Stronger than the Night
In a world where psychic vampires feed on emotions and life force, a moment of misplaced trust lands a young woman in a coma. As she watches her friend’s energy drained by these monsters, Cassandra Lee swears she’ll hunt down every last one of them.
Except they’re hunting her, too. Born of a forbidden union between two psi-vamps, Cassandra has enough latent power to wipe out her people. If she knew about it. The Dark Court, ruling body of the psi-vamps, intends to wipe out this Abomination before that happens.
But a new faction divides the Dark Court. Led by an upstart Lord, they don’t want to kill Cassandra. Instead, they want to use her power to create their own Territory.
Alex Chandler, de facto leader of the Dark Court, can’t let that happen. The last Abomination brought about mass destruction, leaving his people all but extinct. Honor-bound to protect his misguided brethren and prevent history from repeating itself, he decides to kill her himself.
But when he meets Cassandra, he can’t believe a sarcastic young goth girl is the creature they fear. As he befriends her to get closer to the kill, they begin to fall in love.
Cassandra discovers her heritage, shattering her ideals. How can she hunt “monsters” when she is one? Worse, Alex’s vampirism is exposed. Furious at his deception, she wants nothing more to do with him. But when her sister is kidnapped by their enemies, Cassandra has no choice but to turn to Alex. Their search uncovers a plot that threatens both human and vampire alike, leaving both with only one choice: Stand together and fight.
Cassandra froze, apartment key half-inserted into the lock. Quiet chilled the air, leaving it with a sharp tang she could almost taste. Something was stalking her.
Shit. Not again. Hasn’t enough gone wrong today? She closed her eyes for a brief moment and sent out her senses, feeling the energy signatures around the exterior of her apartment. Neighbors in the hall. Couple of signatures she didn’t recognize, but that wasn’t unusual, and they didn’t feel malicious.
Something moved. A shadow, almost. Out of the corner of her mind. She tensed. Wait for it. The thing, whatever it was, came closer to the door. She extended her senses into the apartment itself, and hissed. Kreshida.
I should’ve known. Fucking soul-stealers can’t stay away. Cassandra sighed. But three in one day? Isn’t that a bit much?
She jerked the key to the side and slammed the heavy wood door open. Nothing. Just a dark room. She slung her backpack off and threw it inside. The sensor-activated lights flipped on, illuminating the foyer.
No one there.
Nice try. But she knew them. She wouldn’t be fooled by their tricks. Not again. Never again. Cassandra entered the room slowly, crouched in a fighter’s stance. Someone was in the room. And he hadn’t left.
She moved to the center of the small foyer, an entryway with a bare wall on one side and a walk-in closet on the other. Sparse, but that’s how she liked it. She spun around, shutting the door as she made a sweep of the area. Or what she could see of it. Visibility from the door was shit.
“Mrow?” Her cat, Satan, rubbed against her legs and purred, a soft rumble that shook his small body. So where were you all day? I’m lonely!
Cassandra smiled and picked him up. She scratched him behind the ears. “I missed you too, little devil.”
A malice tendril caressed her skin. She shivered, dropping Satan as she shook away the tendril. He yowled. Cassandra shook her head and touched his mind. Not now, sweet. Or we could both be very, very dead. Which means no more lady cats for you.
Satan fluffed his tail, but his eyes widened just the same, and he stalked off towards the bedroom. Oblivious feline.
Cassandra took a step forward. The air changed. It grew heavier, as if the humidity level skyrocketed. Not possible. Kreshida. She bared her teeth, and ducked her head out into the hallway. Nothing on either side.
She let her breath out, turning left into the living room.
Something slammed into her from behind.
“Shit!” She fell to the floor and rolled, coming up on her knees. She glared up at her attacker. “Isn’t the black mask a trifle clichÃ©d? Or do you think you’re Zorro?”
He didn’t speak. His sable aura, marbled with specters of ivory and charcoal, spread around him, shadowing his figure. He didn’t move. She couldn’t even hear him breathe.
He stared into her eyes, his gaze piercing through the ebon that surrounded him. She met it. Her breath came slow. She wasn’t going to lose her edge. She wasn’t going to let him defeat her. She controlled the situation.
“You gonna sit there, Zorro? Or are you gonna fight?” Cassandra flicked a wisp of wavy golden hair out of her face. “You want me dead. I know you do.”
She could take him. She’d killed kreshida before. She was a hunter. The hunter.
Minutes passed. They remained locked in the stare. Neither moved. A drop of sweat trickled down the side of Cassandra’s face. Her knees ached. Her breath became harder to control. She remained knelt in a fighting posture.
The energies shifted. She tracked them with her othersight. Hate tendrils crept towards her, closer, closer, filled with mindpoison…
She threw her consciousness onto the metaphysical plane. Light mist surrounded her. She cleared it with a single movement. As she crouched and extended her mind, she drew a psychic long knife from the sheath on her back. A single thought called her magicked dagger into her hand.
