Read Darkness Burning Online

Authors: Delilah Devlin

Darkness Burning

Darkness Burning
Delilah Devlin

For my “Roses” at www.RosesColoredGlasses.com
for being there to listen
while I whined my way through this book,
and who offered me support, advice,
inspiration, and true and loving friendship.

Contents

Prologue

Destiny sucks.

Chapter 1

The profound silence struck Mikaela Jones first. Her own booted…

Chapter 2

Alex winced as he pried away the shirt collar stuck…

Chapter 3

Finding proof of monsters living in the midst of humanity…

Chapter 4

Shuddering inwardly, Alex accepted the drink Erika offered and allowed…

Chapter 5

Alex returned to the salon, avoiding a path that might…

Chapter 6

Miki wished she’d met Alexander under other circumstances. She might…

Chapter 7

Alex watched as Sarah’s tongue swept out to wet her…

Chapter 8

Nicolas Montfaucon drummed his fingers on the polished ebony table,…

Chapter 9

He rolled with her, coming over her thickly muscled, lupine…

Chapter 10

Gabriella climbed off his hips and lay on her back…

Chapter 11

Alex kissed her shoulder, then gently lifted her from his…

Chapter 12

Alex “flashed” with Gabi back into the exact moment they’d…

Chapter 13

Nicolas knelt in the blood that was seeping sluggishly from…

Chapter 14

A low, ominous growl rumbled from the shadows beneath the…

Chapter 15

Miki lay on her side atop crisp white sheets, hands…

Chapter 16

Nico, stay a while with me,” Innana said, patting the…

Chapter 17

Inanna paced the length of her bedchamber, wringing her hands…

Chapter 18

Miki didn’t mind being left behind in Simon’s home. Her…

Chapter 19

Natalie, Rene, and Gabriella parked the car alongside the highway,…

Chapter 20

All eyes turned toward Miki, whose breaths were short and…

D
estiny sucks.

Being an uncrowned prince of the Undead might get you laid, but it didn’t win you friends. Instead
,
you stayed on the down low
,
hiding in plain sight from enemies who’d kill you just because you existed. Not an easy task when you still had a duty to protect the innocent and demolish the misbehaving.

Which was why, when Alexander Broussard crept deeper into a dark
,
dank alleyway just outside the French Quarter
,
only half his mind stayed with the prey he’d tracked for nearly a mile. The other half wondered whether this was just another demon hunt or the opening salvo of “the great battle to come.”

Although he was aware that lack of focus could land him in deep shit
,
an odd restlessness gripped him. His destiny awaited him—or so he’d been told for as long as he could remember—but that promise was as unproven as the
protective amulet he wore on a slender cord around his neck. Unproven
,
untested; would the moment ever come?

Perhaps he’d messed the whole thing up. Made a misstep that would cause all their carefully laid plans to fall like dominoes. After all
,
he wasn’t the one who’d seen what lay in store for the future. Simon
,
his mentor
,
teacher
,
and his friend
,
had that angle all wrapped up and wasn’t sharing what he knew
,
afraid he’d somehow change the course set before them all.

Time
,
even repeated
,
never moved forward quite the same. Or so Simon often said.

Missteps
,
mistakes…Alex prayed he hadn’t already made things worse.

Concern for his unborn child ate away at his gut. That neither the baby’s mother nor her lover wanted him around sat heavy on his conscience. He’d used them both for his own ends. Their seduction had been necessary
,
part of the bigger plan
,
but that didn’t matter. Leaving them trapped
,
dependent on the mercurial Inanna’s mercy
,
undermined his resolve.

Nothing he could do about it now. But soon
,
all the players would gather at
Ardeal,
the place “beyond the forest,” named for their last kingdom on Earth. A little more patience and he’d have it all—the girl
,
the power
,
and the bloody damn crown.

That was the future he wanted
,
the one he’d waited for these seven centuries.

In the meantime
,
he’d keep his head down and follow the scent of any trouble that might complicate his quest. Like the sharp
,
musty odor he’d trailed beyond the Quarter into the meanest streets of New Orleans—dangerous before the flood
,
infinitely more deadly now.

A heavy footpad rasped on grit
,
dragging his thoughts back to the danger lurking in the shadows. Alex’s body tightened. He crouched,
shifting his weight to the balls of his feet
,
getting ready to make his move—but where was the bastard?

