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For the Guardians of Eternity, battle is a way of life-whether the plight of their world is at stake, or the fate of their heart . . .
After being held captive by one vampire for four centuries, Kata had no intention of taking another one to the underworld with her. Yet even in the pits of Hell, there's no ignoring the intoxicating desire awakened by Uriel's touch . . .
Contains mature themes.
Read an Excerpt
By Alexandra Ivy
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2011 Debbie Raleigh
All rights reserved.
Uriel had very specific plans for the upcoming evening.
First up, dinner in bed with a luscious, golden-haired fairy who tasted like champagne and boasted skills that could make a vampire howl like a damned werewolf. Even without a full moon.
Next on the agenda, a round of sparring with the latest batch of foundlings that had arrived in London. In the past few years Victor, the clan chief of Great Britain, had instituted a law that demanded all recently created vampires must spend at least the first decade of life being trained at his lair. And since Uriel was second in command, as well as Victor's best warrior, it meant it was his duty to oversee their fighting lessons.
And if there was time left before dawn, he intended to meet with the soldiers who had recently returned from their hunt in northern England.
Since rumors of the return of the Sylvermyst had spread through the demon world, Victor had sent out nightly patrols to search for the evil cousins of the fey. It aggravated the hell out of Uriel that he wasn't allowed to take his place in the chase.
Unfortunately when he'd accepted his position as Victor's right hand man, he had given up his place in the field. Now he was stuck plotting strategy, drawing up scout rotations, and researching the history of the Sylvermyst in the massive library beneath Victor's lair on the outskirts of London.
He was also on call 24/7 to his chief.
Which was why he was headed through the vast labyrinth of hallways, dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a sweatshirt, instead of lying naked on his bed with a beautiful fairy doing bad, bad things to his eager, eager body.
Climbing the marble staircase and strolling down the crimson carpeted hallway, Uriel ignored the priceless Greek statues and pictures that lined the walls and the explosion of gilt that framed the arched windows.
He understood Victor's need for a gaudy display of wealth and power, but damn. A man could get a brain cramp from such an overexposure of frou-frou.
Especially those idiotic frescos that were painted on the lofted ceiling.
Uriel grimaced. The images of angels with fiery swords defending a gaggle of humans against a horde of demons might be some sort of priceless work of art, but to Uriel it was a never ending source of annoyance.
He was a brutal killer and a ruthless enemy to those who would threaten his clan. But for all his grim reputation, he was cursed with finely carved features and a halo of curls that perfectly matched his light brown eyes.
As beautiful as a fallen angel ...
He'd heard those words a thousand times over the past four centuries.
Sometimes they were a sigh on a woman's lips. And sometimes a mocking taunt from his brothers.
They always managed to make him want to hit something.
Really, really hard.
Stepping into the vast library, Uriel halted in the middle of the fancy-ass carpet and watched as Victor lifted himself from behind the heavy walnut desk and crossed toward a matching sideboard.
He wasn't the hulking brute that most people expected of a clan chief. Actually, dressed in a silk shirt and black slacks he looked every inch the English aristocrat with his elegantly carved features and glossy black hair pulled into a neat braid. But a closer inspection revealed the hard muscles beneath the designer clothing and the promise of death that lurked in the pale silver eyes rimmed with black.
Victor was a predator.
Pure and simple.
"Uriel, join me," the ancient vampire commanded, turning from the sideboard to press a small glass of amber spirits in his hand. "Salud."
The aged cognac slid down Uriel's throat as smooth as honey. Liquid fire.
"Martell," Uriel breathed with a lift of his brow, easily recognizing the expensive liquor. "I'm afraid to ask."
Victor leaned against the sideboard, his arms folded over his chest.
"You only break out the good stuff when you want something. Usually something that includes blood, death, and/or mayhem."
"Is that any way to speak to your beloved clan chief?"
Uriel snorted. "I will agree that you're my clan chief."
Victor sipped his cognac, a somber expression settling on his lean face.
"We have been through interesting times, haven't we, old friend?"
Uriel's vague unease became downright apprehension.
Despite his vast age, Victor wasn't prone to maudlin musings.
So, what the hell was going on?
"Some more interesting than others," he slowly admitted, setting aside the Waterford crystal glass.
He suspected that he didn't want something so easily breakable in his hands when Victor finally got to the point of this little tete a tete.
Victor nodded. "True."
"What's on your mind, Victor?"
"I sense we're approaching momentous days."
Uriel might have laughed if he didn't sense the same damned thing.
It had started small.
The growing unrest among the demon world. The recent flurry of sacrifices by the Dark Lord's disciples to return him from his exile to this world. The rumors of the Weres regaining their ancient powers and the discovery of a new Oracle who would sit on the Commission (the powerful council who ruled the demon world).
But more disturbing than all of those combined were the nasties that were crawling out of the shadows at an alarming rate.
Demons that everyone had assumed were extinct or banished along with the Dark Lord.
Including the Sylvermyst.
"Is that a polite way of saying that things are about to go to hell?" he demanded of his chief.
Victor grimaced. "In a hand basket."
"What can I do to avert the looming apocalypse?"
