Julie has always suspected there was more to her twin brother and her. So when Conrad finally reveals the truth, she’s not that surprised. She’d already figured most of it out, anyway. Armand, however, is another story. His shock at learning the twins’ secret drives him away in order to gather his thoughts, leaving Julie behind when she needs him most.
When Armand returns, struggling with his own feelings of guilt, inadequacy and betrayal, he finds the Fischer-Quintano house in chaos. Headstrong Julie is determined to go ahead with her plans to save Georgia—losing her would devastate Conrad. But the knowledge she seeks and the ritual she must brave to get it could cause her to lose her mind. If not her life.
Each book in the Children of Night series is a standalone story and can be enjoyed in any 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
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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
Humans talk about love as though it's the only thing that matters. Vampires know better. Love is a strong root. It runs deep. It resists frost and drought and is capable of surviving decades, sometimes centuries, of neglect or abuse. Yet after all of that, if given just the smallest bit of encouragement, love is always willing to send up another green shoot of hope.
Love is tough. It endures. That's part of its beauty, what makes it so important. Trust, on the other hand — that fragile flower with its sweet perfume — is a far less hardy specimen and much more difficult to cultivate.
Once damaged, in even the slightest degree, it can be very difficult to coax trust back to full health. It's susceptible to cold. It's easily stunted. It's prone to an early death. All of which would be bad enough on its own, of course, because without trust the world is made a bleaker and more colorless place. But it's seldom the damage stops there.
A lack of trust is one of the few things capable of blighting even the deepest love. It can turn love bitter, can twist it into something evil, ugly, obsessive. It's an insidious change, one that often appears to strike without warning. In many cases, you realize what has happened only after the fact, when you wake up one evening to discover you've somehow unintentionally destroyed everything you once held dear.
Domus Hera Noctis (the Dungeons of the Night Queen)
Early Tenth Century
Whimpers and cries of pain echoed off the stone walls; the air was filled with the cloying scent of blood and the accompanying stench of death — all of it near to overwhelming Quintano's sharpened senses. At least the place was dark. That was something to be thankful for. Or then again, maybe not. When every sight his eyes beheld brought fresh pain, it might be better to be blinded by the light.
Huddled on the bench in his cell, Quintano could not suppress a shudder of horror as he felt the madness growing within him once again. The hunger that seemed always on the brink of devouring him was gaining in strength. Every instant that passed brought it closer to the surface. It prowled through his veins now like a beast. In his mind, it resembled a lion, savage and untamed, such as the one he recalled having seen as a child on a trip to the capital with his father.
The creature had been locked in a cage, much as Quintano was now, and men poked at it with sharpened sticks to make it roar. As a boy, he had been equal parts terrified and fascinated, impressed with the length of its fangs, the sharpness of its claws, the sheer size and power of it. Already worried that the iron bars were not enough to contain its massive strength, he was not at all comforted when his father told him that men had once been forced to battle such creatures in the arena, face-to-face, armed only with a sword — sometimes not even that.
It hadn't surprised Quintano to learn that the beasts had won more times than not. Indeed, it had seemed inconceivable that any human could hope to survive such a contest. Just as he would surely not survive this one.
A low whimper from the other side of the cell caught his attention. Quintano growled in response. He'd been trying his best to ignore the miserable creature, his latest victim — a young girl, barely more than a child — ever since she'd been thrust into his cell. Why could it not keep quiet? Did it not understand that he was already doing all he could to prolong its miserable life, to put off the inevitable suffering he would bring it?
He would fail, of course, as he always did. But at least he would try.
Although why he continued to do so was a mystery. Did he still imagine he was doing either of them a kindness? If so, it was a testament to his own stupidity. Or his own stubbornness. Because, either way, this futile attempt to preserve some semblance of the humanity he'd long since lost was doomed. Perhaps it was time he accepted that fact.
He knew too well how this would end. Eventually, as always happened, the hunger would grow too strong and the beast would overwhelm him. This victim would die like all the rest before it, screaming in agony. If the terror emanating from the girl was anything to go by, they both knew it to be so.
She gave another frightened sob and he glanced up impatiently. She stood pressed against the cell door, as far from him as she could get, not that it would save her. Her face was dirty, pale and tearstained, her gown was torn, and the way she held her right arm pressed to her chest suggested she'd been injured.
"What happened to your arm?" he surprised himself by asking.
The girl's eyes widened. She seemed equally surprised. Perhaps she hadn't realized he could speak? Perhaps he looked more like a beast than he'd realized?
"Are you hurt?"
She nodded. "The guards. They — they broke it."
"They said ..." A strangled noise broke from the girl's throat. He would have thought it laughter but for the tears that sprang to her eyes. "They said it would make it harder for me to try and kill you."
