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       House of Kings (House of Royals Book 3), p.1

           Keary Taylor
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House of Kings (House of Royals Book 3)


  Copyright © 2016 Keary Taylor

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system,

  without the prior written permission of the author.

  First Edition: March 2016

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Taylor, Keary, 1987-

  House of Kings (House of Royals) :

  a novel / by Keary Taylor. – 1st ed.

  Formatting by Inkstain Interior Book Designing

  www.inkstainformatting.com

  To buy any of Keary’s books, click HERE

  House of Royals

  House of Pawns

  House of Kings

  Branded

  Forsaken

  Vindicated

  Afterlife: the Novelette Companion to Vindicated

  The Bane

  The Human

  The Eve

  The Raid: an Eden Short Story

  The Ashes: an Eden Prequel

  Ever After Drake

  Moments of Julian

  Depths of Lake

  Playing it Kale

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  About Keary

  DEATH WAS TERRIFYING. EVEN THOUGH Samuel promised it would be the easy part.

  I suppose he was right in some ways. All I had to do was take a pill. All I had to do was make a stir, calling in two more vampires, let one of them sink their fangs into my neck. So in a way, death was easy.

  But this part. Resurrection. Coming back from the dead… This is hell.

  I was dead. Every cell in me died. Slowly cooled. Slowly stopped splitting and reproducing. Slowly slipped into oblivion.

  But now. Now. I feel acid slowly filling every crack of me back up, like I’m being re-inflated. Death and hell and thousand-year-old science breaking into every cell and crevice of my body—so supernatural—and entirely my reality.

  It’s the only sensation for a long time. I burn in acid, unable to escape my own body. Wishing for death’s comfortable arms once again.

  But then there are the sounds. Garbled. Incomprehensible. Frantic and demonic—deep, hissing, hurried—and oh so very, very loud.

  Next come the smells. Of age. That is most prominent. Old house. Old furniture. Old dust. Old bodies.

  And I can smell the blood. When I imagined this moment, I expected the thirst to be immediate. But even in my new, infantile state, I can tell the difference. The blood is of their…my kind. It isn’t what I crave.

  My throat burns.

  I burn.

  Burn a thousand moments. Burn a thousand years.

  I lay and wish for death.

  345,600 SECONDS AFTER I TRIED to end my life with a single pill, 345,600 seconds after I collapsed to the ground and a set of fangs sank into my neck, my eyes fly open.

  The dim light is blinding at first and my eyes sear in pain. A low, feral hiss rips from my chest as my hands fly to cover my eyes. I roll to the side, only to free-fall through the air for a fraction of a second—yet it feels like minutes—before a strong set of arms catches me.

  “Try to go slow and easy,” a smooth voice purrs into my ear.

  And all in a second, I take in every decibel of it, every smooth and calming emphasis. I take in the clarity. I hear the breath rattle through his lungs and I swear I feel the vibration of his vocal cords.

  My eyes open to see King Cyrus’ face.

  His hands firmly grip around my forearms as I settle awkwardly onto my feet. His glowing red eyes meet mine, and I see the search in them deepen.

  But I can’t concentrate. Not when the burning in my body is so demanding.

  He must see it in my eyes a fraction of a second too late.

  I rip from his grasp, crashing into the bed behind me that I just rolled out of. My force sends it flying across the room and I hear wood crack. My eyes search the space in bewilderment. I’m in my bedroom. And I am surrounded by people.

  Anna. Markov. Lillian, Nial, Samuel, and Cameron.

  It’s too much. Too much. I’m going to burn to death in front of them all.

  My breathing comes out ragged and feral as I stumble toward the door. But they’re all standing in my way.

  “Alivia,” Cyrus says, closing a strong hand around my wrist.

  I react without thought. My newly acquired animal instincts fly to life.

  My arm twists out of his grasp and my hand closes around his throat. Before he can react, I throw him against the wall. Anna and Nial step toward me, and I can just feel my eyes glow and the veins on my face flare with anger and thirst as I hiss in their direction.

  “Calm down,” Anna says, her eyes dark and serious. “You just need to feed.”

  “You’ll feel much better after you drink,” Nial says. He holds up an insulated bag, a sight I’m becoming very familiar with.

  “Please,” I hear Cyrus say from directly behind me. “Aliv-”

  But he doesn’t get a chance to finish. I hear footsteps thundering up the staircase. It’s Cyrus’ court members, rushing to the aid of their King, whom I’ve just attacked.

  My eyes flare wild, the breath coming in and out of my chest in harsh huffs. Anna takes a step forward, lunging to grab me. I sidestep her, shoving her away as she does. Nial and Cameron are about to grab me when Markov plows into them from the side, knocking them into a wall.

  “Go!” he yells as he points for the window.

  I don’t hesitate a millisecond longer.

  In two leaping bounds, I sail toward the glass.

