Undying Hunger, page 1
All she can remember is hunger...for him.
A year ago, Alexandria Stevens strode through the doors of Wicked Ways and into the arms of a man—a monster, really—who stole everything from her. Her memory. Her life. Now she’s a creature of darkness with only hazy images in her mind of that night and a confusing jumble of emotions. A fierce hate...and an even fiercer desire for Markus Santini.
Markus has walked through this world for more than a hundred years, knowing exactly who and what he was, until Alexandria undid it all. Undid him. When a former vampire colleague threatens one of the Enclave’s own, Markus is needed—but only as the dark, powerful creature he once was. And in order to become that, he must find redemption...in the arms of a woman who despises him with every breath she can no longer take.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Discover the Enclave series… Undying Destiny
Discover more Entangled Select titles… Bittersweet Darkness
Love Me to Death
The Demon’s Daughter
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Lee. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Select Otherworld is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Erin Molta
Cover design by L.J. Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations
Cover art by iStock
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition June 2015
For my husband and son, who are my world and my inspiration. You make everything sweeter.
Being a third wheel sucked big hairy balls.
Alexandria Stevens plastered another I’m having a great time smile on her face and glanced over at Eve Devonshire. With Guerin Lombardi’s arm wrapped possessively around her, the tall brunette walked quietly next to Alex along the sidewalks of Elizabeth Bay, South Carolina’s bustling nightlife district. Yet Alex hadn’t missed the numerous heated looks between the two. Or the occasional caress against the side of Eve’s breast when Guerin’s hand accidentally slipped from his mate’s shoulder—actions that telegraphed loud and clear they wished to be alone but were too polite to get rid of her.
Dear God, remind me why I let Eve talk me into going out for a solid meal and shopping with them? Vampires don’t even have to eat!
“I’m glad you decided to join us,” Eve said. “I know the walls of the Enclave mansion must get claustrophobic for you sometimes.”
“You have no idea,” Alex groaned, swinging the sack containing her purchase from one of those twenty-four-hour superstores. “But I know you two don’t get many nights out as a couple. It’s either you or Kenric and Arran on constant patrol rotation.” With the Enclave having lost two of its male warriors, only three of them were left to protect humans from the vampires who couldn’t control their blood lust, thus they became mindless beasts addicted to Death Euphoria or DEAD. That meant they always killed when they fed. Now, at least, they had Eve to help in that fight. Even though Kenric, Eve’s father and master of the Enclave, as well as Guerin hated the idea of putting Eve at risk on the streets. But good luck with trying to keep her friend from doing something she was determined to do. Like the shopping trip she’d insisted Alex tag along on tonight. Alex lifted the red-and-white bag for reference. “You know this could have waited.”
“Maybe,” Guerin interjected, surprising Alex. He slowed their pace, pinning her with his dark gaze. “But you shouldn’t have to.”
Alex’s chest tightened at his kind words, and she swung her attention to the traffic buzzing past them.
A year ago, going out wouldn’t have been a big event. But that had been before the blinders shielding her from the real world had been brutally ripped away. Before she’d learned the truth about the monsters lurking in the dark.
Before she’d been turned into one of them.
The warmth of Eve’s palm brushed Alex’s arm, drawing her back. “Living among a bunch of overbearing alpha men can be a bit oppressive sometimes.”
“Really?” Guerin rumbled. “Overbearing?”
Eve rolled her eyes, but her expression contained a humorous grin. “Yes.” She propped a hand on her leather-clad hip. “But I know how to handle you.”
A growl rolled off the dark-eyed male vampire right before he cupped Eve’s nape, placing them face-to-face, hip to hip. “Later, you and I will have to discuss how you ‘handle’ me.”
“I look forward to it,” Eve whispered, yet thanks to Alex’s heightened hearing, she didn’t miss the lust infused in her friend’s reply to her mate.
Christ, this night couldn’t end soon enough.
“You’re still very young, Alex,” Eve said, returning to their previous topic. “And not at your full strength.”
“I know. I know.” Alex waved a dismissive hand. “My sister and I have had this discussion more times than you can imagine. I’m only trying to protect you, Alex. Make sure you don’t screw up and reveal yourself by accident, or get caught out here with a bunch of DEADs who might want to use you for target practice.” God, it was ridiculous that she could quote Elle verbatim by now. She sighed. “I understand. I do.” Alex came to a stop and faced them. “I’m just so sick of being the proverbial damsel-in-distress.” She rolled her eyes. “You have to understand, before all this happened, I had a life of my own and a career. I was an aesthetician and had a nice job at a day spa back in Fairfield. I was an independent woman with hopes and dreams.” She shook her head. “It boggles my mind how someone’s life can be irrecoverably changed so quickly by one simple, seemingly innocent choice.”
