Friday, March 3, 2017

Prologue: Caressed by the Edge of Darkness

Happy Wednesday!

Caressed by the Edge of Darkness (Rulers of Darkness #5) has been a long time in the making. It didn’t help that I decided to rewrite the majority of the book once I was in the initial editing phase. Gabriel is a complex character and I wanted to tell his story the best I could. I apologize for the delay in its release and hate that I’ve kept so many readers waiting. I can only hope the book lives up to your expectations. I greatly appreciate your patience and understanding. Please, bear with me and enjoy the first part of Caressed by the Edge of Darkness.

 Lithuania, 1237

The rancid stench of chard flesh thickened the stale dungeon air. Blood slickened the cold stone floor. A faint heart beat and the rasp of shallow breaths whispered through the darkness. There were no whimpering sighs or screams for help. The word mercy had no meaning in a Hell such as this.
Hate, so pure, so true, so strong, it electrified the air, snapping and sizzling like lightning.
Chains scrapped the ground, sloshed through puddles of blood.
Crimson rivulets snaked down the slave’s bare chest, back, and arms. Droplets of blood elegantly cascaded from his fingertips. Welts scored his torso, long slashes crossed over his shoulders. His skin still smoldered, tendrils of heat danced as his flesh continued to blacken.
The slave remained on his knees, his shoulders squared, his head never bowing. His chest slowly rose and fell as he met the blond stranger’s gaze. There was no fear or hope in the slave’s stare, but determination hardened his crystal green eyes and he tilted his chin up in challenge.
Impressive. Most would have crumbled from such a torture session, but the slave had endured centuries of pain and continued to be strong, rebellious.
“Your defiance…” the blond vampire whispered in awe, “Remarkable.”
The slave’s cracked and bleeding lips pealed back, revealing his fangs. They glistened in the darkness as he slowly stretched his dislocated jaw until it popped back into place.
The blond male stepped closer to the cell. Extending an arm through the bars, he held out his hand and said, “I am Dimitri Arsov.”
Ignoring the stranger, the slave lumbered to his feet. His chains rattled and rasped against the bloody, raw flesh of his wrists. His bones ached and every muscle in his body screamed in protest as he straightened, tearing his newly healed skin. More blood flowed. He didn’t notice. Didn’t care.
Dimitri dropped his hand and smiled. “Your spirit is admirable.”
Turning his back on the intruder, the slave walked to his bed of dirt and blood stained hay. Madame Sideth would be entertaining her guests for the next three nights. He’d be able to get some rest and perhaps heal, if fed, which wasn’t likely. The Madame took immense pleasure in trying to break him, using every tactic: torture, bleeding, starvation, rape.
The slave’s lips twisted in a cruel smile. He would never bow to her, no matter how much pain she inflicted or how much humiliation she forced upon him. To be weak was to be prey and he refused to be victimized.
But it was his pride and strength that attracted the Madame. She loved her defiant slave. Wanting to keep him forever, she’d ripped away his mortality and with it, his only hope for escape. Never would he know the peace of death.
He suppressed a shudder as the memories of that night rose from the dark recesses of his mind. The guards had starved him and beat him senseless before dragging him from his cell to an altar. They chained him to the stone slab, a sacrifice offered to their lady. He’d struggled against the restraints, tearing muscles and breaking bones, while the henchmen laughed. Madame Sideth praised his warrior spirit and crooned lovingly in his ear. Bile rose in his throat as she climbed atop him. Relishing the hate that burned in his gaze, she smiled, flashing her fangs then struck. She drew on his vein as he thrashed beneath her. As he gasped for his last breath, she pulled away. The Madame slit her wrist with a bejeweled blade, pressed the bleeding wound to the slave’s mouth and placed a palm over his heart. He’d refused to drink, turning his head from side to side, until the commander of the guard came forward and held him still. The next night, when the moon was full and high in the sky, unimaginable agony consumed him as his body transformed.
He was demon.
Just like them.
The sounds of the celebration taking place above drifted down to the dungeon, and grated his nerves. Hours ago, the cell beside him had been crowded with fresh humans, captured for the Moon Festival. He knew none would return. They’d be used: fucked and bled to death. Like all the others that came before, century after century. But he’d been left in the dungeon. The Madame refused to share her slave. So, why was the blond vampire here, speaking to him? What did he want?
“I’m not a guest. Lady Ingrid, who I believe is known to you as Madame Sideth, is no ally of mine,” Dimitri said.
The slave glanced over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed. He’d heard of vampires powerful enough read other’s thoughts. Could this male?
