Blood-Kissed Sky (Darkness Before Dawn)

Dedication

For Robin Rue and Beth Miller,
who believed and worked to make it happen

Prologue

“S
he is awakening,” the vampire, as ancient as the rocks that surrounded him, announced.

“Good. Then the time draws near,” Sin said.

“Will she come?”

“When I’m done, she’ll have no choice.” Sin paced the small cavern. Everything was bathed in darkness except for the area where a tiny crack in the ceiling spilled just enough moonlight to reveal the throne and the old vampire hunched over by the weight of centuries.

When the sun rose, he would flee, forever cursed with the fear of its bright light and the pain of fire scorching his skin. Yes, this vampire, the oldest that remained, was still afraid....

So unlike Sin. Born a Day Walker, he was the first of his kind. He never slept, had no quarrel with the sun and its warming brilliance. He was the next evolutionary step for vampires. And his plan, started so long ago, was finally reaching its pinnacle. A grand scheme that seemed written into the very stars—as unchangeable, as predictable, as inevitable as they were.

Soon. So very, very soon.

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Excerpt from After Daybreak

Chapter 1

Other Works

About the Author

Copyright

Back Ads

About the Publisher

Chapter 1

D
eath isn’t what I thought it would be. It’s an acute awareness, a consciousness. A chill that seeps deep into my bones. Most surprising of all, though, is that it’s not ethereal. It’s solid, substantial—hard stone, narrow ledges, steep drops.

The black sky is laced with stars. A high moon visible over the snow-capped peaks cloaks everything in cascading blues and grays.

I’ve been wandering aimlessly through this mountainous maze for what seems like forever.

Ever since Victor killed me.

Victor Valentine. Vampire. How could I have fallen for him—knowing what he was?

How could I have willingly given him my blood—knowing it would mean my death as a human?

How could I have accepted becoming a monster—knowing it was a life I would detest?

He warned me: Once he tasted my blood, he wouldn’t be able to stop. He would drain me. I would die. So here I am, waiting for him to bring me back as a creature of the night like him.

Did he change his mind? Did he decide that I would hate him too much if he turned me? Or is the metamorphosis from human to vampire a slow process that seems to take an eternity?

I begin to hear a soft lyrical sound. Almost as if this place is singing to me. A voice suddenly echoes from within the stone.

“Find me.”

“Victor?” I rasp, desperate to be with him again—but it’s not his voice summoning me.

“Find me.”

I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to search. I’m suddenly afraid. More afraid than I’ve ever been.

“Find me!”

Air fills my lungs and I feel as though a cord is attached to my spine, yanking me backward …

My eyes spring open to stark, white surroundings. Where am I?

“Someone get Dr. Icarus! She’s awake!”

Through a dense fog of confusion, I watch as a petite woman in light blue scrubs rushes to the bed and begins adjusting dials, checking a bag that is dripping fluid into my arm. Then she leans over and smiles at me. “Hello, sweetie. Welcome back.”

Does she know I was in the land of the dead?

“Where’s Victor?” I croak. I can hear the beeps on the heart monitor going faster. “Why isn’t he here?”

“Easy, sweetie. The only Victor I know is the new Lord Valentine, and you sure wouldn’t want him to be in this room.”

He’s alive! Thank God. I was afraid my blood hadn’t been enough. But if it was, then why am I here? Why didn’t he kill me? Turn me? I had accepted that I would become a vampire when I offered him my blood. I had felt a sense of relief that the battle was behind me, that the differences between us would no longer separate us.

If I wasn’t in the land of the dead before I opened my eyes, then where was I? I have to find Victor, discover exactly what happened. Why am I now in this cold room and not in his warm arms? I try to sit up and the nurse gently pushes me back down.

“Relax, you’re not going anywhere in your condition.”

I force my breathing to even out, my muscles to go limp. She’s not the one with the answers. But who is?

A door creaks open. She steps away, and another face hovers over me. It’s not as kind. It looks to be all business. Maybe that’s the reason his hair deserted him: He wasn’t any fun.

“Miss Montgomery? Miss Montgomery, can you hear me? I’m Dr. Icarus. You’re at Mercy Hospital. Do you know why you’re here?”

Should I know? What happened after the darkness engulfed me? I give my head a slight shake and pain ricochets through it.

