Freedom: Elle's Story
Promise Me - Book 17
College student Elle has always dreamed of having her own life and a love to call her own. Yet haunted by past transgressions, the lovely young werecougar is terrified to share her body or soul with another... until a sorceress tempts her into sharing an anonymous dream with a legendary lover, the vampire Lord Devlin.
Shocked by her newly awakened desire, Elle flees to her childhood home, finding comfort in her memories and the company of friends while evading trophy hunters... until the night dhamphir Elijah arrives, offering her his heart with the gift of a golden choker. Will Elle be brave enough to seize the true love that’s been denied her so long?
My name is Elle O’Connor. You probably don’t know who I am. But if you’re any type of being other than human, you’ve likely heard of my father, Theopolis. He’s what’s called a Ranked assassin, which means he has international status. He also happens to be a werecougar, and an asshole most of the time. You might also know about my mom, Sarelle, if you keep track of the who’s who of vampires in the United States, as she’s been involved with several in the last five years. She’s still human, but it’s been a near miss kind of situation lately.
Theopolis and I haven’t been speaking for most of this year. I was there the night he tried to hurt Mom, and I haven’t forgiven him for what he did, to put it mildly. The bald-faced truth is he wasn’t much of a father to me. Now that he’s mated to another woman, it’s not like he has time for me, anyway.
Mom wasn’t a great mother, though I understand that wasn’t her fault. The story, if you aren’t familiar with it, is that Sarelle isn’t my biological mother. My biological mother, Tawny, died in childbirth. I never knew her, or even saw a picture of her. But Sarelle tells me that I look a lot like she did, with wavy blonde hair, and blue eyes.
Sarelle is the woman I think of as my mother. She took care of me in the first few months after I was born, when my father disappeared. But she was a wreck herself, as they’d been planning to get married. They had gotten engaged a few nights before he went missing, and it was very dramatic not knowing what had happened to him, or if he was even alive for over a year.
Before she was in love with my father, Sarelle¾or Sar, as she likes her friends to call her¾she loved a vampire by the name of Danial. It was he who really raised me. I’d met him a few days after I was born, over in Europe, and when he came to see her and me, after he’d come back after months of looking for my missing father, I was very glad to see him again.
Two weeks after Danial came to see Sar that night, she and I moved in with him. I feel like I should defend her decision to do that, as it makes it seem like she didn’t love my father, to go and live with another man so quickly. I want you to know that I think that one decision was maybe the best thing she ever did for me. She tried hard to take care of me, but even though I was very young, I could see she was a wreck. I could also tell she was scared: scared of being alone with a non-human baby she didn’t know how to care for; scared my father was not coming back, scared of what was going to happen to us. And Danial, with his calm assurance and his vast wealth swept in and fixed everything in a single night. What woman wouldn’t have leaned on a man like that, especially as it was easy to see she still loved him?
To say he was a father to me wasn’t enough. In those first years he was everything a father should be, and then more. When I was hurt or sad, he was there to kiss and hug away my tears. When I was angry and mean, he was calm and talked to me, teaching me how to handle my anger. And when I was inquisitive, or bored, he was there to tell me the reasons why things were the way they were, or to show me books or other hobbies that not only kept me entertained, but also enriched my mind.
The result of his attention to me was inevitable: I adored him completely. It wasn’t long before I called him Dad. And he is still the only one I’ve ever called Dad.
* * * *
I started college this past January. At first, I really liked it. It was exhilarating to finally be living away from my family, to not have to worry about any guards watching me, to finally have the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted.
I’d never made friends easily, but I was able to make a bunch in my dorm the first week. They were a lot like Susan, my dance-class friend of a year or so ago, had been. We partied a little, smoked a little grass, and talked about clothes and celebrities.
But there was one recurring problem. These girls all had boyfriends, or at least lovers, and would meet them at least weekly to have sex. I had no desire for a man to touch me at all. The truth was if men weren’t related to me, I didn’t want them within reach of me. Anytime I was alone with any male, even a teacher, I made whatever excuse I had to in order to leave immediately for my dorm room.
At first, the other girls didn’t notice. But after a month, they began telling me they felt sorry for my “celibacy problems,” that they knew guys who were single who’d love to have sex with me. Telling them that I wanted to wait for marriage was met with laughs, or outright looks of disbelief. One even sent a guy named Will to my room with some flowers. And when I refused to open the door to him, or even talk to him, what had been something to tease me about abruptly became something that marked me as abnormal.
My so-called “friends” avoided me after that. I told myself it was okay, that I had screwed around for the first month of school, and my average was a C in most classes. I needed time to study if I was going to do well in any of them.
So, for the month of February, I mostly became a hermit. I went to the library, and ate by myself in the food court with a book, and thought about how many more years of this I would be able to stand before I was so lonely I spontaneously combusted.
Part of the problem was that I wasn’t sure who to turn to and talk about how I felt. By that time, my father Theo had remarried, and my mother was living with Danial’s brother, Devlin.
Again, I feel like I should give some background information. Devlin had been wanting into my mother’s underwear from the first time he saw her, back when she was dating Danial. And over the years he’d done a hell of a lot to try to force the issue: kidnapping her, giving her his powerful blood to make her in thrall to him, seducing her, threatening to kill people she cared about, and even staging an elaborate scenario where he saved her from a dangerous gangster with a grudge against her. But my mother was a smart woman, and all his attempts to get her to like him got him nowhere.
This made him mad. And though no one ever has come right out and said this to me, I know that somewhere after that specific scenario was played out, Devlin got her alone somehow, and... and he...he...
Sorry, give me a minute.