Take My Hand Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

            Carson exhaled as he closed the door to the cell he had been held in for the recent past. It was nearly the end of him to have to leave Jocelyn sitting in the middle of that purgatory. It was so abrupt, so cold. It was the complete opposite of what he longed to do…to take her in his arms and disappear from this place, to shield her from any future pain. But he had made a promise, and he was nothing if not a man of his word. And as cliché as he felt even thinking it, it was time for this to end.

            Drawing strength from his mate’s gift, feeling the power that is gained only from feeding from one’s Connatus Spiritus, he took a deep breath and walked up the cold flight of stone stairs with the confidence of a warrior prince. Each step brought him closer to the voice of Dania and the smell of fear from her warriors. For once, the fear was from more than simply her intimidation and dominion. Each of them knew the risks of what was to come.

            Carson focused acutely on blocking Dania from sensing his presence, shielding his essence and his thoughts carefully. Thunder sounded loudly outside of the castle, the ground beneath him trembling in anticipation. The very air vibrated with intensity. Rain pummeled the sides of the stone walls, creating a constant roar in the background, muffling Carson’s careful steps. Lightning flashed, momentarily illuminating the large candlelit room in which Dania stood surveying her warriors.

            Carson could barely glance the eleven vampires standing across the marble floor as he stood just inside the dark corridor that led into the open expanse. Dania stood before the ten warriors who had their heads solemnly bowed, their hands clenched tightly behind their backs. Champagne sparkled in the delicate glass which she held by the fragile stem. She swirled it around the glass as she spoke in clipped syllables.

            The floor sparkled with the water that trickled and slanted through the open windows. The curtains covering them did little to protect the room from the storm as the gauzy material swayed and frantically snapped in the wind. Dania had always enjoyed storms, and it brought images of the night Carson had first seen her to mind. She had been standing in the rain then as though she were more at home there than anywhere. Some things didn’t change.

            “And just what have you insolent fools been up to? I can see guilt written all over your faces, and, if I have to search your minds myself, the consequences will be greater for you.”

            The vampires remained silent, waiting for her to choose the victim who must answer.

            “Kaleo, my pet, what have you to tell me?”

            Kaleo kept his head lowered, and Carson could see his knuckles turn white as he clenched his fingers together more forcefully.

            “Carson is slipping,” Kaleo murmured.

            Carson nearly flinched at the mention of his name but managed to regain composure.

            Dania chuckled and allowed the scowl to slip off of her features, nearly purring as she said, “Ah, good news then. Tell me more.”

            “His humanity is slipping away. He will succumb to bloodlust soon,” Kaleo reluctantly admitted, offering only the barest of information.

            Dania’s maniacal grin consumed her lips, turning her ordinarily beautiful face into the essence of obsession.

            Carson drew a deep breath as quietly as possible. No turning back. He stepped carefully into the light, the lightening flashing across his face, the thunder masking the soft pit-pat of his footsteps. It made no difference. Every vampire in the room heard as his bare feet dipped into the water on the marble floor. The tinkling of freshly fallen drops sounded in the quite of the aftermath of the thunder. The candles flickered in the wind but never ceased their tentative illumination. Carson stood calmly with his hands at his sides, his feet slightly apart, his entire body relaxed, completely in opposition to his raging mind and swirling emotions. He didn’t shift. His dermaglyphs were hidden. He showed no fear and no sign of defense.

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