Excerpt from Vampires of Noctra: Blood Bounty

Vampires of Noctra: Blood Bounty

#MM #pirates #bdsm #historical #vampires #darkfantasy #erotichorror #gayerotica

VON1_BloodBounty_smA vampire with a raging thirst for human blood and erotic pleasure; a man with a secret mission to find and destroy the undead. But lusty midnight passions defy logic. Boundaries and duty hold no sway on the decks of the Night Stalker.

Captain Dontè Lucienne is the vampire captain of the Night Stalker. His crew is human. Men who serve the vampires of Noctra, providing sustenance, as well as loyalty. They are fighters as well as lovers, and devoted to their vampire masters. They would destroy any who tried to kill their captain.

Skye Templeton is a man on a dangerous mission. Plucked from the swelling seas by the crew of the Night Stalker, he’s exactly where he needs to be. Will he come out alive? Or end up as fodder to the lust of the vampirate captain? His duty is clear—at least until he come to know this lusty crew and their magnetic captain. Until he comes under the supernatural, relentless spell of the Night Stalker.

EXCERPT

Donté stroked his tongue over Vasily’s bulging pecs, tugged on a nipple, chewing at it lightly. Vasily’s cries crescendoed and dropped, rose again and again, like surging waves lapping at the hull of the Night Stalker. Needy, in delirium, far removed from reality.

Donté’s fangs sank into the supple muscle of Vasily’s chest and the young man cried out, spurting his seed into Donté’s hand. The vampire supped on his youthful, vibrant lifeblood, his cock still buried in Vasily’s ass.

Extracting his fangs, Donté swirled his tongue over the puncture marks, leaving faint red indentations in his wake. He studied Vasily’s chest, admiring the tracks decorated across his warm human flesh. Every sailor in the vampire captain’s crew sported the vampire piercings upon their skin, each crew member having been personally handpicked by either Donté or Donté’s vampire sire, Captain Sterling Savoir, to serve as members of their respective crews.

Human, well-mannered, beautiful young men, all committed to serving the vampire masters of Noctra Island.

Donté traced the piercings, listened to the thundering heartbeat, the shallow breaths of his lover for the night. This was the second time he’d fed from Vasily in less than a fortnight and he would savor tonight. The young man’s blood was too rich, too addictive. If Donté fed from him once more before the next full moon, he was likely to draw the young man too close to the crossover. He dared not take the chance.

Easing his still hard cock from inside Vasily, Donté lifted from the bed and walked over to the table. It was early yet, hardly a stroke after midnight, and he planned to savor his young sailor until the first misty fingers of dawn cut through the night. At the rate Donté was going Vasily might not last if Donté didn’t slow down. Sips only, no more than a pint of Vasily’s blood or he’d push him too close to the edge. Donté poured some of the finely aged French burgundy into a goblet.

He took a moment to glance up, pinning the other bound man on the opposite side of the room beneath a hard stare.

“Do you see what you’re missing?” Not quite all of his crew were as well-mannered as he liked. “You could have been where he is, Velvet, if you hadn’t disobeyed my command.”

Velvet, a gunner’s mate of unique precision and fortitude, was stretched out, hands manacled high above his head, his hard cock and heavy balls harnessed, a lead weight swinging with each surge of the ship, two more weights tugged at his distended tits.

Velvet was as beautiful as any of the men on the ship, and most of the time he listened to orders. Tonight called for discipline in Velvet’s case. A hair trigger temper requiring a strong hand, he’d been less than humble, so certain he’d be the one to entertain the captain tonight. Well, Velvet was entertaining the master all right, but not in the way the rebellious young sailor expected.

Donté would not tolerate jealousy, or assumption, among his crew. The captain treated all of his mates equally and he would not have any of them attempting to usurp his authority and causing dissension on the ship. One day, Velvet would learn his place. Or else spend more time on the wall than in the captain’s bed.

Donté sauntered over to Velvet and trailed his cool fingertips over the man’s sweat-soaked chest. He hefted one of the weights in the palm of his hand and then allowed it to drop away. Velvet’s long drawn out hiss as it dragged against a tit satisfied Donté that the action reminded the man of his unhappy state.

