Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries


Beloved Warrior

Chapter One         Chapter Two

Chapter One

“I can’t believe my little brother is having his mating ceremony…”

The happy sigh made Marcus Hamilton glance at the huge vampire warrior next to him. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. He’d never seen such awe on his cousin Gabriel’s strong face.

Gabe looked awe-inspiring in his dinner jacket too, tailored to fit his large, muscled frame. He dressed in suits occasionally for business purposes, but most of the time he could be seen in the fighting leathers that the warriors of the Crimson Circle wore when they patrolled the streets of London. His long, black hair was in its customary warrior’s queue at least, or Marcus might have believed he was an impostor.

They were standing at the edge of a verdant canopy raised in the English garden of Greenwood Manor, the ancestral home of Greenwood wolf-shifter clan. The mating ceremony of Zacharias Hamilton and Harriet Green was about to start, and Marcus’s stomach fluttered in excitement, much unlike the huge and frightening vampire warrior he was too.

A vampire warrior mating with a wolf-shifter… Who would’ve thought this day would come?

In all his five centuries, Marcus couldn’t remember being surrounded by so many wolves, not even on a battlefield, and definitely not by their vulnerable clan members. The cubs in human form were running around the vast garden, laughing and screaming in joy, not caring that half of the guests were feared and deadly vampire warriors of the Crimson Circle.

Then again, the other half were feared and deadly wolf-shifters.

But this was a special occasion. Zach, the Second Son of their leader Alexander, Lord Foley, was formalising his mating bond with Harry, the only child of Jamie Green, the alpha of the Greenwood clan.

No one had expected the easy-going, woman-loving Zach to become bonded, let alone with a wolf. But a vampire’s Rider, their hidden, secret second nature, chose who it chose. And for much of their early courtship, Zach’s Rider had been in charge of their shared body when Zach was recovering from being shot.

It could’ve easily gone so wrong too.

Vampires’ second natures were vicious, bloodthirsty creatures, and unlike the other two-natured—shifters and sentients—vampires never let them out voluntarily. It would only lead to carnage.

Yet when it had been in charge, Zach’s Rider had chosen to bond with a beautiful woman, a tall and strong doctor who was perfect for him—even if she was a wolf. And her wolf nature had accepted him in return. The second natures of the two-natured didn’t make mistakes when they chose their forever mates.

Their union formed a closer alliance between the warriors and Greenwood wolf-shifters than there had been during the centuries of the two living on the opposite edges of Epsom, some thirty miles outside London. It was a good, strong union, and much needed. The warriors were in a war against their vicious, secretive enemy, Renegades, and needed all the allies they could get.

But today was about love, not war. Marcus pushed the gloomy thoughts aside and shot Gabe a teasing look. “Shouldn’t you be planning for your own mating ceremony?”

As far as Marcus was concerned, Gabe and Zach were both long overdue finding their mates and settling down. Zach would celebrate three and half centuries this year, and Gabe was only a decade younger than Marcus, both of them past the half a millennium mark.

“Yes,” Gabe stated, his eyes landing unerringly on his mate, Allegra Emery, across the canopy where the women had gathered around Harry. “But we’re waiting until the renovation of her house is finished. Allegra wants to be wed at her own home.”

Gabe had chosen a woman Marcus would never have thought would suit the First Son, a highly intelligent scientist whose willowy body and ethereal demeanour looked like the slightest adversary would break her. But Allegra was perfect for Gabe, strong and fiercely protective, and she had already helped the Crimson Circle in their war against the demon vampires by identifying how Renegades weren’t real people but more … well, brimstone.

Marcus nodded, understanding, but his mind began to race. Allegra’s house was in the middle of London and was known to Renegades. It would be a huge security risk. But he was the security expert of their organisation. He would make it work.

“Nothing this over-the-top though,” Gabe added with a grin that made him look much like his father despite the stronger features and starker lines that he shared with Marcus.

Alexander and Jamie had thrown themselves into planning a huge do for their motherless offspring. The garden was decorated with spring flowers, and long tables were filled with food. There was even a string quartet, currently tuning their instruments on a small dais, even though music never played a large part in the mating ceremonies of the two-natured. Everyone was wearing their best clothes. Marcus couldn’t even remember the last time he’d worn a dinner jacket—tailored too, as he was built like Gabe: wide-shouldered and muscled.

