Immortal Cravingby Kendra Leigh Castle
Wild, uncontrollable, and powerful, the lion-shifting Rakshasa were hunted down by vicious rival vampires who feared their dark, magical abilities. Somehow one survived, and now, after centuries of hiding, Tasmin Singh reemerges as fierce and fearless as ever at the door of the Lilim queen, seeking/strong>
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The last-and most lethal-of his kind . . .
Wild, uncontrollable, and powerful, the lion-shifting Rakshasa were hunted down by vicious rival vampires who feared their dark, magical abilities. Somehow one survived, and now, after centuries of hiding, Tasmin Singh reemerges as fierce and fearless as ever at the door of the Lilim queen, seeking answers . . . and sanctuary.
The human best friend to a vampire queen, Bay Harper traded her quiet, comfortable life for a world filled with immortal assassins, warring werewolves . . . and this hauntingly sexy shifter. Only Bay's gentle touch can subdue Tasmin's inner demons, even as he brings out a passion and sensuality she never imagined she could feel. But when a bloody struggle threatens to tear them apart, can Bay risk everything on her faith in him-or will his dark side be stronger than even their all-consuming desire?
Castle demonstrates considerable skill in crafting a tale that offers readers a conflict-ridden forbidden love interlaced with political intrigue and betrayal . . . The author's world-building is intricate and cohesive . . . plenty of action . . . I like Castle's voice and look forward to reading more of her work."USAToday.com on Midnight Reckoning"
Castle's world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more."Romantic Times on DARK AWAKENING"
Rising star Castle is sure to please with an exciting new series. Passion and loyalty collide as the hero is forced to re-evaluate the choices that have driven his life."RT Book Reviews on DARK AWAKENING"
[Dark Awakening] grabs you from the first page and the next thing you know you've been reading for several hours immersed in Lily and Ty's world. I adored this story, was sorry it ended so soon and have put the next in the series on my wishlist already. Fans of the paranormal romance, urban fantasy and vampire genres should put this on their wishlist."BittenByParanormalRomance.com on DARK AWAKENING"
I am always thrilled when I find a new spin on the vampire mystique, and Dark Awakening certainly fits the bill. An amazing story of ancient dynasties, class divisions, curses and blood feuds, this book has opened new and exciting views into vampire worlds...The problem with such a new and detailed book is there is so much information I want to impart, but the most important thing I can say is READ THIS BOOK."You Gotta Read Reviews on DARK AWAKENING"
Castle put a fresh spin to her vampire series that I hadn't seen before. The world building was superb and I found myself captivated from the very first page. I HIGHLY recommend this one and found this to be a total and complete book seduction. Yay! I've got another author to add to my ever growing list of favorites. I am so looking forward to the sequel."SeducedByABook.com on DARK AWAKENING"
Kendra Leigh Castle has set the stage for a phenomenal new vampire series which will take the paranormal genre by storm. Dark Awakening has one of the most interesting and well-thought out vampire hierarchies that I have encountered in a vampire novel. Vampire novels just don't get any better than this!"FreshFiction.com on DARK AWAKENING"
4 1/2 Stars. HOT. Power acquisition and consolidation are driving the action in this exciting series as the vampires of the Cait-Sith bloodline strive to break free of their former masters. Intriguing characters add a well-rounded feel to this tale that is also packed with treachery and drama. Pick it up today!"
- RT Magazine, RT Book Reviews, 2011 (Highly Recommended)
Read an Excerpt
By Kendra Leigh Castle
ForeverCopyright © 2013 Kendra Leigh Castle
All right reserved.
Somewhere in the Sasan Gir, Gujarat, India
HE AWAKENED to darkness.
When sensation began to return to him, he hardly understood what it was. The weight of his body settled on him like an ill-fitting cloak at first, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. The muscles in his face contracted. A frown. Why was he cold? Why was he… anything?
Scattered bits of memory swam tantalizingly close to the surface, shadows in the murk. But when he reached for them, they vanished. Frustrated, he inhaled, then stopped, startled, as air rushed into lungs that had long been still. Tasmin’s eyes fluttered open.
He felt the cool damp on his skin, saw rough stone above him in the dark. He could feel the same stone beneath him, though smoother. His chest was bare, as were his feet. Words tangled together in his mind, some in a language he had never heard… and yet somehow, he understood how to use them.
Where… am I?
Tentatively, he moved fingers, toes. Another indrawn breath, such an odd sensation. The air was damp, yet strangely sweet. It tasted of life. And with that simple taste came the hunger, and he remembered what he was.
Warrior. Magic weaver. Vampire.
Tasmin heard the word from somewhere deep inside himself, whispered in a voice not his own. With that, the fog that covered his mind began to clear, and images from his past began to emerge from shadow. So many faces he had known, their voices rising and falling in the music of their native tongues.
He sat up slowly, instinctively testing his movement, his muscles, and looked around. Though the darkness was absolute, he could see that he was in a small cave, only barely high enough for a man to stand upright. There was nothing inside. Nothing but him.
He was alone.
And yet he felt something, some energy that lingered in the space like a dark and malignant visitor. Perhaps someone had been here to check on him. Perhaps it was the lingering feel of whoever had put him here. Again, Tasmin wondered what had happened that he should have been torn from his brothers and placed in a hand-hewn cave alone. Had he died?
We have slept, whispered that odd voice inside of him once again. Long enough to have the world change many times over. But we breathe again, and all the rest have gone.
He gave his head a hard, decisive shake to silence the odd voice. These thoughts, bubbling up from the depths of his mind, did not feel like his own. Echoes, he hoped, only echoes of whatever had been done to him here. He would find his brothers, and all would be well. How long had he slept? Months? A year?
It took him a moment to get his balance, with his feet now unused to supporting him. But when he did, his movement was as fluid and natural as it ever had been. There was only one direction to go in. This cave seemed shallow, only really large enough to hold himself. Like a hiding place.
Or a grave.
Unnerved by the thought, Tasmin moved away from the back wall. He wore only his dhoti, a length of cloth wrapped and tucked around his waist and legs, then knotted at the waist. The soft fabric brushed against his legs as he moved. The stone was rough, but not uncomfortable beneath his feet, nor his hand as he trailed it along the wall. His senses were keen with newly awakened hunger. He felt wonderfully, deliciously alive as his heart resumed its slow and steady rhythm in his chest.
Tonight, he would celebrate. He and his brothers would hunt, and feast. He would drink until he was gorged with life-giving blood. And after, they would hunt down those who had done this to him. An image flickered through his mind of a brutal queen whose hatred of his kind was only surpassed by her love for herself. It was almost certain that the Ptolemy had bound him in that dark sleep, perhaps aided by some of the darkest of his bloodline, those who hid in shadow alone. He would avenge himself… soon.
