Home > Dark Destiny (Dark #13)

Dark Destiny (Dark #13)
Author: Christine Feehan

Chapter One

She woke to the knowledge that she was a murderess and that she would kill again. It was the only reason she continued her existence. It was what she lived for. To kill. Pain and hunger crawled through her body endlessly, relentlessly. She lay very still with the earth surrounding her, staring up at the star-studded night sky. It was bitterly cold. She was bitterly cold, the blood flowing in her veins like ice water, like acid that burned it was so cold.

Call me to you. I will warm you.

She closed her eyes as the voice slipped into her head. He called to her on every rising now. The voice of an angel. The heart of the demon. Her savior. Her mortal enemy. Very slowly she allowed breath to seep into her lungs, her heart to take up its steady beating. Another endless night. There had been so many, and all she wanted was rest.

She floated out of the ground, clothing herself with the ease of long practice, her body clean, where her soul was damned. The sounds and smells of the night were all around her, whispers and scents that flooded her senses with information. She was hungry. She needed to go into the city. As hard as she tried, she could not overcome the need for rich, hot blood. It beckoned and called to her as nothing else could.

Destiny found herself in a familiar part of the city. Her body traveled the accustomed path before she had even thought where she was going. The small church tucked among the rising buildings and maze of narrow streets and alleyways beckoned to her. She knew this neighborhood, this small city within the larger city. The buildings were stacked on top of each other, some touching, others with narrow pathways between them. She was familiar with each and every apartment and office building. She knew the occupants and she knew their secrets. She watched over them, watched over their lives, yet she was always alone, always apart.

Reluctantly Destiny climbed the steps to the church and stood at the entrance as she had so many times in the past. With her acute hearing, she knew the building was occupied, that the priest was finishing his duties and would soon be leaving. He was much later than usual.

She heard the rustle of the priest's robes as he moved through the church to the double doors. He would lock them - he always locked them before he left - but it wouldn't matter, Destiny could open them easily enough. She waited in the darkness, deep in the shadows where she belonged, watching the priest in silence, nearly holding her breath. There was an urgency inside her, a desperation. She returned again and again to the beauty of the small church. Something drew her, called to her, nearly as strongly as the call for blood. Sometimes she believed this was where she was supposed to die; other times she thought repentance might be enough. She always went to the church when she knew she had no choice but to feed.

The priest stood for a moment just outside the doors, looking around him, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He actually looked right at her, but she knew she was invisible to him. He started to speak, hesitated, and made the sign of the cross in her direction. Destiny held her breath, waited for a lightning bolt to strike her. "Find peace, my child," the priest murmured softly and made his way down the stairs with his slow, measured tread. She remained in the shadows, as still as the mountains rising above the city. How had he sensed her presence? She waited until long after he had gone down the block and turned into the narrow alley leading to the garden behind his rectory. Only then did she dare to let her breath out slowly, to breathe again.

Destiny went to the ornate double doors, but this time they weren't locked. She looked back to the street where the priest had disappeared around the corner. He knew, then. He knew she needed his church, and he had silently given his permission for her to enter the sacred, hallowed place. He didn't know what she was, but he was a good man and he believed all souls could be saved. She pushed open the doors with a trembling hand.

Destiny stood in the doorway of the empty church, wrapped in darkness, her only ally. She shivered, not from the cold air surrounding her, but from the ice deep within her soul. Despite the pitch-black interior, Destiny could easily see every detail of the church's beauty. She stared at the crucifix over the altar for a long time, her mind in turmoil. Pain crawled through her as it did every moment of her existence. Hunger was sharp and ravenous. Shame was her constant companion. Destiny had come to this sacred place to confess her sins. She was a murderess, and she would kill again and again. It would be her way of life until she found the courage to destroy the evil thing that she had become. She dared not enter, dared not ask for sanctuary.

She stood for a long moment in silence with a terrible unfamiliar burning behind her eyes. It took her a few moments to realize the sensation was tears. She wanted to weep, but what was the use of it? She had learned that tears brought the echo of ugly, demonic laughter, and she had taught herself not to cry. Never to cry.

