Chapter 1

The Red Fang

Before the Sun Rises Series

book 1

Nicola C. Matthews

Copyright 2008 Nicola C. Matthews

all rights reserved

Chapter 1

“Hey! Hey! Dammit, I said stop!” Her voice could barely be heard above the hoots and hollers of the patrons.

The five-foot-tall red-head struggled to weave her way through the crowd, pushing past those who had gathered in an attempt to get a better view of the commotion going on in the center of the dance floor. She stopped once she got to the scene of the disturbance.

Standing among the masses of fang whores, werewolves, and fledging vampires was her ex-boyfriend, his nose bleeding all over the lower portion of his face. His opponent, the owner of the nightclub, stood off to the side without a single hair out of place on his beautiful head.

Seeing Eric standing in the middle of the dance floor caused the young woman’s blood to boil. Their relationship had been strained at best when they had been dating. These days, about all she felt for him was contempt. He was the last person she had expected to be fighting in the club. He was also the last person she felt like dealing with right now.

“My office, now!” she hissed at him between clenched teeth. She turned sharply on her heel, making a super-human effort to keep her temper in check as she walked.

Once she reached her office, she turned and grabbed hold of the door, slamming it with such ferocity the covered windows rattled in their frames. Eric had to practically dive into the room, the corner of the door barely missing his ankle. She ignored the fact Requiem had materialized in the chair behind her desk. Instead, she turned her attention to Eric.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Her words were very abrupt, biting off the end of every syllable as she spoke. “I thought I told you to never show your face in this club again! And,” she continued without even giving him a chance to answer, “You pick a fight with the owner of this establishment of all people! What were you thinking? And exactly what did you think you were gonna do to a vampire anyway? Bore him to death?”

Requiem let out a little chuckle from where he sat behind the desk. The sound reminded the young woman Eric was not the only one to blame for this whole fiasco.

“And you!” She turned to look at the black-headed man sitting so composed in her chair. “Why on earth would you openly fight with a human in your own club? Now everyone in this place is gonna know the owner is a freaking bloodsucker. By morning, everyone in the whole damn town is gonna know it!”

Ethereal stood with her hands on her hips as she waited for Requiem to answer. “Oh, please, my love. You worry too much.” The vampire made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “I do not care if they know. I have plenty of security. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Ethereal grunted in her frustration. She flopped down into a nearby chair, wondering for perhaps the millionth time why the six-foot-tall vampire sitting behind her desk insisted he was invincible. “For the love of my soul, Requiem,” she said, shaking her head as she spoke, “you are the oldest vampire in the entire southern U.S.! Your blood would be worth millions on the black market.”

She sighed, her right hand moving to rub at the pain gathering in her temples. “The wrong people find out who you are and you may very well discover yourself strapped to a cold, metal table.”

Requiem’s luminous blue eyes shone out from a face not even six hundred years had managed to pale. A slow smile spread across his full lips as he asked, “Is that a proposition, Ethereal, my dear?”

She let out a small screech as she picked up a pen from her desk and hurled it at his head.

He laughed quietly, dodging the pen easily, his movements so quick the object appeared to go right through his body. He tilted his head to the side and regarded her with eyes that twinkled in the lamplight. His dreadlocks barely budged with the motion.

Ethereal hated it when he wore his hair like that. He had such beautiful, silky black hair. More often than not, though, he would twist up the shiny strands, powder them down, and leave them that way for years at a time. In all actuality, she had only seen his hair down once. That had been eight years ago when she had first met him.

The vampire sitting at the desk folded his hands together and regarded the small half-fey with interest. “Relax, my love. Everyone knows draining vampires is illegal now. And as I said, I have plenty of security.”

He rose from his seat and slid around the desk past her. He allowed his arm to caress hers lightly as he leaned in to whisper, “Besides, no one gets close to me unless I let them.”

His glowing blue eyes bore into hers as he turned away, walking casually toward the door, stopping to glance at Eric. “I do wonder, though, whatever was so important you thought you had to speak to Ethereal.”

The vampire’s words reminded her she didn’t know what had actually caused the fight between the two men. She turned her sapphire blue eyes to Eric, looking at him curiously. “Speak to me? About what?” She tilted her head to the side, asking, “What was so important you couldn’t wait two measly hours until my shift ended?”

Both Requiem and Ethereal watched Eric sigh and run his fingers through his hair. Ethereal recognized the gesture as his classic ‘I’m frustrated’ move. His face turned serious. “I have news, and it’s not good. What I am about to say concerns all your little freak-show buddies in this town.”

She couldn’t see his face, but Ethereal knew Requiem had rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. She thought his eye-rolling was probably less about the derogatory slang Eric was so fond of using in Requiem’s presence and more about Eric thinking he had news that had not already reached the oldest vampire of Shadow Cove.

Requiem turned back around and leaned against the door. He folded his arms across his chest, saying “Okay, I’ll bite, if you’ll pardon the pun. What did you hear that was so damned important my immortal life depends upon it?”

Eric glanced at the vampire before turning his attention back to the fiery little red-head sitting opposite him. “Something, or rather someone, has been targeting the local packs. It’s been on the news about pack members going missing and being killed and so forth. Do you remember hearing any of the reports?”

