One final adventure brings Faith together with her friends as big trouble looms on the horizon. An ancient vampire demands their attendance at his island bay estate, and few people can refuse an offer made at the point of a stake. They learn the vampire wishes to make a deal with them: save his witch and he will look the other way on their thefts. To make matters worse, Faith is cursed with death if they don’t cure the witch.
I’d hoped my disappearance and inevitable undeath would get me out of jury duty. Turns out it made me Exhibit A in a trial for my life, and the life of my lover.
But first, the night started as any other two weeks after our last adventure. Well, it was almost night. The sun had a half hour before setting when a tremendous shattering of glass woke me. I started up and looked around the room. The door was shut. I glanced at the other half of the bed. Simon was gone.
I heard another crash. It came from the living room. I flung the sheets around me and raced to the door. Something slammed against the door and tore it off its hinges. I threw myself to the side onto the floor. The door flew past me and clattered against the foot of the bed.
I lifted my head. My eyes widened as I beheld a shadow in the door. The shadow had bright red eyes, but they didn’t belong to Simon. The figure was shorter and wore a full tactical-gear setup complete with ski-mask and gloves.
Behind the shadow in the living room was a small war. Simon and Certus duked it out with a half dozen other people with terrible fashion sense. The shadow strode toward me and stretched out their hand. I backed up on my hands and knees, and became entangled in the sheets. The intruder grabbed the end and tried to pull both me and the blanket toward them.
I yanked, they pulled, and the sheet slowly slid off me. I rolled onto my stomach and my hand grasped one corner of the door. My fingers wrapped around the wood just as the intruder dragged me to them. I pulled the door into both my hands and swung around, swinging the door with me. The wood connected with the side of the intruder’s face. They stumbled to one side and released my sheet.
I jumped to my feet and ran out of the room. Simon tossed an enemy through the far window and turned in time to catch me in his arms. The last rays of the setting sun caused smoke to rise from his body, but he grimaced and bared it.
I grabbed his nightshirt and looked over the destruction of the living room. “What the hell is going on?”
He clutched me against his chest and looked past me. “A great deal of trouble.”
I followed his gaze and my eyes widened. Another half dozen dark figures rushed into the penthouse. Some of them tackled Certus, and the rest surrounded us.
One of them stepped forward. “Simon Cruor, you and your companions are commanded to come with us.”
He arched an eyebrow. “And if I refuse?”
The intruder’s red eyes fell on me. “We can’t be held responsible for the consequences.” In the background the half dozen other intruders yanked Certus to his feet and pulled his arms behind his back. His face was bloodied and his clothes were torn.
Simon’s eyes flickered from Certus to the lead intruder, and he tightened his grip on me. “You may tell Basileus we will go with you. Merely allow us a few minutes to dress ourselves appropriately for him.”
The intruder narrowed his eyes, but nodded. “Ten minutes. No more.”
Simon nodded at Certus. “And free my servant.”
The intruder half-turned to his companions. They released Certus and gathered at the front of the penthouse. The leader stepped back and swept his arm over the penthouse. “You have ten minutes.”
Simon glanced at Certus and led me to the bedroom. Certus followed and shoved the door into place.
I readjusted my impromptu robes and frowned. “What the hell is going on?” I hissed.
Simon’s eyes remained on the door. “It appears I unwisely ignored Sarpa’s warning, and Basileus has come for us.” He pursed his lips. “No doubt to be judged under his ‘justice.’”
“But who’s Basileus?” I asked him.
Simon strode over to the closet and pulled out a pair of my pants and a blouse. “An old vampire who has set it upon himself to be the arbiter of paranormal creatures within this city.” He strode over to the bed and tossed the clothes on the mattress. “And he does not accept refusals with his invitations.”
I jerked my thumb over my shoulder at the door. “And those guys are what?”
Simon paused and glared at the door. “They are his ‘escort’ service. Apparently he suspected I wouldn’t heed a written invitation.”
I snorted. “I wonder why he’d think that. So we’re going where?”
“To Avalon Island in the bay where Basileus will no doubt pass judgment on us.”
I frowned. “But we haven’t done-well, we haven’t done too much wrong, have we?”
Simon pursed his lips. “That remains to be seen. Now dress.”
“I can’t wait to see the jury of our peers. . .” I muttered as my eyes flickered to Certus. He stood with his back to us and his eyes on the door.
I slipped the sheet off and hurriedly dressed. Simon looped his arm through mine and led us out of the room. The intruders stood where we left them. Their leader stepped forward and gestured to the front door.
“If you will follow us.”
A long elevator ride and a quick walk through the foyer, and we were on the streets. A single black limo sat on the curb. The leader opened the door, and we slid inside. The door was shut and the car pulled into traffic.
I looked out the window and squirmed in the seat beside Simon. “So have you ever met this Basileus guy?”
Simon nodded. “Many times over the centuries.”
“And I’m guessing you two don’t see eye-to-eye.”
A small smile slipped onto Simon’s lips. “Not often.”
My heart sank. Simon grasped my chin between his fingers and lifted my eyes to his. “Whatever happens, know that you will be safe.” He glanced across the way at Certus. “If the worst comes, I entrust her safety to you.”
Certus closed his eyes and bowed his head. “I gladly accept responsibility.”
And that was the cheerful car ride to the private docks. We were taken aboard a large yacht that resembled a cruise liner and guided to the bow. The car in which we traveled was taken below deck via a loading ramp. The ship weighed anchor and the shoreline receded behind us. Before us was the dark waves of the bay and the black silhouette of Avalon Island.
I clutched onto the railing and watched the island grow larger. In an hour the island loomed ahead of us. Two long white docks stood as sentries over the water and connected with the shoreline of the island. The yacht parked in the largest berth that sat closest to the island. The docks ended at the land where they met a paved road. The road wound its way up a steep, terraced hill littered with boulders, wild flowers, and tall softwood trees.
The top was topped with a large fortress-like abode that shattered the endless blue sky above the island. The walls were a gloomy gray and topped by a parapet. A single stone tower stood at attention at the front left corner. The tall, thin windows gazed out on the waters with haughty indifference. A large lawn surrounded the bottom of the walls like a green moat, and I glimpsed a few smaller buildings on the grounds.
The car was removed from the ship and we were driven up the road to the castle. The leader of the cloaked figures led us beneath the archway and into the foyer of the spacious stone structure. Above us soared the high ceiling with its open rafter layout. The back wall held a long reception desk and to the right were the stone stairs that led to the higher floors. A passageway to the right of the stairs led to other rooms on the ground floor. To our left and right were wooden archways. The left led to a large dining room while the right was a grand sitting room.
It was to that room that we were led. The long sitting room contained the living room furniture and a pair of pool tables at the back. The dark paneled walls flanked a large stone fireplace centered in the wall opposite the entrance. The thick curtains on either side the wide paned windows were open and let us look out on the yard and the open waters of the bay.
I jumped when the doors behind us were shut with a soft, ominous click. The lead intruder and his minions had left us.
But we weren’t the first ones in the room. A man rose from one of the chairs and turned to us. He was about forty-five with gray streaks in his temples and a complexion that was a blood-brother to that of Simon.
The man smiled and bowed his head to us. “Good evening, my honored guests.”