Why do you insist on suffering?

The voice was deceptively beautiful. Male. Gentle. A soothing blend of masculine exasperation and charm.

I feel your pain; it is sharp and terrible and pierces my heart like an arrow. Call me to your side. I will come to you at once. You know I can do no other. Call out to me.

There was an underlying whisper of power, of compulsion.

You know me. You have always known me.

The voice brushed at the walls of her mind like the flutter of butterfly wings. It whispered over her skin, seeped into her pores and wrapped itself around her heart. She breathed the voice into her lungs until she needed to answer, to hear it again. To call out. To obey. She needed that voice. It had kept her alive. It had kept her sane. It had also taught her things - hideous, murderous things, but necessary.

I feel your need. Why do you insist on silence? You hear me, just as I feel you when your pain becomes too much to be borne.

Destiny shook her head, a firm denial against the temptation of that voice. The movement sent her thick mane of rich dark hair flying in all directions. She wanted to rid her mind of the deceptive purity of that voice. Nothing could induce her to answer. She would not ever be trapped by a beguiling voice again. She had learned that lesson the hard way, sentenced to a living hell she dared not think about.

Destiny forced air into her lungs, controlling her emotions, knowing that there was a chance the hunter could trace her through the sharpness of her despair. A movement in the nearby shadows had her whirling around, crouching low, a dangerous predator ready to attack.

There was a silence, and then once again movement. A woman moved up the steps of the church slowly, coming into Destiny's line of vision. She was tall and elegant with flawless coffee-cream skin and hair the color of bittersweet chocolate. Her hair curled in every direction, a riot of shiny spirals spilling down to her neck, framing her oval face. Her large brown eyes probed the darker shadows, searching for signs that she was not alone.

Destiny used preternatural speed, slipping deep into the recesses of the corner alcove, back away from the church doors, using stillness to her advantage. She froze in place, hardly daring to breathe.

The woman walked to the double doors, stood for a moment, one hand resting on the edge of the open door. She sighed softly. "I came here looking for you. My name is Mary Ann Delaney. I know you know who I am. I know you come here sometimes - I've seen you. I saw you tonight and I know you're here." She waited a heartbeat. Two. "Somewhere," she whispered aloud, as if talking to herself.

Destiny pressed her body so tightly against the side of the church, her skin hurt. They were both in terrible danger, but only one of them was aware of it.

"I know you're here; please don't run away again," Mary Ann said softly. Despite her thick jacket, she rubbed her arms to ward off the cold. "Just talk with me. I have so much to say to you, so much to thank you for." Her voice was low, gentle, as if she were speaking to a wild thing, coaxing it to trust her.

There was a terrible tightness in Destiny's chest. She was choking, suffocating, hardly able to breathe.

She waited a heartbeat. Two. Drew deeper into the shadows. She could hear the sound of her own heart beating. She could hear Mary Ann's heart following the rhythm of hers. She could hear the beckoning invitation of the ebb and flow of blood rushing through veins. Calling to her. Intensifying her terrible hunger. Her tongue felt the sharpness of her lengthening incisors. She trembled with the effort to control herself, to stop the inevitable.

This woman was everything that she was not. Mary Ann Delaney. Destiny knew her well. She was compassionate and brave, her life dedicated to helping others. A light seemed to shine from her very soul. Destiny listened to her often - her lectures, her group discussions, even her one-on-one counseling sessions. Destiny had appointed herself Mary Ann's unofficial protector.

"You saved my life. A few weeks ago, when that man broke into my home and attacked me, you came in and saved me. I know you were hurt - there was blood on your clothes - but when the paramedics came, you were gone." Mary Ann closed her eyes for a moment, reliving the terror of waking up to find a furious man standing over her bed. He had dragged her out from under the covers by her hair, punching her so hard and so fast she had no time to defend herself. He was the husband of a woman she had helped escape into a sanctuary and he was determined to get the address from her. He had pounded her into a bloody heap on the floor, kicking her and then stabbing at her with a large knife. She had the raw scars on her arms where she had tried to protect herself. "I didn't tell anyone you were there. I didn't say a word about you to the police. They thought he must have tripped over the overturned furniture and fallen awkwardly and broken his neck. I didn't betray you. There's no need to worry; the police aren't looking for you. They don't know anything about you."

