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Provoked Lover by Zenobia RenquistProvoked Lover
Caveat Emptor, Book 3
by Zenobia Renquist

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-663-8

Sicily’s emotions become confused when sex is the price of her vampire’s protection.

After an attack leaves Theron’s allies scattered, Sicily finds herself in the care of Lamon, a vampire who looks like he would rather kill her than protect her.

The unlikely pair must become very close — sexual energy is necessary to disrupt the spell the mages are using to track Sicily.

Emotions become confused as their bodies entwine. Sicily finds herself falling for a man she can’t have… or can she?

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Chapter One

Sicily stared at her phone in disbelief, not believing the number displayed on the caller ID.
Ryver.
She hadn’t heard from Ryver in over a week. That was a big deal for Sicily because of the reports of vampires breaking free of their docility charms and then massacring their human masters. Ryver had purchased a vampire, despite Sicily’s efforts to talk her best friend out of the purchase.
Sicily had never liked the idea of owning a vampire. It was too much like playing with matches while living in a house soaked with gasoline. She didn’t care how safe the mages proclaimed the vampires to be once under the control of the docility charm. Some part of Sicily had always felt the charms would fail. Her worst fears had come true, and her first worry had been Ryver, who had staunchly refused to return her vampire. Only the promise of a daily phone call to assure Ryver’s continued health had kept Sicily from dragging the vampire back to the mages herself.
Then one day, Ryver didn’t call. Sicily could only keep her paranoia at bay twenty-four hours before she was on the phone with the cops. No trace of Ryver could be found, not even foul play. The cops said she had merely left and forgot to call. After a week of Sicily’s incessant phone calls, the cops elevated Ryver’s case to a missing person. Ryver was a vampire owner, so the cops and mages assumed she was dead and her body stuffed in an unmarked grave between here and the vampire territories.
Sicily refused to believe that. She couldn’t believe that. Ryver had to be alive. The fact that her number was appearing on Sicily’s cell proved it.
Sicily pushed the talk button. “Ryver?”
“Sissy!”
“Oh, God, Ryver. It’s good to hear from you.” Sicily felt happy tears spring to her eyes. Ryver was alive. Nothing else mattered except for that.
“I’m sorry, Sissy. I’m sorry. I should have called sooner and let you know I’m safe.”
“Safe where? Where are you?”
There was a pause so long that Sicily thought the call had dropped. She pulled the phone from her ear and looked at the call status. It was still connected. “Ryver, are you still there?”
“I’m here. I’m with Theron in vampire territory.”
All of Sicily’s happy feelings stopped. She asked in a deadpan voice, “What?”
“Don’t worry. I’m safe.”
If Ryver had been standing in front of her, Sicily would have shaken the woman until some sense fell out. “Ryver, are you crazy? How can you think you’re safe?” Sicily didn’t mean to yell, but that was the only volume that would come out of her mouth.
“I am. Theron is with me.”
“So what?”
“Sissy, there’s something I didn’t tell you before.” Ryver sighed into the phone. “When the charms started failing, Theron’s did too.”
“I knew it. I knew it.” Being right didn’t make Sicily feel better. “What did he do to you?”
Again there was a long silence. Ryver made a surprised squeak before Sicily could think the call might have cut off. Sicily couldn’t interpret the sound or guess what had caused it. “Ryver?”
“Anyway, I’m safe with Theron. I need your help, though.”
“You want me to call the cops?” Sicily already had her hand on her landline phone. She had the detective assigned to Ryver’s case on speed dial.
“No. Nothing like that. I need some way to remove Theron’s charm.”
The urge to shake Ryver returned. Sicily settled on squeezing the phone. “Why in the hell would you want to remove the docility charm? If it’s still working, make him bring you home.”
Sicily would have said more but the sudden appearance of five robe-clad men in her living room gave her pause. She looked at each of the men in turn. She tried to ask them what they were doing in her house but no sound left her lips. Several attempts ended with similar results.
The men’s sudden appearance, and her inability to make any sound to alert Ryver or anyone else of this intrusion, panicked Sicily. She tried to scream. That didn’t work, so she stopped after the first few seconds of nothing.
On the phone, Ryver said in a rush, “Sissy, I know this is all weird to you, and you probably don’t believe me, but I’m perfectly safe with Theron. I want to set him free. I was hoping you could help. Didn’t you say you dated a mage back in college?”
Sicily tried to tell Ryver that she had more pressing problems than Theron and his stupid docility charm. When her mouth still refused to make sound, she tried to end the call. Sicily thought Ryver was crazy for willingly consorting with a vampire — and Sicily still had doubts about the willing part — but Sicily wouldn’t let the mages get her. Her fingers refused to move, which meant she couldn’t push the end button or toss away the phone.
