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Authors: Ashley Meira

King's Gambit

King’s Gambit

 

The Spire Chronicles: Book 3

 

 

 

Ashley Meira

 

Copyright 2016, Ashley Meira

All rights reserved.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents described in this publication are used fictitiously or are entirely fictional.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, except by an authorized retailer, or with written permission of the publisher. Inquiries may be addressed via email to
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Cover design by Ravven

 

Formatting by Polgarus Studio

 

Editing by Deanna Chase

 

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Story Summary

Politics are killer. Vampire politics…

 

With her new “official” boyfriend now on the opposite side of the country, all Morgan wants to do is settle back into her post in Manhattan. Unfortunately, she’s returned just in time to witness the rise of a new regime, and vampire politics don’t so much interest Morgan as much they make her want to set herself on fire.

 

When an old friend calls in a not-so-old favor, Morgan is reticent to help but eager to distract herself from missing her lover.

 

With assassins on her tail and a boyfriend who catches her in a rather suggestive situation, will Morgan be able to keep herself – and her relationship – alive long enough to survive the new king’s machinations?

 

King’s Gambit
is the third book of the Spire Chronicles paranormal/urban fantasy series.

Table of Contents
1

A million tiny lights glimmered across the city, each one symbolizing a life, a story being told. They flickered in and out, another end to a long day. Tomorrow, everyone – from the lowliest janitor to the most powerful political player – will rise and go about their nine-to-five before going back to sleep when the sun went down. Then, the real rulers of this city would come out to play.

New York City, where the drinks were watered down and the girls were probably supernatural monsters who wanted to eat you. At least you might get lucky before you died.

Right now, dying sounded better than spending another second in these heels. I never used to mind it this much, but after months of taking it easy – if you could call being pulled from bed rest to stop an evil plot to unleash the worst beings of Hell and stopping a tragic poacher from skinning shifters alive “taking it easy” – I hadn’t gotten back into the rhythm of things yet.

Ah, the price we pay for beauty.

Still, bleeding through my Louboutins in a ballroom full of vampires wasn’t a good idea. Couple that with the fact that I was wearing a knee-length, dark purple cocktail dress in winter, and I should probably be calling Webster’s to see if they’ve already printed my picture under the word “idiot” for their next edition.

A waiter passed by with a tray full of long-stemmed glasses containing what I hoped was red wine. He smiled as I eyed the liquid and politely informed me it was indeed wine, not blood. Bless ghouls and their ability to tell humans apart from their vampiric masters.

Ghouls were kind of like me: supernaturally enhanced. But where I was born with magic in my veins, ghouls got their abilities from drinking vampire blood. It made them stronger and faster than normal humans, not to mention it let them live longer. As long as they kept drinking the blood, they could ostensibly live forever.

I downed my wine as another waiter came by and quickly swapped my empty glass for a full one. Hey, I wasn’t on duty. Technically, I was never
off
duty, but I’d never get to drink if I looked at it that way. Sipping my wine, I looked over the ballroom from the corner I’d claimed as my own.

Humans and vampires alike were either mingling, dancing along to Vivaldi, or sequestered off in a private room drinking or being drunk from. We were celebrating the inauguration of the city’s new leader. The “real leader, not the human puppet that walks around in the sunlight,” would be the official party line from every vampire here. Of course, speaking with any of them would require leaving my lovely corner and stop me from consuming an unhealthy amount alcohol.

My liquor consumption had dropped since I met Alex, but now that he was gone, I seem to have doubled up on my previous habits. Which was totally not indicative of anything. We parted ways a little over a week ago. I headed back here for active duty, while he returned to California for the same thing. Leave it to me to fall for a guy who was stationed on the other side of the country. Unfortunately, the booze wasn’t doing anything to make me miss him any less, and it didn’t help ease my lonely nights – unless I brought a bottle to bed with me, but that was just uncomfortable.

