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One passion that binds them
Wild and passionate by nature, Lyra Black is not just any werewolf. She’s the future leader of the powerful pack of the Thorn-if she can stay alive long enough to inherit the title.
One of the Cait Sith bloodline of vampire cat-shifters, Jaden Harrison has no interest in the wars plaguing the world of night. But when he rescues Lyra from a violent attack, they’re both captured by an insatiable desire that threatens to overwhelm them and bind them together for eternity . . . just as ancient enemies prepare to strike. And when they do, the Thorn and the Cait Sith-and Lyra and Jaden’s love-may never recover from the deadly blow . . .
A Preview of Dark Awakening
A Preview of Shadow Rising
Table of Contents
THE DARK DYNASTIES
Known Bloodlines of the United States
THE CAIT SITH
THE REBORN LILIM
ON A NIGHT when only the thinnest sliver of a crescent moon rode the sky, at a time when even the most adventurous humans had fallen into bed and succumbed to sleep, a solitary cat padded in and out of pooled shadow as he made his way across the deserted square in the middle of town. He was large, the size of a bobcat, with sleek fur the color of jet. His coat shimmered as he moved, gleaming in the dull glow of streetlights in between shadows, and he moved with speed and grace, if not purpose. Eyes that burned like blue embers stayed focused on the path ahead of him.
The cat had gone by several names in his long life. For more than a century now, he had been simply Jaden, or even more simply, "cat." If pressed, he would answer to either, and neither if he could get away with it.
Tonight, in the night's seductive and silent embrace, Jaden answered to no one but himself.
Jaden took his time as he made his way through town, savoring the stillness of the blessed lack of humanity with all its noise and emotion and complication. He paused in front of the darkened windows of a beauty salon, letting his gaze drift over the sign that read, CHARMED, I'M SURE, and then lifted his head higher to catch the scent of air that was heavy with moisture and ripe with the promise of rain. Jaden could sense that summer was making its way to this little corner of New England, while aware that even in early May the frost could arrive on any given night to give the season's fresh blooms a deadly kiss.
Deadly kisses, Jaden thought, lashing his tail. Yeah, he knew all about those. When you were a vampire, especially a lowly shape-shifting cat of a vampire, deadly kisses were sort of your stock in trade.
Damn it. So much for a late-night walk to clear his head.
The shift came as easily as breathing to him, and in a single heartbeat Jaden stood on two feet instead of four, his clothes firmly in place by some magic he had never understood but always appreciated. He stuffed his hands deeply into the pockets of his coat and continued on down the street, glaring at the ground in front of him as he moved. Though he'd spent years seething silently at the Ptolemy, his highblood masters who had treated "pets" like him with little mercy and even less respect, these days he didn't seem to have much anger for anyone but himself.
Jaden now had what he'd always thought he wanted: friends, a home, and most important, his freedom. The Ptolemy were not gone, but they were cowed for the time being, and his kind, the much-maligned Cait Sith, had been chosen for an incredible honor. They were to be the foundation for the rebirth of a dynasty of highbloods that had vanished ages ago but had now resurfaced in the form of a single mortal woman who carried the blood.
The seven months since Jaden had helped that woman, Lily, make a stand against the Ptolemy had passed like nothing. And though it had been considerably less time since the Vampiric Council had given Lily's plan its grudging blessing, Jaden was now really and truly free. Whether it had been a wise decision, Jaden couldn't say. The Cait Sith were an unruly lot at best.
But he was grateful, as were the rest, which had to count for something.
Jaden rubbed at his collarbone without really being aware that he was doing it. There, beneath layers of clothing, was his mark, the symbol of his bloodline. Until recently, the mark had been a coiling knot of black cats. But a drink of Lily's powerful blood had changed it, adding the pentagram and snake of the Lilim. It meant new abilities he was still exploring, newfound standing in a world where he had always been beneath notice. It should have meant hope, Jaden knew. After all, for the first time in his long life, he was not a pariah. He could be his own master. It should be everything. And yet…
The empty places inside him still ached like open wounds. Something was missing. He just wished he knew what it was.
