Darkness Everlasting (Guardians of Eternity Series #3)by Alexandra Ivy
In the latest novel in the Guardians of Eternity series, Darcy Smith, a woman with a powerful secret, discovers a new world filled with ecstasy and dark passions.See more details below
In the latest novel in the Guardians of Eternity series, Darcy Smith, a woman with a powerful secret, discovers a new world filled with ecstasy and dark passions.
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By Alexandra Ivy ZEBRA BOOKS
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One As far as nightclubs went, the Viper Pit was by far the most expensive, the most elegant, and the most exclusive in the entire city of Chicago.
Oddly enough, it was also the most obscure.
There was no listing in the phone book. No gaudy ads on billboards, or flashing neon lights to reveal its location. In fact, the entire building was hidden behind a subtle glamour.
Anyone who was anyone knew how to find the place. And those anyones didn't include humans.
Moving among the marble pillars and glittering fountains were various demons, all indulging in a variety of nefarious activities. Gambling, drinking, exotic dancing, discreet (and not so discreet) orgies.
All of which cost a small fortune.
Delicious pastimes no doubt, but on this cold December night the vampire known as Styx was not interested in the activities available below the private balcony. Or even in the various demons who paused to perform a deep bow in his direction.
Instead he regarded his companion with a measure of resignation.
At a glance the two of them couldn't have been more different.
Well, that wasn't precisely accurate.
After all, they were both tall and blessed with the muscular bodies of all vampires. And they both possessed dark eyes and the prerequisite fangs. But that's where the similarities ended.
The younger vampire, Viper, had come from the northern Slavic lands and possessed the pale silver hair and even paler skin of his ancestors. Styx, on the other hand, had come from the hot lands of South America, and even after his transformation maintained the bronzed skin and proud angular features of the Aztecs.
Tonight he had put aside his traditional robe and chosen black leather pants, thigh-high boots, and a black silk shirt. He had assumed the garb would make him less noticeable as he traveled the streets of Chicago. Unfortunately, there was no means for a six-foot-five vampire with raven hair braided to his knees to go unnoticed.
Especially from the mortal women who held no defense against the thrall of vampires.
He had gathered nearly a half dozen adoring females as he had walked through the dark streets. At last he had taken to the rooftops to avoid their persistent attentions.
By the gods, he wished he could have stayed hidden in his caves, he acknowledged with a sigh.
For centuries he had lived the life of a monk as he had protected the Anasso, the leader of all vampires. He had been an enforcer and a guardian, rarely leaving the ancient vampire's side.
With the Anasso now dead he was being forced into the role of leader, and he was discovering that he could hide no longer. Not when there was one trouble after another plaguing him.
It was enough to annoy the most patient of demons.
"I am always delighted to have you as my guest, Styx, but I must warn you that my clan is nervous enough having you among us," Viper drawled. "If you don't stop scowling at me, they are bound to fear they will soon be without a clan chief."
Realizing he had allowed his attention to wander, Styx abruptly straightened in the plush leather chair. By instinct his hand lifted to touch the bone medallion tied around his neck.
It was a symbol of his people.
More than that, it was believed to be a means of passing spirits from one generation to another.
Of course, as a vampire Styx had no tangible memories of his life before rising as a demon. That didn't, however, keep him from holding on to at least a few of his more sacred traditions.
"I am not scowling."
Viper smiled wryly. "You forget, Styx, I have a mate, which means that I am intimately acquainted with every variety of scowls. And you, my friend, are most certainly scowling." The smile faded as the vampire regarded him with an expression of shrewd intelligence. "Why do you not tell me what is troubling you?"
Styx paused before heaving a faint sigh. He had to do this. Even if he would rather be flogged, flayed, and defanged than admit he needed help.
As clan chief for the territory, Viper was more familiar with Chicago than any other demon of his acquaintance. It would be beyond foolish not to accept his assistance.
"It's the Weres," he said abruptly.
"Weres?" Viper gave a low hiss. Like Cub and Cardinal fans, there was little love lost between vamps and the jackals. "What trouble are they brewing?"
"It has gone beyond mere trouble. They have left their recognized hunting grounds, and I have tracked at least a part of the pack to Chicago." Styx clenched his fists in his lap. "They have already killed several humans, and left them to be discovered by the authorities."
Viper didn't so much as flinch. Of course, it would take more than a pack of Weres to rattle the powerful vampire.
"There have been rumors of wild dogs roaming the alleys of Chicago. I did wonder if it might be the Weres."
"They have a new leader. A young Were named Salvatore Giuliani from Rome. A pureblood who is far too ambitious for his own good."
"Have you tried to reason with him?"