Maybe they should make the effort to dress up more often. They needed celebrations in the middle of their endless war.

That in mind, he gave Gabe a pointed look. “You’re Alexander’s eldest son. Your mating ceremony should be twice this large, held at the Circle Manor. It hasn’t seen a mating ceremony since—” He stopped abruptly before his mind went where it shouldn’t: his mating ceremony. “…before Zach was born.”

Gabe gave him a sympathetic glance that Marcus appreciated, though he shouldn’t—didn’t—need it after all these centuries, but continued without bringing it up. “Allegra wants to invite her human colleagues. Having the ceremony at her home makes it easier. Besides, you forgot Dad’s mating ceremony with Melisende.”

“Also before Zach was born,” Marcus said with a small smile, though in truth, he had forgotten Alexander’s short union to Zach’s mother, which had ended when she died giving birth to Zach, like Gabe’s mother had died giving birth to him.

Like Marcus’s mate had died giving birth to their son…

But Alexander hadn’t been bonded with either woman, and he had the consolation of his sons. Marcus didn’t even have that.

“My mating ceremony was much larger than Alexander’s to Melisende,” he noted to distract himself. It had to be the occasion loosening his tongue. He never brought it up voluntarily—out of habit and not because he mourned anymore, though everyone walked on eggshells around him as if he still did. Maybe it was his fault, not having made it clear.

Gabe dipped his strong chin in acknowledgement. “That’s because Melisende didn’t have any family attending.”

It was understandable, considering her family had tried to kill Alexander and Gabe while they were negotiating Alexander’s marriage to Melisende’s sister. The story of Alexander and Gabe fleeing with Melisende through a wintry countryside in France was one of Alexander’s favourites that he shared every Christmas.

“Cassandra had no family attending our mating ceremony either. Just…” That woman. “Us.”

“Your mating ceremony was the first large do in the Circle Manor since its completion,” Gabe said matter-of-factly, as if it wasn’t huge that Marcus was talking about it for the first time in centuries. “Father invited the entirety of vampire nobility in the country. There was a lot more of them back then.”

But Marcus didn’t want to reminisce anymore. It would only make him gloomy, and this was a night of joy. “Come, I think they’re about to start.”


Vampires and shifters didn’t traditionally mix, and Marcus had never attended a shifter mating ceremony before. But their deities were the same, the All Mother, and Might, the energy powering all two-natured, and the bond could form between different types of two-natured. If this was anything like the vampire ceremony, they would collectively acknowledge the union and ask the deities to bless the mating bond if one existed between the pair. That wasn’t always the case.

Zach and Harry were definitely bonded. Only a union that their second natures accepted could have brought the two together and made Zach renounce all other women. Judging by the huge grin on his face, he was perfectly happy with it.

Like all Alexander’s offspring, Zach resembled his father greatly. His clean-cut, classical lines combined with a towering, powerful body drew eyes everywhere. In a perfectly fitting dinner jacket, his curling black hair tamed for a change, and his blue eyes shining, he was a striking sight.

It took a strong woman not to be intimidated by his power and his looks. Harry was definitely that, despite being barely in her thirties, a veritable child in two-natured years. She was a tall, beautiful woman with long, wheat-blond hair currently decorated with flowers, and a curving body sheeted in a form-hugging, white, human-style wedding dress. Much of her strength came from being an alpha’s daughter, and she would grow to be as powerful as her father one day. The translucent aura of her white wolf was stretching out of her chest like a living, full-colour 3D hologram, eager to be part of the ceremony.

But a great part of her strength came from the knowledge that she was a brilliant doctor capable of handling the strain of her job at the A&E of the two-natured ward of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. She’d saved Zach’s life with her skills too.

As the final rays of the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the full moon began to rise, hundreds of lanterns were lit in the garden. The May night was balmy and perfect for an outdoors event, at least for two-natured who didn’t really feel the cold.

“Beautiful,” Sebastian Hamilton said, taking a place next to Gabe and Marcus.

