Dark Secret

By Avin | Uncategorized

Aug 09

 

Dark Secret (Preview)

Chapter One

Anna Stone looked up at the stars through the window as she pulled a cape around her shoulders. She was dressed in all black – leggings, a spandex shirt and slippers – so she wouldn’t be seen. Her cape was not black, but it was a dark grey and that was enough to keep the public from spotting her while she was out.

“Where are you going, Anna?” Her roommate, Bella, watched from the doorway as her friend dressed.

“You know I have to go get those berries, Bella,” Anna responded. “We can’t make the potion without the blueberries.”

“Why don’t you just go get some at the store?” Bella asked.

Anna shook her head, snapping the cape around her neck, lifting up her chin to do so. “That’s not good enough. They have to be hand-picked by a witch who ranks high up in the coven.”

“You are next in line for a place in Ductus,” Bella noted.

Anna tried not to give her brainless friend a sarcastic look. Bella was a good woman. She tried very hard to be the best witch she could be. But she rarely remembered spells, had broken three wands, and was hopelessly optimistic about everything in her life. Anna would have attributed it to age but the woman was already in her late twenties and would soon turn thirty. She was six years younger than Anna.

Anna, on the other hand, had quickly risen to a high rank in the coven. She had a sharp mind and a quick wit. She had found many objects needed by the coven, which was why she was in charge of this particular section. She lived in the trailer with Bella, Mandy, Caitlyn, and Ashley. They were sent by the Ductus, the leaders who ranked at the top of the coven.

Bella turned and let Anna pass in front of her, following her down the long hallway. She went past the door to Caitlyn’s room, which was open, and glanced in. “Do you need anything while I’m out, Caitlyn?”

Caitlyn was sitting at her desk in the corner by the window. She looked up at the night sky before looking back at Anna. Realization crossed her face. “Oh, you’re going for the berries. No, I don’t need anything, thanks for asking. Be careful. This place is rife with werewolves and vampires and all kinds of humans. You never know what could happen. You got your wand?”

Anna grinned. “Always. I never leave home without it.”

“That’s a good thing. You never know what’s going to happen.” Caitlyn looked very serious, making Anna grin wider. She was the sober one of Anna’s “girls”, the one would took everything literally and never wavered from her opinions unless she was soundly proven wrong. She would fight to the death for her coven and knew more spells than anyone in the trailer.

“All right, Caitlyn. If you think of anything you need, call me.”

“You know I will.” The girl turned back to the book she was studying, running her finger down the page as she read. When Anna told her to “call” her, she didn’t mean on a cell phone. Cell phones were easily traceable and the reason they were there prevented them from being free to use cell phones.

Anna continued down the hallway to the stairs at the corner. She went down with Bella on her heels, chattering about something she’d seen on the television. Anna wasn’t really listening, though every now and then she would say, “Uh huh” or “right”.

In the living room beyond the stairs, Mandy and Ashley were cutting through fabric. Anna had no idea what they were making but both looked very serious about their work. They looked up as she passed by the door to go out. She stopped again, feeling like she was dropping Bella off with them.

“You two need anything while I’m out?” she asked.

They shook their heads. Mandy set aside the fabric and stood up. “You’re going to gather berries for the potion?”

“Yeah, that was my plan.”

“All right, use this.” She reached around the back of the couch she was sitting on to a table that held various objects they had gathered so far for the Ductus. They didn’t need to be careful in the trailer. No one could see it from the outside except them anyway. The chances of anyone – supernatural or otherwise – breaking in to steal any of the artifacts was zero to none. She picked up what looked like a small dark blue bag some people might use for groceries.

Mandy scooted past the coffee table and walked to Anna, holding the bag out in front of her. “This thing can hold way more berries than your bag or a basket or anything like that. And it won’t weigh more than five pounds no matter how many berries you put in it. It has a weightlessness charm on it. After five pounds, everything is weightless.”

