KISS ACROSS SWORDS (Kiss Across Time: Book 2.0)
A Vampire Menage Time Travel Romance
“…speaks to the very heart of what it means to love somebody.” — Happily Ever After Reviews
EXCERPT FROM KISS ACROSS SWORDS
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2017
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Brody carefully returned his long glass of untouched champagne to the table by his side and slid cautiously around so he was diagonal to Veris and Taylor as they confronted each other. Brody’s heart was actually thudding, reacting to the tension in the room all by itself, something it hadn’t done in years.
Taylor’s smile faltered. “I thought you would be pleased,” she told Veris. “It’s what your queen wants. You implied to her it would happen in the next ten years, anyway.” She stood straight and tall, not backing down even though she could probably see Veris’ reaction wasn’t the one she had been expecting.
God, she was so gutsy. Brody admired her even as he wondered how he could stop this disaster from happening: her black hair with the unexpected copper highlights, the smoky gray eyes, the gorgeous long legs. She was damn sexy and she had just asked Veris to provide the means to bind her life to him forever and irrevocably. They were words any man with half a brain would turn cartwheels over.
“You want me to turn you for your birthday. To make you a vampire.” Veris put his champagne down and wasn’t nearly as careful with the crystal. It made a grating noise on the glass side table. He moved his shoulders inside the jacket he’d put on for their private birthday party.
Brody wished now the big, book-lined room was full of guests, for then Taylor would never have asked her question and Veris would not do what he was about to do. Instead it was simply him, Veris and Taylor standing at the south end of the room near the big, unlit fireplace. The last of the late sunset was streaming through colored lead lights in the front foyer across the twin openings on either side of the fireplace, filling the room with unearthly light.
Taylor wore a simple white sleeveless dress that stopped more than a few inches short of her knees. It probably cost a small fortune despite the lack of material in it. Her flesh glowed with health and vitality and her dress rippled with color each time she moved, from the light spilling into the room. Her legs were just wonderful. Brody never tired of watching them move.
He already knew one reason for Veris’ ill-ease. Perhaps he’d just caught a hint of one other. Taylor was ripe with living.
Brody gripped Veris’ forearm. “Don’t,” he said softly as his lover seemed to brace himself to answer Taylor.
Veris took a breath and Brody could hear the air shudder as it drew in. He yanked his arm out of Brody’s grip. His blue eyes came to bear upon him and Brody almost winced at the pain there. “I won’t, then,” he said, his voice very soft. “Not tonight, as you asked and its Taylor’s birthday. But this…” He shook his head. “I will not do it.”
“You won’t turn me,” Taylor concluded. “Despite your promise to the queen.”
Veris closed his eyes briefly. “That was four years ago. I expected, when the time came, that Brody would do the deed.”
Brody said, controlling his tone very carefully. “If Taylor wants you, Veris…”
Veris sighed and looked at Taylor. “I cannot. I will not. And do not ask Brody to do it instead of me, Taylor.”
Her lips parted, but that was all the surprise she showed.
Brody hid his shock. He’d had far longer to get used to Veris’ occasional outbursts of authoritarianism, a holdover from other ages.
Taylor slammed her glass down. “Like hell!” she said, her voice strident. “You won’t, but no one else can either? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Stay away from my bone?” She planted her hands on her hips and her knuckles whitened.
Yep, Taylor was angry now. The one thing guaranteed to switch on her fury for a good long storm was any overt attempt to tell her what to do. Veris was a master at it. He was also expert at dismantling her anger with calm, clear logic. Taylor was anything but a hypocrite and once she saw the truth, her fury fled like storm clouds and her sunny temper returned.
But Veris simply looked at Brody, his eyes haunted. “I promised I wouldn’t open this Pandora’s box tonight. You’ll have to explain the rest to her.” He left the room and Brody saw his shadow cross the wall of the foyer as he started to climb the wrought iron-lined stairs to the second floor. Veris was removing himself from the argument before it even began.
Taylor stared at the doorway Veris had used. “He’s never done that before.” She sounded almost breathless. “He’s never walked away from an argument before. Not just because you asked him to.”
“You’ve never pushed him so hard before, either,” Brody said simply.
“Pushed?” She spun to face him. “How on earth is asking to be turned pushing him? I don’t get it!” The distress in her voice was genuine, overriding any anger left in her.
Brody picked up her glass and held it out to her. “It’s still your birthday. Drink. I’ll try to explain as Veris wanted me to, but I’ll be guessing most of it.”
“You know him so well, your guesses might as well be sworn statements,” Taylor muttered. She tipped a heavy slug of the champagne back into her mouth with a little convulsive jerk.
Brody frowned. “That sounded less than happy, too.”
She shrugged and glanced away.
“You want to have an argument with me, now that Veris has gone?”
Taylor grimaced. “No,” she said and sighed.
“Then…” He frowned, as meanings shifted and became clearer. “Is that why you want Veris to turn you and not me?”
She glanced up at him, her lashes just barely lifting to reveal the dark gray of her eyes. “Does it matter?”
“To you, it does. So of course it matters to me.”
The corners of her mouth lifted just a fraction.
