Gypsy Spells, Gypsy Bells

By

Charlene Leonard
ADVANCED READER COPY : DISCLAIMER This Advance Reader Copy is the property of Charlene Leonard. The Advance Reader Copy may not be sold, rented, loaned, or copied. This is an uncorrected copy and may differ slightly from the final published novel, which will be available from Triskelion Publishing in June 2005 Charlene Leonard. A threefold cord is not quickly broken, So the very Word of God has spoken. Purest love of a child is the heavenly token. To undo what destiny has so evilly bespoken. By his unfaithfulness his whole life has been wroken. He is not alive but wishes to be woken. Brothers Grimm there need be three. Three alpha males in the same family tree. To lift the curse and be set free. Another must be added to the melee. A gypsy child wild and free. One who was conjured from spells for thee. Still in the pit after three hundred years of time. Needful is the bringing together of the rhyme. Brothers three, destiny and the undead must struggle and climb. To finally break the curse while it is still in its prime. A broken heart did make this generational curse a crime. But a child’s mercy can move gypsy bells to chime.

Prologue
Ten years earlier - Rafe Anna Portwood crushed the foul smelling berries and stirred the liquid from them with the delicate twig of a cottonwood tree. Soon she would add them to the potion cooking on the stove but not until the stroke of midnight. She glanced out the window of her small house at the full moon. Tonight it was time. If there were a werewolf within two hundred miles of her, she would have her mate this very night. She’d been a long time without a mate for protection. So as was the gypsy custom, when there was a great need, she was drawing one to her. She added her lock of hair and nail clippings. Everything was prepared all she needed to do was add the berry mixture at the right time. She couldn’t help but be a little nervous but she was determined this was the way it had to be. If she didn’t draw a werewolf tonight she would have to wait until the next full moon to try again. She couldn’t wait that long. She was in danger the longer she put it off. At midnight Anna stirred in the berries and recited the mating poetry just as she was supposed to. Again she stirred it with the cottonwood twig, this time for exactly one hundred strokes, no more no less. When she was done she went to the window to watch and wait. It was nearly three o’clock when she saw him. He came as a wolf, sniffing the ground until he realized it was the house he needed to enter. Then he rose up on his strong back haunches and became that most hideous of creatures, the werewolf. A hairy creature being neither man nor wolf but deadly with long yellow teeth and extended claws. He was huge this silver gray wolf and his eyes glowed. Not just a wolf but an alpha wolf. She was amazed as another pair of glowing eyes appeared a little further in to the woods. Two alpha males! Anna quickly turned off the heat on the stove and covered the potion. Then she put it in the

refrigerator to even further block the smell. She didn’t need to draw any more. One was all she needed. She needed his strength. Two, she hadn’t counted on. She quickly chanted the words for the ending of the spell. She heard the fight erupt outside the door, close to the house, two powerful werewolf males fighting to be the only one, the supreme one. The snapping and snarling frightened her as they fought with teeth and paws. Anna covered her ears. She didn’t mean for this to happen. She only needed one to come and two had come. When it finally got quiet outside she ventured to the window just in time to see a naked man lying on the ground. His body burst in to flame. She knew he was dead. The bigger, stronger werewolf had killed him. On the ground not far away lay the other; he had turned back in to a man. It could only mean he was mortally wounded. Oh God no. She had to try and save him or all her work would be for naught. Anna threw open the door and saw the nasty looking, bloody bites to his neck and shoulder. He was nude and his powerful body shown in the moonlight for the well-toned man he was. She saw his eyes open. Good, this was a good sign. It was her scent bringing him around. He could barely sit up on his own. If she could get him in to the house she could tend him. “Yes. Come to me.” She told him softly. She didn’t want to startle him and she didn’t want him to get his hands on her until she was ready. He could easily tear her apart. “Come.” She stepped back towards the house. “Follow me inside.” He finally made it to his feet and followed her inside the house. That was good. He might not die after all. “This way.” She instructed him. The door stood open behind him. There was nothing she could do about that now. She prayed no other dreadful creature would enter her habitat as she continued to coax him to the bedroom. She glanced down to his sex. He had a raging hard on. The mating drive was consuming him. She had to hurry because injured or not he could still hurt her in his mindless lust. Once inside under the bright lights Anna gasped. This was a very attractive man despite the dirt and grime she could see all over his body. He had dark golden brown hair and his eyes were a light golden brown. He had rugged features and a strong square jaw. She could hardly believe her luck. Once she had mated with him ending his mating madness he would be her mate for life. It was the way of the werewolves. He staggered, leaning against the hall wall for support and finally made it in to her bedroom where she stood waiting for him behind the bed. Her heart beat thunderously in her chest. This would be the tricky part because she had nowhere to go if this failed. Anna felt the cold iron in her hands as he leaned across the bed and prepared to crawl across it on hands and knees to get to her despite his injuries. When he was finally where she could reach him she lunged towards him to throw him off balance. She hit him with all of her weight. He rolled in response, his hands coming to wrap around her at the same time. Anna quickly clamped the chains to his wrist. One wrist was secure. He bellowed, an awful horrible sound and began to fight her. She did not have his strength so she used her only other weapon. Anna hit him hard in his wound. It stopped him long enough for her to quickly add the other clamp to his bare wrist. She realized if he had not been wounded her plan would have woefully failed. She felt horribly guilty when she realized that the pain had made him pass out and she looked at his bright red blood covering her clothes and hands now. She grabbed for the neck clamp and quickly lifted his head and put it around his neck. If he changed back to the wolf now he would suffocate. This was the only way she could control him. She did not have his strength and she was not part wolf. She prayed she could satisfy this man and that he wouldn’t be disappointed in her for a mate. She was but a gypsy’s child. Anna swung around and chained his legs. Only when he was totally secure did she leave to go find bandages and medicines. She had a door to close. It had stood open too long. An open door was an invitation to some creatures. He was awake and thrashing against his chains and bonds when she returned to the room. He

quieted somewhat when he saw her but his eyes were beginning to glow. She knew he couldn’t communicate with her, not until the mating madness for him passed but she talked to him anyway. She had to make him understand. She had induced his mating season to begin with and she alone called him back from wolf to man. If they didn’t mate he would remain a mindless wolf for the rest of his days. Anna knew all about the werewolf curse. She also knew what had to be done so as not to stunt his powers. With the mating came a special ability. Anna knew she must make sure that his every sexual need was met promptly or his power would be stunted and she didn’t want that. “I am not going to hurt you. I want to help you. Whatever you do, do not change into the wolf. Fight against it. You will strangle yourself to death for I will not turn you loose.” He growled deep in his chest but his eyes stopped glowing. Anna looked down upon him again. He was so breathtakingly handsome despite the tightness to his face and the sweat breaking out on his body. She looked at his golden hair covered chest and down to his sex. He was hard and ready. He tried to reach for her again but could not grab a hold of her with the chains binding him. “I know.” She told him softly. “I know. Just a few minutes more and then we will get started.” Anna sat down on the bed and she heard him sniffing the air around her. He was transfixed by her scent. She used soap and water to clean his wounds and then smeared a generous helping of antibiotic cream on them before covering them with the bandages to stop the flow of blood. It was no easy feat considering the way he was jerking and fighting against his bonds. His eyes began to glow again. “No. Don’t do that, you will only hurt yourself. I know what you need. I know everything that has to be done.” Anna took off her slacks and panties and watched as he began to buck wildly all over again. If she didn’t hurry he would change. He wouldn’t be able to help himself. Anna climbed over him and straddled him. He thrust against air until she could lower herself over him. She grasped his dick and held it while she adjusted herself to his thickness and length. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been with men before but he was an exceptionally large man. He thrust to meet her and pushed himself into her. Anna did nothing but ride him and try to keep from getting bucked off until he finally came. But there was no reprieve, as he grew large inside her again. He was definitely an alpha male. He opened his eyes but there was little he could see in the darkness. When he tried to move he felt the cold iron bands around his wrists and legs. There was even one around his neck. What the hell? Where was he? What had happened? Was he a prisoner of some sort? He felt the warmth of a soft body lying next to his side. He couldn’t move his head to look down. Was it female? Male? He felt extremely disoriented. He knew he was nude. “Are you awake now?” A soft female voice asked him. A female voice, thank heaven. “Who are you? What happened? Why am I bound like this?” He felt her sit up and then a lamp came on. He could see her now. She was lovely, a dark haired enchantress. She moved away and he barely had time to glimpse her nudity before she grabbed a robe off a chair and slipped her arms in to it. Then she lashed it closed with the belt. Too bad, he enjoyed the tantalizing glimpse he saw. “Do you remember anything of what happened?” Anna asked him. She couldn’t believe her good fortune that he didn’t remember much. It would make things easier for her at first. In time he would surely remember everything. It stunned him for a moment that he couldn’t. He couldn’t remember anything before waking up. Not even his own name. He felt horribly on the edge of panic. It was as if a vast void loomed before him. “No.” “Do you remember your name?” He gritted his teeth as he watched her soft chocolate colored brown eyes scan lightly over his body. “No. Will you turn me loose?” She nodded her head yes and he felt immeasurably better. “My name is Anna Portwood.”

“Anna Portwood. It doesn’t ring a bell.” “I’m your wife.” He couldn’t help but notice her nervousness. “My wife?” He frowned. He was married and had a wife? Why couldn’t he remember any of this? “You’ve been out of your head for a while.” “How long? What happened?” He had so many questions and she was the only one who could answer them. “Two days.” She answered him. “Two long days you’ve been ill.” She drew closer and once again he was stirred by her loveliness. She practically glowed. He had great taste in wives. “You won’t hurt me if I turn you loose now?” He frowned. “Why would I hurt you?” She looked nervous again. “You’ve been out of your head. You got a little violent. It is why I restrained you.” “Sorry.” He didn’t know what to say. “I don’t remember that. I won’t hurt you.” She nodded and turned a bolt on the band of one wrist. If he had light earlier he could have seen that he might have been able to undo his own bands. She did them for him. She took the one off his neck and he realized how sore he was underneath and rubbed his neck. “I’ve got medicine for that.” She told him and he noticed the concern in her eyes. A wife would be concerned wouldn’t she? “Why can’t I remember anything?” “I don’t know.” She looked thoughtful and grabbed a tube of medicine from the nightstand and gently began to rub some on his neck. Her touch was gentle and he leaned in to it just a little to get closer to the woman. “What’s my name?” Her lovely brown eyes jerked up to look at his face. She took a long time to answer him. “Russell.” She finally said. “Russell Portwood?” It didn’t ring a bell with him either. “You must be hungry.” He was, he realized, he really was. He sat up and she stood up quickly, as if she was scared of him. “I won’t hurt you.” He told her again. He didn’t know what happened but he knew he wasn’t a violent man. He must have really been ill and out of his head if he tried to hurt his beautiful wife. She was stunning in a classical kind of way. Her face was a soft oval shape and her nose was pert and pleasant being neither too large nor too small. Her lips were wide and plump, plump for kissing. “I am really sorry I don’t think I would hurt you for anything in the world.” He stared at her lips. Oh yes, he would love to kiss her. “Where are my clothes? How long have we been married?” He had so many questions and his head ached. He realized suddenly that he had bandages on his shoulder not just on his neck. “Not long.” She answered him. “Your clothes are in this dresser over here.” She walked to a lowboy dresser and he followed her. Nothing looked familiar to him. “How did I get hurt?” He tested his arm and shoulder. It was sore but he had good mobility. “You tangled with a wolf.” Anna told him honestly. “An honest to goodness wolf?” “A wolf.” “I suppose I got an infection and that’s why I have been so ill. Bacteria and all.” Anna nodded her agreement and thought it was as good an explanation as she could give him for now until he started remembering things on his own. She hated lying. Let him believe he was her husband for now. She needed him. It was why she called him after all. He was truly her mate now anyway. It was the way of the werewolf. She knew because her husband had been a werewolf and she learned everything about the curse from him.

“I will be in the kitchen, come in when you are dressed. I’ll see about getting some food prepared.” She thanked her lucky stars she had kept her deceased husband’s clothes and they were close enough in size they should fit him. Things were going exceptionally well. He was pleasant to look upon and he would be strong, strong enough to keep the vampire away.

Chapter One
Jace Jace and Royce Dominga were driving up to the house in the jeep. They could see the rambling two story off in the distance, every light ablaze. It stood out like a beacon in the night. It was a large house and in truth was considered a mansion with its three wings. It had been in the family for generations. “I am so glad you got an earlier flight so you could make the party.” Royce told his older brother Jace. Older ha, by two minutes. “You know how these fundraisers bore me.” Jace laughed. “Everything bores you. How are things at the ranch?” “We survived without your leadership.” Royce joked. They both worked equally hard and they knew it. “This fundraiser for the arts went off as planned. I wasn’t sure we would do it this year with Rafe gone.” Royce only said what his brother was thinking. “God, I wish you had found Rafe.” “I am not going to go traipsing off after any more dead end leads.” Jace told him. “He will surface eventually or come home.” Or die. They didn’t speak the words. He might already be dead for all they knew. “I miss him.” Their brother was caught in a mindless void where no one could reach him. They couldn’t even find him. He had run off into the night and that had been the last they saw of him. “We all do.” Jace agreed when suddenly he gasped out and grabbed his stomach. “Oh God.” Royce stopped the jeep and turned to his brother. “What’s the matter? Are you okay?” “No.” Jace panted and there was panic in his golden brown eyes. “It is starting for me now.” Another pain attacked him. “Shit.” Royce’s expletive rent the nighttime air. “We are almost home. I will get you inside and lock you in your room.” He looked at his brother. He was breathing hard and sweat was forming on his face. Royce was scared. He was scared for his brother and scared for himself. The Dominga family curse was coming true again for the second time in less than a year. They had all stood by and helplessly watched as Rafe, their older brother had lost his hold on sanity. When the mating time had come upon him and he had not found his mate, he had slipped into a madness they still didn’t understand. Mating season was part of the family curse because the brothers were werewolves like their father. Unfortunately, their father and mother died when they were young boys so that they hadn’t learned everything they needed to know about the curse and how to deal with it. “Hold on.” Royce said and floored the jeep into motion again. He glanced at Jace and knew he was practically beyond words as a violent trembling had a hold of his body. That is exactly what happened to Rafe. “Is she around?” Royce asked quickly, pulling the car in to the circular drive and stopping in front of the door. There were cars parked everywhere. He was just thankful he could get this close to the house. “I can smell her.” Jace barely choked out. “It is what started the process.” He was holding his stomach as if he were in pain. “Thank God.” Royce said with feeling. “She is here then.” His relief was short lived when he realized Rafe’s mate had been close too but he had not found her. Look what happened to him. Jace jumped heavily from the jeep. “She’s here, nearby. I can tell. She has been here a while. Her scent is heavy.” He turned to his brother desperately. “Don’t let me hurt her. Keep our promise.” He choked out barely able to talk at all. “I know, Jace.” But Jace was already striding in to the house. A house full of people! Royce scrambled to keep

up. A few of the guests gasped when they saw the state Jace was in. His face was tight. He was sweating great buckets and trembling as his golden brown eyes scanned the room of people. “He’s ill.” He explained and charged after Jace as he quickly made his way through the throng of people. He wasn’t going upstairs like he was supposed to. Instead he went in the kitchen and then out the back door. Royce tried to keep up but well-intentioned people trying to talk to him stopped him. Remy Miller brushed her hand over the horse’s nose one last time and stepped out of the barn. She loved animals, especially horses. She heard the door slam back on the house and looked up to see six foot and one hundred ninety pounds of man coming straight at her. She stepped back against the barn. Had she done wrong to visit the homeowner’s horses? She felt horribly guilty because she hadn’t asked anyone’s permission. The minute he was close enough for her to see his face she realized it had nothing to do with the horses. Her mother had warned her it would be this way. That he would come when she least expected it. But now? In the middle of a party? It was all suddenly so surreal. He was tall, handsome, and purely male in his most aroused state. He was sweating and his body was viciously trembling. He stopped in front of her and she could see his golden brown hair and golden brown eyes. His eyes practically sparkled as he took great sniffs of air around her. He smelled her! He was a lot taller than her own five foot three. She tried not to be frightened. “I don’t want to hurt you.” He gritted out between his teeth just as he reached for her. He lifted her off her feet and moved her against the wall of the barn. He literally pinned her to it with his body, his highly aroused body. She could feel the hardness of his manhood pressing against her. Lord, he was good looking despite the tightness to his face, despite the tension and longing. She was about to get ravished. She knew the day would come but she was still surprised by the intensity of it. Instinct had her raising her hand to the side of his face. “You won’t.” She assured him, hoping it was true. This handsome man was to be her mate, her life mate. “I have to do this.” He told her just as he buried his head in her shoulder and neck. “I have to.” His body was trembling so bad it made her tremble. “Stop me.” “I cannot. You cannot. No one can.” A man came running up and slid to a stop behind them. He looked identical to the one who was currently ripping the buttons from her blouse. He looked shocked. “God, Jace. Is this her? Stop that. Not here.” He reached and pulled the man off of her. It took great strength. Her mate turned and practically snarled at the other man. “Jace, get a hold of yourself.” The twin grabbed his brother and held on to him. So there were two werewolves in this family. “He can’t help it.” She told him as calmly as possible, adjusting her blouse even though she was far from calm herself. She had seen the same thing happen to her own brother. There was no controlling it. “You know what’s happening?” “I know.” She assured him. “I watched my brother go through the same thing.” She didn’t have time for explanations. “Where can we go to be alone? Jace and I? Does he live here?” She said his name. It was a strong sounding name and fit him perfectly. If she was to be ravished she didn’t want it to be in public where anyone could see. “I can hardly believe you know what’s going on.” The twin looked shocked as his brother struggled against him for his freedom. Finally he answered her. “The back wing on the house. Upstairs, last room in the hall on the left. That is Jace’s room.” Jace snarled when she started to leave and fought more ferociously to free himself. “Give me five minutes head start if you can, then turn him loose.” Remy instructed him. “What’s your name?” He grunted from the strain of trying to restrain his brother. “I don’t know how long I can hold him.” “Remy.” She pulled her blouse together and headed at a run for the house. Remy hurried into the house confident that the brother, whose name she still did not know, could hold Jace. Oh lord, was she ready for this? She didn’t think so but what choice did she have? As far as

mates went this one was fabulous looking. Her sister’s mate was dog ugly and had the personality to match. But then, her sister wasn’t a very nice person either. Remy ignored the funny looks people gave her. She found the stairs and headed up them, down the hall and in the last room on the left. It was definitely a room for a man. It was done in brown and gold and other earthy colors. She didn’t have time to notice much more than that. Remy started undressing. She didn’t want her clothes to be ripped. She still had to leave at some point, hopefully clothed. She was thankful for her mother’s warnings and preparations. She got naked and pulled the covers back on the bed. Then she walked over to the door to wait. She stood behind it. Remy shook with a slight case of nerves as she heard his heavy tread coming down the long hallway. She heard more footsteps not far behind him. Then he walked in to the room, looking for her. She slammed the door shut and locked it. He wouldn’t be able to think or care about privacy and she needed that. He turned and when he saw her naked his eyes began to glow. “Oh lord, not just a mate but an alpha male.” She whispered as he stalked his way to her. He probably didn’t know the extent of his own powers yet and they would grow with the mating. She put a hand out. “Calm down, big boy. I am not going anywhere. I am not leaving you. But try not to change, okay? I don’t want our first time to be with you as a hairy bunch of teeth.” That was one thing; werewolves were not pleasant to look upon. They were ugly and distorted looking being neither man nor wolf but an eerie combination of both. He stopped himself inches from her. He reached for her. He was right on the edge of changing. His eyes still glowed. His teeth bared in foreshadow. She stepped into his arms. “Just remember, if you scar me up, you will have to look at me that way for the rest of your life.” He jerked and tried to pull away. Remy admired him for that. His strength was incredible if he could control himself at all during the mating lust and this was even before they mated. She touched his shoulder and then began to unbutton his shirt. His eyes stopped glowing but he ripped the shirt from his body. His chest was broad and strong and covered in that same golden brown hair that sat atop his head. He drew a huge lungful of air into his chest when he saw her looking. Despite the violent shaking and the mating lust consuming him he was still aware of her as a woman. Once again Remy admired her mate. He tried to unfasten his belt and couldn’t. He was growing angry at the frustration of his clumsy hands, so Remy undid it for him. She watched as he stepped out of the pants and underwear at once. His shaft immediately sprang out to taunt her. He was huge and she lifted frightened eyes to him. He was going to hurt her whether he meant to or not. He was that huge. He sensed the fear. It was not what she should have let him see. She wasn’t going to run but he didn’t know that. He grabbed her then and once more Remy found herself lifted and pushed against a cold wall. Only this time there would be no reprieve. She saw him shake his head in denial of what was happening but she knew he could no more stop himself than he could stop a moving locomotive if he stepped in front of one. He spread her legs with his knee and Remy screamed in reflex with the first powerful thrust of his shaft as it entered her body. She wasn’t ready. There was no gentle wooing or courting. There was no getting to know one another. This was raw animal lust and need. “Jace!” There was a pounding on the door. “Jace, my God.” She heard the brother’s shocked voice. He must have heard her scream. Jace began to move in and out of her, harder and harder. This first time would be fast because of the need. “I’m coming in there.” “No. No. It’s okay.” She told his brother, lifting her voice. “I’m okay. Your brother is okay. Just leave.” Remy was embarrassed; she didn’t want everyone knowing what was going on even though the brother already did. “Are you sure Remy? I promised Jace I wouldn’t let him hurt you.” His voice sounded unsure and a little bewildered. “I’m sure. Everything is fine.” She told him but the truth was he was hurting her a little with every powerful thrust. He was huge and she hadn’t been ready at all. He could probably hear it in her voice.

His head finally came to rest on her shoulder at his last hard thrust. He licked her neck as if to taste her before he let her slide down the wall so her feet could touch the floor. Remy saw the torment in his golden brown eyes. Anywhere else in the known world and it would have been called rape. The man in him realized this but this was his mating season and it was hard on everyone. The werewolf and the woman it involved. He started to step back with the knowledge of what he had done but the lust was there again as strong as before. He groaned with the power of it as he tried to pin her to the wall again. “The bed.” Remy told him, hoping he had enough reason left to understand her. She was going to have bruises on her back from being shoved against the wall as it was. “Please Jace.” He responded as much as he could by carrying her over to the big bed. He dropped her on it. Remy looked up. He was hard and prepared to ravish her all over again. She tried to remember the things her mother told her about alpha males. It was a sure thing she wasn’t going to be getting any conversation from him for a while. Remy scrambled up on her knees and tried to scoot over to the other side of the bed for him. He grabbed her with strong hands around the waist and stopped her. She would have bruises from his grip, even though she could tell he was doing all he could to control himself. She could tell his intent was to mount her from behind this time, doggy style. She nearly choked at the thought. He wasn’t a dog. He was half man and half wolf currently being driven by his wolf nature to mate. “I can’t stop.” He warned her jerkily and she was amazed he could speak at all. Werewolves consumed by the mating fever rarely could. Alpha males could go for days. Her mother’s words came back to warn her. It is beyond them to stop. Remy felt the probing of his shaft as he pushed in to her from behind. She felt none of the enjoyment. That would have to come later when his needs had been sated. He moved pushing hard inside of her. It was a bit painful. Tears started rolling from her eyes, she couldn’t help it. It was all so humiliating even though she knew this was the way of things. He thrust and thrust until his orgasm. When he pulled out Remy flipped over as fast as she could, she did not want him to come from behind again. It hurt badly. He went too deep. He saw her tears. Then he looked down between her legs. She saw the horrified expression on his face. She looked down. There was a trace of blood there. He couldn’t know she had just come off her period. She saw the shaking start again. He threw his head back and yelled. “Royce!” There was abject torment and anguish in his voice. “Damn it.” She heard the other brother and barely had time to grab the bedcovers to cover her nudeness as he broke down the door. The solid wood door was nothing compared to his strength as it burst back against the wall. Royce, so that was the name of the twin. Jace reached for her again only Royce was there to stop him. He clamped his arms around him and held on. “No, don’t. You must not.” Remy warned. “There are clamps and chains.” Royce told her as he pushed his brother down on the bed next to her. It was then she saw the restraints on the headboard. “Jace was determined he wouldn’t hurt you.” “Noooo.” She screamed. “You must not keep him from his course. You don’t understand. It will stunt his power. He won’t hurt me but this must happen.” “I do understand and we don’t care about that but it will kill Jace if he hurts you. We don’t give a flying fig about any powers.” They might not care but Remy did. If she was to be mated to a werewolf then she wanted him to have all his power not just some. In a panic Remy said. “Wait.” She ran to the bathroom flinging open the medicine cabinet. She swiped away everything that was not of any use. Finally she found some Vaseline. She grabbed it and ran back to the room. They were still struggling. “Go now Royce. He won’t hurt me. Please you must not interfere. Just let him go and leave. This will help.” Remy sat down on the bed. She was so humiliated. “Please go.” She begged and reached her arms towards Jace. He was covered in sweat. “God, I hope you know what you are doing.” Royce warned and let him go.

