Ashes of the Day

Ashes of the Day

by PG Forte

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Overview

Damian and Conrad’s road has been a rocky one, and Damian is struggling to trust in the relationship he and Conrad now share—what seems like a perfect love. After all, it’s fallen apart before, why couldn’t it do the same again? Conrad has never been happier, but he lives in fear he’ll do something else to drive Damian away—this time permanently. And with everything in chaos around him, his control is slipping.

Julie has learned the interspecies relationships are a disaster. How could a vampire and a human ever be together? But even with another vampire, love isn’t easy.

Secrecy and conflict within the nest continues to grow, and Georgia’s hold on the deadly secret she carries begins to erode. What she hides threatens their entire species…

Each book in the Children of Night series is a standalone story and can be enjoyed in any order.
Series Order:
Book #1: In the Dark
Book #2: Old Sins, Long Shadows
Book #3: Now Comes the Night
Book #4: Ashes of the Day
Book #5: Fallen Embers
Book #6: To Curse the Darkness

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640630895
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 07/31/2017
Series: Children of Night , #4
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 317 KB

About the Author

PG Forte inhabits a world only slightly less strange than the ones she creates. Filled with serendipity, coincidence, love at first sight and dreams come true.

She wrote her first serialized story when she was still in her teens. The sexy, ongoing adventure tales were very popular at her oh-so-proper, all girls, Catholic High School, where they helped to liven up otherwise dull classes...even if her teachers didn't always think so.

Originally a Jersey girl, PG now resides with her family on the extreme left coast where she writes contemporary and paranormal romance in a variety of sub-genres.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Regret is a common human emotion, one that afflicts almost everyone from time to time. And periodic bouts of introspection, especially in the winter months when the old year wanes and the days grow short, is a common human pastime. Vampires would do well to avoid them both. When one's existence is shaped and colored by loss, such things are foolish expenditures of one's time and energy. Prolonged introspection is a trap that can lead one into despair. While regret is a vain and frivolous indulgence, a luxury no one who might possibly live forever can afford.

December 31, 1999 New Year's Eve

Damian leaned against the railing of the second-floor balcony and cast a jaded eye over the crowded ballroom below. The decorations were a tad overdone, in his opinion. Gaudy gold-and-silver Mylar festooned every surface — the bar, the tables, even the walls. The glare all but blinded him. Overhead, a billowing mass of champagne- and platinum-colored balloons were tethered to the ceiling, awaiting the stroke of midnight, when they'd be released. The last day of the year had dwindled down to the final hour. Y2K was on the verge, that ticking time bomb that would shortly send the world hurtling back toward the dark ages ... or not.

Either way, Damian could not find it in himself to be concerned, or even very interested, in the fate of the world. The new millennium, as most people counted it, was about to begin. For the time being, it was still 1999 and the throng of people gathered on the hotel dance floor was certainly partying like it.

Exhibiting far more enthusiasm than skill, the crowd sang loudly along with Prince's signature anthem as they bounced and gyrated to the music. The once-familiar song struck a bittersweet chord in Damian's heart and he closed his eyes as nostalgia overwhelmed him. How many times had he danced to this same record back when it was first popular? He didn't feel even remotely like dancing tonight. Hadn't felt like dancing in years.

Memories rose in his mind of a supple young body pressed tight against his own, warming his back, more often than not. He remembered arms holding him possessively close, sweet lips dropping kisses all along his cheek, his neck, his shoulder ...

He remembered the feel of strong hands splayed on his hips, guiding him as they moved together, thrusting, grinding, taunting each other with graphic reminders of everything they'd be doing together later in bed.

Oh, how he longed to feel that way again, careless and wanton, desired, loved. Oh, how he longed to hear that sexy voice whispering in his ear. To feel those muscular arms encircling his waist or his neck, or wrapped around his shoulders. To see that smile, hear that laugh, just one more time.

