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For centuries, shapeshifting vampire Tynan MacGillivray has prowled the night as an outcast, valued only for his ferocious hunting skills. When a feud among the immortals escalates into all-out war, he is ordered by his ruthless queen to locate a Seer-a human woman with a special gift-who can secure victory for their clan. Ty’s search leads him to a quiet New England town, but once he has the Seer in his grasp, her touch awakens within him a hunger like he’s never known . . .
Lily Quinn has always been different. Since childhood, she’s had vivid nightmares and an eerie sixth sense. When a sexy, silver-eyed stranger demands her help, Lily plunges into a new world of danger and sensuality. With Ty, she discovers sizzling passions she cannot deny and powers she cannot control. Soon, it is clear that Lily is much more than a Seer-she holds the key to ancient secrets and unthinkable destruction. But will a vampire’s vow of eternal protection stop these evil forces . . . or unleash her dark destiny?
Table of Contents
A Preview of Midnight Reckoning
THE DARK DYNASTIES
Known Bloodlines of the United States
LEADER: Queen Arsinöe
ORIGIN: Ancient Egypt and the goddess Sekhmet
STRONGHOLDS: Cities of the eastern United States, concentrated in the mid-Atlantic
ABILITIES: Lightning speed
THE CAIT SITH
LEADER: None; considered lowbloods, despite the pure mark
ORIGIN: A Celtic line originating with the Fae
STRONGHOLDS: None; in servitude to the Ptolemy, or hiding in squalor
ABILITIES: Can take the form of a cat
LEADER: Vlad Dracul
ORIGIN: The goddess Nyx
STRONGHOLDS: Northern United States; Chicago (shared under an agreement with the Empusae)
ABILITIES: Can take the form of a bat
STRONGHOLDS: The deserts of the West
ABILITIES: Flight is rumored due to their mark, but no proof
ORIGIN: The goddess Hecate
STRONGHOLDS: Southern United States; Chicago (shared with the Dracul)
ABILITIES: Can take the form of smoke
Eight months later
TYNAN MACGILLIVRAY crouched in the shadows of the little garden, listening to the mortals rattling loudly around inside the stuffy old mansion. He tried to concentrate on the scents and sounds of the humans, hoping to pick up any subtle change in the air that might indicate a Seer was among these so-called ghost hunters, but so far all he'd gotten was a headache.
This small-town gimmick was a long shot, and he knew it. But he'd been everywhere in the past eight months, from New York City Goth clubs to Los Angeles coven meetings. Anywhere there might be a whisper of ability beyond the norm. In all that time, he had found not the faintest whiff of a Seer or even a hint of anything paranormal at all. Just a bunch of humans playing dress-up, trying to be different.
He wondered how they would feel if they walked into an actual vampire club. Most of them would probably be too foolish to even be frightened for the few seconds their life would last in one of those places. But they might note that there wasn't nearly as much black leather and bondage wear in undead society as they seemed to think.
Ty got to his feet, all four of them, and arched his back, stiff from keeping so still in the bushes all night. His cat form was the gift of his bloodline, though it was of dubious help in places like this. The house he was staking out sat just off the town square, and there were only a few scrubby barberry bushes for cover. His fur was black, yes, and blended into shadow, but dog-sized cats didn't exactly inspire the warm cuddlies in passersby.
Hell. It's no good. Ty gave a frustrated growl as he accepted the fact that this trip was just another bust. He'd been reduced to combing psychic fairs and visiting what were supposedly America's most haunted places, hoping something would draw out the sort of human he so desperately needed to find. But soon, very soon, Ty knew he would have to return to Arsinöe with the news that the Seers had, in all likelihood, simply died out. For the first time in three hundred years of service, he would have to admit failure.
And the Mulo, the gypsy curse that was slowly killing those he was charged with protecting, would continue its dark work until there was no one left who bore the mark of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the oldest and most powerful bloodline in all of vampire society, begun when Arsinöe's life was spared by a goddess's dark kiss. No other house could claim such a beginning, or such a ruler. But if things continued, the other dynasties, eternally jealous of the Ptolemy's power, lineage, and reach, wouldn't even have a carcass to feed upon.
