Authors: Jen Colly
Demons have returned, a vengeful enemy waiting to strike. Soren and Faith must find a way to survive the evil and darkness.
Faith's spur of the moment vacation, meant to free her and boost her spirits, has left her lost on the streets of Paris. And apparently, Paris is populated with something more than just humans. Vampires, suave, seductive and oh so sexy, and one such warrior vampire has set his sights on her.
When Soren hears Faith's terrified screams, he rushes in and saves her life without considering the consequences. Two problems: one, she's a human and clearly aware of his vampire qualities, and two, the men who attacked her were not men at all, but demons. Their target, his beloved underground city of Balinese. He can never let Faith go home again, but can she learn to love his people...love him?
In the Dark
Kensington Publishing Corp.
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Copyright Â© 2014 by JEn Colly
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First Electronic Edition: MONTH YEAR
Printed in the United States of America
To my husband Ryan, for all that you are, and all that you do. I love you.
To Sofia and Roger...you're too little to read this. Close the book. Love, Mom.
Dark tonight. The steady rain mottled the persistent light from the streetlamps. Darkness was a good thing. He wasn't comfortable here. This wasn't home, and a part of him hated Paris. For all the city's beauty and sophistication, it was a very dangerous place.
Stepping over a deep puddle, Soren moved as quickly as he could, keeping to the shadows as he scanned the quiet street, straining to hear any movement beyond the rain.
Though he usually didn't watch his back or worry about what waited around the next corner, here in this city, it made the difference between getting what he needed to survive and the eradication of his people. If humans were to discover him, their fear would take over, and every last one of his kind would be hunted down and butchered. It had happened before.
Men's voices broke through the peaceful silence of night, and he ignored them, just as he did the rain dripping from his hair and off the tip of his nose. They were too far away to cause him any trouble. He was here for another, more urgent purpose. He'd ignored the signs, and now his body required sustenance.
Then a woman's whimpering plea fell into the mix of voices.
He changed his path, searching for her, and found her in a dead end alleyway. Two men pinned the helpless and frightened woman to the brick wall. He pulled the men from her, threw them hard against the building. Their heads hit on the bricks with a sickening thud, and the men fell to the ground, limp, lifeless.
The woman had been pitched back against the far building, taking a bump to her head. He spun around to see how she had fared. She still stood.
Hunger hit him hard.
He strode toward her, chest heaving from excitement, anticipation. The woman before him was water to a man dying of thirst.
She was so refreshingly ordinary, from her wet and clinging black hair, to her flushed cheeks. Even the cut of her shirt, low enough to show a mere hint of her bosom and all her lovely neck, was simple.
She leaned against the building for support as she tested the back of her head for any serious injury. “Thank you. I don't know what I would have done.”
Her trembling voice set him in motion, but her tentative smile sealed her fate. He moved a step closer, then another, crowding her.
She stumbled as she tried to step back, looking for an escape. The wall of the building was already pressing against her back. Still he advanced.
Standing inches from her, he grazed her cheek with his fingers then plunged them into her hair and swept the sopping mess back. She gasped softly, a nervous intake of breath.
“Please, don't.” Her voice quavered.
“Say it again,” he demanded roughly, though his touch was gentle.
“Please,” she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut, and he dropped his head and nuzzled her neck. Her voice enthralled him so, had drawn him closer.
She whimpered, the vibrations touching his lips, and he tightened his grasp on her, trying to somehow remain focused. He needed to go slowly, but it had been too long. The sensation of her lush form against him was too right, the soft scent of her flesh too potent.
Control fled, and he bit her. Her body jerked once, then went rigid against him. Happily drowning in the sweet and tempting scent that had driven him over the edge, he barely noticed. Rose? Lavender? He didn't know flowers, and didn't care to learn them, but he would never again breathe that scent without thinking of her.
Nourishing, sweet and hot, her lifeblood sent blissful shivers coursing through his body. Feeding was always a delicious experience, though he'd never experienced anything like this.
The rain continued to fall on them, the cool drops sliding down her neck to the very spot where they were joined. Soren drank in the water, the taste of her skin infused in every raindrop. So intoxicating, so sensual. He couldn't help but wrap his other arm around her waist and bring her closer. He was no longer holding her still, but simply holding her.
