Sunday, 19 August 2012

Janick's Lament

Janicks Lament

Fire raged through his veins; a sizzling inferno of white-hot heat that threatened to consume him from within. Darkness danced at the corner of his vision, his rage fueling the darkness as he took the final step that crossed him over from a civilised being into the monster he truly was.

Wind blew his inky black locks into the air, the deep green of his eyes turning black. Deadly sharp incisors elongated and the sound of a slow click began as wicked black talons tapped lightly together.

So Janick thought he could take what was his, did he? Did the upstart think he could abuse and destroy what belonged to him, and believe there wouldn’t be a consequence? Was he seriously that stupid?

Demetri stood over the remains of the dead vampire, tracing the unhealed wounds marking the naked, female torso. Not only had Caris most likely suffered torture at the hands of the other vampire and his clan, but Janick had gone so far as to rip her flesh open after her beheading, leaving her no dignity even in death.

It was a blatant challenge and one that would not go unpunished.

If Demetri hadn’t crossed over he would have felt some remorse that the vibrant youngling would no longer walk into his club and sashay up to him all sass and sexiness, bypassing others who were too afraid to look in his direction. He would have been saddened that he wouldn’t touch her skin again or run his tongue slowly over her delicious curves before taking them to the heights of sexual bliss.

But he had crossed over and there were no emotions in this state, only the beast within, intent on revenge.

“I didn’t think you were that attached to the girl,” Alexei Romanov said at his side, tying back his blond hair with a leather thong as he gazed dispassionately at the corpse.

“She had spirit,” his twin brother Andrei mused from the other side of Demetri, his tone regretful. He’d had occasion to spend some time with Caris himself. She had been funny and good in bed. It was a pity the girl was dead but she was just a youngling. He was as perplexed as his brother was as to why their friend was taking it so personally. It wasn’t as if he had been in love with Caris.

He shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the feral vampire beside him. Had Demetri’s feelings been deeper than they had anticipated? He didn’t think so but then their friend kept a lot of things close to his chest.

“Janick knew Caris was under my protection. This…” Demetri hissed, his talons clacking loudly as he waved at the dead body. “This is a challenge to me, a great big fuck you, what are you going to do about it?”

The twins made eye contact, Andrei shrugging again. He turned to Demetri, facing him square on. “And what are you going to do about it?” He, too, reached into his jeans and pulled out a leather thong to tie back his light brown hair. He already knew the answer to the question he had just asked.

“Everyone dies.”

Alexei raised an eyebrow in surprise. “There are over 20 in Janick’s coven, Demetri, the last estimate was around 27 members.”

“Scared, Alexei?” Demetri’s voice dripped ice.

The blond vampire scowled darkly at the insult but held his peace at Andrei’s negative headshake. It was plain stupidity to get into an argument with their friend when he was in his feral state and stupid wasn’t something the Romanov twins were guilty of.

“I’ll go alone.” Again the air was ice as Demetri spoke, his voice toneless, his black gaze glancing off to the distance.

“Fuck that!” Alexei ground out, releasing his human side to allow his vampiric nature to take control. “No way in hell am I missing out on this fun.”

Andrei smiled a slow smile, a twinkle of light in his deep brown eyes. Beside the two feral vampires, that smile should have been comforting, but the spark of insanity that danced in his eyes belayed that fact.

He was the last of the three to release his humanity. When he did, all three angels of death turned to scent the air, the setting sun casting its last rays over them, bathing them in light, enhancing their beauty even in their most dangerous state.

“I’m coming, Janick,” Demetri whispered into the early evening sky before he took off at inhuman speed, the twins close by his side.


Janick lounged in his favourite chair, one leg thrown over the side as he watched two of his coven grapple with each other on the floor beside him. The scent of sex filled the air as they slapped hard against each other, rough in their play but clearly turned on by the act.

It appeared some of his people found it highly erotic to fuck hard after a good torture session followed by a killing. Personally, it did nothing for Janick sexually, but he enjoyed watching others indulge themselves.

No, what did make him hot as hell was hearing someone beg for his or her life. Knowing he held that power over them made him hard and aching, though he never indulged in any relief. It was the feeling that he liked, not only of having the power of life and death but also the pain of being denied his release.  

He knew some called him a sick bastard behind his back, though no one was stupid enough to say it to his face. That was until a week ago, when someone thought he could get away with it.

Demetri Bozic had thought it was acceptable to humiliate him at the Council meeting, calling him a sick bastard loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. All eyes had turned in his direction, the assembled group waiting to see what he would do about it.

There was no way in hell Janick would have challenged Bozic right there and then. Those crazy twins he hung around with were watching proceedings and there were enough of his cronies around to back him up.

