Authors: Elle Bright
© 2013 by Elle Bright
rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher.
all the dreamers who dare to make their dreams a reality.
At last, the time had come. Soon the
blood of evil would stain the earth. Soon the reign of darkness would fall. The
end was near.
knock sounded at the door. Ah, that would be him. Salvatore swiveled in his
chair, turning his back on the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and the warmth
of the late afternoon sun.
he called, his voice the brittle rasping of dry leaves, even to his own ears. He
may not look his five hundred and eighty-two years, but he felt the toll of
each and every one of them.
son, Dominic, swaggered into the light of his office, full of youthful
arrogance and casual impunity. But, Salvatore knew all too well appearances
could be deceiving. Behind the younger wolf’s mocking eyes and lazy smile
lurked a keen intelligence and fierce determination. This man was tarnished
steel, tempered by a life of violence and suffering. Hard to the very core,
Dominic was the greatest warrior their kind had ever known. Sharp. Deadly. Unstoppable.
to stand before the desk, Dominic waited in silence, black brows drawn together
Salvatore cleared his throat. “The time
A flicker of surprise crossed his son’s
face and the solid mask of indifference fell back into place.
prophecy?” Dominic asked softly.
Salvatore inclined his head in
acknowledgement. He slid a thick file across the smooth surface of the desk.
Dominic stopped its progress with one deft finger.
her identity. Destroy her. For your family and for your kind.”
gave a sharp nod of acceptance.
watched the hope of their race leave in silence. Ah yes, the end drew near.
Turbulence played paddle ball with the
Gulfstream as the jet sliced its way through the angry night’s sky. The flight
had been jostling and uneven thus far, but it would take far more than a patch
of rough weather to break his concentration.
Alone in the section of cabin he used as
his office, Dominic rolled up his shirt sleeves and spread the papers from the
file on the desk in front of him. Heart pounding, his blood coursed with
anticipation as he contemplated his task. Revenge would be his at last.
Kate Murdock… Katerina Cacciatori, he
turned the two names over in his mind with unbridled loathing, the suffering of
generations calling to him for retribution. His baby sister, Caprice… and so
many others. The losses were grievous, but he would avenge them all. He
reviewed the file with adept precision, siphoning information to assist the
pursuit of his query.
Everything lay at his fingertips.
Photographs, a copy of her driver’s license, school transcripts, employment
records, lists of friends and acquaintances, habits and routines, every detail
of her life was neatly catalogued in a single file.
“Who are you really, Kate Murdock?” He
murmured, pausing to study a picture of a laughing, bikini-clad Kate playing beach
volleyball with friends.
With striking features, dramatic
coloring, and a curvaceous figure, she was beautiful, remarkably so.
However, her records were unremarkable, outright
boring even. She’d been a good student and a dependable employee, contributed
to a variety of humanitarian efforts, had a close circle of friends, and an
even closer family. Just another human living the good old American dream.
Yeah, right. He knew better.
Dominic knew there had to be more to her
than the black and white lines of her file, but did she? She couldn’t possibly
believe herself to be just plain-Jane Kate Murdock. Miss Perfect had to sense
she was destined for something more, her deeper instincts whispering of what
she truly was and would become.
Did she have an inkling of the dark path
stretched out ahead of her, the evil she was capable of? There had to be a part
of her, no matter how small, that sensed the truth. A part that knew he would
come for her.
She was the one. He could feel it deep
in his gut.
If she truly was the long-lost
Cacciatori heiress, he would destroy her without remorse.
The heiress must die. Her very existence
threatened to turn his already unsteady world upside down. The Cacciatori
dynasty had controlled the world with a blood thirsty fist for thousands of
years. Their reign of terror would die with Katerina.
He would be free at last. Free from the
demons haunting his darkest dreams. Free from the guilt he felt over his
sister’s death. Free from a life of servitude, of protecting humans who could
neither understand nor appreciate the sacrifices his kind made in the name of
the sacred Pact. He would be free to just be Dominic.
No escape. Nowhere to hide.
close. It drew closer. Behind her. Watching, waiting.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Lungs burning.
ran, the pounding of her feet the only sound to shatter the stillness of the
night. A canopy of darkness hovered overhead, fickle fingers of light piercing
the shadows to dance in lattice patterns on the barren ground. The blackness
enfolded her in a blanket of cold, chills of dread creeping up her spine.
Running, running. Must. Keep. Running.
Escape the demons. Escape the darkness.
She sensed the relentless pursuit of the
dark creature with all her senses but sight. She felt its need, tasted its
hunger. She smelt the sickening stench of danger and heard the silent approach
It chased her through the darkness,
always watching, always waiting, no more than a breath behind her.
Deep breaths. In. Out.
The chill air stung her lungs as she
sucked rasping breaths in, and then sharply released them. Her heart hammered a
desperate tattoo in her chest- RAT-TA-TAT-TAT- the rhythm of her pulse
thundering in her ears.
