Vampire's Soul Cover

Book XIV of the Vampire Queen Series

(While this title can stand alone, recommend first two books of series or one of the earlier standalones, like Beloved Vampire, to gain familiarity with the Vampire Queen world)

Release Date September 30, 2017

Watch BOOK TRAILER!

Loss left them only rage...Until they found each other…

Cai doesn’t want to be with anyone. He doesn’t want a damn servant, he doesn’t want to be associated with damn vampires. Rand just wants to forget his human side, stay in his wolf form and find a satisfying and hopefully violent, bloody way to bring it all to an end.

But when a young female vampire’s life is at stake, the Vampire Council drafts Cai to enter a dark world he never wanted to visit again. Rand is too honorable to let him go alone, and the only way that can work is if he’s Cai’s fully marked servant, bound to the vampire for all eternity.

So fate decides these two lost souls need each other. Even if they have to tear each other apart to figure it out.

  • (*Publisher's Note: Most print titles offered by Story Witch Press are eligible for Amazon's Kindle MatchBook program.)

Excerpt

© Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

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Something was wrong.

Cai paused. No stars in the sky tonight, no moon. Heavy cloud cover and he could smell the weight of a storm brewing within it. He hoped it was a violent one, with thunder that vibrated through the ground, as lightning split the sky and rain lashed the earth. The forest creatures would take shelter while he would stand in its fury, defy heaven or hell to show their fucking selves and bring the fight to him. There was no stillness or peace in pain. Only the din of violence drowned out everything else.

Yeah, I’m in a bitch of a mood. Which only happened on days that ended in y. He frowned. What the hell day was it? Wednesday? What did it matter? In the wilds he preferred, time was about day or night, winter or summer.

It wasn’t like he had a dinner date or a dentist appointment. Hey doc, polish up the fangs for me. Come close, let me hear that bass drum beat in your throat. His eyes half shut as the thought bumped up his hunger.

About time to feed again. Last time, he’d swallowed his distaste for more human-populated areas to forage in the nearest town, about twenty-five miles away. That had been nearly a month ago. Within the past several weeks, no hiker or hunter had unwisely yet conveniently chosen to be out this deep alone when he needed blood. Another meal was due.

He drew in a deep breath, taking in the heat. In the mountains of West Virginia, it was closing in on fall, but summer’s heat was lingering. The day’s warmth still lay heavy on everything. A storm might cool things off. In a couple of ways.

He turned, his brow creasing. It was more than the impending storm, within and without. Something really was off. Wrong. Someone else’s pain, a vibration of it so strong it thrummed through his nerves, tightened his gut. Empathy wasn’t big on his list of personality traits, but curiosity was another matter. Paying attention often brought opportunity.

Following instinct, he cut off the deer path and moved, silent and swift, through the thick woods, emerging onto a more beaten track. Hunters used it most often, scouting out deer and other game, depending on the season. Dropping to his heels, Cai cocked his head, his senses open and sharp. He worried the rough sides and steel point of his one prosthetic fang with his tongue, an unconscious habit.

Then he scented human, and the still attached and very real fang on the other side of his mouth lengthened.

One, alone. His lips curved in a grim smile. Dinner had delivered itself.

He rose and moved without sound through the woods. While hunting, nothing would escape his notice, from the shift of a squirrel in her nest twenty feet above his head, to the rasp of a snake moving over the earth before it glided into creek water, splitting the water currents with its twisting body.

It didn’t take long. With his speed, he closed in on his prey fast. He normally didn’t prolong the stalking phase of things. He had no interest in playing that game. But as he perched in the crotch of a tree and studied his meal, he realized the hunter, his rifle at the ready and with night vision goggles in place, was following something.

A blood trail. It came to Cai with the wind shift and explained why the hunter was still out after dark. It was illegal for him to hunt then, but apparently what he’d shot had gotten away and he was willing to bend the law to ensure he hadn’t left something injured. Cai could respect that. When he got ready to kill this guy, he’d give him the same consideration.