No, Janick’s only course of action had been to laugh at the insult and retreat for the moment, to take time to plot his revenge on the dark-haired Ancient. And plot he had, finally coming up with the perfect insult.

He’d taken Bozic’s favourite plaything and destroyed it. It had been such fun too, making him harder than ever before as the girl had begged for her life. At first, she had been cocky, so sure of herself for being favoured by the Ancient. She had thought she was untouchable, safe because of his protection.

The moment she had realised she was going to die had been the best moment of Janick’s life. Oh, the euphoria that had suffused him as he had seen the terror in her pretty eyes. He felt his body stir again as he replayed the moment, a smile crossing his handsome face.

Bozic would know it was he who had murdered the youngling. He wasn’t concerned about that. Younglings were cannon fodder to Elders and Ancients alike, often used to send a message to their enemies. If the Ancient had any sense he would heed the message Janick had just sent him, ‘Don’t fuck with me!’

A loud bang from the other end of his mansion had him leaping to his feet, fangs and talons instantly elongating. The couple of the floor broke apart too, rising naked to join him as they moved as one towards the source of the disturbance.

Janick didn’t know what the fuck was going on but whoever was foolish enough to enter his lair was about to join the pretty little youngling he’d just dispatched.


“Mine!” Andrei laughed, leaping high in the air towards two male vampires rushing towards them as they burst through the main doors of the mansion.

“Make sure he doesn’t get too out of hand,” Demetri tossed to Alexei before he veered off to the left into what appeared to be a games room.

“Who the fuck is going to make sure you don’t get too out of hand?” Alexei called to his retreating back before a faint noise on his other side had him spinning sharply and ducking down in one fluid movement.

Talons sliced the air where his neck had been but moments before and he continued his movement coming around and up behind the female who had just tried to take his head. Without hesitation, he plunged his talons into the base of her spine, severing the nerves in an instant. The girl dropped towards the floor and a quick flick of his wrist had her head rolling from her shoulders even before the rest of her body made contact with the hardwood.

“Stupid bitch,” he rumbled, glancing over at his brother to ensure he was okay. Why he was even remotely concerned, he didn’t know. Andrei had already dispatched one male and was in the process of playing with the last one he had claimed as his. The fact Andrei so easily dispatched his first prey in the time it had taken Alexei to make his own kill, was enough to tell him that these younglings were very new to the vampire life.

The male was floundering on the floor in a pool of blood, Andrei sitting on top of him with a head his hand. “Will you miss him?” he laughed. “He didn’t seem much of a friend trying to push you in front of him. That’s why I killed him first, for being an asshole.”

Alexei sighed, rolling his eyes. Maybe Demetri was right. His twin was clearly in one of his moods.  “Andrei, will you stop playing with him? Demetri’s taken off somewhere. We need to make sure we’ve got his back.” He was concerned about their friend being alone, though the sound of screaming coming from deeper into the mansion appeased him slightly

Another three vampires appeared above them and raced downstairs towards his brother. These three were Elders, meaning they were at least 100 years old. He could scent their age and tell they were young compared to the twins. No real match for them.

His brother smiled back at him his razor sharp talons slicing off his prey’s head so fast the vampire still had a surprised expression as he died.

He laughed, turning his attention to the impending attack. “Catch!”

The first Elder automatically put his hands out for the head launched in his direction, seeing his error instantly, but it was already too late. As the head sailed towards him, Andrei was following it, insanity dancing in his black eyes.

Alexei sauntered slowly towards the remaining two males, smiling as he saw understanding reach their eyes, their companion’s screams filling the hallway as Andrei reached him and began to take him apart.

“We’ll go,” one of them stammered, starting to back away towards the stairs. He raised his hands in surrender. “Janick isn’t worth this.” His friend echoed his gesture and Alexei’s smile widened.

“No, Janick isn’t worth this and if you’d been smart enough you would have known that and chosen your friends more wisely. Demetri calls the shots here and his decree is very simple. Everyone dies.”

Alexei moved at inhuman speed, taking the first head before the male closest to him could move. It was too easy and he sighed with displeasure. So far, none of the vampires had put up a decent fight. They really were so young it was like taking candy from a baby. He was disappointed his prey was so weak.

The remaining vampire opted to make a fight of it and flew at Alexei. The Elder moved gracefully, dancing out of reach with ease, spinning gracefully in a circle and kicking the male in the stomach as he passed him.

The other vampire spun quickly too, lashing out but finding only clear air. A whisper of breath on his neck had him turning futilely. He heard the click of talons, felt a stab of pain in his neck, then darkness descended and he knew no more.

“Sounds like Demetri’s having more fun than us,” Andrei sighed, cleaning his bloody hands on one of the corpses’ clothes. He straightened up, scenting the air and smiled. “I like it here. Come on, Alexei; let’s go see what D’s been up to while we were distracted.”


