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Nehero is the last of his kind—an ancient vampire. For him, murder and death are as necessary as breathing is to humans. The passing years have seen him grow despondent; he’s resigned himself to a boring yet comfortable existence filled with murder and death. But then he meets Sam, a mortal woman who threatens him with something he’s never faced before: love. Now he’s fighting a battle with no enemy other than himself.

Age Rating: 18+

 

Nehero’s Song by Annelien Moller is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy novels.
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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

The huge bed leans against the wall in a room wrapped in darkness, silent and peaceful. Until the sudden mad screeching from the bedside clock interrupts the quiet.

The large male hand that snakes out to beat the thing into silence is communicating a clear “piss off, I’m still asleep” sentiment.

Albert the butler ensured that the clock was Nehero-proof. He had the clock encased in a steel casing to protect it from Nehero’s “I’m not in the mood to get up, so shut the fuck up” beatings.

He is so not an early evening person.

Nehero levels a disgusted look at the insistent clock. He shoves up to a sitting position and leans over to grab the power cord. Giving an evil grin, he yanks it good and hard.

The thing rips from the wall, and he is grateful for the silence returning to his room. He hates that clock. He stretches his big body, rubbing a sleepy hand over his face.

Half-asleep still, he manages three steps to the bathroom before blood hunger slams through him. Agony tears through him in waves, and his legs give way.

He slumps to the ground and curls into a pathetic ball, desperately pulling strength and training together to force his hungry body under control. Dry heaving, he yanks up his wrist.

Cannibalizing himself will buy him a little time for now, but not for long. Nehero curls around his wrist, holding on in a mindless stupor.

Time has no meaning. Nehero has no idea how long he has been lying on the floor like some pathetic pussy.

Pull yourself together, man. Get with the program. Get up. Go have a shower. Get out of the mansion before any of the brothers find out how bad it is.

The pep talk seems to help. He pushes up from the floor—dizzy, but up on his feet. Nehero heads for the shower again. He has a lot to do.

Last night, shit hit the fan. Alex got caught on camera killing a human. His face is plastered all over the news. Last night, he was too angry to talk to him.

He would have killed Alex. The brother has a problem. Fuck, he should have known, seen it at least, but then he has been oblivious for a long time now.

Goldilocks got him packed and out of the mansion in record time. Stashed him with the Brotherhood in London.

Out of Nehero’s reach…so he thinks, but the minute he gets the time and opportunity, Nehero is going to kill that SOAB.

Nehero leans against the shower wall. His muscles twitch. His body feels heavy, almost too dense to hold up. The water runs down his back, as hot as possible, but he feels cold and empty.

He sighs, letting the air deep into him. He shrugs his shoulders and steps under the spray again, letting it hit him in the face.

Grabbing the shower gel, he makes quick work of washing his body and his hair. He needs to feed no matter how much he would like to forgo that hell.

Nehero wraps a towel around his hips. The muscles in his shoulders flex with each move.

He is a large male. His dark hair hangs down past his shoulders.

Green eyes stare back at him from a face that is masculine and by all accounts beautiful, five o’clock shadow on his strong square jaw.

He has no illusions about his appearance; he knows he is a handsome man. He attracts women, but only the dark ones.

The ones who recognize a dangerous predator and want to be his supper or his toy.

He runs a razor over his cheeks and chin before grabbing a fresh set of black cargo pants and a T-shirt from his closet.

Pulling on a pair of steel toe boots, he grabs his coat and heads out the door to the command center.

***

The sound of his brothers’ voices is so familiar and yet so unwelcome, and also completely unavoidable. He concentrates on staying upright and heads for his chair.

The black leather of the chair whispers as he finds a comfortable spot to park his ass.

He is relieved that he has managed to stay upright, and he hopes he can keep the pretense up long enough to fool Goldie.

Goldie watches as their leader heads for his chair. The male is freshly shaved, but the stench of hunger still clings to him.

The brothers have been watching him for a while. They fear him. He is the last of the original ancients. They were created, born in a way. From them, all the others were made.

Things went critical way back, and the ancients came together to form the nómos Aíma.

Nehero was one of the ten enforcers elected. Their task was to enforce the laws.

In time, the ancients all succumbed to the blood hunger, madness driving them to feed relentlessly. They decimated villages.

In the beginning, they were able to hide it, blaming the dead villages on the plague, but in time, he was forced to kill his brothers.

Blood hunger did not stop with the ancients, but it continued in the made. Now, only Nehero remains, and the other brotherhoods fear him. They call him The Executioner.

“You look like shit.” Goldie levels a stern stare at Nehero. Those green eyes flash black, and death stares at Goldie from that familiar face.

Goldie does his best at suppressing the instinctive fear raising the hair at the nape of his neck.

“Fuck you too,” Nehero answers, expressionless. He just wants to get out and take care of business. Turning from him, he pins Sky with a look.

“What you got?” Nehero asks Sky who is manning the PCs. It is usually Alex’s job, but yeah, that motherfucker is tucked away from him for now.

He watches as Sky’s hands speed over the keyboard at his fingertips.

“It’s been quiet for a few weeks now, but we got a rep on a couple of humans who turned up seriously anemic on eighty-sixth. Got the cops on the Satanism train again.”

Sky shoots a grin at him, but Nehero can see it is not in his eyes. They fear him.

There was a time when they called him a friend, but these days, they only ever have fear in their eyes when they look at him.

It irritates the shit out of him, the way they shift into fighting positions and pat around for a weapon.

“I’ll take that,” Nehero all but growls at Sky.

“You need to feed.” Goldie pisses in the pot.

“Heard you,” Nehero says, getting up and heading for the weapons cabinet. Pulling a pair of Glocks, he checks the clips before sliding it home.

He used to be all asking questions and shit, but these days he shoots first and then asks questions. Very short conversations… Hell, most seem not to have anything to say.