A soft breath of wind ruffled through his hair, and Jaden caught a whiff of something both familiar and unfamiliar.
Then he heard the voices.
"There's no place to run to now, is there?" That was a gravelly male voice, reeking of self-satisfaction. Its owner gave a low and vicious chuckle. "You're going to have to accept me. I've caught you. It's my right."
A female voice responded, and a pleasant shiver rippled through Jaden's body at the low, melodious sound of it.
"You have no rights with me. And chasing me down like prey isn't going to get you what you want."
He was almost certain he'd heard that voice before, though he couldn't place it. What Jaden could place, however, was the scent that had his hackles rising and the adrenaline flooding his system.
Jaden's lips curled, and he had to fight the instinctive urge to hiss. Not only were the wolves vilified by vampires as savages, banned from their cities under penalty of death, but the smell of their musk caused a physical reaction in him that was difficult to control. He had two options: fight or flight. It was less trouble to run. But this was his territory now, vampire territory. And these wolves had a hell of a lot of nerve coming into it.
Jaden was moving before he could think better of it. His feet made no sound on the pavement as he headed for the parking lot behind the building. And as he slipped into shadow, he listened.
"You can make this easy or hard, honey. But you're going to have me one way or the other. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it."
A low growl from the female. A warning. "I'm not about to take a backseat to some social-climbing stray. I don't want a mate."
The male's voice went thick and rough, as though he was fighting a losing battle with the beast within. "My family is plenty good enough to mate with an Alpha. You should be glad it's me, Lyra. I won't be as rough as some. And you and I both know there's no way the pack is ever going to have a female Alpha. There's too much at stake to let the weak lead."
Lyra… The pieces clicked into place, and Jaden's stomach sank like a stone.
He did know her. And that brief meeting had put him in one of the fouler moods of his unnatural life.
Memories surfaced of a Chicago safe house, full of vampires in hiding, in trouble, or on the run. And on the occasion he remembered, it had also been a hiding place for a female werewolf with a sharp tongue and a nasty attitude. Rogan, the owner of the safe house, had mentioned something about Lyra being a future Alpha… right after Jaden had demanded she leave the room.
Lyra had gone, though she hadn't taken the slight quietly. And now, she was here, in the seat of the Lilim. It was almost inconceivable. Jaden wondered briefly if Lyra hadn't hunted him here to finish their brief altercation with blood. That would be like a werewolf, brutish and nonsensical. But no, Jaden realized as she and the male who was accosting her came into view. Lyra seemed to have bigger problems than any grudge she bore him.
Jaden kept to the shadows, melting into darkness as effectively as he did in his feline form. He now had a clear view of a tall, over-muscled Neanderthal who was wearing the expected smug sneer. A predator. Being one himself, Jaden had gotten very good at identifying others. Lyra he saw only from behind, but he would have known her anywhere. Long, lean, and tall, with a wild tangle of dark hair shot through with platinum and tumbling halfway down her back. He let his eyes skim the length of her, suddenly apprehensive… hoping that his reaction to her the last time had been some kind of sick fluke. It had been easy enough to dismiss then. Being under constant threat of annihilation could do strange things to a man. But he knew it had fueled his anger at her presence in the safe house.
And now, just as before, the sight of her sent desire cascading through him in a wild rush like no other woman had provoked in him.
Jaden's sudden arousal mingled with a punch of bloodlust, creating a tangled mix of wants and needs that had his breath beginning to hitch in his chest. He moved slowly, walking the increasingly fine edge between man and beast as he struggled to stay concealed. He remembered more than just his brief meeting with her, no matter how he'd tried to block it all out. He'd had dreams… bodies tangled together, biting, clawing… licking…
Appalled, Jaden told himself he couldn't truly want a werewolf. Apart from being forbidden by both races, it was just wrong. Wasn't he screwed up enough?
