(Annals of Ellie #3)

by Wendy Lohr

Travel, adventure, and romance. What most young women dream of, including Ellie. But her adventure and romance are not of the everyday variety. Vamps, Lycans, and assorted characters populate her life. Then add travel to the far end of the globe. A recipe for pure fun. Unless you’re a Seer. Then peregrinate rules.


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Chapter One
Dreams & Daggers

His hands touched my body in a sensuous caress. Heat from our passion boiled in my veins, my body quivering at his touch. Just as I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, a distant sound seemed to draw him away. Confused, I tried to hold on to him but to no avail. The louder the sound became, the further away he got. I kept telling him not to go, to ignore whatever the noise was. But he continued to slip away with a regretful smile. Frantically I tried to follow, but the noise interfered. It intensified to a near ear-splitting crescendo and my eyes flew open as I bolted upright in bed, wildly looking around for the source of the interruption.

Groaning as my gaze landed on the alarm clock, I glared at the glowing neon green numbers that told me it was too freakin’ early for this shit. Slapping the snooze button, I dropped back onto my pillow and wondered if I could recapture my steamy dream, but something was beginning to tickle the back of my mind, not letting me drift off again. Something that told me I had a reason for setting the alarm so early during Winter Break.

“New Zealand!” I gasped and hurriedly flung the covers off me. How could I have forgotten I was supposed to fly halfway across the world today?!

Racing into the bathroom I shared with my roommate and best friend, Brittania Rothschild, or Brit as she prefers, I nearly cracked my head open when my foot caught the side of the tub as I was hopping into the shower. Letting loose with a few choice expletives, I cranked the water on and immediately squealed, bouncing around as the frigid cold spray hit me. Wondering why the sensation didn’t feel normal, other than the ice cold temperature of course, I glanced down as my teeth started chattering and let out a frustrated huff. I was still dressed in my PJ’s.

Hurriedly stripping off the soaked clothing, I tossed them out of the shower and then raced through the world’s fastest cleansing. By the time I was done, the water was just starting to reach the temperature I normally showered in, but there was no time to linger. Muttering a familiar chant of ‘please don’t let me be late’ as I yanked my tangled auburn waves into a dripping submission with the hairbrush, I debated on whether I should leave my hair down or put it in a wet braid.

Wet braid won out as I figured that would be the easiest to deal with as the day progressed, so I quickly began working the soaked strands into some semblance of a French braid. Finishing that arduous task, I haphazardly swiped some toothpaste across my teeth and gargled some Listerine before spitting it out and running into the bedroom.

Seeing the empty bed where Brit normally slept, I would have been bummed at missing her if I wasn’t in such a rush. Besides, I recalled as I raced around like a chicken with its head cut off, I’d see her again soon as she was planning to come stay with me for a few days in New Zealand once her computer conference was over in Australia. Ridding myself of those wayward musings, I quickly threw on the outfit I’d laid out on her bed the night before, mentally high-fiving myself for thinking ahead.

Once I was fully dressed in snug black jeans and a brilliant green and black long-sleeved corset blouse (which took forever to put on because of the stupid black silk laces in the front), I threw on a light black leather jacket and slipped into some matching boots that had two-inch thick heels. Not even bothering to check my reflection, I ran into the common room that was a part of the dorm suite Brit and I shared and gathered up my purse and black leather computer bag. Grabbing the handle of the suitcase, I was about to leave when I heard my alarm clock buzzing again.

“Dammit!” I cursed, running into the bedroom and wincing each time my heavy computer bag bumped my hip. Turning the stupid alarm off this time, I recalled I still had wet PJ’s crumpled on the bathroom floor and ran in there next to throw the soggy clothes over the shower rod. Then I whirled back around and headed back to the suitcase. Hoping nothing else stopped me, I took the handle in hand and opened the suite door.

Rushing out into the hall, I banged my elbow on the door frame and let out another curse even as an involuntary giggle escaped. I hated it when I hit my funny bone. It was never funny and yet I always giggled even as I was groaning in pain.

Barely taking the time to make sure the door to the suite closed behind me, I raced/clomped down the corridor, my suitcase in tow. As I hurried towards the landing of the grand staircase, I was convinced the oil paintings of creepy men that hung at irregular intervals along the stone walls were laughing at me. The creepy men, not the paintings.