“Keep going.” She told him as he turned to leave. “Don’t look back. It is going to be okay, I promise.” Jace was already ripping at the bedcovers to get to her naked body. Remy quickly took the top off the jar and grabbed some in her hand. She barely had time to slather some on his shaft as he spread her legs and prepared to enter her again. It didn’t hurt nearly as bad this time. Jace opened his eyes to the bright sunlight flooding the room. His sanity returned with a vengeance and he turned to the woman who lay half underneath him. “Oh my God!” He groaned. What had he done? The small bruises on her back were all he could see at first. They were everywhere on her delicate pale body. She was asleep because he could see her breathing; at least he hadn’t killed her. He groaned again and moved his body off of hers. The sheets had traces of blood on them. “Oh God, no.” He gently turned her over. The front of her was equally bruised up. He sucked in his breath at her delicate beauty marred by the garish bruises. In his mind they looked much worse than they actually were. There was even a bruise on her cheek. She was blonde and petite. He remembered her eyes were a deep brown. They weren’t open now. He didn’t even know her name and he had done this awful thing to her. “Jace.” He heard his brother’s solemn voice behind him and pulled the covers over the woman. “You’re awake now.” “Damn it, Royce. You promised. Look what I did to this woman.” He buried his face in his hands. He was more ashamed than he had ever been in all his thirty-two years. His brother touched him on the shoulder. “Her name is Remy, Jace. She is a lot better off than our father led us to believe she would be concerning the mating curse. You didn’t hurt her that bad and Remy already knew what to expect.” “What?” He looked up confused. She knew? “It’s true. Surprised the hell out me. She is sleeping now. When you fell asleep I gave her a sedative, a strong one.” “That’s why she is still here?” Jace saw the needle still on the bedside table. Royce was a veterinarian now, but he used to be a doctor. “She could have left Jace but she didn’t. She didn’t want to leave you. She didn’t really want the shot, but I thought she needed it, so I kind of insisted. You’ve both been asleep for hours. She will sleep for another six or so. Remy knows what we are.” “How could that be? Is she a werewolf?” They thought they were the last of the werewolves. They hadn’t seen any evidence otherwise. “I don’t know. It’s not like we’ve had much time to talk in the last two days but she has the heart of a mate, you lucky son of a bitch.” “Two days? I’ve been abusing this woman for two days?” Jace could hardly wrap his mind around it. “Off and on.” Jace groaned and noticed for the first time his brother had a black eye. “Did I do that to you?” “Yeah.” He explained, rubbing his cheek. “You sucker punched me. If you hadn’t been crazy out of your mind, I would have punched you back.” Oh God, he was an animal, a raging tormented animal with no conscience. “I need to be alone, Royce.” “I know. Jace, you could really use a shower. See you downstairs when you have this all sorted out. I won’t come back upstairs now that I know you are in your right mind.” Royce left and Jace was alone with his tormented thoughts and the woman. How could he ever face her? He stood up and went in to the bathroom. Even the bathroom was a mess. He picked up items and returned them to the medicine cabinet. Then he threw himself in to the shower. It didn’t wash away the guilt he felt. His dick was red and sore. He deserved to have it cut off. He couldn’t even remember the things he had done but he could see the evidence of it. His father had warned him it would be this way.

Jace ran a tub of warm water. It was the very least he could do for her. He added a bit of shampoo to make bubbles, as that was all he had. He went to the bed and stared down on the woman. She was beautiful and shapely. She was more than he ever expected to find in a mate or even hoped for but could she forgive him? He didn’t think he could forgive himself. Royce said she had the heart of a mate. He prayed he was right. Carefully he picked her up and he carried her through to the bathroom. He stepped into the tub with her. She woke up when she felt the water. “Please, no more right now.” She whispered trying to keep her brown eyes open to look at him. She blinked repeatedly. Guilt hit him hard. “It’s okay. Nothing is going to happen. I just want to clean you and make you feel better. If you want, I can take you to a hospital.” She shook her blonde head, weakly indicating a negative. ”Are you okay now?” She was worried about him? Jace clutched her to his chest and he cried. He cried for what he had done to her. He cried for the way things were. He just flat cried like a baby. The curse of the werewolf had been nothing but bad to him his whole life. Now he had done this horrible thing to an innocent woman. No wonder it was called a curse for there was no reprieve from it. “Jace.” Her soft hand came up to touch his cheek. “Don’t cry. I am fine, a little sore is all and very sleepy.” She closed her brown eyes. She was trying to spare him? After all he had done to her? Her spirit of forgiveness and understanding awed him. Jace grabbed a rag and soaped it up. He began to lather it over her body being as gentle as he could. Her breasts were beautiful and full. They didn’t have a single bruise to mar their beauty. Had he even touched them? Had he given her any pleasure at all? He seriously doubted it for he remembered every word his father had told them of the werewolf mating habits. He felt himself stir but this time it was normal male lust for a beautiful woman. It wasn’t the all consuming mating lust he’d felt before. He could control this. As was the custom, he would never have to go through this again. Neither would she. He could at least be thankful that it didn’t happen with every full moon. He ran the rag down over her legs and back up between them. She jerked and tried to open her eyes again. He stopped what he was doing. He’d obviously hurt her there. She wouldn’t have been ready to receive him and he already knew what a big man he was. He’d always had to take his time with women so he didn’t hurt them. He did that now as he gently washed her there. He even washed her hair. He’d never done this intimacy for a woman. She smiled slightly to let him know she was aware of what he was doing for her. He toweled her dry and carried her through to the bed again. Jace frowned when he saw the sheets were stained and it shamed him once again. He laid her in a chair and covered her with a blanket while he changed the sheets. When he was done, he turned back around to look at her. That was when he noticed his bedroom door had been kicked in. The wooden doorframe was busted. Had Royce done this? To protect the woman? Had he seen the state he was in? Had he seen him rape this woman? All his thoughts were horrible. He bent down and picked her up again. She weighed hardly anything. She couldn’t have defended herself from him. Not even if she had changed into a wolf herself. He laid her on the clean sheets and covered her. He dressed himself and went in search of his brother. He needed to know what happened. Remy opened her eyes. They felt grainy and were just a touch blurry. There was a lamp on beside the bed. Jace was asleep in a chair next to the bed. He looked very uncomfortable with his big body slumped down in it. His long legs were stretched out in front of him and his head was thrown back in an awkward angle against the chair back. How long had he been sitting with her? She stretched to see how sore she was and found it wasn’t bad. Royce was right. She felt much better after a good solid sleep. Her clothes were lying on the foot of the bed. They were folded neatly. She stretched again and tried to sit upright and hold on to the sheets covering her. She felt a little lightheaded when she finally managed it. “You’re awake!”

Remy heard his surprised voice and looked up to see him looking at her. He sat up straight. His golden brown eyes were filled with concern and shame. She could see it clearly. She had seen the same kind of look in her brother’s eyes when he had returned from his mating madness. The look hadn’t left for weeks either. “What time is it?” “It’s nearly four in the morning.” He stood up. He was tall and lean, breathtakingly handsome. Her own attraction for him had grown with the mating. “It’s too early to call my parents and let them know I am okay.” She bit her lip nervously. What did you say to someone who was a complete stranger and yet who had been having intimate relations with you for the last two days? Relations of the forced kind? Even if he had been totally out of his head. Even if he was supposed to be your mate for life. Even if she knew this was the way of things for werewolves. “Oh Lord.” She saw the realization in his face that he hadn’t even thought of her parents or that there might be others worrying about her. She saw the pain it caused him. He moved closer to her and fell to his knees in front of her. “I am so sorry, Remy. So sorry for everything.” He grabbed her hand. “I know I can never make up for what I did to you but please let me try. Please.” “Jace.” She looked at his tormented face. Goodness he was a handsome man. Remy was still in awe of him. This was her mate. She could still hardly believe it. She ran a hand over his silky hair and felt his slight jump. She didn’t know where to start. Yes, she did. “Let me get dressed and use the restroom. If you don’t mind finding me something to eat we can talk then.” She would feel much better talking to him being dressed. “Yes. I am sorry about that. You are probably starved.” He stood up and agreed even though he was clearly disconcerted. “Royce managed to bring me food, Jace, but I am still hungry.” “Scrambled eggs okay? I am not much of a cook.” “That will be fine.” She watched him walk to the door, his body tall and strong. He turned back. “Remy you won’t leave will you, until we have the chance to talk?” Remy nodded her blonde head. “I won’t leave yet.” She assured him. “I promise.” “I will be downstairs then, waiting for you, when you are ready.” Remy showered and washed her hair. She found a hair dryer and dried it. It took quite a bit of work to get all the tangles out. Looking at herself in the mirror all dressed and quaffed she felt much better about things. So the day had finally come and she had lived through it. Not only lived through it but also was so far exceptionally happy with her mate. It wasn’t all about looks but that certainly helped. It was the compassion and the character she saw in his eyes that wowed her so. He didn’t appear to hurt for money either, that was another plus in her book. Her mate was apparently a hardworking man. Her brother-in-law was a prime example of a horrible mate. He couldn’t keep a job and he barely tolerated her sister and treated her like dirt. Sassy swore up and down he was much more considerate in private but somehow Remy doubted that. There was mutual attraction there. She just couldn’t see it. Remy made her way downstairs marveling at the huge mansion. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around. She explored the downstairs until she found the huge kitchen. It wasn’t hard to find considering the smell of burnt eggs beginning to fill the first floor. Remy entered the room just in time to see Jace throw a skillet in the sink. “Damn it.” She saw the tea towel thrown over his broad shoulder and the way he grabbed the counter in frustration. The table was nicely set with coffee, juice, toast and bagels. There was a full platter of little sausages. Two people couldn’t possibly eat that much sausage. She smiled at his endearing attempt to impress her. “Can I help?” He turned towards her and she was once again impressed with his good looks. The light over the sink reflected off his golden hair and showed off his earthy tan to perfection. He was broad shouldered

with a narrow waist and hips. Jace was also very long legged, that would be a plus if he rode horses much and she suspected he did. She’d already seen the stables. He watched her cautiously. “I am afraid I have to start the eggs over. I forgot them.” He shrugged. “Go ahead and sit down.” He signaled with his hand. She loved the fact he was nervous. It showed despite his trying to put on a brave front for her. His golden brown eyes watched her seriously as if he was afraid she was going to run away. Nothing was further from the truth. “You don’t cook much do you?” “Not really. Royce and I eat out or make do with frozen foods.” This made her smile. She loved cooking. There would be plenty she could contribute to this household. “No kitchen staff?” “None of any kind.” He shrugged again and pulled out a chair for her. Remy sat down and he scooted the chair forward for her. “Jace. Join me. I don’t need eggs. The bagels, sausage and juice will do just fine.” “Are you sure?” He frowned, his golden brows drawing together. “I don’t mind trying again.” “I’m sure.” She poured herself some juice and noticed he went straight for the coffee but then he sat it down and couldn’t drink it. “Remy, I don’t know where to start except to apologize again and that is just so lame after what I have done to you.” “Jace.” “Please let me finish. I have given this a lot of thought. You have every right to call the police and have me locked up. I just want to say that…” “Jace, listen to me.” “I don’t normally do things like that. I don’t go around raping women and I know you probably won’t…“ “Jace, are you going to listen to me?” Remy stood up to get his attention. He jumped to his feet. “Don’t leave yet. Please.” “Jace. I am not leaving, I just want you to shut up and listen to me. Okay?” She sat back down and he followed suit. “I know all about werewolves. My father and brother are werewolves. The men in my family have always been werewolves. I thought Royce said he told you all this.” He sat there staring at her. “I didn’t see how it could be true.” “Well, it’s true. I can’t say I am happy about the mating habits but I was aware it would happen some day. I know you couldn’t control it. No more than my own brother could and he isn’t even an alpha male.” She helped herself to some sausage and smeared a generous helping of cream cheese on a bagel. “I don’t know what to say.” He leaned back in his chair as if he was in shock. “You know a lot about werewolves then.” “I think more than you and your brother realize. He nearly stunted your powers when he tried to chain you.” Remy poured herself some juice and then started eating. She really was hungry. She noticed he didn’t touch a thing not even his coffee. It was sitting there going cold. “I didn’t want to hurt you. We knew a little of what to expect about the mating madness. We watched it happen to my older brother.” “Where is he? Oh my God, you didn’t have anyone to instruct you, did you? You didn’t keep him chained, did you, so that he couldn’t get to his mate?” “No.” Jace shook his head. “We couldn’t catch him but he never found his mate. He is lost to us. He turned into a wolf and never changed back.” “Oh my God.” Remy’s voice reflected the sorrow and frustration that Jace’s own voice carried. This poor family, she really felt for them. “I’ve heard of that happening before but not in a long, long time.” “And you’re right. Our parents died in a car crash before they ever told us much about the curse. We’ve been pretty much on our own.”

“You don’t know any other werewolves?” “Nope. Honestly we didn’t believe there were any more and then when Rafe went through the mating curse and didn’t find a mate we figured we were the last.” “Certainly not the last. There aren’t many of us around. For obvious reasons people with the curse don’t want to hand it down to their kids.” “You’re being very understanding about everything.” Jace looked at her sweet face. She could forgive him but he couldn’t forgive himself. It shamed him to even look at her because he wanted her. He wanted to touch her soft skin and stroke her body. He wanted the very sweetness of her essence. “I would like to call my parents about six. I know they will be up by then.” “Sure. I understand.” “Then I would like to go home.” Jace stared at her and he was afraid she could see his fear. “I thought you would give me a chance to show you I can act like a human being.” He knew there was supposed to only be one mate. He couldn’t say what he felt for her was love but he had a definite fondness and attachment to her already. What if his father was right and he would never be able to love if he didn’t make it with his mate? It was very possible; he’d never loved anyone in this life. He might have thought he was a freak except neither of his brothers had experienced love either. She smiled at him and his heart jumped in his chest. “I don’t live far from here Jace. I am going home to get some of my things and then I will be back. You have plenty of room here. We can have a trial relationship, okay? It’s what my own parents did.” He nodded; he was so relieved he couldn’t even speak. “You know,” she washed down the last of the bagel with her juice, “Alpha males are rare.” He didn’t know that. “Yet you have two in your family. That is unheard of. I saw Royce’s eyes glow when he struggled to hold on to you. Only alpha males eyes glow like that.” Their eyes glowed in warning before they turned into the werewolf. Remy was actually quite excited about Jace being an Alpha male. She couldn’t wait to tell her mother. “I didn’t realize there was a difference. Aren’t all male werewolves alpha males?” “Not by a long shot. My father isn’t and my brother isn’t. We probably know three other males and they aren’t either.” “My father was. Rafe was.” “Extraordinary. All alphas in your family.” “Has to do with our curse and the limerick I suppose.” “Limerick?” She leaned forward looking very interested. Her brown eyes sparkled keenly. “It’s been handed down for ages. Doesn’t make a bit of sense to us.” “Can I see it?” “I can quote it. My parents taught it to us before we could even spell our own names.” “Please do.” Jace felt silly but he did it to make her happy. He realized he would do anything to make her happy. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken, So the very Word of God has spoken. Purest love of a child is the heavenly token. To undo what destiny has so evilly bespoken. By his unfaithfulness his whole life has been wroken. He is not alive but wishes to be woken.” “That is astounding. You know, we have a very old book on werewolves. I will get my mother to see if it says anything about limericks.” “It has to do with our curse but we’ve never understood it. Well, except for that first line. We used to think we were the three brothers. We used to be inseparable until Rafe disappeared. Now we don’t know what to think. My father swore up and down it was for the breaking of our curse but as you

found out we still have the curse.” “Hmm. I’ve never heard of an out clause. This is thrilling.” “Yeah, real thrilling.” Jace grumbled. Remy commiserated with him. “I am trying to be upbeat here.” She knew it was hard on him. “I appreciate it. Actually Remy, I am very thankful for you.” Jace told her honestly. “This whole thing could have been very ugly. Very ugly.” She smiled at him. He was right it could have been and frankly she wondered how many men or women for that matter ended up in prison because of the werewolf-mating curse. Their lives ruined, not to mention their unwilling mate’s lives so brutally interrupted. Not all mates carried the werewolf genes. “Let me help you with the kitchen clean up.” “Thanks but I can get it.” He stood up and started gathering dishes. “Let’s start as we mean to go, Jace.” She told him softly. “The days for being a guest are past in this house.” He nodded and didn’t say anything but let her help remove dishes to the sink. “No dogs that might enjoy some of this sausage?” Remy asked. “No dogs. They can’t stand us.” He told her matter of fact. “We tried a couple of times but they run off.” Remy wished he would smile. She didn’t know what he looked like smiling. She’d seen Royce with some half smiles but not Jace. “We have dogs.” She told him. “We let them see the wolves. They play together and it helps them adjust.” “Really? Might try that someday.” Putting the dishes in the sink, he turned to her, a plea for understanding showing on his face. “Remy, you haven’t said, are you a werewolf?” “Not at all Jace. It only seems to run in the males in my family but I carry the genes or whatever it is that makes us different from everyone else.” “You’ve been spared some of the curse then.” She nodded. It was true. She had seen the female werewolves. That wasn’t for her. “What about Royce? What does he do for breakfast?’ He was visibly absent this morning. She guessed he would still be asleep at this hour. Remy was grateful for his care during the incident. He had brought food and water to her. He even gave her a shot to help her relax. “He doesn’t usually eat breakfast, if he does he eats with the hands at the bunkhouse.” “Oh I see. I didn’t realize there was a bunkhouse.” “It’s about a half a mile away. This is a cattle ranch.” “Who cooks for them?” “Bill. They are pretty much self-sufficient. Royce is the veterinarian for the ranch.” “And you?” “Ranch hand.” “I am sure it is much more than that.” She smiled at him again and still he didn’t return her smile. He was obviously very uncomfortable with her. “Well then, I better make my call and warn my parents I am on my way.” “Sure, use the phone in the living room. You’ll have plenty of privacy. I will stay in here.” She nodded and left the room, she could feel his eyes on her until she was out of his sight. Jace paced the confines of the barn. He was very agitated. “She’s not coming back.” He insisted even though it tore him up to say it. She hadn’t been gone that long, but he already felt like there was a big hole in his chest because he missed her so. So this was what it was like to have a mate, a feeling as if he would die if she didn’t come back soon. There was a driving need to see her, touch her, and be with her. “She will be back.” Royce said by rote now for the tenth time. “Give her a chance.” He rubbed down his horse with the big brush. Taking care of the horses calmed his nerves unlike his brother. “It is almost dark. I am going for a ride.” Jace saddled his horse and tightened the cinches. He had to do something to keep his mind off of her. “Good. Stay gone for a while, you grump.”

Jace rode out of the barn at a fast clip and headed the horse towards the nearby streambed. He would follow it and try to relax. He was convinced she wasn’t coming back. He would be alone with his freakin’ curse and without a mate for the rest of his natural life. He and Royce would be those two crazy twin bachelors that the whole county wondered about. The more Jace thought about being alone and worried about Remy not coming back the angrier he got at himself. He should have said more, done more. He didn’t know what he could have done though. He only knew it should have been something! He didn’t even know her last name! He was an idiot. The clouds gathered quickly over his area. It started raining and the peculiar thing was it was only raining in close proximity to him. The rain pelting his face only made him angrier. Wasn’t that just his luck? He had to find the only rainstorm for miles. He didn’t even have a hat on to keep the rain from his eyes and face. Then the thunder and lightning happened and again it was only in close proximity to Jace. When the thunder spooked his horse and nearly threw Jace to the ground, he had to use tight control on the reins. This made him exceptionally angry. Couldn’t anything go right? To say he was startled when a small tornado formed out of the clouds above him was an understatement. It took care of the anger. He felt nothing but fear. Jace was just turning the horse to run away from it when it vanished, the thunder and lightning stopped. Even the rain stopped. “What the…” Remy drove up the circular driveway and parked her compact car in front of the house. She expected to see Jace come out and greet her. He didn’t. She did however see Royce coming from the barn. “Hi Royce.” “Hey Remy.” He greeted her. “You can tell us apart?” That was a first, no one could ever tell them apart. Their own parents even used to have trouble with that. She thought about it. “Yes, I guess I can.” She laughingly agreed. “But I couldn’t tell you how I know because I don’t know that.” “Let me help you with your luggage.” “Where is Jace?” Remy looked all around. She was anxious to see him again. “He went for a ride to relax. Good thing. He was driving me crazy.” He smiled at her and all she could see was Jace. They looked completely identical but she wasn’t attracted to Royce. She was attracted to Jace. He was her mate after all. “Driving you crazy, huh? He didn’t think I was coming back did he?” “Nope, but I knew you would.” Royce grabbed several bags at once and started in the house. “How did you know?” “I’ve seen you together.” He shrugged and kept walking. “You just work.” He was right. Remy could feel it and she felt pretty good about it. She grabbed her purse and her make up bag and followed him in to the house. “I will let Jace show you around later. He mentioned he forgot to do that this morning before you left.” “You sure do have a big place. Who keeps it clean for you?” “A team comes in every Tuesday.” She followed him up the wide stairs. “I was sorry to hear about your brother.” “Rafe.” “Yes, Rafe. It must be awful for you and ranchers don’t tolerate wolves well. It must worry you tremendously. I brought a book to show you and your brother. You should find it very interesting. There are cases of werewolves brought back from the madness.” “Really?” Royce turned to look at her then as he dropped the bags in the hallway. “Which room do you want?” “This one on the front.” She told him. “Really. Gypsy’s have a spell. I don’t know what it is but they can call them back or just call them. They have to want a werewolf though and it’s quite rare.”