It was a relief when the Neanderthal provided a distraction from his thoughts. The male moved like lightning, and far more gracefully than his bulky form would suggest. A hand shot out, snatching something from around Lyra's neck. The werewolf dangled the item in front of her, and Jaden could see it was a silver pendant hanging from a leather cord. She tried to snatch the pendant back, but the male held it high above his head like a schoolyard bully.
"How dare you?"
"It's just an old necklace," he said with a smirk. "If you want it that badly, come and get it."
Jaden could hear the helpless outrage in her voice when she spoke.
"Isn't here right now, is he? No one is." The Neanderthal shifted, crooked a finger at her. His stance said he knew he'd won. "I've got a hotel room. Or we can do it right here. Your choice."
His grin was foul. She seemed to think so too.
"Like hell, Mark."
Lyra's muscles tensed. She was going to run. What choice did she have? But the other man knew it. And while she might be fast, there was no way she would be able to match his strength.
Jaden hissed out a breath through gritted teeth. He was no hero. He might be nothing more than a lowblood vampire, a gutter cat with a gift for the hunt, but even among his kind, there were unspoken rules. And something in Lyra's voice, the hopeless outrage of someone railing against a fate they knew was inevitable, struck a chord deep within him. He had spent centuries being pushed and pulled by forces he couldn't fight. No one had ever given a damn what he had wanted, not from the first.
Gods help him with what he was about to get tangled up in.
Lyra spun, leaping away with a startling amount of grace. The man she'd called Mark lunged almost as quickly. His hand caught in all the glorious hair, fisting so that her head snapped back. Jaden heard her pained cry, heard the man's roar of victory. Then Mark's hands were on her, grabbing, tearing…
One look at Lyra's eyes, wild and afraid, and nothing on earth could have prevented Jaden from stepping in. He sprang from the shadows with a vicious snarl, fury hazing the darkness with bloodred. He landed directly in front of the grappling pair, fangs elongated and bared. The shock of his appearance gave Lyra the opening he'd hoped for. She twisted away, but not quickly enough. Mark took her down with a quick clout to the side of the head before whipping back around. Jaden watched, an odd twist of pain in his chest, as Lyra gave a single, shocked sob and collapsed to her knees.
Still, Jaden had gotten part of what he wanted. Lyra could no longer be used as a shield.
Recognition dawned in Mark's eyes a split-second before the instinctive hatred did.
Then another set of fangs were bared. Eyes flashed hot gold. The werewolf gave a guttural growl and reached for Jaden, long claws already extended from his fingertips. Jaden hissed as he stepped out of reach and waited for his chance. Jaden knew from experience that a wolf would always go for brute force over finesse. And against a vampire, it was almost always the wolf's downfall.
This time was no different.
Mark lunged, swiped. Jaden ducked easily and extended claws of his own, drawing first blood across the vulnerable belly. The thin ribbons of blood darkening his opponent's T-shirt seemed to incense his adversary, and he launched himself at Jaden only to find himself with a face full of asphalt. Unable to control himself, Jaden laughed, though it sounded nasty and hollow to his own ears.
"Hmm. I think someone's going home alone tonight."
Face bloodied, the werewolf dragged himself off the ground and growled at his tormentor.
"Get out of here, bloodsucker. This is wolf business."
"Really? Looks like garden-variety jackassery to me," Jaden said, watching Lyra out of the corner of his eye. She had shifted to a sitting position, and was holding her head in her hands staying very still. How badly she was hurt, Jaden didn't know. It was so like a wolf to try to win a woman by damaging her. Regardless, it was time to run this bastard off and give Lyra what care she needed.
He tried to ignore the way his heart began to stutter in his chest at the thought.
"Leave now," Jaden said, his voice soft, deadly. "Or I kill you."
