TAINTED BLOOD – DRAMIR SERIES – CHAPTER ONE

Synopsis:

Welcome to Dramir, a city where the blood never stops flowing

The streets of Dramir have always been protected under the rule of the reigning King. It was all because of his not so secret weapon.

A weapon they called the assassin. A weapon with long-dark hair, savage soulless eyes and a body built for sin.

She wielded a sword as one would breathe air. She danced in blood as one would dance in rain. She laughed in the face of death as one would laugh at a bad joke.

It was believed that the day the assassin experienced emotion, the world of Dramir as they knew it would crumble under the force of her shattering heart.

How could you break the heart of someone who had long since lived without one?

How could you fight against the darkness when she forced light to do her bidding?

Most importantly how could you hide, when she came looking for you?

I stared at the pathetic waste of immortal life below me. Jeremiah lay on his back like a quivering mess with the tip of my sword pressed into his neck. I once found him attractive. All vampires were. To find him pleading before me like a newborn gave me a sense of pride and annoyance. In his one hundred plus years of life, how did he reduce himself to this?

The Woodlands around us fell silent. They felt the presence of a predator. The verdict was still out on whom the predator was, my vampire mark or me.

“Please, I have a family,” he begged. “I have kids.”

“And that’s supposed to sway me?” I snorted, wishing I could push back my long dark hair. I should have tied it up, having no intention of washing blood out of the ends, but looking down at my blood coated hands I quickly decide against touching it now. “You didn’t think of that family when you committed the crime, did you?”

“I—” he glanced away. “I needed to prove that the King was ruling us under a fear that does not exist. He makes us believe that we are beholden to him. We are not. The people need to know he has betrayed us.”

“What the fuck are you on about?” I frowned. This was the second time in a week that I had to off a mark who decided to become a dumbass and try to prove that the King was unworthy. What was up with these fucks?

“Why is Ashmit Vladimir the King? Why is he the one chosen to rule us?” the vampire became bold trying to sit up. The blade pierced his neck ever so slightly, letting a drop of blood bead at the tip. I sucked in my bottom lip. What would that blood taste like?

I shook my head and raised a brow to remind him of his place. “Ashmit rules us because that is the way it is.”

It was robotic and practiced. It was what we were told. With the seer, Tamika stuck to his ass—I mean side—feeding him prophecies, all we could do was believe him or die. Technically that wasn’t true, he had no problems letting us out of Dramir and off on our own. Rumors were that the supernaturals who left the island did not last long. Something in the human world captured them and tortured them.

Before you think that we blindly believed the rumors; bits and pieces along with the head of the supe would show up in a box outside the Vladimir mansion.

Whispers were that Ashmit himself decided to wait for them at the border and reign down torture on them and present it as an outsider only so that we believed he was a fair and just King.

Personally, I liked that theory. It was pure genius getting the island to fear you in a subtle way but also getting them to believe that you would never harm them. I had no such luxury, when the supernatural contingent saw me coming … it was game over.

“This book!” Jeremiah tapped his bag. “It has every record of the prophecies. Everything that the King confides in the seer is written in these pages.”

I glanced at his rucksack. I felt the power of the book emanating from within the confines of the leather. It called to me. It tempted me to open it and trace its pages with my eyes. Too bad little book. I ain’t going anywhere near you.

Why were the Seer and the King so dumb as to keep all the prophecies written down in a book? Couldn’t they just use the vast availability of the technology we had? The types of gadgets and software Tej created—it was pure genius. The prophecies could be hidden easily! But nope, those two decided to write everything down in an ancient looking book.

I sighed shaking my head of all theories. “Look, we have lived this way for thousands of years. Why rock the boat now?”

“The prophecy.”

“Huh?”

“Our fate would change on the day of All Hallows Eve. The spawn of the King will be his downfall and then we will all be free.”

I mean, really? I burst out laughing. “Dude, everyone knows that Mateo would never stand against his father. There also isn’t any chance of him becoming a papa again simply because any woman he takes to his bed never visits there twice.”

“That is what the prophecy states, I have read it all!” Jeremiah’s eyes lit with excitement. “I know the prophecy about you! I know that you are a T—”

The only sound that came out of him next was the thud and splat of his head hitting the floor of the woods and rolling about the dead leaves as I severed his head from his body.