Destiny bit down hard on her lip and stubbornly remained silent. Fortunately, the incisors had receded. She had enough sins on her soul without adding Mary Ann to the list of her victims.

"Please answer me." Mary Ann opened her arms wide. "I don't understand why you won't talk to me. What harm could there be in telling me if you were hurt that night? There was blood all over you, and it wasn't from me and it wasn't his blood."

Destiny felt tears burning in her eyes, clogging her throat. Her hands clenched into two tight fists. "It wasn't my blood. You don't owe me anything." The words were strangled, barely making it past the lump in her throat. It was partially the truth. Mary Ann's attacker had not put a scratch on her. "I'm just sorry I wasn't there earlier, before he hurt you."

"He would have killed me. We both know that. My life isn't the only thing I have you to thank for. You're the one who leaves me the money for our safe houses, aren't you?" Mary Ann pursued. "And our women's recovery programs."

Destiny leaned against the wall, tired of pain, tired of being so alone. There was something incredibly warming and soothing about Mary Ann. "It's no big deal, it's just money. You do all the work. I'm happy to help in some small way."

"Come home with me," Mary Ann said. "I'll make us tea, and we can talk." When Destiny remained silent, Mary Ann sighed softly. "At least tell me your name. I feel your presence often and think of you as a friend. What would it hurt to tell me your name?"

"I don't want the ugliness of my life to touch you," Destiny admitted softly. The night was enfolding her as it always did, gently whispering to her so that she saw its beauty despite her determination not to see anything good in it.

"I'm not afraid of ugliness," Mary Ann persisted. "I've seen ugliness before, I will again. No one is meant to be alone in the world. We all need someone, even you."

"You aren't making this easy." The words were wrenched from Destiny, almost a sob. "You don't know how evil I am. There is no redemption for me. I should never have allowed our lives to touch, not even for a moment."

"I'm very grateful that you did. I wouldn't be here otherwise, and I have much to live for."

Destiny pressed her palm to her mouth, ashamed that her hand was trembling. "You're different from me. You're good, you help so many people."

Mary Ann nodded her agreement. "Yes, I do, and without you, I would never have been able to help another woman or child. You've done that, not me. I couldn't have saved myself; I'd be dead right now."

"That's twisted logic," Destiny pointed out, but she found a small smile hovering on her lips in spite of the pain knifing through her. She had heard Mary Ann talk with other women many times, her voice always gentle and understanding. Mary Ann always knew the right thing to say to set her clients at ease. She was using that same gift on Destiny. "My name is Destiny." Her name sounded strange to her own ears, it had been so long since she had heard it. Saying it aloud was almost frightening.

Mary Ann smiled, her teeth very pretty, her smile contagious. "I'm so pleased to meet you. I'm Mary Ann." She stepped forward and held out her hand.

Before she could stop herself, Destiny gripped the outstretched hand. It was the first time in a very long while that she had touched a human being. Her heart slammed painfully in her chest and she jerked away, sliding back into the shadows. "I can't do this," she whispered. It was too painful to look into those clear eyes, to feel Mary Ann's warmth. It was easier to be alone, to hide in the shadows, forever a night creature.

Mary Ann stood quietly, faintly shocked by the extraordinary beauty of the young woman hiding in the shadows. She was smaller than Mary Ann had first thought - not short, but not tall either. She had lush curves, but her body was sculpted by muscle. Her hair was thick, wild, a mass of dark silk. Her face was arresting, her eyes enormous, haunted, long-lashed and mesmerizing. They were a vivid, brilliant blue-green, holding shadows and secrets and unimaginable pain. Even her mouth was sculpted and inviting. But she had much more than physical beauty. There was a subtle allure that Mary Ann had never seen before in a woman. The voice was musical, mysterious, compelling. Mystical. Everything about Destiny was different. Unexpected.

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