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Authors: Charlotte Boyett-Compo

DeliveredIntoHisHands

BOOK: DeliveredIntoHisHands
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Delivered Into His Hands

Charlotte
Boyett-Compo

 

Part of the
WindWorld series.

 

He is the bastard
son of the invading king, she the daughter of a baron. An ancient prophecy
binds them long before birth. Love will be theirs despite the tremendous odds
—he’s a Vampire and she’s human.

To Garrick
Warwyck, Antonia Blackthorn is his world. Her body and soul belong to him.
Antonia’s fire heats his blood. Her touch renders him helpless. Nothing will
prevent him from branding her his own.

From the moment
Antonia lays eyes on Garrick, she feels the pull of a woman for her Life-mate.
He is all she’s ever dreamed—a living, breathing hero from the pages of her romance
novels. Becoming his wife might be a wise political move for her family, but to
her, it’s a wish come true.

In the shadows
another man bides his time. Alyxdair Clay has loved Antonia since childhood.
Despite the prophecy and claim Warwyck makes upon her, Alyxdair will do
everything in his power to tear them apart.

 

A Romantica®
futuristic erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Delivered Into His Hands
Charlotte Boyett-Compo

 

Dedication

 

To Tommy. Life without you really isn’t
living. It is enduring. Until we are together again, my love, sleep well. You
have earned your rest.

 

Chapter One

On the battlefront on Volakis

 

The Moon rode high on the sultry midnight
sky. Heat lightning flared in the distance accompanied by a low rumble of
approaching thunder. The temperature was ghastly—ninety-nine degrees and
climbing—with no wind to alleviate the wicked humidity pressing down like a
hot, wet towel that smelled of fish. Much-needed rain had been denied the land
for over sixty days. The drought was beginning to soak up rivers as it had
already eliminated streams. Crops had withered and died. Animals were foraging
far afield in search of nourishment. Even the trees were beginning to
wilt—dropping their leaves much too early—in the brutal heat.

General Garrick Warwyck spiked a hand
through his hair. He needed a haircut but there hadn’t been time in the last
month to sit still long enough for the camp barber to whack off the unruly
mess. It bothered him that a lock fell constantly into his eyes and he tugged
viciously at the recalcitrant strand. He barely noticed his aide as the man
shoved aside the tent flap and entered.

“Sir, we have rounded up the strays and
they are now secure in the compound,” Lt. Ingles told him. He glanced down at
the vid-pad in his left hand. “Thirty-five in all, Sir.”

“Any need medical care?” Garrick asked.

“A few but nothing serious,” Oran Ingles
reported then tucked his bottom lip between his teeth.

Garrick sighed. He’d known Oran since his
aide was a snot-nosed kid and that lip tucking thing was a tell he knew all too
well. He placed his hands on his hips and gave the young man a stern look.

“Out with it, Ori. What is it you think I
should know?”

Oran hesitated then lowered his gaze to the
vid-pad. He typed in a command, frowned, and then looked up at Garrick. “Sir,
there is one among the prisoners—”

“All right,” Garrick said. “I’m going to
stop you right there. If this pertains to one of the traitors, take it up with
Capt. Zoltán. That’s his bailiwick. I’m tired. I’m hungry and I haven’t slept
two hours in a stretch in over a month. I’d like to know what the insides of my
eyelids look like for a good five hours.”

The young man lifted his chin. “Sir, please
look at the vid-pad,” he said, extending it toward his commanding officer.

“Why?” Garrick demanded.

“Sir, you know I wouldn’t insist if it weren’t
important,” Oran stated.

Sighing again, Garrick snatched the vid-pad
and looked down at it. On the screen was a woman with long strands of dirty,
lank hair covering the side of her face. She was standing at a ninety-degree
angle to the vid-com with her head bowed, arms lashed behind her back.

“So?” Garrick asked. “What is it I’m
supposed to be seeing here? A filthy rebel whore? This should concern me how,
Oran?”

Oran took a deep breath, swept his tongue
over his lips—another tell—then reached over to tap the screen. “Look at her
arm, Sir.”

Garrick scowled, looked down then back up
at Oran. “What…?”

“Look at her arm!” Oran all but shouted.

Eyes narrowed, thoughts in his mind to send
the lad to the brig for a few days, Garrick clamped his lips tightly shut and
returned his attention to the screen. He stared at it, started to look up again
then snapped his head down. His eyes went to a scar on the prisoner’s right
forearm.

He felt the blood drain from his face and
almost dropped the vid-pad. For a long moment he studied the screen then slowly
lifted his gaze to his aide.

“It can’t be,” he said, his voice barely a
whisper.

