Family is power. The Original Vampire family swore it to each other a thousand years ago. They pledged to remain together always and forever. But even when you're immortal, promises are hard to keep.
Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah Mikaelson had won it all, only to lose it again by 1788. Control of New Orleans is split between the vampires and the werewolves, much to Klaus's displeasure. In a dangerous attempt to reclaim his home, Klaus decides to build a vampire army to take out the werewolves once and for all. If he can't have love, then he'll settle for power. Elijah lets his brother take the reins as he turns his attentions to a beautiful and mysterious woman. But Rebekah has had enough of her brothers' love of bloodshed and begins a journey to find her first home and the key to her family's immortality. As the battle rages on, the siblings must come together and fight for what they believe in most: family.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Dozens of voices picked up the command, turning it into a chant. "Drink," they all shouted at the thief. Everyone else had already taken their turn, pledging their allegiance to Klaus's army by drinking his blood. Klaus let them think the gesture was symbolicwhat was the point in letting them all know they'd be vampires by the end of the night? That'd only result in an unnecessary struggle, and Klaus never did anything to make his life harder.
The energy in the room was at a steady thrum, and it felt as if the very blood in his veins vibrated with the cries of men. Klaus had outgrown the family mansion, shedding it in favor of a roomy four-story garrison in the center of town. It was a more fitting place for his new callinga place of war.
There had to be a hundred new recruits in the large main hall, banging their tankards on the long wooden tables and shouting encouragement to the next victim. Klaus sat alone on a dais, where he had received each of his subjects in turn. One was a whore from the Southern Spot, the oldest brothel in New Orleans and, by Klaus's estimation, still the best. She'd run afoul of the madam and been thrown out. But she'd refused to go quietlyshowing some real fire and a surprisingly creative vocabulary. Another was a bandit who'd been rounded up by the Spanish soldiers who patrolled the countrysideand who had handed him over to Klaus for a small fee. The youngest were a fresh crop of runaways who'd been discovered scavenging in one of Klaus's warehouses near the harbor. He'd convinced the teenagers that they'd have a much better life working for him than begging for scraps.
The last recruit to drink was the thief. José had been caught with one hand in the safe of the Southern Spot. The manager, a hothead whom Klaus suspected might be doing some skimming of his own, had wanted to kill the man and dump his body in the river. But Klaus had an eye for potentialhe could spot those who were loyal. All Klaus needed to give him was a new life, a new family, and a new mission. That might have seemed like an impossible gift to give, but not for an Original vampire.
Drinking blood was a gruesome way to pledge allegiance, but the extreme nature of the hazing was a sure way to have volunteers begging to join Klaus's cause. Everyone in the hall understood that being a part of Klaus's army would require dangerous things. That was the appeal. And Klaus had no use for an army that wasn't ready to die for him.
It hadn't always been like thishis mad thirst for ultimate control and power. Klaus's past self would have traded the entire city for a life with Vivianne Lescheres, but he understood now that it was never meant to be. If he couldn't have her, he would rule New Orleans, and the werewolveshis "co-rulers" for the past twenty-two yearswould consider themselves lucky if he stopped there. Without love, power was the only prize left that was worth fighting for . and, as it happened, Elijah himself was distracted by love at that very moment, inally giving Klaus the chance to take what was rightfully his.
If the gossip among the Southern Spot's laundresses was to be believed, Elijah was entertaining a little side romance. At the moment, Klaus didn't care who his brother spent his time with, as long as it kept Elijah out of his way. He was sure the tantalizing news would come in handy just when he needed it to, but for now, it was Klaus's little secret. Since his older brother couldn't fully dedicate himself to controlling their city, Klaus would do itand he would do it in his own way, as he should have from the start. The werewolves were coming, and Klaus was determined to strike irst and in force.
Peacetime was boring, anyway. Klaus had spent the last twenty years building his family's fortune to levels that rivaled a king's. He had become the foremost merchant in the city, and there was no trade route out of New Orleans that his ships didn't sail. He had risen as high as anyone could in a city at peace, and it still wasn't enough. Conquest was what Klaus was good at, what he was destined for. Everything else was just a distraction, and Klaus was done with those.
Fortunately, a new enemy had presented itself just when Klaus was ready to go looking for one. As if the werewolves' role in Vivianne's two deaths wasn't enough of an insult, they'd grown particularly bold in recent weeks. There had been daytime raids on the Mikaelsons' businesses, and frequent sneak attacks on their warehouses and ships. Now Guillaume, one of the humans whose eyes and ears Klaus relied on, informed him that the werewolves were poised to strike directly at the vampires themselves.
As part of a pact, Elijah had generously given the Collado wolves a foothold in the city, even after they had failed to stop an army of dead witches. And yet, instead of showing gratitude, the werewolves had spent the last two decades grasping for more and more. There was no reasoning with them, and the disastrous failure of Elijah's peaceful diplomacy was more than enough proof of that. As long as the vampires were forced to share and negotiate, true power would never be theirs. The only solution was to wipe out their rivals, as Klaus had wanted to do from the night he had irst arrived on these shores.
Klaus stared down at the thief who knelt before him, ready to use compulsion if he tried to bolt. José had sharp, angular features, with a pointed nose, watchful blue eyes, and starkly black hair. He couldn't have been more than nineteen, and to Klaus's critical eye he didn't look like much. He didn't need to, though. Klaus had more than enough power to go around.
"Drink!" his soldiers shouted, and Klaus could see the thief's pulse beat in his throat. José lifted his shot glass and drained it in one swallow, the blood leaving an unsightly stain on his lips. He gagged a little as he tried to control his disgust at the taste of the thick, warm blood. Klaus could dimly remember feeling the same disdain, but centuries upon centuries as a vampire had cured him of that distaste.
Becoming a vampire was a cure for any number of life's ills.
The thief looked around uncertainly, awed by the thundering roar of approval that shook the hall. Klaus's army was in a merry mood that night, and it was only going to get better. Klaus studied the trembling man before him for a long moment. With a welcoming smile, he stepped forward and snapped Jose's neck, feeling the vertebrae pop under his ingers.
The room went silent,a hundred faces staring,mouths gaping open in shock. The dead man collapsed to the floor in an awkward heap, but Klaus didn't bother to watch him fall. Instead, he leapt forward, moving faster than human eyes could follow, reached for the neck of the nearest human, snapped it, and then seized the next.
There was barely time for the last man to screama thin, strangled sound that choked off when Klaus's hand closed around his windpipe. He took pleasure in killing the last man slowly, watching him struggle for air as the surrounding bodies thumped to the ground.
The whole ordeal was over in seconds. Klaus walked among his men and women, down along the narrow aisle that ran between the tables. They had all been criminals and deserters, lost until he had come along. Now they were an army of the dead.
Klaus was the only one of his siblings who seemed to realize that the only true safety lay in power. A better network, a bigger army, more resources, more weaponsthere was no position too strong, in Klaus's opinion. The fact that Mikael hadn't come for them yet didn't mean he had ended his hunt. His childrenand Klaus, his hated stepsonneeded to be in the strongest position possible when Mikael appeared, and that meant the entire city should be under their control.
The last of the brisk winter air swept through the open courtyard and struck Klaus in the face. The night was promising; he could feel it. Klaus's vampire blood was already getting to work, changing and reforming the men and women, dragging them toward an entirely new kind of life. By the following night, he would have a hundred new vampires in his army, all of them fanatically loyal to Klaus and Klaus alone.