That didn’t say anything about his own respectability. He made all his kills fast. While he knew vampires who liked toying with their prey, because they claimed the fear and suffering gave the blood an extra kick, he guessed he had a blander palate. He had no more interest in tormenting his prey than a human would his Domino’s pizza.

To stay within the bounds of hunting regs, the hunter had to have made his shot by a certain time before sundown. The target had led him on a good chase. It wasn’t like Cai needed to be up on West Virginia hunting regulations, but the last time he’d taken a hunter, the man had had a copy of the manual in his pack. Cai had whiled away some time reading. It would have been nicer if the guy had had a thriller or mystery tucked in the multiple pockets, but you took what you could get out here. And he’d been carrying some Skittles, which had been a tasty dessert.

The hunter Cai was following stopped. He raised the rifle, not to shoot, but to look through the scope. Abandoning stealth, he whistled and straightened. “Fucking hell. You’re not a bear. Holy shit.” His deep voice was tinged with excitement. “Can’t fucking believe it. A wolf in West Virginia. Look at the size of you, you beautiful son of a bitch.”

The wind picked up, and Cai stiffened. That wrongness, a wall of it, impacted him like a baseball bat trying to hit a home run with his jaw. The blood he was smelling wasn’t human. Nor vampire. Wolf smell for certain. But he’d smelled wolf before and this had something else to it.

Something he couldn’t identify, which meant it had to be something the human hunter would consider myth, and Cai had never encountered.

Cai eased forward until he could see the small clearing where the man had emerged, and what had caused his anticipation. He was no more than five feet from the man, but the human’s attention was riveted on his prey. Cai didn’t blame him. His gaze went there, too.

The dark form was as large as a fully grown black bear, which explained why the hunter had mistaken him for one. Now, though, the creature’s head was arched back, so the triangular shape of the ears and the long nose were visible, as well as the bushy tail, limply curved along the bumpy earth. The wolf was black with only a spare peppering of silver and brown strands around his face and ruff. He was a piece of the night himself.

But Cai could see in darkness as well as he could in light. Better, in some ways, because the body’s energy was more distinguishable to him. The animal throbbed with a miasma of pain. When life was about to end, a being projected fear, pain. Adrenaline. Sometimes a brief flash of anger. Or resignation.

What he felt from this creature was different. There was pain, yes, but no fear. Only rage. The hunter thought the wolf was dead because he wasn’t moving. But his chest wasn’t rising and falling because the wolf was taking measured, shallow breaths, to fool his tracker.

The hunter was about to become the hunted, and he didn’t even know it.

Cai settled back into the foliage to watch. Who passed up dinner and a show for the same price?

The hunter approached cautiously, proving he knew his trade, and poked the wolf sharply with the muzzle of the gun, still holding it in a ready position. The body gave limply, no movement.

“The guys aren’t going to freaking believe this. A wolf. Where’d you come from, buddy? Think if I take you to the wildlife cops, they’d let me keep your pelt? Yeah, right.” He snorted to himself. “Well, far as they and everyone else knew, wolves are extinct in these parts. My guess is you escaped from a roadside zoo. But you look too damn healthy for that.”

The hunter straightened and considered the motionless creature. “Man, you are a beauty. I’ll stretch my girl out on your fur in front of a fire this winter and she’ll love the way it feels against all her pretty skin. Going to be a bitch to get you back to the truck, though. I’ll have to use my Boy Scout training and make a litter.”

Yeah, keep talking. The more he talked, the more motionless the wolf became. Humans couldn’t see how dense energy became with a self-imposed stillness, that waiting to strike. But a vampire could. It was as clear to Cai as if the wolf was tying a napkin around his neck and picking up a fork and spoon, like Sylvester getting ready to dine on Tweety.

Wolves were smart, but not that smart. And they weren’t this large either, particularly in a state where the species was thought to be gone, hunted to extinction decades ago.

Since vampires were so much faster and stronger than humans, an ignorant mortal would consider them magical beings. However, aside from varying levels of hypnotic compulsion skills, which suggested they were distant cousins to the python genus, most vampires didn’t have any more ability to manipulate and command energy than the average human did.

