Vampire's Soul Cover

Book XIV of the Vampire Queen Series

(While this title can stand alone, recommend first two books of series or one of the earlier standalones, like Beloved Vampire, to gain familiarity with the Vampire Queen world)

Release Date September 30, 2017

 

Loss left them only rage...Until they found each other…

Cai doesn’t want to be with anyone. He doesn’t want a damn servant, he doesn’t want to be associated with damn vampires. Rand just wants to forget his human side, stay in his wolf form and find a satisfying and hopefully violent, bloody way to bring it all to an end.

But when a young female vampire’s life is at stake, the Vampire Council drafts Cai to enter a dark world he never wanted to visit again. Rand is too honorable to let him go alone, and the only way that can work is if he’s Cai’s fully marked servant, bound to the vampire for all eternity.

So fate decides these two lost souls need each other. Even if they have to tear each other apart to figure it out.

Excerpt

© Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

 

Something was wrong.

Cai paused. No stars in the sky tonight, no moon. Heavy cloud cover and he could smell the weight of a storm brewing within it. He hoped it was a violent one, with thunder that vibrated through the ground as lightning split the sky and rain lashed the earth. The forest creatures would take shelter while he would stand in its fury, defy heaven or hell to show their fucking selves and bring the fight to him. There was no stillness or peace in pain. Only the din of violence drowned out everything else.

Yeah, I’m in a bitch of a mood. Which only happened on days that ended in y. He frowned. What the hell day was it? Wednesday? What did it matter? In the wilds he preferred, time was about day or night, winter or summer.

It wasn’t like he had a dinner date or a dentist appointment. Hey doc, polish up the fangs for me. Come close, let me hear that bass drum beat in your throat. His eyes half shut as the thought bumped up his hunger for bloody mayhem.

About time to feed again. Last time, he’d swallowed his distaste for more human-populated areas to forage in the nearest town, which was about twenty-five miles away. That had been nearly a month ago. Within the past several weeks, no hiker or hunter had unwisely yet conveniently chosen to be out this deep alone when he needed blood. So another meal was due.

He drew in a deep breath, taking in the heat. In the mountains of West Virginia, it was closing in on fall, but summer’s heat was lingering. The day’s warmth still lay heavy on everything. A storm might cool things off. In a couple of ways.

He turned, his brow creasing. It was more than the impending storm, within and without. Something really was off. Wrong. Someone else’s pain, a vibration of it so strong it thrummed through his nerves, tightened his gut. Empathy wasn’t big on his list of personality traits, but curiosity was another matter. Paying attention often brought opportunity.

Following instinct, he cut off the deer path and moved, silent and swift, through the thick woods, emerging onto a more beaten track. Hunters used it most often, scouting out deer and other game, depending on the season. Dropping to his heels, he cocked his head, his senses open and sharp. He worried the rough sides and steel point of his one prosthetic fang with his tongue, an unconscious habit.

Then he scented human, and the still attached and very real fang on the other side of his mouth lengthened.

One, alone. His lips curved in a grim smile. Dinner had delivered itself. As he rose and moved without sound through the woods, all other mental meanderings stopped, a single focus taking over. While hunting, nothing would escape his notice, from the shift of a squirrel in her nest twenty feet above his head, to the rasp of a snake moving over the earth before it glided into creek water, splitting the water currents like its serpentine body.

It didn’t take long. With his speed, he closed in on his prey fast. He normally didn’t prolong the stalking phase of things. He had no interest in playing that game. But as he perched in the crotch of a tree and studied his meal, he realized the hunter, his rifle at the ready and with night goggles in place, was following something.

A blood trail. It came to Cai with the wind shift and explained why the hunter was still out after dark. It was illegal for him to hunt after dark, but apparently what he’d shot had gotten away and he was willing to bend the law to ensure he hadn’t left something injured. Cai could respect that. When he got ready to kill this guy, he’d accord him the same respect.

Course, that didn’t say anything about his own respectability. He pretty much made all his kills fast. While he knew vampires who liked toying with their prey, because they claimed the fear and suffering gave the blood an extra kick, he guessed he had a more bland palate. He had no more interest in tormenting his prey than a human would his Domino’s pizza.

This guy’s prey had led him on a good chase, and he was damn persistent, because to stay within the bounds of hunting regs, he would have had to made his shot a certain length of time before sundown. It wasn’t like Cai needed to be up on West Virginia hunting regulations, but the last time he’d taken a hunter, the man had had a copy of the manual in his pack. Cai had whiled away some time reading, just for the hell of it. It would have been nicer if the guy had had a thriller or mystery tucked in the multiple pockets, but you took what you could get out here. And he’d been carrying some Skittles, which had been a tasty dessert.