Might be because they are a little short on a heartbeat. Not that Nehero gives a shit.

“Nehero, we need you, my brother. You got to take care of yourself.” Goldie steps up to him.

Nehero shoots a glare at him before resuming his ignorant routine. He’s not up for a full-on confrontation; the brothers might kick his ass at this point.

It might even be a fair fight with him pulling the jelly leggy shit.

Goldie lays a hand on his shoulder, and it is almost enough to push Nehero over the edge.

Nehero growls at Goldie, stepping in closer. He does not miss the shifting of the brothers pulling together in the background.

Goldie slowly removes his hand. “Nehero, you need to feed,” Goldie whispers softly, his face tight and the stench of fear permeating the air.

“I heard you the first time. Now move,” Nehero growls at him. He is in no mood for a conversation.

“I’m coming with you.”

Goldie must be dancing with tall, dark, and suicidal tonight, Nehero thinks to himself.

“I’m too old for a babysitter,” Nehero says, stepping off and pulling a few daggers from the cabinet. They slide home into sheaths that he strapped to his thighs and chest.

He lays a hand on Goldie’s chest with the intention of shoving Goldie out of his way. Goldie steps back before Nehero can shove him, but the look in his eye is clear: He will just follow him.

“I’ll score you some dinner. You’re too ugly to get any on your own.” Goldie tries a bit of humor. Nehero stares at him, ignoring the rest.

Truth be told, it might be a good idea. Humans sense the danger in him, and they do not react well.

He needs a quick feed, and then he is going to go check out the rep on the hemoglobin-challenged.

“Fine, but hurry your ass along,” Nehero says, dropping back in his chair. His legs just won’t keep him up for long, and there is no need to let the others know.

Goldie heads out at a fast pace. He needs to get rid of the jeans and get into fighting gear. He leans back, closing his eyes.

The other brothers are uneasy, but they settle back, and the soft ebb and flow of conversation resumes.

“Look, my brother, you said if I fuck the twins, you will give me your bike. You made the bet—now cough up.” Shen is a soft-spoken male with Asian features.

“Shen, my brother, I was suitably impressed by your little exhibition on the dance floor. It was very entertaining, and I’ll admit I was surprised, but I can’t give you the bike.”

Sky’s laughter is clear in his voice. Nehero heard about the bet thing. He is a little intrigued and opens an eye to watch the exchange.

The other brothers are clearly amused by the argument between the two.

“I will buy you a Suzuki—that’s for your kind. You can pick any one you want,” Sky offers.

“Fuck you. I don’t want a Suzuki. You made the bet. I fucked ‘em, I get the bike.”

“Shen, it’s a Harley, a 1989 Harley Sportster. It’s American, not Asian. I’m not going back on the bet, I’m just offering you something that is more appropriate for you,” Sky reasons.

Nehero is amused by the obvious racism Sky is dishing out.

“Fuck you, Sky. You made the bet. I demand you to give me the bike.”

Goldie walks in dressed for fighting. Passing Shen, he shoves the male back into his chair. Nehero was about to intervene, but he is glad his second-in-command will handle the situation.

“Sit down, Shen. Sky, you made the bet. I was a witness—Shen fucked them, so you will give him the bike.

“I will hear no more of this,” Goldie says while strapping on holsters for his array of daggers. Nehero likes his daggers with a heavier blade, but Goldie prefers the weight in the handle.

Fortunately, they have an excellent weaponsmith who makes their daggers to their exact and precise measurements.

Nehero grins as Sky curses a blue streak. The male loves his bike. The thing is, they all thought Shen was gay. Probably why Sky made the bet.

The two of them have never gotten along. Everyone figured Shen was gay and Sky was a homophobe…but lately, there has been another edge to their constant bickering.

Nehero knows he is slipping and slipping badly. This shit with Alex, he should have seen it, and frankly, he should have done something about Sky and Shen a long time ago.

He needs to pull himself together before something goes really wrong.

“Let’s go.” Goldie stands before Nehero; he noticed the smile when Sky went off about how unfair this was. It was the first smile Goldie had seen on Nehero in…well, a long time.

Watching the huge male getting up and up, Goldie holds his ground. The past ten or so years, his eyes would shift from deep forest green to black.

No one had seen anything like it before, and it was fucking scary. For the moment, it’s back to green, and it is a small comfort to Goldie.

Following Nehero’s huge body, they head for the outdoors.

Alex put up some sort of alarm system that keeps Vampires from dematerializing in the mansion.

The outside is a balmy night, the air fresh and clean. Nehero stops to take a deep breath. The short walk was more of an effort than he had expected.

His body is so very weak, and he hates it. He used to have no problem feeding, but for some reason, he has lost the desire, not the need.

Concentrating, he scrambles, his molecules focusing on the club where they usually hang out and pick up dinner. The alley is empty, and Nehero takes shape again.

The soft disturbance in the air signals Goldie’s arrival to his right.

***

Nehero heads straight for the club. Bouncers recognize him on sight and step aside, allowing him to jump the line.

The inside is dark, and the music throbs. Humans scatter as Nehero strides in, heading for the VIP section. Scanning the crowd for what he wants.

He is holding his body up and forcing himself to move and hunt through sheer willpower. Spotting a human female, a little chubby brunette, he fixes on her.

Taking over her mind is fast and easy for him. He wills the female to his side. Wrapping an arm around her, he pulls her to the back of the sealed-off area.

The last booth at the back is great for what he needs. Sliding in, he pulls her onto his lap. Nehero tilts her head, going straight for what he wants—no conversation, no foreplay.

The flush in her body tells him the chemicals that his bite releases into her bloodstream are masking the pain with pleasure.

The female starts rubbing against him, desperately seeking release.

