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Home > Marked by Midnight (Midnight Breed #11.5)

Marked by Midnight (Midnight Breed #11.5)
Author: Lara Adrian

CHAPTER 1

The night sky over London hung thick and ominous, heavy with black clouds still lingering from the evening’s torrential rainstorm. The downpour had lasted for hours, driving most of the city’s residents inside for shelter.

It was an advantage that Mathias Rowan and the three other Order warriors accompanying him on patrol tonight had made full use of, knowing the vampire lair they’d located in Southwark the week before was all but certain to be occupied amid the storm.

While Mathias never found it an easy thing to kill his own kind, the nest of blood-addicted Rogues squatting in the derelict brick building had to be terminated. The collection of human bones tossed in a pile in the back room of the foul-smelling lair had been more than ample justification for the Rogues’ executions.

Rory Callahan, the warrior behind the passenger seat Mathias occupied in the Order’s black Range Rover, let out a howl. “Damn, those were some sick, Bloodlusting f**ks.”

Still green and mostly stupid about life, Callahan leaned forward, grinning, the tips of his fangs still visible behind his lip, evidence of the battle rage that had gripped them all during the raid. The youngest of the squad, he hadn’t seen enough death or violence yet to understand how closely every Breed male tread to the madness they’d encountered tonight.

From beside Callahan in the backseat, Deacon, the third member of the team exhaled a low, solemn curse. “They’d been killing for a while. Good thing we ashed them before they got tired of draining homeless people and moved uptown where folks were apt to notice the thinning of their herd.”

Mathias grunted in grim agreement.

Only Liam Thane, the Breed warrior behind the wheel of the speeding vehicle, hadn’t said a word since they’d done their business and left the lair.

Mathias had known the male for more than two decades--back when they’d both been part of a different, and since dissolved, policing organization for the Breed. Mathias had served as director in Boston then, and Thane had worked mostly covert ops around Europe and the United Kingdom.

While no one would ever call the hulking, black-haired vampire jovial, tonight Thane seemed more pensive than usual. Mathias glanced at him from the passenger seat. Thane’s long hair was gathered in a tail at his nape, accentuating the severe cut of his cheekbones and stern jaw. He stared straight ahead, unblinking, focused on the rain-slicked road that followed the bank of the Thames.

“I knew one of them,” he murmured, his gaze unblinking, never leaving the road. “He was a good man once...my cousin, Jacob.”

The vehicle went silent at Thane’s admission, nothing but the hum of the Rover’s engine and the night wind buffeting the windows as it blew up off the river.

Mathias didn’t offer apologies or sympathy. Thane wouldn’t look for it any more than Mathias himself would. They were warriors. They had a job to do and they did it, no matter how unpleasant.

No matter how personal.

Even under ordinary circumstances, the Order’s justice was swift and final when it came to dealing with the diseased killers among their race. After all, it had only been twenty years since the Breed was outed to mankind around the world in a massive Rogue attack. To say that human/Breed relations had been tenuous in the time that followed was putting it mildly.

And now, just days ago in Washington, D.C., the Order had been dealt more cause for concern. A bombing meant to disrupt a world peace summit--using a weapon powered by Breed-killing ultraviolet light--had been thwarted by the Order’s founder, Lucan Thorne, with mere seconds to spare.

The attack, and the war it was meant to incite between the vampire and human populations, had been diffused, its chief architect killed, but the threat remained very real.

The Order had powerful, hidden enemies. They’d eliminated one in D.C., but they’d come away from the battle realizing there was an untold number still operating in the shadows, plotting destruction and waiting for their chance to strike again.

Compared to that, London was fortunate that aside from a Rogue problem that had just been neutralized, the only war taking place in the city was a recent spate of gang violence that had fed half a dozen bodies into the murky water of the Thames last week.

As the Rover rolled through Southwark’s Bankside area, Mathias noticed a cluster of law enforcement vehicles down at the river’s edge. “Christ,” he muttered. “Looks like JUSTIS is fishing another floater out of the drink.”

“You want to head down there and have a look?” Thane asked.

At his nod, the big warrior turned off the road and drove toward the small gathering of human and Breed officers who served the Joint Urban Security Taskforce Initiative Squad.

They parked at the periphery of the action and walked over to the crime scene. Triangulated headlight beams pierced the darkness from the shoreline, shining out over the water where a small power boat was approaching. A pair of officers in diving gear sat at the stern, a large, unmoving object draped in a pale tarp at their feet.

Even from several yards away, Mathias’s keen Breed senses allowed him to see--and smell--the dead human they had retrieved from the water.

“I’d have thought the Order’s got better things to do than slum it down in Southwark.”

Mathias turned his head in the direction of the booming, baritone British voice of the JUSTIS officer in charge.

Gavin Sloane was Breed, a towering, wide-shouldered male with sandy blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He came over to greet Mathias and his team with a nod and a ready grin. “If we weren’t friends from way back, I might have to remind you that we got here first, so it’s our party.”

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