Authors: Mina Carter
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
Craig Kim, Chris Stout, Marisa Chenery
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
“Married? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
Marak, sixth monarch of the Kyn, grimaced at the sound of laughter as it rolled through the large room and carried on pacing. He turned suddenly, his silver gaze sharp as he glared at the chuckling man lounging in the chair opposite the roaring fire.
His companion just shrugged, not at all fazed by the deadly look. Marak flopped down in the chair, raking long fingers through his close cropped hair in frustration and glared at the fire moodily.
“This can’t be happening. Freaking politicians,” he muttered, not caring that his best friend from childhood heard the bitter note in his voice. A fellow Warrior, Kalen came from a family nearly as old as Marak’s own, and their blood nearly as blue.
“Sorry, mate, you heard the man,” Kalen said bluntly. Earlier that night they’d sat in the Royal Hall, listening as Lord Elsveth, leader of the Lord’s Council, relayed the concerns of the council. It had been a lengthy list, covering everything from the cost of decent daylight shielding these days to local authority taxes on council properties. Marak had expected the usual complaint that the Warrior caste were dinosaurs, but not the attack over the fact that he still had no heir.
“They want an heir, which means
need a woman. I love ya, man, but not that much,” Kalen drawled, his deep voice full of humour.
Marak fidgeted. His annoyance at the situation he was being forced into, and the trap any idiot could see was coming, translated into movement. The rasp of leather whispered in the room as he shifted and crossed his leg over his knee, lounging in the large chair with the indolent grace inherent to all vampire Kyn.
“So…the Lady Kassandria doesn’t catch your interest?” Kalen asked with amusement, rising and striding over to the large sideboard to one side of the fireplace. He lifted one of the decanters in a long fingered hand, swirling the contents in the heavy glass as he looked enquiringly over his shoulder at Marak.
Marak nodded, leaning his head back and closing his eyes as a wave of tiredness and hopelessness washed over him. He knew his duty, and he’d known this day was coming. The king needed an heir, the line needed to continue through his children…his sons. He wasn’t conceited enough to think he may be lucky enough to sire a daughter on any woman, not with how rare female children were. What was the saying? ‘You’re not a man until you’ve had a daughter.’ He smiled without mirth, his eyes still closed. It was peaceful in the dark, the warmth of the fire on his face like the warmth of the sun he’d never seen, only imagined.
“She’s a very beautiful woman,” he admitted simply, watching as Kalen inspected the decanters at the bar.
“But?” Kalen demanded, his voice suddenly closer. Marak opened his eyes to see the Warrior standing over him, a heavy tumbler of amber liquid in his hand. Born with the distinctive Warrior marks adorning the left side of his face and most of his body, Kalen was silent as a cat when he moved. And a sneaky bastard to boot, Marak admitted. Many times he’d have been a goner, fallen to the Rogue if Kalen hadn’t had his back.
“But what?” He reached for the glass but Kalen held onto it, his dark eyes unreadable.
“I can hear the ‘but’. She’s beautiful and that figure would tempt a saint! Heaven knows it wouldn’t be a hardship to bed her. Hell, if I had a shot at her I’d start a damn nursery!” Kalen relaxed his grip on the glass, letting Marak take it, and frowned. “So what’s the deal?”
Marak threw the contents back in one move and sucked his breath in as it burned all the way down to his stomach.
“She’s not my bond-mate. I don’t have one.”
“And?” Kalen frowned, clearly puzzled. “Bond-mates are rare, have been for centuries. Why else do the courts watch the humans, looking for the mark?”
Marak grunted. He knew the answers to that as well as Kalen did. As well as every Kyn. As a race they were the descendants of twelve demon warriors who had crossed into the human dimension, the last survivors of a bloody war that had nearly wiped them out. At first, things had looked good for the Kyn, great in fact.
Their new home had magnified their natural abilities. The prey was plentiful, living in the open rather than hiding in the perpetual shadows, terrified of anything that looked even vaguely Kyn-like.