Finally making it to the landing, I started down with my heavy suitcase rolling behind me. And let out a startled yelp as the suitcase suddenly rolled/thumped by me, jerking me along with it. I managed to stumble down several steps before total klutzdom took over and I tumbled the last few down to the main foyer.

“Ellie!” the deep sexy voice from my steamy dream called out as I lay sprawled on the unrelenting stone floor at the bottom of the stairs. Staring up at the weird chandelier that was lit by hundreds of candles instead of electricity, I absently noted that some of the candles needed to be relit. And then Kristoff Monroe’s face appeared, worry creasing those sensual dark chocolate eyes that never ceased to melt me into a puddle of goo.

“Shit, baby, are you alright?” he asked anxiously, kneeling beside me.

“I think so,” I answered, cautiously checking my limbs for anything that might have broken in the fall. Other than some soreness and some definite bruising that would follow, I seemed alright and weakly quipped, “Stupid suitcase. Apparently we don’t get along so well.”

He shook his head, his long dreads loose this morning and swaying with the motion. Seeing his lips quirk up slightly, I gave him a sheepish grin back even as my face turned the color of my hair. It was always embarrassing when my inner klutz made an appearance and Kristoff witnessed it. Fortunately for me, though, the gorgeous Guardian still seemed to like me for some reason.

Helping me slowly get to my feet, I thanked him and readjusted my purse and computer bag before gingerly walking over to where my suitcase had landed to collect it. Man, I was going to be one sore puppy by the time we got to New Zealand.

“Miss Marshall, what is taking you so long? Everyone is waiting on you,” Ms. Glass, the Liaison in charge of us interns for the trip, demanded in irritation, breezing into the foyer from outside. Before I could offer up an explanation, she continued in exasperation as she motioned, “Well, come on then, our van is ready except for you. I will expect better punctuality while we’re in New Zealand.”

Completely unnerved, I opened my mouth again to say something when Kristoff spoke up, “Miss Marshall will be riding with Master Gabriel to the airport, Ms. Glass.”

“What?! All interns are under my care for this trip,” Ms. Glass asserted, her body poised in a ‘I’m in charge here’ stance.

The standoff between the Guardian and Liaison hung in the air like an ugly smog. As my gaze bounced back and forth between them, I cringed inwardly at the ice daggers Ms. Glass was throwing at me. Still at the top of her shit list for being between her and her romantic endeavor, I had no doubt that this latest development was going to piss her off to no end. I sincerely hoped I didn’t have to sit anywhere near her on the plane or my entire existence would become a living hell.

“Is there a problem?” Headmaster Anton questioned curiously as he came gracefully down the stairs with his Head Guardian, Nikolai Orlovsky close behind him. The ginormous Russian Guardian was carrying two large suitcases as if they were light as feathers.

Catching my eye, Nikolai gave me a brief acknowledging smile before returning his focus to the unfolding drama in the foyer. Knowing Brit wanted to surprise him, I hadn’t said anything to him about her coming to New Zealand once her conference was over. The two of them had been spending quite a bit of time together and it made me wonder if he might actually be the one for my exuberant bestie, if such a thing as ‘the one’ actually existed.

“No, Headmaster Anton. I was just unaware of certain adjustments to the travel arrangements to the airport,” Ms. Glass responded respectfully, not even a hint of frostiness in her tone as she addressed the ancient and powerful Vamp that she was also the Liaison for.

“Travel arrangements?” he inquired before his gaze landed on me. Then he smiled slightly and remarked, “Oh yes, that’s correct. Miss Marshall is to travel with Gabriel and me, Ms. Glass. So sorry for the confusion; it seemed to have slipped my mind or I would have been sure to mention it to you.”

“Not a problem, Headmaster Anton. Everyone is accounted for, so we’re ready to leave when you are,” Ms. Glass stated neutrally as the head Vamp came to a stop near me.

“Ah, excellent! Kristoff, would you mind terribly if you took Miss Marshall’s luggage? I’ll see her to our limo,” Headmaster Anton requested as he held out his arm to me. “Shall we?”

Completely thrown off kilter, I gave him a hesitant smile and accepted his arm as Kristoff took possession of my suitcase. There was no telling what Ms. Glass was thinking about this arrangement and the seemingly obvious preferential treatment I was being given. One thing was for sure, though; I made a silent promise that I would not allow myself to be alone with the frigid Liaison while on this trip or it was possible I wouldn’t make it back in one piece.

