Heku : Book 1 of the Heku Series by T.M. Nielsen - HTML preview

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Chapter 8 - Choices

 

“It does give me a right! She is my blood, my family.” Ulrich slammed his fist down on the granite table.

“That gives you the right to nothing! She's an adult woman, who chose to stay with me.” Chevalier's eyes blazed with fury.

“I have the inherent right to protect my offspring. Does the Council deny that right?” He looked up at the Elders.

We do not deny that you have some rights, as far as family is concerned, but our decision has not yet been made. Now I suggest you both sit down and keep your tempers under control. To think this is all over a mortal!” The only female Elder, Selest, looked down at them from the platform. She glanced to the two men on her left, and they nodded, astonished that two heku were fighting over a mortal.

I will ask this one more time… Lord Ulrich, what do you benefit from having Emily Russo live with your coven?” The smaller of the male Elders asked.

“I benefit by having complete protection of one of my offspring,” he stated plainly.

Do you, therefore, deny that Emily Russo is a direct descendant of the Winchester family and thereby capable of powers beyond both mortal and heku?”

Ulrich glanced quickly at Chevalier and glared, “I do deny that. She has shown no powers beyond any mortal. The abilities mentioned died out a long time ago.”

“Are those your findings also, Chief Enforcer?” Selest asked, and looked down at him.

“It's inconclusive at this time, which is why I want to keep her in my care, where she can live safely and I can learn whatever talents she may have.” Chevalier avoided looking at Ulrich, afraid their secret may be given away with a glance.

“She is my granddaughter! If she has any abilities, it should be I that find them. I can teach her how to control them, I can teach her how to use them,” Ulrich said, pleading. He knew that as an enemy, the Elders would not see his view.

“She doesn't want to live with you.” Chevalier raised his voice and the Elders motioned for both of them to sit again.

I won't tell you again, both of you will stay calm in this court room!” Elder Leonid said, and both complied immediately.

The entire room was suddenly quiet. No sound at all could be heard as the Elders debated silently. After almost an hour, Elder Selest stood up.

“It is our decision to allow Chevalier to continue to monitor the situation and report back to this Council, and we, in turn, will keep Lord Ulrich informed.” She sat down when she was finished talking.

Chevalier sighed and turned to Ulrich, his eyes burning with fury. Without addressing them further, Chevalier quickly left the court room, anxious to avoid a confrontation.

***

The ferry couldn't move fast enough for Chevalier. He worried about how long the court session had lasted. He told her he would be gone only a few days, but he had been gone for a week. He knew he could trust his coven, but lingering doubts about a select family of newly turned heku made him nervous and anxious to get home. He also felt incomplete without her. He could picture her eyes, the vivid green that flared when she was mad. He missed the blush in her cheeks and the way she felt in his arms. He tapped his dashboard lightly with his fingers, any sign of patience had worn off.

Storm sat quietly beside him, unsure how to handle his sudden impatience. As soon as they arrived at the pier, she stepped out of the car and went to talk to the guards. Chevalier put his car into gear and sped through the city toward the castle. It was late, he knew she would be asleep, but he just wanted to see her.

As he stepped out of the car, he noticed the guards shift nervously. He frowned slightly and studied their faces, they were like stone statues. He narrowed his eyes and walked into the castle. The air inside seemed tense at his arrival. Things were too quiet. Not one servant was in sight, there was no hint of whispers, and even the sound of everyday cleaning was absent.

Chevalier surveyed the entryway and saw nothing amiss, and no sign that anything was wrong. He quickly ascended the stairs and stepped into Emily's ante-chamber. Anna was in the corner standing perfectly still, not even meeting his eyes.

“Anna?” he questioned.

“Yes, Sir?” Anna replied, and he wondered at the tone of her voice.

He studied her every movement. The muscles in her neck were tense and strained, “How is she?” He didn't know why, but he felt almost afraid of her answer.

“Fine, Sir.”

His brow furrowed, “That's it? Fine?”

