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Authors: J. K. Beck

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When Wicked Craves

BOOK: When Wicked Craves
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PRAISE FOR J. K. BECK’S
SHADOW KEEPERS SERIES

“J. K. Beck delivers exciting paranormal romance with a sharp, suspenseful edge.”


New York Times
bestselling author L
ARA
A
DRIAN

“A red-hot page-turner. I can’t wait to read more from this author!”


New York Times
bestselling author K
RESLEY
C
OLE

“J. K. Beck takes you on a dark, twisty ride that will leave you breathless. Smart, suspenseful, and jam-packed with startling twists,
When Blood Calls
is pulse-pounding pleasure. Gripping and utterly compelling! J. K. Beck brings it!”


New York Times
bestselling author L
ARISSA
I
ONE

“Buckle up.
When Blood Calls
is a dark and sexy ride!”


New York Times
bestselling author G
ENA
S
HOWALTER

 

BOOKS BY J. K. BECK

When Blood Calls
When Pleasure Rules
When Wicked Craves

When Wicked Craves
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Bantam Books Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2010 by Julie Kenner

Excerpt from
When Passion Lies
copyright © 2010 by Julie Kenner

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ANTAM
B
OOKS
is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc., and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-553-90798-8

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming novel
When Passion Lies
by Julie Kenner. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

www.bantamdell.com

v3.1

To the Whine Sisters. Thanks for making me smile.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to everyone at Bantam without whom these books wouldn’t have been possible: Shauna, Scott, Jessie, Margaret. Everyone in art and production and sales and marketing and editorial … and the entire team. Y’all rock!

Contents
PROLOGUE

The vampires moved through the night, their unconscious cargo even more deadly than they—who had seen much throughout the centuries—could imagine.

“We need a secure location,” Nicholas said. He had an angel’s face and a scientist’s mind. But nothing in his studies had prepared him for the transformation he had just witnessed in his friend.

“I know a place.” Lucius, practical and methodical, steered the truck through the Los Angeles night. They had escaped a fierce battle, but this wasn’t over. Both of them knew that for their friend Sergius—tranqued in the cargo bay—it might never be over. Once a tormented vampire whose daemon had fought for release, he was now so much worse, his reality shifted by nothing more substantial than a touch.

The girl’s curse had transformed him into something unnatural and terrifying. Something monstrous even by the broad standards of a world that lived in shadows and hovered on the fringes of human nightmares.

“They will look for him,” Nicholas said. “If we want to have any chance of reversing this thing, I need time to investigate. Time to think.”

“The girl said there was no way to reverse the transformation.”

“The girl is human. She may well be wrong.”

Lucius nodded. “We don’t have time, especially once word of what happened spreads. The Alliance will search for Sergius. And eventually, they will find him.”

“Not if they believe there is no reason to look.”

Lucius took his eyes off the road long enough to glance briefly at Nicholas. “You have a plan.”

“Yes,” Nicholas said, his voice heavy with purpose. “I do.”

CHAPTER 1

Petra Lang did not want to die.

Too bad she didn’t have even the slightest say in the matter.

A specially convened Alliance Tribunal had indicted her, an Alliance prosecutor had outlined the evidence against her, and the high examiner had sentenced her. Now she awaited her punishment from within a coffin-size portable holding cell, her hands bound tightly in front of her despite the space being so tiny there was no way she could have even shot someone the finger, were she so inclined.

And, frankly, she was definitely so inclined. As far as she was concerned, the preternatural assholes who’d sentenced her to die deserved one hell of a lot more than a rude gesture.

Never mind that she was willing to submit to whatever restrictive and oppressive rules the Alliance wanted to subject her to. Because of her curse, she’d been deemed a danger to both the human and the shadow communities, and in less than an hour, she would be dead.

She closed her eyes, trying not to think about it. Trying not to wonder if it would hurt or if she would slip softly away into the black. Trying not to wish she’d had the chance to lift the curse, to touch a man, to see the
friggin’ Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. Hell, she’d never even made it up to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge. She was only twenty-six. She wasn’t supposed to die.

She hoped she wouldn’t cry; if she could make it without tears, at least then she could take some small victory with her to the grave.

Mostly, she thought about Kiril. Worried about him. Her brother who’d dedicated his life to protecting her. The boy who wrote such beautiful poems and could spend hours searching for the proper word for one of his short stories. The sorcerer who’d exploded in a frenzy of wind and thunder when the elite Covert Alliance Apprehension Squad had burst through the door of their house in Studio City.

