Authors: Nicole R. Taylor
Copyright © 2013 Nicole R. Taylor
Kindle Edition– published 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Regina Wamba – Mae I Design
We are each our own devil and we make this world our hell.
Paris, Place de la Concorde
October 16, 1793
t was a fine day for a mass execution.
The square was heaving with human life, come to see justice done as much as to see the spectacle. The revolution was over, the people now in charge of France, having wrested it free from the greedy monarchy. A country bankrupted, it's people starving and poor, now free to rebuild
a toutes les glories de la France
Anna was the name she went by in this life. Aeriaya, Aericura, Anastasia, Anwyn. She'd had many names over the thousands of years she'd walked the earth. There was this thing she had for the letter A.
It had been an exciting time in Paris, along with the human
there had been a lot of witchcraft that had captured her attention. After all, it was why she continued living. After dealing with the abuse of power, she remained in the city, to see what would become of the uprising. It wasn't long before she knew that they were close again. Her old enemy was at her heels once more.
As Anna stood in the crowd waiting for the first scent of blood, a vampire came to stand with her, just as eager for the guillotine as she was. She didn't have to look to know her silent companion was a female and one she had met before. Glancing out the corner of her eye, she saw the woman was wearing too much finery for a public execution post-revolution, but the poorly dressed common folk that surrounded them paid no attention. If they could truly see her, then she would be beaten, robbed and stripped of her fine dress.
"I know what you are," the woman said, not tearing her eyes off the gruesome sight ahead.
"I know," she replied, her gaze falling on the basket at the foot of the guillotine, where the first head of the day had fallen, much to the delight of the crowd. "I also know who you are, Victoria."
The woman known as Victoria stiffened slightly, but corrected herself quickly, but not before Anna noticed.
"Tell me," she continued, "were you disappointed when you were turned to find that all your power was gone? That you were no longer a witch?"
Victoria smiled, but remained silent. She'd hit a nerve, but had to give the Englishwoman a little credit for not taking the bait.
Just then, the crowd became excited, making Anna's skin tingle. The main spectacle was about to begin. The reason that so many people had turned out to the square. A cart was approaching from the street behind them, followed by a strong contingency of guards who pressed the crowd back to allow them passage to the guillotine.
She watched without emotion as the cart came to a stop at the foot of the stairs that led up to the high platform. The woman they'd brought to be executed stood proud, despite her fate. Her long tresses had been shorn off close to her scalp, her plain white dress meager compared to the finery she had once worn. Anna remembered her from the few balls she had attended at Versailles. It was hard to forget the once Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.
As she rose to the platform, the crowd began calling for her blood and she stumbled slightly, treading on the foot of the executioner. "Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose," came the delicate, yet proud voice of the fallen monarch. The executioner merely pushed her down and fastened the metal clasps of the stocks.
As the blade of the guillotine fell, the crowd let out a
cheer. She didn't look away as the head of Marie Antoinette was severed, blood gushing from the open wound. It landed with a soft thud into the wicker basket and the once queen was gone.
The lady Victoria still stood at her side, her grin most obvious. But she knew she was smiling at the think scent of blood that lingered in the square, not that a greedy, treasonous member of the royal family was dead. Such was the curse of a vampire.
As the crowd jostled around them, she asked, "How is dear Regulus?"
Victoria stiffened momentarily, not expecting that she knew the name of her maker and commander of her heart. "He is as well as can be expected."
Anna grinned, "I would expect nothing less."
The mob around them was beginning to disperse, the show over for the day. Madame guillotine would resume her duties in the morning with fervor. Without looking, she knew that the square was littered with vampires amongst the common folk, vampires in league with her old adversary Regulus. He was learning, at long last, how to corner and overpower her. In all the years they had been hunting her, she had not been captured and didn't intend to break the cycle.
For the first time, she turned to Victoria and smiled. "Please give my regards to your maker." In one fluid motion, she was behind the young vampire, her head in her icy cold hands. There was a snap as she twisted her head around, breaking her neck. A woman beside them screamed, pointing at the now dead Victoria who had crumpled to the ground, but Anna had vanished into the crowd as if she had never been there. Then, all hell broke loose in the crowd of human commoners. Shouting and shrieking as human soldiers roughly pushed their way through the throng towards the dead vampire.
It was all the distraction Anna needed to slip unnoticed from the square, the hidden vampires never noticing her departure. They were too busy rushing to Victoria's aid. Recovering her body was more important than following her. If they didn't, then their kind would be exposed.
Aya looked back over her shoulder as she slipped into the nearby Jardin des Tuileries. Catching sight of a familiar dark form perched on the platform that held the guillotine, she cursed under her breath. Regulus' eyes locked with hers briefly, his furious gaze chilling her to the bone.
Before he could move, she disappeared into the manicured gardens, bound for Calais.
he clash of steel rang out across the humid Louisiana swamplands as Aya came face to face with Zac, their blades locking together, breathing heavily.
"You're such a show off," she exclaimed, shaking her black hair out of her eyes.