Anna nodded.

The scent caught Chevalier's attention, the scent from her bedroom was wrong. His eyes raged, “Who is in there with her?”

Anna froze.

He stormed into the room, one of the doors splintering as it hit the stone walls. His eyes focused in on the bed. He could see Emily under the covers, but his attention was on the lone figure sitting at the foot of her bed, looking at him as he entered the room. The form stood up quickly and stepped back toward the wall.

“Sir,” Kyle whispered. Chevalier was inches from him in less than a second, staring down at him.

His voice was low and tense, “What do you think you're doing?”

“Sir, it's not what you…” Kyle's voice was cut off by Chevalier's hand wrapped tightly around his neck.

Kyle flew through the air, landing with a violent crash against the stone wall. The impact cracked the rough stones and sent shatters of broken rock and sand against the floor. Kyle flipped onto his feet and faced Chevalier, keeping his face calm and non-aggressive, “Please, Sir, it's not what you think.”

Chevalier turned to the bed to face Emily. The thunderous crash should have woken her, but she didn't move, didn't stir. Her smell was off, the sweet aroma was masked somewhat by a harsh chemical. He turned back to Kyle, who was still at the wall, his hands palms out toward Chevalier.

“Sir, let me explain, please.” Kyle was standing tall, his shoulders squared and ready for attack, though his posture wasn't crouched as if to defend.

Chevalier instantly materialized several feet in front of him, “Start talking… and it better be good.” His eyes narrowed and his hands balled into tight fists.

Kyle whispered instinctively, “She hasn't slept since you left, Sir. There was an attack the first day and she was having nightmares…” He paused as the furious look in Chevalier's eyes grew more intense.

“Attack?” he hissed.

“Yes, Sir, the first day we were out riding and a young one was hiding in the trees.”

Chevalier grabbed a nearby chair and threw it through the plated window to the balcony, ripping the large curtains down with the force, “Who?”

Kyle winced slightly, “It was Ethan, Sir. She fell when the horse bucked, but we handled it. Ethan is waiting for you, and Anna was able to stop the bleeding.” He stopped talking when Chevalier inhaled sharply.

He took a step toward Kyle, “Continue.”

That night she started having nightmares, screaming through the night. She begged me to stay, Sir, I promise you, she begged me.” Kyle waited for the fury, but Chevalier wasn't moving, yet his body was shaking with rage.

Kyle continued, “Last evening, I finally talked her into taking a sleeping pill. She had dark circles under her eyes and she'd quit eating. Henry studied up and found that it was the lack of sleep. It took hours to convince her to take it, but she finally did. Nothing else happened, Sir, I swear to you.”

Chevalier's eyes narrowed again, “You couldn't sit in a chair? How dare you sit on her bed.”

That was her too, Sir. The first night I was on the chair when the nightmare began. She said she felt safer, the closer I was… I would never have done anything, I swear my allegiance to you.” Kyle lowered his eyes, showing submission.

“Get out.” Chevalier's whisper was riddled with power and Kyle bowed once and ran out of the room as a blur.

Once the room was empty except for he and Emily, he went to her and sat gently on the side of the bed, touching her cheek softly. He didn't like the way she smelled and was uncomfortable with how still she slept. Chevalier inhaled her scent deeply, his mind searching for anything wrong. He caught the hint of dried blood, but the sharp stab of medicine covered the sweet smell.

“I'll be back,” he whispered, bending down to press his lips gently against her forehead.

He appeared out in the ante-chamber. The doors hung limply from their hinges. Anna stiffened in the corner.

He gritted his teeth, “Dried blood?”

Anna nodded, “Yes, Sir, she hit her head when the horse bucked her off. I stitched her wound, it is healing.”

“Nightmares?” His body was tense.

“Yes, Chief Enforcer, every night, she screams.” Anna's eyes were fearful.

“What does she scream?” He watched her face for any indication that she was lying to him.

