As Baron finished dragging Taylor with him to the door of one of his guest rooms, she had to try one more attempt at postponing her coming penance “and what punishment do you think will really make any difference? I’ve endured plenty of punishment before I ever even met you. My sire wasn’t exactly pleasant” she informed, forcing a bravery she didn’t truly feel into her voice
“Interesting you should mention him” Baron returned with a wry grin that only widened at the look of terror that immediately sprung to Taylor’s pretty face “when you were careless enough to let the illusion protecting my home fail, I needed to call in another line of defense” he informed her, taking pleasure in that pure fear that had enveloped her now “who better to teach an errant childe how to better behave, than her sire?” he finished coldly as he opened the door behind her and pushed her tiny frame backwards through the doorway before slamming it shut and locking it after her.
Taylor allowed a small whimper as her entire body tensed. Using every bit of strength she still had in her at the prospect he had threatened, she shakily turned to set her tearful blue eyes on the man who had embraced her forty-two years earlier.
“You don’t seem that happy to see me, Taylor” he greeted her coolly. He appeared to be no older than thirty, if that. He had his dark locks pulled into a pony tail behind his tan skin and brown eyes. He was dressed in the usual colorful fashion of the Romani people who he had been born to one hundred and thirty-five years prior.
“Theo” she whispered his name, forcefully biting back more tears as the memories of all the torture this man had visited on her for almost all of her mortal life as well as the first decade after he had embraced her as well.
“At least you still remember me thirty years after I gave you to your new master. That’s touching at least” he stated in the same eerily emotionless tone, making one think that perhaps his empty aura really was no illusion at all.
Knowing better than to even try to offer any words at all in the hopes of self-preservation, as that had never worked with him once in the thirty years that she had already suffered his depravities; Taylor simply froze and closed her eyes tightly against more tears as he stood and moved closer, his eyes openly traveling over her.
Once his hand came up to caress her backside as he moved around her intimidatingly, Taylor had to try anything at all at that point “I didn’t know you were still even in the area; let alone in contact with Baron” she managed in a small voice as he gave her behind a less than gentle squeeze before moving to begin pulling her still bloodstained dress off of the shoulder that was much paler than his own skin.
“Oh I come and go…and come again” he added pointedly “I still do odd jobs for our unofficial Prince when I’m needed” he told her as he pulled her other sleeve down off her shoulder as well “but are we really going to pretend to make small talk when you know I’m here to teach you not to disappoint Baron again?” he told her plainly as she swallowed hard.
“I got staked” she choked out, turning her eyes to the bloody hole in her dress.
“Careless, just like he said” Theo shook his head disappointedly.
But before Taylor could offer any more words in an attempt at her own defense, he roughly yanked the dress down off of her body, dropping it to the floor around her feet as his eyes moved over her exposed flesh hungrily. As she automatically moved her arms to cover herself, he just let out a laugh and forced those arms back down to her waist.
“You know we’re so beyond you playing shy with me. I started devouring that pretty flesh of yours when you were barely old enough to bleed. Why even try to play that game?” he told her coolly as he moved to roughly caress her breast where the slightest trace of blood still remained from her earlier misfortune, his other hand forcing itself inside her as she let out a pained gasp at the penetration.
Unable to offer any more than a whimper as his hands moved over her and inside her, Taylor closed her eyes tightly again. She then could do no more than attempt to will her mind to go away until he had taken his fill of her, as she had learned to do so long ago with him, and so very, very many times since he had first come into her life, and then taken it, and her, for his own.
A slightly different sort of encounter between sire and errant childe was happening in Haven’s home that night. After having given ‘Karin’ her ultimatum of choosing between he and Baron, Haven came back into the main room an hour or so before sunrise, and found her still sitting there, deep in thought.
“You’re still here?” Haven asked, as he entered the room, though his voice was gentle.
“I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stay or go” Karin admitted as she looked up at him. She then added more quietly “I’m not sure of anything anymore, really.”
“Well what do you want to do? That should be your first clue I’d think” he offered as he took a seat next to her, his voice still gentle with her somehow.
“I don’t know, Haven. That’s the problem. How am I supposed to know if it worked or not. If I still belong to him or not?” Karin asked him desperately.
“Well, are you having any sort of urge to kill me?” Haven asked a little bluntly, though with the slightest bit of hope that that wasn’t the case.
Karin just shook her head “the plan didn’t involve me killing you ‘til after you officially made me heir, anyway.”
“I suppose that should be comforting?” Haven returned as more of a question.
“If you die before making me heir that means Sean gets the throne. And I think we already know how much chance I could ever hope to have of becoming Sean’s heir” she then added more quietly “and even if a miracle occurred and he made me heir, that would mean killing Sean too” she finished as her voice dropped on that thought.
“So you’d have an easier time killing me than Sean, basically?” Haven responded wryly.
“Haven” Karin stated as she shook her head “I never particularly wanted to kill either of you” she admitted.
“Well, that fact alone could be a bit of a clue to your previous question” Haven informed her with a bit more of that hope.
She sighed again before turning back to him “but can’t you tell me for sure?”
“Tell you?” he raised a brow at that.
“Can’t you tell me for sure if Baron still has some kind of hold on me? I mean, you can read thoughts, right?” she reminded.
“Yes, darling I can” he agreed “but you’re forgetting why this ploy worked for ten years already. This illusion includes your aura and your thoughts. Taylor’s made them fixed so that they only change when she makes them appear to. And she never would let me see the thoughts that would tell me that you were still Baron’s” he explained to her, though with a touch of sadness.
