When Darkness Ends(Guardians of Eternity,book 12)(1) by Alexandra Ivy
Laigin (Ireland), 1014 AD
The man woke with a blinding headache, stripped of his clothing as well as his memories.
With a groan, he sat up, shoving his tangled hair out of his face. It was immediately obvious he was in a damp cave. A strange place to wake. But not nearly as strange as the abrupt realization that something was terrifyingly wrong with him.
Despite the darkness he was able to see the limestone walls that had been chiseled by the water dripping from the low ceiling as clear as if it were day. And it was not only his sight that was unbearably acute.
He could smell the distant salt of the sea. And hear the faint scramble of a bug crossing the stone floor. He could even detect the warmth of two creatures that were rapidly approaching the cave.
What madness was this?
No man should have the senses of a god. Not unless he was a monster.
The dark thoughts barely had time to form before they were interrupted by a hunger that thundered through him. He groaned. It was as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Months. But it wasn’t the thought of food that made his stomach cramp, he realized with a flare of horror.
It was . . . blood.
His mouth watered, the pain of his fangs ripping through his gums startling him as the image of the red, intoxicatingly rich substance filled his mind.
He had to feed.
Aye. That was what he needed.
Disgusted with the knowledge, he slowly rose to his feet, a virile strength running through his massive body even as his head remained thick with confusion.
His instincts urged him to leave the cave, to hunt down his prey and bury his fangs deep in their throats, but the tantalizing scent of fresh strawberries kept him frozen in place.
It appeared that his prey was willingly coming to him.
And they smelled . . . delectable.
Like an animal, he warily shuffled to the deepest shadows. From his vantage point, he silently watched the two slender creatures enter the cave. His eyes widened at the sheer beauty of the strangers. The male had hair the color of rust with bold green eyes set in a lean face, while the female possessed long tawny hair with eyes the shade of spring grass.
They looked like angels.
His fangs ached, his muscles tensing as he prepared to strike.
Angels or not, they were about to become dinner.
But before he could charge, the male held up a slender hand, the scent of strawberries becoming overpowering.
“Hold, berserker,” he commanded, a tingle of magic in the air.
He frowned. “I am a berserker?”
The confusion only deepened. “Were?”
“Two nights ago you were attacked by a clan of vampires.”
He shook his head, his hand instinctively lifting to touch his neck.
The pretty female grimaced. “Not as a human. The local villagers left you in this cave to see if you would rise as a vampire. Even now they are on their way to either witness your corpse or slaughter you.” She held out a slender hand. “Come with us in peace and we will harbor you until you are able to care for yourself.”
Vampire . . .
He went to his knees in shock.
Ireland, present day
Cyn, clan chief of Ireland and former berserker, moaned as he slowly regained consciousness. His brain was fuzzy, which meant it took a full minute to realize he was lying butt-naked on the cold stone floor of a cave.
Bloody hell. It had been a millennium since he’d woken in this precise cave, naked and disoriented. He didn’t like it any better today than he had a thousand years ago.
With a groan he forced himself to a sitting position, his body hardening at the intoxicating scent that teased at his nose.
A fine, crisp vintage that made his entire body tingle with anticipation.
For a blissful minute he allowed the fragrance to swirl around him. It was oddly familiar. And, surprisingly, it stirred a complex mixture of emotions.
Arousal. Wariness. Frustration
It was the frustration that abruptly forced him to recall why the scent was so familiar.
Muttering a curse, Cyn had a searing memory of following a beautiful fairy through a portal. No . . . not a fairy, he wryly corrected himself. A Chatri. The ancient purebloods of the fey world who’d retreated to their homeland centuries before.
He’d been there to help Roke locate his mate, but Princess Fallon had shoved him out of the throne room when it was obvious that Roke and Sally needed time to work out their differences, insisting that he leave them in peace.
He’d only been vaguely annoyed at first. He didn’t trust the cunning Chatri as far as he could throw them, especially not their king, Sariel. But he wanted Roke to work out his troubles with his mate.
Besides, he was male enough to appreciate being in the company of a beautiful woman.
Or in the case of Fallon . . . a breathtakingly exquisite woman.
Her hair was a glorious tumble of rich gold brushed with hints of pale rose. The sort of hair that begged a man to bury his face in the silken mass. Her eyes were polished amber with flecks of emerald and framed by the thickest, longest lashes Cyn had ever seen. And her ivory features . . . gods almighty, they were so perfect they didn’t look real.
He might be suspicious of Fallon, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy fantasizing about having her tossed on the nearby chaise longue while he peeled the gown off her slender body, he’d assured himself.
So he’d allowed himself to be distracted by the lovely female as he sipped the potent fey wine, not realizing the danger until his head began to spin and the world went dark.
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