For an instant, he could do no more than stare at her. Allowing her to kill him was a tempting thought, but laughable. Then he made the connection, and was at once nearly overcome with nausea. He jumped to his feet, roaring in anger. He turned his fury on the stone wall of his cell, punching it repeatedly 'til his knuckles bled. His fault. Always his fault. Whatever he did, no matter how hard he tried, it always ended the same: in someone else's death.
He'd almost forgotten how he'd all but begged his last victim to end him. The man had very nearly succeeded too, for all the good it had done either one of them. The guards had intervened; Quintano still did not know why. Surely his continued existence was of little interest to them. They could not think him worth all the trouble he caused them, even though they'd gone to great effort to teach him a lesson and keep him alive.
They had beaten Quintano most thoroughly, clubbing him to the point where, if so much as a single bone had been left unbroken it was purely by accident. Then, while his bones were still knitting themselves back together — an agonizing process as he had not eaten in many days and so did not have enough strength to heal quickly — they'd forced him to watch as the human he'd hoped to spare was slaughtered in front of him. Afterward, they'd bled two more, slowly and painfully, and forced their blood down his throat.
He could have cried for their suffering, had he any tears left to shed, and if he hadn't been nearly overcome by shame and relief when the influx of fresh blood removed his own pain.
"I am sorry," he told the girl as he took his seat again. "They should not have done that."
It seemed he was not yet completely incapable of learning after all. That was one mistake he would never make again. He stared at her bleakly, recalling the agony he'd suffered from his own injuries. "Does it pain you greatly?"
The girl nodded.
"Again I am most sincerely sorry for all you've been made to endure. I wish there were some way by which I might ease your pain, but I fear I can think of nothing that would help you."
"Why do you even care? It was not your doing."
"Oh no?" He laughed bitterly. "I would not be so sure of that."
It was always his doing. Perhaps that was the lesson he was meant to learn? He had grown tired of lessons, however — of lessons and pain and blood and death and hunger and guilt. Tired of fighting a battle he could never win.
Perhaps, if he were the only one who stood to lose, the struggle would be worth it — if for no other reason than the satisfaction of continuing to thwart his captors, of making them work that much harder to ensure his survival. But there would always be someone else who would bear the bigger share of his punishment. Women and children, primarily, along with the elderly, , and a few who were injured or ill. He could rationalize some of those deaths, but never the manner in which they occurred.
Each death, like every breath he continued to take, was an indelible mark of shame upon his soul. Why should he continue to live while so many others died? Was his single life worth more than one of theirs? With some of them, perhaps it was. But was it worth all of theirs combined? No. Never. And just as he could never repay his debt to those who should not have died, nor could he ever hope to expunge his guilt for having been the one who killed them.
He did find some measure of peace while in the arena, fighting against others of his kind. They were all monsters — and he did not in any way consider himself to be superior — but there was one point on which they differed. Too many of the others took joy in killing the innocent, whereas he found pleasure only in killing them. Those were the battles he could happily win — or happily lose.
In fact, perhaps he should try harder to lose? It would be easy enough to let one of the other monsters slay him, after all, and end his misery. Perhaps someday he would do so. But the guards were cunning. They waited tolet him fight until he was freshly fed. With his guilt uppermost in his mind, his victims' screams still ringing in his ears, it seemed a sin to let himself be killed and thus waste the innocent life he'd so recently taken.
He studied the girl a moment longer. She was just the latest in a long line of tragedies, still but a child, too young to be turned — too young for so many things. It was likely that was the reason she'd been marked for death, for she seemed hale enough otherwise. But it didn't matter how young or healthy or innocent she was. It didn't matter how ardently he wished it. He could not save her. Prolonging her life at this point merely meant prolonging her pain.
So why not kill her now and be done with it? That way, at least one of them would be freed from their suffering.
The thought did not sit well with him. It felt like giving up, surrendering to the beast, forfeiting any claim to humanity. And yet ... was it not too late for that?
His last act as a man had been to reject his own humanity. He'd not chosen the game, no, but when the dice were pressed into his hand, he'd rolled them.
So what he wanted now no longer mattered. It was the girl who was important, the very human girl.
Still struggling to resign himself to this new course of action, Quintano climbed slowly to his feet. His heart pounded with dread and anticipation as the beast within him licked its lips and the remnants of his human soul cried out in protest. The girl shrank back against the bars as he approached her.
Quintano shook his head and tried to smile. "Don't be afraid. It's not my intention to cause you harm."
She looked up at him doubtfully but said nothing.
"What is your name, child?"
