This scene feels like it needs a lot more work than the previous ones. It just feels...unclear to me. I'll figure out what it's missing as I write the rest of the story. That's normal for me. I really have no clue what all happens until it's written.
As always, rough draft warning
Hope you enjoy it! To read all the scenes I've emailed so far, click here.
Nora and Jared #5
She had rejected him.
Jared could not remember the last time that had happened. Certainly it had been decades. More likely, a full century. People did not walk away from him. They created excuses to be in his presence, to serve him, to please him.
“It’s for the best,” Deagan said, his boots crunching on broken glass. “We do not wish to start a war.”
“Invite them to the back room for a private tasting.”
Deagan blinked. “What?”
He strode toward the back hallway.
“What kind of tasting?” Deagan called out after him.
The back room was to the left, across from the bathrooms. The previous owner had used it to enough office supplies to last a vampire’s lifetime and extra glassware. If Nora remained there long, they would likely need the latter.
His people had removed most of the unnecessary supplies and clutter, leaving a reasonable amount of wine in the crates along the back wall and a small seating area in the far corner. Laila was there. She lifted her mouth from a human’s neck when he entered.
“Send him away,” he ordered.
Laila spoke softly to the human and picked up a small dagger from the side table. She was young enough to require an exchange of blood to fog the human’s memory, so she made a shallow cut on her arm and pressed it against the man’s mouth.
A moment passed. The human lifted his head, smiled, then grabbed his shirt and pulled it on as he walked out the door.
Laila stood smoothly. “What do you need?” She did not quite hide the note of hope in her voice, hope that he might ask for blood. All who were close to him knew it had been too long since he had truly fed.
“Guests will be here momentarily for a wine tasting,” he said. “Arrange it.”
She nodded her compliance and set about her work.
Jared walked to the mahogany desk—a custom ordered piece from the Czech Republic—and slid open the file drawer on the bottom left. Instead of folders and documents, it contained shredded brown paper. He pushed aside the top layer and removed one of the two amber colored bottles. Both were unlabeled, and both were gifts from the fey.
He set the bottle on the desk.
“Two stemless,” he said.
Laila glanced at him. Her thin eyebrows lifted, but she did not comment as she took two glasses from the cabinets of the wine bar nestled against the wall. She strolled toward him then set the drinkware beside the bottle of Bliss.
are starting something with the wolves.” She held out a corkscrew.
Hopefully. He kept the thought to himself and opened the Bliss. An audible pop sounded then a delectable aroma wafted into the air. It was a scent of dangerous ecstasy, of promises of passion and pleasure. Nora would recognize it the instant she entered the room, and it would raise her hackles, so to speak. She might not have a personal vendetta against the fey, but old werewolves despised them. Nora’s father would pass on his prejudice to his pack, and they would be obligated to hunt the fey who gave it to him.
“Should we prepare for violence?” Laila asked.
“You should prepare for guests.” He set the cork beside the bottle.
Laila looked like she was about to return to her work, but she hesitated.
“No,” he said, his voice cold and cutting. He would feed when he chose to and that would not be soon. It was a false fulfillment, a satisfaction that would last mere moments before he wanted more—more blood, more power. The hunger would escalate until his dependency fully returned and he sought out Arcuro. He had not seen his master in weeks. He hoped to not see him for many more, especially not now with his plans just beginning.
Laila flushed, mumbled an apology, and returned to the bar.
Perhaps he had silenced her prematurely. His people, especially Deagan, urged him to feed, but Laila might have been requesting the opposite. She was one of his younger vampires. Normally, he would not permit her near him on a regular basis, but she had been a vintner in her human life and had invested in multiple vineyards since she had been turned. She was beautiful and intelligent and had an adequate amount of self control. She also had good managerial skills. She was an asset and should be treated as such.
He would see to her needs after Nora and her friends left.
Oh, she is not happy, Deagan’s thoughts formed in Jared’s mind.
She is threatening to—agh!A thump from the wall to the right punctuated Deagan’s words. Nora’s friends entered a moment later.
Jared remained motionless in the background while Laila greeted them with a smile, her calming aura erasing any unease they might feel.
Jennifer, chatting excessively, led the group to the couches. There were seven of them—four women and three men all dressed fashionably. Even without a vampire’s soothing pheromones, they would have been comfortable in this setting. They were accustomed to it, to the attention and the night life. They thrived on the conversations, the interaction, the social power of being the group everyone wanted to be a part of. Nora had created a cohesive little pack that saw her as alpha and catered to her wishes and demands.