“That’s a great spell,” Anna said with appreciation, scanning the bag. It looked ordinary. No one would know the difference.

Not that anyone was going to see her anyway.

“Well, I’m off,” she said.

“Before you go, let’s sit and talk for a minute,” Mandy said. Anna looked at her, resisting the urge to lift one eyebrow. Anna was the highest-ranking witch in the trailer and it was usually her who gave the instruction to have a meeting. She was curious, though, so she went to the couch and sat down beside Mandy, who had returned to her seat.

“What did you want to talk about, Mandy?” she asked.

“I just want to go over stuff, that’s all,” Mandy replied. Anna could understand that. She probably wanted to make sure she and Anna were on the same page. She was a little aggressive when it came to authority. She herself had a leader personality and could be a challenge to Anna, if they weren’t friends and Anna wasn’t so good at what she did. She respected those in authority but had a strong personality that would someday make her a member of the Ductus, probably right alongside Anna. The future of the coven would someday be in their hands when the older generation retired to an island somewhere in the Pacific.

If that’s where they chose to go and lived long enough to get there.

“Are you questioning anything?”

Mandy shook her head. “No, not at all. I just want to make sure we all know what we’re doing here.”

“Well, we’re searching for the Amulets of Life,” Bella supplied. “I know that. And the Divining Clan has them.”

“All five of them,” Anna confirmed, nodding.

“We have to get them from them. They can be killed, can’t they? Even though they have the amulets?”

Anna nodded. “They can be killed. But if they are injured, the amulet will heal them and they won’t die as long as they wear them.”

“But there are only five. How can there be more than five we have to battle?” Ashley spoke up for the first time. She was the protector witch of the five of them. She held the protection spell over the trailer, as well as the expansion spell that made the inside of the small trailer seem to be the size of a two-story house. She was also excellent with a blade, a spear, a gun, and most other weapons conventionally used in battle. Anna figured you could ask her to drive a tank and she’d be all for it.

“Because as long as they are all in the same area, the amulets will protect any supernatural being around it. The one who wears it is the leader. Of that pack. You see?”

Ashley nodded. “I think you told me that before and I just forgot. Okay, so we need to get those amulets and that’s it?”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Anna said, shaking her head. “Don’t forget that these vampires are as mean as they come. They will kill you just as soon as look at you.”

“I have a question,” Mandy said. “Which is why I wanted to talk to you about this in the first place.”

Anna looked at her quizzically. “Go ahead,” she said.

“I know there are only five amulets and we have to go after them all. You say there is an entire clan right here in this little city.”

“A city of 200,000 people isn’t little, Mandy,” Ashley said in a gruff voice. Mandy ignored her.

“So if there’s a clan that big here, why don’t we hear of any humans dying?”

Anna thought about it for a moment. “Well, you know that they don’t always feed on humans. Or they may have a storage of blood somewhere. I don’t know.”

“Do we even know where their lair is?” Ashley asked, the gruff sound gone when she spoke to Anna.

“Not yet. But we will. Look, girls, we haven’t been here long enough to establish anything. We have to be patient. You know how it is,” she looked at Mandy and Caitlyn, who had been with her on the previous assignment. “You remember. We have to wait sometimes, assimilate into society, let ourselves be seen, not as witches but as people, before we can infiltrate and get the objects we need.”

“Well, I’m ready whenever you are,” Ashley said, cracking her knuckles on the palm of her opposite hand. “I need some vampire butt to kick.”

Anna grinned. “You’ll have your chance, Ash. Just give it time, like the rest of us. We want it just as much as you do.”

“This is the last one for you before you are promoted to Ductus, isn’t it, Anna?” Bella asked, her soft voice making her sound like a small girl.

“It might be,” Anna responded. “I think they are going to leave that up to me.”

“Well, I hope you make it,” Bella replied. “As long as that’s what you want. But I’ll miss you.”

It was Bella’s first trip out. She didn’t know Anna well. Anna suspected Bella would miss anyone that was kind to her for more than a week.