Styx narrowed his gaze. Whether he wanted the position or not, he was now leader of the vampires. Which meant that the world of demons bowed to his commands. Including the Weres.
So far, however, the newest packmaster had treated his duty to Styx with nothing more than disdain.
A mistake he would soon learn to regret.
"He refuses to meet with me." Styx's tone was as cold as his expression. "He claims that the Weres will no longer be subservient to other demons, and that any treaties that were made in the past are now void."
Viper lifted his brows, no doubt wondering why Styx hadn't already executed the beast.
"He's either very brave or very stupid."
"Very stupid. I have called for a meeting of the Commission, but it could take days if not weeks before they can be gathered in one place." Styx referred to the council that settled disputes between the various demon races. It was made of ancient oracles that rarely left their hidden lairs. Unfortunately, they were the only legal means of passing judgment upon the king or leader of another race without retaliation. "In the meantime, the reckless actions of the Weres threaten us all."
"My clan stands ready to offer assistance." A smile of anticipation touched Viper's lips. "If you want this Salvatore dead, I'm sure it can be arranged."
Styx could think of few things that would please him more than to order the death of Salvatore Giuliani. Unless it was sinking his own fangs in the mangy dog's throat.
There were times when being a responsible leader was a bitch.
"A tempting offer, but, unfortunately, the Weres are uncommonly devoted to this man. If he were to suddenly die, I don't doubt that the vampires would be held to blame. I hope to avoid all-out warfare for now."
Viper gave a small bow of his head. Whatever his own desires, he would concede to Styx's authority.
"You have a plan?"
"Hardly a plan, but I do hope that I might have discovered a bit of leverage over Salvatore." He pulled a small photo from his pocket and handed it to his companion.
For a moment Viper studied the small, delicate woman in the photo. With her short, spiky blond hair and green eyes far too large for her heart-shaped face, she looked like a beautiful urchin.
"Not my type, but certainly eye-catching." He glanced up. "Is she his lover?"
"No, but Salvatore has spent a considerable amount of money and energy in tracking this woman. I believe he has at last discovered her here in Chicago."
"What does he want with her?"
Styx shrugged. The vampires he had commanded to keep track of the unpredictable Were had managed to get their hands on the photo, as well as to follow Salvatore to Chicago. They couldn't, however, get close enough to discover the reasoning behind the man's obsession with the woman.
"I don't have the least idea, but she's obviously very important to him. Important enough that he might be willing to negotiate for her return ... if I am able to capture her first."
A hint of surprise touched the pale face. "You intend to kidnap her?"
"I intend to keep her as my guest until the Weres can be made to see reason," he corrected, his entire body stiffening as Viper tilted back his head to laugh with rich enjoyment. "What is so amusing?"
Viper pointed at the picture in his hand. "Have you taken a good look at this woman?"
"Of course." Styx frowned. "It was necessary to memorize her features in the event the picture was lost or destroyed."
"And yet you will willingly take her beneath your roof?"
"Is there some reason I should not?" Styx demanded.
"The obvious reasons."
Styx battled a flare of impatience. If Viper had information on the woman, why did he not just speak it instead of behaving in such a mysterious manner?
"You speak in riddles, old friend. Do you believe the woman might pose some sort of danger?"
Viper held up his hands. "Only in the manner any beautiful woman poses a danger."
Styx narrowed his gaze. By the gods, did Viper believe he was susceptible to the lures of a mere female? A mortal one at that?
If he wished a woman he had only to glance over the balcony. The nightclub was filled with females, and more than a few males, who had made their interest flamboyantly clear since he had walked through the door.
"The woman will be my hostage, nothing more," he said coldly.
Sensing Viper's lingering amusement, Styx impatiently pointed toward the picture. It was, after all, the reason he had come here in the first place.
"Do you know the location of the establishment she is standing in front of?"
"It's familiar." Pausing a moment, Viper gave a nod of his head. "Yes. It's a Goth bar. I'd say four, no wait ... five blocks south of here."
"I thank you, old friend." Styx was swiftly on his feet. He reached out to take the picture and replaced it in his pocket.
Viper pressed himself to his feet and placed a restraining hand on Styx's arm.
He swallowed back his surge of impatience. He didn't have time to linger. The sooner he captured the woman, the sooner he would know if she was indeed of importance to the Weres.
"What is it?"
"What are you going to do?"
"I told you. I intend to take the woman."
"Just like that?" Viper demanded.
Styx frowned in confusion. "Yes."
"You cannot go alone. If the Weres are keeping watch they are sure to try to stop you."
"I do not fear a pack of dogs," Styx retorted in a scornful tone.
Viper refused to relent. "Styx."
