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Night Fall Excerpt Chapters 1-2
Night Fall Excerpt Chapters 1-2

Night Fall Excerpt Chapters 1-2

Chapter 1

Mya hated England. She hated its up-and-coming center, preferring the old, rocky, dirt roads of Spain. She missed playing on them, getting her feet dirty, her clothing soiled. She missed the simplicity of it all. There was something natural about the Spanish landscape, something England could not grasp no matter how many times it attempted to with its perfectly spaced, manicured trees. It was not wild, not like her. But England was her home now.

Erik had become her family’s guardian. Due to his status as lord of the region, Erik was able to keep Gregori out of England’s upcoming wars. He took on the task of tutoring both Gregori and Lucas in a variety of subjects, from education to creative skills, and, lastly, battle.

He had hired a female tutor for Mya, hoping to give her someone to relate to. But that was an impossible task. Mya did not care for the woman and only agreed to attend her lessons so she could play outside afterward. That was the only time she felt free. She climbed the tall oak trees, chased insects, and tore through the garden beds on her adventures to “help” their chef. She would flee to the stables, sneaking around the stablemen to slip fruit and vegetables to the horses, but it was that last forbidden adventure that had her crying on the back stairs that afternoon.

She heard the crunching of rock under boots in front of her. Then she heard them pause. She knew by the sound of the steps that it was Erik, but she refused to meet his gaze. She did not want him to see her cry. He did so much for them, for her. He spoiled her and she knew he gave her far too much attention. Even unhappy, Mya did not want to seem ungrateful or make things harder on Erik or her family. But Erik knew her intrinsically. She did not know how, but he knew what she needed, and no matter how determined she was to handle her issues on her own, Erik would not let her. And he always got his way.

Erik slipped his hands under her arms, lifting her. Then he turned and took her place on the seat, setting her in his lap, a habit he had continued from when she was a child. He held her with her back to his chest and let her sit there in silence as more tears rolled down her cheeks, turning into full sobs of sorrow.

When she quieted, Erik asked, “Why are you crying, fagr skjaldmær min?”

Mya shook her head. “I am not crying.”

He laughed, the sound as comforting as the warm rays of the sun. “Then what is the reason for the waterfalls pouring from your eyes?”

She shook her head with a small grunt.

Erik ran his fingers through her long dark tresses, bunching the curled strands between his fingers. “Tell me, fagr skjaldmær min.”

“When will you tell me what that means?” Mya asked, attempting to distract him as she sniffled and leaned more into his body, letting his strength run through her.

“When you are older.”

When she pouted, and turned her head to face him, he said. “Now, Mya.”

She sighed. “One of the stablemen…” She paused, glancing at Erik to see how much trouble she would be in for wandering around the horses.

“I already know where you go, fagr skjaldmær min.

She gasped. “You do?”

“Of course I do. Why do you think I hired extra men? Their job is to watch over you, if I am otherwise engaged, and ensure none of the horses hurt you.” Erik dropped a soft kiss to her temple. “There are not many places you could go that would escape my gaze. It is my job, my duty, to be there for you should you ever need me, and it is a role I take very seriously.”

Mya blushed, but she did not know why. She was not sure what to call the level of affection and admiration that spiraled through her heart at his words. He made her feel safe, she realized, a feeling she had only felt before with her parents. Then the crawling feeling of misery tugged sharply at her heart once more and she had to stop herself from crying again.

“One of the stablemen asked if I was your daughter,” she finally said. “I-I know he did not mean any harm, but it made me think about Papa and Mama.” She trembled, and Erik drew her closer as if he wished to physically banish her grief. “I try not to think about them too often. It hurts so much when I do. I was not strong enough to protect them.” She shook her head. “I should have been stronger.”

“Mya–”

“What if it happens again?” she hiccupped.

Erik wiped the tears from her eyes. “We are vampires now. We do not have to worry about the plague—”

“But there are other things. You are always training Gregori and Lucas to fight because humans can kill us, yet you will not train me. Is it because I am too weak? Is it because you can only see me as a girl? Do you see me as nothing but a young woman, a child, too young to be useful? Your pseudo-daughter—”

“No,” Erik said so sternly that it felt as if the world stopped. “You are not weak.” He paused and stroked the soft skin of her cheek. “I remember the day Gregori brought me to you. I remember how hard you tried to fight to save Gregori from contracting the disease. Those are not the actions of a weakling. And I could never see you as a child, nor as my daughter.”

