Dark Days

Dark Days

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by Caitlin Kittredge
     
 

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DARK DAYS
Caitlin Kittredge

Jack Winter and his girlfriend Pete Caldecott have encountered a lot of strange creatures in the Black—primordial demons, hungry ghosts, witch hunters, and the Prince of Hell himself, Belial. When Belial asks Jack for one last favor to help him keep his throne, Jack may have finally met his

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Overview

DARK DAYS
Caitlin Kittredge

Jack Winter and his girlfriend Pete Caldecott have encountered a lot of strange creatures in the Black—primordial demons, hungry ghosts, witch hunters, and the Prince of Hell himself, Belial. When Belial asks Jack for one last favor to help him keep his throne, Jack may have finally met his match because Belial's rival is something that no one—human or demon—has ever seen before…

There's a revolution brewing in Hell, and Jack might be the only one who can stop Belial's rival from ripping a hole between the Black and the mortal world—a catastrophe that could be worse than Armageddon. But to win, Jack will have to do the one thing he swore he never would: become a servant to the Morrigan, and risk losing everything he knows and loves…including Pete.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Kittredge knows how to create a believable world, and her fans will enjoy the mix of magic and city grit.” —Publishers Weekly

“Non-stop supernatural action… a wild ride.”—Darque Reviews

 

 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466834187
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/30/2013
Series:
Black London Series , #6
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
281,880
File size:
685 KB

Read an Excerpt

Dark Days


By Caitlin Kittredge

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Caitlin Kittredge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-3418-7


CHAPTER 1

Everything tastes like ashes. The air above London is black no matter the time of day, smoke billowing from the burning districts south of the Thames. Sirens scream, echoing from building to building. People scream as hungry things chase them through the street, now the graveyard of cars long abandoned.

Not all people are victims. Some roam the darker, narrower parts of the city in packs, falling on man and creature alike.

Jack Winter watches the fires as they flourish and die. He watches the wraiths flit out over the water. He watches the zombies and the gangs alike feast on the flesh of men.

He tastes the ashes, the only thing that remains of a world that was once daylight and free of the knowledge that things like this existed, nearly close enough to touch.

But that wall fell, like all walls do, victims of time or pressure or circumstance. Now there is no division, no dark and daylight. There is just this world, burning and broken, and in it Jack Winter is alone.

* * *

Jack hated waking up. At times, he would keep his eyes pressed shut and imagine that when he opened them he'd see the ceiling of his old flat, stained and blank. That instead of a car fire or raw sewage, he'd smell coffee and a fry up. That instead of the constant sirens and blared announcements from the Territorial Army tanks roaming the streets, he'd hear his daughter and his wife laughing.

He opened his eyes. He could see straight through to the sky. It was as black as the rest of the place, and he sat up and looked around at the hundreds of other bodies scattered across the floor of King's Cross. Some slept, some smoked or ate tinned food with furtive expressions.

A few aid workers walked among them, and one started toward him with a vile meal-replacement bar that was quickly becoming the only thing you could reliably find to eat in London, if you weren't into roasting stray cats or cannibalism.

Jack waved her off. The other poor bastards in this place needed food a lot more than he did. King's Cross was one of the last safe zones in London, surrounded by holdouts from the army who hadn't cut and run when they started getting ripped apart by lycanthropes and zombies.

He hated the safe zones. Nothing but sad civilians, dirty and battered, always with fear in their eyes as they scoured each individual face for signs that it did, in fact, belong to a human.

The psychic frequencies in King's Cross were calm, though, and it was the only place he could get any sleep. Whitechapel used to blank out his second sight with the sheer volume of static from the many bad deeds wrought on its earth, but now it was alive with ghosts, poltergeists, and wraiths — guaranteed high-octane nightmare fuel for someone like Jack.

Besides, he didn't want to go back there. Lily and Pete had been there. And now ...

"Are you sure you're not hungry?" The nurse held out the wrapped bar to him. Jack caught a whiff and wrinkled his nose.

"Food's not really a priority these days, luv."

She shoved the bar against his chest, until he was forced to take it or let it drop and shatter. He had to hand it to the civilians — they'd figured it out pretty quickly. Chop the head off a zombie, ward your safe spaces against the dead, and don't make skin-to-skin contact with anyone. Magic, especially black magic, used touch as a contact point, and everyone in the city had taken to swaddling up.

"Try to keep your strength up," the nurse said, and moved on.

They all believed in it so quickly, Jack thought, watching a little girl sitting next to her sleeping parents, reading a coverless book with burnt edges. In magic, in the people who used it, in the creatures it spawned.

