There is no sanctuary in the night . . .
Feared even by her own kind for her mastery of fire, the nightwalker Mira is summoned by the coven to take her rightful place as Elder. But with this honor comes grave responsibility—a commitment to the annihilation of the unleashed naturi. For now the foul creatures walk the earth—and neither vampire nor human will survive their horrific onslaught.
A tide of blood is sweeping relentlessly across the European continent, as Mira is dispatched to Budapest for the most devastating test yet of her astonishing powers—and falls into a well-laid trap. With the dark secrets that haunt her growing darker by the hour, she must confront the terrible truth of her past and protect her fragile sanity in the face of unanticipated treachery—a betrayal by her trusted ally, her beloved enemy, the vampire slayer Danaus.
Wait for Dusk: the fifth book in the Dark Days series sees the return of Valerio, one of Mira’s oldest and closest friends. Many questions have been recently raised about the ring that Valerio gave her and that she still wears to this day. I thought I would try to give readers a little glimpse at that ring.
Carnevale di Venezia was in full swing, but the rash of floating bodies in the canals had started as early as festival of Santo Stefano, which was more than a month ago. The Coven was not known for its quick action and Jabari seemed content not to act until Valerio and I had finally drifted back to Venice from Bucharest. We had come to enjoy the canevale, but now we were faced with the tedious task of reining in a nightwalker that was having a little too much fun and upsetting the native humans. I may have preferred to pout about the assignment that was eating into my playtime, but a smirk from Valerio as we left the Main Hall assured me that it wouldn’t be all work.
As we rode back across the Lagoon, I snuggled up against Valerio, melting into his strong body. I had been away from Jabari in Egypt for roughly a century and seemed to almost immediately fall in with Valerio. I had known him from his appearances at the Coven and Jabari seemed to see no harm in allowing us to pair up on the occasional assignment from the nightwalker-ruling Coven in an effort to keep the peace. And in truth, it was proving to be one of the wisest decisions I had made as Valerio had a knack for making even the most tedious or dangerous assignment seem fun.
I looked up to see his dark hair dancing in the wind while his eyes were fixed on my upturned face. A smile played on his full lips and I wanted to lean in to kiss him but part of the fun with Valerio was the game of restraint – testing to see who would break first, who would finally move in beyond control.
“Why do I get the feeling that you already know who our prey is?” I asked.
“Because I do,” Valerio purred with delight.
“Then we can get this over quickly so we can get to the part of having a little fun ourselves.”
“Who says this can’t be fun?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“It is canevale, mi cara. Everyone about us is wearing a costume, hiding their true face. Let us play a game of hide and seek.”
“And who is doing the seeking?”
“Both. You shall be seeking our witless killer, while I shall be seeking you. Imagine it as a game of who is the better hunter.”
“Will there be a prize for the winner?”
“Of course,” he said with a chuckle as he leaned down to press a kiss to my temple.
The boat bumped into the side of the canal, not too far from Piazza San Marco, which was already filled with people in full costume. Ash Wednesday was only a few days away and the people of Venezia were determined to get their fill of lust, debauchery, and general depravity before Lent began. I hated to miss out on any of the fun.
Valerio held my hand as he helped me up onto the sidewalk and followed behind me. Tossing a quick note to the boatman, he turned his attention back to me.
“I will give you a one-hour headstart,” Valerio directed, turning serious for the first time since we had left the Coven. “Find a costume and begin your hunt of the killer. If I find you before you find our killer, then I get the opportunity to parade you around Piazza San Marco completely nude.”
“And what do I get if I win this little challenge?”
“What prize would you like?”
My smile widened so that my fangs poked beneath my upper lip. “I want to see your secret lair.” We had spent long nights together, traveling about Europe. But at some point, he always left me for a secret home that he refused to speak of. I felt as I knew Valerio better than any other nightwalker I had ever met, and yet knew nothing about him at all. It was like trying to capture mist in your hand. He was elusive, devious, and too seductive from my sanity, and still I wanted to know more.
Valerio’s smile matched my own as he extended his hand to me. “Very well. It is a wager.” A chill slipped down my spine as I took his hand, a part of me wondering for the first time if I had asked for too much. Was I ready to be drawn so deeply into Valerio’s world?
After releasing his hand, I sprinted away from him and darted into one of the first closed shops that I could find. I stole a pair of black pants, a black shirt, and a wide brimmed black hat that would hide my red hair. I topped the costume off with a white mask with a long nose. It wasn’t a particularly original costume and that was the point. I needed to be able to easily blend with the crowd. I would be able to cloak my presence from Valerio for a few short hours at best, but I needed to be able to escape his keen sight as well.
I slipped back into the crowd and started the process of seeking out the nightwalkers that were roaming about Venice. Most were out hunting for their meal, enjoying that fact that their prey came to them so willingly. There was barely even the need for any kind of mental masking as most humans were so drunk that they didn’t notice that they were being relieved of a few pints of blood. Canevale was a time when we felt the time to hide wasn’t so great. We wandered around at night, wearing masks just like the humans, becoming just another actor in this great play.
While few were happy to speak with me, I quickly became aware that my prey was most likely Gustav, a fledgling that had been brought before the Coven nearly four months ago. From what I could gather, Macaire had taken a special interest in breaking this nightwalker’s mind so that he was little more than feral animal seeking sustenance. He escaped his captors and was now running free through the city of Venice. This was obviously my killer, and I frowned at the idea of cleaning up after Macaire. The Elder had made a mess and now I was left to risk my life to take care of the matter.
