Blood Oath [Shadow Ancients]
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by Cammie Eicher
Category: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Description: The Ancient world is in chaos. The body of famed model/talk show host/vampire Nekia is discovered by short-lifers after her execution. The Prophetess, seer of the Ancients, is dying. A cabal of Ancients determined to maintain the status quo is willing to kidnap and kill to do so. The high elder orders vampires to gather together in their homelands and hide. And for the first time in his four hundred years, Giorgio Montrosa is in love. Yet there's nothing he can do to protect his beloved Leykin, an enforcer-in-training, when an assignment puts her in the hands of madmen. Because sometimes even being the biggest, baddest enforcer of them all isn't enough.
eBook Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, LLC, 2011 August
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [370 KB]
Reading time: 232-326 min.
Louisville, Kentucky: July 23, midnight
The single word echoed through the solemn chamber as the elders gave their recommendation one after another. When the last "Death" had faded, Misha Tsarentza rose to face the small audience.
"So shall it be," he pronounced, his fist slamming against the massive desk with a crack.
A council enforcer wearing heavy leather gloves approached the defendant, a slim twist of silver chain in his hands. Before he could bind the woman's hands, Nekia lifted her chin, met Misha's eyes and said, "I ask that the Prophetess be summoned."
A shocked gasp fell into the silence. That was the ultimate appeal, and the ultimate insult to the council of elders ruling the Ancient world. Each clan had one seat, selected from within their own ranks, and the council's decision was law.
Yes, the accused had the right to ask for the council's decision to be considered by the Prophetess, the vampire society's most powerful member. But from her position inside the chamber door, Leykin wondered how anyone, even this evil creature, could have so little respect for her clan mates. Ancients didn't beg for life. They stood tall and accepted the fate bestowed by the council. Her clan would forever share Nekia's shame, not only for her act in murdering the previous high elder, but her cowardice as she faced the tribunal.
Darkness shaded Misha's voice as he stared at the beautiful woman in front of him and growled, "The request shall be granted."
Before the enforcer could stop her, Nekia stepped forward. Addressing the council as a whole, she spoke two words that brought the elders to their feet in outrage.
Leykin glanced across the room at her lover, Giorgio Montrosa, the council's chief enforcer. The scars on his face stood in deep relief as anger brought a flush of color to his linen-pale face. He stared straight ahead, hands tight at his sides, as if willing himself not to rush to Nekia and slice off her head himself.
"Don't," Leykin whispered to him through the empathetic link they shared. She knew how hard he fought to control his rage. He was, after all, the one who had risked dying of silver poisoning to save the girl, Karina.
That terrible night still came to her in dreams sometimes. Karina, a child of the high elder's clan, of pure Ancient blood but appearing human. Mistaken for Misha's goddaughter, stolen in a plot for power by Nekia and her acolyte Colin Fluet, Karina had been trapped inside a silver-lined cage in a tobacco warehouse.
If Giorgio had not built up immunity from an attack of liquid silver that nearly killed him years earlier, he would have died that night. Sometimes, when the dream changed to nightmare, he did. Leykin woke gasping for breath, red tears staining her pillow, until her conscious mind pulled her from the dream world and back into reality.
"Whom do you accuse?"
Misha's harsh question broke through the babble of the elders' conversation and quieted the room. Shoulders squared, Nekia said, "Danforth Harrington. He forced me to act against my natural will and should share my punishment."
Leykin had only met Harrington, who served as the senior U.S. senator from Louisiana, in passing. Giorgio knew him well, and hated him.
"Enforcer!" Misha called. Giorgio stepped forward. "The execution is stayed until the Prophetess arrives and an investigation against the newly-accused is finished. You will see this order is obeyed."
Although Giorgio bowed in acquiescence, Leykin could tell by the rigidity of his stance that his fury remained unabated. His loyalty to the council and to the high elder in particular was complete. He would die to protect any or all of them.
His investigation against Nekia had been perfect, the case airtight. She knew if Harrington had been involved in the former high elder's death, he would be standing in this room right now. Giorgio would watch both their heads roll and take great pleasure in the sight.
She followed the small contingent as Nekia was led out of the chamber, down the elevator and into a well-armored sedan waiting on the lowest level of the parking garage beneath the tall building. The gloved enforcer held her arm in a tight grip as she was placed in the back seat. Enforcers took their places on both sides of her before Leykin closed the door. The space between the elevator door and the vehicle was less than two feet, but security couldn't have been greater if the transfer had taken place in an open field.
Leykin relaxed as the car sped away. Most of the time, she loved her job. She was lucky Misha had assigned her to Giorgio for training, and even more fortunate that no one seemed to know -- or if they did, didn't seem to care -- about her growing relationship with the council's chief enforcer.
She'd been attracted to him from the moment they met. The age difference didn't matter, even though he was past 500 and she had just marked her first century of life. Maybe part of their connection was that in a people for whom family was of utmost important, they'd both been raised by someone other than their parents. Giorgio had been orphaned and raised by his clan. Leykin had been placed with the woman she called Granmama shortly after her birth and grown up in Minnesota, a cold and rural place few Ancients chose to call home.
"Do you need a ride, Leykin?"
She turned to see the high elder and his personal enforcer, the eccentric short-lifer named Belle, behind her.
"I have some errands," she said. "I'll take a taxi."
"You're certain?" Misha pressed. "My driver can assist you after he takes me home."
"Thank you, but I'll be fine." She bowed, a gesture of respect she belatedly remembered. Ancient protocol wasn't big back in Minnesota.
"As you wish."
Once the high elder was gone, she pressed the up button and stepped into the elevator. She got off at the lobby level and went outside. She liked to walk when the night was at its darkest. She loved the glow of neon and the emptiness of the streets of Louisville. Kentucky had never been high on her list of places to live before, but she was beginning to love the state.
The same way she was beginning to love Giorgio.