NaNo Day 5:
If y’all know me, you are well aware that my characters aren’t made of mush. It takes a lot to knock the stuffing out the man or the woman. I don’t do it often because I’m not an overly sentimental girl myself. That’s not to say that you won’t find emotion, a lot of it, usually best expressed when the characters are at their most vulnerable.
In this excerpt, one of my favorite heroes, Quentin, is made especially vulnerable due to his worry for his mate. I was especially cruel to readers of this story, because while the story starts with Darcy and Quinton, it shifts to others who will join in a hunt for one of their fallen’s killer. I didn’t tell the rest of this couple’s story until book seven.
Here’s a snippet to show you what I’m talking about. It’s from Silver Bullet, the sixth book in the Immortal Knight series.
He met her at the water’s edge as she returned from her solitary walk, her bare feet sand-encrusted and her steps slow and measured. One hand pressed the small of her back—a disquieting gesture that caused him no small amount of alarm. The purple of dusk was reflected in the circles beneath her beautiful brown eyes.
“Darcy-love, why didn’t you wait?” Quentin Albermarle slipped his arm around his wife’s slender back, not surprised when she leaned into him to share her burden.
“You wouldn’t have enjoyed yourself.” She lifted her head to stare into his eyes, one brow arching in amusement. “I wanted to watch the sunset.”
Her teasing smile warmed his soul. How had he lived before knowing her? Now, he couldn’t remember a night that didn’t begin and end with her. “Well, you have me there,” he said softly. “Sunset’s not something I’d find the least bit pleasant.” He turned her in his arms and settled his chin on the top of her head as his hands circled her stretched-taut belly. “Still, I’d prefer it if someone accompanied you when I can’t be here. It isn’t safe,” he admonished her lazily, enjoying the breeze that lifted her dark hair to float against his chest and the pleasure of her warm body aligned with his. “It’s not like we haven’t enough hirelings to spare one for your walks.”
“I wanted a little alone time and it was light when I started.” She shrugged. “I guess I’m walking a little slow these days.”
Quentin’s jaw clenched at the familiar fear that struck him. Her ordeal wouldn’t be something he could conquer for her. And he suspected the Lamaze classes he’d endured at her insistence were as much for his benefit as hers.
Taking a deep breath, he let the air hiss between his teeth and watched the slim gold line that rimmed the navy sea blink out. “More reason to stay inside The Compound, don’t you think?”
“The walk was nice. I can’t get too flabby or I’ll have hell getting back in shape for work.”
Quentin had his own thoughts about how she looked—her features were a little less lean, but softer and more feminine. He also had rather strong thoughts about whether she should ever return to the police force. But there was time for that discussion later. “You’re beautiful and wearing my favorite shade of blue.”
Darcy looked down at her sky-blue sundress and snorted. “You know darn well it’s the color of your eyes.”
“I know. Seeing you in it makes me feel like my ownership’s stamped all over you.”
“I’m wearing your colors, hmmm? You are a primitive man at heart. I like that.”
“And feeling downright primal at the moment. I didn’t like not finding you beside me when I woke,” he let his words rumble, then admitted the truth, “I was worried.”
“I’m sorry. I was restless waiting for you to wake from your beauty rest. Besides, I only have to worry about the things that go bump in the night, right?”
He nuzzled her neck, breathing in her fragrance—her mother’s raspberry soap and her own feminine musk. “Were-bastards don’t fry in the sunshine,” he growled, knowing his comment would get a rise out of her.
“Hush!” she said, smacking his hand. “No name-calling. Remember, Max is my friend.”
He smiled into her hair and lightly squeezed her belly. The child within complained and delivered a solid kick just beneath his hand. “I was thinking of dear old Max when I said it.”
“You really need to learn to get along with him. I know he’s a little intense, what with him hating vamps in general, but Pia has him leashed.”
“That’s what has me worried. That walking disaster paired with a werewolf—it’s a wonder she’s not hacking up hairballs.”
“Wrong species.” She giggled. A lovely tinkling sound, all the more precious because she didn’t do it often.
He snorted. “Just plain wrong, if you ask me.”
Darcy cleared her throat. “Speaking of which, when’s the plane coming in?”
“It’ll touch down in about fifteen minutes. Then wait until Navarro gets a look at our new pet. Don’t be surprised if we see fur flying.”