Everything is so fuzzy, so distant. Their voices echo along with my own. I feel like I’m in a dream. Before—that strange world in the mountains—seems more real. Now it’s like all my memories are running away, heading toward the dark corners of my mind, and I can’t snag the one I need. I don’t know how I got here.

“I was …” I start, but instinct keeps me from finishing. I was with Victor in a crumbling apartment building. He was dying. He fought my brother—Brady. Oh, God, Brady. A sharp pain pierces my chest as though a stake were thrust into my heart. All these years I thought he was dead. I thought vampires had killed him—but they chose a worse fate for him. They turned him. No, not
they
. Sin. Sin, who attended our school. Sin, who dated my best friend, Tegan Romano. Sin, who earned our trust, and then betrayed us all. He stood alone as a new breed of vampire—a Day Walker. How could we have known he thirsted for our blood? By the time he showed his fangs, it was far, far too late.

He sent Brady to kill Victor. He almost succeeded, but my love for Victor is stronger than Sin could ever comprehend. I rub my neck, remembering the pain of Victor’s fangs sinking into my flesh, but I can’t feel any healing wounds or scars.

“It’s strange,” the doctor says, observing my movements. “You arrived a few heartbeats away from death with two deep punctures in your neck, but they healed completely within a couple of hours. I’ve never seen anything like that. Most vampire bites take days to mend and scar tissue develops. Even your tattoo is completely intact.”

I have a crucifix inked on either side of my neck. Even though they don’t ward off vampires. My brother had them as well, which was the reason I had the ink work done. In honor of him—when I thought vampires killed him.

“How did I get here?” I ask.

“A week ago some guy brought you to the ER. He took off once he saw us tending to you.”

Victor couldn’t risk exposing himself as a vampire, or what he had done to me. If anyone thought he’d attacked the city’s delegate, he’d have a difficult time convincing people he wasn’t like his father, Murdoch Valentine. Murdoch was Denver’s overlord until Victor overthrew him.

“We gave you blood transfusions, but you went into a mild coma,” the doctor continues, interrupting my thoughts. “No doubt it was your body’s defense mechanism kicking in so you could recover from the ordeal. It’s a miracle you’re alive. Can you tell me what happened?”

“Strangest dream,” I say.

“You want to tell me about it?” the doctor asks, turning to his charts.

“I don’t really remember anything. Just that it seemed … real. I mean, right now, this all seems like the dream.”

“But you don’t remember anything from it?”

It was so vivid while I was in it, but trying to recall the images now … it’s like my mind is fighting me. “My head hurts.”

“I’ll get you something for that, but I can’t medicate you too much; we need to make sure your body is stabilized.”

The door opens. My guardian, Rachel Goodwin, enters. She is always put-together in dark blue suits, with her brown hair clipped up neatly. But right now she’s wearing jeans and one of my fading T-shirts. She looks as though she hasn’t touched a brush or makeup in a week. As soon as our eyes meet, she drops whatever she’s carrying, hurries across the room, and hugs me hard.

“Oh my God,” she says. “I go out for a few seconds to grab a bag of chips from the vending machine, and you wake up.”

I squeeze back, so very glad to see her. Like me, she works for the Agency—which is responsible for protecting the city—serving as my mentor, guiding me in my role as the city’s delegate to our vampire overlord.

“Tegan,” I whisper hoarsely, tears stinging my eyes. “Do you know what happened to Tegan?” She’s been my best friend forever and the last time I saw her she was in a crumpled heap on the floor after Sin plunged his fangs into her neck. Did he kill her? Did he turn her?

“She’s fine,” Rachel assures me. Releasing her hold on me, she tucks my hair behind my ears.

“What about Sin? Did we get him? Tell me he’s dead.”

Sadly she shakes her head. “Not yet.”

“Do we have any leads? What are we doing to find him?”

“Shh. You don’t need to be worrying about that yet.”

How can I not worry about it? Sin may be Victor’s half brother, but they’re nothing alike. Victor sees a future with humans and vampires together, while Sin sees … I haven’t a clue. His plans are still unfolding, which makes him all the more dangerous, especially to those who know him.

Like Tegan. Poor Tegan. She loved him. “I need to see Tegan, Rachel. I need to see her.”

“I know, I know. I’ll call her.” She pulls out her cell phone.

“She’s not ready for visitors yet,” the doctor explains, but Rachel just holds up a warning finger to cut him off and then dials anyway.

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