"You're beautiful when you're annoyed," he said, pressing his blade harder against hers.
He stood a head taller than her, his dark hair falling into his eyes as he grinned at her. He was young for a vampire, one hundred and seventy, but he was more than a match for her, at least where sparring with katana was concerned. His green eyes pierced into hers and she couldn't help it when a wicked smile played across her face.
Aya was a vampire, but there was nothing ordinary about that. Just shy of two thousand years old, she was the only one of her kind.
A hybrid between the race that had founded the first witches, the Celestines, and that of a vampire.
She had much of the intuition and power that came with being a creature of magic, paired with the predatory instincts and immortality of a vampire who needed blood to survive.
The only people who knew the truth of who she
were her new family. The
first she had allowed to come close to her since her true family had been murdered by the founding vampires, the Romans
. Alex, the kind hearted human, Gabby the witch, Liz the newborn vampire and the vampires known as the Degaud brothers, Sam and his older brother Zac. And it was Zac who she had fallen madly in love with despite all her efforts to the contrary.
Twisting away, his blade came for her again in a long, swift arc and she arched backward, barely avoiding her throat being slit. Grinning, she brought her katana around, parrying another blow, before kicking Zac in the stomach. As her foot connected, he grabbed her boot, pulling her forward. Landing heavily on her back, she rolled to the side as his blade sunk into the earth where she had been only a second ago.
Sweeping her leg around, she kicked his feet from under him and he was on his back with a grunt. This time, her blade came down into the earth as he rolled to the side, cursing under his breath. He lunged upwards with an elbow out, but she was anticipating his advance and came at him. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she used his momentum to vault over him. She landed lightly, one knee to the ground, long back hair wild and unruly.
was her favorite combat style. She'd learnt many techniques in her long life, from the last days of the Roman Empire, to the Crusades of the Middle Ages all the way to the Edo period of Japan in the 1600s, where she became a Samurai. When she had mentioned her time in Japan and how much she enjoyed their style of fighting, Zac had somehow procured some
katana. The curved, slender, single edged blade always sat well in her long hands and wherever these had come from, they were sharp and well balanced.
Aya was teaching Zac what she could. He already knew how to use a saber from his human days in the American Civil War and was quite good at it. He'd drawn her blood several times already making her wonder how much she could actually pass on. He downplayed his intelligence so much it put his opponents at ease, opening them up to their arrogance. He learnt very quickly. In a fight with a vampire, age wouldn't matter where he was concerned.
He picked up the new guards and attacks she had shown with little effort and soon they were fighting with their strength behind them. They parried each
blows, the clash of steel ringing out through the empty forest. When they both realized they could be going for hours without a clear victor, the dirty techniques began. Tripping, biting, elbowing
all were met with laughter until Zac got the upper hand.
Pinning her against a tree, sword pressed to her pale throat, Zac's chest heaved as he stared into her strong blue eyes. He dragged the blade gently across her skin, drawing a few beads of blood. She let out a low hiss as she watched his eyes begin to change, her own responding in kind, blackness echoing the purity of her white. Running a thumb across the cut he'd inflicted, he put it into his mouth and let the coppery tang settle on his tongue. They dropped their swords at the same moment, their lips meeting in a hungry kiss, hands all over each other. It was like that with them, their attraction was so complete it took much will power to keep
under control. Fighting only made it unbearable.
Aya pushed Zac to the ground, straddling him, ripping his shirt
running kisses up his hard chest. Grasping her waist, he flipped her over, allowing his weight to press her into the ground, the leaf litter clinging into her long black hair. He dragged his fangs along the soft skin of her throat, kissing a trail over the most sensitive veins, the echo of her hybrid blood shuddering through him and into her.
She arched her back, leaning her head away, silently giving permission for him to feed and he took it, but she knew he'd be unable to stop himself anyway. His fangs pierced the ivory skin in the crook of her neck and he groaned as her blood flooded his mouth. It had stopped giving him dreams weeks ago, all of Aya's potent blood memories having played out. What he hadn't seen, she told him about as she remembered things from her two thousand years as a vampire. It was a long time and she tended to forget a lot of things.
She moaned with pleasure as he drank from her, the feeling of the blood leaving the wound in her neck painfully sweet. When he pulled away, Aya drew his face near and began to kiss him deeply, while his hands roamed her body underneath her shirt. Then, she drew him
kneeling in front of him and let her own fangs sink into his exposed jugular, her hand cupping his face.
This. This took her so completely, she was afraid she'd never come back.
Zac knew without a doubt that he would do anything for Aya.
. She didn't have to let him feed from her to know that. If she refused him, he would still do whatever she asked. Fact was
she had already done just that.
He wanted her completely, but as intimate as their blood sharing was, it was as far as she would let him go. It frustrated the hell out of him, but he let her. Of course he did, he was madly in love with her.