She tilted back her head to look into his eyes, her expression a little pinched. “This Navarro…is he a good guy?”
Quentin shrugged. “He’s one of us.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Oh, and that’s supposed to be reassuring?”
“I’m a good guy,” Quentin said softly. “Trust me to make sure introductions are handled appropriately.”
“The way you say that—all British and proper…” She shivered. “…does things to me.” Then her expression grew serious. “All right, Quentin, I’ll trust you so long as you make sure he gives Max a fair chance to prove he’s part of the team.”
Quentin snorted again.
“Now you have to admit the guy’s been a big help tracking the remnants of that rabid wolf pack.”
Quentin wasn’t ready to give the were any credit. “Takes a dog to sniff another out,” he mumbled.
Her nose wrinkled. “You’re so prejudiced.”
“I have reason to be.” Then wishing to end a conversation that caused her distress, he kissed her lips.
With a sigh, she surrendered her body, leaning more heavily against him. Her mouth opened beneath his, and his tongue lapped inside. She returned soft loving strokes that had him hard as a doorknob in seconds.
He dragged away his mouth, glad the breeze off the ocean was whipping up enough to cool his overheated skin. “Witch,” he whispered.
“What did I do?” she asked, wide-eyed.
The curve of her lips told him she felt his frustration. He narrowed his gaze. “Just you wait…”
“Won’t be long now.” She rubbed her bottom against his arousal.
What could a vampire do to stop the woman he loves from teasing him into full-fanged arousal? He dragged his teeth along the side of her throat in a silent warning to behave.
“And that’s supposed to scare me?” Soft laughter shook her body. “You shouldn’t use the same tactic to make me horny.”
His breath gusted in a short laugh. “Bugger, is that the problem?”
“Someday you’re going to tell me what it is you have against weres.” She turned in his arms and stared up, moonlight reflecting in her eyes. “And I should be a little angry about the way you always use sex to change the conversation.”
With her large belly between them, Quentin’s lips twitched. “This from the woman who’s discovered the ultimate distraction method of digital manipulation—”
Darcy pressed her finger against his lips to halt his words. “You’re not doing it again.”
Quentin raised his eyebrows in question.
“Changing the subject.” She huffed a long sigh. “I’m worried about Max meeting Navarro. We’re only just getting used to the fact he’s Lycan, and now Navarro’s coming from the Northwest council because of this problem with another Powell brother. Things are happening too fast.”
Quentin glared. He opened his mouth to give her a glib answer, but her finger mashed his lips.
“What, you have something to say?” Her finger swirled on his lips then lingered a moment until he dutifully kissed the tip.
When she withdrew it, he said, “Is the problem that you think Navarro won’t listen, or that Max is going to misbehave?”
Darcy’s brows drew together. “Both.”
He gave an exaggerated sigh. “You’re going to make me intervene on his behalf, aren’t you?” Damn! He wished she didn’t care so much about the wolf.
“Maybe. Is Navarro really going to give him a fair shake, or will he do what’s expedient? I mean, I know vamps and weres have this long history of warfare between the species.”
“Navarro isn’t one to make ‘expedient’ decisions. Hell, I’d second him if he did in this case. But Navarro’s…deep, likes to consider things before he acts. Now if it were up to me…”
“I know, you’d have poor Max’s were-head mounted on the wall.”
“Poor Max?” Quentin grinned. He couldn’t help it. The thought of Max’s head glowering above the mantel cheered him considerably. But Darcy’s darkening expression had him saying, “You think I’d want that ugly mug of his preserved?”
“Quentin! This isn’t funny. I’m scared.” The frown still marring her brow, Darcy played with a button on the front of his shirt. “I don’t get why you’re so set against him.”
“I have my reasons,” he said, folding her upper body closer to his chest.
“Well, that certainly fills in the blanks.” Her nose nuzzled his neck, and she sighed. “You know, it’s not fair that you have this long past I don’t know anything about.”
“Ask me anything,” he said, his voice gruff. “I’ll tell you what I can.”
She leaned away. “Really?”
Quentin hadn’t realized how important the issue was until her expression softened and her eyes grew moist. He cupped her face between his palms. “I’m yours, Darcy,” he whispered fiercely, “body, soul and endless history. I’ll bore you to tears with the retelling of all the mundane facts of my misspent youth.”
