Immortal Guardians Book 5
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“Book after book, Duvall brings her readers complex, fascinating tales
of romance, danger and loyalty.”
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“Fans of paranormal romance who haven't discovered this series yet
are really missing out on something extraordinary”
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“Full of fascinating characters, a unique and wonderfully imaginative
premise, and scorching hot relationships”
The Romance Reviews
Temptation may lead to betrayal or redemption
For centuries, Lisette d'Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can't bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians' command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches forand a man she knows has been declared a traitor.
Zach is an exile, a loner. He won't defend himself against false accusation or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he'll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of supervamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust?
Lisette prowled the University of North Carolina's campus in Greensboro. Though the fall semester had only recently begun, parties abounded. Freshmen, thrilled to have left the nest and escaped their parents' rule, got drunk off their asses and lured vampires like sugar lured ants. Male. Female. It didn't matter. Easy prey was easy prey. And vampires tended to be lazy that way. Even when the brain damage the virus caused in humans progressed enough to drive them insane, sheer habitshe supposedprompted the vampires to return to college campuses.
Lisette headed toward the frat houses.
Everything else might suck, but at least she wouldn't descend into madness. Gifted onesmen and women like Lisette who had been born with extremely advanced DNA (the origins of which remained unknown)were protected from the more corrosive aspects of the virus. They also possessed various and assorted gifts that humans and vampires didn't. Like the telepathy that let her hear the revolting thoughts of the vampires stalking a young couple deep in their cups.
Two vamps. Two potential human victims who had no idea they were about to be fed upon by creatures who delighted in inflicting pain.
Immortal Guardians had recently taken an unprecedented step and begun attempting to recruit vampires who had not yet succumbed to the madness.
These guys didn't fall into that category. Bad news for them. Good news for her. She really wasn't in the mood for conversation.
Lisette raced forward so fast she blurred, little more than a breeze humans couldn't follow with their eyes. Zipping past the young couple, she barreled into the vampires like the athletes she so loved to watch in the NFL and drove them back behind the nearest building.
The vampires hit the ground hard as she released them.
Out of sight of the humans, she drew her shoto swords.
The vamps' eyes lit up like candles, glowing blue and green.
Her own, she knew, glowed a vibrant amber.
"Immortal Guardian," one vampire sneered, making the title an insult.
She saluted him with a sword as the vamps drew bowie knives longer than her damned forearm.
One good thing about vampires: Most were college students who had been turned after spending most of their leisure time lounging on their asses, gaming, texting, and surfing the Internet. Few had any real skill with weapons.
Unlike Lisette, who had trained with a master swordsman.
The vampires attacked simultaneously. Shoto swords met bowie knives, swept them aside, and struck flesh. Howls of pain pierced the night. The pungent aroma of wild fury mixed with fear suffused the air, accompanied by the metallic scent of blood.
One vampire circled around behind her.
Lisette merely turned to the side and continued to swing her swords, striking metal, metal, flesh, metal, flesh, flesh, flesh. The more blood she drew, the more careless they became, at last allowing her to strike major arteries.
They dropped to their knees, spewing epithets and slavering like rabid dogs as they bled out faster than the virus that infected them could repair the damage. Weak and furious, they continued to cut the air with their weapons.
Lisette took a couple of steps backward and waited as they collapsed and drew their last breaths. It would've been a hard thing to watch had she not heard their twisted plans for the inebriated couple.
A moment passed.
Their bodies began to shrivel up like mummies as the virus devoured them from the inside out in a desperate bid to continue living. Dr. Melanie Lipton had told Lisette this virus behaved like no other on the planet, and the proof laydisintegrating on the groundbefore her.
She glanced around to ensure no humans loitered nearby.
"Don't do it," she counseled herself softly as a compulsion grew within her.
Yet again, the words didn't stop her.
Sighing, she looked up and searched the rooftops around her, waiting to see if a dark, winged figure would separate itself from the shadows.
"You knew he wouldn't be there," she muttered with disgust, and bent to retrieve the bowie knives.
