Born a warlock, the one thing Ethan had been taught all his life was to hate vampires. For centuries, a bitter war existed between the two societies, but with new enemies threatening both sides, an uneasy alliance has been formed. Ethan finds himself having to embrace, not only his half-vampire brother, but a whole vampire clan in order to protect his coven. Against his will, he finds himself drawn to one vampire in particular--a dark, handsome soldier named Zeke.
But, there is no easy path to a happiness for either of them. They both have demons to fight and have trust issues. But, it's more important than ever that they lean on each other. Can Ethan let go of his past and let his love for Zeke carry him through? Or are they going to lose everything, including each other?
They used to call him The Golden Boy, the strongest warlock in modern time who would deliver all magic from the darkness that threatened to consume it from within, but now they called himâ€¦food. How low he'd fallen. At one time he was one of the most powerful and influential warlocks in the country. Now, he was a captive. One who had fallen so low he almost didn't recognize himself anymore.
Ethan sat on his knees, chest tucked in, forming a tight protective ball, although there remained little to defend. Repeated beatings and feedings by his vampire captors had left him weak, bloodied, and broken in many ways. The position made the hard, warped wood floor dig into his legs, but he had long ago grown numb to smaller doses of pain.
It wasn't until his captors brought out the really fun toys that he finally complained.
So drained of blood, energy, and magic, he couldn't make himself move, not even when he heard someone come into the room. The old door squeaked loudly on its hinges and more than one set of boots stomped inside. He didn't know it was a pair of vampires until one of them grabbed him by the hair and jerked him out of his huddle.
The vampire didn't say a word, instead, the blond male hissed as he bared his fangs. Even though Ethan knew what was coming next, he didn't voice a protest. He'd learned that only made things more enjoyable for them and he wasn't about to give the bastards any more than they had already taken from him.
Blondie moved in quick and hard, his fangs striking like a cobra, into Ethan's already ravaged flesh. It hurt. Oh Goddess, the agony. Every broken bone, laceration, and bruise in his body pulsated in time to the vampire's sucks. The entire time, Ethan said a silent prayer that maybe this time they would finally have mercy on him and just finish him off already. A thrill of hope went through him when he started to see dark spots swimming in front of his swollen eyes.
Yes! Just a little more then I can be at peace. Please!
"Gross," the vampire snarled as he threw Ethan away. "Ever since that dude sucked all his magic out, the warlock hasn't tasted good."
Ethan landed on his side, dust kicking up and going into his lungs. His already failing respiratory system protested by shutting down. Despite his death wish, his natural-born instinct fought to breathe. Back arching, he let out several loud, gasping, sucking breaths before his body got its rhythm back on and started to do its thing.
"I may taste bad, but you smell worse than an empusa's crotch, so that makes us even," he managed to get out between wheezes. Maybe it wasn't the brightest thing to say, but it was amusing. Since his captors hadn't been considerate enough to provide him with entertainment, he had to take it where he could and nothing was more fun than making them pissed.
As way of answering, the other vampire came over and delivered one sharp kick to Ethan's gut. Guess we're not so even after all. Ethan rolled up into a ball and waited for the beating to come. When nothing happened after several tense seconds, he dared to peek to see what the holdup was.
"You guys want to get a move on?" he asked, somehow managing sarcasm even through a fear-clogged throat. "I have another pair of vampires scheduled for a three o'clock bitch slap and they're going to get cranky if you two run into their appointment."
"For someone who is basically a dead man talking, you sure have a big mouth," Blondie sneered, showing off his blood-coated teeth. "Even someone as fucking stupid as you must know your coven isn't going to come flying in on brooms to rescue you."
"Number one." Ethan struggled to his knees and ticked off one finger. "We do not, nor have we ever, flown on fucking brooms. You have been reading way too many children's books. I know it's hard for your brain to master anything more complex than that, but do try. Number two, your friend here kicks like a girl."
That got him another kick, this one to the side of the head. Ethan tasted blood in his mouth and could feel one of his teeth hanging on by just a thread. To stop himself from falling onto the dirty floor again, he stupidly braced his battered hands on the ground. Waves of hot white pain shot through him as his broken fingers protested the movement. He tried and failed to hold back a scream of pain.
"Maybe he thinks the Drone vampires he's warmed up with will come to his rescue." Blondie's lips curled up at the word Drone. Pure Borns, or rather those who had been born a vampire, looked down on their counterparts who had once been humans and later turned. Hence the derogatory name, Drone.
