Darkness Dawns

Page 44

Another Immortal Guardian entered. Six-foot-one. Short, raven hair. Deep brown eyes with surprisingly thick lashes.

This must be Lisette’s brother.

Black slacks clung to slim hips and powerful thighs as he removed his coat. A dark short-sleeved T-shirt showed off a muscular chest, broad shoulders, and bulging biceps. He, like the others, including Roland, was armed to the teeth with numerous knives and a Glock .45.

“Étienne,” Lisette said as he hung up his coat, “come and meet Roland’s valiant mortal. I’ve decided we’re going to be the best of friends.”

Sarah glanced up at Roland, who winked at her and gave her back a furtive caress.

Étienne came to stand beside his sister, bussing her on both cheeks. Then, smiling at Sarah, he extended his hand.

“You must be Sarah. It’s a true pleasure to meet you.” His voice was deep and tinged with a French accent as well.

When Sarah placed her hand in his, he carried it to his lips for a kiss as Roland had Lisette’s.

“Nice to meet you, too.”

“The Internet is all abuzz with tales of your heroics.”

“What heroics?” she asked, trying to discern if they were mocking her.

“Saving Roland’s life, of course. It’s all they’re talking about on the Immortal Guardian website.”

They had a website?

Étienne released her and extended his hand to Roland with a smile. “Good to see you, Roland.”

Roland shook his hand and nodded a greeting.

It was strange, seeing him like this: rather dour and tight-lipped. He was always so warm and open when the two of them were alone.

Étienne turned to Chris and Marcus next. “Chris.” He shook Chris’s hand. “Marcus.”

When Marcus shook his hand, Étienne’s face grew solemn. “I was very sorry to hear about Lady Bethany. If there is any way I can be of service to you, my friend, anything I can do, please let me know.”

Marcus’s lips tightened. “I appreciate that.” His eyes acquired the faintest glow and Sarah was dismayed to see they reflected tremendous grief.

Who was Lady Bethany?

Was Marcus one of the immortals Roland had mentioned who had loved a human? Had she died recently?

As Chris motioned for them to adjourn to the spacious dining room, Sarah made a mental note to ask Roland later.

Lisette and Étienne took chairs beside each other at one end of a table long enough to seat twenty.

Roland guided Sarah to two chairs opposite them and sank down beside her. All business, he propped his elbows on the wood surface, splayed his knees, and shifted slightly so his thigh would press against hers.

“Has Lisette filled you in on all that’s been happening with Roland and Bastien?” Chris asked Étienne as he seated himself in the chair at the end closest to them and dropped his file folder on the table.

The Frenchman frowned. “She tells me you think he’s an immortal, but—”

Sarah gasped and jumped when Seth suddenly appeared beside the table.

Everyone else reached for their weapons, then swore and relaxed.

“Damn it,” Marcus muttered, “give us some warning before you do that.”

Raising one eyebrow, the towering leader seated himself at the far end of the table and looked to Chris. “You’ve confirmed that Sebastien is an immortal.”


Everyone glanced uneasily at Seth, whose face was like granite.

Even without knowing him, Sarah could tell Seth counted this as a personal failure. Everyone else knew it, too, and seemed to have no idea how to respond. It was a bit like watching children realize for the first time that their parents weren’t infallible.

As if they had never before known Seth to make a mistake.

Nietzsche chose that moment to slink into the room and, giving everyone else a wide berth, jump up into Seth’s lap.

Chris opened the file folder and thumbed through several pages. “Sarah was right. Roland’s enemy is definitely an immortal. He was born Sebastien Newcombe and became the Earl of Marston upon his father’s death in 1807. After faking his own death in 1815—he was presumably killed by highwaymen, though, of course, his body was never found—he adopted the name Julien Marston. Julien for his father. Marston for the title. Since he didn’t have our resources, he left a sporadic paper trail, moving every twenty or thirty years, sometimes varying his name, though he always used family names. The network’s European branches did a phenomenal job locating historic papers that bore his signatures, so we were able to map his movements fairly well.”

He passed each of them, Sarah included, a sheaf of papers.

“Whatever made him want Roland’s head on a platter happened in London,” he continued, looking at Roland, “because he’s been dogging your footsteps ever since.”

