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  BLACK©

  All the King’s Men, book 8

  Published by Phoenix Press

  Copyright 2017 Donya Lynne

  Cover by Reese Dante - www.reesedante.com

  ISBN: 978-1-938991-18-9

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected]

  References to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or persons or locales, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Licensed material is being used for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted in the licensed material is a model.

  Contents

  Acknowledgements

  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

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Epilogue

  Did You Enjoy The Book?

  Excerpt of Micah’s Bride

  Books By Donya Lynne

  About Donya Lynne

  Connect With Donya

  Acknowledgements

  They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same can be said about writing a book. From my beta readers, to my editor, to my cover artist, to my formatter, and, ultimately, to my faithful readers who devour my books with robust enthusiasm, I can honestly say this is the village that helps me raise a book from a nugget of an idea to a full-fledged novel.

  Special thanks to Liz, Leann, and Amanda. Your input helped me uncover so many wonderful angles to BLACK that I didn’t see on my own. I have the best beta readers ever!

  To everyone who had a hand (or both hands) in this book: Thank you so much! I couldn’t do it without you.

  Chapter 1

  Approximately 950 years ago

  A steel-tipped arrow whizzed past Micah’s head as he and Malek battled their way through the rush of drecks pouring through the village from all directions. Metal on metal rang out as the village’s males took up their swords and engaged the enemy. It was their duty to defend the females and humans against this unprovoked, peacetime raid.

  Who was Micah kidding? They weren’t in peacetime, anymore. This attack was enough proof that the drecks had risen up against them once more like some kind of fungus rot on their cultivated fields. No matter how many diseased plants you pulled, the shit just kept coming back.

  Would the godforsaken war ever end? It had raged off and on for centuries before Micah’s birth, and, at this rate, would continue for centuries to come, even under the guise of peace.

  Micah whistled to get Malek’s attention. When his friend and fellow warrior turned, Micah pointed to the top of a nearby ridge.

  “High ground!” He had to shout over the roar of infernos consuming nearly half the cottages in the village, casting blazing heat that scorched his skin and singed his long, braided hair, coating him with soot and ash.

  Malek nodded, pulled the strength from only God knew where, and hoofed it up the steep incline behind Micah.

  Micah’s lungs pumped hard as his legs churned, propelling him higher as the burn and fatigue in his muscles grew so great that his thighs almost locked up in protest. But somehow, he pushed through the pain. The safety of his family depended on him. Katarina had fled to the forest at the first sign of attack, and thank God for that, but he refused to leave even one dreck standing who could pursue her and the other vampires and humans who had escaped.

  But he didn’t know where his parents were. Surely, his father was engaged with the enemy, but he had yet to sense that his mother had found safety. On the contrary, what he felt vibrating in his soul was impending doom.

  Another arrow flew past him, this one close enough to catch the side of his arm, nicking his flesh. Blood already spilled from multiple wounds all over his body, so this one merely added to the collection. None of his injuries were life threatening, but eventually, the loss of blood would weaken him. There was no time to spare.

  He and Malek reached the top of the ridge and Micah turned, pulling an arrow from his fully stocked quiver as he brought his bow up in front of him. Malek did the same.

  From here, the damage to their village robbed him of breath. It was a total loss. More than half the structures were consumed by flames or already falling into piles of smoldering rubble.

  Beyond the steel tip of his arrow, Micah saw a dreck toss a torch on one of the remaining cottages. Calming his breath, he lined up the blue-tinted creature in his sights, held for a moment, and then released the arrow.

  It impaled the dreck square between the eyes.

  Malek took out another.

  One by one, he and Malek sniped the enemy from their advantageous location, killing the drecks gradually but steadily as they worked their way along the ridge that surrounded the village, moving toward his parents’ cottage on the far end.

  Behind him, he could feel the first sign of sunrise spreading light across the horizon. They needed to hurry so the vampires had enough time to seek shelter in the forest beyond the fields or in any of the remaining dwellings not taken by fire.

  As Micah’s quiver neared empty, he caught sight of his uncle Rory, engaged with three drecks. Rory was a deadly male, fighting like a banshee unleashed by the devil himself. His skin and clothing were red with spilled blood, streaked with fresh, blue blood of the drecks, which quickly faded to red. No doubt Rory had killed half the invaders himself.

  “I’m empty,” Malek said beside him.

  Micah handed him one of his last two arrows. “Me, too.”

  The good news was that the number of the fallen enemy was greater than that of the villagers. Drecks were no match for vampires, and their dead and dying bodies littered the cobbled paths and open spaces of their village, their blue blood running in rivers into the grass, where it pooled and gradually turned from blue to purple to red.