She cleared her throat, feeling his intense gaze on her, “It varies, Sir, some nights she screams about someone named Keith. Mostly… it's for you.” She dropped her eyes.

Chevalier sighed and his voice softened, “What has she been doing during my absence?”

Anna relaxed slightly, “She won't let me shadow her, Sir. I tried, I really have… but she orders me to stay behind.”

He laughed slightly. He had no doubts that Emily had done just that, “But you still know…”

Anna nodded, “Yes, Sir.”

“What then?”

“She mostly spends her day out on her horse, Sir. She rides along the trees and down to the beach.”

“You let her out alone in the city?” He winced.

“No, Sir!” Anna stressed. “We wouldn't do that, not after the first attack.”

“Then who was with her?”

Anna braced for his fury, “Kyle, Sir.”

He took a step toward her, “Kyle and who else? Or was Kyle with her every day?”

Anna simply nodded, her voice catching in her throat, “It was her request, Sir,” she whispered.

Oh?”

Sir.” She decided to take the punishment and tell him everything, “The nightmares, they kept her up. She finally refused to sleep and a few days ago, she stopped even eating. Any noise and she jumps. She turns pale if she catches sight of anyone other than Kyle and I. Emily said that Kyle kept the fear away. She trusted him to keep her safe while you were away and we decided, together, to honor those wishes.”

Anna was able to relax when Chevalier stood up out of the angry crouch, “Fix this room,” he said, and in the blink of an eye he was leaving the room with Emily cradled in his arms.

***

“Good morning,” Chevalier whispered as Emily began to stir. He'd been watching her sleep for the past 14 hours, wondering how much sleeping medication the immortals had given her.

Her eyes flashed open and she curled up against his chest, “You're back!”

Chevalier held her tightly and then put his fingers under her chin, bringing her face up toward his, “How are you?”

He had the chance to study her face. She still had dark circles under her eyes, the pallor making them darker. Her eyes were sunken and tired.

“I'm fine.” She smiled up at him.

“Gordon is bringing you some breakfast, Dear.”

“Just coffee please. I'm not hungry.”

“Never the less, you will eat.” He tried to sound commanding, but had a hard time being stern as those flowing green eyes peered up at him.

Emily lay back on the bed and stretched a bit. This bed was harder than the one she was used to and her back was aching. She looked around and frowned, “Where am I?”

I moved you to my room. I'm having some work done on yours.” He decided to keep his violent tendencies to himself.

She yawned into her hand and returned to studying his room. This gave him the chance to study her further. He was a little shocked to see the delicate fabric and low cut of the soft pink flowing nightgown that revealed a hint of her soft breasts. He would have to thank Margaret for that later. He gently ran his finger along the low neckline and cursed when he heard Gordon coming with her breakfast.

“Come in,” he said, irritated.

Gordon entered with a large silver tray and the smell of bacon and eggs filled the room. He placed it on the bedside table and lifted the cover, smiling, “Finally, the chance to make something other than coffee.” His grin fell when he saw Chevalier's expression and he hurried out of the room with a bow.

Emily sat up and turned to the tray to make up a cup of coffee. Chevalier noticed, appraisingly, the low cut back of her nightgown. It perfectly showed the smooth skin on her back, her pale complexion, and the perfect curve of her fragile spine. He gently ran his fingers up her spine and grinned as she shivered. She turned back to the bed and sat up, the steaming cup of coffee cradled in her hands.

He reached out and took the cup away from her protesting fingers, “Food Emily, not coffee… food.”

“Coffee first,” she said, reaching out for it.

He moved it further from her, out of her reach, “I think you've had enough caffeine. Eat… please… for me.”

Emily reached over and grabbed a piece of bacon and sat back against the headboard to eat.

“I'm so sorry. I honestly had planned on being gone only a few days and then to hear that…” He paused to calm his voice, “That you were attacked in my absence.”

She tensed, it was still fresh in her mind. She grabbed another piece of bacon, not wanting to talk about it.

