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Copyright © 2007 by Shiloh Walker, Inc.
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eISBN : 978-1-440-67952-0
Soul of a Hunter
“Your pretty hide is what the lady wants, not your death . . .”
Blood splashed hot on her hand.
Leandra tossed on the mattress, her hair tangling around her upper body, sweat gleaming on dark flesh as she struggled with the nightmare . . . with the memories.
“We shall have to cull Leandra.” Those words were
heartbreaking, and the bitter sense of betrayal would have made her cry—but it was dangerous here. There was no time for tears. She had to get out.
Had to get the girl out.
. . . the voice echoed through her mind, and she muttered in her sleep, voicing her agreement. “My fault. Mine.” If she had just looked. Just
, if she had truly looked . . .
Blackness—all around. Then
The Hunters—they wanted her blood. Many of them wanted her dead. But then there was Jonathan—“She saved the life of my mate. I’ll destroy any person who thinks to harm her . . .”
Humiliation. Bitter and thick, it nearly choked her. Then another voice, deep and accented, Mal said, “Her heart is a good one. Misled as bloody hell, but true as the sunrise.” He looked at her with sympathy and understanding, his dark eyes trying to
assure her everything would be okay.
No. Nothing would be okay. The sympathy was nearly as
painful as the humiliation, almost worse than the knowledge of just how wrong she had been.
Mike . . . there was Mike, staring at her with unreadable gray eyes, golden brown hair falling into his eyes as he murmured, “Go on, witch. I won’t ask for your life.”
But before she could go . . . blood filled her vision. Mike’s blood. Seeping from the wound in his side, a wound she had put there.
The gun—Leandra screamed as she saw herself holding it again, aimed at Mike’s unprotected body. And even as she tried to throw it away, she was squeezing the trigger.
LEANDRA AWOKE WITH A SOB, JERKING UPRIGHT IN her bed and staring sightlessly at the wall in front of her.
Over—it was all over. More than five years had passed.
Five years since that day when she had been so horribly, painfully awakened.
She’d been sent out to do a job, sent to kidnap a child to use as bait, but part of her had felt like she had been rescuing Erica. Part of her had known something was wrong. Looking into Mike’s eyes as she pulled the trigger, it had felt like a betrayal. Not to him—she didn’t even know him. But to herself. She’d lived by certain rules. She didn’t kill innocent people. She didn’t kill decent people.
But shooting him, killing his friend—it had felt
. They couldn’t be innocent. Hunters were
innocent. She’d led her entire life with a clear purpose. The Hunters were evil. They had to die.
It had been devastating, painful, having the blinders she’d lived with her whole life ripped away. And ever since she had lived with the knowledge that she’d live the rest of her life trying to fix the wrongs she had unwittingly done.
It would be a damned long life, too. Reaching up, she touched her fingers to the ridged scar of flesh at her neck. It had long since healed over, but the mark was there, and she’d live with it. Most vampires didn’t have such an ugly physical reminder of the bite that Changed them, but the man who had bitten her hadn’t been worried about bringing her over.
He’d just wanted to feed. And he’d torn a nasty, gaping hole in her neck. In the short span of time between Pierre ripping her neck open and then Malachi feeding her, Leandra had nearly bled out.
Sometimes she wished the ancient vampire had just let her die instead of forcing his blood down her throat. So low on blood, that was all it had taken for the Change to start, the grueling transformation from mortal to vampire.
have died. Leandra was a born witch. Witches had stronger defenses against many paranormal creatures, but the vampire’s bite was just as deadly to a witch as it was to a mortal. Most witches didn’t survive the Change. Leandra really wished she hadn’t.
Lately, it seemed she was wishing that a lot.
Five years ago, death wasn’t something she would have longed for.
But a lot of things had changed in five years, and not just her becoming a vampire.
Five years ago, she would have looked at the people she now called comrade, and all she would have seen was
. She’d lived her life thinking the Hunters were nothing more than cold-blooded killers. Bitterness flooded her, lingering on her tongue like acid.
How long would she have continued to believe that lie if she hadn’t been forced to see the truth?
Her entire life, possibly. Leandra had been raised by the Scythe, a group of people that were little more than a cult, and the Scythe had committed too many wrongs.
It seemed like yesterday, and at the same time, it was like a whole other life. The memories of what she had done still tormented her. The wrongs she had committed.
The blood she’d shed out of blindness.
Very little bothered her as much as feeling like a fool, but she could have taken that. If only she hadn’t caused so much pain because of it.
Guilt could choke the life out of a person and usually, Leandra handled it a little bit better.
But being back at Eli’s, surrounded by people who remembered her, who knew what she had done, only made it harder. Being so close to Mike made it almost unbearable. Her hand shook a little as she wiped the tears from her face. “I have to get away from this place,” she whispered.
Leandra had run away from home nearly twenty years ago, but the rich, musical accent of Jamaica hadn’t faded. She barely heard it herself, unless she was talking to others.
Right now, it was her own voice that she heard, along with the erratic beat of her heart. She was alone. At least as alone as she could get when she was living in one of the Hunters’ strongholds. Elijah Crawford, the Master of this territory, had allowed her into his lands, welcomed her into his house, but she wished desperately he hadn’t.
Leandra would give damn near anything to do her training elsewhere.
Training . . . closing her eyes, she drew her knees to her chest and pressed her face against her legs. “Training.” Once more, Leandra was pupil to a more powerful creature than herself. Not for the magick, though. She’d long since passed the need to have somebody help her master the power that made her a witch.
No. Now she needed a trainer to teach her to control the bloodlust. It sounded so simple—learning how to resist the call of blood. It was anything but simple. Four years had passed since she had been Changed but instead of getting a little easier, it got a little harder. The bloodlust that came on a newly Changed vampire could easily rage out of control.
Leandra had thought it was getting better, though. Then that bastard Malachi had brought her
. He could choose any place in the world to finish her training and he chose the one place guaranteed to put her on edge.