Mya was too stunned to say anything, and he took advantage of her silence. “I see you as something so much more. Something more beautiful, more fantastical than I could ever explain to you. I cannot see you as I see Gregori and Lucas, nor can I treat you the same way I treat them. You hold my heart in a way that no one else ever will, and that love allows me to see you, to see through you into this thing here.” He lightly poked at her chest, right above her heart. “You are strong, fagr skjaldmær min, and I am honored to be able to witness that strength every day.”

She shattered, tossing her arms around Erik’s neck hugging him as she cried into his body. His long, pale blonde hair tickled her face, neck, and shoulder as she stole into his warmth. He held her, gently rocking with her and rubbing her back until the grief of her parents’ death left her.

The silence brought back his words, and Mya tried to analyze her own feelings for the man who had helped save her life. There was so much to Erik that she treasured, and yet so much she did not understand, including her feelings for him.

He was everywhere and everything to her. He was there when the memory of her near death kept her awake at night. He tucked her in and waited until she was asleep before he left. He was there to speak with her, to carry her, play with her, read to her. He fed her, clothed her, listened to her words, her thoughts. He valued her. Without him she would have nothing, she would be nothing.

But it was more than that.

She respected the man she found herself watching far too often. She respected how he treated those around him. He was stern but just, a merciful enforcer who both defended his lands and inspired his people. He was intelligent, courageous, brave. He gave so much and asked for so little back. To Mya, he was a symbol of perfection—something she should not be able to reach—that blessed her each day and night.

But what did all of that mean? She loved Erik in a way she did not love her brother or cousin. Mya did not have any companions, but she knew what she felt for Erik was more than that. If Erik asked her to lay down her life for him, she would do it with a smile.

It was not adoration or pure devotion. It was a simplistic need to bring him whatever level of joy she could, to give him something of what he gave to everyone else: A chance for survival. A chance for happiness. A second chance at life.

So there, in that moment, even though he had not asked and even though she did not have a clear understanding of her feelings, she gave him what she could, something she had not given anyone outside of her family.

“You are in my heart too, Erik.” Mya exhaled, and he shivered. “I do not know the love I feel for you. I have not felt it before, but it is there, nonetheless. It is all-consuming and never ending.”

Erik’s supple lips curled at her temple, then he inhaled as if he could breathe her in. “And for that, I am truly blessed.”


Mya thought to skip her visit to the stables the following day, not wanting to repeat what happened before, but she pushed through her fear. She enjoyed tending to the horses, and as a strong woman, she refused to be chased away from something that made her happy. So, with her basket of apples, carrots, and celery, Mya held her head high and entered the massive archway.

Every head snapped away from the sight of her, causing her confidence to drop. The stablemen normally did not pay attention to her, but this level of avoidance was unsettling. They seemed to cower with every step she took.

Mya knew that she did not inspire fear, and the only person she knew that did—Erik—was not in the stables. Mya would have known if he was behind her. He always smelled of pine, ash, smoke, and cinnamon, scents that brought her comfort and peace.

Still, she turned to check, but he was nowhere in sight. When she turned back to the men, they were already busying themselves with their normal day to day tasks, ensuring that their backs were to her.

Mya would have thought she had imagined the whole thing if it were not for the way the men scattered away from her every time she passed near them to feed one of the horses. They had never been overly friendly or conversational with her, above and beyond the watchful nature of their roles, but the way they veered away from her now, and the eyes that followed her back when she moved, did not feel like mere curiosity. Instead of apathy, they treated her as if she was a blight that could infect them.

She shrugged. Their actions made no matter to her. In all actuality she preferred to be left alone; speaking to people took too much energy from her, and she found their conversations not only tiring but uninspiring. Still, the sudden change was strange, but that was not the only thing that struck her as odd.

Mya had kept an eye out for the stableman who had spoken to her the day before, desperate to not run into him again, but as the morning wore on, she realized that she had not seen him at any of the usual posts in the stables or out on the field.

When Erik came to tuck her in later that night, she decided to give voice to the thoughts in her head.

“I went to the stables today,” she said, studying him.

