All the King's Men: The Beginning (6 page)

BOOK: All the King's Men: The Beginning
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Tristan turned and cradled her face in his hands. "Baby? What is it?"

Their eyes met again, and the smile that spread over her face could only be described as joyous, if not slightly angelic, because that's just how Josie looked. Like an angel. His angel. He'd always thought so.

"Tristan," she said, "I'm pregnant."

At first, he wasn't sure he'd heard her right. Pregnant? How could she be pregnant? He hadn't had a
calling
. He had never had a
calling
. So wasn't it impossible for her to be pregnant? Obviously he had misheard her, but the expectant, heartwarming expression on her face said otherwise.

"But…how?" His brain resisted accepting the news, even though he desperately wanted to believe it.

Josie's soft, giddy laughter tickled his ears. "I don't know, Tristan, but I'm pregnant."

"But I haven't had a
calling
," he said quietly, dismayed. "How—?" He blinked rapidly, eyes flitting blindly around the room as if he was searching for a more logical explanation.

"I know, but…" Josie leaped out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. When she returned, she held two white sticks. Pregnancy tests. She shoved them in front of him. "Look!"

Tristan gingerly plucked the plastic sticks from her fingers and stared at them, stunned. "I don't know what I'm looking for." Two pink lines in a small window stared back at him from one, and a blue plus sign was displayed on the other. Okay, so he got the second one. Positive. But the first…?

Josie pointed. "Two lines means pregnant." Then she pointed to the other one. "This one…well, it's a plus sign, which means positive."

Tristan had resigned himself a long time ago to the idea that he and Josie would never have children, but in his hands, he now held evidence to the contrary.

When he lifted his gaze to hers, she beamed. Literally beamed as if she'd never been so happy. More than likely, she had gone through the same disbelief and denial he was going through now when she viewed her test results earlier, but after the realization finally sunk in, to learn she was pregnant had probably sent her to the moon.

For a heartbeat, Tristan held his breath and searched her eyes for any hesitance, and then he couldn't wait any longer. He had to know for himself. He couldn't rely on these human tests to tell him what he could prove with his own hands. In a rush of excitement, he dropped the two white sticks on the bed and planted one palm against her lower belly as he pulled her closer with his other arm. He might not have had his
calling
, but that didn't mean he wouldn't be able to feel the energy of a tiny, new life growing inside Josie's womb.

Closing his eyes, he concentrated on Josie's breath, wound his essence inside her energy, felt her heartbeat, and dove deeper. From within Josie's life signature, another much smaller one emerged. A tiny ball of tightly bound energy swirled within her, distinct and separate, but still a part of her. And he felt his own signature mingled within the new. His child. That was his unborn son or daughter inside Josie's belly.

"Well?" Josie clutched his shoulders.

Opening his eyes, he met her gaze. Tears burned and pooled on his lower lids. "So this is why you've been so tired lately." Dumbfounded, he began putting the pieces together. Josie had been unusually tired for over a week, and her breasts were tender. She had complained of that almost two weeks ago. He blinked, and tears dropped to his cheeks.

"Can you feel it?" She placed her hand over his, and hope sprang from her touch. "Can you feel our baby?" she said quietly, as if she didn't want to breathe for fear he would tell her she had been mistaken…that the pregnancy tests had given a false positive.

He nodded, his emotions forming a brutal lump in his throat. He had always wanted this. Against all hope, he had always yearned for a child with Josie. "Yes."

She burst into tears, threw her arms around his head, and hugged his face to her chest.

Tristan mashed her body to his and held her tightly as emotions he didn't know he'd been holding for decades gushed from him in heavy sobs. He was going to be a father.

 

 

Chapter 4

Micah knelt on the roof of his apartment building in downtown Chicago and overlooked the city. Christmas lights blinked from windows, from trees along the street, and in the parks visible from his vantage point. It was a season of joy, but not for Micah. Joy wasn't meant for him, anymore. It hadn't been for a long time.

