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      chapter1

      # Chapter One

      For some time, Trent had been watching the charming little house, which rested atop a little hill that overlooked the private beach. White stone steps were built into the path that led up the hillside, toward the wooden gate that opened out into the patio out back. The home remarkably resembled a Thomas Kinkade painting; with hanging fairy lights winking between the willow fencing, where colorful flowers and plants draped themselves.
      The shadows wove around him, parting with each glide of his black debonair shoes. The wards that protected the cottage pushed against him, resisting his presence at first - until it gave way. He was no threat to the girls who lived here. He came as a friend, and because of that the wards fell through. His lips quirked; he was going to have a conversation with Adeline about strengthening her wards, and making it difficult for even him to get in. Friend or not, Trent was a vampire, and he would not risk the slightest chance of a threat.
      "I hope you can hear me, little witch," he murmured, as he reached the little gate. "You'll need to make it difficult for me to get through - it's the whole point of this ward, isn't it?" He chuckled. The magic would carry his words, and he wanted them to sink in.
      None of the vampires knew this face, since his work for the Assembly required a mask. This face allowed him to infiltrate many covens and blend seamlessly into the fabric of society. Deep set two-toned eyes framed by golden lashes, and the the brooding length of his brows. Shadows danced about his angular features; high cheekbones, an aristocratic nose with a slight crook, sharp chiseled jawline, and a full pouting mouth. He rarely ever smiled. He didn't have a reason, not until he met Dahlia Faust. A cool breeze danced through his coiffed and pale wavy hair; he adjusted his deep purple cravat, the rest of him decked in a tailored teal Burberry suit.
      He paused by the rustic table, and lit a cigarette - nonfiltered, Marlboro. He enjoyed the bitter taste, as it burned his tongue. The embers casting a cider glow across his stoic features. The fairy lights that streamed across the enclosed yard had a pink tint, adding a blush to his alabaster skin. He tracked the movements of the woman moving about her kitchen through the sliding glass door. If one defined a witch, Adeline its definition to a T. Thick sable curls danced about her small and willowy frame, decked in a gray maxi dress and a long black fringe kimono. She disappeared briefly in the kitchen, rifling through cabinets for something or another. He heard everything, the clacks of her chunky heels, and the chimes of her charm-filled necklaces.
      "What do you treat your vampire guest?" He heard her murmur, before she decided on her own answer. "Tea. Nothing was wrong with tea." Trent smirked, as he flicked the ashes into a metal tray. Adeline did not smoke, but he did - and it almost seemed as if she had expected his arrival this night. Some witchy sense or another. Trent had been born an incantor, in which magic was a part of his livelihood. His life before accepting the dark gift was not one he cared to remember, however. The old scars beneath his suit tingled at the thought. His past stayed behind him. He had no intention of looking back. Ever.
      He blinked when the door slid open, and out stepped Adeline with two steaming cups. "I can turn tea into wine, but not wine into blood... not without, you know, a little mess." She smiled sheepishly at him, as she set one mug on the table near him. "For you," she said, slightly flustered. He smiled in amusement. She had every right not to trust him, but she did because of his connection to her sister, Dahlia.
      "Thank you, Adeline," he said. He put out his cigarette, and left it perched on the edge of the metal ash tray. He laced his fingers around the mug, and lifted it to his mouth. He blew gently, before taking a sniff, breathing in chamomile and honey. "You didn't have to."
      "I insist." She shrugged one shoulder with a semi-nervous laugh, "would be rude not to offer our guest a drink." She sipped her tea quietly. To Trent, she was everything but silent. Her heartbeat fluttered like a nervous bird in a cage.
      "She will always be safe with me," he said, taking a small sip before setting down the mug. "You shouldn't worry about me - but your wards. It should keep out all vampires." He placed the emphasis on 'all,' as he gave her a stern look. "I am your friend, but take all precaution. Don't risk anything because of me."
      She worried her bottom lip with a nibble of teeth, revealing the dimples in her cheeks. Adeline was Dahlia's opposite; dark hair, tanned skin, and a slight upward turn to her protruding hazel green eyes. "I heard you before... about the wards." She said, "she really trusts you, and she um, misses you as well."
      He smiled then, a true and earnest one on features like still waters. "And I have missed her," he said and glanced away from Adeline's face, to look up to the window on the second floor with the lights on. "What is she doing right now?"
      "Painting, which she's been doing a lot." She said. Whatever tension was set in her shoulders finally left her. "I have to go to a coven meeting in Omenwich. Dustin, Bliss, and Calen are calling everyone... but Dahlia doesn't want to go."
      His smile faded, and he nodded. He didn't need her beseeching gaze to understand what she was asking. "I'll stay here until you return." He confirmed, knowing she'd rather hear him say it aloud.
      "Thank you so much, Trent." Adeline said. She paused, seeming to reconsider it, before stepping in to hug him. He tensed immediately. He'd always known Adeline as being overtly affection with her family and friends, but Trent had steered clear of any contact whatsoever. It was more so out of respect, and rather that her scent was just as appealing as her sister's. Far too appealing. He swallowed, as he forced himself to relax, allowing her embrace to take affect. She withdrew with a bright smile, and he returned a small one of his own. "And uh, you are invited in our home." A sacred spell took place that came with the creation of his kind, one that granted him free entry into their home. If he were to step up to the door, he would stop automatically at the threshold. Vampires, after all, couldn't enter a home without a formal invitation. "Don't make me regret it."