Alexander’s youngest son was as fair as the rest of his progeny were dark, with fashionably cut golden hair and blue eyes. But his classical features were as sublime as his father’s, as were his size and form. In a sleek designer tux, he looked lithe next to bulky Gabriel, but he was as powerful as the rest of them, even though he spent his days running the business arm of the Crimson Circle as the CEO of Foyle Enterprises.

“If I ever have a mating ceremony, I’ll want something like this.”

“What do you mean, if?” his eldest brother demanded. “You’re not even two hundred yet. Look how long it took me.”

“The reason it took you so long is because mating bonds don’t happen every day,” Sebastian reminded him with a pointed look. “And I want a proper mating bond too, not just some person I happen to like enough to share my life with. Besides, I could easily choose a man as my partner, and I don’t know if bonds happen between same-sex pairs.”

Gabe pulled back. “So if the love of your life happens to be a man you’d let him go because you can’t be bonded?”

Sebastian made to answer but Marcus spoke before he had a chance. “Mating bonds are overrated.”

The comment was out before he could control his tongue and it silenced the men next to him. But he didn’t want this to be about him, so he nodded at the Greenwood alpha a little away from them. He was a tall, flaxen-blond man as powerfully built as the warriors, the aura of his white wolf stretching out of his chest, studying the goings-on with keen curiosity.

“Think of how it went with Jamie.”

Harry’s mother had been human and unable to recognise the bond Jamie’s second nature had formed, but it had bound him to her even after they divorced nonetheless. Only after her death had he been released from the bond and been able to find a new mate, Isla Shaw, and even bond with her. The tall, raven-haired wolf-shifter from Scotland was currently standing next to Harry, fussing with her dress that to Marcus’s inexpert eye looked perfect already.

“Or how long it took Isla to recover from the loss of her mate and son,” he added, although it had been only a century, far less time than he had been mourning his losses.

Not mourning anymore, he reminded himself. Just … stuck.

His companions didn’t say anything. What was there to say? They knew how a bonded two-natured behaved after the loss of their mate. Marcus had been a perfect example of it.

“Alexander has been fine with unions without mating bonds,” he continued in an attempt to make his point.

Sebastian cocked a sardonic brow. “You can’t possibly think that his union with my mother was good.”

Alexander’s fourth marriage had been political and not a happy one. Unlike the earlier ones that had ended in death, it had led to a divorce only a decade or so after Sebastian was born.

“A point in favour of not bonding with your mate,” Marcus said. “Imagine if your father was still stuck with her.”

Sebastian shuddered. There was no love lost between him and his mother either. After the divorce, Hélène Joubert had spent decades scheming against Alexander and wreaking general havoc until her father arranged her a marriage with a Chinese vampire prince. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, China had still been far enough away to keep her out of their lives for good, and everyone had been happier for it.

“I don’t think a bond forms between people who wouldn’t make each other happy. It would be horribly cruel and pointless,” Sebastian said, making Marcus sneer.

“If it weren’t supposed to be cruel and pointless, we wouldn’t mourn for our mates for so long.”

He sounded so bitter that he shook himself, disgusted, and adopted a cheerier tone. “But deaths in childbirth hardly ever happen these days, even for vampires. Alexander and Zach are powerful healers, and Harry is a brilliant surgeon. You’ve nothing to worry about when you start having children.”

To his amazement, Gabe paled. “Who said anything about children?”

Marcus grinned. “Come now, your father is eager to have grandchildren.”

“Dad is over six centuries old, and his first wife gave him plenty of children and a plethora of grandchildren.” Gabe gave Marcus a pointed look. “One of them is alive even.”

Marcus was Alexander’s great-grandson several times over, the only vampire progeny that had resulted from his first marriage to a human woman in the fourteenth century. The only one still alive, that was. But since he and Gabe were almost the same age, they’d taken to calling each other cousins. In truth, they were like brothers.

Alexander had taken Marcus to live with him when it became clear that he finally had vampire progeny. Marcus had watched over Gabe since his birth, the only child from Alexander’s union with a vampire aristocrat. They’d spent the decades after their promise was fulfilled together—or after their vampire gene had been activated, as Allegra insisted that they called it—until they could face the sun again.

They’d become warriors of the Crimson Circle at the same time, and together they had fought dozens of wars, for humans and against them, and now the endless war against the Renegades. At his mating ceremony to Cassandra, Gabe had stood next to him, like Gabe was now standing next to Zach.

