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The Vampire Villain (Evil Rising Book 2) by Melody Raven (1)

Marcus could think of thousands of places he would rather be than standing in the throne room of the reigning vampire king, Aleksander. Ever since the incident with Fredrick last week, Marcus had tried to remain scarce. Some serious plots and schemes were making their way around the compound, and he didn’t want to be drawn into the crossfire if he could avoid it.

And he would’ve succeeded in staying out of it if he’d kept his nose out of other people’s business, too. Probably would’ve been best if he’d just let the damn human die. He didn’t owe Anna anything. But even so, he’d given her his blood, and now she was a newly minted vampire.

He was not a nice man. He happened to know Anna hated him, and her boyfriend, Nicolas, would kill him given the chance. However, the sight of the defenseless Anna’s life slipping away had struck a chord within him.

In a spur-of-the-moment decision, Marcus opened up a vein and forced Anna to drink as much of his blood as he could pour down her throat. As soon as her heart stopped beating, he hightailed it out of there. There was no guarantee the transformation would work, and he would not be responsible for any false hope.

However, she’d healed from her wounds and woke the next night as a vampire. Nicolas had barely left her side since. Marcus was surprised she wasn’t here now, but it was just Aleksander and Nicolas who stared at him with grave expressions on their faces.

Marcus had a bad feeling about this. He stared down the two large men, refusing to be the first to break the silence. There were three very different personalities in the room.

Nicolas resembled a caged animal. With dark hair and eyes, he looked as if he’d just crawled out of hell and was ready to attack anyone who stepped too close.

In contrast, Aleksander looked like the king he was. He was nonthreatening enough to make powerful friends in high places, with sandy-brown hair and eyes the same color, but Marcus had seen Aleksander in battle. The man was deadly with a sword. And with his teeth. And hands.

But as different as the two men seemed, Marcus knew he was the odd one out in the room. Even in the shadows, Marcus had been told he could never truly blend into the darkness. He had bright blond hair that usually only came out of a bottle and blue eyes that had seduced even the most chaste of women. One corner of his mouth sardonically twisted up as bitter memories filled him.

He stared at Nicolas. Just a few days ago, Marcus was lining up to get a few swings in at the old prince. The human had stopped him in his tracks. Only once had he met anyone like Anna. As much as he hated Nicolas, seeing the powerful vampire dote over the strong-willed human had softened his hatred a bit. But not much.

Aleksander finally broke the silence. “We’re living in strange times,” he said.

Marcus scoffed. “That’s an understatement.” His voice still had a pronounced British accent from his years in England. He could pull off a perfect Russian or Midwest accent if he wanted to, but he didn’t care to go through the trouble.

“Did Fredrick ever say anything to you that might indicate why he turned on Aleksander?” asked Nicolas.

Marcus shrugged. “Fredrick was beneath me, so I didn’t socialize with him much.” He saw Nicolas glower at him and smiled. Not being one to let anyone get off easy, he baited the bear. “The last revolt was because the previous king went bat shit crazy,” he said, casually throwing out the insult about Nicolas’s father. “Have you gone on any killing sprees lately, Aleksander?”

A low growl emitted from Nicolas’s throat and Marcus tensed, almost hoping for a good fight.

Aleksander chimed in, ever the voice of reason. “You two are not children. You can be in a room together for a few minutes without killing each other.”

“Debatable,” responded Marcus. “Is that all you called me in for?”

“We have investigated Fredrick’s computer and cell phone. We can find no traces of communication with any other rebels.”

“Isn’t that good news? That means less people want you dead.”

Aleksander met eyes with an agitated Nicolas before he turned back to Marcus. “It would make things easier, but I don’t believe Fredrick was acting alone. He was loyal for the last four centuries. Someone had to convince him to turn on me.”

Marcus completely agreed with Aleksander, but he’d be damned if he’d let him know it. “What does any of this have to do with me?”

“Why did you turn Anna?” asked Nicolas.

The out-of-the-blue question and sudden change of topic startled Marcus. “Fuck you,” he shot at Nicolas. “Some of us don’t walk across humans bleeding all over the fucking floor and ignore it.”

“He didn’t mean to offend you,” said Aleksander. “While I have always been sure of Fredrick’s loyalty, your allegiances haven’t always been so clear. I am honored that you’re a better man than Fredrick was.”

“My loyalty was in question?” asked Marcus, but he knew exactly what Aleksander meant. Though he overall liked and respected the king, he was the first to openly disagree with Aleksander when he thought the situation called for it. Because of his standing in the High Council, his disagreements with Aleksander were well known.

“We don’t know who to trust at this point,” said Aleksander. “I know Nicolas was being set up by these usurpers. I also know that by turning Anna, you actively worked against them. This means that you two, Anna, and my wife are the only people I can truly count on right now.”

The train of logic made sense to Marcus, but he didn’t want the responsibility. “What do you want me to do?”

“No one knows you turned Anna. Everyone assumed Nicolas found her in time and saved her. I want you to try to infiltrate the ranks of the traitors. With Fredrick gone, they’ll be looking for new spies. You are in the perfect position and it’s no secret we frequently fight.”

Marcus rolled his eyes. “So we fight. That doesn’t mean someone is going to try to get me to kill you.”

“Those chances will greatly increase if you’re kicked out of the compound,” said Nicolas.

Realization dawned on Marcus. “You’re going to pretend you believe I was working with Fredrick?”

“The Tower is opening in New York in a month. It’ll be the perfect time for an attack. As a High Council member and part owner, you will be expected to attend. If you go to New York now, we think you’ll be approached sometime before the opening.”

“You two are insane,” said Marcus.

Nicolas shrugged. “No one will think less of you if you are too scared.”

Marcus bared his fangs but responded in a calm voice. “I could use a little city life.”

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