Here is chapter 1 of Blood at Stake!
Security was tight tonight for the Krieger wedding of the century. Men were posted on a catwalk that ran the top of the brick wall that surrounded the Krieger mansion. At least I wouldn’t need to worry about my child’s safety.
Charity wasn’t my biological child, but our relationship was damn near close to that. You see, I found her a very long time ago laying in a pile of dead leaves and her own blood. I couldn’t let that young woman die there, so I did something I said I’d never do. I changed her into a creature of the night. I took away her sun. I turned her into a vampire.
Thankfully, she was more happy that she was alive than dead. Over time, we had become as close as sisters, best friends for eternity. Recently, the town we lived in, Port Royal, was overrun with Lycans, and they had attacked many humans and vampires in the area. Fortunately, we were able to save them with a potion from a local witch. During those horrible few weeks, my Charity had found her mate. He was man she’d dreamt of when she was human.
Dragus was a warrior of the highest esteem and also the head Krieger for Port Royal. He’s a perfect match for her, and for that, I was happy. They truly deserved each other. The Joining ceremony was everything she’d hoped for in a wedding. “A fairytale in the making” was what I’d heard from most of the crowd here tonight.
“May I have this dance?” I looked up at the warrior who’d stopped next to my chair. Rowland must’ve noticed me staring after Ashby, the warrior I’d been lusting over the past several months, and came to my rescue.
“Sure, Rowland,” I nodded, casting a quick glance around, looking for the man who’d sat at our table during the reception, but hadn’t stayed long. I was saddened that he quickly returned to his post without even a backwards glance in my direction.
“I’m sorry he had to work tonight,” Rowland said, clasping my small hand in one of his as he guided me onto the dance floor.
“It’s okay,” I sighed, placing my other hand on the top of his massive shoulder. “It wasn’t a date.”
“No, it wasn’t, but he should’ve asked you to dance at least once,” he frowned, the scar in his lip pulling his bottom lip at an odd angle. “I would’ve covered for him.”
“That’s very sweet of you, Rowland,” I smiled, patting the top of his arm. “I’m fine, really. I think I’m going to head out anyway.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, twirling me around and capturing my waist with his large hand, dipping me so far back that I laughed loudly at his antics. The big ass Krieger was trying to make my night better, and I appreciated him for trying.
“Yes,” I smiled. “Thank you for the dance, Rowland. You are a good friend.”
“You are very welcome,” he said, looking over my shoulder. A mischievous glimmer in his gaze had me trying to turn my head in the direction of his gaze, but he pulled me close and continued to dance.
“What?” I began, but my question died on my lips as Rowland twirled me away from his body, just the tips of our fingers left touching, before he curled his hand into mine to pull me back into his arms. During my unexpected dance move, I noticed Ashby standing at the corner of the room, blood filled his eyes and his hands were clenched tight at his sides. An angry tick worked his jaw.
“He is an idiot,” Rowland whispered.
“He has a job to do,” I sighed. “Thank you Rowland, but I’m ready to go home.”
“Okay,” he said, stopping his dance to bow at the waist. “Thank you for the dance, Ms. Duncan.”
“Thank you, Krieger,” I curtsied, giggling when he winked.
I quickly gathered my things as Rowland excused himself to go speak to two other warriors who were here from a town not far from Port Royal. It was early in the morning when the mating ceremony for Charity and Dragus ended, so I made my way to the front of the mansion in preparation to leave.
As I walked toward my car, I noticed the guards scattered across the front lawn. The men were posted all throughout the grounds. Some were dressed in standard warrior clothing, black cargo pants and a black cotton shirt, others in tuxedos to blend in with the mass of people gathered for the occasion.
