The tryst—a potent spell—had worked to quell the riots between humans and exotics—zots—but for the three powerful zots who had cast it, it nearly meant their destruction. Entangled now not just by their past loves and jealousies, their auras, now entwined, were bound when the well-intended tryst went terribly wrong.
Each has acquired powers, but each also has much to lose. Kurt, vampire regent and Master of Seattle, has developed the formidable magickal abilities of a mage, but at the price of his native powers weakening. While he can’t afford for humans to discover his true identity, the growing diminishment of his vampiric might is making it that much harder to hide. Not only is he at risk of being unmasked, but he must now face a potential threat to his Seattle reign from within the ranks of his own.
Garrett Larkin, the mastermind of the tryst and beautiful mage of Seattle’s Balthus Coven, has acquired a horrifying craving for blood and destruction like her former lover and tryst partner, Parker Berenson, the powerful leader of the werewolf pack. Parker has his own problems, not the least of which is his affections for Melera, an alien assassin on the run from her arch nemesis who wants to destroy her and enslave all of Earth.
Drawn together by choice and fate while doing what they had to do, can they now undo the wrongs or will it be too late for all of them and Earth?
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About the Author
Roxanne Bland grew up in Washington, D.C., where she discovered strange and wonderful new worlds through her local public library and bookstores. These and other life experiences have convinced her that reality is highly overrated. Ms. Bland lives in Rosedale, Maryland with her Great Dane, Daisy Mae.
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For the second time in less than six months, Kurt, vampire regent and Master of Seattle, was terrified.
Fear turned to anger. This cannot be happening to me.
He stood in the dark before a wall-sized, plate glass window on the top floor of his office tower in downtown Seattle. Turning, he stepped over to a small lamp on his sculpted steel desk and switched it on. In the low light, the plate glass reflected everything in the room — except him. Baring his teeth, he swept his arm over the desk, sending the lamp crashing to the floor. His office was plunged into darkness again.
Kurt glared at the shattered lamp. It's inexplicable. My powers are supposed to strengthen with age, not weaken. Yet here he was, losing the powers he'd nearly died twice to obtain.
His first indication that something was wrong happened about a month ago while dining at Harrow, his flagship restaurant. He and a client, Jack Hewitt, had been lunching in one of the restaurant's private dining rooms. It had been a celebration on Kurt's part for having closed a deal for a complete renovation of one of Hewitt's sprawling luxury hotels to the tune of thirty-five million dollars. His thoughts drifted, remembering.
"A perfect lunch, Kurt," Hewitt had said. He put his fork down on his now empty plate.
"Of course. I wouldn't have it any other way." Kurt had popped the last piece of filet mignon into his mouth. He chewed the morsel, and then tried to swallow. He choked, instead. He bent over the table, trying to dislodge the piece of steak that had gotten stuck in his throat.
"Kurt? Kurt," Hewitt had shouted. "Oh, my God!" He'd leapt from his seat and ran around the table to where Kurt sat. Kurt had waved him away, but Hewitt hadn't seemed to notice. Lifting him out of his seat, Hewitt had proceeded to perform the Heimlich maneuver, not knowing that the technique would be useless. Kurt had managed to dislodge the piece of food on his own, and spat it into his napkin.
Back in the present, he shivered as if to shake off the humiliating memory. Now, the only human foods he could manage were clear soups and wine.
Lips pursed, he reached for a bottle resting near the edge of the desktop and poured some of its contents into a large, heavy crystal goblet. Upending the cup, he drained the murky liquid, its slightly viscous texture coating his tongue and throat. When the cup was empty, he set the goblet back on the desk and fixed it with a baleful stare. "Nothing like a pint of blood to ruin a perfectly good wine," he muttered.