The hunter he was following now stilled. He raised the rifle, not to shoot, but to look through the scope. He whistled and straightened, abandoning stealth. “Fucking hell. You’re not a bear. Holy shit.”

His deep voice was tinged with excitement. “Can’t fucking believe it. A wolf in West Virginia. Look at the size of you, you beautiful son of a bitch.”

The wind picked up, and Cai stiffened. That wrongness, a wall of it, impacted him like a baseball bat trying to hit a home run with his jaw. The blood he was smelling wasn’t human. Nor vampire. Wolf smell for certain. But he’d smelled wolf before and this had something else to it.

Magic.

Cai eased forward, closing the ground between him and his target until he could see the small clearing where the man had emerged, and what had caused his anticipation. He was no more than five feet from the man, but the human’s attention was riveted on his prey. Cai didn’t blame him. His gaze went there, too.

The dark form was as large as a fully grown male black bear, which explained why the hunter had mistaken him for one. Now, though, the creature’s head was arched back, so the triangular shape of the ears and the long nose were visible, as well as the bushy tail limply curved along the bumpy earth. The wolf was black with only a spare peppering of silver and brown strands in his pelt. He was a piece of the night himself.

But Cai could see in darkness as well as he could in light. Better, in some ways, because the body’s energy was more distinguishable to him. The animal’s form throbbed with a miasma of pain. He knew the feeling a living being emanated when its life was about to end. Fear, pain. Adrenaline. Sometimes a brief flash of anger.

What he felt from this creature wasn’t a brief flash. There was pain, yes, but no fear. Only rage. The hunter thought the wolf was dead because he wasn’t moving. But his chest wasn’t rising and falling because the wolf was taking measured, shallow breaths, to fool his tracker.

The hunter was about to become the hunted, and he didn’t even know it.

Cai settled back into the tree foliage to watch. He would have his dinner, but who passed up dinner and a show for the same price?

The hunter approached cautiously, proving he knew his trade, and poked the wolf sharply with the muzzle of the gun, still holding it in a ready position. The body gave limply, no movement.

“The guys aren’t going to freaking believe this. A wolf. Where’d you come from, buddy? Think if I take you to the wildlife cops, they’ll still let me keep your pelt? Yeah, right.” He snorted to himself. “Well, far as they and everyone else knew, wolves are extinct in these parts. My guess is you escaped from a roadside zoo. But you look too damn healthy for that.”

The hunter straightened and considered the motionless creature. “Man, you are a beauty. I’ll stretch my girl out on your fur in front of a fire next winter and she’ll love the way it feels against all her pretty skin. Going to be a bitch to get you back to the truck, though. You led me on a pretty damn good chase. Think I’m going to have to use my Boy Scout training and make a litter.”

Yeah, keep talking. The more he talked, the more motionless the wolf became. Humans couldn’t see how dense energy became with a self-imposed stillness, that waiting to strike. But a vampire could. It was as clear to Cai as if the wolf was tying a napkin around his neck and picking up a fork and spoon, like Sylvester getting ready to dine on Tweety.

Wolves were smart, but not that smart. And they weren’t that large either, particularly in a state where the species was thought to be gone, hunted to extinction decades ago. Cai opened his senses further to the magic. Contrary to popular human belief, most vampires didn’t really have much magical ability beyond some hypnotic compulsion skills. However, because they left their senses far more open to the other worlds than humans, the presence of magic wouldn’t go unnoticed. Cai wasn’t sure what the wolf’s deal was, but it posed no immediate challenge to him, so he’d hang around and satisfy his curiosity. Plus, the wolf could do the work of taking down his meal, before Cai embraced the challenge of taking it from him.

The hunter set his rifle aside, leaning it against a tree, and started to scout around for branches to put the litter together. That was when the wolf lunged from the ground.

He sprang like a mountain lion from his resting position, impressing Cai with the power of it. But the concussion of energy that rippled outward from the wolf told Cai how much effort it took. Magic or not, the beast was wounded. Blood had matted and soaked the fur on his haunch, leaving a muddy puddle beneath him. He had been shot, and it was a serious injury. Perhaps fatal out here.

It wasn’t stopping him.

He was large enough that his paws landed on the hunter’s shoulders as he slammed into his back, throwing him to the ground. The hunter let out a surprised shout, but he proved he was no lightweight. He’d drawn a knife to cut branches, and he had his arm up to take the brunt of the wolf’s first bite as he managed to flip and sought the wolf’s unprotected side with the knife. The first strike hit the ribs and glanced off, though it tore flesh. The wolf snarled and took his own trophy, eliciting a scream as his powerful jaws snapped the bone and ripped out a chunk of flesh. He pulled back, shoved his great head under the male’s now useless arm, and went for the throat.

It was an ugly struggle of less than five seconds. The wolf laid open the throat all the way to the cervical column. The man’s death throes were short, his soul light blinking out like a popped bulb.

