The Trail of Roses

an excerpt



Chapter One


Why are we here again?

"Explain to me why we're here again?" Chris complained for the umpteenth time in as many minutes.

Benj pinched the bridge of his nose to disguise the fact he was trying not to laugh at his lover's annoyance. "Babe, you know why we're here. We're following the bleeding trail of red roses--whatever the hell that's even supposed to be. You know we're trying to find Michaela and Vladimir. We've been trying to find them for months now."

"No. I know that part. I mean, explain to me why we've been stuck with these two flipping idiots for the last three damn months? What the hell was Michael thinking? They're driving me bloody insane. If they don't shut up, I might actually commit murder." Chris sounded exasperated as he pointed in the direction where Maffa and Keely were once again bickering like children.

Benj snorted. "No clue. Maybe Michael's testing our strength or taking bets on whether or not we'll kill one or both of them. Hell, for all we know he sent them along because he was tired of listening to them constantly arguing at home. You want me to put them both out of their misery, just to save you the headache, Babe?"

Chris rolled his eyes, and Benj had to turn away so he didn't lose it. Chris's voice was more than a tad ticked off when he spoke. "Do you honestly think Jaffa would let us off his brother? That bloody wolf would tear us limb from limb if Maffa got hurt."

"Actually, some days, I reckon he'd pay us to take the guy out of the picture." Benj chuckled. "Charm, on the other hand, would rip our hearts out through our arses," he ended on a shudder. Charm had become very protective of their extended family since she was now mated to The Alpha.

Their conversation stopped when they heard Maffa swearing loudly as he stormed toward them with Keely following closely behind, cackling like a loon.

"I'm going to kill him. I'm going to off his silly arse and hide the body in a remote spot so no one will ever find it," Maffa ranted.

"Does this mean you don't love me anymore?" Keely pouted innocently.

Maffa spun around and glared at the fey. "Get the hell away from me. You're more annoying than Gypsy when she's in a pissy mood."

Keely giggled. "I guess I must be doing something right. After all, she did give me permission to keep an eye on you to make sure you stay on track and not get side-tracked by some cute twink."

Maffa threw his hands in the air. "How many times do I have to tell you, I'm not gay! Never have been, never going to be. Why can't you get it through your head and leave me the fuck alone?"

"Where's the fun in leaving you alone?" Keely waggled his eyebrows. "Annoying you every day is the highlight of this whole mission."

"Remind me to knock Gypsy on her arse when we get home," Maffa snarled.

Benj shook his head at the fey's antics. "Maybe you should lay off a little before you get decked as well."

"Aww, Benj, I'm only playing around." Keely grinned, and Benj wished he was more like Gypsy and could knock him upside the head. He mentally slapped himself. What the hell was he thinking? According to their past lives, they were once the same person. Reaching out, he cuffed Keely.

"Hey! What did I do?" Keely groused, rubbing where he'd been hit.

Benj stared at him pointedly. "You're giving Babe a headache, so knock this shit off. We have a job to do, and we won't get anywhere if you keep taking the piss out of Maffa."

"Geez, it's getting to be so a guy can't have fun anymore. Way to be a buzz kill. God, you remind me of Gypsy sometimes." Keely scowled at them all, before something akin to hurt washed over his features.

The look on Keely's face almost had Benj feeling sorry for the guy. In his capacity of being his and Chris's bodyguard, Keely was having to schlep himself all over the countryside in search of the burial chambers of two vampires who were currently supposed to be in some kind of stasis to keep them alive. The reality was, they were all in the same boat. He also knew Keely and his siblings held themselves responsible, because it was their father who had made the deal with Doyle in his past life to become the family's protectors.

"Okay, how about we find a place to hole up for the night? We'll go and get something to eat and figure out what our next step is going to be. Who knew there were so many bollocking cemeteries around the place for us to have to search?" Benj asked, trying to direct everyone's thoughts back to the job at hand.

