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Lord of the vampires rho.., p.1

  Lord of the Vampires rhos-1, p.1

   part  #1 of  Royal House of Shadows Series

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  Lord of the Vampires

  ( Royal House of Shadows - 1 )

  Gena Showalter

  Once upon a time — the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden.

  To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance.

  Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs — and time is running out...

  Nicolai the Vampire was renowned for his virility, but in a twist of fate "The Dark Seducer" had become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina — stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remained was a primal need for freedom, revenge — and the only woman who could help him.

  In her dreams, a wanton vampire called to Jane Parker, drawing her to his dark sexuality and his magical realm.

  But for a human, all was not a fairy tale in Delfina. Jane was the key to Nicolai's memory...but exploiting her meant dooming the only mortal he craved.

  Lord of the Vampires

  (The first book in the Royal House of Shadows series)

  A novel by Gena Showalter

  Dear Reader,

  I’m so thrilled to bring you Lord of the Vampires, the first tale in the dark and sizzling Royal House of Shadows series.

  Writing this book was such a blast! A world with vampires, werewolves, witches and monsters? Hell, yes! A prince known for his wicked ways and fearsome temper? Even better! A human woman who will either save or destroy him—bringing him to his knees in the process? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

  Throw in upcoming stories by Jill Monroe (Lord of Rage), Jessica Andersen (Lord of the Wolfyn) and Nalini Singh (Lord of the Abyss) and I’m practically drooling about this series. Emailing these ladies about the different books was truly inspiring.

  I hope you enjoy our modern takes on beloved fairy tales. We certainly had fun writing them.

  All the best,

  Gena Showalter

  This one is for Jill Monroe, Jessica Andersen and Nalini Singh. Amazing ladies and talented authors. I’d plot with you guys any day!

  And to Tara Gavin, for her amazing support and enthusiasm for the Royal House of Shadows!

  PROLOGUE

  ONCE UPON A TIME, in a land of vampires, shape-shifters and witches, the Blood Sorcerer coveted the only power denied him: the right to rule. He and his monstrous army attacked the royal palace, slaughtered the beloved king and queen of Elden and sought to do the same to Nicolai, the crown prince, as well as his three siblings, Breena, Dayn and Micah.

  The sorcerer succeeded in all but the latter. He had not counted on a king’s hunger for retribution and a mother’s love for her children.

  Just before expelling his final breath, the king used his power to fill his offspring with an unbreakable need for vengeance, ensuring they would fight for eternity to claim their due. At the same time, the queen used her power to send them away, saving them. For the time being.

  Only, the king and queen were weak, their minds fogged from pain, and their magic conflicting.

  And so, the royals were now bound to destroy the man who had slain their parents, yet they were also cast out of the palace, each flung to different kingdoms within the realm with only one link to the Royal House of Elden: a timepiece, given to them by their parents.

  Nicolai, the Dark Seducer as his people called him, had been in bed, but not alone. He was never alone. He was a man known for the violence of his temper as well as the deliciousness of his touch; and after his youngest brother’s birthday celebration, he’d adjourned to his private chamber to sate himself on his newest conquest.

  That’s when the dual natures of the enchantments struck him.

  When he next opened his eyes, he’d found himself in another bed—and not with his chosen partner. He was naked still, only now he was chained, a slave to the very desires he’d evoked in his lover. Desires that had mingled with the magic and sent him straight to the Sex Market, where he was quickly sold to a princess of Delfina, his will no longer his own, his pleasure no longer his own, his timepiece stolen and his memories wiped from his mind.

  But two things could not be taken from him, no matter how fervently the princess tried. The cold rage in his chest and the blistering need for vengeance in his veins.

  The first, he would unleash. The second, he would savor. First with the princess, and then with a sorcerer he could not quite remember, but a sorcerer he knew he despised all the same.

  Soon.

  He had only to escape….

  CHAPTER ONE

  “I NEED YOU, JANE.”

  Frowning, Jane Parker placed the note on her kitchen countertop. She studied the scarred, leather-bound book resting inside an unadorned box, surrounded by a sea of black velvet. A few minutes ago, she’d returned from her five-mile jog. This package had been waiting on her porch.

  There’d been no return address. No explanation as to why the thing had been left for her, and no hint as to who “I” was. Or why Jane was needed. Why would anyone need her? She was twenty-seven years old and had only recently regained the use of her legs. She had no family, no friends, no job. Not anymore. Her little cabin in Smallest Town Ever, Oklahoma, was secluded, barely a blip in the neighboring expanse of lush green trees and wide-open, blue sky.

  She should have tossed the thing. Of course, curiosity far outweighed caution. As always.

  She carefully lifted the book. At the moment of contact, she saw her hands covered in blood and gasped, dropping the heavy tome on the counter. But when she lifted her hands to the light, they were scrubbed clean, her nails neat and painted a pretty morning rose.

  You have an overactive imagination, and too much oxygen pumping through your veins from the run. That’s all.

  Cold hard logic—her best and only friend.

  The book’s binding creaked as she opened to the middle, where a tattered pink ribbon rested. The scent of dust and musk wafted up, layered with something else. Something…mouthwatering and slightly familiar. Her frowned deepened.