Dawn was less than an hour from breaking, but he had no desire to escape to the safety and warmth of his apartment on the eighteenth floor. Jackson wasn't there, so all that waited for him was loneliness and silence.

How had he formed a bond to Jackson when the guy hadn't formed a bond back? This wasn't how mating worked, if what he had with Jackson could even be called a mating. Case in point, he had never had a
calling
with Jackson, at least not a "normal" one. Sure, he'd said he did, and he
had
been all over Jackson those first few days, but what he had felt had been nothing like what he'd felt with Katarina. But it wasn't just that. His feelings for Jackson felt misdirected in some way, as if they had been meant for someone else. If that was the case, then why had they manifested with Jackson? Still, he knew what he knew, and for all intents and purposes, he was a mated male. Maybe in his own way, but whether for right or wrong, normal or not, he had mated Jackson.

But then Micah was an enigma…a fucking anomaly. Nothing about him was right or normal. He was cursed with misfortune and pain. Always had been, always would be. Nothing about Micah was the way it "should" be or the way it was for other vampires, but he had learned to deal with his odd divergence centuries ago. Jackson not requiting the bond between them was just one more piece of proof of how different he was.

Micah had found requited love once. Nearly a thousand years ago he had mated Katarina. Beautiful, raven-haired Katarina. He had loved her from youth, smitten with her practically from the moment he could walk. Micah had known from a young age he would mate her when he transitioned, and just as he had preordained, after he returned home from the war, he did just that. She had been at the celebration for his return, and the moment he saw her, the mating link began to form.

Their love had been magical, despite the fact she couldn't have children. Not many female vampires were infertile, but she was. After his
calling
, when he checked her womb for life, nothing stirred within. They had both been devastated, because they'd been eager for a family, but Micah didn't let their inability to have children hold him down for long. He was grateful to have Katarina at all, and nothing would lessen his love for her.

Then she was killed in a raid. Not even two years after they had mated, she was gone.

Micah bit back the sting of tears as he remembered the day she had been taken from him. How he had held her in his arms as she breathed her last breath. How he had begged her not to go, not to leave him. How he had professed his undying love for her as she slipped away.

"Please don't leave me," he had said. He could remember it like it was yesterday. "I love you. You can't die, Kat. I waited so long for you. I came back for you. For
you
." Tears streamed his dirty, blood-covered cheeks. "Please." He scrunched his eyes closed, forcing his unshed tears to fall so he could see her clearly, not through the gauzy vision impaired by his tears.

"Micah…" She could barely speak, barely move, but managed to lift her hand to his face. "Be…strong." She blinked heavily. "Survive."

"No. Not without you." He clutched her close, rocked her, tried to breathe life into her, but it was too late. He had seen enough death and battle wounds to know Kat wouldn't survive hers. He had only seconds left with her.

"Micah. Promise me." She fought for breath. "You promise me now…that you will survive. Don't…" She began to fade in and out. "Don't…let me die…without your promise. Honor me…by living."

What could he do? This was his love, his life, his precious mate. And she wanted him to promise her he would live even though she—his reason for living—was about to die?

"Pro…mise…me." Her hold on his hand weakened.

Cursing God, Micah bowed his head and fought back a sob. If this was what she needed to die peacefully, he would give it to her. He would give anything to Katarina, even his life if God had been merciful enough to take him instead.

"I promise," he said. "I promise you. For you, I'll do anything, my love." He kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips.

A faint smile touched her mouth. "I…love…you…Micah."

"I love you." He tipped his forehead to hers and held her fading gaze. "I will always love you. Forever."

A few seconds later, the life had left her, and the light that had been Katarina vanished from Micah's life in a blink, without fanfare, and for eternity. A casualty of the ongoing war with the drecks, she had joined half of Micah's village in death.

Micah blinked against Chicago's lights. Why couldn't he have died, too? Life had been so perfect with her. With Katarina, he had been a true male, whole and complete. Not even her inability to have young had dampened his power and sense of worth. But now, all that was gone.