“I’ll miss you, too. If I decide to go. I rather enjoy spending time with my witch-girls and traveling the way we do. It’s fun.”

“I think it’s fun, too,” Mandy said. “As long as we aren’t in battle. Not too fond of the battles. People get killed.”

“Yeah, that’s true. Humans, too.”

Ashley’s remark made the rest of them chuckle.

“All right, I’m heading out unless you have any more questions. Let me know if you need anything. Just have Caitlyn call me.”

“Will do.”

Anna stood up, looking at Mandy. “Did I answer your question?”

“Yes, that’s fine, thank you.”

“Okay.”

Anna went to the door, glancing over her shoulder at Bella, who was still standing in the doorway to the living room. She had a pleasant smile on her face.

Anna liked her witch-girls. She had gotten very close to Mandy, Ashley, and Caitlyn, who had been with her for several years now. She’d learned from them probably just as much as they’d learned from her.

Now, with Bella in the mix, she had to keep herself from worrying about their safety, especially in battle. She had their back and they knew it. She knew they felt the same way.

She stepped out of the trailer into the cool night air, lifting her chin when a light breeze lifted up her blond hair. It waved and curled down her back and over her shoulders. When she pulled it straight, it almost reached her waist. She usually kept it in a braid so it wouldn’t get in her way if she had to run or fight.

She turned to look at the trailer behind her before it faded into transparency. She wouldn’t be able to see it once she stepped ten feet from the door. Then she would see what everyone else saw. Nothing but green grass in the middle of a park in the middle of a town. No one could see it. No one would know the difference.

Half of the park was a wooded area with a stream running through the middle. She went directly to the tree line and glanced back to make sure the trailer was, indeed, invisible. Satisfied that no one could see it, she moved through the trees and headed toward the stream where the blueberries were ripe and ready to pull. With each one, she would whisper a short incantation that would cast a spell on the individual berry, ensuring it would work properly in the potion they were making.

The potion might have been one of poison to vampires, but Anna personally thought it was one of the most delicious drinks she’d ever made. She might make some just to snack on and stick it in the refrigerator for her girls to enjoy, too.

Chapter Two

Ethan Graham walked through the park, his hands behind his back. He’d left his companions behind so that he could take a walk. It had been three months since his last visit to this park. It was one of his favorite places to go when he needed to think.

He walked along the tree line, looking up, mostly. He liked to see the stars beyond the huge trees he was surrounded by, watching them twinkle, disappearing when a high-up leaf blew in front of them and reappearing when the leaf blew in the other direction.

He liked to listen to the sound of the creatures in the woods, the frogs in the stream, the squirrels running through the trees. In all his 400-plus years, he still enjoyed the little things. In fact, he probably enjoyed the little things more than ever before. He was old now and had lived through much. He was happy to be where he was and felt safe from harm.

Ethan liked to walk at night, even when he had more important things to do. There was too much drama in his life on a general basis, as the leader of his Divining Clan of vampires, and sometimes he just had to let his old brain have a rest. Looking at the stars and admiring the pretty human women was usually how he relaxed.

Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Someone was coming through the woods.

This was one of the parks in the better part of the city so there usually was no movement at this time of night. He ducked behind a tree and looked around to see what he could see.

Lights from around the park lit it up well enough to see but not like daytime. He was grateful for the artificial light, since he was still unable to go out after sunrise and if he did, he had to be covered from head to toe. That usually looked strange to humans, even the ones who often saw a person with a head covering or a long cloak on. He couldn’t even let an inch of his skin be hit by the sun or it would burn him to his very core. It had happened just a few times in his years. He’d quickly learned the sun was not his friend.

He remembered what it was like to feel the sun on his skin. He’d been turned at the young age of 33. So he’d had plenty of years to live as a human. He’d enjoyed the time he had, though things were much different in the year 1635, the year of his birth. As the earth became more populated, it had become more technological and now, it seemed humans could go nowhere without their cellphones, their laptops, their computers and smart cars. He liked things the way they had been but couldn’t complain. He saw just as much good in technology as everyone else.