Cai had a few more tools in his arsenal than the typical vampire—something he wasn’t about to share with anyone other than himself—but he didn’t need them for this. Vampires might not be able to do magic, but because they left their senses far more open to other world energies than Joe Human, their sharp senses wouldn’t miss the wave of it Cai sensed now.

Cai wasn’t sure what the wolf’s deal was, but it posed no immediate challenge to him, so he’d hang around and satisfy his curiosity. Plus, the wolf could do the work of taking down his meal, before Cai embraced the challenge of taking it from him.

The hunter set his rifle aside, leaning it against a tree, and started to scout for branches to put the litter together. That was when the wolf lunged from the ground.

He sprang like a mountain lion from his resting position, impressing Cai with the power of the move. But the concussion of energy that rippled outward from the wolf told Cai how much effort it took. Magic or not, the beast was wounded. Blood had matted and soaked the fur on his haunch, leaving a muddy puddle beneath him. The bullet wound was a serious injury. Perhaps fatal out here.

It wasn’t stopping him.

He was large enough that his paws landed on the hunter’s shoulders as he slammed into his back, throwing him to the ground. The hunter let out a surprised shout, but he was no lightweight. He’d drawn a knife to cut branches, and he had his arm up to take the brunt of the wolf’s first bite as he managed to flip and sought the wolf’s unprotected side with the knife. The first strike hit the ribs and glanced off, though it tore flesh. The wolf took his own trophy, eliciting a scream as his powerful jaws snapped the bone and ripped out a chunk of flesh. He pulled back, shoved his great head under the male’s now useless arm, and went for the throat.

Cai had seen wolf packs bring down deer. It was a remarkable, coordinated effort, but it wasn’t pretty, because the dance to stay clear of thrashing hoofs and antlers, combined with the use of teeth as the only killing weapon, didn’t make a fast, clean kill possible.

This was an ugly struggle of mere seconds. The wolf laid open the throat all the way to the cervical column. The man’s death throes were short, his soul light blinking out like a popped bulb.

Well, hell, Cai preferred the carotid because the blood taste there was best. He couldn't have that now, obviously, but he was going to have to move fast if he wanted the benefit of any of it. The guy was oozing blood like a boat with a bucket-sized hole. Plus, if Cai was feeding from a corpse, it wasn't going to be over ten minutes dead. After that, the blood was like consuming days-old rotted food.

Cai emerged from his cover. The wolf sprang up and around, standing over the body, teeth bared and eyes glowing like gold embers. Blood spray from the hunter zigzagged over his face and ruff, but plenty of blood elsewhere wasn’t the hunter’s. The man’s blade had found a couple new entry points, because blood was dripping onto the ground with the animal’s movements. The wolf was also favoring the injured back leg, clawed toes curled and barely brushing the ground.

Cai obligingly bared his own fangs at the display of aggression. “That’s my dinner, bitch. You’re probably going to die anyway, so get the hell away from it. Go find a place to lick your wounds. I don’t want to hurt you.”

The wolf’s lip lifted as the rumble in his throat became full-volume thunder. His expression was clear. You and what army, motherfucker?

The wolf was badly enough injured he probably wasn’t hungry. It was the principle of the thing. His kill, no one else’s. Cai could respect that opinion. What could he say? He respected the hunter, he respected the wolf. He was a respectful kind of guy. But he had no intention of being denied what he wanted.

The wolf’s rage was cocked and ready to go, and Cai also understood that feeling. He didn’t usually find it in an animal, because animals didn’t waste time on manifesting their baggage the way humanoids did. Attack was all about prey or fear. Sometimes play.

This wolf wasn’t in a playful mood. He’d let a hunter believe he was tracking him, and he’d set him up. Now he was ready to take on Cai over rights to feed that he wasn’t likely to live long enough to enjoy. Even now, he was starting to sway.