I wouldn’t say that I was jealous, but it did sadden me that I was walking out of these gates alone. Who doesn’t get a little depressed when you go to a wedding without a date? Ashby and I sat at a table together during the reception, but by no means was this a date. We talked, maybe even flirted a little, but as with the life of a Krieger, he was on duty and in charge of the security for tonight’s event. So our time together was short lived, and I was a little miffed that he didn’t even ask me to dance. I’d spent most of the evening stealing glimpses of him as he worked.
The warrior Ashby was complete male perfection. Short blonde hair highlighted his sharp features. His pale, ivory skin was toned…muscular. Many times in the past, I’d stared at him when he wasn’t looking, trying to figure out if his skin felt as smooth as it looked. His hands told a story of hardship from the thickness and strength that radiated off of them. They’re large and everything he handled was with skill. I often wondered how they would handle me. There was something about that warrior that had me feeling drawn to him in some weird way. Even the dragon tattoo on his neck called to me as if it saw something deep inside my soul and wanted to protect me.
Every warrior was given the mark of a Krieger when they were chosen to protect our race. The tattoo of a dragon was placed upon their necks by our queen. She oversaw and approved every warrior that ever lived. When she’d marked Charity’s guard at the wedding, I was stunned at her abilities. With just the press of her hand, a dragon tattoo appeared on Adam’s neck, officially boosting him into the ranks of a warrior.
I shook myself out of my thoughts and walked toward my car. With a sigh, I tapped the button to release the locks. When I reached for the door, a hand slipped past me and grabbed the handle before I could do it myself.
“Ms. Duncan,” Rowland nodded while opening my door. I saw his eyes flicker to the front of the mansion, and I knew he was only doing this to get under Ashby’s skin. “I hope that you had a nice time.” Bless him. He was a soft hearted man, even though he had a scar that ran from the bottom of his ear and under his chin that came up through his lip. He looked menacing, but nothing else about the warrior would cause you to be afraid of him.
His Krieger tattoo, on the same side of the scar, was placed on top, hiding most of the damage that obviously happened to him as a human. He kept his light red hair loose, and it hung right at his chin. The vampire was stunning despite his obvious deformity. His eyes were different from anything I’d ever seen. They were a stunning crystal blue, but the rims were black as coal and seemed to thicken depending on his mood. Right now the trim was thinner, more normal.
“Thank you, Rowland. It was a lovely ceremony.” I tossed my purse on the passenger seat and climbed in, “Have a good night, Krieger.” With a wink, he closed my door and nodded politely. As I drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Ashby on the porch to the mansion. He was standing there at attention, and boy did he look mad.
Was he mad because Rowland was being nice? Why in the world would he be mad? Ashby had never shown any interest in me all of those times that he would escort me to the hospital or over to Charity’s during the curfew a few months ago.
Except for the past few weeks. He had been plenty nice when we’d run into each other, and I had this crazy idea, a few days ago, that he may like me more than just a friendship. But then again, he hadn’t tried to hold my hand, make a pass at me of any kind, or even ask me out on a date. He had my phone number and had never called for anything personal. Only to inform me that he would be picking me up at Charity’s request.
The man was frustrating and sexy as hell. My hormones were all in a knot over what could be…or maybe it was just my stupid female head getting the best of me.
My super hearing picked up the sound of a growl, low and deep, coming from the direction of the house. I checked the porch again and saw Ashby clenching his fists, his body vibrating from anger. “What the hell is wrong with him?” I growled in frustration.
When I turned around, I saw the gates to the main road were open. I punched the gas pedal a little too hard, and my car jerked forward. I didn’t bother letting off the gas and looking like an idiot. I pressed down harder and sped down the driveway, throwing rocks in the process. My little blue Mercedes would probably have chips in the paint, but I really didn’t care what it looked like. Ashby was being an ass, and I needed to get out of there.
Instead of going home, I drove over to Nights, the club I owned with Charity. The clock on the dash said the time was only two-thirty in the morning, so I had plenty of time to do some paperwork.
