tagNovels and NovellasDawn's First Light

Dawn's First Light

bymsnomer68©

Prologue

Keene stared up at the ceiling and contemplated the darkness. He was safe, at the compound, tucked under the covers in a warm bed as snugly as a babe in its crib. He could dream the dreams long forgotten by a very different man, in a very different place and time. Dare he consider himself so lucky...to dream dreams and plan for the life he never thought he'd live?

Death had been his only goal. His master's death or possibly his own, either way, it would have been means to an end. He would have been free. There could be no world where the two of them existed in peace. Roark would never simply let him go. And Keene would never simply walk away. Not with the threat of someday...the day his master would come for him...hanging over his head. Until one or the other of the two of them were dead. There'd never be peace. And as for his dreams, he could dream them. At least, he had that much. But, he could never dare to live them.

Roark was the infection that tainted the body. And as long as he lived, the putrid disease would eat Keene from the inside out. There was only one thing to do, rid the body of the pathogen. Cut it out. Keene opened his eyes and stared out into the darkness that was never really dark. As long as a sliver of light dared to penetrate the inky blackness, he could see. Shadowy outlines teased his vision, not of the furniture in his room, but of the future he could have. When the time finally came.

Vampires rarely slept. The function wasn't a necessity. Sleep was a left over habit from a life he had ceased to live over one hundred and fifty-years ago. This morning, the luxury came with a hefty price that would someday, soon, have to be paid. And as his lids fluttered closed over his steel gray eyes, he wondered exactly when his debt would require payment to be rendered.

******

From his perch high atop the city, Roark watched the sun creep over the skyline. Its golden yellow rays reached out between the towering buildings like fingers gently stroking the world below with a mother's loving touch. Unable to permeate the thick layer of tinted glass, the light had no effect on him. He could sit here all day and never have to seek shelter of the cool, dark shadows. Mastery of the one-thing vampires feared the most, the light, gave him a heady sense of omniscience. He was no god. There was no such being. Or if there was, the Almighty had turned his back on him too long ago to remember. But, to a lucky few, he was the Alpha, and to one, the Omega...the Beginning, and soon enough...the End.

Roark wore his power like a fine suit of the sleekest cut and most luxurious fabric. He liked to consider himself a patient man. But, even patience had its limits. The longer he had to wait to extract his vengeance on his wayward second. The thinner his patience grew and the worse the punishment would be. He had seen the very worst of humanity and of his kind. In that, the humans had an edge, they died far too quickly. Death, even at the hand of cruelty, came mercifully for the fragile beings on the back of a swift, pale horse. But, it wasn't so for vampires. A vampire could suffer for a very, very long time. And Keene would.

Darkness was a friend and an ally. It shunned the light and swallowed it down into the hollowness of its belly. Roark stood from his chair and pressed his palm to the warmth of the sun-heated glass. He summoned his power and channeled it. Searching out the man he sought to destroy. "Keene," he whispered low, in the promise of a curse. His lips curled into a wicked, twisted smile as their minds connected. The man dreamed. And in those dreams, Roark found weakness in the form of hope.

Roark sent out just a small taste of his power through the link. Enough to grab Keene's attention and remind the man they were still bound, and that no matter how far or how long he ran, he still owned him. Patience gave Roark time to plot and plan. And when the time came, he would be the harbinger of Keene's destruction in ways that not even Hell itself could imagine.

******

Keene dreamed of a beautiful sun dappled meadow. He ran his hands over the tops of lush green grasses and drank from a pure, clear, cool stream. He dreamed of pleasures long denied. And of a paradise he'd never known. The dream ended abruptly, smothered by black threads. Gasping and choking, he snapped awake and fumbling through the darkness, scrabbling for the thin slivers of light. Not even the glow of the lamp on his bedside table and the normalcy of the paleness of the light could chase away the dark shadows lingering in the very pit of his soul.

"Master," he whispered. Swallowing back the bile, he scrubbed his hand over his scalp. His fingers scraped over the thick, reddish-orange stubble on his head. Biting back a curse, he closed his eyes and opened them again for a quick reality check. The room was unchanged. The dresser holding his borrowed clothing sat along the wall. The borrowed bed he dared to dream his first dream in over a century and a half was still as soft and luxurious as it had been when he'd fallen asleep. He lived a borrowed life with borrowed things. And the sudden shattering of his dream had been a reminder of that. He owned nothing. Not even his soul.



