in Europe, Book 14)
architecture, masterful artists, and just down the coast, an ancient fortress
where an old and powerful vampire lives…and rules all of Spain.
dark, and deadly, vampire Xavier Prospero Flores waded through blood to
destroy his enemies and reach the pinnacle of vampire society—Vampire Lord. He
has only one regret in his long life, and that’s the day he rejected the
advances of Layla Casales. She’d been too innocent, too naïve, and far too
young. But she’d also been his.
only nineteen when she left Spain, brokenhearted and humiliated by Xavier’s
rejection. But now, ten years later, the ties of family are pulling her back,
not only to Spain, but to Xavier’s fortress. Her father, the vampire lord’s
military commander, is critically ill. Layla has spent years fighting on
battlefields around the world, so when her father asks her to come home, she
can’t say no.
Xavier’s rule began on the ashes of his enemies, it’s not vampires trying to
kill him now--it’s humans. He needs to eliminate his enemy before more of his
people die. Layla arrives just in time to help, but while she came for her
father, the minute she and Xavier see each other, desire burns as hotly as if
they’d never been apart. Xavier isn’t going to let her go this time. But before
they can rediscover the love they walked away from, they must first keep each
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Catalonia, Spain, 1859
Prospero raced into Barcelona far ahead of his companions. He’d been in Madrid
when he’d known, just known, that his Sire was dead. Every
vampire on the continent would have known that someone powerful had died, but
Xavier had known who it was—Vampire Lord, the Lord of Spain, Josep Alexandre,
centuries old, a power beyond reckoning, and in an instant, he was gone.
Xavier’s grief had been real, his fury unmatched. For if Josep was dead,
someone had killed him. And that someone was now Lord of Spain,
except . . . . His far-reaching sensitivity to the balance of
power told him that the vampire who’d murdered Josep was too weak to rule, unable
to contain the power released with the vampire lord’s death. And that left the
territory leaderless, its vampires desperate and gasping for the strength and
leadership they needed to survive.
By all accounts,
the murderous fool had managed to escape the city before being killed himself,
but the result had been utter carnage, as one vampire after another went on a
killing spree in a bid for power. No one had managed to hold the
territory—which encompassed all of Spain—for longer than a few days. Xavier hadn’t
needed anyone to tell him the territory was in crisis. He was powerful enough
to sustain himself and his vampire children without a vampire lord’s
assistance, but most vampires weren’t. In every city and village he’d passed
through on his race back to Barcelona—every place where one or more vampires
had lived—he’d had to linger long enough to revive dying vampires, to share his
blood and make them his, to save their lives.
And still the
challenges and killings continued. It was a constant noise in his head, his
instinct straining to forge a connection to one new ruler after another.
But he’d finally
reached Barcelona, the center of Spain’s vampires because it had been Josep’s
home for the hundreds of years he’d ruled. Racing down the crowded streets, Xavier
ignored angry shouts and thrown objects from pedestrians protesting his horse’s
thundering passage, until he pounded through the gates of Josep’s home, his
mount’s hooves skidding on the polished stone in front of the dead vampire
horse to the care of his companions, who’d been close behind him when they’d
drawn even with the city and would arrive soon enough, he stormed up the steps
two at a time and walked into a bloodbath.
hall, once a gaudy excess of gild and crystal, now stank of old blood and
worse, much worse. The pink marble that had been imported from Italy to grace
the floor was now dark red with blood stains, the grooves between the huge
slabs still slick and shining. Jesu Crist, how many had died here? And
why? Vampires didn’t bleed like that when they died, which meant humans had
been slaughtered like cattle to feed . . . hell, he didn’t know
whom. The instincts that had told him the territory was in turmoil hadn’t
provided any names. It didn’t work like that.
deeper into the mansion, more cautious now. If vampires had been reduced to
butchering humans, there was no telling what state they were in. He was
confident enough in his ability to destroy anyone who dared attack him, but he
wouldn’t enjoy having some feral beast of a vampire launch itself at him from
hiding and sink fangs into his flesh. Dios mio, wasn’t that a disgusting
He turned and
found Chuy, his lieutenant and the first of his vampire children, moving slowly
into the room, his expression reflecting the same revulsion that Xavier himself
Chuy. I don’t know what’s going on here, but there are almost certainly a few
mad ones lurking about.”
