Dark Illusions: The Next Chapter – Chapter One

Days after Cameron and a few of the other men of the Raaka clan—her clan, she was disgusted to admit—nearly killed Julian, Kat was stunned to discover Julian cooking breakfast.

Humans made breakfast in the morning, but for her and the rest of the Awakened vampires, breakfast came in the early evening.

The sun set right outside the windows of the cabin, casting a warm glow through the entire room that added the perfect backdrop to the moment.

She watched him while he worked, lost in the delicious sight. The sight of him taking care of her made her heart swell, filled her with an intense sense of comfort. Even just to be with him, despite knowledge that her mate—if she were forced to call him that—wanted her captured and chained. Julian’s presence warmed her heart. A heart warm and beating only because she’d fed on Julian’s blood recently.

She watched him wander around the kitchen, cooking breakfast, wearing an unusual outfit of jeans and flannel shirt. She smiled.

Normal corporate suit gone, the powerful business man was hidden away for a brief time. Just for her. Stripped down, he became a man who wanted to take care of the woman he loved, nothing else.

Love.

Her heart skipped a beat. She loved Julian. He loved her. They’d both admitted the truth after a long hard road for both of them, which felt amazing. They’d told each other how they felt before, but this time was so much different.

Her pulse raced, and she enjoyed the sensation. A pulse that would disappear if she failed to feed. Drinking blood to stay alive was something she had to grow used to doing. Blood became easier to drink, especially knowing she had to feed on it to live, but she was still not a fan.

Julian had explained that as long as she fed, her heart would beat, her body would feel warm, and she was able to go out into the sunlight. The latter for only a brief time because she was a young vampire.

Like the other Awakened, she could pass as human . . . if she fed. Human with the exceptions that her senses were heightened, and she felt far more powerful than she ever had, and she could shift into a wolf if she so chose. So powerful, in fact that she felt as though she could take on the world.

Destroy the world even.

It amused her to some degree. At first when she was Awakened, she wasn’t sure if she’d survive, or if she wanted to. Now? Now something stirred within. A little voice she always possessed within that said she was meant for something. Something far more, and with her Awakening, she was on that path.

The man in front of her was a key. On the other hand, maybe the key. Otherwise, why else would things feel so perfect around him?

Most Awakened didn’t become immediate mates to someone who’d sired them, unlike her whose mate, Cameron, hunted her. A mate who wanted to keep her far away from the man she was so deeply in love with. The Prince of the Awakened who currently had his sleeves rolled up, revealing his toned forearms, and was busy making her breakfast.

Kat’s tongue moistened her lips while she watched Julian’s hands work with the food. Those hands she craved. Those hands she wanted to grab her body and spend time working on her versus the food. Strong, seductive, gentle, yet forceful hands. Hands that could mold her into any reaction he wished. She was helpless to his touch. Her gaze made its way up his forearms, to the collarbone she loved kissing, to his neck—

Julian sensed her eyes on him, and what she had in mind.

“Stop it, Kat.” His words were harsh, cutting through her daydream, but the tone suggested anything but.

“Stop what, Julian?” She laughed and slid from the wall where she stood, to meander over and hop up on the counter next to where he worked.

Julian’s attention shifted to her. His eyes twinkled with the desire he suppressed. “I am aware of what is going on in that adorable head of yours.”

“I don’t think you are.” Kat shook her head. She leaned closer and whispered, “In fact, I think you’re too old to know.”

Julian took the pan off the burner in a slow and deliberate motion. In a blur, he moved in front of her, pulling her to the edge of the counter. Kat gasped. He put his mouth against her ear.

“We both know I can sense your thoughts.”

“Can you?” Desire rolled through her. Kat playfully bit at Julian’s neck.

Julian moved away from her to finish the breakfast. An aggravated moan slipped from her lips. They just got started, dammit.

“Serves you right.”

“Yeah, you remember that when I pay you back there, tough guy.” Kat snorted, which earned a delicious grin from Julian.

“Make yourself useful, woman. Pour us some coffee. Breakfast is finished.”

Kat stuck her tongue out, but a second later hopped off the counter to do as told.

“I still don’t understand how we can eat regular food. Isn’t there some sort of code for the Awakened? No human food? Only blood? Like no water for gremlins after midnight?”

