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  • Blood Will Tell(Warriors of Ankh #1) by Samantha Young
  • Prologue

    The Basement

    Her brother, Stellan, was always telling her curiosity killed the cat. She was too young to take this as the warning it was. She was curious. Curious about the noises she thought she heard from below the house. Curious enough to venture downwards.

    Like a cat that knew she wasn’t allowed on the kitchen counter tops, Eden made her way down the wide stone staircase that spiralled into the basement. Her heart thudded in her chest. Daddy said she wasn’t allowed down here, but that noise… She flinched again as another scream rent the air. As her patent shoe finally descended into the corridor, and her head peeked around the corner tentatively, she thought her heart was going to explode out of her chest. She froze, her eyes drawn to the iron door near the end of the long hallway. She waited as the sounds of struggle beyond the door grew more frantic.

    The iron door burst open. A woman - a beautiful woman with long red curls - fell out of the doorway and onto the cold, hard floor; her arms stretched out in front of her as she tried to claw her way along the ground, fingernails breaking off in her wild struggle. Eden took a step forward, terror choking her. The woman’s mouth and left side of her pretty face were swollen. Even so young, Eden knew the signs of violence. Eden’s horrified eyes scanned the na**d woman. Raised bite marks, bleeding and raw covered her br**sts and stomach, and (Eden shuddered in confusion) the inside of her thigh. Lacerations across her back and legs wept openly, excruciating and bloody. The woman sobbed, too weak to pull herself very far, crawling in increments towards Eden. Eden took another step forward and the woman looked up.

    “Help!” she yelled hoarsely, her wide eyes begging and pleading with Eden, the sight of the little girl sparking a dismal hope. “Please, help me!” She reached out towards her, screaming all the while. Involuntarily, Eden felt her little arm move out towards the woman. But she didn’t know what to do. What should she do?!

    The iron door scratched harshly against the stone floor and her father appeared out of the room, his hair was mussed and his face glowing. The top of his trousers were undone, his leather belt dangling from his clenched fist. He scowled ferociously at Eden as he grabbed the screaming, scratching woman up into his arms as if she were nothing more than a wriggling puppy.

    “Ryan, no!” She sobbed, clawing at Eden’s father. Ryan ignored her.

    “Eden!” he bellowed. “Get out of here! Don’t ever come here again without my permission!” And with that he slammed back inside the room, the iron clashing against brick like the roar of a monster.

    Everything grew quiet… except for the harsh, racing thump of Eden’s heart.

    “Eden!”

    She turned slowly. A blurry Stellan leapt down the staircase towards her, panic and concern in his voice. He reached her, clutching her arms tightly in his hands.

    Eden promptly threw up at his feet.

    Stellan cursed and raced back upstairs. He seemed to take forever as she sat there, breathing through her mouth, her chest heaving. When he returned he had cleaning products, and went about taking care of the mess she had made, muttering something about mom and dad not finding out how she’d had that kind of reaction. When he was done, Stellan returned and carefully lifted her into his strong, young arms. She snuggled into the warm safety of him as he carried her back upstairs to her room. He sat down on the bed, keeping her secure in his hold.

    “You can’t tell anyone, Paradise,” he whispered softly, using his teasing nickname for her. “You can’t tell anyone what you saw down there. Not any of the other Blessed that visit mom and dad. What dad did… does… torturing and killing humans… it’s a breach of our laws.”

    She shivered. “The law?”

    Her brother nodded, his face taut with disapproval. “There’s a group, called The Tribunal, they make sure the Blessed don’t call attention to our race; they enforce the law that we should only feed on, not devour a human’s soul, so that we don’t start killing off humans. We need them for our survival, after all.”

    “Does it hurt them?” She sniffled. “The humans?”

    Stellan’s chest moved up and down in a heavy sigh beneath her head. “Yes. But it can’t be helped, Eden. You’ll understand when you awaken. The hunger is just… too sweet.”

    Stellan had awoken a few months before. Her big brother was always developing faster than everyone else; he was smarter, taller, quicker. And he’d awoken a couple of years before the average soul eater. Ryan was so proud. As for Stellan, Eden could hear the awe and wonder in his voice at this new cycle in his life.

    “But what daddy does…?” The woman’s face flashed before her eyes, begging Eden to help her. She began to cry quietly.

    She felt her brother tense beneath her. “Dad gives into his instincts when he shouldn’t. I think Teagan is going the same way.”

    Teagan was their cousin. He had come to live with them after his father, Ryan’s brother, had been killed along with his wife. Eden still didn’t know how they had died – she hadn’t thought the Blessed were easily killed – and her father refused to tell her. Teagan was a year older than Stellan, and Ryan seemed to prefer him to his own children.