But when his mate died, he had been alone.

No, that wasn’t quite true, he recalled, when he spotted a familiar face among the women around Harry. She had been there when it began too.


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Chapter Two

July 1654

“I can’t believe my brother is having a mating ceremony,” Gabe gushed as they stood side by side in Marcus’s parlour, waiting for the event to begin. His barely contained excitement was contagious—or a reflection of Marcus’s own emotions.

Gabe punched Marcus’s shoulder playfully. “And so young too. Who’s ever heard of mating at a hundred and fifty. You should’ve waited at least until you’re two hundred to even start looking.”

Marcus grinned, joy bursting out of him, happier than he’d ever felt. “I wasn’t looking, and you know that. But one glance at Cassandra and my Hunger ignited.”

That was how vampires described the mating instinct their second nature initiated, Hunger. He thought it was a perfect word for the surge that had flooded through him when he laid eyes on Cassandra Lanrinou.

She was his second cousin, and progeny of Alexander too. Alexander kept an eye on all his children’s children, and had brought Cassandra to visit them when she was a child. Marcus had thought she was a well-behaved, pretty little girl who didn’t resemble Alexander at all, but the child hadn’t merited his interest and he’d forgotten all about her.

It was over a century later that he saw her next—a hundred and twenty-six years later, to be precise. Vampires were vulnerable after their promise was fulfilled, as they were dead to the world during the day until they were strong enough to face the sun again. Cassandra had been living in France for over a century, watched over by a powerful warlord, but now she had emerged from her seclusion.

Being able to face the sun again was a rite of passage among vampires, and Alexander had brought her to Crimson Manor and thrown a celebration for her. As she was reintroduced to Marcus, their eyes had met, and that was all it took.

He had mistaken it for lust at first. Who wouldn’t lust for that alabaster skin, that golden hair, those blue eyes like a summer sky as they smiled softly at him. He had wanted to write sonnets for her or fight the fiercest of monsters to prove he was worthy of her.

Never in his life would he have thought she’d regard him with favour, let alone acknowledge and accept the mating bond. When she did, in the sweetest possible manner with tears of joy in her eyes, only the odd nature of Hunger, which protected a chosen maiden from the vampire male, and his warrior discipline, had prevented him making her his before the proper ceremonies. But tonight was the night.

He was almost dizzy with anticipation.

“Well, I’m not looking for a mate yet,” Gabe stated, cutting into his musing. “A mate wouldn’t suit a warrior’s life.”

Marcus gave him the smug look of a man who knew better. “It’ll hit you one day too. You’ll see. There’s no stopping Hunger. Maybe even at the celebration tonight.”

Gabe didn’t look as opposed to the prospect as his words implied. “There are certainly more females around than I’ve seen in years. Maybe decades.”

They’d spent much of their time on the continent, fighting the endless war against the Spanish Inquisition and the sentients, the treacherous third variation of two-natured who had turned against vampires and shifters. They would head back there after the ceremony.

Marcus’s stomach tightened at the thought of leaving Cassandra here, but it couldn’t be helped. If they didn’t stop the senseless butchering of their kind on the other side of the Channel, it would spread to England and then his mate would be in mortal peril. The mere thought made his fangs lengthen and growls reverberate in his chest.

“Whoa! What came over you?” Gabe asked, amazed, pulling back. Marcus controlled himself with a grimace.

“Just imagining what it would be like to lose Cassandra.”

Gabe’s stark black brows shot up. “You’re thinking such morbid thoughts tonight of all nights?”

Since it was foolish, Marcus pushed the thought aside. “The eldest daughter of Lord Horley is comely,” he suggested lightly, returning to the earlier topic. Gabe tilted his head to the side, giving it a thought.

“I guess. The sight of her doesn’t ignite anything in me though. Not lust and definitely not Hunger.”

All females except Cassandra had lost their allure to Marcus, so he took Gabe’s word for it. “What about Maldon’s widow?”

“She’s intelligent, I’ll give you that. Maybe I’ll take her to my bed tonight…”

Marcus’s fangs threatened to lengthen again as he imagined taking Cassandra to bed, sinking his fangs into the marble column of her throat, and his cock—

“Whoa, ease down or you’ll break your codpiece,” Gabe said with a grin. Marcus grinned too, controlling his body with effort.

