Authors: Jean Murray
Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Vampires, #Fantasy
KEY TO THE CURSED
Key To the Cursed – Book
1: Soul Reborn
© Copyright Jean Murray
2014. All rights reserved
Cover Art: Robin Ludwig
Editor: Heather Howland
Fated Press LLC
PO Box 1914
Huntingtown, MD 20639
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All Rights Are Reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without
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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, locale or
organizations is entirely coincidental.
Fated Press LLC electronic
publication/print publication: March 2015
To Paul, my husband, who saw my potential, believed
in my abilities and encouraged me to try
A delicate balance between
life and death. A treacherous journey standing between the two. There is no
compass, no map to guide the weary.
Fate. Luck. Choice.
A trial for all who
Only our souls will
tell our story. Only one chance to get it right. Death will accept nothing
less. Paradise awaits to all who measure up.
But, that was
before. Before the balance fractured the lines between good and evil.
Now, Death has no
No soul to guide him.
No soul to judge us.
Movement flickered in the deep
Asar stilled. Midnight
skin blending into the night, he slipped easily into the gloom of the New York
City streets and waited.
The human heat
signature he hunted lingered in the air like a fine French perfume. He was not
surprised when a trio of pale-skinned, red-eyed revens zoned in on the same
body heat. The undead craved the flesh of their once previous form.
It was not the human’s
flesh Asar desired.
Saddled by his own
hunger that burned like fire in his chest, he raced toward the haunting scent,
anxious to claim the prey before the revens. He was not about to give up such a
delicious soul to those ravenous cannibals.
Still too far away,
he exploded with a shot of preternatural speed on the slippery, uneven
pavement. Surefooted, he hurtled a foul dumpster and sprinted around the brick
building. Hunger fueled his every step. He fully expected to hear a scream from
the human victim before he reached the alley, but the air remained still.
He slid to a stop on
the wet asphalt. The three revens he had sensed lay decapitated on the polluted
street. Gaping chest wounds indicated the hearts had been destroyed.
shimmering light illuminated the gray, decaying flesh, rising into the night
air. Normally, he would have absorbed the shifting souls, but revens were
tainted and doomed never to reach the afterlife. The undead were truly dead.
He scanned the smog
coated buildings. Where was the human?
The sound of
shattering glass resonated from above, followed by a shower of diamond shards. Asar
evaporated into the shadows against the cold brick and narrowly avoided the carcass
of a headless reven plummeting from the upper window. The body hit the pavement
like a side of meat slammed onto a butcher’s countertop. Dark, putrid shrapnel
of blood and bone spattered across the roadway. The reven’s head bounced off the
cement with a loud crack and rolled slowly down the sidewalk before coming to
rest inches from his foot.
He did not give it
a second look. Through the shattered second story window, he caught a glimpse
of glowing green eyes and the flash of silver.
His body grew taut.
The humans he typically encountered at night were criminals and opportunists looting
stores or transporting illegal goods — the unsavory dredges of humankind. No
one else dared to be outdoors for fear of becoming a reven’s next meal.
The criminals were
easy enough prey, overconfident with their modern weapons, but this opponent
utilized a more ancient form of deliverance. The reven kills were calculated
and completed with the precision and stealth of a skilled assassin. Only a hunter
getting paid top dollar would risk this kind of suicide mission.
The revelation made
his chest burn hotter with dark need. His prey would not go down easily. The
harder the fight, the more living energy he could absorb from the human’s soul.
Asar looked upward.
The night sky waned to lighter shades of blue. He had only an hour of darkness
left before the horizon split open with the sun’s rays. He would like nothing
more than to draw out the fight for his own perverse pleasure, but he had to
end it soon or face the wrath of his ancient curse.
An agony he would
A loud crash of
metal against stone interrupted his reverie. He launched forward out of the
shadows, unconcerned with revealing his location, and did not waste any time turning
onto the dimly lit street.
Only to find it
He scanned quickly
around the perimeter while turning slowly in a circle. The hunter did not have
enough time to scale a building or sprint down the long block. His prey had to
be a short distance from here. He walked forward, following the heat trail that
vanished in the middle of the street.
“Where did you go?”
He turned, looking for some exit the hunter could have used. The pavement shifted
slightly under his weight. Looking down, he rotated his foot to the right.
City Water & Sewer.
So, his prey had
gone underground to draw him into a more cramped battle. Little did the hunter
know, Asar would be the only victor in this game of cat and mouse.
He would leave with
the man’s soul.
Into the darkness
of the small tunnel, he followed the exaggerated heat trail. He heard the faint
breathing and pounding of a human heart. The hunter was foolish enough to make
a stand, but not for long.
He followed the
arresting scent, anxious to fill his hollow emptiness. Only a few more steps
and then he’d see his prize—
His gaze shifted
over a female with long blonde hair whose curvy hips were loaded with an
arsenal of weapons. In her hand, she clasped a long, intricately carved blade—a
blade she pointed directly at him.
against the sudden constriction in his throat.
Not a hunter.
Energy rippled off
her skin like streamers of bright sunlight. Her powerful essence of life called
to him, the very energy that fed his unquenchable hunger. All he had to do was
touch her silky skin or lips to devour the luscious beauty. He had already
taken a few steps toward her when he stopped.
of hunger distracted his senses. One he had not felt in very long time, nor
cared to feel again. His hardened arousal was inconvenient, considering the
An inconvenience he
was willing to explore a little before he dined on her soul. Heat radiated off
her skin, a sharp contrast to his own cold, dead body. His skin began to burn,
even at this distance. A welcome, but deadly blaze. Despite this threat, he
drew in like a moth to a flame. Warm, soft and most importantly,
“I will not hurt
you,” Asar whispered in a low, resonant voice.
in the female’s glowing green eyes. “I can’t say that I would make the same
promise.” With a menacingly seductive smile, she pressed the tip of her blade
above his empty chest cavity.