His entire body seemed to still, except for one small tic in his hand as he gripped the top of her comforter. His silver eyes met her own, and she noticed how hard they were. “I know. How were the horses?”

“Well, but—”

“Then I am overjoyed to hear you enjoyed your time.”

His tone was clipped, angry, and it confused her as he turned to walk away. Mya nearly let him, but she could not stop the words that tumbled from her mouth.

“Did you do something to that stableman?”

Again, Erik froze. His fists balled, clenched, then extended. She could see the tension in each movement, yet he did not answer her.

“Erik, did you do—”

“No one hurts you, Mya.”

Her mouth dropped open, then closed quickly. She sat up, holding the comforter to her chest. “But he did not hurt me. It was my fault.”

A rush of air hit her face as Erik appeared in front her, his nose mere centimeters from hers. His eyes were controlled, cold, dangerous, and it made something in her want something she could not name.

When he spoke, his voice was low, hoarse, drowning in some sort of emotion that made her heart pound and goosebumps snake up her skin.

“He did hurt you. Whether he meant to or not makes no difference to me. That is inexcusable,” Erik hissed. “He dared to speak to you when he should not have, and by doing so he hurt you. No one hurts what is min—”

Erik took a deep breath and closed his eyes, attempting to settle his anger. His body shuddered as if he was forcing himself back from an invisible ledge. With another breath he centered himself, peered into her eyes, and said in a deep, controlled tone, “No one hurts what falls under my care.”

“The men are not allowed to speak to me?” Mya whispered.

“Correct. They may not speak to you, touch you, or pay attention to you unless completely necessary.”

She bit her lip and forced herself to swallow. His control should have felt restrictive. She should have been angry with him, she should have told him she could take care of herself, but instead she felt her skin growing warm as a thrumming began between her thighs and her core grew damp. For a single moment Mya worried she may have gotten her cycle early, but this was not that. This feeling was pleasant, needy, something else that she had never felt before.

Erik’s eyes grew darker, the black pupils bleeding over into his normal silver and making them appear gray at the edges. He inhaled as if he were smelling something, tasting the air. His breath grew labored, and a small part of his fang extended beyond his lips.

“Are you not mad at me?” he asked, his voice deeper than she had ever heard it.

Mya shook her head.

“Tell me why,” he murmured as he leaned closer to her body, nearly eliminating the distance. He grabbed hold of her hair, twirling it between his fingers while his eyes roamed over her face, drinking in her every expression.

She bit her lip again, her eyes flickering away from his and falling back to his red lips. “I … appreciate your protection, I suppose.”

He hummed, then nodded. “Then I will tell you what I did to the stableman. I stalked him until he was running scared for his life. Then I tore off his head, drained his body of most of its blood, and fed his useless corpse to the pigs. His family will receive a large dowry for his reported accidental death, and none will be the wiser.”

She gasped in shock, but the horror she should have felt was missing. Instead, a thrill of pleasure flew through her at how far Erik would go for her. His violence, his protection, made her feel treasured, cherished, reveled in.

“Tell me, Mya, does it scare you that I can be so callous? So cold and brutal?” he taunted.

Her heart felt as though it was going to pound out of her chest, and she grabbed onto his arm for support. His skin was warmer than usual, muscles bunched as he fisted her hair, drawing her head back slightly until she was staring straight into his eyes again. She answered him breathlessly, honestly.

“No.”

“Why?” he crooned, and it was as if he was dragging the answer out of her, tearing it from the very depths of her soul.

She licked her suddenly dry lips, wrestling with the emotions he laid bare within her. Mya swallowed, paused, and on a shaky breath said, “Because I know you. I have watched you. I see you for who you are, and I love you and all that you are.”

His fingers danced along her scalp sending tingles down her spine, and she whispered, “I am safe with you.”

He smiled, his fangs fully protruding now. “Yes, you are, fagr skjaldmær min.

With that Erik inhaled once more and clenched his jaw. Then he stood, and with each step he tugged something open in her, something raw and vicious. Then he paused, his hand on the doorknob, and without turning he said, “Should you face another issue with anyone, the staff, a stranger—”

“I will tell you,” she said.

He nodded stiffly as he stood on the threshold. “Goodnight, Mya.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

His answer was a curt nod before he left her room.

Chapter 2

As the years passed, Mya’s body had begun to change and mature. Her breasts grew heavier, fuller, and attracted more attention than she was used to from the town boys, ones who believed themselves to be men worthy of her affections.