“I lied to you again, and I suppose saying I'm sorry isn't good enough. I promised my coven would keep you safe in my absence.” His eyes dropped to the bed.

She gently touched his cheek, “You can't protect me from everything, Chev. Kyle was there with me, nothing happened.”

He looked into her eyes, “That's not how I heard it.”

She reached back and touched the back of her head, “That? That's nothing. Patra doesn't take nicely to heku apparently, though she is getting used to Kyle.”

“Patra is here?” he asked, shocked.

Emily smiled brightly, her face suddenly lit up, “Yes, Kyle brought her here for me.”

Chevalier nodded. He had to give Kyle credit, he was taking care of her as he had ordered, “Eat more.”

She glanced over at the plate and then back to Chevalier, “Where did you go?”

He sighed. She might as well know, “To court, with Ulrich.”

She gasped, “Over me?!”

Chevalier nodded, “It's ok though, they have granted me more time with you.”

Her eyes darted around the room, “But someday they may change their minds? Someday I may be forced to live with him?”

He didn't answer.

“I won't do it… no one can make me.” She set her jaw. He didn't want her to be upset so he kept his thoughts to himself. He knew that if the time came, she wouldn't have a choice.

Don't worry about it now, Em. If the time ever comes… If the time ever comes, we'll handle it then, ok?” He realized she was done eating and handed her coffee to her.

She sipped it, letting it burn her tongue.

“Ash anyone while I was away?” He grinned at her, trying to lighten the mood.

Emily couldn't help but laugh, “No.”

I had some clothes brought in to you. Get dressed, I have something I need to do and I want you to come.”

She looked at him expectantly, “We're leaving the island?”

He grinned, “No, we aren't even leaving the castle.”

She sighed, slightly disappointed, and got up to get dressed. She noticed, irritated, that his bathroom had locking doors.

She looked around the large bathroom. It was empty except for a vanity mirror, a large shower, and a pile of clothes folded neatly on the counter. To her horror, the walls were lined with mirrors. She slipped out of her nightgown and quickly into her clothes, her eyes fixed on the floor. She was glad they were jeans. She didn't like all of the dresses that Margaret kept bringing her.

As Emily turned to leave, she caught a glimpse of herself in one of the mirrors and sighed. She hadn't noticed that her jeans had diamond cut-outs down the length of the legs from her hips to her ankles. While not a t-shirt, at least the pale blue shirt wasn't revealing. She would have to throw the jeans away when she got a new pair. It took her only a few minutes to throw her hair into a French braid and head back out to Chevalier.

He grinned at her and his eyes fell almost immediately to the small glimpse of her smooth white thighs and toned calves that her jeans provided. She blushed and laid her nightgown down on the foot of the bed. Emily glanced around the room and saw that her breakfast tray was gone, and the bed was made.

“Are you ready to go?” Chevalier asked, laughing at her blush and taking her hand in his. He was pleased when she didn't pull away from his touch.

Emily nodded and let him lead her out of the room. Before she could see what was going on in her room, the door shut, as if by itself. She had the feeling they were hiding something.

“Where is Kyle?” she asked as they descended the stairs.

“He is back at his post.” Chevalier knew that Kyle would be doing his best to stay off of his radar.

The rest of the walk was in silence. It seemed to Emily like they should have gotten to the ground floor already, and the narrow stone walkway seemed to be spiraling downward. She hadn't seen windows for a while, and the way was no longer lit, so she couldn't see anything. Chevalier was guiding her. Her eyes didn't adjust, either, and she was getting frustrated, not liking being without one of her key senses. Finally, a light shone in a rectangle ahead, they were nearing a door.

The door opened just as they got to it, and she saw that a brightly lit room was on the other side. The room was circular with a platform at one end. Four chairs were high on the platform behind large oak desks. The rest of the room was full of rows and rows of chairs facing the other four. Emily recognized this as a type of court room and she started to panic, holding tighter to Chevalier's arm.

