Authors: Naima Simone
Dark Judgment, Book Two
A brutal attack left Bastien Sarris for dead. But a chance encounter with a mysterious female drags him back from the brink of death—and transforms the hippogryph healer into a monster he doesn’t recognize. Now a terrible hunger consumes him—one that is becoming impossible to satisfy. Desperate for a cure, he hunts the cruxim who cursed him to a hellish existence. But the petite warrior ignites a fierce desire for her body that overwhelms the sweet call of blood.
For three hundred years Sinéad lived and hunted as a cruxim—a winged vampire hunter. But one sacrificial act stripped her immortality, leaving her human, vulnerable and unprepared for the reappearance of Bastien in her life. The hippogryph is harder and colder than she remembers…and he triggers an onslaught of need within her that is as powerful as it is unfamiliar. She craves his kiss, his touch. Yet even as she surrenders to this newfound passion, she faces a crucial decision—betray the man she’s come to love and regain her immortality, or save Bastien and condemn herself to a human life and death.
paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”
“Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. I’m very much alive. Although not as pretty as I used to be.”
“Finding you was child’s play.”
Bastien wheeled around, his heart racing like a runaway train that had just run out of track. As the shock ebbed, surprise and delight surged inside him. Evander Agnew. The mottled gray-and-black plumage as well the dark crest rising behind his childhood friend’s rounded, sleek head were as familiar to Bastien as his own white-and-red feathers. Maybe his trek across the Atlantic wouldn’t be the lonely trip he’d anticipated. Granted the wild cliffs and moors of western Ireland were gorgeous but hell, they made him want to reach out and touch someone. Anyone.
he sent along their common telepathic link as he rose in the chilly, wet—was there any other kind of night in Ireland?—dark sky.
“What the hell are you doing here? Not that I’m complaining. Even though you did scare the shit out of me. Whistle or something next time.”
Energy crackled and rippled in the air as
Evander shifted into human form. Huge obsidian wings with white paint-dipped tips held him aloft and the formidable member of the
—their race’s elite warrior unit—seemed impervious to the cold drizzle, even colder above the heavy clouds. Mist beaded on Evander’s lean cheeks, bare chest and curved onyx talons that remained instead of human fingers. The dagger-sharp claws gleamed like wet ink in the darkness. For the first time, unease slithered through Bastien. Something was…off.
Evander’s handsome face retained its usual laid-back smile, but the genial expression didn’t deflect the icy premonition of danger sliding along Bastien’s veins.
“If there was going to be a next time.”
Fire blazed over Bastien’s crown, face and beak.
A screaming caw ripped across the sky—his own.
Evander gripped Bastien’s shoulder above his left wing and hard, unforgiving talons pierced feathers, flesh and muscle to sink deep. Again Bastien cried out, the keening wail tearing free from his throat as the pain and bitter reality of betrayal penetrated his body and soul.
Evander’s warped attempt at soothing the anguish he inflicted would have been laughable if Bastien could have sucked in enough air through the lungs his former friend had punctured.
“This isn’t personal, you know. I actually have no quarrel with you.”
Hatred as bright as the moon glittered in Evander’s eyes, twisted his features into a stranger.
“But your death will devastate Nicolai. He’ll feel a little of what I do every time I think of Gregor. You’re not his brother, but you’ll do.”
The rage cleared from Evander’s face as if it had never been, replaced by the same, easy smile of Bastien’s memories. As if Bastien, in his pain, had hallucinated the burning loathing.
“So I’ll apologize for this in advance.”
Numbing, freezing cold punched him in the breast.
The little breath Bastien had left exploded from his damaged lungs. He dropped his gaze to find Evander’s arm disappearing biceps-deep into the jagged, bloody hole in his chest.
Agony—searing hot agony—blasted through him like a fiery backdraft. He clawed Evander’s elbow and biceps with his talons, trying to unskewer his body from the stake of the betrayer’s arm.
Bastien gasped, his mental voice already weakening.
But Evander didn’t respond, evidently through talking. The stranger had returned, his dark visage suffused with hate and fury as he twisted his talon, shredding organs, tissue and muscle.
Bastien moaned as another blast of pain detonated inside his body. But he could no longer cry out. Even as Evander’s claws continued to eviscerate him like knives gutting a fish, Bastien could only cling to the man who had once been a beloved friend.