Sure, it had caused a mass panic and destroyed London as they knew it, but they all believed.

He could never have imagined such a thing when he was the girl's age, still realizing that seeing and speaking to the dead wasn't something every snot-nosed brat could do.

She caught his eye. She and her parents were Indian, but he could see Lily in her face.

Who am I kidding, Jack thought. He saw Lily in every little girl's face.

"Here." He gave her the protein bar. She frowned at him.

"Don't you need this?"

Jack stood up and shouldered his kit, the stuff he'd managed to grab from his flat before they had to run. Before ...

"No, darling," he told the girl. "Not where I'm going."

CHAPTER 2

The safe zone extended from King's Cross to the Ice Wharf on the canal, and down to Clerkenwell Road. A tiny slice of what had once been the most alive city in all the world, at least as far as Jack was concerned. London had so many layers of magic and death and blood and sex all piled on top of one another, you could never plumb the depths. That city, the one kept safely out of civilian gaze, and the daylight London, made it a place he'd never wanted to leave.

Now he couldn't leave, because from all reports the rest of England was just as fucked.

Just shy of the barrier, Jack slipped through the wire and down the boarded-up steps to the Angel tube station. He could take the tunnels to Blackfriars and from there one of the ferry gangs would take him across the Thames.

He thought about the last meeting he'd had with Ian Mosswood, a Fae creature who was one of the few not to abandon London for their own realm, the Courts. Mosswood, usually a chap who could pose for billboards, looked ragged, wrapped in a black coat, his salt-and-pepper hair mostly white. Fae didn't last long in the Black or the daylight world unless they were ancient and strong, which Mosswood was.

When they'd met, Jack had had the unpleasant realization that the world was a lot more buggered than he'd let himself believe.

"You know you can't possibly succeed, right?" Mosswood had asked, keeping a close eye out for both the scavenger gangs and the menagerie of flesh-ripping creatures that roamed outside the safe zones.

"Cheers, Ian," Jack said. "Always like to hear that I'm doomed from the start."

Mosswood handed him a scrap of vellum on which was both a liberal spatter of blood and an address.

"I'm dying," Mosswood said. "Do you realize how absurd that is? I am eternal and yet I am dying."

Jack glanced at the paper now, then shoved it back in his pocket. The address was south of the river, deep in Elemental territory, and he remembered the sinking sensation in his gut that he'd been careful not to let Mosswood see.

"We all have to go sometime, mate," he'd told Mosswood.

"You'd do well to remember that," the Green Man replied. "I won't see you again, Jack. This world has only a little time before there's nothing left but the ashes and the demons."

"And the cockroaches," Jack had said, with a levity he didn't feel. His sense of humor had abandoned him on the day he'd left Whitechapel.

"Like I said," Mosswood muttered, and then turned and limped away.

Jack shook off his memories and forced himself to focus. The tunnels to the river were populated with nasty monsters, of course. Jack had a light, his hexing abilities, and a liberal spray of iron-and-salt packed shotgun rounds for anything that made it past the first line. Pete had had her old service weapon, which he was glad of when things went pear shaped, but the shotgun was better if you weren't a former crack-shot police inspector like his wife. Point and shoot, no skill required.

The things north of the river were mostly scavengers, wraiths and the like that would rather feed on the dead than the living. Then there were the mole people, as Pete had called them, the humans who'd taken to the underground when it all kicked off.

And the ghosts. Thick, packed, like commuters waiting for a train. Many of them had been, when they'd died, and most were so new they didn't even realize they were dead.

Jack sighed, doing his best to avoid brushing against the silent, staring spirits that packed the tunnel. His head throbbed.

He had to get to the south side of the river before dark. He'd been chasing his daughter for months, ever since he had ripped Lily out of Pete's arms.

Some of those months, the ones after Pete, had been wasted crawling inside any bottle he could find. He would have gone back to being a dirty smack addict if anyone in the greater London area had any drugs left.

Then he'd picked himself up, and set about getting Lily back. Jack had spent his life on the shadow side, so he learned how to sneak in and out of the safe zones, learned who dealt information and who just played at it, learned the names of all the big hard men who controlled South London now, and he decided that he'd either get Lily back or he'd be dead soon enough.

These days, either option was acceptable.

Of course Jack knew he was only keeping Lily alive to torment him. That Jack was being batted around like a cat toy. Jack had decided it didn't matter. All of this had happened. He'd started life in shit; he'd clawed his way into a filthy, miserable existence as a psychic too strong to shut off his own visions, and when he'd finally found a bit of happiness, that was when it really hit the fan.

