In the near future when Immortals have completely usurped control over all mankind, one Immortal family, the Ventonis, fight to protect all remaining human children. However, when undead creatures begin mercilessly
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By Ann Smith
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Ann Smith
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Message
Charles violently thrust the door open and slammed it shut, locking it behind him. Quickly he turned and looked around. His eyes darted about the room inspecting each surface. Almost out of breath, he sprinted to the large cherry oak desk that sat at the far corner of the room. Come on! This is an office, there has to be one here somewhere, he thought.
He reached over to the printer and grabbed a few sheets of paper. As he slammed them down on the desk, he immediately began to open each drawer. He could hear the voices through the door. The nurse was no doubt on the phone, calling security.
"No, he just ran into the office ..." Charles half listened to her as he threw open a new drawer and began to rummage through it. Oh come on ... come on! He thought with urgency. This is so stupid, there has to be one here somewhere!
"No Dr. G isn't in his office," the nurse's voice bled back into his concentration, "he's with another patient." She paused again for a few seconds, listening to someone on the other end.
"No, we think he is going to kill himself. Get down here now!" she yelled. Charles heard the phone slam and a new wave of adrenaline surged through his system. I'm running out of time.
He thrust another drawer open directly below the printer. Found it! He looked down at the pen and immediately began to scribble out his message. The door handle jiggled behind him.
"Mr. Wright," he heard the Doctor speak through the door, "you don't have to do this. We have other options. Let us help you, please."
Charles tried to block out the noise as he scribbled down the final words "I'm sorry" in his note.
A gruff voice bombarded through the door next. "Excuse me Doc, step aside." There was silence for a second and then loud bang rang through the office, causing Charles to startle. "Sir, open up the door or I will," the gruff voice demanded.
The second hand ticking on the wall seemed to get louder as Charles stood, staring at the door. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small handgun. Take the safety off he remembered from a handbook he read the night before. The door started to bulge in with each hit it took from the officer. It's now or never, he thought looking down at the gun.
He quickly laid on the ground, not wanting the bullet to hit someone if it went through him. Just before the door burst open he placed the gun to his neck and quickly pulled the trigger.
Charles heard a high pitch ring right after the jolt from the blast. He immediately lost function and feeling of his body. Why can I still hear, he thought alarmed. Why am I still thinking? My brain must still be working until it suffocates, he thought calmly. All feelings of anxiety were completely gone. I just have to wait a few more moments. Charles heard the door open a second later.
"Call the medics, we need to get him over to the emergency room," he heard the doctor yell out.
"God, how old is he?" the gruff voice asked.
"He's only twenty five," the nurse responded.
"What did you tell him? What did he come in for?" another voice questioned.
"He just got some test results ..." the nurse began. The words quickly became muffled sounds and then silence.
William, sat impatiently on the edge of his bed, debating whether or not to leave the compound before the festivities began. He knew his father, and Don of the Ventoni family, would have his head if he was late to the gathering. Even so, the thirst of blood hung heavy on his mind. The possibility that it would be a while before he got a chance to feed again was what finally pushed him to quickly make his escape from the grounds before all the others began to gather in the Great Hall.
William looked into the window of the small, unremarkable house and felt an excitement of his own. He didn't know exactly what the signing of the pact would fully entail for him, but he knew it would definitely put a damper on his midnight runs to the house that stood enticingly in front of him.
The door was closed but unlocked, just as it always had been. As soon as he walked through the threshold he could smell her scent calling to him. He could already hear her pulse steadily beat in his ears. He found his way to the bedroom of the nearly dark house with the ease of familiarity.
William looked down at her, listening to her slow, steady breathing which only came with sleep. The young woman's milky white skin was dyed red by the bedside lamp she kept on, waiting for nights such as this.
William lay in the bed beside her, gently wrapping his arms around her, allowing his body to mold to hers through the covers. The young woman began to stir and she slowly rolled over to face him.
"I thought you would never come," a look of intense sadness, raw in her eyes. Even through the dark, he could make out the color as it rushed into her cheeks.
After a few moments of stillness, William reached up and softly pushed her thick black hair away from her neck and shoulders. Her eyes continued to gaze back into his in anticipation. Quiet moans began to escape her lips as William sunk his teeth into her. With each beat of her heart the taste became stronger and sweeter on his tongue. He began to swallow faster and stronger until he felt he would drown in the warm sweetness. As the minutes passed her moans became more quiet.