He picked the bags up again. “Figures it would take a miracle.” He didn’t sound happy. “Nothing is ever easy. Who would want a werewolf on purpose?” “Has Jace shown signs of what his power is going to be yet? There is a lot in the book about special powers and abilities. They only come with the mating.” “Not that I’ve seen unless it’s irritability.” Remy chuckled. Royce was funny in a dry sense of humor kind of way. “My brother can shape shift.” “Huh?” “Truly. Any small animal.” “Damn. That would be a nifty trick to have. I’d like to see that.” “Sure, Donald would love to show off for you. He is insufferable at times. Can you change at will? You and Jace?’ “Yes, but we don’t. It hurts.” “I did a little reading on Alpha males. My brother and father can’t change at will. Only during a full moon and they can fight it if they want to. Alpha males are pretty rare and I was telling Jace that two in the same family is unheard of.” “Three. Rafe was.” He corrected himself. “Is. I have to believe we will get him back someday.” They both heard the thunder off in the distance. It was dark outside but the weather forecasts hadn’t predicted thunderstorms. “This room is lovely. I think I will unpack later if you don’t mind.” Remy set her things on the bed. She was anxious to see Jace. She couldn’t concentrate on something as mundane as unpacking. “Sure, let’s go downstairs and wait for Jace. He should be back soon.” Less than a week later Remy had more than she could take of Jace’s self-condemnation. It was time he got over it. They were getting along famously except for that. He hadn’t even tried to kiss her or be intimate in any way with her. They talked until the wee hours of the morning. They went on dates, movies, shopping. They had done everything together. He had even met her parents and was welcomed in to the family with open arms. He treated her with the utmost respect and courtesy. They found they had much in common. Remy was well pleased and she felt like he was, too. She could feel his intense attraction to her but he never did anything about it. It had taken her no time at all to realize he was indeed everything she could ever want in a mate. Her heart adored him; it was only his worrying about how he had treated her at first that was mucking up the works. It didn’t seem to matter how many times she told him she understood how it was. It was time to take a stand because she wouldn’t let him go on blaming himself for something that wasn’t his fault. It would never have been in his nature anyway if it were not for the werewolf genes. She knew that, and they were perfect together. She smiled to herself. Well, they would be. Remy made her way down the long hall and deliberately to the door of Jace’s room. She knew he was in there. She tapped lightly but there wasn’t an answer. She tapped again and opened the door. She stuck her blonde head inside. Remy didn’t see him but she heard the shower running. Perfect for seducing a reluctant man. Remy quickly shed her clothes, it was totally without grace but she was in a hurry. She didn’t know how long he had already been in the shower. She pushed open the door without his hearing and walked in the bathroom. Jace had his back to her, so she opened the door to the shower stall and stepped inside. He turned and there was a world of surprise on his handsome face. “Remy?” “Hi.” She said softly as his golden eyes ran over the full length of her nude body. His eyes lit up appreciatively. The warm water sprayed across and down her body enticingly. Remy stretched just a little to tantalize him. “Hi.” He returned and Remy took the washcloth out of his hand. He didn’t seem to notice she had it. “Surprised to see me here, huh?”

“Very. Are you sure about this Remy?” “Very.” She parroted his word back at him. “Let’s start as we mean to go, Jace.” His eyes became wondering pools of fascination. She stretched up to lay a tender kiss on his cheek. He turned his head and captured her lips instead. He pulled her in to his strong arms and nearly lifted her off her feet to continue that sizzling kiss. “I’ve wanted you so bad, Remy. I didn’t want to scare you or rush you.” He laid his head on her shoulder temporarily. “And here I’ve been having to stretch my patience waiting for you to make a move.” Remy chuckled, running her hands over his broad shoulders and exploring his strong arms. It wasn’t the only thing she wanted to explore. He took the rag back from her. “Here let me.” Jace lathered the rag up until it was good and soapy. He began to wash her with the utmost care. He started at her neck while he looked deeply into her eyes, the heat showing in his own golden brown eyes. “I love you Remy. I promise I won’t hurt you.” “I know that Jace.” The rag ran across her shoulders and down her arms. “I love you too and you have a whole lifetime to keep that promise.”

Chapter Two
Royce Brothers Grimm there need be three. Three alpha males in the same family tree. To lift the curse and be set free. Another must be added to the melee. A gypsy child wild and free. One who was conjured from spells for thee. Royce and Jace Dominga had just finished watching the news and weather together and were quietly sipping on some port. They muted the television when the sports came on. Neither of them was a big fan of sports. They ran a huge busy ranch, sporting events was the last thing on their minds. “Aw this sucks. When is this drought going to end?” Royce only spoke aloud what his twin was thinking. “We need some rain to replenish the ponds for the livestock.” Jace sighed. “I know, seems like it is lasting forever.” “If it doesn’t end soon I may have to make you extremely mad. Mad enough to replenish the ponds.” Royce teased. Jace being able to affect the weather patterns was a real curiosity but it wasn’t Jace’s only gift. The really special gift came about when a werewolf mated for life and it was wholehearted unconditional love. “Ha, very funny. Like you could make me that mad.” “Sure I can. All I would have to do is lay a big fat kiss on Remy. That would do it.” “That would do it.” Jace laughed with him. “Don’t even think about it though.” “Spoilsport.” “I better turn in. Remy will be waiting on me now that the baby is asleep. We need some quality time together.” “Lucky bastard.” Royce muttered with a smile. Jace had been married for nearly ten years to a wonderful woman, his mate for life, Remy. Royce could still only dream of his mate. He had started believing she would never come. Jace returned his smile. “You don’t lack for women.” “It’s not the same.” Royce lost his smile. “I know, bro.” Jace stood up and slapped his brother on the back in commiseration. “See you tomorrow.” “Yeah I might as well turn in also.” Royce turned off the television with the remote. He stood up. He could watch television upstairs in his own wing of the house, from bed. His big, king sized, lonely bed. He saw a flicker and turned back thinking the television hadn’t gone off.

The flicker was not the television. “Jace!” He yelled for his brother who had just made it to the stairs. There kneeling in the middle of the media room floor was a woman with her brunette head bowed in submission. “What the hell?” She was dressed in white, a skimpy see through fabric where her curves and shape were clearly exposed. Jace turned back into the room and said the very same thing. “What the hell? Where did she come from?” Royce walked over to her. He didn’t know what to think. “Miss?” She didn’t answer him and she didn’t raise her head. “Miss?” He said again. Had she walked into the house needing help and they just hadn’t seen her do it? She smelled strongly of fear. Soon another appeared next to her. It was a man. He was kneeling and had his head bowed. He wore no shirt only white pants. They at least, were not see-through. Both brothers were speechless. People did not appear out of thin air but they didn’t look like they were a threat. They were the ones afraid of them. Their fear was so very evident to the brothers. Jace went to the woman. He knelt down in front of her. He reached out his hand to raise her head by her chin when he jerked it back suddenly. She lifted her head and showed him red eyes and huge pointy teeth. Now she was a threat! Jace jumped back. “Holy shit. Did you see that?” Two more women appeared behind these two and another man, all kneeling with their heads bent in submission. “I don’t like this.” Royce muttered. The last man who appeared had huge gashes across his chest barely healed. “What do they want?” Royce asked. “What are they?” “Like I know.” Jace snapped. His eyes began to glow, alert to any threat. “Some of my minions.” A man appeared standing before them. “You have nothing to fear from us. They show their submission to your greater strength.” The man was tall and slender. He had dark eyes and dark hair. He looked powerful and otherworldly. There was a strange haunting in his eyes that neither brother missed. Being twins they could usually tell what the other was thinking. “Who are you?” “What are you?” Both brothers asked at the same time. “My name is Trenton Fairview and I bring you a gift.” “A gift?” Jace asked uneasily. He didn’t quite buy that submission story. He’d seen the woman’s eyes. She might have been afraid but she could still attack. “Two in fact but it is a long story.” “What are you?” Royce asked again. He frowned, there was a creepy crawly feeling swarming all over him and he didn’t like it. “A vampire.” He said simply as if it was the easiest information in the world to impart. Royce snickered. He couldn’t help it. Then stopped himself. Hell, it was true. How else could people appear out of thin air? He was a werewolf himself so believing in Vampires was no leap of imagination. “If that is so. What do you want with us?” “First, I must show you a book.” He raised his hand and one appeared in it, an old dusty book. “Nifty little trick.” Royce muttered. He was impressed. People appeared out of thin air, objects appeared just as easily. He had never seen anything like it. “Read this.” He handed it to Jace open to nearly the first page. Jace looked at the book. “It’s some kind of limerick?” “A riddle. It concerns my curse. Read it aloud.” Jace spoke it. “Brothers Grimm there need be three. Three alpha males in the same family tree. To lift the curse and be set free. Another must be added to the melee. A gypsy child wild and free. One who was conjured from spells for thee.” “Doesn’t mean anything to me, well except for the alpha male line.” He qualified. He looked at Royce. They both knew there was a freaking limerick for their curse too but they weren’t going to tell

that to this man. It was even making a little bit of sense to them now. They would explore that later. “It was a puzzle to me for centuries.” He frowned. “You are the brothers Grimm.” Royce spoke with bitterness in his voice. “Two, we lost a brother.” He was starting to feel a bit sick in his stomach and he didn’t know why. Nerves maybe? The man frowned at him. “You are the one without a mate?” Royce nodded; he didn’t know what was happening to his body but something obviously was. “I see now.” He frowned again. “The witch of destiny truly made this hard for us all.” “Witch of destiny?” Jace asked. Royce doubled over suddenly in quite a bit of pain. “Shit.” He grabbed at his stomach. “Oh Lord.” Jace ran to his brother. This couldn’t happen now. Not now after all this time. Not when they didn’t know what the hell was going on. He might need his brother’s strength if this crowd turned ugly. Trenton raised a hand towards them. “Not now. I have need for you to be clear headed and hear me out.” The pain left and Royce stood upright once again. “You know what was happening?” Damn this man had all kinds of nifty little tricks. “Yes. I am sorry I allowed her so close, so soon. Your mate.” “What? You know about that?” Both brothers asked at the same time. “Is she here?” “Not yet, I haven’t brought her to you. I need you to hear me out first.” “By all means let’s hear it.” Jace was starting to get a whole lot annoyed. This man knew all about them and their family curse and they didn’t know a damn thing about him or vampires. There was the rumble of thunder off in the distance. “I bring to you the gift of the knowledge of your brother’s whereabouts.” “Rafe? You know where Rafe is? Is he alive?” Royce asked. He nodded. “He is alive although he has no memory of his past life.” There was a strange attitude about this man. He seemed disinterested or separated from everything. It was as if he was otherworldly and not part of what was going on around him. “What the hell?” Jace snapped. “Could you just spit it out?” “Yes.” He answered matter of fact. “My gift to you is the knowledge that your brother is still alive. It is also a gift to the gypsy child. I have waited three hundred years for her to lift my curse.” He paused and then went on. “I can not truly die. I do not truly live. I cannot walk in sunlight. My curse is every bit as real as yours. Yours I know not how it came to be but mine came from my unfaithfulness to a destiny witch.” Both brothers just stared at him. Royce was beginning to sweat profusely. He felt as if his body was betraying him. “His name is Russell Portwood, or at least that is who he thinks he is. He lives a hundred and fifty miles west of here in Cloverleaf.” “Damn.” Jace said. Pretty darn close and they hadn’t known in all these years. “Russell Portwood?” Where had he gotten that name? “His daughter is the gypsy child I spoke of and the one mentioned in the riddle. I know this because she bears the mark. A simple bell shaped birthmark on her back. She is your niece and I trust you will help care for and protect your own niece. Nothing must happen to her. I cannot even get close to her because of your brother. Look what he has done to my minion.” He pointed to the man with the scars. “He killed two already and I only wish to make sure nothing happens to his daughter.” “You want to make her a vampire?” Jace was shaking his head no. He would never allow that. He knew Rafe wouldn’t either. “Does he know what you are? What he is?” “He does. It won’t come to that. I would not hurt his daughter. I could take much better care of her than he can.” “We are just supposed to take your word for that?” Royce could barely grunt the words out. He was starting to hurt badly. The man lifted his hand towards him once again and the pain left him. “If I made her a vampire she would be part of the curse. She would not then be able to lift mine.

I would only be hurting myself. I swear she has no reason to fear me.” “I see.” Jace responded. “Sort of.” “She is safe from me in that respect and I believe she will come of her own free will when it is time. It has already been ordained. Rafe’s wife, Anna Portwood, she is a descendant of the destiny witch. She kept her daughter hidden from me these many years. It was only recently I learned of her existence.” “Ordained Shamained.” Royce gritted out. If he had a niece there was no way in hell this guy was going to get his hands on her. “You” he looked directly at Royce as if he knew what he was thinking, “were never meant to have a mate. By all rights you would be dead now if I had not intervened. Even though at the time I did not know any of this. Chalk it up to the cunning of the destiny witch. Where she could see into the future, I could not.” “Huh?” Royce looked at him with the same stunned look his twin was wearing. This didn’t make a bit of sense to him. “Rafe’s original mate. She is your intended mate now.” He looked at him. “Did you not wonder why he could not find her? I found her first. Amanda’s car broke down. Not far from here. She was in fact walking up to this very house to get aid. I took her.” “You son of a bitch.” Royce said with feeling. His eyes began to glow. He was going to rip this guy apart. He’d never hurt another human being but he was going to now. Hell, he was a Vampire. He wasn’t even human. He was the reason their brother went in to the void of madness. The reason he turned into a wolf and never changed back. This Vampire man was the reason Rafe had been lost to them in the first place. Trenton looked very angry and they could see his jaw tighten before he made plain his own predicament. “I have my own curse to live with. I needed to feed. It is not something I am proud of but like your mating lust my feeding lust is just as strong. Where you experience this lust only once in your life, I experience it every single night of my life. For three hundred years now.” He bellowed. “Do not judge me for what I can not help. I did not know I was taking away a werewolf’s mate.” Royce stopped his change. Curses and lusts he understood. He would wait and see what else was said. “Amanda Cook?” Remy said from the stairs and they all turned to look at her. How long had she been standing there? She looked almost ethereal in her peach negligee and robe. Her blonde hair was highlighted from the rays of the overhead light. She was a little pale but that was only because she’d recently had a baby. “Her last name was of no consequence to me.” He bowed to her and Remy came in the living room with them. She stood by her husband who tried to push her behind him. He didn’t want her exposed to any of this. He wasn’t sure there wasn’t danger here even if he was still somewhat confused about what he was hearing and seeing. “Jace please.” She shook off his hold. He never used his full strength with her. “I knew a woman named Amanda Cook. She disappeared years ago. She was my best friend. It could be her.” The man shrugged as if he didn’t care. “I know not if they are the same.” “This is my mate? A freaking vampire?” Royce exclaimed. “Because Rafe could not find her?” Everything the man said just now soaking in to his understanding and his part in it. He nodded. “Does not your own body tell you so?” He lifted his hand and once again Royce felt the pain and near mindless needs and overwhelming lust. Then he lowered his hand and it took the pain away again. Man, that was really a nifty trick, Royce acknowledged silently. “Can this family get any more screwed up?” Jace added heatedly. “If I had not taken her, the two brothers would have fought. This one, the younger would be dead to the older brother’s hand. It would have only been a matter of time before he would have come in to his own mating season. He would have wanted Amanda, just as he is starting to do now with her presence so close at hand. He would not have been able to stop himself. By rights the oldest male werewolf in a family is always the strongest, ergo he would have been killed.”

That wasn’t strictly true. The Vampire was making assumptions. Jace and Royce were confident that Rafe would not harm his brother. They both would have done what they could to restrain Royce’s mating lust. There was no guarantee he would have wanted Amanda then or even that she was the mate Rafe had never found. There were quite a few loose ends and possible factors. Jace rubbed his head. He was getting a headache just thinking about everything he had heard. Remy stood silent next to him. He could practically feel her wanting him to ask about her friend so he did. “Where is this Amanda?” It dawned on him that once again this man could take a mate and his other brother would be lost to him, lost to the madness. He couldn’t let that happen. The kneeling figures behind Trenton began to disappear one at a time. “Do not let her bite you. Do not free her mouth until her eyes are no longer red. She is quite strong herself. You will have to make your own explanations.” Royce doubled over in pain again. “Will she always be a vampire?” He barely got the words out. He had to know. “Always until my own curse is lifted.” “Holy shit.” “Where is she?” Jace asked as he tried to hold his brother. He remembered well the pain and the mindless lust. Trenton was fading away fast. He could not lose another brother. He could not. At the same time he realized he didn’t have enough information or time for all the questions he wanted to put to this vampire. He was leaving. “In his room. Chained to his bed. In the very chains he meant for himself. I have done all I am willing to do. Do not forget to watch over the gypsy child.” He was gone in the span of a second. “Hell.” Jace muttered. That vampire had another think coming. He was grateful to know where Rafe was but no way was that vampire ever going to get his hands on his niece. Not in this lifetime. Jace saw Royce’s eyes were glazed over and he knew his brother was no longer even hearing anything as he fought for his freedom. The mating lust was already upon him in its entirety. He looked at his wife desperately. “What do I do? I promised Royce I would not let him hurt his mate. We weren’t ready for this. She is a freakin’ vampire for Pete’s sake!” Remy told him the truth of the matter. “Hurt her? Who is going to keep her from hurting him? Let him go, Jace. He is on his course. Let him go. We will check on them in the morning. There is nothing we can do. We must stay with the baby.” Royce strained and growled but still Jace did not let him go. “Hell, I can’t even talk to him about everything we just heard until this passes.” Remy put her hand on his arm. “Let him go Jace. It is the way of things and it is time. You cannot stop what has already begun. It was the same with you and I.” He did let go and they both watched as Royce sprinted up the stairs to his wing of the house. “God help us all.” Jace said with feeling. “I just thought of something. If we bring Rafe home, what will happen? Will he still want Amanda? Have we only delayed the inevitable?” “I don’t think so Jace.” Remy told him. She frowned thoughtfully. “If he has a child then somehow he has found another mate. There can only be one mate. Perhaps that is why this one is available to Royce now. The gypsy’s have a spell for calling werewolves. It is obvious now the woman called for Rafe.” “I hope you’re right. Let’s go stay with the baby. Freakin’ vampires.” Amanda strained against the chains binding her arms and legs. There was a gag in her mouth. What was the son of a bitch going to do to her now? She didn’t feel his presence close by but that didn’t mean he wasn’t. Trenton always kept her close at hand and there was no escaping his will. It wasn’t like him to go off and leave her alone. Her acute hearing heard the steps coming closer long before she saw the man. The golden man, she thought immediately. He had golden brown hair and a nice golden brown tan from the sun. His eyes glowed when he saw her. The glowing eyes scared her and once more she struggled to free herself from the chains. She was helpless. The son of a bitch had left her helpless on purpose. Had he left her for this man? Trenton never shared his women with others. He preferred to

slake his lusts on each of them and Trenton had a lot of women. The golden man paced and paced in ever tightening circles while he stared at her. He wasn’t going to kill her, she was about to get raped and she knew it. It was the same look Trenton got when he was about to take her none to gently because never once had she cooperated with him. His eyes quit glowing but he walked to her. What was this man? He bent and literally ripped the see-through garments she wore from her body. His eyes were glazed and even his eyes were a soft golden brown color. He was sweating profusely. Did he even know what he was doing? Humiliation hit her hard as she lay there exposed to his hungry view. At the same time she felt herself responding to his hot look and he was a very handsome man. She felt herself growing wet. How could she be attracted to someone who was about to rape her? It didn’t make any sense. He sniffed the air around her and began to rip off his own clothes. It was only seconds from the time he had his clothes off until he was on top of her. With her legs chained apart it was nothing for him to thrust in to her. Amanda screamed but it wasn’t loud with the gag in her mouth. He was huge and despite her wetness he was rough with her. He thrust and thrust and Amanda saw his eyes start to glow again. Her own eyes widened. “What was he?” He wasn’t a vampire. He didn’t smell like one. All vampires had a peculiar smell that only other vamps could smell. His eyes did not glow red either so he wasn’t a slave. His eyes quit glowing with his release but he immediately got hard all over again. Crap, was this to be her new fate? Raped and raped? Her hate for Trenton transferred itself to this golden man. Amanda could barely open her eyes. She was weak from lack of feeding. How long could the man go? Two days had passed. He had taken her over and over again at intervals. She couldn’t even feel what he did to her anymore. It was a blessing in disguise. At some point he had covered her with a soft blanket. She saw him walk into the room. He was fully dressed and his eyes were clear. He had a glass in his hand. In the glass was blood. She could smell it. Silently she begged he would give it to her. It was animal blood. Cow to be specific. She didn’t care. She needed it. He apparently knew she needed it. Amanda knew all about what happened when vampires didn’t feed. They went in to hibernation, a deep sleep of nothingness. She knew this because that is how Trenton punished those who did not obey his will to the fullest. Trenton would know she was starving and yet he hadn’t come for her. He sat the glass down on the nightstand. “I will give you that in a moment, Amanda. My name is Royce.” He left the room and came back with a bowl. He seemed totally different this morning. It was the first time he had actually spoken to her. He pulled the blanket off of her slowly and she winced afraid he was going to take her again. He had a rag in the bowl of soapy water and he used it to wash her between her legs. She jerked but it felt good as he washed her there. He gave her a once over, that was of a more professional nature. He looked as if he really cared that he had hurt her. “I am sorry I hurt you, so sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I don’t think you need to go to a hospital. There is a lot to explain. I am going to take the gag out of your mouth now since your eyes are not red any more. Please don’t bite me, okay? Give me a chance to explain.” He covered her back up with the blanket. Bite him? Why would he think that? She wasn’t allowed to bite anyone that wasn’t a slave like herself. He was gentle in removing the gag from her mouth. “I don’t think I’d like to find out what a vampire werewolf would be like and I don’t think you would either.” Royce saw her eyes widen in surprise. “A werewolf.” He nodded and said it again. “I have enough problems as I am now. I wouldn’t like to add vampirism to them.” She moved her chin experimentally. Her mouth and jaw hurt. “Let me go.” “In a minute.” He told her again and reached for the glass of blood. It was still warm, she could tell and he made a twisted face at it. “Boy and I thought my curse was bad.” He lifted her head and helped her drink down the whole glass while he tried not to show how disgusted he was. She sighed in relief as she felt the strength return to her body. “Was that enough?” He asked simply.