He just knew what it was like to live without it.

Those were quiet times,he thought and had a laugh.

He saw the movement again and focused on it. It was a woman. A woman in a black cape. He tilted his head in confusion, narrowing his eyes. She was picking berries and putting them in a bag. It was a strange time of day for such a thing. He wondered how she could see the little blueberries she was picking. The lights beyond the tree line were stronger and lit up the park like a football field. But back here in the woods, the trees blocked off much of that light. She had to have pretty good eyes to see what she was doing.

She turned in his direction and his breath caught in his throat. His heart thumped hard a few times. She was a beautiful woman. He liked the way her hair fell down over her shoulders across her chest, spilling out of the cape over her head like a blond fountain. She had a slender body, what he could see of it, in all black like she was.

He wanted to talk to her. Ethan was not the kind of man to shy away from a beautiful woman. He had the charm that every vampire had and he intended to use it to his fullest advantage every chance he got. This looked like the perfect opportunity to him.

He took a few steps toward where she was picking the berries and stopped. He didn’t want to scare her. If she was picking berries at night, there was probably a good reason for it. She didn’t want to be disturbed.

He hesitated, wondering if he should say something, clear his throat, kick a rock… something to get her attention.

Finally, he decided to stroll past her, humming under his breath and acting nonchalant, like he didn’t even see her there. He clasped his hands behind his back once again, lifted his head and moved closer, humming a tune that had no song. He looked up at the trees and the stars. He didn’t even see her. Not at all.

When she spun around and stared at him, he gave her the same reaction, acting as surprised as she was.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” he said quickly. “I didn’t even see you there. You’re in disguise.”

Anna stared at him, unsmiling. He tried again.

“Well, all black and all… I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Anna shook her head, keeping her eyes on him. “You didn’t scare me. I was not expecting you. But you didn’t scare me. I am not easily scared.”

“I’m so glad to hear that.” He smiled as wide as he could. He held out his hand for her to shake. “Ethan. Ethan Graham.”

The name sounded familiar to Anna. She tried to remember where she’d heard it before. She looked down at his hand, trying to decide if he was friend or foe.

Finally, she took his hand and shook it. “Anna,” she replied, not willing to give her last name.

“It’s nice to meet you, Anna,” Ethan said. “Do you live around here?”

“You might say so,” she responded. “I travel a lot.”

He nodded. “I used to travel all the time. Now I just stay right here in Quiet Waters. It’s a great place to raise…” He stopped himself, lifting both hands in the air. “I was going to say ‘children’ but I don’t want you to think I’m proposing marriage or anything… unless you want to get married. In which case, I would have to say, hold on, lady, I just met you.”

This brought the smile to Anna’s face that Ethan was waiting for. Just as he suspected, the smile made her even more beautiful and almost melted his vampire heart. He scanned her quickly, bringing his eyes back up to hers in a hurry so she would not think he was being lewd.

“I don’t think I will be getting married anytime soon, sir,” Anna said.

“Oh, please don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old.” He said it with all the irony he could muster. There was no way for her to know he was a 400-plus-year-old vampire. He intended to keep it that way. At least for now.

“I won’t call you that, then.”

“Call me Ethan. All my friends do.”

She lifted her eyebrows, bringing the bag around to the front and holding it with both hands. “Are we friends?”

“I would like to be. If you would.”

Anna scanned him, trying to decide if she could trust this man or not. He was a human and humans could be unpredictable. Especially when they saw a beautiful woman in the middle of the night, scurrying through the park finding berries. Not that she had done it before. Only a few hundred times. Natural elements were constantly added to the potions they made. Over the years, the types of ingredients had changed. Obviously, they no longer used the “eye of newt” or a “drip of dragon’s blood”. But they did still use “legs of a frog”, which she absolutely hated getting. Frog hunting was not her sport.

