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Cover of Blood Price: A Blood Grace Prequel

Blood Price

A Blood Grace Prequel

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A lady with no riches. A warrior with no sword. When death takes him from her, he'll return at any cost. But the price may be his soul—or her love.

Lady Maerea's wits and hard work are all that keep her people from starving. Now her brother has revived their forefathers' feud, and it's up to her to stop the bloodshed. But when the enemy arrives at the castle gates, he makes promises, not demands. Lord Alcaeus tempts her in ways she never imagined, and giving in would be the ultimate betrayal of her family.

Alcaeus is expected to take up the family sword against their age-old rivals, but revenge won't protect his brother's widow and child. He goes to Maerea seeking a truce, only to find that he wants a far more personal alliance with the brave and clever lady. But his intentions would inflame the conflict faster than any declaration of war.

Maerea and Alcaeus join together in a dangerous effort to end the feud, an act of duty that could lead to a lifetime of passion. But her brother's retribution is swift and devastating. Alcaeus's only hope is humans' worst fear: a Hesperine, a fanged immortal with powerful magic. Will his new power be enough to save Maerea, and can she ever forgive him for his bargain with the darkness?

Blood Price is the standalone prequel to the Blood Grace series, featuring a strong heroine, a sexy paranormal hero with a heart of gold, and worldbuilding that brings magic to life. Vela Roth's fresh take on vampires and fated mates is everything you love about paranormal romance, told in a whole new way. This steamy, full-length novel will sweep you into an epic fantasy world and satisfy you with an HEA.

Read Blood Price and discover a world of unforgettable romance!


Excerpt

When the lady knelt beside him, all the pain stopped.

He could no longer feel the agony in his belly. The cold mud and blood under his back faded from his awareness. He couldn’t hear the rain.

Moonlight shone on the pale oval of her face, and night shadowed her deep-set eyes. Her hood gleamed as if woven of black gossamer.

She was beautiful, but not like Maerea.

He was already breaking his vows to Maerea. He was leaving her. Nothing could stop the pain of that knowledge. He squeezed his eyes shut, clenching his teeth.

The lady brushed his hair back from his brow. Her skin was soft, her hand strong. He turned his face away from her.

“Do not be afraid.” Her voice was a velvety contralto, luring him into ease. “What is your name?”

He answered without thinking. Or tried to answer. The words gurgled in his throat as he choked on his own blood. She touched his brow again, and the discomfort faded.

“Alcaeus,” she identified him, without him needing to say it. “Do you know why I am here?”

Hers was not the face he longed to see above him, the voice he wanted to hear in his last moments. But she was here, and he was not dying alone.

Finally, he looked at her again. Her full, feminine lips parted, revealing what she was.

She had fangs.

He recalled what he’d overhead after the battle had ended. He hadn’t understood through the pain at first. Now everything made sense.

“My lord, shall we let his people collect him now?”

“No. Make sure no one comes for his body.”

“Shouldn’t we at least call a mage to give him his rites?”

“Say nothing to the mages.”

“But—my lord—! There will be no one to stop…them. The creatures of the darkness. They always come for the dead.”

“Let them use his corpse however they please. Let him pay for all of our losses. Leave him for the Hesperines.”

Hesperines. Fanged, immortal, inescapable. They haunted the night, flocking to abandoned battlefields to scavenge for fallen men. Humans were nothing to them but blood to feed on or corpses to use in profane rituals.

Alcaeus stared up into the beautiful, horrifying face of his fate.

“I am Iskhyra,” the Hesperine said. “I promise you will not feel any more pain.”

Fear for himself gripped him for the first time that night. He had faced his enemy in combat without hesitation. He had done his duty and fought to the last. His only worry had been for his family.

Now the Hesperine was here. There was no shame in fearing what she would do to him. She would corrupt him. He would not even have the consolation of dying by the sword in honorable combat. No warrior deserved this. To fade into darkness, borne on a Hesperine’s seduction.

