The Vampires Bride

PROLOGUE
Dear Reader,

Since the first title in my Atlantis series, Heart of the Dragon, was published in 2005, I've been asked how I thought to combine the lost city of Atlantis with the creatures of lore. The answer is simple: what if. What if the gods hid their greatest mistakes inside Atlantis and that's why it's buried under the sea?

That single question branched into a thousand others, each more intriguing than the last. What if a dragon shape-shifter is forced to guard the portal that leads to his home, tasked with killing anyone who enters - even the woman of his dreams (Heart of the Dragon)? What if a modern man is sent inside the forbidden city to steal its greatest treasure...who just happens to be a beautiful female he can't resist (Jewel of Atlantis)? What if the king of the nymphs can seduce everyone he encounters - except the woman he loves (The Nymph King)?

Now, in my brand-new tale of Atlantis, The Vampire's Bride, I have the chance to answer the question readers have been asking for years: what if the villain in all those earlier stories, the vampire king who has tortured and hated and warred, got a story of his own?

I hope you'll join me on these journeys through Atlantis, where the creatures of myth and legend walk, peril lurks around every corner and forbidden passions ignite.

Wishing you all the best,

Gena Showalter

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

To the two ladies who help and guide me every step of the way: Tracy Farrell and Margo Lipschultz. I couldn't do it without you!

PROLOGUE

LAYEL, KING OF THE VAMPIRES, hated son of Atlantis, fought so fervently against his chains that the metal cut past skin and muscle, nearly slicing into bone. He did not care, continued to struggle. What use were his hands without his beloved to caress?

Susan. Inside his mind, the name was a prayer, a scream of desolation and a wail of sorrow, all twisted into an agonizing spiral of shame. How could he have allowed this to happen?

"Release him," someone said. Layel would have looked at the speaker, but he could not pull his gaze from his woman. Or rather, what was left of her. "Let him see up close what he has wrought upon himself."

Footsteps pounded. There was a tug on one wrist, then the other, and the chains gave way.

Weak, nearly drained of blood, Layel tried to step away from the iron fence that propped him up, but his knees gave out and he collapsed. With the impact, hot breath abandoned him and reality settled deep. I'm too late. They kept me chained long enough to ensure she could not be turned. I cannot save her. He gagged. Gods, oh, gods.

Susan lay a few feet away, her once vibrant, beautiful body now stripped, violated and burned. Around him, the dragons responsible laughed, their voices floating in and out of his consciousness.

"...deserved this and more."

"...and look at him now."

"...pathetic. He never should have been crowned king."

Layel had left Susan in his palace, safe, happily drowsy and snuggled in bed, while he and a contingent of warriors doused a fire in the surrounding forest. He hadn't known the fire had been started purposely until it was too late.

Oh, gods, oh, gods, oh, gods. A choked cry escaped him, blood spraying from his mouth. What seemed an eternity ago but could only be hours, he'd returned to an ambush, Susan's screams echoing in his ears. The anguish he'd heard as she'd shouted for his aid, the pain he'd seen contorting her features as she'd pleaded with the dragons for the life of their unborn child...both would