Gideon focused on his quarry, seeing it with something more than just his eyes. He'd been born with a much stronger gift of sight: The preternatural ability to see living energy sources through solid mass.

For most of his long existence--three-and-a-half centuries and counting--his gift had been little more than a clever trick. A useless parlor game, something he'd valued far less than his skill with a sword. Since joining the Order, he'd honed his extrasensory talent into a weapon. One that had given him new purpose in life.

His sole purpose.

He used that ability now to guide him toward his current target. The Rogue he chased must have decided better of its notion to look for cover. No longer wasting precious seconds out of motion, the feral vampire veered sharply south in the building.

Through the brick and wood and steel of the sheltering walls, Gideon watched the fiery orb of the Rogue's energy shift direction, pushing deeper into the bowels of the run-down factory. Gideon trailed its flight on silent, stealthy feet. Past a chaos of tumbled sewing stations and toppled bolts of faded, rodent-infested fabric. Around a corner into a long, debris-scattered hallway.

Empty storage rooms and dank, dark offices lined the corridor. Gideon's target had fled into the passageway before making a hasty, fatal mistake. The Rogue's energy orb hovered behind a closed door at the end of the hallway--just a few scant feet from a window that would have dumped him onto the street outside. If Bloodlust hadn't robbed the vampire of his wits, he might have eluded death tonight.

But death had found him.

Gideon approached without making a sound. He paused just outside the door, turned to face it. Then kicked the panel off its hinges with one brutal stamp of his booted foot.

The impact knocked the Rogue backward, onto its back on the littered office floor. Gideon pounced, one foot planted in the center of the feral vampire's chest, the blade of his sword resting under its chin.

"M-mercy," the beast growled, less voice than animalistic grunt. Mercy was a word that had no meaning to one of the Breed lost to Bloodlust as deeply as this creature was. Gideon had seen that firsthand. The Rogue's breath was sour, reeking of disease and the over-consumption of human blood that was its addiction. Thick spittle bubbled in its throat as the vampire's lips peeled back from enormous, yellowed fangs. "Let me...go. Have...mercy..."

Gideon stared unflinching into the feral amber eyes. He saw only savagery there. He saw blood and smoke and smoldering ruin. He saw death so horrific, it haunted him even now.

"Mercy," the Rogue hissed, even while fury crackled in its wild gaze.

Gideon didn't acknowledge the plea. With a flex of his shoulder, he thrust the sword deep, severing throat and spinal column in one thorough strike.

A quick, painless execution.

That was the limit of his mercy tonight.

Chapter 3

Savannah arrived early at the Art History department that next afternoon. She couldn't wait for her day's final class to let out, and made a beeline across campus as soon as English Lit 101 ended. She dashed up the three flights of stairs to the archive room outside Professor Keaton's office, excited to see she was the first student to report in for the after-class project. Dumping her book bag next to her work table, she slipped into the storage room containing the items yet to be catalogued for the university's collection.

The sword was right where she'd left it the day before, carefully returned to its wooden case in the corner of the room.

Savannah's pulse kicked as she entered and softly closed the door behind her. The beautiful old blade--and the mysterious, golden-haired warrior who'd once used it with lethal skill--had been haunting her thoughts all this time. She wanted to know more. Needed to know more, with a compulsion too strong to resist.

She tried to ignore the little pang of guilt that stabbed her as she bypassed the bin of clean curator's gloves and sank down, bare-handed, in front of the container that held the sword.

She lifted the lid of the long box, gently laying it open. The length of polished steel gleamed. Savannah hadn't had the chance to really look at its craftsmanship yesterday, after it had fallen so unexpectedly into her hands.

She hadn't noticed then how the tooled steel grip was engraved with the image of a bird of prey swooping in for a brutal attack, its cruel beak open in a scream. Nor had she paid attention to the blade's gemstone pommel, a blood-red ruby caged by grotesque metal talons. A cold shiver ran up her arms as she studied the weapon now.

This was no hero's sword.

