Read This Blackened Night Online

Authors: L.K. Below

This Blackened Night




The Order, Book Three


By L.K. Below











To the Spenta Michos. Sorry I had to kill you off.



Chapter 1


“Stop looking at me like I’m going to bite you.”

Lori turned on the narrow bed to face Terrence directly, instead of glancing at him from the corner of her eye. “Aren’t you? You’re a vampire.”

Terrence threw up his hands. Straightening to his full six-foot-four height, he glared at her.

Lori smiled. It felt good to bait him back for a change, considering he drove her up the wall most days. After spending the winter and most of the fall in his presence, she knew he wouldn’t really bite her. At least, not without permission.

Which she had no intention of giving.

Her smile slipped into a grimace. Rubbing a hand over the back of her aching neck, she glanced around the cramped dorm room. Why did he insist on staying here with her all night long? Maybe she should switch from her nocturnal habits.

The dresser groaned in protest as Terrence leaned his weight on it.

“Look, unless you’re going to let me interview you for my thesis, I really need to finish this up.”

“Thesis,” Terrence spat. He clenched and unclenched his fists, then ran them through his dark hair. The pointed tips of his fangs winked in the fluorescent overhead light. “We should be outside. Searching. Looking for leads.”

“Then why don’t you do that? I’ll wait here.”

Seconds passed, but Lori didn’t get her wish. And with Terrence staring at her, she couldn’t concentrate. With a sigh, she saved the file, shut her laptop, and glared at her midnight visitor. “Let’s go,” she said. She couldn’t hide the note of resignation in her voice. Not that she tried hard.

Despite her tone, Terrence perked up immediately. His blue eyes lit with excitement. A flash of guilt made her insides squirm. Should she have given in earlier?

This was Terrence. Cute, puppy dog, follow-you-around-even-after-you-kick-him Terrence. He brought it on himself.

Standing, Lori shooed him away from her dresser. He stepped aside, but stayed close. Close enough to hem her in with his solid body. She forced herself to relax. Terrence would never hurt her.

After all, he’d already saved her from death twice, even after she’d rewarded the first attempt with a stake to his chest.

As she rummaged in her top drawer for the bracelets, netted gloves and makeup to arm her gothic exterior, Terrence skated his fingers over her back. The slightest touch, almost a breeze. But she knew it was him. He just wouldn’t accept that she’d give him no more than a one-night stand. They were friends now. Nothing more.

“Terrence,” she said softly.

“Yes?” He moved closer, their bodies charged like magnets, almost touching.

Lori refused to shrink away. She wasn’t afraid of him–not his fangs, not his vampiric nature, and certainly not his touch. Stiffening her spine, she mustered her most discouraging voice.

“I warned you about this.”

“And I warned you I’m not giving up. When we find the Spenta Michos…”

She turned to face him, schooling her expression into stone. This would be easier if they didn’t have a past bubbling to the surface with his every advance. If she hadn’t been wrung through the emotional wringer since the moment she’d met him. If she didn’t think she might love him. But she had no room for a relationship in her life. Especially since everyone she cared for managed to turn up dead.

Avoiding his gaze, she adopted her frostiest voice. “Nothing will change when this is over. We’re only friends.”

In time he would give up, wouldn’t he?

“We were never friends.”

Lori’s stomach tightened at the raw edge to his voice. When she risked a glance at him, his mouth was twisted into a vulnerable expression. Where was the persistent facade she always saw? His shoulders were hunched, his fists balled at his side. She couldn’t deal with this today.

Maybe not ever.

“I don’t want to be friends,” he added softly.

Lori fastened the clasp of her bracelet with one hand. What could she say to that? Turning to the small mirror above the dresser, she applied burgundy lipstick as she thought. Although she felt Terrence’s rapt stare, she ignored him. Once she’d applied her makeup, she straightened her shoulders. A quick glance at Terrence proved he still waited for her response. Like an eager puppy. She looked away.

“We need to look for leads.”

“Oh.” Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Terrence slipped on his usual expression. Laid back, charming. He flashed a half-hearted grin. “Where to? Lady’s choice.”

Since their last lead had burned out, Lori could think of only one place to go. “Underground.”

Damn if she didn’t need a drink.

* * * *

Lori’s favorite gothic club teemed with people at this time of night. As she slipped through the entry, she let the roaring music overwhelm and soothe her. It did wonders to help her pretend Terrence wasn’t on her heels. That he hadn’t just bared his soul minutes ago. When he tapped her shoulder, Lori continued to the bar.