There was only one other person in the room, the door guard who held an ominous looking sword in his hands. Emily found that odd, why a sword instead of a gun? Chevalier led them up to the platform and sat in one of the center chairs, motioning for her to sit at his left. As soon as she sat down, Storm appeared and sat in the chair on his right. Over the next few minutes, others piled into the room, taking the chairs on the lower level and all seemed to be watching her closely. She began to panic.

Kyle walked in, looking nervous, and sat in the chair beside Emily. She was comforted to see him. “What is this?” she whispered to him.

It didn't escape Chevalier's notice that she asked Kyle the question instead of him, and his insides tightened.

Kyle knew his place and didn't answer, staring straight ahead. Emily just sighed and returned her eyes to scan the room.

When everyone was seated and quiet, Storm stood up.

Bring him in,” she demanded, and the guard by the door left quickly, returning within only a second, dragging the young heku into the room, the strange heku that had scared Patra and tried to attack her. Emily's entire body tensed. She was ready to run from the room, but when she started to stand, Chevalier's hand shot out and touched her leg.

“Don't do this, please,” she whispered to Chevalier. He didn't respond, he was watching the young heku with loathing. Her breathing picked up, she couldn't imagine what was going to happen to him.

“Please.” She tried again.

Chevalier silenced her with an icy glare.

Storm faced Ethan, who was sitting in an old chair on the bottom level, “Charges have been brought against you, charges of the gravest nature. Your age doesn't protect you from disobeying the direct orders of the Chief Enforcer. Do you understand these charges?”

“Yes,” Ethan said softly, and his eyes were directed at Emily. She could feel the rumble from beside her, both Chevalier and Kyle were growling.

“How old are you, Ethan? For the record,” Storm asked, holding a clipboard.

“213 years,” he said, licking his lips.

“Mind yourself!” Storm barked at Ethan, and he recoiled under her words, looking back at her. “Did you, or did you not, receive the direct order that the girl wasn't to be harmed, that she belongs directly to the Chief Enforcer?”

Emily frowned and grimaced at the word 'belongs'.

“Yessss,” he hissed again, his eyes falling on Emily. “But she is so sweet, so tender, I can't resist her.” He leaned a little closer to the front of the room and inhaled.

“No!” Emily screamed, just as Chevalier appeared at Ethan's back. His hands wrapped tightly around the young heku's head. Before Emily could shut her eyes, Ethan's head was off and sent flying into the wall of the court room.

Emily stood. All eyes were on Chevalier as he quickly dismembered Ethan. She was able to run from the room, unnoticed. She fought her way up the impossibly dark hallway, winding further and further up, feeling her way along the wall. There were no sounds behind her, yet she ran, tripping on loose stones and imperfections in the floor. As the hallway became lighter, she recognized her surroundings and ran out the back door in the kitchen, headed straight for the barn.

Patra was waiting just inside, saddled and ready for her daily ride. Emily deftly hoisted herself up onto the mare and was in a full gallop before even clearing the barn doors. She headed the opposite way she normally did, going straight for the beach. Once the sound of the ocean was near and Patra's hooves hit sand, she slowed the horse and held tightly to the saddle's horn, trying to calm her breathing.

She slid off the horse and nuzzled her face into the horse's warm neck, and then broke down into heart- wrenching sobs. The sight of Ethan's head slamming into the stone wall was horrifying. She'd seen Chevalier mad, but never that enraged. She kept reminding herself that it was her fault, because of her, this creature had died. Emily sunk down onto the sand at the foot of her horse. She could hear the ocean clearly, but couldn't see it because of the tall cement wall. She shut her eyes and focused on the rhythmic pounding of the waves against the rocks. The monotonous sound cleared her mind of the headless heku.

Patra nibbled at Emily's hair and brought her out of the trance. She stood up and noticed it was starting to get dark. The cold wind blowing off the ocean sent a chill down through her. She ran her fingers through the mare's mane, her mind wondering where to go and what to do. This world of Chevalier's seemed more dangerous now. She didn't feel safe in it, and didn't feel like she even remotely belonged. The sound of footsteps approaching made her body stiffen and her breath caught.

