From USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Hefner
Book 1 in the sizzling enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance saga
These are dangerous times on Etherya’s Earth…
Slayer Princess Miranda has hated the Vampyres for a thousand years. Since the Awakening, she’s fought to protect her people, choosing to be a warrior more than a royal. When a female Vampyre washes up on the shore of her compound’s riverbank, she seizes the opportunity to take the offensive.
Vampyre King Sathan, distraught at his sister’s captivity, agrees to travel with Miranda to extract the Blade of Pestilence, also hoping to change his people’s state of endless war. Although the woman hates him due to the constant raids on her compound for the Slayers’ life-giving blood, he can’t help but admire the stubborn and strong princess.
Determined to fight their growing attraction, they forge a tentative truce while Miranda battles the constant yearning to feel the hulking Vampyre’s fangs scrape against her neck…
Their faith in each other must remain strong or all will be lost…
**The Etherya’s Earth fantasy romance series is best read in order although each book does have its own featured hero/heroine and HEA. Content information can be found here.
EXCERPT FROM THE END OF HATRED:
Latimus pulled up to the barrier that surrounded the compound. As the three brothers exited the black Hummer, he addressed Sathan. “Be careful. We’re here if you need us.”
Sathan nodded and walked to the wall. The stones were cool against his palm under the dark sky and silver moonlight. The force-field that Etherya had implemented around the wall vibrated against his hand. Pushing against the rocks, they swung open, and he walked through.
About twenty feet away, he saw a black SUV, the headlights bright. He walked slowly toward the car.
“That’s far enough,” a female voice said.
“Where’s my sister?”
“She’s being held in a safe place not far from here.”
The woman walked forward, and he studied her in what little light he had. Silky, raven-black hair fell straight to her shoulders. Camouflage pants were tucked over black army boots, and she wore a black tank top. Approaching him, he noticed how small she was. Probably about a foot shorter than his six-foot, eight-inch frame.
She stopped about two feet in front of him and lifted her chin, training her gaze on his. He felt a sharp clenching sensation in his solar plexus when he saw her irises. Like wet leaves that glistened on the tree after a rainy day, they were the deepest green he had ever seen.
“You have dragged me here,” he said, regaining his composure. “What do I have to do to get her back?”
“Do you know who I am?” she asked. Her voice was clear and firm, without a trace of fear.
“The Slayer Princess Miranda,” he said.
She nodded and looked down at the grass for a moment. He wondered if she was more nervous than she appeared. Looking back up at him, she said, “I have no wish to hurt your sister. I wish to use her to ask you to help me.”
“Force me to help you,” he said, bitterness lacing his tone.
“If you like,” she said with an absent shrug of her shoulders. “Our people have been at war for a thousand years. We are locked in a stalemate that neither side seems to be able to win. I have come to the conclusion that we need to change our tactics.”
She inhaled a deep breath before continuing. “I’ve grown weary of fighting your people. I wish to form a temporary truce with you so that I can accomplish something of great importance.”
“Right,” he said, his tone suggesting that he trusted her about as far as he could throw her. “And what is it you need from me?”
“As the first-born descendants of Valktor and Markdor, our shared blood stream could release the Blade of Pestilence. Once I have it, I will use it to kill Crimeous and I will return your sister to you.”
Sathan blinked a few times, unsure he’d heard her correctly, and then he laughed incredulously. “Wait, are you serious?”
She stood still and mute, her chin thrust up in the air, waiting for his response.
“You want me to travel to the Cave of the Sacred Prophecy with you, release the Blade of Pestilence and then just let you go on your merry way after you’ve kidnapped my sister?”
“Yes,” she said, as if his statement hadn’t been dripping with sarcasm. “Except that I didn’t kidnap your sister. She washed up on the shore of our riverbank. I actually employed our doctor in nursing her back to health. You’re welcome, by the way.”
What a patronizing, cocky little bitch, Sathan thought. Although, he had to admire how she stood her ground against him. His physical dominance over her alone should’ve had her cowering. He tested her will by taking a step forward, closing the distance between them. She stood firm, tilting her chin up even more to hold his gaze, and reluctant admiration for her courage coursed through him.
“You want me to thank you for keeping alive a hostage that you’re now using to negotiate with me?”
“It would be nice,” she said flippantly, “but I won’t hold my breath. So, what’s it going to be?
She stared up at him expectantly, as if she hadn’t just asked him to trek over four hundred miles with her to rescue a weapon from an ancient prophecy.
“No. Now, give me my sister. I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, but you’re obviously physically outmatched here. I’ll give you five seconds to hand her over, or—”
A sharp pain stabbed in his chest, and he gasped. Lowering his gaze to the left side of his chest, he realized that the woman had stabbed him with some sort of contraption.
“It’s a mini-blade-loaded eight-shooter, you fucking bastard,” she said, spittle flying from between her clenched teeth as she pushed the contraption further into his chest. “The blade on the top of the barrel will only hurt, since you fuckers seem to heal like some goddamn miracle. But if I pull the trigger, it will deploy eight tiny bullets right into your black fucking heart. Don’t make me do it.”