That groundswell of energy hit Cai again. Natural magic, what Cai considered just a fancy word for energy use beyond the physical limits of the body. It put him on guard, though, because he still couldn’t identify it. His gaze darted around the clearing while he kept the bulk of his attention on the wolf, in case he decided to spring at Cai as he had with the hunter.

Instead, the wolf sank to an elbow, slowly, visibly fighting the compulsion. Then he was literally knocked to his side by those forces Cai couldn’t see. His head arched back and a strangled howl tore from his throat. He was struggling against something, with a determined ferocity that told Cai it might be harder to take his dinner from the wolf than he’d anticipated.

Cai drew closer, and the wolf’s eyes focused on him, crazed, despairing. Furious. Cai stopped. One of the two golden eyes was now blue. Cobalt blue, with a dark ring around it that enhanced the size of the pupil. The other iris stayed sunlight gold. Then both eyes closed and the animal convulsed, body rippling as if water moved under the skin. Cai heard the crack of bone and the wolf snarled, pain and frustration.

Holy shit… It couldn’t be. A fucking shifter.

There were rumors of their existence, so unsubstantiated they could be called fairy tales. Yet being a vampire, and knowing that a lot of what humans called imaginary creatures could exist, Cai wasn’t in the habit of asserting something couldn’t, just because he hadn’t seen it. Even so, he’d never heard of anyone who’d seen a wolf shifter.

He was seeing one now.

The transformation energy cocooned the wolf like rope, tightening, pulling his body in multiple directions. If every shift was this brutal, Cai had no idea why any wolf shifter would do so voluntarily, and maybe they didn’t. But he had to wonder if the wolf’s obvious resistance to the transition was making it even more excruciating.

Maybe he thought he was more vulnerable to Cai in that form. He probably was, but…

Cai drew closer. The wolf seemed almost insensible to him now, so he dropped to his heels next to him and laid a hand on his fur. The covering felt much thinner, like a silk scarf instead of a thick pelt. That scarf was about to tear.

The magic coiled around the shifter snapped away, striking Cai with stinging heat before it dis-apparated the wolf. The shift had seemed gradual, torturous, but then, in a final blink, there he was. Cai was staring at a man lying against the corpse of another, their blood mixed together and soaking the earth beneath them.

Fuck.

Cai’s gaze traveled over the shifter. As a wolf, he’d been as big as a black bear. As a human, he kept the same impressive build. Long brown hair tangled over broad shoulders, his wide chest covered with a temptingly thick mat of gleaming chestnut hair that arrowed down to cock and balls, tree trunk thighs. In the naked male’s position, sprawled on one hip, Cai had a good view of his ass.

An ass worth saving, noted his dick.

Why hadn’t the wolf just shifted to human when he was out of range of the hunter’s sight? When the hunter stumbled on the wolf in wounded human form, he might have been curious about why the shifter was naked, but guilt over thinking one of his bullets might have missed his supposed bear and hit a camper would have made him set questions aside, and aid the wounded male.

Maybe shifters considered hospitals and doctors pretty much out of the question. Like vampires, their anatomy probably didn’t exactly line up with humans.

But reviewing the evidence of the past few moments, Cai decided that wasn’t why the shifter had let things play out the way they had. He’d wanted the hunter to catch up to him. He’d wanted to take him out. Cai remembered the look in the wolf’s eyes as he’d sprung. He’d wanted the fight.

“Take my blood, vampire,” the male growled. His voice was rough, broken. “Take all of it. I’m dying. Might as well finish it.”

Well, vampires might not have realized wolf shifters existed, but this one knew enough about vampires to identify one. Cai had no idea what shifter blood would do to a vampire, but it smelled just as appetizing as the human’s. More so. Cai didn’t spend a lot of time worrying over those things. If he died from drinking it, he died. No great loss, as long as it was his choice.

That was the philosophy he saw in the shifter’s eyes now. He knew he was dying, and he wanted it to happen according to his own terms. He’d taken out the predator who’d gotten him first, and he’d given the vampire permission to drink from him, despite knowing he could do little to stop Cai. It was another point of pride, like defending his prey against Cai when he could barely stand on his four feet.

