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By Jessica Lee, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Jessica Lee
All rights reserved.
"Whoever you are, you'd best have a damn good reason to continue breathing," Kenric rumbled.
It took balls for someone to enter his secured, private quarters within the compound while he slept. A part of him respected the bravado, but he despised games.
The cold edge of serrated steel trailed down his midsection. "Now, Kenric St. James, is that any way to speak to your sire?" An unmistakable female voice whispered at his ear.
Kenric's momentum propelled them both across the shielded darkness of his bedroom. Her head smacked the wall with a satisfying crack followed by the thud of the blade against the hardwood floor.
With his hand constricting her throat, Kenric hissed through descended fangs, "Death is all that awaits you here, Marguerite." The thundering beat of his heart filled his ears. "I will see you pay for murdering Annice. And I'll have revenge for every other life you've destroyed."
A wicked smile curled her lips before she laughed. Ready to purge three centuries of vengeance from his gut, he tightened his grip.
His hand collapsed around dead air. "Son of a bitch!"
Seconds later, a force slammed into his chest, propelling him across the room. His back struck the mattress. A naked, grinning Marguerite appeared, straddling his hips. Her hand slid between their bare bodies.
Kenric snatched her wrist. "That will never happen again." Tossing her off him, he leaped to his feet.
"Maybe this would be more to your liking?" Marguerite's form shimmered. Her black-as-sin hair morphed into long blonde ringlets. Her body transformed. Layers of white satin and lace soon covered her nakedness.
His gaze followed the familiar white dress down to her small slippers, then up again, following her soft curves and slight bosom. A sorrow-filled lump, the size of his heart, formed in his throat. His breath hitched. The gown was exactly like the one Annice had been wearing the day he'd proposed — more than three hundred years ago.
Large blue eyes, almost too large for her face, met his gaze. He grabbed the nearest bedpost, steadying his legs. Kenric stepped forward before his mind even registered he'd moved. But reality slammed into his brain and he yanked on the brake.
How could Marguerite be this evil? What the hell was he thinking? Marguerite Devonshire didn't give a shit. She didn't care if she ripped open old wounds and flooded them with salt. She only cared if the action suited her own needs.
Annice was dead. And the woman wearing the masquerade had murdered her.
"How are you doing this, Marguerite?" he growled. "And what the hell do you want? You're too narcissistic for a death wish, and I damn well don't need a reminder of what a sadistic bitch you are."
"Ouch, darling." Marguerite clucked her tongue and wagged one thin finger back and forth. "Now that's not nice. I'm here because I've missed you." She rose and sauntered forward, a disturbing blend of Annice's body with Marguerite's voice. She lifted her hand as if to rest it on his chest. Kenric backpedaled before she could make contact. Her eyelids narrowed as she dropped her arm to her side. Yeah. It was Annice's face, but malice leaked through her pores like venom, a stinging reminder that she was all Marguerite.
"I wanted to surprise you. Do you like your dream so far?" She caressed the curves of her borrowed image.
A fucking dream. She was inside his head and screwing with his mind. Marguerite had already taken his life and blackened his soul, but no way in hell was she going to crawl around inside his brain and infect the only part of him left that was human: his memories.
With a smug grin, she added, "I had to do something to get the master of the Enclave's attention. We've been out of touch for far too long. What has it been, three hundred years now?"
If she wanted chitchat, she had the wrong enemy. He shot her a look that said, get to the damn point.
"Don't look so grumpy, love. I wanted to remind you of how perfect we are for each other. Annice would have never been happy with you."
"Don't even go there. You defile her name," he spat. "You didn't know a damn thing about her."
"Oh, I'm sure the pitiful human female would have wanted children, and as you know, that's not possible. You would have made her miserable . Not to mention the bloodlust that would have plagued you each time you fucked her."
She giggled. "Her sweet little heart would have never fared well with that healthy ..." Her gaze dipped low, then back to his face, "... appetite of yours." She released a long sigh before continuing. "We belong together, Kenric, and you need to accept that fact."
"The only fact that needs to be accepted here is that when I find you —" his voice dipped into a snarl, "— and I will find you — you're going to wish you'd never tasted my blood. Because I'm going to make sure Annice's death is paid for with yours." He wouldn't give her the satisfaction of a reaction to her declarations about Annice — it would only encourage her. Even if she was right. Not about the children. The bloodlust. Unlike human men, he'd been gifted or cursed, depending on how you looked at it, with the benefit of never having to worry about disease or pregnancy when he fucked. The burden he carried was much worse. Sex and bloodlust went hand in hand. He never wanted to submit any female to the cravings he'd experienced during his time as Marguerite's slave.
Marguerite scowled and whirled. "You always were a self-righteous, holier-than-thou son of a bitch. I see a few centuries without me have done nothing to improve your personality."
His jaw ached under the pressure of his clenched teeth. She stood there, with her head held high and spine straight, as if she were the victim.