Julian laughed at her attitude. “Food doesn’t nourish us the way it would were we human. On the other hand, food can fill our stomachs. We can also enjoy the taste. We need blood to stay alive, not food.”

He finished filling the two plates, then carried them to the table.

Kat followed with two cups of coffee, moving to sit across from him at the table.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on giving up things I enjoy,” Julian said, reaching over to wrap his arm around her waist before she sat down. He tugged her body toward him and sat down with her on his lap, then caressed her cheek with the back of his hand.

“You said something about payback, correct?”

“Yeah, I meant I would pay you back, not the other way around.” Kat laughed.

“Oh, my apologies.” Julian tapped her on the nose before he dropped his arms, holding them out to the side. “Then by all means leave, sweetie.”

Kat pursed her lips. “Hate that term. Adore this Julian, however. He’s relaxed and enjoying himself. Looks good on you. Big tough business guy has been put on hold. Love more that it’s just for me.” She pressed a gentle kiss to his lips.

Julian stroked her back, knowing the way to touch her to produce the reaction he desired. The same it’d been since the moment they met. Shivers of hunger flowed through her body. His touch was never easy on her.

“When I’m alone with you it’s easy to forget all the people waiting on our return,” Julian said. “It’s easy to forget everything. You realize they may come back if we stay here too long?”

Kat shivered beneath Julian’s touch. He wrapped his protective embrace around her. Memories of how he appeared in the shed rushed through her. Covered in blood, hanging on to life a few days prior. Cameron and his men had done a number on him. They’d left Julian for dead, thinking they’d finished him.

They didn’t believe he’d survive.

The choice to give him all her blood after removing those bullets had been the easy part. Having found him so close to dying?

If he had died in her arms, she wouldn’t have survived. Having shared so much blood between them lessened the fury she felt within from the feud between his clan, the Runsasi and her own clan, the Raaka.

Nevertheless, the hatred she felt within her from the Raaka blood still burned fierce. It made her wonder if that would ever cease, whether it ever could.

She didn’t understand why she still felt an underlying hatred toward Julian. The love she held for him was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before. With his blood flowing through her though, something had changed. They’d become so much a part of the other that sensing his presence nearby had been heightened. In her soul, she always knew when Julian was nearby.

The sensation was similar to a small hiccup. His essence touched her with a feather light hint, yet it made a huge impact on her. Warmth filled her, a sense of safety she never felt with another emanated through her, overwhelmed her. Julian’s aura was powerful . . . and she loved it wrapped around her like a warm cozy blanket. A part of her wondered if he claimed her without thinking.

An instinct on his part. Something unconscious, but determined. The urge to have her all to himself took over. He claimed every inch of her, every time he entered the same vicinity as her. A sensation she’d never tire of.

Complete possession.

She could never forgive Cameron for trying to kill Julian. She couldn’t believe he’d found her at Julian’s cabin, one she had the impression was private. Nobody knew the place existed. At least she’d thought that until she’d smelled Cameron, Sean, Jake, and even Max.

Kat had plans to find a way to pay Cameron back . . . with interest. Forced into becoming his mate was one thing, but she belonged with Julian. Julian was in her blood. Julian was in her heart and soul. He was everything to her. A surge of protectiveness struck her when she thought of someone hurting him again.

Never again.

Kat clenched her teeth. Her jaw ached as the pressure built. Her fangs descended against her will, further downward, descending beneath her rage bit-by-bit.

“Part of me wishes they’d never found us here. A bigger part of me is glad. I don’t know why. I feel like it helped. I guess because ever since that night, the anger that burned deep down has dampened toward you. Maybe a part of it is because everything is in the open . . . somewhat. I don’t understand how, Julian. How can I hate you, yet be so madly in-love with you at the same time?”

Julian gave her a soft smile and caressed her cheek, his calm working its way through her system. She leaned her face into his hand, her lids lowering.

“It’s the feud between the clans. It’s raged for centuries. I don’t know if anyone has ever shared so much blood that way. Perhaps my blood is stronger in your system so it helps you. Maybe because of the love shared between us. I’ve never felt this way toward anyone else.”

“Because you know what’s good for you.” Kat grinned and retracted her teeth.

