rest of Chapter One
Jesus Christ, I was fucked. I was back inside the city limits, night was coming, and I had a cut which was still seeping.
Blood would draw the Derkelyng to me like a moth to a flame.
I could maybe barricade myself in the tunnel—if I could even find anything I could use—and hope the Derkelyng didn’t find me. That didn’t look very promising, but I’d be belowground. Then again, if they found the tunnel and came at me from both ends, I’d be trapped. But if I ran to the country, there would be no concealment. I looked at the crumbling pile of stone, brick, and glass around me. I could move easier here and use the shadows for concealment. Not that it mattered since I was cut, but out here the damn things would have to run me to ground.
I ran toward what was left of the city.
How had it gotten to be dark so quickly? And when did it start to rain? A never-ending rain, falling softly upon my face—drip… drip… drip. The sound echoed in my head, matching my thumping heart. I lifted my face. Rivers of wetness twisted and snaked, working their way down until they finally caressed my vulnerable throat, a ghostly touch.
Shivering slightly, I tried to bring my erratic breathing under control. In… out… in… out. A strangled, desperate laugh threatened to escape as my mind reminded me why I was breathing so hard. There was no calming down. Death would soon stalk the night, closing in on me, its harsh breath cold on my neck.
I stopped near a wall. A warm breeze wrapped around my exhausted body as I shook the rain from my hair. “God, help me.”
The laugh that threatened earlier finally escaped as the words floated around me, dead and limp in the misty air. Even if God did exist, He couldn’t help me. No one and nothing could. No, prayers wouldn’t rescue me from what stalked the night now. This being was much more corporeal, with flashing fangs, red eyes, inhuman speed, and a thirst for blood. Worse, the creatures that owned the night were immortal.
I ducked in and out of the shadows, moving as silently as possible as I searched for a hiding place. The deeper in the city I moved, the more I noticed the buildings had been renovated. Were these creatures trying to bring the cities back? Why? They were animals; all they cared about was blood and fucking. At least, that’s what we’d always thought… had been taught.
Finally, darkness covered the land. Slowly the evening’s silence awoke with movement. As I searched for a hiding place, I noticed bodies taking to the streets as red eyes searched and voices drifted.
“Mmm, do you smell that?”
“Ah yes, fresh blood. I do believe we have a human among us tonight. Odd, they’re usually out of the city limits by nightfall.”
“Guess this one didn’t make it out in time, huh?”
“Indeed. What fun!”
The hunt was on.
Lander lived in the area that had been rebuilt. His home was the top floor of the largest building in the center of the city. The rest of the building housed his business, all 110 floors. He was the House Lord for the La Nouvelle-Orléans Coven in the Southern District and he’d fought bloody well to claim that title. Before the war had changed everything, he’d been a wealthy businessman with power in this part of the country.
In a finger snap, he’d been changed into what could only be called a vampire. Or, as they were now called, the Derkelyng. The creature who’d changed him was one of the oldest. Through Lander, and others as powerful as Lander, he’d taken control of the southern part of the United States. Of course, after the war the country was no longer called the U.S. of A. The land was divided into sectors ruled by the strongest Derkelyng.
Rider was the Derkelyng who’d changed his life and the only ‘man’ Lander was answerable to. Rider was the Elder Lord, the undisputed Leader of the coven. Rider was one of the eldest and most powerful among his kind. Thank God Lander didn’t have to see Rider but once a year. Frankly, Rider scared the hell out of Lander. Even as vicious as he could be, Rider was that much more. Lander still had human emotions buried under the need for blood… Rider did not.
Rider had never been human.
Lander strolled across the lobby; a doorman was ready and waiting. Outside, a car sat at the curb to take him wherever he wanted. He just didn’t know where he wanted to go. From the moment he’d opened his eyes, he was restless. The urge to prowl wouldn’t leave him. It was driving him nuts. He nodded at the doorman as he walked outside. The night was alive with sounds and scents. Lander rolled his shoulders, the spot between his shoulder blades itching suddenly.
“What the hell…?” Lander growled as the pressure increased.
On the evening breeze was something… a scent. The smell wrapped around him, teasing his senses. Fluttery sensations invaded his belly and his knees threatened to buckle. Taking a deep breath, he drew the smell in, and smelled blood. Human blood. The smell tangled in his head and shot to his groin, making him harder than he’d ever been. Male. Young… and strong.