Crushing her body into his, he closed his eyes as he felt the blood leaving him, breathing heavily. He let his hands find their way underneath her shirt, caressing the soft skin of her back, trailing their way up her spine to her bra, where he deftly unhooked the clasp, his hands finding their way towards her breasts. He wanted to be closer, skin on skin as she took his blood.
Aya pulled away abruptly as his thumbs brushed underneath the curve of her breasts, gasping as a trickle of his blood ran down her chin. Frowning at her sudden coldness, Zac caught the trailing blood in a kiss.
"It's okay," he whispered as he pulled himself away, buttoning his black shirt back up. It wasn't really, but he couldn't broach the subject with her. She wouldn't let him. Turning, he picked up their swords, sheathing them before saying, "It's getting late anyway. Alex and Sam are going to meet us at Max's soon."
She was on her feet, hands behind her back, clasping her bra. "Zac." Her voice was a whisper, full of uncertainty.
He pulled her to him with his free hand, breathing in her scent. "I know," he said. "You're sorry."
After everything they'd been through in the short time they'd known each other, he'd never heard her say the word sorry so much. Until the day after their showdown with Arturius, the day after she'd used her power to kill her maker, he'd never thought it was a word that existed in her vocabulary. Now she never seemed to say anything else.
What had she to be sorry for? She'd saved them all from certain death many times over. She'd saved them from the founding witch Katrin and rescued their human friend Alex from a deranged vampire. She'd saved Gabby from a fate worse than death and had even gone after him when he'd flipped out after fighting with his little brother, Sam. Then, when Katrin had cursed him that night in the cemetery, she'd given all her secrets and her own life to save him. And yet she still held herself back. Wasn't this all enough?
They knew every part of one another. He'd told her everything. Every painful memory, every struggle he'd endured. And he'd told her the story of his first few horrible months as a vampire. Something he'd never been able to confide in with anyone. Not even Sam.
After all of this, a wedge had still come between them. And Aya wasn't telling him the entire truth. A part of her still didn't trust him and that hurt more than anything. Zac had no idea what to do, other than to wait and hope.
Letting her go, he let out a shaky breath. She threaded an arm through his and they walked back to the manor in silence, the rift that had unknowingly risen between them, splitting even more.
Life was quiet and that made Aya restless. Life was never this easy for long. Not in her experience, anyway.
Everyone was off living
lives as normal. Well, as normal as they had been until she'd come along. Sam and Alex were still at the gardens working, Liz was at the coffeehouse until five and Gabby was off doing god knows what. Ever since Arturius was killed, she spent less and less time with the vampires. Aya had hardly laid eyes on her. She couldn't blame her with the lingering possibility that the last Roman, Regulus, would come looking for them one day. Gabby's power had increased significantly and that made her a target. Since she'd expelled the darkness from her, she had what she'd been craving. Control. And now the young witch had to learn how to use her power again. After a lot of convincing, she'd finally convinced her to come to the manor in the morning to talk it through.
Aya almost jumped when Zac slid his hand onto her thigh under the table and she scolded herself for being so distracted. They were at Max's, the local bar and the brother's favorite haunt. It was still early; only a few tables were occupied, so they had a nice space to themselves to one side. Sam and Alex weren't due for another hour or so.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, a frown creasing his forehead.
"Nothing," she shrugged, but stiffened slightly as she felt something change in the air.
"No, really what?"
"Someone's coming." Ignoring the look Zac was giving her she turned and watched the door. It was - no, it couldn't be. She hadn't felt that presence in a very long time. And a long time to her was in the hundreds of years.
In this case, six of them.
Or was it seven?
The door opened, letting in the cool evening breeze and someone else. Aya locked eyes with a man who was undoubtedly a vampire.
Mid-height, well built and a head of unruly brown curls.
He stopped suddenly as recognition flashed across his face. He had muscled arms she knew were gained from years of wielding heavy weapons and hard fighting and an impish grin that she remembered all too well.
Standing, Aya walked towards the vampire, a smile on her lips. "Ser Tristan na Tri Tor. Here is a face that I never thought I would see again."
"It's been six hundred and sixty years, Lady Arrow." He embraced her tightly, his thick Irish accent washing over her. "And you are an extremely hard woman to track down."
Drawing back, she placed a hand on her friends face, smiling. Feeling Zac's hard glare on her back, she pulled Tristan towards the table where he was seated. "I wish you to meet someone."
"Arrow," he whispered, glancing over her shoulder towards Zac. "I bring news."
"I suspected as much," she sighed. "Otherwise you wouldn't have sought me out."
"Arrow, I must insist," Tristan tried to pull her away.
"Tristan," she said firmly and gestured towards Zac. "He knows everything and I trust him with my life. Whatever news you have, you can share with the both of us. Now, don't be rude and come and say hello."
Zac looked none to pleased to see her so familiar with another male vampire, but her friendship with Tristan was just that
friendship. But, he stood when they approached and extended his hand, ever the nineteenth century gentleman.
"Zachary Degaud," he said stiffly.
"Ser Tristan na Tri Tor." He grasped the younger vampires hand a little too firmly and shook.