He was taller than her, almost six feet, with short blond hair and a soft smile that made her want to look at his mouth more than anything else.

“I will walk with you, if you’d like. But I need to get home before my… my roommates wonder where I’m at. You don’t want them coming down on you. You wouldn’t like that at all, I can promise you that.”

“I bet. A woman as beautiful as you? I’m surprised you are out here on your own to begin with. It’s not safe, you know.”

“Don’t worry,” Anna winked at him. “I’m packing.” She knew he would think first of a gun. Humans always thought of a gun. They never once considered a wand, which was so much lighter and easier to use than a gun, not to mention it didn’t shoot one bullet or twenty bullets but could send out as many bullets through spellcasting as Anna wanted.

“Uh oh, I better be careful then.” Ethan didn’t sound worried.

His lack of concern comforted Anna. If he thought for a moment he was going to do something that might get him shot, he would have backed off right at that moment.

“I can assure you I am a gentleman, Anna. I’m older than I look and I have enough experience to know how to act around a lady. I’m not a teenager, not a serial killer, not a rapist. Not at all. I won’t harm you.”

I won’t harmyou, Anna thought. “That’s good. I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me. That’s the way everyone should be in this world.”

“I agree. Unfortunately, the only reason we have to go through this little dance is because most people can’t be trusted to tell the truth anymore.”

They both thought about what they themselves were doing, not exactly lying but not telling the exact truth, either. He, an ancient vampire, her, a witch. Both hoping the other didn’t find out the truth while still spouting out phrases about “trust”.

“While I agree with you, sometimes the truth should be left where it lies. In the past.”

They walked for a few minutes in comfortable silence. Anna was a little surprised by how easy it was to walk and talk with Ethan. He had the softest blue eyes she’d seen in a long time. His physique was slender and strong. She could see the muscles of his chest and arms bulging through the white shirt he was wearing. It was an old style but one that Anna had always liked on a man. The buttons in the front twinkled in the moonlight when they emerged into a clearing just beside the streaming water.

“Would you like to sit?”

Anna bit her lips together, thinking. “I really should return to my roommates.”

“Have you finished your berry picking for the day? Or the night, shall I say?”

“I have. I believe I have enough.”

He eyed the small bag in her hand. “It doesn’t look like you needed many. I wouldn’t have wasted my time. You could get that many at the grocery store for cheap.”

She shook her head. “Nothing is cheaper than free and these are the natural beauties I needed. I have to have them completely fresh and uncontaminated.”

Ethan nodded. “That makes sense. They probably taste better, too.”

“They do! I make a delicious berry drink out of them, like a smoothie, you know. It’s…” She stopped this time, remembering who she was talking to. She couldn’t possibly tell this human that it was vampire poison. “It’s really quite delicious.”

Nice save, she thought to herself. She gave herself a high-five in her mind.

“I’ll walk you home if you like,” Ethan offered, hoping she would say yes. He wanted to know where she lived. He had no intention of stalking her but if she said no, he would know why. Most women in today’s world were much smarter than ever before. They didn’t like to be played and they made it known to every guy they went out with.

“I can’t… I can make it on my own, I promise.”

Ethan figured she must be ashamed of her home. “I am sure you can, if only because you were brave enough to come out here on your own at night. Besides, like you said, you’re packing. You have nothing to worry about.”

“Exactly.”

They smiled at each other.

“Well, it’s been nice getting to know you. Can I ask you out on a date sometime?”

Anna didn’t lose her smile. She looked to the side. She knew she was blushing. She wondered if he could tell in the dim light. “I… I’d like to but I don’t know if I’ll have the time.”

“Please, Anna…” The tone of his voice made her pay closer attention. He reached out and took both her hands in his. “Make the time. I’d really like to get to know you. I think we could be… good friends.”