“Believe me,” Eve said. “I get where you’re coming from.” She stepped in and wrapped her arms around Alex, giving her a slight squeeze. “I really do.”
“I envy you,” Alex whispered, fighting the sudden wave of melancholy threatening to drag her under.
Eve pulled away, tucking a fallen strand of hair behind her ear. “I wouldn’t wish my life, before Guerin and the Enclave, on anyone.” She scoffed. “On the run and hidden from the world since the day I took my first breath. Why in the world would you envy me?”
“You have to remember how old I am, hon.” Eve smiled, and the warmth spread to her eyes. She leaned in, her voice lowering. “Growing up not quite human, yet not completely a vampire, at times it’s been hell. But I’ve had three centuries to come to terms with what I am…but please don’t share those numbers with my mate.” She smirked. “I wouldn’t want him getting the idea I’m an old woman.”
Laughter bubbled up from Alex. She couldn’t help it. Eve had a way of making her feel better.
“Hey, old lady,” Guerin called out. “We should probably be getting back.”
“Watch it, Lombardi.” Eve spun around and clasped her mate beneath his chin in a move no other male or female would dare attempt with the Enclave’s second-in-command. Badass rolled off the six-foot-plus vampire in waves. “Look who’s calling whom old. I do believe you’ve got a few years on me.”
Guerin laughed. When it came to Eve, she seemed to get away with just about anything with him. They were so in sync.
A connection Alex couldn’t imagine ever having with a man. The thought of allowing a male to get that close and under her skin…
Memories of a dark-haired vampire with eyes the color of brewing storm clouds flashed across her mind’s eye. Unbidden, the scent of chocolate and cinnamon invaded her nostrils, as if his flesh was once more pressed against hers, his essence filling her mouth, warming her veins. The hairs on her arms and legs stood on end, and her sex swelled to the point she literally ached with need.
A tremor rolled over her. Alex’s fists clenched, fighting her growing arousal. Closing her eyes, she willed the images to fade with every ounce of strength she could summon.
“Alex…? Are you okay?” Eve’s fingers wrapped around her arm, yanking Alex back into the present.
Alex blinked. “Yeah. I’m fine.” She did her best to laugh it off. “Just got lost in thought for a minute there.”
“That must have been some daydream.” Eve grinned. “Where were you?”
Swallowing hard at the lump of panic swelling at the back of her throat, Alex scrambled for something—anything—other than the truth about where her thoughts had gone. Because how was she supposed to reveal the fact that she’d been fantasizing about a male whom she should hate with every fiber of her being? The one who’d turned her into a vampire and held her prisoner. The male who’d betrayed the entire Enclave by hooking up with their enemy, Marguerite Devonshire. And what was worse…the daydream about Markus hadn’t been her first.
How could she explain feelings she didn’t understand herself? Was it only lust? Or had something deeper been formed during her time with him? Mentally she shook herself. Stockholm syndrome. That had to be it. Her “attachment” to the male had to be a result of her captivity. Nothing more.
“Uhm…” Alex licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry. “Just reminiscing about the past. That’s all.”
The past. She nearly choked on the ridiculousness of her explanation. There was so much she couldn’t even remember about the weeks she’d spent as Markus’s captive in Marguerite’s stronghold last year. Marguerite, the insanely powerful female vampire who centuries ago had tortured and sired Kenric St. James—the leader of their band of warriors—had miraculously given birth to Eve. She still found it hard to wrap her mind around the fact that such an evil creature had been her friend’s mother.
Large gaping holes of just…nothing taunted her.
And the black emptiness of those nights gnawed away at her insides like blank pages in a book screaming to be filled. She was the author suffering from writer’s block.
Yet every time she tried to convey to her sister how much she needed answers, Elle insisted maybe it was for the best that she never remembered and that she should consider her amnesia as some kind of psychological grace. Sort of like the mercy bestowed by the mind when waking and not remembering a nightmare. Because no doubt, that’s what she’d endured. A nightmare.
But she wanted to know. She had to know. Markus was the man who’d turned her, held her against her will for weeks, but he was also the same man who, she’d been told, had killed Marguerite to save Alex. How had someone who’d done something so cruel to her turn around and be her savior, too? Markus was the personification of the term antihero.
She shook her head.
But Elle was probably right. Alex needed to let him go.
Move forward. Don’t look back and all that shit. Easy, right?
“Alex, are you sure you’re okay?” Eve’s gaze narrowed on her.
“Hold up.” Guerin came to a dead halt, his palm against Eve’s back. “Do you hear that?”
No. Alex hadn’t heard anything beyond the beating of her heart. But she thanked God for the interruption and the distraction.
