Gena Showalter's Atlantis Series Bundle

By: Gena Showalter


CHAPTER ONE




Three hundred years later





“HE DOESN’T LAUGH.”

“He never yells.”

“When Grayley accidentally stabbed Darius’s thigh with a six-pronged razor, our leader didn’t even blink.”

“I’d say all he needs is a few good hours of bed sport, but I’m not even sure he knows what his cock is for.”

The latter was met with a round of rumbling male chuckles.

Darius en Kragin stepped inside the spacious dining hall, his gaze methodically cataloging his surroundings. The ebony floors gleamed clean and black, the perfect contrast for the dragon-carved ivory walls. Along the windows, gauzy drapes whisped delicately. Crystal ceilings towered above, reflecting the tranquillity of seawater that enclosed their great city.

He moved toward the long, rectangular dining table. The tantalizing aroma of sweetmeats and fruit should have wafted to his nostrils, but over the years his sense of smell, taste and color had deteriorated. He smelled only ash, tasted nothing more than air, and saw only black-and-white. He’d willed those senses away. Better, easier to exist in a void. Only sometimes did he wish otherwise.

One warrior caught sight of him and quickly alerted the others. Silence clamped tight fingers around the chamber. Every male present whipped his focus to his food, as if roasted fowl had suddenly become the most fascinating thing the gods had ever created. The jovial air visibly darkened.

True to his men’s words, Darius claimed his seat at the head of the table without a smile or a scowl. Only after he’d consumed his third goblet of wine did his men resume their conversation, though they wisely chose a different subject. This time they spoke of the women they had pleasured and the wars they had won. Exaggerated tales, all. One warrior even went so far as to claim he’d gratified four women at the same time while successfully storming his enemy’s gate. For a nymph, that was possible. A dragon? No.

Darius had heard the same stories a thousand times before. He swallowed a mouthful of tasteless meat and asked the warrior beside him, “Any news?”

Brand, his first in command, leveled him a grim smile and shrugged. “Perhaps. Perhaps not.” His light hair hung around his face in thick war braids, and he hooked several behind his ears. “The vampires are acting strangely. They’re leaving the Outer City and assembling here in the Inner City.”

“They rarely come here. Have they given no indication of why?”

“It cannot be good for us, whatever the reason,” Madox said, jumping into the conversation. “I say we kill those that venture too close to our home.” He was the tallest dragon in residence and always ready for combat. He perched at the end of the table, his elbows flat on the surface, both hands filled with meat. “We are ten times stronger and more skilled than they are.”

“We need to obliterate the entire race,” the warrior on his left supplied. Renard was the kind of man others wanted to guard their backs in battle. He fought with a determination matched by few, was fiercely loyal and had studied the anatomy of every species in Atlantis so he knew exactly where to strike each to create the most damage. And the most pain.

Years ago, Renard and his wife had been captured by a group of vampires. He’d been chained to a wall, forced to watch as his wife was raped and drained. When he escaped, he brutally destroyed every creature responsible, but that had not lessened his heartache. He was a different man than he’d been, no longer full of laughter and forgiveness. What Darius hated most was that a rogue group of dragons had mimicked the tale, doing the same thing to the vampire king, who had not been responsible for Renard’s tragedy, but who now blamed Darius for it. Thus, a war erupted between their races.

“Perhaps we can petition Zeus for their extinction,” Brand replied.

“The gods have long since forgotten us,” Renard said with a shrug. “Besides, Zeus is like Cronus in so many ways. He might agree, but do we really want him to? We are all creations of the Titans, even those we loathe. If Zeus annihilates one race, what is to stop him from wiping out others?”

Brand gulped back the last of his wine, his eyes fierce. “Then we will not ask him. We will simply strike.”

“The time has come for us to declare war,” Madox growled in agreement.

The word “war” elicited smiles across the expanse of the room.

“I agree that the vampires need to be eliminated. They create chaos and for that alone they deserve to die.” Darius met each warrior’s stare, one at a time, holding it until the other man looked away. “But there is a time for war and a time for strategy. Now is the time for strategy. I will send a patrol into the Inner City and learn the vampires’ purpose. Soon we will know the best course of action.”