No wonder Jennifer and Tasha’s imminent departures stung so badly.
Another thump sounded, this time from the hallway. Nora strode in a moment later.
By God, she was a thing of raging beauty. People rarely approached him without fear, but Nora carved a path through the room like a tsunami recarved a coastline. She presented herself as an equal when he could crush her with ease. It was impressive, and if she had been human and he had been much, much younger, he would have made her a vampire, taken her into his clan, and…
And an odd emotion tugged at his chest. He had not turned anyone in decades—had not even felt an impulse to do so—and it was startling how that need, that instinct to grow his family, returned so potently as she neared.
Her nostrils flared ever so slightly, scenting the opened bottle of Bliss. If he had not been a vampire, he wouldn’t have noticed the tell or the sliver of yellow at the edge of her irises. Curious, he watched her eyes, wondering if she would have the courage to act on the desire there—not the desire to bow before him but to lunge for his throat.
Unfortunately, she did neither.
“You will get nothing from me.” Her voice vibrated with a violence that resonated inside him.
“My intention is not to take. It is to give.” He stepped to the side so that she could see the opened Bliss, then he poured the amber liquid into the two stemless glasses, keenly aware of the death’s glare boring into the back of his head.
“You were not brave enough to parade my scent around your pack.” He set the bottle down, picked up both glasses, and held one out to her. “Perhaps the scent of Bliss on your breath will be an adequate insult.”
She immediately reached for the Bliss, and he quickly moved it out of her reach.
“I will begin charging you for broken glasses,” he warned.
Her smile was all teeth. “Best hold on to that then.”
Before he could respond, Deagan stormed into the room, his coat draped over an arm, a scowl darkening his face. Nora did not turn, likely because she sensed his arrival and was responsible for the coat’s half attached sleeve.
Deagan strode straight for them, stopped a few feet away, and then waited with his jaw locked tight.
Jared passed the Bliss to him.
“Not worth it,” Deagan said, then he downed the drink. His eyes closed. He visibly relaxed. “Mostly not worth it.”
He tossed the damaged coat onto the desk and turned to Nora. “For the record, Ms. Lehr, the answer is no. This is not about the unsanctioned you allowed to reach The Rain nor is it about your father’s increasing pressure to alter the provisions of the treaty. Rather, this is about one daft man’s yearning to torment his devoted followers.”
Nora’s eyebrows rose. She looked at him. “You let your people talk to you like that?”
“Only Deagan,” he replied.
Nora sniffed then turned her back on them both and joined her friends. Jennifer moved to make room, but Nora sat on the arm of the leather couch, crossed her legs, and stared Laila down. The young vampire stuttered mid-speech. She held Nora’s gaze for a few seconds then looked away to pour a sample of a red wine into eight glasses.
“What are you doing, Jared?” Deagan asked quietly.
“I am taking an interest in something,” he said. “That should please you.”
“That’s what worries me. Why her?”
“Is she not interesting?” He took a sip of his Bliss. It tasted like moonlight sliding down his throat.
“Has Arcuro ordered this?” Deagan asked.
Jared watched as Laila avoided meeting Nora’s eyes. Both the vampire and the werewolf heard Deagan’s question. Both were undoubtedly waiting for a response while pretending to focus on the wine tasting.
“Because it would explain things if he had,” Deagan continued. “It would mean he has finally tired of you and decided to assign you to a suicidal task. But if he did not order this—”
“Enough.” Those two quiet syllables stopped Deagan’s speech. The vampire would not bring up the topic again, partly because Jared would not tolerate it but also because he had deduced the answer in Jared’s abrupt interruption. Understanding darkened Deagan’s eyes and his mouth downturned.
“You should taste a hint of spice with undertones of oak,” Laila said. “It blooms over your tongue and… and…”
Laila’s gaze fixated on Nora. A moment later, Jared smelled it. Smelled
her. It was the same sweet aroma that had pulled him toward the wolf two weeks ago, a powerful scent that reminded him of orchids growing through freshly turned soil. It made his mouth water, his fangs ache.
Nora set a dagger—the one Laila had used earlier—on the side table. She’d crossed her arms and looked comfortable and relaxed as her blood dripped to the floor, just out of sight from the humans.
But not out of Laila’s sight. Not out of his or Deagan’s.