Authors: Erica Stevens
Copyright © 2014 Erica Stevens
All rights reserved.
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Ebook formatting by
The Captive Series
Captured (Book 1)
Refugee (Book 3)
Salvation (Book 4)
Redemption (Book 5)
Broken (The Captive Series Prequel)
The Fire & Ice Series
Frost Burn (Book 1, Coming June 2015)
The Kindred Series
Kindred (Book 1)
Ashes (Book 2)
Kindled (Book 3)
Inferno (Book 4)
Phoenix Rising (Book 5)
The Ravening Series
Ravenous (Book 1)
Taken Over (Book 2)
Reclamation (Book 3)
The Survivor Chronicles
Book 1: The Upheaval
Book 2: The Divide
Book 3: The Forsaken
Book 4: The Risen
Special thanks to my husband for always being there
and my family for fostering a child's imagination, and allowing it to grow.
This book is dedicated to all the fans who love this series so much.
Thank you for all of your support and love.
The flower on the cover is Belladonna AKA Deadly Nightshade. I chose this flower because though it is beautiful and its berries are pretty, it is highly poisonous. This flower shows that sometimes what is on the outside is only a cover for what lurks beneath the surface.
June 1, 1050
I had the strangest encounter today. Camille and I were in the woods when we ran across them. At first I was frightened that humans, or even perhaps Marie had stumbled upon us, but they were only two male vampires. Neither of us had ever met them before but that's not difficult to believe as judging by their fine mounts and the quality of their clothing, they were aristocrats.
They were both exceedingly handsome but there was something about the one…
I'm going to sound like a silly girl when I write this, but the minute I saw him I felt this strange pull to get closer to him. That's not something that could ever happen, he is an aristocrat and my life is far too messy.
He had the most beautiful green eyes I'd ever seen. They were the color of clover on a warm spring day, and he had a heartwarming smile. Camille thought I was rude to them, but then I had expected cruelty or even derisiveness from them, I hadn't been expecting kindness. I don't know him and yet when he smiled at me I could almost forget about every horrible thing in my life. When he smiled at me, there was no sadness or anger and hurt. There was no Marie and this hideous place.
There was simply just him.
Ugh, I guess I am just a silly, silly girl. I know better but for the first time in my twenty-two years of life I find myself eager to see a man again, and it's because of him, it's because of Atticus.
"I'm already tired of England," Merle muttered as he swung his six-foot-two frame onto the back of his white stallion. He groaned as he took up the reins and tugged at his brown tunic to settle it into place.
Atticus laughed as he grabbed the reins of his bay stallion, Drago and settled more comfortably in the saddle. Even though he was larger than Merle, he sat easier in the saddle than his cousin did. Merle had always been more at home on the sea than he had been on land. Two years ago, they had each spent three months living amongst the vampire Norsemen in order to learn more of their superior ships and sailing ways. Atticus enjoyed being at sea and was an excellent sailor, but Merle loved the sea and thrived while he was on it.
"Tired of the rain, my friend?" he inquired.
"Tired of the rain, the boredom, the small minded and judgmental people and vampires alike. Ugh the people," Merle said with a roll of his eyes.
"And where would you prefer to be?"
"You know where."
Yes, Atticus knew Merle would prefer to be sitting on the beach of the Mediterranean and lavishing in the wine and women. Unfortunately, their fathers had other plans for them, and so did the rest of the aristocrats, as more infighting amongst them had resulted in the murder of the newly appointed king. King Harry hadn't even lasted three months on the throne, a new record according to Atticus's father, before he had been slaughtered by four of his own attendants while he slept. The vampire aristocrats believed the attendants had been paid to commit the murder. However, the vampire that had paid for the murder remained a mystery as the attendants had all conveniently disappeared afterward.
The attendants were being hunted by every vampire from here to India and China, but Atticus had a feeling they were all already dead and that their bodies would never be found. Just as he suspected that the payees had been the aristocrats themselves. Harry hadn't been overly popular and he'd been looking to make changes to a system that few wanted changed. Harry should have known that he was aggravating the noblemen, but he'd been ambitious. His last suggestion of raising taxes and promoting more vampires to a position of nobility seemed to have been the straw that broke the old aristocrat's backs.
