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Midnight bite, p.12

Midnight Bite, page 12

 

Midnight Bite
 


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  “You know where Oris is.” Oris. A vampire who’d been around for thousands of years. Oris had first gained power back in Egypt, and through the long, dark centuries, he’d only had one child.

  Lark.

  A woman who was nothing like her scheming asshole of a father.

  “I-I was going to him!” Charles sputtered. “I was going to take the message—”

  “Fuck the message. You’re taking me to him. Now.”

  Salvatore rushed up behind Devereaux. “You’re going with backup.”

  Hell, yes, he was. Because this battle was the most important one of his life. “I’m going with a whole freaking army.”

  Charles gulped. “I’m not going to betray you. You don’t need—”

  “This isn’t about you, dumbass. It’s about her. I will take my army, and I will fight anyone in my path. If Lark is so much as singed, I will drain every vampire under her father’s command.” Time for a river of blood. And when it came to that hellhound…

  Noren will wish for the fires of hell before I am done with him.

  Devereaux’s breath came faster. Harder. He had one mission. Only one. Get to Lark. Protect her.

  And kill all of her enemies.

  But in order to do that, he was going to need some help. “Salvatore…” Devereaux glanced back at his friend. “Get the witches here, now.”

  Salvatore’s eyes doubled in size. “Why would witches come here?”

  “Because I didn’t kill the local coven when I had the chance. I let a few live, so they owe me.” Each word was a growl. “Get them here. If they don’t come willingly, then tell them I consider their refusal an act of war.”

  Salvatore exhaled. “We’re fighting witches now, too?”

  “Only if we have to do it. The first option…” Fuck, he needed their help. Only witches could transport him to Oris. Because the bastard was half-way around the world. “The first option is a truce. If they refuse, then we make them help us.”

  One way or another, he was going to get what he needed.

  Lark. I need her. I have to get her back. I have to fight for her.

  He’d do whatever was necessary to free her from her father.

  ***

  Her father let out a dramatic sigh. “You’re still angry over that, Noren? I mean, come on, it’s been years. Centuries.”

  Noren glared at him as the flames continued to dance over the hellhound’s fists.

  “I needed more power—and hell needed a new hound. So, I traded a warlock.” Her father shrugged. “Don’t act like it was all bad. You’ve got enormous power now.”

  “I have a cage in hell!” Noren bellowed.

  Lark flinched. “Okay, sorry, but I need information.” She also needed to buy some serious time because she did not intend to be on the highway to hell that night. If she could buy time, then she’d either (A) figure out a way to save her ass or (B) Devereaux would come in with guns blazing.

  She pointed to her father. “First, what in the hell is your name?”

  He blinked. Looked a little…depressed. “Devereaux didn’t tell you?”

  “He barely mentioned you. And when he did, Dev didn’t sound overly impressed.”

  Her father’s fangs snapped together. “I am Oris! I was walking this earth when the first sands blew across Egypt! I was considered a god, worshipped and adored, and I was—”

  “You were the guy who lied to my mother. Who somehow tricked a monster hunter into not realizing you were a vamp.” That’s what she knew about him. What she didn’t know… “How?”

  Now it was Noren who spoke up. “That would be…because of me.”

  Her head whipped toward him.

  The flames kept crackling.

  “Oris got power when he traded me to hell. The power allowed him to conceal his vampire side for a limited time. You see…” A mocking smile curled Noren’s lips. “Your father really has walked the earth for thousands of years, but in all of that time, he never had a child. No matter how many vamps or humans he fucked. He realized that maybe—just maybe—fate was being a cruel bitch. Perhaps he needed a very special kind of human to father his child. Perhaps he needed—”

  “A monster hunter,” she finished as understanding flooded through her.

  Noren nodded. “Exactly. Only then you were born and you didn’t show any signs of being a vamp.”

  “Signs?”

  Noren shrugged. “Born vamps come with tiny fangs, in case you didn’t know. Weird fact, but there you have it. You looked all normal and you even bore the mark of a monster hunter.”