Jack was acutely aware as he climbed the broken escalator at Blackfriars that if he'd just stayed in his tip and continued shooting up, none of this would ever have happened.

That was the sting of hindsight. Jack couldn't imagine being happy, and then he was. He couldn't imagine his happiness being ripped away from him, and it was, every last bit. And looking back, it was so fucking obvious that it hurt just as much as a boot to the gut. He wasn't supposed to be happy and live his life and kick off as an old man with a bunch of grandkids. Jack had only ever existed to burn the world, whether he wanted to or not.

The demons and the old gods and everyone with sense who'd ever met him saw it. He was the only one who had thought things might turn out differently.

Breaking glass, screams, and bootfalls reached his ears as he exited the station, and Jack sighed again. Riots were practically an hourly occurance now, but he didn't have time to waste on avoiding this one. The sun — what little could be seen through the constant haze of soot and smoke — was already perilously low.

A broken brick whizzed past his ear, and he saw a human gang — the Front Street Boys out of Twickenham, judging by their colors — converging and beating on a zombie. The thing already had one leg off and its face stove in, thrashing as it struggled to scream through its mouth sewn up with red thread.

The Stygian Brothers were turning out zombies with the regularity of a biscuit factory, some half-arsed gibberish about giving the dead of London a second chance. All they gave the rest of the city was a great big fucking pest problem, by Jack's reckoning, but that was a Stygian for you. Corpse-botherers with no damn sense at all.

Jack avoided the festivities as best he could, heading for the docks where you could find a ferry south, if you were either not human or suicidal.

Before he'd gone far, though, he heard screaming of a different kind — human and panicked. Not that human screams were rare outside the safe zones, but this was bookended by the kind of cackling that Jack attributed to men who enjoyed inflicting pain on smaller, weaker things.

He rounded the corner into an alley that dead-ended at the water. Once, the area had been posh, like most of the wharfs. When he'd first landed in London, the Docklands had been a rotting mass of wharves and junkies and tips falling into the river. Over the years, the tips had been knocked down and the junkies shuffled off to places like Peckham, and the wharves supported posh shops, restaurants where the prices were longer than the menus, and gleaming towers of flats that Jack always figured cost a quid to even look at.

Now it was all burned or overrun with the gangs and the zombies. He could smell the river from here. It was like London had reverted to its dirty, blood-soaked roots. A river full of sewage, a sky full of smoke, and streets full of people so desperate they were worse than animals.

There were four of them surrounding the source of the screaming, a woman with a backpack which one of the hooligans was busy ripping into.

They didn't sport colors, except for the rusty streaks across their bare torsos. Jack dropped his head to his chest. Fucking cannibals. What was it about people that made them decide the quickest way to deal with the end of the world as they knew it was to turn each other into entrées?

He should just walk away. There were four of them, and often enough cannibalism led directly to necromancers, all too happy to have a band of homicidal nutters who'd work for long pig. Bad enough the cannibals ran about feasting on human flesh; being juiced up on black magic was just unfair.

Still, Jack picked up a length of pipe lying in the street and marched forward. He hit the one rummaging through the pack first, laying him out on his face, and then banged the pipe off an overturned metal rubbish bin. "Oi!"

The cannibals turned as one. Their eyes were as empty as the next addict's, and Jack sighed. They were definitely running on sorcery.

Jack set himself, gripping the pipe so he felt the threads bite into his palm. "Come on, then," he said. "Let's get this over with."

The leader was a skinny bloke with short hair, pasty and small. He might have been one of the posh twats occupying this stretch of the wharves before it all kicked off. Jack threw a leg-locker hex on him and watched him go down, one of his friends falling with him. Jack took the brunt of the third's charge on his shoulder, the cannibal glancing off and going past. He responded with a hit to the kidneys with the pipe, and another to the back of the cannibal's skull when he went down.

And another, just for good measure.

The woman screamed something, and Jack turned to see the leader up and bearing down on him. He wondered, as the man closed his teeth on the sleeve of Jack's leather, why she hadn't done a rabbit as soon as he'd shown up. Might explain why she'd gotten caught by cannibals in the first place — she was too fucking stupid to live.

Jack let himself fall. The bloke wasn't big enough to pin him, and Jack rolled them and pressed the pipe across the bloke's throat. He kept pressing until the bastard twitched and went still.

He realized he'd forgotten about the leader's friend when he felt a waft of air across the back of his neck as the cannibal wrapped his hands around it.

