SUNSET TO SUNRISE
The absence of the two biggest power players in the city puts Kale Sinclair in a tough position. Maintaining control of The Wicked Kiss isn’t easy for one barely holding together delicate fragments of sanity.
When word reaches Kale of a growing vampire rebellion, he laughs it off. Until he learns that their target is Arys Knight. Kale would love to take a shot at Arys. To join the rebel crew in their assassination would mean betraying Alexa. Not only is she Arys’s queen, she’s the woman Kale is head over heels in love with. And it’s driving him crazy.
Kale promised to do whatever it took to force Alexa to cut the strange tie that binds them. But is he willing to commit an act so heinous it may destroy her?
Available in ebook:
Print version (includes the novella Whisper to a Scream):
Editor: B. Leigh Hogan
Cover art by: Michael Hart
Nothing felt quite as good as knowing I was feared. That first shriek, the first horrified gasp, it never ceased to bring a smile to my face. Yet, the appetizing scent of fear and sex taunted me. It wasn’t enough. I needed more.
Gazing down at the pretty brunette in my bed, I considered the many ways I could kill her. In a nasty mood, the only thing that would satisfy me was blood and death. And maybe a little more sex in between.
“Kale?” My name was barely a whisper, as if she were afraid to speak. So she should be. I had no intention of allowing her to leave here alive. Not this time.
With a finger on her lips, I shushed her. She peered at me with wide brown eyes. I was growing tired of the game. Still, her warm, naked body felt good against mine. The softness of her skin invited me to take her one more time.
I licked the blood that spilled from the wound in her neck. This was my third encounter with her, and I still didn’t know her name. I was sure she had told me. I just didn’t care enough to remember.
She spread her legs in offering, inviting me to take her places no one else ever could. Even as I slipped inside her welcoming warmth, it was somebody else I thought of.
My mind was far from present. It replayed a conversation from just hours earlier. There was no way in hell I was going to beg Alexa to stay. Her choice to run off to Las Vegas was stupid, but there was only one way she would learn. It would serve her right if she died there.
I thrust hard into the brunette. Her moans fed my appetite. The blood hunger dominated and with it, the need for the kill.
We shared no love here. No polite terms could describe the act we engaged in. I grabbed her hips, holding her still while I fucked her like the animal I saw her to be. Prey. That’s all she was. A source of satisfaction for all of my hungers… well, most of them anyway.
Unaware of my intent, she grabbed for me, making a clumsy attempt at turning it into something more, something affectionate. What a fool she was to have come here again.
Staring down at her, watching her face grow flushed as I used her body, I felt the slightest semblance of shame. Then it was gone. Those brief moments of guilt and reconsideration were becoming fewer and farther between. I would be happy when they ceased to afflict me at all.
She was just a body, a means to an end. I focused on seeing her, smelling her, and still my mind tried to take me back to another time with another woman. That had been different though.
Bitterness consumed me as Alexa once again invaded my thoughts. She tainted the moment, reducing my pleasure to a mound of ashes. “Why never a blonde?” she’d asked me. The nerve. Where the hell did Alexa get off taunting me like that? She should know better by now.
The more I thought about our last conversation, the angrier I became. The woman beneath me was going to pay for Alexa’s mistakes. Like so many before her had.
The rage-fueled bloodlust commanded me. Conscious thought faded, consumed by an angry black void that could never be filled. The need to cause pain was fierce.
A scream rang out as my victim thrashed and fought in a sudden and desperate struggle to get away. My laughter joined her shrieks, a harmonious sound that encouraged me.
I grabbed her around the throat and forced her to meet my eyes. In the dim lamplight, I saw the terror I longed for. She fought hard now, realizing that my intent was deadly. I loved it when they fought. It was a disappointment when they gave in too quickly. A fighter was always a good kill.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” I said with a chuckle. “It’s been a blast, but I’m bored now.”
I grasped her wrist and bit deep. As I drank the blood that welled up, I drew on her fear, intoxicated by it. Several of her blows landed as she sought to free herself. It was admirable but ultimately pointless. Nothing she could do would hurt me.
“Keep screaming, baby. That’s just how I like it.” Another bite on her opposing wrist got her blood pumping fast. It flowed from the wounds like a scarlet fountain in a blood-drenched paradise.
“Please, don’t kill me,” she screamed, her words strangled as she gasped for breath. “I have a family. They need me. Please.”
I rolled my eyes. Like I hadn’t heard that countless times before. How utterly boring.
“You should have thought about that before you walked in here.” I aggressively shoved her head to the side and descended upon her bared throat. My fangs plunged through the delicate skin to create another crimson well.
I had been a creature of sympathy once. The long nights of caging my hungers so as not to bring harm to innocents had been hell, a torture I was glad to be rid of. My past played a strong role in who I have become, yet perhaps not as much as she has. Alexa. The wolf destined to be a vampire though never meant to be mine. Circumstance is a fucking bitch.