“Why, damn it?”
he sent the demand down their flagging telepathic link in a last, vain attempt for answers, for understanding.
None came when Evander thrust him away with a negligent shove of his palm.
None came when Bastien tumbled through the air, broken and bleeding, toward the frigid, obsidian sea.
Not like this. Please, I don’t want to die like this.
He slammed into the churning, black waves. His spine snapped. The bones in his wings shattered.
Cold. So fucking cold…
The sea closed over his head, swallowing him whole.
* * * * *
Heat. Sweet, fierce heat. On his tongue, in his throat, chest, exploding in his stomach.
A delectable wine-and-hot-cider blend flowed down his throat, seemed to attach to blood and veins and ride the complex arterial circuit to every shriveled, frozen cell and extremity of his body.
He pried open his eyelids, cracking the seal that glued them together. He groaned and just that small act sapped him of whatever miniscule power he’d conjured. But his defiance had been worth it.
A beautiful angel hovered over him.
Bastien sighed. His lashes trembled then closed. He carried the image of his silver-haired-and-eyed angel into the void with him even as he stretched his mouth wide for more of the exquisite ambrosia of her blood.
So rich. So
Part of him cried out at the profane act of drinking from her sliced wrist. No, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t natural. He was a hippogryph—not a vampire!
His soul cringed even as his beast roared for more.
Yet as the sweet, tangy fluid rolled over his tongue and he guzzled the liquid in greedy gulps, a single thought prevailed.
Five months later…
She was brilliant lightning and a flawless midnight sky. Power and perfection.
He reached for her, bracing himself for the jolt of daring to touch such contained intensity. His fingertips glanced over her collarbone, pausing to linger in the shallow dent gracing the middle. The steady pulse under the delicate skin captivated him, enthralled him. Gritting his teeth against the moan rumbling in the back of his throat, he dropped his hand. Such a simple, almost innocuous caress, and yet heat rushed over his fingers, up his arm and simmered in his gut.
Sweet. Hot. And not enough.
He wanted to burn.
“Kiss me,” he growled.
Above him, silver eyes narrowed. Hair of the same radiant color cascaded forward over her shoulders and spilled across his face and shoulders. His fingers waded through the silken mass, tangling in the heavy strands. Anchoring him.
“Take me,” he amended hoarsely.
Electric fire flashed in her bright gaze, backlit by crimson flames. As he’d suspected, the thought of taking—of conquering—appealed to her hunter’s soul. Like a predator on the prowl, she slowly lowered, planting her palms on either side of his head and bracketing his hips with her knees. Huge onyx wings snapped out, the pop like a whip cracking through the air. The blackest part of night descended on him as obsidian feathers draped over them, blanketing them. Shutting everything else out.
Pounce. Please, damn it. The silent plea ricocheted against his skull, and he fought not to drag her down and seize what he craved. Her mouth. Her taste. Her passion.
A tiny snarl lifted the corner of her mouth, offering a hint of fang. His body tightened. His cock hardened, throbbed in time with the rapid pulse of his racing heart. The pointy incisor should’ve intimidated him, especially so close to his flesh, but instead it excited him. Aroused a hunger for more than the hot, sweet pussy hovering inches above his hips.
With a low growl that matched the one vibrating in his chest, she struck. Her mouth crushed his, consumed him. Devoured him. Thrust. Lick. Stroke. Suck. His fingers flexed against her scalp, pressing her closer as he tilted his head and took the kiss deeper.
Gasping, she tore her mouth free, nipped his bottom lip hard enough for the spark of pain to sing through his veins. He fucking loved it.
Strong white teeth raked over his chin, his jaw, and down his throat. He arched into the caress, his hips rolling beneath her, demanding, begging for the wet heat of her sex. The tight clasp of her pussy. Crazy was a very real possibility if she didn’t glove his dick within her tight, slick core.
As if she had plucked the desperate thoughts from his mind, she lifted an eyebrow and slid farther down, her tongue peeking out to trail a damp path over his smooth chest. In spite of the need baying like a fucking hound inside him, a corner of his mouth lifted. She refused to be hurried and the languid circle she drew around his nipples jabbed the point home. Her lashes lifted, and her silver gaze scolded him as she grazed the small, beaded tip with her teeth then suckled. Hard.
Slowly, he released his grip on her hair. Raised his arms above his head and fisted the headboard railings. Either hold on tight or snatch her up and plunge his cock deep inside her.
