Chapter One PRESENT DAY, NEW ORLEANS "You know, Talon, killing a soul-sucking Daimon without a good fight is like sex without foreplay. A total waste of time and completely un ... satisfying." Talon grunted at Wulf's words while he sat at a corner table at the Cafeacute; Du Monde, waiting for his waitress to return with his black chicory coffee and beignets. He had an ancient Saxon coin in his left hand that he rolled between his fingers as he scanned the dark street in front of him and watched the tourists and locals drift by. Having banished most of his emotions fifteen hundred years ago, there were only three things Talon allowed himself to enjoy anymore: loose women, hot chicory coffee, and phone calls with Wulf. In that order. Though to be fair, there were times when Wulf's friendship did mean more to him than a cup of coffee. Tonight, however, wasn't one of them. He'd awakened just after dusk to find himself pathetically low on caffeine, and though the theory went that immortals couldn't have addictions, he wouldn't wager on it. He'd barely taken time to pull on a pair of pants and his leather jacket before he came seeking the goddess Caffeina. The cold New Orleans night was uncommonly calm. There weren't even many tourists on the street, which was unusual this close to Mardi Gras. Still, it was prime Daimon season in New Orleans. Soon the vampires would be stalking the tourists and preying on them like an open banquet. For the moment, though, Talon was glad it was quiet, since it allowed him to deal with Wulf's crisis and feed the one craving that wouldn't wait. "Spoken like a true Norseman," Talon said into his cell phone. "What you need, my brother, is a mead hall filled with serving wenches and Vikings ready to battle their way into Valhalla." "Tell me about it," Wulf agreed. "I miss the good old days when Daimons were warriors and combat trained. The ones I found tonight knew nothing about fighting, and I'm sick of the whole 'my gun will solve all' mentality." "You get shot again?" "Four times. I swear ... I wish I could get a Daimon up here like Desiderius. I'd love a good down-and-dirty fight for once." "Careful what you wish for, you just might get it." "Yeah, I know. But damn. Just once, can't they stop running from us and learn to fight like their ancestors did? I miss the way things used to be." Talon adjusted his black Ray-Ban Predator sunglasses as he watched a group of women walk past on the street nearby. Now there was one challenge he could sink his fangs into ... Under his closed lips, he ran his tongue over his long left canine tooth while he watched a beautiful blond woman dressed in blue. She had a slow, seductive walk that could make even a fifteen-hundred-year-old man feel underage. He so wanted a piece of that. Damn Mardi Gras. If not for the season, he'd be hanging up on Wulf and running after her to fulfill his first comfort. Duty. How it reeked. Sighing, he turned his thoughts back to their conversation. "I tell you, what I miss most are the Talpinas." "What are those?" Talon cast a wistful look at the women who were quickly drifting out of his line of sight. "That's right, they were before your time. Back in the better part of the Dark Ages, we used to have a clan of Squires whose sole purpose was to take care of our carnal needs." Talon sucked his breath in appreciatively as he remembered the Talpinas and the comfort they had once provided to him and his Dark-Hunter brethren. "Man, they were great. They knew what we were and they were more than happy to bed us. Hell, the Squires even trained them how to pleasure you." "What happened to them?" "About a hundred or so years before you were born, a Dark-Hunter made the mistake of failing cf0in love with his TalpKenyon, Sherrilyn is the author of 'Night Embrace' with ISBN 9780312984823 and ISBN 0312984820.