According to many, her backside was just as distracting, and she was solely to blame for the males who drooled over her like a piece of meat every time she simply left the house to run an errand. It was her fault for being curvier, womanly, and not procuring clothing to defer their gaze. Some even snickered behind her back that she craved the attention. Ah, yes, because it was Mya’s fault they could not stop themselves from staring at her. How she wished she could dig their eyeballs out of their heads—then they would really have something to blame her for.

To them, her silent indifference was her weakness, her admission of guilt. Their gossip soon turned cruel and painful, using her earth-toned skin to question her heritage, to spin the tale that she was a servant’s child, that she only claimed to be related to Gregori and Lucas and was not actually their kin. But the worst rumor of all was that she had set her sights on Erik to keep his money for herself.

After all, Mya was eighteen now. According to the villagers she was much too old to still be unmarried. There had to be a reason she had waited so long, especially with her child-bearing hips. How it sounded like they wished her to be nothing more than a cow for a man to breed.

But Mya knew that even without her appearance, she still would have been pursued by mothers and sons alike, just as her family was. She was connected to Erik, lord of the land. Who would not want to court and marry her? She could have any man she wanted at the drop of the hat, except the actual man she wanted, it seemed.

It had gone so far, that Gregori and Lucas had offered to escort her on her adventures into town, all to curb the horrible behaviors Mya was subjugated to, but she refused them both. Their supervision would have made it all the more real, hurtful, and embarrassing.

She hated it all.

Mya hated how men ruled the world. Her parents had always taught her that there were things a man could do and things only a woman could do, but that both were in equal power. Her mother and aunt had lived together, taking care of their entire home from cooking and cleaning, to protecting their land from men who wished to steal it, men who believed there was no way women could take care of such a property.

When Mya’s father, Henry, decided he wanted to marry her mother, Eleta, he had to fight to win her affection, but not just in the traditional sense. He had to better her mother’s life. She did not need him, so Henry had to make Eleta want him. He had to show her that he would never hold her back, only lift her up. He had to make her love him.

To Mya, that was how a courtship worked. That was the example of love she held all relationships to, and none of the men who harassed, belittled, and accused her, who threw their fathers’ dowries at her as if it was something for Mya to be impressed by, lived up to those standards.

No, her heart was reserved for Erik, and Mya did everything she could to be closer to him, to spend more time with him.

She left her wild hair long because she liked the way he played with it, twirling the strands around his fingertips as if he was searching for any reason to be close to her. She liked his scent and loved it even more when he came to her bedroom at night so she could drown herself in him before she went to sleep. She loved to watch Erik when he trained Gregori and Lucas, captivated by the way his muscles tensed and tendons squeezed when he threw a punch or kick, how his light blonde hair swayed around his shoulders as he ducked and rolled, parrying his opponents’ attacks. She was jealous of the sweat that rolled down his chest when he was done, and she had taken to embracing him whenever they were alone just to claim a piece of him, even if it was just a simple touch. She understood it was foolish, just as she now understood the name for her body’s reactions to him––desire.

Her attraction to him had grown into something she never knew she could feel. He was the only one she wanted to kiss her, to touch her, to do other things that she heard about from the married women in town. She wanted Erik to pleasure her, and she wanted to learn how to pleasure him, but the reality was it would never be. He was her guardian, and while she still did not understand the breadth of his feelings for her, she knew her thoughts were impure.

Mya respected Erik. She did her best to pretend that was all she felt, but she was tired of pretending. She did not care if it was wrong. She did not want to be pursued by anyone else, to possibly have to fake entertaining a suitor, or to continue to be on high alert every time she left their house just to fit into this time period.

There was something in her gut that told her it would only spell trouble if she continued, but for now that was the game she played as she donned the blue dress that had been carefully embroidered with golden filagree and small gems, coiled her hair and placed it into its typical net, picked her matching headdress and cloak, and went on her way, all while trying not to stomp her feet too hard while she walked.

Her tutor’s general scolding flashed through her head, and she had to force herself to straighten her spine, roll her shoulders back, and keep her chin up. Eventually, as the wind blew against her and the sunshine warmed her skin, Mya’s mood improved.