“Why are you here?” he asked, his windpipe finally healed from the metal cuff that had been locked around his neck only moments ago.
“Your situation has only just been revealed to me. If I had known, I would have…” Dimitri’s words faded and he shook his head. “I have come to help you, Gabriel.”
The slave spun around, his vision blurred, his skull throbbed, and his stomach heaved from the sudden movement. Gabriel. It had been an eternity since he’d heard someone speak his name. Madame Sideth had asked him sweetly and demanded him ruthlessly, but he’d never told her. His name and identity had died eons ago, murdered along with his wife and tribe. How did this monster know him?
“I will explain everything, but we haven’t much time.” Dimitri tossed something black and metal into the cell. It bounced and binged across the floor, sliding through blood until it hit Gabriel’s bare foot. “If you desire freedom, claim it now. Head for the border. Three miles north, there is a short wooden fence. Cross it, and you will be a slave no more.”
Dimitri disappeared.
Gabriel frowned and swiftly swept the dark dungeon with his gaze. Was he finally going mad? Had the blond vampire truly vanished or had he been a delusion? Could this be a trap? Madame Sideth enjoyed perverse games.
Gabriel’s gaze dropped to the floor. Swallowing hard, he knelt and grabbed the key. With trembling fingers, he unlocked the shackles around his wrists then watched in awe as the key changed form. Hesitantly, he approached the cell door. He searched his surroundings with his senses. Sentries were posted atop the stairs.
He took in a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. As the oxygen left his lungs, his heart slowed until it stopped. His gaze sharped and darkened. His claws extended, his fangs punched from his gums. For the first time, he surrendered completely to the beast within. His mind focused, his body strengthened and power unlike he’d ever known flooded him. The demon had been denied blood, had been tortured and used for too long. Now, it would have its revenge and seize its freedom.
The cell lock released with a gentle click. A low growl rumbled against the back of his throat as he stalked forward, silently taking the stairs two at a time. His claws effortlessly sliced through flesh, muscle, tendon, and bone, the guard’s heads and limbs dropped and rolled across the crudely paved stone floor. Blood splashed his chest and the walls of the dimly lit corridor. Determined, Gabriel continued to the next level. More sentries, more tearing, more ripping, more death. Screams echoed through the halls. Blood painted the walls dark crimson, it ran and pooled while bodies littered the floor.
 A shout of alarm rang out too late. Gabriel destroyed wave after wave of the Madame’s guards. His hands stained, rich red dripped from the tips of his claws. Hate and rage swirled like a maelstrom in his black, demonic eyes. Soldiers rushed to the ballroom to defend the aristocrats. Gabriel paused, sweeping his gaze across the sea of panicked vampires until he found Madame Sideth. Her personal guard tugged her toward the exit. Terror streaked her face and her hysterical cries would forever grace Gabriel’s memory.
His lips curled revealing his fangs, enhancing his hard, handsome face with a smile fit for a fallen angle. The scent of terror was thick in the air, but it was the crisp aroma of a winter storm that beckoned him.
Gabriel threw open the castle doors. Snow covered the frozen earth. He spared a quick glance toward the heavens and barreled down the steps. A roar tore from his chest as he charged toward the northern forest.
The night was dark, silent, the cold air painfully sharp. It burned his lungs and nipped at his bare flesh.
Three miles.
The blond vampire, Dimitri, had said three miles to freedom. Doubt crept up Gabriel’s spine as he ran between the trees, dodging branches and hurdling over gnarled roots. Dimitri could’ve lied.
“All your hatred and lovely determination has made you powerful beyond measure. Just as I planned.” The Madame had celebrated and feared his strength. He always knew when she planned to visit his cell. The guards would begin their ritual starvation and beatings, careful not to trigger the madness of bloodlust and always attacking in packs like cowards. Then he’d be wrapped in chains and left to await their lady’s every desire.
Gabriel snarled. No one would ever own him! Never again would he be a slave. The taste of freedom was too sweet, so incredibly delicious. He’d never let it go.
The sound of pounding horse hooves shook the night as shouts drifted on the breeze. He could scent the flames of torches. The guards.
His demon howled. They hunted him. They wanted to shackle him and drag him back to his cell, locking away their Madame’s favorite slave and hiding her most dangerous secret. Gabriel knew little about vampire law, but he was well aware he was a blood bastard. A human changed without the approval of the Chieftain, an insult to the Clan, a disgrace to vampire society. Once it was known that she’d unlawfully created a fledgling she’d be punished and he prayed he’d see her burn, if he wasn’t able to kill her himself.
