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Authors: Madeline Pryce


BOOK: DarkInnocence
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Dark Innocence



Hannah Grey will do anything to
escape the tortured memories haunting her. Every breath brings back the pain,
the fear and the unbearable knowledge that she’ll never be the once-perfect girl
everyone thought her to be. When the self-destructive fog of drugs, alcohol and
meaningless sex starts to clear, Dante, a lion shifter sexier than sin itself, emerges
through the darkness ready to rescue her for the second time in so many weeks.

In the safety of Dante’s embrace,
Hannah allows herself to become the woman she’s always wanted to be—smart,
sexy, capable and empowered. His every touch electrifies. His hot, hungry
kisses set her senses ablaze. As Dante masters her body, Hannah finally finds
the strength to master her fears.

Perfection shatters as threats from
a mysterious vampire escalate from anonymous phone calls to violent encounters.
When Hannah’s enemies unite, placing both her and Dante in mortal peril, she’s
going to need her newfound strength to face the coming darkness and save the
man she loves.


A Romantica®
paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave


Dark Innocence
Madeline Pryce


Chapter One


The sweaty man—whose name I didn’t bother asking—convulsed
on top of me as if he were having some kind of seizure. Self-disgust numbed the
tortured memories I struggled to haze with self-medication. When the pills
hadn’t made me forget the pain I so desperately tried to run from, I’d picked
some random frat-boy. Drunk, high and on the verge of unconsciousness, I gazed
dully at the off-white stucco ceiling and waited for him to finish.

Thud. Thud. Thud. The headboard knocked the wall in time
with his thrusting. The noise drowned out the vibrating music from the kegger
downstairs. I wished I could hear the lyrics, even if the music was crap. I
needed something to focus on other than the wall banging.

Cursed with an eidetic memory, every sound, smell, sight,
taste and touch worked in tandem to burn a scene into my mind I would never
forget. At this very second, I really wished I could repress how far I’d let
myself fall in order to pull myself free from the asylum that haunted my every

“God, Hannah, your pussy is grade A.” This was grunted,
panted and groaned between words.

His hot, sticky breath covered my ear in a layer of moisture,
and induced vomit. Or maybe the impending puke was my body’s way of purging the
toxins. Nope. It was the musky scent of sex—the slapping of his pelvis hitting
the backs of my thighs. My skin chilled. The sound transported me to the
abandoned hospital, made me think of bloodstained feet hitting the dirty,
torn-up floor with every frantic step. The mildewed scent from then mixed with
the sweet, lingering aroma of marijuana now and my head spun.

The staccato beat of the bed drilling the wall sped up and
anchored me to the present. Even though I hated it here, I was grateful for the
brief respite. He grabbed my thigh, shoved it higher and thrust roughly against
me. No matter how fast or how hard the driving force of this guy’s cock
pounding into me, I felt nothing. It was a sensation I was aware of, but didn’t
experience through my full-body numbness. There was zero arousal or sexual

What kind of pills had I swallowed earlier?

The frat-boy shuddered. “I could fuck you all night.”

I seriously hoped he wasn’t serious. My high was quickly
wearing off and the disgust, the only thing that gave me escape, was fading.
Through the drug-induced fog memories were sharpening into a knife.

Darkness closed around me and the tiny peaks and valleys on
the ceiling vanished. Cold snaked up my spine and froze my skin. Agony sliced
through me, one slow cut at a time—shallow, just sliding over the surface,
before digging deeper. The blade moved through dermis then epidermis to muscle,
through tendon to bone. Each layer separated, opened me to the darkness, the
evil saturating the walls I couldn’t escape in my mind. A low, keening cry tore
free. The rusty scent of blood, the glow of electric-blue eyes, and tinkling
laughter overtook my senses.

I remembered the sound of my bones breaking and
all over again felt the quick, horrific snaps. Phantom pain engulfed my fingers
and my healed hand curled into a claw. My flesh tightened with goose bumps
despite the hot, heaving mass atop me.

In my mind, warm blood rolled off my arms, legs, dripping to
the dusty floor. Splat. Splat. Splat.

I shook my head back and forth. Too bad it didn’t help push
away the images—the ones I did
to suppress—flashing before my
closed lids. My breath came in quick, short bursts. Tears stung the backs of my
eyes and I bit my lip to keep from crying.

“That’s it baby, come for me. Cream all over my cock.” This
was howled loud enough for all his Zeta Psi frat buddies to hear.