She nodded it was. “Why did Trenton bring me here? To whore for a werewolf now?” He flinched and it brought her an amazing amount of satisfaction to know that she could hurt him even if it was just with words. His golden brown eyes looked at her seriously and they were troubled. “There is no way to say this but the straight up way.” “Say it then so I can be up from here and wash the smell of you off my body.” Aw yes, that barb hurt him also. “Amanda.” He hesitated as if he was unsure how to say it. “Wolves mate for life. You are my mate, my one and only. What you experienced, was my curse. The mindless mating lust when the wolf part of me reigns in total control to force a mate for itself. It won’t happen like that ever again. I promise you.” He looked like he had plenty more to say but she snickered in his face. “I am no one’s mate, nor will I ever be. I am a vampire slave. Trenton has given me to you now.” She smirked almost hysterically. “So now I am to be the whore slave of a werewolf and a vampire. Who is next? A Warlock? The invisible man?” “That’s not true. I wish you would quit saying that. You are not a slave. You are my mate. I can’t keep you here. I wouldn’t want you to stay if you were not willing. When I remove these bonds you will be free to go if that is your wish. I just thought since you are under a curse yourself you would understand mine a little better and stay and hear me out.” “You are deluded. I may not know about werewolves but I know about vampires. I can’t change what I am. I will always be his slave. My master,” she spat out the words with the greatest lack of respect, “has already told me that if I left you for any reason that he would hunt me down and punish me. Then he would kill my parents and make my sisters his slaves as well. He means it.” “What?” Royce was shocked. This was a whole new wrinkle in things. He would never have a willing mate? That freakin’ vampire would always control his mate? He was angry. She could see it in the slant of his eyes as he narrowed them. “That is not the way I would have it.” He removed her chains and bonds jerkily. “The bathroom is through there. My sister-in-law gave me some clean clothes for you and some salves. I laid them on the counter. This room has been made darker for you.” Then he got up and left. He was seething in anger and his eyes were glowing that eerie golden glow from within. Amanda realized he would have said much more to her if he hadn’t been so angry. “I hate the dark.” She whispered, sitting up. “I am not even a full vampire.” She didn’t understand him. He left her. Was he that confident she wouldn’t run off? Maybe he didn’t care. Either way, she was staying. She had to, for the safety of her own family. This was a little more freedom than she was used to and she did appreciate the fact. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad being the slave whore of a good-looking werewolf. At least she wouldn’t have to be around Trenton and the other minions. Royce slammed in to the kitchen and slammed the door on the cabinet as he got himself a glass for a big drink of water. If he didn’t get himself under control he would be changing even against his own will. “Are you okay, Royce? Is she staying?” Jace asked. He knew how important this was to him. He downed the whole glass of water. “She’s staying but it is not of her own free will.” “What?” Remy asked quietly. “How can that be?” “That bastard threatened to kill her family if she leaves me. She thinks she’s only traded being the slave of a vampire for being the slave of a werewolf. Some trade huh? She thinks she will never be rid of that Vampire. I fear she’s right.” “A slave?” Remy didn’t understand. None of them did. “We don’t know anything about vampires. We are at a disadvantage here.” “God, Royce.” Jace said with feeling. “I knew we should have killed that man when we had the chance.” He looked at his wife apologetically when she gasped at his statement. He really didn’t know if he meant it or not at this point but he feared he did. He kept talking to Royce. “I do know we are a lot

stronger than they are. I could sense the fear.” “Freaking lot of good that does us with them appearing and disappearing at will. I am going out to take care of the stock. I will be back before dark to take care of her. Best stay away from my wing for a while until we know if she means us any harm.” Each brother had his own wing of the family mansion and it afforded him all the privacy they needed. “Wait Royce. Is it Amanda Cook?” Remy asked. “I didn’t get around to asking Remy, I’m sorry.” He shook his head and practically ran out of the house. He headed straight for the barn. Hell, she probably did one of those nifty disappearing tricks and was even now gone for all he knew. “Oh Lord, Jace.” Remy covered her mouth and tears were already showing in her brown eyes. “This will destroy Royce. Maybe it was better that he was alone.” Jace went to his wife immediately and gathered her up in his arms. “It is going to be okay, Remy. I don’t know how, but it’s got to be okay.” Things had been going so well for them lately. They had their first child after being married for so long and wishing for a baby. They had put it off worried they would only bring another werewolf in to the world. Remy was barely getting her strength back from the hard labor and delivery. Sarah was two weeks old today. She was sweet and innocent and not a werewolf. Amanda watched out the bay window as Royce rode off on a big black horse. Good, he wouldn ’t be back for a while. She dropped the blanket she had wrapped around herself and hurried in to the bathroom. She would get a shower and she would feel much better. Then she would open all the curtains wide to enjoy the sunlight. It was something she didn’t get to do often because of Trenton. He was so vulnerable to the sunlight they weren’t allowed to have any even though he wasn’t on the same floor as them and no light could possibly touch him where he was. After her shower Amanda wandered around the rooms of this wing of the big mansion. She found the television room and was just starting to watch it, another luxury she hadn’t been allowed in years and years. “Amanda?” Amanda jumped to her feet and turned to the door. There was a petite blonde headed woman standing there. Should she run? How? The woman blocked the door. “Amanda Cook. It is you, isn’t it?” She knew her name? She hadn’t heard her full name spoken out loud in years. She frowned and watched as the woman came a little closer. “It’s Remy. Remy Miller.” Remy, her best friend from high school? “Remy? Oh my god. What are you doing here?” The two women rushed together and hugged for a long time. They laughed and hugged jubilantly, nearly jumping up and down in excitement. “I live here Amanda. This is my home. We didn’t know what happened to you? Your parents have been so torn up since you disappeared.” “It’s unbelievable and you have to promise me that you won’t contact them. Please Remy. I would die of shame. It could cause their deaths.” She rushed in to explanation. The whole thing was just so unbelievable but Amanda had lived it, she knew it was true. “I won’t. I promise and I understand more than you know.” Remy assured her. “You know what I have become?” Amanda frowned. How was that possible? “A vampire.” Remy hugged her again and pulled her to the couch to sit down. “I am so sorry that happened to you. Oh my god. I just realized you are walking around in the daylight. The curtains are all open.” Amanda laughed at the look on her friends face. It was the first time she had felt like really laughing in a long time. “I am not a nightwalker, Remy. I am not even a full vampire.” She was afraid to let go of her friend’s hand. It had been so long since she had any allies. “You’re not? Is that good or bad? I can’t tell from your tone of voice.” Amanda shrugged. “It makes me a slave. I don’t have his strength or his abilities. Trenton is very careful to keep us all slaves. On the other hand, if the bastard was killed it would free me from his grip and I wouldn’t remain a vampire. So it all depends on how you look at it.”

“Amanda, I have to ask. I saw Royce bring you blood in a glass. How many people have you bitten? You wouldn’t bite me would you? You can control this, right?” Amanda laughed again. “I’ve never bitten anyone, Remy, that wasn’t a slave like myself. Trenton, as Master, forbids it. I can control that part of my nature.” “I don’t understand about Vampires. Help me to understand. I have so many questions whirling around in my head.” Amanda soaked up her friend’s presence and she realized she looked happy but then Remy hadn ’t been a vampire slave for over ten years either. “Trenton has only bitten me twice. He would never take the third bite on any of his slaves for it would make us full vampires and he would have less control over us. We would then be infecting more and more people. In his own warped way he is trying to control the vampire population, his part of it. It is probably the only good thing he has ever done in his life, not making thousands of other vampires.” “He bit you and sucked your blood. Twice.” She repeated her. “You can walk in the daylight because you aren’t a full fledged Vampire. Will you age and die or stay young forever?” This was so like the Remy she remembered, bright and inquisitive. “I age and I can still die Remy. Only on the third bite would a slave become immortal. Trenton would never let that happen.” She was about to ask more questions when they both heard an anguished shout. “Remy!” A very disturbed male voice echoed from the bottom of the stairs at the end of the hall. “It’s my husband.” Remy told her as Amanda jumped nervously. They both listened to his quick steps as he ran up the stairs. He ran past the doorway intent on going to Royce’s room. “I’m in here.” Remy called to him and he swung around and came back. He saw them sitting together on the couch and frowned. “Are you okay?” “The bastard has a harem?” Amanda muttered and gave her most hateful look to the man she knew as Royce. “This is your husband?” Remy stood up. “Come here, husband.” She reached out her hand to him. “I want you to meet Amanda Cook. We were best friends in high school and beyond.” She smiled even though she noticed the hatred on Amanda’s face. That wouldn’t last long. Everyone loved Jace. “Amanda, meet my husband. I love him very much. Jace Dominga.” Jace walked carefully into the room. He wasn’t sure there wasn’t any threat here but he knew he would be calling Remy to account for her actions later. She might have been killed. He stuck out his hand to the young woman. She didn’t take it and he put it down against his side studying her closely. She had blonde hair and green wide set eyes in a wholesome looking face. She didn’t look like a vampire. “He said his name was Royce.” “Royce and Jace are identical twins.” Remy explained when she saw the confusion on her face. “Is he a werewolf? An alpha male, like Royce?” “I am.” Jace answered for himself. She stared at him thoughtfully. “Really? How interesting, two alpha males in the same household. Is there by chance a third?” If there was a third then Amanda knew why she was here. Trenton needed three alpha males to be found in the same family. Jace cringed, as always, whenever he thought of his older brother Rafe. “It’s a long story. I am going to go stay with the baby. Remy come with me.” Remy could hear the distrust in his voice. “I am safe, Jace. Amanda would never hurt me, any of us. Go on and stay with Sarah, she should still be asleep. I will come down shortly. Amanda needs to know all that has happened.” “Remy trusts you but I warn you, hurt her and unless you can fly or disappear, you are dead meat. I can still catch you. I have your scent. It will be nothing to snap your neck like a twig when I find you. Whatever it takes to kill you I will do it. That’s a promise.” “Jace!” Remy exclaimed. Shocked at her husband’s vehemence. He stared hard at Amanda with glowing eyes and then left when she didn’t say anything back to him. He smelled her fear. Good, because he meant business, Royce’s mate or not. “Whew, I believe he means that.” Amanda released her breath. That was probably the third

scariest thing she had ever seen in her life. Trenton, Royce, and now Jace had left indelible impressions on her. “Jace is not a violent man, but, yes, he means it. He never says anything he doesn’t mean. He is a good man, Amanda.” “You’re very lucky. He loves you and you have a baby!” Amanda told her enviously. Then looked at her in a panic. “Does he rip people apart? Is he a rapist like his brother? Oh my god, Remy did he bite you and make you a werewolf?” “Amanda, Royce is not a rapist.” She argued in defense of her brother in law first. She knew why Amanda would think that way and wanted to set her straight as soon as possible. “Try telling that to someone who isn’t one of his victims.” Amanda mumbled. Remy continued. “I am not a werewolf either.” She looked at her friend and could tell how bad she was hurting but there were things she didn’t know. “We were best friends in high school and I mourned your disappearance for a long time. So you owe it to me to listen carefully to everything I am about to tell you. In light of your own experiences try to keep an open mind.” Royce roped the cow and led it to the barn. Once inside he dismounted and put his horse in its stall. He fed him oats and rubbed him down. Then he took the cow and led it into a stall likewise. Before he had to time to think about what he was doing he pulled his penknife out of his pocket, grabbed a bucket and sliced a cut in the shoulder of the cow. She stomped nervously. “Sorry old girl, usually I take the pain away don’t I? I don’t give you pain.” He patted her and then squeezed the cut causing the blood to run freely into the metal bucket. For once he was glad he was a werewolf instead of a vampire. There was no way he could drink blood. When he thought he had enough, he sat the bucket aside and put medicine on the cow. He didn’t want her getting an infection. He’d doctored the livestock on the ranch for a long time now. It was second nature. He thought of the lovely blonde who was supposed to be his mate. She hated him. It was obvious this morning in every look she had given him with her pretty green eyes. He deserved her hatred. Even thinking about what he had done to her made him feel physically sick. He tried to calm his stomach. He’d done enough puking when he came into his right mind and realized what he had done. She had the kind of girl next-door looks that had always attracted him, wholesome and healthy. She had an indefinable glow about her. Perhaps that was part of the mating, seeing that glow in one’s mate and being attracted to it. Surprise was putting it mildly when he walked in to the kitchen and saw Amanda sitting at the table with Remy. She was holding baby Sarah and even more surprising was that she was smiling. She was smiling until she saw him. That mega watt smile hit him right in the solar plexus even if was directed at baby Sarah and not him. He was speechless for a moment. Royce continued on in the kitchen and set the bucket down on the counter. “Do you want this now or later?” He asked her. Hell he didn’t even feel worthy enough to talk to her after what he had done to her. “Later...thank you.” “Welcome.” Her thanks had astonished him. He half expected her to turn into a Vampire and do to him whatever it was vampires did. He turned to Remy. “How is Sarah this evening?” “Fat and happy.” She told him. They both knew he would be kissing the downy soft crown of her head if Amanda had not been holding her. Royce loved his little niece. He gasped in realization and turned back to Amanda. “It’s still daylight.” “I don’t sleep in a coffin either.” She told him snippily. “I don’t understand.” He frowned. Was she or was she not a vampire? Remy stood up smiling. “I am going to give Sarah a bath before I put her down for a quick nap. It will give you two a chance to talk.” She lifted the baby in to her arms. “Jace and I are going out to eat tonight so I will see you both in the morning.” “Night Remy.” Royce responded. He knew that meant he wouldn’t see them at all until morning. They always went out to eat together at least once a week. It was sort of a date night. Apparently baby

Sarah was going with them because they hadn’t asked Royce to take care of her. There was nothing he enjoyed more than holding and taking care of the baby. She made him feel hopeful about his own future. They looked at each other warily until Remy was out of the room. Then Royce asked her again. “The daylight doesn’t bother you?” “Why do you want to know?” She saw him grit his jaw before he answered her. “Look, I am well aware you are here against your will and that you can’t even stand the sight of me. I intend to stay out of your way as much as possible. I only want to know how to take care of you.” “I can take care of myself.” She lifted her softly rounded chin in challenge. “Fine.” Royce stormed out of the kitchen and went upstairs. “Catch your own damn cows.” He muttered to himself. Stubborn woman. When he was in his room he stripped off his clothes and jumped in the shower. He smelled like horses and cows. He would get the smell off and then go fix himself some supper. Usually he lucked out and Remy fixed the meals. When they went out to eat he always ate light, anything that was quick and easy to fix. He leaned his head against the wall and let the water run over his tired body. He wouldn’t make Amanda chase the cows, he knew that but she could cooperate with him a little bit. Royce admitted to himself that if she wasn’t here under Trenton’s threats that he would have insisted she stay and at least try and get to know him before he let her go. He would have let her go though if she couldn’t stand being with him. How could she not feel anything for him if she was supposed to be his mate? Did her vampirism somehow short circuit what should be between them? Jace and Remy hadn’t had this problem, not on this scale. “Aw damn.” He hit the wall with his fist and then began to wash himself. What was the use? He’d been alone for so long now. What was the rest of his life in comparison? He was already forty-two years old. Royce made up a bed in another room for her and left the light on. It was at the opposite end of the hall from his. Unless she went down to the end of the hall where his room was, she wouldn’t even have to get near him. He went downstairs but he didn’t see her anywhere. He didn’t see anyone. So he went in to the kitchen to scavenge some supper. Royce saw the bucket in the sink, empty and washed. He found a frozen pizza and threw it in the oven and turned it on. Then he set the timer. It was better than nothing. He didn’t feel like fixing himself anything that required thought or work right now. “You’re supposed to preheat the oven first.” She said behind him and Royce turned to look at her. Amanda was lovely in a quiet understated kind of way. He ached for what would never be now. She was after all, just about everything he ever imagined in a woman, all he ever hoped for in a mate, Vampirism and attitude aside. “It is just pizza.” He told her. “I am willing to share it with you. If you eat.” He semi probed hoping to find out if she needed food as well as blood. “Thank you, I would like that.” She sat down at the table while she watched him even if it was a bit warily. “We need to talk.” Royce got plates out of the cabinet. “Whenever you are ready.” He wanted to go slow with her. He wanted her to know he was amiable to talking. Hell any kind of attention from her would make him happy at this point. “I should have listened to you this morning. I just wasn’t thinking with a clear head at the time.” “Can’t blame you for that now, can I? After what I did to you.” She looked away uncomfortably. Her green eyes troubled. He would give anything to go hold her and comfort her. “Remy told me that you don’t even remember what happened, that it is all part of your werewolf curse. That you couldn’t control it and that it was a once in a lifetime thing.” “I don’t remember, not that it excuses what happened. I’m sorry.” He crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back against the counter. He was prepared for any hatred or venom she wanted to throw at him. He would deserve every bit of it. She looked back at him. Was that relief he saw in her eyes? He wasn’t sure. She was obviously still afraid of him. Fear was the one thing he could smell clearly whenever anyone around him, whether

human or animal, experienced it. Did she need reassurance that he wasn’t going to touch her again? He wouldn’t do anything without her permission. He’d promised himself that. “She told me all about your brother that’s missing, the family curse, everything.” “Did she now?” Somehow that didn’t make Royce feel much better. He still knew very little about her. “I, ah, I need some things if I am going to stay here.” Amanda started to explain. Trenton wouldn ’t give a rat’s ass if she had to walk around here naked all the time but she did. As it stood she was wearing borrowed clothes from Remy. He nodded his head in understanding and stood up to pull his wallet out of his back pocket. “I understand. Actually I had thought of it this morning and intended to take you shopping for clothes and necessary things but well, plans change.” Royce walked over, careful to keep the table between them. She still smelled of fear. He pulled out several bills of large denomination and laid them on the table. “This will get you started. There’s a Jeep and a Lincoln in the garage. Those two are both mine. Use either one. I don’t care. The keys are in them.” She looked at the money and then at him. “I can leave?” “You’re not a prisoner, Amanda.” He said it a little gruffer than he meant to but it annoyed him that she trusted him so little. She shook her head. “I can’t go by myself. Trenton will know. He might think I am trying to escape.” “How would that son of a bitch know anything that goes on here?” Royce really disliked that man. Her fear increased and he smelled it. Was it her fear of him or her fear of Trenton? “He would know. Mind link.” She told him honestly. “When he wants me to hear his thoughts. I hear them. When he wants to know mine, I can’t keep him from them. He knows everything, and besides, I am not even sure I can remember how to drive.” “I will take you then.” Royce offered. He’d been out on the ranch today, nearly at the farthest corners of it. Had Trenton known? How close did she have to stay to him? Was it a matter of the mind link like she said? Would Trenton know a necessary distance? Would he know she wasn’t running away? How would he punish her? “Thank you, Royce.” It was the first time he could remember her saying his name. It strangely moved him. Everything about this woman moved him. “We can stop at the bank and open you an account.” Suspicion was back on her face. “What for?” “For whatever you might want or need.” “You aren’t responsible for me.” “If you say so.” He wasn’t going to argue with her. It was patently obvious she didn’t want to accept any more of his help than she had to. If she had to stay close to him then he was going to the bank, and darn it, he was opening her an account, one way or the other. “I just need some clothes and I don’t need much. I don’t even know how long Trenton intends to leave me here.” Once again she reminded him she wasn’t staying with him because of her own free will. He felt lower than dirt. He even felt sorry for her that someone else had so much control over her life. He should have killed that son of a bitch when he had the chance. The timer on the oven went off just as the phone rang. “I will get the oven.” Amanda assured him so he could answer his phone “Dominga residence.” Amanda listened closely. She was very curious about this family and especially him. She didn’t know where the hot pads were so she used a hand towel to pull the pan from the oven. “Hey Reba.” He smiled slightly. “How’s it going?” “Yeah it’s been quite a while.” He listened and Amanda watched as he frowned. He put one hand in his front jeans pocket. He certainly filled out his jeans in the nicest way. His eyes turned to her and she looked away.

“Thank you for thinking of me but I am afraid I have to turn you down.” Amanda watched as he glanced out the kitchen window to the dark outside as if he were thinking hard about something. She started searching drawers for a pizza cutter. “I am pretty much booked up for the indefinite future. That is very sweet of you to say so Reba. Thanks again. You take care.” He hung up the phone and walked over to her, very near in fact. She sucked in a startled breath but he only reached around her and opened the correct drawer. “Knives. Pizza cutters. Anything sharp goes in this drawer.” She reached in and got it and closed the drawer back. “Thanks.” “No problem, you will figure out where everything goes soon enough.” He might be right. She didn’t know how long she was going to be here. Trenton could very well leave her here forever just to get rid of her. She always had been his most unruly slave but even he knew she wouldn’t risk her family. He’d always held it over her head. Amanda suddenly remembered the time he had taken her to her own little sister’s room just so she would know how easy it would be for him to get to her family. Unconsciously she started shaking again. The cold unfeeling bastard! He let her be close to her family knowing she couldn’t stay and couldn ’t do anything about it. Royce took the pizza cutter from her when she stood frozen, deep in some thought. He realized what ever it was, wasn’t pleasant for her by the bittersweet torment on her face. He cut the pizza and slid a couple of slices on each plate. She went and sat down across the table from him with her plate. Royce started eating then jumped up and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. “Do you drink beer? Or would you prefer a pop?” “A pop?” Her green eyes lit up in interest. “Do you have cola?” “Sure, which kind?” “Which kind?” She looked puzzled by the simple question. Royce frowned. “Come look. How long has it been since you had a one?” “Years.” She sighed and hesitantly moved to the refrigerator to look inside. He knew she didn’t want to get close to him. “Help yourself to whatever you want, Amanda, whenever you want.” He went back to the table and sat down. “Wow.” She saw many different kinds of pop. A vanilla flavored cola caught her eye. That sounded good. She grabbed a can and returned to the table. Royce had so many questions he wanted to ask her but he wasn’t ready to risk rejection again. So he started eating in silence, he did, however, watch her face as she ate the pizza and drank the soft drink. There was sheer enjoyment all over it. He wondered what she’d been eating and drinking. “This is very good.” She actually smiled at him and he swallowed hard. Lord, she was beautiful and growing more beautiful to him by the minute. It was only frozen pizza and a lousy soft drink for Pete’ s sake but it seemed to make her happy. “There is plenty more. I made you a bed up in the front bedroom of my wing.” She looked up at him and licked her rosy lips but she didn’t say anything. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “If it bothers you to be that close, there is a whole other wing not being used at the moment.” It was Rafe’s wing. It hadn’t been used in years. Then again Jace and he had discussed going to find Rafe this next weekend and see if they couldn’t convince him to come home. “The room you picked out will be fine.” She reached for another slice of pizza. Her hands were slender and delicate looking. She wore no rings of any kind. There was a knock at the back door and she dropped the pizza back on her plate. She jumped up and literally ran from the room. “What the hell?” Royce stood up to answer the door. Why did she run off? It was only one of the hands. “Sorry to bother you Royce but we have a cow that can’t deliver. We found her out on the range and managed to get her in the barn. I saw the light on so it was easier to

walk over here than call.” “I will be right out.” He closed the door and looked around to see Amanda peeking around the doorframe from the other room. She came out when she realized the door was closed. “Why did you run? Why didn’t you just fly or disappear or whatever it is you Vampires types do?” He almost coaxed a smile out of her before she kept it from happening. “What if someone sees me?” She asked quietly. “What if they do? You have every right to be here.” She hadn’t said if she could fly or disappear or make things appear from nothing like Trenton. She wasn’t going to let him know anything about her. He sucked in his discouragement hoping she didn’t see it on his face. “What if they recognize me? My parents can’t know I am here. It’s for their own safety.” She tried to explain. “I see. What town did you live in?” “Parker’s Flat. Just like Remy.” “We don’t have anyone working for us from Parker’s Flat.” He told her hoping to put her mind at rest. “If anyone should ever recognize you, just deny who you are and give them a different name.” She nodded. “I have to go take care of a cow.” He told her. He wasn’t sure he should leave her alone just when they had actually been halfway communicating but that cow needed help. “Okay.” She went back to the table to finish eating. Royce grabbed a slice of pizza and headed to the barn. He would eat it on the way. He really needed to know what her life as a vampire had been like. Would she ever tell him? Hell, would she ever share anything with him? Amanda cleaned the kitchen. She wrapped the remaining pizza and put it in the refrigerator in case Royce might still be hungry. Then she went and found the room Royce had prepared for her. She hoped that was a good sign that he wouldn’t be forcing his attentions on her again. She watched some television shows and didn’t like a thing she found until she came across a channel that boasted they showed continuous reruns. There were a few shows she recognized, so she settled in to watch them content in the freedom to do what she wanted, when she wanted. It was only when she felt Trenton touch her mind that she went to search out Royce. She didn’t want to be alone. Trenton was most likely checking on her like he would a wayward child but she didn’t know for sure. One thing was certain Trenton wouldn’t do anything to her if Royce were around even though logically she knew he could call her back at any time. She heard Royce in the barn when she walked in quietly but she didn’t see him at first. When she found him, he was in the stall with the cow. The cow was lying on her side. She saw that he was also lying down and stroking her neck and shoulders. “Aw Betsy.” He stroked her gently. “You’ve got to want to live, love.” Amanda watched his big hand, spell bound, as he ran it up and down the cow’s neck ever so gently. She craved a gentle touch herself. It had been so long. It was hard to equate gentleness with this man after what he had done to her. She saw the baby cow a little ways away. It was dead. Stillborn. She was filled with pity for the mother cow. “I couldn’t save it.” Royce commented quietly while he stroked the mother cow. How had he known she was there? She had been so quiet. “It’s rare when a cow can’t drop a calf naturally. This one was born dead.” “Will the mother be all right?” She asked softly and watched as he sat up. “She should be. She will get up in a few minutes.” He stood up and went to where the calf was. He picked it up and carried it out of the barn, she didn’t know to where. “I will be right back.” The mother cow made a pitiful sound and Amanda went in the stall and petted her neck as she had seen Royce do. “Get up girl. You can do it. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” She encouraged her. “You have to fight.” She looked up to see Royce standing there watching them. His clothes were messy and there was blood on them. There was a very peculiar look in his golden brown eyes. Was it attraction? She