The bite of a vampire is a very powerful aphrodisiac, and the feeding usually goes with sex, but he does not even get hard anymore.

Ignoring her desperate “fuck me” whimpers, he pulls harder on her carotid artery. He just wants to get it over with as soon as possible.

Nehero seals the puncture wounds with a quick lick, making sure he gets saliva in the wounds to speed the healing. If he does not seal it properly, she will bleed out.

He shoves her off him and gets up. Heading out of the club, he reckons he took care of the unpleasant task in less than five minutes.

Good. Now he just needs to keep it down. The impulse to gag and upchuck his dinner is nearly irresistible, but his body needs it.

Nehero leans up against the back wall of the club. He needs a few minutes. He may want to upchuck his dinner, but his body is absorbing it with joy and putting it to good work.

The taste was awful on his tongue, but his strength returning is good.

“Better?” Goldie follows Neher’s example and leans back against the wall.

“Yeah.”

“You should be more careful, Nehero. You need to feed regularly.”

There is a whole lot of silence coming from the other male. Goldie watches as color comes back into his leader’s face. The air of desperate hunger is fading rapidly.

“You going to go check out the low on juice now?”

“Yeah, you and I both know it’s not Satanism.”

“No, it’s not. Let’s go.”

“In a minute. I want to talk about Alex.” Nehero shifts a little.

Goldie is surprised. He has not taken an interest in the Brotherhood business for a long time. Admittedly, this particular shitstorm is something they have never dealt with, but still.

“I send him to Conner. I did not tell Conner why though, only asked if Alex could stay there for a few weeks.”

“Goldie, he killed a human. It’s against the nómos Aíma.”

“I know, but Nehero, there’s more to it. That’s not Alex—he’s not like that… You know he is always so careful.

“Look, I know it’s your duty and mine to enforce the law…and we will, but first, we need to get to the bottom of it.”

“I agree. I will talk to him, but in the end, he will still die. There is no other way.”

“He said he was protecting humans.”

“How? He killed a human, my brother,” Nehero says as he rubs a hand through his hair.

Goldie has no explanation for Alex’s actions either, and they settle against the wall in silence.

“Goldie, my brother, how? How do you protect humans by killing one? Even if it was a crime, that is what their justice system is for. It’s not our concern or our place.

“The law states that killing a human is punishable by death.”

The thing bothers Nehero more than he likes. He prefers his constant cold nothingness to this.

“The law says that killing a human by feeding or for sport or pleasure is punishable by death. There is a difference if he was killing to protect.”

“Yeah? How do you work that one? He can take over a mind, twist it, do anything. They’re human. They’re stupid, mindless walking dinners.

“He does not have to kill one to protect the other. It’s not his business, and it is stupid.”

“I know, but Nehero, please, before you kill him, allow me to get to the bottom of this. It’s Alex—he’s one of us. Give me a little time to figure this out, okay?”

He looks into Goldie’s eyes. He appointed him because he feels and the other male cares.

Nehero has not felt anything in such a long time that he does not think he is able to feel anything anymore. He needed someone to counteract the coldness in him.

Now, Goldie is begging for the life of someone Nehero knows he should care about, but he feels nothing for Alex.

“Fine. You get one month. No more.” Nehero shoves away from the wall. The blood he consumed has done its thing; his body is strong, powerful again.

Not at full power—for that, he still needs a shit load more blood, but this is enough.

He heads for the address Sky gave for the two dead humans. He needs to confirm that it was a Blood Addict who killed them.

The BAs keep them busy most of the time, and if those fuckers are not enough, there’s always a Zealot to contend with.

This is their life: kill BAs, hunt lawbreakers, and always be on the lookout for a Z, ‘cause those fuckers just want you dead in creative ways.

***

Nehero pushes up, making a jump that lands him on top of a six-story building with ease. He prefers traveling up top.

Goldie shifted into mist, drifting along with him as he leaps from building to building.

Goldie prefers traveling as a mist, but Nehero hates the disembodied feeling and only dematerializes when he must travel a long distance.

They make their way from one end of New York to the other. The building they are looking for is in a nice neighborhood.

Nehero lands on the opposite building, extending his senses to the building. The main floor is only a lobby with a security guard and a reception and elevators.

The second floor is divided into four units. All occupied. The second floor up to the fifth are all the same, but the sixth floor is unique. It is one huge space, and it’s soundproofed.

BAs like fancy neighborhoods. So do Z’s… And soundproofing keeps sunlight out and ensures the neighbors don’t throw a hissy fit over screaming humans.

It is odd, though as a rule, they never feed where they live. It increases the risk of discovery, and Z’s are notorious for having a normal life in human eyes.

They only turn into monsters when humans do not watch.

The place is definitely worth investigating. Nehero listens with one ear to Goldie’s conversation, ordering some more brothers just in case they are needed.

He has no intention of waiting like a trained dog at his master’s feet.

Scrambling his molecules, he drifts into the building, heading up the stairs. The security cameras would be a problem, but he slips under the camera before taking form.

The blind spot gives him the time and space to reach up, snapping the wires off. The camera blinks off, and Nehero heads for the door.

Concentrating, he flips the lock open, easing the door open inch by inch.

The scent roars through him, setting him on fire. He has never smelled anything like it in his entire long life. The smell makes him want to purr, curl up, and simply melt in it.

He knows exactly what it means, and he rejects it utterly.

Using every bit of control he has, he shoves it away from him, breathing in through his mouth to avoid the delicate scent of forever.

He can only smell and hear one human female. Her heart is the only thing beating in that place.

There is nothing of the smell of decay and death so characteristic of a BA’s pad, and there are no female Z’s. The place is clear.

Nehero listens as the female sings of love in Italian. He is so focused on the female that he is unaware of Goldie slipping up behind him.

“What you got in there?” Goldie asks curiously. Something about Nehero’s body language is off.