"For now I need you to track down the missing gypsy."
Uriel muttered a sharp curse.
He should have been expecting this. Despite his fierce protests, Victor had invited their fellow vampire, Tane, to remain in the lair four nights ago, along with his companion, a female Jinn half-breed called Laylah. During their brief stay they'd discovered that the Jinn mongrel had a human mother being held captive by a female vampire and her pet mage.
Not that Uriel gave a shit, but Tane had managed to convince Victor that his beautiful Jinn was somehow important to the future of the world, and that her captive mother must be protected.
"The female from the vision that the mage conjured?" he gritted, even knowing it was a stupid question.
What other gypsy could it be?
Victor's lips twitched, as if he agreed with the stupid part.
"If it's true that she is Laylah's mother then we have to rescue her from Marika and her nasty wizard," he said, his tone nonnegotiable. "Tane's afraid they'll use the female to force Laylah to hand over the child."
Uriel snorted. The only thing he knew about the mysterious baby that Laylah was hiding was that it was somehow connected to the return of the Dark Lord and that the female vampire, Marika, was desperate to get her greedy hands on it.
"You know as well as I do that the entire thing stinks of a trap," he growled.
Victor shrugged. "There's only one way to find out."
"Why doesn't the Jinn go after the female?" he demanded. "It's supposed to be her mother, not mine."
"Jinn half-breed," Victor unnecessarily corrected him, his eyes narrowing at Uriel's odd behavior. Understandable. Uriel had never been a "yes-man." Victor didn't have the patience for kiss asses. But he didn't usually pitch a fit over such a small request. The problem was, Uriel didn't want to share the reason for his reluctance to get involved. "Tane and Laylah must return to Chicago and protect the baby." There was a deliberate pause. "Besides, I offered your services, which is my right as your chief."
"There are others more suited to play the role of Knight in Shining Armor."
Victor didn't move. He didn't have to. His power swirled through the air, slamming into Uriel with enough strength to make him grunt in pain.
"Are you questioning my decision making skills, Uriel?" he asked, oh so softly.
Uriel grimaced. "I'm not suicidal."
"I'm beginning to wonder."
"I just don't know why you would choose me for this chore."
"When did searching for an exquisitely beautiful woman become a chore?"
"When she ..." Uriel bit off his revealing words.
"What?" Victor demanded.
Victor pushed away from the sideboard, moving to stand directly in front of Uriel.
"Uriel, is this because she is the supposed mother of a Jinn mongrel?"
Uriel clenched his hands. Had Victor become a mind reader?
Damn. Talk about disturbing.
"I logically understand that she was more than likely a victim," he said stiffly. "A Jinn wouldn't hesitate to rape and impregnate a helpless female." His hand instinctively lifted to rub the scar that was directly over his unbeating heart. "Bastards."
"But?" Victor prompted.
With a restless motion, Uriel turned on his heel and paced toward the window that overlooked the manicured parkland.
He could easily sense the dozen vampires who patrolled the grounds, as well as the vast series of tunnels that ran beneath the estate. Closer at hand he could detect Juliet, Victor's mate, and in the private quarters the fairies who happily provided dinner (and whatever else might be desired) for many of the warriors.
Including the exquisite fairy that was supposed to be on his menu.
"But I would rather return to our hunt for the Sylvermyst," he said between gritted teeth.
Victor remained silent a long moment, then he moved to stand at Uriel's side, his gaze boring into Uriel's profile with a tangible force.
"I have never pressed you to share what happened in your battle with the Jinn, even when I eventually realized that you had been ... altered by the encounter," he said, politely referring to Uriel's sharp surge in power. A vampire gained his full strength within the first few decades of his transformation. It was unheard of for one to acquire a master level after centuries of life. "I think it's time you shared."
"And if I choose not to?"
"I won't force you."
Uriel unclenched his jaw, accepting the inevitable.
He'd known from the minute Tane had arrived in London with his half-breed Jinn that the truth would have to come out.
Fate was too much a pain in the ass not to interfere ... again.
"It's not much of a story," he said, reluctant to start. Not only because he had done his best to block out the painful memories, but because Victor was not going to be pleased.
His lips quirked.
Hell, that was the understatement of the year.
"Then it shouldn't be difficult to tell," Victor pointed out.
"You can start from when we went to the docks to battle the Jinn."
Uriel kept his gaze trained out the window, tracing the moonlit gardens, but in his mind he returned to two centuries ago, when Victor had led his clan (along with his stubborn mate) into the tunnels beneath the London docks, determined to drive away the full-blooded Jinn who'd set up residence there.
He hadn't known what to expect. None of them had. Jinn were forbidden by the Oracles to settle in this dimension. They were too powerful, too violent, and too talented at ensnaring other demons into becoming their mindless slaves. Not to mention they were immoral bastards.
Uriel, however, had been stupidly confident that an entire clan of vampires would be able to convince the forbidden demon to move on to a less dangerous location.
"After we split off in the tunnels, Johan and I headed toward the Thames in the hope of cornering the beast," he said, his tone brittle.
"A solid strategy."
