"Duvall is a major player." RT Book Reviews
Dianne Duvall's Immortal Guardians protect humanity from unspeakable horrorsbut their hearts are as fragile as any mortal's. . .
For centuries, Lisette d'Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can't bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians' command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches forand a man she knows has been declared a traitor.
Zach is an exile, a loner. He won't defend himself against false accusations or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he'll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of super-vamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust?
"The Immortal Guardians series is one you'll want to follow." The Romance Review
"These dark, kick-ass guardians can protect me any day!" Alexandra Ivy on Darkness Dawns
"Whizzing along at light speed. . .this sophomore effort sizzles." Publishers Weekly on Night Reigns
About the Author
Dianne Duvall earned a BA in English from the University of St. Thomas (Houston) and currently lives in Texas with her husband. Information on her books and the latest news can be found on her website at www.DianneDuvall.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Diane Duvall
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Diane Duvall
All rights reserved.
Lisette prowled the University of North Carolina's campus in Greensboro. Though the fall semester had only recently begun, parties abounded. Freshmen, thrilled to have left the nest and escaped their parents' rule, got drunk off their asses and lured vampires like sugar lured ants. Male. Female. It didn't matter. Easy prey was easy prey. And vampires tended to be lazy that way. Even when the brain damage the virus caused in humans progressed enough to drive them insane, sheer habit—she supposed—prompted the vampires to return to college campuses.
Lisette headed toward the frat houses.
Everything else might suck, but at least she wouldn't descend into madness. Gifted ones—men and women like Lisette who had been born with extremely advanced DNA (the origins of which remained unknown)—were protected from the more corrosive aspects of the virus. They also possessed various and assorted gifts that humans and vampires didn't. Like the telepathy that let her hear the revolting thoughts of the vampires stalking a young couple deep in their cups.
Two vamps. Two potential human victims who had no idea they were about to be fed upon by creatures who delighted in inflicting pain.
Immortal Guardians had recently taken an unprecedented step and begun attempting to recruit vampires who had not yet succumbed to the madness.
These guys didn't fall into that category. Bad news for them. Good news for her. She really wasn't in the mood for conversation.
Lisette raced forward so fast she blurred, little more than a breeze humans couldn't follow with their eyes. Zipping past the young couple, she barreled into the vampires like the athletes she so loved to watch in the NFL and drove them back behind the nearest building.
The vampires hit the ground hard as she released them.
Out of sight of the humans, she drew her shoto swords.
The vamps' eyes lit up like candles, glowing blue and green.
Her own, she knew, glowed a vibrant amber.
"Immortal Guardian," one vampire sneered, making the title an insult.
She saluted him with a sword as the vamps drew bowie knives longer than her damned forearm.
One good thing about vampires: Most were college students who had been turned after spending most of their leisure time lounging on their asses, gaming, texting, and surfing the Internet. Few had any real skill with weapons.
Unlike Lisette, who had trained with a master swordsman.
The vampires attacked simultaneously. Shoto swords met bowie knives, swept them aside, and struck flesh. Howls of pain pierced the night. The pungent aroma of wild fury mixed with fear suffused the air, accompanied by the metallic scent of blood.
One vampire circled around behind her.
Lisette merely turned to the side and continued to swing her swords, striking metal, metal, flesh, metal, flesh, flesh, flesh. The more blood she drew, the more careless they became, at last allowing her to strike major arteries.
They dropped to their knees, spewing epithets and slavering like rabid dogs as they bled out faster than the virus that infected them could repair the damage. Weak and furious, they continued to cut the air with their weapons.
Lisette took a couple of steps backward and waited as they collapsed and drew their last breaths. It would've been a hard thing to watch had she not heard their twisted plans for the inebriated couple.
A moment passed.
Their bodies began to shrivel up like mummies as the virus devoured them from the inside out in a desperate bid to continue living. Dr. Melanie Lipton had told Lisette this virus behaved like no other on the planet, and the proof lay—disintegrating on the ground—before her.
She glanced around to ensure no humans loitered nearby.
"Don't do it," she counseled herself softly as a compulsion grew within her.
Yet again, the words didn't stop her.
Sighing, she looked up and searched the rooftops around her, waiting to see if a dark, winged figure would separate itself from the shadows.
"You knew he wouldn't be there," she muttered with disgust, and bent to retrieve the bowie knives.
"Who wouldn't?" a deep voice queried softly.
Gasping, she straightened and spun around. "You."
Just as she had imagined a thousand times, a tall figure emerged from the darkness and slowly approached her. Damned near seven feet tall, he towered over her five-foot six-inch form. Dark leather pants. No shirt. Just a leanly muscled form bereft of hair except for the raven tresses that adorned his head and fell beneath his shoulders.
Behind him spread beautiful wings that would span twelve or fourteen feet when fully extended. Nearly translucent, the feathers that graced them were the same tan as his skin at the wings' base and darkened to black at their tips. Her fingers curled as she remembered touching them. Just once. So soft. Like the hair on a newborn baby's head.
