Shattered Circle

(The sixth book in the Persephone Alcmedi series)

A novel by Linda Robertson

For Deb and Steph,

friends long lost and then refound. When life is bad—and even when it’s good— you make it better.

Also, in fond memory of Heather.

You are missed.


Red-Caped Hero Thanks:

Shannon and Missy for beta-reading partials on short notice. And, additionally, Audra, Beth Anne, and Michelle for carb-a-licious Mock Nights and witty repartee.

It keeps me sane. . . .

Java and Chocolate Thanks:

To the gals—and guy—at for the fun weekly post topics.

Margarita Thanks:

Hagatha’s Bluff

Reverent Gratitude:

For the Many-named Muse. Keep rockin’!


Giovanni Guistini sat rigidly before the fireplace in his private rooms, teeth clenched, seething.

Franciscus Meroveus and the Excelsior had made a damned fool of him.

He squeezed his hands into fists so tight that his fingernails pierced his own flesh.

Yes, I agreed to assume the Quartermaster’s duties; I took what glory had belonged to Menessos, just as Menessos once took my throat.

His pride had gotten the best of him; he saw that clearly now.

As an advisor to the Excelsior he was a man of wise counsel, accustomed to rank and privilege. He was not a bureaucratic nanny meant to settle childish quarrels between subordinate vampires who should be able to resolve a land dispute on their own. He was not accustomed to preparing paperwork, writing reports, or dealing with the many petty matters of managing a haven, let alone overseeing the havens in a quarter of the nation. It had become swiftly evident that the Quartermaster’s position was one for a businessman, not a warrior.

Giovanni had backed down.

He hated losing. Anything, even death, was preferable to admitting a defeat.

That trait had been with him in life, and remained with him yet.

Presently, drops of blood welled into his palms, but he noticed no pain. Neither did he note the wetness nor the coppery scent.

The Vampire Executive International Network—VEIN—had become weak. Executives. The word left a foul taste in his mouth.

The men of the modern world fight with words, with mandates and policies. The vampires have been lured into the paper power play.

VEIN needs warriors. But how can they have warriors when even the Excelsior himself—the “Supreme” vampire—is nothing but a corporate stiff? He plays their game when instead he should cast off his Italian suit and show himself to be the fearsome monster that all the mortal humans assume he is. . . . Then they would cower at his feet, and he could rule the world.

But he lacks the vision. He has no desire for true supremacy. He is guided by plotting diplomats like Meroveus.

I was a leader among men once, and all I needed was a sharp weapon to wield.

That ended in 1453, when Menessos set his fangs into the soft flesh of Giovanni’s neck, viciously tore it open . . . and left him to die.

It seemed the great failure of his past life had been reborn in his present. Nothing was happening as he’d hoped. The doom he’d envisioned for his enemy—Menessos condemned to a cell, locked in chains with only the corpse of his traitorous witch as company—had not transpired.

His already clenched teeth ground tighter as he brooded over his recent defeats.

Then a noise drew Giovanni’s eyes from the dying embers.

A shadowy figure lurked on his balcony.

He rose from his seat, intrigued.

Because of the lofty position he had held as a man, people often sought to appease him to gain his favorable influence. Even in service to the Excelsior, there were times when a vampire endeavored to befriend him for the sole purpose of leverage. Bitter lessons had calloused his heart, but the emotional disconnect enabled him to rise in rank and power. Suspicion and deception had enabled him to keep it.

Cautiously, he stepped toward the open French doors.

The cloud cover passed and the moon’s glow created an outline of quicksilver that highlighted a woman’s figure, chest heaving as if she couldn’t catch her breath. Giovanni might have thought her an assassin, but she was not even trying to hide her presence, and she was definitely not dressed for stealth. As she posed in a half turn, the lunar light created a satiny sheen across her evening gown.

It had been many centuries since a woman coveted him enough to assert herself—but this was clearly no ordinary woman: His balcony was nine floors above the street.

He yearned to be desired, but he well knew how revolting his disfigurement was. The heat of his longing cooled as wariness gripped him. What woman would come to me for me?

His doubt tripled as the silver-gray of the gown and the raven-black tresses clicked in his memory to reveal his visitor’s identity: Liyliy. The oldest, boldest, and most beautiful of the three shabbubitum.

Daughters of a king, she and her sisters had been blessed with the power of truth-sight, but a curse had doubled their power and turned them into something more harpy than human. Centuries later, according to the legend, their power tripled when they were Made vampires. Bearing substantial power, the dangerous trio had been bound into stone millennia before Giovanni was even born in mortal life. When the idea of freeing them arose as a means to evaluate the loyalties of Menessos, he had pushed for their release, eager for them to bring destruction to his enemy’s door.

For over five hundred years, his rage had boiled, steeping his craving for revenge in bitter spite. He’d come so close . . . and failed. He wanted to wage war upon Menessos and leave everything the vampire had ever built, or ever loved, in ruins.

Now, seeing Liyliy before him, that vindictive need to retaliate reared up as never before. If this potent shabbubitu stood at his side, his vengeance might be possible.

“Come, Liyliy.” He opened his hands and gestured toward the open doors, inviting her into his rooms. Only then did he feel the pain in his palms and realize blood was dripping from his self-inflicted wounds.

He squeezed his hands into fists again, trying to hide the blood. When first he’d seen Liyliy’s human form, he’d desired her. He even admired her true owlish form for its deadly attributes as a swift-moving, sharp-taloned weapon. Beauty, anger, and power in one . . . she was a tantalizing creature. He did not want to appear foolish in her eyes.

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