Caressed by a Crimson Moon
Rulers of Darkness #3
January 25, 2013
Consumed by madness and tormented by dark memories of blood and death, Hadrian Lucretius, King of the Validus Clan, has returned after living in self-imposed exile for nearly three hundred and fifty years.
Consumed by madness and tormented by dark memories of blood and death, Hadrian Lucretius, King of the Validus Clan, has returned after living in self-imposed exile for nearly three hundred and fifty years.
To maintain peace with the vampires, Eva Maldonado is offered as a sacrifice to the crazed vampire king by her father, the alpha of the Silveria Shifter Pack. Hadrian’s reputation is both legendary and lethal; he is ruthless, bloodthirsty, lusty, and soulless. When Eva arrives at the ancient fortress high in the Carpathian Mountains, she is shocked to find a ravaged man with dark burning eyes filled with loneliness and dangerous desire.
Would she be his lover…or his prey? His savior…or his victim? Would Hadrian lure her into madness or would their perilous passion be their redemption?
Eva groaned when the clock on the mantle elegantly chimed three. She slid from the bed and began to pace the room again. She could not stop thinking about her encounter with the king. He was a powerful, mysterious, and all together lethal vampire, terrifying and undeniably sexy. She was struggling to find a logical explanation to her reaction but came up with nothing. With a sigh, she acknowledged that her confinement was not helping her bewildering thoughts and restlessness.
She circled about the room. Though the space was large and stylish, she felt trapped. At her father’s village, she had been treated like a prisoner, always locked away, always caged. She craved movement and she wanted out. Now.
She had not promised Falcon she would stay in the room. Once given, a shape-shifter could never go back on their word, a trait she wished she had not inherited from her father. Falcon was right, she admitted, she could easily get lost and she did not want to be caught by the king again.
Or did she?
No, of course not.
She paced by the door for the hundredth time, casting a longing glance to the knob. It wasn’t locked. Maybe, if she just stepped out into the hall for a moment she would feel better. She shook her head. No, she would wander away. She would be unable to resist the urge to roam. In frustration, she threw her hands in the air. Hoping a shower might help calm her, she went to the dark polished dresser and pulled out a set of pajamas before stomping to the bathroom.
Having inspected the washroom earlier, she had been pleased to find it stocked with all the necessities. After placing her neatly folded pajama pant and tank top set on the counter, she grabbed a bottle of body wash, then studied the collection of expensive shampoos and conditioners and randomly selected a French pair. She turned on the shower and quickly ditched her clothes.
The warm water that rained down from the numerous showerheads was soothing. She took her time bathing and washing her hair, savoring the heated water and privacy. For the past ten years she had bathed in a communal shower with chilled water. Well, no one had actually bathed with her, no one bared to be that close to the half-breed.
“Another positive check for the vampires,” she said as she sat on the bench, basking in the heat and steam that gathered in the roomy glass shower stall.
God, she had missed true civilization. The shifters she had lived among envisioned themselves superior to the human race, deciding that living in the jungle, with few modern amenities and technology was the way to go. She rubbed the back of her neck and snorted. The pack was nothing but backward, from their views of the world, of women, of war, everything. Why could they not be like most other shifter packs and live with humans? Have normal homes, eat at restaurants, and enjoy dance clubs and movie theaters.
Enjoy everything I once had.
She had lived within human society the majority of her life. She and her mother had lived happily together, just the two of them before cancer stole her life and her father claimed hers. She had attended public schools, making friends with humans and even a few shifters. Never had they treated her like a leper or made her feel inferior.
With a sigh, she turned the water off, quickly dried and dressed. Out of habit, she brushed out her thick hair with her fingers, instead of using one of ivory combs, and fastened it in one long braid that extended to her hips. Next, she stoked the fire. It’s flames coming back to life with a vengeance and she happily greeted the warmth. Eva fell into a chair and brought her legs up. She hugged them to her chest and rested her chin on her knee. For a while she sat, gazing unseeing into the fire. The shower had helped, but she still fought the urge to glance at the door.
Never had she felt so restless, not even during a full moon when she was locked in her hut while the pack shifted into animal form. Their snarls, growls, and fights would echo in the night and, being a half-breed, she remained in human form. Her body grew tense as she tried to keep her focus on the elegant dancing flames.
When the clock’s beautiful melody chimed four, Eva cursed and jumped to her feet.
She stormed back into the bathroom and threw open the door to the walk in closet. She wiggled free from her pajama pants and quickly pulled on a set of dark jeans, slid her feet into thick socks and tied on her snow boots. All the while, she silently thanked Falcon for purchasing these items for her. After she snatched a powder blue down jacket, matching beanie and gloves, she reentered her room. Eva paused before the door, her hand hovering just above the knob. She knew she should stay. She knew Falcon was right and the last thing she wanted was to get lost in this inexplicably large castle. Or be found by the king…
An unseen force beckoned to her, calling to the dormant wildness within her. She wanted nothing more than to throw open the door and run.
