Tempted by Midnight: A Midnight Breed Novella (1001 Dark Nights)
Tempted by Midnight
A Midnight Breed Novella
By Lara Adrian
1001 Dark Nights
He had lived for more than a thousand years, long enough that few things still held the power to amaze him. The sea at night was one of those rare pleasures for Lazaro Archer.
Standing on the third-level bow deck of a gleaming, 279-foot private megayacht off the western coast of Italy, Lazaro braced his hands on the polished mahogany rail and indulged his senses in a brief appreciation of his moonlit surroundings.
Crisp, salty Mediterranean air filled his nostrils and tousled his jet-black hair. The late summer breeze was cool tonight, gusting rhythmically toward the Italian mainland. Dark, rippling water spread out in all directions under the milky glow of the cloud-strewn moon and blanket of stars. Far below, waves lapped fluidly, sensually, against the sides of the yacht where it floated, engines silenced as it waited at its destined location on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Lazaro supposed the luxurious vessel he stood aboard would take the breath away from just about anyone—human or Breed. Being born the latter, and first generation Breed besides, one of the vampire nation’s eldest, most pure-blooded individuals, Lazaro had known his fair share of wealth and luxury.
He’d once had all of those things himself. Still did, if he could be bothered to care.
He left everything he once had back in Boston twenty years ago, after the most precious things in his long life had been taken from him. His blood-bonded Breedmate, his sons and their mates, a houseful of innocent children...all gone. His only surviving kin was his grandson, Kellan, who’d been with Lazaro the night the Archers’ Darkhaven home was razed to the ground in a heinous, unprovoked attack by a madman named Dragos.
Lazaro exhaled deeply, no longer feeling the raw scrape of grief whenever he thought of his slain family. The anguish had dulled over time, yet his guilt was always with him, scarred over like a physical wound. A hideous, permanent reminder of his loss.
Of his life’s greatest failure.
If his existence had any meaning now, it belonged to his work with Lucan Thorne and his fellow Breed warriors of the Order. As the commander of the Order’s operation in Rome these past two decades, Lazaro had little time for self-pity or personal indulgences. He had even less opportunity for pleasure, rare or otherwise.
Which was the way he preferred it.
He dealt in justice now.
At times, he dealt in death.
Tonight, he was representing the Order on a less official basis, on the hopes that he could facilitate a secret meeting between two of his trusted friends. One of them was Breed, a high-ranking American member of the Global Nations Council. The other, the megayacht’s owner, was human, an influential Italian businessman who also happened to be the brother of that country’s newly elected president, a politician who had won his office with tough talk against the Breed. If the meeting with Paolo Turati took place as planned tonight and was deemed a success, it would be the first step toward forging an alliance with one of the vampire nation’s most vocal detractors.
As for Byron Walsh, the Breed male had been one of Lazaro’s colleagues in the States, even before the GNC had tapped Walsh for his current diplomatic post. As leader of his own Darkhaven in Maryland, Walsh’s social circle had occasionally intersected with Lazaro’s in Boston. There had even been a time, one bitter winter, that Walsh’s family came to visit Lazaro’s at their Back Bay mansion.
A long time ago, back when Lazaro had a Darkhaven. Back when he still had a family kept safe under his protection.
It had been even longer since Lazaro Archer had played emissary for any cause. He hoped like hell this clandestine introduction wasn’t a mistake.
Seventy-odd miles behind him was the seaside town of Anzio, where Lazaro had joined Turati on his yacht a couple of hours ago. Up ahead of them, an even farther distance, the island of Sardinia glittered with light against the darkness.
A smattering of other large yachts and watercraft bobbed in the vast space between Turati’s vessel and the island, but it was the low drone of a motorboat that captured Lazaro’s full attention. The size of a small cabin cruiser, the yacht tender had departed from an idling vessel in the distance and was heading Lazaro’s way. He watched the chase boat approach from out of the inky darkness, its navigation lights dimmed as instructed, flashing three times as it crossed the water toward them.
His Breed colleague from the States did not disappoint. Byron Walsh was arriving as promised, and right on time.
Lazaro nodded, grim with relief.
He turned away from the rail and headed down to the yacht’s main deck salon where Turati waited. On Lazaro’s directions and assurances, the gray-haired billionaire had brought just two men from his usual security entourage. The yacht’s crew of fifty had been reduced to a bare dozen, just enough personnel to operate the vessel.