In the Pureblood's Arms

The Magiste Chronicles, Book 4

* He saved her from certain death, but is he more dangerous – to her heart? *

 

In 13th century France, attacked by those carrying out the Papal Inquisition, Magiste Enchantress Chantal Belliveau is thankful for rescue from certain torture and death. But she never expected her savior to be Henri Marchand, one of a powerful pureblooded line of ancient Magiste, the Zyndevines, known for their practice of dark magic. Henri holds the key to her survival, but the danger he poses to her heart and soul could be even more perilous.

 

Despite his dark lineage, Henri is part of Il Resistasse, a handful of powerful Magiste fighting the atrocities the Catholic Church inflicts on their race. Saving Chantal becomes more than a simple rescue - the innocent young woman with half-trained powers enchants him more than he has ever been before. That she enjoys the dark side of pleasure he inflicts makes him question his determination to never give another his heart.

 

Chantal is horrified when Henri invokes an ancient spell, the Possede Puissant. The incantation leaves her little more than his possession. While she finds herself enjoying his dark and wicked sensual delights, she determines to free herself. Yet, the security she finds with Henri encourages her to stay by his side, claiming spell or not.

 

Resentment from Henri's family convinces Chantal she must ultimately break free of Henri's possession. When the Inquisitors attack, Henri convinces Chantal to embark on a journey to a new land, a journey that may well mean the survival of the entire Magiste race but the loss of her freedom forever.

Read an Excerpt from In the Pureblood's Arms

 

Near Toulouse, France 1255

 

Henri adjusted his cloak, striding quickly toward the stables, thumb turning the ring on his left hand in a nervous motion. The stone, set in nearly pure gold mined from the caves near Limoges, warmed. He took a deep breath, teeth grinding in anger. He had little time to reach his destination and waited impatiently while the groom finished saddling his horse. If he made it in time, he'd need the animal to help with the task that lay ahead.

Word had come that a family near Toulouse had been targeted by the Inquisitors. Each passing second seemed somehow a waste, spurring his impatience, the message arriving only minutes before. In his mad rush to reach the stables, he'd avoided his parents, knowing they would disapprove of his actions. While Edouard and Marie Marchand preferred dealing with the minions of the Church using dark arts, Henri feared such measures only served to increase the rabid urges of men who held power and hungered for more. While he appreciated the use of sinister magic to bring his enemies to their knees, the brutality of the Inquisitors far exceeded anything he'd witnessed from the Magiste.

 

Today's victims were a minor noble family of Magiste. They'd lived peacefully for centuries on their land, alongside their neighbors. What had changed to turn the evil eye of the Inquisition toward them? The question lingered and he finally accepted the reins of his horse from the stable-boy. Thunder rumbled overhead. Henri mounted. Closing his eyes, he clenched his fist, the ring near scalding.

 

"Portalus."

 

Beneath him, the horse pranced as the compression of the traveling spell took effect, sending Henri and the animal through distance and time. He hoped to use Mordred with the transport home. If all went well, there would be more people than Henri was capable of magically moving by himself. When the pressure of the spell eased, Henri found himself in the middle of a lush forest, damp with a recent rain. To his right, shouts sounded, and he wheeled the horse around. Beyond the tree line, fire illuminated the night. Henri's heart sank to see flames erupting from the windows of a large manor house. Even from this distance, he could hear the screams of those trapped inside. Merde! Too late!

 

Smoke quickly wafted toward the forests, the acrid stench burning his eyes. A flurry of movement in the brush nearby drew his attention. He dismounted and fastened the horse's reins to a tree. He held his hands above the animal's back.

 

"Cachevois."

 

His ring warmed and the horse vanished from view, concealed by the spell. No Mortals would find his mount. Henri stood motionless for a few moments, while the shouts of the Inquisitors echoed around him. He ignored them, concentrating on the immediate area.

The tingling awareness of someone else possessing magic grew stronger to his right. He turned, his ring warming further and leading him closer to the source of power. Another rustle of foliage, this time accompanied by a choked sob. The flash of movement almost eluded him, but he headed in the same direction. His ring grew hotter and hotter, nearly scorching his skin. There, up ahead. A woman ran, her long fiery hair catching on low-lying branches. He picked up his own pace, desperate to reach her before the Inquisitors. He just about came even with her when she stumbled and fell, more sobs and gasping breaths reaching his ears, even over the din of chaos at the edge of the forest.