Maffa shook his head. "We don't really need a plan, do we? All we have to do is check all the damn graveyards in the area and see if any of the tombs are covered in roses. I just hope it's a tomb and not a grave. I don't think we could get away with exhuming a coffin without some official documentation, and believe me that won't be easy to obtain without good reason."

"I'm starving. How about we get Chinese food tonight. I could do with some chili beef noodles and fried rice," Chris mused out loud.

Benj listened to Chris talk and chuckled as his own stomach rumbled in full agreement. His mouth watered at the thought of honey chicken with sesame seeds, but right now they needed to get off the street and regroup. "Why don't we see if the caravan park has a cabin we can rent for the night? It'll be easier than being in another motel. More privacy, and less chance of being overheard if people are passing by."

If at all possible, Benj had to figure out a way to get Keely to stop stirring Maffa up, before the wolf actually did take the fey out of the picture. Truthfully, the two of them bickering all the time was doing Benj's head in. Why was it so hard for them to get along?

Benj was so used to being the leader of his own coven, where the members followed him without question. This current scouting team he was leading, however, had all given their loyalty to someone else, so they treated him more like a teammate than a leader. Hell, Maffa and Keely weren't even vampires like he and Chris, though being an English vampire hadn't stopped Chris from vowing his allegiance to Mikey as well. Sometimes that hurt, considering Chris was his soulmate... What really chapped his arse was the fact Chris and Mikey had once been in an intimate relationship. He tried not to let that aspect of Chris's life get to him, but sometimes when he saw them talking and he saw the love -- even if it had changed -- still there between them, in those moments, jealousy slammed into him like the green-eyed bitch it was. Deep down, he knew it was all his fault. If he'd chased after Chris way back in the beginning, their lives would have been so different. Chris often told him all things happened for a reason, so their time at being together had to be put on hold, and he shouldn't worry about why he had chosen to do things the way he had so long ago, yet still he agonised he'd somehow fucked it all up.

"Remind me to call home when we get settled in for the night," Chris said as he bumped shoulders with Benj. "I want to hear if Michael and Gyps have found any new clues for us. More to the point, if Doyle has had any revealing dreams lately. I don't mind telling you Sweetness is starting to freak me out a tad. Everyone always thought I was strange, but I've got nothing on Sweetness, and his powers seem to be growing stronger with every day that passes. I wonder if when Venetia had him, she somehow changed him."

Benj totally agreed with Chris. For someone people wouldn't have looked at Doyle twice because he seemed so normal, yet Sweetness was fast becoming the weirdest person in their hodgepodge of a family. He also believed Doyle was in fact one of the smartest of them all. Maybe it was because as the wolves stated, he was an omega and could manipulate the emotions of others, even if most of the time he didn't have a clue he was doing it. That's what made it dangerous--not only for Doyle, but for the family that stood between him and anyone out to steal an omega, and lately there seemed to be more and more assailants cropping up. His thoughts were interrupted when Maffa spoke.

"The caravan park has only one cabin free, but it does have two bedrooms, so we'll have to double up," Maffa said. He had a pained look on his face, and Benj wondered if it was because he realised, he'd be the one sharing with Keely.

"Then you go and get the keys. Chris and I'll go and get the food. Tell me what you want." Benj made notes on his phone as he took their orders. Once done, they split into pairs, then went their separate ways. Benj was glad to be away from Keely, if only for an hour or so. He didn't actually dislike the guy--the problem was Keely never knew when to shut up. Maybe he could talk Mikey into sending Keely with one of the other scouting parties so they could have a break. He swore Kelley Stevenos would be able to talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles and not miss a beat. He was always so full of energy and constantly on the go.