“I do apologize for the confusion, Ellie,” the head Vamp stated softly as we walked towards the limo that was last in line.

As I took in the sea of black vehicles, all with Dark Hollow University’s emblems on the sides, I had to wonder just how many people were going. There were multiple passenger vans behind several limousines that seemed to be packed with people. I noticed that Ms. Glass was getting into one of the passenger vans and sighed in relief to be out of her presence. I assumed that the vans were for the multitude of Guardians, Liaisons, and interns and that the limousines were for the Vamps and their Head Guardians; and apparently me.

“Oh, um, that’s okay, Head… er… Anton. I wasn’t aware of the traveling arrangements and didn’t mean to cause such a ruckus,” I told him in a low voice. It was still a challenge to get used to calling him Anton, just like it was to call Master Gabriel just Gabriel when others weren’t within hearing distance.

“Well, I actually didn’t know about the travel arrangements, either. I just assumed Gabriel had insisted you ride with us and ran with it. Was I correct in that assumption?” he asked curiously as we stopped by the limo.

“I believe so. I mean, I didn’t know anything about it until Kristoff told Ms. Glass,” I responded with a shrug.

“Is everything alright? What is taking so long?” Master Gabriel questioned impatiently, startling me as he stepped smoothly out of the limo.

“Just a slight mix-up, old friend. Nothing to worry about,” Anton answered for both of us and motioned me towards the vehicle. “How about we get settled in the car so we can make it to the airport in time?”

Nodding, I murmured a good-morning to Gabriel and slipped not so graciously into the limo, banging my head lightly on the door jam. Grumbling as I rubbed my head, I settled on the leather seat facing the front and quickly put my seatbelt on. Gabriel claimed the seat next to me while Anton and Kristoff sat across from us. Once Nikolai was in the front passenger seat, some sort of signal was given and the convoy of university vehicles slid into smooth motion.

As we left the campus grounds, the false light of predawn casting odd shadows throughout the interior of the car, Anton and Kristoff took turns explaining to the enigmatic Vamp sitting next to me what had happened in the foyer while I tried to hide several large yawns behind my hand. After listening in silence, Gabriel questioned softly, “Is she going to be a problem when we get on the plane, Anton?”

I began to fidget, as I always did when his voice went soft like that. It usually meant he was pissed about something. Fortunately, it wasn’t directed at me this time and I remained silent as Anton waved him off dismissively, “No, of course not. Kristoff already worked out the arrangements with her and I gave the approval. Ellie will be with us the whole time, so stop worrying.”

Then Kristoff just had to tell them all about my graceful decent down the stairs. I was thankful for the semi-darkness in the limo so my embarrassment could be masked some. After a few chuckles from Kristoff’s rather embellished story, Gabriel turned his cerulean gaze on me and asked gently, “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, really. Just my inner klutz coming out to play, nothing more,” I joked and then blushed even deeper when another yawn slipped out, cracking my jaw.

“Did you not get enough sleep?” Gabriel questioned, the intensity of his gaze in the near darkness unnerving me as always. It was a good thing we’d been having tea dates these last few weeks because those experiences were allowing me to handle his closeness, to a degree. I could still feel the raw power emanating from him and I still had near uncontrollable urges to make physical contact with him when he was this close. But I was able to control those urges more now and wasn’t quite so overwhelmed by the power he exuded.

“I slept fine. I just need coffee,” I told him sleepily as the car rolled on smoothly through the pre-dawn darkness. It was about to put me to sleep and I really didn’t want to sleep in such close proximity to two of the men I’d been seeing. And yes, they did know about each other; I wasn’t into secret dalliances. I just didn’t want to commit right now and they both were understanding of that. Still, I was worried if I fell asleep right now, I might drool or worse, have a dream about one or both of them.

“Oh, marvelous idea, Ellie!” Anton exclaimed with an enthusiasm that I found exhausting this early in the morning. Using a button to lower the privacy glass between us and the driver, Anton instructed, “Nikolai, if we have time, make sure we stop by one of those coffee places on the way. Ellie and I need our caffeine and sugar fix this morning!”

“Yes, sir. I believe we will pass by a Starbuck’s on the way to airport. Will that do?” Nikolai responded in his gravelly Russian accent.

“Absolutely!” Anton declared happily and raised the privacy glass again. Looking over at me, he asked, “You do like Starbucks, right?”

“Of course! I love their seasonal coffees!”