jumped up uneasily. “Betsy likes people.” Royce told her. “She doesn’t mind you petting her.” “I’ve never been around animals.” “Haven’t you?” He remarked under his breath. He’d slated his animal lusts on her and who knew what that bastard Trenton had done to her. He tried to encourage himself that she had sought him out without being coaxed. He hoped it was a good sign. “What?” She frowned at him. “Nothing.” He back peddled. “There is nothing to it.” He stepped in to the stall with her and couldn’t help but notice how she stepped away from him. “Let’s see if we can get her to stand up. Grab her head and I will grab her around the waist.” Royce could lift this cow to her feet by himself but Amanda wouldn’t know that. He wanted her to feel like she was helping. He wanted her to realize that he wasn’t a threat any more. They lifted her up easily and the mother cow continued to stand. “That’s a good girl, Betsy.” Royce praised her and patted her on the flanks. “Do you name all your cows?” Royce smiled. “Sure do. All the girl cows are Betsy and all the bulls are called Bo.” Amanda giggled. That was cute and he had a great smile. She quit smiling when she saw his appreciative look. She didn’t want to be attracted to him. It would only hurt if she got attached and then had to leave him. She had the feeling Trenton wanted it that way. Royce noticed she pulled away mentally. “Time to let Betsy rest.” He walked out of the barn and listened to her following him. That was good, because he didn’t really want to leave her out here in the dark alone. Despite what she thought about him, he cared about her and her safety. Royce restlessly paced in his bedroom. It was past one o’clock and he couldn’t fall asleep. He’d tried, before he finally got up. He slipped on his jeans and thought he might as well make the trek to the kitchen and see what he could find to snack on. He grabbed his laptop on the way out of the room. He walked down the hall barefooted not making a sound on the plush carpet. He passed her room and noticed the door was closed and the lights were out. Maybe she slept like a normal person. He didn’t know. Hell she could be sleeping hanging from the rafters in the attic for all he knew. He found the pizza and started eating it cold. He didn’t mind cold pizza. He grabbed a beer and sat down at the table. He’d play a couple of hands of solitaire. That should make him sleepy. He shook his head, solitaire, just like his life, how appropriate. Royce tried not to feel sorry for himself but sometimes he just couldn’t help it. He’d looked forward to finding his mate, his one and only for years. Now even that was going to be screwed up. There had been plenty of women in his life over the years. He wasn’t a bad looking man and he knew how to treat a woman right. He had just never loved deeply. It was part of the curse that he couldn ’t. He smelled her long before he saw her. He was used to her scent now, that unique smell that was hers alone. “What is that?” She asked. She was standing in the doorway to the kitchen watching him quietly. He turned to look over his shoulder. “What?” He saw her looking at the laptop. He didn’t want to scare her away so he didn’t move and he didn’t stand up. She was fully dressed as she had been earlier in the day in a pair of jeans and a button up blouse that was a bit baggy for her slender form. She came on in the room. “That, in front of you?” She pointed to it with a slender finger. “It’s a laptop computer.” She came very close. “Really? But it’s so small and not any bigger than a notebook.” He frowned. “You’ve never seen a laptop?” “Not that small.” “Here. Sit down and look at this one then.” He offered, anything to establish a connection of any kind with her. He stood up and moved over to another chair. She hesitated but she did it and he didn’t smell any fear on her. Great, they were making

progress. Royce watched her lean close to it and examine it but she didn’t touch it. “You can’t hurt anything.” He told her. “Check it out.” “Do you like playing cards?” She asked. “I recognize solitaire.” “Sometimes when I am bored. Shrink it down out of the way.” Green eyes slanted in his direction. “I will show you how.” He stood up and reached in front of her. He still didn’t smell any fear. It pleased his weary heart and hope sprang renewed. “That’s the mouse? That little pad?” He nodded. “It takes some getting used to. I want you to know there is a bigger computer in the office of my wing. Use it to your heart’s content, any time you want.” Her hair smelled of honeysuckle and he resisted the desire to run his hand over her blonde hair and see if it was as soft as it looked. “What would I do with it?” She asked, playing her fingers across the pad to watch the cursor move over the screen. “Surf the internet. Play games.” He shrugged. It was as if there was an invisible string that joined them. Royce could feel it and wondered if she could likewise. “I’d like that. Thank you but you will have to get me started.” She even smiled at him. “No problem.” Hell, he would do anything for her, if she only asked. “Couldn’t you sleep?” She stood up. “Here’s your chair back.” He thought she was going to leave but she didn’t. So he slid back in to the chair she had just vacated. “Sometimes I fight insomnia.” She went and got a cola from the refrigerator and sat back down at the table with him, surprising him yet again. “I am not a nightwalker.” She offered reluctantly and Royce closed the laptop. She was infinitely more interesting. “Are you?” She asked him. “Me?” He raised eyebrows at her. “A nightwalker? No.” He smiled at the thought. He had enough problems as it was. He didn’t need that one. “I am curious about you. You and your brother are the only werewolves I’ve ever known, although I knew you were real. I saw your other brother. He scared the holy crap out of me. He nearly got Trenton you know.” She’d seen Rafe? “I am curious about you, too. I didn’t even know Vampires were real.” Go slow. Go easy. He reminded himself. “Let’s play twenty questions. For every one you ask me. I get to ask you one.” She thought about it a minute. “Let’s do. Me first.” She took a drink of her pop and licked her delicate lips. “I love these cokes. Do you only turn in to a werewolf during the full moon?” Her tongue darting out over her lips made his groin twitch. He would love to kiss those lips. “No. I can turn at will. The full moon affects me but it isn’t anything like the werewolf movies portray.” He looked at her thoughtfully. “Can you fly? Disappear?” Royce needed to know if she was going to up and disappear sometime and he would never know what happened to her. It worried him. So he started with that question. She laughed and the gentle laugh tugged at his heart. “That’s two questions. I get two next. I cannot fly or disappear. Only Trenton can do that and only he can transport us slaves. He is quite old. I don’t think all vampires can fly. I suspect most of them can’t. He is the only one that I know of that can transport himself. The other vampires are quite impressed with that.” That was very good to know but it brought up other questions. Trenton could very well take her from him at any time. He hated the thought of that. A silent rage filled him and he hid it from her the best he could. He swallowed down his beer. “Does it hurt to change into a werewolf and how exactly does the moon affect you?” She asked him next. “Yes, it hurts, that’s why I don’t do it. The moon tends to make me moody and restless when it’s full.” He smiled at her. She looked back at him like she didn’t believe him. “Really. I told you it isn’t like the movies. That is all there is to it.” He paused. “How many

people have you bitten?” She looked sad. “Hundreds but not exactly people only other slaves like myself or animals. Trenton does not allow us to infect any others. I am not sure we even could to be honest.” Really? That brought up several other interesting questions in his mind. “Do you eat people when you are a werewolf?” “Never.” Royce grimaced. Even the thought was horrifying. He volleyed back. “Why don’t you have the same kind of powers that Trenton does?” “I am only a slave, Royce. Trenton has bitten me twice, all the slaves twice only. The third bite would make us immortal like him and he isn’t about to risk that.” That answer stunned him. He would have to think more on it when he was alone. He didn’t want her to stop playing the game. “If you don’t eat people. Do you rip them apart?” Her pretty green eyes watched him intently. This answer was important to her he could see that. He had to be honest with her and hoped she could understand. “I can, Amanda. I am unnaturally strong, but, no, I do not rip people apart or harass anyone. What would be the purpose? I am not a killer. Now that you’ve mentioned death in a round about way, how does someone kill a Vampire?” “Sunlight.” She shrugged. “A stake through the heart. A cross. The movies pretty much truthfully portray what it is like to be a vampire in our case.” She shrugged. “Do you shape shift?” “No shape shifting.” He frowned. She thought of things he never would. “Other than man to wolf and back again. Do slaves or Vampires shape shift?” “No, Vampires don’t change into bats and fly around or cats or any other animal that I know of. That is one mistake made in movies. They can be invisible to the human eye though. Slaves can’t do anything. Can I see you change sometime?” He hesitated. “If you like.” He considered how to ask this. “Amanda, if Trenton is vulnerable when he sleeps during the day why haven’t you slaves tried to kill him? A slave uprising if you will.” Her laugh was derisive. “All the slaves try a time or two until it’s realized that we can not destroy him. I did.” She admitted. “His death can not come at our hands. We can’t even get close to him if that is our intention. It’s as if we freeze until the desire passes. He punishes thoughts like those.” “That is damn inconvenient.” Royce commiserated with her. She and the other slaves were totally at his mercy. “What do you look like as a werewolf? Hairy and scary?” “Hairy and scary, yes.” Technically that was two questions but he wasn’t going to push his luck. “First, just as I do now with the glowing eyes. Then I change into a wolf. I look like any other four-legged wolf except my eyes glow until I have changed completely. Then it is harder to describe, part man, part wolf. Damn ugly if you ask me. Mostly teeth and snapping jaws.” “I saw your eyes glowing.” She frowned remembering. “They glowed with a golden hued light from within. Not a reflective light like you would see on most animals at night. You won’t ever hurt me again will you?” “Never.” He assured her softly. To hurt her would only be hurting himself. “I promise. It was only part of the curse and that will never happen again. I saw your eyes glow also. They were red when I first saw you, before I lost total control of my mind. Too bad it didn’t scare me away so that I didn’t hurt you.” She shrugged. “They are always red when Trenton is around.” Royce couldn’t help it; he sucked in a startled breath. “What?” “I said they are always red when Trenton is around.” “I heard you its just that…“ He nearly choked. “Its just that your eyes were red for days. They were still red when I came back in to my right mind.” “He was around then.” She shrugged again and looked away uncomfortably. “Wait a minute. He was around and we didn’t know it? He was watching us? He was watching everything I did to you?” He could barely get the words out. Trenton watched his mindless lust as he had abused this woman over and over again?

“He was invisible.” Amanda answered softly, unsure how he would take the news. Royce’s anger knew no bounds. It was bad enough he had to go through the mating lust, it was even worse that he had an audience. That Vampire had been hanging around the house? They could have been in mortal danger and not even known it. Little baby Sarah and Remy came to mind. They wouldn’t have been able to protect themselves. Amanda sensed his great anger and unconsciously she placed her hand over his. He didn’t even notice. She was used to Trenton’s perverted ways but Royce wouldn’t be and she could see how much it bothered him. “He put the gag on me so I couldn’t tell you he was around. It wasn’t so I wouldn’t bite you. It was also so that he didn’t have to hear me cussing him out and believe me I cuss him out a lot. It is all I can do. Trenton likes to watch others have sex.” She told him simply. Royce stood up nearly violently. He was filled with so many emotions he didn’t know what to feel first. “That wasn’t even sex. That was rape, the damn mindless animal lust of my curse.” “Please don’t be mad at me. I can’t help what he does.” He looked down at her concerned face and smelled her fear. He tried very hard to control himself for her sake. “Amanda, I am not mad at you, not at all. I am angry at that perverted, son of bitch, Vampire.” She just looked at him with huge green eyes, breathing heavily. “Believe me I understand. I don’t like him watching all the time either but what can I do about it?” Royce sat back down still trying to control his anger. “All the time?” He asked softly. “Maybe you better explain.” Their game of twenty questions had been long forgotten. “Trenton, all vampires for that matter, need to have sex when they feed.” “You didn’t.” He interrupted quickly. “You drank from a glass.” “Not slaves. We aren’t full vampires.” She explained. “Vampires.” She looked at him a touch embarrassed but went on bravely. “Vampires need violent sex and the release of their orgasm when they feed. It is the violence and control of taking another person that causes that. It’s not real sex if you know what I mean. I guess it is somewhat like what happens to you during your mating season.” “I see.” So that was what Trenton meant by his curse happening every night for the last three hundred years. “I guess the movies don’t portray that exactly right either. Vampires don’t hypnotize you in to submitting to them. They take you by force and once they have fed on you then they control you, mind and body.” Royce frowned in thought. “He had men slaves.” She nodded. “I don’t know about all Vampires but Trenton doesn’t lean that way. He does like plenty of male slaves around to help protect him from other vampires and because the male slaves are stronger than the females.” Royce just looked at her willing her to go on. He needed to understand how his enemy worked and Trenton was officially an enemy for many reasons. He didn’t even want to think about other vampires. This one was bad enough all by himself. “When Trenton takes a man. He takes along a female slave. I am just going to say this, okay. I know it is shocking, God, how I know!” “That’s the best way.” He assured her. “He is stronger than mortal men. You know that right? Once he has subdued the man. The female slave is forced to lie down next to or upon the man. Trenton rapes the female while he bites the man.” Royce sat silent, stunned at the perverted cunning of the Vampire. “You’ve been subjected to so much.” He choked out. “I am so sorry, Amanda, and I only added to your misery.” “Thank you for that. I am really tired now, I think I will go back to bed and see if I can sleep.” Royce watched her walk off. His thoughts were flying in a hundred different directions. My God, she should be crazy after all the things she had endured. “Wait.” Royce’s voice boomed out. Startled, she jumped and turned back towards him, full of fear.

“Sorry.” He apologized. He would have to be careful to not startle her. “Where exactly does Trenton live with all his many slaves?” “Why do you want to know?” “In case he takes you back.” He told her simply. “So I know where to come find you.” “You’d do that for me?” “Of course.” He thought he saw her eyes tear up a little before she told him the address in South Carolina. “That’s Spartanburg County. There are three large caves close by on his land, where he keeps slaves that are being punished. He kills the slaves that have reached fifty years old or there would be so many more. Good night, Royce.” Royce waited until she was out of his sight then he quickly found a piece of paper and wrote down the address so he wouldn’t forget it. Forewarned was forearmed. He would research it. Knowledge was power. Know your enemy. Trenton Fairview, if the man left any kind of paper trail he would find it. Moments later Jace came wandering in to the kitchen. He wore his pajama bottoms slung low on his hips. “What the hell was that about? I just passed Amanda. I asked her if she couldn’t sleep and she started crying and ran off.” “We’ve been talking. She was already crying. I am glad you are up. We need to talk, bad.” “The baby was up for a bottle and I couldn’t go back to sleep. What did you say to make her cry?” “Only that if Trenton, that bastard, ran off with her that I wanted to know how to find her.” Jace nodded. “She probably thinks we wouldn’t give a crap. Can’t blame her for that. Remy has told me some of the things she has learned about Amanda’s decade long ordeal.” Royce agreed. “It is a wonder she is not a raving lunatic by now.” He paused. “Jace.” It wasn’t that he was taking Amanda’s predicament lightly but Jace needed to be aware of something and he knew it wasn’t going to be easy for him to accept. “You know how Amanda’s eyes glowed red and Trenton told us not to remove her gag until they didn’t?” “Yeah. So she wouldn’t bite you. I saw them when I came to check on you two the next morning. It was spookier than crap. You were sleeping and weren’t harassing her so I left after I made sure you were both still breathing.” “The bastard was here the whole time.” “What?” Jace asked in stunned unbelief. “When he is around her eyes will glow. He didn’t want her telling us so that the sick bastard could watch. That is the only reason he insisted she be gagged.” There was an immediate clap of thunder and it sounded as if it was very close to the house. “But Remy and Sarah?” “I know. They could have been in danger and we didn’t even know.” More thunder even louder. “Better watch that or you will wake Remy and the baby.” “Sorry I didn’t realize.” But there was still a clap of thunder and a lightning bolt rent the nighttime sky. They could see it out the kitchen window. The control of the immediate weather patterns was one of those nifty tricks that Jace had learned he had acquired after he mated with Remy. When he was angry he could bring on thunderstorms and even small tornados. “Still a damn fine nifty trick every time I see it.” Royce exclaimed. “We will need to be on guard all the time. I don’t trust that bastard.” “Neither do I and its not like Remy or Sarah have any protection from him but us.” There was a rumble outside again which only went to prove how deeply this angered Jace. “That stupid limerick the old man made us memorize is making a whole lot of sense now.” Jace nodded. “I’ve thought about that. We should write it down and look at it line by line.” “I’ve got it in my wallet upstairs. I will be right back.”

“What the hell?” Jace looked totally flabbergasted when Royce tried to hand him the paper. “How did you do that? What was that?” “Huh?” Royce sat down when he didn’t take it and laid it open on the table, his sharp eyes already examining the limerick. “Royce don’t you realize what just happened?” “What? I went upstairs and got the Limerick.” He looked around the room. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Jace frowned. “But you disappeared and reappeared so fast it was almost as if you hadn’t left. Holy shit.” Royce looked at his brother. His brother didn’t lie and he wouldn’t lie about something like this. “What do you mean? I walked out of this room and up the stairs and back down them again.” “I didn’t see you leave. I didn’t see you walking. I saw you stand up and then disappear. You reappeared within seconds.” “Holy shit.” Royce echoed Jace’s earlier words. He began shaking. It wasn’t fear; it was the reaction to the shock and the unknown. “I don’t know how I did that.” They’d been expecting Royce to come in to his own special power they just weren’t expecting something like this. “Seems you’ve got a nifty trick of your own now.” Jace agreed. “Dad could move things with his mind. I can make storms and you can disappear and or move in really fast motion. I am not sure which.” He looked at his twin brother who was sitting there in shock and shaking like a leaf. “Go get something from my room. Check on Remy and the baby while you are at it.” “Okay.” Royce stood up. He handed Jace his watch. “They are both sleeping soundly although Remy has stolen your pillow. Well?” “You disappeared again. You were only gone maybe three seconds.” Jace laughed. “Damn this is great.” “But I don’t know how I did it. Is it going to happen all the time? Hell, I won’t be able to hide this from people. It’s bad enough being a freakin’ Werewolf.” “Think about going to get me a beer out of the fridge. Think about taking the first step. Concentrate on it hard.” Jace watched as Royce took a step and then another and got himself a beer, normal as apple pie. “That’s it. You didn’t disappear. Remy is going to freak when she finds out.” Royce sat back down. He didn’t know what to think. He wasn’t comfortable with it. “Let’s figure that out tomorrow okay. Let’s work on the Limerick for now. I’ve always hated this thing.” “I know. Me too, but now it makes much more sense than it ever did.” Jace read it out loud. A threefold cord is not quickly broken, So the very Word of God has spoken. Purest love of a child is the heavenly token. To undo what destiny has so evilly bespoken. By his unfaithfulness his whole life has been wroken. He is not alive but wishes to be woken. “The threefold cord we already knew was us. You, me, and Rafe.” Royce commented. “It comes from the bible.” “Purest love of a child is the heavenly token. To undo what Destiny has so evilly bespoken. That one never made sense to us. Now it does. It has to be Rafe’s daughter and Trenton said his curse came from a destiny witch. Rafe’s wife is a descendant of the witch.” Jace said thoughtfully. “Now it makes sense but our curse is wrapped up in his?” “Aw shit.” Royce barked out gruffly. “Don’t you get it? They are part of the same curse. Our ancestor must have been the one Trenton was unfaithful with. Trenton is the one whose whole life was wroken. Hell of an outdated word! He is definitely the one who is not alive.” “Aw shit is right.” Jace agreed. “That has to be it, no wonder the son of a bitch didn’t kill us. He is probably just as afraid of getting off track of his limerick as we are of screwing up ours.”

