Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon
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Inside all men and beasts is the eternal desire for a haven. Some place free of persecution, free of being hunted or harmed. But long ago there was no such place to be found for those who were both men and beasts. Those who could walk on four legs by day and two legs by night.
They were hunted by all, with no refuge to be found.
Their story, like all stories, had a beginningâa beginning of eternal love gone afoul. Aeons ago there was an ancient Greek king who had a queen who meant more to him than all the world. But his queen harbored a dark secret. She was born of a cursed race.
More than two thousand years before her birth, her people had made a tragic mistake. They had killed the mistress and child of the Greek god Apollo. In retaliation for the murders, the Greek god cursed her people with three things. They would have to drink the blood of their own in order to live. They could never again walk in daylight. But it was the third curse that was the most harsh. They would all die slowly and painfully on their twenty-seventh birthday.
True to the god's curse, the young queen painfully decayed into dust the day she turned twenty-seven. Helpless to stop it, the king watched as his beloved died, calling out his name. Once she was gone, he realized that his two sons were destined to meet the same horrific fate as their mother.
Unable to bear the loss of them, too, the king set out to magically elongate their lives. Using the darkest of magicks, he gathered up his wife's people, who were called Apollites, and he experimented on them. Splicing their cursed humanlike life force with that of the strongest of animals, he created two races. The Arcadians, who possessed human hearts, and the Katagaria, who possessed animal hearts.
The Arcadians were basically humans who were able to take animal form once they reached pubertyâan event that for them occurs around the age of twenty-five. The Katagaria were animals who could take human form once they reached puberty at the same time. Two sides of the same coin, both species were born to wield magick and travel through time under the light of the full moon.
At long last, the Greek god's curse was lifted from at least those Apollites who had been transformed into both human and animal. No longer true Apollites, they could not be held to Apollo's curse. Or so the king thought until the ancient Greek god complained to the three Fates.
“Who are you to thwart the god's plan?” the Fates demanded as one voice.
The king answered defiantly. “Like any father worth his salt, I have protected my sons. No one will take their lives needlessly over something they had no part in.”
But that wasn't good enough for the Fates. They were angered by the king's hubris. How dare he seek a way to alter the fate of the Apollites he had experimented upon. As punishment, they demanded that he kill the Arcadians and Katagaria, beginning with his own sons.
“Then there will never be peace between the two,” the Fates decreed. “From this day forward, the Arcadians and the Katagaria will know nothing but strife from each other. They will hunt and kill each other until there are no more of their kind left.”
So it has been for thousands of years. Arcadians killing Katagaria who in turn kill Arcadians. Their war has lasted even unto this dayÂ â¦
And even beyond it.
But as with all wars, over time, small truces were needed. Savitar, the impartial mediator between the Arcadians and Katagaria, set up limanis or sanctuaries where human and animal could go without fear of being hunted. In these few designated places, both the Katagaria and the Arcadians can rest for a time before they rejoin their ranks and begin warring anew.
It isn't easy to be recognized as such a place, but once that has been achieved, no man or beast can ever breech the limani's sanctity. Not without incurring the wrath of all branches of Arcadians and Katagaria alike.
It is a sacred honor to be a sanctuary and it is a heavy burden. Peace always comes as a result of sacrifice. And few have sacrificed more than the bear clan who controls the Sanctuary bar in New Orleans.â¦
“Law, much like life, was ever a study of trials.â¦”
The words from her textbook hovered in Marguerite D'Aubert Goudeau's mind and conjured up the familiar phrase of her friend and study partner Nick Gautier:
“Yeah, right. Life is a soul-sucking test that you either survive or you fail. Personally, I think failure blows, so I intend to survive and laugh my ass off at all the losers.”
A sad smile curved her lips as bittersweet pain lacerated her heart. She remembered Nick and his caustic take on life, love, death, and everything in between. That man had been able to turn a phrase like nobody's business.
God, how she missed him. He'd been the closest thing to a brother she'd ever known, and there wasn't a day she didn't feel his absence to the deepest part of her soul.
She still couldn't believe that he was gone. That on this very evening, six months ago, his mother, Cherise Gautier, had been found murdered in their Bourbon Street home while Nick had mysteriously vanished without a trace. The New Orleans authorities were convinced that Nick was responsible for his mother's death.
Marguerite knew better.
No one on earth loved their mother more than Nick had loved his. If Cherise Gautier was dead, then so was Nick. No one would have been able to hurt her without facing his wrath. No one.