Dropping forward, Donté razed his sharp teeth over Velvet’s flesh. Lines of red tracked his path. But he didn’t sink them into Velvet’s flesh. He didn’t feed.

“Please, Master, I’m sorry for what I did. I’ll never do it again.”

“I wish I believed you, Velvet. But this isn’t the first time, is it? Not even the second. You’re smart enough to make first gunner, but your temper and lack of self-control are your downfall. Be thankful I didn’t turn you over to Margan and have him assign you to the bilge pump tonight—wallowing in stinking water for a night might teach you a lesson. That might have been a more fitting punishment. We’ll see what a night of discipline on my wall will do for your manners.”

Donté swung away, ignoring the pleading look in the beautiful sailor’s whiskey-colored eyes. Swift discipline and heavy bondage was the only thing Velvet understood. For at least a short time. Sterling handled this one with a firmer hand. Sterling would have had him strapped to the main mast, a discipline wedge shoved up his ass, and a hundred lashes to stripe his back. Donté’s master, Savoir was a much sterner taskmaster when it came to discipline. Unfortunately, Sterling and the Black Star hadn’t been due to leave Noctra for another month and, as usual, this beautiful gunner had gotten Donté to agree to take him on. Velvet’s blood was some of the richest among the human residents of Noctra, and his skill with the cannon exceeded by few. If only his temperament better aligned with his name, they all would be much happier.

Yet both Sterling and Donté liked a challenge now and then, which is why Velvet was allowed to remain. Velvet might be a bit of a scallywag in many ways, but he was just too luscious to exile…or kill. Donté walked over to the big white cat lying on a stretch of crimson and cream Persian rug in a corner of the room. He leaned down to pet the huge Bengal outcast.

“You’ll keep him in line, won’t you? Too bad he doesn’t have your understanding of self-preservation.” The snow-white, almost totally stripeless tiger leaned into the stroke of the vampire. Few animals on the mainland accepted the touch of a vampire. But Khan was different—he was as cursed as any vampire, and his connection to the vampire was unique.

Donté turned his attention back to Vasily still stretched out on the bed, eyes closed. Picking up the goblet, Donté moved back to his lusty donor for the evening. Gently lifting Vasily’s head, he tipped the goblet and allowed some of the wine to trickle into his mouth.

Vasily’s eyelids fluttered opened and he gulped at the wine until the goblet was empty.

“That’s better, sweeting. The color is returning to your face. Are you feeling more yourself?”

Donté set the goblet on the nightstand and picked up the wet cloth from the mauve-colored porcelain basin and bathed Vasily’s stomach and flaccid penis. Returning the cloth to the bowl, he leaned toward Vasily and pressed his lips to the young man’s mouth. Vasily’s lips parted and Donté thrust his tongue deep inside. The rattle of the chains binding Vasily to the bed bled through the needy moans as the sexy young sailor shifted and arched, begging for his master’s touch. Donté heard a whimper from the other side of the room. Then a deep, warning growl from Khan. Donté ignored Velvet. There would be time enough to decide what to do about him later. For now, he was simply a decoration on his wall, reminded of his place by Khan.

“Would you like something to eat before we continue?”

Vasily gazed up at him with worshipful eyes. “Whatever you want, Captain.”

Donté couldn’t help smiling. Vasily was a good boy and very respectful. A week of serving on the Night Stalker and Vasily had no qualms about turning his back on his past life. Of offering his blood and service to the Noctra vampires.

Donté rose and stepped to the table at the center of the room where a tray of food rested. He didn’t partake, but he had to maintain the strength of his two human lovers. He picked up a thick slice of bread and a small wedge of cheese and returned to the bed. He hand-fed Vasily slowly, punctuating each serving with drugging kisses in between until his sweet supplicant finished the bread and cheese. By then, Vasily’s cock was thick and hard, bobbing against his flat abdomen. Yes, he was revived and appeared more than ready to serve his master once more.