The mouth of the cave was small, the ceiling grown so low at that point that Tasmin had to go to his knees to push at the thick vegetation covering the entrance. Light, soft and faded as it always was at the end of day, began to filter through as the layers of vine parted. He heard the song of a bird, the whisper of the forest that had been his home for many years. Familiar sounds of the Gir, comforting.
When the first rays of dim light touched his skin, Tasmin drew his hand back with a startled hiss. Bright pain sent a shock up his arm, and he clutched his hand to his chest, confused.
He had built up his tolerance well over the century he had lived, able to withstand even the brightest rays of the sun for extended periods of time if he wished. It was a gift of his line, one of many. He hadn’t been burned since he was a fledgling, young and untried. Even if he had slept for a year, it should not feel like this.
Suspicion, rife with horror, bloomed slowly as he held his hand before him in the darkness, saw skin so ashen it was as though he had been drained of blood and covered in dust. A corpse. Smoke coiled lazily from the place where the light had touched.
And he knew. To sleep so long, to become this dead and wraithlike thing…
It had not been a year.
It had been centuries.
Tasmin began to shake with rage and fear and hunger, lost in this strange place, lost in whatever it was he had become. He opened his mouth, pulling back his parched lips to reveal long and gleaming fangs.
And in the voice of a lion, he roared.
Six months later
DON’T LOOK AT ME THAT WAY, Grimm. We’re getting there.”
The big black Newfoundland gave her another lingering, mournful look before heaving a long-suffering sigh and facing forward again. Bay Harper smirked as she continued trimming his forelegs. Grimm might be put out now, but once they were back home, the big baby would be looking for cookies and affection in short order.
Thankfully, he was not a grudge holder. She had a few clients that were… but she didn’t have to live with them.
Bay worked, humming along with the music she played in the shop, glad she’d cleared her schedule for the afternoon so she could take it easy and work on her own dog. She hadn’t realized quite how much she’d needed a break, however small. To say her life was full these days didn’t even begin to cover it.
She guessed that was what happened when your best friend turned into a super-powerful vampire and needed you for moral support. Not that she had anyone with similar experiences to compare with.
“Crap,” Bay murmured as her last conversation with Lily flitted through her mind. “I need to vacuum again. Lily’s coming over for a movie night tomorrow.”
Grimm gave a slight wag of his bushy tail at the mention of Lily’s name, despite the indignities he was currently suffering, and Bay smiled. The Newf might not be sure about everyone—and everything—currently residing at the Bonner mansion, but the owner was one of his favorite people.
That made two of them. And since this was the first time in weeks Lily hadn’t found a reason to cancel on her, she’d be damned if the night would be anything less than perfect. Just like old times.
Bay’s smile faltered as her thoughts drifted to what was becoming well-worn territory, despite all her best efforts.
So things are different. So what? Everything changes. Change isn’t always bad, Bay chided herself. And there was no question that Lily MacGillivray, once Lily Quinn, had changed since discovering she was the sole heiress of an ancient vampire bloodline.
Bay had managed to get used to the basics quickly enough. She’d ogled enough fake vampires in movies that Lily’s fangs and inability to sunbathe were expected, even if they’d been slightly weird at first. But… the physical stuff was where the similarities between what she’d expected and what she’d gotten ended. Her friend, the shy professor, had stepped into a world full of cold, often cruel beings who seemed to enjoy shedding one another’s blood almost as much as that of humans. They were beautiful, all of them, Bay thought. And clannish. And arrogant. And some of them had lived so long as to be downright terrifying.
Lily seemed to like them, Bay reminded herself, so the cat-shifting vampires of the Lilim had to have some redeeming qualities. Lily’s husband, Ty, for instance. He was undeniably gorgeous. He’d also made a concerted effort to be friendly, which was definitely something he didn’t do for everyone. The man was three hundred years old, and Bay had gotten enough of his story to know that most of those years had been rough. She just wished she could forget that he’d also been a killer, and that even now, he would never look at snuffing out a life with the same horror she did. He wasn’t… well, human. None of the preternaturally beautiful men now prowling the streets of Tipton after dark were. And lucky her, a lot of them seemed interested in the pretty little blonde who hung out with their queen.
She had tried, very hard, to come off as intimidating. So far, she’d failed miserably. It didn’t surprise her. Not when she’d been told for years that she looked like Tinker Bell.
Lily had teased her once or twice about the prospect of expanding her dating pool. Maybe she’d expected that Bay, with her love of ghost hunting and fondness for creepy movies, would jump at the chance to date an honest-to-God vampire. But the reality was so much darker than fantasy. Besides, Bay had noticed that a lot of the vamps she’d met were the usual bad ideas, just with sharper teeth and more baggage. She tried to like them, for Lily’s sake. She even managed it sometimes.
But actively seeking an eternity in some kind of blood-soaked darkness? No.
“Enough,” Bay muttered to herself. Lily was still Lily, and that was all that mattered. Her best friend was kind, loyal, funny, gifted with a spine of steel. And she still loved a good action-adventure flick featuring superheroes in spandex, which was exactly what Bay had planned. Not everything had changed.
Bay brushed absently at a big glob of black fur that had attached itself to the front of her Scooby-Doo scrubs and blew a curly lock of blond hair that had escaped her ponytail out of her face. She worked quickly, focused as she drew sections of fur through her fingers and snipped with the shears. Grimm was, for the moment, incredibly soft, smelling faintly of the sugar cookie–scented conditioner she’d used.
“Good boy,” she praised him quietly. She hadn’t bothered to tether him, knowing that he’d soon flop down on the table with a sigh and nap while she finished him up. For a dog that had been largely neglected for his first year before he’d come into rescue, Grimm had given her his trust quickly and completely. She figured spoiling the crap out of him probably had something to do with it. He made Bay wonder why she’d waited so long to get a dog of her own. He was a hell of a lot more rewarding than any of her boyfriends had been.
In the front of the shop, the bell above the front door jingled merrily as someone wandered in. Bay barely registered the sound, knowing it was either someone stopping by to make an appointment or to pick up something from the small selection of grooming supplies she carried. Shelby, the college student she had working the front desk part-time, could handle it.
Grimm turned his head again, but this time his deep-set eyes were focused on the doorway. An odd sound blended with the music, making Bay pause and tilt her head. It took her a minute to figure out what it was… and when she did, it surprised her.
She’d never heard Grimm growl before, not once in the six months she’d had him.
But he was sure doing it now.
“It’s okay, big guy,” she said, stroking a soothing hand down his side. His eyes never left the empty doorway. It was as though she wasn’t even there.
