A Gate of Night / Page 1

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Prologue: Natalie

As a rogue, I had been to more vampire covens than any other vampire out there. I was the ultimate diplomat. I had the trust of every coven and that was something I’d valued for the past five hundred years. I’d never had any reason to fear entering a coven. I would be treated with the respect that was due a rogue.

This time, however, I was terrified. I would have been a fool to think that I still had diplomatic immunity. Not with all the rumors running amok. Apparently, Derek and Sofia Novak, joint rulers of The Shade, had actually done it—they had found a cure to vampirism. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but if it was true, Derek and Sofia had just opened a Pandora’s Box of disaster. I doubted they were aware of the magnitude of trouble they’d caused.

I took a deep breath as I made my way toward the staircase leading down to the basement floor of an old building in Amsterdam. Of all the vampire covens, The Underground was my least favorite. The coven inhabited a series of bunkers beneath the city, connected by old sewers and tunnels.

The Underground was a testament to how unsafe the world had become for vampires. The hunters were always on our trail and it was becoming more and more difficult to hide from them. The Shade had long been heralded as a haven for vampires, but now there were rumors that hunters had overtaken the island. That rumor, however, I had trouble believing. I know Derek Novak. He would never compromise his own people by working with the hunters. I would soon visit The Shade again. Times are calling for it, but right now, I have to deal with The Underground.

When I arrived at the basement, I immediately made my way toward the wall that concealed the secret passage leading to the main hall.

“Well, if it isn’t Natalie Borgia.”

I winced. “Kiev.” I turned around to find the tall, broad-shouldered man with dark hair and blood-red eyes standing right beside me. A smirk was on his handsome face as he looked me over from head to foot.

“It’s been a while since I last saw you, Natalie. How’s my gorgeous Italian rogue?”

My entire body shuddered at the recollection of my last encounter with him. It was one of my darkest memories. Kiev was a man who knew what he wanted and took it whether one was willing or not. He was the son of the Elder, the very first vampire.

I fought to regain composure. Men like Kiev gained power from fear. I refused to give him that, not again… so, ignoring my quickening heartbeat, I stood to my full height, kept a poker face and tried to look him straight in the eye.

“Why are you here?”

Before he could open his mouth to respond, a chilling wind passed by me, and his sister, Clara, appeared. “Hello, Natalie. I think the question is why are you here? The Underground is no place for a diplomat like you.”

She began brushing her fingers over my hair, her mouth so close to my ear I could hear her every breath.

“I was asked to deliver a message,” I explained. “That’s my job as a rogue, lest you forget.”

Kiev gave me an accusing glare. “How come you never come to give me messages, Natalie?”

“I don’t know where you live.”

Clara chuckled. “We’re going to fix that soon.”

They were the Elder’s children and the home of the Elder—if he even truly existed—was a huge secret. I was about to ask her to clarify, but Kiev stepped forward and towered over me. I shuddered at their closeness as I was sandwiched between the siblings, Clara behind me and Kiev in front of me.

“Get out of here, Natalie,” Kiev hissed, before pushing his lips against mine. I trembled at the memories his kiss brought about. “Remain as you are. Neutral. Just like Switzerland.” He snapped his fingers and I knew then that I wasn’t going to be able to meet with The Underground’s leader. One thing was clear: blood was going to be shed that night.

As the Elder’s vampire warriors stormed through the secret passage down to the bunkers, I ran after them, shouting, “Why?”

Kiev shrugged and I thought I saw a flicker of remorse in his expression. I wondered if there was any trace left in him of the man he used to be before the Elder possessed him; of the man I’d once fallen in love with. But I was fooling myself. If there was anything about the Elder that I knew, it was that he was pure evil. And so were his children.

When Kiev looked at me, his red eyes gleamed with pleasure. “They chose the wrong side,” he grinned. “Now, I’m going to enjoy seeing them suffer. Just like you suffered the last time you made the mistake of choosing Derek Novak’s side. But with them, I won’t be as merciful.”

