Chapter One Caressed by Shadows
Falcon observed the group of Red Order Hunters that gathered in the ally below. Shadows clung to him, concealing him in their darkness. His prey’s laughter sailed on the wind, their merriment grating his nerves.
Poor bastards, they were peacefully oblivious to the specter of death that stalked them.
The hunters had taken from him, stolen what he loved most in this world. Sonya Rebane, the queen of the Voidukas Clan.
Three weeks. Sonya had endured imprisonment for three weeks and if she had one bruise or a single scratch to mare her smooth skin, he would roast every last Red Order hunter.
His fangs burned as his vision darkened, his gray eyes turning as black as the pits of hell.
Tonight, he would save her. Tonight, he would have Sonya in his arms.
The gentle hum of a car’s engine drifting on the air disrupted his thoughts.
Glancing up at the night sky, Falcon judged it to be about eleven-thirty. It was time for the changing of the guard. He watched as the hunters piled out of the old black van. They fell in line behind their commander, a tall, slender, balding man. He would open the secret door and go down into the dark pit where the cells were located, and where Sonya was being held. The commander was the only hunter permitted to check on the prisoners. Once finished, he would return to the group, close the wall, and take the van back to the soldier’s quarters. They were the only hunters that did not reside underground like the rest of the Red Order.
Falcon moved to the edge of the roof. Tension coiled through his body. Crouching down, he balanced on the balls of his feet. Lightning cut across the sky, the flash causing the chrome of his holstered twin 1911s to sparkle in the darkness.
The witches turned to face the wall. Their commander reached out and pressed a single faded brick. The stone moved revealing a soft glowing blue screen. Falcon’s breath froze in his lungs as he watched the commander flatten his hand on the screen.
Just a few more seconds, he thought. Anticipation knotted his gut.
The sound of scrapping bricks kissed his ears as he watched the wall shift, the bricks drew back revealing the secret entrance and a set of stairs covered in shadows.
His nostrils flared and his lungs expanded as he sucked in a deep breath. The unmistakable, unforgettable scent of fresh lilacs mingled with the putrid smell of waste and dirt.
Sonya was down there.
His fangs burst from their sheaths, long and sharp. His black eyes burned with rage. His Sonya. They had his Sonya and he was going take her back.
Falcon stood, freed his weapons and stepped off the roof, landing silently on the concrete below and stalked toward his prey.
* * * *
“You have brought ruin upon us.”
“No. I’ve brought salvation.”
The hushed voices stung her ears as she slowly came to consciousness. Sonya suppressed a pained moan as the aching of her battered body slammed into her like a speeding semi.
The witches had drugged her and dumped her someplace cold, damp—she took in a deep breath — and dirty. No, dirty did not even begin to describe her foul surroundings. The stench of sewage, sweat, and decay bombarded her senses; the rancid odor nearly choking her.
“What do you hope to gain from kidnapping a royal?”
Sonya’s ears twitched. She recognized that voice.
“An end to this war, Carter. Just like you want.”
Rage sparked an inferno inside her. Samuel.
“I want peace, but what you’ve done…” Carter’s words ended with an exasperated groan.
“You are a dreamer,” Samuel spat. “There can never be peace between the witches and the vampires.”
A long moment of heavy silence passed as Sonya lay unmoving.
“Are traitors,” Samuel snapped. “They are witches who happily consort with the leaches. They will pay for their mistake.”
Sonya forced her heart to remain still as she fought her way out the drug-induced haze.
“This one,” Samuel grunted, his tone laden with disgust. “Has some special connection with the Shaw, which is why I’ve kept her alive.”
Carter cursed. “You’re going to ransom the queen?”
“I plan to offer them a trade.”
“And what do you expect in exchange?”
Samuel hummed as he thought. “I’ve not decided yet. Either a spell, effectively wiping this planet clean of all vampires or I may demand our tribe be given our magic back.”
Sonya bit back a harsh laugh. Her suspicions had been confirmed. She had thought Samuel was an idiot from the first time she saw him at the peace summit the Shaw had held. Now, she also knew he was delusional.
“Our powers are gone,” Carter replied. “Our ancestors traded our magic for strength, so that we would be able to fight the vampires. You know as well as I that magic always has a price.”
“Magic runs in their veins,” Samuel protested, kicking dirt in Sonya’s directions, she felt the dust settle over her. Tiny pebbles hit her back. “They’ve strength and magic.”
“And you know the price they paid. Every vampire was once human. They were normal people, living their lives until evil touched them.” Samuel scoffed but Carter continued, “The strongest vampires are those that ruthlessly struggled to maintain their mortal lives. The harder they fought, the stronger their curse became and thus the more powerful their demon.”