She peered around Patra's neck and saw a tall man approaching, his dark face was hidden in the dying light. The mare whinnied loudly and stomped her foot at him as he got closer. Emily stood, frozen to the horse's side, unable to move. She could feel Patra's muscles tighten, she was about to run. Emily grabbed the bridle to steady the horse as the sound of the approaching steps stopped. There was no sound but the waves against the beach.

Emily stood motionless against the horse for a few minutes, not sure if the stranger had gone or was standing just on the other side of Patra. Her heart beat violently in her chest as he spoke, his voice soft.

“Emily?” he asked her.

She didn't move, didn't breathe.

“I won't hurt you, Child,” he reassured her. “I came to show you the way back.”

She swallowed hard, her mouth dry with fear, “I know the way… back.”

Emily screamed briefly as something sounded from the saddle behind her and she ducked down away from it.

“Calm, Child, it's just a coat.” The stranger's voice was further away now.

Emily managed to turn slightly and see the coat lying over the saddle. She peered around Patra and saw the stranger standing 20 feet away, watching her. Her skin broke out into goose bumps as the wind picked up. She looked up and saw dark clouds covering the rising moon.

“You must be cold,” the stranger said from where he stood, not moving closer.

“I'm fine,” she managed to say finally, and slipped back around behind the mare. “You take the coat if you are cold.”

The soft laughter filled the wind, and she fought against feeling comforted by its warmth and sincerity.

“If you won't wear the coat, at least go back to the castle, they are very worried about you.”

Emily leaned her head against Patra, unsure what to do.

Finally, the heku spoke again, “Do you wish me to leave?”

She nodded, knowing that he couldn't see her, but she wasn't able to speak.

“Very well,” he said sadly, then suddenly he was gone.

The darkness was full now, any light from the moon was blocked by the black clouds. Emily sat down again on the sand and wrapped her arms around her knees for warmth. The coat sat invitingly above her on the saddle and her mind began to wander.

How many people would die because she was there? How many would be in danger because of her raw emotions and the ability to disintegrate a heku at will? How could she survive in a world where beings were torn apart for breaking the order of one man? It all seemed fierce and primal, the laws and regulations she was accustomed to seemed irrelevant here. From what she had seen, the heku followed Chevalier. No one doubted his methods or his orders and no one disobeyed, completely out of fear.

Her mind wandered to Ulrich, the unseen heku that watched over her. Was his coven similar? Did he have this much control over his people? Could he harm her as she felt Chevalier was capable of doing? Did he have the temper and the ability to rip another person's head from their body? She winced as the image again came into her mind.

Her mind returned to the beach as it began to rain. The cold drops almost immediately soaked her hair and clothing. Emily clutched her knees tighter to her and watched as the vapors from her breath became visible in the frigid air. She began to shiver uncontrollably, but still refused to put on the coat. It seemed like a symbol of restraint, a symbol that she'd given up and agreed to embrace this sadistic lifestyle.

Patra's skin twitched. She was visibly irritated about being out in the cold rain, but Emily still didn't move, didn't know where to go. The waves grew fierce and were now slapping hard against the cement wall. She imagined that the beach on the other side had disappeared with the tide. Emily could feel the cold drops sliding down her face and back, her body shaking more violently than before.

The crashing of the waves masked the approaching footsteps and she didn't realize that she wasn't alone until they were standing in front of her. She tried to look up at them, but she was too tired, her teeth chattered and her body shook with cold.

Chevalier crouched down, his hands slowly reaching for her, palms out, “Emily, you need to get inside.” His voice was soft and concerned, but her mind raced back to the court room.

“N.. N… No,” was all she could manage. She felt the coat being slipped over her back and she wiggled it off.

You are going to freeze to death out here.” This time it was Kyle's voice from behind her, and she realized that he must have been the one that draped the coat over her shoulders. She heard the sound of someone settling into Patra's saddle.