Julian laughed. “Is it me, or have you grown more full of—”

“Confidence?” Kat cut in, knowing how much doing so grated on the Prince’s nerves. She remained the one Awakened who still defied him, and treated him as anything but special. It got under his skin, despite him loving her feistiness, too. “I have every right to be.” Her grin changed into a smile watching Julian’s annoyance grow.

“Are you ever going to stop interrupting me, Kat?” He grabbed her chin, tightening his grip, and pulled her closer to his mouth.

Julian’s aura thickened the grip around her, caressing her into obedience. She shifted under his grip. The idea to try to fight him crossed her mind, but she gave in and chose submission. As much fun as she enjoyed playing with Julian, she didn’t want a fight. She lowered her gaze.

“Still getting used to the rules, what do you expect?” she whispered.

Julian let her go with a shake of his head, and smiled. “Because I’d believe that? You weren’t born to submit to anyone, Kat. That’s a good thing in general, but fails when dealing with your Prince. I suspect I could be more easy-going on occasion with you.”

“Easy-going isn’t in your nature, Julian.” Kat smirked.. “I don’t only understand that, but I enjoy that you’re not always so blasé. Quite a bit, in fact. I find easy-going men ridiculously boring and normal, the attitude of death. I love that you challenge me and don’t allow me to win. I certainly wouldn’t change for you.”

Kat squeaked when Julian wrapped his arms around her hips and dragged her tighter against his body.

“I wouldn’t ask you to. I’ve never met anyone like you, Kat. You are unique. Still, you have a lot to learn.”

Kat shrugged and leaned over to Julian’s neck, nibbling and whispering, “I thought I was doing pretty well.” She grazed her teeth across his neck, cutting a small line. Then followed the line with her tongue to savor the sweetness of his blood.

“Keep it up and I’m going to take you to bed.” Julian smiled.

Kat mumbled against his throat, repeating the process, “Because that is a bad thing.” She whimpered in pain at the sudden pleasure of Julian’s teeth sinking into her arm. Electricity shot through her body, coiling between her legs. Kat tangled her hands in Julian’s hair.

Julian slipped his hands underneath her shirt to graze his fingertips down her back. Kat pressed her body into his.

“Kat we have a lot of things to discuss. This has to wait.”

Kat had no plans in obeying what he wanted this time. Her eyes glittered with the plans in her mind.

“Should’ve said that a while ago, Julian.” Kat reached her hands down to his pants and undid the zipper before Julian could stop her. She slipped a hand inside and Julian groaned.

“Kat,” he growled. “Fuck. I’m serious.” He reached down to grab her arm and move it away, but Kat stroked him into compliance.

A deep growl swept through Julian, shuddering against her body. He grabbed an arm, tugged her closer to sink his teeth into her throat. Reaching his hand into her pants he made sure she didn’t have the upper hand. Kat whimpered against his neck, reaching around to crush her mouth upon his.

The explosion ripped through Julian first, followed soon after by Kat. She gasped against his mouth and Julian bit her lip. Another explosion shook her body to her very core. She dug her nails into his back and clung to Julian’s strong body, relishing the feel of his muscles constricting beneath her touch. Julian sucked the blood from her bottom lip, then kissed a path down her chin to her neck.

“You know how to get your way without a doubt, don’t you?” Julian muttered against her neck.

Kat smiled as she zipped his pants up. She tangled her hands in Julian’s hair, pulling his head back to look at her. Julian fixed her up and stroked her back, making her bite her lip. Her cheeks were flushed, a sheen of sweat covered her body.

“Remember the comment regarding payback?” She laughed and kissed his forehead. “You could’ve stopped me anyhoo.”

“I struggle enough to stop myself when you are anywhere near me. I don’t plan to stop you when we’re alone together.”

“To be honest, you would’ve had to throw me across the room to get me to stop, Julian.” Kat grinned. “The difference between us is that I won’t keep my hands to myself, just because we’re in public, either.”

Julian grabbed her upper arms to nudge her back far enough to look in her eyes. “You know you can’t do that, Kat. You are mated to Cameron.” Kat winced at how much disgust lay in Julian’s words.

Dealing with Vincent being her mate before, as the leader of the Raaka clan in the city, had been hard enough on Julian. Having to deal with Cameron now wanting to take over as Prince of all the Awakened, and as her current mate, wasn’t any easier on him.

