Authors: Nicola Claire
Tags: #Vampires, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Adult
By Nicola Claire
Copyright © 2012, Nicola Claire
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organisations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Cover Art by Nicola Claire & Minette Hanekom
Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo
Font credit: Last Soundtrack "EpoXY histoRy"
My special thanks to Minette of
Red Cherry Graphic Design
for her expertise, unfailing support and precious time, making the
look as sexy as it deserves.
More books by Nicola Claire:
Kiss Of The Dragon (Late 2013)
Mixed Blessing Mystery Series
Sweet Seduction Series
Sweet Seduction Shadow (Late 2013)
Elemental Awakening Series
The Tempting Touch Of Fire (Late 2013)
For: You, the Reader.
Remember you are more.
A blood binding agreement, often between two parties of equal power; cannot be broken.
A word of honour agreement; has varying degrees of binding, some alliances cannot be broken.
A binding connection between master and servant, requiring the
exchange of blood to seal. It can only be broken by someone more powerful than the master who created it. A blood bond establishes a close relationship between the blood bonded. The master provides safety and protection, the servant offers obedience and loyalty.
The connection between joined kindred Nosferatu and Nosferatin; reflects the emotional and psychological relationship. Enables both parties to find each other over distance; to perform whatever is required to get to that person, overcoming any obstacle; to direct thoughts to each other; to feed off the life force of each other. It is always an equal exchange.
A directive given by a Master vampire to one of his line. It requires
in order to enforce obedience. It cannot be ignored.
A Nosferatin power, enabling the Nosferatin to appear in a different location. The Dream Walker is invisible, cannot be sensed or smelled, and only heard if they talk when in this realm. They can, however, interact and be harmed. The only exception to a Dream Walker's invisibility is another Nosferatin. Two Dream Walks in a 24 hour period results in prolonged unconsciousness once the Dream Walker returns to their body. A very rare power.
The true death of a Nosferatu. There can be no survival from the final death.
The ability to influence another. It requires direct eye contact and
to insert the influence. Usually a Nosferatu skill, allowing a vampire to influence a human.
The Nosferatin who recognises the Prophesy. It is the Herald's responsibility to acknowledge the
Sanguis Vitam Cupitor
and thereby initiate the Prophesy.
– (Maori) Tribe; sub-tribe – e.g. the Westside Hapū of Taniwha is the local Auckland sub-tribe of New Zealand Taniwha
(Latin). The Nosferatu connection and governing power. All vampires are connected to one another via this supernatural information exchange highway; enabling sharing of rules, locations of safe havens and hot spots to avoid. It is powered by both Nosferatu and Nosferatin
, but is operated by the Nosferatu in Paris. There are twelve members of the
council, headed by the Champion. The
is tasked with policing all supernaturals throughout the world.
The marriage of a kindred Nosferatu with a kindred Nosferatin. Upon joining the Nosferatu will double their
and the Nosferatin will come into their powers, but for the Nosferatin, their powers will only manifest after reaching maturity; the age of 25. The joining will also make the Nosferatin immortal. A symbiotic relationship, should one member of the joining die, the other will too. Without a joining, the Nosferatin would die one month past their 25
birthday. The joining also increases the power of the
and Nosferatu as a whole.
(Maori) New Zealand Shape Shifter (Taniwha) name for Nosferatin. Meaning protective guardian of people and places.
A Nosferatu or Nosferatin sacred match, a suitable partner for a joining. To be a kindred there must exist a connection between the Nosferatu and Nosferatin; only those suitably compatible will be kindred to the other.
The family of a Master Vampire, all members of which have been turned by the master, or accepted via blood bond into the fold.
Lux Lucis Tribuo
(Latin) The Giver of Light. The third part of the Prophesy. The
Lux Lucis Tribuo
is charged with balancing out the Dark in vampires, with the Prophesy's Light.
A Nosferatu with the highest level of
There are five levels of Master, from level five – the lowest on the
scale, to level one – the highest on the
scale. Only level one Masters can head a line of their own. Some Nosferatu may never become Masters.
Master of the City
A level one Master in control of a territory; a city.
A human unaware of the supernaturals who walk the Earth. They also do not have any supernatural abilities themselves.
