I am so excited to share mine and Michele's newest release; Darkness Rises. As a special treat, I thought I would give you a sneak peek into the world of Victorian England with a twist. *g*
First though, I thought I would also explain what Darkness Rises is. I saw a prompt at my publisher for demons with in. It could have been anything. But, I went with the literal translation and created this team of demons who are trying to redeem themselves. Of course, it wouldn't be my kind of story without a twist, right?
So, I started rolling this idea over in my mind. How could I do this and still keep everything fresh and original without stepping on the toes of other creators? Well, I guess you'll have to find out, won't you? Until then, here is the first chapter of Darkness Rises for you to read. Yes, you read that right. The first chapter is absolutely free, and here, right below this paragraph! Enjoy!
The rain fell in a light mist, coating the cobblestone alley in a slick, putrid mess. Nights like these caused the ardor to rise within Jonah McRae. The thrill of the chase. Cornering his prey. Taking his fill from them as they fought to their dying breath. The absolute splendor in spending himself inside a female gave him such a rush. One he didn’t experience as often as he used to before he met Omer Cause, and his life irrevocably changed for the better.
The clop of hooves on cobblestone streets echoed off the narrow passageway, adding to the tension rising around him. Tonight, he hunted. The woman he stalked had been waiting for him outside the gentlemen’s club when he left—a sure sign it was meant to be. He told her his favorite fantasy, and she ran. His dick thickened. The thrill of the hunt filled him with such joy. To retrieve the memories of old and give over to his primal instincts. No, he might not kill anymore, but he could still have a little fun.
“Please, sir.” Her soft, lilting voice shot straight to his bollocks, tightening them.
Jonah tracked her, keeping to the shadows as they wound their way deeper into the heart of London. His pace was even, light. Every so often the petite woman would turn, casting half of her features in shadow. He could smell her fear and excitement. Taste it on the crisp night air. His cock hardened to the point of pain.
“Shh, pretty. This will only take a moment.” The corner of his mouth kicked upward in a smirk. Power radiated from him. One night to chase was never enough for him. It didn’t satisfy the burning ache for more.
Damn Dr. Brew and his elixir. The horrid tasting trash sustained him, but never quenched the need to take more. Nevertheless, it was part of the contract he agreed to.
“Y-y-you’re scaring me.” She stopped in the light. The discarded ragged remnants of a once fancy dress she wore hung from her lithe frame as she gathered the bodice. Each time her chest rose, it gave him a glimpse of her creamy breasts and the edge of her pink areolas.
His mouth watered and his gums throbbed as he took a step forward, mindful of keeping to the darkness. He held out his hand to her. “Come.” He dipped his chin, capturing her gaze with his. “Walk with me.”
“Yes…” She reached out to him. The fear left her pretty amber eyes, and was replaced with peace. A mind trick he’d learned over the years.
“Take.” His heart thumped in his chest. Once…twice… “Take.”
For two hundred years, he’d been allowed to pilfer London without reprimand, until one man found him. Somehow Elijah Dapp knew of the existence of vampires and made it his mission to eradicate each and every one of them, including Jonah.
He hadn’t intended to be this monster. Jonah had his whole life in front of him. His parents were simple farmers in the shire. They had more land than they could care for and animals to carry them into the decades to come. He’d been promised to a maid from London, a simple blacksmith’s daughter, but pretty as a shiny button.
Then Bennett Frazer came to his home and destroyed his life one swallow of blood at a time. He offered the gift of immortality to Jonah, and, not ready to die, Jonah had taken it. He still had things to do. He couldn’t leave his betrothed alone.
Unfortunately, the man didn’t stay to teach him the ways of a nightwalker. It’d been through trial and error that he’d learned his lessons. The first time he saw Era, his betrothed, he devoured her. She smelled so sweet. Tasted of sin and decadence, and he drained all her blood then went on to do the same to the rest of her family.
When he finished, he set the house ablaze. The embers from the flames swirled and floated skyward. Mesmerized, he stood there for longer than he should have. As the flames rose higher into the sky, so did the smoke, and with it came the villagers. Their screams of terror mingled with shouts for water to put the fire out. It wouldn’t work. He’d made sure enough hay lay along the floorboards to fuel the blaze, and he’d liberally doused the walls with seep oil. Jonah used the shadows to keep himself covered, but knew he could never return. Staying would have drawn unwanted attention to him because he never aged, and his thirst for blood consumed him. For several years he roamed the earth, but found life held an emptiness for him. He became sloppy in his killings. Drew more attention than he should have.