      He nodded, not yet trusting himself to speak. He was fighting off the conflict her closeness instilled on him. He needed a moment. It didn't matter how old he was, or how strong, Trent had a weakness with his other, darker half. The half that wouldn't mind sinking his fangs into her slender neck and draining her to the point of near death. He'd been able to control his affliction from his last journey, by acquiring an amulet that helped stave off his bloodlust. That ancient amulet rested beneath his shirt, and pressed against his bare skin as a reminder that he was damaged, and a danger without it.
      She left the sliding door open when she went back in, and hollered, "Dahlia - I'm heading out, leftover's in the fridge!" She peered over her shoulder once more, giving Trent a wave before heading out through the front. She left one light on in the living room, not that Trent needed it to see. Still, it was considerate of Adeline.
      Trent stepped over the threshold, taking in the open space between the kitchen and the den. He left the tea outside, though the smell of chamomile and honey traveled with him into the home. He didn't linger long in the space, and headed for the stairs. As patient as he was, he wanted to see her.
      The old wood creaked beneath his weight. Trent moved at a human's pace - with a deliberate patience, taking in the framed photographs that hung on the wall. The sisters smiled back at him, bright and cheerful, through different holidays or their time at the beach. Family and friends added to the joyful memories, and it had Trent linger a moment to take in the sparkling brilliance in Dahlia's eyes. She was beautiful and soft, her cheeks always blushing in each candid shot.
      Time had changed her. He sensed it - the dark weight that remained heavy on her shoulders and her mind. As he cleared the landing, he traipsed to her bedroom where the rectangular light split the shadows. The hardwood continued to creak beneath him, the white walls seeming to sigh as if relieved he was here with her.
      Blues and whites greeted him of a coastal themed room, with a four post bed that dominated the center. The curtains were drawn back to reveal the night sky, deepening the ocean hues. The smell of paint hit his nose, drawing his attention to the demure frame focused on a large canvas. Other canvases propped against the wall at her feet partially finished, as if her train of thought had come to an abrupt end and then replaced by something else. Trent leaned against the doorframe with his hands in his pockets, watching the way her delicate hand created colorful arcs. An interpretation of her mind would take shape, starting with a few splashes. The expert flick of her wrist would make her a good fencer. He'd teach her that. For now, Trent said nothing as he focused on Dahlia.
      She'd felt his approach, her shoulders momentarily tensed in a way that acknowledged he was there before she continued her work. The salty breeze drifted into her room, tickling his senses, and dancing along his skin. He crossed his arms, watching as she got lost within the landscape she created.
      He watched her paint, detailing the ocean as it lapped along alabaster sands. There was something dark and haunting about the seascape she was working on, telling him what she herself could not. The dark shade of pain hid within the soothing ebb of the waves. She was the calm of the sea against the shore, but also the storm in the distance. Disturbed and tranquil; a woman in pain, one who'd been hurt.
      Her heartbeat sounded with the ocean's song outside, rising and crashing, until she finally stopped - her words hitting him in ways that made him feel alive. His breath shortened, his slow heartbeat quickening to a near human's pace. He'd been a vampire for so long, and yet within the instance of meeting Dahlia Faust, he had never felt more human in his life. He needed her, just as much as she needed him, yet the dance between them was a deadly one. Toying with his predatory senses, teasing the other half of him who'd sooner see her neck torn to pieces from his savage bites.
      Trent couldn't deny her mouthwatering scent - she was sunishine on the rippling surface of the ocean. She was the garden blossoming in the solace of spring. She was his serenity, his light, and when she told him that she'd missed him, Trent fell into a sudden surge of lust and desire for the demure fey.
      She held herself, her eyes illuminating like the shimmering, crystalline tide when she looked at him. So much emotion swarmed within those brilliant depths, tugging at his heart and urging him to draw closer and closer. The amulet pulsed with his heart, a reminder that he was truly not a threat right now, but she had made him somehow forgot he was wearing it.
      "Dahlia," he spoke softly, hiding the pain and yearning within his voice. "I've missed you as well." No matter where he was and what work he did, she crept into the forefront of his thoughts. Her haunted blue eyes, the pout of her lips. He gulped the air he did not need, as he stood within a foot away from her, listening to her heartbeat and taking in the pulse dancing within her throat, betraying her calm.
      He bit back a low groan over the way she worried her bottom lip, the dichotomy of his gaze darkening. "Ah, ma cherie..."
      Thump.
      Her heartbeat called to him, the sweet sanguine song of her vitality.
      Thump.
      His own stuttered to keep up, as his amulet pulsed to keep his other, darker half at bay. He knew the moment he removed it, he would be hit by an unbridled lust for blood.
      Thump.
      "You've become the only thing I desire," he murmured, "I cannot very much think of anything else these nights." If he kissed her, would she taste like sunlight? He'd seen the glow of her skin, the way lights danced around her when her magic manifested. He drew in a shuddering breath, knowing how Draven was the reason for this tension between them.
      "Will you let me hold you?" He asked softly. He did not wish to push her. He knew the struggle, and all that happened.
      What Draven had done to her.