She claimed her customary seat, thoughtfully vacated by the occupants upon her glare. Terrence sat beside her. She peered at him from under her lashes. Was he angry with her rebuttal earlier? Hurt? His features gave nothing away.

The bartender said, “Lori, Terrence. Nice to see you here. What’ll it be?”

With an unfeigned smile, Lori turned to Scissors. As a faux-vampire, like Lori had once considered Terrence to be, Scissors’s broad smile displayed two sharp acrylic fangs. Her blue-black hair was cut in jagged edges, short on one side, longer on the other, earning her the nickname. Scissors was one of Lori’s few remaining friends.

As much as she wished to order scotch, Lori buried the urge. Both Scissors and Terrence would know she was abnormally stressed if she did. Instead, she said, “Coffee. Black.”

When Scissors turned to Terrence, he ordered the same. Before the bartender left, Lori added, “Is Heaven working tonight?”

Scissors nodded. “She’s on her break. Do you want me to get her?”

Lori shook her head. “I’ll wait.”

She didn’t glance at Terrence as she waited for her steaming cup. Nursing it, she sat with her back against the counter and thought over the past few months. All she knew of the Spenta Michos’s disappearance.

As a member of the Aka Druj Spenta Michos, better known as the Order, Lori was duty-bound to find their missing figurehead. The Spenta Michos, or Holy Michael, was the focal point of the group. Completely clueless to their existence, he was also revered for the wisdom he unknowingly spewed and therefore protected around the clock. So how could he have slipped from their grasp?

Personally, Lori blamed Heaven for that bit of unforeseen trouble. But with the Spenta Michos missing for the past six months, the time had passed for pointing the finger. As fellow Order members–along with Terrence–Lori and Heaven had to work together. Share their knowledge. Which was exactly what Lori hoped to do tonight.

That particular blond-haired, underage brat stepped back to the bar. While most days, Lori lamented the invention of fake IDs which allowed the girl to encroach on her favorite haunt, today she was glad not to have to hunt her down. Lori waited for Heaven to approach.

“Well, Lori Glory. Do you have any good news?”

In other words, had she made any progress?

“No. Anything new to report?”

Heaven’s face, slathered with pale foundation and cheap eyeliner, fell. “Nothing this week,” she whispered. Like last week. And the week before.

“The book?” Lori asked. Six months ago, she’d fished a small golden notebook from the Spenta Michos’s house. Touching it had earned her a single vision, which had told her only that their leader had been taken by force. Before she’d been able to read the book, Heaven had confiscated it.

“Useless information,” the teenager replied. “I’ve tried everything. It’s not a code.”

“Have you given it to–”

“Experts? Do you think I’m an idiot?” For some reason, the teen’s gaze switched to Terrence as desperation crossed her features. “I’m not lying.”

“Give us the book,” Terrence said. Instead of being cajoling or charming, his expression was stiff. Demanding.

Heaven shrunk back before holding her ground. “I–I don’t have it with me. It’s at home. I swear.” She raised her hands in the air.

Was Heaven…afraid? Impossible. Terrence was a vampire, yes, but he was hardly the type to inspire fear. Well, Lori amended, when he wasn’t gnawing through people’s necks.

Which he certainly wasn’t doing now. In the dim light of the bar, his black hair seemed to shine. No more than his periwinkle eyes. His mouth was slightly open, the tips of his fangs playing peek-a-boo with the air. Maybe that had unsettled Heaven. But she worked with Scissors–shouldn’t she be used to seeing sharpened incisors by now?

Lori drained the last of her coffee and placed the mug on the counter. “Thanks for the info,” she said. Or, in this case, the lack of it. The Spenta Michos’s disappearance might be Heaven’s fault, but the cold trail certainly wasn’t. Lori tapped Terrence’s arm. “Let’s try someplace else.”

He followed her out the door. Once again, an obedient puppy.

As the door shut behind them, the music dulled to a throb. Terrence tucked his hands into his pockets. “Where to?”

For all his promises four months ago, Terrence’s “leads” had run out quick. Now, although he motivated her to continue the search, he wasn’t much help. Sometimes, she thought she might make better progress working alone.

Something about his stare made her uneasy. Instinctively, she blinked. When she opened her eyes again, her aura-sight overlaid her physical sight. Terrence glowed off-white with honest intentions. So he wasn’t leading her astray. She banished the auras–they gave her a headache–and said, “Let’s try the Spenta Michos’s house.”

Again. The first dozen times hadn’t given her any new clues, but she could always hope.

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