Eva rubbed her temples and dropped her head.
“What is wrong with me?”
She had never craved movement so much in her life. She needed to be out of this castle. She longed to feel the cool wind whip at her cheeks, the moon kiss her skin and…She frowned as her heart began to slam in her chest. There was something else. Something in the back of her mind demanding that she go into the night. She knew there was something out there. Something she…needed.
Eva slowly opened the door. Sticking her head out into the hall, she looked both ways before silently tiptoeing from the room, closing her door. She retraced her steps, descending to the main level and out the front door.
Relief filled her as the wind rushed over her. She quickly tucked her ears beneath the beanie and shoved her hands into her gloves. Taking in a deep breath, she filled her lungs with the clean scent of trees and freshly fallen snow.
“Okay, I’m outside. Where to now?”
An odd sensation compelled her to turn right. She walked along the wall of the castle and continued around until she came to a terrace. The furniture was covered with tarps weighted down by snow. Coming to the edge, she was shocked by what she could see. Below was a large hedge made labyrinth, with a building of glace at its center and a lake, frosted over by ice, towards the back. The land was flat and stretched for miles a village of cottages huddle together against the line of trees that extended for miles and ended at a cliff.
She quickly descended the steps from the terrace and paused when she came to the entrance of the labyrinth. Should she enter? Did she dare? Again, an odd feeling swept over her. Not one of fear but of excitement. Confusion clouded her mind while instinct compelled her forward.
Eva slowly wound through the maze, using her photographic memory to find its center. She was almost certain the glass building was a green house and she was anxious to see what kind of tropical plants would be living such fragile lives in these unforgiving mountains.
Her steps faltered as she came to a bend. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
She was not alone.
Eva froze and strained her senses. Her hearing and eyesight was slightly better than a human’s but nothing compared to a full shifter or—she swallowed hard—a vampire. Unable to detect anything, she slowly crept forward. Placing her back against the twelve-foot tall hedge wall, she peeked around the corner.
A man sat on a white marble bench, his elbows resting on his knees, his head hung low. She could only see his perfectly hard profile and her heart skipped a beat as her breath caught. High, bold cheekbones and a straight, stern jaw descended to thin, yet enticing lips. His hair was black and buzzed in an extremely short military fashion. To her disappointment, his eyes were closed, but she knew they would be intense. He was dressed in all black, a stark contrast to the white that surrounded him.
Raw power radiated from him. He was pure unadulterated male. Lethal. She knew instinctively this vampire was the crazed king, Hadrian Lucretius. The man—no, the beast that had ensnared her in the hall.
His eyes remained closed as his lips pulled back from his long, white fangs tinted with red.
She knew she ought to be horrified but as before…he was making her lust. Her body was hot and heavy, her breathing came in soft gasps, and heat spiraled through her core as she recalled the feel of his powerful body looming over her.
“I know you’re there.” His voice was deep and heavily accented though his style of speech was modern. He spoke again, but she did not comprehend his words. She closed her eyes and savored his voice. Dark. Seductive. She shivered, not from cold, but from pleasure.
Nothing made sense. She knew her reaction was insane. She knew she should be terrified and run as fast as she could back to the castle and the safety of her room. But, she could not bring herself to leave, nor did she want to run. Her heart stuttered at the thought of him chasing her and something wild deep within her roared to life.
In a rush of movement, she was pulled forward and spun about. Her back slammed against the hedge, a cool, strong hand wrapped about her throat. Her cry of shock quickly faded to a gasp of delight. He stood before her, pinning her to the hedge. Her senses flared, taking in his fresh scent. He smelled of pine, wilderness, and male. His eyes gazed deeply into hers as if searching for her very soul. They were fathomless, obsidian pools that swirled with malice, grief, and…desire.
Her heart thundered in her ears as her lips parted, drawing in rapid breaths, filling her lungs with his irresistible scent. Again, she wondered at her response, but lust clouded her mind, blocking all rational thought.
She dropped her gaze to his broad shoulders and chest, which were covered only by a short-sleeved black shirt. Her fingers twitched at the thought of running her hands over the hard muscle. He was lean, solidly built, and tall, clearly over six feet.
He crowded her. Trapping her.
She loved it.
Hadrian’s gaze focused on her pulse. Eva’s heart beat wildly, teasing him. His fangs felt heavy in his mouth and they ached to pierce her slender throat.