“I wish I could remember his Limerick.” Royce said. They turned when Amanda came back in to the room and started quoting it perfectly. Brothers Grimm there need be three. Three alpha males in the same family tree. To lift the curse and be set free. Another must be added to the melee. A gypsy child wild and free. One who was conjured from spells for thee. She sat down at the table with them unafraid. “We all had to memorize it. Trenton was hoping we somehow might help him figure it out.” “Thank you.” Royce took her hand and was rewarded when she didn’t pull away from his touch. He squeezed it lightly. “You and your brothers are the brothers Grimm. You would probably find the woman Trenton was unfaithful with even had a Grimm surname.” They both nodded in agreement. “Yes.” It was freaky how it was all making sense now. “In both limericks you three are mentioned as being close and the strength is to be found together. I’d bring your brother back in to the family circle as fast as you can if I were you.” “We were planning on waiting until this weekend but we better do that tomorrow.” Jace looked at Royce meaningfully. Royce looked at Amanda. “You saw Rafe. Tell us about that. How was he?” “Scary.” She said simply. “Trenton tried to use me for bait to draw him away from the girl.” “According to Trenton, you were supposed to be Rafe’s mate. Only when Trenton took you he didn’t realize it at the time.” “Really? That is odd because I was woefully inadequate as bait. Your brother paid me no mind at all. It only served to let him know that Trenton was nearby. My eyes glow when Trenton is around. Rafe knew that.” “How would Rafe know that?” Jace asked. “Rafe and his wife and Trenton go back a ways. He has been after that woman off and on as long as I have been around him. She is some kind of gypsy. She casts spells and everything.” “If the child is the key. Trenton would want to make the mother a slave so he could control her and the girl.” It made a warped kind of sense to Royce. “He even has a room prepared for her, well more like a prison.” Amanda offered. “He doesn’t want to hurt her that I can tell. He wants to protect her. There is even a weird kind of tenderness that Trenton feels when he thinks of that little girl. Tenderness is not natural to his character. Maybe it was at one time but not now.” “Rafe has been standing in his way.” Jace knew it for a surety. “Protecting his wife and daughter.” “There’s something else. I don’t know if you have thought of it but...” She looked at Royce and pulled her hand from his. She didn’t know how he would take the news if they didn’t already know. “If there are limericks for Trenton and your family. Then the gypsy’s have one. Wouldn’t it make more sense that there be three parts than two? There were three parties that were at the origin of this curse.” “Aw shit.” Both men said at once. “She’s right. There could be more we have to work out. We better get Rafe and his wife and daughter tomorrow. I only hope we can talk them in to coming here.” Jace commented. “Home for Rafe.” Royce sighed. It had been so long since they had seen their brother. He had an idea how Amanda’s family must be feeling. They still didn’t have any hope of seeing their daughter like they did for their brother. He saw the sad realization of it in her eyes. “I am sorry, Amanda. If there is a way to break this curse, we will find it.” She nodded her blonde head. “Thank you.” Then she paused and frowned in thought. “You know, I never saw your brother’s wife that night. I don’t know where she was. I only saw him and the little girl. She was terrified. Your brother did the coolest thing. He was fighting with one of the male

minions when he suddenly moved this huge boulder. He did it with his mind. It was the size of a car. I kid you not. It landed on two minions killing them and nearly got Trenton. He would have been pinned and your brother could have killed him. He can’t disappear if he is pinned or trapped.” “Too bad he didn’t succeed.” Royce said bitterly. “It would have broken Trenton’s curse and his hold over me and the other slaves.” Amanda agreed. “But not yours. Don’t you see? It is going to have to be as the limerick dictates if everyone is going to be free.” “Good point.” Jace scrapped a hand across his face. “I’m tired, too tired to think about all this any more tonight.” He started to stand up and sat back down. “Amanda, will you keep Remy and the baby safe tomorrow while we are gone? I don’t think they should be with us in case there are problems.” “I cannot do that.” She told him. Her green eyes reflected her sadness. “You cannot count on me. If anything, I am a liability.” Amanda told them truthfully. “Why not?” Royce asked. They were willing to stick their necks out for her and she couldn’t help them out in return? Not even a little bit? Tears fell from her pretty green eyes. “Don’t you see? If I am far from Royce, Trenton will know. If he touches my mind he will know everything I know, your plans, everything.” “Damn.” “Even worse.” Amanda explained. “If he wanted to, he could force me against my will to hurt them. His control over a slave’s mind is that strong.” “Holy shit.” Jace sighed out. “Can’t anything be easy?” “If you are unconscious can he read your mind?” A sudden thought came to Royce, which he wouldn’t say out loud for her to know. “I don’t think so but I can’t be sure.” “Okay.” Royce stood up decisively. “Amanda, you are going to have to trust us like you have never trusted anyone before.” He disappeared and came back with a black bag in his hand. She jumped up nervously. “You lied. You can disappear!” Jace laughed and clamped a hand around her wrist to keep her from running off. “Damn nifty little trick, brother. He only, just an hour ago, learned he could do that, Amanda. With the finalization of the mating lust comes special powers and that one is Royce’s. Just like Rafe could move objects with his mind.” “I am going to give you a sedative, a very strong one, Amanda. So Trenton, hopefully, won’t learn from you what we are about to do.” He filled the needle and prepared her arm. She didn’t fight him; it was a small measure of her trust. He pushed it into the tender flesh of her arm. “Don’t go until morning when Trenton can’t see.” She warned them and then looked at Royce. “Please don’t leave me alone either and…” She dropped against Jace’s waiting arms completely unconscious. Royce took her from his brother and picked her up in his arms. “I will see you at daylight, bro.” “Right.” They went their separate ways at the top of the stairs. Royce looked down at the woman in his arms. She filled his heart already and she didn’t even know it. She was brave and bright and she had incredible inner strength. He admired her for that. Royce laid her on his own bed. He carefully arranged her so that she would be comfortable. He covered her with an extra blanket then stroked the blonde hair off of her face so that he could study her. She really was lovely and her long blonde hair made the perfect foil for her sweet looking face. He would give anything to kiss her at that moment but he knew he wouldn’t betray her trust. Besides he wanted to taste her when she was willing and knew what was happening between them. Just to be sure, he carefully opened one of her closed eyes to see if they were red. If she were unconscious would they still show red? He would have to take her along on the trip. He could make a

makeshift bed in the back of Jace’s big SUV for her. He wondered if Jace was going to risk leaving Remy and Sarah home alone. He wasn’t sure that would be wise. He lay down next to her and finally fell asleep watching her and planning what they would take along with them. They might not have much time to convince Rafe that he was their brother before Trenton showed up or even if he would. Royce would feel better with Rafe and his family close at hand. In the end they couldn’t convince Remy to come with them. She didn’t think it would take them that long to collect Rafe and his family and get back home. They prayed she was right. Royce picked out one of the photo albums that contained pictures of all three of them together with their parents. He threw in one taken a month before Rafe disappeared. He hoped Rafe would respond to them. Lastly, he put soft blankets and pillows in the back of the SUV for Amanda. He carried her and his doctor’s bag out at the same time. “Is she okay?” Jace asked and helped get Amanda arranged comfortably. “It’s too bad we have to keep her under like this.” “I know but she was right. We don’t want Trenton knowing that we are planning on keeping Rafe’s daughter from him for the duration. The son of bitch has obviously been trying to kidnap her.” He lifted her eyelid one more time to see if her eyes were red. They weren’t. “Rafe’s had his hands full. Let’s get going then because I don’t want to leave Remy and Sarah alone for long. I want to be back long before dark. She has been instructed to stay in the house with the curtains open and the cell phone clipped to her waist. I also have Jacobs standing watch on the house.” They got in the SUV and headed out at a fast clip down the long driveway. “Good. The rest of the hands know we will be gone for today so they should keep a close eye on things.” Royce commented. “God, I hope it doesn’t take long for Rafe to get his memory back. I don’t know what we will do if it does.” “I do.” Royce had already thought of this. “You will go ahead and get back to Remy and Sarah as fast as you can. Amanda and I will get a hotel room and stay and try to convince Rafe. If Trenton shows up, I will have to try and deal with him the best way I can.” “Too bad the old man isn’t still alive.” Jace chuckled. “He could have knocked some sense into Rafe pretty darn fast.” “They always did fight the most.” “Yeah. It is a shame the folks died in that car crash.” Both brothers grew silent deep in thought. Each knew in his heart they would do whatever it took to restore Rafe’s memory and to his save his daughter.

Chapter Three
Rafe, Jace, and Royce—together again. Belinda Portwood looked out the front door and saw the big car coming up the driveway. She sat her books down on the table. “Daddy.” She hollered. “There’s a car coming.” Rafe grumbled to himself and left the bathroom. He threw the forgotten towel over his shoulder. “What now?” He was never going to get done shaving. He’d had to stop earlier to help Belinda find her shoes so she could finish getting dressed for school. She was already late. They watched as the car stopped in the driveway close to the house behind their own pickup. They didn’t recognize the big white SUV. It was pretty early in the morning for visitors, not that they got that many out here in the boonies like they were. Rafe hoped whatever it was didn’t take long. He had to get Belinda to school and then come back and get some much-needed sleep. He stayed awake at night to keep her safe. The truth was he didn’t know how much longer they could go on like this. He couldn’t work because he needed to sleep during the day. He couldn’t leave her alone. He had to stay awake at night to protect her and they were nearly out of money. He was bone tired and soul weary. His sweet wife Anna had died less than six

months ago and everything had been left up to him. “Who is it?” Belinda asked. Rafe looked at his precious daughter. He would do anything for her. “I don’t know, hon.” He didn’t say it but he thought it. At least they came in the daytime so he knew they weren’t any threat. He prayed it wasn’t some new kind of threat. They watched silently as two men got out of the vehicle. They looked identical even though they were dressed differently. Rafe’s head began to hurt; unconsciously he rubbed his forehead with his hand. “Do you have your stuff together?” Rafe asked his daughter. “I am all ready to go, Dad. I even cleaned the kitchen for you.” He hugged her to his side as they watched the men walk up to the porch. “Stay inside but here where I can see you, okay?” “Okay Dad. Hey, they look a little bit like you. Same hair color.” Rafe frowned at his daughter. She was right. Then he opened the door and stepped out on the porch. He wasn’t dressed for greeting visitors. He had his jeans on and his socks, big whoopee do. He probably still had shaving cream on his face. Anyone who came calling this early in the morning took their chances he was dressed at all. “Can I help you?” His head was really starting to hurt. The two men looked familiar somehow and they smiled at each other as if they had just won the lottery. “Rafe.” One of them spoke. “Long time no see.” He smiled happily. His eyes reflected his happiness; they were the same golden brown shade as his own. “Do I know you?” He frowned seriously in thought trying to place them. Why did the name Rafe sound familiar? “By God you should.” The other one spoke. “We are your brothers. I am Royce and this is Jace.” “We’ve been looking a long time for you.” It wasn’t until Royce produced the photo album that they began to convince Rafe of who he was. For the most part he sat silent holding his daughter’s hand. “Do you remember Daddy?” Rafe shook his head yes. “Some but not everything.” “Momma always said you would remember when the time was right. Are we going to live at your house now?” Royce was amazed at the miniature female version of his older brother. Belinda looked so much like her father and she was bright and happy. She seemed well adjusted for someone so young that had a freakin’ vampire after her. “No.” “Rafe don’t be stubborn.” Royce jumped in. “You’ve always been so pig headed. All the years you helped bring us up and you won’t let us help you out now?” “I don’t remember that.” “We do.” Jace answered him. “You still own a third of the Dominga ranch. We’ve been putting away your share of the money. It’s all still there waiting on you.” “We have money?” Belinda asked excitedly. They nodded their heads. “Quite a bit in fact.” “Daddy, please can we go? It would be away from here.” “We can help protect your daughter, Rafe. There would be three of us. There is no need for you to go through this all alone.” Royce added. He seemed to be considering this. “We don’t own this place. It’s rented.” Royce tried to help him understand. “You could buy dozens of places like this and not even dent the money you have Rafe. I have to check on Amanda. I will be right back. Jace talk him in to going with us today, within the hour. It is getting late.” “Who is Amanda? Why didn’t she come in with you?” Rafe asked suspiciously. “Amanda is Royce’s mate. She is asleep. We induced it on purpose because she is a vampire.

One of Trenton’s vampires and she is an unwilling victim in all this mess. He can read her thoughts. We didn’t want him knowing we were going to try and convince you to come home. He had the warped idea we would be on his side and let him protect Belinda. Ha!” “She has a big heart but it weeps.” Belinda added and Jace looked at her curiously. “Belinda knows things.” Rafe shrugged. “Part of her mother’s heritage.” Rafe was used to it. He didn’t know what his brothers’ would think of it. Jace didn’t even hesitate. “Then she probably knows it’s best that you both come with us and it is your home after all, Rafe. You lived there all your life up until you disappeared.” “This is all I know.” Rafe insisted. “I can be packed in no time, Daddy. So can you. There isn’t much we want from here anyway. Just Mother’s things.” “Belinda.” Rafe warned. Things were happening too fast for him and he was feeling a whole lot unsettled. He had wanted to know his real identity for so long. Now it was suddenly upon him. It was hard to take it all in. “Please, Daddy. It will be all right. I think we should go, just get up and go from here. We can’t go on like this.” “What about your wife?” Royce heard the tail end of the conversation as he came back in the little house. “She passed away over six months ago.” Rafe told them somberly. “An aneurysm.” “I am sorry to hear that. Sorry for your loss.” Royce told them both and Jace agreed. They could see the pain in Rafe’s eyes. He had loved his wife and was still coming to terms with her loss. He’d lost his wife. He had a freakin’ vampire after his daughter and had lived with memory loss for over ten years. No wonder he was so reluctant to grasp what they were telling him so quickly.

Chapter Four
Meanwhile at the Dominga Ranch. The first thing Remy did when it was an acceptable hour was call a cleaning service to have Rafe’ s wing put in tip-top shape. It hadn’t really been dusted or taken care of since he left. A once a year quick going over hadn’t left it at its best appearance. Rafe was coming home. He would be bringing his daughter. She hadn’t heard from Jace lately but she knew Jace and Royce wouldn’t leave Cloverleaf without him. She’d never met Rafe, but if he were anything like his brothers she would like him. She cuddled baby Sarah close, she was so thankful for her beautiful daughter. If it was true and there was any chance at lifting the curse from the Dominga’s then she prayed extra hard for it. Sarah might not be a werewolf but she carried the genes and Remy didn’t want to see her daughter have to deal with it in any way. The crew was almost done with the wing and Remy was surprised at all they had gotten done. There was supposed to be one woman staying to work for them full time. Only the agency said they didn ’t have anyone that could fill a full time position. Jace had insisted on it. He didn’t want Remy doing all the cooking and the upkeep. It was true they had a crew come in once a week to clean their two wings but it was still more than she could handle with the new baby. He had wanted to hire a nanny but Remy told him no way. She would be raising her own daughter. She didn’t trust anyone else for the job. She would keep looking for someone to help out full time because she knew Jace wouldn’t be happy until she had help. Remy glanced in the servant’s quarters off the kitchen and was surprised to see that it had likewise been cleaned and made ready. Why hadn’t the agency called back to let her know they found someone? There was already a suitcase sitting on the bed. Very good! She wasn’t going to have to spend the day beating the bushes for a live-in caretaker. She turned to find a woman standing silently behind her. Remy jumped. “Sorry I didn’t mean to startle you.” She stuck out her hand after wiping it on her jeans. “I am

Jamie Carter.” Remy shook her hand with her free one. “Remy Dominga.” She didn’t remember seeing this woman today and wondered how long she had been here. The woman had strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes that were more brown than green. There was a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. “What a darling little girl!” She exclaimed. Her smile was wide and friendly. It put Remy at ease instantly. “This is Sarah.” “Sarah is a darling little angel. You must be very proud.” “We are. Are you all settled in and ready to go to work?” “Almost.” There was a slight hesitation on her part and Remy noticed it and wondered over it. “I wanted to talk to you about how many would be here for dinner.” Remy frowned. “I am not sure yet. It could only be me and you or it could be as many as...” She had to think on it. “Seven. I will try and let you know something as soon as I know.” She hoped Jace would be calling again soon. The last time he called, they seemed to be having a hard time convincing Rafe to come home with them. “Either way it will probably be late.” “No problem. I will fix plenty. Enough for any number of people.” Jaime smiled again. “Is there anything you would like me to do in the meantime?” Remy noticed Jaime didn’t seem to know exactly what it was she was supposed to be doing here. “There is one thing. I would like you to help me to write a list and make sure the kitchen pantry is well stocked.” “Can do. I will be right with you.” Remy walked back in to the kitchen and pulled out the list she had already started. She tried to imagine what a nine-year-old girl would like to eat and snack on. She wanted Rafe’s daughter Belinda to feel welcome and at home. She laid Sarah in her lap. Jaime hurried back in to the bedroom and shut the door. “Braun! Braun!” She whispered but with insistence. “Come quick.” Then she tapped her foot in impatience. It was just like him to leave her in the middle of something and not tell her everything she needed to know. It was only moments until Braun appeared to her. An ethereal light and comforting warmth filled the room. “Jaime, I can feel your frustration. Everything is as it should be. Why have you called me when there is no danger here?” Braun was a heavenly being of the most amazing perfection Jaime had ever known. He was handsome and muscular. He had long flowing, black as midnight, hair and haunting gray eyes. His angelic garb was a filmy fabric of white and silver pants that shimmered and moved when he did, almost as if it was alive. He wore no shirt to cover those ridiculously big arm and chest muscles. It was a constant source of torment for Jaime to see him bare-chested. His belt was awesome and looked like it was a thick spun gold fabric. He carried a sword at his side in a golden sheath. Presently he had his arms crossed over his amazing chest waiting for her to answer. He raised one single black eyebrow to warn her he knew exactly what she was thinking. “Hey, it is your own fault. It is not like you don’t know about the concept of clothes.” She fussed at him and garnered a half smile from him. Braun did not smile often. “What am I here for? Let’s be clear on it, please.” “To cook, to clean, and keep this family safe. To call me when I am needed.” He stated simply. “That is all you need to know for now.” She barked out a laugh. “I can’t cook.” “Whatever you put your hand to will be good.” He assured her. “Don’t call again unless you really need me.” “But…” He disappeared in a flash and the great warm light went with him. Jaime ran a hand across her face. “Ugh. Me Tarzan. You Jaime. Do as I say.” What choice did she have? There was no arguing with Braun. Then she calmly shrugged her shoulders. There was work to

do. Jaime walked up and looked over Remy’s shoulder. “Don’t forget chips and candy. You people have a ton of sodas but you might add a chocolate soda drink.” “Thank you.” Remy added it. “I don’t really see anything that you people don’t already have and the freezer is chock full of good things to fix.” “Good. That is good to hear. I wasn’t looking forward to shopping.” “I will do the shopping for you.” Jaime smiled and took the list from her. “You will have plenty to do to get ready for your guests. I will be back within the hour. Will you be okay?” “We will be fine.” Remy smiled at her concern. “I better get going then so I can be back before dark.” Remy wondered over her comment as she watched her leave through the back kitchen door. Then she shrugged it off; maybe she was not fond of being out after dark. Come to think of it, Remy wasn’t as fond of the dark as she used to be either. Not since she found out vampires were just as real as werewolves. As if there weren’t enough problems in the world as it was! “Jace. I am just fine. Quit worrying.” Remy tried not to yell into her cell phone. She was exasperated. She knew Jace was worrying because they still had a good twenty or thirty more minutes to get home and it was already dark. She knew they had every intention of getting back before dark but it didn’t happen that way. Remy patted Sarah’s back while she lay in her bassinet. She had been fussing a little off and on for the last hour. “I can’t help worrying.” His deep voice met her ear. “I know, Jace.” She loved him so. There was a noise behind her and Remy turned to find Trenton Fairview standing directly behind her. It was such a shock. He looked dark and menacing. There was so much anger on his face he looked distorted from the last time she saw him. She screamed and dropped the phone. His appearance was so sudden and unexpected. “REMY!” Jace screamed over the phone before it disconnected from the fall. She backed up against the baby’s bassinet. She had to protect Sarah. What did you do to protect yourself from a vampire? “Did the brothers think they could pull one over on me?” Trenton scowled at her. “They should not have taken me so lightly.” Trenton pushed Remy aside. The shove was so violent she went flying across the room hitting the far wall hard, slid down, and landed in a heap on the floor. “Now we will have to make a trade. One daughter for the other.” He reached into the bassinet to pick up baby Sarah. “Nooo.” Remy moaned. She couldn’t move. Every bone in her body felt to be broken there was so much pain. She lifted her head dizzily. She saw Jaime run in to the room. “Stop.” She yelled at Trenton, and then added. “Braun! Come quick.” Who was Braun? Remy thought she was on the verge of passing out. Trenton just ignored Jaime as if she was a bothersome fly, as he pulled Sarah to his chest. He was going to disappear and there was nothing Remy could do to stop him. He was fading away before her eyes, her precious daughter in his evil grasp. “Nooo.” This couldn’t be happening. “Trenton James Fairview! Give me the baby. Don’t do this thing.” Jaime ran directly up to him. “There has to be another way.” He stopped fading. “How do you know my full name? Who are you? What are you?” Remy watched as Jaime stood in front of Trenton fearlessly with her hands stretched out for the baby. Then suddenly a radiant dazzling light filled the room and Remy thought at first she was passing out. Jaime snatched the baby out of Trenton’s startled hands when a man appeared. A man? An angel? Remy wasn’t sure what she was seeing and if any of it was real or not. The pain was so intense and her panic was all consuming. Trenton fled by disappearing instantly and Remy did pass out then. He was gone. Sarah was

safe. There was such a great light. It was all around her and it had such beautiful warmth to it. When Remy awoke she found she was on the couch and a very worried Jaime sat next to her holding Sarah. She had placed a cold rag over her forehead. “Sarah!” She gasped and tried to sit up. She didn’t hurt anymore from the pain like she did. “Sarah is fine, Remy. Are you okay now?” “What happened?” There was quite a long pause before she answered. “I am not sure. Some man wanted to steal your baby.” She laid the baby next to her just as Jace and Royce burst through the front door. There was a storm going on outside. A loud thunderstorm of massive proportions had apparently moved in to their area recently. “Get away from my wife.” Jace boomed out. His eyes glowed with golden fire. Jaime stood up immediately and put as much distance between her and the man called Jace as possible. The brother following was identical in every way even to the glowing eyes. “Jace. Don’t hurt Jaime. She saved Sarah.” He was still staring at Jaime as if he could kill her. Jaime swallowed hard. “Holy Torpedo!” “Did you hear me, Jace? She saved Sarah from Trenton. Royce, you stop it, too.” Jaime saw a woman walk in next. She had blonde hair and green eyes. She looked very sleepy. Both men turned to look closely at her. “Trenton isn’t here.” Royce said. His eyes quit glowing first. “He is gone now.” Remy assured them all. Jace came and sat down next to her. He was examining his wife for injuries. “Are you okay, Remy? What happened? I heard you scream over the phone.” “Trenton came. He tried to take Sarah. Oh my god.” She looked at Jaime. “We need to explain to her Jace. She doesn’t understand about you or Trenton either.” Jaime held up her hand. “No you don’t. Whatever it is, I don’t even want to know.” She started to leave. “I am glad you are okay now. I am going to check on the dinner.” She didn’t want to know any more than she already did. There was a Vampire plaguing this household. It had been a long time since she had seen one. There was also a werewolf curse on some members of the family. What a tortured family! She felt very sorry for them all. She supposed she should be scared but she wasn’t. She had Braun after all. He suggested, that was a laugh, insisted she take the job in the first place. Jaime knew he wanted her in this household and now she knew why. Rafe and Belinda came in the door next. Jaime stared at them. First at Rafe, there was another brother? Good Lord, he was a handsome man. He was tall and had dark golden brown hair. His eyes looked a few shades lighter; yet still that same golden brown. He had gorgeous eyes. There was sadness about him and loneliness. Then she looked at the daughter. She was a miniature female version of the man. She was staring back at her in open-mouthed shock. “You are different, aren’t you? Are you an angel?” the girl asked her and her father frowned down on her when she said it. Jaime laughed. “I am no angel.” She was still smiling as she walked to the kitchen. She was as far removed from an angel as one could get. She knew an angel though. She had a guardian angel and his name was Braun. He came when she called. Supposedly only in times of dire emergency but she was known to call him at other times, much to the angel’s displeasure. She saw him the first time when she was six years old and dangling from a tree limb that was about to break. He had carried her safely to the ground. She had fallen madly in love with the beautiful being. Even then Braun had long midnight colored hair and dove gray eyes. He didn’t change. He was perfectly formed in every way and his smile was awesome to behold even though he rarely smiled. He did find her infatuation with him amusing. She had finally outgrown the crush when she was older but she still admired the angel and treated him with as much respect as she could. It was never as much as he deserved. He had come when she called and scared the vampire away. He even healed Remy Dominga

before he left. Braun was always faithful to come but he never stayed long and he certainly didn’t communicate much. She found it very frustrating at times because she had so many questions. The girl had been right though. She was different. She had always had a strange gift about her. She could know things without being told. Some called it E.S.P. She called it B.P.A. –a big pain in the ass–and tried to hide it from others. Her problems seemed small compared to the problems this family faced. She shook her head in commiseration. Oh yes, she could see why Braun wanted her here. They would need her guardian angel. Jaime set the table and got the meal on. It was a good thing she went ahead and prepared for seven. She only set the table for six though. She wouldn’t be joining them. She didn’t feel right about that. The talk at the table was generally upbeat but everyone there was nervous. They kept waiting for Trenton to come back. They knew it was only a matter of time. Belinda seemed the most nervous and stayed close to her father but everyone could tell she was happy to be there. The meal was almost over when Jace spoke up. “I really need to apologize to Jaime and thank her for saving baby Sarah. Which brings up another problem. How are we going to take care of her? She is down here in the servants’ area. Trenton could get to her and we would never know until it was too late.” Jaime came out of the kitchen about that time and overheard him. “You are welcome, Jace and I can take care of myself, thank you.” “I didn’t know you were there.” He frowned softly. Jaime sat the platter of cupcakes on the table. “Sorry I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. Not much of a dessert but that is all I had time for today.” “This is great.” Royce snagged one first and then handed the platter to Amanda. “Please sit down Jaime.” Jace asked her. “We need to explain some things that might be difficult to understand.” Jaime sat down and sighed. Everyone always thought they had to explain. There wasn’t anything she hadn’t seen or experienced in her life yet. She didn’t like it but she did understand more than they knew. “We don’t want to frighten you.” Royce added. “Let me take a wild guess.” Jaime said flippantly and waved her hand around. “You are a werewolf.” She looked at Jace. “So are you.” She looked to the open mouthed Royce. Then she looked at the silent Rafe. “Are you?” He didn’t answer but Belinda answered excitedly. “Yes. How did you know?” “Jaime! You know about werewolves?” Remy exclaimed. “I’ve seen a few.” “You aren’t a werewolf.” Belinda told her. She had amazing perception. “True. I am not a werewolf or a vampire.” She looked at the small girl. “Why does that man Trenton want you so bad?” Belinda’s light brown eyes clouded with unexpected tears. “I’d rather you not talk to my daughter about that.” Rafe interrupted suddenly and pulled his daughter to his side. “It is very disturbing to her.” “Sorry.” Jaime didn’t know what else to say. She already sensed from Trenton that he was determined to have the girl. He didn’t seem to want to hurt her though. That surprised her. Vampires had no consciences for the most part. Belinda pulled out her father’s arms suddenly and yelled. “Amanda!” Everyone looked at Amanda. She was fading away before their eyes. Jaime gasped; she hadn’t realized this woman was a vampire. Her eyes were glowing red. “Amanda!” Royce called to her. He tried to touch her and stop her leaving but it did no good. His hands passed right through her. “Shit!” Jaime dove across the table and grabbed a fading hand. It dislodged food and drinks but it kept Trenton from calling for her.

