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Drake is a Killer vampire.
Unlike the Guardians of the Night, Drake feeds on human blood, choosing victims who deserve to die. But still he works with the Guardians to protect those humans who yet have some good in them.
When Gabriel, the leader of the Baltimore Guardians, mysteriously disappears, Drake finds himself in charge of a small band of inexperienced fledgling vampires. When a delegation of European Killers arrives in Baltimore looking for Gabriel, Drake must call on all the savagery of his sordid past to keep the Guardians in line―and to protect them from the ruthless Killers.
Forced to confront a past he has tried so hard to outrun, Drake risks losing his humanity. His only hope is Faith, the French Seigneur's concubine, who desperately needs his help to rescue her human sister from the Seigneur's clutches. Then someone begins killing the members of the European vampire delegation, and Drake is the only suspect. Will Drake be saved by love, or will he become a Killer without a conscience?
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Author Jenna Black writes paranormal romance books and young adult novels, including Shadowspell and Watchers in the Night, which was nominated for the 2006 Paranormal Excellence in Romantic Literature (PEARL) award. She's your typical writer: an experience junkie. Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush and making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. She went to Duke University to study physical anthropology. Then, during her senior year, she made a shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating. Narrowly escaping the boring life of a primatologist, she moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. Among her other experiences: ballroom dancing, traveling to all seven continents--yes, even Antarctica--becoming a Life Master in Bridge, and singing in a barbershop chorus.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Hungers of the Heart
DRAKE HAD BEEN living in Baltimore for almost a month, and he still hadn't fully moved in to his new house. The place had belonged to a fledgling Killer Gabriel had dispatched when he'd taken over as Master of Baltimore, and no one had set foot in it since its owner's death. So far, Drake had spent most of his time cleaning out the detritus of six months' neglect and repairing the worst of the damages. It appeared the former occupant hadn't been much of a handyman. Or a housekeeper.
Tonight's task was to get rid of the hideous peeling wallpaper in the first-floor bathroom. He'd feared he'd have to steam it off--a tedious and time-consuming process--but when he started pulling at one of the strips, it tore away easily from the wall. Unfortunately, the wall beneath the wallpaper was painted a dreadful shade of puke green. Drake was beginning to hate this damn house.
He'd just torn off the last strip of wallpaper--along with a big patch of the ugly green paint--when his doorbell rang. He stuffed the wallpaper into the trash, then tried to rinse some of the sticky, pasty mess off his hands as the doorbell rang again, repeatedly. A quick psychic survey told him there was a vampire on his doorstep. He hoped it wasn't Gabriel--he was feeling too surly right now to keep his tongue under control, and Gabriel usually rubbed him the wrong way within the first five minutes of any conversation.
His hands were still sticky, and he would probably have to use Lava soap to get all the paste off, but whoever was ringing the bell didn't seem eager to wait.
Drake exited the bathroom and headed for the front door, realizing it couldn't be Gabriel. If Gabriel wanted in this badly, he would have used his telekinetic powers to unlock the door. The doorbell was now accompanied by the sound of a fist hammering against the wood.
"I'm coming!" Drake shouted as he hurried through the living room, temper flaring. He doubted whoever was at the door could hear over the constant ringing and banging.
He didn't bother looking through the peephole, instead flinging the door open as soon as he'd unlocked the last lock.
The temper that had been simmering in his chest died down instantly when he saw Jezebel, Gabriel's fledgling and lady-love, standing on his doorstep with red-rimmed eyes and tear tracks on her cheeks. Now that she wasn't pounding on the door anymore, her arms were crossed over her chest and her shoulders hunched in what looked like a defensive position. She looked small and miserable and frightened, and foreboding buzzed through Drake's body. He quickly stepped aside to let her in.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Jez stood in the foyer and shivered. "Gabriel's missing."
Drake frowned, then took her by the arm and guided her into the living room. She didn't seem capable of moving on her own, and her eyes were distant, as if only a fraction of her attention was focused in this room. He had to press down on her shoulders to get her to sit on the couch. Then he took a seat next to her.
"What do you mean, missing?" he asked.
She blinked, and her eyes finally focused on his face. She shivered again. "I mean I can't find him anywhere, and when I try to communicate with him, I get nothing."
By some quirk of Gabriel's unusual birth, his bond with Jezebel was much closer than the usual bond between a master and fledgling. They were able to sense each other's emotions to some extent, and they were able to communicate telepathically.
"I can still ... feel him. He's alive. But I can't reach him." She looked at Drake with wide, frightened eyes. "What can that mean?"
"Maybe he's blocking you for some reason." Drake could well imagine Gabriel trying to block her out if he was doing something she wouldn't like. But Jezebel shook her head.
"This feels different."