Ryver asked, “Sissy?”
Sicily found her mouth moving of its own accord. “I’m still here. Yes, I dated a mage in college, but I haven’t talked to him since we broke up.”
Those weren’t her words. Sicily couldn’t stop the words from being spoken or say more to warn Ryver that Sicily wasn’t the one talking.
“Oh.”
“I am friends with another mage, however. You’re in luck, since he happens to be a vampire sympathizer.”
“You never mentioned him before.”
“You never mentioned your vampire was loose.” Sicily wanted to snort at that flippant response. It was something she would actually say, and might have said if she had control of her mouth.
Ryver gave a nervous laugh. “That’s true.”
“I’ll give him a call, ask him about the charm and then call you back. Okay? You’re going to stay by the phone, right?”
“Yes. I’ll be right here. Thanks, Sissy.”
“No problem. Bye.” Sicily pushed the end button, again moving against her will.
Obviously the mages surrounding her were the culprits. She glared at the man standing directly in front of her.
He nodded to her and said, “I am Mage Lord Quincy. These other fellows are my associates. Your mention of removing the docility charm alerted us to you.”
Sicily had heard rumors that the mages monitored the phones. Now she had proof. If she lived past this encounter, she would blast the Internet with the news.
Quincy said, “Your friend has been led astray by vampiric suggestion. We can help her.”
“How?” Sicily gasped in surprise at being able to talk again. “I can talk.”
One of the other mages said, “We had to command your voice and body for a short time. It was necessary to keep you from alerting your friend to our presence. The puppet spell is now ended.”
Sicily snapped, “You shouldn’t have done it at all.”
Quincy said, “That is in the past. We plan to help your friend by rescuing her from the vampires.” He twirled his hand, making a round jewel appear on his palm, and held it out to her. “This is what your friend requires to remove the docility charm. Once it is removed, it will transport you and your friend back here.”
She didn’t want to take it. No one had ever accused Sicily of being naïve or gullible. She didn’t believe for a second that these five mages had entered her house without permission, after spying on her conversation, just to help out Ryver and her vampire.
She stepped back while shaking her head. “Not going to happen.”
Quincy said, “Such a pity. I thought we could do this the easy way.”
Two of the other mages pointed at her.
Sicily had turned to run away when her whole body seized up, the feeling of tiny electric shocks running up and down her spine. Fear of what the men were doing to her made her whimper.
The shocks soon ended, and she faced the mages instead of running away, which was the opposite of what she wanted to do. She couldn’t make her body obey again.
Quincy said, “This is a more long-term version of the puppet spell that my associate used earlier. It will ensure that you deliver this to your friend.” He held out the jewel once more.
To her dismay, Sicily took it and held the jewel close to her chest.
“Now, then. You will call your friend back and tell her you have this jewel. Either she and the vampire will come to you, or they will send someone to take you to them. All you need do is hand the jewel to your friend.”
“I won’t,” Sicily said through her clenched teeth. It took a lot of willpower to utter even that much.
The mages looked at one another and then back at Sicily. They looked surprised.
Quincy gave her a knowing smile. “I see you have a little magical talent, but it makes no difference. You will do as you’re told. Only your friend can do it, because the charm is registered to her. She must hold the jewel against the charm, which will remove it.”
Sicily snapped, “What else will it do?”
No answer was forthcoming, because the mages disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Sicily found she was able to move once the last mage left. She immediately tossed out her hand to throw away the jewel. Her hand lost momentum mid-throw and then dropped limp to her side. Her body still wasn’t her own. She had curled her fingers around the jewel to keep it against her palm and hadn’t even noticed until she looked at her hand.
It didn’t matter. The stupid thing would just be stuck to her palm until the end of time. She refused to give it to Ryver.
The sound of her cell phone beeping made her look down. Her hand was dialing Ryver’s number. She tried to drop the phone, but her hand wouldn’t obey her. She lifted it to her ear.
Ryver came on the line. “Sissy?”
“It’s me.” Sicily fought to drop the phone or warn Ryver of the danger. She couldn’t do either. It was enough to make her grit her teeth, but she couldn’t even do that for very long because the puppet spell made her speak in a normal voice. “I have the removal jewel. My friend transported it to me. He said you have to be the one to use it since the charm is registered to you and there won’t be a mage present. He doubted the vampires would want him there. Now how do I get it to you?”