From the day of his lunch with Jack Hewitt, his losses had only worsened. He had a near-constant need for blood. A vampire regent need only feed once or twice a year, but now Kurt had to feed every day. Stealing blood from my own blood bank, hiding my tracks ... no one's caught on, but how long will it be until someone does? He used the stolen blood to make his bloodwine, mixing the concoction himself. Kurt hid his stash in a wine cellar he had built in the deeper recesses beneath his nightclub. And when the hunger comes, I sneak away to my cellar and drink like a secret alcoholic until I can face a live human or zot without attacking him. It's embarrassing, is what it is.
He started pacing. And then there are the other powers I've lost. I can't read minds. I'm no longer telepathic. I can still go out in daylight, but I have to stay out of the sun because I don't cast a shadow. He shook his head. For every day that passed, it was getting harder and harder to maintain the lie that, for him, it was business as usual.
Kurt stopped in his tracks and clapped his hands over his face. And what's so maddening is that I don't know why this is happening.
Dropping his hands, he walked back to the window and stared at the dark construction cranes guarding their sites like skeletal sentries. He traced a perfectly-manicured fingernail over his cheek. Could Balthus Coven have put a hex on me? It was possible. Vampires are not immune to magick. He thought about it, then dismissed it. No. It would take a coven of mages to hex a regent like me. Balthus only has one mage — Garrett. And she wouldn't dare. She has just as much to lose as I do.
He pursed his lips again. Could I be ill? I've never heard of it happening to our kind before. But there's always a first time. Maybe ... Then he grabbed his head in both hands and gritted his teeth, knowing he was grasping at straws. "That's simply absurd. I'm getting the vampire equivalent of senile, not catching a damned cold."
His jaw relaxed, but he didn't let go of his head. Whether senile or something else, his diminishment could cost him dearly. I deal with humans nearly every day. Before all this — whatever it is — started, it was impossible for anyone to guess I'm a vampire. But now ... if any human figures out what I am, I'll be permanently dead in short order.
Kurt let his arms fall to his sides. His — infirmity — could cost him in other ways, too. Kurt was of some renown among his kind for having attained his full regency at two hundred years old, a comparatively young age for a vampire. But if word of his disability got out, who knew how many of the undead would try to topple him from his Seattle throne?
And Seattle was a prize any would-be Master or Mistress would covet. Kurt had been among the city's founders. He was the reason Seattle had become a place where exotics — zots — could live and work relatively free from human molestation. But his influence went far beyond his control over the city's zots. Through his human servants, he pulled most of the strings in the city and county governments. The lieutenant governor was one of his human servants. He had influence in the state legislature, and even held influence over the state's delegation to Congress. As far as he knew, no other vampire in America wielded that kind of power.
I'll have to defend my domain against all comers, just like I did over five hundred years ago. His jaw tightened again. The prospect didn't cheer him. That never-ending chess game had been fun while he'd been a prince among the living, but now that he was dead, he'd no appetite for it. And I'm not fool enough to think my zots would help me keep what's mine. They hate me, and right now they hate me even more because of that damned revolution last June. He sighed. I really should have paid closer attention to those so-called college students. Those idiots ... burning my city. Equal rights for exotics is all well and good, but that won't happen as long as humans outnumber us by thousands to one. All those morons managed to accomplish was nothing.
Kurt returned to his desk and decanted the rest of the bloodwine into the goblet. He narrowed his eyes and poured the foul concoction down his throat. He set the goblet down and shuddered. "Ugh." Then he began pacing again.
If the tryst had worked the way Garrett said it would ... His lips tightened. It isn't her fault. It had been the mage's idea to combine her own formidable talent, Kurt's regent's powers, and the extraordinary psychogenetic strength of her werewolf ex-lover, Parker, by casting a magick spell to create a tryst. When they'd joined forces last June, they'd planned to use the tryst to cast a second spell that would have erased human Seattleites' fear and hatred for zots. She couldn't have foreseen the revolution. And the conditions under which we had to work ... 'less than optimal' would be an understatement. The only thing the spell casting accomplished was to stop the rioting.
A thought struck him. Could whatever's happening to me now be because of the tryst? He thought about it for a few minutes, and then shook his head. Can't be. It's been over five months since we cast that spell. If the tryst was behind this, I'd have noticed something long before now, wouldn't I?