“Kyle is going to take Patra back to the barn. It's too cold out here for her,” Chevalier told her as she felt the comforting presence of the mare leave.

Chevalier sat down facing her, “I don't want to force you, Em, but I will if you don't get up soon.”

“You killed him,” she whispered.

He sighed, “Yes.”

“It's not right to just kill someone,” she said through chattering teeth.

“Emily, it's important when dealing with a thousand natural predators that everyone obeys the rules. I set the rules… and if they aren't obeyed, then I deal with it.” He watched her eyes, his voice soft and smooth.

She began to shiver harder, “H h h how l long bef fore you k k kill m m me?”

Chevalier frowned, “I'm not going to kill you. Remember, you aren't one of my charges.”

“S s so, h h how w w will you d d deal with m m me if I b break a r rule?” Her lips were turning a vibrant blue.

“You don't have rules, Emily. You aren't in my coven, and you are too important for me to punish you for breaking a rule. I am Chief Enforcer of the faction. I am not your Chief Enforcer.” He stood up and touched her arm, “Get up.”

“O o o or wh wh what?” She glared up at him.

“Or I'll pick you up.” He was getting frustrated with her.

She'd never known this kind of cold, the cold that seeped deep into her inner core. Her skin was no longer cold, it was numb, which wasn't all together unpleasant. She was finding it hard to concentrate now and her hands and feet ached painfully. She buried her head, putting her forehead against her knees that were still tightly wrapped by her arms, though she couldn't feel them any longer.

“Emily?” he asked softly, bending down closer to her.

She shivered violently, but didn't answer.

With one swift movement, Chevalier picked her up and grimaced at the icy cold of her body. She continued to shiver, but didn't protest as he carried her back to the warmth of the castle.

He headed into her room. The repairs were made and Anna had a hot bath waiting. He set her down gently on the tile, but she couldn't feel her feet and she sank down onto the floor. She set to work unbuttoning her shirt, but her fingers were stiff and frozen. Chevalier sighed and reached down, pulling her shirt over her head.

“N n n no,” she began to protest.

“Hush up, no more protests. This time I'm not kidding,” he warned.

Emily's clothes were wet and clung tightly to her frozen body. Chevalier gave up and simply ripped them off of her. He growled slightly as he picked up her naked body. It was colder than it should be and he was worried that she might get sick. He sat her down slowly into the warm jetted tub, ignoring how wet his shirt got, then he stood back and motioned for Anna to leave.

Emily's violent shiver became worse, and she couldn't manage to say the words to make him leave. The chattering sound of her teeth filled the bathroom, but she couldn't seem to stop that either. The warm jets sent painful stabs through her body as the blood returned to her limbs. She couldn't help but moan slightly as the stabbing tingles crept up her arms and legs.

Once the shivering stopped and she'd sunk down into the warmth, Chevalier moved to sit by the side of the tub. He was too angry to appreciate her body beneath the water, too angry to notice she didn't complain that he was there.

“Was that entirely necessary?” he asked, more demanding than caring.

She answered softly, “I have nowhere to go.”

He frowned, “Why do you need to go anywhere?”

Emily curled up into her protective ball, knees pulled tight against her chest with her arms wrapped around them. She looked down at the water, and a tear dripped down her cheek.

Chevalier reached into the water and rubbed her back softly, “All of this because of Ethan?”

She shook her head, “No.”

“What is it then? Tell me.”

“You'll get mad,” Emily whispered.

“I'm more likely to get mad if you don't tell me what the hell is going on.” He reached to her chin and pulled her face toward him and looked deeply into her tear filled eyes.

Emily avoided his gaze. She knew she didn't have the strength to fight him right now.

“Emily…” he hissed at her and her heart skipped a beat.

She pulled her face out of his hands and looked down at the water gain, “I'm afraid.”

“To tell me?”

“No…” She paused and ran her hand along the surface of the water, “Of you.”