“Sir.” She gasped when her palm slid into his, drawing him out of his musings. “You’re freezing.”
This time he smiled. “Am I? I hadn’t noticed.” He pulled her to him. The curves of her body fit to his, perfectly. “Why don’t you warm me up?”
Her hands landed against his chest, allowing the scraps of material covering her to fall, exposing her teardrop-shaped breasts to his perusal. “Exquisite.” He ran the knuckle of his index finger over her nipple and watched with delight as it puckered. “You are a beautiful gem.”
She licked her lips. “What will ye be liking?” She ran her hand across the expanse of his chest.
“There, much better.” He cupped her cheek with his free hand, keeping her eyes on his. “What are you offering, sweetling?”
“A cunny fuck?” The words were spoken at just above a whisper.
“A cunny fuck?” Jonah trapped her nipple between his forefinger and thumb and squeezed. She went to her toes and swayed toward him. “How much?”
“A-a crown and five shillings.”
“Mmm, expensive.” He released her, then shoved the tattered, stained material off her. “Naked. How…risqué.” The game never got old for him. He savored it, knowing for the next thirty days he’d be stuck drinking a fake substitute. “Show me your arse.”
The girl turned and bent over, spreading her cheeks. Perfection. “Two crowns for me arsehole.”
“Yes, this will do.” He turned her back around and snared her gaze. “Unclasp my trousers.”
“I enjoy the thrill of knowing we could get caught.” His dick pressed against the front of his trousers. “Hurry girl, or else you will be wearing my cum.”
She stepped forward and opened his pants while he checked his timepiece. Two-thirty. By the time he finished, he would have to return to Manor. He hissed as she palmed him. Her strokes were long and slow. She teased his tip, running her finger along the foreskin covering the crest of his erection.
Jonah growled. He grabbed her around the waist and spun her. Deeper into the shadows he traveled until she was pressed against the dingy brick and mortar wall. He kicked her legs apart, and settled between them. The heat radiating from her pussy seared his length. His heart pumped in his chest. Adrenaline coursed through him. His bollocks ached as lust pounded through his veins.
The mist had turned to rain, drenching them as they stood there. The slap of it falling from the eaves and hitting the stone below drowned out her scream as he filled her with one thrust. The sound excited him. He grunted with each shift of his hips while his eye-teeth elongated.
Jonah felt alive.
The crystal clarity that dimmed while he used the elixir came back with a roar. It ramped up the need burning inside of him. Hunger clawed at his belly, demanding he take his fill, to feed until her blood sang through his veins. Oh yes, he craved this wild part of himself. He pushed her dark ratted hair from her shoulder, exposing the throbbing artery he’d feed from.
His thrusts grew more urgent. His body coiled with the coming bliss and release. “So, sweet. So, enchanting. Just a taste.” Her pulse fluttered and he groaned.
Striking fast, he bit down and the coppery flavor of thick, warm blood flowed. He swallowed it down.
Mortui non resurgunt…
A bolt of lightning lanced his body, forcing him from his meal. His cock slipped from her snug hole as he stumbled backwards. His lungs seized. His eyes widened with shock and fear as his heart gave a hearty thump.
What in God’s name?
He drew in an audible breath as the woman screamed and ran down the alley in the opposite direction of him, holding her wounded neck. Shite. He’d have to explain that to Omer, after he figured out what just happened.
Mortui non resurgunt…
Another current of electricity slammed through him and he went to his knees. He grabbed his head and shouted in agony. His brain felt as though someone had stuck a hot poker into the center of it and twisted it. He clawed at his chest, drawing blood with each pass of his nails. His flesh suctioned to his body. His lungs collapsed, paralyzing him. It was death all over again. Each second that ticked by had him seeking a welcomed ending.
Anything would be better than this.
Then, it was gone. He crumpled to the dank, filthy ground. The soiled gutter water, mixed with sewage, soaked into his clothes, and he didn’t care. The blessed cold soothed his over-sensitized flesh.
He cracked his eyes open, but even the soft illumination of the oil lanterns strategically placed around the library of the manor hurt his eyes. “Fuck me,” he groaned. “How did I get back here?” He pushed the light blanket covering him to his hips. Naked? Had the blackout caused him to do more than he’d already done?
“As if you have to ask.” With a wave of Omer’s translucent hand, a glass of Dr. Brew’s elixir appeared next to him on the table. “There has been a disturbance. A dark magic has been used.” He peered down at Johan with unseeing eyes.