Marguerite was certain he'd gone after whoever had killed his mother and ended up dead himself. Most likely, he was lying in the bottom of a bayou somewhere. That was why no one had seen him since. And that knowledge tore her apart. Nick had been a good, caring man. A trusted confidant and generally an all-around fun guy.
In her formal, stodgy world of having to make sure she never said or did the wrong thing, he'd been a breath of fresh air and a wonderful dose of reality. It was why she wanted her friend back so desperately.
As Nick would say, her life basically sucked. Her friends were shallow, her father neurotic, and every time she thought she liked a guy, all her father could do was run a thorough background check on the man and his entire family and then tell her why he was socially unacceptable. Or, worse,
She really hated that phrase.
“You have a destiny, Marguerite.”
Yeah, she was destined to either end up in the mental ward or alone for the rest of her life so that she could in no way ever embarrass her father or her family.
She sighed as she stared at her law book on the library table and felt the familiar tears prick at the backs of her eyes. Nick had never liked studying in the library. When he'd been in their group, they had all piled into his house four days a week to study together.
Now those days were gone and all she was left with was vapid, insecure blowhards who could only feel better about themselves by belittling everyone else.
“Are you all right, Margeaux?”
Marguerite cleared her throat at Elise Lenora Berwick's question. Elise was a tall, perfectly sculpted blonde. And Marguerite meant “sculpted.” At twenty-four, Elise had already had six different plastic surgeries to correct her body's slight imperfections. In high school Elise had been the premier debutante of New Orleans, and now she was the reigning beauty at Tulane University.
The two of them had been friends since grade school. In fact, it had been Elise who had put together the study group three years ago when they'd all been undergraduates. Elise had never been one to really apply herself to schoolwork, and so she'd conceived this as a way to use them to help her pass her classes. Not that Marguerite minded. She actually admired Elise's ingenuity and liked watching the master manipulator get the others to do her bidding.
Only Marguerite and Nick had ever seen through Elise. Like Marguerite, Nick had been immune to the beautiful blonde's machinations. But that was okay. If not for Elise, Marguerite wouldn't have been able to get so close to Nick, and in her mind that would have been a true tragedy.
Now she, Elise, Todd Middleton Chatelaine, Blaine Hunter Landry, and Whitney Logan Trahan were all that was left of the group. And that hurt most of all.
Why aren't you here, Nick? I could really use your sense of humor right now.
Marguerite toyed with the edge of the book as an image of his face hovered in her mind. “I was just thinking of Nick. He always loved this law stuff.”
“Didn't he, though?” Todd said as he looked up from his book. His black hair was cut short and worn in a perfect style around his handsome face. He had on an expensive red Tommy Hilfiger sweater and a pair of khaki pants. “Had he not been a criminal of questionable and shady parentage, he might have given your father a run for his office one day, Margeaux.”
Marguerite tried not to let them see her grind her teeth as they continued to use a nickname she absolutely loathed. They thought it somehow made them closer to her since they used it while others didn't. But in truth, she much preferred the plain and simple “Maggie” that Nick alone had used. Of course that was too crass a nickname for such a refined family as hers. Her father would have an apoplexy if he'd ever heard Nick use it.
But she preferred it. It certainly matched her looks and personality a lot more than “Marguerite” or “Margeaux” ever would.
Now no one would ever call her Maggie again.â¦
The grief in her heart was overwhelming. How could anything hurt so much?
“I still can't believe he's not here anymore,” Marguerite whispered, blinking back her tears. Part of her still expected to see him swagger through the doorway with that devilish grin on his face and a bag of beignets in his hand.
But he wouldn't. Ever.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Blaine said bitterly as he leaned back in his chair. At six feet even and extremely well-built, with jet-black hair, Blaine thought himself God's gift to all womankind. His family was rich and well connected, and they had given him an extremely overbloated sense of self-importance.
He'd hated Nick because Nick had never allowed Blaine to get away with his snobbery and had called him on the carpet for it on more than one occasion.
Marguerite pinned an angry glare on Blaine. “You're just ticked that he always outscored you on tests.”
Blaine curled his lip. “He cheated.”
Right. They all knew better. Nick had been exceptionally brilliant. Earthy and at times downright crude, he'd befriended Marguerite and helped her with schoolwork even outside the confines of this group. If not for him, she would have failed her ancient Greek civ class with Dr. Julian Alexander, who had been her undergraduate advisor.
Todd closed his book, then pushed it aside. “You know, I think we should do something to say good-bye officially to the old man. After all, he was part of this group.”