I sprinkled some herbal shit the witches gave me on his head while the rest of his body turned to ash. I grabbed another trinket from the coven—a bag that was spelled to hold any supernatural body part and preserve it.

I struggled with the damn thing rolling around like a soccer ball and not getting into the bag. I gritted my teeth and focused on the damn head.

“Get in the fucking bag man!”

To my absolute horror the head disappeared from before my eyes. I glanced around like a frenzied chicken trying to figure out where the hell the head went to. A sound from the bag alerted me. I stared in silence at the bag… it was filled with head. I glanced around.

“Did I do that?” I asked no one in particular.

Strange things have been happening lately. My twenty-first birthday passed five months ago and I hadn’t changed into my supernatural self. I mean I knew I was probably a vampire. The thirst, the heightened sense, the speed and the agility; I had it all. Yet, I often felt bursts of power releasing from deep within my body, like now. Sometimes I felt my bones shifting when I became intensely angry. Maybe I was over thinking it. Who knew?

I glanced at the rucksack. That book could tell me what I was, couldn’t it? Tamika was a Seer she recorded all the futures of every supernatural in Dramir. She should know my future. I hated her on sight. Didn’t mean I couldn’t open her book.

I reached for the book. I felt the power rise to greet me. My palms tingled. No one would know. Shaking my head I shouldered the bag and grabbed the bagged head. Time to deliver my prize and receive my payment. I was not going to open myself up to any sort of complication.

I walked through the Woodlands the side that let out to the square. The Woodlands separated the Drake Tower from the town-square. The Drake tower belonged to the Drake siblings: Nathaniel and Shikara. They were the most powerful shifters. Dragons. I know! Their surname is so cliché.

Stepping out of the lush forest, I almost laughed as a pair of teenagers necking near the tree-line startled and broke apart. Fear clouded their gaze as they realized who I was.

“Evening,” I grinned evilly.

They scattered like cockroaches and I began my trek to the Vladimir mansion. The town-square people watched warily. They knew what was tossed over my shoulder. They saw my sword strapped against my hip.

Even the humans knew to keep away from me. They knew I was an assassin or an enforcer of sorts. The island was spelled with a protection spell. One that made all the humans believe they were safe and that anything they saw; be it a vampire feeding, a wolf, panther, phoenix or dragon traipsing by, or even a witch throwing a lightning bolt from her fingers; was normal.

It was pure genius! I wondered how the coven had conjured up that amount of power. I knew that every year on the day of Samhain, the witches gathered on Cauldron Cliffs and did reinforcement spells.

We had an image to uphold. Humans couldn’t know about us. I didn’t understand why. Dramir had supernaturals in thousands and humans in hundreds. Why couldn’t we just tell them of our existence and school them with fear?

Turns out with the new age technology, humans could call in their numbers. With media we could be hunted and killed. Take the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition for example, and that had been done without such advanced technology. However, we had Tej working on the I.T side of things and monitoring all incoming and outgoing data. We had a team of shifters who took the daylight hours and vampires who took the evenings; they monitored everything from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and regular old email and letters.

I stopped in front of the window of a closed store. It was a clothing store owned by some rich human. I glanced at my reflection and winced. My hip length midnight black hair resembled a rat’s nest. I used my pale fingers to straighten out the mess, I had since stopped caring about the blood on my fingers. They dried and flaked off anyway. My grey eyes sparkled under the streetlights. My full red lips twisted into a smile of self-appreciation. My body was amazing, killer curves with tattooed pale skin.

I had a sword tattooed along my spine with a vine of bloodied thorns wrapped around the blade. It looked amazing. The sword was one I had seen in the Book of Weapons. It belonged to the Dark Prince or someone. Along my wrists I had Sanskrit writing spiraling up to my arms. I had no idea what was written there, it showed up on my skin one day and anyone that I asked to look at it had no clue what it meant.

Feeling good about myself I walked through the wrought iron gates of Vladimir Mansion which was easier for me than most. The guards took one look at the package on my shoulder and let me through. I saluted them and walked up the manicured lawn and passed the elaborate baby cherub fountain.

Vladimir Mansion was a Victorian monstrosity. The outside resembled something out of a gothic magazine. I skipped up the five thin steps leading to the double doors that whipped opened for me.

Not by magic, mind you, but by the King’s guard. Akiv Vladimir was one of the most handsome vampires I had ever seen. He was tall with olive skin and had piercing blue eyes. His mop of dark hair was slicked back and the suit he donned showed him off as elite with a hint of danger. He dressed the way the rest of the Vladimir family dressed. They were fashioned after the King’s choice of clothing.