“You’re telling me something I already figured out.” He took a sip of the bitter concoction of animal blood and things he didn’t want to think about. Jonah winced as the thick vileness rolled down his throat. “What type of incantation?”
Omer stepped closer. “I was hoping you would tell me. It seems to have affected you.”
He drank down the rest of the tonic and placed the crystal decanter back on the table. “Something about dead. My Latin is rusty.”
“No.” Omer frowned. It took a lot for the ancient man to do so. Apophis, the God of Chaos gave Jonah the chance of redemption. To save his eternal soul, if he joined up with his band of dreadful men to save humanity.
Since Jonah’s life had hung in the balance—the sun beating down on his thin, pale flesh, he agreed. Thirty years into it, some days, like today, he questioned whether or not he should be there.
The ancient man glided from the room, and returned moments later carrying a thick, dust-covered tome. “These are dangerous times, Jonah.”
When weren’t they? After the war of 1863, the battle of progressives and conservatives changed the landscape of London drastically. Innovations evolved. Steam powered engines fueled the world and those who could harness it, then mold it, ruled over everyone. Machinations of every kind were created day after day, driven by cog and wheel or coil and spring. Tesla coils conducted electricity, giving steam power a go of it. Each new discovery had been touted by the queen. Her quest for “more,” drove even novice inventors insane. The fights between scientists and creators raged. The lines between fact and reason sometimes blurred with imagination and ingenuity, which had been proved by some in the inventor’s community. Unfortunately, neither side would see reason. Nor were they able to work together. At least once a week a building burned due to suspicious circumstances and on the rare occasion, a body could found floating in the river come sunrise.
“When aren’t they, Omer? Ever since the battle, things have been tense, if you haven’t noticed.” As the tonic worked through his system the aftereffects that zapped his body subsided.
“It is not the same.” Omer flipped through the book and began to chant. His brow furrowed as he opened his eyes. “Just as I suspected. Someone has activated the ley lines below the city.”
“Ley lines? Why would they do that?” Jonah sat forward propping his elbows on his knees.
“It’s what we have to find out.” Omer closed the book. “You must gather the team and start hunting.” He glanced out the window. “When the sun sets again, your task begins. Until then, sleep. You look like warmed over shite.”
Gather the team. The thought woke Jonah from his dreamless slumber. Night had descended on London once more, and he had work to do.
Assembling his group of marauders didn’t happen with a snap of his fingers. The majority of them went about their lives, concealed within the shadows, or hidden within society. And sending telegraphs would expose them. Omer could send out psychic messages to come home, but they would disregard it. Even he did, sometimes.
No, it had to be this way.
He grabbed the Elixir of Life bottle and poured himself a small glass. The combination of animal blood, vitamins and iron, plus other stuff the good doctor didn’t tell him about, sustained him every night. It held back the lust for blood and the insatiable hunger—most of the time. He swallowed it in one gulp then stood. The activities from the night before lingered in his mind. The girl…he’d meant to feed from her, not kill her. He had sought relief.
He ran his hand across his chest, where he’d dug his fingers into his skin, rending flesh, muscle and bone. “Omer was right: you’re a danger to yourself and everyone you come into contact with.”
The remainder of the night had given him a chance to ponder the ‘who’ behind the opening of the ley lines. A witch had been his conclusion. They could harness the power and use it for all kinds of trickery. Unfortunately, it didn’t explain why it affected him. The burning agony reminded him of the bite he received from Bennett, then the first swallow of his blood. The acid crawled through his veins, burning him from the inside out. The static shock of the ley lines opening did the same to his body.
Staring at the mirror wouldn’t give him answers. He had to do as Omer requested. Gather everyone and bring them back to the manor. Once they were together they could begin their investigation and find the witch responsible.
Jonah dressed quickly. The night lay before him as did his band of men. He grabbed his coat from the rack and stumbled. A haze of red colored his vision as his teeth pushed forcefully through his gums, causing blood to pool in his mouth. He went to his knees, his hands curling into fists.
The searing pain didn’t come this time. An echo of the magic used did. It pulsed through his veins. Why was this happening? Had the Ancient missed something?
Jonah’s nails bit into the flesh of his palms, and the wetness of blood trickled down into his shirt sleeves. He threw back his head and roared, furious that his body was being used against his will. The inhuman sound echoed off the walls.
