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Taken by the Vampire King

By:Laura Kaye

Taken by the Vampire King
Laura Kaye

       Vampire Warrior Kings 03

Chapter 1

"I am dying," Henrik Magnusson said. "We all know it." Standing at the   head of the council table, he looked over the grim faces of his   warriors, most of them suddenly fascinated by the three-hundred-year-old   expanse of spruce in front of them. He didn't blame them for the   avoidance. It was hard to stare mortality in the face, especially when   your kind was supposed to be immortal. "It's time to talk succession."

Jakob's gaze shot up, anger and resolution burning in his blue eyes. "It   is not. My lord," he added as an afterthought. "We will bring in more   Proffered."

Over the past decades, they'd brought in many virginal human women   trained to serve the blood needs of the vampire warrior class to cure   him. Not only had he not found a mate to sustain him, he'd never once   blood-matched with any of the women. And their blood, at best, provided   only a temporary alleviation of his inexplicably deteriorating   condition. It had gotten to the point that he barely found blood   palatable anymore. "We will. But it will not likely work. My death is an   eventuality for which we must plan."

Jakob shoved up from his chair. "I will not rest until we find the one   who can..." Save you. The words hung in the cool air and bounced between   the gray, stone walls as if the warrior, Henrik's brother and the sole   heir to the throne, had shouted them. He shook his head and met the  hard  gaze of each of his brothers-in-arms. "We will not give up."

Murmurs of agreement rumbled through the room.

Henrik slammed his fist upon the table and flashed his fangs. "I. Am. Dying!"

The room and every vampire in it went preternaturally still. Jakob's   expression was frozen somewhere between grief and rage. Breathing hard,   Henrik willed the tension from his shoulders. The blood of a Proffered   was a stabilizing force that guaranteed a vampire's immortality and   humanity. But it had been a long time since Henrik's body had processed   blood that way, so he'd steadily been losing both-and the past year had   been the worst of all. When the rages came, he struggled to control   them, and he was walking a very fine line right now.

Henrik stared at his brother a long moment. The male appeared a much   younger version of himself. He possessed the blond hair Henrik had   before his mysterious ailment had turned it nearly white. And Jakob's   eyes remained a dark, turbulent blue, like the color of the seawater   that flowed through the many fjords snaking through their native   Norwegian lands, while Henrik's had dulled to pale blue ice.

"Goddamnit." The king stalked away from the table and crossed to the   uncovered windows along the far wall. The polar night afforded them the   luxury of leaving open this portal to the outside world. For three   months each year, the sun never rose, turning the north lands into the   perfect home for a vampire. But as with all things, the full darkness of   Mørketid ended, bringing a month of Seinvinter, when daylight slowly   returned in advance of the sun once again cresting the horizon. Tomorrow   was Soldagen, the first day of sunlight's return. The day marked the   end of the last polar night Henrik would likely ever see.

He braced his hands against the ledge and stared up at the undulating   lights in the night sky. Within the diffuse green of the aurora borealis   was a sharp-edged curtain of rare-and ominous-red.

"Even the lights foretell my fate," he said, forcing calm into his   voice. He turned back to his warriors, every one of whom would've laid   down his life for Henrik if they could. Jakob remained standing, stance   ready, muscles braced. His dogged determination would make him a good   king. And since only seven vampire warrior kings remained around the   world, Henrik would do everything he could to ensure his brother   ascended to the throne with the full support of these males. "I require a   vow from each of you. Follow and honor Jakob upon my death as you have   followed and honored me these past four centuries."

For a long moment, no one reacted. And then Erik pushed up out of a chair.

Jakob's face went red, his fangs punching out. "Erik-"

The warrior held up a hand. "What my king asks of me I am more than   willing to give." He crossed the room, met Henrik's gaze and sank to one   knee. Henrik held out the hand adorned with the ring that bore his   family's royal crest. Erik grasped his fingers. "I pledge my allegiance   to Jakob Magnusson to ascend to the throne as Warrior King of the   Northern Vampires upon the end of your reign. As a warrior, as a male of   honor, I give my vow." Erik kissed the ring.                       


Henrik nodded as the warrior rose. One by one, the others followed suit.   Lars, Kjell, Jens, Marius. Each gave Jakob an apologetic look before   crossing the room and vowing to support him when the time came for his   brother to die. Their steadfast loyalty eased the turmoil that had   become a constant presence in Henrik's veins. He couldn't control his   mysterious malady, but this, this he could control. When he left this   world for Valhalla, he wanted to know he'd done everything he could to   leave his brethren strong and whole.

After all, the war with their ancient enemies, the Soul Eaters, would not cease just because he no longer lived to fight it.

When the last of them had given their vow, Henrik met each of their   gazes. "Thank you, old friends. Now, head out on patrol. The town fills   with tourists for the festival and we must do as we've always done and   stand ready to defend the humans against evil should the need arise."

The Soul Eaters-so named for stealing the souls of their human victims   by draining them through the last stutter of their hearts-were equally   attracted to night's reign in the north. And the influx of thousands of   visitors for Tromsø's annual Nordlysfestivalen combined with the last   days of darkness often made the Soul Eaters even more brazen than usual.

The warriors filed out of the room, quiet and solemn. All except Jakob,   who remained in the exact same place since he'd stood to offer his   protest. He braced his hands on his hips and shook his head, then slowly   made his way around the table until he stood before his king. Tension   rolled off the male in palpable waves. "You are giving up."

Malice shooting through his veins, Henrik got right in his face. "Nei, I am being realistic."

Jakob's blue eyes flashed. "Fuck realistic. Warriors fight." He jabbed his finger into Henrik's chest. "You have given up."

The king's fist was in motion before he'd even thought to respond. His   brother's head snapped back as blood exploded from his lip. The sight   further fueled the monster inside him, and Henrik struck again,   unleashing a rib-snapping punch to Jakob's side. The warrior staggered   but just managed to regain his footing before he fell. And still he   didn't raise his hands in return.

"Fight back!" Henrik swung again, delivering an uppercut to the jaw that slammed his brother against the stone wall.

"Nei," Jakob growled.

The next swing split open the warrior's cheek just below his eye.

"Fight back, damn you!"

Jakob held still against the wall. "Not until you do."

The words sank into Henrik's rational consciousness and gave him pause.   He stumbled backward, one step, two, until he crashed into one of the   chairs at the large table. And then the battle was all in his head   between the two diverging sides of himself. Between the monster and the   man. The former was getting stronger every day, no matter how hard the   latter fought to rein it in.

He dropped his forehead into his hands and curled his fingers into fists   in his hair. He was so thirsty. Emptiness ached into the depths of his   very soul. Every tissue in his body screamed for sustenance, but what   was the use? Feeding brought him so little relief that the torment was   greater after each failed attempt.

A hand gripped Henrik's shoulder.

"Fight, brother," Jakob said, his tone strained. "Stay with me and fight."

The king mulled over the words for a long moment, their wisdom sinking   deep. No matter how desperate things looked, he had to hold it together.   He had to fight. If for no other reason than to prevent Jakob and the   others from being distracted out in the field by their worry for him.   "All right."