There was a crash, a high-pitched yelp from the front. Bay’s heart leaped into her throat as she clenched her fist around the grooming shears, a million terrible images flickering through her mind at once.
It’s the middle of the damned day nobody robs a store in the middle of the day it has to be a psycho oh God what if he has a gun oh God oh God oh God…
Grimm threw back his head and bayed, then launched himself off of the table.
“Grimm, no!” she shouted, but he’d hit the ground running, vanishing quickly out the door. Bay chased after him, the only terrified thought in her head that if someone had come in armed, they would absolutely shoot a dog that plenty of casual observers likened to a bear. If she just got robbed, Bay didn’t care… She would rather lose the money than lose the dog.
Bay sprinted out the doorway and around the corner, then skidded to a halt in the small waiting area. Grimm had stopped barking, but moved quickly to place himself between her and the man on the floor, using his big, warm body as a barricade.
“Bay,” Shelby breathed as she hurried around the counter to join her, the pink streaks in her dark hair matching the shade staining her cheeks. “He just stumbled in here and passed out! Do you think he’s a druggie or something?”
Bay was silent for a moment, staring at the figure of a man spread-eagled in a wild scatter of shampoo bottles in the middle of the room. He’d taken out her new display in his fall. Even the quickest glance told her he was likely way too young for a heart attack, but then again, weirder things had happened.
The thought of him dying on her floor while she gawked lit a fire under her.
“We may need to call nine-one-one,” Bay said. She pushed around Grimm with effort, rushing to the man’s side and crouching down. He was on his stomach, and only his profile was visible. She knew instantly she’d never seen him before.
Grimm joined her, pressing against her shoulder as he leaned down to give the man a wary sniff. His tail, always an indicator of his mood, was a stiff flag behind him. The dog gave a low, unhappy moan.
Bay leaned closer, inhaling. No booze—all she caught was an intriguing hint of spice that was very… male. Good cologne, she guessed, then pushed the thought away. Seeing a hint of movement, the unmistakable rhythm of breathing, sent relief coursing through her along with a whole lot of adrenaline. He wasn’t dead. A junkie, maybe, though he didn’t have that look about him.
Or maybe he’s just sick.
Her eyes flickered over his face again, just quickly enough for her to register that he was far from sickly looking. Actually, he was gorgeous.
“Sir?” she asked loudly, shaking him by the shoulders. “Sir, can you hear me?”
A soft groan indicated he was coming to… she hoped.
“Sir, if you can hear me, I’m calling an ambulance right now. We’ll get you some help.”
Bay gestured to Shelby, who headed back for the counter, and the phone. Bay had only begun to turn her head back toward the man when he shot to his feet in a scatter of shampoo bottles, moving so quickly she barely knew what was happening. There was a whisper of air against her cheek, and then he was on his feet, backing away from where she crouched. His hand was at his temple, and he winced as though his head hurt.
Bay rose quickly to her feet, a protective hand on her dog as he once again put himself between her and the stranger with a volley of deep, threatening barks.
The man’s eyes moved quickly from the dog to the mess, and then to the two women staring at him wide-eyed. He spat a word in a language Bay didn’t understand, then held out one hand as the other fell away from his temple.
“Please… a moment. I’m not going to hurt you.”
His voice was silken, a warm tenor no less commanding for its softness. His accent was a blend, faintly British but with an exotic lilt.
“You need to leave,” Shelby said, her voice shaking.
“Shelby,” Bay said softly, a gentle reproach. Whatever was wrong here, freaking out on their part was not going to help it. When she turned her head to look at her friend, however, she could see something was very wrong. Shelby had gone sheet-white, her dark eyes huge as she stared at the man’s face.
“Shelby,” she said more sharply, hoping to draw her attention away. The look on her friend’s face wasn’t one she’d ever seen before… or ever wanted to see again.
“His… eyes…,” Shelby whispered.
Bay turned her head sharply to look at him, and when his eyes locked with hers, she finally understood.
The guy who’d just wrecked her shampoo display wasn’t human. Not even close.
His eyes were a bright, burning gold, more akin to molten metal than the more muted shades she’d seen among the werewolves who stayed with Lily’s dynasty. They were intense, mesmerizing. He stared at her for an instant that felt much longer than it truly was, and in her head she heard his voice as clearly as if he’d been speaking in her ear. It was far too intimate, and still it made her shiver.
Be still. I would speak with you.
His gaze returned to Shelby, who was fumbling now with the phone. Bay heard Shelby’s terrified, sobbing breaths even out instantly, heard the phone being clicked off, and then the gentle creak of the stool behind the counter as the girl settled herself on it. She said nothing.
“So you’re a vampire,” Bay said quietly, adrenaline still pumping hard and fast through her veins. Only Grimm’s reassuring presence kept her from running out the door, the urge to flee an instinct that her rational mind knew would make no difference. If he wanted to catch her, he would. She should have known what he was as soon as he’d gotten up—no human could move so fast.
“I don’t know how you’re out in the middle of the afternoon, but whatever you came in here for, I can’t help you.”
Bay was glad her voice sounded so steady, considering her legs felt like Jell-O.
The man said nothing, his expression guarded. And despite herself, despite knowing she was in the presence of a creature who had just thralled her employee into a happy stupor, a creature who was out during the day when there was no earthly way he should be, Bay felt the vampire’s physical appeal slam into her like a fist.
They’re all beautiful. You’re used to it, she told herself, furious at the way her heartbeat quickened. And a treacherous little voice in the back of her mind responded, They may all be beautiful… but not like this.
Those remarkable eyes, deep set and almond shaped, watched her steadily from beneath a pair of dark, slashing brows. His nose was strong, his lips tantalizingly full, and his square jaw was covered in a light growth of stubble. The vampire’s hair, wavy and black as sin, was cut short enough not to fall into his eyes but long enough to tousle, and Bay had to tear her eyes away when her fingers curled reflexively into her palm, itching to run her fingers through it, over every inch of this stranger’s tanned and gold-dusted skin.
It was Grimm’s soft growl that finally sliced through her haze. She blinked rapidly and shook her head, making sure not to meet the vampire’s eyes again. Lily had been very clear about how to protect herself from the less well-behaved members of the species, and Bay was glad for it. Poor Shelby was going to be in her own little world until this guy left, and then, Bay knew, the girl wouldn’t remember any of this. A heavy thrall could really do a number on a person.
She didn’t want her own brain messed with to boot.
Finally, he spoke.
“You’re close friends with the ruler of the Lilim, aren’t you?” he asked. “Lily MacGillivray. And you’re Bailey Harper. This is the information I was given.”
“Given by who?” Bay asked, fighting back the fresh sliver of fear working its way down her spine. He’d said he had no intention of hurting them, but still… vampires didn’t come looking for her. Especially not day-walking vampires with wild eyes and problems staying conscious.