Well, hell. Cai preferred the carotid because the blood taste there was best, but the wolf had made a mess of that area. He supposed he could do the femoral or the wrist. But he needed to be quick about it, because necrophilia wasn’t his thing. If he was taking blood from a corpse, it wasn’t going to be over ten minutes dead, because after that it was like eating days-old rotted food.

Cai rose and emerged from his cover. The wolf sprang up and around, standing over the body, teeth bared and eyes glowing. Cai noticed he was favoring the back leg, clawed toes curled and barely brushing the ground. The hunter’s blade had also found a couple new entry points, because blood spatter was hitting the ground with the animal’s movements.

Cai obligingly bared his own fangs at the display of aggression. “That’s my dinner, bitch,” he growled. “You’re probably going to die anyway, so get the hell away from it. Go find a place to lick your wounds. I don’t want to hurt you.”

The wolf’s lip lifted as the rumble in his throat became a full-volume snarl. His expression was clear. You and what army, motherfucker?

Cai appreciated courage, especially when it wasn’t false bravado. The wolf was injured, badly enough he probably wasn’t hungry. It was the principle of the thing. His kill, no one else’s. Cai could respect that opinion. What could he say? He respected the hunter, he respected the wolf. He was a respectful kind of guy. But he had no intention of being denied what he wanted.

The wolf’s rage was cocked and ready to go, and Cai also understood that feeling all too well. He didn’t usually find it in an animal, because animals didn’t waste time on manifesting their baggage the way humanoids did. Attack was all about prey or fear. Sometimes play.

This wolf wasn’t in a playful mood. He’d let a hunter believe he was tracking him, and he’d set him up. Now he was ready to take on Cai over rights to feed that he wasn’t likely to live long enough to enjoy. Even now, he was starting to sway.

That wave of magic hit Cai again. Cai stiffened, his gaze darting around the clearing while he kept the lion’s share of his attention on the wolf, in case he decided to spring as he had with the hunter. Instead, the wolf sank to an elbow, slowly, visibly fighting the compulsion, and then he was literally knocked to his side by forces Cai couldn’t see. His head arched back and a strangled howl tore from his throat. He was struggling against something, with a determined ferocity that told Cai he might have to work harder for his dinner than he’d anticipated.

Cai drew closer, and the wolf’s eyes focused on him, crazed, despairing. Furious. Cai stopped. One blue eye, one gold. Then they closed and the animal convulsed, body rippling as if water moved under the skin. He heard the crack of bone and the wolf snarled, pain and frustration.

Holy shit… It couldn’t be.

A fucking shifter.

There were rumors of their existence, so unsubstantiated they could be called fairy tales. Yet being a vampire, and knowing that a lot of what humans called imaginary creatures could exist, Cai wasn’t in the habit of asserting something couldn’t, just because he hadn’t seen it. Even so, he’d never heard of anyone who’d seen a wolf shifter.

He was seeing one now.

The magical energy cocooned the wolf like rope, tightening, pulling his body in multiple directions. If every shift was this brutal, Cai had no idea why any wolf shifter would do so voluntarily, and maybe they didn’t. But he had to wonder if the wolf’s obvious ferocious struggle against the transition was making it even more excruciating.

Maybe he thought he was more vulnerable to Cai in that form. He probably was, but…

Cai drew closer. The wolf seemed almost insensible to him now, so he dropped to his heels next to him and laid a hand on his fur. The covering felt much thinner, like a silk scarf instead of a thick pelt. That scarf was about to tear.

The magic coiled around the shifter snapped away like a whip, striking Cai with stinging heat before it dis-apparated the wolf. It had been gradual and then sudden, all at once. He was staring at a man lying against the corpse of another, their blood mixed together and soaking the earth beneath them.

Fuck.

Cai’s gaze traveled over the shifter. As a wolf, he’d been as big as a black bear. As a human, he kept the same impressive build. Snarled, long brown hair tangled over extremely broad shoulders, his wide chest covered with a temptingly thick mat of gleaming chestnut that arrowed down to cock and balls, tree trunk thighs. In the naked male’s position, sprawled on one hip, Cai had a good view of his ass.

An ass worth saving, noted his dick.

Why hadn’t the wolf just shifted to human when he was out of range of the hunter’s sight? When the hunter stumbled on the wolf in wounded human form, he might have been curious about why the shifter was naked, but guilt over thinking one his bullets might have missed his supposed bear and hit a camper would have made him set questions aside, get the shifter to help. Unless, like vampires, hospitals and doctors were pretty much out of the question because of the anatomical differences.

