Authors: Karpov Kinrade
Tags: #vampire, #paranormal romance, #fantasy romance, #twilight, #outlander, #demons, #Romance, #young adult romance, #vampire romance, #shifters, #fairies, #fae romance
Copyright © 2016 Karpov Kinrade
Cover Art Copyright © 2016 Karpov Kinrade
Published by Daring Books
eBook License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.
For anyone who dreams of taking the Blood Oath.
The Princes of Hell are coming for you.
Are you ready?
"We are the oasis in the desert, the safe harbor in the storm, the place anyone is welcome, as long as you're not a jerk to the servers."
he rain falls
in sheets, like layered waterfalls outside my second story window. I hug my knees to my chest and press my cheek against the cool glass as I watch the world outside soak itself in the Oregon mist and water.
My mom is downstairs cooking something that smells wonderful. Waffles and bacon, I think. My favorites. Breakfast for lunch? Or would it be dinner? Working graveyard messes my whole schedule up. I check the clock. It's nearly three in the afternoon, so maybe linner? Or dunch? I chuckle at my own stupid humor. I've been an adult now for fifteen hours. I was born at midnight on a full moon during a storm, or so my mom tells me.
There are day people and night people. I am a night person. An owl. A vampire. A being of darkness. A moon goddess.
I hear my mom shuffling around the kitchen, humming the nameless tune she always hums when she's alone. I feel a strange kind of melancholy today, but I don't know why. It's my birthday. I should be happy. Why aren't I?
I tug on the oversized shirt I sleep in, pulling it down my shins as I shiver. The heater is on the fritz again, just in time for a very cold winter.
"Ari! Breakfast!" My mom's voice is shrill. Forced frivolity. She's been on edge too, likely from those final notice bills I saw in her room.
She doesn't know I've dropped out of college to work full time at The Roxy. She doesn't know I already paid the electric bill in person so it wouldn't get shut off. She'll be pissed when she finds out, but at least we'll still have electricity.
College can wait.
It's not as if I'm behind, having graduated a year early and completed three semesters of undergrad classes already. But I have a long, expensive road ahead of me if I want to fulfill my dream of becoming a lawyer. And I don't have the time or money for that dream just yet. She'll understand one day.
I flip my legs off my window bench and grab a pair of jeans lying on my floor. It only takes a few seconds to pull them on and tie my long hair into a ponytail. A few black wayward strands fall out and I tuck them behind my ears and run downstairs.
My mom smiles when she sees me, but her eyes are creased with worry. "Happy Birthday, Arianna!" She's holding a plate of waffles and bacon, with eighteen lit candles sticking out of the waffles.
"Thanks, Mom." I walk over and blow out the candles, missing the last one as I run out of air. I didn't make a wish, so it doesn't really matter.
"What did you wish for?" she asks.
I smile, hoping my eyes don't betray my strange anxiety. "If I tell you, it won't come true."
She nods. "Of course." My mom and I don't look much alike. She's wild, with red curly hair, freckles, and hazel eyes. I take after my father, she says. The few pictures I've seen of him prove her right. The pale skin, black hair, elfin features, and green eyes are nearly identical. I may have gotten my looks from my father, but I get my determination and stubbornness from my mother.
She limps around the kitchen serving up our breakfast, and I resist the urge to help her, to insist she sits. I know she's in pain. I can see it eating away at her, in the pinched expressions on her face and weariness of her eyes. It's gotten worse over the years, and her pain pills are less and less effective. But despite it all, she won't let me help. My mother is nothing if not proud and fiercely independent.
We sit at our two-person plastic kitchen table surrounded by peeling yellow walls with cheap flea market paintings of flowers and fruit decorating them. I love our kitchen, as tiny and old as it is. It's cheery and always smells of cinnamon and honey.
I'm mid-bite when my mom looks up, her grin faltering. "What time do you have class today?"
I hate lying to her, but today isn't the day to tell her the truth. "It's Friday," I say. "No classes. Just work."
Her eyes light up. "Oh, maybe you could take the day off? We could go hiking? Or maybe to the museum?"
I want to say yes. I really, really do. But I can't afford to lose a day's worth of pay. Not when I know rent is overdue and we're getting eviction notices. But I can't tell her that. She works so hard to provide for us, and I know it would break her heart if she thought I was worried. So instead I shrug and try to act casual. "I can't, I'm sorry. I wouldn't be able to get anyone to cover for me this late. But how about we go out to eat after my shift? My treat."
I can see the disappointment on her face, but she covers it quickly with a smile. "That would be fun. But I'm paying. No arguments. You only turn eighteen once."
"Deal." I take my plate to the sink and wash it, then kiss her on the cheek as I head upstairs. "I've got to get ready for work. I'll see you in the morning."
"I don't like you working these late shifts, Ari," she says as I'm halfway up the stairs. "Such strange people coming and going. It's not safe."