Donté picked up the oil to prepare Vasily’s passage once again. A snarl curled his lip when a knock sounded at the door. Donté glared at the root of his irritation. Who dared to interrupt? Swift punishment would be exacted for the defiance of his standing orders…unless it was an emergency. He set down the bottle of oil to the side and rose from the bed.

“Enter,” he roared with the force of a fierce gale. After a moment of hesitation, the door slowly opened. It was Jupiter, his first mate, who edged his way into the cabin. He looked straight at the captain, neither sliding a sidelong glance toward Velvet, nor toward the bed where Vasily, his second mate, was stretched out.

“Permission to speak, Cap’n.”

Donté waved a hand in the air. “What is it? This better be important.”

“We’ve spied someone in the water, sir. The men are about to bring him on board. I thought you’d want to be informed.”

All of Donté’s crew had preternatural eyesight—one of the dark gifts of human service to the vampires of Noctra. Although the black sloop skimmed through the ocean in the dead of night, it might as well have been daylight for their sharp eyesight.

“Does he look promising?” Donté dressed quickly, donning a pair of black breeches and then pulling on a white linen shirt.

“Hard to tell, sir. He was a ways out. Margan send two men out to retrieve him. Looks to be a survivor from another downed ship.”

Was there any other kind this far out to sea? Most of Donté’s crew were survivors from sacrifices to the dangerous, unpredictable seas. Many on the very verge of drowning or being eaten alive by hungry sharks, or worse. Men who’d been thankful for the captain’s beneficence in saving them from a fate far worse than their untimely death in the surging waters.

There’d been a storm the previous night, which might cause a ship to founder. Donté straightened after pulling on the second black leather thigh-high boot.

“Have Liam see to my men, Jupiter.” He glanced over at Velvet. “Leave him for another hour and then release him. In the meantime, take gentle care of Vasily. I’ve fed well and he may be light-headed. I don’t want him up and around before he’s recovered.”

Jupiter nodded. “Yes, Cap’n.”

Donté returned to the bed, leaned down, and kissed Vasily. “Another night, sweeting.” Then he strode out of the cabin, along the passage and headed to the main deck.

As Donté stepped onto the deck Margan and Onyx hauled a very bedraggled man onto the deck with help from several of the sailors. The stranger collapsed against the railing, salt water splashing onto the deck. It was hard to tell much about him considering the exhausted state of the man, but from first glance he certainly looked…intriguing.

The crew made way for the captain to get through. Several of the men held torches, providing a soft glow of light. Donté nudged the half-drowned man with the point of his well-polished black boot. The eyelids of the young man splayed out on the deck fluttered opened. What stunning blue eyes, was Donté first thought. Clear and sparkling like the sea, framed with long sooty lashes. Yes, definitely worth an interrupted hour of his time.

The young man staring up at Donté looked shaken, yet alert.

“What’s your name, lad?”

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Blood Bounty – an Excerpt

A vampire with a raging thirst for human blood and erotic pleasure; a man with a secret mission to find and destroy the undead. But lusty midnight passions defy logic, while boundaries and duty hold no sway on the decks of the Night Stalker. Captain Dontè Lucienne is the vampire captain of the Night Stalker. His crew is human, men who serve the vampires of Noctra, providing sustenance, as well as loyalty. They are fighters as well as lovers, and devoted to their vampire masters. They would destroy any who tried to kill their captain. Skye Templeton is a man on a dangerous mission. Plucked from the swelling seas by the crew of the Night Stalker, he’s exactly where he needs to be. Will he come out alive, or end up as fodder to the lust of the vampirate captain? His duty is clear, at least until he comes to know this licentious crew and their magnetic leader…until he comes under the supernatural, relentless spell of the Night Stalker.

EXCERPT

“Why?” he asked Skye, pointing to the blood and hair-encrusted axe.

Skye shrugged. “It seemed the thing to do at the time.”

“Do you know what they are? What they were?”

This time when Skye looked at Donté, the vampire captain saw confusion swirling within the blueness of his pupils. “No. I-I thought–”

VON1_BloodBounty_smAh, revelation swept through Donté. “The axe was for me, wasn’t it?”