Styx heaved a sigh. "I will have my Ravens near," he promised, referring to the five vampires who had been his constant companions for centuries.
They were as much a part of him as his own shadow.
The silver-haired vampire was still not satisfied. "And where will you take her?"
"To my lair."
"Good God." Viper gave a sharp laugh. "You can't take that poor woman to those damp, disgusting caves."
Styx frowned. In truth he hadn't really considered the less than welcoming atmosphere of the caves he inhabited.
To him they were simply a place to remain safely out of the sun.
"Most of the caves are quite comfortable."
"It's bad enough that you're taking the woman hostage. At least take her someplace that has a decent bed and a few amenities."
"What does it matter? She is nothing more than a human."
"It matters because she is a human. Christ, they are more fragile than dew fairies." With swift, gliding steps, Viper moved toward the desk that consumed a large part of his office behind the balcony. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper. After scribbling a few lines, he dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small key. Returning to Styx, he placed both in his hands. "Here."
"What is this?" Styx demanded.
"A key to my estate north of the city. It's quiet and isolated enough for your purpose, but far more pleasant than your lair." He pointed to the paper. "Those are the directions. I'll alert Santiago and the rest of my staff to expect you."
Styx opened his mouth to protest. Perhaps his lair was not the most elegant or luxurious of places, but it was well protected and, more importantly, he was familiar with the surrounding landscape.
Still, he supposed there was something to be said for providing a bit of comfort for the woman.
As Viper had pointed out, humans were tediously fragile, and Styx knew that they were prone to a puzzling array of illnesses and injury. He needed her alive if she were to be of any worth.
Besides, it would keep him in a position to keep an eye on Salvatore.
"Perhaps it would be best to remain close enough to the city to negotiate with the Weres," he admitted.
"And close enough to call for assistance if you need it," Viper insisted.
"Yes." Styx pocketed the key. "Now I must go."
"Take care, old friend."
Styx gave a somber nod of his head. "That I can promise."
Gina, a redheaded, freckle-faced waitress was leaning negligently against the bar when the three men stepped into the Goth nightclub.
"Yowser, stud alert!" she shouted over the head-throbbing bang of the nearby band. "Now that is some grade A prime beef."
Lifting her head from the drink she was mixing, Darcy Smith glanced toward the latest patrons. Her brows lifted in surprise.
As a rule Gina was not overly particular. She considered anything remotely male and standing on two legs as grade A.
But on this occasion, well ... even grading on a curve they reached A status.
Darcy whistled beneath her breath as she studied the two closest to her. Definitely poster boys for the steroid generation, she acknowledged, eyeing the bulging muscles that looked chiseled from marble beneath their tight T-shirts and fitted jeans. Oddly both had shaved their heads. Maybe to set off the dangerous scowls that marked their handsome faces, or to emphasize the air of coiled violence they carried with them.
In contrast, the man standing behind them was built along far slighter lines. Of course, the elegant silk suit couldn't entirely hide the smooth muscles. Nor did the long black curls that brushed his shoulders soften the dark, aquiline features.
With absolute certainty Darcy knew that it was the smaller man who was the most dangerous of the trio.
There was a fierce intensity that crackled about him as he led his henchmen toward the thick crowd.
"The one in the suit looks like a mobster," she observed in critical tones.
"A mobster in an Armani suit." Gina flashed a smile. "I've always had a weakness for Armani."
Darcy rolled her eyes. She had never had an interest in designer clothes, or the sort of men who felt it necessary to wear them.
A good thing considering men in Armani suits were hardly a dime a dozen in her world.
More like once in a blue moon.
"What's he doing here?" she muttered.
The crowd at the underground bar was the usual mixture. Goths, metalheads, stonies, and the truly bizarre.
Most came to enjoy the heavy-rock bands, and to throw themselves around the cramped dance floor in wild abandon. A few preferred the back rooms that offered a wide variety of illegal pursuits.
Hardly the sort of place to attract a more sophisticated clientele.
Gina gave her hair a good fluff before reaching for her tray. "Probably here to stare at the natives. People with money always enjoy rubbing elbows with the riffraff." The woman grimaced, her expression older than her years. "As long as they don't get too dirty in the process."
Darcy watched the waitress efficiently sashay her way through the rowdy crowd with a small smile. She couldn't entirely blame Gina for her cynical nature. Like herself, the waitress was alone in the world, and without the education or resources to hope for a brilliant career.
Darcy, however, refused to allow bitterness to touch her heart. What did it matter if she was forced to take whatever job might come along?
Excerpted from Darkness Everlasting by Alexandra Ivy Copyright © 2008 by Debbie Raleigh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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