Right now, he wished he was the one back at home dealing with everyday coven shit instead of searching for a niece and nephew he couldn't even remember. God, he sounded like an arsehole right now. He also knew if Mikey had his way, their jobs would be reversed, but after a full coven-pack-fey meeting, it was decided Michael and Doyle would be the main targets for anyone stupid enough to come after them, so as a whole they voted Michael and Doyle needed to stay close to home until they figured out exactly what was heading their way, especially seeing as Mikey was again having a gut feeling that someone filled with malice was watching them all. It only backed up what Blake's informant had told them, which had been that things hadn't ended when Heather died. Venetia might have gone into hiding for now, but it would only be a matter of time before she built up her forces and struck again.

****

Following after Keely was a task all on its own. All Maffa wanted to do was kick the fey up the arse just to get the guy to shut the hell up. If the guy pushed any more of his buttons, he was going to gag him. Was it too much to ask for a moment's peace and quiet? Three months, they had been traipsing from arsehole to breakfast in search of something they didn't have a hope in hell of finding until it was damn well good and ready to come to light again, and he had to put up with this pint-sized shit trying to annoy the fuck out of him--and damned if it wasn't working...fuck it.

Really the guy wasn't all bad. In fact, he was quite funny most of the time, but right now all Maffa wanted to do was go home. They'd been gone for too long, and he had people there he needed to check on. He wondered if Keely would shut up if he paid him. Maffa shook his head, even sleep couldn't keep the fey quiet. They had shared a room more than once before. As irritating as the guy got, Maffa knew Keely had lived through a shit of a life before he and his siblings had broken away and started out on their own. Not that any of the Stevenos family would admit exactly what they had endured in the past.

****

Michael had a headache. Not the kind associated with someone performing magic on him. This one was all due to the fact that someone was again stirring up discord within the family, and for the life of him he couldn't figure out who it was. Soon it could very well be that the pack and the coven couldn't even share the same room without punches being thrown. Everyone was fair game, except apparently Sweetness, who was still coveted by all. Michael, along with Doyle, Franklin, Drusilla, Blake, Gypsy, Kerr, Jaffa, Charm, Kallan, and Trenchill were putting out feelers, but so far, they were coming up against a solid brick wall.

No one was talking.

Lately, Michael found himself doing more and more astral wandering among those who lived on the farm. Luckily for him, not many people knew of his ability. Was it an invasion of privacy? Damn straight it was, but when it came to the safety of his people all bets were off. When he finally found out who was the threat, they would be dealt with harshly. No one deceived his family without paying the penalty for being a traitor. The sad part was, when it happened -- and it was going to happen -- it would devastate them all. He just knew it, because it was going to be the last person they expected--it usually was.

"Michael, Jaffa called and wants to set up another meeting." Doyle sighed, and Michael understood just how he felt.

"He wants us down there now, doesn't he?" When Doyle nodded, Michael got to his feet and stretched. "Come on, let's get this over and done with."

Doyle frowned at him. "You've been peeking in on the others again, haven't you? You look worn out and tired as all shit."

"I need to find out who's behind all the crap going on. The sooner we deal with it, the sooner we can get back to what's important." Michael took hold of Doyle's hand as they left their house and walked the short distance to the pack residence. Maybe it had been a mistake to integrate all the different species in one area, but back in the beginning it had seemed like a blessing. An easier way to keep them all safe. Now, it just seemed like the mother of all clusterfucks waiting to happen.

The tension in the pack house was thick when they entered through the kitchen door. Michael sighed as they made their way to the office. He knocked once out of courtesy before pushing the door open and entering. He wasn't surprised to find everyone already there waiting for them. Half of the people in the room already looked pissed off as all get-go. What the hells happened now?

"Okay, what's happened now?" Michael asked as he sat on the couch and pulled Doyle down onto his lap. He needed Sweetness close if he was to have at least some chance of remaining stress-free.

Jaffa sat behind his desk and snarled angrily. "A group of wolves beat up William and Deacon Anderson."

"What? Why? When?" What fucking else could possibly go wrong? Michael exhaled loudly and hugged Doyle closer to him. It was amazing how Sweetness could calm him without even saying a word.