  He meant the small birth mark on her hip. Every monster hunter had one—a half moon above the left hip. Only Lark’s mark had been sliced away by a coyote shifter’s claws when she’d been thirteen.

  “But you could’ve been a late bloomer,” Noren continued mockingly. “So dear old dad put in a protection order for you. He gave you two and a half decades to see if you were a hunter…or a vamp. And he pulled Devereaux into the mix because the prince is the other most powerful vamp out there—”

  “Devereaux wishes that he was as strong as I am!” Oris shouted.

  She growled at him.

  Noren ignored his shout. “Oris had long range plans for you, Lark. He wanted you to take Devereaux’s kingdom. He wanted you to take it, and then to destroy Devereaux. He thought you’d have the same, ah, I believe he called it ‘killer instinct’ that Oris himself possesses.”

  She could only shake her head as she gaped at her father. “All along, you intended for me to kill Devereaux? I don’t get it! I thought you wanted me to-to bond with him!”

  Oris strode toward her. Didn’t touch her. Just stared with his cold, green eyes. “Bonding is necessary so that you become the heir to his kingdom. Devereaux is still a prince because he hasn’t bonded—he has to take a mate before he can be king. And when he’s king, the fucking bastard will have more power than I do! He will have his mother’s kingdom and what’s left of his father’s. But if you were his mate, you would have it all, too! So, then we could kill him. We could kill him and take everything!”

  She backed away. “I am not killing Devereaux.”

  Now Oris gaped. “Why not? He took you away from your human life! He made you into a vampire. He—”

  “You did all of that! I was a vampire long before Devereaux came around because you wanted a vampire child! And my mother hated me because of what I was. Or maybe she just hated me because I was your child.” But Lark was done. So over it. “Screw that. Screw you and your insane, power hungry self. I used to wonder about my father. Dream about him. But you are a serious nightmare, and I’ve had enough nightmares, thank you very much.”

  “You dare to insult me?” His voice boomed around them.

  That booming and echoing was weird. What in the hell? Were they in some kind of tower? “I do dare. Because you dared to leave me alone my whole life. You weren’t there when I was attacked as a child. You weren’t there when I buried my mother. You weren’t there when I went to college. You were never there. And here’s a newsflash for you. I don’t want your kingdom. I don’t want Devereaux’s kingdom.” She pulled in a deep breath. “But I do want him. I want Devereaux!”

  Silence.

  Well, silence except for the crackle of flames that came from Noren’s fists.

  Lark glanced at the hellhound. “The reason my mother summoned you all those years ago—she knew what my father had done, didn’t she? And she was going to torture the truth from you.”

  Jaw locked, Noren nodded.

  Now she directed her fury at her father. “Free Noren from whatever curse you put on the guy! Do it!”

  But her father just gave her a cold smile. “You’d reject what I offer to you? You’d choose Devereaux over me?” A shrug. “Then maybe you do need to spend some time down in hell. Perhaps it will teach you how to be a grateful child.”

  The bastard. “I am no child.”

  He waved toward Noren. “The curse can’t b
e undone. Take her.” Another shrug. “And when she pleads long enough, I’ll bring her back.”

  Noren didn’t move. “A vampire will die in hell. You know she won’t be able to stand the flames.”

  “Yes, well, she’s not a full vamp. A monster hunter can always survive hell’s flames. So she’ll burn and she’ll suffer and she’ll come to realize how lucky she is to have me. When she begs enough, I’ll take her out of hell.”

  Lark realized the truth. The full, terrible truth. “You are a monster.”

  Oris bared his fangs. “When did I pretend to be anything else?” He waved to Noren. “Take her!”

  Noren turned toward her. In a blink, she leapt at him and put her fangs against his throat. “I don’t want to kill you,” she snarled at him as he froze. “But I am not going to hell. I’ve got a man waiting for me, here, and I want a life with him. So if I have to rip out your throat in order to survive, I will do it.”

  No bluffing this time. No Oscar performance. Just cold, hard truth.

  “I believe you,” Noren rasped.

  Then she heard the rush of footsteps. Thundering toward them. Heavy, wooden doors flew open, and she expected to see Devereaux rushing into the room. All swashbuckling and hero-like.