A vampire hunter by birth. Nosferatin were once of the same ilk as Nosferatu, descendants from the same ancestors, or a God. The Nosferatin broke off and turned towards the Light. Their sole purpose is to bring the Nosferatu back from the Dark, this can include dispatching them, bringing them the final death, when they cannot be saved. They are now a mix of human and Nosferatin genetics.
A vampire. The Nosferatu turned towards the Dark, when their kin, the Nosferatin turned towards the Light. They require blood to survive and can be harmed by UV exposure and silver. They do not need to breathe or have a heartbeat. They are considered the undead.
(Latin) The Forbidden Drink. The second part of the Prophesy. The
is a siren to the Dark vampires throughout the world, calling their Darkness towards the Light.
The Nosferatin sense of evil. Guides a hunter to a Dark vampire; sometimes, but not always a rogue, who is about to feed off an innocent.
(Maori) Full Moon.
A vampire no longer controlled by a master, full of evil and Darkness, feeding indiscriminately and uncontrolled.
(Latin) The Blood Life or life force of a Nosferatu. It represents the power they possess. There are varying degrees of
Sanguis Vitam Cupitor
(Latin) The Blood Life Seeker. The first part of the Prophesy. The
Sanguis Vitam Cupitor
can sense and find all Dark vampires throughout the world.
(Latin) A permanent mark of possession.
(Maori) New Zealand Shape Shifter. Dangerous, predatory beings. The Taniwha have an alliance with the Nosferatins.
The action of changing a human into a vampire.
Old term for vampire; used rarely in modern language.
Never show fear.
Never give an inch.
Always stay on guard.
I hadn't planned on being here, I didn't really want to be. I had hoped things would be a little different, that was for sure. Jerome
made it quite clear, that being on Hapū land tonight could prove fatal. Besides it being Rākaunui, which is never a good time of the month if you're visiting shape shifters, it was also the night of the challenge.
But then of course, that was why I
Since returning from Paris one week ago, I'd been trying to get my former best friend Rick to agree to a meeting, but he'd been evasive. Hell, he'd been missing in action. I had visited
, where he works as a kick-boxing instructor, twice daily for the past seven days, but he'd just been a no-show. No explanation to his boss, no idea what he was up to, just vanished.
Not to be out-done, I'd phoned continuously, leaving messages on his home phone as well as his cellphone. And when that didn't work, trying Celeste, his fiancée and also a good friend of mine. But she'd either been turned against me by Rick's absolute hatred of vampires and anything to do with them, or she simply didn't want to be in the middle anymore.
Fine. I could take a hint, but then I am also extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something and stopping Rick from making this fundamental, idiotic, absolutely ridiculous mistake was at the top of my shit list right now. And trust me, to be at the top, it's gotta be big. My shit list is long and complicated and includes two master vampires fighting for my affections, the vampire governing body, the
, breathing down my neck waiting for me to screw up, and oh, the latest, the entire world population of Darkened vampires homing in on me and heading my way. And that's not even mentioning the Prophesy.
But, one thing at a time. Shape shifters and shape shifter politics.
Rick used to be my best bud, we did almost everything together. He was my kick-boxing instructor, my bar hopping mate and someone I could talk to about all the supernatural crap that invaded my life. Being a shape shifter he was privy to that world, being my friend he didn't judge, just lent an ear. But, then things changed.
The shape shifters helped me fight a particularly nasty master vampire named Max and in the process one of their young Taniwhas, Rocky, died. I'll never forget Rocky, he was so full of life. And I'll never forget watching him die. It's just something that will stay with me forever. Since then, Rick has changed. I'm not entirely sure that some of what he has become wasn't lurking in the background before and I never saw it, or if Rocky's death was what did it. But since that battle, since the Taniwhas came to my aid, honouring a centuries old alliance they had with my kind, Rick has changed.
Now he wants to hunt the creatures of the night, he wants them all dead. Not that I don't sympathise with some of that desire. I'm a vampire hunter, it's in my blood to hunt and kill the Darkest of the creatures of the night, but they are not all bad. In fact, I'm joined to a fairly decent one. Well, most of the time he's decent and some of the time he's a manipulative son of a bitch, but he has Light in him, as well as Dark. But, because of that Light, he does not deserve to die. Rick disagrees. He thinks I've gone soft, or been glazed by vampires into believing something that is not true. But Rick's the one who's had his mind messed with. I don't know if it's the grief or years of pent up anger, but he's not thinking straight and I've got to do something about it.