And still, she couldn't resist the need to know more about the man she'd watched wield it in her glimpse from before.

Savannah flexed her fingers, then gently rested them on the blade.

The vision leapt into her mind even faster than the first time.

Except this was a different peek at the weapon's past. Something unexpected, but equally intriguing in a different way.

A pair of young boys--tow-headed, identical twins--played with the sword in a torchlit stable. They could be no more than ten years old, both dressed like little seventeenth-century lords in white linen shirts, riding boots and dark blue breeches that gathered at the knee. They were laughing, taking turns with the sword, stabbing and lunging at a bale of straw, pretending to slay imaginary beasts.

Until something outside the stable startled them.

Fear filled their young faces. Their eyes went to each other, dread-filled, panicked. One of them opened his mouth in a silent scream--just as the torch on the wall of the stable went out.

Savannah recoiled from the blade. She let go of it, shaking, gripped with a marrow-deep terror for these two children. What happened to them?

She couldn't walk away. Not now.

Not until she knew.

Her fingers trembled as she brought them back over the blade again. She set her hands down on the cold steel, and waited. Though not for long.

The window to the past opened up to her like a dragon's maw, dark and jagged, an abyss licked with fire.

The stable was ablaze. Flames climbed the stalls and rafters, devouring everything in their path. Blood bathed the rough timber posts and the bale of yellow straw. So much blood. It was everywhere.

And the boys...

The pair of them lay unmoving on the floor of the stable. Their bodies were savaged, broken. Barely recognizable as the beautiful children who'd seemed so joyous and carefree. So alive.

Savannah's heart felt trapped in a vise, cold and constricted, as this awful glimpse played out before her. She wanted to look away. She didn't want to see the terrible remains of the once-beautiful, innocent twin boys.

Ah, God. The horror of it choked her.

Someone had killed those precious boys, slaughtered them.

No, not someone, she realized in that next instant.

Some thing.

The cloaked figure that held the sword now was built like a man--an immense, broad-shouldered wall of a man. But from within the gloom of a heavy wool hood, glowing amber eyes burned like coals set into a monstrous, inhuman face. He wasn't alone. Two others like him, dressed similarly in hooded, heavy cloaks, stood with him, parties to the carnage. She couldn't make out their features for all the shadows and the flickering, low light of the flames twisting up the walls and support beams of the stable.

Not human, her mind insisted. But if not human, then what?

Savannah tried to get a better look as the image of the boys' attackers began to waver and dissolve.

No. Look at me, damn you.

Let me see you.

But the glimpse started splintering, visual shards that broke into smaller pieces, turning this way and that. Slipping out of her grasp. Distorting what she saw.

It had to be a trick of her unsteady hold on her gift.

Because what she was seeing from this vision of the past couldn't possibly be real.

From within the deep hood of the one now holding the sword, the pair of glowing eyes blazed bright amber. And in the instant before the image vanished completely, Savannah would have sworn on her own life that she saw the bone-white glint of razor-sharp teeth.


What the...?

A hand came down on her shoulder. Savannah shrieked, nearly jumping out of her skin.

"Take it easy!" Rachel laughed as Savannah swung her head around. "Don't have a damn heart attack. It's just me. Jeez, you look like you just saw a ghost."

Savannah's pulse was hammering hard, her breath all but gone. She had no voice to answer her roommate, could only stare up at her mutely. Rachel's gaze went to the sword. "What are you doing in here by yourself? Where did that come from?"

Savannah cleared her throat, now that her heart had finally vacated the area. She pulled her hands away from the blade, hiding them so Rachel wouldn't see how they shook. "I...I found it yesterday."

"Is that a ruby in the handle of that thing?"

Savannah shrugged. "I think so."

"Really? Far out!" She leaned in for a better look. "Let me see it for a second."

Savannah almost warned her friend to be careful, that she wouldn't want to see what Savannah had just witnessed. But that gift--a curse, today--belonged solely to her.

