Copyright © 2012 Lexxie Couper
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The overlord flashed a wide smile, his pointed fangs glinting in the muted light from the many candles littering the ballroom. “You do us a great honor with your presence, Master Navarr.”
Ezryn suppressed the urge to snort, casting the room a disgusted glance. Candles? Dark Ones, what century did the fat fool think it was?
“Although,” the overlord continued, raising black eyebrows, “you are almost four hours late. We feared the Navarr master would not present himself to us before the sun rose.” He shot his new bride another quick look, as if eager to see her reaction to his royal disapproval.
Ezryn gave him a flat stare. “I had better things to do.”
The new bride gasped, pale skin bleaching white. She gaped at Ezryn, her eyes wide, candlelight turning her extended fangs a sick yellow.
The overlord snapped to his feet, jowls wobbling. “How dare you insult—”
“Give it a rest, Harry.” Ezryn cut him short. “Or I’ll pin you to the floor and drain you within a drop of empty like I used to.”
Haral Navarr, twin son of the first family, overlord of the vampire race, turned beet red—an interesting feat for someone deprived of sunlight for close to seven centuries. His mouth flapped in silent protest, his knuckles popping as he clenched his fists.
Ezryn shook his head, a sour taste coating the back of his tongue. “Do not fret, baby brother.” He ambled over to a long table overburdened with carafes of what could only be human blood, eyeing the ridiculously ostentatious ice sculpture of the overlord positioned amongst them. “I would not dream of harming the great leader of our people.” He pulled an apple from his inside jacket pocket and polished it on his sleeve, turning back to the royal couple. Very few of his kind could tolerate human food, his twin brother included. That Ezryn had no difficulty consuming it caused many a vampire to clench their jaw in envy—and trepidation.
Lifting the apple to his mouth, he parted his lips, letting Haral see his fangs before biting into the fruit’s flesh.
Haral narrowed his eyes, his face—so like Ezryn’s if not for the fat of indulgence—still red with anger. Or was it shame? “You will not call me ‘baby brother’, Ezryn. I ordered you to cease doing so over half a century ago.”
Ezryn bit into the apple again, enjoying the incensed impatience on his twin’s face as he chewed the mouthful without hurry. “And when did I start following your orders, Harry?”
The overlord’s wife gasped again, her lush breasts almost spilling over the top of her red latex corset. Ezryn gave her an indifferent glance before wiping at his lips with the back of his hand. “What are you doing here, Haral? I can’t imagine Australia was your first choice for a honeymoon, especially during the summer. The sun doesn’t set here until nine most nights.” He finished the apple, savoring its succulent sweetness before dropping the core into the closest carafe of blood. It broke the still, red surface with a satisfying plop, the sound like a gunshot in the cavernous room. “In fact,” he went on, arching an eyebrow, “I can’t see any reason for you to have left your compound at all.”
The overlord flared his nostrils, a pathetic attempt to look intimidating. “I wanted you to meet Chantise.” He flicked his bride a quick look. “And she wanted to meet you.”
Ezryn chuckled, the sound low and almost a growl. Of course she would. She would want to see for herself the fabled son groomed to be the ruler of the vampire race, destined to be the next leader of them all—before the oracle, the vampire race’s high priest, had changed everything. He gave his new sister-in-law a slow inspection and bent slightly at the waist. “Your ladyship.”
The woman’s gaze raked him from head to toe, her eyes aglow with the taint of a recent feed. She touched her tongue to the tip of her right fang, tracing her fingertips over the swell of her breasts. “Ezryn.”
Ezryn suppressed a disgusted grunt. The woman was well-suited to his brother—he could see the covetous hunger in her blood-drunk eyes, the smug conceit in the tilt of her chin. He turned back to Haral, eager to be done with the perverse family reunion. “What do you want, Harry? I thought I made it clear the last time we spoke that I never wanted to see you again. In fact, I moved to the other side of the world to make sure that’s exactly what would happen.”
The overlord straightened his spine, his eyes igniting with cold rage. The last time the two brothers had faced each other—over fifty years ago—the vampire lord had threatened to have Ezryn marked as a traitor to his kind. The last time they’d stood in the same room, Ezryn had come very, very close to destroying the vampire lord. Close enough for Harry to sweat blood. A lot of blood.
“I am your lord,” Haral snapped. The muscles in his face quivered and his yellow eyes dilated. “I can speak to you and call upon you whenever I wish.”
Ezryn barked out a harsh laugh, the sound like cracking ice. “I have no lord.”
Haral stamped his foot, his human face distorting into a demonic mask. “As the supreme ruler of our people, I hereby command you to a task.”
Ezryn narrowed his eyes. “Go to hell, Harry.”
“Not before you, Ezryn.”