“I'm a heku, Em. You should have been afraid of me from the start.” His voice lightened.

“You killed him,” she repeated.

“Yes I did, and I'm sure he won't be the last.” He frowned again as her body tensed at his words.

“How many people die before you realize I'm not worth it?” She watched the ripples in the water.

“Damnit, Emily.” He hit the edge of the tub with his fist, cracking the porcelain, “You're lucky no one else judges your self-worth by your eschewed views.”

“No one should die for me, Chev, my life isn't any more important than anyone else's.”

Ethan didn't die because he tried to…” Even the thought made him angry, “Attack you. He died for disobeying my rules.”

Chevalier grabbed her face more forcefully than he originally intended, and pulled her to face him, “You aren't expected to follow the same rules. I told you, you aren't a subordinate to me. If they can't obey the rules I've set forth, they know the consequences long before they are allowed to join this coven. You are right, you have nowhere to go. However, you belong here with me, so that's not a problem.”

Her eyes were wide and shocked.

Now get out, get dressed, and come out to eat. Gordon just brought your dinner.” He stood up and walked out of the bathroom.

Emily wasn't sure if he was mad or how mad he was, so she decided to do what he asked. The only clothing in the bathroom was the silk pink nightgown that she had complained to Margaret was too low cut. Without wanting to cause problems, she slipped into it, ran a brush through her matted hair, and then decided to leave it down.

The fire in the bedroom was roaring and the warmth from it felt good. She was warm from the bath, but her muscles still ached from the cold. Chevalier was sitting by the fire, a silver tray on a table between him and the other chair. As she sat down, he picked up the silver cover and motioned for her to begin.

She wasn't feeling very hungry, but again decided not to cross him, and began picking at the steak and potato.

“Kyle tells me you've been having nightmares about Keith?” He watched as the firelight danced across her skin, still pink from the bath.

Emily nodded and took another bite.

“Tell me about it.”

She froze. She couldn't tell him what Keith was saying in the dream, he still had views that she was good. On the other hand, she couldn't make him madder, she felt like her life was on the edge as it was.

“I don't remember,” was the answer she decided to give.

His eyes narrowed, “I'm not accustomed to being lied to.”

She looked up at him, her eyes daring, “Fine then, yes I do remember them, but no, I won't tell you what he's saying.”

Chevalier shrugged, “Fine, but I will tell you something… Keith was a liar and a manipulator. If you believe a single thing he ever said to you, then you are a fool.”

Her glance turned to a glare, “And you don't know what you are talking about. Keith knew me for 9 years before you came along. I am pretty sure he had a good idea about me.”

“An idea that I plan to disprove.” He leaned closer to her, his eyes suddenly amused.

Emily brought her knees up to her chest.

“Stop it,” he ordered.

She looked up at him with wide eyes, “What?”

“Stop pulling yourself into a ball!” His fists were clenched.

She thought for a moment and then wrapped her arms around her knees, watching him, “I thought I wasn't a subordinate.”

“You aren't, but you are in my care and when you wrap yourself into your protective little ball, it shows how insecure you are and I won't have it. I won't have you hiding your body from me. I won't have you pretending no one looks at you, and no one values you. I'm tired of watching you beat yourself up over

it.” He quickly moved over to her, picked her up gently in his arms, and pressed his lips to hers.

Emily didn't hesitate and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, winding her fingers through his hair. His lips were soft and sent warm shivers up her spine. She felt herself being laid down on the bed, then his heavy body pressed against hers. As his tongue pried her lips open and began to explore her mouth, her body tensed, the panic setting in. She tried to move out from under him, pushing against his chest with her hands, but he didn't move.

She turned her face away from him, “Stop, Chev.”

His voice trembled with anger, “Not tonight, Em, you aren't pushing me away tonight.”

Please, let me go,” she protested as he ran his soft tongue up the length of her neck and began kissing along her jaw line. She shivered, and inhaled sharply, submitting to him.