“Where will you
go, my lord?”
one choice, my friend. Forward.” At a grim nod from his lieutenant, Xavier
strode deeper into the wrecked mansion, confident that his back was covered.
familiar figure appeared in the open doors to what had been Josep’s drawing
“Dênis.” It was
an effort to keep the dislike from his voice, for all that he and this vampire
shared the same Sire, and had lived in Josep’s court at the same time. “You’re
Dênis gave an
elegant shrug. “The one who killed Josep was not a serious, or even
intentional, contender for the territory.”
“What does that
“He attended one
of Josep’s weekday receptions. You remember the kind. No one of significance
ever bothered, but our Sire felt the need to socialize with the common
man . . . for reasons of his own,” he added in distaste. “The
assassin, for that’s what he was, maneuvered close to Josep and detonated some
sort of magical device. It killed Josep instantly, along with several other
vampires. And a few humans,” he said offhandedly.
“Magic. Are you
“Oh, yes. There
was another sorcerer in the crowd. You know, the one who gained such favor with
Josep when he restored Sakal’s magic.”
repeated and immediately wondered if the sorcerer was involved in this. He’d
never forgiven Josep for making him Vampire. But that had been well over one
hundred and fifty years ago. Had Sakal been plotting his revenge all this time?
“Was Sakal at the reception that day?” he asked Dênis.
“No, he left two
days prior for France, with Josep’s permission.”
“And where were
“I didn’t hire the assassin.”
“But you didn’t
try to stop him, either, did you? Why did you not protect our Sire, as I would
“You were always
his favorite, Xavier. The one who had free access to the most beautiful women,
the best horses and accommodations. Did you ever consider what it was like for
the rest of us?”
“You let him
“And now Spain
“Do you believe
you can hold it?” Xavier sneered. “Against me? There was a reason
that Josep favored me.”
vampire’s expression hardened. “You’ll bow to me before the end. I might
even make you kiss my feet.”
He snorted his
opinion of that. “How many challengers have you killed so far?”
“More than I can
remember. It’s amazing the weaklings who think they can hold power.”
Xavier stared at
him lazily. “Yes, it is.”
fangs bare. “Leave or challenge, you bastard.”
the bastard here, Dênis,” he said. “Shall we do this in the courtyard?
This building stinks of old blood.”
senses of yours too delicate for a little blood?”
“Not as long as
it’s yours.” An instant later the defensive shields he’d created from the power
of his blood alone sizzled to life, as he deflected the spear of pure energy
aimed at his chest. But it hadn’t come from Dênis. He swung his gaze to the
right and caught a flash of blond hair. Sending a focused rope of his power to
wrap about the fleeing vampire’s throat, he dragged the attacker back into
emitted a high-pitched whine, struggling to grip the invisible rope around his
neck, his eyes rolling white with terror as he silently begged Dênis for aid.
Xavier could have told him no help would be coming. Dênis had never cared for
those who looked to him for protection. Not even when the one seeking help had
risked his life to help Dênis.
“It was a
foolish move,” Xavier told the whining vampire. “Did Dênis tell you it would
work? That your pitiful attack would be the distraction that gave him the kill?
That you’d earn his favor and reward after he was made vampire lord?”
vamp had pink tears running down his cheeks, when his gaze switched to Xavier,
pleading for his life.
“Will you save
him, Dênis? Please, proceed. I’ll wait.”
filled with furious hatred for Xavier. Without so much as a glance, he flicked
a hand at the begging vampire. A moment later the pleading vamp fell to the
floor, blood soaking his shirt an instant before he fell into a greasy pile of
skin and bone that betrayed his youth.
Xavier said, pointing at what was left of a vampire who’d been loyal enough to
risk his life for his master, “is why you will never be Lord of Spain.”
Dênis’s grin was
a vicious baring of teeth. “No. That is why I will wade through your
dust to the throne.” A crackling sword of flame shot from his hand as he moved
with vampire speed, appearing so close that when he swung the blade, it would
have taken Xavier’s head had he not snapped his shields up.
“You never did
have a sense of honor,” Xavier said almost cheerfully as he formed his own
blade, this one burning blue and gleaming like the finest carbon steel. “Don’t
worry. You’ll be too dead to crawl.”
blade to blade at first, fire against steel, heat against ice. Xavier could
have taken his opponent in the first few minutes, but it had been a long ride
to get there, and his muscles needed warming. And so he fought until he saw
sweat beginning to roll down Dênis’s face, until he noted the strikes coming a
little slower, carrying a little less force. Until he saw the knowledge in the
other vampire’s eyes. Death was imminent, and so unnecessary.
