Blog About Me Games Books - Series Books - Standalone Non Fiction

Prologue
Scotland 1773

Christopher Allen Bartholomew, at the tender age of only 22, was about to die. His body, drenched in sweat, was on fire. Any moment now, he would explode and cease to exist.

“Be not afraid,” the woman whispered. “Your body wants to change. I will not allow that to happen.”

English. The bloody lass was English. Had he been captured?

“Change. How? Have ye poisoned me?” Christopher asked. “Are ye from that commander’s brigade…Commander…” Christopher couldn’t remember the man’s name. “Damn it.”

“No, child,” she said, her voice soft. “His name is of no importance, and no, I am not with him. Do you remember the attack?”

She lay atop him, her mouth close to his ear. He felt her breath, slow, easy. Unlike his. Wisps of blonde hair tickled his face. He turned away, for he could smell the soap she’d used today and didn’t like what it did to him. Her light blue gown spanned his body, covering the ropes that bound feet. His hands, secured above his head, had long ago succumbed to the sleep. He barely felt them.

A quick shake of his head. “Nay.”

“Three nights past, our warriors were hunting…” She lifted her head to look at him, “dangerous creatures. Instead, they found you, wounded, bleeding. The young woman at your side did not survive. I am sorry for your loss.”

Her blue eyes seemed almost hypnotic. He wanted to look away and couldn’t.

“Nay, Mary Catherine lives.” Even he wasn’t certain that was true, but she didn’t need to know that. “I’ve taken ill. Get off me.” He lifted his hips and twisted to toss her off, to little effect. She barely noticed. “Witch.”

She brushed strands of wet hair off his forehead, smiling. “You were attacked by a nightwolf, a creature with a terrible thirst for blood. The warriors had planned to kill you, to end the cycle before it began. But, even wounded, you fought them with a strength uncommon in one so young. Because of that, we chose to save you.”

“Save me. From what?” he asked.

“Becoming a nightwolf yourself. You feel it, do you not? Something inside you, clawing, tearing at your gut to escape. That is the wolf.” Her eyes unfocused, as if something had caught her attention. “It is beginning. You have yet to know pain like this.”

The bones in his feet cracked, and Christopher nearly screamed.

His fingers burned, as if hot steel were coming out the tips. He fought to keep his control.

Her hands framed his face. “I can take this from you, make you better than you were. Stronger, faster. It is this, or the warriors come and end your life. You cannot be allowed to needlessly take lives. Be assured, a killer is what you are becoming.”

His back seemed to vibrate with energy, and his teeth ached. He’d lost one once before and the pain had been terrible until it actually fell out. Much as that had hurt, t’was nothing compared to this.

“Aye, take it then,” he said. Not much of a choice, really.

“No fear, Christopher. My name is Aria. I am Eskarian. Not human, but something stronger. I will take your humanity and give you back more than you imagine is possible.” Her mouth found the racing pulse in his neck.

Something sharp pierced his neck. Her teeth? Christopher’s breath caught in his throat, muscles clenched. His blood flowed and she took it into her mouth.

He closed his eyes, wondering what he’d just done. What kind of demon took blood from a man?

Eskarian. What the hell was that?

Moments passed. Her mouth remained at his neck, taking what came from his body.

Nausea and exhaustion washed over him.

He couldn’t open his eyes.

Aria no longer straddled him.

She whispered in a language he didn’t understand. Didn’t care what she said, though her voice…ah, her voice. It was a mesmerizing beacon that called to him, kept him from slipping into the darkness that promised relief.

Dizzy. Was he spinning? Maybe it was just the room that spun. “Witch, what have ye done to me?”

Water slowly dripped beside his head. The sound of a single drop became the sound of a thousand, like rain all around him. His body felt lighter.

“Shhh,” she whispered. “I take from you this pain and, in return, I give you new life.”

He felt as if he was descending, like dipping into a loch, and then dropping into its depths. Deeper and deeper, he fell. So far down. Surely, he could not make it back to the surface.

And then, finally, there was no pain.

No fear.

No emotion.

Nothing…darkness…drifting…for what seemed like a very long time.

“Christopher.”

Aria’s voice startled him. He didn’t know where he was, but sensed that she stood nearby. His breathing was slow, shallow, his heart beat weak and off.

“Open your mouth.” Aria spoke gently, as if addressing a child. “You will not die this night.”

All his muscles were tight. It took effort to part his lips. Liquid drizzled into his mouth, burned his tongue and throat. Hot. He heard his own voice, soft, as if far away, protesting what was happening.

“Swallow.”

He obeyed, lacking the energy to do anything else.

“This is my blood. Take every bit of it. You need this to survive.”

Blood. He was swallowing blood.

Hurts. Hot. Why was blood burning his mouth? And why was it sizzling?

Aria leaned closer. “Our blood is very hot and tends to do that to humans,” she said. “It is normal. Rest now. Tomorrow, your life begins anew.”

“My life,” he thought he said. “But I am dead.”

Aria closed the door behind her and joined the man at the edge of the cliff. Far below, the ocean waves crashed against the stones.

“He sleeps now,” she said.

Griffin McCallum faced her. Wind blew his long, cinnamon-colored hair into his face, shadowing those icy gray eyes she loved so much.

He turned, setting moonlight to the angles and planes of his face. The two war braids at his right temple took flight. “And the dreams?”

His accent was like hers, and yet not. She had yet to discern where he was from. And he wouldn’t answer, no matter how many times she’d asked. Where, she supposed, didn’t matter all that much, but as long as she’d known him—centuries now—she still didn’t know him. The mystery surrounding him was as intriguing as it was terrifying.

He had so much power.

“Visions or premonitions would be more accurate. And yes, they still haunt him,” Aria said, looking to the ocean. “They hurt him, Griffin. They cause terrible pain for that poor young man.”