Of course it is. The name conjured the memory of happier times, of sunshine and golden summer afternoons, of life and love and laughter ... all the many things he'd given up. He smiled grimly. "It's a beautiful name, and very apt given your pretty blonde hair. Your parents must love you very much to have given so much thought to your naming."
"They did. But they're dead now. Everyone's been killed. I'm the last of my family."
"I am sorry to hear it."
"But you're going to kill me too now, just the same. Aren't you?"
Quintano sighed. "I am. I wish it could be otherwise," he continued as her lips began to tremble. "I would spare your life if I could, but alas, it is not in my power to do so. There are but two things I can promise you, two ways in which I might, perhaps, ease your mind. First, know that your end will be both swift and painless. I will not allow you to suffer — you have my word on it. Secondly, I swear to pay honor to your memory as best I might. In your name, and with your strength to enable me, I vow to take the lives of as many of these monsters as I can."
"What strength have I?" the girl retorted bitterly. "Had I any to speak of, I would not be here now."
"Not true. If you have been told that, you have been lied to. You would not be here if the Darkness had no need of you — and others of your kind. It is by your grace alone that we continue living. 'Tis a shameful practice, and one I deeply regret, but the truth is we sacrifice your lives that we might prolong our own. And I know it is an unwilling sacrifice on your part, but it is one I am powerless to prevent. All I can offer you is this: my promise to use this gift of life on your behalf, to avenge your death until I, too, am slain."
She cocked her head to the side. "So you would act as my champion?"
"I would." As he spoke, Quintano gently framed her face with his hands. "If you will allow me that honor."
Flavia sucked in a quick breath and nodded. "I will."
"Then close your eyes for just a moment," Quintano instructed, and, in the instant she complied, he tightened his grip and snapped her neck, so fast she did not even have time to draw a final breath. He sank his fangs into her throat and drank deep, taking her quickly, just as he'd promised.
When he was finished, he laid Flavia's bloodless body carefully on the floor. He stood for a moment, looking down upon her. She hadn't suffered, he reminded himself; at least not at his hands. That might not be much, but it was truly the best he had to offer, and a far better death than he'd given any of his previous victims.
He took one last look at her, then flung himself at the door to his cell. He shook the bars and called loudly for the guards. "Let me out," he demanded when he'd captured their attention. "I've eaten. Now I wish to fight."
He could feel Flavia's blood flowing strong in his veins, empowering him. He had kept one of the promises he'd made to her; now it was time to start in on the other.
San Francisco Present Day
"My dears, we need to talk," Conrad began, then he paused to gaze at the faces staring back at him. Armand and Julie. Both so serious, so frightened, so confused. How did he tell them?
He'd hoped never to have this conversation with Armand, so perhaps he could be excused somewhat for being at a loss there. But Julie? He'd had years to rehearse for this moment, to practice what to say to her, and yet now, when the time had come ...
"What is it?" Julie asked, her voice but a whisper. "You said I'm not sick, so whatever it is, it can't be that bad, can it?"
"No, not bad, precisely." Certainly it was nothing tragic, not at all in the same category as, for example, being stricken with an incurable disease, thank the heavens. At least she'd been spared that. "But it is a very grave matter all the same."
"Querido." Damian's hand tightened on his. "Don't scare the girl. Just tell her."
As if it were that easy! Conrad focused his gaze on Julie once again. "My dear, I know that you and your brother have always believed that you were turned at a very young age —"
Conrad paused once again, distracted by Armand's muffled curse, by the gleam of outrage in his eyes. Not an auspicious beginning. "At so young an age, in fact," he continued, determined to forge on, "that you could never even recall a time when you were not Vampire. And so you were, in a manner of speaking. But the truth is somewhat more complicated than we may have led you to believe. The fact of the matter is that you —"
"We were born this way," Julie finished for him. "That's what you're saying. It's true, isn't it?"
Conrad's lips tightened. "You already know. I see."
"What?" Armand's startled gaze tracked back and forth between them. "Non. C'est impossible! That cannot be."
"I suppose Marc told you?"
"No, of course he didn't. I figured it out on my own." Now it was Julie who paused, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Wait a minute. You're saying Marc knows? Since when? How come no one ever told me?"
"Calmly, chica," Damian said soothingly. "Your brother hasn't known for very long either. If it makes you feel better, he figured it out on his own just as you did. And of course we didn't tell you. We've been trying to protect you."
"Protect me?" Julie huffed out an angry breath. "That's just great. How's that working out? 'Cause, after tonight not so good is what I'm thinking." Armand reached over and pulled her into his embrace. Julie curled in to him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Damn it, we're not children anymore. You can't just keep things from us. We have a right to know about this stuff."
Excerpted from "To Curse The Darkness"
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.
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