“You should have
fled in shame after permitting our Sire to die,” Xavier said.
“O diabo te
leva,” Dênis snarled.
“The devil? It’s not me he’s after.” In an instant, he’d shifted from the
almost comfortable strike, parry, strike they’d been exchanging. Knocking
Dênis’s fiery blade aside with a casual blow, he spun the length of his own
gleaming weapon in midair, sliced through his enemy’s neck, and stepped back to
watch as the vampire’s gaze recognized his own death, then disintegrated into
Xavier took the
wet cloth Chuy offered him. Dênis had been old enough that his death was fairly
tidy. But he’d been a big man—not tall, but thickly built—and Josep’s mansion
had always been drafty. The dust that had been Dênis floated through the air.
“What now?” Chuy
asked, taking the cloth and throwing it aside. This room . . .
hell, the entire mansion, was so wrecked that one more piece of debris would
He’d hoped to rest in Josep’s basement quarters, but though he hadn’t yet made
it downstairs, he doubted it was safe for anyone—human or vampire. “We’ll try
my townhouse. It’s been some time since I was in this city. It may have escaped
notice. The others?” he added, referring to the two vampires and one human
who’d accompanied him to the city.
outside, my lord. They have your horse.”
“Good. Let’s go.
There’s nothing here for anyone.” It made him sad to realize that was true. He
hadn’t cared anything for Josep’s riches. But seeing all this destruction
somehow brought the loss home to him, made it real. His Sire was forever gone.
And he would miss him.
The trip across
the city to the townhouse where Xavier had lived for years, before his growing
power had forced him to leave Josep’s city, was mostly uneventful. One
misguided vampire chose to confront him, stepping out from a narrow and dark
alley to issue his challenge. Xavier was tired and more than a little sad, but
he stepped off his horse, handed the reins to Chuy, then confronted the foolish
vamp. Without ceremony, and certainly without any resort to his vampire magic,
he took two steps, pulled the excellent, but very ordinary, sword from the
tooled, leather sheath at his hip and ran it through the challenger’s heart.
The vampire’s eyes went wide in surprise, and a little betrayal, Xavier
thought. Had he expected a magical battle, rather than cold steel? And had he
believed he could win?
He sighed, took
back the reins from his lieutenant, and mounted his horse. He wondered
sometimes at the foolish arrogance of so many vampires, the ones whose Sires
seemed to have taught them nothing of the world. Vampirism gave them a bounty
of gifts—greater strength, enhanced senses, virtual immortality. But it
bestowed those same gifts on every vampire. And as with every creature
in nature, the strong would always triumph over the weak.
He was relieved,
when they arrived at the townhouse, to see it undisturbed and intact. He paid a
local retainer to see to it, but when one was absent for months at a time, all
manner of destruction could occur.
As the sun rose
and he drifted into his much needed daytime rest, he thought about the future,
and knew two things. He would face more challenges in the coming days, but in
but in the end, he would triumph and become the new Lord of Spain.
~ MEET THE AUTHOR~
D. B. REYNOLDS arrived in sunny
Southern California at an early age, having made the trek across the country
from the Midwest in a station wagon with her parents, her many siblings and the
family dog. And while she has many (okay, some) fond memories of Midwestern
farm life, she quickly discovered that L.A. was her kind of town and grew up
happily sunning on the beaches of the South Bay.
Book One of her Vampires in
America series, RAPHAEL, launched her career as a writer in 2009, while JABRIL,
Vampires in America Book Two, was awarded the RT Reviewers Choice Award for
Best Paranormal Romance (Small Press) in 2010. She holds graduate degrees in
international relations and history from UCLA (go Bruins!) and was headed for a
career in academia, but in a moment of clarity she left behind the politics of
the hallowed halls for the better paying politics of Hollywood, where she
worked as a sound editor for several years, receiving two Emmy nominations, an
MPSE Golden Reel and multiple MPSE nominations for her work in television
D. B. currently lives in a
flammable canyon near the Malibu coast. When she’s not writing her own books,
she can usually be found reading someone else’s. You can visit D. B. at her
website www.dbreynolds.com for information on her latest books, contests and
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