“Human female. Nothing else. The place is clear.” Nehero growls softly at him.

“Great, second floor then. Come have a look.”

Nehero nods his head, slipping away from the door. He flips the lock back in place. Heading downstairs, he is grateful that the cameras are out.

Goldie’s handiwork, no doubt. He has a gift for manipulating electronic equipment.

Goldie talks about shit, but Nehero is having trouble getting his body back under control.

Everything in him screams to walk back up to that apartment, open the door, head for that shower, and bury himself so deep inside that female he will never find his way out again.

Finding Sky outside the apartment, he nods at him, taking a quick peek inside. Shen is standing in the middle of the living room.

His back is bent backward at what is probably a very uncomfortable angle, his arms spread wide and his eyes closed. Shen is keening softly to himself.

The position must be hell to hold. Nehero shakes his head. Poor Shen.

The male has the unfortunate gift—perhaps more accurately called a curse—of seeing the past, the future, and even the present in a mix and out of context.

His visions are useless as they can’t tell you anything of value, and yet they always come true, and he’s always right.

“How long he been in?” Nehero asks Sky.

“About a minute or so. We got here, I opened the door, and there he went. Haven’t a clue what he’s on about. He keeps saying someone should sing to her or she will die.”

“I’m going in.” Nehero surprises both Goldie and Sky. For as long as they can remember, he has never tried to care for Shen.

Nehero steps into the apartment, moving slowly. Shen is smaller than all of them, but the male is lightning-fast. He is bloody dangerous with everything…including nothing.

No need to get your ass handed to you if moving slowly will keep your head on your shoulders and your ass in your pants.

“Shen, my brother, come back to us.” He stares at the male as pure white eyes turn to him blindly.

“Sing to her. She will die. Sing. Play for her. She will die if you don’t. You play so beautifully. Play for her.” Shen’s voice is singsong yet flat and lifeless.

Nehero looks around. Against the wall is a piano. Maybe the BAs tortured the humans. They were definitely here. Their stench is all over the place.

“It’s okay, Shen. It’s okay, my man. Why don’t you just come back to us, okay?” Nehero watches, and the slight shift in Shen’s stance heralds his return.

He moves quickly to shove a shoulder under the male, holding him up. The sound of retching starts almost immediately.

He is grateful when Sky shoulders the other side of Shen. Between them, they manhandle Shen to the bathroom.

He always vomits badly after a vision, and that is followed up shortly with a massive migraine.

Shen is grateful to whoever is holding his hair out of the way. He feels like shit…

Well, will you look at that? The piercing pain shooting through his eye warns him of his imminent desire to die.

Leaning back against the legs of whoever is holding his hair back, Shen looks up to see who is taking care of him. He expected Goldie, but to his shock, it is Sky.

“Thank you,” Shen croaks in a hoarse voice, expecting a sharp bitch-slap from the other male.

“It’s nothing. I have you.” Sky’s quiet reply astounds all the brothers. It’s even more shocking than Nehero taking care of Shen.

Sky never helps Shen with anything, and frankly, the bitching between the two has reached a point where all assume they hate one another.

“No problem, brother. I got you,” Sky reassures him calmly.

Shen pushes himself up from the toilet. “Night,” he mumbles before passing out.

Nehero moves quickly, making a grab for him and preventing him from cracking his head a good one. He shifts his hold and slings Shen over his shoulder.

It has been a long night for all. He heads out the door with Shen draped like a scarf around his shoulders.

“Goldie, go through the place, but I doubt you’ll find anything. We’re heading home. Sky, be ready. If Shen tosses it, I’m tossing him to you.”

Nehero knows they’re gaping at him. He is behaving very strangely, and he knows it. He is always cold, scary, and deadly.

He usually inspires cuddling sessions with a pissed-off Grizzly rather than spending time with anyone.

He is a leader, a little apart from everyone, but these past few years he has grown so distant from them that the brothers are totally goat-fucked confused.

Nehero ignores them and heads out of the apartment. Concentrating, he scrambles himself and Shen, moving rapidly for home.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

Beautiful notes dance loudly in the penthouse apartment in the Upper West Side of New York.

Sam is happily working on her latest order and the music can be as loud as she wants; the entire place is soundproofed.

She spent a lot of money on the place. Her home, her refuge, her place of work.

Sam loves that she does not need to leave the place to go to work in the mornings. She rarely ventures outside.

She would rather order what she needs online and have it delivered. She hates crowds. She hates being touched.

Hates how people stare at her.

Growing up in foster care was no joke. Growing up in the hellhole of a home she had was even worse. Here in her refuge, she’s safe. No people, no one to hurt her, scare her, betray her.

No people means safety. She smiles to herself as she slides the latest of her orders into the specially made velvet bags.

She found a place online that will make them, any size and shape she wants. Her logo is embroidered on each bag.

This completed new order means that her sizable bank account will be getting another healthy injection.

Her back is sore from bending over so much. The order was a rush job for her best client, Albert. He is an odd old man.

He’s almost petite for a man and ever so polite, and he never expects to come into her home when he collects his order.

Not all her customers are that nice. Some expect coffee and a cookie.

She stretches her back. It’s been a long day and a long night. She can call the old man in the morning to come to collect his order. Right now, it’s time for a nice long, hot shower.

Sam walks over the hardwood floor, making her way to her bathroom. It’s a strange room. There are no mirrors. There are no mirrors in the entire apartment.

She hasn’t looked in a mirror in years. No need to see the mess her face is. It probably looks better than she remembers, but no reason to see it again.

Her mind wanders back as she falls down on her bed, wanting only to rest her back for a minute.

Having a crack-addicted prostitute for a mom was bad. You never knew what you would get when you came home from school.

Some days, she’d walk in on her mom servicing a john. By the time she was seven, she knew to stay hidden when there were men in the crappy apartment.