Skye looked him square in the eye. “I thought you meant to kill all those people. You’re a vampire, what else was I supposed to think?”

“My reputation. They all think the vampires of Noctra sail the seas in search of victims to gorge our thirst. Isn’t that right?” Skye’s hands tightened around the axe handle.

“What else are we supposed to think? Vampires trail a heavy reputation of killing in order to appease their hunger.”
Donté started at him for a long time. His instincts told him Skye had been sent here to kill him. So why did he hesitate to have done with Templeton right this minute?

He nodded to the axe. “Well, here you are. And here I am. So why don’t you finish the deed you’ve come here to do?”

“How do you know I was sent to kill you?”

Donté shrugged. “You wouldn’t be the first.”

“What happened to the others?”

Donté looked back across to the other ship. “A few are now part of my crew. The others,” he looked down at the water. “A few have found everlasting peace or hell, depending on your perspective.”

“You’re a vampire. You have everlasting life.”

Donté watched as Skye swung the axe from his shoulder and dropped it to the deck. Donté looked down at the discarded weapon and almost felt a twinge of regret. What he wouldn’t give to have all of this done and over with. There was so little he found pleasure in any more. So many lovers dead, so many of his crew sacrificed. He felt the first heat of dawn’s fingers against his neck. All he had to do was remain on deck and it would be over with once and for all. He looked at Skye.

“You could have killed me tonight. My focus was on the undead on the ship. My men might have thought it an accident in the surge of bloodlust and they would have let you go.”

“Yes. That’s true.”

“So, why didn’t you?” He was curious to know the young man’s answer. There was something that intrigued him about Skye Templeton. This was a strong, intelligent man, rather unlike the rest of his crew. Most of them had spent their lives following the orders of others. But not this one. He definitely felt a strong attraction for the man–and it was more than his blood. Yet, his attention was drawn to the purple vein pulsing in Skye’s neck.

“I won’t become part of your food stores, Captain.”

Donté’s attention refocused on Skye’s face. “Do you think I need another?” He swept an arm in a semi-circle. “I have a crew of men more than eager to quench my thirst. Willingly. Do you think I need you?”

There was something indefinable in Skye’s expression. Donté’s attention turned to his mouth. Templeton meant to hold himself apart from the rest of his crew. But there was an element of desire and yet defiance in the way he held himself. A flagrant challenge to the vampire captain to force the young man’s submission.

“You will yield to me. Eventually.”

Those beautiful lips curved into a smile. A tongue slipped out to wet the elegant fullness. Suddenly, Donté swooped forward and possessed them, curling a hand tightly into the long blond locks. Taking what he wanted, tasting the sweetness of strong defiance in the young merchant’s kiss.

Skye pressed forward, off-balancing the vampire, pressing advantage, forcing Donté against the rail, as he took control of the passionate kiss. He thrust his tongue between Donté’s lips; his determined hands cupped the vampire’s cheeks, facing down the danger of such a predatory master.

If Donté had a heart that beat, it would have drum rolled a fast and furious pace as desire roared for Skye Templeton. He pulled free from Skye’s lips and stumbled away. He put the weakness that consumed him down to weariness from the night’s battle.

Donté slid his tongue over his lower, engorged lip and felt a trickle of blood and wiped it away.

“You challenge what you have no understanding of,” he said. He fought the desire to have this human in his bed right this minute. Bound to it, supping from him at his leisure. Or hanging on his wall, the bite of metal binding him in Donté’s presence. There was something in Skye Templeton, something so different and so desirable. So forbidden.

“I’ll give you what you need, my captain, all in good time.”

“Your blood?”

Skye smiled. But it was a strange look of mastery to the expression. “Your marks will never mar my flesh, Donté Lucienne. But perhaps my marks will decorate yours.”