He moved to pick up a pair of sunglasses on the floor, and she was struck again by his natural grace. It shouldn’t have surprised her. The majority of the vampires now in Tipton had started as Cait Sith, cat-shifters, before joining Lily’s dynasty. The lot of them had grace and beauty in spades. But there was something different here, something more. And she hated herself a little as her eyes crawled over the lithe, muscular frame that even his light jacket and loose jeans couldn’t disguise.
Bay gritted her teeth and inhaled, trying to center herself.
The vampire slid his sunglasses on. It was a small relief, but she’d take it, even though knowing he was watching her from behind them was still unnerving. He regarded her silently for a moment, studying her so intently that Bay felt a hot flush creeping into her cheeks. Finally, he spoke, and managed to surprise her.
“I… apologize,” he said, his brows drawing together slightly as he looked down at the mess he’d made by falling. “We’ll start over. My name is Tasmin Singh. I can walk in the light because it is a gift of my line. And I’m looking for your friend because…” He trailed off for a moment, then looked away.
“It is a long story.”
“Something to do with you passing out in the middle of my store?” Bay asked. His features tightened for an instant before his expression cleared again.
“Perhaps. I slept far longer than is natural, and I still seem to be… adjusting. That should pass in time. I came here because I seek answers. The queen of the Lilim will know those who can find them. Of this I am certain.”
Bay’s eyebrows rose at the cryptic response. There was something off about him, something she couldn’t even put her finger on that went beyond the obvious weirdness. Sadly, it didn’t make him any less fascinating to her.
“Okay,” she said, drawing the word out. “Well, Tasmin, you, um, would have done better just waiting until nightfall and knocking on Lily’s door. Whoever told you where to find me could have told you where to find her.” She tilted her head at him. “Why didn’t you just go there? You can see I’m no vamp. I’m just a dog groomer.”
She thought she caught the faintest hint of a smile, if only for a moment. It turned his lips soft, sultry, and she felt a knot of pleasure coil deep in her belly.
No. No no no. She liked things that were quirky, odd, and even weird. Things. Not guys. Because every time she was drawn to one of those qualities in a guy, it ended up biting her in the ass. And this particular guy looked about as safe as a wounded tiger.
“I see. You’ve attracted quite a noble beast as a guardian.”
She stroked her hand over Grimm’s back, unsure of whether Tasmin was giving her a compliment or just being sarcastic. Grimm leaned into her harder and growled at the vampire again. The sound was soft, but it was a clear warning.
“He is noble,” Bay said flatly. “More than most people manage to be. And he’s an excellent judge of character.”
Tasmin inclined his head slightly, any trace of a smile gone. “Of that I have no doubt. Beasts often are. That he has chosen you speaks well of you.”
She blinked. “Oh. I… thanks.” She tried to shrug off the pleasure she felt at the simple praise. It didn’t matter what this strange, gorgeous vampire thought of her.
“That still doesn’t explain why you came in here.”
“The sun is still high. I had some time. And I wondered what sort of mortal would be considered such a friend to a powerful queen. I’m still not sure whether your relationship means I should expect to find her wise, or a reckless fool.” He considered her. “In any case, you’re not what I expected.”
Bay’s eyes narrowed. She knew she was considered a curiosity among the vampires here, a mortal with no apparent interest in anything Lily could offer her except friendship. But she didn’t appreciate being gawked at like a sideshow freak by some outsider.
“Well,” she said stiffly, “what you see is what you get. I’m not that interesting. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got some things to do before I close up for the day, and I need my help back.”
She turned her head to look at Shelby, who was thumbing idly through a magazine, a dreamy expression on her face. Seeing how deep the thrall still was unsettled her.
“Shouldn’t that have worn off by now?” Bay asked.
“It will wear off when I decide it does.”
Bay looked sharply at him. “That’s not how it works.”
“It is how I work.”
The matter-of-fact arrogance in his statement finally sparked her temper. She pushed aside any lingering fear and walked quickly around Grimm, striding right up to Tasmin. Despite the sunglasses, she saw his surprise, and had to fight back a thin smile. No doubt he’d expected the puny mortal to cower and grovel. But that wasn’t how she worked.
Bay came to a stop only a foot away from him and glared up into his impassive face. Being so close, and this time with him aware and looking down at her, left her momentarily off-balance. He was just the right height—maybe five feet ten—to fit herself against, tall enough to wind herself around, short enough to reach if she rose up on her toes to press her mouth to his…
The scent of him was stronger now, intoxicating. And fending off another hot punch of desire only made her angrier. She never let men make her uncomfortable… It was a point of pride with her. So why couldn’t she find her footing with this one?
“Listen,” she snapped. “I don’t know what you are or what’s wrong with you, but if you want to find out what the Lilim are like, I suggest you head in that direction. I’m sure you’ll get an answer to your questions one way or another… if you can make it through the werewolves to ask. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got better things to do than satisfy your curiosity.”
She started to turn and felt his hand clamp on her wrist, not hard, but with a controlled strength that she knew could shatter bones if he wanted. Her fury was a dull roar in her ears as she whipped her head around.
But the words died in her throat at his expression, the lips pulled back to reveal gleaming fangs. It was the snarl of a creature not remotely human, a killer. And the voice that came from his throat was nothing like the sensual purr of before.
In an instant, he’d become everything she was afraid of.
“You dare chastise me, human?” The words sounded like they’d been dragged through gravel and oil, oozing up from deep in his chest.
Then he cried out, his head snapping back, his body arching as though an electric current had just passed through his body. The sunglasses clattered to the floor again, and Grimm barked just behind her, though it sounded oddly far off. Tasmin’s eyes met hers again, and the amount of pain and fear she saw in that instant left her reeling. His hand tightened on her wrist before going lax.
“Help me,” he breathed.
She just managed to get her arms around him to break his fall, sinking slowly to the floor with Tasmin in her arms. Whatever this man needed, she knew, it was more than just answers.
But right this second he needed help. He needed her.
Even though she cursed herself for it, even though she’d declared vampire problems off limits to herself, Bay knew she was in big trouble. Her compassion had always been as much her strength as it had been her Achilles’ heel.
And this time, whichever it turned out to be, she wasn’t going to be able to just walk away.
HE DIDN’T AWAKEN FULLY until the sun went down.
Tasmin inhaled deeply as consciousness returned, grateful to be surfacing from the dreams that had plagued him ever since he’d emerged from the cave. He felt warmth, softness, a strange sense of comfort… and relief as he emerged fully from the smoke-filled visions he could only ever half remember. His sleep, once restful, now left him with an aching hunger nothing seemed to be able to fill, his head pounding with an anger that seemed to come from nowhere, directed at nothing and yet as deep and endless as the ocean.