Then there was a report, a sting in his ears as the shot echoed back and forth from the narrow alley walls, and the woman straightened up from her pack holding a handgun, an old-fashioned revolver that gits in movies called a .38 Special.

The cannibal dropped, the exit wound in his chest the size of Jack's balled fist.

"Fuck," he said, sitting down hard. The woman picked up a piece of gauze from her pack and approached him, wiping what turned out to be cannibal blood off his face.

"You know," she said. "You have a shotgun strapped to your back. Why go to all this trouble?"

Jack blinked at the nurse from King's Cross. Her face was scratched and dirty, and the collar of her scrubs hung in rags, but she looked a lot more together than he felt. "What the fuck are you doing out here?" she asked, tossing the gauze away, sticking the gun in her waist, and gathering up the wreckage of her pack.

"I could ask you the very same question," he said.

"Not everyone who needs help made it to the safety line," she said. "And now the army won't let them in if they make it, so I'm out here."

She hauled Jack to his feet with surprising ease for a woman who'd almost been turned into carpaccio. He let her. He wasn't young any longer, and a dust-up like that belonged to the Jack Winter who strode through the streets in steel toes and black leather, daring someone to give him an excuse to shed blood. His own or the other bloke's, it hadn't mattered.

"How about you?" she said. "You one of those mages? The ones who claim they aren't doing sorcery even though everyone knows they fucking are?"

Jack shook his head. If she'd seen the leg-locker hex, he'd deny it. People in the safe zones hated mages. They hated magic, period. Believed in it, saw it with their own eyes, and hated it. That bit hadn't changed — give the human race something it didn't understand and it got right down to the business of burning it out of existence.

"Just heading across," he said.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Dark Days by Caitlin Kittredge. Copyright © 2013 Caitlin Kittredge. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Kittredge knows how to create a believable world, and her fans will enjoy the mix of magic and city grit.” —Publishers Weekly

“Non-stop supernatural action… a wild ride.”—Darque Reviews

 

 

Meet the Author

Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the Nocturne City and Black London series, as well as several short stories. She is the proud owner of an English degree, two cats, a morbid imagination, a taste for black clothing, punk rock, and comic books. She's lucky enough to write full time and watches far too many trashy horror movies.
Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the Nocturne City and Black London series, as well as several short stories. She started writing novels at age 13, and after a few years writing screenplays, comic books and fan-fiction, she wrote Night Life, her debut novel. She is the proud owner of an English degree, two cats, a morbid imagination, a taste for black clothing, punk rock, and comic books. She’s lucky enough to write full time and watches far too many trashy horror movies. She lives in Olympia, Washington.

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Dark Days 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Under_The_Covers_BookBlog More than 1 year ago
~Reviewed by SUZANNE & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog …what I really like and come back for more of is Jack and Pete, they aren’t your typical hero and heroine, in general the couple are foul mouthed, rude and aren’t afraid to play dirty to win. ~ Under the Covers The Apocalypse is Nigh…again. Jack Winter’s visions shows London in ashes, the ones he loves dead or taken and the wall between the worlds crashing down; mingling the hosts of Hell and all the vile creatures of the Black in with the daylight world. To stop the coming apocalypse Jack may have to sacrifice more than his life and finally join the Morrigan leaving all he loves behind. I love the Black London series, it is dark and gritty, filled with difficult situations and has one of the most interesting leading couples, Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott. Dark Days continues the tradition set in the previous books in this series; setting up seemingly hopeless situations that never have an easy answer and a victory clinched at the maw of defeat through cleverness, luck and sheer ballsiness. And, although I love Ms Kittredge’s plots and the ideas she puts in her books, what I really like and come back for more of is Jack and Pete, they aren’t your typical hero and heroine, in general the couple are foul mouthed, rude and aren’t afraid to play dirty to win. But I like them, they are interesting and the dark side of each of them makes the more so. They are also a perfect match for one another and I love how their relationship has grown through out the series creating a marriage so strong that sometimes the weight of the apocalypse rests on it. What I also love about these books is the writing, everything is brought to vivid life and sucks you deeper into the book. For example the dialogue is excellent, the way Jack and Pete speak, especially Jack, he manages to be both crude but also poetic and clever at the same time, like below: There was no higher power. There were the beings older and hungrier than you, and there was avoiding being stepped in when they got a hair up their bum cracks This was another fantastic installment in the series, although it did end on a little bit of a cliff hanger, which means I now can not wait to get my hands on the next book!
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