She nodded her head. She had heard all about it. The packs’ members had been picked off a few at a time over the past year or so, but no one had really thought much of it. Everyone assumed it was a few radical humans who did not like living in the same area as werewolves and other lycanthropes. But she didn’t see what any of that had to do with her, or with Requiem, for that matter.

“What they’ve been announcing on the news is only part of the story. Two of the five local packs have been attacked. One of those packs lost every single one of their members. The other three have seen many of their packmates killed off over the past few months. There’s talk the smallest two are gathering what few members are left and going to the werewolf compound. They own all that land on the outside of town. Their compound is built to withstand attacks, so they have asked the Alpha for refuge.”

Ethereal listened in fascination. Even Requiem seemed interested in Eric’s little story. “Okay, so the packs are being picked off.” Ethereal shrugged one delicate shoulder. “They figured this would happen once the vampires came out. We all knew there would be those who did not exactly relish the thought the beasts of their nightmares were actually real. So what makes you think this is anything more than a few radical humans dishing out their own form of justice? I mean, why would you think Requiem would be in danger?”

Eric raked his hands through his hair in frustration. “It’s not just the packs. There has been talk Stealth’s mansion came under attack, too. So I took a ride to have a look for myself. His mansion has been leveled to the ground. There’s nothing left! And get this, at every single attack there have been these military guys in camouflage fatigues carrying enough fire power for a third world war. All of them had the word S.H.i.E.L.D. written on their vests.”

Eric’s already tortured green eyes took on a new look of worry. “But that’s not the strange part. Some of the refugees are telling tales, strange tales, of humans who turn into these half-werewolf hybrid-looking things. And then there are those who have super strength and speed, like a vampire. Only they are not vampires or werewolves or human. No one really knows what they are.”

Requiem pushed himself from the door to cross over to the desk. “Are you sure of this?”

Eric nodded. “Yeah, I, um, use to date one of the pack members.” He ducked his head in embarrassment. The truth was he had cheated on Ethereal with Starr, one of the lower members of the local werewolf pack’s guards. And this had been the source of their breakup a few months ago.

“I came across her in town last Tuesday. She said their compound is seeing refugees nearly every day now. It’s gotten so bad Joshua sent her and a few others out to the other packs for search and rescue.”

Ethereal noticed Eric’s discomfort and was happy to see he was showing remorse for the first time since their very violent, very public breakup. She decided to ignore it for the moment. “So the lycans of this city are being attacked, and apparently some of the vampires as well. I still don’t understand why you thought this concerned me. Why tell me about it? I would think you should have taken this directly to Requiem. After all, he is the Master Vampire of Shadow Cove.”

To her surprise, Eric jumped up from his chair, taking the two steps that separated them in one long leap. He grabbed hold of her arms, snatching her up from her chair and giving her a little shake. “Don’t you get it, Ethereal? All the supernatural beings of this region are being attacked. All of them! This group, this S.H.i.E.L.D. of Humanity as it calls itself, it’s not only picking off members of packs. It’s out to destroy every last supernatural being it can find. You are in as much danger as they are.”

He let go of her, allowing her to stumble backward a bit. She opened her mouth to speak, but Eric was so upset at this point he was not paying her any attention.

The six-foot-tall human had turned his attention back to Requiem. “I’ve heard they are also killing any humans who they think have had any contact with the packs or vampires. Familiars, donors, companions, it doesn’t matter to them.”

He looked terrified. Ethereal wondered if he was scared for her life, for his, or for that slutty werewolf he had been screwing behind her back. “With this club being what it is,” he continued, “it’s just a matter of time before it comes under attack as well.”

Requiem picked up the phone and began to dial, saying, “Yes, I understand the implications.” He held up his hand as the party on the other end of the line picked up.

“This is Requiem, Master Vampire of Shadow Cove, requesting an immediate council with the Alpha of your pack. Tell Joshua it is in regards to this S.H.i.E.L.D. I have heard so much about.”

Wow, full out formality, Ethereal thought to herself. Things really must be serious for Requiem to start throwing around titles.

She still didn’t really understand how the hierarchy of the vampire social infrastructure worked. She knew Requiem was considered a Master Vampire because he was the oldest in the region. The next step down was a Prince, and from there it followed along the lines of the royalty titles in England. It had something to do with the age of the vampire in the region.

The funny thing was The High Council was so old-school only male vampires were recognized. The only way a female vampire got any ranking was to become ‘bound’ to a male holding the title, the vampire equivalent to being married.

Requiem paused as the person on the other end spoke. “Yes, I will also be bringing in my advisors and immediate household members. That would be fine. Give my thanks to Joshua.”

The vampire hung up the phone and turned his attention to the two humans sitting in front of the desk. “Eric, I want you to take Ethereal to her apartment and help her pack. Take Jaxon with you. I want the two of you back here in one hour, understand?”

Eric nodded his head as he took Ethereal’s arm and began to steer her toward the door. “Hey, wait a damn minute!” She dug her heels into the carpet in an effort to stop Eric. “I am not going anywhere with Eric and I sure as hell am not moving out of my apartment.”

Eric ignored her attempts to twist out of his grip. He kept dragging her along beside him as he opened the door. In desperation she grabbed hold of the door frame and held on for dear life, beseeching the vampire inside her office as best as she could. “Requiem! Do something!”

Requiem looked up at her, those blue eyes of his glowing brightly. “I am doing something, Ethy,” he said quietly, “I’m protecting my household.”