  Instead, Charles stumbled into the room, chest heaving.

  Charles?

  She lifted her head away from Noren’s throat.

  Her blind date from hell put his hand on the nearest wall and steadied himself. A shudder shook his body. “T-trouble…” he gasped out. “Devereaux…he’s got witches. They’re using magic to send him here…he’s g-gonna…gonna kill…”

  “What the fuck are you doing here?” Oris boomed.

  Charles squinted at her father. “You…you hired me to find her, remember? Said I’d get…half of the kingdom if I-I brought her to you before Dev—”

  Oris was laughing. Hard, deep, mocking laughter. “You fool! I never was going to give you anything. But I needed to give Devereaux more of a challenge. We always fight harder for the things that we fear will be taken from us! He needed competition. He needed another vamp in the mix to bring out his protective instincts for Lark. I was never giving you anything!”

  Charles slowly straightened. And smiled. “Then I don’t feel so bad…about betraying you now.”

  A low chant filled the room. Smoke drifted through the open doors, and a group of cloaked figures appeared, filling the space. Witches? Oh, jeez.

  But…when the cloaks were pushed back, Lark saw familiar faces. Vamps who’d been at Devereaux’s mansion. There was Salvatore and there—

  Devereaux. He was standing right behind her father.

  Her father must have sensed the threat because he whirled around.

  “I came for your daughter,” Devereaux thundered. “I came for my queen.”

  Her chin lifted.

  Devereaux had a stake in his hand, and that stake was right over Oris’s ice-cold heart.

  “You won’t do it. You can’t!” Oris laughed at him. “You think I don’t know? You are obsessed with my daughter! Have been, for years. I knew it, I planned for it all! Knew you’d get so lost in her that you would never be able to hurt her. And killing her father would hurt her. So you’ll do nothing.” He waved back toward Noren. “The hound will take her to hell—”

  “Never,” Devereaux swore.

  “And when she begs enough, I’ll get her back,” Oris continued coldly. “Then we’ll take your kingdom and you’ll still do nothing.”

  Devereaux’s gaze shot to Lark. “You can have my kingdom. She’s worth more.”

  Her chest ached. Dammit, her vamp prince was sweet. He was also not staking her father, probably because—

  He loves me.

  It was time for her to take matters into her own hands.

  She grabbed Noren. The fool had just been standing there, watching the show. She peered into his eyes. “You aren’t taking me to hell.”

  “No, I—”

  “But you’re going to help me.” Lark had vamp power, so that meant she could use compulsion on her prey. She just had to focus hard enough.

  Let’s see if this shit works. “Go use your fire on Oris.”

  He blinked. Then smiled. She wasn’t sure if she was controlling him or if he just wanted to burn Oris for old time’s sake, but both worked.

  Noren bounded toward her father. He let the fire above his fists rage, and he threw the fire right at Oris.

  Her father bellowed.

  The other vampires swarmed.

  “This is what we call a rebellion,” Lark shouted at her not-so-dear dad. “We’re taking your power, and you’re getting a nice, fun dungeon someplace to call home.”

  But Oris—he raced toward her. Moved faster than any vampire she’d ever seen in her life. He shoved Noren and his flames away, and the hellhound slammed into a heavy stone wall. Her father grabbed Lark and hoisted her into the air. One hand clamped around her throat.

  “You will not take my kingdom!” Spittle flew from his mouth. “I will see you dead first.” His fangs were long and savage. “Now I know I can breed with monster hunters. I’ll just find another one.”

  Devereaux rushed up behind Oris, a stake in his hand.

  “I’ll have another child, perhaps a boy this time, and maybe—”

  Her legs kicked at him. Her hands scrambled along the side of her coat. “Back…up…”

  His brows snapped together. “Why the hell would I want to back up?”

  Devereaux was slamming down his stake, aiming for her father’s broad back.

  And Lark lifted the stake that she’d put in her jacket. Back-up stake.