"Last night, Finn came tearing into the house and sounded the alarm. By the time we made it back to the fight, the wolves were gone. I didn't recognise their scent," Jaffa answered.

"So not only do we have an attack. We also have strangers on our lands. Did you even know there was another pack in the area?" Doyle asked.

Jaffa shook his head. "No, and by all rights, they should have presented themselves to me upon entering my territory. They should have asked for the customary five days grace, but I never heard from them at all. I've already sent word to the council. They're sending out a representative to try and get to the bottom of this. This sort of shit has to end."

"Which is pissing you off more--William and Deacon being attacked, strangers invading our lands, or the council sending out a representative to deal with something we should be able to do ourselves?" Michael asked pointedly.

"How are Deacon and William doing?" Doyle asked, and Michael felt guilty he hadn't. Their welfare should have been the first thing to cross his mind.

Ever since they had found out there was another traitor, the group assembled had sworn between them it was going to be the truth and nothing but the truth. They would never sort anything out if they were constantly hiding things from each other. Not that Michael was ever any good at keeping secrets. Especially, since now Gypsy, Benj, Doyle, and Chris could easily waltz right into his mind and take a look-see at whatever took their fancy. In fact, he realised early on they were keeping tabs on him as he kept track of everyone else at the farm. He understood they were making sure he didn't overdo things. By the way Gypsy was glaring at him, she knew he'd overtaxed himself today. Focusing back on Jaffa, Michael concentrated on what the man had to say.

"The Anderson boys will survive. Lucky for us, they're tougher than they look. Mainly, it's just bruises and scrapes. They'll want revenge though." Jaffa answered Doyle first before turning to Michael and adding, "All three. If the wolves who attacked Deacon and Will are rogue, it'll be up to my pack to call a hunt on them and take them out. With the councillor coming, it could mean we could be stuck with him or her permanently if the council deems it necessary."

"Do you know who the council is sending?" Michael asked, and when Jaffa shook his head, Michael went on, "Well, I hope they're gay friendly. I won't have a spy coming in and making even more waves. We have enough tension here as it is."

"I think this will be a good thing for us," Doyle said matter-of-factly.

Turning Sweetness in his lap, Michael wanted to be able to see his husband's face as he asked him. "What do you mean?"

"I think we need to get Maffa back to the estate. He should be the liaison between us and the representative." Doyle shrugged. "Just do it. You know I'm going to be right. Send Trenchill and Jaxon out to replace Maffa and Keely. We'll eventually be sending Keely back to England. He'll be able to fill Asher and Varnos in on what's happening here. I think Rickard will be suitable to help Maffa with the council representative."

"Will Keely go to England soon?" Jaffa asked.

Michael smiled at how no one ever questioned Doyle anymore when he said something was going to happen. Gypsy had often referred to Sweetness as their own personal magic eight ball. In a way it was true; it was scary just how accurate Doyle was getting with his predictions.

"Not right away, I don't think. We'll have to get as much information together as we can to send with him," Doyle answered. "I think going to England will be good for Keely."

"Why Keely?" Drusilla asked with a tilt of her head.

Michael didn't believe Doyle would tell her. Doyle always said things had to unfold at the right time, finding them out any earlier would only stuff everything up and put them off track.

"It has to be Keely. He'll tell you when the time is right. I'm not even sure he knows the why of it all yet." Doyle shook his head. "I think he'll be there for Christmas this year, so we have a bit of time up our sleeves."

Confusion filled Michael. Would it take them nine months to figure everything out, or would Keely be travelling back and forth between Australia and England for the rest of the year? He supposed he'd find out when the rest of them did. Later, he'd take a time out with Sweetness and see if he could coax more information out of his husband. Somehow, he doubted very much that it was going to work.

"When is the council rep turning up?" Gypsy asked. She didn't seem too happy about the prospect of their arrival. Maybe it was just a wolf thing, but knowing Gypsy it was because she didn't play well with others.