She giggled and raised her eyebrows, allowing him to hold her hands for a few moments, despite the fact that his hands seemed cold to her. “Friends?”

He chuckled. “More if it ever comes to that. I would have no objection. I’m willing. But only on your terms and in your time.”

“Thank you, Ethan. That means a lot to me.”

Chapter Three

Ethan returned to his mansion home just before sunrise. He usually didn’t spend the entire night out but this time, after leaving Anna in the woods, he’d gone to a diner he enjoyed and had coffee for the rest of the night.

They knew him in the diner and he felt comfortable there.

He was tired and needed to sleep. But when he went inside, he noticed several of his brethren sitting at the dining table in the vast hall he used to feed his clan. They looked like they were talking about something very serious.

He stepped into the room, glancing at each of them with a curious look. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

His closest brother, Jeremy, responded by shaking his head back and forth.

“We’ve heard some disturbing news, Ethan,” he said. “It looks like we might need to pick up camp and move somewhere else.”

Ethan frowned. “Does this look like a campsite to you?” he asked sarcastically. “What am I supposed to do? Sell this place and buy one somewhere else?”

Jeremy raised his eyebrows. “If need be.”

Ethan was confused. Jeremy never spoke back to him. No one in his clan questioned him. This had to be something very serious for this to take place.

“I think you better tell me what’s going on,” he said, approaching the group and sitting at the head of the table, which was his designated seat.

Jeremy and the other three vampires sat forward, resting their elbows on the table. Other than Jeremy, there was Joshua, Cameron, and Tyler. Cameron, or Cammie, as she was known by the rest of the clan, was the only female of the five top vampires in their clan. She had risen to her spot by showing some fairly ruthless traits that even he, as the clan leader, didn’t have. Sometimes, he suspected she didn’t have a heart at all. And if she did, it was frozen beyond repair. She’d changed her name over the years to make it more modern, since she looked like a 28-year-old woman but was almost as old as Jeremy.

It was Jeremy who continued to speak, as Ethan’s right-hand man and second in command. “We’ve heard that a coven of witches is searching for us. It won’t take them long to find us. We don’t exactly live in hiding as we should.”

“What do you mean?” Ethan said. “I think we do an awesome job keeping anyone from knowing where we are, what we are or what we do.”

“For the most part, that’s true,” Jeremy continued. “But these witches, they have been searching the globe for different objects and items for their coven leaders that will help them defeat other supernaturals, like us.”

“Why do they even want to fight?” Joshua asked. He was the most sensitive of the group. He hadn’t asked or wanted to become a vampire and had whined about it ever since. But he’d risen to his position because he was one of the smartest men to ever walk the earth, in addition to being nearly 300 years old, much older than most others in the clan. “Why can’t we all just get along?”

“That’s an old phrase that should never be repeated again,” Jeremy said, snidely. He looked back at Ethan. “They want the amulets, Ethan. We can’t let them have them.”

Ethan’s frown deepened. “Of coursewe can’t let them have them,” he said quickly, looking at Jeremy as if he’d said something more obvious than the nose on his face. “And yes, that means we have to fight. But they will have to bring the fight to us. We can’t do anything that might reveal to them where we are too soon.”

“I don’t want them to know where we are at all,” Joshua moaned.

“For a smart guy, you aren’t very brave,” Jeremy said, glancing at Joshua with disdain. The two of them had never gotten along well. Ethan typically acted as a middleman between them.

“And for a brave guy, you aren’t very smart,” Joshua retorted.

“All right, that’s enough.” Ethan shook his head. “We’ve all got to work together on this. Think.” He looked at Jeremy. “Where are you getting this information from?”

“From the best of sources,” Jeremy replied. By that, Ethan knew he meant the spy they had within the coven. The Divining Clan had spies in every ring they could find. It helped keep them safe and underground, even though they were out in the open almost all the time.

“Human?” Cameron asked. Jeremy looked at her, shaking his head.

