Authors: Bella Forrest
OF VAMPIRE SERIES
Series 1: Derek & Sofia’s story
Series 2: Rose & Caleb’s story
Series 3: Ben & River’s story
Series 4: A Clan of Novaks
A SHADE OF DRAGON TRILOGY
A SHADE OF KIEV TRILOGY
BEAUTIFUL MONSTER DUOLOGY
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© 2016 by Bella Forrest
Cover design inspired by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations LLC
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No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
s our helicopter tilted
, Sofia and I peered through the window. Beneath us was California, a place we’d once called home. Now it looked nothing like home. Not to us, not to anyone.
The land was etched with scars of combat, stretching further than we could see. We were gazing upon the realization of the oracle’s prediction. The mixing of that which should never be mixed. The fusion of that which should never be fused.
The final boundaries falling.
Towns and cities vacated. Swaths of country left to invaders. New human settlements built atop high elevations and closed off by higher walls.
America had morphed into a new land. A land marked by a myriad of supernaturals, yet shared with mundane humans. A multitude of incompatible races, living as one.
Meanwhile, we in The Shade remained as we had always remained. Strong. United. Unshakable. Only now, our responsibilities lay no longer with ourselves alone.
Others claimed to be protectors, but we all knew the truth.
We were the only true warriors left in this world devoid of rules…
on the veranda of my husband’s and my treehouse, gazing out over our dark island while sipping from a cup of chamomile tea. A fragrant breeze rustled the redwood trees surrounding me and touched my skin. I breathed in deeply. The sun had not yet risen beyond the boundary of the island. It was still early morning, my favorite time of day. This morning, however, I would not have long to relish the quiet.
“Sofia,” Derek called through the open kitchen window. “You know the time, right?”
I glanced down at my watch. Four-thirteen AM.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“We’re leaving soon. You should get ready.”
I swallowed the last of my tea and returned inside.
We’d received a call at three AM this morning from Fowler—our assigned point of contact with the US government. Long gone were the days of The Shade being a secret from the world, as were the days when the hunters were the authorities’ only means of recourse. In fact, the hunters weren’t even called hunters any more, at least not officially. Their organization had been christened the IBSI—the International Bureau for Supernatural Investigation—about fifteen years ago, and they were known to the world as officers. Although we would always call them hunters. Their work eclipsed that of the FBI now, or any other country’s law enforcement organization for that matter. These days, the proportion of human-provoked incidents was insignificant in the face of those provoked by supernatural immigrants. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard about a human crime being reported on the news.
It was an everyday sight now to see beaches cordoned off due to an infestation of mermaids, mountain towns and villages abandoned after an ogre invasion, or woods and forests deserted due to werewolves marking territory. We were just lucky that species like jinn, fae and witches didn’t have a lot of interest in showing themselves—they were around for sure, but they didn’t cause as much disruption as they could have. At least, not yet.
And then there were the Bloodless, a whole other problem in themselves. It was hard to believe that an epidemic of mutant vampirism could have become so widespread, so quickly… and all of it started by just two rogues. Julie and her escaped companion. I suspected Aisha would go to her grave regretting not having killed that girl while she’d had the chance.
As Aisha had suspected at the time, Julie had escaped the uninhabited islet. What had happened next, however, nobody could have predicted. Through pieces of news and information we’d managed to gather in the aftermath, we’d figured out that they’d managed to survive in the ocean for days before hijacking a ship. They’d turned all the crew on board and then headed for the nearest land mass, which happened to be Hawaii. Surprisingly cunning and intelligent creatures, the now large group of Bloodless had done everything they could to remain undercover while they began infiltrating the population at an alarming speed.
