THE AKSELI and THE PURVELI were both nominated for Book of the Year!
In this dazzling, sensual novel, Dianne Duvall beckons readers into a world of vampires, immortals, and humans with extraordinary gifts . . . where passion can last forever, if you're willing to pay the price . . .
Once, Sarah Bingham's biggest challenge was making her students pay attention in class. Now, after rescuing a wounded stranger, she's landed in the middle of a battle between corrupt vampires and powerful immortals who also need blood to survive. Roland Warbrook is the most compelling man Sarah has ever laid hands on. But his desire for her is mingled with a hunger he can barely control. . .
In his nine centuries of immortal existence, no woman has tempted Roland as much as Sarah. But asking her to love him is impossible--when it means forfeiting the world she's always known, and the life he would do anything to protect. .
RT Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee
"This is a strong start in what looks to be a thrilling and chilling new paranormal series. Fantastic!"
—RT Book Reviews
"Filled with sexy men and plenty of action, Darkness Dawns kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime."
—The Romance Reviews
"Action-packed world building and a hero daring all for love makes Darkness Dawns one of the most fascinating romances I've read all year."
—Long and Short Reviews
"Duvall masterfully entwines romance and danger for a fresh take on the paranormal. Darkness Dawns starts out with a bang and continues at a fast, gripping pace that never disappointed."
—Reading Between the Wines Book Club
"This. Book. Is. Amazing... Sarah is everything that I want in a paranormal romance woman. She is an absolute badass."
—I Swoon Over Fictional Men
"Electrifying, Funny, Lust-inducing, and Inventive."
"This is a great beginning to an exciting new series."
—Affaire de Coeur Magazine
A strident screech pierced the predawn quiet.
The hair on the back of her neck rising, Sarah Bingham surveyed the meadow around her. The sky had gone from black to charcoal gray, a harbinger of sunrise that did little to alleviate the gloom. In the nine months North Carolina had been her home, she had heard some creepy animal calls, but that one had sounded downright human.
Couldn't have been. She lived way out in the boonies with no nearby neighbors.
Struggling to shake off her unease, she impaled the soil with a shovel, turned it over, then repeated the process that would ultimately culminate in a vegetable garden. The unseasonable heat she had hoped to avoid by starting early added a glimmer of moisture to her skin as she grappled with the drought-hardened ground.
Oh yeah. A few hours of this and she would definitely collapse into an exhausted slumber. Screw you insomnia! The spring semester was over. Her students were gone. She was going to sleep tonight if it killed her.
Loud snarling, growling sounds abruptly split the air, accompanied by cracks and thumps and the snap of branches.
Starting violently, Sarah gripped the wooden handle of the shovel and stared at the heavy undergrowth in front of her with wide, unblinking eyes.
The foliage began to thrash and sway. Her heart slammed against her ribs.
Branches and leaves exploded outward as a massive dark form, moving so fast she couldn't see it clearly, charged toward her.
Too panicked to even scream, she dropped the wooden handle and raised her arms to protect her face, head and neck.
A heavy weight crashed into her left side. Feet flying up, she hit the ground hard on her back two or three yards away. Dry soil and twigs abraded her hands as she threw them out to the sides. Something tore through her right shirtsleeve and cut her elbow. A painful throbbing invaded her ribs.
Rolling onto her stomach, Sarah jerked her head up and looked around wildly in time to see the trees that bisected this end of the meadow envelop . . . whatever had barreled into her.
Quiet settled upon the clearing.
Wincing, she pressed a hand to her aching side and scrambled to her feet.
The growls and thrashing resumed, even louder than before.
Adrenaline surging through her veins, shortening her breath, speeding her pulse, she grabbed the shovel with shaking hands, turned it upside down and held it like a baseball bat.
She didn't know what that thing was, but if it came back, she was going to knock it six ways from Sunday.
“Where'd they go?” a voice called out breathlessly.
Sarah jumped and glanced at the trees that bordered the meadow on her right.
“That way! Straight ahead! Don't lose 'em!”
Two figures, mere shadows amidst the dense, dark brush, moved as quickly as they could in the same direction as the . . . thing. Only visible for a brief moment before the trees swallowed them again, they didn't appear to have noticed her. The long-sleeved green shirt she wore over a black tank top and sweat pants must make her blend into the dim scenery.
The growling ceased. So did the thumps and thrashing.
Sarah took a cautious step backward. Then another.
“Ah man!” the first voice blurted. “I think I'm gonna puke!”
“Don't be such a wuss.”
What the hell was going on? Had those guys been chasing a bear?
