ONCE UPON A TIME, in a land of vampires, shape-shifters and witches, the Blood Sorcerer coveted the only power denied him: the right to rule. He and his monstrous army attacked the royal palace, slaughtered the beloved king and queen of Elden and sought to do the same to Nicolai, the crown prince, as well as his three siblings, Breena, Dayn and Micah.
The sorcerer succeeded in all but the latter. He had not counted on a king’s hunger for retribution and a mother’s love for her children.
Just before expelling his final breath, the king used his power to fill his offspring with an unbreakable need for vengeance, ensuring they would fight for eternity to claim their due. At the same time, the queen used her power to send them away, saving them. For the time being.
Only, the king and queen were weak, their minds fogged from pain, and their magic conflicting.
And so, the royals were now bound to destroy the man who had slain their parents, yet they were also cast out of the palace, each flung to different kingdoms within the realm with only one link to the Royal House of Elden: a timepiece, given to them by their parents.
Nicolai, the Dark Seducer as his people called him, had been in bed, but not alone. He was never alone. He was a man known for the violence of his temper as well as the deliciousness of his touch; and after his youngest brother’s birthday celebration, he’d adjourned to his private chamber to sate himself on his newest conquest.
That’s when the dual natures of the enchantments struck him.
When he next opened his eyes, he’d found himself in another bed—and not with his chosen partner. He was naked still, only now he was chained, a slave to the very desires he’d evoked in his lover. Desires that had mingled with the magic and sent him straight to the Sex Market, where he was quickly sold to a princess of Delfina, his will no longer his own, his pleasure no longer his own, his timepiece stolen and his memories wiped from his mind.
But two things could not be taken from him, no matter how fervently the princess tried. The cold rage in his chest and the blistering need for vengeance in his veins.
The first, he would unleash. The second, he would savor. First with the princess, and then with a sorcerer he could not quite remember, but a sorcerer he knew he despised all the same.
He had only to escape….
“I NEED YOU, JANE.”
Frowning, Jane Parker placed the note on her kitchen countertop. She studied the scarred, leather-bound book resting inside an unadorned box, surrounded by a sea of black velvet. A few minutes ago, she’d returned from her five-mile jog. This package had been waiting on her porch.
There’d been no return address. No explanation as to why the thing had been left for her, and no hint as to who “I” was. Or why Jane was needed. Why would anyone need her? She was twenty-seven years old and had only recently regained the use of her legs. She had no family, no friends, no job. Not anymore. Her little cabin in Smallest Town Ever, Oklahoma, was secluded, barely a blip in the neighboring expanse of lush green trees and wide-open, blue sky.
She should have tossed the thing. Of course, curiosity far outweighed caution. As always.
She carefully lifted the book. At the moment of contact, she saw her hands covered in blood and gasped, dropping the heavy tome on the counter. But when she lifted her hands to the light, they were scrubbed clean, her nails neat and painted a pretty morning rose.
You have an overactive imagination, and too much oxygen pumping through your veins from the run. That’s all.
Cold hard logic—her best and only friend.
The book’s binding creaked as she opened to the middle, where a tattered pink ribbon rested. The scent of dust and musk wafted up, layered with something else. Something…mouthwatering and slightly familiar. Her frowned deepened.
She shifted in her seat, a twinge of pain shooting through her legs, and sniffed. Oh, yes. Her mouth definitely watered as she caught the slightest trace of sandalwood. Goose bumps broke out over her skin, her senses tingling, her blood heating. How embarrassing. And, okay, how interesting. Since the car accident that ruined her life eleven months ago, she had experienced arousal only at night, in her dreams. To react like this in daylight, because of a book…odd.
She didn’t allow herself to ponder why. There wasn’t an answer that would satisfy her. Instead, she concentrated on the pages in front of her. They were yellowed and brittle, delicate. And beaded with blood? Small dots of dried crimson marred the edges.
Gently she brushed her fingertips along the handwritten text, her gaze catching on several words. Chains. Vampire. Belonged. Soul. More goose bumps, more tingling.
Her eyes narrowed. At last the sandalwood cologne made sense. For the past few months, she’d dreamed of a vampire male in chains and woken to the fragrance clinging to her skin. And yes, he’s the one who had aroused her. She’d told no one. So, how had anyone known to give her this…journal?
She’d worked in quantum physics for years, as well as what was considered fringe science, sometimes studying creatures of “myth” and “legend.” She’d conducted controlled interviews with actual blood drinkers and even dissected the corpses brought to her lab.
She knew that vampires, shape-shifters and other creatures of the night existed, even though her coworkers on the quantum physics side of the equation had not been privy to the truth. So, maybe someone had found out and this was a simple joke. Maybe her dreams had no connection. Except, forever had seemed to pass since she’d had any contact with those coworkers. And besides, who would do such a thing? None of them had cared enough about her to do anything.
Let this go, Parker. Before it’s too late.
The command from her self-preservation instincts made no sense. Too late for what?
Her instincts offered no reply. Well, the scientist in her needed to know what was going on.
Jane cleared her throat. “I’m reading a few passages, and that’s that.” She’d been alone since leaving the hospital several months ago, and sometimes the sound of her voice was better than silence. “‘Chains circled the vampire’s neck, wrists and ankles. Because his shirt and pants had been stripped away, and a loincloth was his only apparel, there was nothing to protect his already savaged skin. The links cut him deeply, to the bone, before healing—and slicing open again. He did not care. What was pain when your will, your very soul, no longer belonged to you?’”
She pressed her lips together as a wave of dizziness crashed through her. A moment passed, then another, her heartbeat speeding up and hammering wildly against her ribs.