Authors: Aliyah Burke
Lion of Midnight
Copyright © 2015 Aliyah Burke
Cover illustration copyright © MMJ Designs
Editor: Jessica Bimberg
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This book is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is coincidental. All trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, and registered service marks are the property of their respective owners and are used herein for identification purposes only.
Published by: Sensual Romance Publishing at Smashwords Publishing
Lion of Midnight
To all my readers who’ve been waiting for Nik’s story. Hope it was worth the wait. Y’all are amazing and I am so humbled by your continuous support.
Well, this was no way to end one’s life. Bleeding and alone on the cold, snowy ground. Dark blond lashes blinked away the freshly falling snowflakes. “Not good,” he muttered in disgust.
Nikolas Andreyevich had used his ability with a sword to build a name and reputation for himself. He wasn’t a member of nobility. While he had a half-brother who was a baron—an English baron—Nikolas hadn’t been born into wealth. But, what he lacked in lineage, he made up for physically. He was extremely talented with his sword. He’d had a hard life, having scraped and fought for everything he’d accomplished. A powerful warrior requested by many looking to use his prowess for their use. He had no loyalty except to himself.
After all of his adventures and battles, he’d expected to die like a warrior. Instead, a bunch of scrawny marauders had overtaken him. It was downright unthinkable. What good was a warrior if he didn’t die on the field of battle?
This was the ultimate degradation, not being allowed to die with his own sword in his hand. His sword was gone; that seemed to be a final humiliation the marauding men had wanted to deliver to him. A sword given to him by a prince he’d saved. A handcrafted work of art. It had even been incrusted with jewels.
No, instead, he sat slumped against a tree, with a slender blade shoved into his abdomen. The weapons the men used told him they were from the southern areas, for sabers were rare in his area.
His blood soaked his tunic, continuing on to stain the pristine snow. He wished to die with honor; of course, he preferred not to die, at all, yet. He longed to find what his half-brother had found.
What would I give to be able to find a love like that? Everything.
A partial smile crossed his bleeding face as he conjured up the image of Kit. Never before had a woman affected him in the ways she had. The dark hue of her skin, the short fluffiness of her hair, not to mention her amazing attitude when she stood up to Marcus. Then, there was the fullness of her lips and the gentleness in her eyes. If she had ever looked at Nikolas with half the passion in her eyes as she had when she gazed at Marcus, he would have carried her off over his shoulder, to hell with the ramifications. There was no way in hell that would happen; Kit loved his half-brother so much.
Still, if it were his time to die, Nikolas would gladly do so with the vision of her in his mind. It had been a few years since he’d seen Katrina or Marcus, and since then, he’d had many experiences. This time, he closed his eyes and ignored the sting of the snowflakes that bit into his skin. The look on Kit’s face warmed him some, even if the kindness wasn’t for him.
“Open your eyes, Nikolas Andreyevich.” A husky voice interrupted his musings.
He was on his way to die. Damn it, there weren’t supposed to be interruptions. Slowly, he lifted the lids, exposing his brown eyes to the figure before him. His gaze widened as he took in the tall, voluptuous, and imposing woman before him.
“Who are you?”
The dark-haired woman seemed to float over the ground as she halted beside him and knelt on the cold ground. The moment her body was near him, Nikolas experienced warmth all over his chilled body.
She waved off his question as if it were insignificant. “I want to ask you something.” Her voice was low and soothing, making all the pain slip away. He stared into her pale yet intense arctic blue eyes. The effect they had, combined with her light coloring, was breathtaking.
Nikolas believed he shrugged. He wasn’t sure. “Go ahead. I am dying. I cannot go anywhere.”
She smiled. “Did you mean what you said earlier?”
He pursed his lips and tried to recall what she talked about.
The stunning apparition explained, “About giving anything to finding a love like Marcus and Katrina share?”
Until he’d met his half-brother and Kit and seen what they shared, it never crossed his mind. If he wanted a woman, he found one, took her, and moved on. “Yes,” he admitted.