“How dare you victimize those creatures! They are murderers.”
“Not all are cold blooded killers,” Carter protested. “Queen Sonya—”
“Is a cold blood killer. Or have you forgotten how she received the title of Warrior Queen? There was a time when werewolves existed, but she killed them all. Hunted them down and slaughtered them.”
“That was hundreds of years ago. People change.”
“For the love of God, Carter, these things are not people.”
Sonya could sense Samuel’s enraged gaze upon her. It burned into her back like hell fire.
“Do you think it would hesitate before killing you?” Samuel demanded.
Carter remained silent. Sonya could feel the tension that coiled through his body.
“Come. It is almost midnight. The changing of the guard will happen soon and I think it would be best if we let the Commander handle the leech.”
Samuel’s steps reverberated down the hall, but Carter remained.
Sonya gently tilted her head, not wanting to call attention to herself. Her eyelids were slow to lift. She studied the Red Order Council member. He was dressed in faded black jeans, a white button up, and wore polished combat boots. His head hung low as he massaged his brow.
A strange emotion flickered to life within her. She frowned. Could she possibly be feeling sympathy for her enemy? When she had first met Carter, approximately a week before her abduction, she had experienced this same sensation. He, along with Samuel and three other Red Order council members, had been whom the Shaw had summoned to the peace meeting. Carter had pushed for a treaty between the Red Order hunters and the vampires while Samuel outright refused to see reason. At that time, she had hoped against her better judgment that peace could be obtained. Now, she lay in a rank cell, her body bruised and her bloodlust rising. Hunger lurked in her mind like a shadow.
She had not fed in nearly two months. Her injuries and blood loss were not helping matters. Without feeding, her body was slow to heal and her psyche fragile. Bloodlust could easily lead to madness, turning a calm, controlled, and level headed vampire like herself into a glutinous fiend.
She ignored the dry burn of her throat and the hard knot forming in her belly. Sighing, she pushed herself up. Her head throbbed, her vision blurred and her arms nearly gave out. She cursed the hunters. They must have used the vampire equivalent of an elephant tranquilizer on her. Her body felt like dead weight, her bones weak, and her muscles useless. She gritted her teeth and forced through the numbing effect. She had experienced worse. Much worse.
“Your Majesty,” Carter gasped.
Sonya pushed her tangled hair away from her face and leaned back against the wall, the chill of the stone seeped into her bones. The cooling effects helped to dispel her numbness.
Damn it, Silvie, she thought.
The Shaw priestess had assured her that she wouldn’t have to spend much time in captivity. Sonya was beginning to think her definition of “not much time” and Silvie’s varied. And Sonya cursed herself. She had been the idiot who knowingly walked into her enemy’s trap. She smirked as she wondered how Samuel would react if he knew that tiny bit of information. She had known the Red Order planned to ambush and capture her, Silvie had warned her. Samuel may have a plan to strike at the Shaw, but her allies were prepared.
It would seem Samuel had conveniently forgotten that there are those amongst the Shaw who possess the gift of foresight.
“Queen Sonya,” Carter said, drawing her gaze to him. “I’ve only just learned that you were here.”
“And how long have I been here?” she asked.
After being captured in Poland, she had been shuffled across the continent. When they reached Paris, they had placed a black bag over her head and apparently drugged her. Their intention, to keep the location of their stronghold secret, however the Clans knew the witches resided in tunnels under the grand city of London.
“Two days. If I had known, I would have come sooner. You must know that your capture was not supported by the council.”
She had expected as much after overhearing Cater and Samuel’s conversation. Samuel had acted alone, making executive decisions without the approval of the four other council members. But it made no difference. She was imprisoned and the war Carter had hoped would end peacefully would now escalate. Growing more and more violent until the Red Order was no more.
“I’m terribly sorry.”
“For not paying me a visit or for my capture?”
“Both,” he answered.
In a flash of movement, Sonya was at the bars. Her fingers wrapped around the cool metal rods, her nails extending to claws. Carter jumped back. Fear now radiated from the witch, the heady scent heightened her need for blood, thrilling the demon within her.
“Save your apologies for someone who may care.”
She ran her tongue over her teeth. Her fangs throbbed. Her gaze flickered to his pulse. Vampire law forbade the consumptions of Red Order blood, but just a bite—No. Stop!
She forced herself to step back, prying her fingers one by one from the bars. She had experienced worse hunger. She had gone longer than this without feeding.
Focus, she told herself. Remain focused. Revenge and justice will be mine. She shuttered as her old mantra began to play like a beloved nursery hymn in her mind.
“You are sensible man,” she said, turning from the bars. She lowered herself to the dirt floor, pressed her back against the wall, folded her legs Indian style, and willed herself to relax. Bloodlust pumped like poison through her veins. She curled her hands into fists to stop her fingers from twitching.
