She Lights Up the Dark by A.M. Manay by A.M. Manay - Read Online

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She Lights Up the Dark - A.M. Manay

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Acknowledgments

Completing this work would not have been possible without the love and support of my husband, my son, and all my friends and family. I am so grateful to my readers who enjoyed the first book in this series, She Dies at the End. I was quite nervous about how my first novel would be received, and I was thrilled with all your kind reviews and notes. My thanks goes as well to my subscribers and beta readers who help me make my work as perfect as possible. I am also thankful for my fellow independent writers in the Alliance of Self-Published Authors for their help, encouragement, and advice. Finally, I give thanks for my excellent proofreader and fellow author Pandora Spocks, whose naughty books you should all be reading.

November's Vampire Bloodline

List of Principal Characters

Birch

Fairy, William's right hand, son of Hazel. Can control fire.

Carlos

Werewolf child who survived captivity by Luka, informally adopted by Zinnia.

Emil

Vampire, son of Ilyn, estranged from the family.

Gregory

Vampire, son of Savita, formerly employed by William.

Gul

3000 year old fairy, known as The Desert King, has hiding power.

Hazel

1200 year old fairy. Ilyn's right hand. Mother of Birch, grandmother of Pine. Powerful healer.

Hector

Werewolf who survived captivity by Luka.

Helena

Vampire leader in Eden.

Holly

Fairy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Secretary of State. Secretly works for Luka.

Ilyn

Recently deposed vampire king. Marisha's progeny and husband. Turner of Emil, Savita, William, and November. Known as The Scourge.

Jaime Alvarez

A human FBI agent.

Luka

Vampire, son of Marisha. Recently took the throne of the vampire/fairy kingdom.

Marisol

William's vampire progeny and wife of several centuries. Severely injured in a bombing. Also called Esther.

Nigel

Vampire and demon, son of Marisha. Has finding ability, works for Luka. Also called Philip.

Noemi

Vampire, Savita's wife of 100 years.

November

Psychic demon whose most recent human incarnation was just turned into a vampire by Ilyn.

Pine

Fairy warrior, previously in William's employ, son of Birch and Rose, has power of illusion.

Raina

Vampire, daughter of Marisha, wife of Gul. Former queen of Persia.

Rose

Fairy, previously employed by William, wife of Birch, mother of Pine.

William

Vampire. Former Lord of California. Son of Ilyn. Maker of Marisol and Agnes (deceased). Husband of Marisol.

Savita

Telepathic demon and vampire. Daughter of Ilyn, maker of Gregory, wife of Noemi. Has the ability to enthrall supernatural creatures.

Zinnia

Young fairy, November's best friend, empath, adoptive mother to Carlos.

Chapter 1

Her gift stalked her, even in the ground.

Far below, the ocean churns, a vast darkness that mirrors the sky, partly obscured by scraps of clouds dimly lit by moonlight. Far away, lights flash atop ships passing in the night. The air is cold and thin, so high above it all, dark and still.

The sky combusts. A sun appears mid-air, unheralded by the pinking of dawn. It simply arrives, setting the atmosphere aflame. A flock of lost birds disintegrates, gone in an instant as though they'd never been. The hot air rises swiftly: a mushroom of painful brightness, a speeding cloud of death in the midst of night, lighting up the dark.

***

I don’t understand! Zinnia cried.  I stared at that grave all day, I swear to you.  Hazel worked the perimeter.  She looked around in disbelief.

Greg squatted on the ground near the empty hole, looking for anything unusual.  He rocked back on his heels and looked up at the sky for answers.  There were none to be found there, either.  

Ilyn was frantic, searching in every direction, looking like nothing so much as a lost child.  He turned on Zinnia.  In an instant, he had her pinned by the neck against the hard ground.  If you have betrayed us, I will tear you to pieces with my bare hands.

Zinnia stared up at him, all shock and terror, pale blue tears springing to her eyes.  Never, I swear, she mouthed desperately, unable to draw enough breath to speak aloud.  

Savita appeared at her father's side and knelt on the packed dirt.  She glared at him wordlessly until he let go of the girl's throat, still sitting astride the young fairy to keep her from rising.  Savita touched Zinnia's face gently and closed her eyes to look within Zinnia's mind.  