She traveled lower, sweeping across his taut abdomen, dipping into his shallow navel. He shivered, not at the faint tickle but at the direction of her exploring mouth and tongue. Pleasure and anticipation spiraled in his gut, pooled in his erection. He widened his thighs, granting her more room to inch down between his legs. Her moist pants seared the skin over his hipbones.
“Damn it,” he growled as the hard tips of her nipples scraped his inner thighs. Lust—pure, blazing, tearing lust—poured through him in an overwhelming current of desire and greed. “Don’t tease. Suck me.” His hips bucked, punctuating the order. The plea.
Maybe she’d decided to cease torturing him. Maybe she’d determined he’d suffered long enough. Or maybe—just maybe—she wanted him in her mouth as much as he needed to be there. Whatever the reason, she capitulated, swallowed him in the scorching cavern of her mouth.
His back arched like a bow strung tight. The circular knobs along the railings bore into his palms as he strangled the wood. He locked the harsh bellow razing his throat behind his teeth. Each strong suck, every slow lick shoved him closer and closer to insanity. Sharp talons clawed the underside of his skin, his beast roaring for release. Howling with the primitive call to stake its claim. To dominate, cover. Take.
She lapped at his cock head then pursed her lips and drew him in, swirling her tongue over and under the sensitive cap.
“More,” he rasped. “Fuck.” He strained against his self-imposed reins. “Give me more.”
With a sweet moan that vibrated down his rigid, aching length, she rose to her knees and engulfed several more inches of his cock. Blistering. Wet. His shout rebounded off the ceiling and walls. He stared down his chest and abdomen. Shit. Her beautiful, swollen lips formed a tight ring around his dick, and watching his flesh shuttle in and out of her mouth added to the ecstasy. The utter rapture.
Electricity sizzled up his body then charged back down, crackling in the soles of his feet, the base of his spine before sizzling in his balls.
“Harder,” he snarled, his hips surging, rolling, fucking her mouth. “Suck harder. Don’t hold back with me.”
Her mercury gaze flicked up to meet his, the heat in the smoldering depths singing his skin, his soul. When her lashes lowered, the promise of pleasure, of oblivion remained imprinted on his brain.
The looming orgasm zoomed in, dragging him closer and closer to the edge.
“Baby,” he rasped. The wooden rails splintered above him. Fire raced over him. Swelled in his cock. Gut. Chest. Mouth…
The relentless craving scalded his gut. Razed a path up his chest and clawed at his throat.
Bastien Sarris jerked up from the bed, his mouth stretched wide around a soundless roar.
He stared into the yawning darkness, his eyes wide, unblinking, harsh rasps escaping his lips.
His chest heaved.
That damn dream again
. Yet lust drummed in his veins, thick, hot and voracious. Blood thumped in his cock, coinciding with the rapid pounding of his heart.
. His hand trailed over his chest, slid over his taut abdomen.
One touch would set him off, take care of the throbbing ache
… He snarled, fisted his hand and slammed it into the mattress. Just the dregs of the memory were enough to kick-start an ominous rumble in his gut.
He tunneled his fingers through his damp hair before scrubbing a palm over his sweaty face. Almost instantly, he dropped his arm as if it’d been stung and his hand fell amid the tangled covers at his waist.
He hated touching his face.
Hated the sight of it and the torso that reminded him he was a condemned, cursed fuck.
With a silent snarl, he fisted the blanket, tossed it to the side and swung his legs over the edge of the thick, comfortable mattress. The bed could have been made of stones and pine needles for all the rest he’d found in it. Most nights he paced the bedroom floor or stood out on the balcony overlooking the wild but beautiful Washington coast. When he did manage to grab a few hours of sleep, his dreams alternated between memories of love, beauty and hope, X-rated dreams of lust and desire and nightmares of pain and insatiable hunger. He didn’t know which vision was worse. The images of the idyllic past, the fantasies of what he could never have or the terrifying slide show of blood and agony. All of them drove him awake to begin the delightful cycle of insomnia all over again.
Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Bastien padded over to the glass French doors, curled his fingers around the gold handles and yanked the doors wide. Immediately, the cool rain-thick breeze rushed in, the refreshing tendrils of air like soothing caresses on his overheated skin. He shuffled forward and the chill from the stone terrace penetrated the bare soles of his feet. Yet the shiver coursing through his body was welcome.
