Under His Claw
by Viola Grace
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Traded for a blood debt, in service to a vampire, and loaned to a shifter, Zora never thought to find pleasure…
Zora has always felt the stigma of being born to a family tainted by vampire blood. That family legacy becomes vividly real when her great-great grandfather tracks her down and trades her for a blood debt owed to the local vampire king. Zora finds a way to use her particular skill set in the vampire court and her first week goes well, until the vampire king decides she needs the comfort of a warm shifter next to her at night.
Dragon shifter Rigeck has come to see the woman his friend wants him to heat up. The shy miss surrounded by salivating potential suitors is just what he’s been looking for. Her blood will confirm if his instincts are correct. But first, he’ll taste the rest of her, for his own entertainment.
Will their one night together be enough to keep him from taking her to his lair, or will instinct win the day?
Lela felt a sense of unease as the door opened. Cool night air cascaded through the hall until it crept up her skirt.
“Lela? My love? Are you up?”
Relief flickered through her as she heard her husband’s voice. “I am in the morning room, Fonso.”
She looked toward the door, and he was illuminated by the flames in the fireplace. She could smell the alcohol on him, and his staggered steps made her sigh in resignation. Married only three months, he still sought out the local tavern more than he did her bed.
“I need you now, love.”
She doubted he would be capable, but she put her sewing aside and rose to her feet. “Come to bed.”
He moved with incredible speed. “No. Now.”
Lela squeaked in surprise as he pinned her to the wall near the fireplace. His hand clawed at her skirt and he forced himself past her resistance, pounding against her in a fever of motion.
Lela ignored the discomfort and tried to sooth her husband by stroking his head and neck as he thrust into her. Instead of the heat which normally filled his body with each rock of his hips, he was getting colder.
The scent of blood filled the air, and it was not from his rough treatment of her; she saw the slow flow pumping out of the two puncture marks in his neck.
He looked at her, and she saw the red flames flickering in his eyes. “One last time, Lela.”
He shuddered and arched against her, throwing his head back and showing his newly lengthened teeth.
Tears in her eyes streaked down her cheeks as she drew back her hand and snapped his head back. He dropped like a stone and she scrambled free of him, his seed trailing down her thighs under her skirt, cold and icy.
Lela flipped her sewing chair and pulled out the two silver blades her mother had gifted her with on her wedding day. In no nightmare had Lela ever imagined using them against her husband.
“Lela, Lela, my dear gypsy bride. You don’t think I married you to have your blood mix with mine in my children, now did you? You were always destined for sacrifice.”
She held the blades down at her sides in the folds of her skirts and watched him straighten his head and stand up with an unnatural motion.
He turned toward her, his golden hair ruffled and his amber eyes glowing with red fire where his soul should have been. “Ah, gypsy blood is strong. The best thing for one of my kind to start their new life on is gypsy blood.”
“I am your wife.”
“And yet another reason you have to die, Lela. The wedding was only to keep you with me while I waited for my master to consummate the change. I cannot be a rising vampire with a living relative. Not in today’s age of vampire politics where everyone watches for weakness. I am afraid your bloodless body will be thrown from the parapet. Your awkward life as a filthy gypsy amongst good people will have become too much for you and no one will mourn.” He stepped toward her in a rush.
When he caught her in his arms, two blades stopped him. He staggered back and she cut his face, slicing her fear and devastation into his flesh.
She kept cutting, working at him until he was on the floor in a quivering heap. “You never could stand to go up against a prepared opponent. You will leave me alone and I will sign an annulment. We have no children and the local priest is carrying it with him. It will be done before I leave town, but do not think you can ever take my blood.”
The handsome man that had swept her off her feet lay there hissing and twisting as his skin reformed with red welts where the silver had burned him. She pressed the heel of her boot into his palm and stripped off the wedding band that her family had offered him.
“Tell me now that you will never seek out me and mine and I will give you what you need.”
He blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“To gain your position, to fix your change, you need to consume gypsy blood. I will give you what you need and leave it in a goblet next to the fire. What you tell your sire is up to you.”
“You would do that for me?”
“I would do it to cut ties between us. Swear it. You will never come after me or mine.”
“I will never come after you or yours.”
She nodded and sliced him a few more times, running to their chamber to gather what she could. Jewels, clothing and a set of pistols were tucked away before she returned to the morning room where he was staggering to his feet.
Lela set a goblet down and sliced her left palm, bleeding into the cup until it was full. She bound her wound and faced Alfonso’s hungry expression. “Take it and never speak my name again.”
He dove for the cup. She escaped the house through the underground tunnels; the sire would have put watchers on their house.
The sudden flare and flicker of light behind her told her what she needed to know. Her home was gone and he was hiding the fact that she was not.
The flames made her smile through the tears of disappointment. She had imagined a life with him, a family, and he had only wanted her as a sacrifice. Lela looked around at the empty marshlands and closed her eyes, finding her family. They would not take her in as a member now that she had broken with them, but they would protect her and let her live on the outskirts of their caravan.
She would start her life anew as a pariah, but she would be alive.
Zora has hidden her special abilities throughout her life. But when notes kept by a relative come into the possession of someone who uses her to save himself, Zora finds herself a “guest” of the vampire king. But when a party leads her to a night of passion, Zora’s life changes for the better or is it?
Under His Claw is by Viola Grace is a nice quick read. Zora has hidden in plain sight for years. Rigeck wasn’t expecting what he found in Zora after a night of passion. Both Zora and Rigeck found unexpected emotions and after a quick getaway, they must learn to live together. Or do they? Rigeck knows needs Zora more than she needs him but he wants her to stay because she wants to. Can he convince her to trust in him? I really enjoyed Zora and Rigeck. Zora is a practical woman who understood not only herself but also her priorities. Even though she was relatively inexperienced she felt something for Rigeck and wanted to see where it could go, but was she ready to trust him with everything she is? I also enjoyed Rigeck. He wanted a future with Zora that was more than he had seen in the relationships of other dragon. I loved how he seduced Zora using more than just his body and hers as well. Rigeck saw more than Zora’s abilities. He saw a future and was willing to do whatever was necessary to have Zora forever. I thought Ms. Grace gave us a well-articulated story. It was quick but did not feel rushed. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and hope to read more in this world in the future.
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