“Not this time. We actually have someone within the coven who is willing to work with us.”

“That’s surprising, considering how they’ve treated us in the past. I’ve lost a lot of friends to those witches. The Ductus?”

Jeremy nodded.

“So it’s the Ductusthat is after the amulets,” Ethan said, propping his elbows up on the table and lacing his fingers together over his mouth. He pulled in a deep breath. “They are an old coven. It’s not surprising they know about us.”

“What I want to know is how they knew we were here in the first place,” Joshua said. “Do they have a spy within our clan, too?”

Ethan narrowed his eyes. “No. I can’t think of a single person in this clan who would betray us.”

“I can’t either,” Cammie shook her head. “I think we are all loyal. I know we are all loyal. If we had anyone who betrayed us in the clan, surely we’d know about it. Surely.”

“I hope so,” Ethan said. “I can’t think of anyone either. But it’s probably best we do a little internal questioning to make sure. Either way, they know we are here or they wouldn’t be here.” He looked squarely at Jeremy. “You know they are here?”

“I know they are in Quiet Waters,” Jeremy responded. “I don’t know where they are or if they know exactly where we are, either.”

Ethan bit the inside of his cheek and looked thoughtful. “All right. Our best bet is to make sure the amulets stay with us. We will need protection, the five of us, because we are wearing them.”

“We can’t let them take the amulets,” Joshua said. “If they do, we’ll have to start feeding again. I don’t want to feed, Ethan. I don’t want to kill humans.”

“I know you don’t. I don’t either.”

“I don’t like the taste of animal blood. And I feel bad killing them, too. This amulet was my saving grace. I don’t want to have to go back to all that.”

Ethan nodded. “I understand that. I do. We all have our reasons for why we want to keep going the way we have been. I’m sure just like the rest of you, I will fight to the death to keep this amulet around my neck.”

“Of course, Ethan. We would never allow anyone to take them from us.”

“I’m tired,” Ethan said. “What can we do right now to resolve this situation?”

Jeremy looked at him, slightly confused. “I can’t think of a thing we can do right now.”

“Exactly,” Ethan nodded. “I’m going to get some rest. You are all going to bed soon, too?”

“I don’t even know if I can sleep,” Joshua replied despondently.

“You’ll sleep fine, Josh. Just go on down to your chambers and rest. You’ll be all right.”

“Not if those witches come busting in and take my amulet, I won’t,” Joshua replied, pushing himself back from the table and standing up. “I wish I knew where they were. I’d make sure they don’t get their hands on anything of mine.”

Ethan watched him stomp from the room. He knew his frustration. It was all too real. Joshua hadn’t asked to be turned and now here he was 200 years later, still fighting for his existence. He hated it. Ethan hated it. They all hated it. With the exception of Cammie, who seemed to enjoy the battles more than the peace.

He stood up, too, looking at his three remaining companions. “You’ve been awfully quiet, Tyler. Are you feeling all right?”

Tyler looked up at him, raising one eyebrow and reminding Ethan of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He was long and thin, just like the character, and had dark hair that swept back from his sculpted face. “I am feeling fine. I have nothing to contribute to this conversation. I am prepared to fight for the amulet like the rest of you are. But I don’t know anything about the Ductus or their practices.”

“We’ve fought with them before, haven’t we?” Cammie asked.

Ethan shook his head. “No, they have never bothered us. I must say in all these years, it has been the humans that hunt us down the most.”

“What really sucks,” Jeremy said, standing up, prompting Tyler and Cammie to stand up as well, “is that they think they’re doing the right thing. And maybe they are, for their species. But if they got to know us, they would know that our clan is different. We try not to harm any humans. When we have to fight, it’s the other side that does the human killing.”

“That’s true,” Tyler nodded. “I always try to avoid killing them. I was one. I don’t know how the witches or the werewolves can do it. They must have been human too, right?”

“I’m sure they were. Maybe they don’t remember.”