      Dahlia Faust

      She felt him approaching. Watching, waiting. His aura was tauntingly tangible, much like the delectable kiss of salty air that tickled her senses and danced along her skin. A vampire. But which one? The one she yearned for every single night or the one she despised with every fiber of her being. The gentle breeze form her open sliding glass door whirled through her bedroom. She could hear the ocean's song as the waves lapped along alabaster sands.Her sepia gaze was fixated on the moonlit waters of the deep-blue sea. There was something dark, and haunting about the seascape she was working on. Dahlia couldn't quite put her finger on it. But it was there, enveloped between swirls of blue, and splashes of shadowy grey. The painting mirrored her soul, and it was almost mocking.

      Dahlia, was the tranquil ebb and flow of the waves. She was the light and life that illuminated and thrived beneath the shimmering, crystalline tide. She was a demi-fae, aglow with brilliant vitality. She was the polar opposite of the two men that haunted her mind, body and soul. Trent was always warm and kind. Funny. wasn't it? Describing a vampire in such a way. It sounded ridiculous, even to the awestruck fae. He was protective, and always went out of his way to make her feel safe. Maybe she was being too trusting when it came to him. But, Dahlia couldn't help it. She wanted him more than she wanted breath. She yearned for him like the fairies yearned for the nightfall in the forest green.

      His footsteps echoed sharply around the empty beach house. She heard her sister call out to her about dinner, but she too focused on him. Adaline had let him in, therefore, she knew which vampire came calling. Trent was welcome in their home, Draven was not. He was a cruel and vile man, narcissistic did not even begin to describe the devil incarnate. And that devil loved her, for all he could love. He wanted her in one dreadful breath and then repulsively took her inside of another. He robbed her of her innocence and stole any semblance of peace -- and despite all of this, the fae still kept a tiny place in her beating heart just for him.

      Thump.

      Her body jumped on it's own accord as he began his ascent up the stairs. She clutched the paintbrush in her hand as she tried to focus on the painting in front of her. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep cleansing breath as she tried to calm her nerves. She couldn't trust herself around Trent, nor could she trust him. His kind killed her kind for centuries, not to mention the personal hell she was still going through with Draven. Yet, that did not stop her heart from beating inside the cage of her chest as he drew closer. It did not stop her stomach from fluttering like butterflies in flight and it certainly did not stop her breath from hitching in the back of her throat the moment he appeared behind her.

      She couldn't turn around. Not right now, not at that moment in time when her mind was whirling in a myriad of thoughts and trepidations. She knew she would have to turn and look upon his devastatingly beautiful features, and she cursed her own body for it's utter betrayal. Damn, she wanted him to just touch her- just once. She closed her eyes and her brow creased as though she was trying to ignore his potent aura. It felt just like Draven's, suffocating and sublime. He shared the same hunger for her blood, and wont for her body. Dahlia knew it with everything that she was. But that did not stop the words from escaping the cage of her mouth. "I missed you," She uttered, still facing away from him. She dropped the brush onto the lip of the easel as her hands crossed over her chest to embrace herself as she turned. So eager to see him, yet so achingly hesitant at the same time.