"The council secretary told me we should expect the rep in two days." Jaffa stared right at Michael when he next spoke, "So we need to figure out how we want to work this. Do we let the rep have free reign, or do we steer them in the direction we want them to go?"

"You better get used to the rep being at the farm. I think the person they send will be here to stay," Doyle said with a half-smile.

Jaffa frowned at Doyle. "Is the rep Maffa's or Rickard's mate...or both?"

"I think so, but I won't be sure until I see them in the same room." Again, Doyle shrugged. "And you can't say anything to either of them. You know Maffa's a spaz when he gets nervous. He'll only stuff it up if he's given a heads up."

"That's for damn sure." Charm chuckled and lightly slapped Jaffa on the arm. "Better to let him figure it out for himself. We'll just watch from the sidelines to make sure he doesn't screw it up too badly. Only step in if he fucks up. Though he might have a problem with the whole his mate being male thing. He's always been adamant he's straight."

"Same thing Mikey thought," Gypsy said with a grin, "and boy was he wrong."

Michael rolled his eyes at both girls' antics. "Maybe we should let Maffa be. Not everyone needs or wants your help."

"Like we left you alone?" Gypsy snorted. "Without our interference you and Doyle would still be apart. You needed us, and so does Maffa. Besides, he's my sire and I'm allowed to interfere as much as I want."

"Gypsy Rose Marsden," Michael drew out the words, showing his exasperation at his sister.

"Michael Alexander Marsden," she threw right back at him in the same drawn out way. "What's your problem? If you look at it logically, this is a shifter thing, and you, my dear Mikey, may be a king, but you are definitely not a shifter. What happens in the shifter world is none of your business."

"It's that mindset which got us into the trouble we're in now. We have to work out a way to be a cohesive unit before what's going on turns into a full-on interspecies war." Doyle fell silent for a moment before he added, "Maybe we could somehow use to our advantage the strange wolves coming here as a way to bring all of us together--protect our own from the outsiders. Not because I want us beating up every stranger we come across, but it might make us more protective as a whole of the family we have."

Gypsy shook her head at Doyle's suggestion.

"We need to tighten our ranks. The shifters can look after our own." As she spoke, she glared in Michael's direction.

Now, Michael knew his sister was just being stubborn. That, or she was itching to have a fight with him--again. Considering it was Gypsy, either was a definite possibility. Doyle chuckled from his seat on Michael's lap, and the vibration permeated Michael's body and settled in his balls. He knew everyone would be able to scent his arousal, but funnily enough he didn't care one iota. The more Doyle squirmed in his lap, the more Michael believed his lover was well aware of what he was doing, and the reaction it was having on him.

"Are we about done here?" Michael asked as he got Doyle to stand up. He knew everyone was going to be able to see the evidence of his hard-on, but right now he was more interested in getting his lover back to their house, stripped naked, and into bed. Preferably with the door locked, and no interruptions.

Jaffa gave a curt nod, and Michael bit back a grin at how the alpha was gazing lustily at his mate. If he wasn't mistaken, he and Doyle wouldn't be the only ones getting their freak on later.

Before leaving, Michael focused on his sister. "Gyps, if you really need to slug it out, meet me under Haven at nine tonight. We won't come in until one or both of us are bleeding." Kerr's rumbling laughter followed them out of the room.

Michael left, yanking Doyle after him. Once they cleared the house, he pulled Doyle onto his back and raced home, not stopping until they were safely enclosed in their room. He dumped a giggling Doyle onto the bed and soon followed him down. He didn't even give the man time to speak before he was claiming his mouth in a demanding kiss. All the while, he was completely aware how Doyle started removing their clothing--at least they were on the same page.

"Hold on," Michael spoke as soon as he ended the kiss. Pushing himself up and off the bed, he dragged Doyle with him. "First one naked gets to do the fucking."

