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Immortal Guardians Kickstarter Sneak Peek

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Prologue

I'm dead. Have been for centuries because I'm a vampire.

There's a lot of folklore out there about vampires, all complicating and complicated by books and movies. Some of it is correct: we do drink blood and bright sunlight is our enemy. But most of it is terribly, terribly wrong. In fact, most of what humans think they know about the supernatural world isn't only wrong but is filled with misconceptions that can cost them their lives.

And that's where I come in. I'm a guardian. I know, I know, you're thoroughly confused right now, and I bet you even think this is some kind of trick to lure you in and make you trust me so I can suck your blood.

 

I assure you that is not my goal. I'm going to share the truth with you. There will be some that won't like what I'm about to tell you, but everything I say is true, and it's time it was heard.

 

*****

 

"Celeste! Have you heard the order?"

I groaned and punched the button on my iPhone. My last assignment had been disastrously boring, and I had been looking forward to at least twenty-four hours to myself. A chance to feed, relax, and find center before I returned to duty. I should have known better, but even that never stops me from dreaming. A fatal flaw, as it turned out, but I've never been good at learning from my mistakes, a character flaw I planned to remedy.

"Celeste! Did you hear me? You know the Order doesn't take kindly to waiting."

My lip curled back to expose my fangs, but Drusilla was neither impressed nor deterred. Shaking my head, I rose from the chaise. "Yeah, I heard. Don't let your blood curdle."

With a toss of her long golden hair, she rolled her eyes and started for the door. "You can't expect them to dismiss your attitude forever. You may be one of the top guardians, but you are far from the only one."

"I don't expect anything," I muttered. I didn't have to wonder if she heard me. That was something else humans got right – we do have excellent hearing. But Drusilla wouldn't respond, and that was fine with me.

Drusilla and I weren't friends and never would be. Competition was fierce among the guardians for two reasons. First, and simply, we come by it naturally, especially among our own kind. Some consider it a weakness or a flaw, but most of us consider it a necessity. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. And secondly, the Order encourages this natural trait. Our charges are assigned to us based on rank, and that rank among us is absolutely fluid. We mess up, we lose rank, we get assigned some lowlife to guard. No one wants to guard a lowlife. These two factors make friendships among vampires rare and trust rarer. It's not a problem. You don't miss what you've never had.

I opened the large, ornately carved door, heavy by human standards, and stepped into the hall. The Order was wealthier than any human or government, with wealth amassed since the beginning of time and well-managed, and our campuses all reflected this in some manner. In the residency area, the Order's campus was more contemporary in design with clean lines and minimalist furniture. Large artistic chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and conceptual art of paint splattered in complimenting colors hung from the walls. There were a dozen doors lining the hall in this wing, identical to the other four branches which each stemmed from the central atrium.

Our campus was small when compared to the many others located throughout the world. While each could be operated individually, the Order as a whole was intricately connected, as were the rankings among each division. It provided a complex structure to an essential organization, but also made competition that fiercer.

Like I said, it's a vampire thing.

I hurried down the hall, mindful of how alone I was. Most guardians were most likely in the sanctum, awaiting their assignments. The Order didn't condone tardiness, but I often was. But as one of the oldest guardians, and one of the fiercest, the Ascendency often allowed me some liberties. I'd like to say I didn't take advantage, but I did. On occasion. Drusilla wasn't wrong about that much.

The double doors at the end of the hall opened to the sanctum's outer chamber—a circular atrium with a stone floor, walls painted tan, and an enormous fireplace that was intricately carved and purposely positioned between a pair of double doors that would soon open. I took stock of the chamber, where I was no longer alone. All the campus's guardians were in attendance, with the exception of any who remained on assignment.

Turned out I wasn't as late as Drusilla had me to believe. As my eyes roamed the room, I found her sitting majestically in one of the leather chairs in the center of the room. She neither looked at me nor talked with anyone else. She was a jealous one. A few vampires idly chatted in small clusters, most likely comparing notes on their charges—the one thing we did share without prodding. Others were scattered and standing or sitting alone, completely unconcerned by their solitude as they sipped red wine, grape juice, or water (another misconception — yes, we can drink anything we like, as long as we're adequately fed).

I didn't bother collecting anything from the far bar. I was hungry and becoming ill while speaking with the senior members of the Order - the Ascendents - didn't appeal to me. I'd feed after the ceremony. There'd be time.

Five minutes passed and the large doors opened. We filed in, according to rank. I was first in line. The inner chamber resembled more of what humans generally pictured of vampires — medieval architecture with high-flying buttresses, classic stonework, and even a few suits of armor. The senior-most ranking members of the Order had been kings, parliamentarians, and other government officials. Some were the oldest of our kind. All had been vetted and deemed just and uncorrupt before being assigned to their senior vampiric Order positions. They were fair, but not to be questioned. To do so came with harsh penalties that few in all of our history dared to risk. And despite my penchant for pushing boundaries, I had never come close to breaking our laws, nor would I ever. I didn't particularly have a thing for torture.

I sat along the first curved row of red velveted chairs, looking at the Ascendents' table across from the theater-style rows of ornate seating. Between us was an open area with pristine stone flooring, immaculately constructed and maintained. Most new vampires found this area intimidating, but the rest of us knew better.

The chamber remained silent as the rest of the seats filled, none of the chatter humans might expect at a large gathering. And unlike humans, we found peace in the silence. As guardians, our existence was filled with noise and chaos, quietness was difficult to find, and we reveled in it when we could.

Once we were seated, our senior-most governing Ascendent stood and addressed us in his measured, baritone voice. "Guardians," Royake said. "The battle is intensifying. There will be losses but those can be mitigated through our vigilance. At all times, humans must remain unaware of the world in which they truly reside. And, at all times, it is their lives that will ensure the world's survival. It is required for some of you to join the guerillas in meeting the enemy where they are."

Now that was a surprise. Duties among the vampire population were never shared, and guardians never took on the role of our army-like guerillas. It was considered below our ranks, something we were far overqualified for. The fact that it was being done was reason for great concern.

"Those of you who are handed a directive will report to the compound in the Washington Northwest. Please do so with the utmost urgency." Five low-ranking vampires moved through the crowds, passing out small envelopes sealed with the Order's triangular mark. "Finally, those guardians who will remain here will receive new assignments, beginning with Celeste."

I stood in silence and obediently waited.

"Celeste, you are being assigned to Logan Hanover, a senator of California. He is of the utmost importance and he's a prime target for the fairies. Do not let your guard down."

"I never do." I bowed my head in reverence as I stepped forward to take the folder from Royake's long fingers.

But if this Logan was a special target to the horrible fairies, guarding him would not be easy.

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