Dawn's Never Ending Glowbymsnomer68©
The Native Dawn Series book 7 : Rogue Dawn book 3: Anna and Toby's story
Dawn's Never Ending Glow
The bastard knew how to put on the pressure. And Keene, as always, was his scrabbling servant. A whipped pup cowering at the master's feet. The Son of a bitch expected the impossible. But, of course didn't he always? Find a woman- one woman- one pale, blonde-haired beauty with eyes the color of arctic ice. The city stretching out beneath him in a series of twinkling lights that sparkled like gemstones against a backdrop of black, velvet wasn't the largest city he'd ever seen. Far from it. But, to find one human being amongst the teeming population of eight hundred thousand-give or take a few thousand- not very damned likely.
With nothing more than a face, a first name, and the threat of his master's punishment, if he failed, to drive him on, Keene lowered his big body from its perch. The soles of his boots hit the concrete with a soft whisper. In the wee pre-dawn hours, he didn't pretend to try to be human. He moved with a predator's grace and speed through the deserted downtown area and searched for his proverbial needle in the haystack.
God help the woman, if indeed, he found her. That thought was incentive enough to make Keene happy about the master's punishment. The bastard wouldn't kill him. Oh yeah, Roark would make him wish he were dead. But, then again, his master had been doing that for almost a century and a half. Nope, Roark needed him. Relished in torturing him by doing nothing more than keeping him alive and in his service.
Keene moved through the silence, one heavily booted foot placed in front of the other, and thought the thought that had been plaguing him since his birth into this life. Why didn't he just keep on walking? He knew why. And the knowledge condemned him. One day, he'd go after his master. Kill him. And then, he'd walk, and just keep walking.
Around him the city started to wake. With a sleepy sigh, the streets breathed their first breaths of the morning. Traffic lights, flashing yellow for the night, resumed their red, yellow, green routine. The smell of freshly baked rolls and coffee wafted down the empty sidewalk from the warm glow of a bakery's plate glass window. Somewhere off in the distance a garbage truck rattled down an alley. Keene walked past a church, the peel of morning bells sounded out, heralding in a new day. He looked up at the steeple, at the cross on its peek, standing out in pale relief from the dim gray of dawn, and wondered would God still have him?
Keene pulled his black stocking cap over his bald head. Not because he was cold, but somehow, standing at the foot of those stairs, under God's eye, made him feel raw and exposed. As if God were actually there, watching him. And the Man Upstairs didn't particularly like what he saw. At least the Heavenly Hosts and he agreed about one thing. He didn't like himself very much either.
The deliveryman hefted his bulk from behind the wheel of a white panel truck. Fished in the back and hefted his burden of Sunday editions over his shoulder. Spat up a ball of phlegm from his throat in a greasy green-gray lump on the concrete, and loaded the bundle newspapers into self-serve machine at the corner of the platform. Lazily scratching his ass, the man ambled back to his truck, climbed behind the wheel, and put the thing in drive. Good thing he did too. There were still plenty of shadows. Plenty of darkness left before dawn. And Keene was hungry.
Beneath his feet, the train platform rumbled as the commuter train screeched to a halt. The doors whisked open, delivering nobody and picking up a whole bunch of nothing, this early on a Sunday morning. The streets were vacant, as if the whole city had partied too hard last night and needed time to sleep off one hell of a hangover before Monday morning. Keene had no money. But, he really didn't need the two-dollars and fifty-cents in coin required to purchase the Sunday edition. He balled up his fist and smashed his hand through the glass. Too easy really, even a human could do it. Casually brushing away the shards of glass, he snatched up the bulky Sunday edition and tossed the slick, colorful ads, the classifieds, and the funny pages into the trash.
Keene skimmed the headlines with mild disinterest. In the whole course of human history, nothing much seemed to change, just the players. He tossed the front page into the garbage and flipped through the sports section. Yeah. More of the same old there too. In his day, his sport had been much more critical than catching a ball or running the mile in less than five minutes. Hell, he'd been running for his life and dodging the bullets of the Confederate army. Hadn't been any fun. He hadn't made any headlines. And apparently, he hadn't been that good at it.
