Authors: Michelle Marquis
An Imprint of Whiskey Creek Press LLC
Whiskey Creek Press
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Cover Artist: Noel Hall
Editor: Sara Kent
Printed in the United States of America
Other Books by Author Available at Torrid Books:
The Love Machine
The Siren Warrior Chronicles Series
Over the Moon
Werewolf Mafia Series
A Highly Unsuitable Mate
To all the hardcore romance fans,
love you all
Mikel Hellborne sat in the cool darkness of a stranger’s bedroom and waited. He waited for the most thrilling experience he’d ever known. He waited to kill, to greedily steal another’s life.
Well, what represented life in this world anyway.
Sweet, cold death was the great equalizer. In his mind the specter of Death was like a raptor peering from a rocky cliff seeking her next victim with measured patience. When the moment was right, she would glide down with claws extended and latch onto her guileless victim. Then she would lift them off to be devoured.
Sometimes he felt like Death’s bastard son because he was such an essential part of her wondrous cycle. He was fortunate among his kind for being a dead man that preyed on other dead people. He was a riddle made flesh; a tiny cell in that terrifying she-monster called Death.
His days were not typical of a master vampire. No, his were filled with the soft agony of hunger and waiting. Then that glorious moment would come when he was told there was another undead ready for collection. They were always the same victims; transgressors and outlaws. When he got the call, he’d hold the message in his brain for days feeling the unique joy only a destroyer could have.
The call would bring a new adventure. Through the darkened streets of the city, he’d find the intended, man or woman, young and old, transgressors all. Like a smitten lover, he’d memorize everything about them: the emotions etched on their faces, the unique luster of their hair, and the gait of their walk. He wouldn’t reveal himself because that would ruin the experience. Instead he’d watch and study, memorize and learn. Before he struck he’d know more about them than even their parents had known all those many decades ago. In a strange way this private preparation would evoke a kind of love in him for them. He’d grow fascinated by their uniqueness and habits; he’d become an intimate part of their existence just before he destroyed them.
It was almost time.
Laughter in the hall aroused his murderous instinct. There were two approaching: a woman and a man. The man was the one he wanted, the woman, who was a vampire too, could go free unless she interfered. He almost hoped she would.
Mikel pulled a breath through his nose and smelled the salt of fresh blood under his victim’s flesh. The vampire had recently fed which was a bonus. His heart thundered in his chest chasing stolen blood through his famished veins. It was finally time for the end. He couldn’t wait.
The door opened and light splashed across the room illuminating Mikel as he sat in the corner. His victim left the door open and gaped at him. The woman stood a little behind his victim gripping the doorframe with white knuckles.
“Who are you?” the man asked. His firm tone was fractured with the fear that lay beneath the surface.
Mikel fixed the man with a malevolent stare. “Come now. You know exactly who I am. You know why I’m here too.”
The woman obviously wanted none of this. Without so much as a word to her companion, she bolted from the doorway. Her high heels clattered loudly as she stumbled down the stairs. Only the man was left and he looked like he wanted to run as well. He didn’t though. He knew there was no escape. He’d never outrun his fate.
The savage beast in Mikel’s gut fought to be free. His fangs ached at their roots.
Soon…soon, have patience. This thing can’t be rushed.
The man moved his lips but no words came out. He tried again. “It’s a mistake, a misunderstanding.”
“The Vampire High Council has made its decision. All its resolutions are binding. My hands are tied in this matter. I must carry out the sentence.”
“I have money. I can be astonishingly generous. I’d be glad to pay you if you’d let me disappear.”
Mikel stood. “I couldn’t risk you showing back up here one day.”
The victim squared his shoulders. “I’ll fight to survive.”
“You’re welcome to try. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
Mikel opened his mind up to the subtleties of the space: the frenzied rush of his victim’s blood as it thundered through his veins and arteries, the stink of nervous sweat, the tang of horror. It all aroused and excited him. He rose from the chair taking great care in doing so as if any quick movement might make his prey take flight.
“Help me understand this. What have I done?” the man said.
His voice had taken on a whiny quality that Mikel found very distasteful.
Why was death such a terrifying thing to those who lived in its dark shadow every day? One should learn to embrace and surrender to that which was inevitable. How else could perfection be reached?
The man took an almost imperceptible step back from the doorway. “Have mercy. You could say you never found me.”
“Now why would I do that? You mean nothing to me.”
“Perhaps just give me a few minutes to ready myself.”
Mikel stepped forward. His leather boots creaked in the strain of his movement. “There is no more time.”
“This must be a mistake! You’re making a mistake!”
“No. No error.”
The man gasped. “I don’t want to die.”
Mikel stopped. He cocked his head to the left. “What a fool you are. I have news for you, Jamie. You’re already dead.”
“Don’t toy with me. You understand what I’m saying.”
Mikel smiled and nodded. “I do. I surely do.”
“For the love of God, have mercy.”
“There is no god that would hear your prayers. And as for mercy, I’m afraid I have none to give. But perhaps you are one of the many believers who find comfort from the old ways. If that’s the case, I can give you a second to call upon your god and ask for his forgiveness.”