She is no traitor, came Savita's verdict.  

At that, Ilyn rose and resumed his fruitless search, no apology forthcoming.  Zinnia sat up and placed a hand to her neck.  She stared at Ilyn's back, her face a mixture of fear and disgust with just a tinge of pity.  Even if he'd still possessed his throne, anyone who cared to look at her face would have seen that Ilyn was no longer her king.

She’s still here, Hazel proclaimed.  We simply cannot see or hear her.  The animals are dead.  They all turned to look and found that the king's lieutenant was correct.  The three beasts Greg had gathered for November's first meal lay drained, their blood soaking the ground.

Luka warned me not to change her.  Said he’d taken precautions, Ilyn murmured, remembering the words of the family’s black sheep.

Fairy magic, Greg declared.  Illusion or hiding magic or both?

Willow, came all five voices at once, resigned and angry and amazed.

She doesn't have to hide Luka's fort anymore, so she'd have plenty of magical power to hide one girl quite thoroughly.  Assuming November was correct about Willow still being alive, Hazel added.

The girl does tend to be correct, William pointed out.

November, if you can hear us, don't panic.  Stay here with us.  We will figure out what is happening, Ilyn instructed, not very convincingly.

Would she be able to hear us, Hazel? Greg asked.  Outwardly, he was calm.  His seething rage was visible only in the clench of his jaw.

Hazel replied, If it's a typical hiding spell, then yes, she should see and hear us but we cannot perceive her.

Ever practical, William asked, So, how do we break the spell?

We get Willow to remove it, Hazel said.  I can't undo magic when I can't touch the patient.

Yeah, I'm sure she'll be completely amenable to that, William replied with his usual sarcasm.

I don't know all that much about hiding magic. Maybe she cast it so that those exempt from the hex can make her visible. Perhaps Luka, maybe Betrand? If not, then it can only be undone by another hider, and I do not know of another since Gul, and he hasn't been seen in centuries, as far as I know, Hazel explained, patient and resigned.  

Or we kill Willow, Zinnia said, her voice hoarse with swallowed tears and mistreatment, viscous with anger.  She still sat on the ground, shaking too hard to stand up.

Or we kill Willow, Hazel confirmed.  Which will be easier said than done. She's surely hiding herself as well.

"So Em's imperceptible to all of us, Zinnia thought aloud, but who else can't see her?"

If I were him, William said slowly, She would be hidden from all supernatural creatures.  So she couldn't turn for help to any of our kind.  Or the werewolves, either.  Maybe the humans, too, if I wanted her to starve.  To make her desperate enough to come to me for help.

Oh, no, Zinnia moaned quietly, hiding her face against her knees.

Ilyn crumpled.  It was as though he were a puppet and someone had cut the strings.  His body was still standing, but the rest of him . . . suddenly, he looked old and frail.  This is what she feared most, he managed to say.  Having to face this all alone.

We have to get out of here, William reminded everyone, once again the practical one.  The sniper had a phone.  We don't know for certain if he called in a location before he shot her. The enemy could be upon us any second.  We have to get to the plane before Luka's people do.  That is our only chance.  If she can see or hear us, she'll come with us.  If she can't, there's not much we can do for her, anyway.

We could leave her something useful, Zinnia proposed.  She was able to feed on the animals we had ready for her, right?  We could at least give her money and clean clothes.

Worth a try, Greg agreed.  

Zinnia ran into the house, a blue-tinged blur, emerging seconds later with a pile of clothing.  They were folded just so, their neatness in stark contrast to the mess of their situation.  Greg clipped an ATM card to the cash he'd gathered from everyone and jotted the PIN on the topmost dollar bill.

Everyone into the van, William ordered.  Now.

All but Ilyn and Hazel complied.  The ancient vampire simply stood and stared, immobile as a weathered statue.  

Father, we have to go, William insisted, his patience exhausted.  You have one minute.  Then I start driving.

Ilyn, Hazel said urgently, taking her king's arm.  You do her no good by standing here waiting for death to show up and take you.  We leave now, maybe we live to fight another day.  Maybe we find a way to help her.  Dead, you can do nothing.

She pulled at him, and he allowed himself to be led swiftly to the front of the house, looking back over his shoulder all the while.

