A Dark Kiss of Rapture

By: Sylvia Day

Chapter 1

Raze’s night had been going pretty well, until the woman he’d just spent four hours fucking stumbled across a naked, disemboweled body on his doorstep. Her scream had shattered the serenity of the predawn, forcing him to knock her out before she drew a crowd. Now, as the sun stretched sleepy tendrils of light over the horizon, he stood over the corpse and struggled to contain his roiling fury.

“Dumped on my goddamn porch like trash.” He ran both hands over his shaved head. “Poor bastard.”

“Guesstimate of the time your gift arrived?” Vashti asked, her stiletto-heeled boots tapping out an impatient staccato as she paced. Her crimson hair swayed around her shoulder blades, the vividly-hued tresses the only wash of color against her skintight, all-black jumpsuit. She was a comic book aficionado’s wet dream, with her lush tits and ass offset by a fallen angel’s incomparable beauty. Her appearance was as lethal as the twin katanas she often wore in crisscrossing sheaths on her back, her physical beauty another weapon in the arsenal she used as second-in-command of the entire vampire nation.

“Hell if I know,” he bit out. “There was nothing out of place when I got home at midnight. He was found at four.”

“You didn’t hear anything? Nothing at all?”

Raze scowled. He had a squeaky board on his front porch and everyone knew it. Even if they ruled out the benefit of his vampire hearing, his powerful sense of smell should have picked up on the freshly spilled blood. “No. Christ. If I’d heard anything I would have caught the fuckers.”

Damned if he’d tell her that it hadn’t been possible to hear anything over the woman moaning beneath him and the steady banging of his headboard against the wall as he pounded into her. The smell of hot sex, dripping sweat, and semen filled-latex had saturated the air along with the scent of the blood he’d drunk from her—a lover whose name he couldn’t remember now. It shamed him that the broken body on his doorstop had been lost among the sexual excess.

He stared at his name carved into the corpse’s left biceps and the cattle-branded monogram he recognized as the mark of a vampire known as Grimm. A growl rumbled up from his chest. Even without the mutilation, the victim was Raze’s now. He would stand for the man and the vengeance due him. “I almost wish Grimm was still alive so I could kill him again.”

“You’ve got enough on your plate dealing with his minions,” Syre said, entering the room soundlessly.

Despite the hour, the vampire leader looked flawless. Even in casual dark jeans and a plain T-shirt, there was an elegance to him that was regal and commanding. Raze would brave the pits of hell for Syre if he commanded it. They’d come to earth together, fallen together, lost their wings together. Two hundred of them. And there wasn’t one of the Fallen who wouldn’t give their life for their leader. From the heights of grace as Watchers to the fall that cursed them with vampirism, Syre led them forward with a confidence that inspired them all.

Vash’s pacing came to an abrupt halt. “Do we have any idea how many minions we’re talking about here? How many have you taken out so far, Raze?”

“A dozen pairs, give or take a few. Adrian was on it, too,” he said, referring to the angel who’d severed Syre’s wings. Raze had a lot of reasons to resent Adrian, as well as the Sentinel angels who served under him—the Fallen’s vampiric punishment being the least of it—but there was no denying that when they were aligned and hunting the same prey, Adrian’s involvement was a benefit.

Syre crossed his arms and looked at Vashti, his second-in-command. “Remind me: how long did Grimm evade our attention?”

“Too fucking long. He was in our faces, but I didn’t look deep enough. On the surface, his theory had merit. Still does. Or maybe it’s wishful thinking. With the number of minions we lose to madness during the Change from fledgling to vampire, I’d like to think there’s some way to cut the waste. He wrapped his dogma up with pseudoscience and I bought it.”

“He was the one pairing fledglings into couples to ease the transition? I remember discussing it with you. He had enough success in the beginning to justify allowing him to proceed, if I recall.”

Raze shot her a chastising glance for being hard on herself. “If you were looking for a ball and chain, and vampirism was one of your requirements in a perfect mate, Grimm was the man to see. He had personality profiles, compatibility charts, etc. All of which he used to weed out the whack jobs so he could pair them with nutcases. I knew his doctrine was dangerous, so when I took him out I hunted down all his disciples, too. Whoever is responsible for this, Grimm didn’t document them the way he did the others.”

“Disciples,” Syre murmured. “Interesting word choice.”

“It’s the right word, trust me. What else would you call the followers of an idiot playacting as a messiah preaching revolt against you?”

Syre ran a hand through his thick black hair, the only sign he gave of any disquiet. “Whoever is responsible, they came directly to you. This is personal.”

“You’re goddamned right it’s personal.” He looked at the body again, knowing it wasn’t merely a taunt but a message. “Help me turn this guy over.”

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