Ever since their scorching affair ended years ago, Julian, the Nightkind King, and Melisande, daughter of the Light Fae Queen, have tried to put the past behind them—and distance between them. But when a war breaks out between Julian and Justine, a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind council, they find themselves thrown together under treacherous circumstances…
Kidnapped as leverage against Julian, Melly is convinced that her former lover won’t be rushing to her rescue. But when Julian gives himself up to save her, they both end up Justine’s captives. Armed only with their wits and their anger, Melly and Julian must work together to escape. But will they be able to ignore their complicated history, or will the fiery passion that once burned them blaze again?
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Something happened to Julian as he stood in the San Francisco alleyway, looking down at his progeny and longtime friend.
Xavier lay curled on his side on the ambulance stretcher, the lines of his poison-wracked body rigid. Blood was everywhere—the stretcher, the concrete underneath. It had poured like a river out of him and had run in a thin red line down the gutter. The EMTs had had to drain out the poison and infuse him with as much fresh, untainted blood as quickly as they could.
Julian didn’t know what it was, the thing that had happened to him. He wasn’t like Xavier. He wasn’t especially introspective or philosophical. He was most comfortable with taking action.
Whatever it was, his reaction ran deep. It felt like something essential had broken inside him.
His patience, maybe.
Yeah, that was pretty much broken all to hell and back.
Xavier gazed up at him, his young-looking face drawn with pain. His eyes still leaked crimson at the corners. While he had passed the danger point, or “magic hour” as the EMTs called it, the brodifacoum would make every joint and muscle in his body ache for the next three weeks, as his immune system worked to rid itself of any remnant of the poison.
Mindful of that, Julian kept his hand gentle as he touched Xavier’s shoulder, when all he really wanted to do was grab the other man and clench him in a bear hug.
No, he wasn’t ready to live in a world without Xavier in it. For too many decades to count, Xavier had been his Jiminy Cricket and the one example Julian could always look to whenever he wondered what it meant to be a fine man.
He spared a quick glance for Tess, the human woman who hovered so protectively near Xavier’s dark head. When Julian had first seen Tess at the Vampyre’s Ball, she had been rigid with terror and antipathy. Now as she gazed at Xavier, her expression was filled with so much love, Julian felt as if he was witnessing something naked and profound.
Cynically, he wondered just how long that would last. Weeks, or months?
Even if her feelings lasted for a few years, what concerned him most was that Xavier looked at Tess with the same expression.
Xavier didn’t fall in love lightly or as a passing fancy. He would not stop loving Tess after a few fleeting years, and she had made no secret of the fact that she had serious issues with Vampyres.
However, any potential outcome of their liaison was an issue to be confronted on another day. Right now, Tess looked more than happy to look after Xavier, which was all that mattered, because Julian had a traitor to hunt down, and he needed to focus all his attention on the task.
And he planned on enjoying every minute of it.
Justine, the woman behind the assassination attempt, was an old, Powerful Vampyre and a member of the Nightkind council. For years, Justine had been undermining him, quietly and sometimes not so quietly sabotaging all of his attempts to genuinely unite the council members. Trying to kill Xavier was just her latest gambit—but this time, with her attacking a Nightkind government official, Julian was fiercely glad she had finally gone too far.
This time, he thought, I’m going to destroy you, and every one of your co-conspirators, even if they sit on the Nightkind council too.
It was time for him to clean house, and if his hands got a little dirty in the process, why then, so be it. The Roman politician and philosopher Cicero, who had lived and died two hundred years before Julian, had once said, “Laws are silent in times of war.”
If that was true, so too was Julian’s threadbare, incomplete conscience.
As he strode toward his black Jaguar, he ran through the names of the twelve who sat on the council. Of all the members, he trusted Dominic the most.
The other Vampyre had been a Norman lord under William the Conqueror, and had run one of the most successful mercenary companies in Europe during the Middle Ages.
He was calculating, calm in a crisis, and along with another council member, Marged, he was also the most neutral of all the council members. Unlike Marged, whose main abilities lay in commerce, Dominic knew how to respond when situations escalated to violence.
Pulling out his cell phone, Julian dialed Dominic’s number.
Just when he thought the call would roll to voicemail, the ringing stopped and Dominic’s deep baritone voice sounded. “Good evening, Julian.”
“Where are you?” Julian asked.
Despite his terseness, the other Vampyre’s voice remained courteous and neutral. “At home. Why?”
Sliding into the driver’s seat of his car, Julian did some quick calculations. Dominic’s estate lay in Napa Valley, a couple of hours’ drive away, but the other Vampyre had a helicopter and could make the trip to Evenfall much quicker if necessary. That, however, was assuming Dominic would be willing and able to drop everything and come at a moment’s notice.
Starting his car, Julian headed for his house in Nob Hill. While the great, hulking Norman-style castle Evenfall was the Nightkind King’s official residence, it lay in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge. For the sake of convenience, Julian also owned a house in the city, a nineteenth-century mansion that was located not far from Xavier’s own townhome.
As he negotiated through the heavy traffic around the site of the attack, Julian told the other man, “Justine tried to have Xavier assassinated tonight.”
A brief, intense silence took over the other end of the connection. Then Dominic said, “Tried?”
“He survived, along with one of his attendants, but he’ll be incapacitated for a few weeks.” Julian’s voice turned savage. “It was brodifacoum poisoning.”
The other Vampyre drew in a breath, the quiet, telltale reaction as strong as a curse. “Do you have proof that it was Justine who tried to kill him?”
Dominic’s neutral tone was beginning to grate on Julian. He growled, “Don’t tell me you don’t believe what I’m saying.”
“Not at all,” Dominic said. “I’m trying to ascertain what you know, and whether or not you have enough to take to the council.”
Fuck the council.
Julian caught himself up before he said it aloud. Instead, he replied between his teeth, “I have two surviving witnesses.”
Dominic said, “I realize you’re very angry. If someone tried to murder one of my progeny, I would be too, but think for a minute. While Xavier’s integrity is well known, the council won’t accept testimony from either him or his attendant. Attendants can be spelled into believing something is true when it isn’t, and as your progeny, Xavier would have to say anything you compelled him to.”
The fact that Dominic’s cool reasoning was correct made Julian even angrier. He snapped, “Goddammit.”
“All I’m trying to point out is that you’re going to need more than just their stories,” Dominic told him. “But never mind that for now—what actually happened?”
Julian yanked his unruly emotions back under control. “Justine bribed one of Xavier’s attendants in order to get him into the city. If everyone had been killed in the attack, there wouldn’t have been any witnesses at all. Xavier nearly did die. If his one surviving attendant hadn’t known what needed to be done when he’d been poisoned and taken such quick action, he would have died.”
