Chapter 1 - Rowan
“Marcus, I beg of you, please leave this be. We cannot place our hope on a foolish prophecy,” Alena implored, but Marcus barely listened.
He seemed distracted; his attention centered elsewhere, and even as Alena desperately beseeched him to listen to the voice of reason, she understood he would not. He already chose his course of action, and he would keep to it.
Her eyes blazed with her unease. Her gaze remained earnest, and her anxiety made the sharp tips of her fangs peek from between her lips. She didn’t even realize that it was her fears and insecurities which caused her fierce opposition to asking the one person she never thought she would meet or summon to their door, for help.
Alena made quite a breathtaking picture with her pure, perfect features, the contrast of her dark hair against her light skin, while her eyes shone vampire blue. The power inside her was strong, compelling, and undeniable. If Marcus was less used to her presence and less set in his task, he might have admired the sheer enchantment of her.
He wasn’t as close to the situation. It gave him the luxury of emotional distance and clarity, which, for once, Alena lacked. These circumstances hit home for her in ways he could only imagine, and although he experienced sympathy for her, the situation was too vital to their survival.
Marcus could not afford to cater to her desire to avoid meeting the sister, whom she only knew from the quiet hush of castle gossip.
Alena blamed Rowan for the mistakes of their father. She also condemned Ilse, Rowan’s dead mother, for stealing their father from her own mother
She condemned both mother and daughter for the tragic loss of her mother, Carla. Marcus judged neither woman for either situation; in his estimation, Victor caused all of this heartache before he died.
“It’s too late, Alena,” Marcus sighed as he came upright from having spent the last couple of hours reading and rereading the prophecy.
He tried fruitlessly to find some new way to understand it or avoid drawing Rowan into this. Marcus believed that conflict between the two sisters would be inevitable. He presumed that Rowan may have suffered for her inadvertent parentage.
Alena frowned at the tall, dark blond, ruthlessly handsome man. His face carried both strength and maturity in its strong, sculpted lines. He wasn’t a boy when he turned, and she found him more attractive for the character it lent to his features.
He possessed none of the ever youthful, pretty-boy looks that most pure born vampire males retained for centuries. Marcus was a man, decisive, firm, tough, but never cruel. He was an experienced leader whose bloodline didn’t instill the reserved distance that all pureblood royalty seemed to have. Alena resented that her father chose Marcus over her. Hated the authority it granted him over her life.
She didn’t want this confrontation with the undeniable fact of Rowan’s existence, but his insistence left her no other choice. He had the right to command her, and the authority to punish her if she disobeyed.
Only as he cocked his head to listen, did her sensitive ears pick up the sound. Her fears had diverted her attention away from her surroundings, something Marcus would never do, and the thought made her mouth set into a firm line. Victor didn’t spend her entire life training her in his ways, for her emotions to rule her senses.
She distinguished three sets of hoofbeats as the horses entered the cobblestone yard. She picked up on two human heartbeats and almost missed the slow beat of another.
They expected only one guest and Alena’s gut clenched at the idea. Marcus should not have trusted Rowan: she wasn’t like them. Rowan might use her people to attack them now that they were vulnerable with only a few vampires guarding the palace. Alena’s fury rose to the surface at the possibility, but she fought it down.
“Rowan just arrived,” Marcus spoke with the most subtle regret, and Alena nodded at him.
Marcus made his choice. She secretly wished this meeting wouldn’t deliver results. She didn’t want Rowan to attack them. Alena hoped Rowan’s resentment, and hate would prevent her from hearing Marcus out. Perhaps then she would leave, and they would find another way to save their people.
Any other master vampire would characterize Marcus’s choice as desperation, and proof of his inferiority as a made creature. They would die rather than accept help from something they would view as lesser than themselves, and to them, Rowan would be an abomination. They would have killed her at birth, but Victor allowed Rowan to live, Alena reasoned as she followed right at Marcus’s heels.
He strode over to the massive wooden doors, bound in heavy steel to withstand a concentrated assault. Once he removed the beam on the inside, they opened as if they were not cumbersome.
They were outside in a moment. Alena fought her unwillingness, and the burning curiosity she couldn’t deny. She also suppressed her anger at her father for his betrayal of her mother with a human woman, and the living proof of that disloyalty, which he kept in the form of Rowan.
Alena wanted to see Rowan as much as she didn’t want to meet her. She was a stranger to such inner conflict. It brought out character traits in her that Alena believed she didn’t own. For once, she was grateful Marcus was the leader and not her. Alena suspected she wouldn’t have made this decision on her own.
She remembered how Victor’s choice of a lover had undermined her mother, and slowly turned the vibrant woman into a paranoid, angry shadow of herself. Alena also recalled how her mother’s disillusionment, along with her growing hatred of Victor, had created a distance between mother and daughter that she never breached.
Carla committed suicide, and her last act of spite in this world was to make it look like Victor murdered her to be with his human. She didn’t know Ilse died almost a year earlier. Neither did she realize that the poisoned knife with which she pierced her heart, may have been in Victor’s study, but it didn’t belong to Victor: it belonged to Alena.
She left behind a letter with her solicitor in case she should come to an untimely end. Instead of implicating Victor, it revealed the true extent of Carla’s growing madness.