Home > Cursed (Brides of the Kindred #13)

Cursed (Brides of the Kindred #13)
Evangeline Anderson

Chapter One

Commander Stavros Rii slipped out of his shuttle—which had converted itself to look like one of the small vehicles Earthlings called “cars”—and shut the door softly. He made certain the small craft was well hidden behind a screen of bushes that edged the narrow dirt road—more of a track, really—before he left it.

A glance at the moon told him it was nearly midnight—the perfect time for a secret recognizance mission. Not that he wanted to be up in the middle of the night—he found it irritating and ridiculous. But it was necessary, at least for now, as was the fact that he was currently hiding in a cabin in the woods outside of Asheville instead of working honestly, out in the open as he ought to be.

Stavros sighed. All this sneaking around was wearing on him. In the years he’d been stationed on Earth, he had been able to drive openly to and from the HKR building and anywhere else he needed to go. Now that the Earthlings had declared war, he and his kind were outlawed. Which meant he had to resort to hiding in shadows just to get back to his office.

He wouldn’t even be going back now if it wasn’t for the feeling he kept getting in his mind. It was a kind of internal itching or tickling and he knew what it meant—someone desperately wanted to talk to him. Someone was trying to bespeak him using a Think-me but somehow the Earthlings had jammed the communications systems between the planet and the Mother Ship. Only the viewscreens with direct lines were still any good. Luckily, the Asheville HKR was one of those few. So Stavros was trying to make his way as quickly and quietly to his old office as he could in the dead of night in order to communicate with the Mother Ship and find out what they wanted.

Off in the distance a siren sounded and Stav froze where he stood. He’d been certain for part of his trip that some agents of the newly created Earth Protection Bureau were following him, though he had made his shuttle/car look as nondescript as possible. The EPB was tasked with hunting down and locking up any Kindred who were still on Earth and Stavros didn’t have time to be locked up just now. Not with the Mother Ship urgently trying to contact him. The sound of the siren faded off into the distance and he gave a sigh of relief. His earlier suspicion that they were following him was probably ridiculous. After all, how could they know where he was or even that he was here at all?

He and Garron and Tess were staying in a cabin far back in the woods which belonged to a friend of Tess’s. They were fine people and Stavros had stayed with them voluntarily because he refused to abandon his post. He firmly believed no Kindred should be left behind without a comrade at arms to back him up. But though they were the nicest couple, living with them could be a bit…wearing. Mostly because the two of them were newly bonded and couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

Not that Stav minded all their loving looks and cutesy nicknames for each other but he’d spent most of his adult life avoiding romance and relationships. Calling a bride as most warriors did, wasn’t an option for him. A Sin Eater didn’t have a long lifespan and bonding a female to him wouldn’t have been responsible or right, not when he knew he would probably die before he reached forty.

Stavros pushed aside the morbid thought of his own death and began walking. He made his way confidently across the rocky field, never stumbling once. Kindred had excellent night vision—much better than humans. Which was why he was able to spot the two people stumbling along in the darkness long before they had a chance to see him. Stav wrinkled his nose—he could smell them too. They had just come out of the local tavern behind them called aptly enough, Bad Decisions, and it looked like they were doing their best to live up to the name of their drinking establishment.

“C’mon, baby—just one more drink,” the male was saying. He looked to be in his early twenties, as did the girl. The two of them were probably students at the local learning establishment—The University of North Carolina, Stavros thought it was called.

“No, Billy! I told you, I need to go. I have an exam tomorrow,” the girl replied. She had already drunk more than she really wanted and her stomach was rolling—Stavros could feel it, just as he felt the small paper cut on her left hand and the dull headache starting behind her right eye.

He pushed the pain away automatically. Almost from birth he’d been subject to the aches and pains of others and though he could never completely turn them off, he had found ways to block them in a fairly substantial way when he concentrated. He never could have become a warrior otherwise.

Most of the Cursed—the strange subset of Blood Kindred who were also called Sin Eaters—lived quiet lives away from others. A life of solitude and isolation was pretty much the only way to guarantee anything like a normal life span for someone who was constantly subjected to the pain of everyone around them. But Stavros didn’t want that kind of life—didn’t want to die having never really lived. He preferred to take the pain.

Not that creeping around in the dark like this is much of a life, whispered a sarcastic little voice in his head. But what else could he do?

Keeping to the shadows at the back of the building, he began edging around the human couple who were now having a full-blown argument. He sent a silent thank you to the Goddess that at least he didn’t have to endure their emotions. Only physical pain and distress made its way through the strange conduit that existed between himself and the outside world. But Stav would far rather feel pain than the emotional drama playing out in front of him.

“Why’re you being such a bitch for, Meg?” the human male demanded. “Swear to God, you’re always whining about fuckin’ exams!”

“Maybe because I want to pass them,” the girl snapped back. “I’m not here on a football scholarship like some people and I don’t have rich parents to back me up if I fail. Look, I told you I could only stay for a few minutes and you said you were okay with it. Can you please just take me back to the dorm now?”

“Alright, fine. But first…” The male pulled the female to him and cupped one breast in his hand. Stavros felt the girl’s pain as he squeezed just a little too hard.

“Hey!” The girl tried unsuccessfully to push him away. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Gettin’ paid.” The male’s tone had turned ugly. “C’mon, baby—I took you out and bought you a drink. You gotta give me a little something for my trouble.”

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