And yet right this moment, he felt… good.
Maybe someone had finally put him out of his misery. Then again, he’d never had that kind of luck.
Tasmin kept his eyes closed, rummaging around in his murky memories for where he might have ended up this time. For a moment, he felt a cold twist of fear when he couldn’t come up with anything. The blank spaces in the days that had passed since he’d left the forest yawned like bottomless chasms… some rimmed with blood. He’d grown to dread those empty patches in his memory more than anything else. But then images drifted up from the depths, and he remembered. Pieces, anyway.
Shampoo bottles. A woman’s gentle hands. Barking.
Tasmin opened his eyes and found himself staring into a furry black face only inches from his own.
He hissed in a breath and sat upright, startled. The big black dog rose to its feet from where it had been sitting and watching him, and gave a soft wuff.
“Easy,” Tasmin said softly, a command that did nothing to diminish the wariness he saw in the creature’s deep-set eyes. It was hard to blame him.
Tasmin looked around, keeping half an eye on the animal while he got his bearings. He had been lying on a large, overstuffed couch, where someone—no, he corrected himself, Bailey—had covered him with a soft knit blanket. The simple gesture surprised him. But then, all of this surprised him. That he was even in her home meant she had shown him more kindness than anyone, mortal or otherwise, had since he’d awakened. He had a vague recollection of being led to her car, of staggering in the door and being eased onto the couch, which was as far as he’d been able to make it without passing out again.
He heard the soft sound of footfalls on wood, and had only a moment to take in the warmth of his surroundings: the rich burgundies and browns of the furniture, the bright glow of the fire in the fireplace, the rich and somehow sensual palette of the rugs, the art on the walls.
Then she was there, and he was aware of nothing but her scent, the quickened beat of her heart, her every breath as she entered the room. The dog immediately went to her side.
The woman, he noted, looked every bit as wary as the beast that guarded her.
“You’re awake,” she said, and not even her obvious nerves could mar the melody of her voice. Her hands fluttered together as she watched him, then pulled apart, quickly flexing into fists before relaxing again.
Tasmin was silent as he watched her struggle with how to deal with him, as struck by her beauty as he had been earlier. Bailey Harper looked nothing like the women who had once occupied so many of his thoughts, and yet he found himself unwillingly fascinated by every small detail. Her features were delicate, set in an oval face dominated by eyes as blue as the sky at daybreak, and the face itself was expressive, open. He had plenty of experience with deception—it was his kind’s stock in trade, after all—and he sensed, with bone-deep certainty, that whatever else Bailey might be, she was not a liar.
Small consolation for this disaster of a day, but a real one. He had never much cared for picking through mortal thoughts for answers when they refused to give them, though he was more than capable. There had just been too many times when he’d infiltrated someone’s mind and been utterly repulsed by what he’d found.
But then, those who had sought his kind had rarely been scrupulous.
“You brought me to your home,” Tasmin said, his voice as rough as it always was after his control had slipped and his… other side… had taken over, however briefly. His throat felt as though he’d been swallowing hot coals.
“I did. Do you remember any of that?” Bailey asked. “You were pretty out of it.”
He shook his head. No. The silence drew out between them while they studied one another, and Tasmin felt his unusually strong awareness of her intensify. She seemed uncomfortable in the quiet, so different from him. He’d never been one to fill up the empty places with meaningless words just to hear the sounds they made. And still, she fascinated him. Bailey Harper was as foreign a creature to him as the tongue she spoke had once been—a tongue he had awakened understanding, though he knew for certain he had never learned it before.
One more mystery, perhaps better left unanswered.
The firelight played over skin like rich cream as Bailey shifted, lifting a hand to tuck an escaped tendril of golden hair behind her ear. She’d twisted her hair up into a pile of curls that looked to be only moments away from tumbling down. Tasmin allowed himself, for just a moment, to imagine what she might look like with her curls loose around bare shoulders. An instant later he had to push the image away, suffused with heat that had nothing to do with the fire.
Perhaps silence wasn’t the best thing right now after all.
“Why?” he asked. “Why would you bring me here?”
She frowned. “Well… the hospital seemed like kind of a bad idea. So did dumping you out on the sidewalk.” A crease appeared between her brows as the frown deepened. “It’s kind of interesting that you’d want me to rethink that decision, but I suppose I can throw you out now if you’d like.”
Tasmin shook his head, frustrated with himself. Clarity was always a struggle for him right after awakening, especially these days. And even now, the English thoughts often jumbled with the Hindi, making it more difficult to express himself properly.
“No. I mean, why would you put yourself at risk this way? You know what I am.”
A corner of her mouth curved upward, though the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You really think a pair of fangs would send me running? Even if I wasn’t close to Lily, Tipton has become vamp central these days.” She shrugged. “If you need the Lilim that badly, you won’t make the mistake of hurting me. Besides… you asked for help.”
She looked away, uncomfortable again as she wrapped her arms around herself. Tasmin watched her big black dog nudge her elbow with his nose. She immediately dropped a hand down to stroke the dog’s head. Tasmin watched the interplay of the beast soothing his mistress, feeling an unfamiliar sensation curling unpleasantly in the pit of his stomach.
He had never been jealous of a dog before. It wasn’t an experience he cared for.
“I don’t remember asking for help,” Tasmin grumbled, disconcerted by his reaction to the scene in front of him.
“Well, you did,” Bailey replied, her eyes narrowing. “And I don’t make a habit of walking away from defenseless creatures.”
Tasmin snorted. “I’m hardly defenseless.”
She didn’t look impressed. “Yeah? Well, you weren’t looking so hot back at the shop.”
He pressed his lips together, torn between affront and amusement. He was used to humans fearing him. He wasn’t sure what to do with one who treated him as an equal, much less a slightly annoying one.
Finally, he relented. A little. And only because he had to admit that she did have a small point.
“I… that much is true. I suppose I should thank you for your help,” he managed, trying not to hunch his shoulders at the admission. It was humiliating, that he should have needed her help, but she had given it nonetheless. And he was being supremely ungrateful about it.
“Yes, you should thank me, but I can see that’s about as good as I’m going to get.” She sighed. “Look, I’ve already left a message for Lily. You want her, you got her. I’m sure she’ll be here shortly.” She looked away and muttered, “I’m probably going to get a lecture about having you here too.”
Tasmin frowned. “I would prefer to greet her in her own court. It will offend her, being summoned to see me when it should be the other way around. She’ll consider it an insult.”
The last thing he needed was to get off on the wrong foot with the queen, considering his very limited options. But for reasons he couldn’t even fathom, Bailey laughed. The musical sound of it rippled through him, awakening parts of himself that were better left dormant.