Knowing those wishes would never come true, that those days of joy and innocence were lost to him, gone for good, never to return, did nothing to improve his mood.

Folding his arms across his chest, he surreptitiously touched the small gold rings with which his nipples had been pierced. The rings had been Paul's originally, a final gift of sorts. Since he was Vampire, the pain had been mild and fleeting. The tiny wounds had healed almost instantly and had done nothing to ease the heavy sense of loss that weighed against his chest. Perhaps if the physical pain had been more intense, more prolonged, more on par with his emotional pain, it might have helped distract him from his inner turmoil. As it was, all he'd had to make do with was Conrad's anger. While that was certainly painful to endure, it didn't so much detract from Damian's distress as add to it.

"Slaves were once made to wear such things," Conrad had complained when he learned what Damian had done. "Is that your wish? To be thought of as a slave now? Is that how you want people to think of you? Is it how you want them to think of me?"

"¡Ay, puñeta!" Damian had snarled, baring his teeth and shocking himself with his own boldness. " Déjate de leches. Tell me, who are these people about whom you're so concerned? And what has any of it to do with you? Are the rings yours? Did you force me to wear them? No! So why should you have a say in this at all? Why do you even care what I do?" It was not his usual habit to disregard his sire's wishes so recklessly or to respond so rudely to his complaints. No one spoke to Conrad in that fashion. No one without a pronounced death wish, that is.

Is that what it's come to? Damian wondered. Am I so weary of drawing breath I'm looking to end it all? Perhaps he was.

"Silence," Conrad commanded. "You go too far. Have you forgotten who I am that you dare speak to me in this manner? Are you trying to make me lose my temper?"

Damian looked away. For all that a shudder ran through him when he contemplated the likely result of Conrad's losing his temper, he still couldn't honestly say no, that wasn't exactly what he was trying to do. He needed something, didn't he? Needed something drastic and extreme, something strong enough to pull him out of the abyss of grief he'd fallen into. Anything was preferable to what he was feeling now.

"Everything you do concerns me," Conrad said after a moment, his voice lower but no less intense. "Don't ever think otherwise. You're a part of me, Damian, a part of my family, blood of my blood. Nothing will ever change that. And I will always have a say. Always."

And that, Damian thought, was precisely where the problem lay. It was obvious that what Conrad objected to most of all was the idea of someone else's "mark" being made visible on Damian's body — a body Conrad still thought of as belonging to him, however little he wanted anything to do with it anymore.

Yes, the small bits of metal would last for centuries — another of Conrad's complaints, and far more valid than the rest, in that at least it was true. They were as permanent a reminder of Paul as any Damian could think of, something he would carry with him wherever he went, something he could keep symbolically close to his heart for potentially the rest of his life. But what right had Conrad to rage about that either? None at all. Not when he himself had two living, breathing vampire children to remind him of his last lover. As a bequest, they had no equal. As a memorial, nothing else could come close. Of that Damian had no doubts whatsoever. They were his one saving grace, the only things that made his life worth living ...

"A penny for your thoughts," Conrad said, appearing at Damian's elbow with two glasses of champagne in hand.

Damian started. As his mind returned to the present, the first thing that struck him was that the same song was playing — whether again or still he didn't know. Memories washed over him once more and his heart twisted in grief. How was it the years could flash by, while the minutes lagged? Time was cruel, fickle, wearisome. How much more could he bear before it broke him?

"What's wrong? Is one penny not enough? Perhaps you're holding out for more?"

"What are you talking about?" Damian snapped. "More what?"

Conrad frowned. "Why must you scowl at me in that fashion? I did not invent the phrase and I'm quite sure I used it correctly. If you think I meant to imply your thoughts were not worth very much, I assure you you're mistaken. I merely intended to inquire what was on your mind."

Damian sighed. "Of course. I beg your pardon. Your use of the vernacular is exemplary. But I have nothing whatsoever on my mind — not even a penny's worth." He waved at the dance floor. "I was merely observing the crowd."

