This is a scene from the 5th book in my romantic vampire series, Dark Secrets.
Many of my fans will have come over here today to get this exclusive sneak preview, and I hope while you’re all here you’ll take a minute to go check out the other authors on this site, too. I’m sure you’ll find some fantastic reads among them.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s a scene from the 5th book in the Dark Secrets series, exclusively brought to you by The Indie Elite and A.M. Hudson. Hope you enjoy.
#Ara and Mike chat outside the Immortal Damned house.
I came over the hill, the midday sun bright and yellow above me, glaring in my eyes enough that as I set my gaze down on the basketball court, I could swear I saw Mike holding a child up to the hoop.
He bent down, then tossed his hand in the air, waving it once. “Hey, Ara.”
“Hey, what you do—”
“This is Will,” he cut in, presenting a small, blond-haired boy.
I stopped dead halfway down the hill. “Yes, we’ve met.”
Mike smiled at the kid. “I’ll just walk ‘im back inside. Two secs, ‘kay?”
“Sure,” I said chirpliy, but my bones wouldn’t move. Who on Earth authorised him to take the Damned outside?
Mike walked the boy back toward the house, his hand on his shoulder, both of them talking animatedly, like they were best buddies. I almost didn’t recognise my ‘mature’ best friend and Chief of Security anymore. He even dressed differently when he came to see the Dammed—always in jeans and a light coloured T-shirt, usually wearing a baseball cap, too. And I kinda liked him this way. He was fun Mike. Guy-I-grew-up-with Mike.
I reached the base of the hill as Mike broke into a light jog back in my direction, bending to scoop the basketball of the ground as he approached. “Hey, baby.”
“Hey. Letting the Damed out now, huh?”
He smirked at the quaver in my voice. “Yeah. Who'd have thought blood hungry kids could get a release of energy from playing outdoors?”
“And. . .who, exactly, approved this?”
“David.” He stood taller, clearly ready for a challenge. “But not without supervision, and only one at a time.”
“But nothing, Ara. Those kids—” He pointed to the house, “—for the most part, are normal. You can’t keep them locked away for the rest of their lives—”
“Even if the conditions are pleasant,” he finished. “You don’t have to agree, Ara, but you—”
“Mike.” I put my hands up. “I agree, okay. I was just. . .”
He smiled sheepishly. “Surpised.”
“Yeah. I didn’t mean to start an argument. I think it’s great.” I glanced over at the house to see all the little faces watching Mike and I through the window. “It’s just that no one told me.”
“Didn’t David?” Mike jumped up to dunk the ball in the hoop.
“Nope.” I strolled over and caught it on the rebound. “He told me they were showing signs of improvement now that they’re being fed properly, and mentioned something about education, but—”
“Did he tell you we decided not to feed them Pure Blood?”
I frowned, searching my brain for that conversation, but it’d never happened. “No. Why’s that?”
“Well, for one, when we tried them on Lilithian blood, they rejected it—it wasn’t enough for them.”
“They’re like concentrated versions of vampires, almost as if they need more blood than an adult.” He stole the ball from my hands. “Kind of like when vampires get hurt—our blood isn’t enough for them then, either.”
“And, what were the other reasons you decided against giving them our blood?”
“We don’t want them immune to your venom.” He threw the ball into the hoop, ignoring my sudden gasp. “We left it that way in case you never find a cure for vampirism.”
“So, you're just going to kill them if I can’t change them back?”
Mike took a deep breath. “We may have no choice. They can’t stay that way for eternity.”
“Mike! That’s horrible.”
“I know. But it won’t come to that. Besides—” He dribbled the ball. “Were also leaving things open in case one of them wants to die.”
“You're giving them the option?”
“They're children, they can’t make that kind of choice.”
“Ara—those kids are older than you.”
“Not in human years.” I stole the ball.
“Yes, but they mature with experience and age—just like we do.” He reached across and snatched it from my hands, throwing me a vehement glare with just a hint of a smile underneath. “Their mind’s aren’t locked in childhood at all, like vampires first thought. And—”
“I know,” I cut in. “I’ve seen them learn, show reason, integrity—wisdom, even. But I don’t like the idea of giving them the option of suicide.”
“Freedom, you mean.” He turned away and threw the ball toward the hoop.
“Freedom. It’s not the option of suicide, Ara. It’s the freedom to choose an immortal life or a peaceful death.”
I studied him carefully for a second before he broke the stare and wandered over to grab the ball from across the court. He was serious about this stuff. I’d never seen him get so . . . red in the face, over any topic. “Why does it matter to you so much, Mike—whether they live or die?”
“It’s not that.” He tossed the ball to me; I caught it. “It’s. . .I don’t know.”
I hid my smile with the turn of my back, and aimed the orange ball to the sky, throwing it but missing my target. “You come here every day, don't you?”
“Oh, no reason.” I folded my arms, squinting up at him. “One might just think you were starting to like those kids.”
He smiled bashfully, jamming his hands in his pockets, but it slipped away as he looked at his feet. “So what was the deal with you lot last night?”
