Authors: Elle Jasper
THE DARK INK CHRONICLES
“Jasper writes the books that are destined for your keeper shelf and ready for recommendations to your friends.”
“I had high hopes for the third book in the Dark Ink Chronicles, and I was not disappointed.Â .Â .Â .
is an action-packed trip into the heart of Riley's journey, and I can't wait to see where she and Eli go from here.”
âNight Owl Reviews (top pick)
] will elate fans.Â .Â .Â . The lead couple is at their best, but this is Riley's show.”
âGenre Go Round Reviews
“Riley is funky, is comfortable in her own skin, and loves and protects those close to her.Â .Â .Â . Some new characters are thrown into the mix, and I feel that a lot of great things will come of their arrival in future books.”
âUrban Fantasy Investigations
“You won't be able to put it down.”
âDark Faerie Tales
“Ms. Jasper has a great voice that draws the reader in, and writes a solid paranormal series that adds a fresh perspective on vampires, magic, and the South. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.”
âNight Owl Romance
“The characters are personable and vibrant.”
âSmexy Books Romance Reviews
“Add in voodoo, the Gullah culture, and the town of Savannah, and you have the makings for a great paranormal series.Â .Â .Â . This is a must read for all major paranormal fans.”
âThe Romance Readers Connection
“Serious action sequencesâwe're talking training, free running, vampire fight club, throwin' knives, etc.âbut at the heart of [the story] is the bond between [Riley and Eli].Â .Â .Â . You will love
âVampire Book Club
“Sultry, sexy, spooky Savannahâthe perfect setting for hot vampires.Â .Â .Â . Beware of reading
New York Times
bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks
is a book every paranormal lover is going to fall in love with.Â .Â .Â . Ms. Jasper penned a winnerÂ .Â .Â . . This is a must-read paranormal book, and it comes highly recommended.”
âNight Owl Romance (5 stars)
“There's a certain thrill that goes with realizing you might have discovered the best book you've read in a long, long time.Â .Â .Â .
is beautifully written with mind-numbing possession over the reader. It's edgy and modern, with just the right amount of good versus evilÂ .Â .Â . the most absorbing, enticing, and unique paranormal world I've read in years.”
âRomance Junkies (5 blue ribbons)
“A fast-paced thriller starring a kick-butt heroine whose unique blood proves more in demand than her unique tattoos.Â .Â .Â . Elle Jasper's rendition of the vampire Everdark underworld of Savannah provides a welcome addition to the subgenre blood bank.”
âGenre Go Round Reviews
“Darkly atmospheric and steamy.”
“A steamy journey into the world of drugs and magic, sex and blood.Â .Â .Â . Fans of J. R. Ward, Gena Showalter, and Adrian Phoenix will love it.”
âBitten by Books
“Elle Jasper puts her own unique spin on the vampire myth and sucks the reader into the story.”
âThe Romance Dish
“The protagonist Riley Poe grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. It's a superb beginning to an unusual and addictive series, and Jasper is destined to become a fan favorite.”
âRomantic Times (4Â½ stars)
The Dark Ink Chronicles by Elle Jasper
THE DARK INK CHRONICLES
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014
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A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright Â© Elle Jasper, 2013
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
You must be dead, because I don't know how to feel. I can't feel anything anymore.
E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial,
Riley's not the same since she lost Eli. She'sÂ .Â .Â . hardened. Closed down. She lets off just enough emotion to seem human. I can tell her brain has given up hope. But her heart hasn't. And that makes her dangerous and unpredictable. If anything, I can read a woman. And I'm reading her right. Which means I'll just have to keep a closer eye on her. She'll either love me for it or kick my ass. I'm betting on the latter.
t's cold here. Ice cold. The kind that burrows straight through your skin and jabs deep into your bones. I can't shake it. I inhale, and that frigid air rushes down my windpipe and bangs into my lungs. It clings to my insides, and I puff it back out. Funny. No frosty air comes from my mouth. I'm more cold-blooded than warm-blooded, I think. My core temperature isn't even human enough to heat my breath. What does that make me? Hell if I know. I don't even know what I'm doing here. My eyes drifted shut, and the next thing I know, I'm here, in this place. Something wants me. That much I know. I can feel it.
