Marquis Silivasi stood silently in the shadows. He watched as the last of the humans made their way from the graveside ceremony following Joelle Parker’s funeral. He had come to pay his respects but was unable to face the human family whose lineage he had known for centuries. Having to tell Kevin Parker the news of his daughter’s death had been one of the worst moments of Marquis’s life, and he had lived a very, very long time. His regret was insufferable, his shame for being unable to save her…almost unbearable.
Shimmering out of view, he materialized deep within the Dark Moon Forest at yet another recent grave site—that of his little brother, Shelby. It was the first time he had visited the final resting place since the tragic loss. The first time he had seen the simple white granite marker lying over the desolate plot: Shelby Silivasi. Honored Brother and Beloved Twin.
Marquis ran a trembling hand through his thick black hair. The pressing moisture of tears stung his deeply troubled eyes. Shelby had only been five-hundred years old when he died, the same age as his twin, Nachari, but the difference was, Nachari had lived to graduate the Romanian University. Nachari had lived to reach the status of Master Vampire.
Shelby, on the other hand, had stopped just short of receiving such an honored distinction because he had found his blood destiny: the one human woman chosen by the gods to be his mate, Dalia Montano.
His one opportunity to avoid the ultimate curse of his kind.
Fulfilling the demands of the Blood Curse and securing his future with the human female had been far more important to Shelby than completing his studies. He had planned to return to Romania as soon as the blood sacrifice was made, yet the young fledgling had failed at both tasks.
Marquis knew he was the one to blame.
He should have been more vigilant.
He should never have let down his guard.
Things had just gone so smoothly—so unbelievably seamless—between Shelby and Dalia that no one had foreseen Valentine Nistor’s wicked scheme.
It wasn’t an excuse.
Marquis was an Ancient. He should have known better.
Marquis balled his hands into two tight fists, struggling to contain the rage—the gut-wrenching heartache—that threatened to consume him. The sky above him had already turned as black as night, and the wind was picking up into a fierce howl. He had to keep his emotions in check.
He kicked at the cold forest ground, causing a not so subtle tremor in the earth beneath him in an effort not to cry out. The vengeance he had finally exacted on Valentine was nothing against the breadth of this loss.
Celestial gods, how could this have happened!
And it wasn’t just that Shelby would have been a Master, an achievement borne of four-hundred years of studies; he would have been a Master Warrior, like Marquis. And that meant Marquis would have been in charge of his little brother’s ongoing training: It would have been the first time in four-hundred and seventy-nine years—since their father’s death—that Marquis would have shared his day-to-day existence with another being.
The first time in four-hundred and seventy-nine years that Marquis Silivasi would not have been alone.
Marquis knelt before the simple white slab of granite and bowed his head in reverence. So much loss.
He had seen so many warriors needlessly slain over his lifetime as a result of the wretched curse—a pronouncement made upon generations of males for a sin committed so long ago that the fallen warriors didn’t even remember the crime. They only knew that when the Blood Moon came, they had thirty days….
One opportunity in an otherwise eternal existence to claim the one human woman who could save them from the ultimate fate of their kind. One month to obtain a chance at life, create the possibility for love, and acquire the blessing of a family.
Thirty days to live or die.
Marquis shook his head. What was the purpose of being a warrior...of being an Ancient...if he couldn’t even protect the ones he loved? What was the purpose of surviving this long when his life had been nothing but time, education, endless battles, and loss? And why hadn’t that one opportunity to love—to share such a barren existence—ever been given to him?
He was so very weary of living.
Like a slowly boiling cauldron of water, Marquis’s body began to tremble with the depth of his anguish. His lungs labored, and his heart pounded from so much rage and injustice, until finally, he could no longer contain his grief, and the pain of a lifetime spilled over.
Hands pressed tightly against his temples, Marquis Silivasi threw back his head and shouted his rage, his grief, in one gut-wrenching cry: a lion’s roar that shook the heavens, sending balls of fire the color of blood crashing down upon the earth, hail the size of baseballs battering the valley floor.
As the Ancient Master Warrior’s crimson tears fell like raindrops, the rivers overflowed and the heavens shook. Giant boulders perched atop nearby canyons crashed to the earth’s floor in violent rockslides, even as the sides of the mountains split open.
And then all was silent.