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Dark Embrace
by Mina Carter

Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica
Description: Maria Ravensford is a woman on a mission. A mission of vengeance. Determined to avenge the death of her young sister at the hands of Rogue vampires, the petite Dhampir takes to the streets to hunt them. Unfortunately things don't go precisely to plan and it's only the arrival of Marak, a darkly handsome Vampire Warrior, that saves her life. Trouble is, the bite that saves her life also takes her fully into the world of the Kyn... where Marak is waiting to claim her.
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009

eBookeBook

40 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [78 KB]
Words: 15587
Reading time: 44-62 min.


Chapter One

"Married? You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

The rich sound of male laughter rolled through the large room in response, like cream through strong coffee. At one end of the chamber, majestic in its shadowed decoration, paced the owner of the voice. He was tall, a looming figure almost merging into the darkness. He turned suddenly, his silver gaze sharp as he glared at the man still chuckling as he lounged in the chair opposite the roaring fire.

His companion just shrugged, not at all fazed by the deadly look he was receiving. Like most of the warrior caste Marak, sixth monarch of the Kyn, was well known for his violent and unpredictable temper. He flopped down in the chair, raking long fingers through his close cropped hair in frustration and glared at the fire moodily.

"This can't be happening. Freaking politicians," he muttered, not caring the other man heard the bitter note in his voice. His best friend from childhood and a fellow warrior, Kalen's family was nearly as old as Marak's own and their blood nearly as blue.

"Sorry, mate, you heard the man," Kalen said bluntly. Earlier that night they'd sat in the Royal Hall, listening as Lord Elsveth, leader of the Lord's Council, relayed the concerns of the council over everything from the cost of decent daylight shielding these days, to the view that the warrior caste were dinosaurs, then went straight for the jugular about the fact that Marak still had no heir.

"They want an heir, which means you need a woman. I love ya, man, but not that much," Kalen drawled, his deep voice full of humor as he watched Marak fidget. His annoyance at the situation he was being forced into and the trap any idiot could see was coming, translated into movement. The rasp of leather whispered in the room as he shifted and crossed his leg over his knee, lounging in the large chair with the indolent grace inherent to all vampire-kyn.

"So ... the Lady Kassandria doesn't catch your interest?" Kalen asked with amusement, rising and striding over to the large sideboard to one side of the fireplace. He lifted one of the decanters in a long fingered hand, swirling the contents in the heavy glass as he looked enquiringly over his shoulder at Marak.

Marak nodded, leaning his head back and closing his eyes as a wave of tiredness and hopelessness washed over him. He knew his duty and he'd known this day was coming. The king needed an heir, the line needed to continue through his children ... his sons. He wasn't conceited enough to think he may be lucky enough to sire a daughter on any woman, not with how rare female children were. What was the saying? 'You're not a man until you've had a daughter'. He smiled without mirth, his eyes still closed. It was peaceful in the dark, the warmth of the fire on his face like the warmth of the sun he'd never seen, only imagined.

"She's a very beautiful woman," he admitted simply, watching as Kalen inspected the decanters at the bar. Born with the distinctive warrior marks adorning the left side of his face and most of his body, Kalen was silent as a cat when he moved. And a sneaky bastard to boot, Marak admitted. Many times he'd have been a goner, fallen to the Rogue if Kalen hadn't had his back.

"But?" Kalen demanded, his voice suddenly closer. Marak opened his eyes to see the warrior stood over him, holding out a heavy tumbler of amber liquid.

"But what?" he asked, reaching out to take the glass but Kalen held onto it for a moment, his dark eyes unreadable.

"I can hear the 'but' there. She's beautiful and that figure would tempt a saint! Heaven knows it wouldn't be a hardship to bed her. Hell, if I had a shot at her I'd start a damn nursery!" Kalen said, finally relaxing his grip on the glass, frowning at Marak. "So what's the deal?"

Marak threw the contents back in one move and sucked his breath in as it burned all the way down to his stomach. "She's not my bond-mate. I don't have one," he said, his voice slightly husky from the alcohol.

"And?" Kalen asked, clearly puzzled. "Bond-mates are rare, have been for centuries. Why else do the courts watch the humans, looking for the mark?"