He barked out a laugh as Doyle hurriedly undressed, throwing his clothes in wild abandon, and apparently not caring where everything wound up. He was completely nude before Michael had even gotten his shirt off. Michael didn't mind in the least. If the truth be known, he very much enjoyed each and every time Doyle filled him. When his own clothes were gone, Michael crawled onto the bed and looked over his shoulder at the love of his life. "How do you want me?"

"Just as you are. Don't move. I want to taste you."

Michael groaned in want at the thought of Doyle rimming him. The man could work wonders with his tongue. If he played his cards right, Doyle would have him screaming to the rafters. Thank God they had splurged on soundproofing the bedrooms. Vampires, fey, and shifters had way too good hearing not to. A shiver spiralled around the length of his spine at the first delving touch. "Fuck! Feels so good, Sweetness."

His words only seemed to spur Doyle on. Heat washed over him as his body was breached. Michael pushed back into the invasion, relishing in every single second of the sensual onslaught. "That's it...add some fingers. Love it when you stretch me out for your cock."

"Keep talking like that and I'm going to fuck you hard and fast. You'll be feeling me for days." Doyle ended by giving Michael's arse cheek a little nip.

Michael nodded rapidly. "Yes, hard and fast. Pound me through the mattress. Shove it in me nice and deep." He knew the more he rambled in lust, the more Doyle was going to do his very best to deliver on everything Michael was suggesting...it was a tried and true method to their lovemaking.

"Shut up." Doyle slapped his arse. "Who's running this show, me or you?"

"You, Sweetness, always you. You make me feel so good." Michael whimpered when Doyle rubbed the head of his cock along his crease. His lover was as hard as a rock. Soon his lover's shaft was going to be driven deep inside him, and Michael couldn't wait.

A coolness touched his hole and Michael hummed in bliss as two fingers pushed home. There was nothing better than the feeling of someone you loved bringing you carnal pleasure of any kind. Since regaining his memories, Doyle had excelled in all things of a sexual nature. Gypsy had once commented how maybe Sweetness was making up for lost time. Whatever it was, Michael hoped Doyle never stopped.

Two fingers soon became three and then four. Michael shivered in anticipation of what was to come. He didn't have long to wait before the fingers were soon replaced by his lover's cock. When Doyle grabbed hold of his hips in a manic grip, Michael grinned as Doyle drove deep in one hard thrust. "Fuck me."

Michael had no doubt he wouldn't have to play with himself to get off with the pace Doyle had set. Every second plunge seemed to zone in on his prostate, sending fireworks of desire shooting through his body. Heat rippled within him. Michael clenched his channel in a small attempt to take charge of the situation. In that moment, Doyle yanked him upright until they were both kneeling. Doyle wrapped one arm around him, holding him in place as he used his free hand to pinch Michael's nipple hard and give their connection another added twist of pleasure.

"I'm in charge," Doyle hissed in his ear, and it was all Michael needed to topple him over the edge of his ecstasy, screaming his lover's name. His balls tightened and Michael came with such force that his cum hit the headboard. Before he could come down from his high, Doyle sank his fangs into Michael's throat, and wrung another orgasm from him. They collapsed to the bed, both spent and not caring they were all sweaty and in need of a shower. Nothing in that second mattered.

"Give me a minute, and then I want you to do me again." Michael chuckled.

Doyle kissed his shoulder. "Let me rest, and I just might."

****

Alex sat outside Councillor Warner Lyons's office and waited to be called in. He had a gut feeling he'd be sent out on another mission. Not that he was complaining really because he'd been feeling pretty cooped up as of late. The High Council's residence seemed to be becoming stodgy in the past few years. Though with what was happening now it was all hands on deck, and still they seemed to be getting nowhere fast. The world was changing around them and suddenly they had all realised they had to change with it, even if that meant bringing in outsiders to help solve their internal problems. Not that it was something most of the council wanted to hear or admit to. He was a council representative, which meant he went out as liaison between the council and the many packs that occupied the world. He loved what he did. He was good at it. One day if a seat ever became available, he might even get to become a member of the High Council itself. Not that it happened very often, but a representative always had a chance of being called up when a sitting member passed away.