Demetri pulled an arm from a shoulder, turning to his left and using the appendage to smack the next vampire in the face. He hit her with such force that her nose broke and blood sprayed over his face. He ignored it, going in for the kill immediately, twisting her head from her shoulders roughly. His first victim was trying to attack him from behind and he spun on his heel, talons plunging deep into the other female’s throat.

Idly, he wondered if Janick was fond of either of the two. He hoped so. He ripped the female’s throat out and finished the killing blow with a quick swipe of his talons. Pausing, he looked around the room, a cold smile gracing his lips. Carnage was the best way to describe the scene and he had still to reach his target. He wondered what Janick would think of his handiwork if he lived long enough to see it.

A noise behind him had him turning to greet Alexei and Andrei. He had sensed their approach therefore hadn’t tried to take their heads.

“Can you leave some for us?” Andrei asked in a disgruntled tone. His expression was a mix between disappointment and awe at the body parts littering the sitting room they were standing in.

Alexei surveyed the scene and gave a small nod. “Impressive,” was his only comment.

Demetri inhaled, enjoying the aroma of death, his beast ecstatic at its day’s work so far. “Janick is mine. If either of you even thinks of touching a hair on his head I’ll kill you myself.”

He didn’t wait for a response, idly flicking aside an elder as he entered the next room. The male’s screams told him one of his friends was dealing with the issue. His bloodlust was nearly appeased but wouldn’t be satisfied until he had ripped Janick to pieces. He ignored the few remaining coven members, zeroing in on his target.

“You will die for this, Bozic!”

Janick’s words stopped him and he stared at the furious vampire impassively for a moment and then threw his head back and laughed. It was a cold, humourless laugh and sent chills down the spines of the vampires still living.

Seriously? Janick seriously believed he was any kind of match for him?

The laughter made Janick pause, Demetri’s posture causing the most concern. The Ancient bared his throat with no fear. In their world, it was something only a fool would do, or someone who was so supremely confident that no one could touch him.

His coven was dead or dying all around him. The three vampires before him were bathed in blood and the aura of insanity. For the first time Janick felt fear, questioned his actions that had brought these instruments of death into his home. All this because of one youngling? It appeared inconceivable. Could he talk Bozic down?

“Come, Demetri, you’ve made your point. I fail to see why you’re so upset over one youngling. Is it really necessary to destroy so many innocent vampires over a single girl?” He tried to keep his fear masked. Fear was a sign of weakness and enough of a reason to incite attack. Cold, black eyes met his and he stifled down the compulsion to swallow and give away his unease.

“They were here when you brought Caris to your home. They were here when you tortured and murdered her. I have no doubt a number of them participated in the actual attack,” Demetri ground out, taking two steps closer before halting again.

“There are no innocents in this coven, Janick. They all knew the girl was under my protection. You knew that and still you thought it was wise to fuck with me.” He turned to glance around the room, seeing the twins perched on a large oak table watching the scene play out. There wasn’t another living soul in the mansion apart from the four left in the study.

Demetri turned back to his target scenting fear and feeling satisfaction that Janick finally did get the point. “This isn’t about a youngling, Janick. This is about you thinking you could fuck with me and get away with it. No one fucks with me – ever.”

He flew at the vampire the second he stopped speaking. Janick anticipated his move and met him halfway, the two males smacking hard into each other. Talons flashed, biting into flesh as they grappled for control, smashing into walls as they whirled around the room at supernatural speed.

Bricks and mortar littered the floor where they impacted, grunts escaping them. Janick was older than the rest but he was still young. Demetri had walked the planet for 2000 years, his speed and strength outmatching his adversary. He ripped at Janick’s left leg, pulling it off as the other male screamed.

The image of Caris’s dead body came to mind and the red-hot fury he’d felt before resurfaced, breaking through the cold detachment of his feral state. Demetri fell on Janick in a mindless fury, ripping into his flesh, plunging his talons into his body repeatedly, tearing chunks of flesh out and tossing it away.

He lost track of the time, of how long he savaged the dying vampire, giving himself totally to his beast until it had the vengeance it wanted. When the red mist cleared, there wasn’t a single part of Janick that remained in one piece, nothing that could discern what he had once looked like, who he had been as a person.

Straightening up, Demetri surveyed the butchery and tried to feel some remorse. It didn’t come and he didn’t think it ever would. Nothing would ever compel him to regret what he had done this day.

“And people call me crazy?”

Andrei’s mock-whisper and then loud grunt had him turning to look at his friends. Andrei was rubbing his side shooting his brother a baleful look while Alexei was watching him with a calm expression.

“I think you might need to shower before we head back,” Alexei commented running his gaze quickly up and down his friend.

Demetri wiped his bloody hands against jeans already caked in blood. He released his feral side, talons and fangs vanishing, his deep green eyes returning. “Sounds like a plan.”