“Hey Atalia,” he smiled.

I grinned back. I had never felt anything romantic towards him, probably because he was dating one of my good friends, Shikara. He came across more brotherly like.

“Yo,” I winked. “Gramps here?”

He glanced behind him before he narrowed his eyes. “Really? You want him to hear that?”

Ashmit wasn’t really Akiv’s grandfather. I just referred to him as that because it pissed him off. Akiv was the son of Alexander Vladimir, the King’s nephew.

“Really?” I mimicked. “You think I care?”

“If you want to keep your head,” a gruff voice snapped. “I suggest that caring become part of your daily operandi.”

I rolled my eyes at the King’s son, Mateo. “Since I do the said beheading, I’d say my chances are pretty good at keeping this here head on these here shoulders.”

The Vladimir’s—although having a Russian surname—looked exactly like Italian mafia men. All were beefed up with dark hair, olive skin, blue eyes, and dimpled cheeks. Mateo had streaks of grey at his temples. Vampires where not known to age physically, but their hair told you a different story. The amount of grey in their hair determined how old they were. In supernatural history the slogan was: with age came great power. The older you were the more powerful you became. Especially, when you honed your own skills and perfected it.

Most of the female vampires dyed their hair. They claimed it was for protection, so that their enemies couldn’t guess their age. I knew better—they hated the sign of aging.

“Atalia,” Mateo said in a warning voice.

I really did not understand why the occupants of Dramir continued hoping I’d be any different. Sure the King would eventually kill me for my insubordination or lack of respect one day, but since nothing happened so far, why change? Besides it wasn’t as if I was disrespectful to the King to his face—not all the time.

The interior of Vladimir Mansion was astounding. Sweeping arches and Roman paintings adorned the walls and ceilings, tasteful furniture and state of the art security. The place looked abandoned but one wrong move against the King and vampires sped in from all crevices—no pun intended.

I escorted myself to the Council room. It was situated on the second floor, a large room with a meter long rectangle table in the centre and a bar area off to the side. The bar area was managed by one of the house vampire women.

The women of the Vladimir Mansion were not to speak unless asked to. They were to keep their heads down and be lady like. Their dressing was modest; floor length dresses or skirts, or long loose fitting pants, both to be accompanied by long sleeved shirts. It was quite medieval really. I guess that is why most of the vampire contingent hated me and most of the Guard. The women of the Guard got to wear whatever the hell they felt like and got in on all the action happening in Dramir.

The table was black and carved by one of the many slaves the King had. Goblets of wine, blood or crystal glasses of scotch were placed in the hands of the five council members; Mateo the Right-Hand, Nathaniel Drake the Counselor, Tamika the Seer and Tristin Danvers the Guardian. I was the unofficial fifth member, the Assassin.

The King stood as soon as he saw me, he was an imposing figure. Slicked back white hair no doubt showing off his ancient power, sharp crystal blue eyes, and face as youthful as a twenty-year old, and body built like a linebacker. Although he was a right bastard, he wasn’t that hard to look at.

“Atalia!” he exclaimed with a clap of his hands. “How wonderful to see you!”

I almost snorted. I doubt that. “And you, Sire.”

I didn’t bow as most people would, instead I inclined my head. That was the furthest I would go really. King Ashmit Vladimir had long since accepted the fact that I wouldn’t show him the respect that most people did. However, I made sure to never embarrass him in public. My insubordination did not have to set a rebellion in place. Mostly because I’d have to kill them all, and being a hypocrite is not something I ever want to be.

“I’ve got what you asked for,” I held up the rucksack.

His eyes fixated on the bag. I thought he would drool or break out into a happy dance. Either way, I was creeped out enough to raise my brows at him. A look he gave right back to me.  I dropped the other sack that I held and it made what most people would call a sickened splat noise on the tile of his great room. The blood did not escape from it however it did leave a large maroon spot on the material of the bag.

“What is that?” Tamika swallowed hard.

“The head of the Jeremiah,” I shrugged.

Tristin shook his head at me. “Your orders were to retrieve the book, not kill the mark.”

“He started a long ass conversation that sounded way to treasonous to my ears,” I said with wide eyes. “Hell forbid, had I let him go and he started a rebellion against the King, what then?”