He challenged Jerome, the Hapū master and a really nice, down to earth, kind of guy. And as an alpha in training, Rick's challenge is for that top spot, Alpha. A challenge like that can only have one outcome, one winner. To win, someone has to die and Jerome has told me, it will be him. He can't bring himself to kill Rick. Although not his biological son, Rick is like a son to Jerome all the same and Jerome just can't end his life that way.
So, here I am. Hiding out on Hapū land, trying to stay downwind of those super sensitive noses. Trying not to make a sound as I approached the central area, where all the houses are and the cars park and they have
and gatherings and live their communal lives with such love. And where they will watch their Alpha fight their Beta and someone die. It is ludicrous, but they are not entirely human, are they? They're Hapū and as much as I don't understand what's happening tonight, I cannot stand by and not do something. I just can't.
It had taken me a good twenty minutes to make it on foot through the woods that surround their homes, not to mention having to cut through the barbed wire fence that surrounds the land, keeping Norms out and allowing the Hapū to run free on Rākaunui. But I finally made it to a decent spot, still hidden, but able to take in most of the scene before me.
I could feel the tension, I could smell the fear. If you don't know already, I'm also not entirely human too. I'm a kindred Nosferatin, a descendant from a long line of vampire hunters, but more than that, I'm from the same line that vampires, or Nosferatu, descend from as well. So, I've got a little bit of them in me too. I don't need blood to survive, but I'm fast, strong and have heightened senses, such as smell. I've also got a little bag of Nosferatin powers to call on, but I'm seriously hoping none of that would be necessary tonight. Not that I'm sure any of it would work against Taniwhas, my powers seem to be specifically related to the undead, but you never know.
In the few minutes I'd been sitting there, hiding behind a bush, more and more of the Hapū had come out and positioned themselves around the clearing, in a big, uncomfortable, feet shuffling circle. Some of them had blocked my vision, but they were all too riled to stand still, so the shuffling from foot to foot was a help. At least I could see through the gaps and get a glimpse of what was about to happen in the glow of all the tall lamps of fire that rimmed its edge. The flicker of the flames lighting the area leant an eerie cast to the setting, making goosebumps rise on my bare arms. At least it wasn't cold, summer was making an early appearance, thank God.
Just what did I plan to do when Rick and Jerome came out? I didn't really know, but if I could stop this I would and to hell with the consequences. I would not stand by and watch a friend die right in front of me again and do nothing to prevent it.
Finally they both came out at the same time, as though it had been agreed upon, or they had just simply felt the other emerge from their home and came out too. The silence was all-encompassing. I couldn't even hear any insects in the undergrowth anymore, nor birds in the trees. Everything was holding its breath.
Part of me still thought this would stop, this wouldn't happen. Rick would come to his senses or Jerome would say something that would appease Rick and it would all be over. Hugs and kisses all round. But, I've seen how bad people can be, how bad creatures can be. Sometimes there is only Dark and even the Light can't be seen.
The rich, deep timbre of Jerome's voice filled the night air, making my heart thump in my throat and my hands clasp over my mouth to stifle a gasp.
“You have been called here tonight to witness a challenge.” He turned in a circle, looking at each of his Hapū members. Taking his time, making sure to see them, I guess, one more time before he died. How could he face this and be so strong? “Your Beta wishes a different path for you, than I can condone. Tonight will decide which path you take. I ask only this, as your current Alpha, think wisely before you follow blindly, do not walk into temptation without a second glance. We may not be a democracy in a Hapū, but we have honour. Do not forget that
, do not forget your honour.”
“Enough.” Rick spat the word at Jerome, the look on his face so alien, so not right. I had never seen him look at Jerome with anything but love and respect before, this was so wrong, so not Rick. “You are a weak Alpha. You don't have the strength it takes to keep us proud, to keep us strong.”
Jerome just shook his head sadly. “You think pride equals prowess, you think strength equals dominance. Have I not taught you anything,
“I am not your son.” Rick's fists were clenched, his face grimaced. Jerome just sighed.
“You called the challenge, Rick, what limitations will you have?” Jerome just sounded tired now, like he'd given up, he wanted this to be over.
“No changing, we fight as men and the victor leads the hunt on the Rākaunui in our true forms.”