Eve cocked her head, then nodded. “Yeah. I do.” She glanced up at her mate. “Damn.”
“What’s going on?” Alex scanned their surroundings. Based on the sudden spike in tension between the duo, something was going down.
“Alex, stay close to Eve,” Guerin said, sliding his hand inside his knee-length leather coat where the warriors stashed their weapons. “But let us handle this.”
He brushed past her and Eve followed, hooking her arm with Alex’s and tugging her along.
“If you listen closely,” Eve whispered. “You’ll hear what sounds like muffled cries.”
“DEADs?” Alex’s pulse surged at the thought.
Eve nodded. “That’s what we’re going to find out.”
Shit. Alex quickly sifted through the roar of the traffic and the chatter of the crowd passing by for what Eve and Guerin had detected. One by one, she compartmentalized the noises, checking them off and dismissing what she didn’t need until finally Alex heard what she’d been seeking. In the distance, the distressed sound of panic—terror.
“Oh God,” Alex muttered as her gut twisted. Images of the night she’d been herded into the basement of the nightclub Wicked Ways flashed across her mind like the flickering faces on a deck of cards. She may not remember everything that had happened to her afterward, but what she’d seen there, what she’d experienced in that room—residual talons of fear dug into her abdomen and nausea swelled—she’d never forget.
At the next alley, they ducked inside and the whimpering sounds became louder, clearer. Guerin picked up his pace as if he’d homed in on his target’s exact location. From the back of her waistband, Eve withdrew a dagger. She palmed the hilt and twirled the blade before finally allowing it to settle into her grip.
“Stay behind me,” Eve ordered, releasing her hold on Alex and closing in on her mate.
With Guerin and Eve leading the way, they reached the end of the corridor and came to a halt. Guerin nodded and pointed left. Alex glanced in the direction he’d indicated, and her stomach roiled. In the narrow path that ran behind the row of businesses, two feasting vampires—DEADs—had a couple of humans on the ground near a Dumpster. Growls and sucking sounds filled Alex’s ears. Bile surged to the back of her throat.
“Time to say good-night, boys,” Guerin called out and marched forward, the blade in his hand glinting beneath the pale yellow glow of the streetlight. “Permanently.”
Their heads jerked up in unison, a pissed-off hiss spewing from between their teeth.
“Fuck off,” the DEAD on the left, with long, stringy black hair, spat.
“Not going to happen,” Guerin replied. “But we’ll gladly fuck you up.”
Unfortunately, based on the amount of blood covering the DEADs’ faces and clothes and pooling beneath their prey, it was too late for the humans. But Alex understood, as well as Guerin and Eve, that these monsters couldn’t be allowed to continue terrorizing the people of Elizabeth Bay.
Oh shit! Alex watched, her back plastered against the wooden slates of the fence as the other DEAD charged toward Eve, his claws extended. But Eve didn’t flinch. Dressed in body-hugging leather, she stood her ground, a silver-plated dagger tight in her grip, her obsidian tresses lifting behind her like a dark veil. The female was stunning. Lethal. It was no wonder that Guerin was completely in love with her.
The DEAD roared, took flight, aiming straight for Eve’s head. In a move born straight out of The Matrix, the female warrior jumped, spun, and like a blender on high, carved the descending DEAD’s midsection open.
Oh yeah. Eve kicked ass.
The injured vampire fell to the concrete, a putrid smoke rising from his wounds due to the reaction of his flesh to Eve’s silver blade. Alex covered her nose with the back of her hand in an attempt to block the nasty smell from her nasal passages.
“Well, hello, beautiful,” a deep male voice said, coming out of nowhere and catching her off guard.
Alex jerked her head away from the carnage and looked toward the newcomer. A few feet away stood a man wearing a dark leather jacket that stopped at his hips. Long hair that nearly matched the cowhide skimmed his slim shoulders, and skin the color of decadent chocolate gleamed in the dimly lit alley. He sauntered a little closer, his midnight eyes boring into hers. Unease crawled under her skin. The kind that said she’d be better off anywhere but here.
“Who are you?” Judging by his lack of surprise at the macabre scene playing out before them, he had to be a vampire. “What do you want?”
The stranger cocked his head as if puzzled, then a corner of his mouth lifted, forming a sly grin. One that revealed the sharp point of a fang.
“What the hell!” Guerin called out from behind her.
Glancing over her shoulder, Alex glimpsed the Enclave’s second-in-command as he yanked his dagger from the heart of the deceased addict, his glare pinned on their new arrival. The corpse sizzled and smoke billowed from the chest. Then it bloated, seconds before imploding, leaving nothing but dust. Alex blinked. Damn, she’d heard about the effects of silver driven straight into the heart, but this was the first time she’d witnessed the rapid decomposition.
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