After years of desperation and fear, Audrianna must free herself of the man who holds the key to her freedom. With the help of Silas, a new found friend, Audrianna uncovers the past and delves deep into a journey that brings her closer to independence.
In Tentare-Chapter One
Her breath rose in white puffs in the cold air around her. Shivering slightly but smiling, Audrey clung to Henry’s arm as they walked along the snow-filled garden. The roses were wilting, but some remained vibrant. The fountain was frozen, its statue of a woman covered with a dusting of snow. The night had invaded the sky, but it was still Audrey’s favorite place to be with Henry.
“It’s so cold,” she said softly. “So difficult to fathom after the warm weather this autumn.”
Henry smiled down at her. “Yes. Are you sure you wouldn’t like my coat?”
“I am sure. You need it. Besides, holding onto you is keeping me warm.” She looked up at the night sky as snowflakes fluttered down towards them. “The snow is beautiful.”
Henry gazed upward with her and they stopped along the rose path. “It reminds me of you. So beautiful, graceful, pure…soft.”
He looked into her dark emerald eyes and she gazed back into the sea of blue in his. His gaze made her euphoric, warm. There was not anyone else she would rather be with.
His voice grew quiet and gentle as he spoke her name. He took her arm from his and held her frozen hand in his warm fingers.
“I love you.”
A smile grew on his face and also on hers. She knew he had been wanting to say it for a long time and now that the two of them were standing here in the garden finally alone, they both could say it.
“Henry. I love you, too.”
She felt his hand reach for her cheek, to wipe back a piece of her dark hair and his face lean close to hers. She wanted to kiss him, to show him how she felt toward him, but someone behind the fountain clapped.
Henry and Audrey grew still and looked around as if nothing happened. From behind the fountain’s statue stepped a man dressed in burgundy and black. He smiled at them and laughed, loudly, joyously startling Audrey. Henry unknowingly and reflexively stuck out his arm to push Audrey behind him.
“Cassius?” Henry started, “I thought you left for-.”
“I was, until I received word from your father. Apparently your mother is ill and he needs me here just in case.”
Audrey could see Cassius’ black eyes glimmer in the bright snowfall. He smiled, friendly, but something about his voice sent cold through Audrey’s nerves. Cassius had been a friend of Henry’s family for a decade, Henry’s father’s right-hand man. Audrey had only talked with him a few times. He was a difficult man to get time with. He was always busy and charming and sympathetic, but now he seemed almost menacing in the night.
“My mother is not ill,” Henry denied. “Why would Father tell you that?”
“She is. She is upstairs in her chambers, writhing and retching with fever. Perhaps your father failed to tell you because he did not want you to worry?”
Henry looked behind his shoulder at Audrey. “Audrey, go upstairs. Find out what is going on. If Mother is ill, she will need a doctor.”
“A doctor has already been sent for. There is no need for Audrey to go up to your mother.” Cassius’ eyes found Audrey. He licked his lips and looked back at Henry. “But there might be reason for you to see her. Your father appeared as if he has lost all hope.”
Henry turned to Audrey then and took her hands in his. “If my mother is ill and my father has lost hope, something must be wrong. Go inside. I will find you later, but now I must go find my father.” His glance found Cassius’. “Go with Cassius, Audrey.”
Cassius smiled at her and held out his arm for her. “I will keep you company while Henry makes his visit.”
Audrey caught Henry’s coat before he could leave. “Henry, if you need help I could-.”
“No.” Henry grinned at her and stroked her cheek with his finger. “Go with Cassius. Everything will be fine.”
He kissed her forehead and started to sprint to the hallway at the edge of the garden, leaving footprints is the accumulating snow. Audrey looked up at Cassius who took her arm and lead her down the garden path imprinted with Henry’s steps.
“She will be fine, won’t she?” Audrey inquired, shaking slightly from the cold. “I don’t know what I would do if she-.”
Cassius cut her off before she could finish her thoughts. “No, I am sure that she will make it. Henry’s mother is strong, surrounded by people who love her. She will surely be better in a few days.”
As they reached the rose bushes, Cassius stopped Audrey and pointed to the roses. “Look.”
She looked at the roses, interested in what he had to say about them. “What about them?”
“They’re beautiful under the early snow. Some are dead, but some remain alive. Though they are beautiful, they are dangerous because of their thorns. Dangerous beauties. So irresistibly tempting.” His lips were inches from her ear. “Touch one.”
His voice was velvety and soft now, different from his usual gruff and striking voice. Audrey could barely resist his demand. She reached out her hand to touch the crimson petals. Before her fingers found them, Cassius removed her hand and brought it to his face. He drew in a breath, sucking in her smell. His eyes burned black and his voice grew rough.
“I have been waiting to get you alone. Now that Henry is away and his parents are dead I can finally have what I want.”
Audrey was in a trance, barely aware of Cassius’ malicious presence. Her mind filled with a fog that clouded Cassius’ image, and she was drawn to him. He drew her close to him and stroked her cheeks with the back of his cold hand.
“And next it will be Henry. When you’re all gone, I’ll finally have my place in society back.”
Henry’s voice broke her trance and pushed her back to reality. Cassius was now far from her, hovering over the fountain. His words and threats were gone from her memory. She looked at Henry worriedly.
“How is your mother?” She asked.
Henry went to Cassius quickly. “They’re dead. Both of them. We must call for-.”
“They’re dead?” Audrey joined them by the fountain. “But how?”
Through tear-filled blue eyes, Henry looked at Audrey and held out his hand. “Audrey, it will be alright. Doctor Mallory is taking care of everything.”
“But-but what happened, Henry?”
Henry could see the fear in her eyes and that frightened him. He did not want her to be afraid. He wanted to protect her from fear and pain. He made an oath to himself then that he would never let any harm come to her. He brought his hands to her face and kissed her.
“It’s alright, darling. Everything will be fine. Go inside, find Doctor Mallory. I’ll be in in a moment.”
“Go, Audrey. I have much to discuss with Cassius.”
Fearful, treading through the now ankle deep snow, she fled inside the mansion.
“What happened?” Cassius asked when Audrey was far away.
Henry did not make eye contact with Cassius. Instead, he looked after the door where Audrey had gone. “In Tentare.”
“The Tempt?” Cassius turned to face Henry intrigued, shocked. “How could that be? They were said to have fled the territory after your father drove them out.”
“Doctor Mallory was gone for only moments and came back to check on my mother. When he returned there was nothing but my father’s and mother’s corpses, sucked dry of their blood, wide-eyed, clutching each other on the floor. He said that he saw the thing’s shadow lurking in the window. He never saw it directly.”
“Could it be an act of revenge? Someone bitter about what your father had done to them?”
“I don’t know.” Henry hissed and started off for the mansion. “I don’t want to think about this!”
Cassius caught Henry’s coat. “What if it still stalks the corridors? What of Audrey?”
Henry looked at the door where Audrey had entered. His oath he made lingered in his mind. How could he have lead her in there without someone with her? What if the thing was still waiting for unsuspecting prey?
Cassius straightened up and looked above at the sky. “Times are changing. It is only a matter of time before things start to crumble. We are all mortals in an imperfect world.”
“Except the Tempt.” Henry spoke as he sprinted toward the mansion. “They’re more than immortal. They’re damned beasts!”
Cassius watched darkly as Henry went to find Audrey. “Damned they may be,” he spoke to himself and to the snow. “But not as damned as you mortals soon shall be.”