    “Does mom do it, too?”

    She felt Stellan shake his head. “Mom’s like me. Or I’m like her, I guess. She’s more cautious of us being found out.”

    Eden had a horrible thought. “Would you want to? Do what daddy does, I mean?”

    At his continued silence, Eden looked up into her brother’s face and saw the longing there. He clenched his fists and his jaw. “It’s there. The desire to do it… But I know it’s wrong, so I won’t,” he promised.

    “Is it wrong because you’d be killing a human or wrong because you’d breaking the law?”

    Sighing again, Stellan brushed her hair back off her face in easy affection. “You’ll understand, Paradise, when you’re older. We can’t help our nature. But we can try and control it.”

    She was silent and pale.

    Finally, Stellan grinned down at her. “This is no way to celebrate your birthday. Come on.” He settled her on her feet, grabbing her hand. Gently he began dragging her downstairs. Stellan took her through the back rooms and out onto the huge balcony that descended into twin stairs, leading out onto their land at the back of the house. By the time he had chased her through the gardens he had her laughing and giggling again. He swung her up into his arms as he caught her at the end, near their mother, Celine’s, prized fountain and turned her to where her gift awaited.

    “Happy Birthday, Paradise.”

    At the sight of the pony, she squealed in childish delight.

    The nightmares that began that night lasted longer than the pony.

    Chapter One

    Not Your Average ‘Nobody’

    Salton, Michigan

    Her English teacher droned on in the background but Eden Winslow wasn’t really paying attention. She was gazing in frustration out of the classroom window, out through the school parking lot, past the front gates and at the library across the street. Two guys in sunglasses sat on the steps, one reading a newspaper, the other sipping coffee. Their faces were totally familiar.

    Her dad really thought she was stupid. He was sooo paranoid.

    She nearly snorted out loud as she watched the two men trying to look inconspicuous. It was a dull, cloudy day outside… maybe they should have reconsidered the sunglasses. Morons. Jeez, her dad actually thought she had no idea he had bodyguards tailing her back and forth from school and wherever else she went.

    Noah thought she should talk to him about it. Get him to stop.

    Noah didn’t know Ryan.

    Mmm. Noah. She felt her chest constrict with the hunger.

    “… career week in a few weeks and it has inspired me.” Miss Travis grinned excitedly at the class. Eden groaned, even though she was kind of glad Travis had distracted her. Still it never boded well when Miss Travis got inspired. And to be inspired by the upcoming, dismal career week? Joy. “I want all of you to write a short, autobiographical piece about your lives, as though you’re eighty years old and have already lived it. What will stand out about your life when you’re old and wrinkly and have time to contemplate it?”

    The screams, Eden thought, a cold sweat breaking out across the top of her skin.

    “Well, we all know how Andie’s going to end up.” Maria Roth smirked at the shy girl across the aisle from her. Andie immediately turned bright red, her eyes widening with panic as everyone turned to stare. “In some freakshow for mutes.”

    The class tittered at the dig until Miss Travis hushed them. Eden barely registered her admonishing the girl. She was too busy shooting daggers at Maria. Everyone picked on Andie because she was painfully shy. Sure, Eden reckoned the girl should probably, like, talk to a therapist about her problem, but still… bullying someone with a crippling fear of being the center of attention was just sick. And Eden knew a lot about sick and twisted.

    “Well.” Eden shifted in her seat, her strange, pale grey eyes slanted narrowly on Maria. “With your family’s history it’s safe to say we know how your biography is gonna go… something about drug abuse, becoming a crack-whore, breaking a record for most accumulated sexually transmitted diseases, and either OD’ing under some fat, rutting, married taxi driver, or from tetanus poisoning from the ‘I ain’t a bore, I’m a whore’ tattoo you had slapped on your ass – you know, to improve the view for the clients.”

    And that was the reason Noah was her only friend.

    Maria lunged at her and Eden braced herself for attack. She and Maria were both about five feet eight, but Maria was solid while Eden… wasn’t. It wouldn’t matter. Eden had her mom and dad’s genes, and thus their preternatural strength.

    Miss Travis dived in between them before Maria could get to Eden’s hair. She’d seen Maria in fights before and the bitch always went for the hair. As Miss Travis pushed Maria back into her seat, Eden reached up to pat her head instinctively. She didn’t think much of herself but her hair she liked. It was thick and black as tar, and fell to her waist in a shiny silk curtain that other girls gazed at enviously. No bitch was touching her hair.