Despite the moisture welling in her eyes, Darcy’s lips curved in a wry smile. “I know I won’t be bored. Just finding out how you first met Dylan will likely be enough to satisfy my curiosity for weeks.” A shadow crossed her face. “But not now. I’m a little tired.”
Downplaying his worry, he smiled. “Come rest a while with me?”
“You just got out of bed.”
He waggled his eyebrows. “I’ll hold you.”
“You know what that usually leads to,” Darcy said, arching a brow.
“Have I been too demanding?” he asked, his tone mild, knowing she’d rise once again to the bait.
“Not at all, as you damn well know.” She swatted his chest with her open palm. “I’m frustrated as hell!”
He leaned toward her and nuzzled her ear. “Haven’t I pleased you?” he growled.
Her breath hitched, and she groaned. “You know you have. Your mouth makes me crazy—the fact my belly’s so big I can’t watch you drives me even crazier. But I want to please you, too.”
“Soon enough, love,” he said, wishing he had her turned so he could rub his aching cock against her bottom for relief. As it was, her belly prevented any contact. “This never-ending erection is my penance.”
“Why do you owe a penance?”
He shuttered his expression from her knowing glance.
But she was too attuned to his moods. Her head tilted and she smoothed a hand over his cheek. “I know it’s hard for you. This isn’t your child. I don’t blame you a bit for being resentful.”
He closed his eyes. “This child will be ours in every way except its conception.” He meant it. He really did.
“I know that.” She touched his forehead. “You know that.” Then she placed her hand on his chest. “But your heart doesn’t. Don’t feel guilty about the way you feel.” Her eyes shone with love and acceptance.
Funny, sometimes he thought he could see his whole world in her eyes.
“Everything will be all right,” she said softly. “You’ll see.”
He turned his head and placed a kiss in her palm, too overcome for the moment to reply.
Another movement in her belly distracted him. This time it felt like the baby rolled inside her.
Darcy grimaced and moaned softly.
“Is something wrong?”
“My back aches, and I’ve been having…twinges.”
His heart stilled. “Is it the baby? Is it coming?”
“I think so.”
“You think so?” he asked, panic rising to constrict his throat. “How long have you known?”
“Since mid-afternoon—I thought a walk might help quicken this whole thing.”
“You knew you were in labor and you went for a walk alone?” This time he shouted.
“Uh-huh,” Darcy admitted, a smug little smile tilting one side of her mouth. That expression looked familiar.
“Fucking hell!” I’m in a panic—and she’s smirking at me! “Quick,” he said, turning her to walk back to The Compound, “we need to get you to the hospital.”
Darcy laughed and grabbed for his hand. “There’s no rush. I’ve been timing the contractions.”
“Timing the…contractions?” he parroted, his voice rising. “That’s what I’ve been feeling? I thought the baby was kicking wobblers.”
Another grimace crossed Darcy’s face.
Quentin cursed beneath his breath. Through letting her call the shots, he lifted her into his arms and strode toward The Compound. “Not another word, ridiculous woman.”
As he approached the gate, the floodlights that were set to detect motion failed to light. He slowed his steps, the hair lifting on the back of his neck.
Darcy stiffened in his arms.
“I know,” he whispered, noting the lack of human guards around the perimeter. “Something’s wrong.”
“Put me down.”
He did and quickly shoved her toward deep foliage next to the wall. “Wait here.”
“Like hell!” she hissed. “What if the trouble’s out here? Vamps and weres both have a great sense of smell.”
“All right,” he said in a clipped tone, damning himself for his carelessness. With the wind coming off the ocean, he’d found no scent to give him warning. He punched the security code on the touch pad. The lock on the gate released with a soft snick. He slipped through and held it open for Darcy.
Once inside the wall, he noted the stillness—no hint of the guards’ movements, no distant murmurs of conversation. He sniffed the air and froze, finding the scent he feared most.
“Damn him to hell!” he gritted out, rage already hardening his body.
“Who?” Darcy said, clutching his arm.
“Our pet!” he spat. “He’s brought friends.”
With Darcy matching his steps behind him, Quentin crept into the courtyard, past the flowering bougainvillea and palms, past the edge of the tiled patio to peer inside the darkened living room.
Darcy shouldered her way into position beside him. “We have wolves—plural—in The Compound?”
