A Moment Before Midnight

A Moment Before Midnight

by Aziza Sphinx

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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In a carefully orchestrated set of events, Dakota Naverro finds herself face-to-face with Nicolay Constantine--a six-hundred year old Vampyre who seeks new meaning in his cumbersome existence and struggles to emerge from the dark shadows of his world. Through her innocence, he pegs Dakota as the one entity who could guide his way back to the light.

But, there are darker things from darker days--closely guarded truths, lurking and threatening the pair. Will Nicolay find his Dakota in time or will many lifetimes of lies be his downfall...and hers?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692972656
Publisher: Jessica Hosten
Publication date: 10/31/2017
Series: A Naverro Vampire Tale , #1
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Aziza Sphinx is a firm believer that reading and writing go hand and hand. A southerner through and through she loves her peaches and pecans while curling up with a good book. A master of resourcefulness her love of research leads her down paths of discovery that touch every aspect of her writing. Her love of reading ignited her passion for writing leading her to frequently fill page after page with tales of her beloved characters' adventures.

An influence and an adversary she loves to sprinkle facts about her beloved Georgia throughout her fictional worlds. Also writing under the name Ana'Gia Wright, her African American fiction novels subtly explore life challenges such as teen suicide, body image, and family dynamics through the experiences of her imaginary friends.

Read an Excerpt

* * * *

Chapter One

Pain snatched Nicolay from the darkness, his hands immediately going to his throat. Frantically he searched for any marks, any sign that what he had just experienced was real. For centuries nothing had disturbed the Dark Slumber. The intricate part of him inherited when he had become the undead engulfed him in security, allowing him a time of peace when he faced so much turmoil.

Lately though, something crept into the darkness. The sleep no longer offered comfort. Instead it bred fear, deception, and death. Dreaming was forbidden by the Dark Slumber and yet for the past two weeks dreams slithered their way into his mind's sanctuary.

"It must have been a dream," he said, shaking his head.

His shoulders relaxed and relief overcame him as he realized he was safe in his lair. Initially searching the room with his gaze, he only saw the dark outlines of the few items in his sparsely furnished home. The silhouettes of the unlit candles hung in the distance as well as the shadows of the contemporary chair and desk set and the armoire that occupied the other side of the room. He then searched the room with his power, spreading it first in one direction, then in another and ultimately in a circle surrounding his sarcophagus.

"Nothing. Nothing at all," he said to the empty space.

The rays of the setting sun beat on the walls of his lair, trying desperately to cook the flesh of the corpse Nicolay had become, but he was well hidden and safe. Centuries had passed since his rest had been interrupted, and even then, the dreams had been nothing like the one he'd just experienced.

This one had been more than just some light imagesdancing around in his mind, distracting him from the solution to an unknown problem. This one was laced with hatred and violence and had the makings of a child's nightmare hours after watching his first horror movie and consuming gobs of sweets. Never before had the images been so vivid, so lifelike.

Even when Kaida had called him, it was a subtle nudging, just enough to get him to explore the possibilities of the situation. But not this time. This time the message was very clear--someone wanted to get to him. Someone was reaching out to him, urging him to take action, to follow some pre-ordained path. Whatever it was wanted more than just to make him choose. It was forcing him to react.

He lay back down, trying to calm his mind into clarity, attempting to recall the details of the haunting dream. He closed his eyes and concentrated, searching through the still vivid images. Just as if he'd stepped back into the dream, the images of the temple surrounded him. He stood before a bloodstained altar in the center of the temple. The place seemed all too familiar to him, but he couldn't quite figure out why.

In all of his six hundred years, he didn't recall ever visiting a temple.

He visually searched the walls, admiring the engravings.

The engravings were also familiar. Looking down at his arms and back to the walls he noticed the markings on the walls were identical to the tattoos covering his body.

He'd never known life without the tattoos. His adoptive mother had told him they'd adorned his body from the day he came to her as an infant. As he grew, so did the tattoos. They never distorted. Like magic, the images were always in direct proportion to the changes his body experienced.

For years he had searched, trying to find someone, anyone who could tell him the meaning of the pictures, but to no avail.

He'd searched libraries in over a hundred countries, reading book after book of modern and ancient civilizations, passionately searching for another who might have shared his plight, knowing he couldn't possibly be the first to be blessed, or cursed, with the markings.

In his days as a young man, the days prior to the change, he'd contacted historians hoping someone had discovered markings similar to his on the walls of some hidden tomb. Each letter he received painted the same picture. No one recognized the markings. No one was able to shed light on where he had come from, who his people were, or why had he had been sent away.

He'd finally come to realize the images were those of a people long lost, long forgotten. Images of a people who'd chosen to remain hidden in the depths of history. He had given up after three hundred years, accepting the markings as a part of him, a detail defining who and what he once was.

Once again, Nicolay attempted to remember any additional details of the dream. The images momentarily eluded him, but then she came to him, appearing in his mind like the light of a firefly in the pitch-black night. He couldn't see her face, but her scent filled his nostrils, soothing his mind. Even as he relived the memory of the dream, her scent surrounded him in his lair following him from the depths of his mind into reality.

She wore a long cloak made of animal skin which covered her from head to toe. The hood draped carefully over her face, hiding even the slightest of silhouettes. She held something out to him, something square, quite possibly a book of some sort.

Initially hesitant, although not quite sure why, Nicolay finally reached out and took the object from her. It was then he noticed she was adorned with many of the same tattoos as he.

Who was she? He dared not ask for fear of how she might react. As she released her hold on the object, she turned and began to walk towards the entrance to the temple. She spoke softly to him, the pain of parting with the gift tearing away at her existence.

Though just a whisper, her voice echoed as if it wasn't just one voice but the voice of a chorus, one that had not quite mastered the art of singing in unison.