In the darkness in the forest, a lone male worked, silently gliding through the trees, gathering wood to build a low funeral pyre. Moonlight glinted off inky black locks as he gently placed a silk wrapped bundle atop the gathered wood, positioning it just right.

A flame flared, the wood caught alight, and the dark angel rose to watch the pyre burn swiftly from the accelerant added. 

“You are avenged, bravest of younglings. Sleep well.”

Bittersweet Partings

Bittersweet Partings 
It was almost dawn, the first hint of the sun’s rays beginning to soften the plush darkness of the night. Despite the early hour, it was still warm and humid, promising the relentless heat of summer would build once more as the day progressed. Clara walked through the empty park, silver heels in one hand, her matching purse dangling from its silver chain handle in the other, swaying as she sauntered.

She was in no particular hurry to get home. The party had been fun right up until Ted had decided it was time to leave. He had an early appointment…again and didn’t want to be up late. The instant the words had left his mouth her heart had sunk and she’d felt herself start to tear up. It had been all she could do to hold them at bay.

“Ted, this party is in my honour. We can’t leave.” Even as she had said the words, she had known they would be useless. What Ted wanted Ted got. The fact that the people there had come to help celebrate the launch of her first novel was incidental in his eyes. His work came first, his needs came first, and if he decided it was time for them to leave then that was the end of the discussion.

She had watched his expression darken and her heart had sunk lower. He wouldn’t cause a scene but he would make her regret questioning his decision. He was very good at that. Her fragile happiness evaporated to be replaced by dread and insecurity as she imagined the cold silences she would have to endure, the lonely, empty bed as he slept in the spare room. The scene had played out too many times in the past and would many more times in the future.

Where had it all gone wrong? She had asked herself that question so many times and never been able to find the definitive point that reflected where their life had changed to what it was now. It appeared to have slowly crept up on them, or rather on her. In the beginning, Ted had been loving, attentive to her needs, supportive of her endeavours. Somewhere along the way all that had changed and everything had become about him and his needs.

He had the high profile, top management position in a finance company. She was just working away at her low-level accountancy job, writing her silly stories at nights and weekends. It was her place to support him, cook and clean for him, listen to his stressful days. At first, she had been happy to listen and sympathise but the demands for her time had become such that she found her life becoming subsumed by his. There was no spare time to write, to lose herself in the worlds she created, in the lives of her characters.

The spark died in Clara and she hadn’t even noticed it happening. One day she woke up and felt such dread that a new day had begun and it was only then that she had realised she had been feeling that way for a very long time. Glancing over at Ted sleeping beside her she had felt nothing, completely empty. The love she had once felt for him was gone and she didn’t even mourn its passing. Ted was simply just there as he had been for the last four years.

Clara strolled through the park, feeling the first light spots of rain against her cheek. She tilted her head up, long dark hair brushing her bare back, her long silver evening gown moving sensuously. She had read somewhere that a drop of rain on a cheek was a sign that someone you had lost was thinking of you and letting you know you were not alone. She raised her head for some more, her silent tears mingling with the drops.

Something ending was always a sad thing, even if the end was necessary. Tonight had shown her that she couldn’t keep living this way in Ted’s shadow, that she was worth more than that. He was probably just as unhappy as she was. It was clear she couldn’t be the woman he wanted her to be and he certainly wasn’t the man she needed. Her life had just moved in a different direction, and he had proven that he couldn’t move with her, leaving her stranded at the party without a care in the world.

“So beautiful and yet so sad.”

Clara spun around, the raindrops falling heavier, her damp hair sending droplets into the face of the man behind her. Her heart fluttered furiously, her hand coming to her breast as if to halt its rapid beat. “Adrian.”

The tall, handsome editor, who worked at her publishing company, was watching her with a small smile on his lips, deep blue eyes twinkling in the early morning light. She had talked with him for a while after Ted had left and found him good company. They had talked of writing and editing and the hard work that went into marketing novels.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. I saw you heading off into the park alone and just wanted to make sure you got home safely.” Adrian pushed his wet hair off his forehead, his smile widening. “You looked lost in thought.”

Clara took a deep breath, her heart calming. There was something comforting about Adrian, and she didn’t feel afraid or spooked by his presence. In all honesty, she felt more surprised that someone would actually think about her safety and want to make sure she was okay. It had been so long since anyone had done something for her that didn’t require anything in return.

“That was very kind of you, Adrian. I don’t have far to go, I live on the other side of the park.”

He shrugged off his black jacket and draped it over her bare shoulders. “You don’t appear to be in any rush to get there,” he remarked, a hint of curiosity in his tone. The heavy rainfall instantly drenched his white shirt. “And you didn’t answer my question.”