Mark snorted. "Skinny piece of shit bloodsucker like you? I don't think—"
His words were cut off abruptly by two kicks, one to his gut and one across his thick head. At that, he went down like a ton of bricks with only a soft grunt for a response. This time, he stayed down. Jaden glared down at him for a moment, only barely denying himself the extra kick he wanted to give the wolf for good measure. But the stupid bastard should feel lousy enough when he awakened facedown in the parking lot in the morning. Although it might be momentarily satisfying, killing him would be nothing more than a messy waste of time.
And despite his disturbing interest in Lyra, Jaden had no interest in getting the Lilim into a pissing match with whatever scruffy pack of werewolves this loser belonged to.
Satisfied that they were now, for all practical purposes, alone, Jaden moved to Lyra's side and crouched down beside her. A light, intoxicating scent drifted from her, making his mouth water. Apples, he remembered. Sweet, tart apples, with something earthier beneath. Strangely enough, he felt no urge to run, to hiss and spit. He realized now it was a good thing he hadn't gotten this close the last time. He might have done something really stupid.
Though he supposed his current actions qualified.
"Lyra?" he asked, trying to keep his voice low and soothing. He wasn't sure how successful he was… he was way out of practice at damage control. Usually, he was the damage. "Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?" Wolves were self-healers, he knew, but it could take a while, which was dangerous when the wound was severe.
She said nothing, moved not a muscle, and Jaden's concern deepened. He reached for her, momentarily overcome by the urge to make even the simplest physical connection. But his hand stilled in midair when she finally lifted her head to look at him. And whatever he'd expected to see—fear, confusion, even a little gratitude—none of it was in evidence as he looked into Lyra's burning, furious eyes glowing fire-bright in the dark.
"Don't even think about touching me, cat," she said. "I can take care of myself."
AND SHE'D THOUGHT her night couldn't get any worse.
Lyra Black glared into the face of her would-be savior. He looked comically surprised that she wasn't already batting her eyes and breathlessly thanking him. That was what all vamps expected: mindless adoration. And thanks to their talents with manipulating human minds, they tended to get it. Especially vamps as pretty as this one, she thought, seeing big, almost innocent blue eyes set in a face made for sin. Fortunately, werewolves were immune to the bloodsuckers' brand of "charm."
Not that this one had tried very hard the last time they'd met. Of all the vamps who could have interfered tonight, did it have to be him?
He drew back his hand as though she'd burned him. Lyra felt a fleeting instant of shame when his expression, so open and filled with what appeared to be genuine concern, shifted into a narrow-eyed glare. But it was no more than he deserved, she reminded herself. When she'd been holed up at that rat-infested vampire safe house all those months ago, he'd all but announced she was unfit to be in the same room with him. She'd quickly gathered that the other people in residence were his refugee friends—some other cat vamp and a human woman who'd seemed nice enough, despite her questionable taste in companions, as Lyra remembered.
But this one. This one was a Grade A, certified cat vamp asshole.
Knowing it made it easier to say what she needed to, easier to look into those big baby blues and tell him where to go, and she was glad. Because a non-vamp who looked as good as he did might have tempted her to trouble, and the gods knew she had enough of that in her life already.
"I can see you're as sweet as ever," he muttered, getting to his feet in a single graceful movement that left Lyra, normally so confident, feeling awkward as she regained her own footing.
"Yeah, I have a lot of reason to be sweet to you," she sniffed. "First throwing me out of your super secret vampire meeting because I'm not the right species, and now cold-cocking some idiot I could have taken out myself." She crossed her arms over her chest, disconcerted by the way his eyes darted to her breasts and then away. She could almost think—but that was stupid. Vamps didn't check weres out. They took them out, and that was always going to be the way of it.