At two a.m., the world seemed empty of all its creatures and inhabitants, leaving Bastien the only living being. The snow-capped behemoths in the distance with their silent towering evergreen sentinels greeted him as they did every night. The Puget Sound whispered to him with the quiet lap of tides and soft swells. Usually the raw, elemental beauty calmed him. One ageless immortal speaking to another. Deep calling to deep.
But tonight wasn’t like the others.
The hunger—the terrible, crushing hunger—ground down whatever peace he’d been able to scrounge like an ant under a boot heel. And though the residual pleasure from the dream continued to pulse in his cock, it wasn’t sex he craved. No. This need was darker…deeper…greedier…
For three months he’d kept the craving in check, held it off and maintained a façade of “Of course I’m okay! No Posttraumatic Stress Disorder here!” But the pretense was a lie—a cleverly staged lie in danger of cracking under a need he could no longer ignore…or control.
Even now the lure tugged at his gut. He glanced over his shoulder into the room and direction of the long, oak dresser. He narrowed his eyes as if he’d inherited Superman’s X-ray vision and could peer through the thick wood to the nearly empty vial inside the drawer. A vial of gleaming crimson liquid that drew him closer to salvation. He clenched his teeth until a dull ache bloomed along his jaw. More like a siren’s call seducing him to his damnation.
A growl rumbled in his chest and reverberated across the night as he spun and stalked back inside the shadowed bedroom. He strode directly to the antique furniture, jerked open the top drawer and dipped his hand inside. Sight wasn’t needed to locate the slim tube. His fingers closed around it and just the touch of smooth glass against his palm helped settle the voracity, as if reassuring him soon—very soon—the gluttonous thirst would be satisfied. Bastien withdrew his hand, grasping the source of his suffering…and pleasure.
Disgust soured his stomach.
He was a healer—the most gifted healer his people had seen in a millennium. He acknowledged this trait with the same acceptance he gave his blond hair and green eyes. His father, Alexander, had passed down thousands of years of knowledge, had encouraged Bastien to investigate and search out answers on his own. He’d studied not only the medicinal arts of his people, but humans and other immortal races, gleaning information from their brightest and most brilliant minds.
And yet even his gift was victim to this addiction. After healing Nicolai of a potentially lethal wound two months earlier, Bastien had discovered using his ability worsened the craving. Made him almost feral to satisfy the clawing hunger in his chest and gut.
For all his intelligence and accomplishments, the small vial in his hand made him no better than a pathetic addict.
Why didn’t the fucking Fates just pin a “Kick Me” sign on his ass?
He ground his teeth together, trapping his enraged roar in his throat. But the preventive action didn’t prevent the cry from swirling in his soul like a deadly tornado gathering strength and speed from the pain and despair feeding it. The only thing separating him from the junkie on the street was geography. He’d lied to the people closest to him. Had lost the woman he loved. Lost the future so carefully planned out for him. He cared about nothing but the next hit.
He drew back his arm and prepared to hurl the hated tube across the room, smash it against the wall in a splatter of glass and crimson.
But the howl never escaped. And when he lowered his arm to his side, the vial remained in his palm, cradled, sheltered.
This time a sound did tear from him. But not the thunderous bellow that would have brought Nicolai running from his bed to the other end of the house where he’d allowed Bastien to bunk these past two months.
No, this was a soft, unmanning whimper and it ripped another slice from his pride, already tattered beyond repair. The price of the container and its contents had been hefty—the one pleasure den he’d found that’d possessed the liquid had demanded Bastien pay for its rarity. Yet…the cost to his soul far outweighed the money that had exchanged hands. What value could one place on damnation?
His fingers trembled as he unscrewed the cap off the slender tube. After he lifted the lid, the sweet bouquet of the blood hit his nostrils, filtered over his starved palate and his beast sighed in rapturous anticipation. His mouth watered, his gums tingled. He inhaled, savoring the tantalizing scent. It was like a delectable appetizer whetting the senses for the main course. Only a swallow remained, the contents barely filling one-fourth of the glass, curved bottom.
Yet it was enough…for now.
It had to be.
Bastien lifted the tube to his mouth, the glass lip pressed to his own. As he upended the vial, hellish images flashed across his mind’s eye. Writhing men and women, mouths open in perpetual screams, naked except for the orange-and-red flames licking their flesh. Damned for an eternity to their sins and desires.