They’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae agents of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Camille is the Queen of Dusk and Twilight. Delilah is a two-faced werecat and the Autumn Lord’s only living Death Maiden. And Menolly is a vampire princess and married to a gorgeous werepuma Amazon. It’s been four long years since they first found out about Shadow Wing…and now, they’re facing the end of the line. It’s time for the D’Artigo sisters to extinguish Shadow Wing’s evil forever, before he goes mad and tries to unravel the world…
I flipped on the lights as I entered my office, dropping my backpack on a chair by the door. The meeting had been frustrating, and my temper was at a low boil. I decided to hit the gym before I went back to my suite, to work out the irritations of the evening. But first, there was more work.
A glance at the clock told me it was midnight, which meant that I had to answer my email, answer my snail mail, and take care of a dozen other administrative tasks before I could knock off for the evening. I had quickly learned that being a princess of the Vampire Nation wasn’t all powder puffs and tiaras. It was an endless roundabout of diplomacy. I had come to hate the bureaucracy, and I wondered how Roman had managed to put up with it as long as he had.READ MORE
As I headed toward the massive walnut desk, Nerissa entered the room. Since she had been forced to quit her job with the FH-CSI, she had taken up a position as my secretary. It was well below her qualifications, but it gave us more time together, and now she was on my schedule, at least partially. She woke up at noon, and went to bed around four in the morning, so we had a lot more overlap than we used to have. Luckily she didn’t need as much sleep as a human would.
“How did the meeting go?” she asked, wrapping her arms around my waist.
I leaned up to give her a long kiss. We’d spent a leisurely hour in bed when I woke up, making love and cuddling. The scent of her fragrance still lingered on my skin. Even though I didn’t have to breathe, I could smell her perfume. A quick thought that it would be fun to play hooky and sneak back to bed ran through my mind, but one look at the pile of mail on my desk quashed that thought.
“It was a royal pain in the ass. There are problems over in the European quadrant of the Vampire Nation.” I shrugged. “And these are problems that aren’t going to be solved through a Skype meeting. Roman has to make a trip over there. He wanted me to go along, but there’s no way I can get away at this point. At least he understands that.”
“Problems? What sort of problems?” She moved a pile of file folders over to the to-file box and tidied up a stack of letters I was working away at. A number of vampires were so old school that they refused to use email, so we still kept the post office on their toes.
I returned to my chair, leaning back against the soft, supple leather. Nerissa took her place in the chair next to my desk, setting down her tablet. She leaned her elbows on the polished wood, resting her chin on her hands as I swept my braids back to catch them in a ponytail.
“One of the regents over there—Harriman—seems to be going rogue. He’s refused to curtail the attacks against the human population like he’s supposed to, and in fact, there are reports that he’s actually encouraging them. When Roman phoned him a few days ago, he wouldn’t take the call and his valet confided to Roman that he’s afraid for his life. So Roman had a couple of our agents in the area look into matters, and they think that Harriman’s inner predator is out of control.”
“Which means trouble,” Nerissa said.
I nodded. “Yes, precisely that. And it means that we have to take action as soon as we can. We don’t dare let him rile up the vampire populace. The last thing we need is for him to gather an army behind him. We’re still trying to convince a lot of the old-school vamps that they’re better off following our way, and even though they answer to Blood Wyne, there’s a lot of dissent—especially over on the continent.”
The old-school vampires of the Vampire Nation had resisted Blood Wyne’s decree, which severely curtailed which humans that vamps could drink from, and how much blood they could take at one time. We weren’t exactly fighting an uphill battle, but it wasn’t easy, and we had been forced to put down a number of the vamps who had outright refused.
“Uh-oh,” Nerissa said. “Are you afraid he’s going to start a civil war?”
“I’m not sure, but Blood Wyne’s afraid of that. And with her experience, if she’s worried a civil war might happen, then we all should be on the alert. The Queen has an excellent read on the various regents, and she’s scary smart. And a vampire civil war would be hell on anybody else living in the area.”
Nerissa sighed. “So you think she’ll really take him out?”