  She shifted in her seat, a twinge of pain shooting through her legs, and sniffed. Oh, yes. Her mouth definitely watered as she caught the slightest trace of sandalwood. Goose bumps broke out over her skin, her senses tingling, her blood heating. How embarrassing. And, okay, how interesting. Since the car accident that ruined her life eleven months ago, she had experienced arousal only at night, in her dreams. To react like this in daylight, because of a book…odd.

  She didn’t allow herself to ponder why. There wasn’t an answer that would satisfy her. Instead, she concentrated on the pages in front of her. They were yellowed and brittle, delicate. And beaded with blood? Small dots of dried crimson marred the edges.

  Gently she brushed her fingertips along the handwritten text, her gaze catching on several words. Chains. Vampire. Belonged. Soul. More goose bumps, more tingling.

  Some blushing.

  Her eyes narrowed. At last the sandalwood cologne made sense. For the past few months, she’d dreamed of a vampire male in chains and woken to the fragrance clinging to her skin. And yes, he’s the one who had aroused her. She’d told no one. So, how had anyone known to give her this…journal?

  She’d worked in quantum physics for years, as well as what was considered fringe science, sometimes studying creatures of “myth” and “legend.” She’d conducted controlled interviews with actual blood drinkers and even dissected the corpses brought to her lab.

  She knew that vampires, shape-shifters and other creatures of the night existed, even though her coworkers on the quantum physics side of the equation had not been privy to the truth. So, maybe someone had found out and this was a simple joke. Maybe her dreams had no connection. Except, forever had seemed to pass since she’d
had any contact with those coworkers. And besides, who would do such a thing? None of them had cared enough about her to do anything.

  Let this go, Parker. Before it’s too late.

  The command from her self-preservation instincts made no sense. Too late for what?

  Her instincts offered no reply. Well, the scientist in her needed to know what was going on.

  Jane cleared her throat. “I’m reading a few passages, and that’s that.” She’d been alone since leaving the hospital several months ago, and sometimes the sound of her voice was better than silence. “‘Chains circled the vampire’s neck, wrists and ankles. Because his shirt and pants had been stripped away, and a loincloth was his only apparel, there was nothing to protect his already savaged skin. The links cut him deeply, to the bone, before healing—and slicing open again. He did not care. What was pain when your will, your very soul, no longer belonged to you?’”

  She pressed her lips together as a wave of dizziness crashed through her. A moment passed, then another, her heartbeat speeding up and hammering wildly against her ribs.

  Raw images tore through her. This man—this vampire—bound, helpless. Hungry. His lush lips were pulled taut, his teeth sharp, white. He was surprisingly tanned, temptingly muscled, with dark, mussed hair and a face so eerily beautiful he would haunt her nighttime fantasies for years to come.

  What she’d just read, she’d already seen. Many times. How? She didn’t know. What she did know was that in her dreams, she felt compassion for this man, even anger. And yet, there was always that low simmer of arousal in the background. Now, the arousal took center stage.

  The more she breathed, the more the sandalwood scent clung to her, and the more her reality altered, as if this, her home, was nothing more than a mirage. As if the vampire’s cage was real. As if she needed to stand up and walk—no, run—until she reached him. Anything to be with him, now and forever.

  Okay. Enough of that. She slapped the book closed, even though so many questions were left dangling, and strode away.

  Such a strong reaction coupled with her dreams utterly nixed the idea of a joke. Not that she’d placed much hope in that direction. However, the remaining possibilities upset her, and she refused to contemplate them.

  She showered, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and ate a nutritious breakfast. Unbidden, she found her gaze returning to the leather binding, over and over again. She wondered if the enslaved vampire were real—and okay. If she could help him. A few times, she even opened to the middle of the book before she realized she’d moved. Always she darted off before the story could snare her. And perhaps that’s why the stupid thing had been given to her. To hook her, to send her racing back to work. Well, she didn’t need to work. Money was not a problem for her. More than that, she no longer loved the sciences. Why would she? There was never a solution, only more problems.

  Because when one puzzle piece slid into place, there were always twenty more needed. And in the end, nothing you did, nothing that had been solved or unraveled, would save the ones you loved. There would always be some dumb guy throwing back a few cold ones at the local bar, getting into his car and hitting yours. Or something equally tragic.

  Life was random.

  Jane craved monotony.

  But when midnight rolled around, her mind still hadn’t settled in regards to the vampire. Giving up, she returned to the kitchen, grabbed the book and stalked to bed. Just a few more passages, damn it, then she’d start craving monotony again.

  Jane’s oversize T-shirt bunched at her waist as she propped the book on her upraised legs, opened to the middle of the story, where the bookmark was still set, and returned her attention to the pages. For several seconds, the words appeared to be written in a language she did not understand. Then, a blink later, they were written in English again.

  O-kay. Very weird, and surely—hopefully—an I-just-need-sleep mistake on her part.