Karin looked down sadly once again. She then had another theory “what about when the illusion faltered? When she was staked and I was me again? Could you see then?”
“That was before I attempted to break the bond he had on you, remember?” he told her in the same sad tone, which only caused her discontent to deepen as well. He then decided to at least try to give her some hope “but I did see your regret” he informed softly.
“What?” Karin asked as she looked up at him once more.
“I saw that you regretted all of this. That you regretted ever meeting him at all” he sighed softly “which is the one deciding factor that has made me give you this one last chance to be the childe I’ve always wanted you to be.”
That was when Karin closed her eyes, sniffling a bit at his kind words which she knew she did not deserve. Haven simply sighed again as he moved to wrap an arm around her. Comforted further by that touch, she curled into his arms, wrapping her own around him as well. After another moment, she found herself gratefully kissing his neck as she pressed closer to feel more of that comfort she had somehow found in being his lover for four long years already.
“The sun will be up soon” he told her softly as the intensity of her kisses increased.
“I suppose I should be leaving then” she stated sadly as she moved back from him.
Haven just shook his head as he wrapped a hand around her wrist and pulled her up from the couch with him “or you could just stay here” he offered with a slight smile.
“You would trust me here, while you slept?” she asked warily.
“You’re still Kindred. You’ll be napping right along with me; while my servants guard us” he did add pointedly.
She simply smiled up at him as she let him lead her up the stairs “you know we do still have almost an hour ‘til that sun comes up” she couldn’t help adding as they reached his door.
“Whatsoever shall we do?” he smiled back down at her as he led her into the room and closed the door behind them.
“You really would be ok with that?” she asked for one last reassurance.
“Are you forgetting that we made love a number of times even before you were in this body?”
“So which way do you prefer me?” she had to ask “I know you like redheads” she added with a small smile.
“Yet it was the raven-haired beauty that I embraced” he reminded her as he slowly began unlacing her corset.
“But it was the redhead that had you nearly in love” she reminded as he began pulling her free of the dress.
“I somehow don’t think it was your hair color that made me… feel for you” he decided on.
“Past tense?” she dared.
“Yet to be determined” was the only answer he would provide her with before covering her lips to prevent any more of those deep questions right then.
It wasn’t more than an hour or two after the next evening’s sunset that Karin returned to her home, which was honestly Sean’s home. She was wearing a slight smile though as she entered the house and went downstairs to locate the servants that Sean and Claire had left behind as their ship was to be crewed by an even larger number of servants.
Once she finished her meal, she headed back upstairs only to find a rather handsome, colorfully clad gentleman looking over various pieces of Sean’s artwork that still dotted the walls “Evening?” she asked questioningly as she immediately adjusted to see his aura. Of course, the only piece of information she could garner was that he was indeed Kindred. That fact caused her to wrinkle her nose slightly as it most likely meant that he was older than her.
“Evening” he returned “Karin is it?” he added, his eyes immediately moving over her, while making no attempt to even hide such a fact.
Narrowing her eyes at that gaze of his, she asked “are you a new Toreador?” in reference to him being there in her home. Of course, if his answer had been yes, that would cause another problem if he was indeed older than her and a Toreador, as that would mean that the role of Primogen would no longer be assured to her after all.
“I’m neither new, nor Toreador” he told her wryly as his eyes continued openly moving over her with a bit more than a slight desire in them.
“Then… why are you here?” Karin asked him slowly.
“Because I’m to be your new best friend” he told her with a rather insincere smirk.
“Excuse me?” she asked with a raised brow, trying once again to read his aura and failing.
“Well, I just had a chat with your Prince to extend my apologies to him for all the trouble my wayward childe has caused him in the last few decades” he offered a further explanation.
“Your childe?” Karin asked warily.
“Yes I believe you know her as Taylor, most days anyway” he added with another smirk.
“Your Taylor’s sire?” she asked as her eyes moved over his dark complexion and colorful clothing once more.
“Did she never mention me?” he returned, though watched her closely for any reaction that would let on that Taylor had indeed mentioned him to her in years past.
“She just said you were a gy—Romani” Karin corrected herself.
“Hmm well that is a rather short version” he smiled again, his eyes still never leaving her body for more than a moment, “name is Theo by the way” he added as an afterthought.
“Do you work for Baron too, then?” she dared to ask as she continued to watch him cautiously.
“On occasion I do various things that he requires me to do” Theo offered as he invited himself to take a seat.
“Things like what?” Karin managed as she awkwardly took her own seat further down the couch from his.
“Well, since ‘Freya’ had an unfortunate run in with a stake, you do need a new companion to make sure that all goes as planned. It’s a bit more of a long-term task than I usually take on for him. But alas, Baron wants what Baron wants” he told her with a small smile at her expression darkening at the realization that he was indeed there to keep an eye on her.
“So what other things do you normally do for Baron?” she asked again.
“Various things such as punishing my childe for last evening’s wonderful slip up” he stated coolly “but other things in years past as well. Just about thirty years back I was in charge of delivering your Prince a very loud warning that Baron is not pleased with him holding such a position” he confessed, watching her closely.
“You were behind the attack on the ship?” Karin swallowed slightly.
“Oh I was in charge of the attack on the ship” Theo admitted boldly “how much fun I did have with dear Deborah that evening” he added as he smiled at her slight flinch “you know in this new guise Taylor has given you; you look so very much like dear departed Deborah.”