Pain coursed through him as well as a healthy dose of anger. And yet, as he looked down on this tiny she-devil of a woman, he felt a jolt of respect. She had gotten the upper hand on him. Bracing himself, he pushed his chest further into the blade. An intense pleasure ran through him when her eyes widened in surprise.
“Go ahead,” he said, daring her. “Shoot me, princess. Let’s see if you have the courage.”
Tiny nostrils flared as she struggled to compose herself. Moments stretched by in silence as they stood locked in a dance of wills. “Well?” he jibed. “Haven’t you the bravery to kill me?”
Stepping back, she pulled the blade from his chest but kept the weapon aimed at his heart, her finger on the trigger. “Just like a stupid man,” she said, disgust lacing her voice. “Killing someone does not indicate courage or bravery. It’s the will to find a peaceful solution that shows one’s true strength.”
Huh. He didn’t expect that one. Not from the princess of the people who were his sworn enemy. He lifted his hand to put pressure on his bleeding wound. “Releasing the Blade of Pestilence will not find you peace. It will lead to more war if you wish to use it to kill Crimeous.”
“Perhaps,” she said. “But like I said, our tactics have to change. If you help me release the Blade, I promise I will return your sister to Astaria unharmed.”
He realized he believed her. Although she was a Slayer and had just stabbed him in the chest, she betrayed a firm genuineness. “And what about your father? The raids we hold against your people? Surely, you cannot ask me to journey with you to the Cave knowing my army will attack your people in another fortnight.”
Her face contorted into a withering scowl. “Yes, of course. How terrible of me to deny you the sport of hunting and killing my people.”
Remembering his earlier visit to the dungeon, he shook his head. “And now look who’s stupid.”
“What does that mean?” she asked.
Choosing not to answer her, he continued. “We’re almost out of rations from our last raid. If we don’t obtain more Slayer blood over the next fortnight, my people will begin to starve. Ruler to ruler, what would you have me do?”
“My cousin, our army commander, has agreed to supply your compound with blood from the injured soldiers we currently have in our infirmary. He will bank it for you daily and deliver it to this spot while we travel to the Cave.”
“Well, you’ve just got it all figured out, haven’t you?” he asked sarcastically.
“It’s better than continuing this madness that’s been going on for centuries, isn’t it?” she asked, her tone just as biting. “Surely, you can agree that it can’t hurt to employ new tactics in this age-old war. I mean, ruler to ruler, right?” She placed her free hand on her hip and her eyebrows jutted up as she waited for him to answer. Snarky little minx, this one was.
“Even if I agreed to your plan, how could I guarantee that my sister would be safe? For all I know, you could have your guards murder her as soon as we leave on our journey.”
“You’ll just have to trust me, I guess.”
“Says the woman holding the eight-shooter to my chest.”
Ever so slowly, she lowered the weapon to her side. “I don’t want to hurt her. I’m sure you understand that if you hurt me, she will be immediately killed. I am trusting you not to harm me until I have the Blade in my possession. After that, once you return to your compound and I return to mine, we can assess how…cooperative we’ve been toward each other and chart a course forward.”
And just like that, Sathan thought, the world had gone insane. The Slayer princess was standing in front of him asking for a truce so that they could work together to rescue the centuries-old blade that her grandfather used to kill his parents. Fucking insane.
But what was even more insane was that he was considering it. After all, he had become frustrated with the current state of events as well. This cycle of endless war and destruction had them on a constant loop with no end in sight. What if he could actually work with the princess to change the course of history?
“Your father is on board with this plan?” he asked.
Studying her, he narrowed his eyes. “I am intrigued by your proposal but I need to discuss it with my brothers. If we are going to move forward with this, I would ask that you turn my sister over to me and trust that I will keep my word. How am I supposed to trust you if you do not trust me in return?”
“Good try, but no fucking way,” she said, shaking her head. “This trust thing is going to go one way and one way only. You’ll trust me to keep her alive and you’ll earn my trust by helping me.”
“She is an inexperienced female not used to the world outside our walls. I worry for her health—”
“She’s doing just fine. All you men think that we women just sit around waiting for you to let us live our lives. Your sister is strong and has already threatened to kill me about a hundred times. She’s got more spirit than I’ve seen in half our soldiers. I don’t wish to hurt her, and I won’t as long as you help me.”
His heart warmed at the thought of Arderin putting up such a brave fight against her captor. “I need twenty-four hours to discuss with my brothers. I will meet you back here then.”
“I want an answer now—”
“No,” he said, lowering his hand from his now-mended chest. Self-healing abilities really were amazing. “The fact that I’m even considering your plan is making me doubt my sanity. I need to discuss with my brothers, who are my closest advisors. If you can’t grant me that, then we are at an impasse.”
“Fine. I’ll give you until sunset tomorrow. I’ll be here. Don’t be late.”
With one last look at the impertinent little princess, he turned and exited through the wall. His brothers were going to think he’d gone mad for even considering this. Of that, he was sure.