Authors: Christopher Buecheler
The Children of the Sun
2012 Christopher Buecheler.
All rights reserved.
The Children of the Sun is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
First Edition: November 2012
ook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e
ook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to
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Cover Art by Karla Ortiz
Tori Illustration by Christine MacTernan
Cover Design by Christopher Buecheler
Have You Read the First Two Books?
The Children of the Sun
is the sequel to
the third book in the
II AM Trilogy. If you have not read the first two books, there’s good news: the first one,
The Blood That Bonds
, is free! Head to
to download it – it is available for every major eReader, including Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, and more. You can also purchase the print edition.
For my brothers and sisters.
Nick and Jessie
This book would never have come to fruition without the efforts, enthusiasm and encouragement of many people. I cannot thank them enough for their help
, and am glad to once again be able to credit them here.
My wife, Charlotte, who gets first billing every time because she does more to make my writing happen than anyone else. From threatening me with bodily harm should I do wrong by her favorite characters, to never holding back when she thinks I can do more, she makes these books better than they otherwise would ever be.
My editor Lauren, back with me for another run. Her contributions improved the book immeasurably, as they always do. Of course, if there are any problems left to be found in the text, the fault is surely mine.
My cover artist Karla, who was absolutely determined to make this the best cover in the series. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she succeeded, and I am thrilled with her beautiful work! She also delivered the amazing Ash
ayt painting seen in this book.
Christine MacTernan, who did the killer Tori illustration that I used as a teaser and in this book.
My advance readers: Nora, Joost, Caryn, Charles, Gabe, Brett, Trevor, Tracy, Diana, Kim, Sheri, and Jennifer.
My fans. Interacting with you guys on Facebook and Twitter, or through email, has been so consistently gratifying and amazing. I love your passion for my work, and I truly hope that you enjoy this final chapter in Two’s story as much as you did the first two!
A Cut on the Arm
The blade made a rushing, hissing noise as it traveled through the air in front of her, and Two Ashley Majors brought her own weapon up to parry. She knew that if she was slow, or if she misjudged her timing, then blood would spill. The man attacking her wouldn’t let the strike kill her, but neither would he stop it from cleaving deep into her flesh. Two knew this because it had happened before, more than once. She was in no hurry now to repeat the experience.
Her own weapon, an inferior version of the same sword her adversary held, was thirty inches long and made from layered steel alloys. Two could feel the soft leather that wrapped its hilt, smell its oiled blade, sense its weight and balance as she moved. Not as beautiful as the other, it was no less deadly and cut just as deep.
It could also be used to deflect an incoming blow, and it was to this purpose that Two put her weapon now, stepping sideways even as she brought it up. There was a jarring shock as the swords connected, the sound of metal on metal, the briefest whiff of something like electricity in the air.
“Good!” the man cried, and even as he complimented her he spun, swinging his sword at her midsection. Two evaded this blow by springing backward, and the blade passed as easily through the air as it would have through the skin and muscle of her belly.
“Jesus, Jakob,” she growled, repositioning herself. “You trying to gut me?”
“Trying to teach you how to avoid being gutted,” Jakob replied, pausing only a brief moment before advancing on her again.
Two had graduated to live sparring five months ago, and this particular session had already lasted nearly thirty minutes. It was a long time to go without a break, even for a pair of vampires, but both of them were in excellent shape. Not yet winded, Two grinned as Jakob moved forward.
“Having fun?” he asked, feinting to the left before attacking from the right. Two bit on the fake and found herself off balance, unable to parry the blow. She could fall to the floor and avoid the incoming blade, perhaps, but knew that she would only find the weapon’s tip held to her back. There was another option available, though, if she was brave enough.
Two lunged forward, letting the blade hit her right shoulder. It sliced through the skin and subcutaneous fat, biting deep into her muscle, and Two felt blood pouring down her arm even before the pain caught up to her. Snarling, refusing to let go of her grip on her sword, she let herself fall sideways. Her left hand hit the floor and she pivoted on it, spinning away and dislodging the blade from her shoulder. Jakob, caught off guard, moved too late to parry.