Not much further. Can’t-- make it
–much-- further. The monster drew ever nearer, ever closer. She could feel its
icy breath on her neck. No escape, no way out.
“What do you want from me?” She shouted
into the emptiness of the night, her throat raw and aching. No answer. Yet she
knew it heard. It was close, so close.
Running, keep running.
Terror twisted its icy fingers around
She could never outrun it.
Yet, still she ran, the flight of her
steps drawing her deeper into the enveloping darkness.
A sliver of light pierced the shadows
Kate careened to a halt, thoughts of
monsters and demons forgotten.
Hypnotized by the beckoning glow before
her, Kate’s body calmed and her pulse slowed. A silver surface shimmered
beneath the pool of light, calling to her, compelling her to move closer.
She didn’t know where the creature had
gone, but she no longer cared. Reaching with trembling fingers, she touched the
smooth surface of the glass. A jolt of electricity coursed up her arm and
numbness spread through her from head to toe.
Peering with curiosity into the glass,
Kate found herself staring at her own reflection.
It was a mirror. Only the Kate staring
back at her was not the same Kate she knew. Her features appeared sharper, more
angular, her skin so pale as to be translucent. Dark emerald eyes, ringed in
shadows, gleamed back at her. They reflected not the terror in her heart, but
an alien hunger she couldn’t understand. A wicked smile twisted the
reflection’s familiar pout into a grin as foreign to her as the seductive glint
in the stranger-Kate’s eyes.
With shaking fingers, Kate reached up to
touch her own cheek, to gain some grasp on reality. The skin beneath her
fingers was cold and smooth. Real, definitely real. The reflection, however,
could not be. Instead of lifting her fingers to her face, the reflection-Kate
watched in silent amusement.
“What are you?” Kate whispered in
The stranger-Kate did not answer. The
image merely smirked before breaking into peals of dark laughter. The sinister
sound chilled Kate to her soul.
And she knew.
The monster came from within. In her
blood. Its raw power coursed through her veins, its restless stirring spreading
far beneath the reaches of her control. It was a part of her, sharing every
breath, every heartbeat. Its needs became her needs, its wants her wants. Its
hunger became hers. The ravenous beast rose from deep inside her, clawing
toward the surface, fighting for control.
She could not outrun it. There would be
no escape from the darkness, for it came from within. Still, she would fight.
She would try. She had to.
Whirling away from the dark reflection,
she broke into a run, the laughter of the mirror still ringing in her ears.
The monster returned, close behind her,
ever in pursuit. Inside her, gleaning her thoughts, taunting her with the
futility of escape. Suffocating in darkness, she drew in ragged shallow
breaths, wondering which would be her last. Run, keep running.
Screeching to a halt, she stopped just
short of toppling end over end into the yawning black abyss before her. Tossing
a frantic glance over her shoulder, she weighed her options.
Demon or abyss?
She kicked a patch of rubble over the
edge, sending dirt and stones tumbling into absolute darkness. Nothing. Sucking
in a deep breath, she faced the abyss head on.
Out of the shadows, he appeared.
Rising like a pillar of strength and
light in her world of darkness, a lone man stood across the expanse of dark emptiness,
his face concealed in shadow. He was both stranger and friend. Redemption and
damnation. Dark and dangerous, he could be her undoing. Or her salvation.
The man extended his hand, beckoning,
offering her his strength. Without thought, she leapt into the darkness,
reaching for the comfort he offered.
And plummeted into black oblivion.
Down, down, down she fell. Darkness her
only companion as she sank deeper and deeper into the midnight emptiness. Dark
laughter echoed in her mind to harmonize with the sound of her own cries of
terror in her ears. She careened ever downward, her stomach left behind on the
ledge above, her heart pounding in terrified anticipation of the final moment
when she would find the bottom of this bottomless abyss.
Falling, falling, falling, darkness her
Kate woke with a start, jerking to
wakefulness from the falling sensation that had been so real only moments
before. Swiping at the beads of cold sweat on her brow, she rose to sit on the
side of the bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
Her bedroom came into focus as her eyes
adjusted to the darkness of night. It was her room, comforting and familiar in
the pale moonlight. No demon, no monster lurking in the walk-in closet or
underneath the queen-sized bed. No strange, mocking reflection of a darker self
in the mirror. Just a scared little girl, trembling and alone in the darkness
after a vivid nightmare.
“Calm down, Kate,” she muttered to
herself. “It’s just a dream.”
Always the same dream. Every night, she
faced the darkness within. Every night, she raced against time to escape an
unseen demon. And every night, she plummeted into pitch black oblivion,
reaching for redemption that would never be hers.
It wasn’t real. The rational mind knew
this, accepted it. But in her heart, Kate feared it just might be.