  She found her place. “‘They called him Nicolai.’” Nicolai. A strong, luscious name. The syllables rolled through her mind, a caress. Her nipples beaded, aching for a hot, wet kiss, and every inch of her skin flushed. She thought back. She’d never interviewed a vampire named Nicolai, and the one in her dream had never spoken to her. He had never acknowledged her in any way. “‘He did not know his past or if he had a future. He knew only his present. His hated, torturous present. He was a slave, locked away like an animal.’”

  Just like before, a wave of dizziness slammed through her. This time, Jane pressed on, even as her chest constricted. “‘He was kept clean and oiled. Always. Just in case Princess Laila had need of him in her bed. And the princess did have need of him. Often. Her cruel, twisted desires left him beaten and bruised. Not that he ever accepted defeat. The man was wild, nearly uncontrollable, and so filled with hate anyone who looked at him saw their death in his eyes.’”

  The dizziness intensified. Hell, so did the desire. To tame a man like that, to have all of his vigor focused on you, pounding into you…his participation willing… Jane shivered.

  Lose the ADD, Parker. She cleared her throat. “‘He was hard, merciless. A warrior at heart. A man used to absolute control. At least, he thought he was. Even with his lack of memory, he was patently aware that every order directed his way scraped his nerves raw.’”

  Another shiver rocked her. She grit her teeth. He needed her compassion, not her desire. He’s that real to you? Yeah, he was. “‘At least he would have a few days’ reprieve,’” she read on, “‘forgotten by one and all. The entire palace was frothing over Princess Odette’s return from the grave and—’”

  The rest of the page was blank. “And what?” Jane flipped to the next, but quickly realized the story had ended on an unfinished cliff-hanger. Great.

  Thankfully—or not—she discovered more writing toward the end and blinked, shook her head. The words didn’t change. “‘You, Jane Parker,’” she recited hollowly. “‘You are Odette. Come to me, I command you. Save me, I beg you. Please, Jane. I need you.’”

  Her name was in the book. How was her name in the book? And written by the same hand as the rest? On the same aged, stained pages, with the same smudged ink?

  I need you.

  Her attention returned to the part directed to her. She reread “You are Odette” until the urge to scream was at last overshadowed by curiosity. Her mind swirled. There were so many paths to take with this. Forged, genuine, dream, reality.

  Come to me.

  Save me.

  Please.

  I command you.

  Something inside her responded to that command more than anything else in the book. The urge to run—here, there, anywhere—beat through her. As long as she found him, saved him, nothing else mattered. And she could save him, just as soon as she reached him.

  I. Command. You.

  Yes. She wanted to obey. So damn badly. She felt as if an invisible cord had been wound around her neck, and was now tugging at her.

  Trembling, Jane closed the book. She wasn’t searching for anyone. Not tonight. She needed to regroup. In the morning, after a few coffee IVs, her head would be clear and she could reason this out. She hoped.

  After placing the tome on her nightstand, she flopped into her bed and closed her eyes, trying to force her brain to quiet. An unsuccessful endeavor. If Nicolai’s story was true, he was as trapped by those chains as surely as she had once been trapped by her body’s infirmities.

  The compassion grew…spread…

  While he was kept in a cage, she had been bound to a hospital bed, her bones broken, her muscles torn, her mind hazed by medication, all because a drunk driver had slammed into her car. And while she had been—was—tormented by the loss of her family, since her mother, father and sister had been in the car with her, Nicolai was tormented by a sadistic woman’s unwanted touch. She felt a wave of regret, a crackle of fury.

  I need you.

  Jane inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly and shifted to her side, clutching her pillow close. As clo
se as she suddenly wanted to clutch Nicolai, to comfort him. To be with him. Uh, not going there. She didn’t know the man. Therefore, she wasn’t going to imagine sleeping with him.

  But that’s exactly what she did. His plight was forgotten as she imagined him climbing on top of her, his silver eyes bright with desire, his pupils blown. His lips were plump and red from kissing her entire body, still moist with her flavor. She licked at him, tasting him, tasting herself, eager for anything and everything he would give her.

  He growled his approval, flashing his fangs.

  His big, muscled body surrounded her, his skin hot, little beads of sweat forming, causing them to rub and glide together, straining toward release. God, he felt good. So damn good. Long and thick. A perfect fit, stretching her just right. Rocking, rocking, faster and faster, taking her to the edge of sensation before slowing…slowing…tormenting.

  She clawed at him, her nails scouring his back. He groaned. She raised her knees, squeezing his hips. Yes. Yes, more. Faster, faster still. Never enough, almost enough. More, please more.

  Nicolai’s tongue thrust into her mouth, rolling with hers before he bit down, drawing blood, sucking. A sharp sting, and then, finally, oh, God, finally, she tumbled over.

  Ripples of satisfaction swept through her entire body, little stars winking behind her eyes. Her inner muscles clenched and unclenched, liquid heat pooling between her legs. She rode the tide for endless seconds, minutes, before sagging against the mattress, boneless, unable to catch her breath.

  An orgasm, she mused dazedly. A freaking orgasm from a fantasy man, and she hadn’t even needed to touch herself.

  “Nicolai…mine…” she whispered, and she was smiling as she at last drifted off to sleep.

  CHAPTER TWO

  “PRINCESS. PRINCESS, you must wake up.”

 
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