I could have taken up some naked company, but I was pretty sure Alex and I had made our way into monogamy. A few months ago, I’d have ice speared someone across the room for even suggesting such a thing. Now, here we were. Guess I was growing up.

And growing up required doing things we hated. Like attending pompous displays of wealth and power. It helped if I reminded myself that keeping an eye on the power players of the city would make my job easier. The only king, the vampiric leader of a city, I’d ever had to deal with, was Marcus Castinus. In the time I’d been away, he’d apparently lost his hold on New York.

Word is he was removed from his position through less than scrupulous means, but vampires were like that in their politics. Hell, all supernatural creatures were like that. Werewolves, dragons, and shifters fought each other for alpha – or whatever each clan called it – status, witches worked their magic and status around to become leaders of their covens, and so on. Hearing vampires were screwing each other over for power wasn’t anything new.

I liked Marcus, though. He was, on occasion, a pompous douchebag, but so were most people. At least we had a rapport, and during his rule, I’d had very few problems with vampires. The new guy I wasn’t so sure of. He called himself Flavius, which the history snob in me found deliciously ironic. But whether that was his real name, or one he’d adopted after being turned, was beyond my knowledge.

Normally, when a coup like this was staged, the new king would have the support of the former ruler’s parliament. The parliament was a group of advisors who served as the thin line stopping the king from going full-on tyrant on his or her city. This time, though, Flavius had upended the whole system and replaced every member of Marcus’ parliament with his own people.

I didn’t recognize any of the new parliament members, but that wasn’t very surprising. Apart from the king and his advisors, most of the city’s undead elite kept themselves out of hunters’ spotlights, so the only vampires I dealt with frequently were the ones who hung on the lowest rungs of undead society.

A handsome man came over, and with a polite bow, asked if I wanted to dance. I tilted my glass back for another sip only to realize it was empty. I set it down, holding in a disappointed sigh, and accepted his offer with a polite smile. Screw adulthood.

His hand was ice cold as he led me to the dance floor. We exchanged a few pleasantries before I redirected the conversation to him. His name was Bradley, and he liked to talk about himself more than what would be considered healthy. It saved me the trouble of having to stumble through a conversation, however, and his words were spoken in enough of a drawl that they slid in one ear and out the other without any processing being done on my part. One good thing about him was his dance skills; I let him lead me along to the music, letting the string quartet lull me into complacency while I tried to ignore the aches in my feet. Apparently, I’d need more than five glasses of wine to numb the pain.

My reservations about his character aside, I had to admit Flavius had good taste. The ballroom was a giant space with golden walls, marble floors, and Roman columns decorated with white roses. Ivory lace cloths were draped around various pieces of furniture in a way that reminded me of a wedding reception. Bradley spun me around before pulling me back against him a little too closely. My hackles rose as his lips grazed my neck, and I pulled away with a tight smile. Setting him on fire in public would cause problems, so all I could do was channel my annoyance into an unflattering smile. Bradley seemed to misread my actions. He smiled back and moved to lean closer, but the song ended, and I rushed to excuse myself.

Screw this, I’ve been here for hours; my due diligence was over and I was officially done for the night. It was almost three, anyway. The party would die down and everyone would scurry for shelter from the sun soon enough. I wrapped my coat around me and headed out into the city streets.

It was cold, too cold for October. My coat barely brushed against my knees, leaving my legs exposed to the cruel elements. Freezing was the curse of the fashion savvy, it seemed. I guess that was another perk of being undead. Sure enough, a giggle caught my attention, as a group of bubbly, blonde vamps made their way out of the ritzy hotel. High-heeled shoes were at the end of their bare, toothpick thin legs, and each woman looked completely unbothered by the howling winds.

Sending warmth through my body, while thanking my mother for being a witch, I set out through the dark, empty streets. Cold air snuck into an opening at the neck of my coat, sending a shiver down my spine, and my heels were deafening as I walked through the city. See, forgetting there was a taxi stand right outside the hotel was another reason to call Webster’s. In fact, I had half a mind to do it the second I saw a payphone.

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