“You mock me?” he asked, amazed that she would even dare.
Bailey angled her head at him, widening her eyes. She still looked amused. “Seriously?” she asked.
He leveled a cool stare at her. “I suppose I shouldn’t expect you to understand how things are done among my kind, despite the company you keep. You’re just a mortal.”
Bailey’s smile faded a little, but didn’t entirely disappear. She watched him closely as though he was a puzzle she was trying to figure out. Tasmin had to fight the urge to look away, to hide whatever answers she might find on his face. What did it matter, what she saw? There was nothing to see. Just the shell of who he had once been.
And still, this woman’s gaze unnerved him in a way other mortals’ did not.
Finally, she spoke.
“Look, I’m not mocking you, so calm down. I don’t know what it’s like where you came from, but Lily doesn’t stand on ceremony. She won’t mind coming here, especially because she’s here a lot anyway.” Her mouth tightened, just for an instant, but the emotion behind it had vanished before he could even try to read it. “Well, she was. Regardless, this isn’t something that would bother her, and I wasn’t sure you were going to be in any shape to go anywhere. You seemed pretty messed up.”
Though he knew her words weren’t a conscious dig at his ability to handle himself, Tasmin pushed aside the blanket and got quickly to his feet, his pride stinging. He was no sickly thing, damn it! He was a hunter, a creature to be reckoned with. The difficulties he’d been having changed none of that.
His speed finally made Bailey look nervous, and the dog gave a warning bark.
“I am not ill,” Tasmin growled. “Spare me your pity.”
“But then why—”
“It’s not a sickness!” he interrupted her, his voice rising. “I’ve been asleep for over four hundred years! We were never meant to sleep so long!”
Tasmin watched her take a quick step back. He felt a nasty surge of pleasure that turned quickly to guilt. For reasons he couldn’t fathom, Bailey had taken a chance and brought him into her home. Yet here he was, snapping at her like a wounded lion, taking out his fury at his weakened state on the only person who’d seemed genuinely interested in helping him in all these months.
Such a pretty thing… maybe we should have a taste…
Tasmin shook his head at the ugly impulse that drifted up from the murky depths of his mind.
He slid his hands into his hair as his temples began to throb, a dull ache he was now well acquainted with. A warning. Bailey’s scent, sweet as spun sugar at first blush but with something much more complex and decadent beneath, wound itself around him until all he was breathing was her. Tasmin pressed his fingers into his skull, wincing as the hunger slammed into him. She smelled so good. She would taste a thousand times better.
I’m in control. I can stop this. I CAN.
“Hey, are you all right?” Bailey asked, her voice echoing in his head.
“Don’t,” he murmured, so soft only he could hear it. Then she was coming to him, the foolish woman’s instincts the exact opposite of what they ought to be where he was concerned. Tasmin tried to take a step back to get away from her and landed right back on the couch. The surprise of the fall cleared his head, at least for a moment. Bailey stopped short only a couple feet away. Tasmin looked up at her from where he was sprawled, astounded that he appeared to be the only one in the room with any sense of self-preservation.
“Aren’t you afraid of me at all?”
“Yes. And no.” She sounded as confused by the answer as he was.
“It’s a wonder you haven’t gotten yourself killed.”
“You know, it’s awfully hard to be nice to you when you’re being such an asshole,” she said, whatever fear she claimed to feel overridden by a sudden burst of temper. A loose curl tumbled over one eye, but she seemed to be too busy glaring at him to notice. “Do you have any other nasty comments to make about mortals in general or me specifically?”
He could only stare for a moment. Mortals didn’t challenge his kind. Ever. This one acted like she found him about as intimidating as a pet kitten. Finally, he mustered a response.
“You have a foul mouth, woman.”
Bay looked irritably back at him. “Now are you finished?”
“I-I… yes.” She didn’t react like a normal human. Tasmin didn’t have a clue what else to say.
Bailey stared at him, took a deep breath, and tried to brush the errant curl back into her hair.
“Okay then. Tasmin,” she finally said, the sound of his name on her lips sending an unexpected shiver of pleasure skimming down his spine. “What I was going to say before you went all ‘Beware, foolish mortal!’ on me was that I really think you should see a doctor or a healer or something. You might think you’re all right, but you really don’t seem like you are.”
Once he was fairly certain Bailey wasn’t going to try to come to his aid, Tasmin stood again, this time slowly, carefully. “I don’t need a healer,” he said. “I need to see the queen of the Lilim. I need to find out what happened to my people.”
He saw a softening in her expression, an innate compassion that was so misplaced when it came to a creature like him. Guilt pricked at him. She might be an inconsequential human, but abusing a woman’s good nature was beneath him.
“Your people,” Bailey murmured. “You said you’re a…”
“Rakshasa,” Tasmin said. He lifted his hand to pull aside the neck of his T-shirt, baring the mark of his line: the lion’s paw, created of flame. Bailey’s eyes dropped to it, and he swore he could feel his skin warm where her gaze touched. Quickly, he covered his mark again. When her eyes met his again, he wasn’t surprised to see her confusion. Saddened, but not surprised.
“Is that a dynasty?” she asked. “I haven’t heard anyone mention it, but Lily said there are a number of bloodlines that don’t come here.”
His mouth curved into a small smile at the innocent questions, though it was borne of bitterness, not amusement. Once, the name of his kind had been whispered in reverence, in fear. Now, it was so much dust in the wind.
“It was,” he said softly. “Many prides, one mark. Now, there is only me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, and he was surprised to see her sympathy was genuine. Sympathy was something he had never seen much of, not even before he had fallen prey to whatever had left him in that cave. Few shed a tear when a Rakshasa died, no matter how sought after they were in life. It hadn’t helped that the prides were so isolated from one another… The cruelest elements of his kind tainted the legacy of them all.
Bailey’s sentiment was so odd to him, especially from a mortal, that he didn’t quite know how to respond to it. Suspicion, as it usually did, won out first.
“I don’t want your pity,” he said.
“It isn’t pity,” she said, looking flustered. “Why wouldn’t I be sorry for you, if you’re the only one left?”
Now that he knew he had his footing and didn’t feel a trace of the dizziness that preceded one of his blackouts, Tasmin took a step toward Bailey, then another. He knew he shouldn’t get so close. Not when the scent of her was so compelling. But he couldn’t stop himself. Her casual disregard of what he was left him both infuriated and fascinated. She needed to understand he was no domesticated pet to be coddled and soothed. And he… he needed to feel the warmth that seemed to pour from her, to bask in it, if only for a moment.
Tasmin didn’t stop until he was only a breath away from her, looking down into her upturned face. She stood her ground, defiant. Their bodies were so close to touching that he could feel the energy crackling between them, daring him to pull her against him. It was raw attraction, Tasmin told himself, nothing more, even if it was stronger than anything he could rightly remember having experienced.
