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PROLOGUE


The wind and snow whipped around him, beating against the exposed skin of his cheeks and nose. He never should have left the cave in this storm, but he’d been cooped up for the past two days and needed to escape the gray stone walls, if only for a little bit. He should have at least left his horse behind, but Achilles had been getting restless too and needed to move around just as much as he did.

Now Achilles had his head bent against the storm, and William could feel the snow building up on his shoulders as they rode forward through drifts that came to Achilles’ knees. After this little trip through the snow, he would not make the mistake of taking the horse out again until the storm finally blew over.

They were almost to the cave when he saw someone trudging through the blowing wind and whipping snow. His eyes honed in on the lone figure struggling through the blizzard. He almost put his head down and continued on. What did he care about someone else in the storm? He wasn’t here to make friends; he had one clear mission, and someone walking through a blizzard, in the middle of nowhere, was not a part of his plan.

As he watched, the person stumbled and fell into the snow. He continued onward at a near diagonal angle from the figure. He turned away when the figure stumbled back to their feet. When they collapsed again, a ragged sigh escaped him. Not part of the mission, he told himself fiercely.

He nudged Achilles onward, forcing himself to keep his eyes focused straight ahead. The lone figure was none of his concern.

He kept telling himself this, but he found his head turning and looking back at the figure still sitting in a heap in the snow. With a disgruntled sound, he turned Achilles and headed toward the figure. When he was fifty feet away from the snow-covered being, the distinct lack of a heartbeat told him he approached a vampire.

The figure’s head remained bowed against the storm, beaten and battered down by the wind. He had no idea where they had come from; it was open, rocky plains from here until the mountains at least fifty miles away. In the distance, the craggy peaks of the mountains rising high into the air were obscured by the storm.

Pulling his horse up before the figure, he stared down at it as the vampire’s eyes rose to look at Achilles's muzzle. Slowly the head tipped back to look at him. He got only a glimpse of silvery blonde hair, and doe brown eyes within a face nearly as pale as the snow falling around them, before she collapsed into the snow.

He should keep going, instead he found himself dismounting and lifting the figure from the snow.

 

 

CHAPTER 1


William lifted his bow to take aim at the deer moving through the trees. He waited, every muscle in his body tense and unmoving as the stag took another step forward, completely unaware he was being hunted. With a release of his fingers, he let the arrow go. It whistled through the air before striking its target dead center in the heart. The animal’s legs kicked out before it crashed to the ground.

“Nice shot.” Aria threw her bow over her shoulder as she emerged from the trees to his left.

She had so effectively blended in with the woods around her that he never would have noticed her there if he’d still been human. However, with his senses enhanced and sharper since his recent change into a vampire he had caught her scent as she moved through the brush. He’d also caught a flash of her deep auburn hair amongst the cropping of spruces and pines surrounding them. Aria had always been at home in the woods, but since becoming a vampire, she’d become even more attuned and able to blend in amongst the trees.

He had to admit, now that he was getting used to his newfound abilities, he was learning to feel more comfortable with his surroundings and his stealthy movement through the trees and foliage. The woods around him were alive; he could see a mouse sitting on top of the log a hundred feet away warily looking back at him. The rustling sound of a fox in its den drifted to him from under the snow to his right.

All of the newfound sensations were amazing, and had been difficult to control in the beginning. Hence, why he was hunting deer in order to help him regain some of his control. A bow and arrow used to be at home in his hands. Now he sometimes still sent arrows flying miles through open air if there was nothing around to stop them. He’d lost count of how many bows he’d broken in half, and how many strings he’d snapped over the last five months.

It had taken far more time and patience than he’d expected to understand what he was now capable of and how to control it, but he’d started to get a much better grip on it over the past month. He didn’t like to admit part of it was due to Aria, who suddenly had more patience than he’d ever believed she could possess. Moreover, as the only other human he knew who had survived the change into a vampire, she was the only one who understood exactly what he was going through.

After a month of her asking him to return to the palace, he’d finally relented and agreed to join her and Braith there. He’d spent the following four months with his sister, trying to accept this suddenly more colorful and louder world. Everything about it was different to him; the woods had always been his home, but now the smell of the trees, earth, and musky aroma of animals was more potent when it filled his nostrils.

The color of the leaves, when they’d still been on the trees, was brighter than he’d ever seen before his vision became enhanced by Aria’s vampire blood. He didn’t know how to describe it, didn’t even know what color to call some of the newer shades he’d discovered in the world. It all would have been so much more amazing and breathtaking if he wasn’t in a constant state of pissed off that he’d been murdered by that bastard, Kane.

The woods and caves outside of the palace, that had always been his home, were different now. They were familiar and foreign all at the same time. Places he’d always known and spent so much time in, were far more elaborate than he’d ever realized. He’d become more accustomed to it, but it felt weird trying to adjust to a world that had always been one way, but wasn’t anymore.

It had been worse in the palace; a place he wasn’t familiar with at all. He felt like a fish out of water when inside it. He didn’t know how Aria handled all the people and the walls; the confinement had been the worst part of it all. There was no way to escape when they were constantly pressing against him and keeping him penned in. After a month inside of the palace, he’d moved back to the woods, unable to take the feeling of imprisonment anymore.

 
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