People are telling me they like the way Night’s End starts, so I thought I’d share it outside of the book because I’m fueled by positive praise. You can get Night’s End on Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo here: https://www.books2read.com/NightsEnd.
The Russian stood in front of him like this kind of thing happened every day. Like being in front of a vampire was a thing that a man could get used to. Like he didn’t really care how this turned out — maybe they could hit the bars after, shoot some pool, but they’d need to agree on what kind of drinking they’d be doing.
Dragomir liked that about him.
Of course, drinking could come later. Right now, they were in a shack, tucked between two warehouses. The lighting outside was poor, which was the idea, and the lighting inside wasn’t a lot better. It didn’t bother either of them. They were friends with the dark. It wasn’t palatial accommodation — two chairs stood on either side of an old table. The table’s sole purpose was holding some papers, which the Russian had ignored. The floor was bare concrete, the walls corrugated steel. There was no one else with them, because other people would lead to mistakes, and mistakes would lead to dying. Dying, if done at the wrong time, would undo everything. So here they were, just the two of them, in a worn-out neighborhood full of worn-out people, after dark.
“Dragomir Balan,” said the Russian. “You are my good friend, da?”
They clasped arms, Dragomir feeling the strength there. It’d be useful not to forget that — not the sheer physical presence of that grip, but the man that stood behind it. To come this close to someone who could end your life took — well, it took some serious balls. In Dragomir’s experience — his very, very long experience — that kind of ball quotient didn’t come out of training, or the gym, or having your pet rabbit run away. It came out of everyone you’d ever known dying, horribly, and that sort of thing was a useful asset.
“I am,” said Dragomir. He pulled the Russian closer into a hug. “Thank you … thank you for coming.”
“Is nothing,” said the Russian. He stepped away, looking around the small room. Probably trying to work out which wall was the best one to punch through if they needed an exit. It’s what Dragomir had done ten minutes ago. Dragomir noticed that the Russian hadn’t sat at one of the stools set at the rickety table in the middle of the room, or even looked at the papers resting there. He was more of a man of action, this Russian, even after all this time. “Was in neighborhood.”
“Since when did you live in the Bronx?”
“Since Tuesday,” said the Russian. He sniffed the air. “Storm. Is coming.”
“I can’t … I can’t really tell when you’re joking,” said Dragomir. “Of course a fucking storm is coming. It’s why you’re here. To, uh, bring the rain. Look, I’ll get you a room. At a nice place for a change.”
“I am here,” said the Russian, “to kill everyone, but most of all those that need killing. I am here to die. I do not care about nice places.”
“Yeah,” said Dragomir. “It’s my plan, remember?”
“I remember,” said the Russian. He pressed against the thin tin wall of the shack, the metal flexing slightly. “You were followed. Did you know?”
“I’m always followed,” said Dragomir. “Kaylan’s got plans for me. Most of them involve a box buried six feet under.”
“I remember,” said the Russian. “Kaylan, who wants to end everything. Before you were made, I,” and he slapped his broad chest, “saw her raise her sword at Golgotha. She and her brother Maynor. Before they wore those names, they—”
“I know what happened,” said Dragomir. Something nagged at his chest, an old pain, the well-worn path in his memories leading him there often. “I was there too. Just … not quite ready, as you say.”
The Russian looked at him, then sighed. “You will see her again soon, my friend. Kaylan? She cannot keep you from your Viorica. Not forever.”
Dragomir clapped his hands together. “Well, this conversation’s turned dark. What have you learned since Tuesday?”
“The Night is here,” said the Russian. “They have tracked your kind to this marvelous city. But nothing else, da? They do not know where you live. Who you are. What your names are, or how to find you. Not like me.” He gave Dragomir a bright smile, full of perfect white teeth. “They are hunting.”
“We must help them,” said Dragomir. “They cannot do it alone.”
The Russian shrugged. “Maybe so. Maybe not. Do not underestimate the Night.”
Dragomir thought about that for a while. “I’m not sure it’s about my estimation skills, my friend. It’s about a horde of unholy monsters that were designed to end the world. They … we … were manufactured. Two thousand years ago, to end the world when the apocalypse didn’t come.”
“Apocalypse wasn’t meant to come,” said the Russian.
“There’s disagreement on that theory,” said Dragomir. “If it wasn’t for Liselle and Josef, we wouldn’t be in this fine shack together. Anyway, it’s not just the Night. They brought friends.”
“Friends?” said the Russian. “The Night has ever walked alone.” He pointed at himself with a thumb. “Like me, da?”
“Well, no,” said Dragomir. He leaned his arms on the table to the sound of old metal creaking, and started flipping through the papers. Dossiers, a collection of stats and numbers and photographs that showed a little of the what but none of the why or how. “Actually, they’re completely different, as near as I can tell. Here.” He held up one dossier, a head-and-shoulders shot of a fit woman in the top right corner, a number of vital statistics detailing a military history, a career, that she’d left behind. “This one. Major Jessica Pearce. Discharged. Pretty clean run through the ranks, lots of medals, bet her dress uniform looks like someone threw a fruit salad at it. You know what the file doesn’t say? Her reasons for leaving her promising, successful military career to join a bunch of … of werewolves.”
“Is not sensible, nyet,” said the Russian.
“Not fucking sensible, no,” said Dragomir. “You know what they call her? The Lost Warrior.”
“I think,” said the Russian, “that you have found her, da?”
Dragomir gave a snort. “Yeah. Okay. What she lost was her kid.”
The Russian frowned for a moment. “Is difficult. The Night, it can collect the needy. Those who need protection. It is weakest when burdened by the frail.”
