Blood’s Embrace – Chapter 1

Blood’s Embrace – a Before the Sun Rises Origin short

copyright 2020 Nicola C. Matthews – All Rights Reserved

Note: this will be a 3 part saga.

Foreword: Hello fellow lovers of all things paranormal! Over the past fifteen years I have introduced a wide variety of characters, some of them spanning many books. In the coming year I will be releasing a new spin off from my original Before the Sun Rises trilogy called Fallen From Grace. This new series will introduce a new cast of characters and some old favorites. It seems only fitting that I begin writing some short stories and flash fiction surrounding some of my favorite characters from both series. So sit back, grab some popcorn, and prepare to delve deeper into my fantastic world.

***

Lorian Emerald Leigh moaned softly as she rolled over in her large, four-poster bed. Her dark green eyes fluttered opened as she stared absently at the flickering shadows on her ceiling created by the dying flames of the fire in the fireplace several feet away. Something was amiss, but her sleepy brain could not quite grasp what had awakened her from her sleep.

She heard it again; the light tapping at her window. She turned toward the sound, her brow furrowed as she listened intently. Again it sounded… tap tap tap… a light, insistent pecking on the glass pane.

“Leelee? Leelee, it’s Malcolm. Are you awake?” a deep, quiet voice asked, barely audible through the heavy French doors.

Lorian smiled as she tossed off the thick coverlet. She slipped her feet into the light house slippers before grabbing her thick, brocaded housecoat from the foot of her bed. She wrapped it snugly around herself as she hurried to the doors before stopping, paused, her hand on the lock.

“Malcolm, you shouldn’t be here,” she whispered, her head resting against the coolness of the freshly painted wood.

“I know, my love, but I had to see you,” he said.

She smiled again, her heart fluttering lightly inside of her chest.

How did I manage to be so lucky? she wondered to herself for perhaps the millionth time since her engagement to the most handsome man in all the country.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony.”

She could hear him chuckling lightly. “Our wedding is not for nearly a fortnight.”

She frowned, wondering why the sound of his laughter bothered her so much. Normally it was infectious, happy, but tonight it just seemed… off somehow.

“Please, Leelee, come outside for a bit. I’ve missed you.”

She couldn’t help but smile at his sentiment. His voice always made her weak in the knees, the sound causing a shiver to dance down the length of her spine.

“You saw me four days ago, Malcolm. You act like it’s been a lifetime.”

He sighed, the sound muffled by the bit of wood and glass separating them.

“It feels like a lifetime. Please, my love. Just for a few moments.”

She paused, undecided. They were betrothed, their wedding set ten days away from this very night. They had already purchased a house and ordered all the furnishings for it. It was merely a matter of time at this point before they became husband and wife. She knew he loved her completely, as she loved him. There was nothing which could halt their marriage at this point – yet she couldn’t help but give pause.

“I don’t think I should,” she whispered.

“You’re worried about your reputation,” he said, his voice quiet and reserved. “I understand. I swear to you, on my honor as a gentleman, I will not do anything which you do not wish me to.” He paused, but she remained silent. “Please, Leelee. I’ve done nothing to cause you mistrust. I have a gift for you, a surprise for our wedding. I wanted to give it to you, but I suppose I could send it by my footman in a few days.”

She smiled. He knew her so well. She felt foolish for even considering something was amiss. She turned the lock on the French doors; the door swinging silently on its hinges as she slipped out onto the balcony.

It was almost bitch black outside. The moon peeked in and out among the clouds as they rolled in, the tall oak trees a few feet away casting long, dark shadows across the wooden balcony. The snow crunched beneath her dainty house slippers, the soft glow illuminating their surroundings even as the moon’s light failed them. Her platinum blonde hair framed her face like a halo in the dim light, her beauty causing Malcolm’s breath to catch in his throat as she came near.

“It’s freezing out here!” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest. Not even her heavy brocaded robe afforded her much relief from the biting cold.

“I’m sorry, my love,” he said. “I would offer you my coat, but as you can see, I did not bring one.”

She eyed him in astonishment. “Malcolm, we’ll both catch our deaths out here! What on earth possessed you to ride all this way without a coat?”

He smiled, his lips barely parting as he did. She moved closer to him, her large, green eyes staring up at him with so much adoration on her face. She almost couldn’t believe her good fortune, being betrothed to someone as handsome and polite as Malcolm.

Their families had known each other for generations, but Malcolm was the first male heir in almost fifty years. If her older sister had not fallen ill three winters ago, she would have been the one to marry Malcolm. Unfortunately, her sister had succumbed to pneumonia, her body resting in the family mausoleum. It had broken their mother’s heart. Now, their entire family’s continuation rested on Leelee’s young shoulders, a burden she gladly took as she had been head-over-heels in love with Malcolm since they were mere school children.

“It’s quite alright,” he said, beckoning her closer to him. “I hardly feel the cold. Come, my love. I shall keep you warm.”

She giggled as she moved closer, allowing him to pull her into his embrace. She buried her face in his chest, breathing in the scent of leather and sandalwood. She knew she shouldn’t, but surely there couldn’t be any harm in allowing her betrothed to hold her, if only for a few moments.

“How can you not feel the cold?” she asked, her voice partially muffled by his crisp, white shirt. “I fear it may start snowing at any moment.” She paused, suddenly remembering why she had agreed to come outside in this weather, alone, risking her health and reputation. “I thought you had a gift for me?” she asked playfully as she smiled up at him.

He returned her smile, his expression barely changing even as he did so. She still had that nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He felt so cool to the touch, the gleam of mischief in his eyes oddly lacking. Perhaps it was just the eerie glow of the surrounding landscape fueling her wild imagination already running amok.  

“Are you okay? You are acting odd tonight. You don’t sound quite like yourself. And coming out in this weather with no coat. Honestly, Malcolm, you better not get sick right before our wedding. I will be very disappointed if we have to postpone while you recuperate!”

She tried to sound harsh, but her words held no real conviction. She never could stay cross at him for very long. He always gave in to her, no matter what she asked. He always liked to pretend he would not give in, but her wish was always his command.

She shuddered again as the breeze blew softly. She snuggled deeper into his embrace, beginning to feel the chill settling into her bones. The snow beneath her feet was slowly seeping its way through her slippers, her toes becoming numb. She could feel her body beginning to shiver, trying to generate some warmth. She pressed herself against her beloved Malcolm, yet his body offered no comfort.

“Malcolm, aren’t you cold? I can’t feel my toes. Please, perhaps you should come in and warm yourself by the fire?”

“Into your room? My sweet Leelee, what about your reputation?” he asked with a chuckle.

She frowned, that nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach growing. His laughter held no humor, sounding hollow and flat. She swallowed as she rubbed her hands together.

“I’m serious, Malcolm. I don’t understand why you aren’t cold. We are both going to be sick if we don’t get inside and get warmed up. I fear for your health, my love. Coming all this way without a coat, standing here in the snow. I’m already chilled to the bone. We should get inside where it’s warm. You can stay for a few moments, get warmed up before being on your way. I’m sure Father will understand. You could even use our coach to make your way home.” She looked up at him, searching a face that appeared to be completely devoid of emotion. “Malcolm?”

He looked down at her, a slow smile moving across his face.

“Do you love me, Leelee? Truly love me, even if I wasn’t who you think I am? Even if I’ve… changed? Would you still love me, stand by me, be with me—even in death?”

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