Reviewing the evidence of the past few moments, Cai discarded that as the reason the shifter hadn’t used that ruse. He’d wanted the hunter to catch up to him. He’d wanted to take him out. Cai remembered the look in the wolf’s eyes as he’d sprung. He’d wanted the fight.

“Take my blood, vampire,” the male growled. His voice was rough, broken, as if unused. “Take all of it. I’m dying. Might as well finish it."

Well, vampires might not have realized wolf shifters existed, but this one knew enough about vampires to identify one. Cai had no idea what shifter blood would do to a vampire, but it smelled just as appetizing as the human’s. More so. Cai didn’t spend a lot of time worrying over those things. If he died from drinking it, he died. No great loss, as long as it was his choice.

That was the philosophy he saw in the shifter’s eyes now. He knew he was dying, and he wanted it to happen according to his own terms. He’d taken out the predator who’d gotten him first, and he’d given the vampire permission to drink from him, despite knowing he could do little to stop Cai. It was another point of pride, like defending his prey against Cai.

A lot of balls on this one. Literally. Cocking his head, Cai gave them a leisurely look.

The shifter noticed him noticing. Cai stiffened as a hand that could probably palm a cantaloupe reached for his face, but there was no harm in it. The male brushed blood-stained fingers over Cai’s lips and his own mouth curved in a humorless smile. Even bloody and dirty, those lips were sensual, firm. He wound his fingers in Cai’s hair, nowhere near as long as the wolfman’s, but long enough to take a good grip, and he put pressure there.

“There’s nothing else once the dark closes in. We both know it. Give me something good before there’s nothing.”

Under the rusty quality, his voice had a melodic, deep woods hillbilly kind of sound, and Cai’s ears reacted to it like his taste buds did to fresh, heated blood. Cai was pretty sure he knew what the male meant, but the shifter removed all doubt when somehow he lifted his weakened, bleeding body enough to wrap his arm around Cai’s shoulders and bring his mouth close. Cai caught up, cupping the back of his head, tangling in the brown hair that was thick and soft as his pelt. He tightened his grip.

“Hold still, and I will,” he ordered, meeting his gaze. As a human, both the shifter’s eyes were blue, with gold flecks and a gold ring around them. Extraordinary and mesmerizing. Full of dull pain and raging need. The pain wasn’t from his wounds. Cai knew that kind of pain, the empty agony of a loneliness well beyond fixing.

However, in response to Cai’s order to be still, the shifter’s lips curled in an appealing fuck-you sneer which teased Cai’s dominant instincts to bust-your-ass level. Even so, he wasn’t going to deny a dying man. Not when the request served his own interests.

He brought his mouth to the other man’s, stopped just short and stared into those feral eyes. “What’s your name?” he growled. He didn’t question why he wanted to know, but when the guy died, he wanted to remember him. Wanted to think of him with a name attached.

“Rand.”

“Easy enough. Cai.”

No need to be tentative or gentle about it, and that wasn’t what the wolf wanted anyway. When Cai brought his mouth against those sensual, blood-stained lips, strong fingers dug into Cai’s shoulders. The sound the male made in Cai’s mouth was so split between human and animal, Cai’s cock hardened to lead pipe from the first touch.

Hellfire… Yeah, there might not be anything after, but that was because somebody had tipped divine flame out of the heavens and given it all to this male’s mouth. Cai’s blood hunger disappeared, swallowed by a far different kind of greed. He didn’t give a damn what was offered willingly beyond the kiss. He was going to have it all.

Heat, a slick agile tongue that played with Cai’s canines in a provocative way no dying man should have been cognizant enough to do. But hell, if he was dying, what better thing was there to spend his energy toward? His hands slid over Cai’s hair, his neck, his shoulders, down to his biceps and gripped him as if he wouldn’t ever let go. Cai broke that grip and pushed him to his back, away from the hunter and against the brown earth. He stretched over him so he could clasp his jaw and throat and kiss him as deep and long as he desired. He allowed the male’s touch to keep purchase on his upper arm and side, but the position made it clear Cai was the one in control.

He saw the flicker in the blue eyes, the need and lust. As well as a hopeless surrender that tore into Cai’s chest and opened up the wounds he kept closed with the help of solitude and regular doses of violence.

Sex could be violent.

It was only when he dropped his hand to the man’s bare hip to grip with possessive demand and the man stiffened, that he remembered. Hell, he was mortally wounded.

Well, fuck that. This bastard was living, even if Cai had to turn him into a vampire to do it. He shifted his hold to his cock, fingers wrapping around it. Despite his injuries, hell, it was semi-erect. Even at half-mast, there was way more than a handful to play with. The blue eyes darkened, a flash of surprise among the residual simmering ferocity. “You aren’t dying,” Cai said. “Your ass belongs to me.”

Sparks of rebellion delivered another straightforward fuck-you message, and then the wolf shifter lost consciousness.


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