a sneak peek of the short story
“Into the Darkness”
from the book Immortal Sins
the 2nd novel in the BEFORE THE SUN RISES series
After her escape, he had beaten her twin sister until she lost consciousness. He hadn’t meant to kill the girl, but so enraged was he after her sister’s escape that he had done just that, however accidental it may have been on his part. Finally realizing that she would be back with reinforcements, he had quickly packed up and left. The twins were, after all, cops. He had gotten as far away as he could as fast as possible, leaving the broken body of the twin still shackled to the basement floor.
That had been five years ago. He had wanted Altania Lewis like no other woman before her. He had dreamed about her every night since, his evenings spent systematically plotting out her capture and eventual conquering. But no matter how much he daydreamed and planned, he never could entertain the notion of killing the woman. And that was what pissed him off more than anything.
Ashton Jones was a serial killer. He had started his craft when he was only ten years old. At the age of twenty-six, his craft had been honed down to a fine art. He had gotten so good at it, in fact, that he had been recruited by the High Council about two years ago. He had spent the first year following their rules, jumping through hoops, proving to all of the Elders that he would not go rogue if he was embraced. Twelve months after his initial recruitment, one of the little fledgling vampires had been allowed to embrace him. The High Council made sure he would not be too powerful once turned by allowing a novice to do the embracing, but he was still strong enough to continue to be an assassin for the Elders. Now he had an endless supply of victims that he not only got to kill, but these victims would stay alive for as long as he wanted, allowing him to spend days or even weeks trying out new inventions and increasingly grotesque methods of torture.
Now here he was, in one of the many, many buildings owned by the High Council, waiting on his new partner. Except what was standing in the middle of the room was not a partner, but the object of his obsession.
“I don’t give a shit if he is under the protection of the Council, Stealth. I am going to kill that son-of-a-bitch!” Altania Lewis was being held by both arms by the vampire Stealth. She was thrashing against him so hard that his sharp nails were gouging out deep gashes in her skin. The five foot six dark blonde woman paid little attention to the piercing pain. Her sapphire blue eyes were glowing with rage. Incoherent curses were thrown in between death threats and tales of castration with a rusty razor blade.
Ash had not moved from his position inside the doorway. He had been asked to come down to meet his new partner. The last person he had ever expected to see when he entered the room was the woman whom he had vowed to destroy… mind, body, and soul.
“She is under the protection of the Council, Ash. If you harm her in any way, you will be put to death.” Requiem spoke quietly to the vampire who stood stone still inside the door. “She is now your partner, an appointed Vampire Assassin just as you are. As such, she is entitled to the same privileges and protections as all our assassins. You will protect her with your life.”
Stealth was telling the wriggling woman in his arms the same speech that Requiem had just given him. He wasn’t so sure that she was listening, though. The woman was still screaming obscenities at him in addition to her vivid recounts of what she had planned for his testicles and penis.
Ash merely nodded his understanding to the vampire that stood between him and the screaming woman, still too shocked to think about much of anything. His mind just kept going over and over the fact that he had dreamed of nothing but this woman and what he intended to do to her once he found her. Now the council was practically handing her over on a silver platter. Except that the meal in question had a huge ‘do not touch’ sign on it now.
Stealth had finally let Altania go, her initial anger having burnt out. Her rage gave way to tears, her emotions so overlapping each other that she now stood in a far corner, crying quietly and rambling on about how she had discovered her twin sister, Altolya, beaten to a bloody pulp and chained like an animal to the cold stone floor of Ash’s basement. Stealth was attempting to console her as best he could, but she was so deep into her anguish that she didn’t appear to hear him. Instead, the vampire kept trying to turn her around and face him, thinking to use his vampire glamour to quiet her down. Altania, however, kept her back to the vampire, her hands over her face and her entire body crammed into a corner of the office.
Ash still wasn’t sure what to make of the whole thing. He finally had this woman who had haunted his dreams for years, yet now she was protected by vampire law. To do anything other than protect her would mean his immediate death. His immediate slow, and painful, death.
