By Kev Henley
Lena was a promising young Roman, born into a wealthy house. She had loving parents, servants to pamper her, and a fine education with a tutor who spoiled her. That changes the night she meets Erez, a Persian prince. Wicked and clever, he captures both Lena and her tutor, and uses them for his amusement. Lena's life becomes horrific. And then her life becomes something more, something immortal, something powerful and deadly. At the cost of her soul.
Just when she's feeling lost to the ravages of time, she discovers the one thing she never expects, the one thing that rearranges her existence and saves her: love. Yet, even pure love cannot outlast her.
Follow Lena's personal journey through the ages, from a perspective that can only be gifted to the immortal. Her challenges lie with the problems we often take for granted: how to blend in, how to find purpose, how to cling to her humanity.
He watched from the shadows between decorative buildings of stone and stucco. A sleeping sun had allowed the balmy air to cool, and though a sheen of sweat graced the young women’s faces, the man felt little but his desire. In the distance, he heard boisterous laughter rising above a steady backdrop of city noise. Yet, this district seemed subdued in comparison to most areas of Rome, for proper folk were abed.
It was one of the reasons he chose this spot. Every adventure began in a quiet place.
Clearly a corrupting influence, the older of the two laughed in rich tones, wearing a light, saffron yellow dress that caressed her curves as she swayed down the paved street. The childish giggler wore thick white robes more suitable for outdoor appearance. Little sister? No, that did not feel right. Admiring friend, perhaps even the pupil. It would not be the first time a tutor took the student to experience facets of life unavailable in normal studies.
Each woman glowed with her own special youth and vigor, irrespective of the flickering light cast by the street side pottery lamps. Skin shone and flowing dark hair glistened as the animated one all but skipped to keep pace with the sensuous strides of her role model. This girl was health incarnate.
He would take her—and her naughty friend—whether they wanted it or not. Even as they headed toward busier streets he waited. Patience and savoring went hand-in-hand, much like the young beauties.
Laughing off catcalls, the pair sauntered down the stone-paved streets toward some unimportant destination, their glibness speaking volumes about their alcohol level. A frown crept onto that intent face as the watcher shifted to another shadow. Alcohol dulled the spirit, even if it made the process easier—easier, however, was not what he wanted. He liked the challenge, reveled in the capture.
Taunted, horny men could only take so much of the delicious sight from afar, and three of them stepped into the women’s path, blocking their progress. The playfulness turned to complaints as hands groped them and lips kissed them. A squeal showed the first sign of true alarm as one large hand squeezed tender flesh. It was time to act.
“Vir honestus,” said the emerging shadow, “that will be quite enough.” The man stepped into the street, toward the group.
“Wait your turn,” one retorted, his hand still squeezing a nubile breast through the thin robe.
“Look at me, and see to your safety. You will unhand these ladies and find whores to sate your lust.” Boldness and another step had their attention. Images flitted through minds softened by alcohol and lust, flashes of violent dismemberment and gushes of blood. A looming presence promised pain and terror to those who did not obey, which was more than enough warning for them.
As the muttering faded into the distance, the man held up his arms for the girls to take, saying, “You ladies apparently have been separated from your escorts, so now I must assist.”
This earned giggles, and both young women hooked their arms in his, shivering imperceptibly at the contact. “We are most fortunate to have a rescuer,” the older, more brazen one stated as they resumed walking. “I am Felicia, and this is Lena.”
He nodded his head to each. “This pleasure is mine.”
“A most unusual accent, sir.” Felicia quirked a haughty eyebrow. “May we know the name of our rescuer?”
“I am called Erezavnuri of Parthava, but you can call me Erez, if you prefer.”
“Parthava?” Lena asked, receiving a glance and a smile from her new escort. She was exquisite, with her light step and touch upon his arm. All treasured innocence and vibrancy. Delicious.
“You call the area Parthia—many weeks of swift journey to the east, and the portal to further lands, beyond even the reach of Rome. Many of those places I have seen.”