  When Devereaux hit her father with his weapon, Oris arched up, screaming. He let her go, and—

  She drove her stake into his heart. She heard the crunch of bones. Blood spurted at her. It was horrible. Lark realized she was screaming but she still kept driving her stake deep.

  And then her father just—

  Vanished. Turned to dust that fell at her feet. Because she’d driven her stake straight through his heart.

  The stake was still in her hand. His blood and his dust were on her, and she was about to freak the hell out.

  “She just killed the king of all vampires,” Charles announced, his shaking voice filling the room.

  Devereaux stared at Lark. There was pain in his eyes. Why the pain? Was he hurt?

  But then Devereaux sank to one knee before her. He lowered his head.

  All of the vampires bowed to her.

  And Noren—that jackass hellhound—even took a knee.

  She had tears on her cheeks. Because she’d just killed her own father. It hurt. Even if he had been a straight-out-of-a-nightmare monster.

  And everyone was bowing to her. It was freaking her out. “Stop it!”

  Devereaux’s head whipped up.

  “Why are you doing this?” She dropped the stake. She’d been clutching the thing in a death grip. It hit the stone floor with a clatter. “Why are you bowing?” Lark grabbed for him, yanking Devereaux up.

  “I’m sorry,” Devereaux told her, voice gruff. “Oris would have killed you. I couldn’t…I hit from behind, and I was going to kill him. I was going to drive my stake into his heart because I didn’t want you to have to do that. I didn’t want his death on you.”

  Didn’t Devereaux get it? “I wasn’t going to let him kill you. And I wasn’t going to let that bastard kill me, either.” Her breath heaved out. She wasn’t ready to die. Not today, not even fifty years from now. She wanted her forever.

  “I’m so sorry.” Pain still filled his eyes. Pain for her. “There should have been another way—”

  She kissed him. Even as the tears slid down her cheeks, Lark kissed her vamp. Devereaux was all right. They were both still alive. Or, at least, still undead. She just wanted to wrap her arms around Devereaux and get far, far away from there.

  “I love you,” he growled against her lips.

  “That’s really good b
ecause I think I love you, too.” Didn’t matter how fast things had moved. She’d come to some very hard truths when Oris had threatened to destroy Devereaux.

  Truth one…No one hurt her lover.

  Truth two…It wasn’t just about awesome sex. She wanted Devereaux with her always because she loved him.

  Devereaux’s eyes widened. Those gorgeous eyes. “Sweetheart…”

  She spared a frantic glance around the room. “Why is everyone still kneeling? It is freaking me out!”

  “They’re kneeling…” He looked around. “Because you’re the biggest badass in the room.”

  He said the sweetest things. “I’m not.”

  “You killed the reigning king of all vamps. You have his blood in you so you are the next in line for his throne. The only relative he had—that means you now control all the vampires who followed him.”

  Oh, shit.

  “I am at your command, my queen.”

  She kissed him again. Kissed him hard and deep. “Command one—marry me.”

  His arms wrapped around her. “Baby, you don’t have to—”

  “I want to. I want to marry or bond or do whatever vamps do.” Another wild kiss. She’d never forget hearing him say… “You can have my kingdom. She’s worth more.”

  Sexy vamp. He was worth everything to her. “Bond with me, and love me, forever.” She sucked in a breath. “And get me out of here, please?” Away from a nightmare that was going to haunt her for far too long.

  “Anything you want.” Devereaux lifted her into his arms. Held her close.

  And he took her away from the tower. Away from the father who’d never wanted her, but had planned to use her. The pain stayed behind. The hell stayed behind.

  But a hellhound…he trailed after them.

  Another battle, for another day.

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  New Year’s Resolution Number Fourteen: Forgive…but maybe don’t forget.

  “Are you going to rip my heart out of my chest?” Noren’s eyes widened as he stared at Devereaux. “I hear that’s the punishment you like to give to your enemies. Full disclosure, though, I’m not going to stay dead if that’s the method you employ.”

  They were back in Devereaux’s mansion. Four days had passed since Lark had killed her father. Guilt still ate at Devereaux, and when he thought of how close he’d come to losing her…

 
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