Scanning the social pages, who knew, maybe his mystery woman was a socialite, he read through the marriage announcements and the obits. It'd be a very fortunate thing for her, if he saw her picture and her name listed among the dead. He didn't. Of course, not. His blonde needle in the haystack was alive and kicking. For now.
He turned the page, the newspaper in his hands ruffling in the spring breeze, and what do you know? There she was. Smiling up at him from a grainy black and white. Wasn't it supposed to be a good thing to have your picture in the paper? Not for her. Her fifteen minutes of fame was the noose around her neck.
Keene cursed under his breath and carefully folded the newspaper, tucking it into the front pocket of his jacket. Timing was everything. And unfortunately for her, her time was up. He had no other choice but to do what he had to do. And God forgive him for it.
Anna spent the night partying till dawn at Alex's wedding reception and was wiling away the morning lounging in bed, sated and sleepily leaning across the muscular bulk of Toby's bare chest. She was leaving today. Returning to the city, and she didn't want to waste a minute of it doing something as mundane as sleeping. These precious few hours they had left together had to last.
The recent visit of an uninvited Rogue Master to the compound had left The Sons vulnerable. Dane wanted security beefed up. And Toby being the brothers' main tech guy, had to oversee the installation of even more cameras and surveillance equipment. As much as Anna's heart ached to have him by her side. She got it. She understood that the brothers needed him more than she did.
Anna flipped through the Sunday paper, looking for her picture. The article was supposed to run in this edition. Proud, but a little embarrassed at the attention, and maybe just a bit egotistical, she wanted to read what the article had to say about her. She'd spent months working on the project, redesigning the children's wing of the hospital. Laboring over the slightest detail to create a friendly and inviting space for both the patients and the staff. She hated publicity-nah, not really- this was just the boost her career needed.
She scowled at her photo, frowning at the grainy black and white image and the whole five-sentence paragraph, months of hard work and planning had earned. So much for making full partner in the firm before she turned thirty-five, she'd be lucky if her boss didn't demote her to cleaning toilets. She looked awful. The light mint green suit she'd worn that day looked a dreary shade of pale gray in the black and white picture.
She shook off her dismay and quickly turned the page before Toby saw the picture. It wasn't like anyone was going to notice the article anyway. Tucked neatly behind the sports page, her whole five-sentences worth of fame were hardly worth mentioning.
"Hey, is that my girl?" Toby asked, turning the page back to the write-up. Gently, he rubbed his stubble-covered cheek across the top of her head and read the article. Her career was important to her and she'd worked her ass off on that project. And all she got was five measly sentences for all that hard work?
"It is," Anna answered, shrugging as if getting her name and picture in the paper were just an everyday occurrence and the article weren't that big of a deal. Ok, so it was a big deal to her. But, she really didn't want to talk about how badly the meager paragraph that barely scratched the surface of all the months of hard work, hurt.
"Wow, your own article. I'm proud of you." Toby dipped his head and planted a soft kiss on her cheek. He sensed Anna's bruised feelings beneath the hard exterior of her forced, impartial expression. Yeah, the article mattered to her. A lot more than what she let on. He had exceptional vision, catching even the slightest detail of the photo. Anna looked amazing, so professional in her suit, and tightly wound bun. Even if the news media didn't fully appreciate her, he sure as hell did. And it was time to tell her exactly how much she meant to him.
Reaching under his pillow, Toby wrapped his fingers around the garter he'd beat the other guys out of at the reception. And twirled the scrap of delicate ivory-colored lace on the tip of his finger. He smoothed stray strands of her platinum blonde hair away from her face, gathering them in a loose ponytail in his palm. "I caught the garter," he said playfully, testing her reaction.
Anna blushed, trying to act cool. "And," she said forcing her attention away from the hard planes of Toby's well-defined chest and abs, up to his brown eyes, the color of rich, decadent, chocolate. She could spend hours gazing into those depths and see something different in each passing second. Toby was a fighter, fiercely intelligent, ruthless in protecting those he cared about, and most of all, deeply in love with her.
Toby caught Anna's chin in the palm of his hand and gently, drew her face to his. God, she was beautiful. Her pale blue eyes sparkling like ice in the wintertime sun. Her skin so smooth and pale, pristine like freshly fallen snow. "I'm next."