As I jog up the darkened street, I notice how barren it is here, too. No trees. No grass. No shrubs. Not even a single bird. Only gray concrete, gray sidewalk, gray stone, gray sky. Even as I fine-tune my hearing, nothing happens. No beatings of heartsânot even a rat's. Is there nothing alive here? Am I? Hell if I know.
I let my hands skim the building's stone surface as I turn the corner. My body is pressed close to the stone, and I peer ahead. A heavy mist has crept in, fallen over the ground like some white vaporous blanket. It swirls around my feet as I walk, and the farther I go, the higher it climbs. Soon, it surrounds me. I see nothing. I hear nothing.
Then the stench knocks into me, full force. It's many things, all rolled in one. Rancid old blood. Decay. Rotting human flesh. Scorched tissue. The more steps I take, the stronger the scent becomes. I follow it.
One second I'm on a cobbled road; the next I'm on the river's bank. The mist rolls across the black water like a live thing, and the stench seems to come from below. The loch. I ease down the embankment. I stop at the water's edge, and inhale. That horrible smell of death is coming from beneath the water.
“You're so easy.” A voice sounds from behind me. “Too easy.”
That voice. I whip around, but the speaker's strong arm has snaked around my throat and pulled me tightly against him. Yeah, a male. Big. Hard. The back of my head presses against his chest. There's no heartbeat. What a shock.
Just as I move to raise my foot, his muscular leg traps mine. He drops his free arm over my breasts and pulls me closer. He thinks I'm thoroughly trapped. I let him think it. His head drops to my ear.
“I can't decide if I want to fuck you, then kill you.” His graveled voice brushes against my cheek. “Or just kill you.” He pulls me closer, and I feel his hard cock press into my back. “Difficult decision.”
I look down at the arm holding me prisoner. Leather jacket, leather gloves. Vise as tight as iron. My head falls to the side, exposing my neck, and I move my ass seductively against his crotch. “How 'bout now?” I ask, my voice low, teasing. I peer into the loch, but it's cloudy with mist. I can't see his face. I can't see anything.
His laugh against my throat is deep, more like a whisper. Edged with certainÂ .Â .Â . hatred. YetÂ .Â .Â . there's something about it. I don't know. “Convince me,” he says. His teeth graze my skin. “Tell me what you'll do to me if I let you live.” His lips move to the corner of mine, and it's an achingly familiar gesture. “Make me want you.”
With slow, rhythmic pressure, I move against his groin, pushing against the thick bulge. His body tenses at my movement, and I know he's turned on. I don't know why, but I am, too. I gotta get my head back in the game. That is, to live.
“I can make you come without laying a hand on you,” I whisper, and I press my back into his chest.
His arm that is still banded over my breasts slides, and through the thin silk of my bra, his hand cups me. I press my ass against his crotch, and he hardens. “And how would you do that?” he whispers against my jaw.
“Because you're going to touch me,” I answer, and before the words fully leave my mouth, his hand leaves my breast and skims my stomach. “And when you do, I'll explode.” A moan escapes my throat, and my vision blurs. I blink. I gotta get it together. “And you won't be able to help yourself. You'll come.”
His gloved hand moves over my hip, over my groin, and I thrust against him. He cups me, his thumb pressing against me through my jeans. Just as the climax starts, his grip relaxes and he starts to turn me around. I go limp, and slide to the ground. In the next second, I leap, and I land, crouched, about ten feet away. Through the mist, I blink. The orgasm still lingers, and I will it away.
I look at my captor.
My breath hitches.
My mouth opens to call his name.
Just that fast, he's on me again. His hand encircles my throat, and his face contorts to full-raged vampire. His jaw juts forward, almost broken, and jagged teeth drop from his gums. His eyes turn bloodred, and his scent blends with that in the loch. The air is squeaking from my lungs, so audible I can hear it in the misty air around me. He lifts me, my feet dangling over the water.
