This book contains very dark themes that may be upsetting to some readers. Trigger warnings include graphic depictions of death and violence, scenes of torture and murder, human trafficking, forced cannibalism, depictions of sexual assault and rape, child and infant death and abuse, and mentions of child sexual abuse.
Blood splattered across Cy’s face in a torrent of crimson spittle as he drove his stake further into his prisoner’s stomach. Not the heart—not yet. He couldn’t kill this one too soon. There was still more pain he could inflict. He’d enjoy it for as long as he could.
Beside him, Jax observed silently, brown eyes narrowed in assessment, and a cold smile painted across his normally placid face. This, more than anything else, united them. Brought them together as nothing else could.
Nothing felt as good as killing vampyres. Nothing. And it was what Cy did best.
The beast hissed and writhed as it glowered back and forth at the siphons forcibly inserted into the inner crook of both of his arm. Blood pumped through the attached tubing, collecting in barrels at his feet. Soon, they’d be filled. And then, when he was finished, Cy would put the bastard out of his misery. But only after they’d taken every last drop.
There was such sweet irony in draining a vampyre’s blood, in watching the minuscule color drain from its already pale skin. This one, a man with short black hair, glared at him with those cold, red eyes, his expression pulling in a tight, angry grimace, a distortion of his deceptive beauty.
“Fucking ferals!” the vampyre snarled.
Ferals. That was what the vampyres called them, the humans who had escaped captivity. The ones who fought back against vampyre rule.
“How does it feel?” Cy leaned in so he was only inches from the vampyre’s jaws. He wasn’t afraid. Not anymore. Fifteen years after being freed from their imprisonment, the only thing that frightened Cy was going back there, losing the freedom he’d fought so hard for. “How does it feel to be under someone else’s control?”
Held in silver shackles as he was, the vampyre could do nothing to retaliate. Silver was one of the weaknesses the Veritas had learned early, the stuff of legends made real. Silver burned vampyre skin, weakened them. Cy loved the way their flesh sizzled and cracked when silver was held against it. He couldn’t help it. Watching them suffer was as potent an aphrodisiac as he’d ever experienced.
The vampyre struggled and flailed. Their positions had been reversed, and Cy knew the vampyre hated it. Of course he did. No creature enjoyed being ensnared, trapped against their will.
But after everything they’d done, the evil they’d unleashed on the world, it was what vampyres deserved.
“Just kill me!” the vampyre snarled, and Cy laughed.
“And spare you the fun we’re about to have? I don’t think so.”
It was hours of torture, stabbing the vampyre with silver and wooden stakes, cutting off appendages just to watch them grow back so he could do it all over again. By the time Cy was finished, the vampyre was a drying husk, skin gray and flaking away.
A stake to the heart would do that.
At Cy’s feet sat four pails of freshly pumped vampyre blood, theirs for the drinking. To share among the Veritas, to make them stronger and better suited to fight the vampyres.
Jax approached, helping Cy to hoist the buckets up and transport them out of the underground dungeon. This was their way of life now, living in tunnels constructed of dirt and concrete. A life meant to protect them from the vampyres who ruled on the surface.
It was the only life Cy had ever known: one where vampyres held Dominion.
Cy hadn’t been alive to experience the slow dimming of the sun. It had happened hundreds of years before he was born. It was ironic how humans themselves had contributed to their own demise.
Pollution had blotted out the sun, a product of over-farming and overuse. And eventually, the earth could no longer produce. The sun’s absence had seen all things once green and full of life shrivel up and die. Only trees survived, the hardiest of them still standing and clustered together for miles and miles. But the forests gave life to nothing—no animals rushing through the undergrowth, no plants nor flowers nor weeds bloomed. This time in history was known as the Great Extinction, and afterward, only humans and vampyres remained.
Humans had descended into madness then, starving and terrified. And when all hope was lost, the vampyres made their move.
The story of the vampyre’s Dominion was more folklore than fact at this point, passed down only through spoken word and only ever in secret. The vampyres wanted to control the narrative, Cy knew, to make themselves appear the saviors of the world as it existed now. But in the shadows, the humans whispered the truth.
The vampyres hadn’t saved the world. They’d enslaved it.
The uprising had been slow and deliberate. They’d infiltrated the humans with patience and precision. As the sun’s light had dimmed further and the days had grown shorter, it became easier and easier for the vampyres to disguise themselves among their prey. When humans had finally realized what was happening, it was too late.