She sympathized, but the situation still made her angry. Angry that Julian tried to constrain her. She thought she’d been clear to him, and to Cameron: She wasn’t interested in being controlled.

Kat chewed on her bottom lip, then climbed off Julian’s lap. She meandered over to plop down in the opposite chair. She couldn’t handle having him touch her anymore. It made her sick to discuss these things in such an intimate moment between them.

Once more, the typical Julian reared its obnoxious head. He’d always tried to limit things by telling her they couldn’t be together.

Now what was he trying to achieve? Say they couldn’t be anywhere near each other in public? They had to feel ashamed about their relationship, or conceal their feelings for each other from people? It wasn’t as if people weren’t aware of them being in love. All their friends, and most of the Awakened  knew what Julian and she meant to each other. If anyone didn’t, they would once her and Julian went back to the city, without question.

Her previous mood dampened, it became time to grow serious. She sighed and ran her hands through her hair.

“Julian, we’ve been through this. I’m not going to hide what I feel for you, anymore. Cameron can go fuck himself. We both know the minute we go back to the city he’s going to try to kill you. He will want to kill me. I have no doubt. Don’t think anyone who knows him would.” She slid the plate away and crossed her arms, uninterested in the food in front of her.

Julian also slid his own plate away. “Kat, there is no way in hell I would allow him to hurt you. We will figure something out. I will put you under official protection until I know he’ll keep his word and not hurt you. However, that he tried to kill me will carry a profound burden against your own clan, and you, since you’re mated to the leader of the Raaka.”

Kat ground her teeth together. Julian caught the action, but she cut in before he could continue, “Yeah . . . my clan. Julian, things will change. I don’t need your protection. I am not going to let him hurt me. I will never again be a victim to that man, or anyone.”

Julian regarded her with compassion. “I understand how you feel Kat, but there are certain things you can’t change. You can’t control Cameron. There are rules in place within each clan that you must follow. Disagreeing with them doesn’t mean you are allowed to disobey them. Cameron needs to explain them to you. He already should have.” Julian growled. “If he had any semblance of decency he would have, and not left it up to someone else, or you to learn on your own.”

Kat snorted. “Or he assumed I could be kept compliant if I were kept naïve. But you don’t understand what I’m saying Julian. I will never be a victim to Cameron. Period. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. I get that I’m Cameron’s mate. I understand that within my perfect little fucking clan, I have to be an obedient little shit.” Julian tried to interrupt.

Kat put her hand up to stop him. She stood up, unable to contain her rage.

“I think I have proven how much stronger I am than he’s given me credit for, or you. Cameron will try to hurt me once I go back. That is a given. However, I will go back to him. If he tries to chain me like before—” Julian shifted in his chair, losing the grip he had on controlling his growing rage. “—I can assure you, I can handle it.

Kat paced the floor in front of him, talking more to herself than Julian. “I’m not saying he couldn’t cage me. God knows, he can. But,” she stopped to give Julian a steady look, “sooner or later those chains will come off, and he’ll be stuck alone with me. He will not like what happens. I will die trying to kill him. I’m sick of his shit. My clan needs a change.” She poked herself in the chest. “I am that change.” She smiled and waved her arms. “Simple.”

Julian smirked. “And here he thought he would have the upper hand with you once he Awakened you against orders.” Julian sighed and stood up. He walked over to Kat and wrapped his hands around her arms, pulling her close. “I don’t doubt that you believe you can change things. But Kat there are so many things you haven’t even begun to understand. You’re still so new to everything. I love you and I would do anything to protect you, but repeating what I said—”

Kat shoved away from Julian to interject, “You still don’t believe I’m capable of what I say I am. You think because I was human recently, I’m still naïve, and yet you’re the naïve one. Kober is the single individual who seems to understand that I know what I’ve gotten myself into. It wasn’t my wish to have Vincent come after me, any more than I wanted to be Awakened. Yet here I stand.” She threw up her hands and walked across the room to Julian, forcing his hands down when he reached for her.

“Here you stand.” Julian agreed, his brow wrinkled. “I worry for you, Kat.”

Kat snorted before she realized she did. She gave him a smile she didn’t feel.