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Nightingale – an excerpt

From the Journals of the Viadine…

They Walk the Earth Among Mortal Men…

The Fallen, having descended to earth, vulnerable to all manner of earthly pleasure and sin, were barred forevermore from Heaven. Easily seduced by the beauty of humankind, henceforth they divided, light and dark, order and chaos, lovers and destroyers of mankind. Being now branded as the Phratry, or Brotherhood, of the Fallen—henceforth eternally earthbound, divided and marked as Viadine and Diadune. Thus fashioned from the ashes of desolation a choir of men, offering a measure of serenity and renewal for those who seek order and light—henceforth known as the Gios of the Nightingale—men gifted with the voices of angels, poignant reminder of an existence now lost forever to the Phratry of the Fallen…
— Rahuael, First Chronicler, Viadine Secretorum

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An earthly balance is at stake. Nothing happens by chance. And fate, here on Earth, will demand its bloody tribute no matter how high the cost…

The thirst for deliverance and absolution are transformed into explosive flames of forbidden passion when a mysteriously charismatic masked man encounters a brilliant and handsome composer. Their lives are intertwined with those of two others, and only the ultimate sacrifice will satisfy the greedy appetite of fate…

Retribution is his only desire…Fabienne Brunetto, a 17th-Century castrato of amazing vocal talent, is brutally attacked by a twisted enemy. But agonizing death is not his destiny. He is saved by Annatoly Constantine, the immortal hand of a brotherhood of fallen angels devoted to protection, balance, and order on Earth. But Fabienne bears the scars of his terrible encounter, and his song has been extinguished forever—at least until a rite of redemption can come to culmination. He must wait two hundred years before his hunger for deliverance can fully be sated.

Wounded and shamed…Annatoly Constantine, whom centuries before was also a man, is the protector of the Gios of Nightingales, a choir of immortal voices created to soothe and heal the world. Annatoly has always been destined to lose what he loves, never able to fully offer himself to a lover. Until Carne Giraint, a gifted composer, appears in his life, making him yearn for something more, something exquisitely forbidden.

A composer marked by the cursed blood of his ancestors…Carne Giraint is a mortal of extraordinary talent, tapped by the brotherhood of angels to accept his destiny as composer to the gios. Carne’s greatest passion has never been ignited until he encounters a masked man known to him only as Maître. One night of fiery desire leaves him ravenous for the touch of Maître, a man he cannot forget.

A greedy man willing to give his soul for power and money…Dandrae, a slave to the dark beings who seek to alter the course of Fabienne’s and Carne’s destinies, is tasked with quashing Carne’s mystical gift for composition.

An earthly balance is at stake. Nothing happens by chance. And fate, here on Earth, will demand its bloody tribute no matter how high the cost…

EXCERPT

Carne removed the mask and tossed it toward Maître, who deftly caught it, caressed it, and then gently set it aside. Carne stood poised in the firelight, completely vulnerable, his cock thick with arousal, the sheen of pre-come glazing the tip, his balls heavy.

Maître walked to Carne. He circled slowly, minutely inspecting Carne. Carne’s nerves stretched taut as his desire mounted. Would he find Carne lacking? Maître completed his inspection and returned to face Carne. With his gloved hand he cupped Carne’s testicles, weighing them, stroking them.

“Lovely,” he murmured.

He slid his hand up Carne’s erect shaft, brushed over the engorged knob of his prick. “Precious. A set of manly jewels to be prized by any lover. I wonder, have you the fortitude of a well-hung young stallion as well?” The hue of Carne’s cock deepened, the flesh stretched and hardened, his balls already drawing up close to his body at Maître’s handling and obvious appreciation. With his fingers curled around Carne’s erection, Maître drew him forward. Carne could feel the unyielding presence of the mask against his cheek.

“You like being ordered, don’t you? You like men.” His voice was a steamy intimate whisper against Carne’s ear. “My touching you is arousing. How many men have you been with, Geraint? And women? Have you a patron among them?”

There would be no prevarication. This man, in some supernatural way, would peel Carne’s secrets from his soul. And Carne couldn’t stop it from happening, he could do none other than yield himself. “I-I think you know my preference, Maître. I think you know it well enough.”