"Alex, come in please." The warmth in Warner's voice was reassuring at least.

He sat in the chair Warner pointed to. "Have I done something wrong?" He thought he better ask the obvious first--just in case he'd unknowingly offended someone. His ocelot had a tendency to piss a few of the other councillors off from time to time.

"No, you haven't done anything that I'm aware of. I would like to send you on an errand of sorts for the council. I have need of someone I trust to go and visit the vampire king. I think you are the exact person for the job, because I need someone who is discreet, and won't get pissed off if the wolves push back."

Alex scoffed. "Me. You have met my cat, right? They push me, and I'll push right the hell back."

"Yes, you will push back, but at least you'll keep a level head while doing it. There have been attacks coming from outside their own pack. Your reason for being there is to look into what's happening."

"But the attacks are not why you really want to send me there, are they?" Alex surmised.

Warner shook his head. "A pack and a coven living together is unique. They intrigue me. I want to know what makes them tick. How can so many species live together without killing each other? Do they all follow the vampire king or still follow their own leaders? I want to know if they have a hidden agenda or if they just see themselves as a big family, like they claim to be."

"And if they are something other than a family?" Alex asked. He needed to know what he was getting into. He didn't want to be the one to start a war.

"For now, we just wait and watch. If the king is genuine, I want to try and get him to accept the position as a High Judge. We need someone who is of fair mind and can see through the bullshit to get the job done."

Alex inhaled deeply. His life was about to become all kinds of complicated, because if he agreed to do the job Warner wanted, it would also lead him on the path of finding his mates, as the seer in his birth pack had predicted. Fate had a funny way leading you where she needed you to be at any given time. Though it was up to you, to do what you will when you got there.

****

Rickard was tired of hiding himself away from the pack and family. Ever since Michael and Gypsy had brought him home with them from England, he'd been keeping to himself, trying to keep out of everyone's way so they weren't constantly reminded that not too long ago he was considered to be one of the enemies. His life had been altered forever the day the others had conspired to bring Gypsy Marsden to the Estate in England. They had used her to draw out Michael and Christian, and in the end, it'd backfired on them, and Rickard couldn't have been happier. It was one of the reasons he'd taken it upon himself to aid Gypsy in any way he could.

Lucio and Venetia had destroyed the integrity of what the Eldren had stood for. Once upon a time, they were set in place to watch over and guard the vampire legions. Then Lucio and Venetia had changed everything and corrupted the very core of who the Eldren had been. Now, wherever he went people looked at him with suspicion. Rickard would have to work hard to prove that he wasn't as evil as his counterparts were. If they trusted him, he knew he could help them so much.

The only ones who didn't treat him as the enemy were the inner circles. Everyone else seemed to give him a wide berth and grumbled at him behind his back. He was sure most of them didn't want him living at the farm with them. The only problem was, since Chris had destroyed the Estate, Rickard really had nowhere else to go. So, the farm was where he had to stay, whether they wanted him there or not. He was smart enough to know he wouldn't last out in the world on his own--not after being locked away at the Estate for so long.

He had promised Gypsy, Michael, and Doyle that he'd try to interact more with the family and pack. They wanted him to learn how to live in the here and now, instead of clinging to the centuries past. He had found himself drawn to one person in particular, but as luck would have it the man in question had been away for so long Rickard was starting to worry that he was never coming home again. Not that it mattered--said man claimed he was straight. Yet, he was always so kind to Rickard whenever they were in the same room. Rickard was getting so many mixed signals, it was confusing as hell, and he had no one to talk to about what was happening.

Sighing, Rickard held his head high as he went out and mixed with the family.

He could do this.