“How do you know about them?” He smiled, again. “Of course, you’re in my mind.”
“I will give you the chance to prove yourself. You, Nikolas Andreyevich, will live through time, remaining as you are, untouched by age, until you find your true love.” Her long, pale fingers wrapped around the saber and pulled it free from his belly.
“I understand. I’m already dead. That’s why there’s no pain. Are you here to take me away?”
She chuckled. “You will be full of the knowledge of the time and culture you are in, blending in with ease no matter where your travels take you. However, you must find your other half. The woman won’t be easy to find, nor will she be easily overcome by your charms. So, even when you find her, you will have to get her to admit being yours. She is a delicate snowflake; take care you don’t forget that.”
The woman was gone in a blinding flash of light, leaving Nikolas alone.
Glancing down at his body, he saw his wound had healed, his clothing fully repaired. With the ease of one who had spent years wielding weapons and scratching out a living, he got up from the ground. Looking around for a moment, Nikolas finally headed home, not sure what else to do. He needed to find his sword…and his woman. Life had just taken an interesting turn. For that, he needed the sword which had started it all. Not the one the marauders had stolen from him, but the one he’d carved out his name with.
After he reached his small dwelling, he went into his bedroom and moved his pallet to the side. Once it was clear, he removed the covering of the hole in the floor. Crouching down, Nikolas reached in and pulled out a long item wrapped in tan leather and tied with rope.
Readjusting so he was positioned on his knees, Nikolas set the object on the floor before him. With his dagger, he cut through the old and frayed rope. Almost reverently, he unfolded the stiff and cracked leather. It didn’t take long for him to reveal a long sword. He licked his lips before reaching for it. The entire thing was in great condition; given how long it’d been hidden away, he found it remarkable.
This was the weapon he’d become the legend he was with. Longer than a normal sword, it was also heavier than most. When he’d first started, he’d needed two hands to wield it. With his newer blade, he’d been able to get to where he could use only one hand, but it made him tire faster. The blade had large, uneven teeth on the first part, made to inflict more damage on a person. Down the middle was etched,
Lion of Midnight’s Blood Drinker
. It had been a while since he’d used this sword, though, given he’d been using the one that had just been stolen.
After he’d acquired more wealth, he’d had a new hilt made, completely out of silver, to replace the steel one. Six richly deep blue stones surrounded a shiny black one with three red stripes in it sat in the circular pommel. The rest of the hilt had unfamiliar marks on it that Nikolas couldn’t identify, but the elderly man who’d fashioned it for him had said it would become clear some day.
Regardless, he’d not sit by and let one of his prized possessions be taken away by a group of rough-looking thieves. Rising to his full height, Nikolas hefted his sword in his right hand and smiled as the familiar heavy weight flowed through him. Those fools were about to find out what happened when they believed they’d left the Lion of Midnight for dead.
It didn’t take him long to pack and secure what he owned on the back of his horse, Tyr, a large black stallion, so dark he had a blue hue. Without a look back, Nikolas sent up a short prayer to Svetoid, the god of warfare, and rode off in the direction he’d come from, determined to find those men and his sword. Then, he’d turn his attention to finding his woman.
Cleopatra “Cleo” Yurandol Laurens sat back in her seat and tried to contain her excitement.
Finally, I’m going to be in Russia.
Her family didn’t understand her deep longing—no, craving—to make it to the country. In fact, the only one who understood was her friend, Kenya. She and Kenya had met in their college mythology class and had become very good friends. It had been Kenya who had taken her to the airport to catch the first leg of this very trip.
Recently divorced, Cleo eagerly looked forward to moving on with her life. This was where Russia came in—the wonderful, large country of Russia. Even she couldn’t explain the magnet that pulled her from the great state of Tennessee to the steppes of Russia. It was just necessary for her to go experience the history and mythology the country was steeped in.
She scanned the expanse of cold-looking, snow-covered ground.