She turned to face him one last time and spoke clearly, decisively signifying the importance of his understanding her words: "I have returned what is rightfully yours. So it begins."

Then, turning abruptly on her heels, she was gone.

Opening his eyes to once again return to his reality, Nicolay rose from the confines of his sarcophagus. He hadn't slept with the cover open in years and yet, as he had retreated to his humble abode to escape the rise of the fiery sun, he'd decided the darkness of the lair was enough. He felt the need to be exposed to the world, to test fate, to leave himself all the more vulnerable to true death.

Propped up on one end, the sarcophagus resembled that of any ancient Egyptian ruler. The exterior was trimmed in gold, a picture of his face engraved in the cover, the eyes made of jade, the nose, a perfect replica of his own as if someone had poured a mold and attached it to the coffin's exterior. He'd paid the carpenter and artist well for the custom-made sarcophagus and it had all been worth it.

As he stepped from the interior of the sarcophagus he heard something hit the floor. The sound of the impact echoed against the smooth walls of the lair. With a wave of his hand, the candles awakened from their long slumber, bursting to life, flames stretching, glad to be free. He reached down and picked up the object, the soft fur tickling the tips of his fingers.

His voice was but a whisper, "No, it couldn't be."

Lifting the book from the floor he ran his fingers over the rough leather bound edges of the cover. The top of the cover was animal skin, soft and furry under his touch. The pattern was familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. The edges had been sewn together with strips of what appeared to be cowhide. He didn't recognize the hieroglyph on the front, although the flow of the lines reminded him of his tattoos. Opening the book, the sound of the leather stretching pierced his ears, paining his keen sense of hearing.

The first few pages held drawings of the outside of the temple in his dream. He followed the stair-like exterior to the peak. He wondered how they had been built all of those years ago with no technology, but somehow, inside he knew. He felt a connection to the temple, like it had been his home at some point in time. It was the strangest feeling, to know somehow you had a connection to a place you had only visited in a dream.

The next pages contained drawings of totems, identical to two of the images drawn facing each other on either side of his heart. He traced the pattern in the book and then on his chest.

Although he had yet to feed, the outline felt warm to the touch.

He knew the warmth was impossible. His mind was probably just playing tricks on him, but it felt so real, the warm tingling sensation encircling his chest at the exact spot where his hand rested.

Oddly enough, the book seemed to have some effect on his body. The image on the page began to cast a soft glow. As the images on the page began to illuminate more he felt the images on his body begin to heat with some unknown flame lying just below the surface, warming the flesh from the inside out. He placed his hand over his heart, willing the burning to cease and it did. The fierce burning reduced to just a tingle below the surface of the skin.

Nicolay's eyes turned down to the image on the page. It too had returned to its original state, a dark amber color brushed lightly across the paper.

"But what does it all mean?"

As he spoke the words, he turned the page. He ran his hand over the drawing of a dagger. If the picture had been drawn to scale, the dagger was only a few inches longer than his hand.

The butt of it appeared to be jade fashioned into a perfect sphere. The blade was engraved from the handle to the tip. He couldn't understand the writing but he was sure the dagger had once belonged to him. He placed his hand over the picture and closed his eyes, but as hard as he tried, he couldn't remember.

None of this made sense, not the woman in his dream, not the book, not the dagger, none of it. He just couldn't figure out the connection.

Turning another page, images of villagers celebrating danced around the paper. Two men and a woman stood in the entrance way of the temple, the larger man holding what appeared to be an infant child, presenting it to the other villagers.

A page later, he saw a cloud of darkness surrounding the village. Drawings of those running for their lives dotted the page covering every corner, every open space. Horror masked each face. The terror in their eyes was unmistakable. Something sinister had occurred in the village that pages before had been celebrating the addition of a new life.

But it was the next page that was the most troublesome. A figure covered from head to toe by a cloak stood at the home of one of the villagers. The picture depicted the couple handing a baby covered in strange markings to the cloaked figure.

"A woman."

Now that he took a moment and thought about it, the figure did seem familiar to him. By the look of the well-groomed hands, the fragile curve of her fingers, the figure was definitely a woman. Then he saw them, the markings, the same markings covering his body, and the same markings the woman in his dream had.

Once again the hood of the cloak hid her face, but the markings couldn't be mistaken, the woman the couple was handing the baby to had to be the same woman who'd visited him in the dream. It was her, had to be her, but who was she? He started to flip the pages, searching for the answers.

Page after page depicted his life. Each picture illustrated a significant event. The day he came to the Hopi village as an infant, the woman who cared for him as a child, days he lived as a boy in the house of an elder and the first time he killed an antelope were all depicted.

The first pages were happier times. But for every happy time, Nicolay knew the book would show him the desolate times.

When he reached the page he dreaded seeing, the day his life had been stolen from him, he almost cried. The day he had been attacked and morphed from a mere human man into the monster he was today stared back at him.

Who had known the attack was going to occur? How had they known? And if they did know, why didn't anyone stop it from happening? The questions mocked him. They urged him to turn the page adding hope that maybe their answers lay just on the other side.

Nicolay turned the page hoping to get a glimpse of the answer to the questions that had been burned into his mind for centuries.

However, to his surprise the rest of the pages were empty. He turned page after page after page, but each time the nothingness stared back at him, taunting him until he could bear it no longer.

He slammed the book closed.

"Who are you? Why do you haunt me so? What does it mean?"

He bellowed the words knowing no one was there to answer his pleas. No one was there to explain the mysteries his life had been for so long. He was as he always was, alone.

Trapped in more despair than any person should be allowed to suffer, he threw the book in the armoire, quickly dressed, and exited his lair to feed the everlasting thirst that plagued him.

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