The clang of a tray falling to the hardwood floor drew his attention. Miss Jemmy stood near the stairs, wringing her hands. The discarded tea set lay in shattered pieces. He reached out to her and she screamed. Her fear seeped into his pores, feeding his hunger for more. He stood, against his own accord. The material of his clothes constricted around him, suffocating him. He tore at them; the rending of fabric was music to his ears, but the minute they were gone, his skin grew too tight, as if all the fluid in his body dried up, and his flesh shrank, sealing it to the bones.
Jonah reached out to her with a gasp. Just as quickly as the sensation filled him, it released and he fell forward. The craving for blood overwhelmed him to the point he writhed on the floor. His stomach cramped. The only thing to quench the need was a human. Full blood. The scintillatingly sweet essence of life. Oh, how he could taste it on his tongue—like an orgasm churning low in his gut.
He licked his lips and moaned.
“Miss Jemmy,” he crooned. “Come back. I’m fine now.” Bloodlust raged within him, demanding he take his fill and continue. It made his prick hard, and his heart hammer. It’d been so long since he gave over to a thirst this strong. This…dangerous.
“Someone has their cock out.” Andres appeared in front of him. “Get control of yourself, man. Can’t have you scaring all the staff away.” He glanced down at Jonah’s cock and smirked. “You are still one of the finest specimens I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
Jonah shook his head. The haze seeped from his vision leaving him naked, aroused and befuddled. “What the bloody hell…?” He grabbed his head and groaned. “Not again.”
“This has happened before?” A glass appeared in front of him. “Drink.” Andres took a seat at the help’s small table.
He shoved the glass away. “I already drank.”
Andres cocked one of his sculpted brows. “Have you? Did you get a little taste of the maid, prig?”
He curled his lip in revulsion. “Nothing of the sort. I’ll thank you kindly for being here though.”
“Want to tell me what happened?” Andres sat across from him. A dainty tea cup sat perched between his fingers.
The dandy man. Always so coy. Always full of shite. On a good day, Jonah didn’t trust him. On a bad day, even less. “Did you not feel the energy last night?”
“Horrible head rush.” He placed the cup on the table. “Skin tingled for a while.” Andres shrugged. “Nothing of consequence though.”
“Then count yourself lucky.” He twisted the decanter in front of him. The red elixir slid down the sides to settle in the glass.
“This whole show then?”
“A new side effect of my affliction,” Jonah replied. “A disconcerting one.”
“Does the good Doctor know?”
He shook his head. “I was on my way to find all of you when—” He motioned to himself.
“Ah.” Andres nodded. “Better get dressed before Mummy sees you in such a state.” The corner of his mouth tilted upward while the sparkle of tomfoolery glittered in his dark eyes.
With a curt nod, Jonah stood. “Could I trouble you to talk with Miss Jemmy?”
“I’ll make sure she’s right as rain.” The coquettish look he threw over his shoulder at Jonah hadn’t gone unnoticed.
The man partook of anything with two legs and a willing hole. His adventures were outrageous. His sexual appetite was rather…vulgar.
Pot meet kettle.
Jonah took his time climbing the stairs. Returning to his room, he glanced at the tumbler on the bedside table. Empty. Thirty years he controlled the beast within him. One night, an awakening, and he lost his sanity. He grabbed the clothes he needed from his wardrobe and dressed. Surely Omer knew by now who tapped the lines.
He slipped his arm into his top coat. The picture of a perfect, genteel gentleman. No hair out of place. No blood at the corner of his mouth. Stiff upper lip. He left his room and found Miss Jemmy cleaning up the shards of china and tea from the floor where she’d dropped it after he’d made a spectacle of himself.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She glanced up at him. A hint of fear still shimmered in her blue eyes. “It’s all right, Mr. McRae.”
He frowned while following her down the stairs to the main entry of the manor. No, it wasn’t all right. Wouldn’t be for some time he suspected. “Miss Jemmy.” He opened the door and followed Andres. “What did you say to her?”
“I told her I could make her feel better later,” he answered. “She’ll scream. We’ll both have a good time.”
“You twit,” he snapped. “She’s but a girl.”
“She is a woman, Jonah. Even though you don’t see it.” Andres shrugged. “I explained how sorry you were, and then offered her a good time.”
He flashed Jonah a wry grin. “These days I find titillation turns the women into wanton creatures.”
“Have any clue where we can find Emmitt?” Jonah had to change the subject. He held onto his sanity by a thread.