Before he drank too much, William pulled away, and untangled her arms and legs, which somehow ended up wrapped around him. He stood, leaving her nearly lifeless on the bed. The only indication she was still alive were the occasional shallow breaths that crept past her lips. To keep from doing any more damage, William placed her back under the covers and waited impatiently for her body to return to a safe temperature. Quietly, he walked over to the red lamp and turned it off. Blue moonlight flooded the room, reminding William of how quickly he needed to make his way back to the compound.
William looked back over his shoulder at his sleeping mistress. The color was already returning to her cheeks. Her breathing fell into a steadier rhythm. After a few minutes, she began to stir. The young woman sat up in bed with a renewed energy.
"William?" she called out, unsure if the whole episode was real. The only reply she received was the rustling of the leaves as the night wind danced through the trees.
* * *
Life began to stir in the basin after the blood red sun set behind the solid black mountains. Those of insurmountable power began to awaken and prepare themselves for what would be a new beginning for all Immortal kind. Don Ventoni opened his eyes and deeply breathed in the crisp night air.
The Don lay silent, his mind racing through all that was to take place. The air he tasted seemed no different from any other night. The world around him went on unchanged. He could feel the full moon sitting heavy in the sky. Although there was no change in the earthly elements, there was an electricity in the air.
He could feel his family show the first signs of movement. The electricity vibrating and shuttering from one body to the next. A sliver of hope settled on thoughts here and there. All immortal families agreed to meet and make a pact, an agreement. The Ventoni family was the oldest, therefore strongest family among Immortals. They was naturally the first family to offer their lands as the meeting grounds.
Don Ventoni mentally prepared himself for the hours that lay ahead and called out to his brother and right hand man, Marcius. Before he could finish his thought the door to his sleeping quarters opened and his brother stood silently in anticipation.
Sleep well my brother? Marcius thought.
As well as can be considered. And how are things? Don Ventoni thought back.
All is well on my end. I am more than ready for things to begin, Marcius responded.
The Don and Marcius were the creators of the pact that would be signed that night. For years the two stood side by side negotiating and working with other families in order to get them to agree on such a pact. The Don knew Marcius was more than ready to finally see the fruit of all their labor. At the same time, having such powerful immortals together could either be a blessing or a nightmare from one moment to the next.
"Marcius, I can feel our excitement ..." the Don began eluding to the family energy he felt pulsating in the air. "Are they ready for me?"
"Just as you asked, everyone is dressed in their best for tonight my Don," Marcius responded with a sense of anticipation. Even Marcius, who was usually the one to bring calm to a chaotic atmosphere, couldn't keep from giving off a tinge of excitement.
Don Ventoni wrapped his arm around his brother and looked into his eyes. Contrary to the Don's almost black brown eyes and black hair, Marcius' emerald green eyes in contrast with his chocolate brown hair that always lay in plaits down the center of his back made him look every bit as much the twenty-two year old man he was when he became immortal.
Taking a quick glance at him, one could not tell he had nearly three hundred years hiding behind those emerald eyes. It was the hardened lines that stained Marcius' forehead that often betrayed his true age. Lines that were chiseled into place from years of battle, and things going wrong.
The Don gave a chuckle. If one of the oldest in his family could hold such joy in his eyes at the prospect of peace, how could he protest. The Don let out a deeper, richer laugh this time, allowing his energy to flow out to his family.
"Brother, let us rejoice in the new life that lay ahead for us all." One look in the Don's eyes and Marcius let the full force of his excitement and anxiety flow. Side by side they entered the Great Hall.
When Marcius and Don Ventoni entered the Great Hall the room instantly became alive with energy. Any mortal would have either suffocated or become completely intoxicated with the power that freely flowed among the family. Don Ventoni paused for a moment to look at his family, friends, lovers and trusted advisors.
Don Ventoni's eyes settled at last on his son. By the dim candlelight William almost seemed like he belonged with the rest. As if he wanted to be there among his brethren. The moment their eyes met, the Don was aware of just how much his son, the only true blood family alive other than Marcius that still walked the earth, detested being among his kind for the signing of the pact.
William sat in the front row at the far side of the room. His face was mostly hidden by shadow. The candlelight reflected his ice blue eyes and made them somehow seem softer than they actually were. Beautiful women snuggled up on either side of him. They were absently stroking his hair and arms before Don Ventoni entered the room. They immediately stopped once the Don's attention fell on his son.