"Ah." A pleased smile curved Conrad's lips. "Getting hungry, are we? Good. I'm pleased to hear your appetite's returning."

"No, I'm not particularly hungry." There was only one taste Damian was craving, and as he had virtually no chance of satisfying that craving ... "It all seems somewhat pointless, I'm afraid."

Conrad's smile disappeared. "Here," he said, handing Damian one of the glasses. "Take this, at least. You look as though you could use something."

"Thank you." Damian took the glass and looked at it with distaste. Here was something else he'd felt no inclination for in well over a decade. "But I'm not, as they say, in the mood for it."

"Hold on to it just the same," Conrad said when Damian attempted to give him back the glass. "You'd do well to keep up appearances." He studied him for a moment then asked, "Damian ... you would tell me if there was anything you needed, wouldn't you?"

"Of course," Damian replied dutifully, lying again because what was the point of anything else? The truth wouldn't do either of them a damn bit of good. But the next minute a jovial, not-completely-unfamiliar voice hailed them, raising the hair at the back of Damian's neck and causing his heart to race. Vampire.

Damian saw his own startled awareness reflected back at him in Conrad's eyes. Were there even more vampires here tonight? How had he failed to notice such a thing? How had Conrad?

"Quintano? Ah-ha, it is you! I thought I could not be mistaken. Well met, gentlemen." Conrad and Damian turned as one to face the potential threat. The speaker was a large, grizzled bear of a man with an imposing manner, shrewd blue eyes and hair that had turned prematurely grey some eight hundred years previous. The woman at his side was as dainty as he was large, young looking and vivacious, but with a hard glint to her eyes. Something about the proprietary way she clung to her companion's arm made it clear she'd fought hard for the right to do so and was not about to allow anyone to usurp her position.

It had been thirty years since Damian had come face to face with any vampires other than Conrad and the twins, but he'd always known that someday this moment would come. After all his vigilance, all the time he'd spent preparing for it, how ironic was it that now, when the time finally arrived, it should catch him off guard? He shuddered at the thought. This should not have happened. He should have been more alert.

At least Conrad appeared unperturbed. "Well met, indeed," he said, smiling genially, as though he hadn't a care in the world. "Hello, Jared. And the lovely Claudia — enchanting as ever, I see. What a pleasure it is to see you both again." His voice was calm, betraying none of the anxiety Damian himself was feeling as he scanned the surrounding area for the twins and cursed himself for his inattention. He should have been focused more on their surroundings and less on his hopeless memories. He should have kept an eye out for possible danger — that was what he was here to do, after all. It was all he was good for anymore and, clearly, he was failing even at that! He most certainly should have noticed sooner what was going on. If any harm came to the twins due to his own maudlin self-pity, he'd never forgive himself.

While Conrad bowed cordially over the lady's hand, Damian paid his respects to her mate. Jared was old and powerful. Not nearly as old or as powerful as Conrad, of course, but still deserving of courtesy. "Quite a surprise running into you two here tonight," Jared said, still eyeing Conrad intently. "Thought you'd relocated, moved your family out west. Heard you'd gone to California."

"Yes," Conrad agreed. "San Francisco. We've been established there for some time now."

Claudia smiled sweetly at Damian. "I'm so pleased to see you both — still together and still so handsome. I just knew the rumors that were circulating about the two of you must be false."

Damian suppressed a wince. "Indeed. One would be a fool to believe everything one hears." Although, in this case, one would be justified in doing so.

"Rumors?" Conrad stilled. "I was not aware there were any. What are they saying?"

Damian glanced at him in surprise. What was it that had suddenly made Conrad so tense? Did he imagine these rumors had something to do with the twins? The deadly gleam in his eyes, the set of his jaw, even the alert way in which he held himself all suggested that was the case, and that was not a good sign. This was not the place for bloodshed.