My anonymous fuck misunderstood the beginnings of my panic
attack for orgasm. Asshole. A real man like Dante—the person who’d helped
rescue me when I’d been kidnapped and tortured six weeks ago—would understand
what was happening to me.

Too bad I’d never get to find out for sure. Dante, who
resembled a walking sex god, was fifteen years older than me. The man dated
perfect supermodels who had their shit together. I’d drifted far, far away from
the perfect, doe-eyed, innocent-angel routine I’d been stereotyped into from
the time I could walk.

God, what would Dante think of me if he knew what I was
doing? My disgust solidified and I had a moment of clarity. What was I doing to
myself? Sex wasn’t working, not like I thought it would. When I tried to push
the jerk off me, he grabbed my wrists and pinned them above my head with one
strong hand.

From one breath to the next, my mind took over. I was strapped
naked to the cold medical table, leather bindings cutting into my wrists and
ankles to keep me immobile. Ice-cold air drifted over my pebbled skin. It had
been the fear more than the temperature that racked my body with uncontrolled
tremors. Laughter surrounded me in the yawning darkness. My heart’s rhythm
tripped, the beat tripling as endorphins flooded my nervous system. The first
cut hadn’t been the deepest. No. There’d been a story in my torture, a slow
teasing start, a drawn-out middle and a painful climax. After I’d been let go
and given the illusion of freedom, the real fun had begun.

Panic, for long miserable moments, churned my stomach. The
warmth from his slick palm touching my bare skin infused me with heat and finally
pushed back the horror.

“Let me go,” I growled.

He released my arms and I sucked in a deep breath. The sweet
scent of marijuana masked the stale taste and odor of liquor. He cupped my
breast, squeezed. When I didn’t stop him, he tweaked my nipple through the
sweater and bra I’d refused to shed. Fucking was all I wanted, not full-body,
skin-to-skin contact.

The painful throb helped soothe some twisted craving I now
had since the former vampire queen, Lizbeth Tepes, had gotten a hold of me. As
much as I hated being rutted, I hated being alone even more. I hated being
cold. I hated being in the dark. I drew in another breath, this one a little
easier to swallow.

I decided against my better—albeit impaired—judgment to see
this through.

“Harder,” I said in a distant, dull voice.

Not once during this twenty-minute ordeal did I bother to
look away from the ceiling. If I looked at the man on top of me, I might see
her—Lizbeth—hovering over my body with a rusted scalpel in her hand and my
blood dripping from her chin.

He shoved his wet, slimy tongue into my mouth so I could
taste firsthand the stale beer on his breath. I gagged and turned my head to
the side until his questing tongue found my ear. Not much better. I lay
lifeless beneath him with my legs spread wide, skirt up around my waist. The
only movement of my body was a consequence of his jerky, uneven jackhammering.

“Yes, yes, yes. I’m gonna come, baby, come in your tight
pussy so hard I’m gonna see stars.”

Yes, please do that then get off me.

A few seconds later, he finished his one-man race and rolled
to the side. The second I was free, I sprung off the bed and smoothed my skirt
down to cover my naked ass. A wave of dizziness spun through me, churned back
up the nausea, and I swayed.

Liquor. Pills. Pot. A great combination for someone who
desperately wanted to forget. Too bad nothing erased the memories trapped
inside my head. Nothing.

I swiped my purse, shoes and panties—the only article of
clothing I’d let him remove—from a carpet covered with dirty shirts, boxers,
jeans and textbooks.

My temporary bedmate sat up and ran a hand through his
shaggy dark-brown hair. His red-rimmed eyes were both glassy and slumberous.
When I looked at him and saw two noses and two mouths blurring together I knew
I was more fucked-up than I’d thought.

“It’s three in the mornin’, where you going? Stay the night
with me.” He pulled off the used condom and dropped it to the floor beside the
bed. Classy.

“I don’t think so.” I wrestled my tangled blonde hair into a
messy bun, turned and stumbled for the door in a moderately straight line.

“Come on, Hannah, don’t be like that. At least leave me your
digits, we had a good time, right?”

My response was to slam his bedroom door on my way out into
the trash-littered hallway of Zeta house. A wave of sound, heat and smoke hit
me full force, amplifying the almost crippling self-loathing I felt. All these
people had probably heard what’s-his-face screwing my brains out.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Panties tucked into my purse, heels in hand, I held my head
high and plastered a fake, self-satisfied smile on my face. The post-sex makeup
smeared across my face and shadows of fatigue under my eyes probably ruined the
image I was going for, but for once, I didn’t care. Even though every step further
dampened my elusive high, the narrow hallway spun. Under my bare feet, the
floor shifted. Kaleidoscopes of blurry colors outlined the lights. Now that I
wasn’t lying on my back, my brain went pleasantly foggy.