“If only Samuel could be sensible.”
She shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant despite the tension that gripped her. “I’ve come across hundreds of men like Samuel. He is blinded by his hate, he is hungry for revenge, and because of his selfishness your people suffer.” She paused and gave him a quick once over with her eyes. “But you want what is best for them. You care about their well being and their future.”
“When I became a Councilman, I swore to protect my people.”
Sonya was about to reply when a shiver of awareness raced down her spine. Her hunger had enhanced her senses; sensitized her hearing, sharpened her vision, and heightened her sense of smell. She took in a deep breath. The scent of dirt and sewage were strong, the sweet fragrance of rain was mild, and the stench of hate misted the air — the Commander was heading their way. But there was something else. Something familiar.
She shook her head and said, “Before this little stunt, the Red Order only warred with the Mylonas Clan, now every vampire clan will be out for hunter blood.”
“I don’t believe that. I can’t.” Carter began to pace. “God, this is a mess.” His steps quickened.
Another, more intense shiver tingled along the column of her spine. Sonya closed her eyes and drew in another breath. A subtle scent of natural male cologne tickled her nose and ignited her desires, just as it had for the past two centuries.
Sonya swallowed her gasp and struggled to hide her surprised excitement. She would recognize that scent anywhere. She eyed Carter. He was still pacing and paying no attention to her, thank God. She slowly drew her knees up to her chest and lowered her head, covering her face with her hands.
That delicious scent belonged to only one man. Sir Falcon Kenwrec. He was here. He had come for her.
Thank you, Silvie.
“If only I knew exactly what Samuel plans…” Carter stopped and returned his attention to her. Sonya refused to lift her head, though she could sense his eyes on her. “I will get you out of her, Your Majesty. You should not be held in this dank, depressing hole. I will—”
Carter snapped his mouth shut as the soft thud of boots ricocheted off the cavern walls.
Sonya held her breath and silently prayed Carter nor would the Commander sense Falcon.
“Councilman,” the hunter greeted with a salute. The Commander spared a contemptible glance at Sonya. “It is time for the changing of the guard.”
“And you’ve come to check on the prisoner?” Carter asked, his voice flat and his expression neutral.
“Yes.” He peered over Carter’s shoulder, squinting into the darkness. “You came alone, sir?”
“I did. I wanted to question the prisoner in private.”
“With respect, Councilman, it is unsafe for you to be unguarded in her presence. Royal vamps are incredibly strong, fast, and crafty. Some are even said to have powers of the mind,” the hunter said.
“I’m aware, Commander,” Carter replied. “I came knowing you would be arriving shortly. Now, will you accompany me to the lift? I would like to discuss some changes I want made in regards to the prisoner.”
Yes, go. Go! Sonya wanted to scream. Biting her lip, she kept silent. Sonya’s body tensed, preparing to run, to fight, to escape. God, Falcon was here. Ever since she had been captured she had wondered if she would ever see the Black Knight again. Fate in all her glory and wisdom had brought him to her and Sonya would be forever grateful.
“Sir, I’ve men waiting up top.”
Leave. Blood filled her mouth as her teeth sliced her lower lip. Still, she did not make a sound.
“It will only take a few moments,” Carter insisted.
The commander nodded. Carter did not look at or say another word to her. He turned and led the man down the shadow-dominated hall.
Amanda J. Greene is a paranormal romance author. When she is not writing, she can found playing the role of a university student who also works full time at a cosmetology school. She lives in Southern California with her very supportive husband and their two dogs, a sweet cocker spaniel and a rambunctious blackmouth cur mix. Doing all the above and being a military wife is not easy, but rewarding! Of course, she accomplishes everything with a strong cup of coffee in her hand.
Find Amanda and her books
Caressed by Shadows
Rulers of Darkness #4
Black Knight, Falcon Kenwrec is powerful, relentless, and fiercely loyal, his only allegiance – to his king. But he is torn between duty and desire when the war between the vampire clans and the Red Order hunters escalates and the enemy captures the one woman he longs to claim as his own, Sonya Rebane, Queen of the Voidukas Clan. Falcon will risk everything to save her, even if it means forsaking his king.Book Trailer http://youtu.be/K05NTvxL9tU
After weeks of imprisonment, Sonya is stunned when the chivalrous knight that she has secretly loved from afar appears outside her cell. As they fight and struggle to elude their enemies, they must battle their overwhelming attraction for each other and their love that is forbidden.
As every perilous moment draws them closer together, every smoldering kiss drives them to the brink of a passionate destruction. Will they be able to resist temptation? Or will their love be their ruin?