  It shatters. And I fall and fall. But every second is like ten and I watch the ground rise up at me, position my feet, brace for impact. I hit the ground in a roll, one flip over the ground, before popping up on my feet.

  It’s nearly sunrise. While it’s still pitch black outside, while somehow, I can see perfectly clear as if it were day, I can feel the sun. Beyond the horizon. Behind the trees. I have maybe an hour, likely less, until I will wish for death.

  I stumble through the snow, having hesitated only a second, disoriented, overwhelmed.

  But I continue to burn. And there’s a scent in the air.

  My feet run.

  I move at incredible speed. The ground beneath me is a blur, a constant flash of motion, but everything is clear in my path. I gauge the depth of the snow, anticipate the buried obstacles in my path as if I have ages to anticipate my arrival at them. My brain can process the speed, and the objects that whip past me with no difficulty at all.

  I see the wall that surrounds the property in the distance. I feel the rough stone as I leap over it.

  And I howl in pain as searing light blinds me.

  I fall from the fence line and crash into the nearly two foot deep snow.

  My brain has been shredded. My eyes have exploded. Shots of pain lace down my body from my eyes. I vomit nothing into the snow.

 
; But I burn. I must…I must stop the burn.

  I roll onto my hands and knees. Slowly, one second. Two. I climb to my feet, covering my eyes with my hands. And I run, relying on sound to guide me.

  Fields. Snow. Eventually, the light from Anna’s fence security system fades away and I dare open my eyes.

  I draw in another long pull of breath.

  There’s a warm body down by the river.

  And I am so very thirsty.

  I’m across town, at the south end, past Jasmine’s House, down by the swamps, in less than a minute. And the scent of blood intensifies.

  I’m burning. I have to end the burning. I feel it in my arms. My toes. My hair.

  The figure stands along the other side of river. Ice stretches over the river in a thick sheet, but gives way in the center. He stands out on the ice, holding a fishing pole that sinks into a small hole in the ice. A small lantern sits on the shore behind him.

  That animalistic growl grunts in and out of my chest.

  I take one step onto the ice. Two.

  It doesn’t crack.

  But the Mississippi river is wide.

  I’m careful. Silent. I move invisible through the dark.

  In the last five feet before the ice gives way on the Mississippi side, I take a running leap, and easily land on the Louisiana ice.

  The man coughs in the dark. He rubs his gloved hand over his face before blowing heat into it.

  I creep behind him, breathing in his delicious scent.

  I burn.

  I burn so hot.

  I have to put the fire out.

  Fangs extend inside my mouth and I feel a new liquid sensation drip from them. I take one lunge at the man.

  My fangs sink into his neck and it’s the most satisfying sensation I’ve ever experienced. Warm sweetness floods into my mouth and I take pull after pull, calming the burn, yet it’s not nearly enough.

  Heat splashes down my front and it takes so long, so very, very long for the fire in my toes to begin dying out. I take another pull and the cool works it’s way up my legs. Another eight pulls.

  The man does not move, and I moan in pleasure as I take another draw.

  My fingers stop burning.

  My arms cool.

  Two more pulls.

  I’ve cooled the burn in every part of my body expect for a few coals in my throat, when I take another pull, and nothing comes out.

  Nothing at all.

  I drop the fisherman and take five quick steps away from him. My eyes grow wide in terror.

  I…

  I shake my head, taking another step away.

  Please wake up, I silently beg the man on the ice.

  Please.

  But he doesn’t move.

  I hear shuffling on the other side of the river, and the next second, a dark figure emerges. Followed by three others.

  “The first feeding is always a draining one,” Cyrus says gently as he approaches. “Your House thought you might feed another way at first, but I knew better.”

  Beside him stand Anna, Markov, and Raheem.

  I feel shame looking at Anna and Markov. I… This… This wasn’t me. This wasn’t Alivia Ryan. I’ve imagined my death and resurrection for months now, and I knew…I knew I would never, ever feed on anyone unwillingly. I would never kill.

  But I look back at that fisherman. And it’s clear.

  He’s dead.

  I killed an innocent man.

  Raheem grabs hold of his ankle and drags his body to the edge of the ice. He pushes it in, and it slowly floats downstream.

  “This is natural,” Cyrus says as he takes a few steps, closing the distance between us. He takes my hands in his gloved ones. “This is what you were born to become. This is your natural state, Alivia. As a vampire. Being a human was only ever temporary.”

  And there it’s said. Here my future has been met.

  I have become everything I was Born to be. There’s no more prolonging the inevitable.

  I am a vampire.

  WE RETURN TO THE HOUSE. When I walk through the front doors, everyone—House and Court—is waiting inside. They look at me with expectant eyes. With excitement. With dread. With disinterest.

  They’re expecting something from me.

  But I just killed someone. I just ended a husband, or a brother, or a son’s life.

  I can’t deal with them right now.

  So I walk past every one of them. I go up the stairs. I walk down the hall. I close the door to my bedroom behind me.