“Where’s Justine now?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I need to find out.” Julian pulled in front of the black wrought iron gates to his house and keyed in the security code. As the gate swung open, he told the other man, “Maybe going after Xavier was an end play for Justine. She’s certainly held a grudge against him for long enough. But maybe assassinating him was just the first step in a broader agenda, and maybe Justine wasn’t the only Vampyre involved. I need to track her down, and I need for you to get to Evenfall as quickly as you can to keep things stable while I’m gone.”
If Xavier had been killed, his loss would have indisputably weakened Julian’s political position even further. Setting aside the friendship factor, not only would Julian have lost his staunchest supporter in the Nightkind government, but he would have also lost his spymaster and most reliable source of information.
Dominic said, “I need some time to wrap up some personal matters, but I can be in Evenfall by tomorrow evening. Will that be soon enough?”
“Yes. I’ll be in touch when I know something.”
“Be smart, Julian. Use your head. Justine has allies. Whether or not you find her, just make sure you bring back proof that you can take in front of the whole council, enough so that even her allies would have to back down. That way, if nothing else, you can see that she’s discredited and removed from office.”
“I hear what you’re saying,” Julian said. Finally, for the first time in their conversation, he achieved a semblance of equanimity.
He did, in fact, hear exactly what Dominic was saying—and not saying. Dominic knew very well Julian had no intention of bringing Justine back to Evenfall, and he was warning him to get all his ducks in a row. It was sound advice.
With a punch of a thumb, Julian disconnected the call. As soon as the gate opened wide, he gunned his car down the short, curving driveway and braked in front of the huge, sprawling mansion.
The building had a hint of European flair. Built out of golden limestone, it had tall, stately windows trimmed in black iron. Alerted by the house security system, Gregoire, Julian’s majordomo, opened the double front doors and stood waiting attentively, his intelligent, plain features impassive.
As Julian jogged up the front steps, he was already dialing another number.
Evenfall’s IT administrator, Gavin, answered on the first ring. “Yes, sir?”
Julian nodded at Gregoire as he swept past. He said to Gavin, “I want Evenfall on a total information lockdown within the next ten minutes—five if you can manage it. No Internet, no cell phone reception. The only lines of communication I want open are the dedicated phone lines under our control. Got it?”
“Yes, sir.” Gavin sounded somber and unsettled. “But I have to warn you, I might not be able to make the lockdown total.”
“What do you mean?” Julian raced up the stairs to his suite.
“These days, a lot of people have independent Internet access with hotspots in their cell phones,” Gavin said. “I don’t have any control over shutting those down. Evenfall is a big place, but I can see about putting out enough interference to scramble their signals.”
“Do that until you receive further instructions from either me, Xavier or Dominic.” He disconnected and dialed his head of security, Yolanthe. When she answered, he told her, “Two things. I’m putting Evenfall on a lockdown. Until further notice, nobody is allowed to enter the castle walls or leave, except for Dominic, who will be arriving tomorrow evening.”
“Very good,” Yolanthe said. Unlike Gavin, she sounded calm to the point of sleepy. “And the other thing?”
“I want a strike team to meet me here in the city,” he told her. “Keep it lean and mean, no more than ten fighters. Get them here as soon as you can.”
That woke her up. Sounding very alert, she said, “We’ll grab a chopper and be with you in twenty minutes.”
Twenty minutes. Thinking quickly, Julian did some math.
It had taken him fifteen minutes to navigate through city traffic to get to the house from the alley where Xavier had almost died. Before that, Julian had spent some time on the scene, waiting to hear if Xavier would survive and questioning various officials who had been first responders. And it had also taken him time to get to San Francisco from Marin County.
How long ago had he kicked Justine out of Evenfall?
Even though the Nightkind political season was over for the year, Justine had been insisting upon reconvening the council. She had claimed that Xavier had exceeded his authority when he had made this year’s trade agreements with the Light Fae heir Melisande.
As always when Julian’s thoughts turned to Melly, a hard knot of old pain and anger tightened in his chest.
She had once meant the world to him, and the affair they had begun so lightly in defiance of all convention had quickly turned into something much more serious. The kind of serious where a man started thinking of ways to change his life in order to be with the woman he cared about.
At least it had for him. Clearly it hadn’t for her, or she would never have betrayed him with the Elven heir Ferion.
The whole thing had happened decades ago, in the 1990s, and time wasn’t the only thing that had moved on. Melly and Ferion’s affair hadn’t lasted either. Just recently, Ferion had become the Elven lord of his demesne, while Melly still lived the carefree life of a rich, jet-setting single.
Virtually everyone had gotten on with their lives, except for him. Some part of him still remained frozen in that terrible moment of realization when he had stared at the photos of Melly and Ferion together.
Now, every time he saw her photo online or in the papers, he snarled and snapped like a wounded tiger at anyone who had the misfortune to be in the vicinity. He couldn’t even summon a pretense of indifference. Whenever he was forced to be in the same room as Melly, any attempt at conversation quickly devolved into a shouting match.
Their troubled dynamic made it even more difficult to understand why Melly’s mother, Tatiana, had sent Melly to conduct this year’s trade negotiations with the Nightkind—unless Xavier was right, and Justine had been behind that ploy too. Julian and Melly had flamed out as usual, and none of the trade agreements had been approved until Xavier had stepped in and talked to Melly personally.
When Justine had tried to claim the agreements weren’t valid, Xavier had outmaneuvered her once again by recording Julian and Melly in verbal agreement with each other. Julian had confronted Justine with the recording, and she had left Evenfall just after sunset.
Now Julian reexamined things in a different light.
With the Nightkind political season over, the council had already met and disbanded for the year. Had Justine been looking for an excuse to get the council together one more time?
If they had reconvened upon her insistence, and the assassination attempt against Xavier had been successful, what would have been her next move—an assassination attempt against Julian?
And who would have made it with her?
Julian had a sense of time trickling away from him. The more time that passed, the more time Justine had to figure out her next moves. Even as she had left Evenfall hours ago, she would have been thinking ahead and rerouting any plans she had laid in place.
By now she had to know the attempt against Xavier’s life had failed, so she would be rerouting again.
I have questions for you, Justine, he thought savagely. Many questions.
What are you doing now?
Upstairs in his suite, he washed and changed quickly, donning black fatigues, boots, and a T-shirt. When he was finished, he jogged downstairs and called for Gregoire, who appeared again almost immediately.
He told the human, “I’m here for only a short while, and I don’t know when I’ll be back in the city. Evenfall is on lockdown. You need to keep the house here on lockdown too. Don’t allow anybody on the property, except for Xavier or Yolanthe.”
“Of course,” Gregoire said. “Do you need to feed before you leave?”
Julian shook his head. Then he paused to look into the other man’s eyes. While he did not encourage the kind of familiarity in his household that some other Vampyres did, Gregoire had been with him for almost forty years, quietly and unassumingly going about his tasks, and somehow always managing to ensure that everything was exactly the way that Julian wished.
He put his hand on the other man’s shoulder. “No, but thank you for thinking of it. Look after yourself and the others. I would be—most displeased if something happened to you.”