The run had helped him immensely, driving away those hateful memories. He thanked God he had recovered before his ward had stumbled upon him in the labyrinth. The memories always left his mind tainted.
He had wanted blood. No. Needed blood. Death. Yes, he had craved to taste death, to savor it. He had hunted in the forest and fed from a rabbit. It’s tangy blood and tiny life had brought him precious little relief. It was enough. It would keep him from tearing her throat open and gorging himself on the sweet elixir.
She would be spicy, exotic, and oh, so hot.
He ran his tongue over his fangs and Eva sighed. The scent of her desire grew stronger. He took in a deep breath and shuddered. Intoxicating. His erection strained against his pants as heat consumed him. He wanted to teleport her to his bed, feel her soft body beneath him, her hips rocking with his as he claimed her, filled her. Her lust sang to him like a siren’s song and fired his icy blood.
“We meet again, little one.” He brushed the elegant column of her throat with his thumb, pausing over her pulse with every stroke. “I did not expect it would be so soon.”
Hadrian kept his hand on her neck as he stepped back to appraise his prey. He had known she was small, but his mind had been completely consumed with lust and hunger earlier to focus on detail. She was barely over five feet and slight of frame. Fragile. He could snap the poor girl; easily break her like a doll. He eased the pressure on her neck at the thought. Her face was delicate with almond shaped eyes that were down caste, concealing their color. She also had well defined cheekbones and stubborn chin. Her luscious, pouting lips were peach in color. Hadrian shivered as he imagined their taste. He could not remember the last time he had felt another’s lips pressed against his. Never had he kissed the women he took to his bed…not since he had been a mortal man, not since his wife. But damn, her mouth was tempting.
He dropped his gaze to her body. She was tightly bundled in a thick jacket, the blue a perfect complement to her smooth sun kissed skin. Her dark brown hair was pulled back and fastened in a braid that came to her hips. He resisted the urge of freeing her locks, having the absurd desire to run his fingers through her hair.
He released her throat to press his hands to the hedge on either side of her head. Her gaze met his and Hadrian bit back a curse. Amber. Pure, amber stared back at him. Not yellow, as he thought before when he had found her in the hall.
For an instant, his gaze grew sharp. Eva tried to look away, but his hand caught her chin and forced her to face him.
“Look at me, little one.”
She raised her hands, intending to shove him away, like she knew she should. This was wrong. He was a vampire. No, he was a crazed vampire king and she was, well, a lowly half-breed, who was also his ward. Nothing could happen between them. As if I would want something to happen between us, she told herself.
His thumb brushed over her bottom lip, the caress was simple and yet completely erotic. He sank his body into hers and Eva lost her breath. .
Hadrian slipped his hand down her neck to her nape; his fingers began to play with the stay strands of hair that had escaped her braid. His ravenous gaze roamed her body. Despite the bulkiness of her jacket, he could feel her generous curves. The blue material covering her chest strained ever so slightly against her breasts as her hips cradled his, her stomach was flat and soft against his painful erection.
“Shall we continue what we started in the hall?”
Eva swallowed hard as she thought, Oh, God, yes!
His finger danced over her shoulder and her chest to the zipper of her jacket. She watched as he slowly drew it down, heat coiled in her core.
Eva couldn’t think. She couldn’t move. The heat of his strong hands burned through the thin material of her pajama tank top as he spanned her waist. She did not notice the cold but shivered in anticipation. His fingers slowly slid up her sides and paused at her ribs, just below her aching breasts. She arched her back and he hissed.
“Terror,” Hadrian whispered. “You should be feeling terror.”
Eva squeaked in response, unable to speak.
He leaned his head down, his breath brushed along the sensitive flesh of her throat.
“You should run,” he said. Would I let her escape? Yes, he would. He would use what remained of his will to remain still as she raced through the labyrinth. He should set her from him and demand that she go.
All Eva could do was nod. She knew he was right. She should be screaming. She should be praying that Falcon would come to her rescue. This dark vampire had her trapped. Hadrian, the mad king, had her at his mercy. She tried to remember the evil rumors, hoping they might be able to draw her back into reality. Nothing came. All she could think about was how much she wanted to feel his hands on her body, hips lips against her skin and his—
“Touch me,” Eva gasped. Desire controlled her mind as lust gripped her body.
His black gaze jumped with dangerous delight. He spun her about, forcing her back against his chest, his hands gripping her hips as he pressed her front towards the hedge.
Heaven help her, a bolt of treacherous excitement ran down her spine to curl her toes. She pressed her hips back and groaned at the feel of his hard cock against her ass.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked, his lips brushing her ear.
“Who?” His demand was rough and, God, she loved the anger that laced his voiced. On some level, she knew she must be losing her mind to desire this vampire. She did not care. She wanted him. Now. Primal, sexual need coursed through her in sweet agonizing pulsating waves.
