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Authors: Kristy Berridge

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The Hunted

BOOK: The Hunted
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THE

HUNTED
KRISTY BERRIDGE

 

B
orn in Perth, Western Australia in 1982, Kristy Berridge was ushered into the world in a decade of bad hair, parachute pants, and blue eye shadow. Fortunately, she managed to avoid all three influences by immersing herself in the business of growing up, and hitched a ride with her fun-loving, and adventure-filled parents to the sunny state of Queensland. Here she completed most of her education.

Besides learning that boys
don’t
have cooties, and that algebra
wouldn’t
kill her, she pointedly set the path of her high school career towards success in Art and English-based subjects, and won numerous awards for her efforts.

After high school she went on to study Graphic Design and Illustration at James Cook University, and then furthered her studies at the local TAFE college with an Interior Design course. With this knowledge under her belt, she also decided to undertake a three year Design course at Rhodec International in London, to complete her education and propel her towards the successful career she now enjoys.

She currently resides in Cairns with her husband Navaro, who is her biggest support and a constant source of motivation to finish the next novel.

 

Published in Australia by Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd,ABN: 46 119 415 842 23 Stirling Crescent, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150 Australia Telephone: +61 3 9560 9920, Facsimile: +61 3 9545 1742E-mail: [email protected]

First published in Australia 2011. Paperback edition published April 2011, Copyright © Kristy Berridge 2010. Cover design, typesetting: Chameleon Print Design

The right of Kristy Berridge to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to that of people living or dead are purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Berridge, Kristy The Hunted ISBN: 1-921829-52-4 EAN13: 978-1-921829-52-9 pp582

 

To my husband Navaro—for always supporting me, always believing in me, and for not getting cranky when I wake you up in the middle of the night to talk about plot lines or the development of a new character.

To my mother Stephanie—for her constant enthusiasm about my work, and her inability to put the story down even though it’s way past bedtime. You make my ego soar and keep me grounded, all at the same time.

To my brother Peter—for your ability to make me sound a lot cooler than I really am, and also for re-educating me on the twisted inner workings of the rebellious teenage mind.

And to the rest of my family, my brother Glen and my father Peter—although you quietly work in the background, I cannot survive without your love and support. Thank you for always believing in me.

 

PREFACE

D
espite the fresh sea air, William could smell the scent of sweaty bodies, overpowering aftershave and cheap perfume, all mingled with the enticing scent of fresh blood. The very idea of his tasting its tantalising warmth sent shivers of anticipation across William’s skin. He’d spent centuries trying to ignore the enticing aroma of human blood and its sweetness that promised fulfilment and frenzied excitement. But he was still somewhat vulnerable to its call, despite that he was almost five hundred years old.

He tilted his head back and tried to locate the other underlying scent that had led him to this beach in the first place. It was faint now, almost a whisper across the air.

Strange.

If the Vânâtor was going to be anywhere, then he imagined that it would have stopped here at this human party, drawing him in with its assortment of sensory distractions.

He could smell hundreds of different scents in the wind, plenty of blood and nourishment for a beast that showed no mercy. So why had it not stopped here?

Shaking his head in frustration, William took off at a run. He started circling the entire area, giving it a wide birth of at least five kilometres so that he could catch wind of any scent that may be lingering in the air or a new path that may have been forged.

He took to the trees on the mountain’s edge, traversing the cliff face that overhung the sea before running back down along the highway again. This led back to the beachfront.

Where has he gone?

The scent had well and truly dissipated now. Perhaps the Vânâtor had jumped into the sea? But why? Did he know we were hunting him?

He shook his head again in growing irritation.

‘No luck?’ Thomas said to William, as he came up behind him. Marianne was only a second behind him.

‘No. I just did a perimeter check, but the scent is gone. I think he must have jumped.’

‘Damn!’

‘My thoughts exactly.’

‘Can we go home now?’ Marianne whined. ‘I don’t want to be out hunting anymore.

William inclined his head. ‘Do whatever you want, but I’m going to check out that party just in case he passed by and tried to cover up his scent with that of those humans.’

‘Do we have to come?’ Marianne pouted.

William ignored her and made his way further down the beachfront and towards the group of languid dancers. Most were inebriated and stumbling over one another, embarrassing themselves. He’d never understood the impulsive teenage notion to addle your own brain to a point where you lose yourself completely in the stupidity and irrationality of alcohol consumption. Although, if he was completely honest with himself, he’d realise how hypocritical those thoughts were, particularly since he had his own small substance abuse problem. Drugs and alcohol were a passing trend to these teens, but for him blood was an eternal form of intoxication that no Alcoholics Anonymous programme could ever quite cure.