Damian sidled closer to Conrad, close enough to jostle his shoulder, in hopes that the contact would help put him at ease. "Now, now, querido, there's no need to get so upset. It's just idle gossip after all."

Blissfully unaware of the danger, Claudia smiled sympathetically at Conrad. "I can well understand your being annoyed about it. I assure you those of us who consider ourselves your friends were quite outraged on your behalf as well."

"Yes, well, thank you for that." Conrad's tone conveyed his confusion. He turned to frown inquiringly at Damian, his expression all but demanding an explanation.

"She means the rumors that we'd parted ways," Damian explained reluctantly. "I had mentioned them to you." How like Conrad to force Damian into embarrassing himself by having to discuss his greatest source of shame. Then again, as Conrad was well aware, those rumors were not rumors at all, but the cold, hard, humiliating truth. Conrad had ordered Damian from his house. He'd banished him from his life, disgraced him in the eyes of all who knew them. It was hardly surprising that such news as that would have traveled.

"Ah, yes. That." Conrad's mouth twisted. "Of course. I'd quite forgotten." Then he surprised Damian by wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling him close, squeezing so vigorously it was all Damian could do to keep from spilling his wine.

Jared shook his head. "It's no one's business but your own, of course. Still, people will talk. But no one has the right to tell another man how to run his own family. Discipline must be maintained, after all."

"Exactly," Conrad agreed. "Occasionally there comes a time when one might put one's foot down a little more harshly than one would like. No matter the provocation, at the end of the day, one's loved ones are still one's loved ones. One can't stay annoyed with them forever. At least, I would hope that's the case."

"Oh, indeed," Jared replied — more out of politeness than actual agreement, Damian couldn't help but think. Jared had a reputation for having both a hard fist and an unforgiving memory. "Discipline and kindness. Both of them together — that's the ticket. Too much or too little of either benefits no one."

"Such very wise words," Claudia murmured. Damian was sure he detected traces of spite and buried anger in her tone, and was reminded again that Claudia was Jared's spawn as well as his consort, a dual role similar to the one he himself once held with respect to Conrad. "But, according to the stories I heard, Mr. Quintano, the annoyance, so to speak, was on the other foot. 'Twas said it was Master Damian who'd decided to leave, and that you were quite devastated by your loss."

Conrad's jaw clenched. "Ah, I see. Well, thank you for clarifying that, my dear. As I said, I hadn't heard these rumors myself."

Damian blinked in surprise. Is that what was said? That it was Conrad who'd been devastated? It was the first he was hearing of it!

"It's a preposterous tale," Jared said, shooting a stern glance in Claudia's direction. "I never believed it for an instant. And you should not be repeating such nonsense."

Claudia bowed her head. "Of course. You're entirely right. Allow me to beg everyone's pardon for speaking out of turn."

"Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?" Damian said, shaking his head and smiling as though he found the subject amusing. "Everyone knows I find travel excruciatingly tedious at the best of times. Why, even when I'm under direct orders I can barely stand to go where I'm sent. I'm sure I can't think of any circumstance that would induce me to go off on my own!"

Conrad quirked an eyebrow. "How good of you to clear that up for us as well. I suppose I should count myself lucky that you agree to accompany me anywhere?"

"Speaking of travel, you're not thinking of relocating your family out this way again, are you?" Jared asked. Was the change of subject an attempt at easing the tension, or did it merely reflect Jared's concern at the thought of having to share his territory?

"No, not at all," Conrad replied. "I'm quite content to remain where I am. In fact, I plan to return to San Francisco almost immediately. I've been absent from home far too long."

Damian's chest tightened. Well, there was another nice surprise, and just when he'd thought his night could not possibly get any worse. It was all he could do to keep his dismay from showing on his face. Did Conrad really mean that? If he did ... where would that leave Damian?

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Ashes of the Day"
by .
Copyright © 2015 PG Forte.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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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