“Did you ask one?” Clara bit her lip as the words came out waiting for a disapproving response. It was what she was used to from Ted when she didn’t speak the appropriate way he liked. Adrian laughed and it was so surprising that she took a step back and blinked in surprise. Her movement brought a slight frown that quickly disappeared.

“Touché,” he smiled again. “It was more of an observation than a question. Forgive me for being intrusive, I’m told that’s one of my bad habits.”

His response settled her and she moved forward again smiling back tentatively. “There is nothing to forgive. I was thinking about tonight and what I want for the future. It is such a lot to think about and some difficult decisions to make. I needed time to work through that.”

Deep blue eyes looked into her soul for a long moment and then his lips twitched in a smile. “Someone so beautiful should never look that sad, Clara. Life is for living and laughing and dancing in the rain.” He did a little twirl, throwing his arms out.

Clara laughed, shaking her head as she watched him. He seemed so free, so happy with life. It was what she wanted, what she had been missing for so long. “Is it really that easy, Adrian?”

He winked. “Have you ever danced in the rain, sweet Clara?”

At the shake of her head, he eased his jacket to the wet grass, catching her up in his arms and spinning her around as the rain fell heavier. He swept her in a wide arc, her soaking wet hair flying wildly, throwing out droplets of water in all directions. She went with him, letting going, twirling around, laughing as he dipped her down to the ground. It was the most heady, invigorating experience she could remember.

Clara danced and laughed, aware that if anyone saw them they would think they had lost their minds but she didn’t want the moment to end. She felt free for the first time in such a long time, free to be herself, to be silly without being reprimanded, to laugh without being told to be quiet. She felt free to live as she wanted to live.

The rain slowed, the sun broke the horizon, and Clara danced with Adrian until the very last drop of water fell against her cheek. She was breathless when he dipped her down for a final elegant arch of her back. She was soaked through but light of heart for the first time in years. Adrian raised her up and they smiled at each other, sharing one perfect moment together. “No matter what happens in life, Clara, always remember to dance in the rain.”

He sounded so serious, his expression intent, that she shivered and turned to look back at the park gate that would take her home. When she glanced back at Adrian, she found herself alone, no sign of the handsome man, his jacket also gone. Clara blinked in confusion, searching the trees around her and seeing no sign of him. Where had he gone and why had he disappeared like that?

Feeling unsettled, she picked up her purse and shoes and walked the last bit home. Even though Adrian’s disappearance was strange, she couldn’t help smiling as she relived their dance in the rain, the joy that had filled her soul in that, oh, so brief moment.

“Where the hell have you been? You’re soaking!” Ted’s angry words greeted her as she dropped her shoes and purse on the floor in the hallway. He was still dressed for the party, looking as if he’d slept in his suit.

“I walked home, Ted. Someone left and took the car remember?” It was the boldest she had spoken to him in a long time and for once, she wasn’t worried about his reaction. She’d reached her decision and that appeared to have set her free from his disapproval.

“You could have called! Didn’t you stop to consider that I would have been worried after getting the phone call from Chris about the fire?”

Ted’s angry words seeped in and she blinked at him in confusion. “Fire? What fire?”

“The fire at the conference hall!” He continued to yell, his face turning red with anger. “Chris said there was one dead that they knew about and no one knew where you were. It didn’t cross your mind to let someone know you were okay?”

One dead!? “Who?” The words whispered out, Clara’s heart starting to beat fast. “Who died, Ted?”

He scowled at her, waving a hand dismissively. “Some editor guy, Adam or Alex or something. That’s beside the point…I’ve been worried sick about…”

His words droned on but Clara turned away, opening the front door to stare across at the park now bathed in the early morning sunlight. The rays bounced off the wet leaves, the droplets sparkling like diamonds.


A drop of rain on a cheek was a sign that someone you had lost was thinking of you and letting you know you were not alone.

Clara shivered, understanding Adrian’s disappearance even though her mind told her it couldn’t be true. What she did know was in one night, Adrian had shown her that her love for writing was a gift to be treasured and there was nothing more beautiful than dancing in the rain.

Clara closed the door and walked past Ted, heading up to their bedroom for the final time. Today may have been the first time she had danced in the rain, but she would dance so many more days, and when she did, she would remember a wonderful man who had once graced the world and helped shape her future.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Hearts of Warriors Ch. 17 Teaser

Chapter Seventeen

The air in the Alpha’s library was thick with tension. Rafe had kept the meeting small, opting to inform the necessary people who needed to know once any decisions were reached.

He stood with his back to the open fire, silently watching his sister and brother-in-law share some private communication. He could tell they were talking telepathically by their body language and the sparkle in Rhianna’s eyes. There was no mistaking the love that shone between them, and it made him smile despite the worrying circumstances that had brought them all together.

