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Authors: Karen E. Taylor

Blood Red Dawn

BOOK: Blood Red Dawn
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PRIMAL INSTINCT
Tom took me in his arms as the band began playing a slow song and we danced. Laying my head against his chest, listening to his heart beat, I hid my triumphant smile. Finally, something familiar. I was remembering. It turned out to be as simple as being in an accustomed situation, meeting people similar to those I'd interacted with in the past. I knew now that there had been many men in my life, not lovers, but donors. And that Max had often arranged for me to meet them. Here in this club.
With each step of the dance, I inhaled the smell of the man pressed up against me, remembering the sweet touch of blood on my lips, on my tongue, the tingling of my gums with the growth of my fangs.
Soon, I would take this man by the hand and lead him to a quiet room. I would slowly unbutton his shirt and welcome the warmth of his hands on my body. My eyes would meet his and hold him there; slowly and sensuously, my mouth would whisper the words of seduction, then come down on his neck and I would drink my fill . . .
Books by Karen E. Taylor
HUNGER
 
CRAVE
 
THIRST
 
BLOOD RED DAWN
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
BLOOD RED DAWN
the vampire legacy
KAREN E. TAYLOR
KENSINGTON BOOKS
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Prologue
Deirdre Griffin: New York City
 
T
he surface upon which I lay was smooth and soothingly cool. I rubbed a hand against it; it was leather. My hand dropped further and my eyes began to focus. Black leather, I saw, and supported by chrome.
And I was dressed in different clothes. Instead of the jeans I had been wearing, I had on a black silk nightgown with a plunging neckline and a billowing skirt. Oddly enough, this garment seemed as familiar as the jeans, shirt, and hiking boots.
Perhaps that was the dream,
I thought.
The room was dark but even as that thought crossed my mind, the shadows retreated somewhat, giving me limited vision. A large room, it smelled of new leather and fresh paint.
I sat up on the couch and looked around me at this new place.
It must be a dream
, I thought,
since it seems familiar. And now only dreams are real.
Feeling more comfortable in that assessment, I relaxed. No matter how terrible the dreams were, I knew they never hurt me upon awakening. I studied the room again. A bar stood in one corner of the room, black and chrome and sparkling. On the bar top, stood a bottle of opened red wine and two clean glasses of delicate crystal.
“Why not?” I said with a quiet laugh. “I am very thirsty.”
I rose from the couch on unsteady legs; once standing I discovered that I felt dizzy and slightly nauseous.
Odd,
I thought,
I normally feel well in the dreams.
However, I managed to cross to the bar and pour myself a glass of wine.
The first sip brought tears to my eyes. It was not that the wine tasted bad; on the contrary it was wonderful, sharp and rich. No, the tears had nothing to do with the wine's quality. I cried because I knew I'd drunk this vintage before, in happier times, perhaps, although I could not remember.
Glancing at the empty glass, I wondered for whom it was meant. My head ached and I sighed, turning around with the wine in my hand and leaning my back against the bar. I faced a different view of the room now and saw across from me that there was one door, a heavy wooden one. And deeper in the shadows, back in a dark corner, there was a massive desk, so black it might have been carved of onyx. On the wall next to the desk, seeming horribly out of place in this sea of modern furniture, stood a huge ornate and antique armoire. And behind the desk sat a man, so completely engulfed in shadows that had it not been for the glitter of the eyes that watched me, I might never have seen him.
“So,” I said unsteadily, trying to peer through the shadows to see the face of the man sitting at the desk, “you are Steven DeRouchard.”
Attaching the name did me little good. I knew the name, recognized it the same way I knew the difference between my foot and my hand, but the recognition was academic. Cold and emotionless. The name represented a man, no more and no less. He meant nothing to me. Like all the rest of them, he meant nothing.
