Psy-Vamps, Book 1
Ebook ISBN: 07675-02475
[ SciFi BDSM Romance, MFM ]
Tariah offeres herself up to cancel her father’s debt and save her family. She assumes she’ll be executed, but when bonded warriors Zerion and Arwyn give her the choice between life with them or death she chooses to live.
“Father, no! Let her go, please,” Tariah begged as she pulled on her father’s arm.
Their father held her youngest sister, Sandrea, by her long silky blonde hair. Sandrea whimpered, a choking sob escaping her. As the leader of their tribe Father was responsible for paying taxes to Golden City, but he’d been foolish with the village money.
“Don’t do this terrible thing. No one ever returns from the city. She doesn’t deserve to die for your crime,” Tariah pleaded.
Sandrea reached for Tariah. Their fingers touched, but her father yanked the younger girl away. Her sister hadn’t even had her first woman’s blood.
A blast of cold air rushed in as Father pulled the door open. Sacrificing a child for his sins didn’t seem to bother him. He pulled Sandrea from the house and out into the muddy lane.
Five other girls stood silently as they watched their baby sister being dragged from the hut. Big, haunted eyes watched the scene, but no other sister appeared to have the courage to fight for Sandrea. Hunched with the weight of oppression they huddled together in the corner of the small cottage. Tariah would not hide with them. Not this time, and maybe never again. It was time one of them stood up to Father.
Tariah opened the door and looked outside. Sandrea’s soft robin’s egg blue dress was muddied carelessly as her father jerked her arm, causing her to stumble in her attempt to keep up with him. She lost her footing on the wet path. Tumbling, Sandrea landed on her side, but their father was relentless as he pulled her up by her hair.
Tariah had seen enough, but when she started to go out the door, her sister Evelia grabbed her arm. “Don’t try to stop him. There’s no hope. You heard what the elder said, one girl, just like the ancient ways. He’s lived longer than anyone else in the village.” She stopped talking and glared at Tariah. “Surely, the old one would know how to rectify this and keep us safe. If Father can’t come up with the money they’ll take one girl or the village burns. Sandrea is of least value to his house. He can’t take another man’s child since it was his crime that brought the riders here.”
Tariah shook off Evelia’s hold. “He’s not taking her. When his second wife died birthing her I took her into my heart. She’s like my own daughter, and you know it. Not her, anyone but her.”
Evelia’s eyes filled with tears. “I love you, sister. We need you. Please don’t do this. Sandrea is a spoiled girl and without you she’ll never survive life in this house. Let her go, there’s nothing we can do.”
Tariah took a long last look at her sister before bounding out of the small cottage and into the mud outside. She could hear riders coming. The scent of earth grinding under the hooves and early spring rain filled her senses. Electricity from the coming storm was palpable as the dangerous energy made the hair on her arms stand up. Thunder rolled in the distance.
She reached her father just as the riders came into view.
“Not her, please, Father. I have cooked and cleaned and cared for our family my whole life. I have been a good and obedient daughter. You decided to gamble away the tax money in hopes of profiting for yourself. Don’t take her away from me. Please.”
“I gambled for dowries. The gods have cursed me with a house full of daughters and no way to find them husbands. Sweet Sandrea is the prettiest of my brood, she will please him and free me from my obligation.”
Sandrea tried to break free, and Tariah reached for her sister. When the large horses and their riders came to a stop nearby Sandrea struggled even more desperately. Tariah grabbed her sister and managed to pull her away from their father. The young girl clung to Tariah, just as she had as a toddler. She ducked away from their father’s reach. He snarled out a curse and viciously backhanded Tariah. She took the blow, shielding her sister completely. Even dizzy and bleeding she managed to keep him from regaining his cruel grip on the girl.
“Get back to the house, Tariah, and stay out of men’s business,” Father demanded.