“Blood Wyne won’t, but Roman will. He has express orders that Harriman isn’t to walk out of this.” I tossed the pile of letters on the desk and began cleaning my nails with the letter opener. “Blood Wyne is as ruthless as they come. She won’t hesitate to destroy anyone or anything who defies her rule. We can just thank the gods that she has a strong sense of community responsibility. I don’t know how she’s managed to keep her inner predator under control for as long as she has, but I’m just grateful that she has it in check.”
“I suppose we better start going through some of your mail.” Nerissa looked about as excited as I felt. She was qualified for so much more, but the fact that we were married, not only to each other but also to Roman, Prince of the Vampire Nation, meant that neither of us were allowed out in public without a retinue. Our lives had changed drastically over the past six months, and I had a suspicion that she was as uncomfortable as I was with a number of those changes.
I stared at the stack of envelopes in front of me. “I hate this shit.”
“So do I, but apparently it’s part of our responsibility and so we have to do it.” She gave me a steady look. “I love you, Menolly, you know that. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anybody. But if I had known what it would mean for our lives when we married Roman, I would have thought twice. I’ll follow you anywhere, but you need to know that I’m feeling terribly claustrophobic living here. And living with a bunch of vampires isn’t exactly my idea of happy happy, joy joy.”
I pressed my lips together for a moment. Her comments stung, but at least she was honest. That was one thing that we had learned the hard way. Communication was vital if our relationship was to survive. Honesty suited us both, regardless of whether it caused pain.
Setting down the letter opener, I turned to her. “I know. I know you’re not thrilled about our life at this point. I feel the same way. It’s like we’ve been locked away in an ivory tower. I don’t know what else we could have done, though. Blood Wyne could have killed me if I refused. At least Roman’s a good sort.” I paused, dreading the answer to my next question. “Do you want out? Blood Wyne will never let me divorce her son, but I doubt if she’d keep you here if you said you wanted to leave.” I was praying she would say no, praying that our love would be strong enough for her to stay.
Nerissa quirked her lips. After a moment, she shook her head. “I love you more than I hate the confinement. Maybe things will change. But no, I’m not going to ask for my freedom. I’m not willing to give you up.”
Relief flooded through me.
“I’m so glad you said that. I can’t imagine life without you. Maybe there’s some way we can ask Roman to ease up on requiring so many bodyguards and curfews and everything that goes along with this life. I’ll tell you one thing. If this is what being royalty is like, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.” I paused, thinking. “It must be worse for Camille—she’s the actual queen of her Barrow.”
We started in on the mail again, sorting through the charity requests, the invitations, the thank-you notes, and a dozen other categories of correspondence that came our way.
A text message on my phone put a stop to the tedium. I glanced at it, at the same time that Nerissa pulled out her phone. We were both included in the group message, from Delilah.
be here at three am. carter’s on his way. he’s found out what the gems are.
And with those words, our lives once again shifted.
Roman’s valet was packing for him when I entered his room. Nerissa and I had our suite, and Roman had his own. When we married him, we had insisted on a private living area, and he had agreed. At first, he seemed to feel left out, but now he just seemed relieved. Nerissa and I hated clutter, and preferred a modern look. Roman’s room looked like a Victorian antique shop had exploded all over it.
As I entered the room, I found him sitting on the bed, reading something on his tablet. He glanced up, a smile spreading across his face. Holding out his hand, he motioned to me, and I allowed him to draw me down beside him. He wouldn’t kiss me in front of his valet, it wasn’t considered proper, but he stroked my hand before letting it drop.
“Hello, my love. Did you come to help me pack?” His eyes glinted with laughter. He knew just how much I hated packing and anything to do with boxes and suitcases.
“Fat chance. You’re on your own there, bub. Sink or swim. No, I wanted to talk with you before you left. When are you headed out?”
Blood Wyne owned her own jet. It contained a sun-free cargo space where vampires could travel safely during the day. Several international airlines were starting to offer the same services, but Blood Wyne’s jet was piloted by her own captain and was filled with security guards. While a vampire could travel halfway across the world in just a few hours on their own, providing they didn’t have to carry luggage, Roman not only had a dozen suitcases, but also an entourage. Which meant flying via plane.