Some humans could even be brought over into the night-world, be made Kyn, providing much-needed women for the race to continue. The icing on the cake though had been discovering some of the converted were bond-mates. Rare and cherished women, they were born to be the other half of the Warrior they were destined for. A treasure the demon warriors thought they’d left behind them in the dying ruins of their home.
But then things took a turn for the worse. Vilan, one of the twelve, fell victim to Blood-Rage, a devastating condition that all their kind flirted with once they reached adulthood. Marak shuddered slightly. It all started so innocuously…the ever present temptation, just a few swallows more. Then it was a slippery slope into blood addiction, and there was only one way to go from there. Rogue.
Vilan had gone Rogue without warning, taking Blood-Rage to a whole new level. He’d killed and disappeared into the night. His trail was long dead by the time the other Warriors realised what had happened. But his presence was still felt. Especially when rumours of what he’d done to his mate started to circulate. The trouble was, most of the stories were sickeningly true.
From Vilan rose another breed of vampire, the Rogue—vampires without the moral codes of their Kyn brethren, creatures only interested in the rush of the hunt and the high of the kill.
For generations Marak and Warriors like him had been trying to wipe them out, to protect both human and Kyn alike. However, the Rogues knew as well as the Kyn did that there were humans that could be converted. So they converted indiscriminately, killing when one of the converted showed a bond-mark.
Useless to the Rogue, the deaths of Bonded denied the Kyn precious fertile females, a grievous loss as throughout the years fewer and fewer children were born, always more male than female. The scientists amongst the Kyn theorised that it was something to do with the demon DNA of their ancestors, DNA that wasn’t supposed to exist in this realm and was failing gradually.
Marak sighed, the enormity of his race’s situation bearing down heavily on his shoulders. He tapped the empty glass against one leather clad leg, the hefty tumbler delicate in his large hand.
He focused on it. He was king, but his hands were more used to killing, marked with heavy calluses and bearing a myriad of small scars. A quirk of fate and he’d been born with the Warrior’s marks over his face and body, sealing his destiny twice over.
His lips twitched in amusement as he traced the edge of a holster strap over his thigh. He was suited and booted for a night out on patrol with Kalen and the lads. Not for them the pale, languid romanticism of vampires found in the human books and films. Which was good, because Marak sure as hell didn’t sparkle. He was something altogether more dangerous—a Kyn Warrior in the prime of his long life.
He put the glass down and rose in one lithe movement, the demon blood in him expressed in a fluid and predatory movement. “Move your ass K. We need to hit the streets.”
The rest of their patrol were waiting for them when they hit the compound: a group of low-rise buildings tucked away at the back of the estate, close-grouped as though for protection. Unlike the rest of the estate, these buildings were squat and utilitarian. Heavy-duty shutters adorned the windows and doors, operated by remote from the control room deep inside, as much security as protection against sunlight. Strengthened steel bars sat behind the windows, preventing access should someone be lucky enough to actually get through the shutters. Lucky enough or stupid enough; anyone that got inside was then going to be facing Kyn Warriors who averaged around six-foot five and a couple of hundred pounds apiece. Each also had years of combat experience, so an intruder would have to be seriously suicidal.
Marak swept in through the doors; within the compound they were all unlocked and open to the night air at this time of night. An ankle length leather coat swirled around his powerful figure. A black polo and leather pants with black shit-kicker boots completed the ensemble, reinforcing the ‘bad-ass’ image Marak did so well.
“You’re late,” a voice announced from the back of the room.
It belonged to Feral, their driver, who was built along the same lines as a small tank, massive muscles corded in his heavy frame. The lines of his Warrior’s mark were deepest blood red, startling against the paleness of his skin. “We should have been out an hour ago,” he griped and swept a hand over his shaved head in agitation, his eagerness to get out and start kicking Rogue ass obvious.