Sarah stared at the papers before her. One half of the page (and all of those that followed) catalogued the many cities in which Roland had lived since his sojourn in London in the early nineteenth century in chronological order. The opposite side did the same for Sebastien, aka Julien Marston, Julien Newcombe, Sebastien Marston, and Marston Newcombe.

Wherever Roland had gone, Sebastien had followed. It had sometimes taken him years to find Roland, but find him he would, usually just in time for Roland to pack up and move again.

“What the hell?” Roland muttered.

“You lucked out when you moved to the States,” Chris said, drawing their attention to the last few pages. “He lost you completely and, as you can see, spent the next several decades traveling the globe, I assume in search of you.”

Roland slammed the papers down. “I’m telling you, I have never seen this bastard before. Not until the morning he staked me out for the sunrise.”

Marcus shook his head. “I don’t remember seeing him before either.”

Étienne spoke up. “Well, he sure as hell saw Roland.” He looked to Roland. “Maybe you killed the one who turned him. He’s immortal, not vampire, so he may have been more loyal to the one who infected him.”

Roland waved to the pages in disbelief. “To this extent?”

Seth cleared his throat. “He had no one else. It’s plausible.”

An awkward silence fell.

Chris shuffled his papers. “Anyway, Roland’s self-imposed isolation worked to his advantage. Once you moved to the States, you forwent servants and refused to have a Second. You very rarely interacted with the other Guardians. So he basically had no way to trace you. When he finally found you roughly twenty years ago, it was probably just dumb luck.”

Roland scowled. “So why not try to kill me then? Why wait?”

“This is why.” Withdrawing a multifolded piece of paper, Chris spread it open on the table. “I traced him to an old farmhouse outside of Mebane—Julien Marston was the name on the lease—and took some satellite surveillance photos. Here’s the first.”

It was the size of a road map and showed a large farmhouse and barn surrounded by a sizable clearing, then dense forest.

Sarah’s gaze swept over the others. “You have your own satellites?”

Chris shook his head. “Launching satellites into space would draw unwanted scrutiny. I just have friends in interesting places.”


“It’s why he’s the best Cleaner,” Marcus commented, then motioned to the map. “So this is his lair?”

“Yes, and this is where the unbelievable factor increases exponentially.” Pulling out a second map, Chris unfolded it atop the other.

Sarah, and everyone else, leaned forward with interest.

“I wanted to find out how many, if any, vamp followers he had left, so I had my friend do a broader spectrum sweep with one of their keyhole satellites. The yellow figures are the humans. The violet ones are the vampires sleeping underground.”

“Oh shit.”

“What the hell?”

Sarah stared at the map.

There were four yellow figures. And dozens of violet ones.

She looked at Roland. “I thought vampires didn’t travel in more than twos or threes.”

A muscle leaped in his jaw. “They don’t.”

Lisette’s eyes were wide. “There mustbe atleast fiftyof them.”

“Fifty-seven,” Chris corrected.

Étienne stood and spread his hands on the map. “This extends well past the boundaries of the farmhouse.”

Chris nodded. “According to the original blueprints, the house had a basement when he bought it, but he’s clearly enlarged it.”

Marcus frowned. “If it were aboveground, it would fill the whole bloody clearing. Do you have a better layout of it?”

“No, my team checked with every contractor employed in North Carolina and the surrounding states and got nothing. Bastien did the work himself.”

Roland tapped the map with his index finger, pointing out a red figure that was distanced from all the rest. Judging by the color, he was too cool to be human and too warm to be vampire. “This is him. He sleeps away from the others.”

Marcus grunted. “Probably doesn’t trust them. They’re fucking vampires.”

“Do you think he knows?” Lisette asked. “Do you think he knows he’s an immortal?”

Her brother shook his head and retook his seat. “Vampires kill those they feed upon. No immortal could abide living with them, knowing innocent lives were being taken.”

“Actually,” Chris said, “that’s another thing.” Out came more papers. “My tech team hacked into his computer via the Internet and found this.”

Sarah studied the papers handed to her. It was a list of names and addresses in various cities and towns throughout North Carolina. Some in Virginia and South Carolina.

“We weren’t sure what it was until we started looking up the people on the list and tracked Bastien’s Internet activity. Or rather his human minions’ activity. Most of it took place during the day.”

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