"Not even they would waste their time on this piece of waste," the other vampire said and then laughed as he delivered another kick to Ethan's stomach.
Ethan let out a loud groan, but otherwise didn't respond because he knew every word of what they had said was true. There was nobody in the world that cared enough to come and save him. Not his coven, not the Drones, not even his own brother and mother.
He was going to die how he'd lived--alone.
Ironically, his thoughts didn't linger on them, but on another whom he had grown to care for. Zeke, a Drone soldier who had made it perfectly clear he wanted nothing to do with any warlock, particularly Ethan. Wasn't that a real bitch? Even as he lay dying, he was still pining over someone who couldn't give a damn about him. It was the story of his sad life. Maybe it was better for everyone that it would soon end.
Zeke paced the war room, too jacked up to sit even though there was a meeting going on and he was probably annoying everyone. He couldn't help himself though. With every second that passed, the anxiety and fear grew.
What was happening to Ethan? Had they killed him? Were they hurting him? A low growl rumbled low in his throat at the thought of someone harming the warlock in any way.
"Will you sit down already?" Eric snapped. The Drone clan leader was standing in the front of the room running the meeting--at least, he was trying to. Zeke guessed his pacing was distracting the vampire. Too bad. As far as Zeke was concerned, they'd done more than enough talking. Chatting wasn't going to get Ethan back, only some action in the field would.
"How much longer do you plan on just sitting here?" Zeke demanded with a snarl. "While we stand back with our thumbs up our asses, they're having a field day with Ethan."
"We're going in to get him," Eric promised, his eyes flashing with anger.
"Soon. We can't go in there without a battle plan. It won't do us or Ethan any good. Hell, we still don't even know where they're keeping him."
"Maybe you're just trying to waste enough time so they'll kill him and then you won't have to worry about some damn warlock anymore," Zeke challenged. He balled his hands into fists, but didn't make a move on the clan leader.
"That's bullshit and you know it." Eric leveled a hard glare across the room. "Ethan swore allegiance to our clan. He started wearing our uniform and fighting in our ranks. That makes him one of us, warlock or not. Not only that, but the whole reason Ethan was captured was because he traded himself for my daughter. I owe him for that and will gladly die to repay that debt. So don't doubt for a second that I won't do everything in my power to save him."
That did take some of the bluster from Zeke's anger. Eric adored his eight-year-old daughter, Misty, and he probably did feel a deep sense of gratitude to Ethan. But was it enough to do whatever it took to free the warlock?
Ethan's vampire brother, Rafe, got to his feet and slowly walked over to Zeke. With black hair that hung in his face, he mostly kept to himself unless something riled him and, judging by the feral look in his eyes, that was exactly what he was right now. Tall and muscular, he moved in a way that projected he was more than capable of taking care of anybody who was stupid enough to cross him. Since he looked pissed enough to rip someone apart, several of the vampires assembled in the room, actually shrank back a bit as he passed them.
"What about you, Zeke?" Rafe demanded in a harsh voice. He pulled a dagger out of his pocket and ran the pad of his thumb over the blade. He glared with a hard menace as he waited for the answer.
"What about me?" Zeke returned, not backing up one goddamn step. While Rafe Toren might terrify some of the others because of his reputation and vicious fighting skills, Zeke wasn't in the mood to be impressed or intimidated.
"Are you hoping they kill Ethan?" Rafe snarled, his accusing green eyes were so much like Ethan's that the breath caught in Zeke's chest.
"Why would you even think that? Ethan was a member of my team. I was helping to train him." Zeke shifted his gaze to the side, unable to look at those eyes anymore.
"So did part of this training plan include drinking my brother's blood?" Rafe fired back, his voice a low angry rumble.
"No, it didn't." Guilt stabbed at Zeke like a blade. He scrubbed his hands over his face as he remembered that incident that was only a few nights ago, but felt like a lifetime. How he'd taken Ethan into his arms, the kiss they'd shared and then how Zeke had sank his fangs into the tender flesh of the warlock's neck. His blood had tasted so wild and it had been the best thing Zeke had ever sampled.
Then he swallowed hard as he remembered he'd pushed Ethan away and told him never to come near him again. The hurt look on Ethan's face had haunted Zeke ever since. He knew the warlock had led a shunned existence most of his life and that insult had been the last blow.