Chills ran down my spine. My last encounter with him had been the farthest thing from merciful and he knew it.

“Make sure everyone finds out about what happened here tonight, Natalie,” Clara whispered.

They both chuckled before rushing through the entrance of the main hall.

Like father, like children. Their very presence left me feeling dark and dirty. I wanted to leave the place, but for reasons I couldn’t fathom, I didn’t. I stood rooted to that spot for what felt like hours. My heightened sense of hearing made it impossible for me to not hear the screams of all the vampires they murdered that night. That was the price that had to be paid, because Kiev had already made it crystal clear.

Choose Derek Novak’s side and you will suffer the same fate as the vampires of The Underground.

Those screams were going to haunt me in my dreams. I wanted to do something—anything—but I couldn’t. I’d become the rogue because I was a coward. I never chose sides, and the one time that I had chosen, I’d paid a heavy price for it. I had a better chance of survival if I did what I always did best. Stay neutral. This time, however, staying neutral felt like I was siding with the Elder, and that was selling my soul.

Are you willing to pay that price, Natalie?

Chapter 1: Derek

The image of Sofia emerging from the ocean, that red swimsuit highlighting her curves, would forever be etched in my mind. My wife was a stunning sight to behold and spending my entire lifetime with her was more than I could’ve ever dreamed of.

I was sitting on the sand, finishing a sandcastle that she had started but abandoned in order to take a dip in the ocean. When she reached me, she slapped my shoulder.

“What was that for?”

She sat beside the sandcastle and pouted as she looked me over from head to foot. “It’s annoying. I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”

“I’ve been living under the sun for most of my life and I’m still as creamy white as the day I was born, but you…” She groaned. “You’ve been under the sun for a week after hiding out in darkness for five hundred years, and you already have a tan!”

I doubled over with laughter at her outburst.

“It doesn’t make sense.” She lifted her arms and stared at them. “The Prince of Darkness himself can get a tan, but no matter what I do, I never can.”

My laughter subsided. She was right. We’d been on our honeymoon for over a week now and a good chunk of our time had been spent outdoors. My skin had already bronzed nicely, but Sofia’s skin was still as pale as the day I’d first met her.

“That is odd.” I frowned, narrowing my eyes at her. “Are you sure you’re not a vampire, Sofia?”

She sighed and stretched out on her towel. “Ben used to tease me about it. He always got a beautiful tan during the summer while I just ended up red and sunburned.”

I kept my eyes on her, amused. Sofia was an old soul and she had accomplished so much at The Shade already. Moments like these, however, reminded me that she was an eighteen-year-old, young and with her whole life ahead of her, a life she’d decided to live with me.

I found it humbling. She’s mine. She willingly gave her life and love to me.

The expression in her green eyes changed to something more pensive. I didn’t need to ask.

“You miss him, don’t you?” I asked, referring to Ben Hudson. She’d grown up with the young man. He had been her best friend and the fact that he’d died not so long ago—at the hands of my older brother—wasn’t lost on me. It was a reminder of how resilient and strong Sofia was. She’d been through hell and back the past year.

She nodded. “Of course I do. And I feel guilty I haven’t spoken to Ben’s family since the funeral. It’s been difficult to contact them. I couldn’t bear the thought of facing them, you know? Besides, with what’s been happening with us and The Shade and… I haven’t even really thought about them until now. That’s awful, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Sofia. There was no way you could’ve communicated with them.” I paused and gave it some thought. “But we’re out here… we can do whatever we want. Maybe we should pay them a visit.”

“We’re in Tahiti, Derek. Are you seriously proposing that we fly to California?”

“They deserved to be at our wedding, but since bringing them to The Shade wasn’t an option, I don’t see why we can’t visit them now.”

A smile broke into her lovely face as she gave me an affectionate look. “I love you, Derek Novak.”