Gard was perched on the side of his desk looking bored as they waited for the last invitee to arrive. His eyes kept lingering on the window, his body language tense. Rafe’s lips quirked as he watched him. Once a Guardian, always a Guardian. He doubted the six thousand year old vampire would ever be able to break that habit even though his life had changed so much in the last quarter of a century.

Rafe shifted his stance slightly wanting the meeting to start but lacking the final person to get things underway. He sighed when he heard the sound of Jared Hanlon pulling up outside, relieved his former Alpha was finally here. Gard appeared to be of the same mind.

“Finally,” the auburn-haired vampire rumbled with a snort of irritation. It was clear to see that he wanted to be outside searching for Lily. His mate, Rayne, was out in the forest helping in the search and he didn’t like being apart from her.

It wasn’t that she couldn’t take care of herself because she was more than capable of that. It was the fact she had vampire DNA just like the rest of the Vârcolac that concerned her mate so much. That put her at risk like the children but, as usual, she didn’t see it that way.

They’d had one of their rare fights over it and she’d promptly put Gard in his place. Rafe had stood silently as they worked out their difference of opinion. Despite Guard’s irritation at not being able to dissuade his mate from her course of action, the large male had been fighting a smile threatening to tug at his lips.

He’d had to concede defeat and let Rayne do what she felt she had to, but he made sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy about it. The sooner the meeting was over and Gard could get on with doing what he was best at, the better. Rafe would feel happier with him out there looking for Lily too. Now that Jared had finally arrived, they could get down to business.

The study door opened and the Hanlon Alpha entered, his expression concerned as he crossed the room and embraced Rafe, before turning to hug Rhianna and nod his head in greeting to both Caleb and Gard.

“Sorry I’m late. I wanted to get everyone organized. Brody is on his way up to the Praetorian Compound. I’ve brought a few of the pack with me and told them to check with Aaron where he wants them.”

“Thanks, Jared,” Rafe answered with a brief smile. “We’ve got some of the pack out trying to ensure Lily’s protected. She’s in the area somewhere but no one knows where. With other pack members up at the Praetorian Compound it will be an added boost to have some more wolves around here just in case.”

He couldn’t keep his concern out of his tone. For the second time, one of his pack was missing and he didn’t like it one bit.

“Lily will be fine.”

Rafe turned to his sister as she rose from the sofa and slipped into his arms to hug him tightly. She smiled up at him, giving him one of her reassuring grins, which always helped to ease some of his concerns. “Mackenzie will take care of her.”

Rafe sighed and gave her a gentle squeeze in thanks. He didn’t have Lacey to turn to and he certainly needed some soothing. His wolf was prowling restlessly, wanting to strike out at something in its need to protect everyone.

“I told her the next time she muted my bond I would throw her out of the pack, Annie. I meant it at the time but I never believed she’d put me in the position of having to carry out that threat. What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

His sister gazed up at him with eyes so young and yet so old. Her smile was one of confidence. “You will do what is right for Lily, as you always have done, Rafe. Just because you say something doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.”

He grunted in response and filed that particular issue away for the moment. He knew he’d have to come to a decision about what to do with Lily, and while it weighed heavy on his mind, they had other things to discuss. So much had happened recently and this was the first time they’d been able to get together as a group to discuss everything.

“How’s Pietro?” Caleb asked, crossing the room to pour a cup of coffee. He deftly reacquired his mate’s attention, appearing nonchalant as he retrieved her from her brother’s embrace. Settling her back on the sofa at his side, he handed her the coffee and turned back to Rafe.

“Mallen looked him over not too long ago,” Rafe sighed. “The scarring is permanent as we all believed. Whilst there is still some spark of the old Pietro there, he has been affected emotionally by his experience. He’s withdrawn and agoraphobic, preferring not to have any visitors bar a few. It took the threat of having you come see him to get him to agree to the physical from Mallen.”

Caleb’s expression darkened, his eyes narrowing at the news. It was clear there was a deep anger bubbling under the surface but he was making a concerted effort to keep it at bay. He frowned and ran a hand through his hair, looking down at his mate.

“I’ll see if he wants to talk before we head home. It could just be time he needs though.” Rhianna’s expression was thoughtful and she didn’t appear to be overly concerned at the news.

“The Europeans?” Gard interjected; keen to get the meeting onto the main topic they were all here about. It wasn’t that he unsympathetic to Pietro’s issues and not furious at what had happened because he was. He was just anxious to get back to Rayne as soon as possible.

“We know there’s at least one of them here,” Caleb said. “A female called Thereasa. Her description has been circulated to both packs and the Praetorians. What we need to do now is bring the Council up to speed on what’s happening over there and develop a plan of action.”

“How didn’t the Council know what was going on?” Jared asked, sipping at his coffee.

