Noble Blood

 The Gray Court - 2


Dana Marie Bell


To Mom, who only heard half of a racy conversation between her kids and turned it that much raunchier. (Dildos, lesbians and supplements? And you say Memom has a dirty mind!)

To Dad, who introduced me to Kahlua and eggnog during the holidays. Yum!

To Dusty, who encourages breeding among my plot bunnies. When I tell him the bunnies need to go back in the hutch and wait their turns, he laughs. Then he puts a new bunny in the hutch and waits for the fun to begin. Love you, sweetheart.

And to all the readers who wrote to me after my surgery to wish me a speedy recovery, thank you. You guys are the best.

Chapter One

New York City, 100 years ago…

Jaden Blackthorn shivered in the darkness, his eyes glued to the cat spitting and hissing in the corner of the alleyway. Damn, he was so hungry. But the thought of feeding from a human, of doing what he’d asked him to do, turned his stomach. Jaden couldn’t kill that way.

He just couldn’t.

They’d laughed at him, the poor little half-breed who’d refused to feed, refused to fight. Refused to kill. Then they’d kicked his ass out into the night and wished him a quick death. It was the best he could hope for, too, because he was an abomination now, something to be feared, someone to be hunted. He could never go home again. He was what his Sire called leanan sidhe.

He was death.

A crimson tear slid down his cheek. The end was near. If he didn’t feed soon he would be left with only two choices. Sit in the sun and die, or let go, let the creature within control him and feed until some knight of the so- called White Court found him and put him out of his misery.

He almost wished one of them would. He was adrift, lost in a world that had never accepted him from the day of his birth. His white father had abandoned his Seneca mother before he was ever born, his mother passing away when he was only ten years old. He’d grown up in one of the state run orphanages, lived there for six years before he was turned out. He’d slowly worked his way across the state before finally landing in New York City at the age of twenty, only to find things were far worse than he’d ever imagined they would be. He’d managed to eke out a living before he’d met his Sire, but it had been hungry work, and bleak.

His Sire had taken him, turned him against his will and offered him a place, a way to belong, something he’d never before had. Jaden had been tempted by his dark promises that he would never be alone again. He couldn’t deny that. But the price of belonging to his new “family” was higher than Jaden was willing to pay.

He could still hear his Sire’s voice in his head. “When you’re hungry enough, you will be back.”

No. He wouldn’t. Not ever.

He could hear the cat’s heartbeat, terror making it race. He couldn’t wait much longer or the poor creature would suffer even more than it was already going to. He didn’t want to kill the creature, but what choice did he have? His Sire had told him the only way he could feed was to kill his prey.

Damn it to hell and back again. Jaden liked cats. This one was just as dirty, scared and hungry as he was. He stared into the green eyes, willing the creature to calm down, trying to ease its fears before he was forced to fight it.

His newly sensitive ears picked up the sound of laughter at the end of the alley. He ducked back into the shadows, praying whoever it was wouldn’t see him in all his dirty glory.

The cat meowed, the sound pitiful and starved, curious now that the predator in Jaden was no longer focused on it.

One of the pair of footsteps paused. “Father? Would you excuse me for a moment?”

Shit. The voice belonged to one of the rich types who sometimes slummed in this neighborhood. He could tell by the smooth voice, rich as cream, deep and full of confidence. The idiot was going to get himself killed if he wasn’t careful. Jaden bit back the bout of hysterical laughter. He pushed back even farther into the shadows, his back hitting the harsh bricks, their pinprick unevenness scratching him through the thin material of his cotton shirt. His eyes darkened to deepest black, the whites all but gone. He could feel the flames of his hunger dancing inside his pupils.

Please. Please don’t come down this alley.

The heartbeat of the man was strong, the barest hint of blood tickling Jaden’s nostrils. The man had cut himself at some point during the day and cleaned the wound, washing off the blood, but not enough.

Not nearly enough.

The rich, tangy scent called to him in a way the poor cat never could. There was something there, something different. Something he’d never scented before that had saliva pooling in his mouth. He battled his hunger, desperate to hold off the inevitable.

Why hadn’t he fed off the cat? Some stranger’s life was in danger because he had been too pathetic to even kill a cat.

“Here, kitty kitty.”

Jaden blinked, stunned. The man was calling…to the cat?

“It’s all right, little one. I won’t hurt you.”

Jaden shuddered. The man’s voice nearly had him walking out of the shadows and into his light. The promise of safety in that voice was almost his undoing.

The scent of the man’s blood would mean his death.

“Go away,” he whispered, barely aware he’d spoken. He closed his eyes tight. “Please go away.” God, his teeth ached.

The sound of the man’s footfalls stopped. “Who is there?” Wariness had entered that rich voice.

Jaden didn’t understand why he was compelled to answer, but he did. “Nightmares. Go away.”

“Come out where I can see you.”

Jaden smiled. If he came out the man would never leave this alley. “No.”

“I will not hurt you.”

At that Jaden laughed. “No. But I might hurt you, and I do not want to do that.”

“I doubt you could hurt me, little one.”

Jaden growled. Little one? His fangs descended. That tantalizing scent of blood was closer now. How had the man approached without Jaden hearing it? “I am not a little one.” I am a monster.

“No, I can see that.”

Jaden gasped, his head rapping against the brick wall. There, in front of him, was one of the most beautiful men he’d ever seen. Blond hair framed a face sculpted by the angels themselves. Strong, masculine, the expression full of compassion, it was a face meant to grace the most elegant dining rooms. Jaden felt small and ugly by comparison. The man’s shoulders were wide, his hands strong, the fingers lean. Those fingers reached up and tipped up Jaden’s chin, taking in every nuance of his face. The black, inhuman eyes, the fangs, the dirt and the bloody tears all proclaimed Jaden’s inhumanity. His long black hair was matted with filth and he stank to high heaven. By all rights the man should be reeling in horror and disgust.

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