"We can see each other a little more often, now that I've mastered my new skill. You would like that, wouldn't you?" Marguerite tilted her head, glancing at him over her shoulder. She reached out, intending once more to touch him. Kenric whipped his arm forward, knocking the vile appendage away. He couldn't stomach the thought.
"Is there any point to this?"
"Tell me, my dear. I'm dying to know ..." Her eyes blazed with fury, but her lips wore a smile of seduction. She stepped closer, her words hot against his skin. "Do you enjoy seeing your precious Annice again?"
A roar erupted, and his rage unleashed. With the power of a thought, Kenric launched Marguerite into the air and against the far wall. With his mind, he held her up with her feet dangling. Every instinct rebelled at causing pain to the image of innocence reflecting back at him. It isn't her. It isn't her. The mantra looped in his head as he stalked closer.
"This is my mind, Marguerite. It would serve you well to remember that the next time you think to play in my head."
Her stunned expression shifted to a sneer, exposing her fangs. "You think you have the upper hand, love? You always were a little cocky." Her gaze dropped to his groin. She licked her lips and tongued a fang.
Kenric hit her with another blast of energy, choking off her humor. The force pressed her body and head tighter against the wall. He couldn't resist having his moment. She couldn't die here in this delusion of her creation. But he didn't give a damn. It was too sweet not to try to kill the coldhearted bitch.
"Fine, Kenric. You win. This round," she conceded, lifting her shaking hands in surrender.
He sucked in a deep breath before releasing it along with his hold. Her body glided down until her feet met the hardwood floor.
"I can feel how much stronger you are Kenric, even as you sleep. Think about it. A master vampire, one with the potency that you possess, blended with the strength of my six centuries, plus the power I've procured — we would be a force unlike any vampire or mortal has ever seen. Nothing and no one could ever touch us."
He didn't think it was possible, but she'd grown even more insane. She spoke of power as if it were a lover, her eyes wild with lust. "What have you done, Marguerite?" Christ, what had she tapped into? "What is this procurement ? Is that how you're doing this?"
"So many questions." She shook her head. "Join me, and in due time, all shall be revealed." Marguerite planted another beckoning smile on her face.
"My answer still hasn't changed, Marguerite. Never! Never again will I submit and give my mind and soul to you."
She stepped forward, squared her shoulders, and pinned him with a glare. "You're a fool, St. James. You'll regret those words."
"So be it."
Her eyes shifted from blue to green. Her face, body, and clothing reversed to their original state. Her hips rocked back and forth in invitation.
She was pure sex.
But it was difficult to be aroused when his every instinct would rather rip her apart than fuck her.
"This isn't over," she simply stated. A red ring swirled around her green irises, giving away just how pissed she really was. Good.
He seized her chin, enjoying her sharp intake of air from his sudden grasp.
"For you, Marguerite, it soon will be."
She pulled herself free and raked him with a hungry glare. Their gazes held once more in challenge before she erupted in laughter. Her image faded to mist.
Kenric gasped, lunging upright in bed. What remained of his bed linens lay tangled at the foot of his mattress. A fine sheen of sweat covered his body, chilling him to the core. The room was still, except for the sound of his rapid breaths. He scanned the darkness of his bedroom.
He was alone.
The shower door swung wide, striking the side of the glass block encasement, rattling its hinges. Even though it had been an illusion, it had felt good washing the touch of that evil bitch off his skin. Kenric stepped out onto his rippled bath mat and grabbed a towel from the bar.
The moment he dropped down on the edge of his bed, the house phone beeped. He groaned. It had to be Guerin. With the edges of the sun barely dipping below the horizon, the only person ringing this soon would be him, since he'd covered operations last night. Reaching over, Kenric pressed the speaker button.
"Yeah. What is it?"
"Damn, man. Good fucking evening to you, too," Guerin said, laughing. "Who pissed on your sheets?"
Kenric let silence hang on the line and breathed deep before he took any more of his anger out on his second-in-command. "Marguerite was here."
"Shit! How? There's no fucking way she should've been able to get through without detection. We're sealed tighter than damn Fort Knox. Do you want me to run a diagnostic on the sensors?"
"No, that's not necessary. There's nothing wrong with your sensors." Kenric ran his hands through his damp hair, pushing the unruly waves over his head, and leaned against the headboard. The antique wood frame creaked from his weight. "She was here, but not in the physical sense."
"Not in the physical sense. What do you mean? Like a ghost? What, is she dead? Could we get that lucky?"
"Shit, do you think I'd sound so pissed off if that were the case? No, in fact she's gotten stronger, and apparently, when I'm asleep, she's fucking found a way into my head. She's discovered a new talent, and now she can crawl inside my mind and pay me a visit."
Guerin whistled, long and low. "Damn, she's one sick bitch. Any idea how she's gained this new strength? If she's here messing with you, she must not have found a new male to get her hooks into."