With a low growl, Ezryn sprang forward, crossing the distance to Haral in a blurring leap. Clamping one hand around his twin brother’s neck, he yanked Haral’s feet off the floor. “You destroyed any right you had to command me, brother, when you invoked the power of the blood trial.”
Haral scratched at Ezryn’s hand, his eyes bulging. “And yet…” he rasped, “…the blood trial named me overlord. Not…” he bucked in Ezryn’s hold, “…you.”
Ezryn tightened his grip, the mention of the ancient ritual filling him with cold contempt. Since birth, he’d been groomed to take over from his father as the next leader of the vampire race. For six hundred and fifty years, he’d known little except that as the first son of the First Family, born but a mere five minutes before his twin, he was destined to be the next overlord. He’d been educated to lead a race on the verge of imploding. Too many of their number had grown disillusioned with the old ways, the violent use of humans as a food source, an equal number disgusted with the progressive notion humans weren’t just cattle. He’d been ready to restore harmony where only conflict existed. Ready to take his place as overlord. And then his father had been killed, staked by an emo demon-slayer wannabe with acne on his cheeks.
The day after the overlord’s death, the day before Ezryn was to ascend to the position of his birthright, Haral had invoked the blood trial, an ancient and barbaric ceremony designed to reveal the true overlord’s identity. And on the whispered words of the human virgin sacrificed for the trial—a young woman known as the oracle’s voice throughout the proceedings—the course of history had changed.
Ezryn stared into his brother’s eyes. “Just what do you want me to do…lord?”
Haral flashed his fangs, his Adam’s apple jerking under Ezryn’s palm. “My wife’s cousin was slain by a Principatus. I want you to destroy her.”
Ezryn clenched his jaw, a cold fist of disquiet in his chest. “A Principatus?”
What Haral commanded was insanity. To destroy a divine assassin in self-defense was one thing—the Powers would not retaliate against such a death. If a Principatus could not survive a fair fight with their foe, than the Powers seemed to wipe Their divine, righteous hands of Their failed assassin. But to destroy one in an act of revenge? That was to start a war beyond all comprehension. A war that would bring about the mass destruction of vampire and Principatus alike.
The Principatus were no easy kill. Once demons themselves, they were selected by the Highest of Powers for reasons unknown, granted a soul and reborn then and there as assassins of all things unholy and paranormal. Whether vampire, shifter or hell-spawn, if a being threatened the divine status quo, chances were the Powers would mark it for assassination and send a Principatus to carry out the kill. A Principatus’s rebirth gave them immeasurable powers and knowledge of their target. Few of those targeted escaped to brag of the battle. Still, the divine assassins could be beaten. If you were strong. And ready to face ultimate death yourself.
Releasing his hold on Haral’s throat, Ezryn took a step back, noting the feverish light in his brother’s eyes. There was more to this than Haral would have him believe. “Why do you want me to do this? Are you not capable of the task yourself?” He flicked his gaze over his twin’s soft, round body, remembering a time when it was almost a carbon copy of his own. “Are you having performance problems, Harry? Tsk, tsk. At your young age too.”
The overlord drew himself straighter, his incensed stare fixed on Ezryn. “I charged you with a task, Master Navarr. If you do not obey your lord, you will see yourself punished by our laws.”
“Punished? Laws?” Ezryn raised his eyebrows, struggling to control the growing fury seeping through his veins. His twin always had been a pompous pain in the ass. Now it seemed his position of power had finally gone to his empty head. “Any laws worthy of respect you perverted on ascension, Harry. As for punishment, remember who you’re talking to. Every vampire on earth knows who the true overlord is.”
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: 296 pages
Published: April 2, 2013
Artist: Angela Waters
Should she kill him? Seduce him? Or both?
A Principatus story. Book 2
As an ex-succubus granted her soul by the Highest of Powers, Inari Chayse has spent the twenty years since her “rebirth” channeling her voracious sexual energy into kicking the asses of all malevolent paranormal beings.
Torn between the sex demon she was and the demon assassin she has become, she has no intention of complicating her life further. But when the vampire who pleasures her dreams walks into her paranormal strip club—and takes complete, humiliating command of her body—complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Fifty years ago, Ezryn Navarr abdicated his trueborn throne to spare his people a bloody destruction. He never expected to find himself in a Sydney strip club, buried in the deliciously sensual body of the very divine assassin he’s been commanded to kill. The bigger surprise? Inari awakens something he thought long dead. His humanity.
As their tormented desires intertwine with a centuries-old battle of blood and power, redemption seems as unobtainable as love. The backlash will rock the entire vampire race, leading to their salvation…or their deaths.
Product Warnings: Herein lie dark lusts, dark deeds, dark desires, no-holds-barred passion, an ass-kicking succubus and a vampire to make your blood burn