Foxwood Hall, Yorkshire, 14th December 1537
"Her name was Eva, and she is, unsurprisingly, the ancestress of your King Henry, Thomas. I say unsurprisingly because she was always too perfect for mere mortals. You could say she was destined for royalty, for when she moved every pair of eyes moved with her, and when she spoke she commanded people's attention. I loved her from the moment I laid eyes on her." He ran a black-gloved hand over the rim of his goblet, his ring glittering in the firelight. The sound was soft, teasing, like mocking laughter, and the stare which he fixed on Isabel mocked too.
A dangerous look danced in her eyes, the emotion unfamiliar to Thomas. She was jealous. She had walked the earth for over three hundred years, but enough of her humanity remained to allow her to experience such a petty mortal emotion. Thomas regarded her as some divine entity, so evidence of such a human flaw shocked him.
The effect was not lost on Conor. He cocked his head to one side, a wry look in his eyes. "Are you jealous, Isabel?" he mocked. He sidled up behind her, rubbed his hands over her shoulders.
Her eyes narrowed, and she refused to answer. "We have to go," she said bluntly. She twisted her neck to look at him, and the firelight hit her hair, sparkling against the jewels woven into her hairnet. She stretched on her toes, tongue flicking against his neck as she spoke, her teeth nipping at his earlobe. "I'm hungry. I want to hunt."
Once, she had hunted Thomas, toyed with him, luring him in. She was his Diana, his goddess of the hunt. Yet it had been no hunt, truly, only a seduction. And she could seduce him still. In her velvet gown, breasts spilling, lined with pearls, she was a black widow, spinning her silken web, luring him to his death with her beauty and her promises. The ornate crucifix which she wore around her neck seemed to laugh at him, for even whilst she wore Venus' face she was as perfectly lovely as a virgin Madonna. Her slender hands did not seem made for killing.
But she could take his life, if only she promised never again to leave him. Yet leave him she would, and soon. He was shocked at how quickly the night had passed. Already, the sky had turned from black to charcoal, and the stars were beginning to disappear, heralding the arrival of morning.
Conor nodded his assent, his dark eyes covetous as he watched the words fall from her red lips. He began to walk towards the door, half turning when he realised that she was not following him. He looked at Thomas like a wolf sighting prey, tongue lolling from his jaws, licking at his fangs.
Isabel approached Thomas purposefully, her movements as graceful as a dancer. She sank down gently on the bed beside him. Placing a silken hand on his cheek she kissed him slowly and deliberately on the lips. Her other hand travelled down his stomach, brushed against his groin. Desire coursed through his body, and he wanted nothing more than to crush her to him, to kiss her pale breasts and feel her writhe beneath him.
Though Isabel faced away from him, Conor was directly in Thomas' eye line. He looked crushed as he watched her display of affection, hurt evident in his face. His beautiful form turned away from the scene before him.
As Isabel drew away from Thomas, he felt panic grip his heart; he was losing her all over again. The fear must have shown in his face, for she stroked his cheek tenderly. "Do not fret," she quieted. She lifted the covers over his shoulders, and kissed him on the forehead, the action motherly.
She had not been so gentle before, when he had worn her bruises around his throat, like a token of her lust. She had been insatiable, hungry. Those pale hands, which seemed made for nothing darker than holding puppies and painting lovely scenes of fields and flowers, had choked him till he might not breathe, letting him go only so that he may scream. Did it sadden her now, to see his own body choke him? To know that it was still her sweet hands around his neck? But she was softer now, though he was dying still.
"Sweet dreams, my love." She pressed a kiss to his neck, rough and not without teeth, and with that, she was gone.
Conor walked slowly to the door, steps careful and measured. He rested his hand on the frame as he reached it. When he spoke, his voice was low and quiet, and he did not turn to look at Thomas. "She's mine. Always has been. Always will be." His voice held a note of warning, and though Thomas could not see his face, a muscle pulsed violently in his neck.
He swallowed, afraid now that Isabel's protective presence was no longer there. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. He was frozen with fear.
Conor half-turned, his profile illuminated by the braziers that flickered and guttered in the hall. He smiled blackly. "Do we understand each other, Thomas?"
He forced himself to nod, gulping. The action was painful, causing his dry throat to throb.
Conor disappeared into the night with her as Thomas fell back against the pillows. Both his mind and his body were drained, and he drifted into an exhausted torpor. He slept fitfully throughout the day, the light assaulting him whenever he awoke; an omen of what was to come.