“Oh.” Felicia leaned into him, and he felt a nipple on his arm as they moved. Too easy. “And what would a Parthian be doing here?”
“Though I am a prince in my lands—an ashavan—where better to live than the capital of the world?” He halted, placing a hand on the bare skin of Felicia’s neck. She drew a shocked breath and stared at him. “There is much to know, much adventure to be had,” he continued. “Not so tame as Ovidius’s poetry, and not so safe as the parchment you hide away. More than sharing a bottle of wine with your young friend and seeing what trouble you can cause on the streets at night. Much more.”
“How do you know?” Felicia’s question was a whisper.
Erez smiled and lowered his hand. “Ashavan means a possessor of truth, Felicia. Would you like to see more truth? More than you ever will otherwise? Would you like to see how a foreign prince lives?” She could only nod, caught in a web of fascination with this dark, powerful stranger. He then shifted his stance and his gaze toward Lena. “And you, little one? Has the wine made you bold enough to peek behind the veil of your structured life?”
“I...” Lena began before drawing a breath and shaking her head. “Can you escort us home, kind sir?”
“And what would you learn there?” he soothed. “That your time is boring and you walked away from the thrill of many lifetimes? You might hold yourself back and be shy, but even in the lamplight, I see a flush of excitement shines your face.”
“Thank you for the offer, Erez—Prince Erez—but we best return before Felicia’s husband comes looking.”
He glanced at Felicia, who said, “Come on, Lena. Just for a little while. Davius need never know of this.”
“Truly,” Erez encouraged. “He need never know, and you can learn much outside your limited knowledge. Experience enriches life, and is that not what you came for? Take my hand. My villa is close.”
Felicia eagerly clasped the offered hand, but it took a long moment before Lena gave in. Each woman gasped as their skin met, and they resumed their slow pace while the hunter talked to keep their focus on him. “Listen to these earnest words: you are right to seek more, for life is about finding truths. As only one example, pleasure makes you curious, for underneath is a truth you desire. An awareness of a greater reality. In my travels, in my life, this is the reality I explore.”
The girls breathed heavily, as if running instead of casually strolling toward his residence. He suppressed a smile, assuring them, “I will show you only a tiny amount at a time—have no fear, for I am fully sensitive to your anxieties.” As he said this, he focused on the younger face. “You sense power, mystery, yet this need not frighten. Rather, it should thrill you and confirm what you see sometimes in your dreams. There is much more than this.” He waved their combined hands in casual contempt at their surroundings.
Both girls blinked in surprise as they walked through his foyer. They glanced about to see who opened the door, but they could not see a soul.
“Quiet now,” he cautioned, “lest you wake my servants.”
The prince led them through a richly decorated courtyard and into the large kitchen, lighting a horn lantern before continuing. Utensils shone in the dim light, scattered about the counters as if the cooks had decided to leave their mess until the morning. His other hand did not release its grip on Lena.
“How odd,” Felicia commented when he presented a large pantry as though it deserved special notice.
He corrected her. “Mysterious, you mean, waiting for you to discover its secret.” He urged her to step in ahead of him. “Open your eyes and tell me what you see.”
The woman shifted uneasily and glanced at Lena, who remained quiet. “This a trick question?”
“Not quite, Felicia. Merely a test. Place your palm against the back wall and speak my name.”
Now she considered him in a different light, but he held her gaze until she did as he bade, placing her hand against the wall. “Erez.”
“My full name.”
Felicia blushed. “I am afraid I forgot it.”
He scowled slightly, but did not want her to spook, so he transferred his attention to the younger. “You remember it still, Lena?” When she nodded, he praised her. “Good girl. Now show your friend a simple truth.”
With small movements, Lena placed her free hand against the wall. “Erezavnuri.” The wall swung away.
Felicia gasped, her eyes flying open in symmetry with her mouth. Lena began to collapse, yet Erez anticipated and caught her in the crook of his arm, bringing her against his strong body.
“And now you know a small piece of truth,” he stated as he cradled one of his prizes. “This door only opens to my name—the key is a gift from me. Here, hold the lantern while I help your friend.”