The urge to stroke his hands over her slim curves, to taste her, was almost overwhelming. Instead, he spoke, forcing out words as her breath feathered his face.
“So many questions. But the answers are not for you.”
Her frown was faint, her eyes hazy. Seeing the delicate pink tip of her tongue flicker out to wet her lips before she spoke was enough to have him hard as a rock… another first since his awakening. Tasmin bit back a groan. This was not a good time to rediscover that part of his nature.
It might have helped if he hadn’t caught the sweet, unmistakable musk of Bailey’s own arousal right then. Tasmin’s nostrils flared. Only the incredible control he’d had to learn in the past few months kept him from pushing her up against the wall and having her.
Bailey seemed to sense the change in him, but instead of shrinking away she stayed put. Her pupils dilated, and her voice was breathless when she spoke. “I saved you,” she said. “I think I deserve a few answers.”
A sharp pain twisted deep in his chest. “No one can save me.” Gods, she was warm, so tempting. If he was the man he had once been… but he had not come out of that cave the same. Not at all.
Her lashes lowered, her gaze dropping to his mouth. His resolve wavered, then crumbled as he fastened his hands on her hips and stepped into her. It was a wonderful shock to feel her hands fist in his shirt. She turned her face up to his, lips parted, inviting. He lowered his head…
The sound of the front door opening had Bailey leaping backward as though someone had struck her. She nearly toppled over in her haste to get away from him. Tasmin was frozen in place, afraid that if he tried to move he would quickly find Bailey back in his arms. That would be a terrible idea for both of them.
But it didn’t stop him from wanting it with every wretched fiber of his being.
A woman’s voice, compelling and rife with concern, echoed from the front of the house.
“Right here!” Bailey called back, though her eyes never left Tasmin’s. She stared at him with wide eyes. Her breathing was as uneven as his was, ragged in the sudden silence. After a moment, she shook her head.
“Yeah,” she said quietly. “That was… I think… yeah. Lily’s here.”
She turned on her heel and left the room, vanishing almost as quickly as a vampire might.
Once Bailey’s swaying hips were out of sight, Tasmin realized two things: One—she had removed his shoes while he’d slept. Two—he seemed to be standing in a puddle.
Tasmin looked down, only to meet a pair of soulful dark brown eyes watching him with a great deal of concern. The dog was sitting at—and drooling all over—his feet. It seemed the heated exchange with his mistress had not been much to the creature’s liking. Tasmin could feel the dog’s nerves without even touching him.
What surprised him was the cautious interest that had replaced the dog’s hostility. The furry beast scooted closer when Tasmin took a step back, licking its chops and beginning to wag its tail.
“Oh, now you want to make friends?”
A long, luxuriant ribbon of drool separated from the dog’s flews and landed directly on Tasmin’s foot, starting a brand-new puddle.
Resigned, and mildly disgusted, Tasmin lifted his hand to give him a tentative pat on the head. Tasmin huffed out a surprised laugh as the dog—Grimm, Bailey had called him—snuffled at the hand and then gave it a rather sloppy lick. Tasmin ruffled the soft fur on Grimm’s head and finally felt some small amount of relief from his ragged nerves. Another surprise, but it shouldn’t have been. People, mortal or no, were complicated things. Beasts were more direct, easier. They either liked you or they did not.
This one seemed to have decided to like him, for whatever reason. Tasmin took some solace in that.
In this unfamiliar world, there were now two beings that seemed to care whether he lived or died.
Perhaps there was something salvageable left in him after all.
WHEN BAY GOT to the front entryway, she saw immediately that Lily had brought reinforcements. Well, one reinforcement. But he was the equivalent of a one-man army when he needed to be.
Shit. He looks like he wants to kill someone. Me, probably.
“Hey, guys. I thought I might get both of you tonight,” Bay said, keeping her tone casual. Inside, she was still reeling. Had she seriously just been ready to drag Tasmin to the floor and—
Her cheeks flushed. Yep. She definitely had been.
“When you start taking in stray vampires, you get more than just me,” Lily said with a smile that held a fair amount of concern. “You lucked out, though. Ty wanted to bring half a dozen wolves too. I said no.”
The slim, auburn-haired queen of the Lilim shrugged out of her wool coat and tossed it on the hallway bench. Lily’s husband Ty, a tall, dark-haired vamp with beautiful silver eyes, unwound his scarf from his neck.
“You didn’t really bring any wolves, did you?” Bay asked, her nerves prickling as she eyed the front door. She actually liked the werewolves Lily had taken on as guards a little better than the vamps. Maybe, not being immortal, they just seemed more human to her. But for all that they were warm-blooded and actually seemed to enjoy one another, it was hard not to notice that the wolves were a little less civilized than the average vampire. And a lot less predictable.
Not to mention that they loved hunting.
When Ty was silent, her stomach sank.
“I don’t need wolves, right?” Bay rushed out. “It’s only one vampire. You two could take him if you needed to. Not that you’ll need to. Everything is fine.”
Ty finally relented, his exasperated affection obvious in his deep, musical brogue.
“Don’t worry, Bay. There’s no one hiding in your bushes. No one I brought anyway.”
The relief nearly had her melting into the floor, but Bay steeled herself, determined not to show it. She had to get over it and get used to these… people. Cat vamps, wolves, all of them. Lily’s worried expression had Bay baring her teeth in what she hoped was a reasonable approximation of an easy smile.
I can handle this. I’ll show her I can handle it.
“Great,” Bay said. “Like I said, everything’s fine. He just woke—”
“Fine? Are you serious?” Ty’s smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared, his words cutting her off with razor-sharp precision. “This isn’t some harmless charity case, Bay. You’ve got no idea who or what you’ve let in here. This isn’t one of ours. Sick or not, he could have ripped your throat out.”
Bay bit back an angry reply, knowing it wouldn’t help anything. Did he really think she didn’t know how dangerous they all were? She wasn’t stupid. But trying to explain the absolute certainty she’d felt that Tasmin wouldn’t hurt her was going to make her sound that way, and considering what had almost happened a few minutes ago, she was feeling stupid enough. She’d had to work harder at forgetting what Lily’s new friends could do to her than Ty and Lily would ever know. Even if she might have forgotten a little too well this time, she didn’t appreciate the scolding.
“My throat’s fine,” she said stiffly.
Lily sighed. She sounded so weary that for just a moment, Bay could look at her and see the old Lily. It made her realize just how long it had been since she had. The thought provoked a dull ache in her chest that she didn’t know what to do with.
Lily, thankfully, seemed oblivious. Even with the ability to do so, she wasn’t one to pry into Bay’s thoughts.