She punched him in the jaw with her left fist, sending a jolt of pain through her arm. Ignoring it, she pressed her advantage, grabbing Jakob’s right wrist and, in a single fluid motion, reversing her grip on her own weapon and bringing it up to press against the soft spot below his chin. Jakob went rigid.
“Call it off,” Two told him. This close, she could see tiny bits of stubble against his olive skin, already growing back from his evening shave.
“Lord, but you’re fast,” Jakob said, and she felt his right arm twitch in her grasp.
“Don’t even! Flattery’s not getting you anywhere. Call it off.”
“I yield,” Jakob said. “Yes, all right. Well done, Two.”
Two let go of his wrist, but she kept her sword against his neck as he slowly knelt down to set his blade on the floor. Only once her friend’s weapon was out of his grasp and he was standing again did she remove the blade from his throat, stepping back and favoring him with a wide grin.
“First time,” she said, and Jakob gave her a rueful smile. She had come close on a few occasions to winning a round against him but had never before succeeded.
“Indeed,” he said. “I won’t fall for that again.”
“I know. And I know you could have killed me a dozen times during that fight, anyway.”
Jakob laughed. “Perhaps. That was good, though. You took the hit on purpose.”
“Did I have a choice?”
“I think not. I was expecting you to dive and preparing to end the match. Your strategy was a bit unorthodox, but it was courageous and effective. Stephen would be proud.”
Two smiled at this but felt a twinge of sorrow inside. It had been more than two years since her friend Stephen Connelly had been killed in the battle with the mad vampire Aros Kreskas, and it still hurt to think about it. Stephen had helped her reshape her body and promised to teach her to fight, but he had never got a chance. Jakob, who had shot Aros twice in the head only moments after the madman had stabbed Stephen in the chest, had taken up the task.
“How is the wound?” Jakob asked her, and Two glanced at her shoulder. The right arm of her T-shirt was soaked crimson with blood, and the liquid had run in rivulets all the way down to her fingers. She put one in her mouth and grimaced. Already cold.
“Hurts like a bitch,” she said.
“It will heal.”
Two nodded. Yes, it would heal. The blood – that amazing, nearly magical substance that coursed through both of their veins – would see to that. Already the wound was closing, beginning to knit. In only a few days there would be little more than a scab.
“Does it bother Theroen when you come home like this?” Jakob asked. He had picked up his sword again and was cleaning it with a large cloth.
“What, carved up like a ham? Not really. I’m not sure he
it, exactly, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. You know how it is, though … nothing bothers him.”
Theroen had been the most unflappable person Two had ever met when they had first become lovers, and neither the two years he had spent in a state of near-death suspended animation, nor the two and a half since, had changed that about him. His eternal calm stood in direct contrast to her own tendency to charge headlong into the fray.
Still, she loved him, and knew that he loved her. She could feel it, not only in the metaphorical sense but through the very real mental connection the two of them now shared. This connection seemed to grow stronger with each passing day as Two’s vampire abilities continued to develop. Someday, she knew, they would be able to communicate entirely without speaking, simply by listening to each other’s thoughts. The idea of that sort of intimacy alternately thrilled and terrified her.
Jakob finished cleaning his sword and crossed the room to a glass-walled case where he set the blade down upon a wooden display stand. Two cleaned off her own weapon and slid it into its stiff leather sheath. Unlike Jakob’s sword, it was not a masterwork and would be fine secured in a locker.
“You’ve become quite good,” Jakob said as she turned around. He was leaning against the wall, head tilted to one side, appraising her. Two shrugged.
“Good teacher, lots of time to practice, good blood …”
“Yes, but I think you’ve a natural talent for it. The blood makes you fast and strong, but it doesn’t shape your instincts.”
Two smiled, feeling her cheeks color a little. She dropped her gaze for a moment, and when she looked back up, Jakob was still regarding her. He reached behind his head and pulled away the band that was holding back his long, dark hair.