“Is she okay?”
“She seems to have fainted, but she will be fine once she rests. The initial shock can be surprising. Lead the way.” Erez motioned for her to descend, but she only looked with unease at the stone steps that led into darkness.
“What is down there?”
“A place for Lena to rest, and more truths for you to experience. You know not what lies beyond in this most secret of homes, but I assure you it will be thrilling.”
“How...?” Felicia stammered as she took the first tentative step down. “Did she really open the wall by saying your name?”
He nodded, scooping up the limp girl and urging Felicia forward. “It opens through no other means.”
“Sorcery?” Her voice came as a whisper. “It has to be.”
“Knowledge,” he corrected her once again. “Once you know the truth, you gain power. Did you pay attention to my name this time?”
“Yes,” she said. “Erezavnuri, right?” Behind the door swung shut like a trap closing, and the hunter chuckled.
“Very good. See? Your eyes are opened a tiny amount. Now if you would hurry—your friend is getting heavier with each breath.”
The steps curved and opened into a large room, deeper even than it was wide and littered with ornamented furniture. Foreign weapons and armor were displayed on the walls. Grandly painted privacy screens hid recesses, and exotic incense flavored the air as well as providing faint light. The nearest furnishing was a massive bed of stout columns at each corner. Soft black silks veiled the sheets, which looked ruffled and soiled.
As she parted the hanging silk so he could lay the unconscious girl on the bed, Felicia balked. “You have no wife or mistress?” There was no feminine touch to this space, and common wisdom dictated loners were the most dangerous.
“Place the lamp on the bedside stand and come with me.” He patiently waited for her to comply and take his offered hand. Her situation was settling into her head, and already she moved with reluctance. Too late and too easy, but tasty, nonetheless.
“What are those?” She gazed with distraction at the paintings of garish, twisting creatures that adorned the nearest privacy screen.
“Those images depict dragons, curious Felicia. A rare and magical creature of lands in the far reaches of the world, said to consume souls—though there is little truth in the tales. Only the tiniest measure, for I have studied one of the few in existence.”
“You’ve been there.” This whisper was less of a question than a realization, and he didn’t bother to acknowledge it.
Erez drew her deeper into the giant room, which became dark enough for her to doubt her eyes. As she gasped and halted, the ashavan slid behind her, releasing her hand in favor of gripping her upper arms.
Felicia began to quiver at the sight before her. He hovered close enough to touch her dress with his body. With a deep breath, he absorbed the faint mix of perfume and female musk—a combination that before long would fight the incense in the room for dominance. Savoring her fearful excitement, Erez bent to brush his lips against the skin of her neck.
She groaned, weakening. “Please.”
“You knew this quest for truth would not be easy, not in the places where your instinct resides. Feel the swirl in your belly, between your legs.” A hand slid over her shoulder and dipped into her thin clothing. “Have no fear, your pleasure will be as great as your pain.” With that, fingertips closed around her prominent nipple.
Her legs nearly buckled, and she panted.
“Your womanhood seeps, does it not? Because it knows the experience of your lifetime is drawing close. Feelings beyond anything you have imagined.” He twisted the exposed nipple, holding the whimpering woman in place while sliding her dress to the floor. “Step up to the restraints. Attach them to your wrists.”
Once he released her nipple, she took three faltering steps and reached for the manacles. Each clicked into place with a definitive sound. The captor pulled the lead rope, which ran through a hook in the ceiling, and her hands rose above her head. He soothed her, stating it would keep her from collapsing in an undignified heap when the pleasure became too much, and then he secured the rope once satisfied with the level of tension.
Her nipples strained under his renewed touch, muscles quivered as he stroked her exposed sides, and her belly fluttered as he caressed it. Short, tan curls on her mound matched her shoulder-length hair—those curls dampened as he slid two fingers across her clit. Felicia whined as his fingers lazily circled her nub, making her hips twitch. When she closed her eyes to escape his piercing stare, the fingers left, and she could only shiver and gasp for breath, and try to keep her full weight off her trapped arms.