“I’m glad you’re fine, believe me,” Lily said. “I’m just worried that some day-walking vampire sought you out and then”—she gestured helplessly with her hands—“all of this. You shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff. Not to mention that you’re very generous, and a lot of vamps just aren’t that trustworthy. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Lily’s smile was only a faint shadow. “You wouldn’t be so confident about that if you’d seen what the Grigori had in their basement, Bay. I’m worried. You’re a lot easier to hurt than we are.”
It was an argument they’d had with increasing frequency since the end of the summer, when Lily had narrowly escaped being destroyed by a soul-eating demon that was kin to the leaders of the Grigori dynasty. The demon, Chaos, had escaped by taking out most of the Grigori ancients, leaving only two. Ever since, the rest of the dynasty leaders had been on eggshells, waiting for Chaos to gather an army of his dark brethren and begin to move against the vampires as he’d promised. But there had been only silence… and Bay’s growing sense that Lily was considering protective moves that would put even more distance between the two of them. Maybe permanently.
The thought of that was incredibly painful no matter how Bay tried to look at it. It wasn’t her battle and she knew it… The thought of fighting the way these creatures did made her nauseous anyway. But she hated feeling like she was on the outside looking in, unneeded.
Her expression must have given her away, since Ty was as disinclined to try to pry into her thoughts as Lily was. Ty poked her in the shoulder, the brotherly gesture settling her the way little else could have.
She did like Ty. She needed to remember that.
“Hey. There’s nothing wrong with being a sweetheart, Bay,” he said. “Just… next time, if there is a next time, call Eric. His claws and fangs are good insurance, just in case. All right?”
Bay gave Ty a long-suffering look, but it was impossible not to relent. Ever since she’d met him, Ty had been inclined to play the three-hundred-year-old big brother with her. Her own big brother, Steve, hadn’t been much interested in the job since he’d moved away, so she guessed the position was open. At least being treated like a little sister was familiar, if not always thrilling. And it was way better than being treated like a potential meal.
So she sucked it up, dug around for her sense of humor, and did the only thing that made any sense—she let it go.
“You know, I do have other canine options. Grimm has claws and fangs. And better people skills,” Bay pointed out.
That had both of her friends chuckling.
“I have great confidence in Eric’s poor people skills,” Ty replied.
Bay forced a smile, wishing she could agree. Eric Black was a big, taciturn werewolf with amazing hunting ability who had barely said ten words to Bay in the four months he’d been in Tipton. He was captain of the guard in all but name already. And she shuddered to think of how he would have handled Tasmin today. He probably would have cuffed him, locked him in a closet, and waited for Lily to wake up. Considering how most vampires felt about werewolves, and vice versa, it might have turned even uglier if Tasmin had put up a fight.
No, she’d done the right thing with Tasmin, Bay decided. Even if no one else agreed, her gut told her he’d needed to come here, that he wouldn’t hurt her. Weird, but her instincts had never failed her that way. Still… she’d just keep that opinion to herself.
Ty lifted his head and sniffed the air, his nose wrinkling slightly. A strange look settled on his face. “Did he mention what he was?”
Bay nodded. She’d been too frazzled to remember when she’d made the call earlier, but it was fresh in her mind now.
“He said Rakshasa.”
Lily’s surprise was obvious, and she and Ty shared a look Bay couldn’t decipher.
“What?” Bay asked.
“I’ll be damned,” Ty murmured. “Part of me said it had to be, but… they’ve been gone for a very long time.”
Bay slid a look down the hall, toward the back of the house where Tasmin was waiting for them. Her voice dropped. “Do you know what happened to them? He thinks he’s the only one left.”
“As far as I know, he’s right,” Lily said, then looked at Ty. “Anura will want to know.”
Bay looked between them, confused about what the pretty Empusa from Chicago had to do with any of this. Ty’s grim look, though, made even less sense.
“Maybe. You don’t know much about the Rakshasa, Lily—you haven’t needed to—but they weren’t all like Anura’s mate. Not even close.” His eyes shifted to Bay. “Has anything odd happened since he got here? He’s only slept, you’re sure?”
She nodded, unable to keep from sounding defensive. “I’m sure. Ty, he’s not scary or anything. He just wants help.”
“If that’s true,” Ty said, “then you’re luckier than you know, Bay. With the Rakshasa, you can never quite trust what you see. Remember that.”
“Well,” Lily said, sounding just as troubled as Bay now felt, “let’s go find out what he needs.”
Everyone was glaring at one another.
Well, the men, at least. Lily was just more reserved than usual. Bay couldn’t blame her. Tasmin uptight was a lot more unsettling than Tasmin insulting and then trying to kiss her. Before, he’d seemed dangerous but approachable. In mixed company, the “approachable” part of the equation had been removed.
And yet, for some odd reason, Grimm had decided to flop next to him, his big head pressed up against the man’s feet. Odder still was the fact that Tasmin didn’t seem to mind.
“So,” Lily said, “from what I understand about the Rakshasa, you must have come quite a long way to find me.”
There was the briefest flicker of hope across Tasmin’s face. “You have heard of my kind, then. Perhaps you know of others, scattered about this country?”
“No,” Lily replied slowly. “I’m sorry.”
The regret in her voice was genuine, Bay was certain. Still, Tasmin’s expression was stony again in an instant. What emotions that grim mask concealed, Bay had no idea.
“Oh,” was all he said.
“The prides are long gone,” Ty said. “Exterminated one by one. Most of the good went first. The worst lingered… but the Ptolemy got them all, in the end. One way or another.”
“I see,” Tasmin said. He sounded calm, but when his eyes met Bay’s for an instant, they were gold fire. She couldn’t imagine what he had been through, waking up after hundreds of years to discover he’d lost everything. The fury she saw in his gaze seemed fathomless.
She only hoped he pointed it in the right direction.
Ty sighed, running a hand through his shaggy crop of dark brown hair.
“I don’t feel like I should be the one telling you this. Most of your kind were gone by the time I was sired.”
“Yeah. I saw the end of it,” Ty replied. “It wasn’t pretty. It never is with Arsinöe… You must remember that.”
Excerpted from Immortal Craving by Kendra Leigh Castle Copyright © 2013 by Kendra Leigh Castle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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- RT Magazine, RT Book Reviews, 2011 (Highly Recommended)
Meet the Author
Kendra Leigh Castle is the author of six previous paranormal romance novels: Call of the Highland Moon , Dark Highland Fire , Wild Highland Magic, Dark Awakening, Midnight Reckoning, and Shadow Rising. Immotral Craving is the fourth novel in her Dark Dynasties series. She lives in Maryland with her husband, their three children, three high-maintenance dogs, and one enormous Siberian cat.
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