"Zach," she breathed. The last time she had seen him he had saved her life.
Stopping several feet away, he closed his eyes for a moment. "You remember my name."
"Of course I do," she said, heart racing. "It's only been four months."
His eyes opened, so dark a brown they were nearly black. "Is that how long it's been? Four months?"
"Who were you looking for?" he asked.
"You," she admitted, though she knew she shouldn't.
A month ago, when curiosity and no recent sightings had driven her to ask about this intriguing, yet formidable immortal, Seth had not reacted well. Face dark with rage, he had instructed her to forget Zach and to stay away from him.
Zach tilted his head to one side. "Why?"
"I ..." Cant stop thinking about you. "I wanted to apologize."
Was that moisture forming on his forehead? Even immortals her age could regulate their body's temperature without thinking about it. Though the night was unusually warm, his body should be cool.
"For what?" he asked again.
She swallowed hard, wishing now she had thought of another answer. This man possessed almost as much power as Seth. Pissing him off probably wasn't a very good idea.
He glanced to the side, as though he heard something she couldn't. "I don't have much time," he murmured, and returned his attention to her.
"I wanted to apologize because ... I think I said something that made Seth angry at you."
His eyes flashed golden. "What?"
Thunder rumbled overhead, drawing her wary gaze. "After we fought Donald's mercenaries that last time, I asked Seth why he didn't just do what you did when you came to my rescue and kill all of our enemies with a thought instead of letting us risk our existence in battle with them." She shook her head. "The question seemed to anger him." An understatement. "But that anger seemed to be directed at ... you."
A shadow formed on Zach's chest.
No. Not a shadow. A large bruise. Another darkened the area around one eye.
"I thought ..."
A long gash, like that cut by a whip, streaked across his chest, parting the bruise.
What the hell?
Her gaze darted all around them, seeking but finding no assailant. "I thought," she stuttered, "that might be why I haven't seen you around." More gashes opened on his flesh as he stared at her, his handsome face expressionless. "I thought Seth might have told you to stay away." An ugly abrasion formed on his temple. Blood trailed down to the edge of his strong jaw and drip, drip, dripped onto his broad shoulder. She took a step forward. "Zach, what's happening to you?"
In what seemed like seconds, bleeding lash marks striped his arms, shoulders, chest, and abdomen. His jaw clenched as, beneath her horrified gaze, bones in his wings began to break.
Swearing, she raced to his side, swords raised to combat ... whoever the hell was doing this to him.
Feathers fluttered to the ground at his feet as he staggered. Those still attached to his wings began to glisten with crimson liquid as wound after wound appeared.
"Who's doing this?" she shouted, panic threatening. Who could move so fast that even she couldn't see them?
"I can't stay," he whispered, blood painting his teeth and staining his lips.
"Who's doing this to you?" she repeated urgently. "How can I help you?"
He shook his head. "You can't. I can't believe you would even want to, knowing ..."
He grunted as another bone snapped.
His eyes rolled back as his knees bent.
Lisette dropped her swords and thrust her arms out to catch him as he sank toward the ground.
A warm breeze washed over her as he vanished inches before they touched.
Shaken, she stared down at her empty arms. "Zach?"
Turning in a circle, she waited for whatever unseen force had attacked him to turn its attention on her and begin inflicting wounds.
"Zach!" Lisette jerked awake, her frantic gaze taking in her surroundings. Heart racing, she sat up and reached over to turn on the lamp beside the bed. Though she could see clearly in darkness, she had never managed to abandon the comfort light had given her as a mortal and appreciated the dim glow that now illuminated the familiar basement bedroom of her two-story home.
A dream. It had all been a dream?
"So real," she whispered. Looking down, she discovered that her hands shook.
What had just happened? It had been a dream, but ...
The fact that she had been fighting vampires didn't surprise her. When one hunted and slew vampires every night for two hundred years, one tended to dream of little else. But Zach's presence ...
She frowned. Elder telepathic immortals like Seth and David maintained complete control over their gift and didn't hear other people's thoughts unless they chose to. Younger telepathic immortals like Lisette and her brother Étienne, who had only lived roughly two hundred and thirty years, had far less control over their gift and automatically heard the thoughts of everyone around them unless the telepaths consciously blocked them. Since she lost that ability once she fell asleep, Lisette often found herself pulled into the dreams of those with whom she was in close proximity. As did Étienne, who had walked into her dreams countless times over the centuries. She had learned very quickly to discern who was a natural part of her dream and who wasn't. When Étienne walked into her dreams, she knew it.
Only Lisette and Tracy, her mortal Second, slumbered in the house. And Tracy sure as hell wasn't dreaming of Zach. Tracy didn't even know Zach existed. No, a quick peek told Lisette Tracy dreamed of swimming in a lake near her childhood home.
"The dream was mine," Lisette said, trying to understand. But Zach had not been indigenous to it.
He must have walked into her dream.