The club was vacant because we did not open due to the wedding. I parked and made my way to the back door. The parking lot was lit, and for some reason it was almost too quiet. I stopped suddenly, when I heard a slight rustling to my left. My nostrils flared as I tested the air. My superhuman senses realized something wasn’t right. The predator in me automatically tensed in preparation of something bad. Scenting the air again, I realized that it was not a vampire I scented and definitely not Lycan or Hybrid. It was human.
The hair on the back of my neck prickled, and I spun around, grabbing for the door as pain bloomed at the back of my neck. Warmth spread from that point out to my arms, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that I’d been shot.
My eyes blurred as I turned around and found two males coming at me fast. They were definitely human, and the first thing I noticed was that they had huge stakes hanging off their belts. I heard a whooshing sound, and a small stake pierced me in the middle of my chest, thankfully missing my heart. I growled out a curse, swinging my head around to see how many people were coming for me.
A younger man carried a black bag, like doctors used to use back years ago. I tried to use my right arm to feel my injuries, but it didn’t cooperate. I reached up with my working arm and felt the back of my head. From the agonizing burning, I knew the bullet must’ve been wooden, but it wasn’t Hawthorne. This burning was worse than that horrible wood that vampires are highly allergic to and could poison, if not kill, my kind.
My hand came away sticky with my own blood. The coppery smell fired my senses, causing my stomach to clench with the need to feed and repair my body from the bullet wound.
My attackers advanced on me as I tried to return to my feet. Blood filled my eyes and my fangs burned as they thickened in my mouth. Humans were not prey, but at the moment, I wanted their blood.
The first one was older, probably in his fifties, bald and a little pudgy. He grinned slowly and said, “Hey, Jerry! We got us a vampire! Bring me the vial.” He reached for me, and even in my weakened state, I hissed in warning, the predator in me poised ready to fight. The human paused for a moment. I could’ve sworn I saw fear on his face, but he quickly righted his features and continued to pull on my arm.
The one named Jerry ran up looking downright pissed off. “Damn, Dad! You gotta get ‘em in the heart.” Jerry was about twenty years younger than his father and resembled him perfectly. Except, Jerry still had his own hair and his was brown. Both of them had eyes the color of dark chocolate and dressed in black cargo pants and long sleeved black shirts.
“We need her blood,” the father yelled at his son. “They said they needed her vampire blood.”
I screamed, “B…bastard.” It was hard to breathe. The jackass turned and staked me again, but this time in the shoulder. The burning from the wood impaled in my body caused me to stumble, and I fell to the ground, hoping they’d get within a few inches of my teeth.
“Don’t move you damn bloodsucker,” Jerry cursed.
They stood over me for several minutes, judging my ability to attack them. Or, shall I say, my inability!
The father’s hands shook as he rummaged through the black bag. I heard the glass vials moving around in there and I knew that I couldn’t let them have my blood. I had to fight them, but at the moment, I was incapable of lashing out at them. I was getting weak. A weak vampire was worthless…and could end up dead very easily.
Headlights suddenly rounded the corner, and a vehicle I recognized screeched to a halt. Meadow – our waitress who was just learning her talents into seeing the future – jumped out of her car and ran straight for me. The panicked look on her face changed into one of rage at seeing these men over me.
“Run!” I screamed, but it came out more as a garbled moan than a demand.
Meadow hissed, her eyes filling with blood as she rammed Jerry, knocking him off his feet. The father produced a gun, aiming it at her head. “I will kill you. These bullets are wooden, you crazy bitch.”
She stopped a few feet from me, but couldn’t edge any closer, because the dad pulled the hammer back on the gun, showing us that he meant business.
“You better run humans,” she growled. I saw her hands shaking with nervousness, but I wasn’t going to point out that she was the shyest person I knew and probably wouldn’t know how to protect herself in an altercation. She was doing mighty fine holding her own at the moment.