Gregoire smiled and somehow managed to look worried at the same time. “I will, sir. Please look after yourself as well.”
Over the normal sounds of the city at night, Julian could hear the steady chopping of an approaching helicopter. Yolanthe’s strike team was almost here. He left Gregoire and strode into his study, where he went to a weapons cabinet that was tastefully concealed behind a walnut panel. By the time he had armed himself, the helicopter had landed on the helipad on the grounds behind the detached garage.
Yolanthe met him at the rear door.
Standing at five foot ten, Yolanthe was tall for a woman, but not unusually so. She had a lean, muscled body and panther-quick reflexes. Her strong-boned, olive brown features were classic Greek, and she wore her sleek black hair cut short in a no-nonsense style that hugged her shapely skull.
Julian had met Yolanthe when he had been a young Vampyre and still a general in the Roman army. They had been on opposite sides of a small, nasty border war.
With the weight of superior numbers on Julian’s side, the war hadn’t lasted long. Impressed with Yolanthe’s fighting skills and intelligent tactical ability, he had successfully recruited her, then several years later had turned her. She was one of his first progeny.
He told her, “We’re not staying.”
She fell into step beside him. Together they made their way quickly to the military helicopter waiting on the helipad. She asked, “Where are we headed, and what’s our mission?”
Julian leaped into the helicopter, glancing around and nodding at the nine familiar faces inside. He was unsurprised to find who Yolanthe had picked for the mission—all of the fighters present had served him for a long time. He knew them well, and trusted them.
As Yolanthe joined him, he told the team, “Justine tried to kill Xavier, but she didn’t succeed. He’s survived and he’s going to recover. He was also able to tell me what had happened. We’re going to take control of her estate. I doubt she’ll be there, but I’m hoping we’ll find some clues about where she’s gone. Expect extreme resistance.”
“Understood, sir.” Yolanthe touched the pilot on the shoulder. “We’ll need to set down a good quarter of a mile away and jog in, so we can get an element of surprise. Let’s go.”
As the whine of the chopper blades increased, Julian took a seat. Justine’s home lay south of the Bay, along the border of Silicon Valley, just outside of a small, upscale town called Los Gatos. By car, the trip would take over an hour. By air, they would be able to get there much sooner.
Justine’s estate was located some distance outside of the town, her land adjacent to Sanborn County Park. In an area populated with multimillion-dollar homes, her property was a lavish one by anyone’s standards. An elder Vampyre with a well-established wealth, she kept a household of over a hundred attendants, all of whom would have received some degree of weapons training.
As they grew closer, his muscles tightened in anticipation. The pilot set the helicopter in a picturesque, open clearing and powered down. Yolanthe handed Julian a headset, which he donned. While telepathy was by far the stealthiest method of communication, for most creatures it was only possible to telepathize within a range of a few feet, and it was useless for group communications.
He stepped out of the helicopter. The spring night air felt cool and damp against his skin. As soon as the other fighters hit the ground, they began to run.
A high security fence surrounded the estate, but that was no real obstacle for Vampyres. As Julian drew near, he put on a burst of power and speed, and launched into the air to clear the top of the fence by a good yard. He paused until all the others had joined him, then the team fanned out and stalked toward the mansion.
His sharp gaze scanned the area as they grew close, and he knew Yolanthe and the others were doing the same, looking for potential traps or security pitfalls. The scene looked perfectly domestic and peaceful.
A sense of disquiet stirred.
Julian didn’t bother to use his headset. Yolanthe was in charge of her team, and she would be the one to issue them orders. He told her telepathically, Something’s not right. We need to slow down.
She responded immediately, whispering into her mic, “Everybody, hold up.”
The team came to a halt. Julian studied the huge, sprawling mansion. Every interior light blazed, yet as he strained to listen, the house was completely silent. He could hear nothing. No music, or television. No sounds, anywhere in the area, until he grew convinced the property was deserted.
He muttered to Yolanthe, I don’t like this.
I don’t either. While she had straightened from her crouch, her expression remained hard and wary.
Keep your team here. He headed for the house.
She whispered a quick set of orders and raced to fall into step beside him. That hadn’t been exactly what he had meant, but other than throwing her an irritated glance, he said nothing and they continued the rest of the way together.
They came to the house at an angle and slightly to the rear, so that after they rounded a landscaped copse, the entire back of the building came into view.
A door stood open. Light streamed out, throwing a rectangle of illumination on the well-tended lawn.
Abandoning his cautious stance, he strode up to the doorway, Yolanthe at his heels. Stepping inside, he came into a large, luxurious kitchen.
Three people, two women and a man, lay in pools of crimson on the floor around a butcher-block island. Their throats had been cut. He recognized one of the women. She had been Justine’s latest lover, the beautiful woman Justine had kept on a leash at the Vampyre’s Ball. Now the dead woman’s pale features wore a bewildered expression.
He exchanged a sharp, frowning glance with Yolanthe, then moved into the hall. Throughout the ground level, he found more bodies, many more. A larger group was gathered in a family-style rec room. Those had been shot, each one double tapped with professional efficiency, a bullet to the heart and a bullet to the head.
Son of a bitch.
He stood staring at them, until Yolanthe stepped into the room. She swore softly when she caught sight of the group.
Only then did he turn away. His gaze fell to a small, telltale pile of dust, all of what typically remained of a Vampyre after they had been killed.
After walking through a few more rooms, he stopped and pinched his nose. A tension headache began to squeeze the back of his skull.
He had been right. There was nobody in the house—nobody left alive.
“There aren’t any signs of struggle,” Yolanthe said.
He said softly, “An outside attacker didn’t commit these murders. Either these people had died willingly, or Justine had spelled them into compliance. Either way, she slaughtered her entire household.”
Justine had known he would come here. Of course she had. She had realized that as soon as she heard that Xavier had survived. And she had made quite sure that nobody would be able to tell Julian anything.
His voice turned gravelly with the force of his emotion, he said, “You might as well call in the rest of the team. Have them search the other buildings, just in case. Let me know what the body count is when you’re done.”
The other Vampyre looked grim, her complexion pale. “Yes, sir.”
While Yolanthe’s team searched the property, Julian walked through the silent house. When he came to a darkened office, he flipped on the light and went to sit at the desk. A forensics team would scour everything in the room, including any files, but for now, he turned on a desktop computer and watched as it powered up.
The welcome screen appeared, with a prompt to set up the computer. It had been wiped and reset to the factory default.
Leaving the office, he walked upstairs and looked through the stylish rooms. Standing in Justine’s bedroom, he closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of expensive perfume.
What was she doing now? Where was she headed next?
If he didn’t find her in the next twenty four hours, his search could very well become lengthy. He could freeze her assets, at least those he could find. But Justine was not the kind of person to keep all of her assets in easily accessible places. No Vampyre of any age would. Long-term survival was often based on a wide diversity of resources.