"Who wouldn't?" a deep voice queried softly.
Gasping, she straightened and spun around. "You."
Just as she had imagined a thousand times, a tall figure emerged from the darkness and slowly approached her. Damned near seven feet tall, he towered over her five-foot six-inch form. Dark leather pants. No shirt. Just a leanly muscled form bereft of hair except for the raven tresses that adorned his head and fell beneath his shoulders.
Behind him spread beautiful wings that would span twelve or fourteen feet when fully extended. Nearly translucent, the feathers that graced them were the same tan as his skin at the wings' base and darkened to black at their tips. Her fingers curled as she remembered touching them. Just once. So soft. Like the hair on a newborn baby's head.
"Zach," she breathed. The last time she had seen him he had saved her life.
Stopping several feet away, he closed his eyes for a moment. "You remember my name."
"Of course I do," she said, heart racing. "It's only been four months."
His eyes opened, so dark a brown they were nearly black. "Is that how long it's been? Four months?"
"Who were you looking for?" he asked.
"You," she admitted, though she knew she shouldn't.
A month ago, when curiosity and no recent sightings had driven her to ask about this intriguing, yet formidable immortal, Seth had not reacted well. Face dark with rage, he had instructed her to forget Zach and to stay away from him.
Zach tilted his head to one side. "Why?"
"I . . . " Can't stop thinking about you. "I wanted to apologize."
Was that moisture forming on his forehead? Even immortals her age could regulate their body's temperature without thinking about it. Though the night was unusually warm, his body should be cool.
"For what?" he asked again.
She swallowed hard, wishing now she had thought of another answer. This man possessed almost as much power as Seth. Pissing him off probably wasn't a very good idea.
He glanced to the side, as though he heard something she couldn't. "I don't have much time," he murmured, and returned his attention to her.
"I wanted to apologize because . . . I think I said something that made Seth angry at you."
His eyes flashed golden. "What?"
Thunder rumbled overhead, drawing her wary gaze. "After we fought Donald's mercenaries that last time, I asked Seth why he didn't just do what you did when you came to my rescue and kill all of our enemies with a thought instead of letting us risk our existence in battle with them." She shook her head. "The question seemed to anger him." An understatement. "But that anger seemed to be directed at . . . you."
A shadow formed on Zach's chest.
No. Not a shadow. A large bruise. Another darkened the area around one eye.
"I thought . . . "
A long gash, like that cut by a whip, streaked across his chest, parting the bruise.
What the hell?
Her gaze darted all around them, seeking but finding no assailant. "I thought," she stuttered, "that might be why I haven't seen you around." More gashes opened on his flesh as he stared at her, his handsome face expressionless. "I thought Seth might have told you to stay away." An ugly abrasion formed on his temple. Blood trailed down to the edge of his strong jaw and drip, drip, dripped onto his broad shoulder. She took a step forward. "Zach, what's happening to you?"
In what seemed like seconds, bleeding lash marks striped his arms, shoulders, chest, and abdomen. His jaw clenched as, beneath her horrified gaze, bones in his wings began to break.
Swearing, she raced to his side, swords raised to combat . . . whoever the hell was doing this to him.
Feathers fluttered to the ground at his feet as he staggered. Those still attached to his wings began to glisten with crimson liquid as wound after wound appeared.
"Who's doing this?" she shouted, panic threatening. Who could move so fast that even she couldn't see them?
"I can't stay," he whispered, blood painting his teeth and staining his lips.
"Who's doing this to you?" she repeated urgently. "How can I help you?"
He shook his head. "You can't. I can't believe you would even want to, knowing . . . "
He grunted as another bone snapped.
His eyes rolled back as his knees bent.
Lisette dropped her swords and thrust her arms out to catch him as he sank toward the ground.
A warm breeze washed over her as he vanished inches before they touched.
Shaken, she stared down at her empty arms. "Zach?"
Turning in a circle, she waited for whatever unseen force had attacked him to turn its attention on her and begin inflicting wounds.
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