Anger flared in Jamie’s eyes. “I’ll fight and kill you if I have to.”
Mikel continued to advance. “I’m beginning to wonder if you have it in you. Maybe all you are is a bunch of talk.” Before Jamie could bolt for the door, the vampire seized him. Mikel had moved across the room in a fraction of a second and now had both hands on his victim’s shoulders. Predictably, the musk of panic grew stronger and more pronounced. It sickened him.
“I have to admit, Jamie,” Mikel said, “it’s hard to imagine you as a predator. Can’t you own up to the mistakes you’ve made? Are you blind to your shortcomings? Let this calling overtake you and the pain will be minimal. Why put yourself through so much terror? Surrender to me.”
Jamie slammed his hands into the vampire’s chest. “I won’t surrender! I can’t do it. Don’t you understand that I want to live? Damn you!”
Mikel bared his fangs in a wicked smile. “I’m sorry, Jamie. I’m afraid that is no longer an option.”
The instructor prowled the class casting a critical eye on each student as he passed. “How does one stop bleeding from an arterial wound?”
Andrea Quill knew the answer but stayed quiet. She’d been attracting way too much attention lately and the other students were starting to see her as a show-off. Sometimes it was hard being smart. She wanted to raise her hand but busied it by doodling circles on the last page of her notebook instead. The instructor walked behind her chair with quiet, measured steps. He was waiting for her to shoot her hand up like she usually did. She wasn’t going to though. He’d be disappointed this time. Andrea was determined to let someone else take this hopelessly easy question.
The instructor stopped and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. “Come, come now. You mean to tell me no one knows the answer to this basic question?”
A blond man in front of her raised his hand.
The instructor peered over the top of his horn-rimmed glasses. “Yes, Greg?”
“Place pressure directly on the wound.”
The instructor nodded. “Very good. And then?”
“Hold for several seconds until the bleeding stops.”
“And what if the bleeding doesn’t stop?”
“Continue to apply pressure and get the patient to a medical facility as quickly as possible.”
The instructor circled around another student’s chair. “Should you ever try to give a blood transfusion if you don’t know the victim’s blood type, Lilly?” He paused by her chair.
Her hazel eyes scanned the room as if the answer to the question might be scrawled on the wall somewhere. “Um…can you repeat the question please?”
“Andrea, can you answer the question?”
Unfortunately she could. Well so much for trying to get by one day without looking like a know-it-all. “No you can’t give a transfusion, sir. If you introduce an incompatible blood type into a patient, their body will reject the new blood and cause a reaction.”
The instructor placed a bony hand on her shoulder. His hand was cold and uncomfortable, like forceps. She tried to be still but the sensation made her shiver.
“Excellent, Andrea,” he said with a thin smile. “As for the rest of you, I suggest you all study more. I’d hate for some of you to have to go back for retraining.”
The buzzer sounded indicating class was over for today.
Everyone grabbed their stuff and rushed for the door.
“Don’t forget your reading assignments,” the instructor called after them.
* * * *
“We have a problem,” the school headmaster said.
Bryce took a seat at the far end of the enormous office. He scanned the crowded bookshelves wondering how many of those books the headmaster actually had read. Not very many he’d wager. The headmaster was more of a doer than a thinker, that’s what made him such a successful man. Bryce caressed the carved armrests. “Is your problem a student or an instructor?”
The headmaster sat behind his desk and made a steeple of his fingers. “A student. The problem is a female student.”
“I’m not sure what to do. She’s a smart girl, too smart. We need to break her a little so she respects her betters. If we don’t I fear she might…question things.”
“You know, the way things are, the status quo.”
“Ah.” Bryce pulled out a thin cigar and lit it. He blew a stream of smoke into the air ignoring the headmaster’s scowl. “Hmm…a free thinker. We can’t have that now, can we?”
“This isn’t a joke, Bryce. This girl is dangerous.”
“If she’s such a danger to the establishment then why don’t you kill her?”
“There are those on the Council who like her. Killing her would bring about unpleasant questions. I can’t just kill her.”
Bryce flicked ashes on the Oriental rug. He grinned when the headmaster winced. “What do you propose then?”
“Carla could tame her. I’d feel comfortable turning her over to Carla for her first referral. What do you think?”
Bryce shrugged. “Does this dangerous young woman enjoy the company of other women?”’
“I don’t know,” the headmaster said. He got up to pace. “What difference does it make?”
“If you really want to control her, why not give her to Mikel? He has quite the reputation for bringing free thinkers to heel. I’m sure he can handle your smart little student.”
“What if she falls in love with him?”
“That would be perfect for you. Then Mikel would be able to pay her a visit and pull her back into line if she should ever get any revolutionary ideas.”
The headmaster hesitated. “What about you?”
“Me? Oh no, no, no. I’m booked up for the next few months. One can only deflower so many women in one night, Harry. Besides, Mikel is meaner than I am. I don’t even know why Carla crossed your mind.”
“She contacted me a few days ago during the supplicant auction. She paid for the young woman but, as you well know, the girl must first undergo her initiation before going to her new master. I’m just worried Carla won’t keep a close enough eye on her and the girl might…”