“Oh my god, me too!” he agreed excitedly, making me giggle at his enthusiasm.

“I will never understand your fascination with coffee, Anton,” Gabriel remarked, his accent hinting at affectionate amusement.

I looked over at Kristoff who gave me a wink as he listened to the ongoing exchanges taking place between the three of us. Unable to keep the grin off my face, I couldn’t help but tease, “How could anyone not like coffee? That just seems blasphemous.”

“Amen to that, Ellie!” Anton chimed in, obviously loving any opportunity that he can harass Gabriel.

“I believe you both are incorrigible,” Gabriel returned, his eyes sparkling in amusement as he looked over at me. “But to each his or her own. You enjoy your caffeine and sugar, Anton. Just don’t let Ellie overindulge. It’s not healthy.”

“Excuse me, but I’ll overindulge if I want. That’s my choice, Gabriel,” I stated firmly, not missing the wide grin on Anton’s face as he took in our exchange.

“I am only trying to look out for your well-being,” Gabriel pointed out.

“And I appreciate that. But you can’t dictate what I eat and you can’t tell others to dictate what I eat, either. I’m a grown woman that can handle her own food consumption, thank you very much.”

I heard snickering and glanced over to see Kristoff not even bothering to hide his amusement at our expense. Gabriel noticed as well and questioned wryly, “Is something amusing, Kristoff?”

“I think entertaining would be a better description, Master Gabriel,” Kristoff responded with a grin of his own.

“Most definitely entertaining. Wish I had some popcorn with me,” Anton added wistfully.

Gabriel shook his head at both of them before returning his attention to me and conceding, “You are correct, Ellie. Forgive me for trying to dictate your diet.”

I smiled a little mischievously at him and responded, “Well, I guess I can forgive you since you were looking out for my well-being and all. But I have a request.”

“And that is?” he asked curiously, shifting his body closer to me.

“I’d like you to at least try one of the seasonal coffee drinks.”

He gazed at me thoughtfully for a moment before tilting his lips up in that crooked little smile that always made my pulse race faster. Leaning even closer, his eyes captured me in that magnetic pull he seemed to possess as he asked softly, “Perhaps I could try a taste of yours?”

And my brain wanted to head straight to the gutter at his request. Trying to rein in my hormones, I answered a little breathlessly, “Um, yeah… er… yes.”

My unsophisticated answer made him smile even more and he murmured for my ears only, “I look forward to trying it, Ellie.”

“Yeah, me too,” I uttered brainlessly and then cringed inwardly at how ridiculous that response was.

As always, I seemed to amuse him with my ineptitude and heard him chuckle softly as he finally released me from his mesmeric gaze and straightened in his seat. And I immediately turned my focus out the window, suddenly completely embarrassed by my reaction to the sensual Vamp, especially in front of Anton and Kristoff. Well, Kristoff anyway. Anton was probably beside himself with giddiness at the prospect of Gabriel and I becoming an item. No telling what Kristoff thought, actually witnessing my flirting with another guy I was interested in.

As the miles sped by and Gabriel and Anton conversed about the conference, I wondered what sort of mess I was getting myself into. Sure I wanted to date around for a while and Kristoff knew that. Hell, he was dating around as well and I’d seen him with one of the ladies he occasionally went out with several times while I was learning ballroom dancing. They’d looked good together and I hadn’t felt any sort of jealousy or possessiveness when seeing them together. So why would I think Kristoff would feel jealous seeing me and Gabriel interact?

Ugh, I totally sucked at the whole dating scene. Brit would probably be laughing her ass off at me right now and calling me a ninny for worrying about this stuff. But I couldn’t help it. I really liked Kristoff and Gabriel both and didn’t want to hurt either of them or make them uncomfortable.

Surreptitiously shooting a glance over at the ebony warrior that was Gabriel’s Head Guardian, I noticed that Kristoff was relaxed and taking the opportunity to catch a few z’s before he had to be alert at the airport and beyond. Maybe I was worrying for nothing. But maybe it would be a good idea for me to try to catch Kristoff alone for a few moments just to reassure myself that he was alright with my interactions with Gabriel. It was amazing how comfortable I was with the gruff Guardian, but I always felt like I could openly talk with him and he would listen. So, I resolved to do just that the first opportunity I got and firmly put hormones and uncertainties out of my head, and instead, taking Kristoff’s cue, closed my eyes so I could get some rest before the craziness of airplane travel took over.

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