It lightened even more as she entered the local apothecary. Mya had taken up the study of medicine and anatomy privately, as she would never have been allowed to practice. The Black Plague still ran rampant among the poor. As a vampire, she did not need the medicine, but Mya wanted to protect those who had no way to receive the necessary medicine. The poor were subjugated to the filth at the hands of the rich, and it made Mya’s stomach ill. She knew she could not change the world, and would not be able to save everyone, but she would do all that she could to make a difference.

She was also fascinated by what medicine could do to her blood. Erik had supplied her with a space to practice her experiments, and he often assisted her in her thirst for knowledge by providing her herbs and the latest medical texts he could find. When he could not provide something she wanted, she stole it, and Erik supported her fully.

Mya took her time perusing the shelves before purchasing what she could without raising suspicion: a few herbs which held medicinal properties. She made a mental note of the herbs she would ask Erik to purchase for her, as well as a new rumored text based on the science of anatomy.

She was pleased when she left the apothecary, but the small skip in her step vanished when a door opened behind her and the Bennet twins stepped out, along with Richard Browne and Walter Godfrey. The Bennet twins were children of a noble who believed he and his family controlled the world and everything in it. They were brash. They stole, they lied, they harassed and assaulted women, and they viewed themselves above reproach. Their friends, Richard and Walter, believed the same.

Mya tried to scurry past them but was cut off by Walter. He attempted to grab her, but her vampire abilities made her faster than him. As she veered around one man, the next came from behind her. She turned, avoiding his grasp as well, and spun, but her basket of herbs unbalanced her and she found herself braced against the alley wall.

The breath rushed out of her as Randolph Bennet neared her, his brother, Gilbert, flanked to his side. She began to panic, not for her sake, but for theirs. It was imperative that no one find out she, her family, or Erik were vampires, and that meant Mya had to practice control in this situation. She had to monitor her emotions, not get too angry, too violent. Yet everything about these men told her that they were not going to let her go with a simple scare. They thought themselves to be powerful, but to her they were simply prey, and if they were not careful, she would catch them and eat them like the predator she was.

Mya stood straight against the wall, pressing back against it as much as possible to put space between herself and them. Before they could open their mouths, she said, “I am on my way home. Erik and the rest of my family are waiting for me. Please let me pass.”

Richard snickered while Randolph braced his arm above her head. “I am sure they will not miss you for a couple of minutes.”

“It will take longer than that to finish with her,” Gilbert said with a smirk.

Mya ignored him and stared Randolph straight in his eyes. “Let me go, Randolph. I am not worth the trouble.”

The boys behind him laughed, but Randolph’s eyes gleamed as if she had said the exact words he needed to hear. “I would be inclined to agree with you, but you have avoided me at every turn, and for that you have to be punished.”

“Randolph—”

“Enough, woman!” Randolph yelled, before he reared back and struck her.

The blow he dealt did not bruise her skin nor cause her any pain, but it shocked her. A feeling of injustice rose within her. How could they do this? Why had they done this? What harm had Mya ever caused them, or this world, to be forced to live such a life? Had she not been kind? Had she not kept to herself, done her best to not be a bother, to not bring trouble down upon others? Had she not tried to help others without asking for anything in return? Did she not deserve more?

You deserve more, a voice said to her.

Her voice. Her subconscious.

Pay attention now, it whispered. Take your retribution.

She blinked and the world came back into focus. Her face was against the timber panel of the alley while the men pushed and prodded her from behind. It took the four of them to shove her in place, their strength in numbers.

Air began to whip around her legs, and she gasped.

This was going to happen.

They were going to rape her.

Their laughs and hollers filled her ears, and her body turned numb.

What have I done to deserve this? Why is this happening to me?

Hands shoved her legs apart. She knew it, felt her body move, but reality seemed to distort itself. She was there and not there, just as they were there and not there. It was as if she was no longer in her body.

And yet their laughter remained. It grew louder, and their snide remarks followed as they argued about who would be the first to shove themselves inside of her and who would follow next, and after that, and after that.

Their laughter, their cheers as if they had won an honest victory, their cruelty, left a stain on her soul.

You are stronger than this, her subconscious growled.

Was she strong? No. She had always been weak. Had that not been why this world had been so barbaric toward her? Was that not why it had taken everything from her? It had taken her family, her way of life. Even something as simple as her studies and passions were unobtainable because she was a woman. And then there was her heart, so far locked away because she could never have the one person she wanted.