So, she would have money. And as Dominic had pointed out, she had allies. While she might have slaughtered her household, she wouldn’t give up on her lifestyle in the Nightkind demesne so easily.
She had history here, and political aspirations. She had grudges.
“Ninety-two,” Yolanthe said from the doorway. She sounded furious. “What kind of monster kills ninety-two of her own people?”
The question was so clearly rhetorical, he didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he opened his eyes and said, “When news of what happened here gets out, let’s hope she loses a few friends over it.” He turned to the doorway. “We need a forensics team out here. Also, the computer in the office has been set to the factory default, but maybe Gavin will know some electronic voodoo that can recover data.”
Yolanthe nodded. “It’s four o’clock, and daybreak will be soon. I’ll get a human team out to go over the property. We can take the computer with us.”
He nodded. “Let’s get out of here.”
The flight back to Evenfall was silent and grim. Julian watched out the window as the eastern sky lightened with predawn. After landing, as he strode into the castle, angry Vampyres tried to besiege him with questions about Internet access and when they could leave.
In an instant, Yolanthe’s team surrounded him, fangs out and snarling a warning.
The complaints cut off abruptly. Shocked and staring, the other Vampyres fell back.
One of the team split off from the rest to take the computer to Gavin. Yolanthe stayed in the group that maintained a secure perimeter around Julian as he strode to his suite. Once he gained access to his rooms, he gave orders that he was not to be disturbed, and he got to work.
On a lockdown, only two dedicated lines were left open. One of them went to Gavin in the IT headquarters, and the other fed into Julian’s suite.
Gavin had also set up a program on Julian’s computer that kept a running total of who was in residence at Evenfall, including council members. At any given time, usually when the council was in session, Evenfall could potentially have up to three hundred souls.
Julian checked it quickly. One hundred and eighty-nine people were locked in, including two council members, Annis and Leopold. He couldn’t remember the business that had brought them to Evenfall, and it didn’t matter—they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. Right now, they were two less council members he had to worry about.
The icon for his email inbox indicated he had nearly a thousand messages. He ignored those as well. What he focused on instead was composing a letter to the human governor of California.
The demesnes of the Elder Races overlaid human states and governments. Humans were governed by human law, and those of the Elder Races were subject to the laws of their demesnes. The borders that separated them were invisible ones of race and community.
The global unifier was commerce. Sales taxes were split, and the taxes on income went to the relevant agency, either Elder Races or human. For the most part, the two different realms coexisted well enough.
Sometimes they didn’t, especially when the clashes of one spilled into the physical space of the other.
This would be one of those times.
As soon as the letter was finished, Julian put it in the body of an email and hit send. Afterward, he sent copies of the letter to local human officials.
When he had finished, he went to the doors that led to the hall, opened them and told Yolanthe, “See that the media room is ready, and let any press we have in Evenfall know that I’ll be making an official statement in a half an hour.”
Speculation shifted in her dark eyes, but all she said was, “Yes, sir.”
He strode into his bedroom to change into a uniform, not parade dress, which was reserved for more ceremonial occasions, but somber black. Then he left the suite and, surrounded by his guards, he strode to the media room in the IT headquarters. More people had gathered in the large communal spaces and hall, but this time, no one attempted to stop or talk to him. Instead they watched him and his guards in tense silence.
Fifteen minutes later, in the media room, they were ready to shoot. Julian looked into the cameras. “Over the last twelve hours, there have been two significant attacks against Nightkind government officials, resulting in multiple casualties. The death count is now well over a hundred.”
At least it was, when you counted all the attackers who had died going up against Xavier and Tess. He said, “Significantly, most of those who died were humans.”
As he paused, no one made a sound, although everyone in the room stirred, including his guards. While technically, he spoke the truth—most of those in Justine’s household had been human—once humans became part of a Vampyre’s household, they were considered to be part of the Nightkind demesne.
Still, their deaths would have a hell of an emotional punch. The massacre signified a massive betrayal of the trust Julian had worked so hard to build between the Vampyres and the human population, and Julian was not above twisting the literal truth to his advantage whenever necessary.
Deliberately, he continued. “These terrible crimes must be answered. As King, I am placing the Nightkind demesne under martial law, effective immediately. From sundown today, any Nightkind creature found more than a quarter of a mile away from its domicile of residence will be subject to the severest penalty by law, up to and including death. Martial law is an extreme measure, to be used only in cases of emergency. The Nightkind demesne is presently in just that kind of emergency. People of the Nightkind demesne, the movement restrictions are for your protection, as we search for the criminals who initiated the attacks and we take every necessary step to make sure that another attack doesn’t happen.”
For a brief moment, he hesitated. The temptation to call Justine out in public grew so strong he had to clench his muscles against giving in to it. Publicly identifying her as the person responsible for so many deaths would be even more effective at stopping her movements than implementing martial law, but without acceptable proof to back up his claim, he knew the entire Nightkind council would turn against him.
None of them, not even Dominic, would tolerate an unsubstantiated attack against one of their own. The resulting backlash would end up hurting Julian’s ability to hunt for Justine far more than it would help. He needed to gather proof first, the kind of proof that the council would accept.
His frustration boiled over. For the first time in his speech, he let his fury show in his clenched features and burning gaze. He felt his fangs descend and let them show in an expression of naked aggression. “Rest assured,” he said softly, “we have no higher priority than this. We will hunt down those who are responsible, and they will be brought to justice. I won’t be taking questions today. That will be all.”
The room erupted into noise. Ignoring the shouted questions, he left the room. Yolanthe and the other guards fell into place around him.
This time, he headed into the secure part of the IT area. Gavin left his workstation to meet him.
Without preamble, Julian said, “You saw the statement?”
“Yes, sir.” The younger Vampyre’s eyes were wide and worried.
“I won’t be able to justify keeping the demesne under martial law for long,” he said. “It will help to have the human population outraged, so we might be able to get a few weeks. If Justine is still in the demesne—and even if she isn’t—it will make it harder for her, and anyone else working with her, to maneuver. In the meantime, we need to speed up the search.”
“I’ve frozen her assets,” Gavin told him. “At least those that I could find. You must know she’ll have hidden assets. Cash deposits, offshore accounts.”
Julian looked at him from under lowered eyebrows. “Of course.”
“I’ve programmed some searches to see what I can find.”
“Just do the best you can.” He moved on to the next thing. “What about the computer? Were you able to get any information from that?”
“No. I’m sorry.” Looking frustrated, Gavin rubbed the back of his head. “I’m going to try a few more things, but I don’t think I’ll be able to retrieve anything. Sometimes you can actually recover files after a factory reset, but I think she used another program to make sure the hard drive was wiped clean.”
If she had gone to the trouble of making sure the hard drive was completely wiped, why hadn’t she simply destroyed the computer? Had she done it to taunt him?
Scowling, Julian turned away and headed back to his suite. He had a million and one things to do before Dominic arrived that evening. After that, he would be free to go after Justine personally.