***

She knew only one thing after she clawed her way out of the ground: she had to eat.  Two sheep and a billy goat gave their lives for November's first meal of her new one.  She required no persuasion or instruction, falling upon them instinctively when she'd emerged from the earth, filthy and ravenous.  She tore into them, a gleeful savage.  

When she was full and they were empty, she knelt next to them, stunned, reaching up a tentative finger to touch the fangs protruding from her bloodstained mouth.  The animals had tasted of grass and sunshine and milk.  For a few moments, she had lived their bucolic lives, now over.  She felt warm, fuzzy with pleasure.  Her head spun.  

November wasn't quite sure where she was, or even who she was, but then it all came back in a rush.

As she walks among her friends, a sniper's bullet finds her belly. She falls to the dirt as she takes the death meant for another. Ilyn carries her inside, eyes burning. She lies in front of a fireplace, her life bleeding away, but there is no pain on her face. Her friends surround her. She agrees to live to fight another day. He takes her blood and gives her his own. Now there is fear and struggle and rejection, but it is too late, far too late. They watch her die They watch her die because of them.

November returned to the present, the ground solid beneath her knees once again.

I died. I'm a vampire.

For a moment, she wasn't certain if she would laugh or weep.  The amazed cackle that escaped between her fingers settled that question.  It was only after the glow of feeding had faded that she noticed the pandemonium that had erupted around her.

They were looking for something.  Zinnia was on the ground.  She looked completely undone.  And Ilyn . . . Ilyn looked terrible.  It took November a long, confused moment to realize that what they were looking for . . . was her. She stood up, covered in blood, and looked at her companions uncomprehendingly.  

I’m right here, she proclaimed, waving her hands in front of Hazel’s face.  Hello?  Can you hear me?  

She looked down at her own body, and it was perfectly visible and solid to her.  

Zinnia?  Ilyn?  

She tried to touch her maker, reaching out a hand to toward his arm.  Her blood-stained fingers passed right through him.

It’s no use, kitten.  They cannot hear you.  

November closed her eyes, willing that familiar voice to disappear, praying she’d imagined it.  When she got up the nerve to turn around, rage filled her, and she tackled Luka to the ground, fangs bared, screaming like a madwoman, What have you done?

He looked up at her, unconcerned, and laughed delightedly.

Oh, my, vampirism certainly does become you, November.  More beautiful than ever.  So savage, he winked.  But as much as I enjoy having you on top of me, it is a bit distracting. Another time.  

He threw her off of himself with ease, as the newborn was no match for the strength of his eight centuries as a vampire.  

She landed lightly on her feet and demanded again, in a voice quieter but no less hostile, What have you done?

Do allow me to apologize for the sniper, by the way.  He's lucky he's already dead. It pains me to think how you might have suffered in your final human moments. As for your current invisibility . . . Ilyn managed to steal you from me: the final victory of a dying man.  I have simply employed Willow to steal you back by hiding you quite thoroughly.  Thank you for saving her life, by the way.  That was most helpful. Perhaps after a few decades you’ll learn to be less merciful.

But you lost, she argued with a childlike stubbornness. She shook her head in disbelief. They defeated you. We defeated you.

His smile was a strange mix of pity and gloating. "Do I really strike you as the type to put all my eggs in one basket, kitten? For centuries, I've been amassing personnel and real estate to support my plans. My base in the desert was merely an outpost. An outpost I no longer require.

Regardless, these people can neither see nor hear you.  If you write them a note, the words will disappear before they can read it.  You cannot call them on the phone, text them, send them email.  If you try to use a human to pass on a message, they will fail.  Post a video on YouTube, use Snapchat . . . well, you get the idea. There is not a single vampire, fairy, or werewolf on God’s green earth who can receive your communication except with my permission. The most you could manage is perhaps a game of twenty questions. I don't really understand how it works, but there you have it.  

He smiled.  The bottom line is that I am your only friend now, kitten.

November shook her head.  No, she whispered.  I would rather be alone forever than be with you.

Luka walked toward her, his manner strangely gentle.  "You say that now, of course.  You think you hate me.  You think you know what loneliness is from your hospitals and your carnies and your trailer trash adolescence with your ridiculous excuse for a mother.  