His mother had thought it was the music tutor who had ruined him. She blamed herself for Carne’s eccentricities. But Carne had known from an early age, when he’d secretly watched the actors changing backstage, when it had been the men who he fantasized about, not the women. He had understood his predilection for men before his mother’s latest lover had seduced him. But he never told her the truth before she died of consumptionNightingale_sm in the poor house. He never absolved her of her false guilt.

“But the women give you fine jewels, don’t they? Little gifts because you please them so very much. They yearn for you to spend time in their bed, they are eager for you to sleep with them, to show them even more of your secret magic. To ply your command of… instrument in a much more personal and intimate fashion.”

“Yes, but I don’t give them what they want. I’ll sire no bastards. Ever.” He was never going to subject a child to what he had suffered. And since he had no plans to marry, nor a desire to lie with women, he offered them no encouragement to pursue him.

“So maybe they want me more because of it. But the men. They can be even more generous than the women.” Perhaps so generous because they sought to assuage their guilt for wanting him instead of the beautiful actresses for whom he composed his arias to make their voices shine.

“They can also be more brutal. Is that what you like about them?”

Carne didn’t respond right away. It was that, but there was more as well. “Not all of them are brutal,” Carne finally responded.

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An Excerpt from Run To Ground

Run To Ground

(#darkfantasy, #MM, #shapeshifter, #werewolves, #eroticromance, #secondchance #kindleunlimited)

Blurb:

RunToGround_medA savage and passionate breed of mythic wuv. Two men—alpha and mate, fight for their clan, and their lives, and to reclaim the passion one threw away when he left. Loyalty might be earned, but could trust be regained? There are no half-measures in the world of the Zhalazti. One will rule; one will submit. A new pack will arise. It is the law of their species and all will obey. Submit or die.

Tallin Undine, human-made savage wolfish creature. He was once human, now wuv-beast—a creature ruled by the moon—made through moon-madness and savagery, his human family slaughtered. It is a continual struggle to hold on to some bit of his humanity. Scarred by his former lover, a Zhalazti Luminarian of noble and ancient heritage, during a rite of passage, who then abandoned him, Tallin has clawed his way to some measure of standing. But now the vaida, his Zhalazti clan chief, his accepted alpha, has been killed, and the security of his adoptive nation is at risk. His mission—to bring back the man who must battle to claim his position as rightful chief against a Negraluna cursed usurper to the position. One problem – Emmanuel Grimshaw is the very man Tallin does not want to see again. It was Emmanuel who mated him so long ago, and then left Tallin to pick up the pieces of what was left of his life. But Tallin has little choice.

Emmanuel Grimshaw, of the Zhalazti Natasia, a Luminarian, born of full-moon royal heritage, walked away from his clan, his mate, because of the savageness with which he claimed, and maimed, a man he loved, when he was too young to control his beast. He’d gone in search of his humanity, and a way to tame the wuv within. But when Tallin unexpectedly arrives, any peace he thought he’d found with his human companion, Niles, vanishes. And it isn’t long before Emmanuel’s beast within rises and in a savage mating, he reclaims Tallin—binding him, once again.

Zhalazti wuvs, like no other; a mysterious nomadic tribe—not the werewolf of loric myth. Descendants of a Sumarian god and his consort, who birthed the gods of the underworld, and evil demons. Emmanuel will do his duty, but not without the human stray, Tallin, at his side. A battle for survival and love is about to begin. Who will triumph?

EXCERPT:

All things were dead in the garden, curled up, brown, brittle. Except there was a certain beauty to it in the thin veneer of frost that covered everything. From wilted brittle vine to defeated rose. The crystalline sparkle made it seem as though one stood in a vastly different world than that of human.