  Just as he nocked his last arrow, Micah turned in the direction of his parents’ cottage. With the faint light of the pending sunrise granting him greater breadth of vision, he found his childhood home. His father was nowhere to be seen, but his mother stood in front of the open door, a sword in her hand, facing off against a pair of drecks.

  Micah’s heart raced as a premonition of dread shocked his mind’s eye.

  His mother was not a fighter. Not at the level needed for this kind of combat. Not against a trained enemy, and especially not against two of them.

  As one attacked, she lifted the sword, blocking the dreck’s blade. But she wasn’t fast enough to counter the second dreck as he lunged forward, holding a pair of short swords, and sliced into her abdomen.

  “NOOOOOO!” Ignoring the fatigue in his muscles, M
icah took off at a sprint, traveling along the top of the ridge like a streak of lightning.

  “Micah!” Malek called as he gave chase.

  His mother staggered backward, toward the open doorway as if she were trying to block the way inside, blindly swinging the sword at her attackers, unwilling to surrender even as her knees wobbled.

  “No! Mother!”

  Like a true warrior, she refused to give an inch, despite her rapidly weakening state. Mustering what must have been the last of her strength, she surged with determination, parrying her foe and driving her sword into his belly.

  The next seconds flashed by in an instant, even though Micah saw the events unfold as if through a thick, slow-moving fog. The dreck she impaled fell, his body spasming in the throes of death. The second dreck moved in, blades flashing. His mother was left unprotected, alone, and without a weapon. Micah stopped and raised his bow, determined to save her.

  Just as he released his arrow, the glint of cold steel dripping with vampire blood rose over her. Would the arrow find home before the dreck’s blade did? The firelight reflected off the sword’s edge as it fell in a swift descent.

  Micah held his breath, his heart and soul flying alongside the arrow blazing a trail in the distance between them.

  The sword sliced into his mother a split second sooner than his arrow lodged into the center of the dreck’s back.

  “NO!” Micah burst into a run, barreling down the steep decline of the ridge, falling, tumbling, then regaining his footing as he reached the base.

  With Malek hot on his heels, he vaulted the simple wooden fence and charged into the small square of land surrounding his parents’ cottage, leaped onto the dreck, who was still alive, and drove his dagger into the beast’s heart, releasing a savage war cry.

  And he kept stabbing, long after the dreck was dead, turning the foul creature into nothing but tenderized meat.

  “Micah, stop!” Malek remained a safe distance from his swinging dagger, but Micah could feel his desperation.

  He couldn’t stop. He had to keep stabbing. Had to keep destroying that which had taken what he loved. His anger—his fury—required vengeance.

  Malek pushed dangerously close, dodging Micah’s dagger as it plunged through the air and into the dreck’s chest, and grabbed him by the collar as he raised the blade again. “Micah! Your mother! She needs you!”

  They were the only words that could have gotten through to him.

  The bloody dagger in his hand halted in midair then dropped to his side as he swung his rage-hazed gaze around to where his mother lay in the flattened grass.

  “Is she alive?” He abandoned the gore he’d created and lurched toward her.

  “Barely.” Malek’s dismal tone said all Micah needed to know about his mother’s fate, and he froze, meeting his best friend’s eyes with a sense of foreboding. “She doesn’t have much longer, Micah.” Malek bobbed his head in her direction. “She asked for you.”

  The breath caught in Micah’s raw throat, scorched by hot smoke and strained from shouting. Then he sprung to life and scurried to his mother’s side, falling to his knees. He took her hand. It already felt too cold. Too small. Too . . . lifeless.

  “Mother . . .?”

  Her eyes blinked open as if just that simple act took too much effort. “Mi . . . cah.”

  Tears blurred his vision, but he forced down the sob that threatened to break through his throat. “I’m here. You’re going to be okay.” He squeezed her hand and brushed the bloody hair off her face.

  She weakly shook her head as the corners of her lips turned up knowingly. She knew she was dying. This was her end, and nothing could stop it. Then she shifted her gaze to the open door of the cottage. “Your father . . . needs you . . .” Her breath rattled in her lungs like shackles being tugged by the Grim Reaper. “In . . . side.” She tried to lift her arm but couldn’t, instead pointing in the general direction of the doorway.

  Micah glanced toward the cottage.

  And that’s when he saw it.

  His father’s booted foot lay on the floor, in the shadows, unmoving, just beyond the door.

  “Go . . . to . . . him . . .” His mother’s voice was quickly fading, no louder than a whisper now. “Needs to . . . give . . . you . . .” Her hold on his hand weakened. Her body relaxed. Everything in her went slack.

  “Mother . . .?” Micah turned back toward her, only to find the light that had been in her eyes moments ago was now gone. She was gone. Her soul claimed and taken to the other side. “Mom?” He shook her. But it was useless. She was dead.