William sent out small amounts of energy to his devotees, beckoning them back to his skin. There was a moment of hesitation in the women. It was now a lost cause for them. Either they offended the Don by continuing to focus on William, or offended William by ignoring his call. Don Ventoni sensed this dilemma in the women. Sparing them the awkward moment longer than necessary, he gracefully turned his attention to the rest of his family. This action seemed to frustrate William more, just as the Don knew it would.
Silly boy choose your battles, the Don thought. Before William could respond the Don addressed his family. "Allow me to ready us for tonight's events."
Out of breath and past the point of fatigue, Violet slammed her fists hard against the mat and pushed herself up on to all fours. She slowly stood up and braced herself for the next hit.
"Again Violet!" her instructor yelled from a distance. "Do you think any immortal will give up trying to kill you after a few hits?!" Violet stood ready with feet shoulder width apart and fists pulled up ready to strike out at any second. "How can you hear anything while you're breathing so heavy?" the angry voice surrounded Violet in the dimly lit room.
She hadn't realized she was breathing heavy. What are you doing? She thought. Concentrate! If you don't get this right they will never let you go! Violet took one even breath and steadied herself. She began to focus on the energy in the room. She felt movement behind her one second too late. A slender cold hand was already at her neck forcing her head down to her shoulder. In less than an instant she felt a droplet of warm blood on her shoulder. Only after she felt the drop was she able to register the sensation of the sharp graze of fangs along her neck. Shit! Violet chastised herself, that's two on each side.
In the next moment her trainer spoke from an impossible distance in the room. "Remember dear, you will come across many different adversaries out there in the world. Where some will attack you with strength and force, others will use stealth and swift, deadly silence."
Angry with herself for her performance, Violet screamed into the darkness, "Again!"
Violet quickly closed her eyes. Sight became more of a distraction while sparring. She silently crouched down ready to spring in any direction. It was easier to feel the energy of the room this way. Immortals had a different energy to Violet. Even as a child she was able to tell those that were different. She always felt a form of anti-energy from them. It was as if they pulled energy from everything else around them, like a black whole. All she had to do was search for that black hole fast enough. In the length between two of her heartbeats, Violet found her trainer. Immediately she went on the attack.
With two leaps across the room, Violet found herself in front of the trainer. Her fake wooden daggers at the deadliest parts of the neck. One dagger was forcefully held at the front of the neck directly over the pulsing carotid artery. The larger dagger Violet held at the back of the neck at the base of the skull. In one quick movement of her arms, she would cause instant mechanical decapitation to any enemy.
Violet felt a surge of satisfaction in finally completing the attack. The next sound came from behind her. Startled but ready to attack, Violet spun around. Just as she turned the lights came on in the room and her Don walked toward her clapping.
"Well done child," he appraised, slightly amused.
Violet quickly dropped her daggers and respectfully bowed to her Don. Realizing her practice session was over, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. Violet looked up at her Don anticipating what he would say. After all, he would have the final say whether or not she would go with the Damitio family to the signing of the pact.
With a simple request from Don Ventoni, the members of the Ventoni family dropped their metaphysical shields and the full power of the gathering was realized. The power was so intense the flames of the candles throughout the room flared, bringing the room to a nearly blinding brightness. A low hum could be heard throughout the room.
The Don allowed the room to remain this way for a few moments and allowed his family to see the full force of what could happen when they were together. He also wanted his son to understand that it was when they were together that they were strongest.
As quickly as the surge of power filled the room it was gone. The Don absorbed this power and channeled it into a calmed, soothing coolness. The candles suddenly burned a soft pale blue, which added to the calm that overcame everyone in the Great Hall. Everyone, with the exception of one immortal. William, still stood strong within his mind. Although the Don could force William to drop his metaphysical shields, he would not force his strength on anyone of his family, not even his son.
The Don never forced anyone in his family to share their energy. This was once seen as a weakness, but was now revered as a strength by immortals in his family and other families alike. The Don let his calming energy flow around his son like a coaxing vapor, calling out to him.
Finally, after allowing all the members of the family to bask in the calm, he began to talk to everyone. Those in the hall would hear each syllable as if spoken directly into their own ears. The Don allowed his thoughts to reach those standing guard and maintained the stillness to those who were still far off.
Excerpted from Decay by Ann Smith Copyright © 2010 by Ann Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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