The invisible terror had attacked twice more, both times at sacred initiations of the Ptolemy, both times leaving only one vampire alive enough to relate what had happened. Or in the case of the first atrocity, one nearly-turned human woman. Rosalyn, he remembered with a curl of distaste in the pit of his gut. They had brought her back to the compound, bloody and broken, taking what information they could before finally letting her die a very human death. He doubted she had known how lucky she was.
Ty, used to fading into shadow and listening, knew that all in the inner circle of Arsinöe's court agreed: it was only a matter of time before the violence escalated even further, and the queen herself was targeted.
Without their fierce Egyptian queen, the House of Ptolemy would fall. Maybe not right away, but there were none fit to take Arsinöe's place, unless Sekhmet appeared once more to bestow her grace on one of them. If the goddess even still existed. More likely there would be a bloody power struggle that left but a pale shadow of what had been, and that petty infighting would take care of whoever the Mulo had left behind, if any. And the Cait Sith such as himself, those who had been deemed fit to serve only by virtue of their Fae-tainted blood, would be left to the dubious mercy of the remaining dynasties that ruled the world of night.
He could no more let that happen than he could walk in the sun.
Ty pushed aside his dark thoughts for the moment and debated heading back to his hotel room for the night, maybe swinging by a local bar on the way to get a quick nip from one of the drunk and willing. Suddenly a back door swung open and a woman stepped out into the crisp night air.
At first he stayed to watch because he was merely curious. Then the moonlight caught the deep auburn of her hair, and Ty stared, transfixed, as she turned fully toward him. Utterly unaware of the eyes upon her, she tipped her head back, bathing herself in starlight, the soft smile on her lips revealing a woman who appreciated the pleasure of an autumn night well met.
He heard her sigh, saw the warm exhalation drift lazily upward in a cloud of mist. For him, caught in some strange spell, it all seemed to occur in slow motion, the mist of her breath hanging suspended for long moments above her mouth, as though she'd gifted a shimmering bit of her soul to the night. The long, pale column of her throat was bared above the collar of her coat, the tiny pulse beating at the base of it amplified a thousand times, until he could hear the singular pulse and pound that were her life, until it was everything in his universe. Her scent, a light, exotic vanilla, drifted to him on the chill breeze, and all thought of drinking from some nameless, faceless stranger vanished from his mind.
Ty wanted her. And though a certain amount of restriction was woven tightly into the fabric of his life, he would not deny himself this. Already he was consumed by the thought of what her blood might taste like. Would it be as sweet as she smelled? Or would it be darker than she appeared to be, ripe with berry and currant? Every human had a singular taste—this he had learned—and it spoke volumes about them, more than they would ever know.
She lingered only a moment longer, and her heart-shaped face, delicately featured with a pair of large, expressive eyes he was now determined to see close up, imprinted itself on him in a way he had never before experienced. Ty's mind was too hazed to question it now, this odd reaction to her, but he knew he would be able to ponder nothing else later.
Later. Once he had tasted her.
When she turned away, when the burnished waves of her hair spilling over the collar of her dark coat were all he could see, Ty found he could at least move again, and he did so with the ruthless efficiency of a practiced hunter. Like a predator that has latched on to the scent of its prey, his eyes never left her, even as he rose up, his feline form shifting and elongating until he stood on two feet among the straggling bushes.
He breathed deeply, drinking in that singular scent with anticipatory relish.
Then Ty turned up the collar of his coat and began the hunt.
Lily rounded the corner of the house with a sigh of relief.
Probably she should feel guilty about bailing on the annual Bonner Mansion ghost hunt. Bailing before anything interesting happened anyway—so far, all she'd seen was a bunch of overly serious amateur ghost hunters who thought every insect was a wayward spirit. Oh, and that couple who had set up camp in a closet with the door shut, she remembered with a smirk. Whatever sort of experience they were after, she was pretty sure it wasn't supernatural.