Glancing up at the clock, I noticed that I had only minutes before Valerio would start his hunt of me. I cloaked myself in earnest now, pulling together all of my powers while I darted down one dark and lonely alleyway. I climbed up the wall and perched on the crest of the roof of the Doge’s Palace so that I could have a bird’s eye view of the city. Gustav could be anywhere. Closing my eyes, I reached out with my senses and touched the minds of all the nightwalkers that I could feel within the region. I knew that it made me vulnerable to Valerio, but it would only take me a couple seconds.
The red haze that consumed Gustav’s mind was overwhelming. His thoughts were shattered and splintered into incoherent pieces. He no longer knew where he was or who he was. He only knew there was an insatiable hunger gnawing at him and it only went away when he killed. He was in Giudecca, across the Giudecca Canal from San Marco.
Dropping the connection and returning the cloak, I jumped down from my perch and raced across the city. I was little more than a black shadow, soundless and swift, as I cut through the canals and over bridges that I had grown to know and love over the past couple of centuries. I easily found Gustav standing on a dark, narrow sidewalk, holding a woman like a limp ragdoll. His clothes were tattered and his blond hair stood on end in bloody clumps. He narrowed his glowing red eyes at me and hissed once before dropping the dead woman into the canal beside him.
Not willing to give him a chance to escape me, I summoned up my powers and lit the nightwalker on fire like a giant candle. His screams echoed through the nearly silent neighborhood, bouncing off the high walls so that candles were lit and windows were thrown open. Gustav managed to stumble into the canal, falling into the water so that the flames were instantly doused. He was still alive and I needed him dead. Grabbing a knife from its place in my right boot, I dove into the canal as well, swearing that I could hear someone call my name just a split second before I hit the murky water.
Despite my superior night vision, I could see nothing in the black waters. I followed my sense of Gustav as he radiated pain and hatred. A sudden churning in the water before me was the only warning I had that he was close. Reaching out with one hand, I was lucky enough to grab a handful of his shirt while I plunged the danger straight into his chest. Gustav twisted around and I nearly screamed when a set of sharp fangs dug into my arm, threatening to rip away flesh. Jerking the knife to cut an even bigger hole, I pulled it out of his body and dropped it. Plunging my hand inside of his body, I grabbed onto the squishy organs and lit them on fire, burning him from the inside out. Gustav immediately released my arm and tried to swim away, but the fire moved faster through his body, consuming him until there was nothing left but a blackened shell.
Releasing his body, I swam to the surface and over to one of the sides of the canal. I had lost both my mask and hat when I dove into the canal. A rough, strong hand grabbed me and pulled me out of the water before I could even get my footing. As I was slammed against the wall in one of the alleys, I saw for the first time that it was Valerio. His lips came down on mine in a crushing kiss that seemed to sap away the last of the pain in my arm. I sank into him for only a moment, and then I realized that the voice I had heard before jumping into the water was his.
“You didn’t even bother looking for me,” I growled as I pushed him away from me. “You staked out Gustav, waiting for me to show up in the area so you could catch me first.”
“True,” he grinned, but the smile dissolved almost as quickly. “What were you doing jumping into the canal after him? You couldn’t possibly have seen a thing down there! He could have torn your throat out, ripped out your heart. He could have killed you. ”
“True, but what’s the fun without a little risk.”
“Well spoken, mi cara,” he murmured as he stroked some hair away from my face.
“Shall I start my parade through San Marco now?” I asked a little snidely, hating to think that he so easily outsmarted me in this game.
“Not tonight,” he said. He sounded strangely serious to me, which was extremely out of character for my companion. “There is something I would like for you to wear for me.”
Valerio reached inside of his pocket and pulled out a silver band with ocean waves etched into it in a style that was reminiscent of art I had seen in my home of Greece. “Wear this for me.” He took my left hand and slipped the ring on my ring finger, surprising me by how perfectly it fit. The metal was warm against my skin from being in his pocket and felt slightly odd after nearly two centuries of wearing no jewelry.
“What poor victim did you steal this off of?” I mocked, trying desperately to lighten the mood.
“None. I bought this in a store. Even used money to pay for it.”
“A while ago.”
I fell silent as I stared down at the ring on my finger while Valerio still held my fingertips. “So the bet is off?” I asked, still feeling unsure of what I had just agreed to.
“The bet is off.” Valerio placed his free hand beneath my chin and tipped my head up to look at him. “I am not willing to share you tonight. Maybe someday. But for now, you are mine. Let us go home, my home.”
Want to purchase Jocelynn’s novels?
- Nightwalker at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Dayhunter at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Dawnbreaker at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Pray for Dawn at Amazon or the Book Depository
- Wait for Dusk at Amazon or the Book Depository
Contest Time! Jocelynn has graciously offered to give away signed copies of Pray for Dawn and Wait for Dusk to two lucky readers. All you have to do is simply ask Jocelynn a question. Please indicate which prize you would like to be entered for.
As always, there’s more ways of getting your name in the hat (remember, these aren’t mandatory to enter, just extra entries):
- +1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
- +1 to any review you comment on, however, comments must be meaningful. Just give me the title of the review and I’ll be able to figure it out from there.
- +1 If you are a follower of Literary Escapism on Facebook and/or Twitter
- +10 Purchase any of Jocelynn’s books or any novel through LE’s Amazon store or the Book Depository sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: jackie AT literaryescapism DOT com. Each purchase is worth ten entries.
There is one thing I am adding to my contests now…the winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.