Even if he had managed to cripple Justine’s movements—at least for now—she had already crippled him by taking Xavier out of commission. He needed to get eyes on each of the council members, especially Darius, but aside from the two held in Evenfall, the others would be scattered all over Northern California.
Again, he got the sense of time slipping away from him. He spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working with Yolanthe to deploy handpicked soldiers to each council member’s home. Twice he talked to Xavier. While the other man was clearly tired, he was more than willing to help. He had a handful of people he could send out on reconnaissance as well.
By the time Dominic arrived late that evening, Julian had a plan in place. Those who were deployed would report their findings to Xavier, who would then contact Julian with anything newsworthy that looked suspicious. Julian would follow up the leads in person. The search would be brutally meticulous, but that was often how wars were won—by gathering painstaking intelligence and winning one battle at a time.
Meeting with Dominic strained his patience. Yolanthe’s team was rested and waiting for him. He forced himself to be thorough as he went over final details, while the part of him that had broken strained to be on the move.
If Dominic had been born in modern times, he might have been the star quarterback for his college team. Standing six foot four, the other Vampyre was broad shouldered and lean hipped, his powerful frame perfectly suited to wearing heavy armor and waging war atop a horse.
He had icy blue eyes and blond hair, and the kind of looks that made him a favorite with the opposite sex, while his handsome face bore a scar from temple to jawline that gave him an aura of danger. The danger was very real, but not so much the romance. Dominic was one of the most coldly pragmatic men Julian had ever met.
At the end of the meeting, Dominic asked, “How’s the search going?”
While Julian was willing to share administrative details about Evenfall, he had no intention of talking about the hunt for Justine. All he said was, “We’ll get her—and anyone else who is working with her.”
Speculation shifted in Dominic’s icy gaze, but he nodded. “Fair enough.”
Julian’s phone rang. Not his cell phone—thanks to Gavin’s efforts, that wouldn’t work until he left Evenfall. The phone in his office rang, on one of the two dedicated lines in the castle.
Very few people had that number. Quickly he strode into the other room to check the caller ID.
His eyebrows rose. The incoming call was from Tatiana, the Light Fae Queen in Los Angeles.
Reflexively, he checked the time. It was almost three o’clock in the morning.
He could think of no good reason for Tatiana to be calling him at three in the morning. Tatiana had hated him ever since he had broken off his affair with Melly.
He let the call roll to voicemail. After he listened to what she had to say, he would decide when he would get back to her.
Almost immediately, the phone rang again. Instead of leaving a voicemail message, Tatiana had called back.
Unease ran cold fingers down his spine. This time, he answered the call. “Tatiana, you might have seen in the news that I’m in the middle of something urgent right now.”
The Light Fae Queen’s voice sounded in his ear. Usually she was the epitome of elegance and iron, but this time the iron sounded rusted and strained. “So am I. Julian, I need for you to come as quickly as you can.”
What the fuck?
His stomach clenched. “What’s the matter? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t tell you that,” said Tatiana in measured tones that spoke of extreme control. “You know as well as I do that phone conversations might not be secure.”
His mind flashed to the one possible reason Tatiana might have for calling him. He demanded, “Has something happened to Melly?”
The possibility was inconceivable. Melly was so vibrant, so young, just a few hundred years old. An array of images flashed through his mind, each worse than the one before. Melly, in a car accident—Melly in the hospital, badly injured . . . or dead.
That last thought caused dread to wash over him in a sick, cold wave.
“All I can say is, please, for the love of all the gods, can we put our differences aside just this once? Will you come to help me?”
In an instant, he abandoned the one thing that had consumed him for the last forty-eight hours. He had already set his plan in motion. Yolanthe could take it over and spearhead the search for Justine.
He told her, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Come on, Melly, will you wake up already?” someone demanded. An impatient woman, with a familiar voice. “Hell’s bells, I didn’t realize I compelled you to go down that hard. Sometimes I don’t know my own strength.”
Melly had been having the strangest dream.
The first part had been awesome. She dreamed she was skiing, whipping along the downhill slope so fast she could hear the wind whistle in her ears. Gods, she loved that rush.
Something snagged her left ski, and she lost all control. The world flipped as she tumbled head over heels. Ow. Ow. Ow.
Then with the sneaky suddenness that dreams could sometimes have, the scene shifted and she landed in a sprawl in the living room of her small Malibu house. Through the open archway that led to her bedroom, she saw Julian lying in her bed.
The tangled sheets had fallen around his hips. She knew from memory every muscled bulge and hollow of his broad, scarred chest. Her heart started to pound as she stared at him. It’d been so long since they’d been together, so very long.
Could it be possible for skin to feel hungry? Her skin ached for the sensation of his rough, callused fingers.
His white-flecked dark hair tousled, he watched her with wolflike eyes. “Pick up your damn phone, will you?” he snapped.
He was such a killjoy. Furiously, she threw her phone at him, and he blurred to catch it. As she watched, Julian crushed the phone in one hand.
“Okay,” the director said. (Who was directing this film? Squinting, she tried to look past the bright set lights.) “We need just one more thing before we call it a wrap. Come on, Melly—give us one of your awesome screams. Wake up and don’t hold back, just let ’er rip.”
Obligingly, she tried to open her mouth to belt out a good one, but she still had her skiing helmet on with the chin guard strapped tight. Somebody had added a mouthpiece to it, and the whole thing was actually kind of making it hard to breathe.
As she struggled to get her hands free so she could tear off the mouthpiece, she discovered that she was wrapped in a straitjacket. . . .
That couldn’t be right. They had finished the film with the straitjacket years ago.
What the hell?
Her eyes popped open.
Someone was carrying her over his shoulder, fireman-style. His body held a small frisson of Power that she identified immediately as Vampyre. Her head bobbed upside down. She had pinned her long, curly hair into a loose chignon, and it had slipped sideways over one ear. Strong, bouncing beams of light illuminated a rough stony hallway.
Not a hallway. A tunnel.
She was gagged, and her wrists and ankles were tied.
Panic struck. She erupted into wild struggles.
She almost managed to flip out of the strange male’s hold, but, swearing, he hoisted her into a more secure position and wrapped his arms around her thighs.
Someone bent over her and smacked her over the ear so hard her head rang. “Behave.”
Craning her neck, she stared up at a beautiful, young-looking woman with auburn hair. A very familiar woman, and a very old Vampyre, one of the most Powerful in the Nightkind demesne. Justine.
The wrongness of the situation rocketed around Melly’s mind. She had gone skiing, and had just returned to her Malibu home to get ready for her next shoot, when she remembered Justine had shown up on her doorstep. After that—nothing.
While she couldn’t talk physically, she could telepathically. Justine, she said tensely. What the fuck are you doing?
Justine petted her head then removed the gag. “There, there,” said the Vampyre. “Everything will probably be okay.”
Everything will probably be okay?
