Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
Lucius chuckled at her reaction. “Feeling better then? You were dreaming.”
“How long have I been out?” She wiped the water from her face and then squeezed it from her hair. “And could you not have found a better way to wake me?”
“A day, and you were having a nightmare. I know how hard you are to wake from one.” He crossed his arms. “Dreaming about home again?”
Anger crawled through her. “Yeah, we can thank Garret for that. What is he doing in your territory?”
“I do not know. Kassity, watch your temper. I need you by my side tonight. We have a meeting with the local wolf pack.” He motioned to her. “Go wash up and meet me in the foyer.”
Meetings meant trouble. Something must have shifted in the war, and yet Lucius remained calm when he mentioned it. She narrowed her eyes at him before wandering into her bathroom, hoping hot water could wash away the nightmares.
Kass walked into the foyer, looking around to see if the wolves had arrived yet. Her legs still shook under her, but thanks to being a shifter the pain continued to fade and the damage had already started to heal. Her leather pants didn’t irritate the wound on her leg at all, but the black long sleeve shirt bothered her shoulder. The v-neck of it plunged low enough to show off the ample cleavage that she hated.
Lucius stood behind his human, tying a length of fabric around her eyes, pulling her hair over the back of it. He kissed the woman’s cheek. “You look beautiful, Tegan.” He murmured. He took Tegan’s hand and led her to his throne, helping the female sit and arrange herself.
Kass shivered at the sight. She never saw Tegan’s eyes and her white hair never showed roots of a different color. Kass believed without a doubt it was a natural occurrence. Lucius turned from his human and looked at Kass.
“Kitty, you look lovely.” He held his hand out to her. “There are precautions that must be taken tonight.” A silver collar appeared in his other hand.
She snarled at him as her panther shrank back in her. “No.”
“You think something’s going to trigger her and bring her out tonight. Despite the block you’ve placed between us.” She stated, ignoring the warning in his voice. “A silver collar is torture.”
“It is needed tonight.” He snapped and pulled on his power in her.
Kass felt like a thread was pulling her towards him, a puppet obeying its master. She snarled, as she had no choice but to kneel in front of him.
He snapped the collar around her neck. “Good kitty.”
“How come the silver doesn’t burn you?” She whispered, trying to get used to the burning sensation around her neck.
He chuckled and went to his throne. “Its low level of silver concentration is made to feel uncomfortable and to keep the beast at bay. I am too old for it to bother me.” He walked over to his throne. “Come, the wolves are here.”
She pulled herself up from the ground and walked over to him, trying not to touch the collar. Kass laid her hand in Lucius’s, glaring at him. “How nice, it means I won’t have a scar to add to my collection.”
“A strong panther like you having scars? Must do your fair share of fighting.”
The new, deep male voice made her pause, turning slightly from Lucius until he grabbed her wrist to pull her along.
Kass smirked as she knelt on the opposite side of Lucius’ throne. “You have no idea.”
“Impressive cat you’ve got there.” The male’s blond hair was cut close to his head, his blue eyes wandering over her body as he grinned.
“You’re here to talk business, Derrik.” Lucius reminded him with a growl, sitting back in his throne. “Something about your wolves being killed?”
Derrik nodded. “Your last raid really took a toll on my pack. We had three of our security people killed and two of our bartenders.”
“They were careless, what do you expect?” Lucius shrugged. “It’s part of war, the weak get killed.”
He took a step forward, his fists clenched. “Part of the war? I loaned you my members as part of the treaty and now I’m short handed at a club that you fund.” He snapped. “I need more employees if you’re going to keep sending my men on wild, dangerous goose chases.”
“That last one was a success, we located the corpse that we think the stone belongs to.” Lucius and Kass both looked over as Tegan stiffened at the mention of this stone. “You want more employees, go hire some. All I did was give your pack the money to start the club. I really want nothing to do with it because it is merely a place for you and your kind to hide.”
Derrik shook his head. “You want me to hire humans? You’ve got to be kidding me. Humans don’t belong in our world, it’s dangerous.”
“What do you suggest then?” Lucius pressed his fingertips together and leaned forward. “That I give you employees? I have a bar to run too.”
