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Copyright @ 2016 Karen A Lynch
All Rights Reserved
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.
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Disclaimer: The persons, places, things mentioned in this novel are figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is unintentional.
Cover Designer: Nikos Lima
For my readers
Thank you for coming on this journey with me and helping me realize my dream
The warrior has finally met his match.
Nikolas Danshov is the Mohiri’s finest warrior, fearless and lethal with any weapon. For almost two hundred years, he has devoted his life to keeping humans safe from the demons that walk the earth. Revered by his people, he is a legend in his own time, a warrior undefeated in battle, and prepared for anything. Until her.
On a routine job in Maine, a twist of fate brings Nikolas face-to-face with the one person he had never expected to meet – his mate. Sara Grey is unlike anyone he’s ever met. Beautiful and fiery, she ignites his desire, while her innocence and vulnerability awaken a fierce protectiveness in him. Now all he can think of is keeping his mate safe from the dangers that hunt her, even if she fights him at every turn.
You know Sara’s story. Now read it again, through the eyes of her warrior.
Thank you to my family and friends for always being so supportive. There are so many people who help make these books a success. I want to thank my PA and amazing proofreader, Sara, my editor, Kelly, and my cover artist, Nikos. And last but not least, my two beta readers, confidantes, and author BFFs: Ednah Walters and Melissa Haag. Couldn’t do it without you ladies.
“I’ll gut this bitch if you take another step, Mohiri.”
I fingered the hilt of my sword as I studied the vampire pressed back against the wall with the human girl dangling by her throat in front of him. The girl’s face was a mask of terror when the vampire’s claws drew blood from her throat. I could feel her staring at me, silently pleading with me to save her.
I kept my attention on the vampire. “If you think the human will save you from me, you are sadly mistaken, my friend.”
He shifted from one foot to the other, his eyes darting around for another means of escape. He knew what I was, and he also had to know there was no way he was leaving this place alive. I had to convince him not to take the girl down with him.
From another part of the house, a scream rang out and was quickly cut short.
The vampire’s eyes widened, and the hand around the girl’s throat shook. “You protect humans. You won’t do anything that will hurt her.”
My gaze locked with his. “I do protect them, but I’m a hunter above all else. Seeing her blood on your hands will only make me hungrier for the kill.”
He swallowed hard, glancing at the door four feet away from him.
I made the decision easier for him and moved two feet in the other direction. I even lowered my sword to let him think he had a sporting chance.
The girl cried out as he threw her at me. I caught her with one arm and set her aside.
The vampire sped toward the door. He was fast – at least fifty years old.
I was faster. My sword sliced through the side of his throat. He croaked and clamped his hand over the wound, but not before blood sprayed across the Victorian-style wallpaper and the pale blue carpet.
The girl screamed.
I went after the vampire, who staggered to the door. Bringing my sword up, I skewered him through the heart with enough force to embed the tip of my blade in the wall behind him. I yanked it free, and he crumpled to the floor.
Chris appeared in the doorway, his own sword dripping blood. “That’s the last of them. I found a human male upstairs. He’s lost a lot of blood, but he’ll live.”
We’d discovered four teenagers in the nest of seven vampires. That two of the humans had survived was a small miracle.
The girl whimpered.
Chris stood his sword against the wall and approached her slowly. “It’s okay. You’re safe now.”
She threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his waist as she sobbed. Chris gave me a helpless look, and I shrugged. There was nothing I could do for the girl he wasn’t doing already.
I pulled out my cell and nodded toward the door. “Looks like you have the situation under control. I’ll call Denis and tell him to send a cleanup crew.”
The night was warm and muggy when I left the house and called the local unit to give them the address. I also let them know we had a couple of human teenagers needing medical attention. I waited for ten minutes until they pulled up in front of the house, and then I walked down the street to where Chris and I had parked our bikes in the driveway of an empty house.
Pulling off my bloody T-shirt, I found a clean spot and wiped my face. I used the shirt to wipe down my sword before I stowed the weapon away in the sheath that ran along the bottom of my seat.
I was donning a clean shirt when Chris walked up to me. “Why is it they never cling to you like that?” he asked as he went to his bike.
I laughed at his sullen expression. “Must be your smile that draws them to you.”
He yanked off his shirt. “It wouldn’t kill you to comfort them every now and then.”
“But you are so good at it.” I sat on my bike and waited for him to clean up. “I keep them alive and kill the bad guys.”