"You didn't even have the decency to close up his bite wounds when you were done using him," Rafe accused in a voice so full of hate and fury it shook. "If he's fallen into the hands of vampires, do you know what they'll think when they see that?"
"No." As a Drone who'd only turned a couple of years ago, Zeke was still learning the ins and outs of vampire customs.
"They'll take one look at him and know that some vampire made him their bitch." Rafe palmed the blade, like he was getting ready to use it. "That means he'll be free game to whoever wants to feed from him. Not only that, but when you drank from him, you also took in his magic. That left him vulnerable and unable to fight back when he was attacked."
"I never meant for that to happen."
"You dishonored my brother!" Rafe yelled, his face twisted with anger.
"Half-brother," Zeke corrected.
Rafe cocked his head to the side. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Ethan is your half-brother and you never let him forget it."
"That's not true. I reached out to him." Rafe shook his head in denial, but there was an underlying hint of guilt playing on his face.
"What you did was give him emotional scraps and he knew it. You may have acted like the loving, big brother, but he realized from day one he would never mean as much to you as your vampire brothers."
"You son of a bitch!" Rafe lunged forward. Zeke was ready for the attack. In fact, he welcomed it. Maybe pounding on someone would make him feel a little better. Just as Rafe was reaching him, Zeke swung, his fist connecting with the vampire's jaw.
With a roar, Rafe hit back, catching Zeke in the gut. Soon the two were going at it full out, neither holding back.
"Enough!" Eric yelled. He wrapped his arms around Zeke and pulled him away, while Rafe's brothers, Dante and Kane, pulled him away.
There were a few minutes of struggling before they were able to calm both vampires enough to release them. Zeke took in several deep breaths as he brought back in his fangs and claws. He could feel the shocked gazes and hushed comments from the other clan members.
"Both of you in my office, now," Eric stabbed a finger in each of their directions before he walked out of the room. Zeke and Rafe had no choice but to follow like some naughty schoolboys trailing after the principal. Except this disciplinarian armed himself with a Glock and never hesitated to use it.
No one spoke a word while walking down the long, white halls of the Drone clan dwelling. Once one of many abandoned warehouses dotting Detroit, the vampires had converted it into a full working military headquarters and civilian living facility. There were training areas, a school, mess hall and various different sized living quarters.
Just one of many different clans of Drones, Eric's group had taken refuge in the large Michigan city once they had declared hostility against the Pure Born-run Vampire Regulation Force. Since Detroit was the territory of werewolves, and the only ones who hated Pure Borns more than Drones were the shifters, it was a good place for them to take sanctuary.
Once they reached his office, Eric leaned against his desk and glared at them. "I need you both to get your heads out of your asses or this mission will be fucked before we even leave."
Zeke winced, realizing how right the man was. The last thing he needed or wanted was for things to get even worse, thanks to his temper. He muttered an apology and was shocked to hear Rafe doing the same thing.
"I'm just going crazy thinking about what they might be doing to him," Rafe confessed in a raged whisper. "I feel like I've failed him twice. First, our mother fosters him out to that dark magic coven when he was a kid and now, this."
"You didn't even know that you had a younger half-brother until recently, so you can't blame yourself for something that happened to him when he was a child," Eric reasoned in the calm way that made him such a great leader.
"That's just it. I should have known he was out there. For years, I sensed there was a piece of my life missing, but I was too busy with my own problems to even consider it might be another brother, one who was counting on me." Rafe looked up from under the shield of dark hair that always hung in his eyes. "I can't fail him again. You know asking for help doesn't come easy for me, but I'm begging you for all you can give me so I can go extract him from whatever hellhole they have him in. Please."
The raw pain in the vampire's voice made Zeke's heart clench. While some might think Rafe was a moody, Pure Born jerk, it was obvious he did care about his brothers, all of them. And not just his vampire ones, as Zeke had accused him of before.
"I'll do whatever it takes to get him back," Eric promised savagely. "I haven't forgotten for one second he's where he's at because of the sacrifice he made to save Misty. There aren't many warlocks who would give themselves up for a Drone child."
The phone rang, the loud shrill startling all three of them. Eric looked down at the caller ID and his lips pressed into a tight line. Not a good sign since it took a lot to get any kind of reaction from the leader. "It's your mother finally calling me back," he told Rafe.
"You let Olivia know what was going on?" Rafe's voice echoed with incredulous disbelief.
"I figured she had a right to know, plus I was hoping she would send some of her coven to help." Eric reached down and pressed the button to put the call on speaker.