He wanted to fight her, but his strength was spent. And no amount of strength would protect him from her. A Hesperine could rob a man of his will with her dark arts. She had such sorcery, she could do anything she wished to him. He was at her mercy.

At last it came, a grimmer messenger of his end than the Hesperine herself. Despair. “Leave me be. Please. My honor is all I have left. Leave me that.”

She took his hand. “It is a great honor for battle to deliver you to the one you worship. You are devoted to Anthros, the god of war, are you not?”

“What would you know about devotion, heretic? Your kind worship the goddess of night.” Hespera, outcast of the gods. He did not invoke her name aloud. He couldn’t stop her creature from destroying him, but he wouldn’t make it easy.

“Hespera is my goddess, but if you wish to meet Anthros tonight, I will not stand between you and your god.”

There came a clank, and something hit his palm. He closed his stiff fingers around the hilt with a gasp. The family sword. He held it to his chest.

A sigh escaped Alcaeus, almost a sob of relief. Part of his hazed mind wondered if he could believe the Hesperine’s words. She had just handed him the answer to that question.

“I found your sword driven into the mud,” she said, “just out of your reach. A cruel insult to you and your blade. Your foe was not worthy of you.”

“He,” Alcaeus wheezed, “isn’t dying.”

“That does not make him the victor.”

He held fast to the sword and the image of Maerea in his mind.

“Are you ready to depart?” the Hesperine asked. “To go to your afterlife in Anthros’s Hall and join his company of eternal warriors? Are you finished with your work in this world?”

“This world is done with me.”

“I am not.” She closed her hand around his where he held his sword. “I have the power to keep you here, if that is your choice.”

He swallowed. “You want to turn me into one of you.”

“Only if you wish it. The magic in my veins can restore you. I can offer you the Gift, Hespera’s blessing of immortality. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” he choked.

He could become a Hesperine, powerful and undying. He could escape death for a half-life in the darkness, surviving on blood.

Her grip on his hand was bracing. “I know this is a difficult decision for you. Whatever choice you make tonight will be the right one. You have lived with honor. You have no cause for regrets.”

“I do regret…”

“What? Did you want revenge against your enemy?”

“No. I just wanted Maerea.” Her name escaped him, a prayer, he knew not to whom. “She gave up everything for me. Now she will have nothing.”

“I can make it possible for you to help her.”

“How, if your goddess demands my service?”

“Hespera makes no demands. She gives. She will not change who you are. She will grant you the power to finish what you started. Power as you have never had before.”

“I don’t care about power. Only about Maerea.”

“The Gift would give you a second chance with her.”

Alcaeus realized his choice was very simple. He could die in battle and go to Anthros’s Hall, leaving Maerea. Or he could forfeit the god of war’s favor for all time, accept Hespera’s taint on his soul, and save Maerea.

What honor mattered more? Honor in battle? Or honor to his lady?

Alcaeus had made that decision already, the day he had chosen Maerea over a declaration of war.

“Does it take long?” he asked.

“You have strength and discipline, and Maerea is a powerful motivation. I expect you’ll need fewer nights than most to learn to use your power. The transformation itself takes mere hours. However, know that the Gifting—the change from human into Hesperine—may or may not be easy. It will test your conscience.”

He grimaced. He had lived by Anthros’s laws. What would Hespera make of his conscience? “How so?”

“I withhold nothing from you so you can make your choice wisely. During your Gifting, you will relive moments of your life with empathy you never had before. You will see your experiences through others’ eyes. You will feel their joy or pain, the consequences of your kindness or cruelty. If your deeds caused suffering, you will suffer. This empathy breaks the spirits of the depraved, and they perish before the transformation is complete. But those who have learned…those who have loved…their spirits endure, and they are reborn with new strength.”

Alcaeus had never imagined he would have to submit his soul to Hespera’s judgment instead of Anthros’s.

But from the moment he and Maerea had met, he had known he would risk everything for her.

“I will survive this night,” he vowed. “I will not abandon Maerea. Do it. Give me your Gift.”

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