Home > Dark Awakening (Dark Dynasties #1)

Dark Awakening (Dark Dynasties #1)
Author: Kendra Leigh Castle


THE BALLROOM WAS bathed in the soft glow of candlelight, and tiny flames danced, reflected in the eyes of those gathered for the ceremony. The young woman, the Chosen, stepped uncertainly into their midst, her bare feet noiseless on the dark and gleaming wood floor. Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of the lithe and elegant figures, pale-skinned and beautiful, who had come to witness this event, the most momentous of her life.

The last of her natural life.

Though she had caught glimpses of others like her lover before, she had never seen so many in one place. It was amazing, overwhelming… and just a little frightening.

Rosalyn. Her name echoed in a whisper all around her, though not a single mouth moved. Soon she would know their thoughts as well as they knew hers. These were to be her people, those who shared the ancient bloodline of a goddess, a pharaoh. They were the Ptolemy, and they were to be revered.

As instructed, she had come to this beautiful manor in the middle of nowhere, clad in nothing but a thin silk robe of purest white. Soon, Rosalyn knew, that would be gone. She would enter her new life as she had come into the first, bare-skinned and pure. Her eyes darted anxiously around the room, searching for her beloved. The one who had made all this possible, the one who loved her enough to want her by his side for all time. However, all she saw were unfamiliar faces, cold in their beauty, eyes glowing preternaturally in the semidarkness. Some watched her with interest, others with na**d hunger. Not all were unkind, she consoled herself as she fought back a shiver.

But none belonged to her Jeremy.

Rosalyn shuddered in a shallow breath and moved forward, determined not to let her fear of the unknown get the better of her. Jeremy had gone through all the proper channels, and she had been questioned by an emissary of Arsinöe herself, gaining the all-important blessing of the queen and securing her permission to join the sacred House of Ptolemy.

She had spent the past week making her arrangements and, though her family didn’t yet understand, saying her good-byes. Being born into this new life meant cutting ties with the old one, and she’d shed more than a few tears over it. But the loss was well worth the gain. No longer would she be just one of a vampire’s stable of human lovers, kept (though kept well) for the willing and frequent gift of her blood.

Now she would be Jeremy’s mate eternal. For the first time, they would feast upon each other. And when the ceremony was over, and her skin was branded with the mark that would forever bind her to the ancient dynasty that had been blessed by Sekhmet, Rosalyn knew she would walk into her new life with no regrets, hand in hand with her love. She would be Rosalyn of the Ptolemy.

But… where was Jeremy?

The small crowd of perhaps thirty witnesses cleared to form a wide circle around her, leaving her standing alone, exposed in their midst. They were unnervingly silent, as was the way of their kind, but Rosalyn had been admonished not to speak until spoken to. So she waited as silently as they did, keeping her shoulders back, her chin high. She had been declared worthy. She clung to that and hoped her looks reflected it. She had brushed her long, straight hair so that it gleamed like spun gold as it fell past her shoulders, and she’d left her delicate features unpainted, the way Jeremy preferred. After tonight, Rosalyn thought, her eyes flickering over several of the dazzlingly beautiful women in attendance, she’d never need cosmetics again anyway.

Vampiric beauty was incomparable, and eternal.

A soft murmur ran through the crowd then, and suddenly he was there, stepping into the circle with her. Tall, sandy-haired, boyishly handsome Jeremy. He stepped forward to take her hands in his, and Rosalyn shivered, as she always did, at the first touch of that cool skin on hers. But the warmth in his eyes, glowing deep blue with a light all their own, more than compensated. He leaned in close, and she could smell the faint musk of his skin.

“Ready?” he asked softly, his warm breath fanning her ear.

She nodded. “Always.”

He smiled, and the light caught the sharp points of his incisors, gleaming white between deep red lips. He looked away for a moment, and between one blink and the next, they were joined by a third person in the circle, a tall, imposing man who stood ramrod straight in a severe black suit. His expression was solemn, and when he spoke, his voice rippled through the air with a power that signified great age, though he appeared no older than forty.

This was the master of the ceremony, one of Arsinöe’s trusted emissaries sent to oversee and verify the ancient ritual.

His first question was directed at Jeremy. “By what name are you called, supplicant?”

Jeremy’s response was immediate, and full of pride. “I am Jeremy Rothburn of the Ptolemy.”

“And what do you ask of us on this full moon’s night?”

“I ask to bring this woman, Rosalyn DeVore, into the sacred House of Ptolemy, to bind her to us with the dark gift and to share with her life eternal.”

The emissary’s pale eyes shifted to her. “And you, Rosalyn DeVore? What do you request of the House of Ptolemy?”

