Blood-Kissed Sky (Darkness Before Dawn)

Blood-Kissed Sky (Darkness Before Dawn) by J. A. London Page A

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Authors: J. A. London
them.”
    Parked on the street is a familiar car: a black Mustang. I don’t know where he gets the gasoline for it, but if I’ve learned one thing about Victor, it’s that he has a way of getting what he wants.
    He opens the door for me and I slide in. The car is prewar, from a time when automobile factories still existed. But the interior carries the scent of new leather—and Victor. I inhale deeply as he gets behind the wheel. With the turn of a key, the car hums. I’ve never considered how he keeps the thing running, and I wonder if he works on it himself. Most Old Family vampires are above doing anything that resembles labor, but I can imagine Victor getting his hands dirty.
    “Do you ever wish you were human?” I ask.
    With a squeal of tires, we’re roaring up the street.
    “It’s pointless to wish for things that can’t be.” After a few quiet moments he says, “But I do wonder what it would be like to feel the warmth of the sun instead of its burn.”
    I study his profile, occasionally illuminated by a random light. The shadows move in and out, revealing different things. His concentration. His exhaustion. I can almost see the burdens weighing him down. How much has he been doing behind the scenes that I’m not even aware of? How many other Valentines has he been fending off, each one wanting his throne? Who are his allies? How many foes does he have? I want to stay irritated at him for downplaying the dangers of the Thirst, for suggesting that I be locked away, but it’s a battle I’m quickly losing. “In the hospital, I walked to the window and let the sunlight touch my skin. I was glad that it could.”
    He jerks his head toward me, our eyes lock, and knowledge shatters the tension between us. He could have taken the sun from me. But he didn’t.
    I tear my gaze away and watch the scenery flash by, every now and then catching sight of someone slipping into the shadows. A Night Watchman? A vampire? A citizen just wanting the right to visit the night?
    “Why did you act like the Thirst wasn’t a big deal?” I ask.
    “I’m sorry I said those things,” he says. “But right now, Dawn, the Day Walkers are more of a concern to Clive and the citizens of Denver. None of them have seen the Thirst except you and Michael; none of them can even begin to imagine its horrors. But Day Walkers? That’s something they understand and fear. If you tell them about vampires killing other vampires, do you know what the average citizen will say? ‘Let them go at each other’s throats.’ They won’t care, and why would they? They aren’t seeing the big picture.”
    “Not all of us are shortsighted,” I say.
    “Enough of you are.” Victor immediately closes his eyes, maybe wishing he could take that back. It’s a reminder that he’s immortal and I’m not. Shortsighted for him can be measured in decades instead of weeks.
    “I’m sorry,” he says. “The Thirst is an issue, but it’s a vampire issue. The citizens won’t support me, and I need their blood to keep the Thirst at bay. If I can keep Clive focused on the Day Walkers, then he can rid the city of them. With that, the citizens will feel safe; they’ll start giving blood again.”
    A part of me agrees with him, but if we’re not prepared for the Thirst, how can we defeat it when it gets here? How can we worry about the rain when the tidal wave is right outside our door? We should be building sand barriers, not patching holes in our roof. I guess that’s why I’m heading out west.
    “Are you still having those nightmares?” he asks, maybe attempting to change the subject.
    “I don’t know that I’d really call it a nightmare. It’s just kind of creepy. But yeah, it seems to be the only thing I dream about these days.” That and you. I twist around in my seat so I can see him more clearly. “I went through my father’s things at the Agency archives and snuck a few of them out. I found the symbol.”
    He perks up at that. “What does

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