that one of her distant cousins had plugged her name into a display for everyone to see she was related to this monster.

  He stepped forward and she took in the line he appeared to be in. A deep, booming voice was speaking and a lighter voice was pleading. There was a whistling sound and a thwack, and then all was silent until the deep voice spoke again.

  They were moving up a very disturbing line.

  The woman in front of them asked for, and was granted, a larger territory to look for humans who wished to act as food. She went away quite happy.

  The room went completely silent when her great-great-grandfather stepped forward.

  “Alfonso, you have come to pay what is due to me?” The deep voice was raspy, but it carried throughout the room.

  “Your majesty, I have brought you what is due to you. My blood.”

  Zora was set on her feet and she straightened her shawl before looking at the man in front of her crafted of ivory and obsidian with ruby eyes.

  “I will rip you apart for lying, Alfonso.” The words fell as casually as if he was discussion fashion.

  Alfonso shoved her forward. “Taste her, your majesty. She is of my blood. My spawn.”

  Zora stumbled and caught herself inches from the creature radiating power.

  A long and elegant hand reached out, lifting her chin to force her to face the ruby red gaze. She flinched when the weight of the vampire’s mind pressed against hers. She fought back memories of being chased by the blood drinkers who nearly killed her mother, but he lifted them one by one and examined them. Her secret was laid bare to him, and he laughed.

  The fingers held her up under her chin, and her captor looked to her ancestor. “She is an acceptable alternative, but you will leave my territory tonight and never return.”

  Alfonso sounded frantic, “Your majesty!”

  She was released, and she fought the urge to step back as the vampire king rose to his feet. His voice was a dark whisper. “Go, now, before I keep her and take the blood I was promised.”

  Zora heard scuttling behind her, and at a nod, a woman came to her side and led her out of the audience chamber. Zora didn’t know where she was going, but she had no interest in remaining in the room. Anything different was preferable.

  The room she was settled in was far quieter and only had two other vampires in it. The woman smiled gently, “His majesty will be with you in a moment. He is finishing up the petitions.”

  “Which vampire king is it? I am not even sure what city I am in.”

  “His majesty’s name is Olvadi, though you are not to speak it. Address him as ‘your majesty’ or ‘your lordship’. You are in the shadow city of Arbor.”

  She sighed. She was only two cities away from home. “When can I leave?”

  The woman blinked. Her red and blue eyes were surprised. “You are not leaving. You have been traded to his lordship to save your ancestor’s life. You belong to the crown now, in whatever capacity he chooses to employ you.”

  Zora shook her head. “It is impossible. I am a free human with my own life and a job and everything. I can’t be stuck here.”

  She stood up, and the woman placed her hand on her shoulder and forced her back onto the settee.

  “By the laws of the dayside government and the nightsiders, you can be used to pay for the debts of your family members. There is a little-known amendment that makes it so.”

  Zora gritted her teeth. “I want to see it.”

  A blur of motion heralded the king’s arrival.

  “And so you shall. If your abilities are real and not the fevered imaginings of a young woman, you shall be given a place at my side and a revered post in my cabinet.”

  Zora flinched as he removed his shirt, exposing burned-in crosses and scars left by consecrated silver. “What if it doesn’t work?”

  He shrugged and sat on an ottoman near her. “Then, I will take the blood promised by Alfonso. He is right; you are of his line.”

  She flexed her hands nervously. “What now?”

  He gave her a smile that showed a lot of teeth. “Now, you heal at least one of these marks, and if you are successful, I let you live. If not, Octavia is standing by.”

  Zora looked at the ivory skin and the deep pitting of a holy-water wound. “I will need a knife and a towel, and some gauze and bandages for afterward.”

  He chuckled. “For you or me?”

  “The towel is for you.” She tried to stop her hands from shaking. “I will need everything else.”

  He nodded slightly and one of the men disappeared, reappearing in a minute with all the items.

  Zora was a little disturbed at how easily accessible the first-aid kit was, but she put it aside and laid everything else out next to her. “Did you see how this works?”

  “I did. It seems fascinatingly implausible.”

  She licked her lips and looked him in the eyes. “Did you see what happens if you drink from me?”

  “If you can do what you promise, it will not be an issue. No one will drink from you under my protection.” His words hun
g in the air, and his inner circle seemed to absorb them.

  “Do you want privacy for this? It will be painful. The same pain which caused the wound will be woken when I heal it.”

  He looked around. “This is privacy. I am never without at least three guards.”

  Zora lifted the knife and opened it, feeling everyone in the room tense. The blade clicked into position easily and it appeared wickedly sharp. She lifted her hand and pressed the blade to her skin until it parted. When blood flowed, she lifted the knife and scored her skin again. When her palm was filled, she looked toward her patient and pressed the blood to the ancient wound.

  His muscles stiffened and he gritted his teeth as her blood bonded to his skin, crept under it and forced the damage up and out.

  Zora kept her hand on him and she whispered, “The towel please, in my right hand.”

  She dropped the knife and Octavia handed her the towel, a horrified expression on her face.

  Zora blotted up the blood and the water which came out of his skin; she held on until she felt the whole flesh beneath her hand. With a gasp, she pulled away and wiped his chest, exposing the new, whole skin where the jagged pit had been.

  Her hands shook as she worked to clean the cuts. She healed quickly, but having an open wound was never a good idea. The first-aid kit contained a series of wipes, and she used them to clean up.

  Her patient was stroking his chest, marveling at the segment that was now unblemished. Vampires were vain, and the marks left by torture early in their nightlives were irritating in the extreme. Her peculiar ability to heal vampires had manifested when she was five, and it had disrupted her life from then on out.

  Zora was wrapping her hand with gauze, fastening the pad down, when two large pale hands took over and the vampire king finished wrapping her wound. He made it snug but not tight, and she blinked in surprise at the scent coming off his hair. He smelled like open prairie, which was not a smell she associated with vampires.

  When he taped it in place, he patted it lightly before turning the burning ruby gaze on her once again. “How long until you can do it again?”

 
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