Knew what a blow job was also.

Her mom met James when she was nine. At first, he was nice, but the drinking, the drugs, and the beatings started as soon as he moved in.

Sam stayed out of his way as much as possible, but she liked him—he bought her stuff, and he was nice to her.

Sam started developing breasts at eleven. Same time James started noticing her. Mom noticed too. She decided her daughter was a threat, started accusing her of trying to steal her man.

One night, she took a carving knife to Sam’s face. Carved an “H” into her cheek. Mom was not so good at spelling. It should have been a “W” for “whore.”

Sam drifts off to sleep. Her dreams are dark, confusing, and so very scary. She rarely sleeps well, and usually, nightmares shadow her dreams.

You’d think the night her mom made her a carving project was the reason for her bad dreams, but that’s not even close. No, foster care is the main culprit there.

Sam got put in a home. There were already four other girls and three boys. Sam was the smallest.

First night in the place, and one of the boys put a hand over her mouth and whispered the rules to her. The newest kid got the sucking job.

The sad part was, Sam knew exactly what he was talking about.

Two days later, the foster father Uncle Tiny unzipped his pants. Sam bit him and got a beating. She ran away as soon as she was able to walk properly again.

She lived on the streets for a month before she got caught stealing from a restaurant. She ended up right back in the system, but with a new family this time.

She used to think she knew all about hell until she ran into this family. These people with their smiling faces and their praying three times a day taught Sam all about monsters.

They hide in the closet, under the bed, or behind the drapes. Sam learned, and she carries the lessons with her every day.

Her closet doors are glass. No one can hide in them without her seeing. Her bed and all other furniture sit right on the floor, no space for anyone to hide under them.

Her drapes are thick because she likes to sleep during the day, but they stop about a foot from the floor so no one can hide there without her knowing about it.

Sam has made her little home safe from monsters.

Sam wakes to her own screams echoing in the place. It’s the primary reason why she soundproofed the place. At her previous home, people kept complaining about her screaming.

She got kicked out because of it. Here, no one knows when she screams. Her nightmares are private, and no one looks at her funny.

Sam sits up. Checking the alarm, she had about four hours of sleep. That’s pretty good for her.

Heading to the kitchen, she makes a cup of instant coffee. She never took to the percolated kind. She has another three hours before Albert comes to pick up his order.

Grabbing a granola bar from the box, Sam munches on it as she switches on the television.

Skipping through channels, she checks the weather before looking for a movie, settling on an old episode of Bones instead.

***

Sam drives down the road on the way to the hotel the supervisor booked for the residents to stay in while the building was fumigated.

She listens to the radio and sings along to each song she knows. Sam checks her GPS again.

Either the building supervisor booked them into the cheapest roach motel he could find, or the GPS is screwing with her.

I should have left earlier, she thinks as it gets darker and the neighborhood shifts into gangster territory.

Sam glances nervously from side to side. She spots a nightclub that looks busy. She pulls up as close as she can get to the front door.

People are dressed like a Halloween nightmare, and they are being waved in by a couple of bouncers who look as if they may have escaped from a mutant farm.

Tattoos, leather, and piercings seem to be the dress code for this crowd. Sam grabs the GPS and reenters the address she was given. The damn thing insists it’s right.

Grabbing her bag, she digs through it looking for the slip of paper she got from the building supervisor with the address on it. She checks the address. It’s the right address.

Sam looks around again. According to the GPS, the hotel is supposed to be right in front of her…except the only thing there is the nightclub.

Sam punches the button for “hotels” on the GPS angrily. Picking one, she presses the button to calculate the route. She turns the ignition.

The car makes a few clucking sounds and the lights on the console come on, but the car stubbornly refuses to start. Sam tries again…and again…and again.

Slamming her hand on the steering wheel, she looks around again. The neighborhood is bad. Grabbing her bag, she digs through it for her cell phone.

Flipping open the case, she stares at the dead screen. Forgot to charge it. Again. Dammit! Sam flips it closed and drops it back into her bag.

No phone. Car won’t start. She can try to walk somewhere…but that is probably not the best idea. Sam looks at the club. Surely they will let me make a phone call, she wonders.

Flipping the mirror, she looks at herself. Ain’t ever gonna blend in with that crowd. She winks at herself. Making the decision, she grabs her bag and climbs out of the car.

She walks up to the bouncers. “Excuse me?”

The blond one looks her up and down, clearly surprised by her. “You lost, lady?” he asks kindly. Sam smiles gently, letting her hair slide forward to cover her scarred cheek.

“Car trouble, and yep, I’m really lost. Do you think they will let me make a phone call from in there?”

The bouncer grins back at her.

“Ya, just make your way to the bar, ask for Magda—she’ll sort you out.” He waves her in, and Sam thanks him.

The club is dark, the music screaming even darker lyrics.

Sam pushes past a couple of guys giving her the once-over. Stepping into the large area, she glances around. The place is big, lots of people wearing way too much makeup.

Ash spots her first. She’s the only one wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She is wearing tiny pumps, and the floor is littered with broken glass and who knows what bodily fluids.

It is a health hazard waiting to happen.

Ash practically jumps up to make his way to her.

Sam spots the ripple in the crowd. A large man, really large, is making his way toward her. The crowd is parting for him.

Sam looks up into a face so beautiful it could make angels weep in envy.

Sam tried, she really did, but her eyes follow those broad shoulders down all the way to the black boots on his feet, and boy, what a trip!

“Hello.” Ash smiles gently. He knows that his size and his looks attract women. This little lamb is his tonight.

“Umm…,” Sam manages.

Ash grins wider—yep, all his—as he watches her. “I’m Ash.” He holds out a large hand expectantly. He spots her eyes, a light blue color, widening.