“We leave at two am. I have to be down at the airport in ninety minutes. I’m so not looking forward to this trip. Staking Harriman isn’t going to be easy, and Mother wants him to suffer a little first, as a lesson to other regents over on the continent.”
“Translation: you’re going to make him regret defying your mother.” I shuddered, glancing at Rubicon, the valet. He kept his gaze firmly on his job, which was, right now, packing Roman’s clothing. His loyalty had been tested time and again, and he had come through with flying colors, but I still thought it odd that Roman felt comfortable talking so freely in front of him. I was far more suspicious than that.
Roman shrugged. “Mother calls the shots.” But the expression in his eyes told me that was exactly what he was thinking. He didn’t have a problem with torture, not when it came to things like this. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?”
I snorted. “I think you know the answer to that. I have no interest in witnessing the…interaction. Besides, I have to stay here. We’re getting close to discovering…”
I paused. Roman might trust Rubicon with his secrets, but I wasn’t about to. The secrets I carried had far too many ramifications to chance them reaching the public. And while I knew that Rubicon was loyal to Roman, I still doubted his loyalty to me. There had been a lot of outcry over my ascension to Roman’s side, and I was never sure just which vampires had disapproved of our marriage.
Roman snapped his fingers and Rubicon turned. “Leave us for a moment, if you will. I’ll text you when to return. Don’t go far.” As much as Roman loved his traditions, he had also embraced technology as part of them.
“As you wish, milord.” Rubicon exited, firmly shutting the door behind him.
Roman waited for a beat, then turned to me. “So Carter’s found out what the gems Shadow Wing carries are?”
I nodded. “Nerissa and I are headed over to the house as soon as I get done talking to you. Finally, after four years, we have an endpoint in sight.”
“What do you have to do? And when are you going to do it?” Roman held my gaze, his expression somber.
“We figure out how to destroy them. And then our plans are to summon Shadow Wing through a demon gate. When Shamas returned from the grave, he returned a far stronger sorcerer than he entered it. He can create a demon gate powerful enough to bring Shadow Wing through. After all the battles through all the years, we finally have a chance to end the demonic war.”
“Should I stay? I can ask my mother to send someone in my place.”
Roman was serious, but I shook my head.
I kissed him gently on the lips. “I appreciate the offer, but I can’t tell you exactly when we’re going to do this. It could be tomorrow, it could be a week from now, or maybe a month. All I know is that it has to be soon. The longer we wait, the more chance there is that Shadow Wing’s power will grow. Besides, your mother would have a fit if you turned Harriman over to someone else, and even I would agree—you have to be the one to squash his rebellion. It has to come from the throne. No, you worry about him. We’ll take care of Shadow Wing. This is our fight, Roman. Not yours.”
Roman pulled me to him, holding me by the shoulders.
“This may be your fight, but it’s my fight as well because we’re married. You and Nerissa are my wives, and while I know full well that neither of you love me the way you love each other, we are a triad. You two have done so much to fit into my world. I want to help you any way I can.”
Feeling restless, I broke away, pacing the length of the room.
“Honestly, the way this war has run, I’m not surprised that in the end, it’s coming down to us against him. I haven’t mentioned my feelings to Delilah or Camille yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion they feel the same way. Sometimes, turning points in history balance on the shoulders of one person. Or a small group.”
Roman nodded. “True enough. I’ve seen that play out time after time through the centuries. And what strikes me so much is that usually the vast populace never knows what’s gone on behind the scenes. Or they never find out they were ever in danger. Saving the world can be a private affair, and usually it’s best if it’s kept in secret.”
He stared at the suitcases, then his gaze flickered to me again. “I’ll go. You’re right. Mother made it clear that dealing with Harriman is my duty, but I’m not happy about leaving you. Text me if you need me, although I’m not so sure how cell phone coverage is where I’m headed. Harriman lives in an isolated mountain range, but he rules his region with a bloody fist. That’s another thing we’ve been trying to discourage. When it comes to interacting with the general population, fear isn’t the best motivator. Although my mother doesn’t hold with that thought when it comes to the Vampire Nation proper. She has most of the vamps cowed in front of her.”
