Authors: Jocelynn Drake
A new day dawns blood red
A master of fire, Mira is the last hope for the world. For centuries she has secretly enforced the history-altering edicts of the Triad. Now she and her unlikely ally—the human vampire hunter, Danaus—have come to Venice, home of the nightwalker rulers. But there is no safety in the ancient city, for the threat of conflict is in the wind . . . with unholy alliances and earth-shattering betrayals taking hideous form in the shadows.
Banished for eons beyond the world's boundaries, the malevolent naturi prepare to feed once again upon a vulnerable earth—and treachery is opening wide the portal that will enable their dread re-emergence. The great battle that has always been Mira's destiny is looming, and she must remain powerful in the face of a shocking revelation: that Danaus, the only creature she dares to trust, is something more than the man he claims to be . . .
The Second Dark Days Novel
Thanks for all the laughs
e needed to feed.
Tristan’s hunger seared my senses, burning through me in a hot, angry wave, until I was pressed against the rough brick wall that lined the alley. My nails dug into the palms of my hands, leaving bloody crescent moons as I hung onto the last tendrils of control over myself and the young nightwalker. Slowly, the consuming desire for blood subsided as the vampire struggled against the red haze. The wave pulled back, dragging across my bare flesh like a bouquet of stinging nettles.
Leaning back, I closed my eyes and drew in a steadying breath in an attempt to get a better grip on myself, but instantly regretted it. The narrow alley was filled with stale, fetid air, laced with rotting meat, mold, and what I could only guess was the smell of a decaying rat or two. Gagging, I lost my hold on Tristan’s mind and the next wave of hunger swamped us both, knocking me to my knees.
Across the dingy expanse, Tristan’s blue eyes glowed with a light that had nothing to do with heaven or the glory of God. His long fingers were like claws and his nails were dug into the wall behind him as if in one final, desperate attempt to keep himself from attacking the first creature to cross his path. There was little left to him that was human beyond the slender frame that held him. His beautiful features were drawn and lean; a fierce collection of bone and muscle possessed with the need for blood.
Tristan’s mind reached out and touched my own, but it wasn’t his usual soft voice. It was deep, rough, and darkly seductive; matching the rumble that echoed against the ragged remains of my soul. The same monster lived inside of me, craving blood, longing for the feel of my fangs slipping into flesh. It was the monster that demanded I drink so deep I felt the soul of my prey brush against the back of my throat.
The voice in my brain faded, replaced by the cacophony of man. Sweet London, teaming with humans and the thunderous pound of their hearts. The night was so young and fresh, like a fragile girl on her way to her first ball. Tristan and I had escaped to a dark, seedy corner of the old city that overflowed with life calling out in a steady drum beat.
We both needed to feed, desperately. The battle had gone badly, leaving Tristan and me wounded and drained of the very substance that had sustained our existence well beyond what should have been our natural end. We needed blood and we knew I was the only thing keeping him from killing his prey when he finally sank his teeth in. He wouldn’t mean to; we didn’t need to kill. But there was no moral fiber guiding his decisions any longer. There was only the red wave of blood lust and the need to survive.
At the other end of the block a man with graying brown hair shuffled out of the night and paused at the corner. Cupping his hands before his face, he lit a cigarette and looked around, his heavily lined visage apparent in the lamplight. He gazed up and down the street, the hand holding the cigarette trembling, the little bud of fire twitching in the darkness.
A low growl rose from Tristan’s throat as his eyes locked on this prey. I launched myself across the tiny alley and crushed him against the wall. The young vampire snarled at me, fangs bared and blue eyes reduced to narrow slits. He no longer saw me or cared that I could rip him apart without straining myself. I was older and stronger, but he needed blood and nothing was going to stand in his way.
“Wait,” I ordered between clenched teeth, my fingers biting into his muscular arms. His clothes were ripped and splattered with blood from our struggle with the naturi earlier in the evening. My thoughts stumbled as the smell of Tristan’s blood and that of the naturi mingled in my nose, conjuring up images I didn’t want to recall just yet. The battle had been a success only in the sense that we both survived and had the energy to hunt, a failure in that my beloved bodyguard Michael lay cold and dead back at the Themis Compound.
With a grunt, I turned my attention to the man standing on the distant street corner. I had to exert only a little effort to touch his drug-addled brain and draw him over with the misconception that a potential customer had beckoned him, interested in viewing his wares. When the man was standing within the shadows of the narrow alley, I released Tristan and slipped silently back to the opposite wall.
“Don’t kill him,” I whispered as the nightwalker lunged.
Tristan’s prey heard my words and managed a half step backward, his fear spiking so I could feel it cut through the dark alley and the haze of blood lust, but it was too late. I stepped back, pressing against the brick wall as the nightwalker wrapped his arms around the man like a pair of steel bands. I couldn’t tear my eyes away and found myself sliding to my knees as Tristan fell to his.
Slipping into the nightwalker’s mind, a wave of sensations washed over me, pulling me under. Tristan drank deeply, sucking the intoxicatingly warm blood into his cold body. I could hear his throat muscles convulsively working, sending the thick liquid down into his stomach. To make the feast that much sweeter, he left the man conscious. The drug dealer’s heart was pounding in his chest, a single piston hammering away but getting him nowhere. His fear filled the narrow alley, overwhelming the scent of rotting garbage and damp mold, dragging a soft moan across my parted lips. Kneeling on the ground with my hands clenched into fists, I listened to the man’s heartbeat start to slow. He had passed out.