 

Aware of two of the Inquisitors closing in, Henri hurried to the fallen woman as she struggled to rise. He held out a hand.

 

"Come with me!"

 

She froze, a shriek escaping before she scrambled away from him. Damn, she thought he was one of them.

 

"Come with me now! It's your only chance if you want to live!"

 

He used the Commandevois spell to enhance his words, the order in his voice clear and compelling. At the same time, he reached for her once more. He had to get her out of here now, no time to return to his horse. Finally, her small hand took his and he hauled her to her feet, pulling her close. He murmured the Portalus spell again, sucking in a breath as the squeezing sensation overtook him for the second time in less than five minutes. When it stopped, they stood in the courtyard of his manor house. He would send a groom to find Mordred later. The steed remained safe under the concealment spell.

 

He stepped away from the woman in his arms, studying her in the bright moonlight. Soot streaked her cheeks, her large green eyes peering up at him from under a thick blanket of lashes. The wild, deep auburn hair floating around her face gave her an ethereal look, almost like a siren sent down from above by the ancient gods. She wrapped slender arms about herself, her gaze locked with his.

 

"My family…" she finally whispered.

"I'm sorry. I was too late."

 

She cocked her head to the side, almost as if she didn't understand him. He should probably explain, but wanted to get her inside before his parents heard their voices and came to investigate. He reached for the woman, but she backed away.

 

"Who are you?" she asked.

 

"Henri Marchand."

 

The gasp that escaped her told him she knew of him and his family. Most of the Magiste did, his family had been in existence since before recorded time. He gave a weary sigh when she again backed away from him.

 

"Don't worry, I won't harm you."

 

She shook her head, still taking tiny steps backward. He rolled his eyes and grabbed her arm, pulling her against him before she could jerk free.

 

"We have to get inside. I will explain then."

 

Again, the Portaling spell activated and within moments, they stood in his suite. She struggled against his embrace and he released her. She looked around, spotting the door and making a lunge toward it. Henri waved his hands toward the latch and it clicked into place, secure and immovable. She froze in her tracks and turned to face him once more. He gave another wave of his hands and the oil lamps set about the room flared to life.

 

"Let me go. I must find my family. And you…you…."

 

She gave another little sob, fingers pressed against her lips. Full, deep-red lips he suddenly found himself wanting to taste. He shook his head to clear the errant thought. First, he needed to calm her and explain she was safe as long as she stayed with him. An idea of exactly how he could keep her here flitted into his thoughts. Not yet. At least the possibility remained, should he need to enact it.

 

"I am part of Il Resistasse; we received word today that your family was under threat. I am sorry I didn't make it in time."

 

Again, that confused expression showed in her eyes. "You were sent…to save us?"

 

He nodded, taking a small step closer to her. She didn't back away this time. Instead, she straightened, her gaze clearing with understanding. "How did you know?"

 

"We'd best not speak of that now. My family, as you might suspect, does not know of my work. Tell me, what is your name?"

 

"Chantal. Chantal Belliveau."

 

Her lips pursed for a moment, and again he fought the urge to haul her against him and devour her.

 

She studied him silently for a few more moments, then nodded. "Merci, Monsieur, for saving me. I only wish…."

 

Her hands fisted at her sides and she shook her head, denying the reality of tonight's events. How he wanted to pull her near, assure her everything would be all right. He pictured his father's face, sneering, vilifying the woman's status. The Belliveaus were minor Magiste nobility, the lower caste earning Henri's family's scorn. They did not possess the bloodlines of the Zyndevines, the ancient ones, though their line had remained surprisingly pure and un-blended with others. They possessed enough political power to sway Tribunal decisions when necessary. Not an inconsequential family, much of whom had passed in recent years, leaving one almost pureblood line. Until tonight.

 

His affiliation with the resistance had given him an intimate knowledge of various Magiste family ancestries. Who had betrayed this family, who never intended harm to anyone? Henri and his colleagues long suspected a traitor, perhaps more than one.

 

If his parents knew he'd saved a member of the family who had thwarted several motions to attack the Church and its Inquisition with dark sorcery powerful enough to destroy everyone who didn't possess Magiste blood, they would cast him out, if they didn't outright kill him. He forced the thoughts aside. Right now, his only concern was this woman's safety.

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