“What are you talking about!” Melly’s head ached, and she struggled to think past it.
There was no way she could have been prepared for this, none.
When she went out in public, she was usually attended by a guard or two, but her Malibu home was in a gated community with a good security system. Other actors and celebrities lived in the community, and normally, Melly felt perfectly safe there.
Normally, she would never have imagined someone like Justine would kidnap her. Justine had been on friendly terms with Melly’s mother, Tatiana, the Light Fae Queen, for a very long time, and she had made friendly overtures to Melly for years.
Justine straightened and said to the man, “Put her in this one.”
Melly looked around wildly as the man carried her into a cell, an honest-to-goodness dungeon-y cell that had been hewn out of rock with metal bars and a door fitted across the opening.
The man dumped her unceremoniously on the floor with such force, her hair slipped half out of its knot. She felt a couple of hairpins slide down her neck and drop into her top.
Breathing heavily, Melly almost planted her foot in the Vampyre’s face. She could have done it. She was fast enough, angry enough, and she’d certainly had her own fair share of training. Tatiana had insisted both her daughters learn self-defense.
But while she might be able to kick the shit out of Vampyre Guy, she knew she was no match for Justine, who leaned against the open cell door, watching. And she still hoped to get somewhere by talking.
“Justine,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on, or why you felt compelled to kidnap me, but if we go to my mom and we just talk it over, I’m sure we can figure out how to fix things.”
Justine smiled at her. “Look at you,” the Vampyre said. “Pretty and well meaning, and stupid as a poodle. I’ve always had a soft spot for you, Melly, but some things can’t get fixed by running to your mom for help.”
Melly angled out her jaw as both fury and worry deepened. Well first, Justine was just plain wrong, because her mom was the most formidable woman Melly had ever met.
But with Justine kidnapping Melly and refusing to talk to Tatiana, this was bad, really bad. She said between her teeth, “What did you do?”
“I took a gamble and it didn’t go so well. So, now I’m taking another gamble.” The Vampyre met Melly’s gaze. “We’re going to find out if Julian has any lingering feelings for you. I’m thinking he might, and if he does, how far will he go to see that you’re safe? Would he even trade himself for you?” As Justine smiled, a tip of her descended fangs showed between her red lips.
Melly’s stomach clenched. Justine had slipped some kind of leash, and if she felt she needed leverage against Julian, something terrible had happened in the Nightkind demesne. “You’re going to be sadly disappointed,” she said bitterly. “What Julian and I shared ended a long time ago.”
“We’ll see. Sometimes old feelings refuse to die.” Justine told Vampyre Guy, “Strip those pins out of her hair, and pat her down to make sure she doesn’t have anything in her pockets. When you’re done, untie her.”
Obediently, Vampyre Guy yanked his hands through Melly’s long curls, pulling out hairpins. He was none too gentle about it, and tears sprang to her eyes at the pain in her scalp. When he was finished, he ran his hands down every inch of her body, untied her wrists and legs, straightened and stepped out of the cell.
Justine reached inside to set a jug of water and a package on the floor. “Here’s enough food and water for a day, along with a small LED flashlight. The batteries aren’t going to last you a full twenty-four hours, so I would use it sparingly, if I were you. Someone will bring you more food and water tomorrow, most likely. Hang tight—we’ll know soon enough what Julian will do.”
Most likely bring more food and water.
Melly’s breath shook in her throat. Which meant Justine was fully prepared to cut ties and abandon her if things didn’t go her way.
Taking her lantern, Justine shut the door of the cell and locked it with a key. “’Bye, darling.”
Fuck you. Darling.
Melly didn’t have a very aggressive personality, but she was pretty sure she could murder Justine’s ass if she got half the chance.
The light faded gradually as Justine and Vampyre Guy left. Before it disappeared completely, she lunged for the packet Justine had left on the floor, located the flashlight and turned it on and off several times to test it.
It worked. The beam of light was small and thin, but it was infinitely better than the intense, complete darkness.
She forced herself to turn it off. Then, in the darkness, she wrapped her arms around herself, shaking.
After a while, stirring, she whispered, “Poodles are smart.”
Twisting, she groped down the back of her neck until her fingers connected with what she was searching for. Snagging it, she pulled out the hairpins that had slipped down her top earlier.
Poodles could also bite when someone least expected it.
Gripping the pins tightly between thumb and forefinger and navigating from memory, she made her way across the cell until her outstretched hands collided with cold steel bars. Then she felt her way to the cell door and ran her fingers along the heavy, square metal that contained the lock. Most likely, it was a pin and tumbler lock, which was the most common type of lock in the world.
If so, she needed two pieces of metal in order to pick it. Luckily, she had hairpins and she knew how to use them. Using her teeth, she stripped off the little pieces of rubber on the ends of the pins. After she tucked one hairpin into her pocket, she bent the other one back and forth until it broke into two pieces.
Taking the first piece, she bent one end just enough so that it could be used as a pick. When she was satisfied with the result, she bent the other end to use as a handle. The last modification she made was to take the second piece and bend it into the correct shape so that she could use it as the lever.
The sensitive tips of her fingers found the keyhole. After she inserted her makeshift lever, she slipped in her pick. As she worked on the lock, her mind darted frantically from thought to thought.
Cold emanated from the rough rock that surrounded her. It penetrated the soles of her stylish ballet flats and ankle-length linen slacks, and raised goose bumps on the skin of her arms that were left bare by a matching sleeveless shirt. She had dressed for warm weather on the beach, not spelunking.
The chill suggested she was pretty deeply underground, but underground where? If she were being held on Justine’s estate, why would Justine bother to stash her underground in a cell?
It would have made much more sense if Justine had hedged her bets and kept Melly in a more or less comfortable state, perhaps locked up somewhere in Justine’s mansion and close at hand, so that Justine could get to her quickly and easily if she needed to change her course of action.
But whatever had happened to turn Justine rogue, Julian was somehow involved, so maybe Justine couldn’t go back to her home. That had a ring of truth to it. Melly was willing to bet she wasn’t anywhere near Justine’s estate.
No, she was somewhere else, somewhere secret enough that Justine believed neither Julian nor any of his people would locate her. And since Melly had been knocked unconscious, she had no memory of the kind of journey it had taken to bring her to this place. She could literally be almost anywhere.
She ran a mental check on herself. Her hands were shaking, but that was from nerves and shock more than anything else. As a Light Fae, Melly healed fast, but her leg and hip still ached fiercely from the downhill tumble she took when she had been on her weekend ski trip. She was hungry and thirsty, but not so much that it had become urgent. Rather, she felt more or less like she did whenever she’d had such a busy day, she forgot to eat.
Also, there was the flashlight. It meant she wasn’t in an Other land, where magic was enhanced and modern technology didn’t work.
Logically that would mean she was no more than a day’s journey away from Malibu, but the trick was, how had they traveled? If Justine had put her on a plane, a day’s journey could mean that she was on the other side of the continent, somewhere on the East Coast.