Zeke barely heard Rafe mutter, "Yeah, good luck with that one, buddy."
"Olivia, I'm glad to hear from you," Eric said, his tone even and polite, despite the annoyed expression covering his face. "I was beginning to think you didn't get my message."
"I got it. It just took me a while to get back to you because I had other matters to take care of first," a cool female voice replied. She could have been talking about the weather or the latest score of the Red Wings' game for as much worry in her tone.
Rafe mouthed other things as he shook his head slowly in disbelief.
"So will you be sending reinforcements for the rescue mission?" Ethan asked, a bite of irritation to his question.
"No," her one word answer snapped through the phone like a whip.
Zeke held his breath as he waited for her to go on, but there was nothing more, just dead air that hung heavily in the room.
"Why not?" Eric finally broke the silence.
"One of the laws of coven life is that we do not risk many to save just one. Ethan sealed his fate when he was careless enough to allow himself to be captured."
Zeke's jaw dropped in shock at the callous logic. In the short time he'd been a Drone and living with his clan, he'd learned one thing, you never, ever leave one of your own behind and, if captured, everyone does whatever it takes to bring their fellow clan member home.
"He's your son," Eric reminded her, his voice hard with anger and disbelief.
"He was my son," Olivia corrected. She finally showed some emotion and it was of disgust. It was so clear in her tone that Zeke didn't have to see her face to know it was twisting her features. She added, "He became dead to me the moment he willing sacrificed himself for some vampire."
"You fucking bitch," Rafe snarled, his hands balling into fists at his sides.
"Ah, Rafe, I should have known Eric would bring you in on this. When you talk to me like that you remind me so much of your father." She clucked her tongue. "Vampires are such barbarians."
"If we're the barbarians, then why is it the magics are leaving one of their own for dead?" Rafe shot back with low growl.
"I am not about to risk losing good warlocks and witches in exchange for anyone, even my son. Leaders shouldn't let their emotions guide them. It's something Eric will eventually learn, too."
"Shit, woman, who's fooling who?" Rafe snorted. "We all know you don't have any emotions, period."
"Fine, have it your way, Olivia," Eric cut in, his tone now just as cool as hers. "We will be doing this mission, with or without your help. Just so you know, those Drone soldiers that you're scoffing at me for risking, every single one of them volunteered for this mission. Ethan has earned the respect of so many of us that I actually had to turn down some volunteers. So what do you think about that?"
"If you vampires love Ethan so much, then you can keep him. For his dishonor, we banned him from ever returning to the coven. Not that I think for one second you're going to get him back alive. If they haven't killed him already, they will soon. You're wasting your soldiers for a corpse."
The entire time Olivia made her hateful speech, she didn't bother raising her voice once. Zeke wondered how Ethan had managed to grow up with such a caring heart with this ice queen as a mother.
"I'll make sure to pass along the message, right after I tell him he will always have a place in my clan," Eric responded, taking on the same tone of voice she had been using.
"I do hope this doesn't affect our alliance." For the first time Olivia showed a small hint of worry. "This morning I had yet another report of Pure Born vampires joining up with dark magics. They attacked another white coven and nearly killed the entire population off."
"Don't worry, the treaty still stands," Eric spat. "In that area, we still need you as much as you need us."
There was a click that showed Olivia had hung up and the vampires stood in shocked silence for a while, the only sound, the humming of the dial tone. Zeke took a deep breath, hoping to contain the anger that was boiling up inside him. Right now, it was the last thing Rafe needed. Just one look at the guy's haunted eyes told him the poor vampire had enough on his emotional plate right now.
"I knew she was cold, but I didn't think she would just give Ethan up like that," Rafe whispered in a choked voice. "I mean, sure she left me when I was a baby, but I always thought that was because I was part vampire. I never dreamed she would show that much callousness toward Ethan since he's full-blooded warlock."
"We don't need them," Zeke snarled. "I'll go in by myself if I have to."
"Don't worry," Eric reassured. "This changes nothing. We're still going ahead with the rescue mission. We may not have Olivia's coven backing us up magic-wise, but we still have Rafe, Morgan, and Dominic."
Dominic and Morgan were Rafe's mates and since they were both full-blooded magics, it would help, but not much if there was an entire dark magic coven guarding Ethan. That still didn't weaken Zeke's resolve. If anything, this whole confrontation had made him itchier than ever to get Ethan back.
"Good." He curled his hands into fists and let out a low growl. "When do we leave?"