Marak grunted. He knew the answers to that as well as Kalen did. The Kyn were the descendants of twelve demon-warriors who had crossed into the human dimension, the last survivors of a bloody war that had wiped out their race. At first, things had looked good for the Kyn, great in fact. Their new home had magnified their natural abilities and food was plentiful, living in the open rather than hiding in the perpetual shadows, the humans terrified of anything that looked even vaguely Kyn-like. And some of the humans could be brought over into the night-world, be made Kyn, providing much needed women for the race to continue. The icing on the cake though had been discovering some of the converted were bond-mates. Rare and cherished women, they were literally born as the other half of the warrior they were destined for. And a treasure the demon warriors thought they'd left behind them in the dying ruins of their home.

But then things took a turn for the worse. Vilan, one of the twelve, fell victim to Blood-Rage, a devastating condition that all their kind flirted with once they reached adulthood. Marak shuddered slightly. It all started so innocuously ... the ever present temptation, just a few swallows more. Then it was a slippery slope into blood addiction and there was only one way to go from there. Rogue.

Vilan had gone Rogue without warning, killing his mate and disappearing into the night, his trail long dead by the time the other warriors realised what had happened. But his presence was still felt. From Vilan rose another breed of vampire, the Rogue--vampires without the moral codes of their Kyn brethren, creatures only interested in the rush of the hunt, and the high of the kill.

For generations Marak and warriors like him had been trying to wipe them out, to protect both human and Kyn alike. However, the Rogues knew as well as the Kyn did that there were humans that could be converted. So they converted indiscriminately, killing when one of the converted showed a bond-mark. Useless to the Rogue, their deaths denied the Kyn precious fertile females, a grievous loss as throughout the years less and less children were born, always more male than female. The scientists amongst the Kyn theorised that it was something to do with the demon DNA of their ancestors, DNA that wasn't supposed to exist in this realm, and was failing gradually.

Marak sighed, the enormity of his race's situation bearing down heavily on his broad shoulders. He tapped the empty glass against one leather clad leg, the hefty tumbler looking delicate against his large hand. His eyes focused on it. He was king but his hands were more used to killing, marked with heavy calluses and bearing a myriad of small scars. Some quirk of fate somewhere and he'd been born with the warrior's marks over his face and body, sealing his fate twice over. His lips quirked in amusement as he traced the edge of a holster strap over his thigh. He was suited and booted for a night out on patrol with Kalen and the lads. Not for them the pale, languid romanticism of vampires in the human books and films. Which was good, because Marak sure as hell wasn't Brad Pitt. He was something altogether more dangerous--a Kyn warrior in the prime of his long life.

He put the glass down and rose in one lithe movement, the demon blood in him expressed in a fluid and predatory movement. "Move your ass, K. We need to hit the streets."

The rest of their patrol was waiting for them by the time they hit the compound--a small group of low rise buildings tucked away at the back of the estate, close grouped as though for protection. Unlike the rest of the estate, built in Marak's youth centuries ago, these buildings were squat and utilitarian. Heavy-duty shutters adorned the windows and doors, operated by remote from the control room deep inside, as much security as protection against sunlight. Behind them, strengthened steel bars sat behind the windows, preventing access should someone be lucky enough to actually get through the shutters. Lucky enough or stupid enough; anyone that got inside was then going to be facing Kyn warriors. Averaging around six foot five and a couple of hundred pounds apiece and each with years of combat experience, any intruder would have to be seriously suicidal.

Marak swept in through the doors, unlocked and open to the night air at this time of night, his tall figure wrapped in an ankle length leather coat that swirled around his powerful figure. A black polo and leather pants with black shit-kicker boots completed the ensemble, reinforcing the 'bad-ass' image Marak did so well.

"You're late," a voice announced shortly from the back of the room, as their driver ceased his pacing to glare at the new arrivals. Tall like the rest of them Feral was built along the same lines as a small tank, massive muscles corded in his heavy frame. The lines of his warrior's mark were deepest blood red, startling against the ivory of his skin. "We should have been out an hour ago," he said, sweeping a hand over his shaved head in agitation, his eagerness to get out and start kicking Rogue ass obvious.

"The other teams left just after sundown. Mikal said to tell you he's got your lazy ass nailed," he added, jerking a glance towards a wipe board in the corner of the room, where the patrol teams recorded nightly kills--some friendly, but mission specific, competition. Marak didn't care who took down the most Rogue, as long as someone did. But it helped the teams bond and when you had a couple of dozen warriors, all with independent and highly aggressive natures, that was something he really needed them to do. Otherwise they'd start taking their aggression out on each other.