“Thank god. Damn that is a nifty trick. How did you do that?” Royce hugged Amanda to his side. Amanda’s eyes stopped glowing red. “He’s gone now. How did you keep him from calling me back? That has never happened before.” “I don’t know.” Jaime told her honestly and released her hand. “It is just a gift I have.” Jaime looked over to Rafe. He was scowling and looking at her like she was a freak. She’d seen that look on people’s faces all her life. She did however expect a little more understanding out of someone who was also different. Her heart sank a little. Too bad, he was a good-looking man she would have liked to gotten to know him. Jaime stood up and saw the food all over her clothes. “I better go change.” She left with a bit of a somnolent heart. She would stay in her room until they had all left the kitchen. It seemed that even among the different she was destined to be outcast. Rafe looked all around the suite of rooms that he would be staying in. It looked a little familiar to him but not all that much. The place was huge and rambling. He had moved a bed from one of the other rooms in to the one he was going to sleep in. It was there for Belinda. He wanted her close by. He wouldn’t sleep until daylight though. Sometimes Belinda slept at night, sometimes she couldn’t. He would have to see about getting her enrolled in the local school soon. He didn’t want her getting behind. Rafe. He said his name over and over in his mind. It felt right. It felt better than the name Russell ever had. Anna had given him her dead husband’s name; it never did sit right with him. They had been together three months when he started having memories assail him and she had admitted everything to him. At first he didn’t believe her. That was until he tried to change in to a werewolf and it had happened. It hurt like hell and scared him even worse but he believed her after that. She hadn’t known his name though or known why he’d lost his memory. He guessed he would never know. It didn’t matter now. He was home and it was home, he realized. His home. He just hoped he could keep Belinda safe. His brothers would help and he felt grateful for that. Rafe sat down on the bed and waited for Belinda to come out of the bathroom. He was so bone tired. He’d slept a little on the drive in but it wasn’t nearly enough. At least he didn’t have any money worries now. He was immeasurably relieved about that. It would have been really nice if Anna could have shared this with him. They were happy but they never did have a lot of money. He would have liked to spoil her. He would spoil his daughter now. Belinda came out of the bathroom. “Daddy, can we go get a snack. I’m hungry.” “Sure.” He agreed. He could use a snack himself. They walked downstairs together. A sudden memory flashed through Rafe’s mind. He remembered the exhilaration of running up these stairs to get away from his younger brothers that he had just teased, only to tumble in a wrestling match on the landing at the top. He smiled to himself. The memories were returning. For the most part they were all good. Both father and daughter was surprised to see Jaime when they walked in to the kitchen area. She had earphones on so that only she could hear the music she danced to. Her long strawberry blonde hair floated around her head with each movement. She sure could dance and the word sensual came to his mind. She was lithe and fit and an immediate tightening in his groin alerted Rafe to the fact he was attracted to her. He straightaway slammed down on any thoughts like that. He had felt it before, when he had first seen her. He didn’t want to feel it again. It felt like he was being unfaithful to Anna. She was wiping down the counters after having cleaned up if you could call that erotic movement cleaning. “Oh hi. I didn’t see you.” She took off her earphones and smiled brightly at them. Rafe noticed she had freckles that ran across her nose and cheeks. They were very becoming, if he liked that sort of thing, which he didn’t. She also had a nice wide smile and it lit up her hazel eyes. She had lovely long thick hair. It was her expressive hazel eyes that held him enthralled. She looked upon him with interest. “We came down for a snack.” Belinda told her. “You came to the right place. What are you in the mood for?” “Chocolate milk?” “Not a problem.”

“Candy?” “Belinda.” Rafe warned. “Have a sandwich or something a bit healthier.” She had such a sweet tooth. He constantly had to watch that she ate healthy. She would exist on sugar if she could. She pouted for a moment then her face brightened. “Pizza?” Rafe nodded his head that was a bit more acceptable than candy but not by much. “Pizza. Okay. Sit yourselves down at the table.” “I can get it for her.” Rafe inserted. He was used to taking care of his daughter and he didn’t quite trust this very unusual woman. “Nonsense. It is my job after all.” She waved her hands at him. “Sit, sit, before you fall down.” Rafe frowned as he sat down. Did he look as tired as he felt? He watched as she pulled a frozen pizza out of the freezer. Then he was very surprised when she opened a can of chunky pineapple and began placing the pieces on one half of the cheese pizza. “How did you know I like pineapple on my pizza?” Belinda beamed happily. “Doesn’t everyone?” She smiled back at her. “Daddy doesn’t.” She had a noisy chunky bracelet on and Rafe wondered over it. Somehow it fit her personality. “Then we won’t put any on his half.” She responded but she was already placing the pizza in the oven and only half of it was covered with pineapple. Rafe realized something then. Jaime was a lot like Belinda. She just knew things. He would bet his last dollar on it. Royce was pretending to watch the news but in reality he was watching Amanda. She was still very upset that Trenton tried to call her back. He didn’t know what Jaime had done that kept it from happening but he was grateful to her. The thought of losing Amanda now scared the hell out of him. He couldn’t lose her now. She was his mate, the other half of his heart. Trenton might very well be so angry with them that he would kill Amanda to get even. It had to be haunting her. “Can I do anything for you, Amanda?” He asked softly. “No.” She finally looked at him. “Yes. Yes there is.” Her green eyes expressed her earnestness. “Anything. What do you want?” “Could you hold me for a little while?” Her green eyes sparkled with unshed tears. “I am just about scared out of my head.” He was so surprised but grateful. Royce moved over to the couch where she sat and sat down beside her. He put his arm around her and was happy when she lunged in to his arms and clung to his neck. Royce wrapped his arms around her and held her close. He even stroked the back of her head. “I am so sorry. This is hard on you, Amanda. I wish I knew what to do to keep any other harm from happening to you. I feel pretty helpless.” His shoulders and stomach muscles had been in perpetual knots since Amanda’s entrance in to his life. She pulled back and looked at him giving him a shaky smile. “Welcome to my world. I feel helpless all the time.” “It shouldn’t be that way.” He held her closer still. She smelled of lavender and her blonde hair was soft and clean. His hands stroked down her back. He wanted to comfort her. He didn’t know how she had remained so strong though this whole ordeal as it was. A lesser person couldn’t have done it. “Royce?” “Yeah.” He was enjoying getting to hold her and loved that she trusted him enough to let him. They had gotten off to such a bad start. “Make love to me please? Gentle, loving sex. I need that closeness so bad. I need it with you.” His spirit soared hearing her words. Was she coming to realize that they were meant to be together? “Amanda, I would do anything for you but are you sure that is what you really want?” “I am sure, Royce. Please. I need some good memories to sustain me just in case Trenton does manage to call me back.” He didn’t have to be asked twice. “Let’s hope that never happens.” He thought he might die of a

broken heart if it did. He felt such a need for this woman! Royce pulled her back into his tight embrace and kissed her with all the tenderness he could muster up. It wasn’t long until she sighed. He took advantage of that sigh to run his tongue against her lips and then slip it in to her mouth. She tasted sweet and willing. Royce made love to her with infinite care, right there on the couch. He used every means at his disposal to bring her body to a fever pitch before he joined them together. He’d wanted this chance to show her how he really was and erase the memories of when the mating lust was in control of him. After they had made love and showered. That took quite a while because they ended up making love in the shower. They wandered down to the kitchen area. They were surprised to see the lights on and find Jaime, Rafe and Belinda at the table playing dominoes. “Looks like everyone is awake except Jace and Remy.” Royce smiled. It was so good to have Rafe home again. Seeing him in the kitchen brought memories rushing back. “They just left.” Rafe told him. “They were going to call it a night.” “Jace always could sleep no matter what was going on.” Royce laughingly agreed. “Continue your game, we just came down for a snack.” “Let me get it for you.” Jaime stood up but Royce waved her back down. “We know exactly what we want. We can get it.” He went to dig around in the refrigerator. Amanda watched Jaime. She was very curious about the incident earlier. “Jaime? I wish I knew what you did to keep Trenton from calling me back?” Jaime smiled at her kindly. “And I wish I could explain that, Amanda, but I can’t. I just knew he couldn’t call you if I touched you.” She shrugged her shoulders. Rafe was staring at her again as if she had two horns growing out of her head. “She has good blood.” Belinda said and everyone turned to her, even Jaime. “What do you mean?” Rafe asked his daughter. “She has goodness and honey in her blood. It is sweet. Trenton is evil he wants no part of it.” Jaime chuckled. “I don’t think my blood is any sweeter than anyone else’s.” “It is.” Belinda insisted knowingly. “That is why I thought you were an angel. You smell different. Sweet and you have those pretty lights around your body.” “You can see my aura?” Jaime frowned thoughtfully. “She can see auras.” Rafe assured her. “She knows things. She is special.” Jaime thought that was the sweetest thing she ever heard. Rafe called his daughter special. He didn’t belittle or make fun of her for her gifts. This was a father that loved his daughter very much. Royce came over to the table then. “I wonder.” He started and then stopped. How did one go about a sensitive subject like this? “What?” Amanda encouraged him. “I was just wondering if Jaime’s blood would keep Trenton away from you. Since you need blood and all.” “Oh no.” Jaime interrupted that line of thought quickly. “No one is going to bite me!” “I wouldn’t do that. You are safe from me, Jaime.” Amanda smiled then couldn’t help teasing. “I vant to suck your blood. Blood. I need blood.” In her most over dramatized Dracula like voice. She ruffled Belinda’s hair reassuringly with her hand. She didn’t want to scare the girl and she had been through so much already. “Good thing.” Jaime laughed back. “I am scared of the dark. I would make a horrible vampire.” Royce was still thoughtful. “Jaime. What if I only took a syringe full? We could test the theory of whether your blood could keep Trenton away from Amanda.” Amanda protested. “No Royce. It is so unfair to put Jaime on the spot like this.” “But Amanda. It is worth a try.” He didn’t want anything to happen to Amanda. Even a long shot was better than doing nothing. “I don’t mind.” Jaime interrupted them. “As long as it isn’t a bite. What is a little bit of blood between friends, if it will keep that man away? He gave me the creeps.” She shivered in an over dramatized way for Belinda’s sake. Jaime could sense Belinda’s fear. It didn’t take ESP to know it. It

was on Belinda’s face every time Trenton was mentioned. “I will get my bag.” Royce walked out of the room with purpose. If this worked it would be one less worry for him. He didn’t want to lose Amanda. He wanted to see her liberated from Trenton’s control. In the back of his mind he thought death was the only way, Trenton’s death. His death would save them all but then, he realized, it wouldn’t free this family from the curse. He had to remember that. He thought of sweet innocent baby Sarah. He didn’t want her having to go through what the women did with this curse. The thought nearly broke his heart. Then too, what if he had children of his own? The thought nearly made him smile until he remembered the curse. Damn. They just had to break this freakin’ curse! “Thank you, Jaime.” Amanda told her. The domino game was forgotten. “It is very kind of you, especially since you hardly know me and everything.” “I just hope it works.” She shrugged. Maybe Belinda was right. Maybe her blood was different. She didn’t know but something about her had always set her apart from others. She glanced up to see Rafe staring at her yet again. She gave him a half smile and his jaw tightened but he didn’t smile back. Royce was back quickly. He sat down next to her and prepped her arm. “Just one syringe. I promise.” Jaime chewed her lip. She hated shots, getting blood drawn even more. Royce was very gentle and she barely felt the prick when he warned her she would feel a little stick. “Hurry.” Amanda told him quickly. “I can feel Trenton. He is trying to touch my mind. He is so angry and he wants to know what is going on.” Jaime reached out with her other hand and took Amanda’s hand. She didn’t know if that would help or not. Apparently it did because she calmed down immediately. “Creepy old guy.” Jaime commented about Trenton. “You don’t know the half of it.” Royce wiped the spot and placed a band-aid on her arm. “There, all done. Thank you Jaime.” He took the needle off the syringe and handed it to Amanda. He used his thumb to signal her out of the room with it. “No problem. Glad to help out.” Good thing Amanda left. Jaime didn’t think she could stand to see her drink it. Not only yuck but also double yuck. “Daddy, can we watch a movie?” Belinda asked and then yawned. “Sure honey.” Rafe stood up. “You’ll fall asleep before it is over.” He smiled fondly at his daughter. He knew she didn’t want to lie in bed and do any thinking before she fell asleep. “I know.” She took her dad’s hand and led him out of the kitchen. “I am off to bed.” Jaime told Royce and stood up. He nodded but he stared at the dominoes on the table. Royce was deep in thought. He stayed that way for quite some time. There had to be a way to break this curse. The limerick wouldn’t have said so otherwise.

Chapter Five
Rafe Rafe raised his face to the afternoon sun. He let the warmth wash over him. It was the first time he had been out of the house in over a week. Belinda was sleeping in Jace’s wing with Jace and Remy to watch over her. They had Sarah down for a nap also. It was nice to get a little break from having to be ever vigilant. There were others to help share his problems and shoulder the load. He was most grateful. He found a horse in the barn that pleased him and decided to take a ride. The horse was well behaved so he let it have its head and take him where it wanted to go. Rafe needed the fresh air and the time alone. When he got back he would take a much-needed nap until just before dark. They hadn’t seen Trenton but that didn’t mean he wasn’t up to something. Trenton usually tried at least once a week to get his hands on Belinda and that was before they came here. The man never gave up. He stayed just out of his reach. Rafe had tried several times to kill him. He guessed it was a good thing now he hadn’t or their family would never be released from the curse.

His horse came to a streambed and followed it for a ways. He was startled when he saw Jaime. Rafe pulled on the horse’s reins. He didn’t know she was there. He’d thought she was still at the house. Had she walked all the way out here by herself? He didn’t see a horse. She looked at him unashamed and unafraid. He was really surprised that she didn’t dart for cover, as she was completely and utterly naked standing in the stream. He almost smiled, catching her so vulnerable like this. She had been skinny-dipping! “Rafe.” She acknowledged his presence belligerently. It wasn’t like he was trying to hide the fact he was there. “Jaime.” He answered her back and the corners of his mouth lifted in a smile unbeknownst to him. She was a daring young lady. She put her hands on her curvy hips. “Are you enjoying yourself?” She asked him indignantly. Her hazel eyes flashed with brown fire from within. “Yes. Yes, I am. It isn’t every day I get to see a beautiful lady naked.” She preened just a little. “So. You think I am beautiful? I couldn’t tell, I thought you disliked me. You’ve hardly spoken a word to me since you came here.” “You weren’t naked.” He smiled, determining to be a little friendlier to her in the future. It wasn’t her fault his life was such a mess. “Very funny.” She strolled out of the river and found her clothes on the bank. He watched her get dressed and didn’t make a secret of that either. She really was a beautiful woman and shapely in all the right places. He felt his groin tighten in response. “Come on and I will give you a ride back to the house.” She just looked at him as if she didn’t trust him not to jump her bones the minute she came near. “That is if you are done playing water nymph for the day.” He didn’t like the thought of leaving her out here all alone, no matter how fearless she came across. “Oh like you’ve never skinny dipped.” “I did. I just didn’t get caught.” He and his brothers had skinny dipped in this very part of the river. She carried her shoes and held her hand up to him for a lift up. He stretched out his hand and grasped hers. He pulled her up behind him on the horse. He clenched his stomach muscles when she wrapped her arms around him. Her touch had a disturbing affect on him. “Thanks for the ride.” “You are welcome.” He pulled on the horse’s reins to turn him back in the direction he had come from. “It probably isn’t a good idea to be out here by yourself.” “It isn’t dark. There’s no full moon.” Rafe chuckled then. Ignorance had made her brave. “Not all werewolves need a full moon to change.” “What? Really? Are you kidding me?” She tried to lean around so she could see his face. It brought her breasts in to contact with his back. Rafe nearly groaned at the intimate contact. Intimacies of any kind had been missing from his life since Anna died. “I wouldn’t kid about something like that.” “Well crap! I guess you would know. Thanks for setting me straight. I kind of value this skin I am in.” Skin? He saw her naked in his minds eye. He wasn’t going to be forgetting it for a long time either. “Can you change anytime you want?” “Yes, but I don’t want to. It hurts.” “Well duh. Man to wolf. Wolf to man. Who would think it wouldn’t?” Rafe smiled to himself. She was a feisty one. “Can I see you as a wolf sometime?” “Trust me. You don’t want to see it.” “I saw one once. He was still changing. It was actually kind of gross.”

“Really?” Now this amazed Rafe. She had seen a werewolf and lived to tell about it. Few people ever saw a werewolf much less lived through the experience if they did. “Yeah, when I was a teenager. I called a friend to ah…dispatch him.” “Dispatch him?” “I don’t guess it matters if I tell you. You already think I am nuts.” Rafe expressed amusement. She was outspoken and direct. “I don’t think you are nuts, Jaime.” “You should laugh more often. Different then.” “You are different, that is for sure. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” He offered. Belinda was different. He loved her. “Thanks. My friend is an Angel. His name is Braun.” “An Angel. I see. I may have to amend my statement.” He chuckled deep in his chest. “Sorry, it is too late now. You can’t think I am nuts, only different.” “I suppose Angels could be real.” Rafe admitted. Heck, who would have thought werewolves were real. “Tell me about your Angel.” “Braun is awesome. He is a beautiful, perfect being. Oversimplified but it is the truth. He only comes if I call and if it is a dire emergency. Sometimes I get away with calling without an emergency.” “Do you have many emergencies?” Rafe asked, he was enjoying her quirky company and being outdoors. The horse ride was relaxing him. “Not really. There isn’t anything Braun can’t handle. He is very handsome and very muscular. In fact, he is the hunkiest thing I have ever seen.” Rafe laughed again. “Oh I know. It isn’t right to lust after an Angel and I used to have the biggest crush on him.” She sighed. “Then I outgrew it.” “Are you sure?” He teased her. She gave a gentle slap at his shoulder. She had that bracelet on that made tinkling sounds. He wondered if she ever took it off. “I am sure. He is gorgeous though. You aren’t so bad either.” “Thanks.” Rafe told her warmed by her compliment. So he wasn’t the only one feeling the attraction between them. They were nearly back at the house. He let her off at the back door by the kitchen. “See you at supper, handsome. Thanks again for the ride.” She jumped down with his help and ran in the house. Rafe watched her as she went. She was something else! Anyone else in their right mind would have run away as fast as they could when they found out about their family. She hadn’t. Maybe her being different was what made her fit in so well. He went to put the horse back in the barn. He would need a good brushing down after the long walk. He was reluctant to let go of this free time. Rafe walked in to the kitchen and flipped on the light. Everyone else was in the movie room watching a video. Rafe didn’t have any interest in the noisy action adventure. He started looking around for a snack. Then headed to the refrigerator. Maybe there was some of that good meatloaf left over from supper. One thing was for sure; Jaime knew how to do some real old-fashioned home cooking. She hadn ’t joined them for the movie and he didn’t know where she was but he suspected she was in her room. The door was closed. He admitted to himself he kind of wanted to see her. She was good to Belinda and she had a way of cheering him up. He’d been keeping a sly eye on her all week. It didn’t help that he’d seen her naked the other day. It was all he could think about. He found the leftover meatloaf and dipped himself some. He threw the plate in the microwave and that’s when she stuck just her head out of her room. He could see her down the short hallway. “I thought I heard a noise.” “Just me.” He leaned back against the cabinet and studied her. She was wearing a blue t-shirt that was sizes too big for her and hung off one shoulder. The tantalizing peek at a white gently sloped shoulder perked his interest. “Did I wake you?” “Are you kidding? Sleep is a commodity in this house.”

Then she stepped out of the room and he stood up straight. She didn’t have any pants on. The shirt barely ended below her ass. Her bare legs were exposed and damn if she didn’t look sexy. He’d seen more of her when she was skinny-dipping but this teased at his imagination. She padded in to the kitchen barefoot. “Ah ha. I see you are having more of my meatloaf. It was good wasn’t it? I can’t believe I made it.” “Sure was.” “I think I might have some, if you don’t mind the company?” She opened the refrigerator and bent down just a little to get the container. Rafe couldn’t take his eyes off her shapely backside as the shirt rose up just a little. “Maybe you should put a robe on.” He offered. She was making him harder than a two by four. “Hmm?” She turned to look at him. “Oh.” She sat the container on the cabinet. Then she smiled like an enchantress. “Am I turning you on Rafe? In this old stretched out t-shirt?” “I wouldn’t quite go that far.” He balked. He was turned on damn it and he didn’t want to be. His wife hadn’t been gone all that long. Her memory deserved some grieving and mourning time. “Oh really? Then why haven’t you gotten your food from the microwave? It dinged a long time ago.” Rafe turned to the microwave and pulled out his plate. When he turned back around she was gone. He frowned and put his plate on the breakfast table and sat down. It was his fault. She came back in the room with jeans on. “This better?” “Infinitely.” He began to eat. It would help with the visual stimulation he was getting but nothing would erase the memory of seeing her nude. She rolled her eyes at him. “I didn’t think you would be so prudish.” He choked on the first bite. “I am not a prude. I may not be as free spirited as you seem to be but I am definitely not prudish.” “Ah huh.” She walked by him. Rafe did something so unexpected it even shocked him. He reached out a hand and grabbed her arm. He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her. It wasn’t a teasing playful kiss, it was a passionate I mean business kiss. Her lips were warm and soft. She didn’t fight him; in fact she ran her hands around his shoulders to hold on to him tightly. He slanted his lips over hers again and again. He couldn’t get enough of her this way so he pulled her head back. She tasted sweet, like honey when he drove his tongue inside her mouth. He groaned because he needed this so bad and immediately felt guilty. He pulled away. “I take it back.” She said. “You definitely aren’t prude, Rafe. That was an awesome kiss. Let’s do it some more.” She leaned forward to kiss him again and Rafe turned his head away. “I am sorry. That shouldn’t have happened.” She stood up and looked down on him. Her voice was low and intimate. “I am not sorry. I am only sorry that you stopped.” Then she put the container back in the refrigerator without getting some food out. “You know where to find me if you change your mind, Rafe.” He watched her walk back to her room and go in and shut the door. He was still staring at his uneaten food when he heard Belinda scream out. “Daddy!” What was she doing in the living room? Rafe jumped up and his chair went flying backwards as he rushed out of the kitchen and headed for the living room as fast as he could. “Belinda! What’s the matter?” When he rounded the bend he saw Belinda. She was standing behind the couch. She looked frightened. Then he saw Trenton. The man was standing in the middle of the living room with his hand outstretched to her. “Please child, I only want to talk to you.” “You son of a bitch. Stay away from my daughter.” Rafe ran at him but it did no good for the man only disappeared in to thin air. “Damn it.” It angered him that he couldn’t get his hands on him and choke the very life out of body.