“I’m sure Lawson is with him at the theater. Jack is around as always. The bastard enjoys a rousing game of ‘find the invisible man’.”
“Ezra is off doing his wolf things, I am more than sure,” Jonah added.
“I’ve never seen the appeal. Day after day,” Andres bemoaned. “No spontaneity. No surprises.”
“I suppose you wouldn’t.” They stepped through the back entryway of Dr. Jerome Brew’s laboratory and climbed the wrought iron spiral stair case. “If the doctor isn’t here, he’s with the Chinaman. Or our other friend is about.”
“Should we make a wager?” Andres stopped on the stairs.
“No. I’ll lose.” They stopped at the top of the stairway; the vast expanse of Jerome’s laboratory filled the open loft area. Various beakers, tubes and burners lay about. Written out on one of three chalkboards, a formula they were well versed in.
“Mr. Tinnin.” Andres didn’t have to say it out loud, he could read.
“Seems the good doctor hasn’t given up his pursuit of perfecting the formula.” A creak in the floor boards had Jonah putting his finger to his mouth. “Mr. Tinnin, you can come out now. Your parlor tricks don’t frighten us.”
The beast did have a way with making Jonah’s skin crawl though.
“Are you sure?” Andres cocked a brow.
A flicker of movement out of the corner caught Jonah’s gaze. “Quite.”
“I smell the fear of an Englishman.” The creature laughed and bent into the light. The soft glow from the kerosene lamp glinted off his shielded arm. Different types of metal pieces had been forged together to form a sort of trophy from those who’d met their ends with him. Cogs and wheels turned, while steam poured from the vents. It held no other purpose than to strike fear into the heart of his new victims.
“You smell your own filth,” Jonah snarled. He wouldn’t admit the man challenged him, mentally. This fiend was a part of Dr. Brew—a physical and psychological break from reality. Yet, no matter how many times Jonah told himself such, the slide of fear filling his gut never subsided.
“It would go so much easier if you weren’t so…” Andres motioned to the man stepping out of the shadows.
Mr. Tinnin dipping his chin and stepped away from the rafters. They were like a fly on a horse’s arse, when his massive frame filled the room. “So I am to, what? Make you feel more at home?” He chuckled. The deep rumbling sound held a note of danger and inched down Jonah’s spine like a ball of ice. “Should I make you tea?”
Jonah clenched his hands at his side. The arsehole teased them. Played a cat and mouse game he had no business entertaining. “We need the doctor.”
“And I need a good fucking. Since I won’t be getting what I want, why should I give you the doctor?” Mr. Tinnin loomed over them. The sardonic expression on his face enraged Jonah; however, they were forbidden to fight amongst each other.
“I’ll take that tea. Two sugars.” Andres sat down on the stool beside the lab table. He unbuttoned his suit coat and smoothed out his trousers.
“Of course, dandy, and a scone too, I assume.” The beast curtsied. “Anything else?”
Jonah pinched the bridge of his nose; they were getting nowhere fast. “Did you feel the disturbance last night?”
The big creature of a man shot him a look, then a smile took root on his impossibly big mouth. “We did. It invigorated us.”
“Hence why the monster is here and not Jerome.”
“We need you to come with us, Mr. Tinnin. It would have been easier with Dr. Brews, he’s more compliant.”
“You mean a pansy.”
“Omer is insisting,” he replied.
That knocked the superior smug off his face. “What does he want?”
“We are to track the disturbance and find out what is going on. Then report back to him.” Andres stood, and crossed the space to stand in front of the brute. “Afterwards, we do whatever he asks, because those are the terms of our contracts and you are still bound.”
“Where is the dog?” Mr. Tinnin cut his gaze to Jonah.
“Full moon.” He shrugged.
“Fine. We go. But, only because I want to, not because you’re forcing me.” He swung his gaze between both men.
“Perfect. After you, Mr. Tinnin.” Jonah motioned to the door as an ear-splitting scream rent the still night air.
Andres ran to the warehouse window, and cursed. “We have trouble.”
The big man and Jonah gazed out over the city beside Andres. There below marched a horde of…the risen dead. What in God’s name…. No, not in God’s name. It made sense now. All of it. As those beings, some with mechanical arms or wearing suits made for the ocean stumbled and dragged themselves down the lanes, the incantation filtered through Jonah’s mind. “Necromancer.”
“Aye,” Mr. Tinnin agreed.
“We have to get everyone together,” Andres muttered. “Now.”
“Ready for an adventure, Mr. Tinnin?”
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