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Blurb: Worlds collide as Kirstie Blake and Marauder Dr. Niam Maraigh meet as he hunts down a rabid rapist. After saving Kirstie from the man’s attempted attack, Niam vanishes, his body and soul afire with thoughts of the young consultant. Yet, the hand of Morrigu hasn’t finished with these two as Kirstie’s best friend is beaten and raped, forcing Kirstie to seek the services of psychotherapist, Dr. Maraigh. When they meet once again under these circumstances, they sense they are kindred spirit.
Bent on bringing the attacker to justice, Kirstie seeks to find this rapist before he finds another victim. For Niam, the only way he can help ease the pain of his patients, almost all exclusively emotional and physical trauma victims, is to take vengeance in their behalf. When he rescues Kirstie from one of the storm and war god, Taranis’ minions, Niam is forced to reveal his true nature to the woman as both an ancient Druid and an energy vampire.
Can they capture the serial rapist before he continues his rampage? More importantly, will Kirstie and Niam learn that together they can defeat the powers of evil and the curse of the goddess by their love and The Mark of the Blood?
Niam gazed toward the setting sun, enjoying the swirl of colours lighting the sky, as he felt his powers growing. With his plans for the night, he needed to be at the peak of his strength. His head rang with the voices around him as people walked through and past the park he was in. Feeding was a priority, but he reined in the need to feed deeply. He always did. There would never be another loss of control. Never again.
His cell phone rang in his pocket. Withdrawing it, he flipped it open and spoke, “Niam here.”
“So bold, so daring, mo dheartháir. So why haven’t you bagged a cailín?” The chuckle that followed those words was all too familiar after hearing them many a time over the centuries.
“Toss off, Miach. I don’t need to pick up a woman a night to make myself feel like a man,” Niam uttered into the phone as his eyes watched a beautiful mark walk by him. She’s the one who’ll slake the thirst enough for this night.
“Sorry, tossing off is your field of expertise, not mine. Have you heard from your twin? No one’s heard from him in two days,” said the oldest Maraigh brother, Miach, concern tingeing his voice.
Niam sat up straighter on the bench in the park as he realized what wasn’t said. “Owain hasn’t checked in? Where was he last? Has anyone among the Helsingers or the O’Connors heard from him?”
“He’s on the trail of some bloodsucking vampire in Egypt, I do believe. And no, nothing from anyone in that area of the world.”
Niam snorted as the antics of his twin filled his mind with another reason Owain might’ve gone missing. “You’re sure it wasn’t a woman who couldn’t let the ultimate lover get out of bed long enough to phone home? Give him another twenty-four hours while I contact some people who aren’t on your contact list that might know his whereabouts. If he doesn’t call any of us, I’ll go find him.”
As Miach began ranting about the use of not-so-savory types and the twins using them for information, Niam sat back on the bench, dismissing the beautiful woman who had passed by from his mind. After another ten minutes of bickering and negotiating, they finally decided that they’d give Owain until sundown the next day to make contact before sending out a search-and-rescue team. Niam closed his phone and slid it back in his back jeans’ pocket. Time to hunt.
Feeling like a big cat on the prowl, Niam started watching for those walking by themselves as they cut through Silver Spring’s downtown park to the city’s main parking garage. With the precision of a master predator, he found a lovely woman walking alone, yet unaware of anything around her. She didn’t even notice him, dressed casually in faded black jeans, hiking boots, and a dark camp shirt, zeroing in on her. Concentrating on separating the mental voices that still pricked at his telepathic shields; he singled out her mental wavelength and smiled with amusement as he listened to her make a list of all the things she needed to get finished for that night. If he had the time, he might’ve taught her how to make time for fun things like sex, swimming nude, and enjoying a sunset as a work of art. Niam slid his will deep into her mind and coerced her to change directions to head his way, where he stood under the largest oak tree. Knowing the mind of the oak as he was trained to listen to the ancient trees, he knew that it had witnessed many make-out sessions, though he doubted it ever seen what he was about to do.
“Come, my lovely. It’s feeding time,” he whispered as he crooked a finger towards her. Her instant compliance, along with her mental leap of lust at noticing him as a handsome male, flared up a tiny part of guilt at using her for his meal. Yet, without sustenance, he would suffer, and in the ensuing insanity that those like him who stopped feeding suffered, he’d kill indiscriminately. Feeding in controlled amounts and from people who were healthy was the only way he could prevent himself from sinking to that point. Plus there was the simple fact that his feeding on her would allow him to hunt those who would willingly harm her and other innocents.
The lovely brunette woman’s hips swayed wantonly as she covered the last five feet to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his head down towards hers. It was always best to have the prey make the initial move so the act of coercion seemed to be more like a consensual act. “Kiss me. I’ve missed you,” she whispered huskily. Though she was under his compulsion, he sensed her real desire for him. Deepening his telepathic link, he read her essence. She was a warm, lively woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it, including fulfilling her basest desires when they demanded satisfaction. Any guilt at feeding dissipated at this knowledge. He would make sure that at least one of those desires had its fulfillment.
Her warm lips pressed against his, encouraging his hunger to take what she offered freely. As he wrapped his arms around her, he maneuvered her so that she was pressed against the trunk of the tree. As the woman…Janet…opened her mouth to his teasing tongue, Niam slowly unleashed his hunger, allowing it to feed from the life and desire Janet created within him and herself. One hand slid slowly down her chest, stopping to cup one linen-encased breast. As his thumb rubbed across, her nipple strained against the fabric. Her desire flooded into his body, her life-force slowly feeding his. Such life, such energy that just begged to be released. No! I won’t lose control! I decide how much to take, and I won’t drain her! Only as much as is needed. In return, I shall give her pleasure, sating her own hunger.
Once again, Niam had reined in his vampiric hunger. Though not like the vampires described by Bram Stoker, he did feed from mortals. His need for the life-force wasn’t something he could deny. Cursed by Morrigu, Niam had to drink from the life-force, the energy of life, or face insanity, and perhaps, even death. No, he didn’t fear his vampiric hunger, but neither would he let it run his life. Though he took from others a portion of their life-force, he paid them back by trying to give them something in return — pleasure, a will to do more with their lives, a push to reform themselves — whatever would benefit them the most mentally, or sometimes, physically.