Still, beholden to her own morbid curiosity, she shifted so that her folded arms pushed her breasts up and together, displaying them attractively beneath her cami. Sure enough, his eyes flickered back and then away a couple more times, as though he wanted not to look but couldn't quite help himself. Lyra tipped her head to regard him, stunned to realize that not only was her erstwhile savior most definitely checking her out, he was flushed. His nostrils flared ever so slightly, as though he were scenting something. Prey, maybe.
And when she caught his eye again, he looked both miserable and so hungry it took her breath away. Lyra let her arms fall back to her sides, suddenly very uncomfortable with the game she'd just played. Every lesson she'd ever learned, everything she'd been taught by her pack, filled her head at once, admonishing her.
To toy with a vamp, even a lone and seemingly well-intentioned one like this, was to play with fire. Nothing would ever come from mixing wolves and vampires but blood. And more often than not, fair or not, it was the wolves who would shed most of it.
It was small consolation, but the vampire looked just as uncomfortable as she felt all of a sudden. He turned his head to look down at Mark sprawled out on the pavement, sleeping the sleep of the deservedly unconscious. She watched the sharp flicker of his movement and felt a momentary pang of… something… as she allowed herself the barest of moments to take in the lithe perfection of his form encased in slim-fitting black jeans, scuffed black boots, and a high-collared military-style coat. His chin-length hair was black as night and tucked behind his ears, making his features that much more sharply appealing.
He could have been a sullen young rock star instead of a centuries-old vampire. And Lyra found, with no small amount of horror, that her mouth watered either way.
"You could have taken him, huh?" The vamp prodded Mark's prone body with the toe of his boot, and Lyra finally remembered his name. Actually, she remembered the human woman saying it in a tone usually reserved for small and badly behaving children, which nearly brought a smile to her face.
"Yes, I could have, Jaden," she said, enjoying the startle it gave him to hear his name fall from her lips. A strange name for one as old as he must be, she decided. Very modern. But he'd probably renamed himself at some point. Lyra had heard they did that, living so long they got sick of the name they were born with. She might… but then again, she enjoyed being the only Lyra she knew.
"Guess I did make an impression that night," he remarked. "Since you feel the need to bitch me out, by name, instead of thanking me. But there was no way you were going to take this guy down. I was watching. It was over the second he got his fist in your hair."
Whatever oddball fantasy she had been entertaining about him up to this point crumbled into dust. Just another arrogant vamp, Lyra decided. It didn't matter that he was right, that she knew he was right about Mark. What mattered was that he and the rest of his ilk had no respect for either her or her kind.
"I would have found a way," she growled, stepping closer to Jaden. "I don't need some cat vamp rescuer who expects me to lick his paws for gracing me with his presence."
His brows lifted, mocking her subtly. He knew she'd needed him… needed someone, anyway… and that was the thing Lyra hated most. She was already considered unfit to lead because of her sex. Her entire life had been about projecting strength, about watching what the males of the pack did and then doing it better. To have to be rescued from a single wolf who'd caught her off guard was humiliating. The only silver lining that she could see was that the story of it would never reach her pack. Or Mark's, Lyra thought, shooting another glance at his unconscious form and barely restraining herself from curling her lip at the sight. She wasn't the only one who wouldn't want word of this encounter getting out.
"I'll take that as your thank-you, I guess," Jaden said, "since it's obviously all I'm going to get."
"Take it however you want," Lyra replied. "As long as you take it and go. I'm not interested in chatting right now and lucky for you, not in the mood for cat chasing either. But I might change my mind." When her words seemed to amuse him for some perverse reason, Lyra narrowed her eyes and added, "Go away."
She thought, and hoped, he would leave now that his heroics were finished. Instead, he surprised her by lingering. And she surprised herself by not turning and walking away, which is what she knew she should have done. Now that she had stepped closer to him, she was unable to avoid his scent. He smelled unmistakably of vampire, the faint whiff of some rare and ancient spice that Lyra doubted he could even smell himself, just as she'd been told (snarled at, more like) on several memorable occasions that her breed stank of wild animal musk. She had never seen anyone but a vamp react to her as though she'd rolled in garbage, and she certainly saw nothing wrong with the wolf scent.