For one heart-stopping instant, she feared that she’d forgotten the words. But then they were there for her, rolling easily from her tongue. “I ask to join this house, to share in the glorious lineage of Sekhmet, the lioness, the warrior goddess; of Arsinöe, the eternal pharaoh; and of all fortunate enough to drink the blood of the greatest of the vampire dynasties. I ask to give of my blood, my life, to Jeremy Rothburn of the Ptolemy, and for his blood, his life, to be shared in return.”

Jeremy squeezed her hands reassuringly as the master of ceremonies gave a solemn nod, acknowledging her request. Then he looked to the assembly. His voice rose, a powerful and compelling clarion call.

“All you gathered, keepers of the dark flame, honored bearers of the blood of the goddess, you have heard the petition. What say you?”

The resounding “Aye!” had Rosalyn’s heart soaring. This was it. She’d been accepted. There was only one thing left… though the final barrier was the most frightening of all. Because she would see death before they were through, if only to turn away from it forever.

The emissary actually managed a ghost of a smile when he turned his attention back to Jeremy.

“Make her yours. Make her ours.”

He stepped back then, fading away into the crowd until it was once again only the two of them in the circle. Rosalyn looked at her lover, feeling the importance of the moment, knowing she was drawing her final breaths as a mortal being.

Jeremy undid her robe with a flick of his wrist, leaving it to slide from her shoulders and pool at her feet. Then she was na**d before him, before all of them, terribly, wonderfully exposed. His heart was in his eyes when he stepped forward, and Rosalyn quickly forgot about the crowd. There were only the two of them there, really. And all their eternity yet before them.

His cool hands slid over her skin, brushing against ni**les that had hardened in the chill air. Fear and excitement pooled in her belly, along with an unexpected flood of desire. Then he was pushing her hair back over her shoulders, bearing the pulse beating rapidly at the base of her throat. His eyes began to change, turning feral and blindingly bright. His teeth shone like daggers as he bared them.

He had drunk from her before. She didn’t fear his teeth or the pain that so quickly gave way to pleasure. But this time, he must take her to the edge of death. And he would bring her back by letting her drink from him for the very first time.

Rosalyn gasped as his teeth pierced her flesh, and she heard an answering sigh rise up all around them. Then she could see, hear, feel nothing but Jeremy, and the sensation of drowning in a rush of pleasure until all reality narrowed to a single bright point that glowed ever farther in the distance. Lethargy stole through her limbs, and still he drank, pulling her life out of her, taking it into himself. When she crumpled to the floor, he came with her, gathering her close in his arms while he continued to feed.

Her heartbeat slowed… slowed. From the pool of near blackness in which she wallowed, Rosalyn waited for the press of Jeremy’s wrist against her lips. For the taste of his blood, so long yearned for, so that the ritual would be complete.

Instead, she began to hear the distant sounds of screaming.

At first it was only one voice, a startled shriek cut brutally short. Then another began, and another, picking up the cry until the cavernous room reverberated with the sounds of terror and pain. Rosalyn struggled to open her eyes as Jeremy’s teeth tore from her throat, as he lifted his head to stare at whatever horror show her initiation had become. Above the screaming, she heard the sounds of running, of fists beating against doors that had been sealed shut.

And beneath all that was a wet, rending sound that could be only the tearing of flesh—a sickening splatter, then a rush of air as something, someone, was cast brutally aside for the next. And the next.

The thud of lifeless bodies grew closer.

“Where is it? I can’t see it!” shrieked a terrified female voice. A window shattered.

Jeremy looked down at her, cradled in his lap, and if Rosalyn had had the strength, she would have cried out. For in his eyes she no longer saw the bright promise of eternal life.

Now there was only death.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, an instant before his head was separated from his body with such force that it hurtled away from her, across the room. Gore spattered her na**d flesh, crimson on white. Then she did scream, a weak, keening sound that was dredged up from the depths of her fading soul. But she couldn’t run; she could barely move. The darkness was rushing up to meet her, and it seemed that for her, there would be no return from it after all.

Around her, amidst the fading screams, was the smell of burning.

And the last sound Rosalyn heard was the malicious gurgle of laughter.

Chapter ONE

Tipton, Massachusetts

Eight months later

TYNAN MACGILLIVRAY crouched in the shadows of the little garden, listening to the mortals rattling loudly around inside the stuffy old mansion. He tried to concentrate on the scents and sounds of the humans, hoping to pick up any subtle change in the air that might indicate a Seer was among these so-called ghost hunters, but so far all he’d gotten was a headache.

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