The wind flew through her hair.
It was easy when she was outside riding on Thor, her horse across the fields of her family home. Jocelyn Moore, the only child of her parents, was ignored, a footnote. She held onto the mane of the horse and put her face up to the sun.
Jocelyn had bright red hair, a small upturned nose with freckles, bright green eyes that sparkled with passion. At 22, she knew she was courting with time before her parents made her mate and continued the family line. That was the last thing she wanted, someone else controlling her. But, the way her father looked at her like she was a piece of meat knew that he’d make her mate soon.
Their estate was not one of the larger ones in the area, but they were comfortable. Jocelyn knew her father wanted a match that would be profitable to the family, and she was his only pawn. So she spurred the horse faster.
When she could tell the animal was running out of energy, she reigned the horse in and gave the sweaty neck a light pat. Then, leaning down, she laid her head on the horse’s neck, “My mighty Thor. My king.” The horse snorted and let her turn him back to the house.
Her father used the horse he purchased for her as another pawn. She wanted to ride the horse. She had to dress up like a lady and play her part for dinner tonight. She tried to ride Thor. She had to let the bumbling lord have tea with her. Her father was holding the horse hostage to make his daughter behave. “He let me ride you. What will he want now,” she said sadly.
The ride back was easy. The horse picked the way across the field. The Moore house had a white water fountain in front of the slate steps that led to large black wooden doors. To the side of the house was a small barn that held three horses. The other two were mares that kept Thor company. Jocelyn would take them out for exercise, but her heart was with her king. She trotted over to the barn, looked at the dark sedan sitting in front of the fountain.
Well, she could play the good daughter today. She got her energy out on the ride. She’d go in and see who came to visit her parents.
She handed Thor over to the groom, asked him to brush him down, and that after she visited her parents, she’d come back and finish the job. The groom smiled at her and admired her trim figure in the riding pants, tall brown boots, and white peasant shirt. Jocelyn never noticed the admiration from anyone. Her mind was already ahead of who they brought this time. She’d scared most of the suitors away. She could scare this one away.
She could hear the voices in the parlor as she walked through the front door of the home. She recognized her mother and father, along with a deep masculine voice. Curious, she didn’t move up to change. She walked directly into the parlor.
Her father, Herman, and his wife, Julia, sat in tall leather chairs in front of a lit fire. The room was boiling, Jocelyn already sweaty from riding, thought maybe her mother wasn’t feeling well again. She strolled over to her mother and kissed her cheek. She didn’t feel warm.
“Mother, are you unwell again?” She asked and knew the answer. Julia Moore was always unwell.
“I can’t see to keep out a chill,” her mother replied with a pat on her daughter’s hand. Jocelyn knew it was for the guest, but she didn’t care. She’d endure because she got to ride her horse.
She could see the disapproval over what she wore but still went and kissed him on the cheek. She’d get a pass this time because they had company. “Father,” she said.
“Jocelyn,” he grits out. She hadn’t met his expectations since she was born a girl.
She turned to the stranger. It was an older man, much older than her 22 years with narrow dark eyes that didn’t leave her. He wore a dark suit, red silk tie, shoes polished to a shine. His salt and pepper were cut short. His dark eyes traveled up and down her body. Jocelyn felt like she’d stripped for the man.
She walked up to him, her head held high, “Good afternoon, Jocelyn Moore.” She held out her hand.
He grabbed her hand, his touch as cold as hers. Another vampire, she thought. He turned over her hand and frowned at the callouses he saw. He rubbed his fingers. She wanted to pull her hand away. Instead, he looked over to her father, “Her hands are rough.” He leaned close and took in her scent. She wanted to push him away, especially when he licked his lips.
Jocelyn’s eyebrow went up, “Of course, my hands are rough. I have horses to tend.”
His beady eyes came back to hers, “You don’t need to tend to horses.”
She pulled her hand from his, “Of course I do. They are my passion.”
“I can help find you another passion,” he said with a slow smile.
Jocelyn opened her mouth. Herman jumped in, “Jocelyn, grab a glass of champagne and come sit with us. I’d like you to meet Lord Lucas. He’s visiting for the day.”
She looked back at the man, decided she didn’t like him. He smiled at her. His fangs descended, which made her shiver. She dismissed him and went for the champagne and filled a flute. Moving over to a chair as far away from the man as possible, she sat and sipped. She’d preferred a beer in the kitchen with Lilith, their cook, but knew her parents would disapprove if she left the parlor. She felt a slight shudder as Lord Lucas hadn’t taken his eyes off of her. She narrowed her eyes at him. He smiled at her.
Herman looked over to Lucas, “Lord Lucas, my daughter can be willful. You’ll have to excuse her.”
The man smiled back at Jocelyn, “I love willful. So much fun to tame the spirit.”
She almost told him that there was no way he was taming any part of her when her father held up his hand. Jocelyn went quiet and hid behind the glass of champagne.
Herman looked over to his wife. Jocelyn could tell her mother was nervous. Her father looked at her with a smile on his face. “Jocelyn, you are well past the mating age.”
She stiffened, “I didn’t know there was a mating age.”
Herman took a deep breath, “Lord Lucas is here to petition us for your hand. But, of course, he has a much large estate than ours, and it is not that far away. So it would be a good match for both of our families.”
Jocelyn couldn’t find her voice as she almost fell out of her chair. Her eyes went over to Lord Lucas. His slow smile made her skin crawl. Her father rushed through the rest, “Lord Lucas has offered to take our debt for you. Your match helps your mother and I live comfortably.”
Jocelyn felt like cattle at auction. She wondered if the man would come over and inspect her teeth. She looked to her parents. Her mother sat straight but didn’t look at her. Her father’s face was devoid of emotion. She just saw the determination in his eyes. She went back to Lord Lucas, his smile still in place. He was old enough to be her father, she thought. He was not what she wanted.
Lord Lucas coughed, “My dear Jocelyn, you’ll find my estate larger than this one. I will treat my Lady with due respect.” His eyes went down her body again.
Jocelyn got up and poured a little more champagne with shaking hands, giving herself time to think. She turned with the glass in hand, “So debt, that’s the cost of selling me?”