"No. To quote you, 'I didn't get that lucky.'"
"We're going to find her. It will happen, my man. But you've got to promise me one thing."
"A ringside seat when you run her through. You hear me?"
"Yeah, I hear you. And you've got it."
Guerin started detailing the previous night's watch. Kenric picked at the loose fiber in his towel, the other male's voice a distant hum in his ear. In the shower, he'd replayed every word Marguerite had uttered. There had to be a clue. She did nothing without an agenda. Marguerite was too arrogant not to have given him a hint so he'd figure out what she'd accomplished. "Blended with the strength of my six centuries, plus the power I've procured." Could it be that simple? "I want you to ask Elle to research something for me," Kenric cut Guerin off.
"Oh, okay. Spill."
"I need her to find out everything she can on vampire lore from around the fifteenth and sixteenth century."
"All right," Geurin drawled. "Any particular thing she's searching for?"
"Marguerite chose her words carefully when she mentioned her new power. She brought up the fact that she's six-hundred years old and that she'd procured her new strength ..."
Kenric flexed the fingers of his other hand, curling and uncurling his fist. "See if she can find any mention of ancient vampire myths pertaining to relics, or artifacts of power from that time period."
"Good idea. I'll get her on it."
"Anyway." Kenric shook his head, as if the act could erase the memory and her voice from his mind. Yeah. If only it were that easy to change his reality. Like the one where he woke every night to a dawn that consisted of shadows and moonbeams instead of UV and blue skies. If he had that kind of Etch-A-Sketch ability, he would have shaken it. "You were saying something about last night? What went down?"
"Another body's been found. A human female. Like the rest, raped and drained dry for the euphoric high by another DE-addicted vamp. That's three now in the past four nights."
"Too damn many." Kenric closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. A headache hammered at the back of his eyeballs. "Where was she found?"
"The Docks. Arran found her on a side street, slumped behind a Dumpster. We took care of the remains."
"Marguerite's getting inside my head must be connected to the surge in the number of Death Euphoria-addicted vamps. She's turning innocent humans then watching them kill and fry their brains. No doubt they're her calling card to get my attention. And her presence felt too real to have been carried off telepathically from a long distance. She must be tired of playing hide-and-seek and now wants a game of tag."
Unbidden, Kenric's fingernails lengthened and curved into claws that dug into his palm. He needed to shift. The ability to shape-shift was the best part of being a vampire. If such a thing as a good part even existed. "Good" and "vampire" didn't quite belong in the same sentence. God, he needed to run, run until he exhausted some of his anger, before he exploded.
"Guerin, inform Arran I'll be on patrol tonight. Those murdering bastards are mine. Their cravings aren't going to give them a rest, and they won't be smart enough to find a new area for their prey. They'll be hunting tonight ... And so will I."CHAPTER 2
Midnight in Elizabeth Bay, South Carolina. Prime feeding time for the bloodsuckers he hunted. Despite the weight of his steel-toed boots, Kenric moved like a ghost on the cobblestoned streets. The music from a nearby pub vibrated against his chest and rang in his ears. He grimaced as a heavy-metal guitar solo ricocheted off the brick walls of the alley.
His black leather trench coat billowed behind him as the cold wind coming in off the bay funneled between the buildings, carrying with it the fish-laced, briny smell of the Atlantic. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't also mixed in with the stench of rotten garbage and stale tobacco.
In a few hours, the bars along The Docks would close, emptying their drunken patrons. Most would stumble off to their vehicles, and if lucky in their state, would arrive home safely. A few wouldn't be ready for the party to be over, and they would linger, joining others who loitered after midnight on the dark corners. It was a vampire-feeding wonderland of drunks, prostitutes, the homeless, and drug addicts — a bountiful mix of easy prey.
There was only one problem: a vampire who couldn't control their urges and continued to feed until they killed their prey became addicted to Death Euphoria. From what he understood, DE was the exhilarating high received by the vampire at the moment their human prey died. DE-addicted vampires, or DEADs, were a menace to the human population, and had become an eternal pestilence for his Enclave.
Only one other thing competed with Death Euphoria for its addictive nature: the blood of an ancient or master vampire, the very thing that gave Marguerite control over her minions without the nasty side effect of turning their brain to mush like DE. He'd witnessed the effects of her ancient blood firsthand during the years he'd spent as her prisoner, watching as she used a vampire's craving for it as a tool to ensure his devotion. The vampire would become addicted to her and would do anything for Marguerite as long as he got another trip to her vein.
Voices neared the mouth of the alley. Stepping into the shadows, Kenric stilled, allowing the darkness to envelop him. Moments later, a young couple turned into the narrow corridor. They weaved into the alleyway, drunk and oblivious to his presence. Not that they would have noticed him, though, unless it was his wish.
Excerpted from Undying Destiny by Jessica Lee, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2013 Jessica Lee. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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