There were howls from the crowd, human voices raised in inhuman sounds. Whether they agreed with what Rick proclaimed, or didn't, or just were too excited being a Rākaunui and couldn't wait to change form with the victor, I couldn't tell. But there was a noticeable hitch in power through the clearing, enough to make me sit back on my butt, blown over by the force of it.
Taniwhas are supernatural creatures too, they have their own power to call on when they change and right now, they all wanted to change. I could hardly draw a breath, the force of that combined otherworldly power washing over me, making my body tingle, my chest tight and my head pound. Even getting up and walking into that circle suddenly felt impossible. I couldn't move.
I fell silently onto my side, drawing a short breath in and then another and another. All I could see was a sideways view of the clearing, through the brush, through the legs of the excited crowd, to Jerome and Rick, a few feet apart facing off at each other. I tried to open my mouth, to say something, to scream
, but my mouth wouldn't move, couldn't move. The slow realisation that I was about to watch my ex-best friend kill another person, someone I think I can also call a friend, and do nothing about it, dawning in my mind. Like a cancer I wanted rid of, but knew it had passed that point of no return, no longer possible to be stopped, no longer possible to be excised. Just like Rocky, I would stand by and watch this happen and do nothing to stop it.
I'm not usually one for tears. I was raised on a farm. Every Spring I would fall in love with the lambs only to have them taken by a truck at the end of Summer to the slaughter house. When I was very young, my parents, my Aunt and Uncle actually, would make a story up, so I wouldn't know what was about to happen to them. But when I turned five, my Uncle decided I was old enough to know the truth. I cried that Summer, like I had never cried before, but it didn't stop them from herding up the lambs, from loading the truck and from the truck driving away to the abattoir. My Aunt cooked lamb for dinner that night. I don't think she was trying to be cruel, I think it was just what she had it in the freezer and that was what dinner was that night, but I didn't want to eat it. I swore I'd never eat lamb again.
But, then I smelt the roast from my bedroom, the succulent smell of rosemary and garlic, roast lamb and potatoes wafting toward my room. I'd been crying all afternoon, unable to face my Uncle, but the smell of that delicious meal pulled me out of my bedroom and into the dining room. My Aunt and Uncle didn't say anything when I sat down at the table and started eating my meal. They didn't apologise for taking the lambs away to be killed, they didn't ask if I was OK, they just nodded, as though I had done a brave thing and went on with their meal.
I learnt a valuable lesson that day. Some things you can change, some things you just can't and others you just have to accept for what they are. Tears didn't help. Reality doesn't answer to a sob. So, I try not to cry, whenever I'm faced with something that is too much to bear. I try not to, but sometimes there are some things you just have to cry over. And lately, I seemed to be having that issue more and more.
I felt the hot wet flow of tears down my cheeks into the dirt and dust of the underbrush beneath my face. My vision became blurry, my breathing more of a hiccup than a shallow gasp. I was still unable to move, the Taniwhas' power escalating to such a level that I felt frozen in time, but I could see everything. Although distorted, I could tell what I was looking at. Man on man, beast on beast, it's all the same when you're fighting to the death. Taniwhas are strong, even in their human form, they can rip a man's arm off, use their human teeth to tear flesh from bone. Their nails are not claws, but the marks left behind can be just as deadly.
Jerome fought for a while. I think it's instinct to fight back. You either give in to the flight response immediately, or you fight. He didn't have a choice to flee, he was only ever going to have to face this and not run, but initially he fought back. He landed a few blows, he made Rick's job harder, but then he settled into it, like an old familiar coat, he accepted its weight. And when Rick had least expected it, when he had resigned himself to a battle to the end, Jerome simply stepped forward at the right time, angled himself towards Rick's fist at the right moment and let physics take over.
He went down like a dead weight, because that's what he was.
I held my breath, just as those gathered held theirs and Rick slowly stepped forward and knelt by his mentor, his Alpha, his enemy, confirming he was dead with a howl from his thrown back head. Letting it carry away on the wind under the gaze of a Full Moon.
The rest of the Hapū began taking up the howl. At first so fierce and then so sad, like a lament on the night air, they mourned their leader, they cried through their howls and they said their goodbyes.
I still couldn't move. I knew the predicament I was in. If someone found me here, it would not be pretty. Not only had I witnessed a private sacred Hapū rite, I had witnessed murder and on top of that, they were about to change and nothing could stop them now.