“Release him,” I said in a hoarse voice. Tristan hesitated but did as I commanded. Laying the man against the wall, he turned to look at me, balanced on the balls of his feet. His blue eyes glittered and danced, rare gems in the darkness.
For the first time since I had met him, Tristan seemed truly alive. At the nightclub with Thorne, he had been on the run, hiding from Sadira, his personality muted by the constant fear of discovery. But now, something within him finally pulsed with new life. It was my promise to help him gain his freedom from our maker. A promise he knew I would do my best to keep.
The scrape and shuffle of footsteps intruded into our dark, blood-splattered corner of the world. Both of us froze, waiting to see who approached. From the moment Tristan sank his fangs into his meal, I had been cloaking our presence; a natural reflex at this point in my existence rather than a conscious thought. The veil protected us from the sight of any and all nonmagic users. In other words, normal, everyday humans.
At the steady cadence of footsteps, the young nightwalker had thrown up his own protective veil, which was instantly interwoven with my own. He felt stronger now and his thoughts were sharp and clear. I could sense the nervousness that worried the frayed edges of his mind, but he remained as still as stone, and I was confident that he would follow my lead.
A man with short brown hair started past the alley. His walk was brisk and confident. He turned his head toward the alley and his eyes quickly swept the narrow expanse. Tristan and I remained unmoving, waiting. For a moment I felt as if I was somehow both predator and prey. Yet the man’s gait never faltered and his gaze returned to the street before him. He didn’t see us.
But the witch and werewolf did. Following two steps behind the man with the square jaw was a witch in worn jeans and a lycanthrope in khakis. Her easy walk skidded to a rough halt and her shoulder-length brown hair swung forward to crowd her narrow face. The lycan stopped beside her and frowned, causing heavy lines to furrow his hard face.
“Shit!” The explosive whisper escaped her as she stared at us.
Tristan and I remained frozen, waiting for the intruders to make the first move. Tristan’s dinner was still unconscious and mostly hidden behind the young nightwalker. However, we were both covered in blood and our clothes were torn from our fight earlier in the evening. Not one of our most attractive moments. Of course, when it came to the other races, we had all developed a kind of “to each his own” attitude. So we waited. If the witch and lycan resumed walking, we would all pretend we didn’t see each other.
We weren’t that lucky. The human spun on his heel at the witch’s exclamation, grabbing a gun from the small of his back. It had been hidden beneath his loose-fitting, button-up shirt with a garish dragon print. His eyes and gun swept the alley again, but he still did not see us.
The witch reached over and laid her right hand on his broad shoulder. She whispered,
and I felt a small ripple of power move through the air. The spell could have been performed by nearly any novice with a basic knowledge of Latin, but it was enough. The man blinked once and instantly paled as his grip tightened on the gun. Now he saw us.
“Keep walking,” I said in a low voice. I couldn’t risk a fight. The need to feed was nearly overwhelming, and if I was forced to fight, there was a very good chance that someone would end up dead. The monster inside me roared and hammered against the inside of my chest like a frantic heartbeat, demanding blood.
Tristan turned his head to look at me, waiting for my direction. Unfortunately, our new friend was trigger-happy. Jerking the gun over to point at the young nightwalker, he squeezed the trigger. With the soft click of the firing pin, Tristan and I were already in motion. The young vampire fell to the ground, but the bullet slashed across his upper right arm.
Darting across the alley, I grabbed the man’s hand as he swung around to point the gun at me. Stupid humans. Even if he shot me in the heart, he wouldn’t have succeeded in killing me. Guns couldn’t kill a nightwalker. Shotguns could be troublesome, but then the shooter had to get lucky as well. With fangs bared, I slammed his hand into the nearby brick wall, crushing bones. The man screamed as the gun fell from his limp fingers and clattered to the ground. Still holding his hand, I tossed him like a bag of trash over my shoulder into the alley. He hit the wall and crumpled to the ground unconscious.
“Watch him,” I growled to Tristan as I turned my attention to the witch and the lycan.
There was no chance to slow down and talk it out. And in truth, I was no longer in the mood for polite conversation. With an ugly snarl, the werewolf launched himself at me, his eyes glowing copper red. He slammed me into the brick wall, pinning my arms between our bodies, but his arms were free. His right first slammed into my left side, cracking at least two ribs. The shock wave of pain that rippled through me cut through the haze of blood lust and fatigue. His left fist followed, hammering my right side, bruising organs still tender from my earlier fight with the naturi.
Grunting under the pain, I jerked my head forward. The top of my forehead connected with his nose, breaking it. He fell back a step and I lifted my knee, slamming it into his groin. The lycanthrope howled in pain, stumbling away. His hands moved from his broken nose to his groin, holding himself as if it would ease the pain. The scent of his blood instantly hit the air.
Any thought of restraint evaporated. I was on him before he could draw a breath. My fangs sank into his throat, tearing the flesh. The blood rushed into me and sweet relief swept through my entire body. It was thick and warm and carried with it the lycan’s strength. He fought me, pushing, punching, kicking, and clawing desperately, but I could not be removed. With each swallow, he grew weaker and I grew stronger, slowly draining his life away.
“Mira!” Tristan shouted, finally causing me to lift my head. I let the lycanthrope fall unconscious at my feet. Tristan rushed forward to stand between me and the witch in an attempt to protect me, but she must have assumed he was coming after her.
“No!” she screamed, her small, narrow face a ghostly white. She hadn’t moved during my brief scuffle with her companion. I doubt she even breathed. Her wide brown eyes skipped from me to Tristan.