“You will die now,” he says, and lowers me to the loch. “And watching the life drain out of you is what's going to make me come.”
I try to kick, to shout, but I'm paralyzed. Screams not my own pierce the air, and he starts to lower me down. The stench grows stronger. I feel water at my back, and hands upon hands pull at me from below. He holds me there, my face and eyes just beneath the surface of the loch, staring up at him through the water. Had he not been squeezing the life out of me, I would have died from just seeing his face. Full of hate. Full of loathing.
As I thrash about, and what little air is left in me seeps out, my lungs explode. Unseen hands grab me from the depths of the loch, and before the blood vessels burst in my eyes, I see the others who have gone in before me.Â .Â .Â .
“Hey, Ri.” A familiar voice seeps into my conscience. “What are you doing?”
For a moment, I'm speechless. Slowly, I open my eyes. I can't focus. I can't speak.
He grasps my forearm and squeezes gently. “What the hell's wrong with you, darlin'?”
I blink and focus. It's only Noah. And we're in a cab.
Noah flashes his big white, wolfish smile at me. “Anything I can help you with, babe?”
With a heavy sigh, I push my thumb and forefinger into my eye sockets. “No. Bad dream is all.” I shake my head. “Are we there yet?”
“Yeah, we're here. You okay?” he asks.
Weird. I remember driving along on the A-96, looking out across the Moray Firth. That's it. As I glance out the window into the night, I see we've ended up on Montague Row, at the guesthouse Jake Andorra, our boss, rented out for us. Rented the whole damn guesthouse so we wouldn't look so suspicious coming and going like we do.
WUP. Worldwide Unexplained Phenomena. That's what we do. It's an elite organization Noah and I, and a handful of others, belong to. Weirdly enough, I'm probably the most normal of the group. WUP is made up of vampires, werewolves, ancient Pict immortals with wicked skills and sick fighting abilities. Then there's, well, me. A human with vampiric tendencies. So far, I'm the only one. Jake Andorra, a vampire with lethal skills, asked me to join. Although I'm pretty sure most of my team members would argue my tendencies have gotten way the hell out of control. But damnâI've been bitten by three powerful Strigoi vampires from an old Romanian family, as well as my vampire fiancÃ©, Eli. All of their DNA bound with mine, and I took on a little of each one of their traits. I can now speak French and Romanian fluently. I guess my mind control is the strongest trait I've acquired, and I'd be a big fat liar if I didn't confess to thinking it was cool as shit. Anyway.
WUP members are dispatched and assigned the most difficult of cases involving things humans can't even begin to grasp. Basically, we're hunters. Anything involving supernatural beings vs. humans, we're on it. Vampiric situations are the most common, although there's a pretty big werewolf war going on farther west in the Highlands, which is where the rest of the WUP team is right now.
A werewolf war. Sounds pretty big, right? Apparently, two clans have waged war between themselves, and once again, innocent mortals inevitably get in the way. Werewolves are bat-shit crazy and unpredictable as all holy hell. WUP will need every spare set of hands they can use. But under Jake Andorra's orders, me and Noah have been assigned here, in Inverness. Our mission is simple: Take out the rogue vampire or vampires wreaking havoc on innocent humans. Noah's strength combined with mine is more than enough to wrap up this job. Usually, they're newbloodsâhumans newly transformed and just coming into their vampirism. And totally fuck-wild with bloodlust. It's not too uncommon, rogues. They travel, hardly ever staying in the same location long. But any time is too long. They kill. Innocents die a horrible death.
So me and Noah will hunt down these rogue vampires and make the humans and city safe again. Shouldn't take long. But there's something else I have to do here. Something I have to do alone. And the selfish part of me says it's more important.
â¢Â Â Â â¢Â Â Â â¢
Sometime between the Firth and here, I dreamed. Again of my fiancÃ©, Eli, except this time was different than the others. It wasÂ .Â .Â . bizarre. That's another thing I doâI have wicked dreams that sometimes place me in real situations, and sometimes in other bodies. I almost experience things others have experienced, and it is intense as hell. I shake it off and finally answer Noah. I give a nod. “I've never been better. Let's go.”