To him, all of the political intrigue and inner fighting of the aristocrats was about as interesting as dirt. Like Merle, he would have much preferred to be in Italy than the rainy shores of England. Unfortunately, now that he and Merle were both twenty-five their fathers had decided it was time they became involved with the royal vampire court. He would have preferred to be kicked in the head by a horse than listen to the old vampires prattle on about policy, but he had no say in it, not anymore. As the oldest and only child of his father, he had known that this day would come, but he'd been hoping for a few more years of relative obscurity before being tossed into the wolves' den.
It wasn't to be, but at least the two of them were able to get away for these couple of hours to do some hunting now that the rain had finally eased. Gray skies and heavy clouds hung over them as they made their way into the woods at a brisk trot. Merle sat straight in the saddle before him, the misty air had caused his sandy blond hair to curl at the edge of his wool tunic. Atticus was five months older than Merle and at six-foot-four, he had a good two inches and at least twenty pounds on his cousin. They were still well matched when they wrestled or battled with their staffs, but it was only a matter of time before his strength surpassed Merle's completely.
It was more than just his height and weight he had as an advantage over Merle, but also his pure bloodline that would eventually make him superior in strength and speed. A bloodline of which he was the last of since his mother, Sabine, had been killed twenty years ago. A jealous lover had staked her through the heart when she'd been dressing to return to her husband and child. She'd been buried in the family plot in Transylvania, but Atticus had never been to her grave and he doubted he ever would.
Her death hadn't been overly upsetting at the time; he'd rarely seen her as a child, but his father had taken his revenge upon her lover. Atticus wasn't foolish enough to believe that his father had done it because he loved his mother, but rather he'd done it to salvage his pride, which had been wounded by the fact that the man had killed his wife.
The whole mess of his parent's world was enough to make his head pound and now he and Merle were going to have to wade through it. They would be good allies to each other over the coming years, they had been together since they were babies, and trusted each other with their lives. Both of them were also content to let their fathers battle through the swampland of the aristocratic world while they remained on the sidelines.
The leaves of the trees, still wet from the raindrops sitting upon them, brushed against his forearms and dampened the deep green tunic he wore. His hand drifted down to his bow, excitement pulsed through him at the prospect of the coming hunt. He was hoping for some boar today, some good competition to liven up the boredom that had fallen over him since they'd arrived on English soil once again two weeks ago.
The woods gave way to reveal a small clearing and a stream that he'd been able to hear the water trickling through for almost a mile now. Merle's horse splashed through the stream and Atticus would have followed if he hadn't caught the faint hint of mint on the breeze and pulled his mount up.
His head turned, he sniffed at the air again as his eyes focused on a splash of purple color amongst the dense underbrush of the woods. Atticus leaned forward to peer into the trees. The scent of rose oil drifted through the air and filled his nostrils. Shifting movement revealed the flash of a woman's mantle amongst the leaves and brambles.
"What are you doing?" Merle demanded as he stopped his horse in the middle of the stream.
Atticus gestured toward where the woman remained hidden. Amongst the thick alders, elms, and oak trees she would have been nearly invisible to anyone but him. "Show yourself!" he called at the shadows.
There was a slight shuffling of feet before a head popped out from around the trunk of a thick elm. The woman lifted a haughty black eyebrow as her raven colored eyes ran over him from head to toe and back again before she thrust her shoulders back. Her pointed chin jutted out as she defiantly met his gaze once more.
She wasn't human; he could tell that much by the lack of a beating heart. The tunic she wore was a deep purple color but the dye had faded, the hem was worn, and he could see the different places where it had been patched. A gold cloth belt was cinched at her waist, emphasizing her slender midsection and rounded hips. She wasn't human but she was no noblewoman either, not in those clothes and not out here in the middle of the day. Most noblewomen were napping now in preparation of the night of drinking and socializing to come.