Cassandra prepared for the battle. The kreshida fought this way. Every time. She waited for his astral form to appear. Then she’d fight. And conquer.
The kreshida did not enter the astral plane. He shoved his aura forward and jumped to action on Earth. A knife glinted in his hand as he came at her.
“Fuck!” Her mind raced. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They’d never fought physically before. What was going on?
Cassandra gathered her strength and focused on controlling both her astral and physical bodies at once. Ground. Center. She tried to settle her mind back into her body. Just enough.
She threw herself to the side as the knife came at her. It sliced through her tight black shirt and grazed her skin.
The kreshida tumbled to the ground, unprepared for her last-minute dodge.
Ground. Center. Faster, damn it. Her reaction time slowed to shit.
Her enemy spun around, grinning. White teeth gleamed. He came in again.
Cassandra moved. Too slow.
The kreshida rammed her to the ground. The knife came up, poised to strike. Aimed for her throat.
Fuck. I’m going to die.
She raised her arm as the knife came down. It sliced into her from wrist to elbow. She suppressed her cry and refused to let pain break her concentration.
Ground and center, damn it! Or I’m dead!
Cassandra forced her mind back into her body. Not perfect, but enough. The edges of consciousness jangled, the connection between mind and body not completely tethered–fuck it, she didn’t have time for a seamless cohesion. She’d do it later.
If there was a later.
The kreshida brought the knife down again. Cassandra slammed the palm of her right hand into his cheekbone as he slashed. He grunted, his strike thrown off. The knife missed her throat and cut into her shoulder. Deep. Through skin. Not quite hitting the muscle. Thank Dog.
If I’m going to die, I’ll take you down with me, bastard. She rammed her knee into his balls.
He cried out.
Cassandra shoved him with all her strength. She didn’t feel pain. Just–shock. Blood poured down her arm and shoulder. Strength faltered as she weakened. She’d die, but not before she killed the son of a bitch.
He fell to the side. He kept his grip on his knife. Damn.
She came to her feet. Shock and blood loss got to her. Too slow.
He kicked and swept her feet out from under her.
Cassandra fell. Her head rocked against the floor. Sparkling lights whirled in her eyes, distorting her perceptions of energies and reality. The imperfect connection between her mind and body broke away. She slipped towards nothingness. Fuck. Oh holy fuck. She pushed all her concentration into retethering the connection–if she didn’t, she’d be worse than dead. A walking vegetable.
The kreshida stood. He came towards her again, the knife raised.
She did not move. She focused on reattaching her mind to her body. He’d kill her. But I’d rather die now as me than a head of cabbage sixty years later.
He grabbed her by the collar and dragged her to a sitting position. He stared into her face, and his lip curled with contempt. “How does it feel, Cassandra? How does it feel to know that you’re going to die, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it?”
Heh. She couldn’t fight, but two words didn’t take much concentration or effort. “Fuck you.”
“You’ll die, bitch.” He lifted the knife above her head. “You’ll die.”
Cassandra’s mind and body came together, held by a thin strand. Closer. But any physical movement would rip it apart and send her mind hurtling into the abyss. Damn.
His face contorted in rage as he drew his arm back, preparing for the downward strike that would end her life.
Satan hurtled through the air over Cassandra’s head, squalling, and sank four sets of claws into the kreshida’s face.
The kreshida screamed. He grabbed at Satan, trying to pull the small Siamese mix off his face. He couldn’t. Satan bit his nose and kept clawing, with a low, murderous growl Cassandra’d never heard before.
Cassandra took a breath. She grounded. She centered. She tethered the connection. She almost couldn’t believe it.
But she had to act. Fast.
The kreshida roared. He flung Satan off his face and sent him crashing into the wall.
Cassandra rolled to her feet. She began to feel the pain. She forced it back. Not now. Her knees wobbled, and she weakened. Blood loss. Damn it.
He looked at her for a moment. Then he crouched to rush her for the kill.
A key turned in the lock, and he froze. His head snapped to the door. It opened with a creak.
“Cassandra?” Kierhan. She sighed with relief. “What’s going on?”
She opened her mouth to speak. The kreshida sank back into stealth and shoved past her. She fell to the ground with a cry. “Cassandra!” Kierhan’s large feet pounded against the ground. The door slammed shut, and he groaned from the hallway. “The kreshida, again?”
She didn’t answer. She didn’t have the energy, nor the concentration. Her head swam, the little she could see spinning out of control.
A warm hand touched her back a moment later, rolling her over. She looked up into Kierhan’s green eyes through a blurry haze. They widened. “Goddess!”
Shivers wracked her body. Cold … so cold … “Kierhan–get me to a–hospital–quick–”
Her head rocked back, hitting the floor as she hurtled into unconsciousness.