Home > Nightbred (Lords of the Darkyn #2)(6)

Nightbred (Lords of the Darkyn #2)(6)
Author: Lynn Viehl

As Sam took the elevator down to the first floor, she wondered how many of the Kyn refugees Lucan would be expected to absorb into their jardin. Since the Brethren had stepped up their efforts to drive the Kyn out of Europe, hundreds of the immortals had crossed the Atlantic seeking sanctuary from their American counterparts. Michael Cyprien assigned unoccupied territories to a select few suzerains he trusted, but the majority were sent to existing jardins, where nearly all were added to the ranks of the household or the garrison. Now and then old grudges between the American and European Kyn made absorption impossible, which forced Cyprien to send along those who could not be placed to the seigneurs in South America, Asia, or Scandinavia.

From what Burke had told Lucan yesterday, this group of fifteen had come from the same jardin on the border of France and Italy, and were the survivors of a Brethren attack that had killed their suzerain, his household, and most of their garrison. Like the others that had come before them, for a time they’d probably be short-tempered, self-defensive, and prone to acts of stupidity. Lucan had been sending the ones he wanted to keep down to the island he owned in the Bahamas, where his seneschal, Rafael, would work with them until they were ready to be integrated with the rest of the stronghold’s garrison.

Sam didn’t care to get involved in jardin business, but this latest group had shown up with little warning. Something seemed off about this, enough to make her reach out and press the button for the third floor.

She’d just have a look at the new guys and then head in to work.

Inside the reception room Sam glanced at Lucan and Burke, who had arrived ahead of her, before she scanned the faces of the visiting Kyn. Collectively they should have resembled a mob of male models waiting for a photo shoot, but centuries of training and working as warriors and guards had developed their musculature to brutal perfection.

“Suzerain Lucan, I am Vander, appointed by Seigneur Cyprien as leader of these men.” A man who vaguely resembled a punk-rock bull stepped forward and bent forward, bowing so low his bristle-brush hair nearly touched the floor. “My brothers do not speak English, so they wish me to thank you for granting us an audience. If I may, I will make known to you the names of my companions.”

Lucan took his time silently assessing the group before he finally inclined his head, and Vander began the formal introductions.

Burke left Lucan to join Sam. “My lady, Lord Durand awaits in the next room, if you have a moment to greet him.”

“Yeah, I do.” Sam’s mobile beeped, and she unclipped it from her belt and checked the screen, which displayed a homicide call from dispatch. “No, I don’t.”

She debated whether to tell Lucan, but her lover was in the process of admiring a neck chain with a glittering gold medallion hanging from it. Visiting Kyn always brought expensive gifts as tribute, which Sam considered unnecessary and even a little silly. Lucan, on the other hand, had been universally despised by his kind before he’d become a suzerain. While he always pretended not to care about the show of respect, Sam knew it gave him a lot of satisfaction.

As her phone beeped again, Sam made a face at Burke. “I’ll say hi before I go, but would you mind asking Chris to keep Jamie company until I get back? Last time he was here, they became pretty good friends.”

Burke nodded. “I’m sure Miss Christian will be happy to look after Lord Durand.”

The tresora escorted Sam to one of the smaller meeting rooms, where the scent of warm sandalwood colored the air. It came from Jamys Durand, who was standing at the window and looking down at the sea.

“It’s still not too cold if you want to go for a swim,” Sam said.

“No bathing costume.” Jamys smiled as he came to bow before her.

“Oh, cut that out.” Sam pulled him up into a hug before she drew back and took his hands in hers. “You’ve been working out, kiddo.” She patted some of the new muscle bulging under his sleeve. “And I’d love to catch up, but some idiot killed someone downtown and I got stuck with the call. I’m sorry, but would you mind hanging out with my girl Chris until Lucan frees up? You remember Chris, right?”

“Yes.” Jamys’s dark brown eyes gleamed. “I remember.”

“Excellent. Thanks. I’ll see you later.” She kissed his cheek. To Burke, she said, “Call if you need me.” She hurried out to the elevator.

* * *

Chris made herself walk, not run, through the club to Burke’s office. For three years she’d immersed herself in learning how to be the perfect tresora. Burke had taught her everything about protocol, from how to properly greet a visiting lord (with extreme politeness and deference) to getting rid of unwanted human groupies (with a little eucalyptus-based ointment under the nostrils and a quick trip into the outside air). Lucan’s men had helped teach her the defense tactics every tresora was expected to know, and she had practiced with every weapon she could handle in the armory until she could use it with complete ease and deadly accuracy. She’d even learned how to tolerate blood loss on a regular basis, just in case one of the Kyn needed to use her in an emergency.