“What do you mean?”
“I had coffee with Morg this morning. She told me you all fell asleep on David.”
I took a step away and grabbed the ball off the ground. “Yeah. And?”
“Where was Emily?”
I passed him the ball. “What’d you mean?”
He sighed, hinting the obvious. “Where, Ara?”
“Oh, um, she had her head in his lap.”
“Exactly.” He spun the ball around a few times between his palms, studying it. “You all looked at me last night like I was coming to Morg’s room for sex or something, yet Em falls asleep with her head in your husband’s crotch, and no one bats an eyelid?”
“Who?” He glanced sideways at me, the ball rolling off his fingertips toward the hoop again. “You?”
He sighed. “Things aren’t great between her and I, Ar, but. . .I love her.”
“Do you? Really?” I asked in a flat but curious tone.
“Of course.” He bent down to grab the ball. “She just expects too much of me. I can't be with her twenty-four-seven.”
“Or you don't want to.”
He made a basket, his hands staying in the air a few seconds longer than needed. “I . . . I don't know.”
I grinned, trapping the ball under my toe as it rolled toward me. “Trouble in paradise.”
“Shut up.” He copied my grin, elbowing me in the ribs after.
“Just tell me one thing,” I said.
“Do you actually want to be with her, Mike, or are you holding on to her like some trophy?”
“Nice shot.” He laughed, watching my ball go through the hoop without hitting the rims. “And . . . yes. I do want to be with her, Ara. But—” His gaze went distant.
“There are . . . things. I dunno.” He shook his head. “I just . . . it’s not all black and white.”
“So talk,” I said, and Mike walked away, taking a seat on the court-side bench, with his head in his hands.
I sat beside him, leaving the ball to roll off, coming to rest on the foot of the hill.
“When I spend time with her . . . she’s not even there. You know, I told her something really personal the other day, and she . . .” He leaned back, looking up at the sky. “She laughed. Yet, when I told Morg the same thing, she. . .”
“Well, she supported me. It’s like, I know you think there’s something with Morg and me, but there’s not. She just . . . listens.”
“She ‘gets’ you,” I said with a smile.
“Yeah. But it’s not just her special talent, Ar. She’s a good person.”
I nodded and looked up at the same place Mike was staring. “So, are you saying you want Emily to be more like Morgaine?”
He laughed, catching the humour in my voice. “I just want her to want me for more than the idea she has of me, if that makes any sense.”
I ran the words over in my head, interpreting them as best I could. “You want to be free to be you, and have her love you anyway.”
“Yeah. But she’s got this image of me and what I should be, you know? And it’s not me, Ar.”
“I know.” I nodded, thinking more about the Mike I grew up with. “So, what was it?”
“What was what?”
“The personal thing you told Morg and Em, but not me.”
His lips parted in a breathy grin. “It’s private.”
“Please tell me.”
I saw him considering it as he studied me in his peripheral, and I knew that, for the first time in so long, he saw me as his best friend again. “I spend more time down here than I do at the barracks.”
“Hm.” I was taken aback for a moment, disguising my shock quickly with a smile. “You like hanging with the children?”
He nodded, his whole body rocking with the movement. “I . . . I get something out of this. I don’t know. I just . . . when I spend the day with them—teaching them things, playing with them, and I see the difference it makes—see them put what I’ve taught them into practice or see them behave differently each time I visit, it. . .” He stopped for a second to look at my face. “It makes my life seem like it has a purpose.”
“Really?” was only one of the hundred questions I suddenly wanted to ask.
“Yeah.” He looked into my eyes then at my lips, probably expecting me to laugh. “Morg thinks I should change my career path.”
His hands tightened, a slow breath filling the lengthy pause. “A teacher.”
My gut dropped. “Are you—”
“No.” He waved a reassuring hand. “I’m not even thinking about it. You know I couldn’t leave you, but I—I like the idea, you know, that maybe this—” he motioned around himself and my world, “—isn’t all there is for me.”
“And what did Em think of that?”
“She thinks . . . She—” He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Well, she said it was ridiculous. Said I was born to be Chief, and that I shouldn’t be anywhere else.”
“I. . .” I nodded, stalling for time until I could sort my own thoughts and opinions out from my fears and worries. “Morg’s right, Mike. You’ve always been the sort of guy who’d be good at teaching. I mean, hell, you taught me nearly everything useful I know in life.”
I laughed. “Buuuut. . .”
“I know.” He patted my hand. “I know you need me here.”
“We won’t always, though, Mike.” I patted his hand back until he looked at me. “I think it’s great, and I think you should definitely do it. But, just . . . can you wait ‘til this Drake thing’s resolved?”
He put his arm around my neck and pulled me close. “Sure, kid. I hadn’t made any plans to go anywhere just yet. You can count on me.”
“I know.” I smiled, pressing my brow into his kiss.
That’s all for today, folks. Thanks to The Indie Elite for hosting this post.
If you’d like to know more about The Dark Secrets series, you can go to www.darksecretsseries.com for links to the books and to the Facebook and Twitter pages.