      In that moment, her eyes danced over his perfectly chiseled features before lowering to the floor at his feet. His gaze was a dancing flame lapping over her flesh. She worried her bottom lip with the straight line of her teeth as she nervously stood before him.





      *Unedited - taken from Three Muses/Dahlia

      From her vantage, standing before the second story picture window- Dahlia lost herself in the deep blue sea. The moon mercifully illuminated the ebb and flow of tranquil, cerulean waters. The demi-fae glanced back down at the painting on her easel, as her brow creased in frustration. There was something off about the seascape she’d been working on- the night that encompassed the ocean in the painting was dark as pitch, perhaps even mocking in its nature to be possessive and cruel. It perfectly reflected her state of mind. With a shaky sigh, she dipped her brush in a glass of water and watched the crystalline blue swirl like magic through the liquid. As she flicked the water remnant from the bristles, the brush flung out of her hand and onto the floor at her feet.

      Her gaze was dark and deep as the sepia hues of a woodland river. As she picked up her brush, she glanced at the shoes on her feet. She really had no idea what color the Chucks’ were originally. Navy. Black? Who knew. As now they were stained with every other color of the rainbow. She tossed the brush onto her desk as she heard her sister leave the house. She’d been so busy trying to keep her mind from venturing off to dark places that she’s completely forgotten to eat--- for the better part of two days?

      Now, her stomach rumbled as she made her descent down the mahogany staircase and to the nautically decorated foyer. She saw him in her peripheral, through the glass door. Ashen locks crowned atop striking, chiseled features. Fear wrapped around her body like a tight cord, as emotions streaked across her face like the sweep of sun-rent clouds. Her breath hitched in the back of her throat as she knew with every fiber of her being that the demon in her closet had returned to claim her. She lurched backward and fell down onto the hard surface of the bottom step. She brought her blue-jean clad knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them as she tried to calm her breathing.

      She found courage in the deepest pit of her mind and glanced back outside to prove to herself that she’d only imagined it. Her expression was as pale as any ghost, as her gaze rose to find him..Trent. It wasn’t the monster Shi, the vampire that haunted her body and tortured her mind. Relief swept across her cherub features and her watery eyes gleamed like brilliant gems. She smiled, as she tried to stand on shaky stems and shake off the debilitating fear that resided within. “Ohmygod. I can’t even walk anymore!” Who knew where that remark came from. The Fae was flustered. She shook her head, the messy bun on top framed her bashful features. A warm red flushed shot up through her belly and spread across her cheeks as her heart fluttered inside the cage of her chest. She couldn’t help the way her body responded around him- if she could she would have told it to- stop immediately!


      Trent

      He used the pad of his thumb and his fingertip to put out the cigarette. After shaking off the residual ash, he tucked the stick behind his ear. He heard Dahlia make her way out of her room. Before that, he had listened to the brush glide paint across a canvas. He had always admired her art. Trent did not have any inclination toward it, though he could learn if he wished. Instead, his body was honed to that of a silent killer. Quick, fast, efficient. Fine muscles shifted beneath his suit and coat, as gloved fingers glided across the surface of the wooden table. He was walking toward the door, following her pace until he heard her fluttering heart.

      Something had spooked her. His two-toned hues narrowed, and he turned his head to scan his surrounding. His lifted his ear and listened keenly, beyond the frightened dance of her heart, the thunderous crashing of waves against the sandy shores, to the push of wings as birds fly high above, singing into the night. He listened to everything, seeking any danger - especially if it was one just like him. He heard nothing out of the ordinary, but just her, and her outcry when she had fallen.

      Avani's invitation stood true, as he carefully slid open the glass door and blurred inside. Soon, he was kneeling before her, as she sat on the bottom of the step, gathering herself. Not enough darkness could hide how much she glowed. "Dahlia," he said softly, "it's been a while." Trent answered to the Ancients - in lieu, the Keepers. His Sire was the progeny of Gladez Inez, which put Trent in a very high position as a Harlequin. He traveled the world at their command, but tonight, he was here. Home was Savannah, Georgia, but Trent had a piece of his heart in Seattle. In his blood, he felt Ethan's presence, just as he did Mihaela. They had businesses here, and purpose. Trent's was to find Dahlia.

      The dichotomy of his eyes took her in, her sweetness and her inborn radiance that made her a constant light within his dark world. He quietly held out a gloved hand to her, and waited for her to take. With a gentle grasp, he helped her to her feet, his frame easily towering over hers. "Missed me?" He teased, as he let go. As much as he'd love to hold her, he respected her space. Trent was not one to assert, or force himself on another. He had his thralls to feed The Beast. He couldn't - wouldn't - lose control over the half-human, half-fey girl.