Both Jerry and his father scrambled to gather their things, making fast time getting into their old, brown pickup truck. As I tried to right myself, my weakened body collapsed in a heap on the ground. My beautiful dress was ruined. The bastards laughed loudly as they drove out of sight.
“Lydia,” Meadow cried. She reached for me, pulling me to the back door by my good arm.
“Call…my…Nachtmann,” I growled. Once she dropped me, I used my good arm to reach into my pocket for my cell phone, handing it to her.
“Calling for help,” she said, as she dialed a number.
“Hurry, please,” I tried to swallow, but my throat was dry. I was quickly losing blood, and I needed a replacement supply….like yesterday. I curled up on my side as best as I could with all of these damn stakes protruding from my body. Blood trickled down my neck from the bullet wound that was starting to itch.
It was soon obvious that she’d dialed 111, our emergency hotline for all things vampire. I could strangle the little bitch. I was fine. The pain would go away if I could just dig out the bullet and pull out the stakes.
“Yes, my name is Meadow Parks. My boss has been shot and staked at her business. It Nights, a club down by the river. Yes, ma’am. I’ll stay.” She hung up the phone and said, “They’re coming, Ms. Lydia. Hold on.”
“You know,” I paused to take a small breath of air. “I’d be much better if you could pull this stake out of my chest and shoulder. Help me dig out the damn bullet while you are at it.” Meadow looked abashed for a moment.
“Is it safe to do that? You may bleed out,” she argued.
“That’s why I wanted you to call my Nacthmann,” I growled, my fangs sharp against my lip. “One of them would have fed me so I could heal.”
“You need a hospital,” she scowled. “Can I give you some of my blood? Will it help until they get here?” She was offering me her blood, and I really needed it, but that would just be awkward. She was just a child, sort of. It was weird, taking blood from an employee. I’m fairly certain there were some rules against that like harassment or something.
“No,” I panted, then hissed as the bullet in my neck sizzled. (Yes, I heard it!) “I think I can wait.” I frowned to myself when I heard sirens coming. Whoever she called was moving at top speed to get to us. Honestly, it was just a little wound. I’d be okay.
“Lydia,” a familiar voice called out.
It was him…Ashby.
He was here for me and somehow it made me realize everything was going to be okay. Right now wasn’t the best time to get all girly over the warrior, but damn, I just wanted to let him hold me. What the hell, Lydia!
“Over here,” Meadow called out.
When Ashby turned the corner, shock set in, and I started to shake. The bloody tears I’d been holding back finally fell over my lids, making a warm trail down my cheeks. My teeth chattered uncontrollably as I reached a hand out for him. Ashby dropped to his knees beside me and immediately started checking my wounds.
“Oh, doll,” he growled. “Who did this to you?” He placed his hands on the side of my face, and the worry in his eyes made me cry even harder. My vision took on a reddish hue, due to the blood in my tears. I really hated that I was crying, but given the situation I was in, all I could do was cry. It didn’t help that the warrior was showing me sympathy. He was only doing his job, but a little part of me hoped that he was doing it because he cared. Ok, I’m lying. A big part of me wished that he was doing it because he liked me.
“H…humans,” I gasped, when the bullet sizzled again. “Please pull out the stake, Ashby. It…it hurts.”
Bastian arrived and moved Meadow out of the way as he set down a medical bag. Opening it up, he removed gauze and tape. I groaned when I realized that this was going to hurt worse than when the damn thing went in.
“We have an ambulance coming, Ms. Duncan,” Rowland began. “We are going to pull out the stake so that your accelerated healing can begin, but you’re going to need blood and stitches. Do you know who your maker is?”
My heart lurched and a new round of tears began. “My maker is deceased.”
“I’ll feed her,” Ashby blurted, to my surprise.
“You don’t have to feed me, Ashby,” I scowled. I sure didn’t want him to put himself out.