  But as I turn to face the room, it doesn’t feel separate enough. There’s evidence of everyone’s presence here: so many footprints, my bed displaced and ruffled, Nial’s medical cart, even a half-made dress of Lillian’s thrown across a chair.

  This is no longer just my house. I cannot get away in it.

  I cannot escape this.

  For a moment, I consider taking refuge in the passageway behind the painting, but surely someone will come looking for me soon, and if I’m missing, I wouldn’t want them looking too hard and finding it.

  I take the blankets and pillows from my bed, walk past the broken window where the frigid air blows inside, and haul them into my massive bathtub. I burry myself in them.

  And I mourn the girl I will never be again.

  “YES, ALIVIA?” LILLIAN ASKS HESITANTLY from the door to my bedroom.

  “Please come in here,” I say quietly from the tub.

  Lillian crosses the bedroom. I hear every footstep. The heels of her shoes clicking over the wooden floor. The tiny specks of dirt being crushed as she walks. Every breath in and out. The rustle of her clothing. My senses are so heightened, hearing and being aware of everything. It’s earth-shatteringly overwhelming.

  The concern on Lillian’s face is immediate. Her brows furrow, her lips are downturned. She kneels next to the tub and takes one of my hands in hers. “What can I do for you, my dear?”

  There’s a certain motherly element to Lillian, always has been. It makes a hard lump form in my throat. It’s been so long since I’ve had a mother figure in my life. But Lillian, she’s caring, and kind, and loving.

  My eyes turn to her, and I catch a glimpse of myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror behind us. My eyes glow bright. They haven’t stopped the entire time I’ve been in the bathroom.

  “I need to know,” I say. My throat is dry. The burn has never gone away, though it hasn’t left me crazed. Yet. But my voice is rough sounding. “Where is he?”

  And it horrifies me that until a few minutes ago, he never crossed my mind. My last, dying thoughts were to beg him to run. But the moment I woke up, all I could think about was myself and my burning thirst.

  There’s a flash in Lillian’s expression that tells me for a moment she considers asking “who?” But she knows exactly what I’m talking about.

  “There was a moment of scuffle,” she says. “But when Ian realized you were dead, he left. He said he’d been too late, that now that you were dead, the King could have you.”

  Everything inside of me grows very still. It grows very quiet. And cold.

  “He’s left Silent Bend, Alivia,” Lillian tells me with sadness. “He’s gone.”

  He had wanted to leave town before. He had said goodbye to me twice. He never accepted me for who I was, who I would become. I should have known this was coming.

  But it feels so sharp and harsh. “He left?” I whisper, broken.

  I’m broken all over again.

  Because he came back for me that night. The night I died. He asked me to leave with him. He wanted us to be together.

  But he’d said we could have a few good years. And then, we’d be back at this again.

  “How do I move past him, Lillian?” I ask in a whisper as I stare at the blankets. “This was always coming. It already happened. Twice. But it still…”

  “It still hurts,” she says gently as she squeezes my hand. “Of course, it hurts.”

  I take a ragged breath, fighting back the sti
ng behind my eyes. “How do I let it go?”

  Lillian adjusts her position, taking my other hand in hers so she holds them both. She draws my eyes to hers. “You look around you.” Her expression is strong, so very sure. “You see those around you who love you. And that word, it’s a monumental achievement. No one but Micah loved Jasmine. But what we do for you, us being here, even though he is here, that is love. That is loyalty and devotion. You trust in it. Because it’s here, and it’s real.”

  I take a slow, deep breath as a dark stone sinks inside of me. “I almost hope I am her. The Queen. Because if I start remembering, if I can recall all these past lives Sevan and Cyrus had together, maybe it will make me forget the past few months.”

  Lillian’s expression is concerned. “I understand,” she says as she tucks a lock of hair behind my ear. “But the past makes us who we are. No matter how painful.”

  Lillian climbs to her feet and hands me something.

  A blood bag.

  “The King is having a party for you tonight,” she says as she stands in the doorway. “He’s anxious for things to move forward. I told him he had to give you the day.”

  “Thank you,” I say numbly.

  She walks out the door, leaving me alone once again.

  I SHOWER. THE FISHERMAN’S BLOOD runs down my naked body as the hot water cascades over me. It pools at my feet, runs down the drain. I close my eyes and rest my forehead against the glass for a very long time.

  I have to numb myself. That is the only way I will survive.

  Eventually, I climb out of the shower. I dry my hair. I pin it up into an elegant knot at the back of my head. I put on Lillian’s newest creation.

  I pause at the door to my bedroom for a long time before going out.

  I felt alone before. My parents are dead. I have no friends outside of this House, except maybe Daphne. This town hates and distrusts me.

  But it was nothing compared to the way I feel now.

  Ian is gone. This time, I feel it is for good. We’re done. Finished. Our paths will never cross again. There’s no glimmer of hope. He left me in my most desperate, vulnerable hour.

 
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