“Lamon will transport you here. He’s Theron’s second-in-command, so you can trust him.”
“Is he cute?”
“Sissy. You don’t like vampires, remember?”
“I can change my mind if he’s as cute as Theron.”
The friendly banter tore at Sicily’s heart. Everything she said was something she would say if her friend’s life wasn’t in danger.
Ryver’s laughter only made Sicily want to cry. It couldn’t happen like this. Sicily had to do something. Anything. She concentrated. The mages said she had some magical ability. That had to mean something.
She only managed to pull the phone away from her ear. She couldn’t lower it or even drop it.
Ryver said, “He’ll be there when the sun sets. Be ready. I’ll call you right before he leaves.”
“I’ll be here.”
“Thank you, Sissy. Thank you so much. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“That’s what best friends are for. I’ll see you soon.”
Sicily ended the call. Only then could she drop the phone. She fell to her knees, completely exhausted. She couldn’t believe how hard it had been to simply take the phone from her ear. Sicily thought back on all the times her family had urged her toward mage training and all the times Sicily had brushed off the suggestions. Now she wished she had at least taken the basics course. It probably wouldn’t have done any good, though. Not against these mages.
Ryver. Something would happen to Ryver once she got the jewel. Sicily couldn’t let Ryver have it. She couldn’t. She also didn’t know how to stop it.
Wait.
Theron’s man was coming to the house. Sicily just had to not be there.
She jumped to her feet and ran for the door. Her hand ran into some sort of barrier when she reached for the knob. She decided to try the back door but couldn’t leave the entryway. The same invisible barrier had her trapped. Tracing her hand around the edge of the barrier revealed the space was five by five.
All she needed was a set of bars and a crappy cot to make the prison complete. Instead, she got a cold tile floor and a mirror that reflected the hopeless expression on her face. Frustrated tears rimmed her light brown eyes. If her mascara wasn’t waterproof, it would be staining her high cheekbones blue.
She smoothed her hand over her spiral-curled black hair, patting down a few flyaway hairs. The urge to mess up her hair and clothes came over her. Her friends knew Sicily liked to keep her size fourteen, hourglass curves looking presentable at all times. She had her days as a plus-sized model to thank for that particular personality quirk. Sicily could show up mussed, and Ryver would know something was very wrong.
The second Sicily had the idea her hand dropped to her side. She couldn’t move it. She sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes. If she ever met these mages again, she planned to hurt them.
All she could do was stand there for the next three hours and watch the sun set. It was the most excruciating thing she had ever done in her life, not only because she was waiting to kill her friend but because her feet and legs hurt from standing in her low heels all that time.
Her cell phone rang. It sounded like a death knell. Again her body moved of its own accord. “Hello?”
Ryver, no! Run! Don’t send him. Please, just run.
Sicily screamed the words in her head but they wouldn’t reach Ryver unless Sicily said them aloud. She couldn’t.
Ryver said, “He’s on his way.”
A six foot tall, tanned Asian man Sicily could only assume was Lamon appeared in her living room a second later. She had to admit, he was good looking, with his straight black hair hanging loose so it brushed his sculpted chest. Normally a man this fit and handsome would have Sicily acting like a giggly teenager. All she saw was the ride to her friend’s execution.
She said, “He’s here.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
“Yup.” Sicily ended the call and set the phone aside. The puppet spell was in full force, making her smile at her guest. “Thanks for coming for me.”
Lamon said in a curt voice, “You have the jewel, correct?”
She showed it to him.
“Let’s go, then.” He held out his hand to her.
Sicily put her hand in his and squeezed his fingers as tight as she could.
“Don’t worry, human. It won’t hurt.”
No. That wasn’t why she was gripping his hand. She wanted him to notice her weird behavior and decide to leave her there. But he wouldn’t know her behavior was weird since he didn’t know her. They both started glowing.
Suddenly Sicily stood in a wide, beautiful house decked out in marble and polished brass. It had to be bright brass. There was no way it was gold. She couldn’t help the whistle that left her lips. No wonder Ryver said she was fine. Theron was rich.
“Sissy!”
Sicily faced Ryver in time to catch the woman as she flung herself down the stairs. Lamon backed up a few steps, giving them room. Sicily returned Ryver’s hug, holding her as tight as she could.
Ryver would feel the fear in Sicily and know something was wrong. Except that didn’t happen. Ryver pulled back and gave Sicily a sad smile. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“What’s wrong? You sounded so happy earlier.” Those words were Sicily’s. She was beginning to understand the puppet spell. So long as she didn’t try to alert someone to the coming danger, she could move and act the way she wanted.