He shrugged. “Just give us some people on loan, at least until I can find other sups to fill in.” His eyes fell on Kass. “Like her.”
The panther in her stirred. She didn’t want to be a part of the wolf’s club, she didn’t want to work under anyone but Lucius.
Kass tried to keep her growl under control while she tried to squish her cat down.
“Kass is one of my best in bartending and in security. You get her, you don’t get anyone else.” Lucius’s voice was calm.
She let her eyes slide to him. “You’re giving me to the wolves?”
“You have a problem with dogs, little one?” Derrik asked with a laugh. “Promise we won’t bite.”
“Kassity, after last night you’ll be safer somewhere else. We don’t know how they found your or why they want you back. So you will work for the wolves and fill in for me when I need you. Until the debt is paid and things are better. You understand?” A trundle of power brushed her, threatening her with just a little pain that promised more.
She swallowed her snarl as a chill went through her. “Understood.” She looked up at the wolf. “I have nothing against you, my panther just doesn’t like wolves. So speak to her.” The beast stirred in her, pushing against her skin and seeming to make her bones creak a little. With a groan, she shrank back against Lucius.
The vampire put a hand on her head and her beast calmed.
“Some control you have over your kitten. I’ll take her as long as she’s not a ticking time bomb.” Derrik waved his hand. “I don’t need any trouble on my hands.”
Kass glared at him. “She won’t come out unless provoked or Lucius tells her to come out. Stupid cat won’t listen to me.”
“Fair enough, you start tomorrow.” Derrik’s gaze shifted to Lucius. “You sure the stone belongs to him?”
“Sent it away.” Tegan’s voice was so soft that Kass wasn’t even sure the woman spoke. “Sent it away.”
Lucius looked down at the human. “You did what?”
“Sent it away.”
Kass noted the fine tremor that shook Tegan’s body and frowned. “Tegan?”
“Sent it away!” The woman clutched her head and doubled over. “Sent it away!”
Lucius growled at Derrik. “You are dismissed, I need to handle my human.”
“Of course. See you tomorrow, Kass.” His eyes were all for Tegan, who was rocking back and forth.
Kass nodded and moved to Tegan’s side. “Tegan, can you hear me?”
“Sent it away!”
“Fuck.” Lucius pushed Kass out of the way and put his hands on either side of Tegan’s head, forcing the woman to hold still. “Tegan, listen.”
Kass shivered as his power filled the room and demanded Tegan’s attention. Tegan’s head came up a little as her hands rose to remove the fabric.
“No, not yet.” Lucius voice softened. “Kass is still in the room. What happened, Tegan? Why did you send the stone away?”
Tegan shook her head. “Pain, pain, oh gods, Lucius, it hurts.” She laid her hands over his. “Sent it away.”
“What’s happened?” Kass sat back on her heels. “She shouldn’t be able to deny you an answer.”
Lucius pulled Tegan into his arms. “A vampire has messed with her mind.”
Tegan clawed at him. “Sent the stone away.”
“Do you know where?” He asked, wrapping his arms around her.
“No.” She pulled back, shaking her head.
Lucius nodded and looked at Kass. “Come here and I will take the collar off. I’ll deal with this, you get some rest. You have a big day tomorrow at the club.” He stood and held Tegan’s hand to help her up.
Kass nodded and rose from the floor. Going to him, she raised her hair so he could unlatch the collar. “I still can’t believe you’re loaning me out.”
“Get over it, it’ll be good for you.” He snapped as he pulled the collar off. “Now go.”
Before she left she glanced back at Lucius and Tegan. He pulled the woman close to him, holding her as if she would break and kissing the top of her head.
Quinn walked into the meeting room with the vampires. The Circle, head of all vampires, demanded an update on the search for his daughter. They had come to him when they heard the rumors about her and now wanted her for themselves. He should have killed the bitch when he had the chance. Now that he had an update from his sons he had something to give The Circle. The cold room felt more like a clinic than a meeting room, with a screen wall at the other end. There he could see seven human-like shapes sitting. The silhouette routine showed how much The Circle didn’t trust him.
“You call for my aid, yet you hide.” Quinn growled.