Tallin had waited. Upon his arrival in Vienna he’d taken rooms at a hostelry on the outskirts, near a densely wooded area, allowing him freedom to run when his animal urged him to flee the confines of the city. Mostly it occurred in the twilight hours. But it was early morning now as he stood in the garden, behind the elm waiting for Emmanuel to emerge. Having watched him for the last three days, Tallin had discerned his routine.
A smoke in the morning in the garden, to the university for lectures until mid-afternoon. Home to fuck his pet and take tea, not leaving the house again until twilight, and then off to the opera or some social event. Home again at two or three in the morning to fuck his pet again, before turning in for a few hours of rest. Emmanuel rose early, his pet later, obviously exhausted by the long grueling schedule Emmanuel set for them each day. So this was the best time of day to catch him alone. Today Tallin would confront him and then he would know what his next move must be.

He pulled out his pocket watch, flipped it open to check the time, closed it and repocketed it. Any moment now and Emmanuel would step out into the briskness of the winter morn. Being Zhalazti, the chill would not affect him keenly as it did humans. Nor did it affect Tallin in quite the same way. In fact, their kind thrived in the colder climes.
He scented the smoke of the cigar before he actually saw Emmanuel emerge from the house. Dressed in dark trousers and a white shirt unbuttoned at the neck, black leather shoes polished to an unmarred shine. His shirt sleeves were rolled back to reveal his dark, densely pelted arms. He turned away from where Tallin stood at the corner of the garden and stared up at the lightening sky.

He took the cigar out of his mouth, released a line of smoke into the cold stillness. Still a fine fashion of a man as he stood astride. Broad shoulders stretching the white shirt to its limits, tapering to narrow hips, muscular buttocks and thighs—a measure of the beast that thrived in his Lunaria blood. This morning he looked…human. More so than he ever had back in France. He looked almost tamed, so refined. A gentleman. Perhaps even more charismatic and seductive than Tallin had ever seen him.

“I know you’re there,” Emmanuel suddenly said. “You might as well come out of hiding. I can smell you. One does not mistake the scent of wuv blood—even if it is diluted blood.” He spun around to face exactly where Tallin stood. Tallin stepped out from behind the tree. Emmanuel’s eyes flashed, his focus going immediately to the eye patch and the scars on his face. Tallin didn’t flinch.

Emmanuel nodded. “I thought it was you. Why are you here, Tallin? I’m not returning. I’ve found some balance here. Some peace.”

“With your jijo? I take it he serves you well.”

Emmanuel’s eyes flashed angrily, a growl erupted from his throat. “Leave Niles out of this. He’s human and he’s fragile.

Tallin stepped more fully into the garden. “I know exactly how fragile humans are. I do recall something of their humanity.”

Emmanuel lifted the cigar to his lips and studied Tallin silently for a long time. The tip of the cigar glowed orange as he sucked. Tallin recalled Emmanuel’s special skill at sucking.
“You still have a fondness for cigars.”

Emmanuel released a cloud of smoke to meld with the frigid air. He set the cigar on the edge of the table he stood next to. “You should know. You were the one who stole the first box from Shiri. Have you lost your fondness for savoring fine things?”

“I have tempered somewhat.”

“I heard you have been named a captain in Hirmes’ war pack. You have come far in a short time. Few possessed ever—”

“Survive as long as I have?” Tallin said mildly. He should have died in the rite of passage but he hadn’t. He’d lived and thus gained some measure of respect. Of course, he’d not survived without cost.

“I wasn’t going to say that. We both know the reason humans are made wuv. It’s no secret,” Emmanuel said.

“Exactly. I was trained for it, wasn’t I? Treated little less than a slave—humans—jijos—were treated better than I was. But rikos are the expendable ones, aren’t they?”

“I helped you train, Tallin. I wanted you to survive, you know that.”

Tallin smiled bitterly. “What you did was give with one hand and take with the other. I never really knew where I stood with you until the hunt. Then we both knew, didn’t we?”
Emmanuel spun away. “Why are you here? Everything you speak of is in the past. It serves no purpose in bringing it up now.”

Tallin tamped down the beast and the memories. His wounded eye itched, the scars on his face throbbed with the memory. “Hirmes is dead, Emmanuel…”

 

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as a #kindleunlimited selection.

 

Find more exclusive information and to stay informed of what’s coming next, access to ARCs, backstory, maps, worldbuilding, WIPS, and more, visit my #Patreon site…

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