"But forever is a long time.  And now you’ve tasted what it is to have a family, and you won’t be able to bear true isolation for long.  Being a newborn vampire is not easy.  You need help.  You need someone to teach you, to comfort you.  Young vampires need physical affection as much human children do.  Perhaps more. They need to rest in the arms of their kin.  

Moreover, you don’t know how to be a vampire safely. You don't know how to enthrall.  You don’t know how your transformation will affect your clairvoyance.  You don’t know how to feed without killing.  How many human carcasses will you leave rotting in the dirt before you show up at my door?  How many innocents will you kill before you bow to the inevitable?  Savita managed to slaughter an entire village in under a minute one dark night, and it took her a century to recover.

As though you care about innocent people, she spat, furious but unable to look away from him.

I don’t, except insofar as I don’t like waste or the complications of disposal.  But you do care.  At least for now.  We can help each other, November.  Just come with me.  No tricks.  No imprisonment.  You can temper my excesses.  I’ll take care of you. Together, we'll reshape the world.

I’d rather die, she replied, her voice dripping with acid.  I can always go sunbathing if I can't hack it on my own.

I don’t think so.  If suicide was in you, you'd have succeeded at it a long time ago. I think you have a remarkable will to live.  There’s fight in you.  Inspiring, really.  Lovely.  Unfortunately, your maker lacks your fire.  

He took her by the shoulders and forcibly turned her around to face the others.  She struggled, trying to pull away from his grasp, but his grip was too strong.

Look at him.  You’ve managed what 2500 years failed to do.  Even after my mother’s murder and his inexcusable failure to find her killer, he managed to plod on another few centuries.  But not this time . . . Look at his face.  You’ve broken him.  You gave him hope, and now it’s gone.  And he will never find it again.

November closed her eyes, unwilling to see the truth in his words.  

I am not going to help you hurt people, least of all my friends.  I’m not going to help you enslave the human race or exterminate the werewolves or whatever other awfulness you have planned.

"I don’t need your help to hurt people, kitten.  I’m rather accomplished at that all on my own.  And I don’t intend to kill these wretches, at least not most of them.  I am still fond of Savita.  And she is special.  That saves her and Gregory.  I've liked him from the first.  Very practical.  Did you know I taught him to read and do figures, after Savita brought him home?  He's always been sharp as a tack.  They could both be useful to me, in time.  

"William will have to go, of course.  He has ambition.  The fairy baby is not a problem.  She can go on playing nanny to the mutt if she likes, until it turns on her.  What do I care about that?   Of course I will kill Ilyn . . . I dislike loose ends. And I do hate him rather a great deal.  

"But even he is no real threat . . . few will rally to his side.  Everyone who lays eyes on him will see how defeated he is.  It’s not as though they loved him even when his throne was secure.  It was Mother they loved.  He owed his power to her.  

"The young ones have no loyalty to him at all.  Look at how much Gregory and what's-her-name despise him.  The old ones are loyal out of habit, but that can only carry one so far.  God knows Hazel must be sick of him by now.  She ought to have had a throne of her own long since. I expect father dear will decide to meet the sun before I even get around to killing him.  

"I could have come here in force, surrounded by my remaining men, of which there are many, slaughtered all your friends right in front of you.  I refrained out of my abiding affection for you, kitten, and to demonstrate to you that I am capable of restraint.  Mercy, even.

"As for my plans for the humans, most of them are already slaves as it is.  I’ll just bring them a little change in management.  And keep them from destroying the whole planet.  The little freedom they have, they will willingly give up for safety, or the illusion of it.  

"As for the werewolves, I could be persuaded to ignore them, if I got something I wanted in return. Besides, I've already gotten everything I need from the werewolves. They’re a dying race as it is, and my interest in their extermination was largely to motivate the rabble anyway. It will be easy enough to channel their passions another way now that I rule.

I don’t need you to help me kill people, November.  I need you to help me kill the right people, and protect the innocent ones. He had finally finished his sales pitch.

Go to hell, November managed wearily, now refusing to look at him. She stared instead at her broken wretch of a maker standing before her, a ghost in Ilyn’s clothes.