Her lips part as she drags a breath in. Ash hears her heartbeat picking up. She’s looking, but not at him. He turns slightly to check over his shoulder.

Humans can be stupid, but they sure do have excellent self-preservation instincts. They know to get out of his fucking way.

Even the prostitutes know not to pull a hang and bag on him.

Nehero’s boots crunch on a piece of glass. He holds the female’s eyes, not even seeing the guy nearly diving to get out of his way.

He had his back to her and only turned because Ash got up as if he had a fire lit under his balls. That’s when her scent hit him.

He knows her scent, will never forget it. It has been teasing him. In his dreams, he had wrapped it around him.

His every waking moment is consumed with a desire he has been battling. Not to go back. Not to go to that apartment. Not to flip the locks and find the female…his female.

Not to wrap himself around her and bury himself inside her. That scent that has had him hard and driven him nearly mad with hunger. Then she brazenly walks into his world.

The scent was clean and softly female, and then he turned and saw her for the first time.

Ash raises a brow. The soft growl coming from Nehero is too low a sound for humans to hear, but it reverberates nonetheless in Ash’s head.

Nehero has been growling from the moment she stepped into the club. Ash steps aside slowly. The warning in that growl is unmistakable, and the situation in the club just went critical.

Nehero has finally met his mate…in a club…full of males… Bad. Very bad.

Ash glances up at the table, relieved to see the entire brotherhood has read the situation and are circling the female, preventing any male from accidentally coming too close.

Ash takes another step back, watching Nehero.

Sam is dimly aware that the beautiful man is moving away. Not that it matters. The guy was big, but that was nothing compared to the tank of a man coming her way.

When her eyes were drawn to the movement of him getting up, she locked eyes with him, and the world seemed to have fallen away.

She watched his smooth stride as he practically glided to her. The closer he came, the more she felt a vibration in her body.

Sam stared up and up at him. Usually, large men scared her, reminded her of being small, but this guy… Those beautiful green eyes. Long black braids framing his face.

“Hey there. This is no place for those little slipper shoes of yours…” Nehero bends down and scoops her up in his arms, not giving her time to object.

Turning, he makes his way back toward their table. He is peripherally aware of the brothers running interference to keep drunken idiots away from them.

Good thing, because all he can think about is peeling Ash’s skin from his body…and then burying himself inside his female.

Nehero glances at the dirty table. The booth’s fake leather is stained with sex, drugs, alcohol, and depravity. Glancing down at his silent passenger, he shrugs.

Sitting down, he settles her in his lap. Best place for her anyway. He is a little surprised that she has not objected so far.

“Now, what in the hell would make you come into a place like this?” Nehero’s voice is way more harsh than he intended the words to come out.

He feels the female stiffening in his arms for the first time, and he instantly regrets the harsh sound of his voice.

“Honey, this is a bad place. No good for you,” he says, trying to be gentle and not frighten her any more than he already has.

Sam lifts her eyes slowly, feeling very embarrassed as she sits in this stranger’s lap. Looking around, she knows they are attracting a lot of attention.

She is not sure how to react. She hates people touching her, but for some reason, her entire body lit up like an expensive Christmas tree when he touched her.

She should be frightened, but she’s not.

“I got lost. My car broke down. My phone died.” Sam looks down again, feeling like an idiot. What on earth happened to her brain?

Sam is having a hard time not concentrating on the feel of the big man. She waits for the stranger to say something, and at the same time, Sam wonders at the large guys surrounding them.

They seem to be acting like bodyguards… Maybe the guy is famous.No, not famous—she’d have remembered if she had ever seen him on television before.

Maybe he is the leader of a gang or the Mafia. He’s got an accent, but it’s hard to place. Maybe he’s a Vampire. The hilarious thought courses through her mind.

Sam must suppress an inappropriate giggle, but really, sitting like a Victorian Miss about to have the vapors is so not her…

What the hell is going on, and where has my brain gone off to? she wonders.

“Okay. So, you came into this place for help?” Nehero asks gently.

The urge to stroke a hand down her hair is nearly irresistible as she nods her head and her hair slides to cover her cheek.

“I thought it would be safer than walking down the street,” she whispers with a quick glance before sitting up straighter.

Nehero’s big body jerks under her as he registers that she thought about walking in this neighborhood.By herself? Shit! His brain screams in horror at him.

“What’s your name, honey?” Nehero slides the tip of his finger under her chin. Pressing lightly, he makes her meet his eyes again.

“Sam.”

Probably short for Samantha. Suits her. A name of sunshine and clean air, Nehero thinks to himself.

“I’m Nehero. Now, here’s what’s gonna happen. You are going to go with me, and one of my brothers will sort out your car. Okay?”

Sam’s mind starts kicking in. It seems to have gone on a small sabbatical, but it’s back now and checking in with alarms. Going with this stranger? Uh-uh, not happening.

She just needs to call a towing service, and she’s outta there. Shaking her head, she pushes away from him.

“Thank you, but no. I just need to make a phone call. Thank you for your assistance. Please excuse me.” Sam glances down at the restraining hand bracketing her arm.

She looks back up and gives him the sternest look she can muster. He really is breathtakingly beautiful.

Attitude has always been her best weapon, and Sam pushes against him again, trying to wriggle loose.

“Okay, then here, use my phone.” Nehero holds out his iPhone. Sam stares at it for a moment then carefully slips it from his hand.

She pulls on her arm, wanting to put a little distance between them. She needs a phone to make her call, and frankly, the club is a lot scary.

Nehero lets her go, and she feels strangely relieved and disappointed. She shrugs it off.

“Look down on the floor,” Nehero whispers gently. Sam looks down and for the first time spots the dirt, the sticky fluids and the slivers of broken glass littering the floor.

Looking down at her pretty pumps, she realizes they were not made to walk around on a floor like that.