"Did he have any plans for the day that you know of?" Another of the many differences between Gabriel and "normal" vampires was his ability to tolerate the sunlight. Most vampires grew progressively more tolerant as they aged, but Gabriel had been able to travel about as freely as a mortal man since puberty.
A tear leaked from Jezebel's eye and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. "Not that he told me. He came to bed with me this morning, and when I woke up at sunset, he was gone." She sniffed loudly, then swallowed back tears. "We have to find him."
"I assume you tried calling his cell?"
She gave him a look of pure annoyance. "Of course I did."
He made a placating gesture with one hand. "I was just making sure. You looked pretty distraught when I first opened the door." She still looked miserable and frightened, but she wasn't much of a weeper. When the initial shock wore off, she would leap into action with reckless abandon. It was the "reckless" part that worried him.
"If someone's hurt him," she said, "I'll kill them."
Jez wasn't a Killer. In fact, as far as Drake knew, she'd never killed anyone, mortal or vampire. But the look in her eyes said she meant what she said.
"Let's not jump to conclusions just yet," he counseled. "Gabriel's damn hard to hurt. I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason you can't reach him right now. He'll probably be in touch soon. It's only been, what, forty minutes or so since sunset? Maybe time got away from him and he hasn't realized you're awake yet."
But Jez shook her head. "If he were planning to go out, he would have told me. Especially if he was going so far away we couldn't communicate."
Drake wasn't so sure. Gabriel was an autocratic, controlling bastard, and though there was no question he loved Jez, Drake could think of any number of reasons why he'd neglect to share his plans with her.
Jez skewered him with a piercing stare. "Did he tell you he was planning to be away?"
The thought was laughable--Gabriel wasn't big on sharing. "He didn't mention anything."
Jez looked suspicious. "I'd better not find out this is some kind of male conspiracy to protect my delicate sensibilities."
Drake couldn't help smiling. "You won't. I swear, he didn't confide in me. But I still think it's too early to get upset. I'm sure he wouldn't intentionally worry you like this, but he's as capable of making a mistake as the next man. Why don't we head back to your place and wait to see if we hear from him?"
She leapt to her feet with an impatient grunt. "I can't just sit around and wait!" She started toward the door, but Drake cut her off before she reached it. She was more on edge than he'd realized, because she actually lowered her fangs and growled at him. "Get out of my way, Drake."
He kept his voice low and soothing. "Hold on a minute. You can't just go dashing off by yourself without a plan."
"Watch me," she snapped, trying to dodge around him.
If Gabriel really was in some kind of trouble, then Jez was clearly no match for the enemy. And whether Gabriel was in trouble or not, if Drake let her rush into danger, Gabriel would kill him. He once again blocked her path, this time grabbing her arms to hold her still.
Her eyes practically glowed with fury. "Let go."
Of course, if he manhandled Jez in an attempt to keep her here, Gabriel would probably object to that, too.
"Please, Jezebel," he said, trying to imbue his voice with all the calming, soothing qualities Eli always did. "Let's go back to your house first and make certain he hasn't called and left a message. If he hasn't, we'll go looking for him together."
Without some clue as to where he might have gone, it would be a fruitless search, but perhaps it would appease Jezebel long enough for her good sense to return. Drake let go of her arms while holding her gaze.
Her fangs withdrew as he watched, but there was still an unmistakable glint of anger in her eyes. "All right," she agreed, her voice clipped and brusque. "But don't get in my way again. Understand?"
"Sure," Drake agreed. He hoped it wouldn't come to that, but he'd do whatever he needed to do to keep her safe while Gabriel was gone.
With one more warning glare, Jez stepped around him and jerked his front door open.
AS LUCK WOULD have it, they didn't have to set foot in the house that Gabriel and Jez occupied to get their first inkling of what might have happened to him.
Drake didn't recognize the couple who were sitting on the steps leading up to the columned doorway of the palatial Federal Hill house. But from the way Jezebel gasped, he thought he could venture a guess as to their identity.
The woman was a petite, dark-haired beauty with a pale complexion. The V-neck of her clingy burgundy sweater revealed a great expanse of what would have been cleavage had she not had the breasts of a teenage boy. Sitting one step behind her was a sullen-looking young man in an expensive Italian suit, his shirt unbuttoned to display as much of his chest as the woman's.
The woman stood up gracefully despite a pair of stiletto heels that added four inches to her height. Her companion remained sitting, his eyes now fixed on Jezebel. The smile on his face was best described as unwholesome. He ran his tongue suggestively over his full lips.
Jezebel ignored the man, instead coming to a stop with her legs shoulder width apart, her arms akimbo. Drake stepped up beside her in silent support, keeping an eye on the dangerous-looking male.
The woman smiled, an incongruously sweet expression on her face...
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