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BLOOD OF THE ROSE Excerpt

Blood of the Rose

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Christopher sat in the window seat ostensibly strumming his lute, but actually watching who came and went from Anne Boleyn’s chambers. Because of his peculiar heritage, he could sometimes sense the presence of Vampires, even the old ones.

There were certainly more Vampires at court than there had been previously, especially around the Boleyns. Christopher wasn’t sure why, but it worried him. He struck a discordant note and rearranged his fingers more gently on the fret board. When he looked up he saw Rosalind coming into the rooms. She glanced across at an oblivious Anne Boleyn and then headed straight for him.

“Christopher.” She held out her hands and smiled at him.

The glory of that smile coupled with the melting softness in her fine brown eyes made him instantly suspicious. He propped the lute against the window and rose to kiss her hand. “My lady. What a pleasure it is to see you.”

She simpered and looked away from him, her hand still in his. “I am to serve the Lady Anne.”

Christopher squeezed her hand. “That is a great… honor.” He didn’t need to tell her that his sympathies were split between Queen Katherine and his old friends. Rosalind slipped her hand through his arm and he obediently strolled beside her out into the wide hallways.

“Lady Anne said that she knew you well.”

“That is true. I met all the Boleyns when I visited the French court with my uncle.”

“Ah, I wondered where you had formed that acquaintance.”

“I have not seen them for several years. It was quite a surprise when Lady Anne appeared to capture the king’s interest.”

“A surprise to many, I suspect.”

He drew her out of an open doorway and into the knot garden to the south of the building. “I assume you do not approve.” She glanced up at him, her gaze wary and he smiled. “It’s all right; you can still speak freely to me. I’ll never betray your confidences.”

“Yet you are friends with the woman who, for all intents and purposes, has usurped the queen’s position.”

“I must confess, my loyalties are somewhat torn. I truly hope to see Queen Katherine restored to her rightful place and this dalliance of the king’s with Anne over with.” He frowned. “I’m not sure what Anne hopes to achieve. She was always an ambitious woman, and I fear she is after the crown.”

“I fear that you are right.” Rosalind shivered. “And yet, how can that be accomplished?”

Christopher lowered his voice. “I believe the king is well on the path to dissolving his first marriage. Even though Cardinal Wolsey failed him, he is now plotting with Thomas Cromwell, an intelligent well-learned man and one the queen should fear.”

“And the Lady Anne is aware of this?”

“She is no fool, Rosalind. She is probably pushing the king as hard as she can.”

Rosalind stopped and bent to pick a sprig of rosemary. The pungent scent reminded Christopher of his Spanish childhood.

“I have already heard a rumor that Lady Anne refuses to become the king’s mistress as her sister did.”

“From my observations as a member of the king’s inner household, I believe that is true.” He leaned close as if to smell the rosemary and whispered, “To the best of my knowledge, she is refusing to let him in her bed.”

Rosalind arched her neck and his mouth brushed her ear, making his heart beat faster and his body react in more primitive ways. “I wish you would let me in your bed, Rosalind.”

She dropped the rosemary on the ground and moved away from him. He had to wait a moment to compose himself before following her. She had the most delectable effect on his senses. He wanted to breathe in her scent, cover her naked flesh with kisses, thrust his aching prick into her warm, wet tightness…

He looked up to find her staring at him and he stared right back. Let her see the warmth in his eyes, the need, and the lust, whatever she wanted. He couldn’t lose her again. She held his heart in her hands. “I want you, Rosalind.”

She sighed. “It’s never been a question of ‘want’ has it, Christopher? We first joined together on the Beltane altar under the auspices of my gods. We had no choice then, and I suspect we never will. I’ll always ‘want’ you.” He took a more confident step toward her, and she backed up two. “But we are still on different sides. How can I trust you when you are allied with the Vampires?”

He spread his hands wide. “What do you want me to do, Rosalind, walk away from every loyalty, from every pledge I’ve ever made? What kind of man would I be if I did that? Not the kind you should love.”

“But that is what you expect me to do, isn’t it?” Rosalind demanded. “How well would you love me if I was capable of giving up everything for you?” She obviously saw something in his face that made her continue. “You think that because I am a woman, I should cleave unto you and no other.”