“The other teams left just after sundown. Mikal said to tell you he’s got your lazy ass nailed.” Feral jerked a glance towards a wipe board in the corner of the room, where the patrol teams recorded nightly kills—some friendly but mission-specific competition. Marak didn’t care who took down the most Rogue, as long as someone did. But competition helped the teams bond. With independent and highly aggressive Warriors who had a tendency take that aggression out on each other when bored, Marak really needed them to bond. “That and they want pretty boy married off so he can father a posse of brats,” Kalen added helpfully, earning himself a glare from Marak.
Feral looked at Marak with interest. No one but Kalen could get away with calling their leader ‘pretty boy,’ but all the Warriors knew the constant battles Marak had to run against matchmaking mothers and enterprising females with an eye on being the next queen.
“So…which vision of loveliness are they offering on the sacrificial altar?”
The question came from the back of the room, from a lounging figure dressed similar to Marak and every other guy in the room. Except this figure filled the leathers out a little more in certain areas.
Shit, the last thing Marak wanted was to get into a pissing contest tonight. Not with Vixen: the only female Warrior on the team, possibly in existence. Especially not over female rights in the Kyn world. All of the Warriors in the room outweighed her, but none of them, including Marak, wanted to take her on in a fight. Tall for a woman, easily topping six feet, with the distinctive Warrior markings tracing over her left temple and cheek, Vixen was every young Kyn guy’s wet dream.
Like the rest of them, she was dressed in black, ready to hit the streets. But her t-shirt was almost scandalously tight over an impressive rack, and her leather pants were virtually sprayed onto her curvy hips and ass. Some of the Warriors in the room watched her out of the corners of their eyes, appreciation on their faces, when she wasn’t looking. Which wasn’t often. Vixen was as sharp as a cut-throat, and as deadly.
Marak looked her in the eye, his expression indicating he wasn’t about to take any shit. Not tonight. Not when they were already late for patrol.
“Kassandria of House Santien.”
“Stacked.” Vixen shrugged, contempt in her voice. “And brainless. She’d be good for sex, but if you want good conversation you’d do better moving in Ugly over there.” She motioned to Kalen.
“Bite me, bitch,” Kalen threw over his shoulder, busily arming up from the large weapons locker in the corner. Only his and Marak’s weapons still remained; the rest of the small arsenal the locker had contained was already secreted about the bodies of the patrol.
“You wish!” she snarled back without looking. It was a ritual the two of them had been going through for years.
“You two finished the sweet talk?” Marak’s patience was wearing thin. “Because the Rogue are gonna think its damn Christmas with those other prancing idiots out there!”
“Yeah, we’re finished. Blondie’s too chicken to admit she fancies the pants off me.”
Kalen grinned as Vixen, predictably, flipped him a hand gesture.
“Fuck you, K,” she snarled, and stomped out the door.
Feral sighed and threw a long-suffering look at Kalen. “I wish you wouldn’t
that! I’ll be scraping freakin’ Rogue gore off all night now.”
Head bowed in resignation, he set off after his patrol partner, obviously hoping to calm her down a little before they hit any action.
Kalen chuckled, and turned back to Marak and caught the disapproving look.
“What? She likes me, really!”
“Yeah right, just tone it down a little. Last thing we want is psycho Warrior-bitch to flip out on us without any Rogue to point her at, ok?”
Marak made for the weapons cabinet and calmly started to tool up. It didn’t take him long, speed born from long experience, and within minutes he and Kalen were headed outside to where a black SUV with darkened windows awaited them.
“So.” Kalen stopped Marak from opening the front passenger door with a hand, his dark eyes alive with interest. “What you gonna do about the lil’ woman issue?”
Marak sighed in frustration, having an inkling now of how Feral felt earlier. Kalen was like a damn terrier once he had hold of something.
“Not a clue. I’m not marrying Kassandria for sure. She’s a nice girl and all, but I’m not gonna be dictated to.” He frowned in annoyance. “I’ll pick my own woman, not have her picked by some jumped-up lord. Would serve them right if I took the first woman I see out there as mate.”