Monster. Demon. Killer.
Adrianna has been called all of the above and worse. A fey-born succubus able to drain a person’s life force with a single touch, her time in the human world has been met with fear and hatred, and now, as the King’s Assassin, she’s given a task that would force her to break a promise to the only person who ever showed her true compassion.
One heart. That’s all the King asks. It shouldn’t be so difficult. It’s not going to be her first kill. But when her mark is the son of the woman who took her in when her mother died, she’s left conflicted. Tracking the Prince down is simple. Her feelings when she finds him make doing what she has to impossible in more ways than one.
The heart of a vampire may not beat, but the moment she meets her Prince and his men she knows that she can’t go on any longer as a killer. Opening her heart up to seven vampires, she begins to realize what she’s been missing living amongst humans her whole adult life.
It might just be the happy ever after she never thought she’d get, but if she doesn’t bring back what the King asked for, there’s going to be hell to pay…
One week. That’s how long the cherry blossoms keep their flowers. Seven short days. The flowers just opened yesterday. They make the palace gardens bright and pretty with their pink and white tones. They’re beautiful, but they don’t last, and I will not be here while they remain so. I have my own task, and I have been given seven days to complete it. If I do get back before then, enjoying the gardens will be a bittersweet reward. I pace around my living quarters, intermittently admiring the view from the window, while I pack a bag for the unpredictable journey ahead. I don’t waste time or space with changes of clothing. I bring only the essentials; enough gold coins to grease palms as necessary, dried food rations to keep my energy from waning, supplies to build a fire for warmth, and a folded down length of waterproof fabric wrapped around a ball of twine, to create a makeshift shelter if my venture takes me away from the towns and into the wilderness. I’m dressed for the deed itself in dark leathers, daggers strapped to holsters at my hip and calf. I always carry some form of weaponry, though most of the time I never use it. It’s for show. People take a dainty little slip of a woman slightly more seriously when she’s packing metal. Armor helps too, but that’s cumbersome and I have no real need for it. I tie the bag of supplies closed and sling it over my shoulder. There’s one last thing on my mind before I leave. Something I can’t leave the palace without being certain of. The corridor is dark and my footsteps echo. I make my way to Calista’s living quarters swiftly, relieved when I find one of the queen’s maids, Althea, sitting with her. “Adrianna!” Calista yells, getting to her feet and rushing toward me. She used to wind me with these enthusiastic hugs and sometimes she still does. Two years younger than me, and with the same soft, dusky pink hair, she’s almost an entire foot taller and blessed with vibrant violet eyes that always seem to sparkle. “You’re going away,” she says suddenly, in an accusatory tone. I nod as she steps back, seeing her frown. I pray that she doesn’t have something to tell me about the terrible task I’ve been given. Ever since King Marek gave me the command, I’ve been attempting to pretend it’s just a job like all of the others. The truth is that it’s not. “Blood, so much blood,” she mutters, her frown deepening as she backs away, shaking her head. Althea looks from my sister to me, her pleasant expression fading. “Why did you come here?” Her voice is quiet. She’s trying to subtly tell me I shouldn’t be here, not right before I go out into the big wide world to kill someone. Not when my fragile sister can tell exactly what I’m thinking. My chest tightens. She’s right. I shouldn’t have come, but making sure Calista is safe while I’m gone is the single most important thing to me. She’s all I have left. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay before I leave. I might be gone for a while.” Calista’s hands have moved to her chest, positioned over her heart. “He wants blood. He commands death.” I wince, realizing she’s seeing exactly what the king commanded of me. My sister isn’t cursed in the same way I am. She has the ability to see things that have happened or are going to happen. It makes her more vulnerable than most. Sometimes she gets so lost in her visions that someone needs to help her sleep to break the spell. Someone who will calm the storm inside her head with patience and soothing words. That’s why Queen Demetria assigned one of her gentlest hand maidens to Calista’s care. “Just go,” Althea urges, moving to help settle Calista as she starts to shake. I place a handful of gold coins on the dresser. “Please, take care of her while I’m gone.” I swallow the rest of the words I want to utter. King Marek has enchanted the palace so he knows when someone is speaking ill of him. Such treachery carries a death sentence. All the more reason for Althea to take close care of my sister. She can’t control some of the things she speaks of. “I will take care of her. I don’t need you to pay me for that.” Althea sounds mildly insulted. I leave the coins anyway. They are the least that she deserves for looking after my sister so well. Closing the door as I leave, I hesitate for a few seconds before I make my way deeper into the palace. As much as I want to pretend the man the king wishes me to kill is just another faceless enemy, that’s not the case this time, and I can’t leave without speaking to his mother.
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