Her shoulders sagged. Deduction could only get her so far. She wouldn’t be able to figure out where she was until she got aboveground and could have a look around.
Her mind darted to more hopeful thoughts. If she had been gone from home a day or so, someone would have noticed her absence by now.
She ran over the timeline. She had been coming home from her ski trip when Justine had kidnapped her. She had arrived in Malibu in the early evening, and she had been scheduled to be on set the next morning to start shooting a new movie.
Melly always showed up for work on time. It was a point of pride to her that she didn’t trade on her status in the Light Fae demesne. If anything, she worked harder than anybody else in order to be taken seriously as a professional.
She knew to a fraction of an inch how much acting talent she had—or didn’t have. She might not star in any Oscar-winning films, but she liked her career, had fun with it and made a lot of money, and those who worked with her knew she was as reliable as clockwork.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have loved watching Thea Harrison’s writing style develop from her first novel of the Elder Races series, DRAGON BOUND to this latest installment. Ms. Harrison has truly mastered her craft and it is always a joy to read her books. I actually first met Julian in NIGHT’S HONOR, Xavier’s book. Julian is the Nightkind King and he’s investigating the attack on his right hand Vampyre, Xavier. Julian suspects the culprit is Justine, a power-hungry member of the council that “governs” the Nightkind and is highly critical of Julian’s reign. A former general in the Roman army a millennia ago, Julian is preparing for war against the rogue council member when he receives a call from Tatiana, the Light Fae Queen, desperate for Julian’s help. Melisande, Tatiana’s daughter, heir to the Light Fae thrown and Julian’s former love has been kidnapped. Julian drops everything and rushes to help. Granted, Julian and Melisande’s (Melly’s) relationship ended badly over twenty years ago, his traitorous heart won’t let him stay away. Melly wakes up to find that Justine has kidnapped her. This can’t be right. Justine and her mother have an accord and Melly has no idea why Justine would dare cross her mother by kidnapping her. Melly is skeptical when she finds out that Justine is using her to draw out Julian. There is no way Julian would come for her after he accused her of being unfaithful and severing ties with her all those years ago. But after a failed escape attempt and barely surviving deadly feral Vampyres, Melly is praying she is wrong and that Julian will come for her. I am a sucker for second chance love stories and this one is no exception. You can read this book as a standalone or in the series. I’ve skipped several books in between and was still able to follow the story, but I find myself wanting to go back and read SERPENT’S KISS, the third book in the Elder Races series. Julian’s sire Carling was the Nightkind ruler before him and there is A LOT of bad blood between the two, most of which is in Carling’s book (SERPENT’S KISS). Carling and Julian have a scene together in this book and a few issues are dealt with but curiosity has me wondering what else went down previously between the two. MIDNIGHT’S KISS is exciting, engaging and memorable. The battles were exciting! The love scenes were scorching! And the passion between Julian and Melly was palpable. I loved the story and can’t wait for Graydon’s book next! ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
I hadn't had particularly strong feelings about these characters when they'd shown up in previous books of the Elder Races series but it didn't take long for both Julian and Melisande to win me over. Their (re)developing relationship and dialogue reminded me a bit of Dragos and Pia in Lord's Fall but was completely fresh and unique to these two characters. Thea Harrison has an uncanny knack for writing the books in this series so that they are just interconnected enough without being completely dependent on "what's gone before" or cliffhanger-y. Her female lead characters are wonderful women of intelligence, resource, humor, and a very healthy sense of their own selves and sexuality. Her male characters are alphas, to be sure, but honest enough to recognize when they're being boneheaded, needing or ready to change their ways of thinking &/or living, and open enough to Fall In Love in a big way when they do. One of the most appealing features of Harrison's characters is when they each recognize their relationship as their real, true love (or mate) - they're all in, completely committed (whether they actually know what the hell they're doing or not) there is no second guessing, no lies, no backtracking, they're All In and I love it.
Extremely strong characterization and complex interpersonal relationships handled with a deft but sure touch. Masterful writing and, in my opinion, her best to date. I don't think I can recall a book -- and I've read hundreds -- where the emotional complexity (and conflict) between the two main characters was so nuanced and yet so believable. It's pitch perfect, and i have no higher praise than that.
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Vivacious Valkyrie - Marta: *Copy gifted in exchange for an honest review I adore this author's work and in particular her shifter stories that feature Dragos and his family. This follows on from Night's Honor and the attention has firmly shifted to the Vampyres or Nightkind as they are known. Julian is King of the Nightkind Demesne but there's trouble brewing. Now, I'm not going to lie and say that's a total surprise because this court or council that Julian presides over is always full of intrigue and political machinations, but the rot that's set in is much closer than he had anticipated. Julian is fully prepared to hunt down the traitor and he plans on enjoying every minute of it, but as he prepares he receives a call that will see him sacrificing himself for the traitorous woman who has always held his heart. Melisande, heir to the Light Fae Queen truly loved Julian but failed to convince him of her faithfulness. Now, twenty years later, she is used to his scathing manner and hurtful words, but still bitterly regrets the loss she feels . When tricked and kidnapped by Justine Julian's enemy, she is astonished when Julian actually comes to her rescue and cannot believe that he would fall for Justines lies. Julian is taken hostage and now there's no one to rescue them so it's clear they will have to try to save themselves. With their history of mistrust can they truly work together and even if they can find a way to ignore their painful past is escape even possible? I love returning to the world of the Elder Races and it's true that the Vampyres are not usually my favourite characters but each book is special and unique. In this book we have a hero who cannot bear to be in the same room as the heroine without seeing red and wanting to lash out and yet Julian has no hesitation in trying to save Melly (swoon!). Melly is much more resourceful than I expected and makes for a fabulous heroine. No, she is not exactly kickass, but she's determined and very likeable. Julian constantly underestimates her, but then they do say love is blind! There's the rub, Julian is deeply in love with Mell,y but has strong reasons not to trust her and yet together they are so much stronger than apart. As for the romance well the chemistry they share is smoking! It's not something that either one can really deny, but the trials and tribulations they share make it hard for either of them to be honest. I loved that Julian would almost tear himself apart if need be to save Melly, but she is no slouch and repeatedly had me cheering for her. Did I miss the usual Wyr Sentinel characters? A little if honest as there's only brief appearances here, but this was far more action-packed than previous Vampyre Demesne books which made for a very interesting read. This is such a fabulous series and a must for paranormal romance fans. A sensual delight from an author with an amazing imagination. I just can't wait for the next book and suspect a certain Sentinel is about to fall!
Once again Harrison sends us to the world of the Elder Races and delivers action packed romance. I loved it.