I didn’t need to add that I had no clue how to handle an overwrought teenager. Unlike Chris, I didn’t associate with humans on any kind of personal level. They were my job. I protected them and kept them safe from the monsters they didn’t know existed. As a warrior, it was better to remain detached. Closeness created emotions, and emotions created distractions. Distractions got you or the people you were protecting killed.
Chris scoffed and mounted his bike. “Beer?”
Thirty minutes later, freshly showered and changed, we walked into the bar down the street from our hotel. We found a table against the back wall, and I sat facing the door. I liked to know who – or what – was coming and going from a place while I was there.
A pretty blonde waitress came over to take our drink orders, and her red lips curved into an inviting smile when she looked from Chris to me.
“What can I get for you gentlemen?”
We ordered whatever they had on tap and a couple of burgers. The waitress lingered at the table for a moment before she went off to put in our order.
Chris leaned back and ran a hand through his blond hair. “I’d call that a good night’s work.”
My eyes swept the bar. At a corner table a young couple were making out, oblivious to everyone around them. I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t caught the gleam of silver in the male’s eyes. Incubus. Most of the sex demons were careful not to harm humans when they fed from them, but there were some who loved the thrill of the kill. I wasn’t sure yet which way this one swung.
A laugh drew my attention back
to Chris. I shot him a questioning look.
“You are so predictable, my friend.” He inclined his head toward the incubus. “We haven’t had our first beer, and you’re already looking for your next fight.”
“Just keeping an eye on things.”
The waitress returned with two glasses of draft and set them before us.
Chris picked up his beer and drank deeply. “Relax. I saw the two of them in here last night. If he was going to hurt her, he would have done it by now.”
He was right. An incubus intent on killing his victim would do it within a few hours. He certainly wouldn’t come back for a second date.
I gave the pair one last glance then turned my attention to my beer. I preferred a nice aged Scotch, but the rich lager was good for quenching thirst. I downed half the contents before I set the glass down and stretched out my legs beneath the table.
Chris looked at me as if he was waiting for me to say something.
When I didn’t, he said, “So, you want to stick around here for a few days?”
“I don’t mind staying here for a day or two. They’re having a problem with lamprey demons in Bywater, and I told Denis we’d give them a hand.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” he replied dryly.
I let out a laugh. “What’s her name?” Chris only suggested we take some downtime after a job when he’d met a female he wanted to get more acquainted with.
He grinned over the top of his beer. “Nora. She’s a student at Tulane, and she invited us to a party at her sorority tonight.”
“I think I’ll pass.” Intoxicated coeds were not my idea of an entertaining night. I could think of more pleasurable ways to spend an evening. An interesting book, a good game of poker, a bottle of Macallan, to name a few. Or a beautiful female friend who knew me well, in and out of the bedroom.
“Let me guess your plans for tonight. Prowling the streets to keep the good people of New Orleans safe, or staying in your room with a book?”
I suppressed a chuckle. He knew me too well. “Neither, actually. Viv’s in town.”
“Ah, the lovely Vivian. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“That long?” He smiled over the rim of his glass. “I guess I won’t be seeing you for breakfast then.”
“Probably not.” Or for lunch, knowing Viv.
Our food arrived, and as we ate, we talked about the job we’d just finished. A week ago, we’d gotten word of an increased vampire presence in New Orleans, along with a rash of missing persons, mostly teenagers. New Orleans was already a hub of supernatural activity that kept the local unit busy, so Chris and I had come to help them out with the vampire problem.
It had taken us three days to find one of the elusive vampires and trail him back to the nest in the Garden District. It didn’t require much guesswork to know what had happened to the previous owner of the old house the vampires had claimed for their own. We’d watched the place for a day and then made our move.
I hadn’t expected to find human survivors, and that made the job even more satisfying. I’d told the vampire I cared about the hunt more than the humans, but that was a lie. Nothing was more important than protecting human lives.
Chris crumpled his napkin and tossed it on his empty plate. “I was thinking we could head west when we leave Louisiana. There’s always something going on out that way, and we could pay a visit to Longstone while we’re there.”
“How long has it been since you were home?” Longstone was the Mohiri stronghold in Oregon where Chris grew up. His parents moved to Germany a few years ago, but he still had family at the stronghold.
“I haven’t been back since my parents left, almost three years.”
I pushed my plate away and reached for my beer. “Sounds like a plan. We can stop over at Westhorne on the way.
His phone buzzed, and he smiled when he looked at the screen. “Right on time. I need to go meet my date.” He stood and threw some money on the table. “Say hello to Vivian for me.”
“Will do.” I pulled out my phone and texted Viv, asking if she was up for some company.
I smiled when she replied immediately. Do you need to ask?
