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The Warrior Vampire

By:Kate Baxter

ail space. A row of floodlights had burned out, no doubt from the surge of magical energy. Perfect for a sneak attack. Not so great for the thief.

Water pooled in the uneven asphalt and soaked through her Nikes and the hems of her jeans. But she didn’t have time to worry about her soggy socks or the fact that she’d left her umbrella in the car. The notes drifting from the source of power pulled at her heart, no longer corrupt but almost pure. Why? How? She could think of nothing else, the melody urging her forward like a trail of bread crumbs. Looked like she wasn’t going to dodge the elders tonight. They’d see her at the banishing after all, perhaps with one more gold box to add to their collection.

Rainfall masked Naya’s approach in this asphalt and metal jungle. Her prey had no idea a hunter lurked in the shadows. Just the way she liked it. A surprise attack was so much more efficient than a mad rush. If the thief had already surrendered his humanity for magic, there was no question in her mind as to what had to be done. This would be a quick kill. A clean kill.

Disable. Disarm. Her instincts flared as she crept closer to the source of power. A steady beat, trilling, then deep, sang in the well of her soul, awakening her own seat of power that coursed through her veins like quicksilver. She’d never heard anything so … right. How could the music be so corrupt one minute and speak so strongly to her soul the next? Pulse racing, heart pounding, her body kept pace with the sound of the magic that increased in volume and tempo until it threatened to crash over her in a crescendo of raw energy.

Her prey was in sight.

As he leaned against a lamppost, his tawny hair fell gently across his brow, dripping with a steady stream of water. He was huge, with cords of bulky muscle that flexed with each shuddering breath he took. He ripped at his shirt, tearing the fabric from his body, and a feral growl echoed above the rush of rain. He kept his head bowed low over his upturned hands as shallow breaths caused his powerful shoulders to heave.

She had no idea why, but magic always pooled in the hands of the experienced and inexperienced alike. Amethyst light leached from his pores like sweat, dripping thick and sludgy before pooling at his feet. His fingers curled and Naya could tell from the set of his jaw that his teeth were clenched tight. This wasn’t the typical theft-gone-wrong she was used to seeing. The magic’s tune was now in perfect pitch, the purest melody she’d ever heard. But despite that, this guy was in serious trouble. Scared shitless or at the very least hurting like a sonofabitch.

Crouching low, she continued toward him. Her eyes watered from the power leaching out of him. She’d never felt anything like it in all her life. And she’d been around the block a few times. Her heart pounded in her chest and emotion swelled like a rising tide: anticipation, excitement, and … tenderness. A moan escaped his lips and he fell to his knees, dropping his hands onto the wet asphalt. The glow of magic spread out around him in a perfect circle like he was bleeding the stuff, and he threw back his head while he panted like a wounded animal.

Holy shit. What in the hell was she looking at here? Before she could answer that question the mystery guy hopped up from the ground like his ass was on fire. And made a beeline straight for her. May the goddess forgive her … she stood there like an idiot and just watched him advance.

Time seemed to slow and she saw the whole damned thing as though she were nothing more than a spectator. Water splashed out from beneath his feet, his head tucked down as he ran. He hit her in a football tackle, shoulder to her stomach, arms wrapped tight around her waist. It barely registered when he spun, cradling her against his chest as he took the brunt of the fall. Shit, she was dazed out already by the power the guy was throwing off. Forget keeping her balance. Her eyes opened slowly after impact, her lids dragging across her eyeballs, which felt as though they were floating around in her skull. She met his gaze nose to nose, his bright green eyes boring into her with an intensity that stole her breath.

“Protect. You. Naya,” he gasped before losing consciousness right on top of her.

CHAPTER

2

Fuuuuuck. Hangovers were a bitch.

But the way he felt wasn’t the result of going out and getting shit faced the night before. No, this was something else entirely. His lids dragged across his eyes, the room swimming in and out of focus. Where was he? The last thing he remembered …

Shit. What in the hell was the last thing he remembered?

As he shook off the dregs of what had to have been the most hard-core bender of his fucking life, he pulled his shoulders forward and met with resistance. Panic surged within him as he realized that his wrists were bound, his arms stretched high above his head and secured to a sturdy metal headboard. The flesh at his wrists, encircled with silver cuffs, was burned, and raw. He was so godsdamned weak that lifting his head from the pillow took more effort than he had to give. Son of a bitch. Nothing like waking up in the middle of your worst nightmare.

The low thrum of his pulse rushed in his ears and his vision darkened at the periphery as he was overcome with an emptiness that pressed his spine right down into the fucking mattress. Endless and dark, the sensation sucked at the center of his chest like an open wound. And on its heels, a burning thirst scorched the back of his throat. Fuck, he was going to pass out again. A haze clouded his brain, and for a moment nothing mattered more than abating the thirst and want that consumed him, causing his body to tremble.

Focusing his breath, he managed to slow his pulse and quell his panic, if only slightly. He needed a calm head if he was going to get himself free. His head bobbled on his neck as he lifted it to look down at his feet—yup, awesome—secured

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