Marianne caught up to him and wound an arm around his waist and cuddled up close to him. He tried not to cringe at her touch. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her, exactly; he just didn’t reflect the same feelings that she had for him, and her constant attempts at seducing him had become tiring.

‘I do love to dance, William,’ she said, fluttering her eyelids at him. ‘Will you take me for a spin across the sand?’

He looked down at her sapphire blue eyes and her pouty, pink lips. She was stunningly beautiful, but he’d never really been attracted to blondes, and particularly not this one. He liked a girl with spirit, self assurance, and individuality. This was probably why he was still single after four hundred and forty-odd years of existence. Women possessing his giant list of expectations probably did not exist. Either way, he was picky, and the picture of who and what he wanted was clearly etched in his mind—and Marianne wasn’t it.

He untangled himself from Marianne’s embrace and patted her shoulder endearingly. ‘Not tonight, Marianne. Perhaps Thomas will oblige you with a dance.’

Thomas shot William a filthy look. William turned away quickly, hiding his growing smile.

How those two had ever shared a womb for an extended period of time was beyond him. They fought like cats and dogs. Serving in the Roman Guard had been a piece of cake compared to keeping the peace between these constantly warring siblings. In truth, though, the Roman Guard that he had served in was a little different to what the humans would probably consider to be the actual ‘Roman Guard’ of today, if in fact it still even existed. The human version protected the interests of the Italian nation, whereas his had been formed to preserve the way of life for blood drinkers, something his original coven had institutionalised and enforced.

He sighed as he reluctantly thought back to his time with Lucius, the Master Vampire.

Things had been different then. William had been young and impressionable, and Lucius’s plans to create an army protecting the interests of vampires had appealed to William’s sense of self preservation. It had also fed his desire to belong, creating enough of a distraction to block out the painful memories of his human past.

The distraction had worked for a while. One hundred years to be precise.

Lucius Valerius was the first and most powerful vampire in existence, and kowtowing to his needs was not just a question of choice or a desire to please, but a fulfilment of duty that William had been happy to perform.

Though he had disagreed with many of his former coven’s choices when it came to feeding habits, he understood their needs as if they were his own. After all, they were all vampires, and blood was simply a necessity of their existence.

What soured his opinion of his peers, the reason he had left the comfort of his home with Lucius and the command of the Roman Guard, was the coven’s decision to kill innocent people beyond mere satiation of thirst. Killing the guilty was one thing, but to kill for the sake of killing was a travesty that William did not wish to be a party to.

For over three hundred years now he had led a life that was varied, but essentially the same as his old one in so many ways. Instead of hunting rogue vampires and serving Lucius’s version of justice, he now had made his own path by trying to kill off the very biggest mistake in history.

The Vânâtors.

These creatures were born from the blood of vampires, a tainted mix of malevolence, a creature not far removed from the fur-backed, fanged imaginings of our darkest nightmares. They were werewolves with a potent mix of vampire. They had no mercy and fed on the blood of all, including his own kin. Hunting them was the only true justice he could see, incontestable in his life.

And, while out hunting vânâtors, he had met Thomas.

He glanced backwards and saw that Marianne was tugging on her twin brother’s arm, begging him to dance with her. Thomas was less than pleased by the proposition as he was a terrible dancer.

William smiled in spite of himself. He knew that there was a good chance that Thomas would pay him back for this. It was likely he’d endure a few filthy looks. He also suspected a sucker-punch to the arm was the on the cards, but William figured Thomas’s displeasure was a small price to pay for avoiding the unrealistic expectations of a blonde who held no interest for him.

While Thomas and Marianne made their exit towards the makeshift dance pit in the sand, William slipped down through the covering of trees and scouted the perimeter of the party, assessing each way and every scent one by one until—

What was that?

He sniffed again, drawing in a scent so deliciously pure and unusual that he actually staggered back a few steps. On later reflection, William thought it had been his first clumsy movement in over two hundred and twenty years.

Righting himself, he sidestepped cautiously, looking out over the crowd, trying to pinpoint the source of his intoxication.

And then he saw her…

The wall of scent slammed into him, sending him staggering back again and hitting a palm tree at his back. He watched soundlessly and with unabated awe as the perfect embodiment of everything physical that he had ever been searching for in a woman caught his gaze, widening his eyes.

BOOK: The Hunted
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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