Authors: Jocelynn Drake
( Dark Days - 3 )
The dawn brings new terror for the creatures of the night . . .
Those of her race fear Mira for the lethal fire she bends to her will — a power unique among nightwalkers, both a gift . . . and a curse.
The naturi despise Mira for what she is — as they prepare the final sacrifice that will destroy the barriers between the worlds. And once the naturi are unchained, blood, chaos, and horror will reign supreme on Earth.
Mira can trust only Danaus, the more-than-mortal vampire slayer, though he is sworn to destroy her kind. And now, as the day approaches when titanic forces will duel under cover of darkness, destiny draws them toward an apocalyptic confrontation at Machu Picchu. But all is not lost, for a wild card has been dealt to them: a rogue enemy princess who can change the balance of power and turn the dread tide.
The Third Dark Days Novel
Thanks for keeping me young.
he tires squealed.
We took the corner going close to fifty miles per hour, skidding into the turn. I braced myself against the driver’s seat and clenched my teeth, swallowing yet another curse as Knox narrowly missed a parked car as he whipped us down another residential street. A second set of squealing tires followed close behind as the Ford Mustang barreled toward us with increasing velocity.
“Get us out of the city, damn it!” I shouted at Knox. At this speed, we were going to hit someone, and with the naturi gaining ground, we couldn’t afford to slow down. We had to get out of the city before we killed someone or the Savannah cops finally noticed a pair of cars rushing around the city at breakneck speeds.
“It’s not that easy!” Knox shouted back. Both of his hands gripped the wheel tight enough to make his knuckles white. “We’re coming from downtown and you said lose them, not get out of the city.”
“Well, I’m saying it now. Get the hell out of the city. You’re going to kill someone,” I snapped.
“Namely us,” Amanda added from the backseat. The blond nightwalker sat next to Tristan, who seemed to be taking it all in stride. Of course, Tristan had been in far worse situations with me and survived. “I’m not going to kill us,” Knox snarled as he took another turn going far faster than would be deemed sane. “This is a BMW M3. It’s a race car for the rich and bored. The car can handle it.”
“No, Knox, tell me what you really think,” I growled. The BMW was my car. I had decided to let him drive when I noticed the naturi following us along River Walk—I knew I might need my hands free if we didn’t succeed in losing them. I pulled my gun out of the glove compartment and checked the magazine.
“You know what I mean.” The nightwalker glanced at me briefly, one corner of his mouth cocked in a weak smile.
“Rich and bored,” I repeated drily.
“Are we really having this discussion now?” Amanda demanded as Knox skidded into another turn and clipped the bumper of a parked car.
“Mira!” he shouted back. “Let me drive or you do it!”
But it was too late for that. The naturi were gaining with every turn. They didn’t care who they hit along the way, which was why we had to get them out of the city.
I relaxed a little when we turned onto Montgomery Street. The on ramp to Highway 16 was close by. We would finally get out of the city and into more open ground.
“Mira,” Tristan said in a calm voice, grabbing my attention as I looked at him in the rearview mirror. “Is leaving the city the wisest choice?”
Some of the tension might have drained from my shoulders, but a knot of worry still tightened in my stomach. I knew what he was asking. We were leaving the relative safety of the city and potentially taking the fight into naturi territory by heading into the open countryside. Controlling nature was their strength.
Tristan had already fought the naturi with me in the woods, and the fight didn’t go well. He had nearly been shredded by a naturi from the animal clan, and I was impaled by members of the wind and earth clans. And this time we didn’t have Danaus or Sadira around to help save our respective butts.
“We have no other choice,” I admitted, frowning at him because I could understand his fear. “I’m not willing to fight this war in front of the humans like the naturi want.”
“Can’t you set them on fire or something?” Amanda demanded, fidgeting in the backseat. The nightwalker was anxious to get to the fighting because running wasn’t her style. She was all claws and fangs in any situation, leaving behind shredded flesh and a spray of blood. It was what made her a good enforcer among the fledglings, but not the most reliable nightwalker, as she didn’t always think things through.
“I have to be able to see or sense what I’m setting on fire, and I can’t sense the naturi,” I said, turning my frown into a frustrated glare.
“How about the car?”
“Only the parts I can see.”
“Then the tires. Set the tires on fire. That’ll slow them down.”
“That might work,” I agreed, rolling down my window with a nearly silent electric hum. “Who taught the naturi how to drive like this anyway? Or hotwire a car?” I muttered under my breath, but in a car full of nightwalkers, everyone heard me.
“The Internet is full of amazing information,” Knox said sarcastically.
“The Internet?” I added it to my list of gripes. “These are Old World creatures. They don’t drive, hotwire cars, or surf the Web.”
To my surprise, Tristan chuckled, stopping me as I grabbed the exterior frame of the door. “There are moments when you sound really old, Mira. Is it any stranger than a nightwalker your age doing all those things and more?”
“Shut up, Tristan.” I was barely over six centuries. I wasn’t that old.
Turning my attention back to Knox, I said, “Slow down just a little bit and hold the car steady.” Gripping the exterior of the car door, I slid out of the window and sat on the frame. It was a somewhat awkward balance, but it made it easier for me to see the tires of the red Ford Mustang following us. Focusing my thoughts, both the front and back passenger side tires exploded into flames. The car swerved twice before finally flipping over onto its top on the side of the road.