Why she'd even let Bay con her into this was a mystery; their weekly date to watch Ghost Hunters didn't translate into any desire on her part to actually go running around inside a dark, musty, supposedly haunted house. Thank God the hottie from the Bonner County Paranormal Society had shown up when he had. Lily wasn't sure which had made her best friend's eyes light up more: the tight jeans or the thermal-imaging camera. Either way, she wasn't even positive the group had heard her when she'd claimed a brewing headache as an excuse to leave them there, but Bay's grin told her she'd be thanked for going at some point in the near future.
She lifted her wrist to glance at her watch, squinting at it in the darkness, and noted that it was about quarter to twelve.
"So much for another Friday night," she muttered. Still, it didn't have to be a total waste. Maybe she'd get crazy, stay up late with some popcorn and a Gerard Butler movie.
Wild times at Lily Quinn's house. But better, always better, than running the risk of sleep. She didn't need a silly ghost tour to scare her. Nothing could be scarier than the things she saw when she closed her eyes.
Lily crunched through dead leaves, then stopped, frowning at the unfamiliar view of bare trees and, a little farther off, the wrought-iron fence that bordered the property's grounds. Despite the reasonably close proximity to the town square, the Bonner Mansion sat back a ways from the road, and the historical society had managed to hang on to a portion of the original property, so there were still grounds to the place. But there was, as a nod to modernity, a parking lot.
And it was, Lily realized, on the other side of the house. She tipped her head back, closed her eyes, and groaned.
Her impeccable sense of misdirection had struck again.
After a moment spent silently cursing, Lily shoved her hands deeper into her pockets and set off on what she hoped was the correct course this time. Directional impairment was one of her defining features, right along with her inexplicable aversion to suitable men. If she could only find a well-educated, Shakespeare-quoting bad boy who still had a thing for sexy tattoos and maybe a mild leather fetish, she might at least have a shot at avoiding her probable future as a crazy old cat lady.
A long shot, maybe. But a shot.
At least it was a beautiful night, Lily thought, inhaling deeply. The smell of an October night was one of her favorites, especially in this part of New England. It was rife with the earthy, rich smell of decaying leaves, of wood smoke from someone's chimney, and shot through with a cleansing bite of cold.
Lily looked around as she walked, taking her time. In the faint glow from the streetlights along the road, this place really did have a haunted look about it, but not scary. More like someplace where you'd find a dark romance, full of shadows and sensual mystery.
She huffed out a breath, amused at herself. She taught English lit because she had always liked the fantasy of what could be, instead of the often unpleasant reality of how things were. Speaking of which, it looked like a little Phantom of the Opera might be in order for her Friday night movie. Even if the ending absolutely refused to go the way she wanted, she thought with a faint smile, no matter how many times she'd willed Christine to heal the dark and wounded Phantom instead of wasting her time on boring old Raoul.
It would have made for one hell of a love scene—
There was a sudden, strange tingling sensation at the back of her neck. Lily felt the hairs there rising as a rush of adrenaline chilled her blood. Someone was behind her. She knew it without seeing, felt eyes on her that hadn't been there a moment before.
But when she whirled around, stumbling a little in her haste to confront whoever was behind her, she saw nothing. Only the empty expanse of lawn, dotted with the skeletal shapes of slumbering trees, an empty bench, and beside her, the dark shape of the house. Nothing.
Nowhere even to hide.
Lily felt her heart kick into a quicker rhythm, and her breath became shallower as her eyes darted around, looking for a shape, a shadow, anything that would explain her sudden, overwhelming certainty that she wasn't alone.
Stupid, she told herself. You're walking through a horror movie setup, and it's just got your imagination running, is all.
Lily knew that was more than likely it, but she still wanted to reach her car and get out of here. Soothed a little by the thought that there were a whole bunch of people inside the house who would hear her scream if anything did happen, she turned to continue making her way out front, casting a lingering look over one shoulder.
Though the moon rode high in the night sky, nearly full, and the air was still rich with the very scents she'd just been enjoying, all her pleasure had vanished in favor of the insistent instinct that had kept humans walking the Earth for as long as they had: flight.
"Hey, are you all right?"
She gave a small scream before she could stop herself, jumping at the sudden appearance of another person in front of her when there'd been no sign of another soul only seconds before.
He raised his hands in front of him, eyebrows lifting in an expression that plainly said he was as startled as she was. "Whoa, hey, don't do that! I'm not a ghost or anything. You can start breathing again." One eyebrow arched higher, plaintive. "Please?"