"We hadn't gone far when we entered a cavern." He could still recall the damp, musty smell of the barren cave that had been edged by the unexpected scent of an approaching thunderstorm. "Johan circled left while I circled to the right. I sensed something was near, but it was ..." He shrugged, turning his head to meet Victor's searching gaze. "Elusive. Like a bad cell phone connection flickering in and out of service."
Victor nodded, his expression grim. Uriel knew the older vampire's memories of the battle with the Jinn weren't exactly shiny happy thoughts, although his mate did manage to kill the bastard in the end.
"A full-blooded Jinn is not of this world. It's why they're so difficult to hunt and even more difficult to kill."
"So Johan found out," Uriel agreed dryly. "One minute he was standing near the entrance to the cavern and the next he was being skewered by a bolt of lightning." Uriel shuddered. Johan had been his brother for two centuries. He'd deserved a better end. "He had no warning. No chance."
Victor reached over to lay a hand on Uriel's shoulder.
"Johan was a warrior. He understood the dangers of his position, just as you do. You aren't to blame for his death."
"You think I blame myself?"
Uriel gave a sharp shake of his head. "No."
Victor wasn't convinced. "Uriel."
"I don't blame myself for his death," Uriel assured his companion, unable to hide the bitterness in his voice. "I blame the Jinn for keeping me alive."CHAPTER 2
Victor was predictably baffled by the blunt confession. "What the hell does that mean?"
"After Johan was destroyed the Jinn appeared in front of me." Uriel had a vivid memory of the demon who had taken human shape, although there was nothing human in the lethally beautiful face and the slanted lavender eyes that held an unearthly fury. "I tried to fight, but I was no match for him."
Victor's fingers gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze. "The only way to hurt a Jinn is to destroy his tiglia."
Uriel nodded. Victor had discovered during his battle with the Jinn that the demon's actual essence was kept in a wooden box. At the time, however, Uriel had only known that his fierce blows had done nothing but amuse the bastard.
"He could have killed me. Instead ..." The words became lodged in his throat.
Stepping back, Uriel yanked his sweatshirt over his head to expose his chest.
"Instead he grabbed me by the throat and used his other hand to do this."
The this was the thick scar in the shape of a fist that was seared into his flesh.
Victor made a sound of shock as he caught sight of the disfigurement for the first time. Uriel had always been careful never to be seen without a shirt. Even when he was with his lovers. He didn't want nosy questions.
And there would most certainly be questions.
A vampire's ability to heal even the most grievous injuries made certain that their bodies remained flawless no matter how many centuries they might survive. It was only when they were being simultaneously starved and tortured that they scarred.
Or when they were in the hands of a demented Jinn.
"Bloody hell," Victor breathed. "I've never seen anything like it."
Uriel squashed the urge to snatch up his sweatshirt and cover the revealing wound. What was he? A warrior or a squeamish wuss?
Still, even in the company of the only person in the world he trusted, he felt vulnerable, exposed.
"Don't ask if it hurt," he awkwardly muttered.
"No need." Victor lifted his gaze with a puzzled frown. "You don't get marked like this without it hurting like a bitch. Does it still bother you?"
Victor lifted his hand, holding it over the scar without actually touching it.
"I sense ..."
"Power," Uriel finished the sentence.
The silver eyes widened as Victor abruptly realized where Uriel's sudden increase of power had come from.
"I have to admit I wasn't expecting that." Victor slowly shook his head. "Of course, I wondered what had happened to increase your strength, but ..."
"But you didn't suspect that the Jinn had juiced me up?"
"I can safely swear that was at the very bottom of my list," Victor dryly admitted. "I've never heard of a Jinn sharing his power with anyone, let alone a vampire."
Uriel flinched at the memory of the white-hot pain that had drilled into his chest, spreading through his body like an infection.
"At the time I didn't know what the hell he was doing. I assumed I was about to meet my well deserved end." His lips twisted with a bitter smile. "Imagine my surprise when the bastard simply disappeared, leaving me with a pretty new tattoo."
"Did he say anything?"
"He said ..." Uriel hesitated, bracing himself for Victor's response. There was the potential that his chief would consider the secrets he'd kept hidden worthy of a death sentence. Not the most comforting thought. "He said that I was to be 'the instrument of his revenge'"
Victor's brows snapped together, his power slamming through the room with frigid force. Uriel hissed, struggling to keep his own powers leashed. The potential for violence quivered in the air, just waiting for the smallest provocation to erupt.
Uriel didn't intend to be that provocation.
"Why didn't you tell me what happened?" Victor growled.
"You had just rescued your new mate from the gaping jaws of death," he reminded his chief. "You didn't leave your private lair for over a month."
Victor's aristocratic features briefly softened. Like Pavlov's dog, Uriel wryly acknowledged. Victor might be a fierce clan chief who enforced his laws with a brutal strength, but he melted at the mention of his mate.
"Ah yes," the ancient vampire murmured. "Now that was a month to remember."
Uriel refused to acknowledge his stab of envy.
What was the point?
Excerpted from Darkness Eternal by Alexandra Ivy. Copyright © 2011 Debbie Raleigh. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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