The biggest, scariest looking Warrior slid off his saddleless stallion. His body moved with fluid grace, belying his massive muscular build. Sandrea stilled beside her, just as transfixed by the terrifying male as she was. They clung to each other, frozen.
His face might have been handsome once, but a slash from his temple to his chin left him scarred. His black hair was long and he wore it tied back with a leather thong. The tight black body-hugging leather shirt and pants were the style of city dwellers, but he looked far too rugged to fit what she knew of those people.
“I’m scared,” Sandrea whispered. She stepped back behind Tariah.
“It’ll be all right,” Tariah cooed. Her father trembled, shrinking back as the warrior approached. The brand on the large man’s cheek, an eight-pointed star, proclaimed his status. This was a Psy Warrior, a man who drank the energy of his prey.
“What cause have you to hit this woman?” the Psy Warrior asked in a deep, baritone voice. The sound of him speaking rang with musical cadence. Tariah shivered.
“My lord,” her father addressed the warrior without meeting the man’s eyes, bowing. “My daughter was being belligerent. It’s a father’s duty to correct his wayward offspring.”
“It’s a man’s duty to control his rage.” The goliath didn’t sound forgiving. Heat rushed up Tariah’s neck to warm her face. No one had addressed her father for his abysmal treatment toward her before.
“I do not have your money. I offer you my own beloved blood daughter as payment.”
Tariah wasn’t letting this happen. She grabbed her sister’s hand. “Run!”
With a gasp Sandrea stumbled after her. Tariah held on tightly as she rushed away into the forest. The warriors might be big and have horses, but she had the advantage of knowing the territory.
“Try not to leave a trail. Step lightly and don’t break the foliage,” Tariah ordered breathlessly.
Sandrea didn’t respond. Her breath came out in short pants. She wasn’t as used to running as Tariah. They moved swiftly through the thick brush for several minutes without pursuit. Tariah wished she could go back to save her five other sisters, but right now Sandrea needed her. She hoped the others would have the sense to hide until the warriors were gone.
“Ahh, my ankle,” Sandrea screamed as she staggered. “Please stop.”
Tariah wanted to let the girl rest, but they didn’t have the luxury. She tugged her sister onward. A little pain now would spare her later. “We can’t stop.”
The lush green woodland enveloped them as they ran. The leaves were still damp from morning rain and the swirling mist. Dark clouds rolled overhead. A rumble far away warned of the coming afternoon storm. She’d always loved the pristine rugged beauty of the forest, but now the lonely branches tugged at her hair and clothing like claws, heightening the growing terror inside of her. Splendor gave way to horror. She didn’t risk a look back. Move. Keep going. Run. Her brain chanted a mantra of escape.
The sound of horses running close behind them sent Tariah’s heart pounding. The smell of animal sweat and crushed foliage accompanied the pursuers as the rumble of hooves shook the ground under her feet. Running was no longer an option. Tariah jerked her sister down and they crouched low.
Tariah noticed a shaft of light breaking through the clouds to reach the dim forest floor. A dead oak, hollow from where lightning had long ago split the trunk, stood near. The Gods smile on us. This corpse of what had once been a majestic tree was the perfect hiding place. She crawled in the slick debris of the cold ground. “Hurry, sister,” Tariah whispered as she arrived at the tree and curled herself tight. She reached out and pulled Sandrea close. Each breath froze in puffs as they peered out of the opening. Water dripped on them and the smell of decay mingled with the subtle scent of clean rain.
“Stay quiet,” Tariah whispered. “They’ll go past us.” Hiding was a gamble, but running promised loss.
Four horses ambled past as their riders skillfully navigated the clutter of fallen logs and brush. Tariah could see them, but prayed they couldn’t see her. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wooden refuge trembled with its power. The few tendrils of light died as the storm chased away the sun. Above the sky was almost as black as night. She shivered with the cold and her wet dress clung to her skin. Even with her sister’s combined body heat she had to bite her lip to keep her teeth from chattering and giving away their location.