Julian and Melly have always been explosive when in each other's presence, but when she is kidnapped by his enemies he sets aside his anger and hatred for what she did to him 20 years ago and goes to her rescue, willingly becoming Justine's prisoner. Melly truly doesn't think that Julian will raise a single finger to save her, not when he still believes she cheated on him all those years ago, but she is shocked that not only does he come to her aid but he also willingly sacrifices himself to protect her. Thrust together against their will and set up in one life or death situation after another brings these two lovers back together quite explosively. Neither has stopped loving the other, which has led to quite a few heated and nasty fights with things said to hurt the other. But these two can't stay away from each other once they are back together. While together they escape Justine's little death trap, give in to their explosive passions for one another, and discover the truth behind what happened 20 years ago that tore these two lovers apart. As they race to stop a coup at Evenfall, they both come to realize that their love is worth so much more than being a king and a famous actress. This one was very enjoyable. I loved watching Julian and Melly heal wounds to their hearts and come to see that their love is worth fighting for.
I like Julian and Melly's story second only to Dragos and Pia's.
Melisande "Melly" Aindris is The Light Fae heir has been kidnapped by Justine a powerful Vampyre. Melly doesn't understand what Justine could possibly gain by kidnapping her yet she's still trapped. Meanwhile Julian Regillus is still reeling from the attack on Xavier that meant for his death. Julian knows that Justine is behind the attack but doesn't have concrete proof either. Justine is playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Justine wants Julian on his knees and will use any and all methods to make that happen. Tatiana Aindris, The Light Fae Queen, knows something happened to Melly and is asking for Julian's help. Julian will do anything to help Melly even though she betrayed him twenty years ago. Melly works on a means of escape but forced to retreat to her cell. When Julian unexpectedly appears before Justine and Melly effectively sealing the trap. Can Julian let go of the past? Did Melly really betray Julian? Who was behind this act? What does Justine hope to gain? Your answers await you in Midnight's Kiss. I love Elder Races Series! Each book is an exciting look into powerful magical creatures. The characters and story is compelling, fascinating, intriguing, real, raw, and honest. I look forward to my next adventure in this series.
This book has it all: a solid plot, a sweet and scorching hot romance, a heart-breaking betrayal, war, power hungry politicians and lots of action. “His words were almost soundless. "I've gotten to a really dark place, Melly. The darkest place I've ever been." "You don't have to be there anymore," she told him gently. "Don't you know what happens at the darkest point of the day?" He stroked her soft lower lip with the ball of one thumb. "What?" She rubbed her fingers soothingly along his muscled forearms. "A beautiful, brand-new day begins, and it's all fresh and full of promise." She smiled into his gaze. "That's why magic in the fairy tales happens at midnight, you know. When you reach that point, you have the power to change everything.” MIDNIGHT'S KISS by Thea Harrison is a second-chance-at-love paranormal romance and another awesome installment in Thea's Elder Races series. I have been dying to read MIDNIGHT'S KISS since NIGHT'S HONOR ended with the heart-pounding cliffhanger of Melisandre's kidnapping. MIDNIGHT'S KISS is the rest of the story for Julian, a powerful vampire and Nightkind king, and Melisande, aka Melly, a light fae princess. We first met Julian in SERPENT'S KISS when he tried to take Carling down. He came off as a cad then; I loved his character in this book. MIDNIGHT'S KISS is the eighth book in this series and, in my opinion, it would not serve as a good entry point to the series. At the very least, NIGHT'S HONOR should be read first. This story opens where NIGHT'S HONOR ended. Power-hungry ancient vampire Justine is planning to overthrow Julian, and position herself as Nightkind queen. She has kidnapped Melly as bait to draw Julian into her trap. Julian is dark, deadly and radiates power. He did not choose to become a Nightkind king - the position was thrust upon him - but he is an alpha through and through. I can't imagine him as anything other than a leader. To say he is still hurting from Melly's betrayal, is putting it mildly. They cannot even be in the same room with each other. However, he cannot walk away when she needs him. So... he willingly walks right into Justine's trap offering himself in exchange for her. Of course, Justine is greedy and, once she has her hands on both of them, has no plans to let either go. I loved both primary characters and hated Justine. The romance ranges from icy to scintillating hot as the story progresses. It's ironic that it takes imprisonment for the two of them to finally work out their differences. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Please check it out there! 4 Wine Glasses!
Another great book in the series. Loved that the damsel in distress actually aids (a great deal) in her own rescue.
This is another Thea Harrison goodie and she seems to only get better. I have enjoyed her series and this one is right up there. Kind of funny since the hero has not come off very likable previously. Would recommend for the fantasy romance lover.
Intense action: MIDNIGHT’S KISS is the eighth full length installment in Thea Harrison’s adult Elder Races paranormal romance series. This is vampire and Nightkind King Julian, and heir to the Light Fae dynasty Princess Melisande’s storyline. MIDNIGHT’S KISS can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty but for cohesion and backstory history, it is best to read the series in order. MIDNIGHT’S KISS focuses on the continuing battle for control of the Nightkind Council and in this, Melly becomes the pawn in a game to take down King Julian. Told from dual third person perspectives, MIDNIGHT’S KISS focuses on the search and rescue of Melisande. When Melly goes missing, Light Fae Queen Tatiana calls an emergency meeting with the hopes of uncovering the whereabouts of her eldest daughter. Enter Nightkind King Julian-Melisande’s ex lover- and the man who is willing to sacrifice his freedom to save the woman he loves. What ensues is a battle for their lives as they face a known adversary who is willing to kill and destroy everyone in the way. The prior relationship between Melly and Julian has already been established. Twenty years earlier our leading couple were destroyed by a betrayal-a betrayal known to only Julian but one that has affected their friendship for over two decades. Imprisoned together, Melly and Julian will discover their love for one another has never died, but trusting one another will take something more. The $ex scenes are intimate, provocative and exploratory. The ensemble cast of characters include several powerful Djinns and vampires; vampire Xavier and his lover Tess (Night’s Honor #7) as well as Melisande’s extended family of Light Fae –Queen Tatiana and Princess Bailey-and an assortment of Fae warriors. Thea Harrison reunites the reader with former Wyr Sentinal Rune and his mate, the ancient vampire Carling. Carling is Julian’s sire and he is the reason Carling has been exiled from the Nightkind Council; Light Fae Warrior Shane is present; as well as gryphon and the current First Sentinel of the Wyr Graydon whose storyline will be told in Shadow’s Edge (Elder Races #9). The requisite evil comes in the form of female vampire Justine who has targeted Julian and Melisande for destruction. With the release of MIDNIGHT’S KISS, as well as Night’s Honor, Thea Harrison has returned to her fantastic paranormal storytelling. When the author ventured into the Tarot Novellas, the series felt lost; the characters underdeveloped, and their storylines disconnected from the main series. Graydon’s storyline will mark the return to the original Wyr members from the earlier installment in the series. MIDNIGHT’S KISS has passion, romance, betrayal and retribution without the feeling of being rushed or pushed. There are several battle scenes with intense action and nail biting anxiety. MIDNIGHT’S KISS is a welcome addition to Elder Races Series.
Winner for Thea!