Chapter 1

Lori dabbed at the corners of her eyes and blushed at the gesture. She felt like such a sap, bawling in celebration of someone else's joy. Weddings always made her cry. There was something magical about the joining of two lives as one forever. Janine and Patrick were so much in love and so happy together. And they were the perfect couple. They just fit, like two missing pieces in a puzzle. Their road hadn't been an easy one. They fought and gave each other hell for the better part of a year before they finally got over themselves and came to the inevitable conclusion that they belonged together.

She sighed sleepily and walked up the shady trail to the compound. The day was still young, just beginning with the fullness of dawn. Already hot and muggy, as summers reputably were in this part of the country, the day promised to be a scorcher. Even the leaves of the trees seemed to sag under the burden of the humidity. The atmosphere had a still quality to it and draped over everything like a hot, damp, heavy blanket taken from the dryer too soon.

Lori was a summer girl and she loved the warmth of the sun on her skin and the wonderful golden-brown tan she got from basking for hours under its rays. At this ungodly hour, the beach down by the lake would be deserted and she'd have the whole place to herself for a few hours before people started to flock there to escape the relentless humidity. Happy for Janine and Patrick but grumbling to herself, she trudged through the damp heat. Robbie had ripped her out of bed so early this morning to attend the impromptu wedding. And there was no way she'd be able to go back to sleep if she tried. The shop didn't open for a few hours, so she had some time to kill. The sun was still too weak in the sky to work on her tan. And there were things she should be doing, like studying for her classes. But, she couldn't face Cellular Biology at such an ungodly hour.

Deep in thought, Lori couldn't help but wonder about the one person who was missing from the happy wedding celebration. Bryce. Was he a sore loser or had letting go of Janine simply been too much for him to bear? He'd made an honest attempt to win her affections. But, in the end Bryce considered Janine's happiness above his own and stepped aside. Janine went back to Patrick, the love of her life, and left Bryce in the dust of lovers past. Lori couldn't help but speculate about what had gone on between Bryce and Janine in those final moments when they'd said goodbye.

In a way, Lori was disappointed that Bryce wasn't there. Eye candy was good at any time of day and it would have made fitting compensation for having been dragged out of bed on less than five hours sleep. Bryce was lean, well built with trim, compact layers of muscle beneath the silk of his olive toned skin. He had a tight curved butt. Great to admire from a distance, and she could only speculate about this too, even better to fondle. With thick wavy black hair that curled on the ends, startling pale gray eyes, just a shade above clear, and a strong jaw, he was the complete package of raw, masculine beauty.

She on the other hand was a wreck. When it wasn't streaked and lightened from the sun, her hair was a plain, ordinary shade of blonde most commonly known as 'dirty dishwater' blonde. If not for the products and the painstaking care she took everyday. Her hair was a mess of wild, unruly, shoulder length tangles. It was still flat on one side from where Robbie had yanked her out of bed and not given her time to brush through the rat's nest. Her eyes were the color of the plowed fields that she grew up surrounded by, plain green, and flat. She was too short and too skinny, devoid of curves, and way, way too flat chested for any man's tastes. As embarrassing as it was, at almost twenty, she could still shop in the tween section of the Super Center.

She was too young to be considered worth a second glance from a man like Bryce. Too plain and too ordinary. And he was way out of her league. But, she had hopes, when puberty finally caught up with her, that someone of the male persuasion would finally sit up and take notice. She worked out everyday and there wasn't an ounce of flab beneath her tanned skin. She studied hard, taking college classes at the local vo-tech to earn a degree in nursing. She loved her job at 'What's the Scoop', but it was hardly a career. And barely paid enough to cover her bills. By the time she shelled out the cash for her tuition and bought a few essentials, she certainly didn't have enough left to save up a dime to get a boob job.