I stop and look at her over my shoulder. "Shari looks after us. Don't worry. I'm fine." But her words send a shudder down my spine.
If I'd known how the day would progress, I would have stayed. I would have spent every minute with her I could. I would have tried to find a way to change fate. But that's foolish thinking from a foolish girl who didn't know anything, isn't it?
dress quickly in my standard black skinny jeans and tight black shirt. I wear my uncomfortable push up bra to give my breasts more cleavage than they naturally have. Better tips that way.
The only jewelry I wear is the blue sandstone ring my mother gave me when I turned thirteen. She said it's a star stone, often called 'sparkle fairy' during the Renaissance and believed to be blessed by fairies. I always wear it, and though I don't believe in the magical properties some attribute to stones, I still feel happier and luckier with it on.
I turn my attention back to my hair, pulling it into a braid, and then apply red lipstick, charcoal eye shadow and black mascara to my eyes, until I look the part of a Roxy waitress.
It's a long walk to work, and even still I'm lucky to live so close to downtown. My mom got our apartment for a steal when I was a baby—some kind of friend of a friend connection—and we've only had a few rent increases in all this time. It's the only way we can still afford to live in this part of Portland.
I know the drill as I walk, even in this friendly city. I walk with a determined gait, eyes focused, senses alerted to everything around me. Women walking alone will always be cause for caution in our world, sadly. But I'm not an inherently paranoid person, and yet my senses are on high alert.
Someone is following me.
I can't see them, or even really hear them, but someone is watching me, stalking me, and my every instinct is screaming danger.
I walk faster, my heart hammering in my chest, my palms getting sweaty. I pull pepper spray out of my bag and clutch it in my hand. I won't go quietly, whatever they think. My black boot heals click against the wet pavement. I try to quiet my breathing so I can hear if someone else approaches, but all I hear is the steady drone of rain washing the city away.
By the time I enter the crazy world-unto-its-own that is The Roxy, my thin jacket is soaked and I'm shaking, though not just from the cold. The diner is buzzing with people, and the warmth and fragrant smells set my nerves at ease like nothing else can. I peek outside, but see nothing unusual. Maybe it all was just in my head.
One of our regulars says hi, and I smile and wave, grabbing a napkin to dry my face after the rain. I enjoy the eclectic personalities that come in at all hours. I love interacting with them, finding out about their lives, giving them just what they need to get through the next few hours. I've often wished that working here was my destiny. It's not a glamorous destiny, as things go. I'd never make millions or change the world serving coffees and diner food to the caffeine-craving, sleep-deprived, hungover masses, but it's fulfilling work I enjoy. Doesn't that count for a lot? When most people dread waking up in the morning and facing their day, I think loving what you do and who you do it with is a gift. But I have never felt content in my own skin, or my own life. I always thought it was because I needed to accomplish something bigger than myself. Help others. Make a difference. I chose law thinking that would be my fit. My ticket to peace and happiness, but I'm starting to doubt there is anything in this world that can make me feel those things.
Esmeralda is in true form when I arrive, her long lashes blinking frantically. "Darlin', you are late!" she says in her southern accent I know for a fact is fake. She was born and raised in Los Angeles before moving to Oregon, but I'd never tell anyone that. She's very protective of her fictional southern roots. She tsks me, waving a long, red nail in my face. "We are nearly bursting!"
I look around and see she's right. The late shift is always crazy. Professional alcoholics know to eat before they drink, and come in to fill up. Stragglers line the counters ready for something greasy, fried, or baked to satiate whatever craving they are having, and as the night wears on, the seats will overflow. We are the oasis in the desert, the safe harbor in the storm, the place anyone is welcome, as long as you're not a jerk to the servers. Shari, the owner, makes one thing very clear: The customer is not always right, and if you disrespect her staff, you're out of here. End of story. I love her for that. I worked at a different diner before getting this job, and quit after one week. The manager treated us like indentured servants. I'm nobody's servant.
"Is Shari crazy mad?" I ask Es.
Es just rolls her eyes. "Puh-lease." She takes the napkin from my hand and dabs under my eyes. "Look up," she says, as she fixes my makeup. "Darlin', you need to get a car or learn to appreciate public transportation. This is not the weather for walking in."
Before I can argue with her, she saunters off. I sigh and look up at Jesus hanging on the cross. He always looks so reproachful, as if to say, 'You think you have problems?' but then again, maybe he's just checking out the naked sculptures behind the bar. The decor of The Roxy is nearly as famous as the cheeky staff and artery scorching foods. I run to the back to clock in. But when I turn the corner, there's a small group of people, Shari and Es included, holding a Chocolate Suicide Cake alight with candles. They begin to sing a morbid happy birthday song about death and then they laugh uproariously and someone smacks me on the butt as I lean in to blow out the candles.