“We hide for your safety.” A male voice sounded. “You have news on your daughter?”
Quinn watched as the figures remained motionless. “I do. We are in the process of getting her back, but she is under the protection of Lucius. The advantage of this is that she has already been trained to kill.”
“And the mark? Has it appeared?”
He shook his head. “If it has, it’s not visible.” He waited as the silence fell over him, making the beast inside him nervous. The war was growing out of hand, but he knew that if there was anyone to ally with, it was The Circle.
“We need to know if the mark has appeared. Once you get her, check her for it.”
“Her mother promised me that it would appear. She just escaped our grasp before it could.”
“Get her back. If the mark has appeared, bring her to us and we can promise to keep you safe.”
Quinn shivered, knowing what the alternative was. “I have another daughter-“
“But she does not carry the mark.” The vampire hissed back. “We are interested in only Kassity.”
“Understood.” He swallowed and then bowed. “Is that all?”
Something shifted behind the screen; just a subtle movement, but Quinn heard it. “Do not harm any of Lucius’ other people unless they attack you. Get your daughter and get out. We cannot have any attention drawn to us at this time.”
“Understood.” Quinn turned to leave. He would do anything to protect his sons in this supernatural war. Anything.
ax studied the man approaching his table. The crowd of the cafe bustled around them, paying no attention to the two non-humans who joined each other for a cup of coffee. The demon’s eyes glinted in the morning sun as he pulled a chair out and sat, grinning at Jax.
“You bring me the money?” He sat his coffee on the table.
Jax slid an envelope over. “There you go, plus tickets to the concert you requested. You have some strange demands for a demon.”
“I like to have my fun.” He snorted. “What did you want in return?”
“I need to know what’s been going on, rumor has it that the wolves lost a few top notch fighters in the last battle against the demons.”
Kaden nodded and sighed. “Yeah, the alpha lost his brother in it, bloody battle. They were trying to protect something that Lucius wanted. What it was, was a mystery. But Lucius lost a few of his vampires as well. Heard you’ve been hanging around his territory a lot. Find anything interesting?”
“No comment. Any news on the fae and others? I heard they were starting to heat things up as well, that the demons were working on getting them to choose their sides.”
“I don’t know, the prince of the fae is missing, heard he’s been missing for a long time. So things are a mess there.” He took a huge gulp of his coffee. “Can I ask you something?”
“Lucius is rumored to have a stone and a very interesting human. Know anything about it?”
“I know he lost the stone and I haven’t met his human, so I can’t say much about her. I know he has a female panther in his clutches though.” He leaned back and cradled his coffee between his hands.
Silence surrounded Kaden before he spoke. “There’s only one panther clan in the northern U.S., and they don’t willingly let anyone leave.”
“They are a very close knit family.” He nodded. “It’s a complicated situation, really. Lucius is strong, probably one of the strongest territory leaders in the U.S.”
“That’s what I hear, and that the Circle is keeping an eye on him. They are worried, they think he is hiding something from them.”
Jaxon laughed. “Like what? From what I hear vampires can’t hide anything from their hierarchy.”
“I think it has to do with what the wolves were protecting in that last battle.”
“If you find out what it is, I’ll trade you goods again.” Jax chuckled. “Just as long as it’s not something insane.”
Kaden nodded. “Yeah, I’ll let you know if I find out. Hope your mercenary stuff is going well. Seems to be since you can afford to keep helping me out.” He downed his coffee. “Thanks, man. I’ll see you later. Careful around Lucius. I think the Circle is right and that he’s hiding something.”
“Do you know what the stone was?” Jax asked.
Kaden chuckled and stood. “I hear rumors.”
“It’s apparently a soul. A bad ass mother fucking soul, but no one knows who it belongs to.” He shrugged and walked out the door, blending in with the crowd of humans outside. Jax thought about Kaden’s words as he finished his coffee. He threw a tip on the table before leaving. He needed to create a new list of places to search for this stone.
Techno music thudded against Kass as she approached the doorman, who waved her in. The crowd bumped and grooved against each other and she swallowed as her eyes wandered over the mix of people. Some human, most of them supernatural. A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped, spinning around, ready to fight.