But Jaden wasn't reacting normally to her, wasn't cringing and backing off as though she had some dread disease. He simply acted… interested. And it had affected her, Lyra realized, because she didn't find him to be an assault on her senses either. He smelled good to her. Really good. Good enough to make her want to roll over on her back and—
She took a quick step back, sucking in a breath as she realized what was happening to her. Her skin had warmed, her heart rate had increased, and she was greedily drinking in Jaden's vampire musk. Beneath her shirt, her nipples had pebbled into tight little buds, and it had nothing to do with the cold. Her sex was swollen and slick already, demanding she accept him, bare her neck to him, get him behind her and let him… let him…
Lyra exhaled harshly and stared at Jaden as though he were the Hellhound himself, a mythical beast come to drag her to the underworld for her disloyalty to the pack. He watched her steadily, his eyes still blue but grown decidedly more feline. The pupils were long, dilated, the irises a glowing blaze of blue. And she knew she was in trouble when he took two steps toward her, closing the distance until he was only inches from her, his breath fanning her face.
Only pride kept her from backing away again. Lyra stood her ground, even when those unusual eyes dropped to her lips. She licked them nervously, saw his jaw tighten. She decided it was not to her advantage that Jaden was only perhaps an inch taller than she. She'd always hated the way the males of her kind used their height and brawn to try to intimidate her, though at five feet eight she was tall for a woman. But she saw now that there had been one good thing. When those men had tried to move in on her, their mouths hadn't been so very close, so evenly matched with the position of her own. If Jaden leaned in just a bit, he would have her.
Lyra couldn't let that happen. But the thought of it was so much more tempting than it should have been. Her skin tingled pleasurably. Her fingers flexed, itching to grab him by the shoulders, the hair, and plunge.
- "Castle demonstrates considerable skill in crafting a tale that offers readers a conflict-ridden forbidden love interlaced with political intrigue and betrayal . . . The author's world-building is intricate and cohesive . . . plenty of action . . . I like Castle's voice and look forward to reading more of her work."—USAToday.com on Midnight Reckoning
- "Castle's world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more."—Romantic Times on DARK AWAKENING
- "4 1/2 Stars. HOT. Power acquisition and consolidation are driving the action in this exciting series as the vampires of the Cait-Sith bloodline strive to break free of their former masters. Intriguing characters add a well-rounded feel to this tale that is also packed with treachery and drama. Pick it up today!"—RT Magazine, RT Book Reviews
- "Rising star Castle is sure to please with an exciting new series. Passion and loyalty collide as the hero is forced to re-evaluate the choices that have driven his life."—RT Book Reviews on DARK AWAKENING
"[Dark Awakening] grabs you from the first page and the next thing you know you've been reading for several hours immersed in Lily and Ty's world. I adored this story, was sorry it ended so soon and have put the next in the series on my wishlist already. Fans of the paranormal romance, urban fantasy and vampire genres should put this on their wishlist."
—BittenByParanormalRomance.com on DARK AWAKENING
- "I am always thrilled when I find a new spin on the vampire mystique, and Dark Awakening certainly fits the bill. An amazing story of ancient dynasties, class divisions, curses and blood feuds, this book has opened new and exciting views into vampire worlds...The problem with such a new and detailed book is there is so much information I want to impart, but the most important thing I can say is READ THIS BOOK."—You Gotta Read Reviews on DARK AWAKENING
- "Kendra Leigh Castle has set the stage for a phenomenal new vampire series which will take the paranormal genre by storm. DARK AWAKENING has one of the most interesting and well-thought out vampire hierarchies that I have encountered in a vampire novel. Vampire novels just don't get any better than this!"—FreshFiction.com on DARK AWAKENING
- On Sale
- Jan 1, 2012
- Page Count
- 384 pages