“I believe it is, Sir,” Oran said. “I took
the liberty of asking the camp healer to examine the Joining band she wears.”

“Joining band?” Garrick questioned, his
brow furrowed.

“You can’t see it on the vid-pad, Sir, but
she has one. I caught sight of it before they led her into the stockade.”

Garrick looked down again. “It isn’t her,”
he stated. “She’s dead.”

“They never found her body, Sir,” Oran
reminded him.

Hand visibly shaking, he turned and went to
his cot. He sat down with the vid-pad clutched tightly in his left fist. He put
the tip of his right index finger on the wicked-looking scar. He could feel his
heart hammering behind his ribs, the blood rushing through his ears. His breath
was shallow, expectant, and it hurt when he drew air into his lungs.

“Go,” he ordered, his voice breaking. He
had to clear his throat, raise his voice and try again. “Go to the healer. Find
out if he discovered anything.” When Oran didn’t move fast enough for him, he
raised his head and bellowed at the boy. “Go!”

Oran doubled his fist and struck it to his
chest in salute, pivoted on his heel and left, snapping the tent flap out of
his way.

As the commander of the Modarthan Guard,
Garrick was the most respected man in King Larrion’s court. Known as the King’s
Executioner, he was the most feared. He knew if anyone could see him at that
moment as he sat trembling like a green youth before his first battle, there
would be neither respect nor fear assigned to him.

“Is it you?” he whispered to the screen.
Once more he traced the scar on the woman’s arm. He could see nothing of her
face, only the long, stringy hair that covered it but beneath the grime, the
pieces of leaves and twigs, it looked to be the right color. It hung all the
way to the waist of the tattered gown she wore.

He felt sick to his stomach and his head
was starting to hurt above his right eye.

Not a good sign.

Days—hell, weeks—without proper sleep,
nourishment and time to relax was at last taking their toll on him. He had the
stamina and strength of twenty men but at that moment he felt weak as a kitten.
Dragging the sleeve of his grimy, sweat-stained uniform under his nose, he
couldn’t look away from the image on the screen.

When the tent flap opened ten minutes
later, he jumped. He snapped his eyes to his visitor. “What the hell took you
so long, Ingles?” he demanded.

Oran licked his lips again and Garrick
wanted to leap up and strangle his best friend’s only son.

“Well?” he shouted, getting to his feet.
“Is it her?”

The young man nodded slowly. “Aye, Sir. It
is Lady Antonia.”

Garrick’s world suddenly shifted off its
axis and icy-cold prickles went from his forehead down to the tips of his
fingers. The vid-pad slipped from his hands to the floor. “Are you sure?” he
asked.

“Aye, Sir. The healer is sure. There is no
doubt, Sir,” Oran answered. “She wears your Joining band.”

“Merciful Bastet,” Garrick whispered. He
closed his eyes, swallowing hard.

Seven years, he thought. For seven years he
had relentlessly searched for her among the rebels. After the fall of Castle
Blackthorn they had not found her body among the dead. He had hoped—nay, he had
prayed—that she had somehow escaped the massacre. As the years passed and there
was no sign, no word of her, he had finally come to accept the fact that she
was truly gone. It had only been in the last year that he had given up hope and
stopped seeking her among the prisoners brought to him. Now, here she was,
found after what he hoped was the last battle of the war.

He could barely find his voice. “She is
well?” he asked. “Unharmed?”

“A few cuts and bruises,” Oran replied.
“Nothing more.”

“Did you see her?”

Oran shook his head. “No, Sir. Once the
healer found your Joining band, he sequestered her away from the others until
you were notified.”

Garrick’s legs felt boneless as he made his
way to the chair at his desk and took a seat. He stared at the top of the desk,
stunned.

“What would you have me do, Sir?” Oran
asked.

He continued to stare at the scratched and
dented surface of the desk that had accompanied him from battleground to
battleground for ten years. It had been a gift from his lady-wife and the only
treasure from his home that had survived the war. Without looking up at his
aide, he laid the palm of his hand over a heart that had been carved into the
desk.

“Bring her to me,” he said quietly.

“Aye, Sir,” Oran said. He saluted and
turned to go.

“Oran?”

The young man stopped and looked around.
“Aye, Sir?”

“Does she know who has captured her?”

“I’m sure she does, Sir,” Oran replied.

He nodded, rubbing the heart tenderly. When
he said nothing more, his aide left the tent.

As he had traced the scar, he now ran his
thumb over the initials carved inside the lopsided heart, which read AB.

“Antonia Blackthorn,” he said aloud and a
fleeting smile tugged at his lips.