The situation was not any easier for the woman who was still crying in the corner. For five years she had criss-crossed the entire country, going from one crime scene to another in search of clues that would ultimately lead her to the monster who had so brutally killed her twin sister. Her obsession with finding and bringing Ashton to justice had caused her to lose her job with the Shadow Cove PD. She had been so preoccupied with Ashton’s little escapades that she had nearly gotten herself and her fellow officers killed during her last assignment. Concerned with her declining mentality, her former captain had her reassigned to the Vampire Council’s assassin division. He had hoped that the change of scenery would help her to heal after the death of her sister. Instead, she discovered herself in the same room as her sister’s killer. Which begged the question of whether or not her captain knew the Council was going to partner her with Ash or if this was solely the perverted plans of the High Council Elders?
“How could they do this to me, Stealth?” Altania asked with a calmness that worried the nearly three hundred year old vampire. She still had her back turned to him, so he wasn’t sure if she really was calm or if she were slipping into some sort of manic state.
“To help you heal, Altania,” Stealth said just as quietly. “Ash is a valued member of the Assassins now. He went through the same training as you. He has been taught the value of life. His only victims are assassinations that have been sanctioned by the Vampire Council. He is forbidden to harm any other being or face the same tortures and demise as his former victims. He knows the rules, Altania, and he follows them to the letter. He has changed.”
The woman turned around swiftly and glared up at Stealth. “He has not changed, Stealth. You of all people should know that it takes more than a few years of study with the Council Elders to change a heart blackened by decades of immorality. That person there will never fully understand the value of a life, not even his own. He would just as easily give up his own if it meant getting what he wanted. And what he wants is me. Now thanks to your Council, you just delivered me to my sworn enemy.”
She was angry, but that anger was giving way to a deadly calm as she pushed past Stealth. She walked up to the eldest vampire on the Council, a man whose name that no one knew save for the other members of the Council. “What happens when this bastard tries to kill me in my sleep? Do I at least have permission to defend myself? Or would you all rather I just roll over and let him kill me?” She glared up at the vampire, looking at his eyebrows instead of directly into his eyes.
The vampire looked back and forth between the frail looking woman directly in front of him and the much taller, much stronger fledgling vampire who had finally moved into the room to stand a few feet away, watching quietly. “The two of you listen, and listen well. You are partners now, and as such you will defend each other with your very lives. If either one of you should come up dead, be it by your partner’s hand or another’s, the remaining member of your team will be tortured to death, along with any and all remaining members of his or her family.” The old vampire’s gaze shifted from Ash and back to Altania as he spoke. “A better question, Miss Lewis, would be exactly how much of your family are you willing to sacrifice to avenge the death of one?”
Altania glared up at the Elder. “You think that threatening him with death will keep him from killing me the first chance he gets? He would happily put the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger himself if it meant he got to point the gun at me first. Has the centuries of immortality replaced your brain with cobwebs?”
The High Council Elder stared at the young woman for a few minutes before he moved to where Ash stood, walking around the still form as he spoke. “Do you notice anything different about your, ‘sworn enemy,’ as you call him?”
She watched the vampire circle around Ashton, looking at him closely for the first time. It was only then that she noticed the man’s normal dark brown eyes were now flecked through with gold, the iris ringed with a yellow-gold hue. Her mouth dropped open. “You turned him,” she mumbled in quiet surprise.
Altania stood in stunned silence for a moment before the vampire’s threat and all it implied finally settled into her brain. The Council was not just going to force them to work together without killing each other. They were going to make certain that they protected each other with their final breath. And while her family was being used against her to make sure she didn’t chop Ashton’s head off in his sleep, the High Council was using his new-found immortality to keep him in line as well. He would be given access to an endless supply of victims that he could keep alive and torture for as long as he wanted. And if he were to harm her, the Council would hand him over to an assassin who had been applying his tricks of the trade to vampires for centuries untold.
Seeing that neither were going to argue with him, the Elder moved back to his desk. “You two have your orders. You will go now. I expect updates every two weeks.” He sat down in his leather chair, going back to his mountain of paperwork, effectively dismissing them all without so much as looking up.
Requiem and Stealth ushered Ash and Altania out of the room. Neither vampire spoke as they turned and moved down the hall, away from the front entrance of the building.
And just like that, two sworn enemies discovered themselves shoved together in an impossible situation, forced to protect each other with their very lives.
copyright 2011 Nicola C. Matthews
All Rights Reserved