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Liam opened the door and stood back, bowing his head of shoulder-length brown hair—braided at the left in the way of the warrior, and allowed the king to enter ahead of him. “After you, my lord.”
Kael stepped into the oval room and huffed. “Would you cut the ‘my lord’ crap already?” He rolled his neck again. As a room, it wasn’t particularly remarkable—it was bare except for a small altar at one end and hooks for his robes and a few ceremonial implements at the other. But it was so loaded with everyone’s expectations that the air felt thick as he drew it down his throat.
Liam grinned before schooling his expression. “As you wish, my lord.”
Kael growled and rolled his eyes, knowing even as he’d uttered the words Liam wouldn’t heed them. Fat lot of good being king was sometimes. But Liam was too steeped in the traditions of their people. He often treated Kael just as one of the warriors—which only a handful of the warriors were comfortable doing—but not on the Night of the Proffering. Tonight, to Liam, he was Kael the Fair, Warrior King of the Vampires, Chieftain of Clan MacQuillan.
“My lord, how may I be of service?” came Liam’s voice after a while.
“You can leave.”
Kael flashed in front of him. “You can very well fucking leave.” His fangs elongated as he lashed out.
“I will not!” Liam stepped forward, apparently refusing to be cowed. “You really want to do this?”
They hadn’t come to blows in ages, but it had happened before. The king bored his gaze into Liam’s, but finally stepped back.
Liam eased his stance. “Where is she?”
“Gone,” Kael said as he looked down at the ground. His shoulders sagged as some of the fight went out of him. Everything just felt so…wrong.
Kael rolled his eyes at Liam. There was no way he didn’t smell that goblet of blood.
“What do you think?”
“Christ, what are you? The Inquisition?” He drilled his angry stare into his brother in arms. Guilt flooded him. Minutes passed. “I hurt her.”
Liam frowned. “What happened, Kael?”
The thought of recounting all the ways in which he’d failed her exhausted him. “It doesn’t matter.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it.” Liam sheathed the silver dagger and holstered his weapon.
“I’ve known you my whole life. You would never hurt a female. Not intentionally.”
“What do you want from me, Liam?”
“I want to know why you sent her away. Why her lifeblood sits there wasting. Why you are more distressed than I can remember seeing you in aeons.” He held out his arms.
Footsteps approached from the stone corridor behind him. Kael braced against the thick ledge, expecting the worst. Deserving it.
Tension drained from Kael’s shoulders. Liam’s voice told him the news was good. He breathed in the cleansing sea air and turned to his brother. “Thank you, old friend. She is well?”
Liam grinned. “She’s great.”
Kael’s gaze cut to Liam’s. “You spoke with her?” Liam nodded. “And what did you speak of?”
“Just introductions, really. Oh, and she wants to be able to ask you some questions.”
Kael hitched an eyebrow. “Does she now? About what, exactly?”
The warrior scratched his chin. “Didn’t say.”
“And you didn’t think to ask?” Kael’s layered robes caught the wind and danced around his legs.
He shook his head and shrugged. “Figured it didn’t really matter.”
Kael nodded and ran a hand through the unbraided side of his hair. “Fair point.” He stepped toward the entryway and Liam moved to the side, allowing the king first passage. Liam secured the stone-faced door, constructed in such a way it was indistinguishable from the rest of the rock wall on the outside. “So, did she, uh, say anything about me, or, uh…” Kael pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Did she say anything about you?” He chuckled. “No, but I could pass her a note in study hall if you like.”
Kael’s fist connected with Liam’s bicep before he’d really thought to do it. Damn, that little release of tension felt good.
Liam grabbed his arm and spit out an old Gaelic curse. His glare was indulgent, bordering on a smug smile. “Feel better, my lord?”
Kael clapped him on the back. “Much. Let’s return to the chamber, shall we?”
In the Service of the King
Book 1 in the Vampire Warrior Kings Series
Kael, Warrior King of the Vampires, loathes the Night of the Proffering. He needs the blood of either his mate or a human virgin to maintain his strength, but hasn't enjoyed the ritual since he lost his mate centuries ago. Kael doesn't want a new companion, yet his resolve is tested when he lays eyes on his new offering, Shayla McKinnon. He is drawn to Shayla's beauty and poise...and the submission she offers. She is eager to give him anything he wishes, including her innocence, to please him. Will Kael give in to their overwhelming desire--even if it means risking Shayla's life?