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Authors: Taryn Browning

Dark Beauty (Seeker)

BOOK: Dark Beauty (Seeker)
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DARK BEAUTY

A Seeker Series Novella

 

 

TARYN BROWNING

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER BOOKS BY TARYN BROWNING

 

Dark Seeker
(Seeker, #1)

 
Whispering Hills
 Copyright © 2011 by Taryn Browning
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

www.tarynbrowning.com

 

ISBN-10: 1463757239

ISBN-13: 978-1463757236

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, and place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Dedication

 

For my wonderful husband, two beautiful boys, family & friends.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Without you, none of this would be possible.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

Thank you to my husband, Keith.
 
You are my first editor and biggest supporter.  I also want to thank Christine Witthohn for believing in me. Brent Taylor, for making my books sparkle, and the YA bloggers for your reviews.  Thanks to my friends and critique partners, Michelle Madow and Angie Baime.  Also, Catherine Van Herrin for your fantastic edits.  None of this would be possible without the love and support of my parents, Ken & Sandie Hackman and Sheryl Morgan.  Huge thanks to my sisters, Lauren and Kim.  There are so many people who have influenced my writing.  I am thankful for each and every one of you.  And most of all, thanks to you for reading my book. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Lesson three of Seeker Training—always be prepared.

Isabelle Crowe hid behind a dumpster. There were at least three of them. As with all Seekers, she could feel them. Her skin crawled, and the hair along her arms stood on end.

She armed herself with her stake, her fingers gripping the wood’s smooth surface. She switched hands and ran her damp palm over her jeans. Her first kill – well, real kill. All the others had occurred during field training. Now fifteen, Isabelle could go out on her own.

She had chosen a tank top and stretch jeans for her first night out without her mentor. With the temperature still in the high 80s, the humidity threatened to clog her lungs. Coming from the semi-arid climate of Boise City, Oklahoma, fighting in the Houston heat was going to be a challenge. She was definitely no longer in the high plains, or surrounded by her Native American ancestors. Isabelle glimpsed down at the lines of sweat on her tank and huffed. She didn’t even have to move around to break a sweat. The air itself was soggy.

Once again, she readied herself to attack. A police car shot down the street outside the alley, followed by another. After the whirling sirens faded, she sprang out behind the dumpster and smacked right into a tall, unfamiliar guy.

“Whoa, aren’t you being a little premature?” The guy held his strong hands out to block her forward progress. Eyeing her with the deepest blue stare, he said, “There are three of them and one of you. This is your first ‘real’ kill. Don’t you think you should work your way up?”

“Uh, who are you again?” Isabelle raised her stake. To hell with him. She had a job to do, and she’d waited a freaking long time to go out on her own.

He laughed. “What, are you going to stake me?” He ran his hand through his dark hair and smirked at her condescendingly.  

Screw him. By the amount of stakes shoved into the waist of his jeans, Isabelle could tell he was a Seeker. So the question was—
why was he here?
There was only one Seeker assigned to each city, and he had the audacity to mock her in
her
territory.

“Is there a reason you’re in my city?” she said.

“Those dark eyes of yours are so angry. Beautiful, but bitter. Isabelle, you’d think I staked your kill.” He edged her back behind the dumpster and extended his hand. “I’m Abram Mitchell, fourth-year Seeker.”

Isabelle scowled, ignoring his gesture. “I’d say this isn’t a proper introduction, since it seems you already know my name.” She laughed. “And what, am I supposed to be intimidated by our three-year age difference?”

“Aww, dark beauty, why so angry? It really isn’t becoming.” His arrogance and smugness was enough to make Isabelle want to hurl.

 “I’m Cherokee; we tend to have dark features,” she said.

Abram stroked her long, black hair. “You really should tie that back when you’re seeking.”

She swatted his hand away and held her ground. “You didn’t answer my question. Why are you in
my
city?”

He shrugged. “You’re new. Your mentor thought you could use a more experienced Seeker to show you how it’s done.” He leaned forward, resting his hand on the brick building behind her, pinning her uncomfortably between him and the wall.

“I already know how it’s done. Stake ‘em.” She slid out of the Abram wall-sandwich, preferring the hot brick to his advances.

“Ah, you would say that. Guess you haven’t heard.”

“Heard what?”

“The vamps aren’t the only ones to be concerned about,” he said. “Word is Tavares, the vampire king, has been creating his own species. There aren’t many of them, but if you come across one, you’re going to need to know how to kill him.”

She half-laughed. “You’re lying.”

“Suit yourself, but don’t blame me when a stake through the heart doesn’t take them out.”

“My mentor would have told me about this, not just sent some arrogant jerk to ‘show me the way,’” she said.

 “Then, I guess he didn’t tell you that they can walk in the sunlight.” He placed his back against the wall. His T-shirt was wet and clung to his muscular chest in the July heat.