But at least she had herself. She had her body, her mind, her soul, and now these men, these insignificant little creatures, were trying to take them from her.

She hated it. She hated England. She hated the rules she had to follow. She hated the women whose words cut her so deeply. She hated the men that treated her as if she was nothing more than an object available to them whenever and however they wanted.

But most of all, perhaps, she hated herself. She hated that nothing would change no matter what she did or how she did it. She hated that as a woman, she would always be expected to sacrifice for someone else.

Mya knew what she was going to do.

She was going to let her anger rule her. She was going to turn into a vampire, a horrible monster to mankind. She was going to kill these men, and her family would be the ones to pay for it. And she hated herself the most because she could not—would not—stop.

Mya deserved more, and she would take her retribution with a smile.

She grasped the wrist of the nearest man and twisted until he screamed so loudly the sound punctured her ear drums. She healed almost instantly from the injury, but the small flinch of pain only strengthened her resolve.

Her eyes glazed over, her blood lust growing stronger and clouding her vision, until she could only feel the pop of his joints and hear the agonizing screams tearing from his body as she broke his bones. She could taste his blood and smell his sweat in the air—salty and sour, tinged with fear.

When the smell of urine flooded her senses, she threw the man away. His head landed with a loud, wet whack against the stones. Mya smiled at the sound and the now fresh scent of oozing blood. It sharpened her predatory senses, and while she still could not see the faces of the other men in front of her, she could make out their forms as they processed the shock of the last few seconds.

Then they pushed, hit, and beat her, but she felt no pain. Their blows did nothing but anger her more. They were still invading her space as if they had the right, as if they owned it, owned her, and their feeble attempts to hurt her were accompanied by berating claims that she had asked for this.

Time seemed to slow around her, every action the speed of a tortoise’s next step. She parried each of their blows, moving so fast she could predict their next move from the rush of air that tickled the hair on her skin. It felt as if she was moving in the blink of an eye.

Why had she not done this sooner? This feeling, this freedom, was everything to her, and

Mya laughed loudly as she succumbed further. She lifted her arms, ready to push the men, already planning her next move. Maybe she would castrate them, make sure that they could never do this to another woman again. Perhaps she would just kill them outright, their lives payment for the atrocities she was sure they had forced upon other women. They should have never been brought into this world, and she, in her righteousness, would be their judge, jury, and executioner.

The sound of a door opening interrupted her thoughts, and she hissed at the intrusion.

“Aye! What are you boys doing?” a man shouted, before banging something against a metal pot. The sound stung her, so high pitched against her sensitive hearing that it made her head ring.

She looked up and could make out the face of the man, Tubert. He wobbled out of the door, using the frame to support himself on his wooden leg while he brandished the metal pot in an attempt to look intimidating.

Why had he inserted himself into this? Perhaps Tubert had nothing left to lose. Perhaps he wanted to be of importance to someone. Maybe he simply wanted to do something with his life, play at being the hero to raise his value in society. Perhaps he thought that saving her would garner him a reward.

Whatever was going through the man’s mind did not matter. No one would get in the way of her justice, not even this man who played at defending her. If he tried to stop her, she would kill him just as surely as she would delight in killing these men. Until she peered down to Tubert’s leg and saw Albin, Tubert’s seven-year-old son, standing behind his father.

That was what brought Mya back from the edge and curbed her rage. She could never put a child through what she had gone through; she could never rob a child of their parent.

The blood lust cleared from her eyes, allowing her to see. The men’s faces in front of her were white, their eyes wide and unblinking. Past them she saw Walter’s body—whether dead or just unconscious she did not know—and her stomach turned under the sick satisfaction that sight gave her.

She needed to leave, now, before she succumbed to her blood lust again.

Mya turned and ran. Shouts rang out behind her, but she did not stop. Instead, she ran faster, scared of what she would do, who she would become, and how much she would like it if she turned back. She had put her family in danger, and she fully believed that Gilbert and his group would do everything in their power to use what had just happened to their advantage.

Many people had converted under the power of the church. Erik may be lord of these lands, but the church would be quick to investigate a claim of demonism. One rumor would be enough to qualify the investigation. Any demand for further proof would seem suspicious, and with so many of the townspeople converting, Erik would fall under scrutiny for not reporting her condition himself. There were already those who wanted to challenge his position, and this one action could finally give them the ability to do so.