The doctor she'd chosen after months of careful research called his outrageous fee a two for one special. Yeah, kind of hard to get just one boob done at a time and the ad was only poking fun. But, he did the best work in the state. And the results were nothing short of amazing. That was her goal. The first thing she was going to do, once she graduated and got her first big paycheck as a registered nurse. Finance some boobs, great big ones. Maybe, double D's or at least a self-respecting C cup, anything would be better than the padded, push-up thirty-four B she wore with a bit of room to spare.

She chuckled beneath her breath as she climbed the last hill leading to the compound. Her friend Corrine had hated her big boobs. She called them udders and cursed at her humongous, pendulous breasts because they were always in the way. Ok, Lori didn't want boobs that big. Just a nice set, enough to grab a man's attention and keep it for more than five seconds before dismissing her and her less than a mouthful as not worth the effort.

Lori missed her friend. The stout, graying woman was always so vibrant and full of jokes and so much fun to work with. Corrine was killed over a year ago in an accident. Or at least that's what the brotherhood wanted the townsfolk to believe. But, she knew the facts. Everyone was always trying to protect her from the truth. Keeping the secret and being a part of the group always involved risk. Lori understood that. But, when it was her turn to sign up. She'd had no fear. Willingly, she'd volunteered to do her part. And she had.

Absently, Lori rubbed the small, patterned tattoo along the right side of her neck. The tattoo marked her as a donor and indicated the trust the brothers placed in her and she in them. Their lives and hers hung in the balance of that simple and sometimes complicated pact of faith. Cloaked in silence and clandestine mystery, the agreement was a secret she'd never divulge, and hers a life they'd die to protect.

She was more than the perky coed who lived in the apartment above her parents' garage and worked as a 'What's the Scoop' girl every summer. She knew things no college course could ever teach her. There was a life out there beyond the normalcy of the mundane. A shadowy world filled with magic, the unexplained, and the unseen. And she was part of it. Life and death didn't have the same meaning for her as they did for everybody else. And she understood how loose the definitions of the two really were.

She was alive, living her everyday life. The brothers were alive, although some of them had been technically dead for centuries. Yet, the two existed simultaneously along side the other. It was strange really, if she thought about it, how alike the two really were, and at the same time, how very different.

Lori pressed her palm to the electronic reader hidden beneath a thick layer of vines and summertime overgrowth and waited for the magnetic door to hiss open. She thought it was cool being allowed inside the brotherhood's secret inner sanctum. Although, perhaps considering the gift flowing through her body and the instinctive hungers the brothers battled, she shouldn't think as such. A bird, startled by the rustling greenery, called out shrilly and flew off in a fluttery, haphazard flapping of its black wings. The locals whispered rumors that the woods were haunted and for the most part gave them a wide berth. Nah, the woods weren't haunted. They were just full of vampires.



Chapter 2

Kayla sat curled up on the edge of the plush, red velvet, chaise lounge. Clutching her faithful companion, the pink bear she never let out of her sight, tightly in her arms. Being human, she was considered unimportant, and Roark spoke freely around her. There was talk of attack and of war against the Sons. The Rogue Master never tired of listing the ways he planned to torture Keene once he got him back in his possession. She swallowed back the bile rising in her throat as Roark rattled them off one by one. In her whole life, Kayla had never wished anyone dead, her master excluded. But, Keene would be better off dead than to endure the things Roark had in store for him.

She put on her best stupid face and smiled blankly and adoringly, up at the man. She played with her pink teddy bear, pretending not to care about his plans for Keene, as if she were a brainless simpleton or a child. She did this so often that it was second nature to her by now. Batting her blue eyes at him, she faked an expression of pure innocence he completely ignored. In a way, that was good. It meant he was too distracted by the train of his thoughts to bother her. And in a way, it was bad, very, very bad.

Kayla knew her time with Roark was growing short with every tick of the clock. She was aging, almost twenty-four. He preferred younger, almost juvenile company. And the streets were filled with girls, ready to and willing to pay the price and take her place.

She kept up her youthful façade, playing it for as long as she could. But, her youth wouldn't last much longer. When he grew tired of her, he'd turn her over to his minions to do with as they pleased. She'd seen what happened to the other girls. Their bodies discarded like empty fast food wrappers, dumped in an alley or worse torn into unrecognizable shreds. The ones he preferred in the herd, he gave to Keene to dispose of.