Tossing some cash on the table, I stood and headed for the door. See you in ten.
Vivian’s suite was on the top floor of the Ritz-Carlton, and she answered the door wearing a white silk robe, with her long, blonde hair loose around her shoulders.
“Nikolas!” She pulled me into the room, hugging me before she’d even shut the door. “It’s so good to see you.”
Chuckling, I hugged her back. “Great to see you, too.” I pulled back and looked down at her short robe that came to mid-thigh. “If I’d known you’d greet me like this, I would have come to visit you a lot sooner.”
A throaty laugh slipped from her. She pulled my head down to hers for a slow, languid kiss that was sensual, but also warm and familiar. My other sexual encounters were just about mutual pleasure. Vivian Day was more than that. She was a good friend whose company I enjoyed, and there were no strings attached. She wanted to be tied down even less than I did, if that was possible.
Breaking the kiss, she took my hand and led me into the living room of her suite that had a great view of the French Quarter. She sat on the couch and made me sit beside her.
She arranged her robe around her legs. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard you were in New Orleans. It’s been too long.”
“It has. But then you’re the one who’s always off on some mission for the Council whenever I’m on your side of the world.”
“Maybe if you’d agree to work for them, we’d see each other more.”
I stretched out my legs. “I love you, Viv, but I have zero interest in working for a bunch of bureaucrats. I respect the Council for what they do, but I prefer to work my own way.”
She gave me a knowing smile. “Still haven’t outgrown that little aversion to authority.”
I laughed. “And you still know me better than anyone.”
I’d known Vivian most of my life, our friendship going back to my early years in England when my sire was leader of Hadan Castle. Vivian and I had trained together, and the two of us had been competitive, driving each other to work harder.
She got up and went to the bar. “Drink? They didn’t have any Macallan, but they brought up a bottle of Bowmore.”
“Only if you’re having one.”
“Of course.” She poured two drinks and came back to the couch, handing one to me. “I can’t believe it’s been two years. I remember when I couldn’t imagine not seeing you every day.”
“What was it you said back then? When we became warriors, we’d go off and hunt together, just the two of us.”
Her eyes sparkled with laughter. “That’s because I was afraid you’d beat me in vampire kills if I left you alone.”
I sipped my drink. “And it had nothing to do with the huge crush you had on me?”
“Ha! If anyone had a crush, it was you. You were a lovesick fool that first time.”
“I was a horny teenager, and the prettiest girl I knew wanted to have sex with me.”
When she’d come to me one day and told me she wanted her first time to be with her best friend, my sixteen-year-old self had needed no persuasion. We still laughed over how awkward the two of us had been that first time.
She burst out laughing. “I’ll never forget the look on your face when I asked you. You went from shocked to ‘let’s do it’ in about five seconds.”
“Three. I was trying not to look too eager.”
“God, we were something.” She took my free hand and laced our fingers together. “Sometimes I miss those days. Life was a lot simpler back then.”
“Are you being nostalgic, or is something going on?”
“I’m great, just a little weary, I guess. I’ve been on the road for almost a year. You know how it is.”
“I usually get back to Westhorne every month or two.”
he life of a warrior often took you away from home for long periods, unless you were mated. Mated couples tended to stay closer to home, at least for the first few years. I couldn’t stay in one place for a long time. Neither could Viv, which was one of the reasons both of us were happily unmated, much to our mothers’ mutual despair.
She swirled the amber liquid in her glass. “I was surprised to hear you no longer work solo, and that you and Chris have been partnering on a lot of jobs.”
“Yes. It keeps the Council off my back. Well, almost.”
The Council of Seven was the ruling body for our people, and most of them had their own ideas about how things should be run in the field. They liked everyone to work in teams, and it annoyed them when someone didn’t follow their protocols. I wasn’t on their list of favorite people, and I didn’t lose any sleep over it.
“So where is your partner tonight?” she asked with a smile that said she could already guess what Chris was up to.
She laughed. “Let me guess, not your thing?”
“You could say that. And I wouldn’t pass up a chance to see you.”
Her eyes softened. “You always say the sweetest things, Nikolas Danshov.”
I finished my drink and gave her a small smile. “Keep that to yourself. I have a reputation to protect.”
She grinned. “I’m well aware of your reputation, and I’ll do what I can to keep it safe. But it’s going to cost you.”
“What’s it going to cost?”
She stood and took my glass, setting it on the coffee table with hers. Then she reached for my hands and tugged me to my feet.
She turned to the bedroom. “I’m sure I can think of something.”
* * *