The voice laughed. “Truly, little one, you have named me. Or have you? The name DeRouchard is, perhaps, unimportant. I like to think of it and the body it represents, as a vessel, or,” and he paused, searching, I thought, for a word or perhaps only for dramatic effect, “a bottle, if you will. Its importance, its value does not lie in external trappings. Its true worth can only be determined by that which it holds. The essence of the vessel is all.”
“Then I am nothing,” I said, following his logic, “since I have no essence.”
“Not necessarily, my dear. You have potential. A bottle that is empty can easily be filled.”
Suddenly the peaceful feeling I had been enjoying exploded into anger.
“If I am empty, you bastard, it is your doing.” I picked up the wine bottle and with all my strength threw it at his head. It came up short and struck the edge of the desk, splashing him with bits of broken glass and wine.
I opened my mouth to speak again, but stopped, dead in the water and drifting. For one second, one very short second, I had a flash of memory. Something about the violence, the tinkling sound of shattered glass, and my anger all blended into the vision of this man and he was . . .
No. The memory vanished, washed away in his laughter. The moment disappeared and was gone.
“There,” I said, moving forward a step, “why don't you see if you can fill
that
bottle? Bastard.”
He brushed the slivers of glass from his coat. “See? You are not empty, little one, you still have your anger.”
“I have held onto my anger. And I have saved it for you. I am glad you are pleased.”
“More than pleased, actually.” He got up from behind the desk and began to move toward me.
Although I did not want to show my weakness to him, I could not help my reaction. I shrank back into the bar, fearing his approach.
“Why have you done this to me?” I whispered the words as he came closer to me. “What have I done to make you hate me, hate us, so much?”
“Hate?” He stopped about five feet away from me. “This has nothing to do with hate and everything to do with love. I saved your life, Deirdre.”
At the mention of that name, I shivered. I had heard his voice say that name, my name I now knew, in dreams and in life.
“How did you save me?”
“If you could remember, you would know. I stopped the attacks on you. I brought you here. And you are alive.”
I shook my head. “I do not think I am alive, not here, not in this time and place. I am dreaming, all of this. You have been in my dreams, since . . .”
“Always. I have always been in your dreams. That is where I belong.” He moved toward me again and I saw him, clearly, and as if for the first time. His face with its finely sculpted lines, his mouth, his hair, the way he walked—all of it was real. This was no dream. Something deep inside me knew this man. Only one thing was different, only one detail seemed strange.
He stood in front of me now. Close enough so that I could reach out with a trembling hand and touch the scar that spread from one side of his neck to the other. “DeRouchard,” I whispered. “It is the mark.”
“Yet still, you've missed my true name. Try again, little one. The memory is there and you must find it if you are to survive. And once you do, I can save you. I alone hold the key; only I can fill you again and make you whole.”
He gently grasped my chin in his hand and lifted my head to meet his gaze. I knew his touch. I knew his eyes. Straining for the memory, I stood on the tip of my toes and stared deeply at him.
And then I began to cry.
His arms pulled me into him. “It's been a long road, Deirdre, but now you are back home where you belong. The rest of it is much better forgotten. Now, say my name.”
“Steven DeRouchard?”
“No, that is wrong.” His mouth came down on mine and he kissed me, causing a thousand memories of him and him alone to stir and rush to the surface.
Oh, dear God.
Somewhere deep inside I heard the roar of a caged animal. Somewhere deep inside me a woman was weeping over a lost love, a perfect love. And from somewhere far away I heard a voice, a well-loved voice, say, “Remember me . . .”
Gone. All gone.
I must get them back
, I thought,
the anger and the woman and the memories.
But all I had left was here and now.
And I said his name.
“Max.”
Chapter 1
Mitch Greer: Whitby
 