I flashed her a wide grin and shrugged a shoulder. “I know.” I threw a plastic shovel toward her. “Now, get to work, lazy. You started this sandcastle. Come help me finish it.”

Sofia jumped up from her towel and she was in my arms, her slim form comfortably settling on top of me as she kissed me. Her kiss was gentle and sweet, and to my delight, lingering. Even with my eyes closed, I could sense the smile on her face—that beautiful smile that always had a way of melting my heart—that same smile that I got to see once our lips parted.

“I adore you, Derek. You know that, don’t you?” She grinned.

I squinted my eyes at her. “All right,” I drawled. “What do you want in exchange for that?”

“You.” She bit her lip. “Just you.”

She wrapped her legs around me and pulled me on top of her. Being with her was like a piece of heaven—one that I wished would last forever. But I knew that our honeymoon was borrowed time. It would soon be over, so I intended to enjoy every single moment.

I was needed back home. The Shade was crippled without us there—especially with the hunters looming over us and the discovery of the cure that had created all sorts of enemies and all kinds of threats—but this was my one shot at normalcy. This one-month honeymoon was the only time I could just be a young man in love with his wife.

I let all the responsibilities I had as ruler of The Shade roll off my shoulders. I had one month to have Sofia all to myself and I wasn’t going to trade that for the world.

Chapter 2: Vivienne

“We need your brother back here.” The blonde vampire slammed her palm down on my dining table, glaring daggers at me.

I sat still, maintaining a cool and collected front—a façade that was completely opposite to the chaos going on inside of me.

“Claudia, calm down,” my best friend, Liana Hendry, reprimanded our co-council, who was known for her mood swings and temper.

Yuri Lazaroff glared at Claudia, which was enough to reel her in and make her settle down in her seat beside him.

The surviving leaders of the twelve clans that composed The Shade’s Elite were all gathered around Aiden and me at my dining room table. When Derek and Sofia had left for their honeymoon, they’d left her father, Aiden, and me in charge of The Shade. We’d been tasked to “cooperate with the hunters” who’d been sent to “guard” the island. Little had we known what the hunters had in mind.

“The hunters are taking over The Shade. We can’t keep living this way. They’re calling all the shots. Did they even consult you and Aiden when they shut down the Port?”

The Port was the main entry point to the island. Recently, the hunters had placed it on full lockdown. No one was allowed to enter and no one was allowed to leave without their express permission. We were prisoners in our own home and the only explanation was a cryptic, “Orders.”

“We can take these hunters down, Vivienne,” Claudia hissed.

“That may be true, but at what cost? We can take down those who are present here at the island, but we stand no chance against a full-on attack from the hunters. We all know that.”

“Vivienne’s right.” Aiden nodded. He was the only human among us vampires, but if anybody knew how the hunters worked, it was him. “Under no circumstances can we afford to retaliate against them.”

“The problem is that they know that.” Cameron spoke up. “They’re using that knowledge against us.”

“They’re provoking you,” Aiden explained. “They want you to retaliate. They want you to lose your cool so that they have a reason to destroy you. These are hunters with decades of vendetta against vampires. Make no mistake about it—most of these hunters hate you with every fiber of their being.”

“Well, that’s comforting.” Claudia grimaced. “They can do whatever they want with us and there’s nothing we can do to make them stop.”

“Not if you want to maintain peace with the hunters, and that’s exactly what Derek wants us to do,” Aiden reiterated.

“It’s just one month,” I added. “We already have a week down. We’re immortals. What’s three weeks to us? Derek and Sofia will be back from their honeymoon and he can iron things out with the hunters.” That silenced everyone.

I felt ill at ease with the position Derek had placed me in. After having been captured by the hunters, imprisoned, tortured and brainwashed at their headquarters, I’d lost a huge part of who I was and everyone could tell. I wasn’t in the best condition to be running a kingdom waiting to implode or explode—depending on who was going to light the fuse.