Holding her breath, Tariah waited. Her sister’s trembling body and terrified eyes kept her strong. She couldn’t panic or they’d be lost to the demons.
A horse snorted near their hiding place. Sandrea’s thin body jerked. Tariah held her close while willing her to remain still and quiet. They were so close to salvation. The last rider needed to move out. She could taste freedom. When it was safe, she’d take Sandrea and leave the village. Her father was a cruel man. He’d never forgive this dishonor. Life would be hard, but they’d be alive and together.
The horse moved on. Tariah let out the breath she’d been unconsciously holding. Sandrea grinned, but then a flash of panic filled her expression. A small sneeze erupted from Sandrea’s tiny nose. Fear gripped Tariah’s heart. Gods save us and send the demons of our ancestors to protect us. If the gods were kind, the rider would be far enough away such a tiny sound would be lost in the noise of the horses. She closed her eyes and held her breath.
Pain radiated through Tariah as large hands reached into the tree to grab her. A scream tore from her and she fought. Sandrea’s eyes brimmed with tears. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed.
Somehow the soft words managed to reach Tariah as the warrior ripped her from her sister’s side. “Let us go!” Tariah shrieked as she struggled with every ounce of strength she possessed.
He held her so tight she couldn’t draw a full breath. “Stop!” growled a commanding male voice.
She stilled. When the brute let go, Tariah glazed up at the biggest alpha male she’d ever seen. The man had golden eyes and the telltale eight-pointed star of a Psy Warrior. Her breath caught in her throat. His blond hair, darkened from the mist, framed a masculine, yet beautiful, face. Terror made her pulse race. He’d kill her for running. His hand reached out and she flinched. Tariah’s eyes fluttered closed in anticipation of the blow.
“A true warrior would never strike an unarmed innocent. I never harm the weak.”
Tariah’s eyes opened. His kind was so much more glorious than any human could hope to be. There were women who sacrificed themselves happily just to be near such males. Her mouth went dry, but then her brain restarted.
“Never underestimate your prisoners.” She whispered the first rule of the greatest tome on war written by the Psy. His eyes widened.
Tariah kicked the brute holding her between his legs. The man released her as he dropped to his knees like a stone. Her hair hung heavy and limp from the moisture and tangled in her face. She pushed the wet strands back so she could see. Before the massive warrior could recover from his agony, she grabbed her sister’s hand and they started running.
Sandrea didn’t complain about her leg this time. Terror outweighed pain. Absolute panic kept them moving. The sound of their labored breathing and the swish of foliage roared in Tariah’s ears. She kept one arm out to push the branches and brambles away and her other hand held her sister as they ran heedlessly through the forest. A thorn slashed her cheek. A moment later, the warrior had them.
Tariah screamed as she was lifted, midstep, into the air. A different rider seized Sandrea off her feet. Sandrea flailed her arms, shrieking, and weeping as he pulled her up and over his horse.
“Let her go! Don’t hurt her,” Tariah screamed. She feared for her sister even as the warrior who possessed her dangled her precariously over the ground. If he lost his grip, she’d fall and most likely die. The warrior pulled her into his lap, just as the seam of her dress ripped and the fabric immodestly slipped off her shoulder. The warrior held her tighter.
“Lose your fear, woman. I won’t harm you.” His deep voice made her shiver. “How old are you?”
She didn’t want to respond, but something indefinable compelled her to. “Nineteen harvests this year.”
She glanced over at her sister and a lump formed in her throat as she watched another warrior pull Sandrea’s small, thin body up onto the huge beast he rode.
“Hold her tight!” Tariah ordered. “I will kill you if she’s harmed.”
The male holding her sister glanced over and gazed at Tariah with wide eyes and a slack jaw. The startled male gawked at her while her captor erupted in booming laughter. His loud amusement sent a flock of birds roosting in the branches overhead airborne.