Ashby sat back on his heels and pulled me up to him. He turned me on my side, and I heard his flesh open as he used his fangs to bite into his own wrist. The smell of warrior blood hit my senses, and I growled with the need to feed. My predator instincts kicked into overdrive, and when his wrist appeared at my face, I struck with the speed of a snake. I felt him tense behind me, then his large body relaxed. For a split second, I felt his erection pressing at my back. He shifted to a more comfortable position, thinking I didn’t notice…but I did. Oh, boy did I ever notice! Wowza!
“Pull the stake out, Rowland. She’d occupied with feeding,” he said, but I ignored my surroundings, because Charity was right, warrior blood was amazing.
The moment Rowland pulled the stake out, the flow of blood trickled faster down my back. I sucked harder on Ashby’s luscious wrist, moaning embarrassingly at the flavor. Someone pressed gauze to my back, and the pain from it caused me to growl, like an injured animal giving a warning. A huge hand stroked my hair, and the calming effect shut off my sound.
“Alright,” Ashby whispered. “Doll, you’re taking too much. I’m getting weak.”
Immediately, I pulled away and looked at his beautiful face. He was a little pale, and I held up my weak wrist. He shook his head in denial. “Please,” I whimpered. I really didn’t want him to suffer for helping me.
“I’ll be fine,” he smiled and stroked the side of my face, his calloused hands were rough against my skin. I nuzzled into his palm and closed my eyes, savoring his touch. “Where’s the ambulance?” He turned to Rowland who was on his cell phone.
“E.T.A is six minutes,” he announced.
“That’s too long. I’m taking her,” he stated, swooping me up into his strong arms. Oh, I liked that. I didn’t know if it was his strength, his blood, or a combination of both, but I had to squeeze my thighs together to keep from moaning at the idea of his strength protecting me.
Now was still not the time to get all starry-eyed over the warrior. Even though, from my vantage point, he was even more handsome than I’d ever noticed. His scent swirled around me. The blood from the wound that had recently closed on his wrist mixed with his natural male scent, and it was driving me crazy with lust. His blood was seriously stronger than any human blood I had ever tasted upon my lips. Even stronger than my makers.
When he reached the Krieger SUV, he used one hand to open the back and retrieve a blanket. He wrapped me up carefully and gently placed me in the passenger seat of the Krieger vehicle. The loss of his touch hurt more than the holes in my body. He used his speed and was in the driver’s seat an instant later.
“What did they want? Other than to kill you?” he growled, so deep that the frame of the vehicle vibrated with his words. The spot between my thighs heated with the action of his anger.
“One of them said something about a vial,” I told him, pulling the blanket around me tighter.
“Did they want your blood?” Ashby turned toward me, just for a moment. It was then that I noticed the whites of his eyes had filled with blood, his fangs were making points into his bottom lip.
“I assume so,” I frowned. “Why else would they need a vial?”
The bullet at my neck started to burn, and I reached back to feel the hole. I hissed at the constant burning sensation, then absently scratched at the wound. It itched like an insect bite.
“What’s wrong?” Ashby demanded.
“It burns,” I cried, digging more at the hole in my neck. “It itches!” He didn’t say anything, but the increased speed of the SUV told me that this wasn’t good. Something was not right about this bullet in my neck.
“Feed from me again,” he said, twisting his arm and shoving his wrist in my face.
“I took too much before,” I shook my head, refusing to feed.
“Do it now,” he ordered on a growl, causing my heart to clench with the need to obey his command.
I didn’t argue, as I sank my fangs into his vein. The warmth spread across my tongue, and I greedily drank his offering. My stomach was full, and I didn’t want him to yell again. He obviously was concerned, so I did as I was told.
I noticed the hospital was only a few blocks away when I suddenly felt the pull of death upon me. It wasn’t even close to dawn, but for some reason, I was…sleepy?
Someone shouted my name, but it was too far away. All I really wanted to do was close my eyes.
And so I did.
Blood at Stake is up for preorder. Release date is 4/28!