Noah stares at me a minute, with those calculating mercury vampiric eyes. Finally, he leans over me and opens the cab door. “After you.”
I climb out, and the chilled air bites through the black leather jacket I'm wearing. It's not uncomfortable, the chill. Lately, I welcome it. Seems I'm always hot lately.
“Here, grab these and I'll get the rest. Here are the keys to the back entrance.” Noah hands them to me and nods. “Just up the walk there, turn left down that alley.”
“Yeah, okay,” I answer, and grab the two duffel bags containing our gear.
I could have sworn we got in that taxi over an hour ago. It's only been twenty minutes or so since we landed. Wicked-ass dream that was, and I damn sure don't want to have another like it. It left me not only aching for Eli, but fearing what he may have become. Stepping away from the curb, I sling one pack over my shoulder and head in the direction Noah indicated. It's dark, well after sunset. The old gray stone of our Edwardian-era guesthouse blends in with the pale haze lingering in the air. A sign hangs on an iron post that reads
ABERNANTHE GUESTHOUSE. NO VACANCY
. As the breeze catches the metal sign, it creaks back and forth. The typical city sounds surround me, but I tune them all out and listen close as I walk. Every noise ceases except the very, very faint ones. The lapping of the firth against the shoreline. Seabirds cooing as they bed down for the night. Pigeons. Gulls. Rats scuffling along the cobbles.
I turn down the narrow close leading to the guesthouse's back entrance, and a soft breathy sound reaches my ears. My skin breaks out in goose bumps. The fine hairs on my arms and neck stiffen. I'm on total alert, and my eyes scan. I see nothing, but I hear. Breath, but no heartbeat. Shadows reach, stretch in awkward lengths. It's hard to tell where the stone ends and the shadows begin. Something's here. I feel it.
Out of nowhere, a hand encircles my throat. I drop my bags. My feet leave the ground.
Apparently, there are wily, ballsy vampires afoot in Inverness, Scotland.
“When all is said and done, Ms. Poe, you're nothing more than a glorified human armed with pointy little weapons.” The bloodsucker knows my name? He squeezes my throat tighter, lifting me higher off the cobbles. “You can still
.” His lips pull back, gums recede, and a dozen razor-sharp teeth drop from his top jaw, jagged and lethal as shit. What the hell? I've only been out of the cab for three minutes. He pulls me closer. His breath alone nearly knocks me out. It reeks of old metallic blood, flesh, and decay. Sounds like a cool name for a heavy metal band.
Blood, Flesh, and DecayÂ .Â .Â .
And the smell is familiar. Like from my dream.
“When all is said and done,” I repeat his words, gasping for breath at the same time, “you're still nothing more than an asshole.” My voice is raspy as it pushes past his fierce grip against my windpipe, and my feet aren't even touching the ground when I rear one leg back and knee this bloodless prick in the groin. His grip loosens, just enough, and his pupils dilate. I see the pain there, in their depths. It's all I need.
From the waist of my jeans I palm my silver blade, flip it, and jam it straight into his heart. All within, no lie, the blink of an eye.
The vampire drops me and falls to the ground. He is seizing, quivering, gurgling. His body starts to smolder, disintegrate, and finally, bubble into that disgusting pile of white junk they become when they meet their end.
He didn't even see it coming. Funny how male vampires are way more male
than they like to admit. Target their wieners and whamâon the ground they go.
Glorified human with pointy little weapons?
Kiss my ass
“Riley, what the hell?”
I glance behind me. Noah Miles is standing on the street side, scowling down the narrow alley I'm standing in. He swaggers toward me, his gaze lowering to the quivering pile of used-to-be vampire. Mercury eyes flash so angrily, they almost glow in the dark. Ever since Edinburgh, he's smothered the hell out of me. Edgy, watchful, and overly mother hennish. He gets on my fucking nerves. Everybody does, actually.