He forced himself to concentrate
,
directing his senses to search for a darker shadow in the pitch blackness
,
sniffing the humid breeze to catch the scent of the beast.

A steamy breath gusted against the back of his neck.

Fuck.

Alex leapt to the side
,
took a single running step, and planted his foot on the wall of the alley. Then he climbed up and somersaulted to land behind the creature.

Only it had disappeared again. Now the cagey beast hunted him.

Alex’s lips stretched into a feral grin. His teeth slid deeper from his gums
,
curving over his lower lip. Adrenaline seared his veins. His heart rate surged. At last
,
he’d found a challenge to refocus him—if only for the moment.

A low
,
grating snarl gave him a second’s warning. He whirled to meet the massive creature as it launched from the ground ten feet away.

Alex thrust up his arms
,
slamming the beast in the jaw to deflect a vicious bite
,
but he was carried to the ground by the force of its ballistic velocity.

The cord around his neck broke when the wolf’s serrated canine tooth scraped the base of his throat. Alex ignored the scratch and the blood soaking into his shirt collar
,
but noted where the amulet landed on the ground. He wrapped his hands around the creature’s thickly muscled neck and squeezed.

The beast screamed as loud as a hellhound
,
forcing air past constricted vocal cords to gust in steaming clouds above Alex’s face. It was scented with its doggy breath and echoes of its last meal. Sausage perhaps. Shrimp or crawfish
,
for sure. No hint of human.

Alex ground his heels in the gritty muck beneath him
,
straining with his thighs to roll over
,
but he never got the leverage he needed to put the creature on its back and knock it out quickly.

Instead
,
he held tight
,
shoving the wolf’s head and snapping jaws as far from his face as he could
,
until at last the choke hold did its job. The beast deflated like a balloon
,
landing limply against Alex’s body.

He pushed it away and climbed to his feet
,
immediately searching the ground for the amulet. With only minutes to spare before the wolf revived
,
he needed to retrieve the precious stone and flee. Without either a proper weapon to finish the
were-
creature or a silver linked collar to capture it
,
he could spend hours battling the beast. Although the fact griped his ass
,
he’d have to kill it another day. No one could come prepared for every unearthly contingency.

At least he’d confirmed his suspicions after reading the reports that Ruby had left on his desk back at the station house, telling of packs of wild dogs roaming the streets. Werewolves had infiltrated New Orleans.

Just another breed of scavenger descending on the city when it was at its most vulnerable.

Alex caught a glimpse of the shiny
,
round stone wedged between a box and a trash bin, and he knelt to retrieve it.

At the first sounds of a scuffle from the other end of the alleyway
,
Alex ducked low
,
peering into the darkness
,
waiting to determine whether the combatants were human before deciding to enter the fray. They were too far away to tell at first
,
so Alex tamped down his impatience
,
glancing back to assure himself the wolf still slept
.
Then he stared ahead
,
waiting.

A heavy hand fell on his shoulder
,
and Alex inhaled a familiar scent.
Father.

“How many times have I told you not to come to a fight without the
proper weapon,” Rene Broussard whispered in his Cajun-laced accent
,
an ironic note in his voice.

“Who said I meant to kill him?” Alex replied dryly
,
looking over his shoulder.

Rene grunted and knelt beside him behind the bin.

“Why are you here
,
Rene?” Alex asked
,
careful as always not to signal their relationship should anyone be listening.

“Makin’ sure you aren’t so pumped up with your own self-importance you get yourself killed.”

“How long have I been patrolling?”

“Thirty or so years less than me
, mon fils.”

Alex’s lips stretched into a rueful grin. While Simon had honed Alex’s otherworldly skills
,
Rene had been there to remind Alex he’d been born of a vampire and a human man. Rene’s teachings and the example he’d set inside their small
,
tightly knit family unit had been just as important to keep Alex grounded
,
reminding him constantly of his duty to humanity, as well as feeding a yearning for something he could never truly have.

“We should go,” Rene said
,
lifting his chin toward the ruckus beginning at the other end of the alley. “Not our fight. Not your time.”

Alex speared one more glance into the darkness. “Let’s wait a minute or two
,
just to make sure.”

Rene gave him a short nod and hunkered down beside him
,
his hand still pressing down on his son’s shoulder.

Alex didn’t fight the cautionary hold. A male Born vampire couldn’t be too sure whether a fight erupting so near was an inconvenient coincidence or all about him.

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