Sandrea’s captor situated her firmly on the horse.
Tariah closed her eyes. The scent of the man holding her filled her with the strangest yearning. Each step of the beast under them shook Tariah and she found herself gripping the arm holding her as the powerful horses returned them far too quickly. Tariah bit her lip and inhaled deeply. When she opened her eyes her father and the village men stood in a line, waiting. Pure outrage tightened her father’s features.
Her people were farmers. If it came to a battle they’d be decimated by their mystical overlords.
Evelia stood in the doorway of the cottage. She held the other girls back, using her body as a blockade. Tears dripped from her cheeks. Unspoken goodbye haunted her sister and dearest friend’s sweet face. Tariah’s heart broke. This is not good. The chill in the air matched the cold she felt inside. Her soul was frozen. Today is the day I die.
The group of warriors halted before her father and the armed villagers. The man holding Tariah slid off his mount, taking her with him and depositing her on her feet. A small gasp escaped her and betrayed her fear. The warrior’s grip was firm, but he wasn’t hurting her. She tried to struggle out of his grip, but he didn’t release her.
When her father approached, he raised his hand to hit her. She turned her head to the side and closed her eyes. Her muscles were tight, her whole body anticipating the blow. The man grabbed her angry sire’s arm before his hand could make contact with her face.
“Do not harm what is mine,” rumbled the massive male. Tariah glanced up in surprise and realized he was the one with the scar she’d seen earlier. His stance was protective as he shielded her.
“Yours?” sputtered her father.
“Mine,” declared the warrior. He glared at the villagers. They took a collective step back, even her father.
Tariah stood pressed to his side, his hold firm. She smelled that oddly nice essence again and noticed how the black leather of his shirt stretched across his broad shoulders. Something indefinable was going on inside of her. The warrior’s size dwarfed her. She had heard tales of the magical seductive power of the psy people — psychic vampires that consumed the energy in human blood.
“This one is too old and plain. I won’t insult you. I have other daughters, take one of your choice if Sandrea doesn’t suit your taste.”
Turning, the warrior looked down at Tariah. A hint of a smile tugged the corners of his lips up and he pulled her a little tighter to him. Tariah shook. Mist clung to her eyelashes, causing her to blink. The precipitation became sporadic droplets of rain as thunder cracked overhead.
She shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. A Psy Warrior had just claimed her. Death marked her now. No human had ever returned from Golden City, their fortified city. Tears threatened, but she forced her eyes to remain dry.
“Tariah’s not your payment. She is.” Her father pointed at Sandrea, but lacked his normally authoritative tone. Sandrea let loose a panicked cry, enraging Tariah.
“Don’t do it, Father,” Tariah begged. His head snapped up and he gazed at her with surprise. “Don’t hurt her. It’s not her fault you hate me.”
A strange look came over her father’s face. “I don’t hate you, girl. My feelings have nothing to do with this decision. Everyone makes sacrifices for family. This is hers.”
“I don’t want that one,” the scarred warrior said as he glanced at her little sister. “I want this one.” He held Tariah so tight she couldn’t breathe.
Her father shook his head. “You can’t take her. Pick any of the others, but my eldest is not for barter.”
“Are you telling the Alpha Warrior he cannot have what he wants?” another of the psychic vampires stepped forward to ask in an incredulous voice.
“Stand down,” the warrior who’d claimed Tariah demanded. He didn’t look to see if he was obeyed, but the man fell back into line.
Shaking, her father managed to maintain eye contact with the bigger male. “Why do you want her? The others are much more… docile.”
Tariah glanced up at the warrior who’d just claimed her. He grinned widely. “I’ve never been fond of docile. She is mine.”
Fear pierced Tariah. This was really going to happen. There was no one who could stop this warrior from taking her.
If he didn’t like docile, she’d be docile, just to spite him. Tariah knew better. I don’t have it in my soul to be docile. She’d find another way to make him regret this.