Taking the crown was tough. Keeping it will be murder.

From the moment of his death, Tobias Kavanagh was destined for a crown. Coming from a long line of important vampires, it is his death right to rule the vampires in the city. But politics was never of any interest to Tobias. He’d rather chop off heads than kiss boots.

These days, it seems like every race in the city is angry with him for something. The supernatural council is furious that a witch was turned into a vampire. The wolves are attempting a power grab that would put the vampires on a leash. And if that weren’t enough of a mess, a hexed crate has shown up on his doorstep.

Told that he is the only one who can break the hex, Tobias must discover who sent this mysterious delivery and what will happen when the hex is broken. He must squash the wolves plan to overthrow the council, and take the reins of the city before his kingdom—and his afterlife—crashes down around him.

Tobias watched with satisfaction as Cedric hit the wall with a crash, slumping the foot and a half it took for his feet to find purchase against the flagstone floor of the foyer. He stood, straightened his shirt, fixed an errant dark hair flopping over his forehead, and glared back at him.

“You have claimed the title of King, brother,” Cedric said. “It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the council might expect you to attend a meeting or two.”

Darting across the room, Tobias dodged his brother’s lacklustre attempt at an attack and swiftly punched him in the side. He smirked and dodged away from the coming retaliation.

“And why should I do that?” Tobias asked. “Surely the title should allow me the benefit of avoiding such matters I deem beneath me. Those meetings are an incessant waste of every minute I would lower myself to spend there.”

“Oh?” Cedric slipped forwards and, in the momentary distraction, grabbed him by the throat. Cedric managed to force him back a step before Tobias’ strength kicked in. “And tell me, brother, how have you spent these last… two hundred minutes? Have you cured Cancer, perhaps? Or found the correct chemical compound for synthetic blood?”

Tobias swept his brother’s grip away. Stepping close and fondly brushing Cedric’s shoulders free of dust and wrinkles in his shirt, he grinned.

“If you must know, I slept.”

“I thought as much.”

“A tired king is a cranky king,” Tobias said, raising an eyebrow. “And you wouldn’t want me cranky, now, would you?”

“You claim to not be cranky now? I hadn’t realised you were so amenable.”

“I am always amenable to you.”

“If only our home were afforded the same respect,” Cedric replied, indicating to the dent his body had left in the brickwork. It was the original brickwork of their turn of the century house and would cost a fortune to repair to his brother’s particular standards.

Tobias waved it off and retreated across the large foyer to a high-backed chair beside a small coffee table. He took a seat, picking up one of the glasses that had appeared on the table during their brief spar. Cedric followed him.

“So, tell me, brother, why was I summoned to a council meeting?” Tobias sipped blood from the tall glass. It was already sweating with condensation, and had left a ring of water on the table. The antique table.

“You were summoned to answer questions about the Blackmore boy.” Collecting a glass for himself, Cedric took a seat in the other chair. He wiped his hand over the water ring on the table, tutting to himself. Tobias rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the high, moulded ceiling.

“The Blackmore boy? They’re still going on about that? It was all a misunderstanding.”

“Yes, they are still going on about that. That misunderstanding, as you call it, led to a siring. The boy was the brother to a Coven Regent, an inheritor to one of the oldest and most powerful witch bloodlines in the city.”

“And now he is a vampire, an inheritor to…” Tobias waved his hand around the foyer before he grimaced and shook his head. “Whatever power his sire gave him.”

“I am not sure Regent Blackmore considers that an agreeable trade.”

Tobias rolled his eyes and took another sip of the blood. Lowering the glass to rest against his knee, he swirled the thick liquid against the sides. It wouldn’t have mattered if he’d turned the boy himself, and the younger Blackmore brother was the inheritor of his kingdom, the coven regent still wouldn’t have considered it an acceptable trade for the power lost to his coven. As it happened, Tobias had no idea what the boy had inherited.

“Was he at least a first?” he asked finally.

“Of his sire’s, yes,” Cedric said. “Not that it matters. His sire was certainly not anyone of any importance.”

“And what, pray, do the council expect me to do about it? Turn the boy back?”

Cedric’s eyebrows pulled in towards his nose and he glared at his brother. Tobias inspected the embroidery of the chair’s armrest It was faded with age but still in perfect condition and exquisite detail.

“They expect you to see justice done.”

Tobias looked up.

“Justice? And what justice do they expect of me?” He gestured with his sloshing glass of blood. “Don’t tell me. Make an example of the wretched creature who dared turn such an important witch as Samson Blackmore.”

He noticed the twitch of a smile at his brother’s lips when he remembered the boy’s full name. Cedric controlled his emotion quickly enough, his face a mask of propriety once more.

“It would not hurt to offer some sort of amends for the breach.”

Laughing loudly, Tobias slammed his glass back onto the table. A large shard of glass broke off from the side and tinkled onto the floor. Tobias rubbed his hand on his thigh to clean off the splinters.

“Amends?” Tobias demanded, still laughing. “Tell me, brother, what amends did that dog, Rycroft, offer after slaughtering the whole Goretti line?”

“That has nothing to do with the matter at hand. And there was no proof Rycroft ordered the extinction,” Cedric replied, extracting a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping up the drops of blood Tobias’ exuberance had splashed onto the table. “You know that.”

“No proof, no. But it is convenient Rycroft was there to sweep in, ready to take over, isn’t it?”

“Your point, brother?”

“My point is that Rycroft massacres an entire wolf line and now he’s king of the fucking kennel,” Tobias sneered. In a third of a second he was up from his seat and pacing. “I preside over the turning of one boy and I am told to kneel and kiss the ring of every witch from here to hell. And all, as you claim, because there was no proof of Rycroft’s crimes. Perhaps I should burn our newly sired and be rid of the proof against me.”

Cedric merely stared at his sire-brother.

“Tobias, you are railing.”

“As I well should!” he snapped, kicking at the leg of his chair. If the council’s ridiculous demands didn’t anger his brother, perhaps damaging some of his painstakingly chosen furniture would get him there. “You notice that Rycroft doesn’t attend those meetings either, don’t you? He sends his whelp, and yet I am subjected to chastisement for every minute I take to myself.”

Rolling his eyes, Cedric sipped his blood and returned the glass to the table.

“Are you quite finished?”

“Finished? Oh no, brother. I am far from finished. In fact, I am not sure I have begun!”

“Oh? And what perceived slights would you like to fight next?”

Cedric was still annoyingly calm, peering at him like a professor would examine a particularly unruly student.

“Perceived?” Tobias demanded. “These are not perceived, Ric. I have remained quiet and followed orders as the council placed a prohibition on direct drinking. I have issued their punishments to those of mine who have not adhered to their ridiculous blood bag rules. And now they deem themselves above me? They demand amends for the first slip in over a year?”

Cedric slowly got to his feet.

“And what would you have us do? Take on the council alone?”

Tobias rounded on him.

“I would have us be what we are, brother!” he hissed. “I would have us remind this rabble of insignificant pests of who runs this city. If they wish a fight over a single boy, I would have us wage a war to take back any control we were gracious enough to give them.”

“We need the council, Tobias. Without them, we—”

“Without them, we could be what we are, brother. What we were always meant to be.”

“And what is that?”

Tobias grinned and stepped forwards. He grasped his brother’s shoulders, his eyes alight with furious pride.