What the hell was I thinking? Russia in winter?
She shook herself and refused to second-guess her decision.
Moscow came into view as the plane made its descent. “Welcome to Russia,” the pilot spoke. The announcement was first made in Russian and, then, English. With a quick jerk of her belt, Cleo secured herself for landing. Her heart pounded with anticipation. Soon. Very soon.
Once she was able, Cleo grabbed her carry-on and walked off the plane to begin her life’s greatest adventure. She tightened her grip on her bag and put more confidence in her step after she cleared customs. Her gaze swept around, taking in Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. As she followed the group around a corner, she heard someone call her name.
Stopping, she scanned the crowd until she found a man holding a sign with her name on it.
“Ms. Laurens?” The question came on the flow of heavily accented English.
Moving toward him, Cleo smiled at the older gentleman. “I’m Cleo Laurens.”
“My name is Serge. I was sent by the hotel to pick you up.” He gestured at her hand. “You do have more bags, no? Surely, you wouldn’t come to Moscow without bringing more.”
She laughed. “Oh, no. I have more.”
I have never been able to travel light.
He sent her a smile in return. “Wonderful. We go collect them and head to hotel.”
“Perfect.” Cleo had decided to spend a few days in Moscow before heading out to Saint Petersburg. “I’m ready.”
Her driver looked at her and nodded. “
Yes. I can see that.” He paused. “This your first time here?” When Cleo nodded, he continued, “About time.”
Before she could give any sort of response, he had begun walking toward the baggage claim area. Together, she and Serge took her bags to the car. Instead of sitting in the back, Cleo took him up on his offer to ride in the front. The man drove slowly, pointing out numerous places she knew weren’t in the travel guide. Serge took the time to explain some of the history that went with the sights. At one point, he apologized for talking until Cleo assured him she was thoroughly enjoying the tales.
“In America, what do you do?” he asked her as he expertly maneuvered along the streets.
What do I do? What do I do?
Cleo fingered the snowflake necklace she wore as she tried to find an answer. “I don’t do anything, right now. I just finished school and am taking some time to myself to decide what I want.”
Light blue eyes watched her before shifting back to the road. He pulled into the hotel and parked the car by the front door. “Here we are.” Serge unloaded her bags and placed them on a cart for her.
“Thank you,” Cleo said as she handed him some money. She frowned as he waved it off. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t wish your money. Anytime you need go, you send for Serge,
” The older man bowed over her hand and placed a light kiss on the back of her leather glove.
“I will, and thank you. Thank you for getting me here.” Cleo squeezed his hand before turning and walking into the large hotel.
Her eyes swept the immaculate lobby. Her skin tingled with the anticipation she felt standing here across the world from everything she knew.
One hell of a grand adventure.
It didn’t take very long for Cleo to get herself checked in. Grinning like a child at Christmas, she lay back upon the soft queen-sized bed and ran over a list of things she wanted to do first. There were plenty of things she wished to see while here, and she was only in Moscow for three days.
Stifling a yawn, she opted to catch a catnap first. While she was excited, there was going to be a bit of jet lag. Not too bad, however, since her husband—correction, ex-husband—had kept strange hours, so she was used to operating at all hours. Getting to her feet, Cleo made sure her door was locked before going back to the bed.
“I did it!” Her energetic whisper filled the room. “I’m here. I made it.” Soon, her lashes drifted down and stayed resting against her smooth cheeks.
“No, Mishka. I’ll take care of Miss Cleo.”
Serge stepped between Cleo and the tall man who had offered to drive her. A light shrug and Mishka moved on toward another person, hoping for a fare from them.
Serge looked directly into Cleo’s eyes and questioned, “You know where you wish to go now,
Cleo smiled at the man with whom, for some reason, she felt extremely safe. Being in his presence was like being with her father. And, being in a strange country, that was such a wonderful feeling. “I know where I’d like to start.”
Serge opened the door to his cab, the front door, and held it for her. “Come, let us get going on your tour.”