His heartbeat raced. The simple act of feeding was enough to send him out of his mind with satisfaction, but the soul wrenching pleasure of her clutching his shoulders had him gasping for breath.
The world faded away. No rain or alley, no feeding existed. He only wanted to bask in the way her fingers moved, tightening then releasing, like she needed him. Wanted him. But too soon her fingers slipped from his shirt, fell slowly down his arms, and hung at her sides.
She went limp in his arms. Something was wrong. Sealing the bite on her neck with a kiss of thanks, he pulled back. She'd passed out.
That wasn't supposed to happen. Losing consciousness occurred after a person had been either wounded or frightened. Any injury she had wasn't serious. If he'd frightened her, that posed a far more complicated problem. Adrenaline sharpened the mind.
She shouldn't be here. The hour was too late, the streets deserted. Shops had closed hours ago. Her purse lay on the ground, discarded, unwanted. The two men hadn't meant to rob her.
He needed to get her out of here, and shifted her higher against him. If she woke to find two dead bodies, she would likely become hysterical, and he wasn't in the mood to deal with that human emotion. Maybe the beauty's purse contained useful information. He scanned the ground for it.
Something moved in the shadows. One of the attackers, his fingers curling.
Tightening his grasp on the unconscious woman, he stepped closer to the man, and with eyes used to the night, caught movement behind the man's eyelids.
He was awake.
Soren pulled his gun and sent the man back into blackness with a single shot.
He had to find out who or what these men were. Nothing should have come back that fast after tangling with him. Nothing ever had. He didn't like this, not at all, and cursing under his breath, pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed an all too familiar number. Only Gustav could sort out this mess and provide answers.
* * * *
This was his corner of the small, smoky room. With a glass of cheap merlot in one hand, and a cigarette in the other, Gustav sat in the middle of pure bliss. Not a large crowd tonight, but it didn't matter. The rhythmic, heavy drumming of the music filled in the spaces.
As he took a long, soothing pull on his cigarette, an orange glow lit his face. He surveyed this hidden hotspot. Two men much larger than him guarded the doors, though their presence wasn't warranted. This place didn't have a name, which made it hard to find. Not that he was hiding, just indulging in his Friday night routine.
Friday was fight night here. And inside the cage, the house champion leaned lazily against the metal links. A tall man, even without the extra three inches of spiked black hair. He didn't speak as he looked through those gathered around, waiting for anyone stupid enough to step inside with him.
And there was Stupid, surrounded by his buddies, being slapped on the back by one and having his shoulder shaken by the other. Clearly, pumping up the challenger's ego. Nineteen, twenty at the most, the boy strutted inside that cage like he'd already won.
How wonderful, that brief moment when the champion took his first real shot and the challenger realized how badly he'd screwed up.
A muffled ring reached his ears as his pocket vibrated. Gustav took the phone out and flipped it open without looking at the caller ID. There were only two people in the world who called him.
“You have a mess to clean up, my friend. I'm on Rue Daru,” the man on the other end said, followed by a disconnecting click.
Gustav tossed the phone on the table and rubbed his hand over his face, smoothing his goatee. In the cage, the boy lay flat on his back, and the champion back against the links. He'd waited a week for this, and missed the moment that made him remember who he was and why he was here. He snagged his glass from the table and drank the contents down quickly, needing the wine to keep him warm tonight.
Gustav left, walking through the rain. He hadn't been far from Rue Daru, a short street smack between Parc Monceau and the Arc de Triomphe. He'd known something was wrong the moment his weekly happy time had been shattered. Soren rarely came into Paris, and never called for help. This could be interesting.
* * * *
Soren picked up the purse, a bit tricky to do as he held her limp body, but he refused to set her down, to let go of her. Besides, the only place to put her was in a puddle.
She didn't have much in her purse. He fished through the little thing, ignoring the English to French phrasebook, the lipgloss, and a small book entitled
City Walks: Parisâ50 Adventures on Foot
. Opening her wallet, he removed her license. The outdated picture showed her hair at an odd, short length.
Faith. Her name was Faith. How very simple, demure. Human.
She was still unconscious, but beautiful. No specific feature drew him. He just couldn't describe her any other way. And that alone made no sense.