"I can see you’re not ready to take my hand as of yet.  I expected it would take a little time.  So, let me tell you what is going to happen now. This little band of the doomed will flee back to California, seeking sanctuary, invisible little you presumably tagging along for the ride.  What they will find when they arrive is that all William’s underlings are now competing for my good graces and the spoils of war.  William shall find his mansion already under attack.  He will find Savita's ranch already in flames.  He will find that his friends are now my friends.  

There will be no sanctuary.  No one to give shelter or succor.  Whoever survives the night will split up and scatter to the winds, seeking to save their own skins.  Some of them may even come to me looking for a soft place to land.  And the useful ones, I’ll happily take.  The others I can pick off one by one at my leisure if they cause me any trouble.  You will be able to do nothing to help them.  They will be able to do precious little to help you.  All the while, I will be consolidating my power, spinning my webs, planning my plans and carrying them out.  Keeping an eye on you all the time. Eventually, you will be ready to face reality.  

He pressed a piece of paper into her hand.  On it was written a phone number, an email address, and a URL with a lengthy password.  

Until then . . .

He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, smelling her hair, barking a laugh at the way she struggled not to shrink from him.  Finally, he released her shoulders.  November turned around, and he was already gone.

She turned back to her friends just in time to see Hazel pulling Ilyn away toward the van out front.  Her eyes caught sight of the pile of clothes and money Greg and Zinnia had prepared.  She grabbed them up and followed, running after them with her newfound speed, not knowing what else to do, borne along by waves of despair.

***

There's no way we can hold the house.  My Lord, I am sorry.  I have failed you. Birch's voice on the speaker was strained, his words punctuated by the sounds of shouting and small explosions.  What are your orders? the fairy asked, resolutely, prepared to go down with the ship.

William closed his eyes for a moment before giving his command. Evacuate.  Let it burn. Make sure they don't get near my wife.  Take as many of them down as you can on the way out.  Use the Berkeley safe-house.  Willow didn't know about that one.  I don't think. Contact the ranch.  Tell them to get out and go to the Cellar.  Noemi will know where I mean.  I'll try to contact you after we land and find somewhere to go to ground.

Those at the ranch already fled during the day, but I don't know where they went.  I haven't been able to reach them in hours, Birch replied, his voice strained.  His son Pine had been at the ranch with Noemi and the werewolves. Good luck, Billy.  It's been an honor.

Same to you, old friend.

I love you, son, Holly added, her eyes brimming with green tears.

I love you, Mama, Birch said.  And then he was gone.

November held her fist against her mouth, trying to swallow a scream she knew no one else would hear.  She stood, hair dripping, in a T-shirt, hoodie, and jeans that almost fit.  Thank goodness there was a shower on the plane.  Now if a human saw her, she wouldn't be covered in dirt and drenched in blood, though some signs of her ordeal were still stubbornly evident underneath her fingernails.  Humans would probably notice her bare feet, unfortunately.  In the panic, no one had thought of shoes and socks.

There was a brief silence, as everyone wondered whether or not they would live to see another night.

We need to be prepared for company when we land in Livermore, Hazel said, pointing out the obvious.

And we need a plan for after we survive the airport, Greg continued.  Should we also head for the Cellar? He asked.

What's the Cellar? Zinnia asked.

William, Esther, Noemi, and I own one of the little vineyards off Tesla, Savita replied, then interrupted herself to say, Wait, I forgot; Esther's started going by Marisol again, hasn't she? I wish she would stick with one for more than a decade. It's so hard to keep track. Anyway, we built some hidey-holes there, for emergencies. It's not in any of our names.  Two or three shell companies.  We almost never go there. I don't think Willow knew about it.  Greg, you never told her, did you? The telepath's son shook his head.  Father, what do you think? Ilyn failed to respond.  Father?

William shook his head, exasperated.  Father, unless you want to lose more children tonight, you need to pull yourself together.

Ilyn finally looked at him, rage in his eyes and fangs visible.  William's calloused hands balled into fists.  For a moment, it appeared they would come to blows.  Ilyn was the one who backed down, with visible effort.  

You are right, son.  We must live to fight another day.  The vineyard sounds like a reasonable plan.  If we find it is compromised, do we have somewhere else to go?

Those fairies that run that coffee shop downtown? Zinnia offered hesitantly.