Which meant he was nearby.
Excitement flared. Tossing back the covers, she sped upstairs, disabled the security system, and dashed out the front door.
Sunlight seared her.
Spewing French epithets, she darted into the heavy shade of the nearest tree.
How could she have forgotten it was morning?
Her skin pinkened with a sunburn as she wished for the millionth time that she possessed elder immortals' stronger tolerance for the sun.
Turning around, she looked up at the roof, expecting to see Zach perched atop it as he had so often perched atop David's.
Clinging to shadows, she circled around to the back, again looked up, and found nothing.
Disappointment snuffed out excitement as she glanced around.
No need to worry about neighbors seeing her in her nightgown. Chris Reordon, head of the East Coast division of the human network that aided immortals, had built her house upon a nice, large tract of land so no one could live close enough to her for her to hear their thoughts or experience their dreams.
Thoroughly confused, she took the most shaded route back to the house, darted inside, and locked out the daylight.
"Are you mental?"
Lisette jumped at the question.
Tracy squinted at her through eyes puffy from sleep, her blond hair a tangled mess. Matching Lisette in height and slender of build, the Second wore only a large man's T-shirt that didn't quite reach mid-thigh and clutched two 9mm's. "What the hell were you doing out there?"
Lisette shrugged, feeling foolish. "I thought I heard something."
"Well, next time send me out to investigate. That's what I'm here for." Almost every Immortal Guardian was assigned a human Second for just that purpose: so they could do the things immortals couldn't (or shouldn't) do during daylight hours because of their photosensitivity.
Flicking on the safeties, Tracy headed into the kitchen. "Let me get you some blood to heal those burns."
Lisette listened as Tracy set her weapons down, opened the refrigerator door, and delved into the special compartment that contained bags of blood.
Zach had walked into her dream. She was sure of it. But, if he weren't here, how had he accomplished it? And what had caused those wounds to open up on him like that? She had never seen that before, either in a dream or in reality.
Finding no answers, she followed Tracy into the kitchen and took the bag of blood she offered. "Thank you."
"Go back to bed," Lisette told her. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Nodding, her Second collected her weapons, then shuffled out of the kitchen and down the hallway.
Lisette let her fangs descend and sank them into the bag, siphoning the blood directly into her veins. Her skin ceased burning. Blisters swiftly healed. Pink faded.
Tossing the empty bag in the trash, she returned to her bed.
But she found no more sleep that day.
Zach struggled to hold on to the image of Lisette—racing to his side, swords drawn, ready to defend him from his attackers. He saw again her drop those swords and, face stricken, hold out her arms to catch him as he fell.
He could have felt those slender arms wrap around him, hold him close, then ease him down to the ground ... as he had once done for her.
But the pain had finally gotten the better of him.
Too many blows to count had sealed his left eye shut. Sweat and blood stung his right eye as he cracked it open and peered around the dimly lit cavern. So cliché.
"Decided to join us again, have you?" a voice drawled.
"I told you he couldn't block us forever," another murmured.
If only ... Zach thought bitterly.
"Resume," the first voice commanded.
Agony sliced through Zach as another bone in his right wing snapped. Though he made no sound, he jerked involuntarily. The thick chains that cut into his wrists and dangled him from the cavern's ceiling jingled as he swung slightly. Needles pricked every inch of his arms. Or at least, that was what it felt like. He had been hanging thusly for a very long time, his arms supporting all of his weight.
More feathers fluttered down from his broken wings, disappearing into the darkness that consumed the floor far beneath him. A whip opened his flesh again. And again. Blood seeped from wounds and trailed down his body in tiny tributaries that merged at his ankles before slithering down to cascade over his toes.
He had long since lost all track of time. Lisette had said she hadn't seen him in four months. His confrontation with Seth had transpired shortly after Zach's last encounter with her. Had he really been here that long? Or had those few seconds with Lisette merely been a fantasy?
"Where do you go when you do that?"
Zach ignored the question. Just as he had ignored all of those that had preceded it.
Another bone in his wing broke.
"He doesn't go anywhere."
"Are you so sure? He doesn't respond. Doesn't seem to feel pain. Mentally he seems to be elsewhere. Do you not think we should know where?"
Zach snorted before he could stop himself. They could do whatever they wished to him. He would never lead them to Lisette. He might be broken physically, but his mind remained sharp. His mental barriers held strong. And his fantasies ...
Well, those enabled him to endure this.
Another bone broke.
"Where do you go?" Lamech demanded.
"I've not left this cavern," Zach responded just to irritate them, "as you well know, since you guard me twenty-four- seven."
He supposed it should please him that they felt the need to.
They did, of course. Need to guard him, that was. Ever since Seth had first mentioned growing his powers a couple of years ago, Zach had been working to strengthen his own.
"He doesn't go anywhere. He meditates, like that guy in Tribes," Jared said.
Excerpted from Night Unbound by Diane Duvall. Copyright © 2014 Diane Duvall. 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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