Soren pulled stray pieces of her wet hair away from her face, smoothed it back with the rest. After he found the knot on her head, relief filled him. It did not bleed. She'd have a terrible headache, but would be fine.
He cursed himself. This wasn't supposed to happen, not to him. How could he have been so stupid? He hadn't meant to frighten her. Should have taken the time to seduce her, to draw her in with sweet words and a gentle touch, making him easier to forget. He should be a distant memory, or at most, a story of a romantic encounter. But he'd craved a taste of her so badly he hadn't attempted to soothe her fears. Fear heightened the senses. She was likely aware she'd been bitten. And that was impossible to explain away.
Not in all the centuries he'd walked the earth had he ever lost control.
“Lurking in alleyways, Soren?” Gustav scolded from the shadows, his off-kilter French accent bending his words.
“Gustav. What took you so long?”
“When all you give me is the name of the street, you're damn lucky I'm here at all,” Gustav said, stepping into the alley. His goatee hid his face, keeping him blended well with the darkness. “Open your eyes and throw me a number next time.”
Gustav halted before the two bodies splayed across the cobblestones.
“Soren,” he said expectantly. “Who are they?”
“I don't know. Both attacked her.”
Gustav turned his piercing gaze to him, and the woman he held. “I can see why. I would. So what's the problem?”
“They're dead. That might be a problem.” Growling his frustration, he tried to shield the woman from Gustav's unhurried perusal.
“All right, then. Let's see what we have.” Gustav lowered himself to the ground in a quick, fluid motion, balancing on the balls of his feet as he examined the two men. The first man's face was bloodied and smashed. If he'd lived, it hadn't been for long. But the second... “You shot him?”
Gustav had every right to question him. Not only was this out of character for him, but the entire vampire race firmly disagreed with taking a life.
“That one started moving not long after he hit the wall.” His tone was dark, accusing.
Gustav's focus shifted sharply to the men on the ground. With the injuries sustained, neither man should have been able to wake. He pulled up the first man's top lip. Fangs protruded, gleaming white. The man with the bloodied face was the same. Gustav touched the first man's cheek with the back of his hand, then the second.
“Both are very warm to the touch, even with the chilled rain working hard to cool their bodies,” Gustav mumbled, talking more to himself than to Soren.
The heat should not be there. He silently prayed as Gustav lifted an eyelid on each man, checking the color of the iris.
Gustav shot to his feet, drawing out a short sword tucked under the folds of his coat. “Not in my city,” he snarled with teeth clenched. And with the accuracy of one familiar with killing, he stabbed both men through the heart.
“Yes.” Gustav wiped the thick, dark blood from his sword onto the shirt of one of the corpses. “It's been two decades since I've seen more than one in the same place, and nearly a decade since I've seen any of those red-eyed devils.”
“I assumed they were vampire. They look like us. Strange.”
Gustav agreed with a nod. “They can appear either human or ghoulish, but the red eyes don't lie,” he said as he searched the pockets of the fallen demons. Finding nothing more than cash, cigarettes, and a lighter, he stopped.
Soren was shaken, and though he tried to present a calm demeanor, his short answers and expression would be enough to alert his friend that he had sunk very deep in thought because of the demons, or the woman in his arms.
“And her?” Gustav asked, pointing a finger at the woman.
“She's mine.” Soren pulled her legs up and cradled her. Now was not the time nor place to discuss what would be done with her. “We'll talk at your home.” He walked past Gustav, his precious cargo's limp arm swinging with each step.
“Very inconspicuous, Soren,” Gustav said.
“Let's see how inconspicuous you are moving two dead bodies.” He left the alley, and his friend.
* * * *
Faith looked up at the silhouette of a man curled over her, his head barely blocking the raindrops pelting her face. She was moving, her feet were not, and the city was sideways. The foreign world passed by her, the images coming slowly, as if she were seeing everything through someone else's eyes.
She was numb, her muscles from cold, her mind from shock. Her memories seemed intact, scrambled and hazy, but intact. She remembered being afraid of flying on the airplane, and the taste of the ginger gum that kept her nausea at bay. She'd been lost in the rain on the way back to her hotel. Then two men had trapped her in an alley.
Her shoulders and ribs shuddered with chills powerful enough to make her teeth rattle. She fought through it, lifted her head and looked down at her hands.