The prompt this week was, "Don't look at me like that."
And, Marek and Brody's story continues . . .
Broken Promise, VII
Marek hated the way Brody shrank away from him. It was true. He was a breath away from taking off the Hunter’s head. But his mate didn’t need to know that. “On your feet,” he said to the Hunter. “Your false honor is more of an insult than rising against me.”
The Hunter vampire rose to his feet and backed away, putting Julian between himself and Marek. It infuriated Marek that the Hunter trusted his brother—a mercenary—but not him.
“We didn’t rise against you,” the Hunter said.
“Then your knives are for play?” Marek said, barely controlling his anger.
“Protection,” the Hunter said. “Breeders think nothing of slaying us and making it look as if our clans make war with each other.”
“I grant you audience. Come to my home alone.”
“Why?” Julian said. “He’s here. You’re here.” He pushed the Hunter in front of him. “Talk.”
The male hesitated. He peered into the snow dunes beyond the truck, as if he wanted to hide inside them.
“What can be worse than what you’ve already done?” Marek said in a quiet voice.
The male whispered a word.
“What?” If Julian had been impatient a moment ago, he was well beyond that now. His hand fell to the hilt of his knife. “I didn’t hear you. Say it again,” he said.
“Farms.” A drop of blood-sweat rolled down the Hunter’s temple. He wiped it away, glanced at Julian. “One compound is complete. Hidden. Underground.”
Farming humans for blood was a capital crime. Marek enforced the law ruthlessly. He gave Julian and his mercenaries free reign to execute any vampire found doing it.
Farms began as a small number of humans living with a vampire. When the humans realized they were walking blood banks, they tried to escape. But vampire farmers imprisoned them, then sold their blood to vampire criminals too well known to hunt in cities, where Warriors might find them. In small towns, a vampire was a stranger under suspicion the moment he crossed the town limits. Farms were much easier.
“The one that has been completed,” Marek said. “Is it in my territory?”
“Yes, my lord,” the Hunter said. At a hard look from Marek, the male hurried on. “We try to tell you, but your council ignores us. They say we bring them tales against the Breeders to bring down your anger on them.”
The Breeders—the vampires who ran the farms—had been at war with the Hunters for centuries. With the rise of cities, and the need to hide a war from human eyes, tactics had changed. Outright warfare had been replaced with accusations of farming or draining humans to feed. If Marek’s council found proof, executions followed.
“You don’t have farms?” Brody said.
“These are different,” Marek told him. He didn’t have the heart to tell Brody what happened on the farms. “Why haven’t I heard this from you?” he said to Julian.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Julian said. “You tell me to keep the peace. I do. You tell me and my warriors to stay out of a vampire’s business. We do. A crime’s a crime. We take care of it and move on.”
Marek turned his eyes to the Hunter, who’d backed away a step. “Bring him,” he said to Julian. “And when we arrive, brother, he had better be as healthy as he is this moment. Is that understood?”
“The Hunters threatened you,” Julian said. “And your mate.” He turned his flat dark eyes on the Hunter. “On his orders. Why should I let him live?”
Marek derived a small satisfaction from the surprise that came over the Hunter’s face. Julian was a mercenary, and he might fight Marek fang to fang, but to those he loved, Julian was loyal unto death.
The votes are in. Julian gets his own story. Coming soon. . .
Flashers on stage this week are. . . .
L. M. Brown (m/m)
Lily Sawyer (m/m)
RJ Scott (m/m)
Sui Lynn (m/m)
Pender Mackie (m/m)
Heather Lin (m/f)
Victoria Blisse (m/f)
Julie Hayes (m/m)