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eBook ISBN: 978-1-94178-506-5
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Print ISBN: 978-1-94178-508-9
*This book was previously published as Phoenix Incantation*
One week ago
“You’re sure, Amystia? You’re ready?”
My heart soars at the idea. I’ve craved this for nearly three centuries. “We’ve only been waiting for Warren to decide for certain. Since he’s rejected Sylvia, he’s exhausted the list of possible mates. He hasn’t shown even a glimmer of interest in another for ages.”
I had watched as my mate, King Dagan, bid farewell to the stunning young vampire who’d requested a personal audience. Only millennia of experience in tempering my reactions had prevented me from dancing on my throne when she divulged her news.
Dagan flashes me a radiant grin, broad enough to permit a glimpse of his razor-sharp canines. The unmitigated joy radiating from him thrills me to the core. He crushes me in his arms then whirls us both around. We spin ten feet off the parquet floor of the royal chambers. My ornate dress fans out behind us. For once I am glad of the formal attire I’m forced to wear to match my station as Queen of the United Vampiric Covens. The beaded lace bodice and flowing silk train seem fitting for the proposal we’re about to make. Not to mention the military cut jacket, embroidered with the symbols of his ultimate rank, which hugs Dagan’s impressive build.
“I don’t want to wait another moment.” I rest my forehead on Dagan’s brow while I stroke his smooth cheek. The intensity of his maroon eyes still has the power to shock me. Especially when he’s as aroused as he is now.
“We’ve waited long enough. Where is he?” Dagan trails his lips along the pulse hammering in my throat as I close my eyes then search the castle for the other half of my heart. I’m always able to sense his presence.
“The laboratory. He seems… agitated.”
Dagan smoothes the furrow of my brow then scoops me into his arms. “No need to worry, love. He’s probably just frustrated over dismissing another very willing companion. You know how it disturbs him to injure anyone’s pride. Shall we cheer him up?”
I squeeze my eyes closed as my mate flies along the corridors to Warren’s tower. I never have gotten used to the way the two of them zip from point to point instead of gliding at a more sedate pace. As we near, a series of crashes reverberates through the stone foundations of the castle.
“Dagan…” An ominous frisson of warning tugs at my nerves. “Perhaps we should come back later. He’s not responding to my calls.”
Though all vampires have paranormal talents, mine have always been strongest when sensing and communicating with loved ones, even from great distances. Just a few hundred yards away now, and closing rapidly as we climb the spiral staircase, I should be able to hold a conversation with Warren. Yet I cannot dent the vampire sorcerer’s concentration on his task.
“I won’t waste even one more hour, Amystia. He’ll have to resume his experiment tomorrow. Or maybe next week, after we’ve finished celebrating.” Dagan barges through the oak plank door without so much as knocking.
The soaring bookcases that line every inch of the curved walls of Warren’s sanctuary come into view as I blink open my eyes. Then a streak of black whizzes toward my face. Before I can react, Dagan twists to the side and drops me. Whatever was flying at me slams into the left half of my mate’s chest with enough impact to launch him into the air over my head.
I stare, horrified, as he catapults through a row of beakers and other assorted glassware on the table nearby before destroying four entire shelves of ancient tomes with his limp body. Why didn’t he slow himself?
“Dagan!” I rush to his side only to find him unconscious, something I’ve never seen in all our years together. Not even when he’d been ambushed by forty young rebels, or after he’d been hit by a tank, had he wavered before his injuries healed over seconds later. But now he lies crumpled on the stonework.
I pivot, searching for Warren. He’s standing across the open space, his hand outstretched toward the line of targets he’d been aiming at before we intruded. Abject terror freezes his expression.
“Help him,” I shout. “Warren!”
A blur streaks toward me. Then he is there, kneeling at my side.
“What have I done?” he wails as he drags Dagan from the rubble. “Dagan. Please wake up. Please.”
Buttons pop off the fancy coat I had so recently admired. The dusty, ripped fabric is cast aside as Warren searches for the injury that has felled the mightiest vampire in recorded history.
I cradle Dagan’s ultra-pale face while Warren examines my mate. My voice will not work as I wish. Instead, I reach out with my mind.
Wake up, Dagan. You’re frightening Warren.
Relief dissolves the alarm flooding me when he responds, though the slight waver in his tone concerns me.
Are you all right, love? That… evil… headed straight for you. What the hell was that?
I’m fine, Dag. You have to come back now. Ask Warren yourself.
A ragged groan accompanies the flicker of his eyes opening. The sheen of lust that had brightened them has vanished but he’ll recover within minutes. As he has done every other time he’s sustained critical injuries in battle.
“Dagan!” Warren grasps his shoulders then props him against a cabinet.
“What exactly are you researching up here, Advisor? And when can we equip the guards with that spell?”
I grin at the attempted humor though Warren only stares in shock.
“It’s not something to joke of. I shouldn’t have attempted it on-site. Reckless! At least I didn’t perform the incantation correctly.” He rakes his fine-boned fingers through his mussed hair as he mumbles to himself, a habit I adore.
“What are you saying? I’d be tempted to believe I hit my head harder than I thought but you never make sense when you rant about your studies.” Dagan rubs one hand over his torso. The motion draws my attention to his sculpted form and the charred starburst covering his abdomen. That certainly hadn’t been there this morning.
“It’s something that could keep us from war forever. The ultimate weapon, devised by the ancients. I thought I’d patched together the proper spell several weeks ago. But I had shelved further trials. They’re too risky.” A grimace mars his youthful visage. “Forgive me, Dagan. Today I required a distraction…”
“We heard about Sylvia.” I bridge the gap between the men. One hand cups Dagan’s jaw while the other rests on Warren’s shoulder. Their fingers rise to mine, curling over my hands.
“I couldn’t accept her. It wasn’t fair to promise her something I don’t have to give. My heart is not my own.”
I want to ease the dejection in his eyes.
Don’t reveal our plans, Amystia. Not like this. Let’s wait until tonight. I’ll be recovered by then. We’ll make it special for us all. He deserves that.
Warren’s gaze flickers to the ugly mark, which still isn’t fading. “Are you certain you’re not suffering? The spell is intended to be lethal to our kind. Resistant to all cures, even magic.”
“It burns, though not much. I’m positive it will be a distant memory by dinner.”
But it wasn’t.