“G
one? What the hell do you mean she's gone?”
Maggie looked up at me from where she sat at the kitchen table, her normally pretty eyes reddened and puffy from crying. I hated to see women cry, especially knowing that my next questions would undoubtedly add to her sorrow, but that hatred did nothing to keep me from wanting to strangle her. I sympathized to a degree, knowing that she certainly had enough to weep about without my reaching out and throttling her, so I restrained my instincts and made an effort to lower and soften my voice a bit.
“Where did she go, Maggie?”
She sniffed and shrugged. “Out,” she said, “but the dogs went with her. She seemed like she wanted to be alone and said she'd be back in a bit. It's safe now, right?”
“Safe?” I thought for a minute. “Yeah, I suppose it is, if one can trust that bastard Steven DeRouchard.” As soon as I spoke, I realized it was the wrong thing to say. With the mention of her eldest son, tears began to stream from her eyes again.
Damn it,
I thought,
Deirdre had better be back soon or I really will strangle this woman.
“How did she seem to you? Was she acting normally?”
With a visible effort, Maggie pulled herself together. She wiped away her tears and combed back her black curly hair with her fingers, sitting up straighter in the kitchen chair. “She seemed as normal as she ever has.” Her voice wavered a bit, but she had finished crying. Throwing me a small smile, she stood up and stretched, turning on her charm in a split second as easily and as measurably as throwing a switch. The temperature in the kitchen seemed to rise a degree or two. “I'm not exactly an expert on vampires, Mitch. Frankly, you all seem a bit queer to me.” Her voice quivered again, but this time with repressed laughter. “All of you seem strange—you and Dot and all the rest.” She reached over and laid her hand on my arm in what I'm sure she meant to be a comforting gesture. “I'm quite sure she'll be fine. Give her some time and she'll be back soon.”
I relaxed in spite of myself, in spite of the feeling I had in my gut that there was something horribly wrong. Even though normally I would trust my gut more than I'd trust this woman standing before me, Maggie had this aura about her, making her irresistible to vampires. Her hand felt warm against my arm. Something in the scent of her, in her blood, in her flawless skin and the glow of her eyes made me want to hold her close to me, protect her from harm. The feeling made no sense. I knew she wasn't my friend. Not our friend. And I knew that she'd been instrumental in robbing Deirdre of her memories. Hadn't she admitted as much last night? It should have been an easy thing to reach out and hurt her, make her tell me what I wanted to know.
I pulled away from her; my hands, clenching and unclenching, hung useless at my sides. I feared to touch her, either in anger or in lust. She was a Breeder, she was poison, and I bloody well knew it.
Maggie flashed me one of her angelic smiles; she'd won this round. “We'd better open the pub tonight, don't you think, Mitch?” Her voice sounded sweet and reasonable. “People will begin to wonder what's going on if we don't.”
I nodded. “Sure, we might as well open up.” I started to move out of the kitchen as if on command. I clenched my teeth and forced myself to turn back to face her. “I'll give her an hour,” I said glancing at the clock, “and then I'm going out after her.”
“An hour.” Maggie nodded. “I'm sure that will be all the time that's needed.”
“Needed? For what?”
She laughed. “Why for Dot to get herself together. Really, Mitch,” and she laid that hand on my arm again. I pulled away. “There's no need to worry.” Again she smiled that angelic smile that made her seem the most desirable woman alive. Funny that I could feel that way, but still want to strangle her. “I'm quite sure she'll be home soon.”
At that moment the door to the small bedroom off the kitchen opened and Chris walked out.
And here
, I thought,
is another good reason for me not to kill this woman.
By some bizarre chance or coincidence, my son was back, reborn through her sexual union with the DeRouchard bastard who started this whole damned business. Chris's soul had transferred from his dead body into the body of the newborn child through some strange and arcane rite. Even Victor had no idea how that was done.
When I first met Deirdre, I used to say I didn't believe in coincidences, but now I didn't know what to believe. Apparently, when I opened the window to the admission that creatures such as vampires exist, because, yeah, I was one, I also opened the door wide to all sorts of other strange beings, none of whom made any sense whatsoever.
Nevertheless I smiled at my son, for he was my son, there could be no doubt of that fact. And he was Maggie's son as well. It all made for a strange little incestuous-seeming relationship that didn't bear thinking on. My head ached, my heart ached, and the warning in my gut screamed out to be heeded.
“Dad?” Chris nodded in my direction, then in hers. “Mum? I hope everyone slept as well as I did.”
Maggie jumped at the sound of his voice and started crying again.
Chris looked over at me. “What's wrong?”
I shook my head and brushed back my hair. “Nothing. And everything. Deirdre's out for a walk, Maggie's crying again, and I'm going out to open the goddamned pub.”
Turning my back on the both of them, I stalked into the bar area, flipped on the lights, unlocked the door, and began to clear the glassware from the previous night's celebration. It was hard for me to believe that gathering had taken place less than twelve hours ago. I broke the seal on a new bottle of scotch, put ice into a glass, and filled it to the top.
Calm down,
I said to myself, sipping the scotch.
She'll be back soon and everything will be fine.
In spite of the tension from the scene in the kitchen, in spite of the whole situation, I smiled. Stubborn though she was, I loved that woman, more than she'd ever know.
Especially now that most of her memories had been burned away by the poison running in her veins.
My mouth tightened with that thought; I drained my glass and poured another.