“Stay behind me.”
“But Lily,” she said, a note of fear entering her voice, “they’re here for Lily. We have to get to her.”
“Once in the house, you will run straight for the panic room. Today, you’re not a cop, Darcy. I’ll take care of Lily.”
“All right, but Quentin,” she said, tugging at his sleeve, “this isn’t Max’s doing.”
“Then why didn’t he sound the alarm? He and Pia are supposed to be the watch tonight.”
“I don’t know. But I do know he couldn’t do this. He wouldn’t betray us.”
“Be quiet now, love. Remember what I said. Get to the panic room.” He opened the door and let Darcy slip past him to make an awkward dash for the stairway. The panic room was along the upper corridor. He followed behind her, facing the opposite direction, waiting for a foe to charge up the stairs and cursing the fact he hadn’t brought a weapon other than the silver-bladed knife strapped to his ankle.
What had he been thinking? The weres in the area appeared to be conquered. The few stragglers of the pack that had wreaked havoc in Vero Beach had been easy to find—they’d left bloody trails in their wake.
In retrospect, they’d been too easy to find.
As Quentin braced himself for the fight of his life, his mind raced. Where were the human guards? He detected no scent of death in the air. And what of Pia and Max? If Max wasn’t responsible for the breach in security, then who was?
A gasp erupted behind him, and he whirled to see three weres in varying forms of transformation creeping down the hallway toward them.
As he faced them, deep-throated snarls erupted from the wolves.
The newly installed panic room lay just beyond the three. Quentin guessed they had been about to enter, so at least he knew where Lily was.
He pushed past Darcy and shoved her against the wall, bending at the last moment to slide his knife from beneath his pant leg. “Watch for your break,” he shouted.
Still crouched low, he summoned the beast inside, letting his body bulk out with just enough of the monster to even up the odds. When his shirt strained across his shoulders, he lunged at the closest of the wolves—a brindle bastard, fully transformed and nearly foaming at the mouth.
They met in midair. Quentin rolled with him, coming up on his feet after slashing deep into the wolf’s neck. The next, a dark-furred cur, caught him from behind and knocked him to the ground.
Darcy shouted and a shot rang out.
Quentin couldn’t look back. He kicked backward and grabbed for the muzzle locked around the top of his right shoulder. Adrenaline and rage numbed him to the pain of teeth sinking deep into muscle.
The knife traded hands, and Quentin stabbed over his shoulder, hoping to spear eyes. When the wolf broke his hold with a screeching whine, Quentin came to his knees and slammed the wolf clinging to his back against the wall, at the same time digging his right elbow into a vulnerable belly. With the stunned creature wriggling to come to its paws, Quentin slammed the blood-slick knife in its chest.
With the red haze of rage threatening to steal his intellect, Quentin pitched through the bedroom door, ready to take the next foe.
The sight that met his eyes brought a howl of pain and denial. Before the closed panic room door, Darcy lay beneath the bloody claws of a man-wolf, a gaping maw in her belly, her arms and hands nearly shredded. A gun lay on the ground beyond her feet. Darcy hadn’t gone on her walk without backup after all.
Quentin’s heart screamed and he crouched, ready to spring at the wolf to tear its head from its shoulders, when he saw the slightest movement of Darcy’s lips.
Thank God! She still lived.
The monster’s lips pulled back in an unholy grin and he held up a red, wriggling baby, its placental cord dangling from its round belly.
Quentin had only a moment to note Darcy’s child was a boy with a thick cap of dark curls.
Then the creature placed the child in his mouth and completed his transformation to wolf, dropping on all fours to the floor.
The dark wolf approached him and brushed boldly past.
Quentin clenched his fists and let him pass, fighting the encroaching haze—Darcy lived. The baby was likely already infected by the bite Darcy had received, and if not, it soon would be from the saliva of the wolf using it as a hostage for safe passage out of The Compound. The baby was lost whether the beast ate it or not.
But Darcy wasn’t—yet. And while she had breath, there was still a chance to save her.
He crossed the room and knelt beside her, taking her head into his lap, cupping her face between shaking palms.
Darcy’s eyes fluttered open. “Quentin….the baby,” she whispered, her voice thin, her breath labored. “Save the baby.”
“I will, love,” he lied and bent to end her life.
Be sure to check out the snippets on these other authors’ blogs: