Drink of Meby Jacquelyn Frank
In a world where emotion can be a deadly weapon, one slight, battered runaway holds the key to a dark and twisted enigma. . .
Drink of me, she whispers, her silver eyes trusting, pleading. What female dares speak such words to one of the Sánge? His people are scorned by every race for their fierce sensuality, their fearful rituals. And as Prime, Reule/i>
In a world where emotion can be a deadly weapon, one slight, battered runaway holds the key to a dark and twisted enigma. . .
Drink of me, she whispers, her silver eyes trusting, pleading. What female dares speak such words to one of the Sánge? His people are scorned by every race for their fierce sensuality, their fearful rituals. And as Prime, Reule is the most telepathically gifted of them all.
But nothing has prepared him for the intensity of emotion radiating from the outlander rescued by his Pack. Terrified, tormented, but beautiful beyond measure, Mystique shatters his legendary control. As she reaches for him in the steamy heat of the healing baths, he knows this blind need can have but one end. . .
In blood, in knowledge, in ecstasy.
Praise for the Novels of Jacquelyn Frank
"A lush narrative sure to please readers who have longed for new gothic and darkly romantic tales." Booklist on Gideon
"Frank's NIGHTWALKER series depicts an engrossing alternate world, drawn in prose that is lush and lyrical." Linda Howard
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Drink of Me
By Jacquelyn Frank
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Jacquelyn Frank
All right reserved.
It beat at him like a relentless drum, throbbing through his mind and vibrating into his soul until he felt it burning in his body as though it were his own. Stunned by the intensity of the intrusion, Reule actually hesitated several moments, distracting himself at the worst possible time. He felt the purity of the devastating emotion shuddering through him. Too pure, and too disturbing, Reule realized very quickly as he flung up well-practiced and powerful mental barricades, blotting out most of the wild despair that had strained his concentration.
Careless of him to let something like that intrude on such a crucial moment. Lines of disconcertment etched themselves into his forehead and around his mouth. The source of that unsettling intrusion was a mystery. It tempted him. But that, he realized, might very well be the point. It could be intentional bait.
Reule dismissed the idea straightaway, confident he could tell the difference between deception and honesty. Though he'd never felt such overwhelming sadness in his life, it had been brutally honest. Pushing it all away to focus back on his goal of the moment, he lifted his head and sought the scents of the others, marking their positions in silence as they kept their mental communication minimalized. Their prey would sense their approach if they picked up on the power of their pursuers' thoughts flying back and forth along the telepathic channels between them.
Reule marked the identifications and locations of the other males of the Pack. Rye, to the north along the stone wall in the underbrush. Darcio, to his rear by several yards, low against the trunk of a thick and ancient oak. Delano, of course, on point ahead of them and moving slowly along the perimeter of the hostile territory they sought to enter. Reule focused next on the house hidden deep in the darkness, concentrating until his vision altered to pierce the veil of the brick walls, picking up the greenish white blobs of movement that indicated life in one form or another. It was easy to differentiate their target; seated centrally and surrounded by others like bees buzzing over their precious queen. All of this activity took place on the second floor.
Reule turned his attention to Delano, watching the sleek speed the male used to breach the property line. In concert, the rest of the Pack moved forward, their senses sharply attuned to the rhythm it would take to succeed at their task. He could have closed his eyes and still known that Rye leapt the stone wall with ease and that Darcio kept every step timed to match perfectly with Reule's as he advanced.
Each member of the Pack neared the structure with caution. Reule crouched low on the balls of his feet, sharply alert, and he became as still and invisible as a shadow. His stillness was timed perfectly. His target came through the near door, so close he nearly tripped over Reule. When the unfortunate crossed in front of him, Reule struck with the speed of a cobra. His fangs exploded into full, glorious length as he attacked, but he wouldn't taste of this repugnant creature. He could control the impulse, sparing himself the disgust of such an experience.
Instead, it was his extending claws that struck. Reule grabbed his victim over his mouth, jerking his head back and puncturing his shoulder with needle-sharp nails right through his shirt, the cotton fabric offering no protection. Reule's muscles flexed as his prey struggled and fought, but they both knew it was a futile effort. Once the paralytic tipping his nails broke the skin, it was only a matter of time. Still, Reule held him to keep him quiet until the drug took effect, using his mental power to stifle his victim so he could raise no alarms. When the male finally became deadweight in his hold, he released him. The body of his enemy dropped to the ground like a sack of rocks, thudding sickly as bone impacted earth. Reule kicked him away in contempt. The toxin wouldn't kill him, but if Reule didn't like what he found when he entered the house, he'd be back to finish the job.
Reule straightened and eased toward the door. He was vigilant for other stragglers as he sought telltale heat and motion. They were all upstairs in that central room, and now Reule understood why. He heard shouts of laughter and cajoling, cheering and jeering, and he suddenly realized why there were insufficient guards staged to protect the place. He snarled low in loathing and the sound was echoed by his Shadow, Darcio. The others didn't respond, but they felt Reule's rage and he felt their kindred emotion.
And that opened him up to the sorrow once more.
It slammed into him, stronger than before; a devastating sadness that stole his breath away and nearly stopped his heart. Chills rushed up under his flesh until it crawled with agonizing emotional response. Never in all his many years had he felt anything like it. He'd shared thoughts and emotions with his Pack for all of his existence, and never had they, his family, been able to project such powerful emotion into him. If he couldn't feel such things from his family, who could force it upon him? More, what caused such agony? He was the most powerful, the most sensitive when it came to sensing these things, but surely one of his caste had felt deep, abiding pain before! What made this so incredibly intense to him? How did it invade him so easily in spite of his skill and power to resist such things?
Reule tried to shake off the sensations even as he fell back unsteadily against a near wall. Darcio leapt forward, instantly at his side when he sensed his distress. Reule quickly fended off his friend's concern, recovering and pushing the alien anguish hard away from himself so he could project confidence and strength to the Pack. They were being distracted in dangerous territory, and he'd be responsible if any of them was injured because of it. Reule silently realigned their attention with a powerful emanation and he felt them swiftly draw back into formation. Only Darcio, who had seen him falter physically, hesitated. Reule ignored his concern and reached for the door.
As they entered from three different portals, Reule felt Rye and Delano both engage hostiles, taking them out and discarding them so they could move rapidly to the stairs leading to the next floor. Reule scanned the first floor to be sure they wouldn't leave anyone at their backs and with a silent command sent Darcio after a stray. Then he and the rest of the Pack moved upward.
As soon as they reached the second floor, Reule felt a ripple of awareness go through half of the crowd in the central room. Now they were close enough that emotions, projected or not, gave their presence away. Reule moved like lightning, as did the others, knowing that surprise was key.
Before the Jakals became fully aware of the danger approaching, half of them staggered back from paralyzing puncture wounds and debilitating hand-to-hand combat. Reule moved so fast that he went through three victims before he met with his first resistance. With about a half dozen Jakals on the floor, or slipping numbly toward it, the Pack faced the remaining enemy, which was now fully on guard. It wouldn't be so easy to incapacitate them. Six Jakals were standing alert and in perfect fighting form. Reule only took a moment to survey the room with quick, accurate eyes, and what he saw seared his brain with wrath.
Besides the Jakals, in the center of the room was a chair, bolted to the floor and made of gleaming steel that had to feel as cold as it looked. The sight of it chilled Reule's spine. However, it was nothing compared to what he felt when he saw the figure slumped forward in it as far as his bound wrists and feet would allow; the former manacled to the flat metal arms and the latter to the legs. Blood drained in a steady stream from his mouth and nose, both of which had been battered to a pulpy mess. Steel spikes had been driven through his forearms and calves, as if the manacles wouldn't be enough to hold him. The Jakals were right. Manacles alone would never have held their prisoner. Although now, with the pool of blood growing in an ever-widening circle beneath that sterile metal chair, the prisoner within was not even strong enough to lift his head, never mind escape. The Jakals had been taking their pleasure torturing him, and they'd made a spectator sport of it.
This time the snarl that vibrated out of Reule was violent enough to reverberate against the walls of the room. His eyes turned from their normal hazel to a reflective green as he lowered into a crouch and bared his fangs. His Pack, including Darcio, who had caught up to them, imitated both the sound and the predatory motion in perfect synchronicity. Reule almost smiled when he heard a fifth growl join weakly with them from the chair in the center of the room.
Jakals on the defensive, however, were no easy targets. The Jakals' slender forms were made for speed, their skin smooth to the point of slickness. They were impossible to grapple with. The wily creatures could twist and strike before you even saw them. Discordant hisses and taunting laughter radiated from their midst as venom dripped from their fangs. They were prepared to strike or spit the acidic compound at their attackers, and unlike Reule's people's paralytic, Jakal poison was fatal if the skin was punctured; and a more brutal death had yet to be invented.
Reule wasn't overly concerned about that. What concerned him was that the Jakals were between his Packmates and the prisoner in the chair. If he hadn't already been poisoned, the enemy might take the opportunity to do so before they could be stopped. Since there was no known cure, this was Reule's primary worry. He could tell by the look in the eyes of the Jakal facing him that his enemy was well aware of it.
As a rule, Jakals were the most powerful empaths of all the known species of the wilderness; only Reule's breed was strong enough to block them. However, as a man of significant ability, he had learned that with strong powers of the mind came strong sensitivities. That had been proven just that evening as he himself had been bombarded by a stranger's overwhelming grief and been caught unawares by it. Surely these empaths before him had heard those cries of anguish too? He knew it was no Jakal feeling those emotions, for though they could sense every feeling any creature was capable of, they didn't have the ability to generate such deep feeling themselves. They certainly didn't understand its true value. It was a terrible irony, and it was what made them such vicious little monsters; monsters who found glee in glutting themselves on the intense emotions of others. Like the emotions generated by torture, rape, or any number of things Reule refused to imagine lest he give way to a rage that would blot his focus and potentially feed his avaricious enemies.
This information did allow Reule an advantage. He was the most powerful sensor of his kind, one without measure in the history of his people. He was willing to bet these lowly gypsy Jakals had never seen his type before and would never be expecting him. That would be his advantage, and that would save the Packmate who had fallen prey to these depraved beasts.
And to think, others considered his people the lowest of breeds.
Reule sent an emanation to his Packmates, steadying them and preparing them silently, including a reassurance to the barely conscious one in the center of the room. Then he slowly unfolded the layers of protection over his mind so he could release his concealed power.
This time he was better prepared for the anguish that struck him, but still it was bordering on all-consuming. It was just the kind of emotional inundation that a Jakal would take gluttonous pleasure in. He could easily amplify the already overwhelming feeling and overload his enemies with the rawness of it, but Reule dismissed the idea instantly. There was something far too personal and innocent about the stark grief. To feed it to the Jakals somehow felt as though it would be a betrayal. Reule didn't understand his reluctance, but he didn't have time to do any soul-searching.
With a mere glance he commanded Rye, who nodded and slid closer to one of the paralyzed Jakals. The enemy lay helpless but conscious, staring up as the hunter contemplated him with a wicked little smile that bared a fine set of fangs. Loosing an intimidating vocalization, Rye reached over to the sheath attached to his biceps on the right and withdrew the blade slowly. The blue metal gleam of the rubkar's blade caught the overhead lighting and made it look even more menacing as Rye lowered himself into a crouch next to the helpless male.
There. That moment. That fear and terror in one of their own, that was what Reule caught hold of, magnified, and netted the sensitive enemy with. His fingers curled into fists, his chin dipped down as he focused ferociously on manipulating all of them at once. He couldn't allow a single one the chance to further harm his kinsman.
The effect was more than he would have expected or even hoped for. The Jakals standing in the center of the room suddenly recoiled in horror and began to scream. They clapped bony fingers over their skulls as males and females alike wailed to a pitch high enough to shatter glass. Reule ignored it, pushing and pushing, refusing to let go lest they try to push back and incapacitate him with their sheer force of numbers. As he drilled into them their compatriot's horror of impending death and his helplessness to do anything about it, he felt as though he were stronger than he had ever been before. He was an awesome force to contend with under any circumstances, and there was no mistaking the surge of vitalizing strength sliding into him now.
Reule kept the conduit open, from victim Jakal, to amplification within himself, and back to the small crowd of compatriot Jakals in the center of the room, pouring it out as Rye's knife lowered to a mark. His Packmate closed both his hands around the haft of the blade in a ritualistic manner. Reule prepared for the death strike, knowing that he could put these bastards in a comatose state for the rest of their lives, even though there was a good deal of jeopardy to him as well if he channeled the imminent death throes. But he felt supremely confident that he would remain only the messenger, untouched by what was about to happen.
Rye looked straight into the eyes of the Jakal whose throat lay under the tip of his razor-sharp, dual-edged blade. With the scent of battle and impending bloodletting on him, Rye's eyes were nearly glowing with green-yellow anticipation and his fangs pushed out both his upper and lower lips so they could be seen even without his purposeful sneer.
"Abak tu mefritt," he hissed.
Death to my enemy. Rye spat the battle cry just before plunging deep and with so much rage-filled power that the blade went clean through and was embedded in the wood of the floor. He left it like that and leapt to his feet before the Jakal's blood could touch him. He spat on his victim in obvious contempt.
Reule felt every moment of both the death and the victory, but it was the last minutes of suffering that he passed on. He broke out in a drenching sweat, every last muscle in his taut, powerful body shuddering as he closed himself off from being dragged into the dark of oblivion along with the dying Jakal. Instead he forced himself to magnify the last pulses, the last breaths, and the last horrified thoughts of the Jakals' kin as he drilled it all into the entire group of them. The effect was so potent that Reule was aware of even his mentally guarded Packmates staggering back from his onslaught. But he couldn't gear back the intensity of it. They would be all right, he reassured himself, so long as they weren't his direct targets.
His direct targets, however, were not so fortunate. Reule strove for total incapacitation, but he got much more. All six Jakals tumbled to the floor, some landing on their knees, others flat on their backs or faces. They all began to seize violently, clawing at their throats as though a wicked blue blade had pinned them to the floor. Some coughed up blood, others gasped out strangled breaths.
Excerpted from Drink of Me by Jacquelyn Frank Copyright © 2010 by Jacquelyn Frank. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Jacquelyn Frank is the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightwalkers series, the Shadowdwellers novels (Ecstasy, Rapture, and Pleasure), the Gatherers series, and the Three Worlds series (including Seduce Me in Dreamsand Seduce Me in Flames). She lives in North Carolina. Visit Jacquelyn at jacquelynfrank.com.
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