Specialist with a fifty calibre sniper rifle, commendations out the ass. On the ground when that zombie shit hit Chicago — wouldn’t call that one weak. Maybe it was a matter of perspective — when Dragomir had lived for over five thousand years maybe he’d have the Russian’s point of view. “What about this one then?” he said, pushing another dossier in the Russian’s direction. “Retired firefighter. Rex Aubrey.”
The Russian leaned closer to read the papers. “‘The Guide?’” He gave Dragomir a glance. “Is seeing eye dog?”
“I don’t think it’s literal. Managed to corral them all to the right place at the right time,” said Dragomir. He flipped over another dossier. The Shield. “What about this one?”
The Russian tapped the photo. “Da. This one, yes. She is made of burnished metal. She will not break.”
“I hope not,” said Dragomir. “File says she’s been in hospital a lot since meeting the rest of them.”
“And yet,” said the Russian, “not broken, da?”
“I guess,” said Dragomir. “The Good Right Arm?”
The Russian squinted at the photo, then laughed. “Is like seeing old friends, these papers. Leaves nothing to imagination, nyet? John Miles.” He frowned, like he was remembering something. “I … I am not sure, I admit it. It is like he serves no purpose, but…”
“But,” agreed Dragomir. “Let’s look at these two and I’ll save the best for last.” He pushed two more files towards the Russian. The man looked at them, then finally sat down on the chair by the table.
“The Knight,” said the Russian, “and his Sword.” He traced a finger over the photo of Valentine Everard, then made his hand into a fist. “I do not like this, Dragomir Balan. This one should be dead.”
“She probably should too,” said Dragomir, pointing at Danielle Kendrick’s photo. “But here. One more.” He shuffled the dossiers, looking for the last one. A young woman, the photo grainy through distance and speed. She hadn’t been on the grid, not a decent image of her on file in any system they controlled. They’d grabbed this one shot as she was getting into a car, her face turned towards the photographer. Her eyes looked right out of the page. “The Prophet.”
The Russian became still, then he reached a cautious hand out towards the papers. Unclipped the photo of the young woman, held it up to the light. “Adalia,” he said, sounding like he was tasting the word, savoring it. “Adalia Kendrick. So … lost.”
“That’s where you come in,” said Dragomir.
“I am sorry,” said the Russian. “My English. Is not always the best, da? You think—”
“I think,” said Dragomir, “that there’s a bunch of bloodsucking assholes who are right now trying to get the information I have on this table. They are right now trying to capture her,” and here, he snared the photograph of Adalia from the Russian, slapping it back down on the table, “so they can continue what they started. To end the world.”
“They didn’t start it,” said the Russian. “You didn’t start it.”
“Semantics,” said Dragomir. “Kaylan and Maynor started it. Made us, to finish it. If you can’t get the Apocalypse to happen organically, you got to make your own luck, right? I guess in a way it’s nice having a purpose. Avoids the whole mid-life crisis. Only problem here is the purpose is ending the world, which leads me to my therapist every week.”
“Therapist,” said the Russian. “Is expensive?”
“I’ll give you his card later,” said Dragomir. “Look, the thing we need here is some focus.”
“You need guardian angel,” said the Russian. He laughed, showing those perfect white teeth. “I am not angel, Dragomir Balan. I am weapon.”
“Today,” said Dragomir, “you’re an angel. The world needs one.”
“I am … broken, Dragomir,” said the Russian.
Dragomir leaned forward. “She needs one,” he said.
The Russian was silent for a long time. The noise of the city beyond the walls came to them in muted tones, the blare of a horn turned into something softer, almost gentle. Dragomir waited, because he was used to time, and the passage of it, but also because this man was his friend, perhaps his only one, and they were planning to die, together. A little waiting wouldn’t hurt. The Russian seemed to collect himself, pulling thoughts together as many people would sweep dust into a pan. “I am no angel,” he said again. “But for her, I will try.”
“We’re going to save the world,” said Dragomir.
“I do not think so,” said the Russian. He tapped the photo of Adalia Kendrick. “I think she will save the world.”
“Again, semantics,” said Dragomir. “The plan is working. The Night is here. The vampires are all trying to find them. I’ve … given a nudge. To an old friend of theirs. Sam Barnes. Head of Biomne.”
“I know Biomne,” said the Russian. “They tried to capture the Night.” He laughed. “Was where it all started.”
“Everyone knows Biomne,” said Dragomir. “What everyone doesn’t know is that we’ve got Sam’s kid. That’s providing a certain level of pressure on the man. He’s already been in contact with the Night. They’re going to meet him. Tomorrow.”
“I will be there,” said the Russian.
“No you won’t,” said Dragomir. “You will be finding Adalia Kendrick.”
“They are not ready to fight vampiry,” said the Russian. “They will need—”
“They’ll be fine,” said Dragomir. “The second thing I’ve done is, hell, where is…” He rifled through the papers again, pulling out Major Pearce’s dossier. “Here we go. Jessie, here,” and he tapped the papers, “has been sniffing around, trying to find us. So I’ve let it slip that there’s a young vampire they can capture. What they do with him is … up to them.”
“You, the great Dragomir Balan, are leaving something to chance?” The Russian’s eyes were wide with astonishment. “Tell me is not so.”
“Sometimes,” said Dragomir, “you gotta roll the dice. Also,” and here, he fished out the Knight’s dossier, holding up the photo of Valentine Everard, “this man. Given a choice, what do you think he will do?”
The Russian looked at the photo for a long time. “I think he will die,” he said, but there was no satisfaction in it.
“I think you might be right,” said Dragomir. “But I think he might die for something. And that’s all we need.”
Don’t like starting with the third in a trilogy? Yeah, that fucking sucks. Get the first book, Night’s Favor, free: https://www.books2read.com/NightsFavor (or get on my mailing list to get the second book free as well).