It was the faintly amused concern he put into that last word that finally got her to draw in a single, shuddering breath. But she still shot a quick look around, gauging distance in case she had to run.
"Look, I'm sorry," the man said, drawing Lily's full attention back to him. "I needed to get out of there for a few. Too many people, not enough ghosts, you know?"
"I… yeah," Lily said, still trying to figure out how she should deal with this. Had he been inside too? She wasn't sure…. There'd been a cluster of people, and not everyone had shown up at the same time. It was certainly possible. But when she looked more closely at him, she was sure she would have remembered if they'd crossed paths.
"Let's start over," he said.
This time she picked up on the lilting Scottish accent in a voice that was soft and deep but with a slightly rough edge.
He extended a hand to her. "I'm Tynan. MacGillivray."
Yeah, it didn't get any more Scottish than that. Lily hesitated for a split second, but her deeply ingrained sense of politeness refused to let her keep her hand in her pocket. Tentatively, she slid her hand into his and watched as his long, slim fingers closed around it.
"I'm Lily. Lily Quinn," she said, surprised by the sensation of cool, silken skin against her own. But at the point of contact, warmth quickly bloomed, matching the heat that began to course through her system as she finally noticed that Tynan MacGillivray was incredibly good-looking.
Not handsome, she thought. That was the wrong word for what he was, though some people might have used it anyway. He was more… compelling. She let herself take in the sharp-featured, angular face with a long blade of a nose and dark, slashing brows. His mouth held the only hint of softness, with an invitingly full lower lip that caught her attention far more than it should have, under the circumstances. His skin was so fair as to make him pale, though for some reason it only enhanced his strange appeal, and was set off further by the slightly shaggy, overlong crop of deep brown hair that he'd pushed away from his face.
It was his eyes, though, that Lily couldn't seem to avoid. Light gray, with a silvery cast from the moonlight, they watched her steadily, unblinking. She wanted to believe he meant her no harm. But there was an intensity in the way he looked at her that kept her off balance. I should get moving, get out of here, Lily thought, feeling like a deer that has picked up the scent of a predator.
But she was caught by those eyes, unable to look away. She shuddered in a soft breath as he stepped in closer, never letting go of her hand.
No, she thought, her eyes locked with his, her legs refusing to move. But then, right on the heels of that: Yes.
"Lily," he said, his voice little more than a sensual growl. "Now, that's a pretty name. Fitting."
No one had ever said her name quite like that before, savoring it, as though they were tasting it. Desire, unexpected, unwanted, but undeniable all the same, unfurled deep in her belly. She tried to think of something to say, something that would break this odd spell she was falling under, but nothing sprang to mind. There was only this dark stranger. Everything else seemed to fade away, unimportant.
"You're shivering," he remarked. "You shouldn't be out here in the cold all alone."
"No, I… I guess not," she murmured, mildly surprised that though she was shivering, she hadn't even noticed. She certainly wasn't cold anymore. And for some reason it was difficult to hang on to her thoughts long enough to form a coherent sentence. "I was… just going to my car."
His eyes, she thought, caught up in a hazy rush of desire that flooded her from head to toe, banishing any awareness of the temperature of the air. His eyes were silver, she realized as they grew closer. Silver, and glowing like the moon. Strange, beautiful eyes.
"Why don't you let me walk you?" he asked.
The words barely penetrated her consciousness. After struggling to make sense of them, she found herself nodding. Car. Walk. Yes. Probably a good thing. "Yeah. That would be great."
Tynan smiled, a lazy, sensual lift of his lips. It seemed the most natural thing in the world that, despite what each of them had said, neither of them made a move to go. Instead, he trailed his free hand down her cheek, cool marble against her warm flesh, and rubbed his thumb slowly across her lower lip.
Lily's lips parted in answer, and her eyes slipped shut as a soft sigh escaped her. She'd never felt such pleasure from such a light touch, but all she could think of, all she wanted, was for it to continue.
"Lily," he purred again. "How lovely you are."
