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Dark Lover

By:J. R. Ward

Chapter One


Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. Screamer's was packed tonight, full of women wearing leather and men who looked like they had advanced degrees in violent crime.

Darius and his companion fit right in.

Except they actually were killers.

"So you're really going to do this?" Tohrment asked him.

Darius glanced across the shallow table. The other vampire's eyes met his own. "Yeah. I am."

Tohrment nursed his Scotch and smiled grimly. Only the very tips of his fangs showed. "You're crazy, D."

"You should know."

Tohrment tilted his glass in deference. "But you're raising the bar. You want to take an innocent girl, who has no idea what the hell she's getting into, and put her transition in the hands of someone like Wrath. That's whacked."

"He isn't evil. In spite of the way he looks." Darius finished his beer. "And show a little respect."

"I respect the hell out of him. But it's a bad idea."

"I need him."

"You sure about that?"

A woman wearing a micromini, thigh-high boots, and a bustier made of chains trolled by their table. Her eyes glittered from behind two pounds of mascara, and she worked her walk as if her hips were double-jointed.

Darius gave her a pass. Sex was not on his mind tonight.

"She's my daughter, Tohr."

"She's a half-breed, D. And you know how he feels about humans." Tohrment shook his head. "My great-great-grandmother was one, and you don't see me yakking that up around him."

Darius lifted his hand to catch their waitress's eye and pointed at his empty bottle and Tohrment's nearly dry glass. "I'm not going to let another one of my children die. Not if there's a possibility I can save her. And anyway, there's no telling whether she'll even go through the change. She could end up living a happy life, never knowing about my side. It's happened before."

And he hoped his daughter would be spared. Because if she went through her transition, if she came out alive on the other side as a vampire, she was going to be hunted as they all were.

"Darius, if he does it at all, he'll do it because he owes you. Not because he wants to."

"I'll take him any way I can get him."

"But what are you giving her? He's about as nurturing as a sawed-off, and that first time can be rough, even if you've been prepared. Which she hasn't."

"I'm going to talk to her."

"And how's that going to go? You're just going to walk up to her and say, 'Hey, I know you've never seen me before, but I'm your dad. Oh, and guess what? You've won the evolutionary lottery: You're a vampire. Let's go to Disneyland!' "

"I hate you right now."

Tohrment leaned forward, his thick shoulders shifting under black leather. "You know I got your back. I'm just thinking you should reconsider." There was a heavy pause. "Maybe I could do it."

Darius shot him a dry look. "You want to try and get back into your house after the fact? Wellsie will stake you through the heart and leave you for the sun, my friend."

Tohrment winced. "Good point."

"And then she'll come looking for me."

Both males shuddered.

"Besides…" Darius leaned back as the waitress put their drinks down. He waited until she left, even though hard-core rap was pumping all around them. "Besides, we're living in dangerous times. If something happens to me-"

"I'll take care of her."

Darius clapped his friend on the shoulder. "I know you will."

"But Wrath is better." There was no jealousy in the remark. It was a statement of fact.

"There's no one like him."

"And thank God for that," Tohrment said with a half smile.

Their band of brothers, a tight circle of strong-backed warriors who traded information and fought together, were of the same opinion. Wrath was off the chain when it came to the business of vengeance, and he hunted their enemies with a single-minded purpose that bordered on the insane. He was the last of his line, the only purebred vampire left on the planet, and though his race revered him as its king, he despised his status.

It was almost tragic that he was the best bet Darius's half-breed daughter had of surviving. Wrath's blood, so strong, so untainted, would increase the chances of her getting through the transition if it hit her. But Tohrment wasn't off the mark. It was like turning a virgin over to a thug.

With a sudden rush, the crowd shifted, people backing into each other. They were making way for someone. Or something.

"Shit. Here he comes," Tohrment muttered. He tossed back his Scotch, swallowing it whole. "No offense, but I'm outtie. This is not a conversation I need to be a part of."

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