  Tears trailed down his cheeks as he bowed his head. “I will kill every last one of them, Mother,” he vowed on a whisper. “I promise not a single dreck will remain when I am finished avenging you.” He bent forward, placed his palm over her silent, unbeating heart, and kissed her dirty, abraded forehead. “I promise.”

  There was no time for more. The remaining drecks were quickly closing in, and he had to save his father.

  Pulling the strength from deep within, he leaped to his feet and rushed into the cottage. His father lay on his stomach in a pool of blood, his hand outstretched toward the large wooden chest against the wall. Its lid was open, the contents scattered as if his father had been searching through them before he fell.

  There was so much blood. Too much.

  “Father?” Micah crouched and rolled the heroic male he had always admired and looked up to over. No less than a dozen wounds seeped his life-giving blood.

  “Son . . .” His father’s voice rasped from him as if from a ghost.

  “Father . . . I’m getting you out of here.” He began to lift him, but his father protested.

  “No . . . no time . . . I’m not . . . going to make it.” His skin was already so pale it was a wonder he had any blood left to sustain him. “Save yourself. Save your mother.”

  Micah didn’t have the heart to tell him she was already gone. Hot tears stung his eyes once more. “I will.”

  “Take . . . the chest”—his father let out an ugly cough that speckled his lips with blood—“with you.” He turned his head toward the large wooden structure only a few feet away.

  There was no way he could take that with him.

  “It’s too heavy.”

  His father shook his head. “No. Inside. The chest . . . smaller one. The box . . .” He coughed again, and it sounded like his lungs were filling with what little blood he had left. “Take it. Protect it. The ankh . . . inside . . . keep it safe.”

  Micah looked inside the large chest, and, there, to the side, was a smaller one. No wider than the length of his hand and as deep as three of the leather-bound books Kat enjoyed reading. It was ornately carved and secured by a disproportionately heavy lock. He lifted the chest and secured it under his arm as he returned to his father.

  “I have it.”

  “Take it . . . go . . .” His father held out a key fastened to a knotted length of leather. “Hurry . . .” His father’s midnight blue eyes glanced through the open door toward the east. “The sun . . . almost . . . here . . .” He winced and groaned then fell silent as his body went lax.

  “Father?” Micah knelt closer. “Father?”

  “Micah!” Malek’s frantic voice shot through the doorway. “Hurry!”

  There was no time. The drecks were coming, and the sun was close behind. He had to leave.

  He plucked the key from his father’s loose grip and tucked it into the pocket of his cloak, stashed the small chest in his father’s pack, which he slung over his shoulder, and then crossed his forearm over his chest as he faced his father’s lifeless form. “I will avenge you, Father.” He glanced out the door at his mother. “I will avenge you both.”

  With one last sorrowful glance toward his father, he breathed in the last inhale of air he would ever take inside the home he grew up in. Never again would he set eyes on the male who had taught him how to hunt, how to track prey, how to kill, how to be a good mate, and how to lead an a
rmy. A male more powerful than a tidal wave, stronger than a gale-force wind, and more respected than even the king. A male who had been, was, and would always be his hero.

  His father was dead.

  Or so he thought.

  Chapter 2

  Present Day

  With barely a cursory glance at the guard in the lobby, Micah flew past the security desk of The Sentinel in downtown Chicago. His insides were as raw as if they’d been scrubbed by steel wool, but what was going on between his ears was even worse. It was like a million nano-wasps had been released into his grey matter, and those that weren’t stinging his brain were crawling through the grooves and folds like melting shards of ice.

  What the fuck had happened tonight?

  His father was alive.

  Alive!

  And Ronan was his brother. The thief who’d broken into his apartment—the very apartment he was fleeing to now—and led him and his team on a wild-goose chase all over Chicago was his goddamn brother!

  Micah had almost killed him tonight. He’d put a bullet into Ronan’s shoulder and had almost planted one inside his brain before he learned the truth.

  He hadn’t believed it at first, because for Ronan to be his brother meant either his father or his mother hadn’t died, and since he’d been there the day of the raid that killed them both, he knew that wasn’t possible. But then doubt had crept in. The family resemblance had been too striking. And then his father had shown up, and that was when everything blinked out inside Micah’s head.

  Without slowing his long strides as he reached the elevator bay, he smacked the up arrow and continued to pace.

  Alive, alive, alive . . .

  How was his father alive?

  Why hadn’t he reached out to let Micah know?

  Where had he been all this time?

  Who the hell was Ronan’s mother?

  So many questions blurred through Micah’s thoughts he couldn’t think straight.

  A ding rang out in the elevator bay, and Micah practically leaped through the doors that slid open, immediately slapping the button to close them again.

 
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