William shook his head and replied, Too risky.  Not sure of their loyalties.

I have a bolt hole in Oakland, uptown, Greg answered.  No one knows of it.

I did, his mother countered.

Telepathic mothers excepted, Greg allowed.

Where is it? Zinnia asked.

On Broadway, in the middle of Auto Row.  It's in an old church.  I rent a small apartment that used to house the caretaker.  False name, etc. Plenty of dark places there to hide for the day.

If we get separated, that's where we meet up before dawn.  Tomorrow night, we must split up and go our separate ways, Ilyn declared.

Is that wise? Zinnia asked skeptically.  Any deference to Ilyn had died in the Arizona dust.

Presents more targets, divides Luka's resources, Hazel replied.  Luka has won.  This is a guerrilla war now.  We have to assume all the state governments have capitulated to him or will do so soon.  Many of them will be embroiled in fights for succession.  We lost a lot of friends in Vegas.  We can expect no overt help from our remaining former allies.  If we are to continue to fight Luka, it will have to be in small cells, no central command, with compartmentalized information so that when one of us gets caught and is made to talk, not everyone will be compromised.  Tonight and tomorrow, we hash out some goals and procedures, determine the groups.  Then we disappear, to Luka and largely to each other.  It's the only way.

Ilyn, Savita, and William nodded in agreement.  This was seemingly familiar territory. Zinnia looked like she was about to cry, but after a moment, she, too nodded.  Greg bowed his head as well, sucking his teeth.

Like the old days, William said with a savage grin.  He looked almost cheerful about the idea of turning terrorist.

If November is still among us, with whom should she go? Savita asked.

Good question, November said to herself, sitting down next to Ilyn, wishing for all the world that she could put her head on his shoulder.

A newborn should be with her maker, William said.

No, Ilyn said decisively.  Luka will hunt William and me the hardest.  You don't depose a king and let him live.  She'd be safer near someone else.  Assuming Luka hasn't already spirited her away.

Don't you think she's been rejected by enough parents already? Zinnia retorted.  She wasn't even bothering to hide her hostility any longer.

Ilyn ground his teeth audibly.  I am not rejecting her.  I am trying to protect her, as I have continuously failed to do. His voice became a wail.  Do you not see that the loss of her is killing me?

November placed her hand on his, knowing it was futile, but doing it nonetheless.  Instead of his cool skin, she felt the leather upholstery under her fingers as her hand went straight through his own.

I'm sorry, Zinnia said, tears again welling in her eyes at his unexpected show of emotion.  I'm sorry. The empath was incapable of indifference to his pain, however much she blamed him.

We're ten minutes out, came a familiar voice from the cockpit. To November's surprise, it was Rose.  Apparently, the house manager was multi-talented.  She wondered if Rose had had a chance to talk to Birch.  She hoped against hope that the couple would be reunited, they and their son.

Hazel started passing out flak jackets and weaponry.  November's eyes widened.  Zinnia grabbed a small ballistic vest for November and laid it to one side.  

Ilyn saw her do it and commented, She favors a mace, as I recall. Zinnia nodded at him and placed a mace atop the vest.  

Ilyn added an envelope from his pocket.  It contained a silver rosary, once the prized possession of November's late grandmother, and a folded fairy lantern.  Once both friends had moved away, November took the gifts, donning the vest and picking up the mace, which felt much lighter than it had when she had been human. The rosary she felt through the envelope, knowing it would burn her should she touch it directly, but relieved to have it back nonetheless.  For a moment, she felt as though she were not all alone.

She's here, Ilyn breathed.  Look. He pointed to an empty table and smiled, the way he only smiled for November.  He doesn't have her yet.

Time to make sure he doesn't get the rest of us, William said.  We're about to land.

November nervously tried to peer ahead, to see what was happening on the ground beneath them.  She closed her eyes and concentrated, sending her mind out to explore the space beneath the plane.  It was shockingly easy.  She felt like she was flying through Livermore, skimming the rooftops, scanning for the airport, which, when she found it, was peaceful and quiet.  There was no sign of a welcoming party from Luka, which she found surprising, unless it was part of Luka's apparent effort to gain her trust, or a sign that he was not so much in control of California as he claimed.

In