It has certainly occurred to me that this was some much-deserved punishment. God, Fate, whatever name the powers-that-be answer to, it has made no secret of its intent to destroy me from the inside out. I didn’t doubt that this punishment was just.
My victim’s strangled cries grew hoarse as her blood flowed. She weakened quickly. Too quickly for my liking. Ah well. Not every kill can be the big one that leaves me walking on clouds for three days. Too bad.
I held her close, draining her of life and finding renewal in that. Her blood filled my mouth, tangy and gratifying. Her energy grew frail as it became part of me. I fed on her as thoroughly as one can. With her final screams echoing in my ears, I pierced the carotid and finished her off.
I collapsed on the bed beside her, staring up at the ceiling. I could almost hear Alexa nagging me about killing inside the nightclub we both shared. She was a silent partner; her name appeared on none of the paperwork. So I would kill anywhere I damn well pleased.
The rush of the kill filled me with a sense of wonder. A pleasant tingle crept over me to encompass my entire body. A roar like waves on the ocean sounded in my ears. I felt weightless, like I floated above the bed. The high from the kill could never be replicated. This was the moment I existed for.
I enjoyed the myriad of sensations for a while, losing myself in a haze of sheer delight. All thought ceased as, for a few precious moments, I was set free of it all. Hunting and killing were the only things that kept me sane even as it drove me mad. A strange and twisted catch twenty-two.
I rolled out of bed long before I wanted to. Enjoying my high while lying next to a corpse wasn’t my idea of a great time. A glance at the brunette revealed a woman who had died with fear in her eyes. I couldn’t stand to look at her. It was over. Not my problem.
A shower in the adjoined bathroom cleansed me of her scent and blood. That was as clean as I’d ever get again. If anyone’s soul was tainted, it was mine.
I ran a comb through my short, wet hair, pushing the dark mess around on my head until it stayed put. My pupils were dilated like gaping black holes, making it impossible to tell that my eyes were in fact two different colors.
Those cursed brown and blue orbs had brought me much pain and judgment during my human life. Living in a time when such features were mistaken for signs of the devil, I’d endured much hell. Although all things considered, maybe my accusers hadn’t been so far off the mark.
After dressing in a dark shirt and black slacks, I slipped into my favorite jacket, a long, black leather duster. I’d swiped it from a victim leaving a Goth rock party several years ago. That might be tacky, but the jacket was a worthy find.
Casting a look back at the dead woman in my bed, I lingered, waiting for some emotion to hit me. Guilt, sorrow, dread. Anything. I hadn’t felt much emotion in a while now. Tonight was no different.
With a shrug, I exited the room and locked the door behind me. The hallway outside my room was rife with sex-charged, bloodlust-driven energy. I was far from the only vampire here taking advantage of the humans smitten with us. Although, I likely was the only one with a lifeless body in my bed.
I strolled down the hall, basking in the freely given energy lining my path like a metaphysical red carpet. The sound of loud music and voices grew as I drew closer to the entry to the nightclub.
Pulling my phone from my pocket, I studied the time and briefly wondered if Alexa had landed safely in Las Vegas. Annoyed with myself, I scowled and shoved her from my thoughts.
The party was still going hard at The Wicked Kiss, despite it being past last call. The dance floor was littered with people unable to drag themselves away. There were more humans than vampires present, which was just the way we liked it.
My gaze fell upon Willow, the fallen angel with a penchant for tequila. I didn’t know him well, but I knew enough. He was a devoted friend to Alexa, and I suspected that he’d been involved in her life much longer than any of us knew.
“So how’s the poison tonight?” I asked, sliding onto the stool next to him.
Willow raised a tequila shooter and nodded in greeting. “As good as it gets. Which is pretty damn good as long as I don’t stop.”
I could relate to that. Already my gaze wandered the room, seeking another victim to keep this buzz going.
“Have you been here long?”
“Long enough to get drunk, sober up, and start again.” He gave me a knowing once over, lingering on my gaping pupils. “You too?”
“You could say that.” Something occurred to me, and I studied him extra hard. The fallen angel had faced down demons I could scarcely imagine. My stare had no effect on him. “Alexa didn’t send you in here to keep an eye on me, did she?”
He chuckled and slammed the shooter glass down on the bar before reaching for another. “Most definitely not. Does that strike you as the kind of thing she’d do? I’m pretty sure she trusts you more than that.”
I didn’t see the humor in my question. It was valid, all things considered. “Well, she did come in here to give me a talking to before she left. I just thought maybe she really expected me to burn the place down while she’s away.”
Willow was silent for a moment. He stared straight ahead at the shelves of booze behind the bar and chewed on a slice of lime. “You’re worried about her, huh?”
“I never said that.”
“You didn’t have to.”