“Do you know what your Were brethren are up to in Europe?” Gard growled impatiently, his eyes wandering to the window as he touched base with Rayne to check she was okay. He relaxed when he felt her send a mental kiss down their bond.

The Hanlon Alpha nodded his head in acknowledgement of the point. The North American Weres had no contact with their European counterparts and no idea how they ran their lives. Still, the way the vampire Council went on, he’d have thought they at least knew what was going on over there with their own kind. It was surprising they had let themselves be caught out like this.

“There’s no denying more attention should have been paid to what was happening in Europe,” Caleb conceded, glancing at Rafe as he spoke. “Annie and I will brief the Council on the situation and work out how we’re going to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, because of this poison issue, sending vampires over may not be the best course of action. This poison is so virulent it doesn’t matter the age of the vampire. They have no protection from it unless we find some kind of antidote.”

The Alpha met his gaze with a troubled one. “Demetri gave us Pietro’s blood sample from when the poison was in his system. It’s going to take some time for our doctors to try and trace the active ingredients to provide an antidote. You don’t have research scientists because vampires have always been able to heal themselves. While we have doctors to treat wounds, we have precious few research scientists ourselves. This is new even to us.”

“Luke did have a bit of a research background from years ago so he’s testing out a sample of the blood too,” Jared added. “So far the only thing he can say for certain is that it’s a plant based poison. Until he can identify the plant and work out why it inhibits vampire regeneration, finding an antidote is a long way off.”

“So a complete blood transfusion is the only way of combating this for the moment,” Caleb mused, clearly unhappy with the news.

“We can most probably work on the assumption that there aren’t huge quantities of the poison,” Rhianna pointed out. “It’s deadly to vampires so that leads me to believe that it will be heavily restricted with only a few who have the knowledge to create it.”

“Makes sense,” Gard concurred with a thoughtful expression on his face. An idea was beginning to cross his mind, one he didn’t particularly like but an option the rest of them might find agreeable.

“I’m technically the oldest vampire living and also mated with a Vârcolac. I probably stand the best chance of fighting off any attack. I should be the one to go to Europe to see if I can track down where the poison comes from.” He saw his sister start to frown and shake her head, and shot her a brief smile.

“You know it makes sense, Annie. I’m a complete unknown in Europe too. I’d have more of a chance of finding the intelligence we need.”

“And what will Rayne have to say about this grandiose offer?” Rhianna’s voice was tartness personified, a sure sign she was not happy.

Gard’s smile widened and he shook his long auburn locks. “Quite a lot I dare say, and then she’ll insist on coming with me. We’re going to need someone to keep an eye on Kothari while we’re away.”

Caleb ran a hand down his mate’s back to sooth her distress. Gard’s proposal made sense even if he didn’t want one of the triumvirate to be so far away. He had a sense of foreboding that something bad was going to happen. Rhianna was skittish too, and that only served to increase his alertness.

But they did need to find out what was going on in Europe and an antidote for the poison. Rafe wasn’t objecting to the proposal of two of his pack heading off into a dangerous situation either so the Alpha clearly saw the logic in it.

“First things first, let’s get Lily safely back within the fold. I trust we can leave that up to the packs?” Both Jared and Rafe nodded so he continued. “I will call a meeting of the Council. Rafe, can you make sure Andrei and Alexei know, and Nors too. We’ll let Demetri and Mara know.”

He rose, pulling his mate up beside him, his gaze fixing on Gard. “Europe comes later so no disappearing just now.” He looked to Rafe for backup and the Alpha nodded his agreement.

Gard was already moving, pushing away from the desk to stride to the study door. He glanced back over his shoulder. “Agreed. Now, can I go join my mate? I presume this meeting is over?”

At Rafe’s nod, he left the room, sprinting from the house and into the surrounding forest. He was so intent on finding Rayne that he didn’t notice the shadowed figure lurking in the trees.


Kothari watched Gard leave, and sank back into the shadows as the meeting broke up and everyone started to leave. He could feel his rage building but it was a slow build. His mother and father were going to be at risk? That was as intolerable as his angel being targeted. What the hell was his father thinking of?


The whispered word startled him so much his beast rose instantly, long talons slicing through his fingertips. It was all he could do to remain immobile and not turn around and lash out. His heart missed a beat as he fought to contain the demon. When he was once more in control, he turned slowly to impale Dara with an icy glare.

Not that she could see his eyes. As always, they were hidden behind their standard camouflage of dark glasses. “Little girls should be careful about sneaking up on people.” The words came out terse and full of menace.

Dara stared up at Kothari’s furious face and felt the tiniest shiver of fear wash over her. She didn’t truly think he would ever hurt her, but they all knew there was something broken in their friend. What that was, they could only speculate about because he wasn’t into confessions, but it was there all the same.