“I can’t wait for the ceremony to be over.”

“You’ll have to stay for the feast too.”

“Says who?” Maybe they could sneak to his quarters in the manor—theirs from now on—for consummation of their mating bond, and return to the festivities later.

A knock on the door heralded the entrance of Alexander, Lord Foley. Dressed in silver-embroidered dark blue velvet doublet and breeches, with lace ruffles around his neck and wrists, he cut an impressive sight even next to his larger, more muscular son and great-great-great-grandson. Gabe and Marcus were dressed in similar finery for the first time since Marcus could remember, not that he cared about the clothes other than wanting to look fine in front of Cassandra.

The leader of the Crimson Circle was the strongest of them in Might and magic, and most skilled on the battlefield. He had a scar to show for his countless battles, running down his face from the left eyebrow to his ear, a remnant from before his promise was fulfilled. He could’ve removed it with magic, but he chose not to.

Marcus could understand it. Alexander’s face held the beauty of ancient sculptures, with black hair and dark eyes that brought the beauty alive unlike the statues could. Marcus had inherited that face, as had Gabe, if in a slightly more rugged form, and was familiar with the reaction it caused. He could use a scar or two too.

“It’s time, my son,” Alexander said. He was the feared leader of their brotherhood, but tonight there was softness in him Marcus had seldom witnessed.

His heart jumped and he nodded. “Let’s go.”

Dozens of people had gathered in the ballroom of the manor, more vampires in one place than Marcus had seen in ages. It was a large space, but the huge warriors and the women in their wide velvet and satin gowns made it feel cramped. The windows were open to the garden, letting in the summer night air, but hundreds of candles made the room stiflingly hot.

“I’ll take a leather jerkin and breeches over velvet and lace any day…” Gabe muttered behind him, startling a laugh out of Marcus.

Just then, his eyes met those of a woman at the head of the room. It wasn’t Cassandra but someone he had never seen before. She startled and pressed her head demurely down, her brows slightly furrowed. Marcus feared he had offended her with his laughter, but cast the notion aside, because he had found who he was here for.


All other thoughts fled his mind as both of his natures aligned and focused on the female he was walking to, pulled towards her by the bond connecting them through Might. She was a small woman, but she stood resplendent in her gilded gown, her blue eyes calmly focused on him, secure in her knowledge that they were meant to be together for all eternity.

His eyes never wavered from hers through the ceremony. If vows were exchanged, he had no recollection. All that existed to him was her.

The next thing he knew, hands were patting him on the shoulders in congratulation, and dozens of beaming faces were surrounding him. His hand was holding Cassandra’s, the only secure link in his world, his being entwined with hers.

“You had better treat her right or you’ll have me to reckon with.”

Marcus blinked as the fierce words registered. They weren’t uttered by a male relation of Cassandra’s—great grandsons of her brothers, humans like her brothers had been. It was the woman he’d briefly glimpsed earlier.

She was taller than the other women here and most of the human men too, though not even close to Marcus’s height, the top of her head just shy of his chin. Her hair was such dark auburn it was almost black in this light, and it was gathered in elaborate braids held in place by emerald pins. Her gown was emerald and gold satin, and the stomacher kept her spine rigid, though Marcus had a fair notion she didn’t need it to. Moss-green eyes flashed with emerald light as she met his gaze without flinching, not intimidated by his greater strength in Might or his size at all.

Having spent years saving alleged and true witches from the Inquisition, he felt sure she would meet their criteria: a woman who didn’t bow to men.

“I’m sorry?” he asked, baffled by the straightforward approach.

“You heard me, warrior.” She spat the word like a curse. “You’re not good enough for her, and I’m going to make sure you treat her right.”

Marcus knew perfectly well he wasn’t worthy of his mate. He pulled straight, intending to tell her so, but what came out of his mouth was a baffled, “Who are you?”

Cassandra heard his question and turned to beam at him, melting his heart like always. “Oh, I’m so happy to introduce my closest friend in the whole world to you. We’ve been cloistered together for the past century, though I just know she’ll emerge faster than I did. Marcus, my love, this is Sabine Trémeur, and she’ll do great things in the future.”