Rider had told him he’d find one human who would call his blood—the human who would tame the beast within him, who would help anchor his raging soul. Lander didn’t believe Rider. He didn’t believe it was possible for Derkelyng to see humans as anything other than prey. They were weaker species, were they not? Some were strong, he knew that, but still...
He certainly never dreamed he’d have such strong feelings… and so swiftly.
Growling more loudly, he jerked his head in the direction that wonderful scent came from. Blood always smelled good, tangy and sharp, but this—this was something different, something more. His entire body vibrated with want. While he hungered for the source of that blood, he also yearned for the human it came from.
He wanted to… Heaven help him, he wanted to hold that human close, protect him from the dangers around him, and give him anything his heart desired. Mate. That was his mate out there, alone in the city… and unprotected.
The sweetness of that scent suddenly spiked with the taint of fear. Lander’s body reacted while rational thought flew out the window. Only one thing could make a human stink of fear like that, and that was being hunted. Lander sniffed again, picking through the scents, following his human’s smell… and the roar that left him had several immortals around him shaking in terror. Not only was his mate out there, but two Derkelyng were hunting him.
Moving faster than a human eye could track, Lander followed that scent. If they touch what’s mine, I’ll yank out their heart with my bare hands and feed it to them. Weaving around piles of rubble and old, broken down cars in the street, Lander rushed on, moving even quicker. The other Derkelyng wouldn’t know this human was his, of course. They had no way of knowing. Lander hadn’t marked the human as his yet, much less converted him.
Desperate, Lander sent out his thoughts, warning any Derkelyng around the Central Business District that the human there was his. He even offered a blood reward—just hold the human, unharmed, until he arrived. Of course, doing this also left him open to others who wanted his position under Rider. They could take the human prisoner and force Lander to—
Derkelyng, be it known that my child, Lander, has found his mate. The human near Lafayette Square has my protection. Harm that human and death won’t come fast enough. In fact, death won’t come at all under my mercy.
Lander cringed as the inhuman voice of Rider cut across his, and every other Derkelyng, mind. Jesus, he tended to forget just how strong Rider was, until he was reminded with presents like this. Thank you, Sire.
You are very welcome, Lander. I’m pleased you’ve found the one, child. I can feel your excitement. I… envy you that.
Maybe one day—
Maybe. Worry not about me, child. Instead, hurry to that special human who will complete you. He waits for you and… huh. Well, I’ll be damned. Impressive. The little shit just shot a Derkelyng who was holding him for you right between the eyes. Won’t kill the male, of course, but he’ll sure feel that for a few days. Your human is a fighter, Lander. I do believe I’m going to like him.
Lander poured on the speed. They had his human. The Derkelyng had been warned not to hurt him, but his kind wasn’t used to humans who fought back, either. How very odd… and exciting. The last thing he wanted was another ‘yes man’ to follow him around. He had that in his old life, and even now.
Most converted Derkelyng feared him to some degree since he was a child of Rider’s. They also walked carefully around him because he was powerful in his own right. This human… Maybe this being would stand up to him unlike the others. Lander raced up St. Charles Avenue, one of the streets that bordered Lafayette Square.
Images sped past until finally, there, by the bronze statue of Henry Clay, a Derkelyng held a struggling human. Another Derkelyng sat close by, a bullet slowly working its way out of his forehead.
And the struggling human? He was cussing a blue streak. His gun had been taken, but apparently this human wore weapons on his body like the female Derkelyng wore jewelry. His mate had a long, wicked knife now… and was doing his best to gut anything that got close enough. Rider was right, this human was impressive.
“Stop!” Lander bellowed.
All three froze on the spot… until the bullet finally worked its way out from the Derkelyng skin and dropped on the ground. Ping, ping, ping it went, bouncing across the ground. All eyes shot to it and just… stared. No one said a word; they all just stared at it. Another time he might have laughed at the situation.
The Derkelyng still on his feet motioned to the human near him. “This is the one we were warned about?”
Lander nodded. “He’s mine, yes. Move away from him.”
“Gladly,” said the other Derkelyng as he stood and shuffled to a bench.
Lander smothered a laugh. Yes, maybe years from now this would be funny. But for now… Lander turned to his human. “Human. I am Lander Garçon, the House Lord for the La Nouvelle-Orléans Coven in the Southern District. Rider is the Elder Lord of this Coven. You are under his protection. None of the Derkelyng will harm you. By what name may I address you by?”
I tried to get the whole thing done, y'all, I just couldn't, but the good news is I don't like much though! :) Bare with me, okay. I have good days and not so good days. :(