She considered backing off and leaving him be, but his ‘scary monster’ routine was starting to wear on her nerves. She was a Vârcolac and a Romanov. She wasn’t about to back down for him.

Dara forced her lips to curve into a smile she wasn’t truly feeling. “Oh cut the crap, Kothi.” Her voice dripped with derision. “Kallum said we weren’t to be alone and that includes you.”

He continued to glare at her, his body tense with barely controlled aggression, then he slowly relaxed and a faint smile curved his lips. “So who’s with your Siamese twin?” He watched her prickle at the taunt, and his smile grew wider. She was so defensive of Cassia. It was easy to get a rise out of her.

“Cassia is with Elina if you must know, and stop trying to distract me. What were you doing eavesdropping?” She wasn’t letting him get away without an explanation.

Kothari watched her, his expression intent. The determination on her face told him she wasn’t going to go away. Stifling down a resigned sigh, he headed further into the trees knowing she would follow. When they were far enough away, he ran and jumped onto a large, flat rock perched beside one of the lakes close to the compound.

He stood for a long moment, scenting the air to ensure they were alone. His gaze finally turned to Dara, watching as she skirted the large rock to find a smaller one.

As she sat down, he mirrored her, crossing his legs and adopting a position of meditation. Maybe it would help him.

“So?” Come on, Kothi. I want to know what you were doing.” Annoyance was creeping into Dara’s tone and she tried hard to tamp it down. It was pointless being irritated with him. He could spend hours sitting silently and waiting everyone else out.

“You’re a pain, Dara Romanov,” he finally said. He kept his voice devoid of emotion. “You’re stupid too. Most people know when it’s best not to prod a sleeping tiger.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re a panther, Kothi. Though, come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time any of us have seen you in animal form. Why’s that?” She let his obvious insult wash over her. He was trying to bait her and she wasn’t going to fall for it.

Kothari was at a loss to what to do. He wanted to be alone, and yet, his fellow Vârcolac wasn’t going to allow that. He was trying his usual techniques to get rid of Dara and it wasn’t working. Usually she was easy to rile up to the point she stomped off in a temper. Today she was watching him intently, waiting for him to respond.

He smiled slowly. She was a brave little thing, tenacious when she wanted to be. Maybe she deserved some answers just for being that brave.

“Just because you run around as a wolf almost as much as a human doesn’t mean the rest of us have to. I like my privacy.”

She pursed her lips as she contemplated his answer. It was true, she loved being in wolf form, loved the freedom of running through the trees and playing with the other wolves. It would be nice to run with a panther, to experience the subtle difference of another animal.  Only Kothi didn’t play and Rayne had other things to do.

“You don’t play well with others.” It was a statement rather than a question.

“I don’t play, Dara, ever.”

There was such finality to the words, such loneliness in them, which she was sure he hadn’t intended to be heard. She cocked her head to the side and scrutinised him with a thoughtful expression. It was as if he’d let an inner barrier down and shown her a little piece of the man hidden within. Her wolf sat up and scrutinised him too.

“I was listening in to the Alpha meeting,” he finally said, when she remained silent. “My parents are going to Europe to try and find an antidote to the poison.”

Dara sucked in a deep breath at the news. He would be worried about them if they took on that mission. He would be even more alone if they went away for a prolonged period. Something told her that would be very bad for him, and possibly even the pack.

“They’re more than capable of taking care of themselves, Kothi. They’re the oldest beings to walk the planet, if you disregard the fact Caleb and Annie are reincarnated souls.” She was a naturally caring person and couldn’t help reaching out to sooth him.

Her soft tone irritated him. She sat there, her golden hair a halo around her head, her expression full of compassion. The beast within wanted to wipe that expression from her face, to see terror in her eyes. It was an effort to push it down.

“If they’re not, the world will swim in blood.”

He spoke so quietly Dara had to strain to hear the words. A shiver ran down her spine at the certainty in his tone. Kallum would need to know about this. She wasn’t sure if even he would be able to contain Kothi if anything happened to his parents, but he was probably their best bet.

She pretended she hadn’t heard what he said. “Anything else said at the meeting? Should we have a private conference?”

Kothari knew she’d heard him and ignored what he’d said. Well, maybe not ignored it. She would surely report back to the other Vârcolac. He felt his rage rising again at the thought. Why couldn’t they all just leave him alone? Why wouldn’t she fuck off and go somewhere else?

The beast was rising swiftly, its gazed fixed intently on the woman before it. He pushed at it, tried to dampen it down, but it fought with him. It watched the pulse at the side of her neck, its mouth watering at how succulent her sweet blood would taste as it ripped her throat out.

Kothari knew he was losing the battle to contain the monster within. “Leave!” he ground out, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead as he wrestled with his inner demon.

To be continued... ;)