Shrugging, she hits the internet icon on the phone and runs a search for a tow truck. Finding the number, Sam makes the call.

Nehero shoots the brothers a glance, nodding happily when he spots Shen slipping away to guard her car. Tracing her is unnecessary; he already knows where she lives.

What he needs is a way to see her again. Listening with one ear to her conversation, Nehero is not surprised to hear it will take up to three hours for a service to come to her rescue.

Sam ends the call wondering what she will do for three hours. Handing the phone back to Nehero, she glances down, wondering if she should risk the floor.

“Thank you. I’ll be going now. Have a good evening,” Sam says politely as she takes a step back from Nehero.

The soft squelching sound her foot makes drags her attention away from him and down to the floor.

If she walks out of this place without having half a broken bottle stuck in her foot, it will be a miracle.

“Sam,” Nehero calls softly, smiling when she turns to him. “Three hours. It’s a long time to sit in your car in a dangerous neighborhood.

“I’m not going to hurt you. Here you are in a public space. So, hang out here with me and have a drink. We will wait together.

“One of my brothers is already outside watching your car so that no one steals it. In a little while, we will go outside, and we will wait with you.

“When your tow truck shows up, you will be on your way. Okay?”

Sam looks around. The place is dark, the music is dark. The man is a stranger, but the way he looks at her makes her feel kind of safe.

Weird or not, she is probably a lot safer inside where there are lots of people than she would be outside alone. But people, in her experience, always means danger.

Safety in numbers is something only people who do not know how dangerous a group mind can be believe.

The alternative is sitting in her car alone, and that does not appeal to her either. Taking a deep breath, she settles on the lesser of two evils.

“Okay, I’ll stay for now,” Sam agrees, uncertainty lacing her words.

“Great. What do you want to drink?” Nehero asks, relieved. He lets her stand by the side of the table, her head angled in an odd manner, her hair obscuring half her face.

He would love to push the hair aside and have a proper look at her.

“Coke, please.” Sam’s voice sounds really small. People think her odd for not drinking alcohol. Sam watches as he pulls a hundred from his pocket and waves it up in the air.

“I’ll pay for my own, thanks,” Sam says primly as she starts to dig in her bag for her wallet.

“It’s just a Coke, Sam. Forget about it,” Nehero answers as he drops it on the waitress’s tray and puts in an order of good whiskey for him and a Coke for her.

Feeling uncomfortable, Sam starts looking around the bar. At first, she’s not sure she is seeing right, but at another surreptitious glance, she is sure.

There are couples having sex in some of the booths around them. Openly having sex. Her cheeks flame red, and she nearly knocks over the can of Coke the waitress brought.

Nehero’s big hand closes over hers, and he pulls the ice-cold can from her hands. Popping it open, he pours it into the surprisingly clean glass the waitress placed on the table.

Sam notices that there is no change forthcoming.

“So, Sam, what do you do for a living?” Nehero sits back, making sure he is as non-threatening as possible. He makes no effort to invite her to sit.

The damn booths are filthy, and if she was going to sit down, it was going to be on his lap.

“I am a weaponsmith,” Sam answers with a steely look.

The interest and curiosity in Nehero’s eyes are not what she expected. People always think she’s nuts or being funny when they hear her occupation. But it is art to her, and she loves it.

“A weaponsmith. That is a very interesting field. It’s a rare skill these days. Most of the time, it’s factory mass productions, but the weapons they smith are not always of superior quality.

“What weapons do you make?” Nehero is genuinely interested.

“Swords and daggers, mostly. It’s usually custom jobs. I work on commission, but I do supply a few weapons for specialty shops.”

Sam is not surprised he knows about weapons. A place like this? Must have patrons who know their weapons, aggravated assault, and B&E.

Sam looks down at the ground again then glances at the other side of the booth. What are some of the stains on the cheap imitation leather? Standing around all evening will be a drag.

“Wouldn’t do that if I were you. No idea what’s actually on those booths, and you are really not dressed for a place like this.

“You need lots of leather to make sure no part of your skin makes contact with anything…and boots on your feet to protect you from the floor.” Nehero smiles at her.

The way she furrows her brow as she tries to work out a place to sit is captivating. He suppresses a smile when she gives his lap another look.

“Come here, little one. Have a seat. It’s fine, I’m not gonna come on to you or try to grope you. It’s the cleanest spot you will get around here…”

Nehero waits for her decision, hoping with bated breath that she will have the guts to sit down in his lap again. He always had a soft spot for a woman with spirit.

Sam takes another look around the place. It is full of people sniffing stuff and drinking stuff and…doing stuff. The place is rather scary.

This Nehero dude seems okay… Maybe he is safe? Sam takes a deep breath and plops herself right back in his lap.

Shifting around a bit, she tries to find a spot that’s comfortable but not actually resting on his groin.

Nehero sends his dick a stern reminder to behave… His dick reports that having a lap full of soft female who smells that good and keeps on shifting about is making the matter a little difficult.

Nehero grabs her hips, pulling her back, straight into his chest, more as a matter of self-preservation. Sam stills in his arms, and Nehero concentrates on breathing.

He’s sure the female must have felt that things south were looking up. Nehero grins, waiting for her reaction.

Sam freezes. The new position is quite comfortable—or would be if the dude did not sport an IT. Sam turns slightly to look up at him.

The naughty grin he gives her is as sexual as you can get…but no pushiness. Sam decides to go for it and settle back.

One arm wraps gently around her back, offering support and conveniently resting his hand on her hip. Sam likes the feel of that big hand there, so she decides to ignore it.

Sam sits back, settling more comfortably. The dude smells amazing. Taking a deep breath, she pulls his scent deep into her lungs.

“Now, why would a nice-looking girl like you be looking for a seedy hotel this side of the tracks?” Nehero is genuinely interested.