"Noble prattle," Marak replied with a shrug, completely disregarding the fact that a couple of the guys, he and Kalen included, were nobles themselves. Here it didn't matter. They were warriors first. "Gotta listen to them, or they get their panties in a bunch."

"That and they want pretty boy married off so he can father a posse of brats," Kalen added helpfully, earning himself a glare from Marak as he slid past. Feral looked at Marak with interest. No one but Kalen could get away with calling their leader 'pretty boy' but all the warriors knew the constant battles Marak had to run with matchmaking mothers and enterprising females with an eye on being the next queen.

"So.... which vision of loveliness are they offering on the sacrificial altar?" The question came from the back of the room, from a lounging figure dressed similar to Marak and every other guy in the room. Except this figure filled the leathers out a little more in certain areas than the rest of them.

Shit, the last thing Marak wanted was to get into a pissing contest tonight. Not with Vixen, the only female Warrior on the team, possibly in existence. Especially not over female rights in the Kyn world. Although most of the Warriors in the room outweighed and towered over the lady-warrior none of them, including Marak, wanted to take her on in a fight. Tall for a woman, easily topping six feet, with the distinctive Warrior markings tracing over her left temple and cheek, Vixen was every young Kyn guy's wet dream. Like the rest of them she was dressed in black, ready to hit the streets, the t-shirt almost scandalously tight over an impressive rack, and her leather pants virtually sprayed onto her curvy hips and ass. Even some of the warriors in the room watched her out of the corners of their eyes, appreciation on their faces, when she wasn't looking. Which wasn't often. Vixen was as sharp as a cut-throat, and as deadly.

Marak looked her in the eye, his expression indicating he wasn't about to take any shit. Not tonight. Not when they were already late for patrol. "Kassandria of House Santien," he replied simply, watching Vixen for something, anything. Until Vixen female warriors had been unheard of, and all the guys trod a bit carefully around certain times of the month now.

"Stacked," was Vixen's reply, the faintest hint of contempt in her voice. "And brainless. She'd be good for sex, but if you want good conversation you'd do better moving in Ugly over there," she commented, flipping her hand in a gesture towards Kalen.

"Bite me, bitch," Kalen threw over his shoulder, busily arming up from the large weapons locker in the corner. Only his and Marak's weapons were still in there, the rest of the small arsenal the locker had contained already secreted about the bodies of the rest of the patrol. "You wish!" she snarled back without looking. It was a ritual the two of them had been going through for years.

"You two finished the sweet talk?" Marak growled, his patience wearing thin now. "Because the Rogue are gonna think it's damn Christmas with no warriors busting their asses out there!"

"Yeah, we're finished," Kalen replied. "Blondie's too chicken to admit she fancies the pants off me." He grinned as Vixen, predictably, flipped him a hand gesture.

"Fuck you, K," she snarled, and stomped out the door.

Feral sighed and threw a long-suffering look at Kalen. "I wish you wouldn't do that! I'll be scraping freakin' Rogue gore off all night now," he said with resignation, his head bowed as he set off after his patrol partner, obviously hoping to calm her down a little before they hit any action.

Kalen chuckled, and turned back to Marak. "What?" he asked, catching the disapproving look in his king's eyes. "She likes me. Really!" he protested.

"Yeah right, just tone it down a little. Last thing we want is psycho warrior-bitch to flip out on us without any Rogue to point her at, ok?" Marak rumbled, heading for the weapons cabinet and calmly starting to tool up. It didn't take him long, speed born from long experience, and within minutes he and Kalen were headed outside to where a black SUV with darkened windows awaited them.

"So." Kalen stopped Marak from opening the front passenger door with a hand, his dark eyes alive with interest. "What you gonna do about the lil' woman issue?"

Marak sighed in frustration, having an inkling now of how Feral felt earlier. Once Kalen had hold of something the Kyn was like a damn terrier. "Hell, I don't know! I'm not marrying Kassandria for sure. She's a nice girl and all, but I'm not gonna be dictated to," Marak replied grimly, annoyance on his face. "I pick my own woman, not have her picked by some jumped up lord. Would serve them right if I took the first woman I see out there as mate."


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