He stopped his pacing, returned to his desk, and sat in his black leather executive's chair. Leaning back, he stared at the ceiling. Wasn't there any way he could stop his deterioration? Then he abruptly sat forward. No. There's a reason why this — cancer — is happening to me, and I'm going to find out what it is. And then I'm going to beat it.
He nodded once and stood. Then he dissolved into mist and flew across the city, back to his Last Chance nightclub.
While Kurt paced his office downtown, Parker Berenson, alpha of Seattle's werewolf pack, lay sprawled on the outdoor chaise he'd dragged from his house's rear patio into his backyard. A full tumbler and a half-bottle of Jack Daniel's rested on a small stand bolted to the right side of the chaise's sturdy metal frame. Next to the Jack was an ashtray with a half-smoked joint. Fingers laced over his stomach and his face pointed toward the stars, Parker's dreamy expression made him look like any other stargazer lost in contemplation of heaven's mysteries.
He closed his eyes. The problem with being in love with a space alien is that if you break up, the only people who can sympathize are usually locked up in the loony bin.
Opening them, he unlaced his fingers, sat up a little, and reached for his drink. He stared into the tumbler's night-blackened depths for a moment, then tossed back a healthy slug of whiskey. Lowering the glass, he slowly traced his index finger along its rim. "Melera's been gone three months, one week and five days," he said in low voice.
His beast stirred inside his mind. Been counting, have you? he growled. You counting the hours and minutes too?
Parker set the now half-empty tumbler on the stand. He picked up the joint and, concentrating a moment, torched it with his pyrokinetic ability, a rare trait among weres. Inhaling once, he lay back and settled into his earlier position. "Like you haven't been doing the same thing, fuzzbutt?" he exhaled in a cloud of smoke.
By now, this exchange between Parker and his were, a gargantuan man-wolf eight feet tall, had become familiar. Since the day Melera had left them for Maqu, her home galaxy, they'd camped here in their backyard on as many of the few clear nights they could, their shared eyes scanning the heavens for a sign of her return with the desperate fervor of shipwreck survivors scanning the horizon for signs of rescue. Unlike shipwreck survivors, Parker and his wolf had no idea what they were looking for. But they'd know it when they saw it. At least that's what they kept telling each other.
Look ... I-I'm sure she's okay, his wolf growled. Think of it this way. She's on the mother of all road trips. She's probably been doing it since she was a cub.
Parker took another hit from the joint. Reaching for the ashtray, he stubbed out the roach. Then he re-laced his fingers across his stomach. "Except the road out there goes on forever and there aren't any gas stations along the way."
Man and wolf watched the sky in silence. Despite the ambient glare from the city's lights, Parker could see well enough, with his wolf-sight, to spot anything that moved. So far they'd seen a bunch of birds heading for wherever, a few jetliners heading for wherever else, and a slew of satellites heading for nowhere. But they'd seen nothing that looked like it might be a spaceship heading for base in the South Pacific.
"What happened?" Parker whispered. "Us and Melera ... we were so good together. God, we loved her enough to leave Earth and follow her to her galaxy, even if it meant dying in that crazy war she's fighting over there. And then ... I don't know. It's like some kind of switch got thrown, and then we were fighting all the time — about what, I can't even remember — and then she was gone. Why?"
Uhrrm. Maybe us being assholes had something to do with it?
He ignored the question. "Those things we said to her just before —"
We? You had our body that last time, remember? I didn't say jack.
Parker rolled his eyes. "Okay, those things I said to her just before she left. Happy?"
His wolf didn't answer.
Reaching for his drink, Parker picked up the tumbler of Jack and drained it. "The look on her face ... for a second I thought she was going to kill us." He refilled his empty glass and knocked back another slug. "And then she skipped through the Void. Disappeared. Poof — just like that."
You're forgetting about her chewing us a new one first.