He frowned as he took in her high cheekbones, thin-bridged nose with a pert slope at the bottom of it and her full red mouth. Her lips were pressed together and unsmiling right now but she didn't look disapproving or apprehensive, she appeared more watchful as her head tilted to the side. Her hair, the same raven color as her eyes, hung over her shoulder in a plait that dangled against her waist. Judging by the amount of power he sensed in her, she was younger than he was.
She was such a mixture of light and dark with her fair skin and black hair that he was oddly enchanted by her. She was beautiful without even trying and yet it was such a subtle beauty that he doubted any others would even notice her in a room full of women. Or perhaps
was the only one who noticed her. Merle was looking entirely bored as he stifled a yawn and remained seated on his horse.
Atticus kicked his foot free of the stirrup and dismounted from the horse in one easy bound. Merle cursed and turned his horse around to make his way back toward them. "Who is with you?" Atticus inquired as he approached her. He knew there was another woman present as the one before him wasn't the one wearing the rose oil. No, she smelled of the mint she was chewing and emitted the faint aroma of asters that brought to mind the herb garden that grew outside of his home in Italy.
The woman's mouth pursed and for the first time she looked unhappy as she folded her hands before her. "We mean no harm," Atticus told her. "You are clearly not human."
"Clearly," the woman replied in the lilting accent of someone that had been born and raised on this island.
He had spent so much time moving between England, Italy, Germany, France, and other areas of the continent while following the newest king and his whims, that his own accent was a mix of all the countries. Now that he was back in England it had taken on a more English inflection again, but he could easily adapt to every dialect when it became necessary for them to move on.
"Who else is with you?" Atticus inquired again in a much more mellow tone of voice.
"How do you know there is someone else?" she replied.
Atticus simply smiled at her as he folded his arms across his chest and rocked back on his heels. "I can smell her."
A muscle twitched in her cheek but she turned toward the woods. "Come out Camille." She faced him again as a small hand parted the foliage and another woman stepped forward. "This is my sister."
Her sister was enough to wake Merle up as he kicked free of his stirrup and dropped on the ground behind Atticus. Camille was shorter than her sister with an enticingly round figure that was emphasized by the clothes she wore. The plait of wheat colored hair that fell over her shoulder dangled to just beneath her full breasts. Her cheekbones were high and carved; her nose slender and aquiline. Eyes that reminded him of the Mediterranean Sea darted nervously over them before Camille took a small step behind her sister. Camille was even younger than her sister and still not fully matured.
Camille was the kind of beautiful that was noticed immediately with her refined features and more rounded figure. She could never blend into a room, and normally he would have found himself as focused on her as Merle was. Instead, he found his eyes drawn back to the darker of the two. If she hadn't introduced Camille as her sister, he never would have guessed it. Their features, coloring, and postures were so different. The one standing across from him kept hold of his gaze, refusing to back down; while the other took another step away at Merle's approach.
"And who are you?" Atticus inquired of the dark haired girl as he held up a hand to halt Merle. His cousin stopped just behind him, he was so close that Atticus could feel the heat of his body against his shoulder.
?" the woman retorted.
"Genny," Camille hissed disapprovingly.
Genny shot her sister a displeased look before focusing on him again. "I am Atticus," he said with a small bow and a wave of his arm. Camille giggled but Genny remained stoic and immobile, even when he flashed her a grin that had caused many women to trip over themselves to get at him. She was a tough shell to crack, but he found himself fascinated enough by her to try and crack it. Maybe England wasn't going to be so boring this time around after all. "This is my cousin Merle, and I take it you are Genny."
"Genevieve," she murmured but her face remained impassive as her eyes flickered between him and Merle.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Genevieve."
She didn't look like it was at all a pleasure to meet him as she watched him as carefully as she would watch a bear. "We truly mean you no harm."
"That's yet to be seen."
"Do you often find trouble in these woods?" he asked in a teasing tone of voice.
She didn't melt to him at all as her forehead furrowed. "No, but that's why we come here."
He couldn't help but chuckle at her retort as her black eyes continued to burn into his. "You come here often then?" he asked with a smile.
"When we can," Camille answered when Genevieve remained mute.