A lot of balls on this one. Literally. Cocking his head, Cai gave them a leisurely look.

The shifter noticed him noticing. Cai stiffened as a hand that could probably palm a cantaloupe reached for his face, but there was no harm in it. The male brushed bloodstained fingers over Cai’s lips and his own mouth curved in a humorless smile. Even bloody and dirty, those lips were appealingly firm, enhanced by the layer of biker-guy-sexy stubble on the strong jaw. He wound his fingers in Cai’s hair, nowhere near as long as the wolfman’s, but long enough to take a good grip, and he put pressure there.

“There’s nothing else once the dark closes in. We both know it. Give me something good before there’s nothing.”

Under the rusty quality, his voice had a melodic, deep woods hillbilly kind of sound, and Cai’s ears reacted to it like his taste buds did to fresh, heated blood. Cai was pretty sure he knew what the male meant, but the shifter removed all doubt when somehow he lifted his dying, bleeding body enough to wrap his arm around Cai’s shoulders and bring his mouth close. Cai caught up, cupping the back of his head, tangling his fingers in brown hair as thick and soft as the wolf’s pelt. He tightened his grip.

“Hold still, and I will,” he ordered, meeting his gaze. As a human, both the shifter’s eyes were blue, with gold flecks and a gold ring around them. Extraordinary and mesmerizing. Full of dull pain and raging need. The pain wasn’t from his wounds. Cai knew that kind of pain, the empty agony of a loneliness well beyond fixing.

However, in response to Cai’s order to be still, the shifter’s lips curled in an appealing sneer which teased Cai’s dominant instincts to bust-your-ass level. Even so, he wasn’t going to deny a dying man. Not when the request served his own interests.

He brought his mouth to the other man’s, stopped just short and stared into those feral eyes. “What’s your name?” Cai didn’t question why he wanted to know, but when the guy died, he wanted to remember him. Wanted to think of him with a name attached.

“Rand.”

“Easy enough. Cai.”

No need to be tentative or gentle about it, and that wasn’t what the wolf wanted anyway. When Cai brought his mouth against those appealing lips, strong fingers dug into Cai’s shoulders. The sound the male made in Cai’s mouth was so split between human and animal, Cai’s cock hardened to lead pipe from the first touch.

Hellfire… Yeah, there might not be anything after, but that was because somebody had tipped divine flame out of the heavens and given it all to this male’s mouth. Cai’s blood hunger disappeared, swallowed by a far different kind of greed. He didn’t give a damn what was offered willingly beyond the kiss. He was going to have it all.

Heat. A slick agile tongue that played with Cai’s fangs in a provocative way no dying man should have been cognizant enough to do. But hell, if the guy was dying, what better thing was there to spend his energy toward? His hands slid over Cai’s hair, his neck, his shoulders, down to his biceps and gripped him as if he wouldn’t ever let go. Cai broke that grip and pushed him to his back, away from the hunter and against the brown earth. He stretched over him so he could clasp his rough jaw and throat and kiss him as deep and long as he desired. He allowed the male to latch onto his upper arm and side with either hand, but the position made it clear Cai was the one in control.

He saw the flame of need and lust in Rand’s blue eyes. As well as a hopeless surrender that tore into Cai’s chest and opened wounds he kept closed with the help of solitude and regular doses of violence.

Sex could be violent.

It was only when he clutched the male’s hip with possessive demand, and the shifter stiffened, that Cai remembered. Hell, he was mortally wounded.

Well, fuck that. This bastard was living, even if Cai had to turn him into a vampire to do it. He adjusted his hold to the male’s cock, fingers wrapping around it. Despite his injuries, hell, it was semi-erect. Even at half-mast, there was way more than a handful to play with. The blue eyes darkened, a flash of surprise among the simmering ferocity. “You aren’t dying,” Cai said. “Your ass belongs to me.”

Sparks of rebellion delivered a straightforward fuck-you message, and then the wolf shifter lost consciousness.

 


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