It brought him to
an abrupt halt, but only briefly. Despite the knife, he could not help but draw
in closer. He waited to see if she would act, thrusting the blade deep into his
flesh. The fair female would be in for a shock, as it would not have the
outcome she expected. He had no heart to pierce and no soul to destroy—a fact
that relegated him to hunt in this despicable place.
“Why would a
beautiful woman risk her life by being out after dark?” he asked, running his
fingertips against the sharp blade. Only a skilled warrior could wield such an instrument.
The beheaded revens in the street were evidence enough of her skill and
conviction. Awaiting her answer, he leaned in on the tip of her blade, piercing
his dark skin.
“Who says I’m the
one at risk here?” She pressed the blade a little deeper into the thick muscle
of his chest to call his bluff.
He sneered. The
huntress would need to do more than that to cause him pain.
“I do,” Asar said,
enjoying her little taunt. She obviously had no appreciation for who she was
speaking to or else there would be fear in her eyes. Everyone feared death on
some level, and he was the master of it.
Judge, jury and
As God of the
Underworld, Asar was death, personified.
As if sensing his
thoughts, she withdrew a second blade from her hip, escalating the level of her
defense. “You don’t belong here and I’ll see you just as dead as your pale
friends from earlier this evening.”
“Friends? Who said
I had any friends?” Asar stepped forward again forcing himself into the personal
space she so obviously wanted to keep for herself. He moved close enough to
smell her sweet scent. Like a finely spun sugar on the tip of his tongue. He licked
his lips and his groin tightened to an unbearable ache.
His gesture and
level of arousal did not go unnoticed. A sudden flash of heat rippled from her
body and turned her face a bright pink, a contradiction to her hardened eyes. He
still maintained a respectable distance from her, yet he could feel the current
of energy emanating off her skin, stronger than an average human.
Her beautiful green
eyes blinked quickly. Her confusion registered in the deep emerald depths. “What
The cadence of her
breath increased as he hovered over her lips, creating a small white vapor as
it crossed his face. The urge to kiss her was strangely unbearable, as was the
strain of his hard cock against the confines of his pants. “You would not believe
me if I told you.”
Her eyes shifted to
his approaching lips. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter. You are not human, which makes
you only one other thing.”
threatening words, the pain from the tips of her blades penetrating his skin disappeared.
The knives were no longer positioned to kill. He tilted his head and watched
the fluctuation in the huntress’ green eyes. Still no fear, but intelligence
and an equal amount of curiosity analyzed him.
Asar could not deny
the need to taste her any longer. Grimacing against the burning of his skin so
close to hers, he leaned in to savor her soft lips.
The human female’s
eyes darkened and her breath hitched. Her eyes darted to the exact location
from which his brother and two royal guards approached with no scent, no sound,
and no heat signatures. Despite this, she had sensed their arrival. Before he
could speak or grab her, she jerked out of his reach and sprinted down the sewer
He pursued her as
far as he could before the line of dawn light filtering down the narrow
passageway blocked his path. She left in her wake a long, floating strand of
her golden hair. Daring a moment of pure agony, he reached out into the burning
rays of the sun to retrieve it. The silk thread shimmered between his now-pale
Kamen stopped beside
him, curiosity in his deep set eyes. His brother’s own hunger evident in the
feral, orange glow of his black eyes. “You let her escape?”
True. His prey had
been saved by mere curiosity and apparent lust. He could have easily killed the
huntress and absorbed her energy into his body. Despite the nagging ache of
hunger, he stopped short of his goal. There was a sense about her — a feeling. A
desire. “Have you ever seen a human move with the agility and speed equal to
“No, never. They
have always made easy prey.” Kamen stepped back as the sun’s awakening shifted
the line of light in the tunnel.
“There is something
different about this one. Her skin burned much hotter, and her eyes had an aura
about them.” He remembered how they glowed in the dark. Her body was filled
with life and energy which he was born to see and absorb. It rippled across her
soft, perfectly pale skin like an iridescent light show.
narrowed on him. “Is that admiration I hear in your voice?”
“Hardly.” Asar huffed,
pivoting to navigate down the dark tunnel. Ironically, the huntress had chosen
a sewer tributary located less than twenty meters from their temporary quarters.
“She is just a human.”
statement, his skin still throbbed from the burn of her heat. She was hardly
like any other human he had encountered. If she was, he would have consumed her
life source without blinking a cold eye.
“Different or not,
huntress may get in our way. She may need to be eliminated,”
Kamen said thoughtfully, as they entered the portal to their makeshift dwelling.
paused a moment to collect his thoughts. As he sat down on the velvet red sofa,
a rush of servant activity occurred around the pair. “The outbreak of revens in
this area is quite heavy, and more than likely will keep the huntress busy. I
would like to find out more about her. How is it she has strengths beyond the
capabilities of her species?”
“I will arrange
scouts to document her activity.” Kamen shifted his large body onto the long
chaise. A servant removed his sandals and washed his feet.
Asar rubbed the tender
flesh of his chest that had come in close contact with the huntress. The skin
of his arms, chest and face still retained a pale glow of warmth, but in a few
hours would revert back to its usual coal color. He touched a patch on his arm and
watched it blanch white. “That is a very prudent suggestion but I would like to
observe her activity myself.”
his posture and widened his eyes, but did not question. When Asar spoke,
everyone listened, even his kindred. “I will arrange it. How soon do you want