Once Bitten, Twice Burned - Cynthia Eden
Thank you so much to all of my wonderful readers. You are just incredible!
Thank you to Eden’s Agents! (What would I do without you?)
For my editor, Esi—it is always a pleasure!
For the fabulous Justine—oh Justine, you inspire me every time our paths cross.
Thank you to all of the wonderful people I have met on my writing journey. I hope that you all enjoy the phoenixes and the dark places that they will take us.
The knowledge burned through Ryder Duncan’s gut like acid, burned almost as much as the horrible, consuming hunger that had gnawed at him over the months he’d been held captive in this hell. The hunger that still ate at him.
He paced his cell. Ten feet wide. Twelve feet long. He’d paced this same path over and over again.
And he couldn’t fucking get out.
His hands punched into the nearest wall. The walls of his prison were all made with heavy, thick stone, and even his enhanced strength couldn’t break through them. Though he’d sure tried his hardest to punch his way out. For his trouble, he’d gotten broken and bloody knuckles.
Without fresh blood to fuel his body, he was just growing weaker every day. At this point, Ryder knew he was operating on instinct. Primitive drive.
For someone like him, the most primitive drive was bloodlust.
Ryder stilled when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching his cell. Guards. Coming by to taunt him. If they would just make the mistake of stepping into his cell, getting close enough for him to touch . . .
I’d drain them dry.
His fangs were fully extended in his mouth. The hunger was too intense for anything else. Some vamps could go for days without feeding, no problem.
He could handle days.
He couldn’t handle weeks. Months. The bastards were starving him, and starvation was one very painful and cruel way to kill a vampire.
He clenched his fists and turned away from the door. He didn’t want the guards to see how close to breaking he was. If they saw, they would be afraid, and then they’d never step inside his cage.
The footsteps grew closer. He tried to calm his rushing heartbeat so that he could focus on the prey that approached, but the frantic thunder echoing in his ears wouldn’t slow down.
When he got out of his prison, he’d make his betrayer pay. Not an easy death. One that took so very long.
A bright light flashed on above him, and Ryder held himself perfectly still. He knew what the light meant. The humans outside were watching him through their two-way mirror. He turned his head, the move taking a strange amount of effort, and Ryder glanced at that mirror.
He’d tried to shatter it. Hadn’t worked.
The men who’d built this place had known just how to supernatural-proof their prison.
“How are you feeling, Ryder?” a voice asked, one tinged with the slightest hint of the South. He knew that voice. Dr. Richard Wyatt. The warden of this hell.
Hell was a so-called research facility—the Genesis Facility.
Humans thought the supernaturals inside this place had volunteered to be test subjects. Day and night, experiments were performed on them. The experiments that were supposed to help good old Uncle Sam develop a bigger, stronger fighting force—before Uncle Sam’s enemies created that force and beat ’em to the punch.
Maybe some of the supernaturals had been stupid enough to volunteer as guinea pigs. Ryder hadn’t volunteered. He’d been tricked. Betrayed. Drugged. He’d woken in this cell, been kept prisoner for too long, and he wanted out.
One way or another, he would get his freedom back, even if he had to kill every guard in the place in order to get it.
“Come in,” Ryder growled back to Wyatt. “And I’ll show you.” He’d been longing to rip out Wyatt’s throat.
The doctor laughed. “I’m afraid that’s not possible, but I am growing concerned for you.”
Bullshit. The doctor was fucking Frankenstein—one who was obsessed with experimenting on the monsters who were already in the world.
But soon enough, those monsters would be coming for him.
Ryder had the sadistic prick marked for death.
“I’ve never seen a vampire go so long without food. Most die of starvation long before this point.”
And there was a tidbit most humans didn’t know. Folks usually thought you had to stake a vamp to kill him. Or behead him. But those were the fast ways to die. If you wanted a vamp to suffer, you made him go without blood. Slow starvation. He’d wither before your eyes.
I’m not withering.
Because he wasn’t your average vamp.