From the beginning Burke had warned her that hard work might not be enough. “Being a tresora is more than a position of trust and employment. It is a bloodline obligation, handed down to each generation of a tresoran family. I am the thirty-eighth Burke to serve the Darkyn.”

“Back in the Dark Ages, they had to go out on a limb and trust the first Burke, right?” When he’d nodded, Chris said, “Then I’m going to be the first Lang.”

For Chris, being a tresora wasn’t only about being with Jamys. For all their superpowers and immortality, most Darkyn held on to their medieval mind-set, and as a result often had trouble coping with the modern world’s demands. Chris intended to change that. All of the immortals had to stop living like Lord of the Rings extras and learn how to drive, operate computers, and use smart phones. The tresori—most of whom were trained in Europe—also had to stop worrying so much about protocols and instead pay more attention to practical matters like securing reliable alternative sources of blood, consolidating and improving the business fronts that concealed the jardins’ existence, and developing more allies among the local businesses, government, and authorities.

Once she was a tresora Chris would never again have an ordinary life, but she was willing to trade that to be with Jamys and help protect him and the rest of the Kyn. Someday in the future she might even earn her own spot on the tresoran council, where she would make decisions that would enhance and safeguard the Darkyn’s future.

For now she’d be happy with simply being named a tresora, which had turned out to be much more complicated than she’d expected. Burke had helped her prepare her original petition for recognition, and sent it off to the tresoran council, which had sent back a long list of requirements Chris had to accomplish under Burke’s supervision before her petition would be considered. So for three years she’d studied and practiced and acquired the skills necessary to satisfy the padrones who ruled over all tresori. She hadn’t stopped until Burke had crossed off the last item on the list, and transmitted his final progress report on her to the council.

Chris had never wanted, or worked so hard for, anything in her life. They had to say yes.

There was only one thing she hadn’t told Burke, the council, or even Sam. As soon as she became a tresora, Chris had no intention of giving her oath of loyalty to Lucan. Instead she’d planned to offer her service to the only Darkyn she wanted to spend the rest of her life with: Jamys Durand.

Naturally she wasn’t supposed to be in love with the Darkyn lord she wanted to serve, she thought as she absently fingered the shard of glass. Burke had explained it to her before he’d agreed to help her train. You must understand what our masters desire from us: absolute loyalty, unshakable trustworthiness, and unwavering devotion to their protection and well-being. The Darkyn have great affection for mortals, and often form close relationships with their tresori, but our bodies are too frail and our existence too brief to make us suitable life companions. They cannot permit themselves to love us.

So to them we’re like dogs, she’d said. Except we talk, take care of the house, and balance their checking accounts.

Her analogy had startled a laugh out of Burke. Something like that.

Herbert Burke’s office lay tucked in the corner of the club, and once Chris made her way through the thinning crowd of patrons, she took out her key card to release the electronic lock and let herself inside.

Although Lucan had a reputation for being arrogant and lofty, no doubt reinforced by the languid contempt with which he treated most people, the suzerain on his own handled a good deal of the jardin’s business concerns. Chris knew he had an active interest in the hundred or so businesses he had purchased since taking charge of Alenfar, and often came up with clever ways to make them more profitable.

He also invested in the very latest in computer mainframes, which controlled satellite terminals stretching from Jupiter to the Keys and constantly monitored his various investments. Everyone who worked for him in the stronghold had been networked with the mainframe. It also served as the central command center for his stronghold, and his massive wall of surveillance monitors kept watch over the club’s interior as well as every inch of the properties surrounding the building. Concealed behind an Alan Pollack painting at the far end of Burke’s office, a vault held enough weapons for the suzerain to stage a respectable coup.

Should Castro’s brother decide to invade, we must have the means with which to blow him back to hell, Lucan had told her once. Besides, one can never have too many AK-47s.

Chris went to the desk, gingerly lowering herself into Burke’s chair before she faced his teleconferencing terminal, on which he still had the Darth Vader screen saver she’d installed for his birthday. When Lucan had seen it for the first time, Burke had told him—with a perfectly straight face, no less—what a huge fan of the Star Wars movies he was.

This was no time for joking around now, though. Chris straightened her jacket, smoothed a hand over her hair, and reached out to input the access code on the terminal’s keyboard.

   
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