Savannah watched as Rachel picked up the blade and admired it. Nothing happened to the girl. She had no inkling of the horrific past secreted in the centuries-old weapon.

" you believe in monsters?"

"What?" She burst out laughing. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Nothing." Savannah shook her head. "Forget it. I'm just kidding."

Rachel gripped the sword in both hands and pivoted on her heel, taking on a dramatic combat pose. Her wristful of thin metal bangle bracelets jingled together musically as she mock thrusted and parried with the blade. "You know, we shouldn't be handling this thing without gloves on. God, it's heavy. And old too."

Savannah stood up. She plunged her hands into the pockets of her flared jeans. "At least two hundred years old. Late 1600s would be my guess." More than a guess, a certainty.

"It's beautiful. Must be worth a fortune, I'll bet."

Savannah shrugged. Gave a weak nod. "I suppose."

"I don't remember seeing this on the collection's inventory list." Rachel frowned. "I'm gonna go show it to Bill. I can't believe he would've missed this."


Rachel rolled her eyes. "Professor Keaton. But I can't very well call him that tonight on our date, now, can I?"

Savannah knew she was gaping, but she didn't care. Besides, it was nice having something else to think about for a moment. "You're going out with Professor Keaton?"

"Dinner and a movie," Rachel replied, practically singing the words. "He's gonna take me to that scary new one that just came out. The Chainsaw Massacre."

Savannah snorted. "Sounds romantic."

Rachel's answering smile was coy. "I'm sure it will be. So, don't wait up for me at the apartment tonight. If I have anything to say about it, I'm gonna be late. If I come home at all. Now, hand me the case for this thing, will you?"

Savannah obliged, giving a slow shake of her head as Rachel donned a pair of curator's gloves and gently placed the awful weapon back inside the slim wooden box. Tossing Savannah a sly grin, the girl turned and left.

When she had gone, Savannah exhaled a pent-up breath, realizing only then how rattled she was. She reached for her own pair of gloves and the notebook she'd filed on the shelf the day before. Her hands were still unsteady. Her heart was still beating around her breast like a caged bird.

She'd seen a lot of incredible things with her gift before, but never something like this.

Never something as brutal or horrific as the slaughter of those two children.

And never something that seemed so utterly unreal as the glimpse the sword had given her at a group of creatures that could not possibly exist. Not then, or now.

She couldn't summon the courage to give a name to what she witnessed, but the cold, dark word was pounding through her veins with every frantic beat of her heart.


Chapter 4

For almost a hundred years, the city of Boston had played unwitting host to a cadre of Breed warriors who'd sworn to preserve the peace with humans and keep the existence of the vampire nation--its feral, Bloodlust-afflicted members in particular--a secret from mankind. The Order had begun in Europe in the mid-1300s with eight founding members, only two of which remained: Lucan, the Order's formidable leader, and Tegan, a stone-cold fighter who played by his own rules and answered to no one.

They, along with the rest of the cadre's current membership--Gideon, Dante, Conlan and Rio--sat gathered at a conference table in the war room of the Order's underground headquarters late that afternoon. Gideon had just reported on his team's raid of the Rogue lair the night before, and now Rio was relaying the results of his solo recon mission on a suspected nest located in Southie.

At the head of the long table to Gideon's left, the Order's black-haired Gen One leader sat in unreadable silence, his fingers steepled beneath his dark-stubbled chin as he heard the warriors' reports.

Gideon's hands were not so idle. Although his mind was fully present for the meeting, his fingers were busy tinkering with a new microcomputer prototype he'd just gotten a hold of a few days ago. The machine didn't look like much, just a briefcase-sized metal box with small toggle switches and red LED lights on the front of it, but damn if it didn't get his blood racing a bit faster through his veins. Almost as good as ashing a Rogue. Hell, it was almost as good as sex.

Not that he should remember what that was, considering how long it had been since he'd allowed himself to crave a woman. Years, at least. Decades, probably, if he really wanted to do the math. And he didn't.


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