Mya had caused this. She had brought this trouble into her home.

But what was the alternative?

Should she have stood there and let them rape her? Was that all she was good for? No. This was a situation where the circumstances would never have been in her favor, and her family would understand that. They would support her actions, she knew that deep in her soul, but she did not want them to endure her decisions as well.

If you kill the men who hurt you, they will not have to, the voice within her said.

Unconsciously, her pace slowed until she halted near a wooden wall.

Was that an option? Could that be her only option?

Yes, the voice hissed, begging her.

Mya could kill them. She could wait for them to be alone and then hunt them down one by one. She could easily find them. Walter’s blood was still on her gown, and where he was the others would be sure to follow. She lifted the gown to her nose and inhaled. The blood was so sweet, so delectable, that her heart pounded in her chest.

Mya grasped onto the wall as her blood lust began to take her over once more. Could she do it? Could she take their lives to spare her family the consequences of her actions?

You will only kill those who deserve it. No one else.

It sounded too good to be true, but as she tossed the thought over in her mind, she knew it was the only way. If she killed them, no one else would know. Her family would be safe and she could leave, go somewhere else, perhaps back to Spain. That thought gave her so much warmth, satisfaction, and pleasure, that it sealed her fate.

Mya turned, a smirk tugging her lips. She gave into her blood lust and her vision faded to red. She took one step and pressed her toes to the path, ready to jump, to soar along the roofs of the buildings until she reached her prey. She lowered herself, feeling her energy build, and then—

An arm wrapped around her torso, the heavy weight keeping her still. Before she could even think to struggle, she was pulled back into the shadow of the alley.

The scent of pine, ash, smoke, and cinnamon hit her on her next inhale, and she froze.

Erik.

He cannot see me like this, she thought. He cannot know.

But he stood in front of her, plain as day, and his stare was as tangible as the fingers he ran over the torn areas of her gown.

She tried to speak to him, to tell him to leave her, to let her go, but she was not in control. The words came out garbled, incomprehensible, and it only shamed her more.

“Who touched you, fagr skjaldmær min?” he asked, his voice low, so calm and deadly that her skin broke out in chills.

Mya could not tell him. Not only because she could not voice the words, but because it pained her too. Erik’s presence had always made her feel safe, as if he were her home. She trusted him to always come to her aid, but the thought of him doing so now threw her into a panic. If she told him, he would take on her battle. He would kill the men she was meant to kill, and therein lay the problem.

This was not for him to solve. This was not for him to do. She could not rely on him this time, and she refused to let him interfere. Too much could go wrong, and she would not let him implicate himself in his act of heroism. She wanted to prove to herself, to him, that she was just as much as a warrior as he, that she could be just as ruthless, calculating, and brave.

She would not miss this chance.

She would not let those men win.

Her blood lust pulsed under her emotions, twisting her desires into a desperate need for survival. The weight of her embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger, disappointment, hatred, and love merged into something ugly, and for the first time in her life she fought against Erik. She tried to push him away. When that did not work, she tried to hit and punch him, but he simply grabbed her hands by her wrists and shoved her back against the wall. The movement only made her fight more. Her consciousness ached because she could not break out of her blood lust.

She felt outside of her body again, and the sight she saw devastated her. She did not recognize the woman struggling against Erik. She was so lost, so chaotic, her jaw snapping at him as she tried to free her hands and claw at his skin. Mya would have never tried to hurt Erik. She did not want to rely on him, and she wanted him to let her go, but not like this. This was not her, but she did not know how to regain her senses.

Tears dropped from her lashes as she realized that even with this power, she was weak. If she could not use her mind and be in control of her heart and body, what good was she to anyone?

She tried again to speak to Erik. The words were even more garbled now, coming out as feral, animalistic sounds and snarls, but somehow he knew. Erik used his body to keep her pinned against the wall. He grabbed hold of her neck, grasping it between his thumb and pointer finger. His hands were so large that his fingers reached under her ear, but his touch was gentle as he whispered, “I will not let you suffer this, fagr skjaldmær min. Forgive me.”

His free hand slid into her hair, fisting the strands at her scalp. He tilted her face to his, holding her in place and then his lips came down against hers.

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