“What about your mate, Julian? The one who told me how you felt, and that she stood by me should I need her? Cara believes in me more than you it seems.”

There it was.

Another elephant in the room they’d never discussed. Julian and Cara were mated long ago. Though she and Kat were what one could consider friends, Cara remained Julian’s mate, and a huge part of his life. Cara never tried to stand in the way of Kat and Julian because she knew—same as everyone else—what they meant to each other, but she was still his mate.

Julian stiffened, uncomfortable with the way the conversation headed.

“Cara isn’t a part of the discussion, Kat.”

Kat knew she struck a nerve, but held her ground.

“I’m making her a part of this, Julian. You said yourself we have a lot to discuss. Guess what? She’s going to have to be a part of the conversation, too. She believes in me. I consider her a friend. She’s a major part of my life. She owns Inferno for god’s sake. Do you understand how much time I spend at the club? Sorry, but yes, I went there.”

Julian shook his head and strode toward the living room. Kat followed. He turned around near the fireplace to study her.

She didn’t care that she continued to poke the sensitive spot. Julian needed to open up to her. Placing walls between them was forbidden. He needed to talk to her, not withdraw. If Julian wanted her as much as he acted, he needed to do something about the situation. She needed his loyalty more than Cara did.

As Kat told him, she had no plans in being a victim ever again. From now on, it was her turn, not theirs. She was so tired of these alphas around her, picking at her, trying to manipulate her.

On top of that, she wanted to be with the man she loved, and once more, she found herself on the brink of having to convince him of why it was important to be okay with them being together. Julian wanted to act like his stubborn self, despite having told her not less than a week ago:

“Kat, don’t. It has nothing to do with you. True, Cameron used you as more of a reason to do this, but again, this had nothing to do with you. Do you understand me? Nothing. The Raaka and Runsasi have been enemies longer than you’ve been alive. Cameron is no better than Vincent was. It’s a battle that has raged for centuries, but as of late, it seems to be growing worse. They both wanted you because they want power; and with you, they knew they could achieve that and more. Cameron wants my position as all Raaka have, but moreover, he has always wanted to avenge for the past. It’s a battle that has never reached an end. Now that I have you—which I do and will never give up—it has only just begun.”

Kat shook her head to clear her mind. Julian made things very clear. He did not plan to give her up. A war existed between the clans she found herself caught in the middle of. Yet here again he slipped right back into the ‘Kat we can’t be together’ phase, trying to put her off as if she was a child.

She was a grown damn woman who could think for herself. True, she was a child compared to them in age, and in how long she’d been Awakened. What they failed to grasp was the memories she still had to sort through from the blood of Julian’s clan flowing through her, and more so Cameron’s clan.

Kat had to learn most of what she knew on her own.

So far, she’d learned that after someone Awakened you, their memories combined with your memories during an excruciatingly painful transition. That was normal, but was it normal to feel so much of Julian in her system overall? She didn’t receive Julian’s memories, but maybe the rest was because of their special connection. Or was it because she’d shared so much of his blood during the change? Could it be both?

Was something else going on?

The connection to Cameron made sense because he was her mate. Cyrus had initiated the transformation, but it had been Cameron who Awakened her with his blood, the blood of the Raaka. Did other Awakened end up absorbing someone else’s being the way she did with Julian?

She rubbed her head. Her brain didn’t appreciate such a work out, too many things she had to understand. So many questions, so many unfulfilled answers. She cursed her forced mate for the millionth time. Who could help her figure it out?

Julian showed he’d prove difficult in that department. Cameron already had been, or had flat out refused. They both seemed to want to give her only as much information as she needed in that particular moment of time, and nothing more.

Well, she was lucky. She may have a few others she could go to, and planned to. But first, she needed to probe Julian further whether he wanted her to or not. Nor did it matter whether or not he grew uncomfortable with how she did the probing. That was up to him. He needed to grow used to her insistence on clarification.

She was tired of everyone shoving her aside like she meant nothing while all the males acted like she meant everything.

She’d given the situation a lot of thought before she’d gotten out of bed that morning. The time had come for a change. Whether the alpha males around her were ready for change, or not. If they weren’t? That was their problem. Kat planned to stir things up. Worse than before.

Before, it wasn’t intentional.

Now it would be.

 


 

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