I had to give the angel credit. He was still on his game, fallen or not. I doubted that much slipped past him. We’d barely spoken, and yet he’d so easily read me. Silent, drunk and powerfully observant, he made me unbearably uncomfortable.
“Yeah, well, she’s going to run into trouble in that city. It may be Arys’s territory, but it isn’t hers. She belongs here.” How incredibly transparent was I? I was sure he could see right through me. Part of me recoiled at the idea, but in a way, it was nice to think that someone could.
“Alexa will be fine. It might be good for her. She needs a break from this city. And from Shya.” Willow’s tone conveyed more, but he had the grace to leave the rest unsaid.
“And from me,” I filled in for him.
“That goes both ways, you know,” he replied, his expression perfectly neutral, lacking condemnation. It was easy to see why Alexa felt so comfortable with him.
A tall, leggy knockout with bright blue hair caught my eye. Tattooed and pierced, she exuded a wild child vibe. I was interested in a taste of that.
“All the time in the world wouldn’t be enough,” I muttered.
I followed the blue haired temptress with my eyes, watching her sidle up to a vampire with a seductive smile. If I didn’t make my move she’d end up in his bed and that would be a real shame. Of course, with my room currently occupied I’d have to take her to Harley’s old room at the end of the hall. At Alexa’s command, that room was off limits to all but her. And in her absence, me.
“Have a good night, Willow.” I gave him a friendly clap on the back and rose to leave.
He stopped me with a hand on my arm and a strange glint in his green eyes. “Can I talk to you for a minute? I’m sure it’s nothing, but I overheard something a while ago. Maybe you’re not the person I should tell, but I’m not sure I should tell Alexa. Not yet.”
My curiosity piqued. I sat back down, the girl with the wild hair almost forgotten. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.” Willow slid a sidelong glance at those seated nearby. Satisfied that they were human and unlikely to hear or care, he continued. “I heard a couple of vampires talking about Arys. I’m pretty sure they were plotting to kill him.”
There were several ways I could have reacted to that. My initial reaction was to laugh. Any vampire that thought they could simply kill Arys Knight was an idiot that would get his ass handed to him. My next reaction was merely a calm, quiet voice whispering in my mind, What if?
“Who was it?” Many a newbie vampire had gotten it into their head that by killing the most powerful one in the city, they would then be something to be feared. Unfortunately for them, it never worked that way.
Willow surveyed the bar. Then he gestured subtly to a table in the corner where two vampires sat with a human between them. “The one on the left, with the scar.”
I sized up the vampire in question. He was unfamiliar to me. If he was a powerhouse of any kind, I’d already know who he was. So this vampire thought he could take a shot at Arys and get away with it. That should be comical.
“Did they say anything else?” I asked.
“Nope. That’s all I heard.” Willow had turned his attention back to the tequila bottle sitting before him on the bar. He carefully poured another shot, and I wondered why he didn’t just swig right out of the bottle.
“That’s interesting. Of course, it will never happen. No sense mentioning it to Alexa. She has enough to worry about.”
Willow nodded, tossing back a shot. “That’s what I thought too. I just wanted to mention it to somebody who may stand a better chance of getting more info than me. I mean, you’re one of them.”
The way he said that struck a chord in me. I was suddenly sure the angel was testing me. He wasn’t wrong to think whatever it was he was thinking. I was sure he assumed I would take advantage of any scenario that might result in the end of Arys Knight.
And who could blame me if I did? Well, Alexa, perhaps. I couldn’t deny my deep loathing for the vampire she was bound to. Seeing them separated was a fantasy of mine that I’d accepted would never come true. Or could it?
“Yeah, I’ll see what I can dig up. More than likely it’s just a guy with a big mouth and a small dick.” Again I rose, this time my attention on the guy in question. “I’ll take care of it.”
Willow gave a half-assed wave, spilling his shot in the process. I hid a smile and excused myself. Whatever it was that caused a fallen angel to drink himself stupid every night, I didn’t want to know. As wrong as it might have been, I found comfort in knowing that I was not the only one who suffered.
For just a moment, I considered going after the fox with the blue hair. However, curiosity won out. Not for a second did I really think any vampire in this city had a hope in hell of taking Arys out. Still, as one with no love lost for the guy, I needed to know how serious this plot was.
I advanced on the table with the two vamps, fully aware of Willow’s watchful gaze. What harm was there in watching someone else take a shot at the reigning monarch of the city? It’s not as if I was considering it myself.
Intrigue kept me moving when a sliver of guilt tried to redirect my path. Without waiting for an invitation, I slid into the booth across from the vampires and their human friend.
They both looked at me with alarm. My reputation wasn’t so great these days. Most people were quick to avert their gazes and stay out of my way.
I didn’t give them a chance to speak. “So, tell me about your plan to kill Arys Knight. And don’t leave anything out.”