I shrugged. “Let’s face it, we’re top of the food chain predators. We don’t have a lot of enemies, except for each other. If Blood Wyne tried to be diplomatic among our own kind, she’d never get anywhere. They’d stake her within minutes. She has to play the bitch queen when it comes to our own people.”
I felt odd, calling the Vampire Nation my “own people,” because I still identified with being half-Fae like my sisters. But when I was with Roman, I tried to blend into his world.
“You’re right about that. I suppose I’d better get back to packing.” He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Promise me you’ll be careful. I won’t ask you to keep out of trouble, because we both know that isn’t in the cards for either of us. Especially not with what we’re facing—with what you’re facing. I was hoping to be in on the end of the game with the war, but I don’t know how long it will take me to corral Harriman. If I’m not here when you face Shadow Wing, remember how much I love you, and remember your strength.”
He kissed me then, holding me tight as his lips played over mine. We were both cold as the grave, cold as death, and yet a warmth spread through my body that I seldom felt. It was true that I didn’t love Roman like I loved Nerissa, but I was deeply fond of him, and I loved him in my own way.
“You promise me that you’ll be careful. If Harriman has given into his inner predator, then chances are he suspects you’re coming for him. And who knows what spies he has in the court? Be careful, my liege, and come back whole and safe.” I kissed him again, and then crossed toward the door as he texted for Rubicon to return.
“Menolly,” Roman said. “Give Nerissa my love. Hold tight to each other, and if you need to, turn to my mother. She picked you to be my wife for a reason.”
As the door opened and Rubicon entered, I gave Roman a solemn nod. Then, taking my leave, I returned to the office where Nerissa was waiting. We headed down to my new Jaguar that Roman had bought me as a wedding present. He wasn’t thrilled that I still insisted on driving myself, but he put up with it.
As we sped into the night, I couldn’t help but wonder what Carter would have to say. And just how long it would be before we were facing Shadow Wing.COLLAPSE
I often write to music, and BLOOD BONDS was no exception. Here’s the playlist I used for this book:
- Three Doors Down: Kryptonite
- AJ Roach: Devil May Dance
- Android Lust: Here and Now
- Arcade Fire: Abraham’s Daughter
- Arch Leaves: Nowhere to Go
- The Animals: Bury My Body
- AWOLNATION: Sail
- Band of Skulls: I Know What I Am
- Beck: Farewell Ride; Emergency Exit
- The Black Angels: Half Believing; Hunt Me Down; Death March
- Black Mountain: Queens Will Play
- Bon Jovi: Wanted Dead or Alive
- The Bravery: Believe
- Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
- Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
- Camouflage Nights: (It Could Be) Love
- Cobra Verde: Play With Fire
- Colin Foulke: Emergence
- Crazytown: Butterfly
- David Bowie: Golden Years; I’m Afraid of Americans
- Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
- Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
- Eels: Souljacker Part 1
- Everlast: Black Jesus; I Can’t Move
- FC Kahuna: Hayling
- Garbage: Queer
- The Gospel Whiskey Runners: Muddy Waters
- Gypsy Soul: Who?
- The Hang Drum Project: Sukram; Shaken Oak; St. Chartier
- Harvey Danger: Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo
- The Hollies: Long Cool Woman
- Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
- John Fogerty: The Old Man Down the Road
- The Kills: Nail in My Coffin; You Don’t Own the Road
- Lorde: Royals; Yellow Flicker Beat
- Pearl Jam: Even Flow; Jeremy
- PJ Harvey: Let England Shake; The Glorious Land; The Words that Maketh Murder; In the Dark Places; The Colour of the Earth
- Rob Zombie: Living Dead Girl
- Robin Schultz: Sugar
- Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
- Scorpions: The Zoo
- Seether: Remedy
- Shriekback: And The Rain; Wriggle and Drone; Church of the Louder Light; Now These Days Are Gone
- Tina Turner: We Don’t Need Another Hero; One of the Living; I Can’t Stand The Rain
- Tom Petty: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
- Traffic: The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
- The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
- Yoko Kanno: Lithium Flower
- Zero 7: In the Waiting Line