Parker snorted. "Yeah. In Xia'saan, or however it's pronounced." He smiled a little. "Those five voices of hers ... I don't know what Melera said, but from the way it sounded, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know."
Me neither. Though learning some new cuss words might have been fun.
Behind them, the sound of a door opening cut off further conversation. Parker sensed a pair of lupine eyes focused on the back of his head. "Maybe you should take up astronomy," a woman's warm, contralto voice said.
Parker said nothing. He didn't move, either.
The silence lengthened. Then he heard the sound of bedroom slippers slapping across the patio and then swishing through the late fall grass. A large, red shape appeared in his peripheral vision. "Parker," the woman said in a tone that demanded acknowledgment.
Parker rolled his head toward the sound. Mandy Stewart, the mayor of Seattle's chief of staff, stood over him. A handsome blonde by anyone's standards, her brown eyes looked angry.
Dressed in only a thin silk robe, Mandy seemed impervious to the November chill. She took a breath, and the look in her eyes softened. "Park, when you chose me for your freya last August, I accepted not because I thought you loved or wanted me, but because our pack needed me. So I agreed to all of your conditions. You will not father my cubs. You will not to allow me to live with you. Other than the times when the pack needs to see us together, we are freyr and freya maybe once a week."
She dropped to her knees beside the chaise and gazed at him, her brown eyes almost pleading. "You know a freya is committed to serving her pack, Parker. She must be everything they need her to be — mother, sister, friend or lover. She is committed to serving her freyr — her alpha — with as much, if not greater, devotion."
Parker watched Mandy's lips descend until they were only inches from his. "Parker, I am yours. I promised you that I will be whatever you want me to be, whatever you need me to be, whenever you wish me to be." She stared into his eyes and suddenly kissed him with fiery passion.
A white-hot burst of pain seized the right side of his face. Parker jumped. "Argh!" he grunted. He tasted blood.
Bitch did not just do that! his wolf howled, and surged to the forefront of his mind. Without thinking, Parker slammed his will against it and held firm, as if trying to keep a monster from exploding out of the closet. He looked up, blood dribbling down his chin.
Mandy towered over him. "But the one thing I will not be is ignored," she said in a voice as hard as marble, matching the look in her eyes. She glared at him a moment longer, then turned and stalked toward the house.
Parker watched her go while wiping the blood from his lip with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. After Mandy had disappeared inside, he picked up his glass and took a swig, wincing a little when the alcohol passed over the wound she'd made. Returning the glass to the side table, he pinched the remains of his joint between his thumb and forefinger, torched it, and took a deep drag. Stubbing it out, he popped the now-cooled roach into his mouth. Then he lay back in the chaise and stared up at the sky. A moment later, he laughed.
What's so funny?
"You. Me. Mandy. Melera," Parker said between chuckles. "God, think about it. A sexy, willing blonde waiting for us in our bed, and we're out here —"
Waiting for the impossible, his wolf finished for him.
Parker's breath caught. His look turned bleak. "Yeah."
Neither one said anything for quite a while. Parker looked at his watch. Ten minutes had passed since Mandy had bitten him. Enough time for him to salvage his dignity as alpha wolf, but not enough time for Mandy to think he was disrespecting her again. Swinging his legs to his right, he planted his feet on the ground, lifted his muscular, six foot six-inch frame off the chaise and stretched. Dropping the ashtray into the chair, he picked up the now-empty tumbler and the near-empty bottle of Jack in his right hand, grabbed the chaise with his left and dragged it across the yard, releasing it once he'd reached the patio.
Hand on the sliding door panel, Parker had been about to step over the threshold when a wave of vertigo hit him. The tumbler and bottle slipped out of his fingers and smashed on the paving stones. Swaying like a drunkard, he staggered around the patio until he tripped over the chaise. He tried to get up, only to fall on his knees, and then flat on his face. Gasping, he managed to rise up on all fours.
Excerpted from "Invasion"
Copyright © 2017 Roxanne Bland.
Excerpted by permission of Blackrose Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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