The bell on the door clanged and I looked up and nodded at a few of our regulars. They came inside, sat at the bar, and I poured their drinks. One of them glanced around, drained his glass, and pushed it over to me with a nod. “Old Pete back yet?” he asked, “I'd been hopin' after a game of darts.”
I smiled and refilled his glass. “I'll play you, Thomas.”
The man gave a rough laugh. “Not on your life. Perhaps I should've said that I'd been hopin' after a game of darts I can win. You're too good, man. Dead-Eye Greer, they should call you.” He took another long swallow of his stout. “So where's your fine Dot tonight, eh?”
“Out walking, I think. She should be back soon.”
One of his friends nodded. “Yeah, I saw her up in t'ruins, I think, now that you mention it. Looking over t'ocean. She's a fearless one, I've always said. There've been some strange sights up there lately. Wolves, they say. To say nothing of the ghosts. I'd not like my woman walking there on her own, there's naught good will come of it. No tellin' who she might meet up there.”
I wanted to hit him, but another of the men beat me to it, punching him not too gently on the arm. “Get off it, Jim, what would you know of women?”
“That's true, man.”
The bell on the door jangled again and more people entered, tourists this time from the look of them. By the time I'd gotten them settled, more had arrived. It was going to be a busy evening by the look of it so far. As I started washing glasses in the bar sink, I hoped Deirdre would be back soon or that Maggie would get over her tears and come help me out.
As if my thought drew her, Maggie appeared and joined me behind the bar, all traces of sorrow wiped away. She gave me that bloody smile of hers. The tension in my stomach intensified. “Phoenix,” she said with a small wink, “isn't feeling well so he won't be out tonight.” She moved over next to me and took over the washing of the glasses. Over the sound of the water she whispered, “He thought it might be a good idea to stay hidden for a while, since people are bound to notice his change.”
I nodded. The need to keep him hidden hadn't actually occurred to me. I was glad the two of them were thinking. But a thought crossed my mind and I stepped away from the bar and back into the kitchen area.
“Chris,” I said, leaning in the door, “since you can't help out at the bar tonight, could you do me a favor?”
“Sure, Dad. What's up?”
“Walk up to the abbey ruins, find Deirdre, and bring her back. I'm still not convinced that it's safe for any of us to be out wandering alone, especially her. She's not in the best of shape these days and neither am I.”
He nodded, gave me a small salute that made me smile in remembrance of the boy he was. As I was heading back into the bar, he opened the door to the outside and I heard his sharp intake of breath.
“Dad?” His voice cracked; he sounded frightened and young once again.
“What's wrong?”
“One of the dogs. Curly. Or Larry. I never could tell the two of them apart. He's hurt, I think.” Chris bent down and picked up the whimpering dog, carried it into the kitchen and laid it down on the floor. The room flooded with the scent of warm blood and triggered an involuntary hunger response. As I bent over the dog, my fangs grew and Chris drew back from me.
“It's Larry,” I said, ignoring Chris's reaction. “Poor little guy. But”—and I gave the dog an encouraging pat—“he's not that bad. It looks worse than it really is. Get me some clean towels and a basin of warm water and we'll see if he'll let me clean him up a bit.”
Fortunately the animal trusted me, so I could tend his wounds without fear of him biting me. I'd never asked and had no idea if an animal could become vampiric with a taste of our blood. I didn't think I wanted to find out. The injuries did prove to be minor, shallow gouges on his back and hindquarters. “Keep him quiet,” I said to Chris when I'd finished, “and try to keep him from licking at the cuts. Chances are Sam and Viv will be stopping by a little bit later, we'll have him take a look.”
“How did this happen?”
I shook my head. “No idea. He may have gotten caught in barbed wire somewhere or maybe another animal attacked him. Could even have been Curly, I guess. Any sign of him?”
“No.” Chris knelt next to the dog. “Do you still want me to go out looking for Deirdre?”
“No, you stay here. I'll go. Just let me tell Maggie where I'm going.”
I stopped as I got to the door and turned back to him. The love of animals he'd developed when growing up as Phoenix had carried over, readily apparent in the care and regard he gave to the dog. And yet even as my heart twisted with gratitude at the sight of my still-too-young son back with me again, the details of another dog's death nagged at my mind, feeding my natural wariness. Phoenix had been close to that animal too. In my years on the police force and the more recent years living as a vampire, all the brutal deaths I'd witnessed haunted me, but somehow the senseless cruelty of the beheading of an innocent and trusting creature had felt more obscene and depraved than most of them. Pointless and evil. And now, as had happened then, doubts entered my mind. How well did I know this boy? Was he his mother's child after all? Maybe he wasn't what he appeared to be on the surface, the innocent victim of the plots of an evil man. Did something more sinister and diabolical lurk under his skin, in his heart and mind?
I cleared my throat. “Chris,” I said, “do you remember how Moe died? More importantly, have you been able to remember who did it?”
His eyes glassed over a bit and his face seemed to grow blurred and vague. “No,” he said dragging the word out slowly, making it into a drawl. “I've really tried hard to remember, but it's like there's this wall in my mind.”
I nodded, feeling my mouth tighten. Sooner or later we would know the real story. I only hoped there would be no more deaths before that happened. It seemed to me that he was deliberately evading the questions I asked. But I'd already had his mother in tears tonight. One of them was enough.
Without another word, I went into the pub.
BOOK: Blood Red Dawn
3.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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