Marcus inclined his head politely, his eyes meeting the greens that were still staring at him with silent accusation.

Sabine. It was good to know the name of his adversary.


Present day

The last celebration of a legal union Sabine Bertheaume had attended was a wedding of her human colleague around the New Year. It was held in an elegant ballroom of a five-star hotel in London, with guests in evening gowns and dinner jackets, and servers serving creations prepared by the chef of the hotel’s Michelin star kitchen. She hadn’t enjoyed it half as much as she was enjoying this mating ceremony, and not solely because she had been the only two-natured there.

The old garden of the Queen Anne manor, lit with hundreds of lanterns and the full moon, easily beat the stifled elegance of the hotel. The food, prepared by the best two-natured caterer in the country, was excellent and there was plenty of it. She wouldn’t go home hungry like after the human wedding.

The elegant clothes worn by the guests were designed by tailors and seamstresses who had been making clothes for centuries, often for these same people, and knew how to dress their clients. The guests, most of them centuries old too, knew how to carry the creations effortlessly.

But it wasn’t the outward things that made her prefer this ceremony. It was the genuine warmth and happiness around her, tangible in Might that was buzzing with the feedback the dozens of two-natured were feeding into it. She didn’t need to see the smiling faces of the happy couple to know that they were enjoying everything and were secure in their mating bond. She felt it everywhere. And on top of everything was the wildness that shifters seemed to emanate, a tone that vampires lacked, her kind more reserved and cool-blooded.

“It never ceases to amaze me that I can have new experiences at my age,” she noted to Charlotte Thornton, the mate of Raphael Green, the alpha’s brother. She was a tall, darkhaired wolf-shifter whose elegance wasn’t at all diminished by the fact that she was heavily pregnant. “I’ve never been to a shifter event before.”

“This is my first too,” Charly said with a warm smile. She was only in her mid-thirties and had been raised as human, her second nature bound by magic. She’d discovered her true nature only a year and a half ago, and had embraced her new life fully. “Rafe and I didn’t have a formal mating ceremony, just a good howling party during the next full moon after our mating bond formed.”

“It’s not necessary for bonded pairs to have an official ceremony,” Sabine noted. “Human law doesn’t come asking after it anymore. They just acknowledge the marriage as they understand it.”

Charly nodded. She was a lawyer like Sabine, and knew the law well. “Still, it would’ve been fun to have a great big do like this.”

“You’ll have even greater one when your child is born,” Sabine consoled her with a smile. “That’s more important to shifters any day.”

Charly lifted a protective hand over her bump. “I never realised when I was still human that offspring were so rare among the two-natured.”

“Luckily, we stay fertile for a long time,” Sabine said lightly. “Not that it feels important to have more children at my age.” She had one son. He was enough.

“I never know if it’s polite to ask how old the people around me are,” Charly said with a wry smile. “And I so want to know. I think it’s fascinating.”

Sabine let out a pealing laugh. “Most of us don’t even remember. But I’m older than the groom by at least a century.”

Her eyes sought Zach among the crowd, softening as she looked at the huge warrior. He was beautiful like his father, wild and vibrant like his mother, and radiant with happiness standing next to his tall, beautiful wolf-shifter mate. Sabine was proud to be his sponsor to All Mother. In truth, she’d been more like a real mother to him.

“I’d won the sun already when Zach was born, so I’m…” She blinked, unable to believe it, “…four hundred and seventy-three.”

She pushed away the memory of the night Zach was born, as it was also the night his mother died. She had been fond of Melisende, her only companion in the Crimson Manor after Cassandra died.

The memory made her glance at another warrior, near identical in looks to Zach: six foot six with a wide-shouldered, heavily muscled body capable of wielding a greatsword one-handedly—a skill that wasn’t in high demand anymore. Marcus looked equally powerful in a bespoke dinner jacket than he did in fighting leathers, a look she was more familiar with.

He had the classical features of all Alexander’s offspring but with a stronger jaw and heavier brows, sharp blue eyes, and black hair that had been cropped short in the style of ancient Romans. Yet she would know him apart from his brethren any day. Had since the moment they met.

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