They’d taken everything. Human advancements in science, technology, medicine—all gone. Hundreds of years of research and dedication decimated so humans would no longer be able to communicate with one another, would no longer be able to survive unassisted.
Humans then began to fall sick, starving to death. Diseases had run rampant, and populations dwindled. Civilizations once overpopulated had crumbled to the ground. Humans warred over dwindling resources and were driven to cannibalism to survive. They’d fallen to the brink of extinction. The weak had died quickly in those days.
When the vampyres had stepped in, it had almost been a reprieve.
What remained now was nothing short of a nightmare. Across the world, humans were enslaved in every horrific manner possible. The Veritas was the only hope for human liberation. How fitting that their name meant truth, when all that existed around them was lies.
Cy strode through the tunnel with Jax matching his stride. They held the buckets of blood as steady as they could, determined not to spill a single drop. They’d need it for the upcoming attack: a planned raid on a fur farm in Highgate. They meant to free the humans imprisoned inside and welcome them into a new life with the Veritas, thereby further increasing their numbers. Vampyre blood was essential to the task.
There was something potent, almost magical, about the surge of power that overwhelmed a human after ingesting vampyre blood. It made them stronger, helped them endure harsher blows. For someone like Cy, trained in combat against the vampyres, consuming their blood made him feel almost invincible. After thirty years of existing in this world, he’d killed more vampyres than he could count, and he’d fight until his last breath.
It was a far-off dream. But every day, the influence of the Veritas grew. They strode toward freedom, killing as many vampyres as luck would allow them. They wouldn’t stop until the Dominion was eradicated and humans freed from their vampyre overlords once and for all.
“I heard Z made contact with the HU,” Jax said, his voice echoing through the expansive underground space.
“Who told you that?” Cy rolled his eyes. It had been months since they’d received any message from their leader. Z was a mysterious, almost anonymous, persona. Few members of the Veritas had ever seen him, and even fewer had spoken with him. Cy himself had been so lucky once; that deep ebony skin and strong jaw had been imprinted into his memory like a brand. He’d never forget the power of Z’s presence, the inspiration and invigoration he instilled in his people.
“Nia told me. She said that Tre visited one of the camps nearest the equator and that Z was staying there at the time. He’s been traveling back and forth. The HU’s leader sent a boat to retrieve him.”
“A boat?” Cy had never seen one, though he’d heard of their ability to transport humans over large bodies of water. The vampyres were said to have destroyed them prior to the Dominion.
“If the HU agrees to come to our aid, we might stand a chance.” Jax’s voice, though low, was filled with a strange sort of hope. Cy hated to squash it. But in his heart, he feared they could rely on no one but themselves.
It had been several months since the Veritas first heard about the success of the Humanitarian Union across the sea—about the humans who had banded together to overthrow the Vampyre Dominion. If the HU could do it there, all alone on their island, the Veritas could do it here in New Babylon.
Under Z’s guidance, the Veritas would continue to fight with or without assistance from the humans on the other side of the ocean.
But if Z was indeed traveling to meet with the leaders of the HU, perhaps there was a potential for allyship. Cy wouldn’t count on it.
“Let’s just take it one step at a time,” Cy said with a small grin.
“One step at a time. Right,” Jax said, a smile in his voice. He met Cy’s eyes and winked. Big brown eyes full of heart. Cy would do everything in his power to keep those spirits high and those eyes full of hope. He never wanted to see Jax hurt or afraid ever again.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself. Like you always do,” Cy chided, not unkindly.
“I can’t help it if I like watching you kill those bastards, can I? You make it look almost…sexy.”
Cy threw his head back and laughed. “Killing vampyres is sexy now?”
Jax smirked. “Hell yes, it is. Killing vampyres is better than fucking.”
“Kinky fucker.” Cy goaded. They shared a laugh but Jax wasn’t wrong. In this life, humans took whatever pleasures they could. Fighting and fucking were the easiest means of entertainment. But during scavenger raids, sometimes treasures could be found. Tre fermented walnuts into a liquor that the Ferals considered a delicacy. And Nia brought home any and all books she found slung along in a pack over her back.
Everything they had, they shared.
But central to their lives was a hatred of vampyres.
Every one of these humans had a story. A past they’d escaped to get to this place. And now, they fought side-by-side to rebuild humanity, one step at a time. He and Jax had seen the worst in this world together. In spite of their past, Cy would ensure Jax had a future.
He’d fight for all of them. Until his last breath.