His heart was thundering and the sick
feeling in his gut had intensified. The headache was now a blazing brand
searing his brain and he put his hand up to rub at the agony throbbing over his
eye. Bile pushed at the back of his throat as he gripped the edge of the table
to steady the room whirling around him.

Nine years. He hadn’t seen her in nine
years. Hadn’t seen her smile. Hadn’t heard her lilting laughter. Hadn’t held
her in his arms. Hadn’t slipped inside her body.

Nine years of uncertainty and regret and
shame.

Nine years of loneliness and remorse and
self-pity.

Nine years of a living hell into which he’d
been cast.

He heard noise outside his tent—the
shuffling of feet on the hardscrabble—and he tensed, his head up, breathing erratic,
chest heaving as he waited for the flap to be pushed aside.

It was hard to swallow the lump that had
suddenly lodged in his throat for his mouth was suddenly as dry as the Saurian
desert. When the flap opened, the breath caught in his lungs.

And then she was there before him.

After nine years of heart-shattering pain
and soul-shredding grief, she was four feet away but they were still miles
apart.

She was thin—much too thin—with a gray
pallor beneath her mud-streaked face. That face that had been the loveliest
thing he’d ever seen was now gaunt, the piercing green of her eyes flat and
devoid of life. The lips he had delighted in kissing were parched and as gray
as ash. Scratches were stitched across her bare arms and one long red welt
slashed above the slight rise of her bosom. The iron bracelets of the shackles
that circled her wrists weighed her arms down. Her mincing steps told him her
ankles were likewise restrained. She stared back at him with indifference, a
tiredness and acceptance that made his chest hurt. Once she had looked at him
with loving eyes and a gentle, welcoming smile.

But that was then.

He stamped down the nausea that threatened
with each breath and tried to ignore the horrific pain gouging into his head.

“I don’t know what to say to you,” he told
her. “Where have you been?”

Her voice was strong if hoarse—as though
she’d been screaming. “Hiding from you.”

“You did a very good job of it.”

“I had a good incentive to do so,” she
said. Her gaze fell to the heart on the desk. For a moment, a look of regret
passed through her green eyes before she raised them to give him a steady look
devoid of expression.

“There was a time,” he said quietly.

“Aye, but that time is long past,” she
replied. “It died the night before the raid.”

He flinched. Many things had died that
night. The least of which was her love—if there had ever been any—for him.

“How did you escape?” he asked.

“I’ll not tell you that,” she said. “I may
wish to try it again.”

He smiled sadly. “There’ll be no more
escapes for you, Antonia,” he said.
“Ever again.” He laced his trembling fingers together atop the desk. “Tomorrow
just before dawn the wolves will come for the others who were captured with
you. Those rebels will be sent to their deaths.”

“It’s good to know I’ll be free of you,
then,” she said, lifting her dirt-smeared chin. “Once and for all there’ll be
no need to be looking back over my shoulder.”

Leaning back in the chair, he dragged his
clasped fingers to his belly, his elbows braced on the chair arms. He angled
his head slightly to the right. “You mistook what I said, Toni. They will die
tomorrow. You won’t.”

He saw a shaft of defiance flit through her
eyes. “I will die with my friends,” she stated, chin quivering.

“No.”

“I will, Garrick!” she said and would have
rushed to the table had Oran not reached out a hand to stop her. She whipped
her head around as though she had forgotten he was in the tent with them.

“No, you will not.”

“You bastard!” she hissed. “You can’t keep
me alive. I am the wife of the rebel leader. I—”

“The hell you are!” he shouted, coming to
his feet so quickly the chair tumbled behind him. “You are my wife. Not
Alyxdair Clay’s!”

She struggled to rid herself of Oran’s
tight grip, to get to her tormentor. “I have not been your wife since you
murdered an innocent man before my very eyes.”

“He was no innocent. It was my right to
take his life,” he yelled.

“For what? For coming to visit me?” she
countered, her eyes hot with rage.

“For committing adultery with my woman,” he
accused.

“I was not guilty of that charge,” she
defended herself. “It was all in your mind, Garrick. I was only talking to the
man.”

“A man whose arms I found wrapped around
you like a fucking vine?” he threw at her. “Whose tongue was so far down your
throat he could have tasted what you had for supper?”

“That is not what happened. You saw what
you wanted to see!” she said.
“He was but thanking me. He—”

“Out,” he told Oran and when the lad didn’t
move fast enough to do as he was told, Garrick thundered at him. “Get the fuck
out!”

Oran scrambled from the tent as though the
hounds of hell were nipping at his heels.

Garrick snaked a hand through his hair.
“Sit your ass down,” he demanded.

BOOK: DeliveredIntoHisHands
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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