Isabelle couldn’t believe what he’d said. Vampires couldn’t go out in the sun. “What’s the real reason you’re interrupting me? I have three vamps to kill. Real vamps, not these fake vamps that probably don’t even exist.”

He removed a stake from his waist. “Would you like some assistance?”

“No, I’d like you to go back to whatever city you came from and leave me alone to do
my
job.”

He turned, waving his arm for her to pass. “Have at it.”

She shoved by him. “Thank you. That’s the first helpful thing you’ve done.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

Isabelle searched the alley, but the only evidence of the vampires’ existence was a limp body slouched up against a wall. She hurried over to the guy, but it was too late. Puncture wounds on his neck and wrists indicated they’d already drained his body of blood.

“Damn it.” She threw her stake on the ground. Her first time out by herself, and she’d been distracted.

“He was dead before you sensed the vamps,” Abram said, sauntering up behind her.

She swung around and said, “No! You stopped me from killing them and now
he
—” She pointed to the body. “
He
is dead!” She snatched her stake up and shoved it into her boot. Without another word, she took off down the alley, not wanting to see Abram ever again.

 

Back at home, Isabelle stormed into the kitchen. Her mother jabbed at the buttons on the dishwasher and bent over, her shoulder-length black hair spilling forward. She grumbled and shoved her full weight into the plastic door. The machine started up and sputtered to a halt.

“What’s up with the shitty dishwasher?” Isabelle said.

Eponine shot upright, frowning. Isabelle realized she’d just cursed in front of her mother.
Great, here comes the lecture.

“Excuse me, young lady.”

“Sorry. Bad night. What’s up with the dishwasher?”

Her mother brushed the wisps of dark hair out of her eyes. “It’s not working. Nothing in this house works. First the AC and now the dishwasher.”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing we only have to spend four years here.” They’d just moved to the suburbs, and they would stay there until Isabelle graduated from high school. Then they’d move to another city, she’d turn fifteen again, and start the cycle over.

 Apparently no longer angry at Isabelle’s choice of words, Eponine approached her daughter. “What happened? This was your first night in the city without Jared.”

 “Oh, yeah, great mentor Jared’s turning out to be. He sent some cocky as— er, jerk into the city to assist me. Like I can’t handle the vamps all on my own. What, does he think I’m going to suck at my job? You were a Seeker, what’s up with the backseat Seeker crap? I was supposed to be out on my own. This was my chance to show him I could handle my job. Alone.”

Eponine took on her motherly tone. “I’ve known Jared for years. He doesn’t do things unless there’s a good reason.” She rested a loving hand on Isabelle’s shoulder. “Look, you have a few weeks before school starts. Try to work with this other Seeker, and then I’m sure he’ll be gone. Trust me. You have years left of the Seeker life. Don’t try to jump in too fast. After a while, you’ll wish you could be a ‘normal’ teenager.”

Eponine hurried over to the desk she’d created on the countertop and fumbled around for a notepad. Her mother often retreated from their conversations to do something she’d forgotten to do earlier.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

 Eponine fussed with her hair, scribbling on the notepad. “We’re out of spices. I’ve got to get to the market,” she sighed. “There aren’t as many of us in Houston. It was so much easier to find protection herbs in Boise. Now, I have to plan ahead.” Her hand trembled as she wrote her to-do list.

Isabelle knew exactly what her mother was talking about – the U`tlûñ'ta, or Spear-finger: a shape shifter who could transfigure into anything she desired. She was said to be a “bloodthirsty” killer. The creature, which in true form resembled an old lady with hard, wrinkled, leather-like skin, used her long bony finger to stab people and extricate their livers. Eponine and many of their Cherokee ancestors feared the shape shifter would pay them a visit. They placed protective herbs around their homes to ward off the creature. Isabelle wasn’t so convinced the creepy lady actually existed. To her, it seemed like any other Cherokee legend.

 Placing her hand over her mother’s trembling arm, Isabelle said, “U-wo-du-hi.” Isabelle didn’t know many words in her native language, but she’d always remember that word—
beautiful
. She thought back to her childhood. After her father left, her mother would tell her she was beautiful in Cherokee. Somehow, it made his absence more bearable. What did she know? She was only a child.

 

The next morning, Isabelle trained with Jared. They practiced in an abandoned warehouse in the city. He’d set up a mock environment to simulate “real” city life as much as possible. As Isabelle approached the run-down building, with its shattered windows and walls that had been painted so many times the peeling paint gave way to a rainbow of dreary colors, she considered telling him about Abram. Jared ran a very stringent program as a mentor to Seekers. To put it frankly, he didn’t put up with anyone’s – even Isabelle’s – shit.  

As she reached for the door, a crashing sound erupted from inside the warehouse. With Abram’s words about vampires resistant to the sun’s rays still fresh in her mind, she worried Jared could be injured, or worse. Isabelle burst into the building. Her findings were
not
as she had expected.

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