Her clean, fresh scent is clear of drugs and alcohol, and only the softest scent of some presumably expensive perfume colors the air around her.

“Had no choice. They were fumigating our apartment building and the place is off-limits for forty-eight hours. I really hope they don’t make a mess in my place,” Sam answers glumly.

The thought of people walking around her safe haven is anathema to her.

“Fumigation is usually unpleasant. You should consider bringing a cleaning service in,” Nehero suggests as he gently lifts a lock of her hair to his lips, so softly that she is completely unaware.

“No. I would rather do it myself. I like things my way.”

“Oh, I see. A woman who knows her own mind.” Nehero can’t help but tease. Such a tiny slip of a thing.

“I suppose.” Sam takes the question seriously. The teasing escaped her completely.

“Don’t we all? I mean, we all like things our way, and we will do almost anything to make sure we get it the way we want it.”

Nehero considers the question, taking into account that right at that moment, he has a lap full of female that every sense in him is telling him belongs to him.

She’s his mate. The perfect half that makes him whole.

Whole—not something he understood for a long time. Since his brother, there has been a gaping hole that he has filled with blood, killing, and revenge.

Now, he wants to fill his heart, soul, and mind with this woman. Bury himself inside her till he is alive again.

“Yes, you’re right. We all want what we want.”

Silence drapes them both. Sam settles more comfortably, enjoying feeling small and safe in this stranger’s arms.

Usually, she hates that she is so small compared to most men and the condescending way they treat her, but somehow, this guy is different. He seems more…human.

***

Shen motions over to Goldie. The two step into the men’s room, checking the place is clear before speaking.

“She’s human.”

“I noticed.”

“Will it work?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. It has to. His scent has changed. When I found him at the penthouse apartment, the place smelled of her. He knew.”

“Then why did he walk away? If I found mine, I’d never walk away.”

“Shen, you are almost as old as he is. Tell me true, my brother. Would you bring clean, fresh, innocent, good into our world? Would you tell her the truth?

“Would you tell her what you are and how you came to be what you are?”

Shen kicks against a loose tile in the corner, pondering the question.

“No,” he admits finally. Telling someone something like that? Telling them the truth of what he is? How he came to be? What he did then and still does every day of his life?

No. He’d walk away, just like Nehero did.

“Still, it is a gift unlike any… I would kill for it,” Shen whispers softly.

Goldie steps forward to clasp his shoulder. “Perhaps it will be for you and me as well. Maybe there is peace for us. In the meantime, we have each other.”

“Yes, each other. Patronis Sanguis.” Silence lays heavy between them, an unspoken question in both their minds. Goldie whispers it first.

“I don’t know, Goldie. I don’t know. He’s dead, same as yours,” Shen answers as he buries the question deep inside himself. They all live with it.

Would they have chosen differently had they known and understood? Each alive and each dead in the same way.

***

Nehero lost track of time as he gently teases Sam, wanting to learn more of her. Drinking in each word, each breath, and each beat of her hart.

The intrusion from Skylar alerting him that the tow truck had arrived is most unwelcome. For a second, he considered tearing Sky’s arm off and beating his brother to death with it.

“The truck’s here, Nehero.” Sky holds up his hands, showing he means no harm. Nehero will be rather dangerous for a while until he has settled with the new female.

“Thanks, Sky,” Nehero says quietly as he picks Sam up in his arms again.

Holding her carefully so she does not get crushed, he appreciates his brothers forming a wall between him and the humans in the club. Still, he also hates having them this close to her.

He is relieved to walk out into the evening air of an autumnal New York. Taking a deep breath, he gently slides Sam’s feet down to the ground.

The taxi driver waiting at the curb keeps giving them anxious looks. It’s a bad part of town, and this time of night, taxis tend to avoid this part of town.

Nehero tilts Sam’s head. Looking into her eyes, he sees something he wants desperately. Peace. Smiling softly, he lowers his head slowly, giving her plenty of time to pull away.

Nehero brushes his lips against hers gently, then again. Slowly, he captures her lower lip with a flick of his tongue. He sucks softly, gently on it.

Her taste bursts on his tongue in waves of pure lust and heat. Slowly, he lets go and whispers into her ear, “Friday, at nine. Bella Luna.”

Nehero bundles her in his arms for a quick hug then gently helps her slide into the taxi.

She seems lost for words, in a bit of a daze. Perhaps that kiss rocked her as much as it rocked him. Nehero watches as the taxi drives off with his heart.

“Goldie, I shouldn’t follow her. Not right now. Can you please make sure she gets home safe?” The big hand landing on his back is unmistakably Goldie’s.

He lost his pinkie finger as a child.

“Sure, my brother. Anytime.” The others gather around, and each claps him on the back. Not in congratulations, but in solidarity, for the struggle to win his mate has just begun.

Sam leans back against the car seat. She takes a deep breath, and the delicious smell from the man in the club’s aftershave lingers on her clothes.

He was just…beautiful. Sam smiles to herself as she gently touches her lips. He had been so incredible, like a dark knight…in leather.

His whispered invitation lingers in her mind, and Sam knows undoubtedly that she will go. She has to go. Something compels her to go…

Maybe he was a vampire. Maybe he compelled her to go.

Sam grins at the silly thought, imagining the disco-ball sun move from . Perhaps if she dragged him into the sun, he’d be all shiny and fast-running.

Giggling, Sam hands over some bills, flashing the cabby a warm smile. Thoughts of him accompany her as she brushes her teeth and gets into bed.

The hotel she booked from the club using his phone is comfy and clean and not too expensive. The large king-size bed is dressed in plain old cotton, but it’s good quality and it’s clean.

Sam curls up, cuddling the thought of having all that male beauty draped across the bed. If she had to envision her idea of the perfect sex fantasy star…he’d be so IT.

 

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