“Maybe they don’t care.” Tyler shook his head. “Sad. Pathetic.”

“I agree.” Ethan yawned and stretched his arms over his head. “I am exhausted. I will see the rest of you tonight. We will have another meeting, call everyone together this time, instead of just the four of us. They need to know what’s going on so they don’t leave the premises unless they are with one of us.”

“I’ll spread the word about the meeting tonight,” Tyler said. “I probably won’t be getting to bed until later today. I have some work to do.”

“You have work to do?” Ethan questioned. He couldn’t imagine what kind of work Tyler had to do.

“Yes, I’ve started doing some artwork. I’m working on a piece right now and I want to finish it.”

“And you consider that work?” Cammie asked, smiling at him. Ethan noticed when she smiled, she didn’t look so angry. Typically, she had a steady frown on her face. She used it, he knew, as a repellent to the human men who flirted with her. She turned to them with that frown on her face and they backed away nine times out of ten. When they didn’t, her rough tone and angry words were the second repellent to them. She wasn’t the seducing type, though she knew other women in the clan who were.

Ethan left his companions behind to go to his chambers. They were the biggest in the mansion. All the sleeping chambers were below the first floor, where it was dark and cool. They each had their own “bed”. They didn’t sleep in coffins, though he had to admit, they were quite comfortable. It was amusing to watch the tv shows and movies where vampires were always depicted as coming out of coffins or hanging from the ceiling like a bat. He didn’t change into a bat. No one in his clan did.

Before he went down, he went to the kitchen and made himself a cup of hot chocolate. He sipped on it as he went down the steps, gripping the coffee mug in one hand. Chocolate always made him sleepy, the opposite effect that it had on most people. Most humans anyway.

As soon as he spotted his bed, which was actually a box made out of the hardest, finest wood he could find, with a mattress inside that conformed to his body, he knew he was done for. There was no way he was going to finish his hot chocolate before falling asleep.

He quickly changed into pajamas, setting the mug down on the side table. He climbed into the bed after gulping down about half the hot chocolate, enjoying the way the heat slid down his throat.

As he lay back in the bed and closed his eyes, he thought about the beautiful woman he’d met tonight. Anna would be a wonderful addition to the clan if she chose to come. But how would he tell her what he really was without scaring her? He would have to reveal so much about himself, something he hadn’t done with anyone outside the clan in hundreds of years.

He couldn’t tell her he was a vampire outright or she would surely run from him. He wouldn’t even get to the part where he could tell her he didn’t have to feed on her and that she didn’t have to be a vampire to be with him. After all, if she didn’t mind aging and dying before him, it was certainly something he could live with. Over the years, he’d had many wives and lived with them until they died of natural causes. He knew what to expect and they never worried about him being left behind. They would never experience his death and that was how he reassured them.

He thought about her until he drifted off to sleep, which was not long after his head hit the soft pillow under it.

A common secret between a powerful coven and a vampire clan that unites them beyond their knowledge.For how long a secret can remain hidden?

“Dark Secret” is a paranormal romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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About the Author

  • Teresa Fronek says:

    I’m loving it! Am I still on your ARC team?!

  • Alfreda Montecalvo says:

    Want to read more.

  • Christy says:

    Excellent book! There are more chapters, correct? I would really love to read the whole book!

  • Diana Fulcher says:

    Very interesting from the start. It has you trying to guess who the spy is already. Sure wish I could finish it to the end. Very enjoyable and different from any of the vampire stories I have read. Got me hooked.

  • Karen MacLeod says:

    It is wonderful from what I’ve read in the preview. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  • Lucy L says:

    Oh that sounds good. Attracted to each other but actually enemies.

  • Holly says:

    Thank you for the sneak peek, it definitely has me looking for more!

  • Shaunna Denise Layman says:

    I really enjoyed the book. Honestly I really enjoy all your books

  • Sherry Nunn says:

    When and how do we get to finish reading this story, I would love to continue reading.

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