I slid back into the car and grabbed my gun from where I had set it on the floor. “Pull over. We have to finish this.”
My feet were on the gravelly side of the road before Knox managed to put the parking brake on. I flipped the safety off the Browning that was now my constant companion and paused, looking down at the gun, which was identical to the one Danaus had given me in Venice. Nightwalkers were not in the habit of carrying guns—most of our enemies couldn’t be killed by a bullet, and being shot just tended to piss them off. But the naturi could be killed by a well-placed bullet, so now I carried a gun no matter where I went, along with a blade. The rest of my companions hadn’t necessarily gotten into the habit.
I mentally reached out to him.
I’ve got a gun,
he confirmed without my needing to ask. The young nightwalker had been with me when I fought the naturi in England and again when the naturi appeared in Venice. He was well aware of what it took to kill these resilient bastards.
“Knox,” I called, putting the safety back on the gun. “Take this.” I lightly tossed the gun to him over the top of the car as he stood. “Just don’t hit me with your crappy aim.” I was one to talk. We all had crappy aim. Not one of us had ever bothered to learn to shoot. But then, guns hadn’t been that reliable five centuries ago—the last time nightwalkers faced the naturi on a regular basis. Times change and we had to learn to change with them.
Pulling a knife from the sheath at my waist, I walked over to where the car was balanced on its top. Three naturi had crawled out, while the fourth was still behind the wheel, not moving. They were cut and bruised but mending from their little fender bender. The naturi had the ability to heal from any wound almost as quickly as a nightwalker. However, a bullet to the head was successful in stopping them. A bullet in the heart slowed them down long enough to reload and take another, closer shot.
“Where’s Rowe?” I called when I was within a few yards of the closest naturi.
“Coming for you, Fire Starter,” replied the naturi.
I twirled the knife in my hand, letting the long silver blade capture the light from a nearby street lamp. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“He wants you dead,” the naturi said.
Again I shrugged. Rowe had won at the Palace of Knossos when he managed to break the seal that bound the naturi, but he still had to open the door. He knew that I was going to come after him again with everything I had, so he had been sending a continuous barrage of minor skirmishes my way during the past month, trying to wear me down.
With a twirl of the knife, I returned it to the sheath with my right hand while my left hand shot out, palm open toward him and the other two naturi. They exploded into three enormous candles of fire burning brightly in the night. I stopped them before there was even a chance for the fight to take place. I wasn’t willing to risk the lives of my companions for more information. Rowe would either come after me or I would meet up with him at the next sacrifice location.
A shot rang out followed by two more in quick succession. I twisted around, extinguishing the fire with a wave of my hand. Tristan and Knox faced the opposite direction, holding their guns with both hands and firing at the half-dozen naturi running from the forest surrounding us on all sides. They had been waiting for us to finally appear outside the city limits.
To my surprise, two fireballs appeared in the open hands of one of the naturi and were launched toward Knox and Tristan. A light clan naturi.
Focusing all my attention on the flames, I captured the two fireballs and pulled them to myself before extinguishing them completely. Fire as a form of attack had now been taken out of the equation, since the light naturi could counter all of my moves.
Redrawing my knife, I ran at the approaching naturi. Gunshots filled the night as Tristan and Knox tried to level the playing field. As we closed on the group, the sound of wings filled the air. A flock of starlings flooded the night sky. I dove to the ground, my bare arms skidding along the rough, rock-riddled earth as I tried to escape from the sharp talons of the birds. Before I could regain my feet, the light naturi with her golden hair and bronze skin was on me, short sword drawn. I rolled to my left, narrowly missing the blade as it came down where I’d been only a second earlier. I created a wall of fire between us, hoping to slow her down for a second so I could regain my feet.
The light naturi wiped away the fire with a wave of her hand. As she took a step closer, I threw my knife at her, burying it deep within her chest.
Stumbling backward, the naturi gapped at the knife sticking out of her chest. She swiped blindly at me with her sword, but I easily dodged it. With a swift kick, I knocked the blade from her weakening grip. I smiled as I stepped forward and pulled my knife from her chest. My maker, Sadira, had made sure that I was an accomplished fighter without my powers. The sucking sound filled the night air followed by her cry of pain, cut short as I separated her head from her shoulders in a single, clean blow.
I was running to face the rest of the naturi before she hit the ground. A quick count revealed that only three remained of the six that had attacked. The birds were gone, indicating that the animal clan naturi had been killed.
Overhead, the clouds began to churn as an unexpected storm blew in from the east. The wind shifted and picked up, blowing my long red hair into my eyes. It appeared that the remaining naturi were members of the wind clan. This was bad. I couldn’t stop a lightning bolt, and not one of us was likely to survive being struck.
“Pull back,” I shouted. “Pull back.” I gathered my powers as I screamed at the nightwalkers. I couldn’t set any of the naturi on fire if they were close to the nightwalkers; there would be no way of protecting those important to me once the fire started.
Tristan and Knox hesitated for only a moment, but then pulled back, running toward my car. However, Amanda was trapped by a naturi slicing at her, backing her steadily toward the woods and away from the road. Concentrating, I set the two naturi that had been battling Knox and Tristan on fire and ran toward Amanda.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw another car pull off to the side of the road behind the naturi car. I didn’t need a bigger audience and could only guess our new friend was another naturi since we had the whole area magically cloaked.
Take care of the new arrival,
I directed Tristan telepathically as I ran to Amanda’s side.