The squad members had gone for Kiril first, with such swiftness that Petra had assumed they’d come for her brother and had no interest in her. She’d tried to help him, but though the family’s magic flowed in her veins, too, the curse had always interfered, and summoning her meager power during a crisis had never been easy for her.

Instead, she’d watched, horrified, as the officers fired tranquilizer darts at him, the magic fading as Kiril collapsed unconscious onto the floor. She’d raced to him but hadn’t made it to his side. Instead, a burly officer had lassoed her—
lassoed!—
then dragged her back toward the door.

She’d fought, digging in her heels, tugging on the rope, screaming for her brother. But she had never once run toward her captor. Never tried to rip the cloth that
covered his body from nose to toes. Never yanked her own glove off or tried to touch skin upon skin.

She hadn’t used the curse to fight back—she hadn’t even tried.

And yet it was for that very curse that she would die tonight. She’d intentionally pushed the curse once. Only once. And it had been Serge’s decision as much as her own. The vampire knew what would happen—what he would become. But they’d had no choice. They’d been trapped, and time had been running out.

It had been a total Hail Mary ploy, but it had paid off. She’d touched, he’d transformed, and the monster he became had wreaked havoc on their captors.

Serge had sacrificed his sanity, his soul, and even his life to save countless more, but did the Alliance care? Not one damn bit. They didn’t look at the reason or the result; they looked only at the curse, at what she could wreak with nothing more substantial than the slightest brush of skin against skin.

She closed her eyes, clenched her fists, and wished she had the power to turn back time.
If she had, she wouldn’t hesitate. She would touch them all and take her chances with the vicious monsters she unleashed. She would do that very thing for which they were now executing her. She would turn them all, torture them all, and, dammit, she would fight to live.

She didn’t deserve this.

Tears pricked her eyes, spilling out over her lashes, and she tried to lift a hand to wipe them away, then shook with fear and fury when her arm wouldn’t move. She couldn’t even dry her own damn tears! Dear God, she didn’t ask for this. Didn’t want it, would walk away if she could. So how was it fair that she died tonight, when she’d spent her whole life apart and alone, protecting the entire world from what she was?

Stop it! Stop thinking!

She almost wished the guards would hurry up and come. Right then, locked in the small concrete cell, she had no company other than her thoughts. And those thoughts were tormenting her.

“Prisoner!”

A tremor ran up her spine, and she took back the earlier wish. She wasn’t ready, not at all.

“Prisoner!”

“Yes.” Her voice was soft, but she took a small bit of pride from the fact that it didn’t shake.

“It is time.”

“What about my brother? My advocate? Can’t I see them?” Didn’t the condemned have the right to say good-bye to their families? To speak one last time to their legal representative?

“Your brother’s request for visitation has been denied.”

“Oh.” She squeezed her eyes shut, not quite able to believe she wouldn’t get the chance to say good-bye to Kiril, that she’d never again hold his hand when a blue moon filled the sky, or read one of his stories, or harass him about kicking up a whirlwind inside the house. Her chest tightened. There were too many things left undone. Too many things she still wanted to say. Now she’d never be able to.

She swallowed, forcing thoughts of her brother out of her mind. “What about Montegue?” she asked, referring to Nicholas Montegue, the vampire advocate who
had represented her during the proceedings. Following the verdict and sentencing, he’d filed an appeal with the Alliance, specifically addressing it to Tiberius, the governor of the Shadow Alliance’s Los Angeles territory.

Petra still hadn’t heard the outcome, but Nicholas had been hopeful. Tiberius, he’d said, owed her one.

“The appeal was denied,” the voice said. “The Tribunal has ordered that your execution proceed with all due speed. And Montegue filed no request to visit or be present at the execution.”

She tried to draw a breath as the walls of the already tiny cell seemed to crowd even closer against her as she processed what the voice was saying. Nicholas had fought for her—spent hours researching centuries of shadow law and drafting brief after brief, his intensity and determination so thick that she’d actually dared to hope.

He’d been her courage during the weeks leading up to the hearing, and she’d relied on his quiet strength and sharp reputation. He was Nicholas Montegue, after all, the advocate who represented all vampiric interests on behalf of the Alliance. Who had a hand in the affairs of Tiberius himself.

BOOK: When Wicked Craves
10.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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