Gabriel sprinted, covering ground with shocking speed. He was almost there. He could see the fence Dimitri had spoken of.
The thunder of horses grew louder, closer. Gabriel didn’t look back. He increased his pace. A rain of arrows hissed past him. Focused, he charged on. More arrows fired. One grazed his ear, another sliced his bicep, and one embedded in his left shoulder blade. He didn’t slow. Another arrow struck, buried deep in the center of his back.
Gabriel lowered his shoulders and braced for impact. The wooden barrier that marked the limit of Madame Sideth’s reign splintered and he crashed to the ground. Gabriel slid through the snow, his momentum propelling him forward. He tumbled again and again, the arrows tearing free from his muscles, blood darkening the snow.
With furious curses, the guards drew their stampeding steads to a sudden stop. The horses stomped and snorted in protest as they paced along the border.
“Slave, return at once!” the commander shouted.
Gabriel slowly rose to his feet, his shoulders shaking with a baleful laugh.
“Fucking blood bastard.” The commander dismounted and stepped over the shattered fence.
 Gabriel growled. He’d waited centuries to destroy the commander. As Madame Sideth’s lover, they’d brutalize and murdered countless innocents, human or vampire it made no difference. But even with him she wouldn’t share her best slave. The commander had stood outside Gabriel’s cell and watched as his lady torture her favorite pet until he was covered in lashes and blood, his skin frayed and burned. Then he’d eagerly offer her the putrid salve that she’d spread over Gabriel’s loins to make him erect. With a depraved spark in his eyes the commander would stroke his own cock as the Madame mounted her slave and took her pleasure.
“You were always headstrong and foolish. Pity, I’ll have to end your miserable life for my lady did so enjoy your company,” the commander sneered as he drew his sword.
A crazed, demonic roar tore from Gabriel’s chest. He’d gut the wretch, muffle his wails of pain with his own intestine as he cut out his eyes, the ripped out his heart, and finally he’d use the commander’s sword to separate his head from his shoulders.
Throwing his arms wide, inviting the challenge, Gabriel flexed his fingers. The moonlight sparkled over his blood stained claws.
The commander froze, dropping his sword in mid swing. His gaze flickered with fear. Frowning, Gabriel turned. Dimitri stood just feet away. The blond vampire was dressed in pure white, his shoulder length hair pulled back and tied with a leather strap. His ice blue gaze hard. Gabriel felt his inner demon bow and retreat, showing reverence to the older vampire. He glanced toward the guards and his frown deepened. They had all fallen to their knees, their right fists pressed over their hearts, their heads hung low.
“Sire Arsov,” the commander whispered.
“You dare trespass on my land,” Dimitri’s deep, even tone exuded power.
“Deepest apologies, Sire.” The commander sheathed his weapon, swept down into a deep bow before straightening his spine. “We meant no disrespect.” When Dimitri didn’t respond, he nervously continued, “We were hunting an Outcast and tracked him to your territory.” He nodded toward Gabriel. “If we may, we’ll collect him and be on our way.”
Dimitri held up a hand, silencing the commander’s next words. “I grant this vampire asylum. He is under my protection,” Dimitri announced.
“Forgive me, Sire, but—”
Dimitri’s eyes flashed white as lightning cracked the sky. The scent of terror spiked the clean winter air. “Speak another word and it will be your last.”
The commander’s jaw clenched.
“Return to your Clan. There is nothing more for you here,” Dimitri demanded.
Gabriel watched as the commander claimed his mount. His men had already turned back, but he remained. Gabriel held his gaze and bared his fangs in challenge. With a stream of curses, the Madame’s lover kicked his stead into a high gallop.
Kill him, the demon hissed.
I will, Gabriel assured the beast.

Hardened by centuries of torture, former blood slave, Gabriel Erhard, is driven by an insatiable need to destroy his enemies. Violence darkens his battered soul, leaving no place for mercy in his world. Gabriel’s only desire is vengeance—until he finds her.
Seized by vampires, bound as a slave, and placed on the auction block, Jordan Culver is instantly entranced by the dangerous male who claims her. Jordan’s new captor vows to set her free, but his haunted gaze burns with savage desire and his wicked kiss makes her crave his touch and...complete surrender.
While Gabriel battles his enemies, he will break every sacred law to achieve his ultimate goal—uniting the Outcast Society and creating a new vampire Clan. But the distracting human with mesmerizing violet eyes jeopardizes his plans. With every soft whisper she evokes his tormented memories, testing his sanity and challenging his every boundary. Can Jordan help him overcome the miseries of his past and find a future with her?

Rulers of Darkness Box Set 1 on sale $0.99/0.99p 
Regular price $7.99

1 comment:

  1. Awesome prologue. Can't wait to read this one. I love a good Vampire book.


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