Anna swallowed hard, suddenly nervous. "Did you have someone in mind." She couldn't control the quiver in her voice. Was he going to ask her to marry him? Now? When they'd be apart for who knew how long? The conversation certainly seemed to be going in that direction. Her heart pounded with anxiety, a certain measure of fear, and the toe-curling rush of adrenaline. She couldn't kid herself. She knew this was coming. Knew he'd ask. And she'd practiced her answer at least a thousand times in her head.
"Yeah. I think I do." Toby's lips curled in a smile. He sensed her nervousness. He had spent almost the last year working on her, baiting his hook, and dangling it in front of her nose till she took the bait. Carefully gauging Anna's response, waiting while seconds agonizingly ticked by with the steady, slightly rapid beat of her heart. Yeah, it was time to reel her in. Make her officially, finally, and forever, his.
Anna scoffed, "Lucky bitch." She was going to make Toby work for it. They'd been playing this game for long enough and if he wanted her, he was going to have to do it the right way and ask. A smile curved her lips at the sight of her fearsome vampire stuttering and nervously sweating over the proposal.
Toby slid Anna down on the bed, wrapping the garter around her wrists. Binding her with the gauzy band of silk and lace. "I am a good catch aren't I?" he stated as if it were a matter of fact everyone should know. This wasn't how he imagined this particular scene going. He'd rehearsed, for hours, in front of the mirror and practicing with John Mark. Not that it didn't feel and look ridiculous, kneeling on one knee, asking the big warrior to marry him. Nope, this thing wasn't going the way he'd planned at all. "Anna, what are you doing? Oh, I don't know, for the rest of your life?"
"My schedule's wide open," she replied, her voice small and catching in her throat. She had a million and one reasons why she should say no. Refuse him and the ring, she hadn't noticed, and he worked off his little finger with the intention of sliding it in place on her left hand. And only one damned good reason for saying yes, extending her ring finger, and gasping as he gently slid the ring over her knuckle. Love.
Anna's heart thudded in her chest as she eyed the ring. It was beautiful. An intricate, filigree, platinum band, surrounded a pale, milky-white moonstone, round as a full moon at midnight, encircled by a ring of chocolate diamonds, the exact shade of his eyes. She'd never seen anything like it in her life. And she'd never seen anything more perfect.
"Is that a yes?" Toby asked, breaking the silence. He already knew her answer. He could see it hovering on her trembling lips and in the gentle quiver of her finger as he slid the ring over her knuckle and tucked the band into place. Gently, knowing she wasn't getting away from him, he untied the garter from around her wrists and cupped her fingers in his palm. Running his thumb over the curve of the moonstone, he waited for her answer. Tears gathered at the corners of her pale, blue eyes. Not sad ones, but for once, in a past so overwrought with sorrow and the heartache that life sometimes dumped on a person's shoulders, happy ones.
Anna was incapable of speech. All she could to was stare down at Toby's thumb, slowly tracing circles over the stone and nod like a bobble head in the back windshield of a car on a bumpy stretch of road. Tears blurred her vision. But, she blinked them away. They were happy tears. But, they had no place here. Not in her future. Not in Toby's presence. With her hands free and her wrists unbound, she was free to wrap her fingers through his sleek, soft, velvety midnight black hair and pull his mouth, eagerly, to her lips for the deepest, most encompassing kiss of her life. "I love you."
Toby kissed Anna with all that he was worth. His heart thudded in his chest like a bongo drum. She said 'yes', in that special way that was uniquely her. There were a million reasons for her to say no. And she'd said 'yes' despite them all. She accepted him for what he was. Leapt into a future that could only have one inevitable end. They had time though. And soon, they'd have all the time in the world.
Roark kicked back in his chair, parking his Italian loafers on the desk. He'd read the article at least a dozen times. Stared at the picture for hours. His Second never failed to amaze him. Keene was too good for his own good. Roark had expected the man to fail. Looked forward to the weeks of punishment that failure would bring. Nothing purified a man, broke his soul, and forced his obedience like suffering and agony. He needed something to rein the man in. Humble the arrogant son of a bitch.