Of course, they couldn’t remain hidden for long. I still remembered the night Eli had showed up at our apartment. He’d taken us to see a news report of what we’d thought at the time was an isolated incident; it was a dead Bloodless, in fact. One of the early arrivals who’d gotten caught. But things soon spiraled after that, with more and more sightings, until the government declared it an epidemic. From Hawaii, the Bloodless spread to surrounding countries—the worst hit being Japan, Canada and the US—in their determination to create more of their kind. The IBSI had already gone to great lengths trying to find a cure, but they had failed.
It was at this point that Derek and I had decided it was time to make contact with the surrounding governments. We might be safe in our cozy sanctuary here in The Shade, but this planet was our home, too. It was only right that we offered whatever help we could.
They had accepted readily since, at the time, the IBSI was still largely in development mode—they had not developed the hybrid supernatural mutants they had today, for example. We’d formed an army of our strongest people and been given official and international recognition as The Shadow League—abbreviated TSL—with Ben and Derek listed as commander and commander in chief respectively. The IBSI weren’t happy about it, betraying early on where their real motives lay: in power and control. But at the time, there wasn’t much they could do to protest, since they weren’t yet a strong enough force to tackle the situation on their own.
The Shadow League had worked overtime in those early years of tumult to create effective partitions between humans and supernaturals—something our witches and jinn proved invaluable with. Many of the boundaries in the United States that still stood today were charmed with protection by their magic.
We’d also attempted to find a cure for the Bloodless, even going to the extent of bringing a handful of the heinous creatures back to our own island for the witches to test on, but in the end, we’d failed.
Then the IBSI had finished developing their technology and had bred an army of mutants—mutants who were still to this day a mystery. They appeared to be a cocktail of griffin, dragon, werewolf, and I didn’t even know what else. All we knew was that they were killing machines. They could fly, breathe fire, and run with frightening speed. They were also impervious to the Bloodless, whom they tore to shreds in seconds with their razor-like talons.
They had been known to attack humans due to insufficient training, but thankfully, those incidents had gotten fewer and fewer over the years. It was rare to find a human settlement these days that was not surrounded by such creatures guarding the boundaries, keeping out trespassers, while very effectively keeping in residents.
They had not been successful, however, in eradicating other supernaturals on any significant scale. This was something that the hunters were still working tirelessly towards, but truth be told, I doubted they would ever be successful.
Once the IBSI came to prominence, we of The Shadow League had found ourselves being called less and less, until eventually we were relegated to the waters surrounding our island.
We had received one such call at three AM this morning on one of ten special phones charmed by Corrine to accept outside communication, each given to selected members of TSL. We didn’t have the full details yet; we just knew that we needed to take the sub and start heading to the Northern Mariana Islands. Fowler had promised to provide more information along the way.
I entered the kitchen to see Derek already dressed. I took a moment to appreciate how handsome he looked with his dark hair still wet from a shower. He was wearing the sleek black uniform that all of us were afforded, complete with a silver badge inscribed with the letters TSL.
His vivid blue eyes settled on me. “You look tired,” he commented.
“I’ll be fine once I freshen up,” I replied, before kissing his jaw and going to take a shower. After I washed and changed into my own uniform, the two of us gathered our backpacks and descended in the elevator. We made our way briskly through the forest and arrived at the training ground that held the Armory.
I felt a stab of melancholy as I took in the building—so different from the old one that used to stand in its place. The old Armory had held some of my earliest memories with Derek. He had taken me there to learn how to defend myself. Then it had been used for storing medieval weapons. There had been swords, spears, stakes… we barely had room for those kinds of weapons these days. It was all filled with the most cutting-edge combat equipment, supplied directly by the authorities—mostly guns and explosives of various types, designed with specific supernatural species in mind. The building itself was no longer the stone construction it had been; we’d had to rebuild it from the ground up. It was a modern building now, with a steel exterior and a concave glass roof.
I shook away my nostalgia as Derek and I reached the steel door. He pressed his thumb against the screen by its side and the entrance glided open. It was important that we kept high security in this place now; we couldn’t have any of the island’s meddlesome youth wandering in. Only members of the League had the ability to open this door.