“You’re trying to find a way to tie him to you,” Brody told her. “For humans it’s marriage. For our kind the bond we have has no ceremony but is far more permanent. But lifetime permanency isn’t enough for you. You want the bond that comes from maker and child, as well.”
Her tiny smile died.
Brody shook his head. “It won’t work, Taylor.”
She blinked. “Why not?” Her voice was thick with unexpressed emotion.
“You can’t trap Veris. He’ll resent it. He’ll resent you. He’s spent his entire life as master of his own fate. You can’t manipulate him, you can’t handle him and you can’t out-think him.”
“I know,” she said softly, her eyes enormous as she looked up at him with a wretched expression.
“Then why on earth did you try?” He tried to keep his question gentle.
“Because you possess more of him than I ever will,” she whispered.
His breath escaped him in a hard rush. “Sweet Jesus, Taylor.”
She was just staring at him with those huge eyes. If she started crying, he knew he was going to feel like the world’s biggest piece of undead dog meat, but Taylor never turned on the tears just for effect. She would be fighting to hold them back. She hated crying in front of them, especially as neither of them could shed a tear even if they wanted to.
Brody curled his hand into a fist, fighting for calm. “I don’t possess so much as a hair on his head. I never have. He stays because he wants to.”
“Bullshit,” she said softly, hopelessly. “Nine hundred and fifteen years…nearly a thousand years, Brody. No one stays just because they haven’t got bored yet, not for that long.” She drew herself up straighter, leveling her shoulders. “You both love me, I know that. But what you feel for each other…” She shook her head. “I’ll never have that. I can’t. I haven’t been around for a thousand years and all the little flips back in time we get to do aren’t nearly enough to make up for it. They’re just glimpses. Teasing. Sometimes I wish they didn’t happen at all, because they just make me envy you for the long, long life you’ve had.” She picked up the glass again and this time her convulsive jerk emptied it.
Brody had no time to even begin to pull his mind together to formulate a response. Veris came back in the door, wearing his professor clothes. A summer-weight, silver-gray silk suit and dazzling white short-sleeved shirt that stretched over his biceps and triceps as he lifted his arms to transfer the jacket from his right hand to hang it over the back of the Craftsman chair next to the door.
“You’re leaving already? So early?” Taylor asked.
“I think it’s probably best,” Veris said. “I can beat the rush at security and settle in at the first class lounge, then get straight into writing the keynote speech as soon as the plane takes off.”
“But—” she began, then stopped. “That’s probably a good idea,” she said stiffly. “I’ll get the car brought around.”
“I’ve already done that,” Veris said. “It’s waiting for me.”
Brody hid his sigh. He knew what Veris was doing, but Taylor wouldn’t understand. Not this time. Perhaps not for a century or more.
She was staring at Veris with a bewildered, hurt look and Veris ignored it. He kissed her. It was rough, quick and hard and Brody suspected only he saw the held-back emotion. “Happy birthday, my dear sweet one,” Veris told her.
Taylor nodded. After a second she said, “Thank you.” Her voice was thick. “I hope your lecture series is a roaring success,” she added stiffly.
Veris had already turned away, toward Brody. So only Brody got to see his eyes close and his grimace. “You knew,” Veris said without looking back at her.
“That you were doing a tour of universities in Europe, not a conference? I’m not stupid, Veris. I knew within a week of you getting the invitation.” Her voice was controlled—so tightly leashed Brody knew she was fighting to hold back some emotion. Envy perhaps. Resentment. Four years ago, Taylor herself might have been the one to receive such an invitation. Or perhaps it was simply anger for Veris trying to hide this from her in the first place. Brody had warned him the conference story wouldn’t hold up with her.
Veris opened his eyes and looked at Brody. “Then its well beyond time I left,” he said, speaking to both of them. “I’ve done more than enough damage.” His big hand curled around Brody’s neck. “Take care of her.”
Veris kissed him, with the same hard possessive passion he’d used on Taylor and Brody felt his heart rate elevate in response. He swallowed as Veris let him go.
Veris picked up his jacket and walked to the doorway. He paused there and glanced back. “I love you both. It makes my heart ache to leave.” He drew a breath. “Ábéodan.”
Neither he nor Taylor moved as Veris left. Nor while the front door closed. They listened as the limo tires crunched on the gravel outside. Only when there was silence once more did Brody dare look at Taylor again.
She was crying silently. Tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked as she stared at the doorway Veris had used.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered. “He wanted to stay. I could almost feel it. I drove him away, Brody.”
Brody sighed and drew her into his arms. She came hesitantly, almost childlike in her bewilderment.
“You just have to give him time. Veris will think about things and eventually he’ll come around to it.”
She lifted her head to look at him, her tear-smeared cheeks shining in the late evening light. “I know about these moods of Veris’. You’ve told me about them before. I know how you two work. How you take breaks from each other. You just take off. A month, a year. A decade!”
Brody could see genuine fear in her face. “That’s not what’s happening now.”
“No? How do you know?” she demanded, pushing away from him. “Did he ever warn you in the past? Did you ever tell him? Or did you just have a big argument and take off after telling him you loved him, like Veris just did then?”
Cold fingers touched the heat inside his chest and made everything ripple uneasily.