Flicking the corner of the newspaper back, he glanced at his Second and turned his attention back to the article. Soon enough, he'd have to eliminate himself of his greatest asset and greatest threat. Both the men knew the time was coming. But, for now, Keene still had his uses and Roark didn't have time to break in a new Second. Besides, he hadn't found one worth the effort. Today's humans, with their video games and soft lives, were far too easily damaged. Their minds too easily warped to be of any use.
Forcing thoughts about Keene's eventual end out of his mind, Roark focused on the woman. Finally, the papers had something of interest to print. Now, he knew who the object of his desires was, her full name, and where she worked. Getting to her would be easy. He traced the outline of her image with his fingertip, almost as gently as a lover's caress. "Soon Anna," Roark promised on a soft whisper. "We will meet. Very soon."
Janine tossed back the covers and groaned with a heavy sigh. After the wedding ceremony and a happy, glorious reception, she'd retreated to her old room and spent the remainder of the night, which amounted to about one hour, miserable and alone, pouting. Patrick popped in once, after the wedding to offer his congratulations to the bride and groom. After slapping Chance hard on the back and giving Alex a gentle squeeze around her shoulders, he was gone. Back into the woods, hot on the trail. He hadn't even bothered to stop long enough to give her so much as a peck on the cheek. And with all those happy couples staring lovingly into one another's eyes, didn't that just piss her off. Not to mention the embarrassment of standing there alone, doling out punch and conversation mints, like a pathetic loser, to the few humans milling about.
What was his problem? One would think her near miss with death would have opened his eyes and made him just a teensy bit more appreciative of her. Apparently not. If anything, her little run in with the Rogue Master, made Patrick more distant than ever. Exhausted beyond measure, not just from the wedding and the reception, or the hours of laying awake, staring at the ceiling, she threw her feet over the edge of the bed and ambled to the bathroom. Determined to make today count for something, she cranked on the hot water and stood beneath the spray. Whatever they were, Janine could not let Patrick's issues become her problem.
She longed for some girl time with Alex, a little BFF one on one time. But, Alex was a newlywed and didn't need to be brought down by the latest crisis in Janineland. Nope, Janineland was not a happy place to be this morning. She climbed out of the shower and wiped at the fogged mirror with the edge of her towel. Examining her reflection, she gave herself a long, long pep talk.
She still had it, whether Patrick wanted it or not. She was damned gorgeous. Chin length, golden-blonde, hair expertly tousled in corkscrew curls, framed her face. Her blue eyes were large and expressive, fringed with dark lashes, made all the more intense by her mascara and the shades of eye shadow she carefully selected. Her mouth was full and sultry, the lips pouty and made for kissing. There wasn't a wrinkle on her. Ok, maybe a few, faint, teensy ones in the corners of her eyes and at the curve of her lips.
Janine sucked in her belly, threw back her shoulders, and turned sideways to evaluate the whole package. She had great tits, small, but amazing, with high rosy peaks and the perfect uptilted curve. Thanks to John Mark's grueling workouts, her waist was narrower than it ever had been and tiny ridges of muscle lined her abdomen. Her thighs were lean and her ass firm. Ok, well, her posterior was still too big for her liking.
She was short and curvy. Just the way God made her. And she was bound to have a few problem areas here and there. Completely psyched up, she blew a kiss to herself and tossed the damp towel into the corner of the room. In the stark white of the bathroom and the iridescent light, she looked too pale. She needed a little color.
Janine shimmied into her favorite, neon, pink bikini and slid into a pair of low riding, hip hugging, cutoffs and a t-shirt. According to the forecast, the high for the day was going to be in the mid seventies and sunny. She had been living according to Patrick's schedule for so long, up primarily at night, and she was in desperate need of some sun. A little time baking in the rays would get rid of her funk. She was sure of it.
She swallowed down the prickle of fear running down her spine and grabbed a beach towel. She wasn't about to let some drooling rogue dominate her life. Yesterday, she had been on the bluffs, alone, decorating for Alex's wedding when Roark had appeared out of nowhere. He hadn't attacked, instead offered a gift to the bride and groom. But, he was creepy as hell and scared the shit out of her.
The woods were crawling with Sons on patrol and she knew a sunny spot not far from the main entrance to the compound. She'd be safe enough. Loading a small canvas bag with suntan oil, her iPod, and cell phone, she slid into a pair of flip-flops and headed out.