Later, I would barely remember the beige walls decorated in
blues and purples, or the large oak trophy cabinet I nearly got knocked out by
when I stumbled into it. I wouldn’t recall that one person was throwing up in a
corner of the hall while someone else was pissing in the other. I pushed
through the throng of people waiting for the bathroom and managed to make it
down the stairs.

The girls I staggered by gave me dirty looks and turned
their backs. The rejection hardly stung these days. A month and half ago, these
same trendy co-eds with their bottles of Bud Light would have trailed behind me,
trying to get my attention. I gave as wide a birth as I could to the men and
the lustful gleam in their eyes. The only difference there was that now they
dared cup their crotches.

For years I’d strived to be the best, the prettiest and the
most popular. I’d reigned queen at the top of the social ladder. A position I’d
never wanted. I’ve disliked every friend and boyfriend I’d ever had. Pre- and
post-torture, I was alone despite the people surrounding me.

What I’d craved was normalcy, the storybook tale of girl
meets stockbroker and has two-point-five kids complete with a white-picket
fence. I had done anything I could to escape the secret, shadowy world of
darkness I lived in. Most humans were ignorant of what really lurked in the
dead of night—vampires, demons and shape shifters.

Now I didn’t know if I should be relieved the façade of
being perfect was demolished, or regretful that I’d never live the normal life
I’d thought I’d wanted.

“Jaxon, Bradely and Guy, now Wade. When am I gonna get a
turn, baby doll?” a blue-eyed, sandy-blond-haired gut dressed in a letterman’s
jacket asked.

Ignoring the snickers and the comments that followed such
as, “slut” and “whore”, I pushed my way through the partiers. As I went, I
plucked a random red Solo cup from a frat-boy I was pretty sure I’d gone
upstairs with last weekend and downed the contents. Liquor burned my throat. I
welcomed the heat when I stepped out into the frigid night air.

I’d never again equate cold with things like temperature,
snow and winter. Everything circled back to the asylum—the halls I’d run
through, the table I was tortured on and the touch of the vampire who’d stolen
everything from me. Tonight proved I was never going to be me—whoever that
was—again. Unfathomable sadness weighed down my every step and made it hard to

Stars danced in front of my eyes and I wondered how long I
had before I passed out. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the
other and made my way, barely, across the damp, uneven grass to my car. Damn. I
probably wasn’t going to be able to drive home like this.

The piercing shrill of my cell honed in on the dull ache in
the back of my head and smashed it with a hammer. I dug through my purse to silence
the damn thing. I briefly glanced at the RESTRICTED text flashing on the screen
before I answered.

“Hello?” I slurred and leaned against my car for support.

Deep, even breathing sounded through the phone.

“Hel-lo, anyone there?” I asked, tucking my cell between my
shoulder and ear before rooting around in my bag for car keys. Plastic
prescription bottles knocked together, change rattled, and then there, finally,
at the bottom, I felt the jagged teeth of keys.

A deep, muffled voice echoed from the phone. “I see you,

My blood froze at the use of my name. I didn’t recognize the
caller as anyone I knew or would willingly give out my number to. I snapped my
head up and I looked around at the people smoking cigarettes on their white,
wooden patios and drinking beer in lawn chairs. Greek row was in full swing,
each large, looming house lit up and exploding with music, laughter, and in
some cases, breaking glass. No one was looking at me.

“Who is this?” I asked.

Laughter rumbled. “You don’t know me, not yet. But you

I struggled to insert key into lock, scratched the crap out
of my car in the process, and managed to get the door open. “How’d you get this

“Soon I’m going to taste you and then you’ll be mine. Soon,
lover.” The caller hung up.

I collapsed into the driver’s seat and locked the door. The
dark cocooned me, brought me back to the black halls I’d gotten lost in when
Lizbeth had chased me through one decrepit ward after another. My fear
ratcheted and petrified my limbs.

I fought through the paralysis and turned on the overhead
light. I stared at my phone for at least five minutes while I tried to slow my
pounding heart. Each breath came out in a cloud of white, and because I was
still high, the puffs of moisture danced and pulsed with color. For a second, I
lost myself in the hallucination and forgot about the weirdo who’d called me.
Stupid. I shook my head and thumbed through the alerts on my cell. There were
six missed calls, all from the same blocked number.

BOOK: DarkInnocence
11.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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