We stepped inside to see a group of people already here, milling around the weapons and piling them into five large metal cases.
Nearest to us were my father Aiden and son Ben.
“Mornin’,” Ben said, his voice croaky.
“Good morning,” I said, kissing his cheek, before giving my father’s shoulder a squeeze.
My father wore a golden band around his finger now. He had married Kailyn nearly two decades ago. Both were still incredibly happy, and it was rare to witness an argument between the two. To this day I couldn’t express how much it warmed my heart to finally see him settle down with somebody who deserved him.
Next to my father was Lucas, also looking rather dashing in his uniform. He was floating near the ceiling, fishing for some of the larger guns we kept up there. As he descended, I realized he had cropped his hair short, which gave him the appearance of a military officer. Unlike my father, he had no band of gold around any finger. Although he’d had a number of relationships over the years—first with Adelle, who’d returned to the island soon after Ben and River’s wedding, and then with a slew of others—he still had not found “the one”. He’d been single for the last year, but he seemed content.
I was just thankful every day he hadn’t reverted back to his old self after The Underworld’s influence had worn off of him. He and Derek got on now as brothers should; they had become friends and comrades, even if they did have their moments of disagreement on occasion… but what siblings didn’t?
We worked together to fill up the cases with all the weapons we needed before picking them up and carrying them out of the Armory. We headed for the Port.
“Nervous?” my father asked, as he strode beside me.
We had gone on so many of these missions by now, there was little that could make me nervous anymore. Today, however, was a bit different. Today a batch of five new recruits would be joining the League.
“Just thinking about the young ones,” I muttered.
“But they’ve earned their stripes,” Ben reassured me. “Dad and I made sure of that.”
I nodded. “I don’t doubt that.”
of people were already gathered in the clearing before the Port as we arrived. Many here weren’t even members of the League. I pulled out my notepad and began to check off our members to see if we were still waiting for anyone to arrive.
Kyle stood with his wife, Anna—both now in their mid-fifties—kissing and saying goodbye to one another. Although we made it a general rule not to allow humans to become members of the League, Kyle was an exception since he never left the sub; he was in charge of navigating it.
River stood waiting for Benjamin with their seventeen-year-old daughter, Grace. My lovely half-fae, half-human grandchild. The story of her conception was a long one, but River had managed to turn back into a human to conceive; then, after Grace had grown a few years, River had chosen to revert to a full vampire. Ben and River were members… and after today’s induction, Grace would be, too.
Cameron and Liana—also vampires now—stood with Jeramiah and their also turned daughter Pippa and son Cedric. Pippa and Jeramiah had gotten married two years ago. All were members, except Pippa and Cedric.
I milled about, continuing to tick off names:
Rose and Caleb—without their fifteen-year-old human daughter, Hazel, and twelve year old son, Benedict, both of whom I suspected were still tucked up in bed. Rose and Caleb had turned temporarily so they could have them, and then reverted back to vampires once they were old enough.
Kailyn, who’d just wandered over to Aiden.
Claudia and Yuri, saying goodbye to their human daughter and non- League member, eighteen-year-old Ruby.
Mona, Kiev and their strapping half-warlock seventeen-year-old, Brock.
Ibrahim, Corrine and their seventeen-year-old daughter, Arwen.
Jeriad with the beast of a son he’d raised with Sylvia, nineteen-year-old Heath.
Aisha and Horatio, who, although married, were still childless.
Ashley and Landis, standing without their thirteen-year-old human son.
Zinnia, Gavin and their vampire son, Griffin, along with his vampire wife, Becky.
Eli and Shayla—who’d first gotten together shortly after my son’s wedding—married but as yet without a child.
Micah and Kira; Abby and Erik; both couples also still childless.
I paused going down the list of adults to count the number of new members. I’d spotted only four: Grace, Brock, Arwen and Heath.
Hm. So where is our fifth?
As I noted the absence of Vivienne and Xavier, I realized…