If she could figure out a way to warn Ryver and the others without triggering the spell, then disaster could be averted.
Ryver said, “I’m fine. I’m just trying not to cry all over you. That’s all.”
Sicily stepped back and held out the jewel. “This is what you wanted.”
“How does it work?”
“All you have to do is hold it against the charm. The jewel does the rest.”
“Okay.” Ryver faced Theron and then made her way over to him. Her movements were stiff and hesitant. Not at all like a woman who was eager to set her lover free.
Sicily wanted to cry out for Ryver to stop, not only to stave off whatever the mages had planned but because Ryver was obviously reluctant. If Ryver was having second thoughts, Sicily didn’t want Ryver to go through with it.
Ryver stopped in front of Theron and looked up at him. “Ready?”
Theron said in a gruff voice, “Do it.”
Ryver placed the jewel against the charm, and Sicily cringed internally, waiting for what would come next. An explosion? Theron turning to dust? She didn’t know, but she knew she and Ryver wouldn’t live past it. If the thing the mages had planned didn’t kill them, then the vampires surely would.
A soft pop made Sicily jump. She held her breath for what would come next.
Theron said as he touched the spot where his charm had been, “I’m free.”
Ryver returned to Sicily and handed over the jewel.
Sicily stared at it in confusion. She didn’t get it. Had the mages really wanted Theron to be free? That didn’t make any sense. Generally mages wanted all vampires enslaved or dead. How had Sicily been lucky enough to meet up with a batch of mages who actually wanted to help?
Easy answer — she hadn’t. A tingling started in her hands where they cupped the jewel. Her full attention was for the jewel and the tiny sparks of lightning in its interior. White noise filled her ears, drowning out all else.
It was happening. Whatever the mages had planned had started the second Ryver gave the jewel back to Sicily. If Ryver had kept the stupid thing or thrown it out the nearest window, this wouldn’t be happening. The mages must have known Ryver would give it back to Sicily.
She had to warn everyone so they could get away before whatever the mages had planned happened. Even if the mages’ spell kept her from speaking, Sicily had to do something.
She yelled, “Ryver!”
Her voice working surprised her. She lurched forward and realized she could move as well. Whatever the jewel was doing had weakened the puppet spell. This was her chance. She took another step but was brought up short by Lamon, who had grabbed her arm.
She pulled against his hold, but he didn’t release her. Trying to hit him proved equally useless. He dodged her easily. With a jerk of his wrist, he spun her so she faced Ryver and Theron and then held her in place with one hand clamped on her upper arm and the other around the back of her neck.
Sicily tried to pull free and met with failure. “Let go of me, you bastard.”
“Be still, woman,” Lamon snapped, giving her a little shake.
The tingling was getting worse. It felt like needles traveling over her skin toward the hand holding the jewel, which had started glowing softly.
Bit by bit, the glow grew. Whatever the jewel’s purpose, it would occur soon. Sicily couldn’t let that happen. She tore her gaze away from the jewel and looked at Ryver being held in Theron’s arms. They were happy and smiling as they reveled in their love for one another. Sicily wouldn’t let the mages ruin that.
She focused every ounce of will she could muster on stopping the tingling. Some intuition told her if she could stop the tingling, then whatever the mages had planned would stop as well.
You will fail, said a voice inside her head.
Sicily ignored it and continued concentrating. Whatever she was doing must be having an effect if one the mages felt the need to psych her out. The tingling intensified. Sicily’s whole hand felt like it was on fire. If she could have dropped the jewel, she would have.
Too late, the voice in her head taunted.
She didn’t have long to guess what that meant. A large explosion nearly threw Sicily off her feet. She immediately looked over at Ryver and Theron to make sure they were safe, but a wall of angry-looking vampires blocked Sicily’s view.
Another explosion rocked the mansion, this one closer than the first and on the other side.
Ryver asked in a high, frantic voice, “What’s happening?”
Sicily opened her mouth to warn Ryver to run. Instead she cried out in pain when it felt like something stabbed the center of her hand. The jewel glowed brightly.
There was nothing she could do to stop it. She looked up and saw Ryver peeking through the wall of vampires.
Sicily met Ryver’s gaze and said in a pleading voice, “Ryver, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Sissy, what have you done?”

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3 Responses to Provoked Lover by Zenobia Renquist

  1. New Release: 22 July 2011

  2. Now available at Amazon for the Nook!

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