Ashmit snorted. “I do doubt you would do anything other than sit back and watch the drama unfold until I ordered you to save my life.”

I sucked my bottom lip and gestured to the door. Ashmit watched me for a while a curious gaze in his eyes.

“You have outdone yourself, Atalia,” he said. “Your payment will be wired immediately.”

My phone immediately beeped. I checked the screen to see a handsome amount blinking in my savings. Obviously the security cameras watching the room would have conveyed the message to the accounts department. Everything worked fast around here. Except justice. Shaking my head of the thoughts I glanced around for Tamika.

“Here’s your property,” I swung the bag from my shoulder and handed it to her.

She was an ethereal creature, a witch who could predict the future. That book was every prophecy or future she saw. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why that would be a coveted item. She had blonde hair that swept the floor as she walked. I asked her once; why she didn’t tie it up instead of it being dragged through the dirt and grime of the earth. She got this far away look and smiled at me telling me that witches drew their power from the earth. Having bits and pieces of it woven into her hair made it easier for her to access her power. Whatever, I think she just liked it dirty. Again, no pun intended. After all she was in bed with Ashmit.

Her brown eyes settled on me with a frown. “The magic is still intact.”

I raised a brow at her. “And?”

“You did not try to open it,” she looked past me to the King.

He seemed impressed. “Why did you not open the book Atalia?”

I looked at him with a frown. “My orders were to retrieve the book. Have I missed anything else?”

“No,” he looked pleased. “Most who gain access to this book would at any costs find a way to use it against all of those in Dramir. After all, it does contain the future and the prophecies of all supernaturals. It could literally mean the end for me.”

I shrugged. “I have no interest in starting a war that I don’t wish to engage in. If there’s nothing else?”

“You are excused,” the King nodded.

Nathaniel gestured to me. I ignored him. The bastard was gorgeous, I’d give him that. He was good in the sack too but he was too invested. Something about him wasn’t right. I grabbed my jacket from my shoulder and slid it on.

I was almost at the door when power rose strong and fast enough to freeze me in my tracks.

“Ah fuck no,” I muttered, annoyed. I hated when this happened.

“Atalia,” Tamika’s voice closed around my throat like a noose. Without my consent my body turned to face Tamika. The room fell silent in order to witness her premonition. I waited as the sticky sensation of power rolled around my body as her eyes turned completely black like those bug eye freaks in you’d see in those ridiculous sci-fi movies.

“You will be his destruction, as he will be your salvation. No magic good or bad will be able to withstand the evil in which you both shall dance. You will one day come face to face with your makers, and on that day it will be a choice—them or him.”

She blinked awake and stared at me with astonishment.

“Uh, thanks?” I said looking at the King.

“You may go,” he nodded, striding straight to Tamika. One would think it was out of concern but I knew better, he probably wanted to grill her about my mysterious prophecy.

I knew eventually I would be my own downfall. My stupid choices in life would catch up to me. No surprise there. But who is this he whose salvation I will be? Did that even make sense? It couldn’t be Nathaniel because although we were bumping uglies, I had no intention of falling in love with the guy.

I will one day meet my makers? Does she mean the dude sitting on his throne upstairs or does she mean my actual makers as in my parents?

Not that I cared. I haven’t even thought of seeking them out or expecting love from either of them. I knew I did not have that capability. It was almost as if I was incapable of love itself. Actually incapable of feeling at all. It seemed like I was oblivious.

The closest thing I had to love was my friendship with Shikara. She was the only person who got me. She and I were similar in our looks and build. But where I had grey eyes she had gold eyes synonymous with the dragon shifters. She was sister to the annoyingly too handsome for his own good, Nathaniel Drake. Where I had long dark hair, hers looked as if Rumplestiltskin spun her hair into gold.

If I had a girl crush, it would be on her.

Speaking of the dragon herself, she rushed out of Dahlia coming straight toward me with a worried look.

“You okay?” she asked in her musical voice and wrapped me in her arms.

I pushed her away with a frown. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Tamika had a prophecy?” she looked unsure.

“How did that news travel so quickly?” I asked shocked. I pointed to the mansion which could be seen from any part of the town-square. “I literally took five minutes to walk from there to here!”

Shikara shrugged sheepishly. “Nathaniel called and told me to keep an eye out on you.”

I gritted my teeth. “That mother—”

“That’s my brother, Atalia,” Shikara warned without heat, mostly because she spent most of her life telling me to watch my mouth when I dissed him.