She looked away from him and picked a piece of lavender, crushed the fragrant flowers between her finger and thumb. Christopher took a deep breath.

“If I told you that my current loyalties are in doubt, would that help?”

“What?” Her head shot up and she blinked at him.

He caught up with her and took her arm again, continued their walk along the neat graveled path with its red rope tile border. “I am throwing myself on your mercy, Rosalind. I fear there is another, far more sinister plot afoot. And worse, the Vampires are so sure of success this time that they can afford to ignore their allies, even the Ellis family.”

Rosalind stared at him open-mouthed until he continued. “I have been told almost nothing. Apparently, I am suspect because of my name, and because I am allied to you.”

“Who told you that?”

“Both Elias Warner and my uncle. I suspect my uncle is playing a deep game. In recent years he seemed to have lost faith in the Vampires and reckoned himself far superior, but now…” Christopher let that thought die. He might be suspicious of his uncle, but he still owed some loyalty to his kin. “By the way, Elias Warner sends his greetings to you.”

“I’m sure he does. He must be ecstatic.”

Christopher found himself smiling. “He is and that is extremely worrying.”

Rosalind let out her breath. “The Druids also fear there is a plot. That is why my cousin, Jasper Llewellyn, asked my father to send me back to court.”

Christopher tried to look smug. “I knew you’d come back at some point. I hoped it would be because of me, but I’ll accept a dire threat from the Vampire community instead.”

“The major problem is that Jasper should have reacted more quickly. If we aren’t very lucky indeed, it might be too late.”

“What do you mean?”

She stared at him as if he was a complete fool. “Lady Anne Boleyn, of course.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“She’s a Vampire, Christopher, or haven’t you noticed?”

He laughed in her face and took several hasty steps away, his expression incredulous. “You believe Anne Boleyn is a Vampire? That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.”

With some difficulty, Rosalind maintained her composure. “I don’t think it, my lord, I know it.”

She wrinkled her nose. “That’s why Jasper asked for me. I have a better sense of smell that all the male Druid hunters. Lady Anne smells like honeysuckle.”

“But how can this be? I’ve known Anne and her family for years.”

“So I understand.” Rosalind watched him carefully. “Are you sure that you suspected nothing?”

His stunned amusement turned to anger. “Are you suggesting that I knew Anne was a Vampire all along?”

“It is possible, my lord. You are trained to protect your Vampire allies, aren’t you?”

He marched across to her and towered over her. “That is true, but I’ve never sensed anything from Anne.”

“I suspect your talent for recognizing Vampires is tied mainly to those of your blood.”

“Are you making excuses for me now?” He glared at her. “And they aren’t really of my blood, you know that.”

Christopher might argue the point, and he probably always would, but the fact was that he could access the minds of his mother and her lover’s blood family. In truth, his ability to detect the Spanish Vampire’s thoughts had contributed to her demise.

She touched his ornately embroidered black sleeve. “Christopher, I have to be careful, you know that. We both have to be careful.”

His muscles flexed beneath his sleeve. “If what you say is true–and I’m still not sure I believe it–then the king is indeed in danger.”

Rosalind stiffened. “How can you not believe me? Does your loyalty to the Boleyn family supplant your loyalty to me?”

He pulled out of her grasp and turned away from her. “You don’t understand. They were one of the few families that ever welcomed me, who treated me as a friend.”

“I find it difficult to believe that such an alliance is more important to you than I am.”

“As you said, Rosalind, we both have to be careful. And as you spend every single moment telling me why we cannot be together, you are a fine one to talk.” He bowed. “If you will excuse me, my lady? I believe I need to go back and speak to my uncle.”

“And leave me here?”

“I fear I must. Can you not return to the Lady Anne’s apartments by yourself?”

Rosalind picked up her skirts. “You are too gallant, sir. I’m quite certain that I can find my way back. I’m not sure if I want to, but it appears that I have no choice.”

BLOOD OF THE ROSE, The Tudor Vampire Chronicles #2
Signet Signet Mass Market (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0451232488 ♦ ISBN-13: 978-0451232489

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THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES
Kiss of the Rose | Blood of the Rose

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