"Mmm," was all she could manage in response. She turned into his touch as his skilled fingers slid into her hair, as he let go of her hand to slide his around the curve of her waist as he stepped into her. It was like drifting in some dark dream, and Lily embraced it willingly, sliding her hands up his chest and then around to his back, urging him even closer.
She wasn't sure what she was asking for—but at Tynan's touch, something stirred inside of her, some long-dormant need that arched and stretched after a long sleep, then flooded her with aching demand. She turned her face up to his, a wordless invitation. His warm breath fanned her face, and even through the strange haze that seemed to have enveloped her, she thrilled a little at the ragged sound of his breathing, at the erratic beat of his heart against her chest.
"Lily," he said again, and this time it was almost reverent.
He bent his head to hers, and Lily's lips parted in anticipation. She had never wanted a man's kiss so desperately; her entire being seemed to vibrate with desire. Her breath stilled as she waited for the press of his lips against her own. But instead of taking what she offered, Tynan's mouth only grazed her cheek, and his long fingers deftly cupped her chin to turn her head to the side.
Lily made a noise then, a soft, frustrated moan that drew a chuckle from her tormentor.
"Patience, sweetheart," he admonished her, his gruff brogue more pronounced now. "Too fast and you'll spoil it."
Tynan trailed soft kisses along her jawline, the relative chill of his lips against her warm and sensitive flesh a shocking pleasure. Lily writhed in his arms, wanting to be closer, wanting some nameless more that she couldn't identify. But Tynan seemed to be relentlessly controlled, the uneven intake of his breath the only clue that he might be as close to undone as she. Lily heard his voice then, seeming to echo right inside her head.
Let me taste you.
Powerless to do anything but obey, Lily let her head fall back in submission, baring her throat to him, willing him to touch more, take more. In some dim recess of her mind, it occurred to her that this entire situation was madness at best, suicidal at worst. But the harder she tried to hang on to any rational thoughts, the quicker they seemed to evaporate. And wasn't it so much more pleasurable to just give up, give in? As though Tynan wanted to illustrate just that point, he nipped at her ear, flicking his tongue over the sensitive lobe.
"Please," Lily moaned, moving restlessly against him, not even sure what she was asking for. Then he was drawing her hair away from her neck, tugging her head to the side to gain better access. He forced the collar of her shirt down, baring her collarbone to the cold night air. Lily allowed it all, her only desire to feel his lips on her skin again, to give him whatever he wanted. All the world had vanished except for Tynan. She could feel his hands shaking as his handling of her roughened, and she sensed his need was even greater than her own.
Suddenly he stopped, going stock-still as he expelled a single shaking breath. Lost in the deepening fog of her sexual haze, Lily gripped the thick wool of Tynan's coat harder and made a soft sound of distress. Why had he stopped? She needed… she needed…
All she heard was a softly muttered curse in an unfamiliar tongue.
Then, a ripple of air, a breath of chill wind. Lily slowly opened her eyes, only barely beginning to register where she was and what she had been doing. Her hands were fisted in nothing but empty air. She blinked rapidly, taking a stumbling step backward, feeling a crushing, if nonsensical, sense of loss. She turned in a circle, knowing that he had to still be here. He couldn't have left. It was impossible for a man to vanish into thin air.
But whoever—or whatever—Tynan MacGillivray was, Lily was soon forced to acknowledge the truth.
He was gone.
TY CROUCHED SILENTLY on a tree branch, his silver eyes unblinking as he watched Lily Quinn slowly make her way to her car. She still seemed dazed, though by the time she reached the parking lot, the wobble had gone from her step and she'd quickened her pace, throwing a final, fearful glance over her shoulder before getting in and driving off.
- "Castle's world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more."—Romantic Times
- "Castle is a rising star! Call Of The Highland Moon thrills with seductive romance and breathtaking suspense. This is an author to watch!"—Alyssa Day, USA Today bestselling author on Call of the Highland Moon
- "Ms. Castle continues to show the depth and honor of the Scottish heritage. This book defines all the parts that I enjoy for a great read. I look forward to Ms. Castle's next book in this series and wonder what new horizons she will cross..."—Romance Junkies on Dark Highland Fire
- On Sale
- Jul 1, 2011
- Page Count
- 368 pages