“H-Hadrian Lu-Lucretius,” she answered.
Eva cried out in surprised pleasure as he slowly scraped his fangs drew his tongue over her rapidly beating pulse. She tilted her head to the side, giving him better access to her neck.
This was crazy, she should be begging him not to bite her, not panting for his touch. All her life she had been told a vampire’s bite was ruthless and excruciatingly painful, something to be avoided at all costs. But she wanted this.
She frowned as she tried to analyze her reaction. She should be fighting him with every ounce of her strength. Instead she was aching with lust.
His tongue caressed her neck and her thoughts scattered. Her head lolled back against his chest.
Eva began to wriggle beneath his hold. She wanted to see him, to kiss his lips. It felt like an eternity since the last time she had been kissed. What would his fangs feel? Would the cut her? Something dark and wild in her roared at the thought. She tried to turn, but he kept her pined.
“You crave.” His fingers dug into her hips as he rubbed her against his shaft. He dipped his face down into the crook of her neck and took in a deep breath. She shuttered. He inhaled in her scent, like an animal, like the beast that he was and it thrilled her. “I can scent your need.”
She boldly covered his hands with her own and he allowed her slide their hands over her flat belly to her breasts. She moaned when gave a gentle squeeze. Her breasts were bare beneath her tank top and she hated the thin material for being in the way. She wanted to feel his palms against her hard nipples.
“Wild,” Hadrian breathed.
She sighed and began to adulate her hips against him. He bit back a curse as fire spread through his veins.
His fangs grew even longer, his nails lengthened to claws as his cock swelled. His eyes flicked from her breasts to her pulse and back. The vampire within him howled as he thought of pushing her jeans down, revealing her sex. She would be so hot, so wet. He could tell by her scent she was ready. He could drive into her as he pierced her flesh and drank deep.
Eva reached up to circle her arms about his neck—
She stumbled into the hedge. Whirling around she saw…nothing. He was gone. The snow was undisturbed, with the exception of her footprints.
The absents of his body left her vulnerable to the cold and she quickly zipped her jacket. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the sensual haze that clouded her thoughts.
Her neck tingled and Eva hesitantly raised her hand, her fingers met smooth skin. He had not bitten her. Her cheeks flooded with heat. She had wanted him to sink his fangs deep within her. Her blush grew even darker as clarity began to set in. She had freely offered herself to him, mind, body, and…blood. She had been his for the taking.
So why hadn’t he claimed what she had clearly offered?
Eva walked over to the marble bench and sat. She rubbed her hands anxiously over her knees as she fought the urge to search him out, to find him and demand they continue. He had wakened something darkly feral within her and she frowned, one hundred percent confused.
Why had she acted this way? Why did she want him so badly? She bounced her legs, barely resisting the need to hunt him.
She knew vampires could control a human’s mind. The ability made hunting and feeding much easier. Had he done that to her? Possibly. But, if he had reached into her mind, why had he let her go? Why had he not taken what he wanted?
“Because you’re a half-breed,” she spat.
No man in his right mind would want a half-breed.
But he isn’t in his right mind, she thought then mentally shook herself. Stupid girl, she chided. Even if he hadn’t used his power on me and I do truly desire him, it doesn’t make a difference. He is a king and I’m a half-breed bastard that he’s been saddled with as a ward.
She sighed and leaned back, titling her head up to the clear sky. The night was still. Silent. Her breathing had begun to slow, her heart returning to a normal pace while her body still throbbed with need.
Out of all the rumors she had heard of Hadrian, none had warned her about how devastatingly handsome he is. Darkness clung to him and he wore power and malice like a second skin. Yet, his touch had been gentle and—she shivered—deliciously firm. He could have ripped her throat out with his fangs or he could have slaked his lust on her. Instead, he deserted her.
A growl rumbled the night and Eva’s brow furrowed. It sounded like a jaguar. She glanced about, straining her hearing, trying to discern where it had come from. To her knowledge, there were no shape-shifters here besides—She slapped a hand over her mouth—Her. She had made the noise. Never before had she been able to growl, to channel the feral animal that lurked within every shape-shifter.
She shook her head in disbelief. Something strange was happening to her. First, she had craved freedom of her room, then followed her curiosity out of the castle, she had been compelled to enter the maze and this sexual madness with Hadrian. Everything pointed to what the pack called Drive, a behavior motivated by pure instinct. She was a half-breed and as such, she would never experience Drive. Or, should never.
Eva gave a heavy sigh, her shoulders slumping as she brought her hands up to massage her temples. Maybe she just needed some sleep. Jet lag could do strange things to people.