Micah bowed his head, and his long, black hair lifted on the stinging December wind that blew off Lake Michigan. He slowly wiped the pad of his thumb under one eye, then the other, brushing away his bitter tears.

After Kat's death, he had fallen. To shame. To disgrace. Into the depths of hell. The levels of his degradation had known no bounds.

In the moment of her death, he had vowed retribution, but first came the
suffering
of loss. The need to hurt himself, and the desire to die. Without Kat, his soul fractured. Not even Malek, who had been his best friend at the time—so close they were more like brothers—could get through to him.

Only by force of will and his promise to Kat did he survive months of
suffering
, but that didn't mean he became his old self again when the
suffering
ended. On the contrary, he was a hollowed shell, flesh and bone without a soul, the worst version of himself. That's when he hunted down the drecks who had killed her and murdered every last one. The hunt lasted for over a century and earned him a reputation with both drecks and vampires as being the most ruthless, deadliest warrior in the king's army. Except Micah had left the king's army to fulfill his personal vendetta. What he had done, he did outside the realm of the king's command.

Then the women came. And the men.

He didn't think of himself as bisexual, which was a label for humans. That meant nothing to him. Many vampires who had lived without a mate for as long as he had often scratched their curious itch when it came to same-sex relationships. And for vampires as old as he was, lying with a male was as normal as lying with a female, although Micah preferred the latter. Back then, when he had been strangled by misery's hand, he hadn't been choosy. He had simply needed companionship. A warm body to press against in the night. A tender expanse of skin to sink his fangs into and feed from as he had once fed from his beloved Katarina.

Disgraced and disgusted with himself, he had roamed and wandered like a gypsy for centuries, lost to all he had once known, as likely to kill as he was to save. For a while, his discretion severely lacked, and he wasn't proud of some of the things he had done during that tumultuous time in his life.

Slowly, he began to find himself again, and wound his way back to the King's Guard. Tristan and Malek greeted him warmly enough, but in their eyes Micah saw the realization that he had changed. They were hesitant to embrace him as they once had, and he couldn't blame them. He was no longer the male he once was, but at least he was alive. At least he had kept his promise to Kat and lived.

Silent and brooding more often than not, he found that much had changed. Bain the First had been assassinated, and Bain the Second had risen to power. Many things had stayed the same, though. Vampires were still at war with the drecks, and the fighting saved Micah from delirium.

In battle, he was a force of nature. Fierce, relentless, almost savage, and always heartless. Micah fought with no regard for his own life, as if every battle would be his last, and he had vowed to take as many as he could with him before he died. He reasoned that if he died in battle, he wouldn't really be breaking his promise to Kat, but somehow he always managed to survive. Over time, his reputation for being the most ruthless warrior in the King's Guard intensified. He became the most feared of all King Bain's warriors. And when King Bain created All the King's Men, Micah's reputation followed him. He was the one enforcer no dreck wanted to come up against, because he pushed the boundaries of the truce to their limits, and maybe even crossed them once or twice. He was an unleashed rabid dog.

Unfortunately, not even his reputation and his dominant demeanor could pull him from the devil's grasp. He had never recovered from Kat's death, and his
suffering
followed him everywhere.

However, in 1975, he discovered bondage. He found he liked the power exchange between a Dom and sub, as well as the trust between partners and—for a little while at least—BDSM became a means to channel his pain and to feel a sense of worth again. His submissives cut through to engage that inner part of him that desperately wanted to care for another the way he had Katarina, and within months, he was fully immersed in the leather lifestyle.

Bondage play, S&M, and other aspects of BDSM gave him focus, and he studied with the best Doms, both human and vampire alike, to master every aspect of the trade. His teammates at AKM didn't understand his immersion into leather, but for him, taking a sub to the very limits, shattering her—or him—then bringing her back from the brink into wholeness became therapeutic. He relished the after care, where he held his sub, soothed her, tended to any wounds he inflicted, and escaped into his own endorphin high.

BOOK: All the King's Men: The Beginning
8.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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