It had to have been a bear, right?
“Aren't you gonna kill him?” the second voice asked.
“Let the sun finish him,” a new voice, deep and full of malice, sneered.
“What do you want us to do?” the second countered.
“Stay until it's over,” the third instructed, his words softened by a British accent, “then bring me whatever is left of him.”
Sarah continued to inch toward the wall of greenery that separated the meadow from her backyard, trying not to make any sound that might alert them to her presence.
Who were you supposed to call when you thought someone was torturing wild animals? 911? Animal control?
“Is he gone?” the first voice asked uneasily.
“Yeah,” the second responded.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah-yeah. He's gone. He's gone.”
“Dude! That was the most awesome thing I've ever seen in my life!”
“Didn't I tell ya?”
Wasn't torturing animals the first step toward becoming a serial killer?
“Hey, what are you doin'?” the first asked.
“Cuttin' his clothes off.”
Sarah froze, ice filling her veins. His clothes?
“Dude, that's so gay.”
“I'm not gay, asswipe. I wanna see what the sun's gonna do to him.”
“Get his boots.”
A man? That couldn't have been a man that had knocked her down. It had been huge, had growled and had crossed the clearing way too fast to have been human.
Yet, it sounded as if their victim was a man, not an animal.
And, apparently, they weren't through with him.
Spinning around, she took three quick steps, intending to hurry home and call 911.
“Hey, Bobby,” the second said, “you ever stabbed anyone before?”
“Check this out.”
Crap! Reversing directions, she crossed the clearing as quickly and quietly as she could. Her stinging hands tightened around the shovel handle. Sweat beaded on her skin. The bitter taste of fear invading her mouth, she entered the trees and crept forward.
This is crazy. This is crazy.
She was a music professor, not a police officer!
But it would take too long for the police to arrive. She lived so far from town . . .
“You wanna try it?”
“Won't they be pissed if we cut him up?”
“Not as long as he's still breathin' when the sun hits him. And if he's not, who cares? How're they gonna know?”
The trees weren't as thick here as she had thought. After just a few steps, Sarah stood at the edge (with any luck, still concealed by their branches) and peered anxiously into the next field.
A whiff of rank body odor struck her.
There were three men. One, whose face was hidden from view, lay on the ground on his back, what she could see of him bare. His arms had been pulled away from his sides and appeared to be held down by something she couldn't glimpse through the tall grasses. Closer to her, his ankles had been lashed together with . . . rope? The weeds obscured them too much to tell. But they, too, were held down, judging by the way his thigh muscles continually flexed and strained.
A blond in faded jeans and a yellow T-shirt straddled the man's thighs, his back to Sarah. A second with brown hair stood beside him, mostly turned away, gaping down at the naked man.
Though she only caught a quick impression of their faces, Sarah guessed the assailants were around twenty years old.
The blond suddenly raised both hands above his head, his fingers curled around the grip of a pocketknife, then slammed them down.
The naked man jerked and grunted with pain.
The brunette yelled, “Dude! Awesome!”
Sickened, terrified, trembling uncontrollably, Sarah stepped out of the trees, skulked forward and swung the shovel.
The blond looked up at his accomplice. “You wanna--”
Yellow Shirt slumped sideways, hit the ground and lay still.
The second man gaped at his friend in stupefaction, then spun toward Sarah . . . just as she swung again.
Right between the eyes.
Staggering back a step, he swore profusely, blinked hard several times, then frowned.
That did it. His pale eyes rolled back in his head as he sank bonelessly to the ground.
When Sarah turned her attention to the naked man, her stomach lurched and she thought for a moment she might be sick.
He had indeed been restrained. Thick, rough rope stained with blood bound his ankles and had rubbed his skin raw. A T-shaped metal spike as thick as her thumb had been driven into the ground between them, immobilizing him and cutting deep grooves into his flesh. Identical spikes had been driven through the palm of each hand, pinning his arms to the ground.
It was as if they had wanted to crucify him but, lacking the necessary lumber, had staked him to the ground instead.
“Oh shit.” The whisper escaped her involuntarily.
If the stakes weren't enough, two stab wounds marred his abdomen, courtesy of the blond. Deep gashes, weeping copious amounts of blood, scored the man's muscled arms, chest and legs.
As she fought back nausea, Sarah directed her gaze to his face.
He was perhaps in his mid-thirties and handsome, despite the clenched jaw and lines of pain that bracketed his mouth and eyes. Short, jet black hair. Matching brows. Straight nose. Piercing, dark brown eyes that caught and held hers as she unlocked her stiff limbs and forced herself to move forward.
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