He ran to Belinda and drew her to his chest. Jaime came sliding to a stop in the room next. “What happened? I heard the scream.” “Trenton was here.” He tried to comfort Belinda but he was so agitated at the same time. He didn’t even realize his eyes started glowing. “Why did you leave Jace? You were supposed to wait for me to come back or have Jace escort you downstairs.” “I didn’t think it would matter in the house.” She started bawling and pulled away from him. “She’s scared.” Jaime told him unnecessarily. “She should be. Trenton might have gotten her. He nearly did.” “No.” Jaime told him reasonably and pointed to her eyes and then at him. “You are scaring her now.” Rafe closed his eyes. “Sorry Belinda.” He didn’t open them again until he was sure they weren’t glowing. “I’m scared. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Belinda had seen him turn into the werewolf once and it had frightened her so bad she could hardly look at him for months. She’d barely talked to him. Rafe was determined she would never see that again if he could help it. “Daddy? Why does he keep asking for my help? Why does he think I can help him at all?” “I don’t know, honey. I think he is playing on your sympathy. Belinda, don’t ever believe a word that man says. Don’t trust him.” “Does it have to do with the Limerick? Because I don’t understand it.” “He thinks it does.” Rafe admitted. “Unfortunately he is probably right.” “But I don’t know what to do.” She wailed softly. Jace came running in to the room about then. “Is she okay? I am sorry, Rafe. I didn’t even realize she had come downstairs.” “She is fine.” He assured him and realized Jaime must have gone back to her room. “Belinda won ’t make that mistake again I am sure.” “I won’t.” She shook her head tearfully. “I am sorry.” “Just remember to stay with someone, munchkin.” Rafe told her. “Lets go to our area. See you in the morning, Jace.” Jace uttered his regrets one more time before leaving. “Can I get something to eat first? That is why I came downstairs.” Belinda asked. “Sure.” When they walked in to the kitchen. Rafe was surprised to see two meatloaf sandwiches sitting on the table along with a coke for him and a chocolate soda for Belinda. It was very thoughtful of Jaime. Rafe watched Jaime as she moved around the table. She was presently handing out drinks while everyone studied the limericks. They had all three pieces written down and were trying to get a handle on it. Rafe couldn’t concentrate when she was around. She was a growing, steady ache. He wanted her with a fierceness he could barely contain. She had a way of making him feel like life was worth living again, that the future wouldn’t be as bleak as he imagined. “It all comes down to Belinda. Sorry Rafe. Sorry Belinda.” Royce said. “We just have to figure out what it is that Belinda…” “Can I look at them?” Jaime asked suddenly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” “Go ahead.” Royce handed her the papers. There was one limerick on each sheet. “Your blood sure did the trick for Amanda. Trenton hasn’t even tried to touch her mind much less call her back.” He smiled at Jaime. The only thing now was they couldn’t tell when Trenton was around. Would her eyes still glow if he were? They didn’t know. Jaime read them out loud. A threefold cord is not quickly broken, So the very Word of God has spoken. Purest love of a child is the heavenly token. To undo what destiny has so evilly bespoken. By his unfaithfulness his whole life has been wroken. He is not alive but wishes to be woken.

“This is Royce’s, Jace’s and Rafe’s Limerick? They are the threefold cord and the strength to be found together. Hmm. How does one go about waking a vampire from the sleep of the undead? That is definitely Trenton. He is not alive but he isn’t dead either.” Brothers Grimm there need be three. Three alpha males in the same family tree. To lift the curse and be set free. Another must be added to the melee. A gypsy child wild and free. One who was conjured from spells for thee. “This is the part of the limerick you got from Trenton Fairview. Rafe, you mentioned that your wife called you forth with spells. Belinda is the result of those spells.” Rafe nodded his head listening to her soft voice as she continued reading. Still in the pit after three hundred years of time. Needful is the bringing together of the rhyme. Brothers three, destiny and the undead must struggle and climb. To finally break the curse while it is still in its prime. A broken heart did make this generational curse a crime. But a child’s mercy can move gypsy bells to chime. “This is the gypsy limerick from Belinda’s mother’s family. It once again makes it clear that all of you need to be together. The three brothers, Belinda, and Trenton. Somehow Belinda holds the answer whether she knows it or not.” “But I don’t. I don’t know what Trenton wants or what the limericks mean.” Belinda answered her right away. They could all see her fear and her frustration. “It’s okay, Belinda. Trenton isn’t going to get his hands on you.” Rafe answered her. “I don’t think it is something that you will consciously know.” He looked up just in time to see a knowing look on Jaime’s face. It wasn’t anything pleasant either. She suspected what it was and wasn’t saying. Her eyes enlarged when she realized Rafe knew she knew and turned away. “I will be right back.” Jaime went in to her room and shut the door. Rafe knew as sure as he was sitting there that she wouldn’t be back right away. She probably wouldn’t show her face again until morning. It made him angry that she wasn’t telling what she suspected. “Stay with Belinda.” He stood up. “I want to talk to Jaime.” Rafe crossed the kitchen and down the short hall. He didn’t even knock on her door he just barged right in and shut the door behind him. “Jaime.” She was sitting on her bed with her hands in her lap. “I am not telling you so forget it.” So she did suspect something. She didn’t even deny it. He crossed the room and sat down by her trying to control his anger. He didn’t want his eyes to glow or anything that might frighten her. “Why not?” She didn’t answer and he grasped her shoulders. “Why not, Jaime?” She only shook her blonde head at him. “You know how important this is. You were the one who wanted to be involved with this family. You could have left anytime and instead you stayed.” “That was pretty stupid of me wasn’t it?” He shook her just a little. “You are going to tell me Jaime.” She narrowed hazel eyes on him stubbornly. “Nothing you can do or say…” He pulled her close and kissed her in anger. At least it started out as anger but only moments later he was kissing her with the heat of passion. Rafe pushed her back on the bed and leaned over her to kiss her fully. She didn’t fight him. She kissed him back just as thoroughly and ran her hands through his hair. “God, you make me crazy.” He lifted his head and looked at her soft swollen lips from his kisses.

“What am I going to do about you?” “You know as well as I do that this thing between us isn’t going to go away.” She told him softly. He laid his forehead against hers. “I know. This is just rotten timing. My daughter has to come first, Jaime.” “As it should be.” Jaime assured him. “Please tell me what you know.” “You will hate me. People always hate the bearer of bad news.” “I won’t hate you.” She looked at him with sad eyes and opened her mouth to tell him. “I think she has to kill him. I don’t know how. A stake through the heart maybe.” “No way. I am not going to allow my daughter to go through something traumatic like that. There has to be another way.” He was still shaking his head when they heard a sudden loud ruckus going on in the kitchen. They both sprang up from the bed and rushed to the kitchen. The sight that met Rafe’s eyes horrified him. The room was filled with people, Trenton’s minions to be exact. Jace and Royce were fighting them off the best they could. Amanda and Remy and the baby were being held against a wall by some of those minions. At least they weren’t hurting them. Rafe jumped in to the melee striking as many minions as he could. The sound of thunder nearly drowned out all the yelling. The thunder was Jace’s doing even though he couldn’t help the response. Rafe had to get to Belinda. Trenton was standing by her. He was reaching for her. Belinda was screaming in fear. “Braun!” Jaime yelled exceedingly loud. “Braun!” Trenton turned to her but shouted at his minions. “I told you not to let her open her mouth.” Jaime felt the hand that backhanded her and sent her flying against the ground. She saw stars before her eyes literally. Then a female minion jumped on her and covered her mouth with both her hands. Jaime couldn’t even move much less call for Braun. The woman was so strong. The minions’ actions came too late. The room filled with a glorious bright light and Braun appeared. There was a different clap of thunder this time. It was the first time Jaime had ever seen him angry. It was a truly frightening site. He never moved but the woman who was sitting on Jaime’s chest lifted off of her and floated in the air. She burst in to big orange flames before their very eyes. Trenton and then his minions disappeared in a matter of seconds and the anger left Braun’s countenance. Braun stretched a hand to Jaime and pulled her to her feet. She felt the healing warmth before she ever got upright. “Fear not.” He said to them all. Each and every person was staring at Braun in open-mouthed shock. It wasn’t everyday an angel appeared. Rafe realized the whole room was filled with love and peace. It was so thick they could hardly move as it soaked in to their souls. It was a glorious feeling. He had never felt anything like it before in his life. “Thank you, Braun.” Jaime told him. Braun turned to Belinda and smiled at her. “Fear not.” He said again. “No harm will come to you, Belinda.” Then he disappeared in a blink of an eye but it took longer for the ethereal light to fade slowly away. Rafe watched then as every eye in the room turned to Jaime. She smiled a bit uncomfortably and shrugged her shoulders. “That was Braun. My Guardian Angel.” “That was freaking incredible.” Royce said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” None of them had. He went to Amanda to see if she was okay. Trenton acted as if she didn’t even exist anymore since she had that small amount of Jaime’s blood. Apparently Amanda had lost her great strength as well because she was no help fighting off the minions. “He was beautiful.” Belinda added. “And he knew my name.” Rafe saw the hero worship already in her young eyes. No wonder Jaime said she had a crush on him. Braun was awesome to behold.

Jace who was already holding his wife looked at his arms. “Not a single cut or injury is left.” Everyone else was pretty much speechless. Jaime looked at Rafe. He was shaking his head back and forth a slight smile on his handsome face. “Your friend is an honest to goodness Angel.” “I did tell you.” “Yes, you did.” Rafe watched as she went back in to her room and shut the door. Everyone else split up and went to their wing of the house. They would be discussing what just happened and reassuring their spouses. “I know what to do now, Daddy. Braun told me.” Belinda told him softly drawing his attention back to her. “I didn’t hear him say anything else.” Rafe frowned at her. “He talked to me inside my head.” “He did? What did he say?” It was all very curious. “I don’t think I should say but everything will be okay now. I know it.” Belinda hugged him around the waist. “I love you, Daddy.” “I love you, Belinda.” “Can we go to sleep now? I am really tired.” “Sure thing.” But Rafe looked at Jaime’s closed door. He really wanted to talk to her. The next morning, the kitchen was all set for breakfast when everyone came downstairs. Jaime wasn’t anywhere in sight. She wasn’t in her room. The door was standing open. No one seemed to know where she was. Rafe felt really frustrated and he figured she was avoiding him because he still intended to find out if there was anything else she suspected. When Royce and Amanda offered to take Belinda shopping with them, Rafe readily agreed. She would be safe with Royce and it gave him time to talk to Jaime, if he could find her that was. He rode his horse clear down to the streambed before he finally found her. She was sitting on a blanket reading a book. He wished she would quit wandering off. He worried for her. “There you are. Are you avoiding me?” He slid down off the horse and tied him to a nearby tree where he could still reach the stream for a drink of water. “Yes.” She hardly looked up at him when he walked to stand by her. Rafe smiled. She was honest if nothing else. “What if we just talk?” “I’d rather make out.” He smiled again and sat down on the blanket with her. She looked lovely in pink halter-top and low riding jeans. “What? That didn’t scare you off?” She glanced at him and then glanced away. “Not this time.” Rafe used a single finger to raise her chin so he could look in to her hazel eyes. The pink clothes she wore made them look gray today, more than brown or green. Then he laid his lips across hers tenderly. “Jaime. Sweet, nutty Jaime.” She giggled softly. “I knew you thought I was nuts.” “Maybe just a little.” He kissed her again savoring the taste of her. She really did taste sweet, like honey and he sure did have a craving for her. He felt the familiar tightening in his groin. It was an everyday phenomenon since Jaime had come in to his life. She was the aggressor and pulled him down on her when she lay back on the blanket. He chuckled at her eagerness and gave her another sizzling kiss. “That almost curled my toes.” She sighed against his mouth. “Let’s keep going and see what else happens.” Rafe aimed to please as he stroked his hand down her arm. He kissed her and felt his erection spring to life at her willingness. He pressed against her leg. It only brought a small amount of relief. His hand explored her small shoulders and collarbones with infinite care. Then he slid his hand across her breast. He was rewarded when he could feel her nipple through her blouse. No bra for Jaime. She was already aroused, just like he was. He was content to touch her through her clothes for the

moment but she reached up and undid her halter and pulled it down for him. Rafe looked at her creamy pale breasts and her dusky nipples. Then he covered one with his hand again and felt the texture of them. The hard little peak pressed against his palm. She was ripe for kissing so he laid his mouth against her breast and took that nipple in to his mouth. She moaned in pleasure when he suckled her and tormented that sweet nub with his tongue. God, he was getting hard. She ran her hands over his back, and then began to unbutton his shirt. He helped her just a little and finished unbuttoning it and slipped it off. He loved the feel of her hot hands on his chest and stomach. “Take your jeans off.” She told him. “And I will take off mine.” Rafe slipped them off along with his underwear while he watched her do the same thing. Her bracelet tinkled with her movements. He covered her with his body and pressed her back against the blanket. He wanted to taste her again so he kissed her. “Come in to me, Rafe.” She whispered against his mouth shocking him. “We can take our time later but right now I need to feel you inside me hard and strong. Please.” Rafe spread her legs with his knees and placed himself in the cradle of her hips. “You’re right. We both need this so bad.” He thrust in to her hard. She was wet and ready. “Oh yeah.” She gasped in relief when he began to move inside her. “This feels perfect.” Rafe could hardly contain himself as he thrust in and out of her for a good long time. He felt her tightening around him. When she moaned her orgasm, it sent him over the edge as well. He came with power and collapsed against her. Rafe was careful not to stay there but rolled off her and to her side. He didn’t want to hurt her with his weight so he cuddled her to his side. “Thank you Jaime.” She kissed his neck. “No. Thank you Rafe. You are awesome.” He smiled and kissed the top of her head. “Surely you weren’t impressed by that? You haven’t seen anything yet, Lady.” He flipped back over on her and started all over again. This time taking every bit of the sweet precious time he could to thoroughly love her. Belinda walked outside. She went directly to the field behind the house. It was open, so that she could see what was coming. She was grateful that the horses ate the grass and kept it low. She was more scared than she had ever been in all of her young life. It was dark, very dark and she looked up at the stars. It had been quite a while since she had been outside at night, years in fact. The stars were sparkling and intense. There were so many of them! She stood in the middle of the field and waited. He would come. She knew. So would her father, as soon as he realized she wasn’t with any of the others and found her note. Belinda grasped her hands together. She would do exactly like the beautiful Angel told her to do. Then he would come and she could see his handsome face again. Her heart skipped a beat but she didn’t know if it was the fear she was feeling or the thought of seeing Braun again. Just then the field lit up with an intense bright light. Belinda felt Braun before she saw him. Her skin felt like tiny electrical impulses were firing over every square inch of her body. Then she felt the love and peace. At that moment she loved everyone in the whole world! “Belinda. Fear not. All is as it should be.” That beautiful ethereal light surrounded him. It was so welcoming. “This is your gift, Belinda. Mercy and Compassion allows you to lift curses so that a person may see more clearly and make decisions about where they will spend their eternity. You are the heavenly token. Sent for this purpose.” “I will try, Braun.” She squared her shoulders. She wanted to please Braun and he was so handsome. He was big and strong looking with huge arms and a massive chest. She knew because he wore no shirt. His loose pants glimmered and were similar to a silky fabric. His belt looked like it was gold. His sword rested at his side. He was beautiful and handsome beyond any words Belinda could think of. His hair was longish and very black as to appear it had blue in it. His eyes were a pale piercing gray. She was just starting to admire his wings when suddenly they were not visible anymore.

“I will stay with you. No one will even know I am here.” Braun assured her. The light faded away from sight and they were left standing in the field under the moon light and the bright beautiful stars. “No one can see you but me? Not even Trenton?” “Not even Trenton. He will not hurt you Belinda. You will be safe. There is some good left in him. Even to this day he fights the evil the best he can.” “Thank you.” Belinda smiled. She felt a whole lot better about what she was doing now that he was here for support. She still jumped in surprise when Trenton appeared a few feet away from her. He looked dark and menacing. “You came, child. I knew you would.” His minions started appearing around him. “Send them away or I won’t stay.” Belinda told him immediately. They had no part in this yet. “Yes. Yes. I do not want you to be afraid of me.” The minions disappeared immediately. Belinda realized that had Trenton wanted to hurt her he could have jumped on her in a split second. He had not. He never had. Belinda looked at Braun and he nodded his head. It was true, Trenton did not want to harm her and he didn’t know Braun was here as well. “I would not hurt you.” Trenton tried moving a little closer to her. Suddenly Belinda knew. It washed over her soul in waves. “You have suffered a great deal.” She could feel the torment and abject misery that was his whole existence, the endless centuries of night and suffering and the time upon end of loneliness. It was the evil inside him that made him hurt people. She saw the tell-tale glistening in his dark eyes. The tears he could not hide and could not shed. Her heart went out to him. She reached out a hand to him. Despite the evil, the man needed her love. He needed to be released from this most hideous curse. “Belinda!” She heard her fathers anxious yell. “Run! Run to me.” She turned to see all three brothers running across the field to reach her. She loved them so, especially her father. He was a brave and wonderful man. This had to be done. Couldn’t they see that? It was meant to be this way. Royce appeared first. The others weren’t anywhere close. Belinda didn’t know how he had gotten there ahead of the others. He stood between her and Trenton. His eyes glowed and he looked as if he could rip Trenton apart with his bare hands. She heard the low distinct growl. He would be changing into the wolf. She recognized the sound from her own father’s experiences. She did not want to see the werewolf. “Uncle Royce?” He turned slightly but did not take his eyes off of Trenton. “Belinda, go to your father.” “Please. Don’t do anything. Trenton has not tried to hurt me.” Trenton knelt down on the ground. He lifted his hands half way up. They were shaking. “I haven’ t come to do any harm. I only need to hear what the child has to say. Please. She is the only one who can release me from the curse that has plagued me for so long.” Royce’s eyes stopped glowing just as Rafe and Jace reached them. Rafe grabbed his daughter and held her close. “Belinda! Are you out of your mind?” He scolded. “It is okay, Daddy. I told you, I know what has to happen.” He turned to Trenton. “I should kill you for tormenting my daughter the way you have. Wasn’t it bad enough you tormented her mother?” “Indeed.” Trenton didn’t argue with him. “I need to hear what she has to say. She can ease my way into a better place. I have no desire to spend eternity in hell and I have no desire to go on like this, half alive and half dead. Is not your own curse unbearable?” The women reached the gathering crowd. Jaime in the lead followed by Amanda and Remy who carried Sarah in her arms. Jace stood between them, not letting them get any closer to danger. “Don’t come any closer.” He warned. “You should have stayed in the house.” The thunder started, it was Jace’s doing, a testament at how deeply he was effected. “Daddy?”

Rafe looked down at his sweet daughter in his arms. There was an incredible peace about her. “Let me go to him. Please.” “No.” His response was immediate and he tightened his hold. Jaime laid a hand on his arm. He hadn’t even noticed her walk closer to him. “It is time, Rafe. Trenton won’t hurt her. It is time everyone’s curses were lifted. It is the only way. Trust Belinda.” “Please.” Trenton said again from his kneeling position. “You have my word I will not harm her. Can you not see that if I was to harm her she could not then release me from my curse?” Rafe released his daughter but he walked at her side when she started to go to Trenton. She looked up at him with golden eyes that were so similar to his own. She was so much at peace. He wondered over it. He felt compelled to trust her even though he worried harm would come to her. Belinda walked bravely up to Trenton. He bowed his head in submission. She looked down on his dark head with compassion. She stretched out her hand. Trenton raised his head. His eyes darkened even further and he opened his mouth. The fangs were growing. The moonlight glistened off the huge teeth. The evil wanted to save itself. He could not let Trenton hurt his daughter. “Noooo.” Rafe yelled and jumped forward but not in time to keep Belinda from what she intended to do. Belinda laid her hand on his chest. “Be free of your curse, Trenton.” She said softly. “And in being free, so many others will find peace also.” It was such a simple action with uncomplicated words. It amazed them all. His eyes and his mouth closed. Before their very eyes he slowly changed and transformed. He looked the same but he didn’t. The evil inside him was dying. His black hair lightened to a soft shade of brown. His dark eyes turned blue. His pale unearthly complexion looked normal and healthy. He was just a man. Rafe, Royce and Jace all felt a great warmth rush through their own bodies leaving them feeling different. They knew their curses were gone. No more would they live the curse of the werewolf or pass it on to their heirs. No longer would that ‘thing’ be inside them waiting for their anger and deep emotions to jump out and take control of them. Braun appeared before Trenton. His feathered wings were visible. The peace and love they had felt before was just as strong now. Where had he come from? They all watched speechless as he wrapped his huge white wings around Trenton and they disappeared in a great light. Amanda rushed in to Royce’s arms. “I am free, Royce. I can feel it.” He held her close to his chest. He was still nearly speechless at everything he had seen and felt. “I am free, too. We all are.” Jace went to his wife. “We have so much to celebrate now. Sarah won’t have to go through any of the horrors we have.” Remy kissed him. “Only the good.” Jaime raised her hand and shook it making the bracelet she wore around her wrist sing out. It did not take much and the brass bells sounded louder than they ever had before. Everyone noticed. Jaime smiled and shook it again making it chime out. “It is the gypsy custom to ring bells at a celebration. This is a celebration!” “You know about Gypsy customs?” Belinda asked her excitedly. Rafe extended his other arm towards Jaime and she ran to him. “This bracelet was my grandmother’s before she gave it to me. She was a traveling gypsy.” Braun appeared to them again in that great welcoming light. “All is well now. Go in peace. Stay happy, live well and love much until you come to the realm of the blest.” He left and the ethereal light faded. Slowly with much talking, the group headed back to the house, their lives to continue free of curses and limericks. To live free, where werewolves and vampires were only a thing of fairy tales and legends.

Epilogue
Belinda wore a pale green colored dress that matched the one Jaime wore. She had multicolored

ribbons in her hair. She had been the one and only bridesmaid for Jaime. As her father and Jaime walked down the aisle of the small church, Belinda raised her arm and shook her wrist. It made the bracelet with the tiny brass bells that Jaime had given to her sing out in celebration. Baby Sarah added her voice happily from her mother’s arms. Jace had his arm wrapped around Remy’s shoulder as they sat together on the long wooden pew. There was so much love in the tiny chapel. It was the second ceremony in the last hour. First Royce and Amanda wed and now Rafe and Jaime. Belinda looked around at all the people in the chapel and was surprised to see Braun in attendance. He looked like just any other man sitting in the wooden pew. She wouldn’t think him an angel if she didn’t already know better. He smiled at her; a beautiful awesome smile and Belinda knew everything would be heaven from then on.

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