Genre: Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Melange Books
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
“Begin,” James called.
Simon launched himself at me, his shriek of anger startling. I evaded him, stepping to the side. He did this twice more, then cursed me. “Coward.”
“Fighting means you have to actually strike a blow, not just avoid them!” Cannibal called out, then laughed.
I ignored their jests, focusing on Simon. He was clumsy in his attempts thus far. He’s ruled for fifty years, yet he’s acting as if he’s never done this before. I did a few feints, and then threw some light punches, watching to see what he would do. Simon evaded my punches easily with his superior speed, but he acted on all my feints, several times exposing his flesh, which I slashed to ribbons. But his skin knitted together almost as fast as I parted it.
I must put him down, get him still to decapitate him, but how? Cutting will not work. I feinted again, and this time he didn’t react, he instead slashed at me, opening my side with his talons. I backed off, staggering. But my flesh also knitted together supernaturally fast. An effect of the goblin blood?
“Stop dancing and embrace the battle,” Dealer shouted.
At the word “embrace,” an idea finally entered my mind. I prepared to feint again, and Simon eagerly went for me, to slash open my side. But this time I anticipated him, stepping in close to knee him with all my strength in the groin. He dropped like a stone with a grunt. I kneeled and took out my knife, to decapitate him.
“No knives, Danial,” James called.
Simon reached out with a trembling hand, his pained expression melting to rage as his eyes became full red. “You dare…bastard…”
I fell upon him, and began blindly tearing with my talons in desperation. Simon let out a screech, then grabbed my wrists, his talons digging into my skin. “I’m going to skin you.”
I lunged forward with my fangs bared, and connected with his throat. I bit down, and began drinking, feeling him ripping at my wrists. But I was dug in like a tick, and I continued to drink, even as the pain intensified as if my arms were being cut to the bone. Simon began to shake, but I didn’t stop drinking. Even when he relaxed with a sigh, I kept drinking.
It was Dealer who finally tapped my shoulder. “It’s done,” he said. “You’ve won.”
I took one last pull from the vein, noticing that the blood flow had slackened considerably. Then I stood, amazed that that it was not with more effort. But my skin, though streaked with my own blood, was whole. My clothes, however were drenched in gore and shredded on the arms and chest.
“Bravo!” James said, clapping as he approached. He put his hands on my shoulders, then kissed me on both cheeks. “Welcome, my newest provincial lord.”
I wanted to belt him in his smiling mouth for making me kill a man I’d just met so brutally. But I stayed my urge, for Lacey’s sake. Control yourself. “Thank you.”
“Dealer, the remains are yours,” James said. “Remove them and Cannibal to home, then return for us.”
Cannibal strode up, his expression simple maniacal wickedness. “Congratulations, Danial. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Neither did I,” I said lightly, letting some of my anger show. “But I have always been a quick learner.”
Cannibal laughed. “That will serve you well in your new life.” He saluted. “Happy to be working with you.” Then he sauntered after Dealer, who was already pulling the body away. Both of them reached a spot a few yards distant, then they clasped hands and disappeared.
“You really did do a good job,” James said with a small degree of pride. “And Cannibal’s right, you’ll do well in your new role.”
I turned and faced him, livid. “No more games, James. I want honesty and preparation from now on, in all things. In return, I’ll do as I said I would.”
James snorted, then came toward me in a deliberate ominous walk that reminded me so much of Devlin that I took a step back. “You will do as you said you would, yes. And I will do what I said I would, make your lady a vampire. But this was necessary, Danial Dalcon.”
I drew a sharp intake of breath. “How do you know who I am?”
“I made it my business to know,” James said sharply, coming closer. “I don’t do what I did tonight lightly, Danial. But you were a good manager in life, as you said. You have courage and guts; you proved that tonight. Adaptation to strife, injustice, and life’s horrors are all a necessary part of longevity. But the most important quality for a vampire is resourcefulness, something you have in spades.”
About Tara Fox Hall