Keene did the job the Master required of him. But, he was far merciful than the blood crazed minions. He did it quick and painlessly. Usually a swift twist of the neck and it was done. Kayla knew. Roark had made her watch before just for the sheer pleasure of seeing her cower in fear.

Kayla hated it. She despised the circumstances in which she was forced to live. Roark was a powerful man, beautiful and dangerous as a cobra. Before him, she got by the best she could. Life on the streets wasn't easy and she'd been forced to do all kinds of things for nothing more than the loose change in a pocket or a morsel of food. When he found her, wandering the sidewalks late one night, cold, hungry, and alone, he seemed like some kind of a beneficent savior. All he asked of her in exchange for a meal, clean clothes, and a real bed was the pleasure of her company. He was charming, at first. Seductive, rich, and so overwhelming in his raw masculinity, that at the age of eighteen Kayla couldn't help falling at his feet in heady rapture and a deep sense of something akin to worship.

Roark moved with a lithe grace and the sleek, harnessed power of a predator on the hunt. Even now, with her false worship and pretend innocence, she couldn't help but admire him. He surrounded himself and those around him in opulent, decadent luxury. Her master was a collector of beautiful things. And he enjoyed them freely.

His beauty was only skin deep though. And it didn't take her long to figure that out. Beneath the piercing green eyes that she always felt on her, and the sleek waves of his hair, smooth and silky as dark chocolate, and the sheer, overwhelming draw of his presence. The master was a cruel, hard being with a heart blacker than midnight. Nothing in this life came free. Everything had a price. And the price for her opulent surroundings, the luxurious sheets of finest silk on which she slept, the gourmet food she ate, the designer clothing on her back, and for her very life, was high. She paid for everything he lavished on her with her blood, with her body, and with her very soul.

Keene too would pay such a price, when Roark finally caught up with him. But, he was the lucky one because at least he got a taste of freedom before the master came to exact his payment. Kayla didn't want to watch Keene suffer. She could not stand to do nothing while Roark tortured him till the man finally broke and begged for mercy. And Roark would make her watch. There was nothing he liked more than an audience when he exercised his power and his brutality.

There was always an unspoken agreement between the two of them. When it came her turn and Roark ordered her death. Keene would do what he could to protect her. He had little sway over their master. But, maybe, he could prevent Roark from handing her over to the minions to be raped, drained, and torn into tiny pieces. And if Roark ordered her death by his hands, at least she had the reassurance that Keene would make it quick. All Keene ever asked in return was that she do nothing to provoke the Rogue Master's twisted sense of rage.

So, Kayla played along. She bought herself as much time as she could. Curling her tawny hair into soft, chin length ringlets around her face. Wearing pink and frills to entice the master's shrewd eye. She strategically applied her makeup to enhance what remained of the youthfulness of her face. And she was compliant as a rag doll. She let the sick, twisted, fuck that was their master, do whatever he wanted to her and she did whatever demented thing he required of her to do.

There was one thing Kayla hated more than the travesty of her life. And that was Roark. Keene and she were of the same mind on that too. Although, neither of them dared to utter the thought aloud, they both wanted him dead.

Kayla was the head honcho amongst the girls. Roark's favorite. Perhaps because of her complacency or her skill at the way she pleasured him. Or maybe, it was the fact that somewhere, not matter how deeply she hid it, he knew he hadn't broken her yet. The minute he did, she was a dead woman.

Usually, sometimes mercifully, the girls Roark reduced to empty shells with lifeless eyes like the dolls on Kayla's dresser were glad to die by the time he handed them over to his minions. Or if they'd especially pleased him, to Keene for disposal. Kayla often wondered if that reason was why Keene killed them without a moment's worth of hesitation. Because, there was simply nothing left of them to save.

Keene would not like the direction of her thoughts. He was unusually protective of her. Maybe it was because out of all of Roark's former playthings, she'd been around the longest. The things she thought were dangerous and they would get her killed in the most painful, most horrific way. Being handed over to the minions would be a blessing compared to what he would do to her if he caught the slightest hint of what was in her mind.

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