“I don’t care,” I growled. “He is getting on my last nerve.”

“He has a thing for you,” she laughed, looping her arm through mine and dragging me into the werewolf bar.

Sebastian bartended with finesse as the crowd demanded more and more. The humans were enraptured with his werewolf reflexes while the supes grew bored and impatient. Bastian was a handsome bastard. Dark chocolate skin, deep soulful brown eyes and a shiny bald head, Bastian was a complete Vin Diesel look alike—if he was black.

He winked at me, grabbing an ice cold beer from the fridge and tossing it my way. People ducked and supernaturals looked warily at me. I rolled my eyes and sipped on my beer.

“So, are you at all worried about the prophecy?” Shikara pressed.

“Yeah, are you?”

I turned to give the stink eye to another member of my small group of friends. Alisya was a telekinetic witch with an attitude that rivaled mine. She did not care if she could possibly implicate herself or piss the wrong person off. She said what she had to say. That was probably why we were friends.

“Lemme guess Tamika?” I rolled my eyes.

“Actually, Saranya,” Alisya chuckled as she tucked her dark dreads behind her ear. Alisya was a colorful freak. She wore dreads infused with beads, bells at her feet and bands across her forehead. She was a modern day hippie complete with bell-bottom jeans and off-shoulder gypsy tops.

“How is it that news spreads way before I have a chance to register what’s going on?” I snap flinging my drink directly into the bin. “Do we have like a Saucy Supe website?”

“Saucy Supe?” Shikara frowned.

“Like Gossip Girl,” I grumbled.

Alisya and Shikara looked at me and then looked at each other. Cue the laughter, they were in stitches.

“Oh, just get over yourselves,” I said and stood to leave.

“Atalia—”

I ignored their worried calls and stepped outside to breathe in the fresh air. To be honest, I wasn’t scared of much. The only thing I was scared of was falling in love. It made you a liability. It made you weak. It gave your enemies something to use against you.

I didn’t consider myself someone important. But Ashmit was. I was his personal attack dog. If he said bite I had to chomp the hell out of whatever or whomever he set me on. Someone was going to make me pay for that. I couldn’t afford to have someone I cared about.

And then there was the guy who came to destroy my peace.

I kept my eyes closed but clenched my jaw. “What do you want tattle-tale?”

Nathaniel Drake chuckled. He was every bit the dragon he turned into; tall, broad and a halo of blonde hair on his head. He would be a great catch if only he wasn’t so persistent and possessive.

There wasn’t any other word for it. Nathaniel was easily jealous of anyone who came near me. He believed he had some dragon-y claim to me, like I was his mate or something. I didn’t feel the connection. Yeah, he was fun to have sex with but that was as far as I went with the King’s Counselor.

“Are you mad?” he breathed into my ear.

“More like pissed,” I snapped moving away from him.

“I’m sorry,” he said genuinely, pulling me back to him. “I just felt you may have needed someone to talk to.”

“No,” I said. “You wanted to control a situation that wasn’t yours to control in the first place.”

“Atalia—”

“You know, I’m getting really tired of people saying my name like that.”

Nathaniel sighed crossing his arms he leaned against the building and regarded me with curiosity. Almost as if he was tired of waiting just two seconds, he grabbed me and pushed me up against the brick wall. His denim blue eyes drilled into mine. He used his thigh to spread my legs apart.

“You drive me mad, Atalia,” he breathed as he slid his hands down the front of my jeans. His long fingers finding home with ease.

Normally, I would be a writhing mess. Recently, I hardly felt any satisfaction from him. It was like my Nathaniel switch was off. I moved his hand out of my pants.

“Enough,” I brushed my hair into place and shook my head at the perplexed look on his face. “This is the last time you try to use sex as a tool.”

“I wasn’t—”

I turned away to walk to the back parking lot where my bike was. I sensed Nathaniel following me but I was so over it by this point. My beautiful baby posed proudly under the lights of the streetlamps. The red glossy paint shone and the headlight winked at me. My Ducati was the best part of my day.

I slid onto the bike, the monster roared to life between my leather clad legs and the vibrations lit my body up with adrenaline.

“You cannot keep running away every time you see me,” he warned.

Watch me.

“Goodbye, Nathaniel,” I saluted and then revved my way out of the town-square.

I was done for the night.

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