I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the land of Lyrah and Desmond! It comes to a close here, with no plans at this time to revisit – but, I mostly try not to say never when it comes to characters, since they’re the ones in charge! I have still been getting messages from people who’d rather read in a more “all at once” format, on their devices. I’m thinking through my options for that now, as I do want to leave this as a free offering, since that’s how it was intended when I wrote it. Once I’ve figured it out, I’ll make that announcement!
Anyway, enough of all that! Here’s the final installment of Until the Sun Comes Up.
I had no idea where I was going – I just knew I had to go.
Had to get as far away from Sam’s apartment, as far outside of his reach as I could.
The biting cold I’d considered so fondly just a few days ago clawed at me as I ran, sinking deep into my flesh to chill me down to the bone. My coat was still at Sam’s, and the sensible heels I’d worn to work were far from ideal for escaping a crazed vampire hunter.
Of course… this also wasn’t a situation in which I ever thought I’d find myself.
How foolish of me.
I’d naively believed myself to be safe in Blackwood.
Of course, there were human predators on the streets, but I was a predator myself, albeit one of a different type. If anything, the mortals who resided in Blackwood should be afraid of me.
But that was it right there, wasn’t it?
That very cockiness had led me to let down my guard, to trust myself in the presence of a man who’d done nothing to vet himself and had apparently preyed on my desire to believe he was the “innocent” one between the two of us.
Who else had my stupidity put in untold danger?
Certainly, Sam wasn’t the only hunter roaming Blackwood. Just like any other like-minded group, they worked in packs.
Was there someone following me now, someone waiting for me to lead them straight to whatever space I might wrongly consider a safe haven, showing them exactly where to attack?
I stopped running to duck into an alley, in a part of the city that was only vaguely familiar to me. I had to think about this.
It did me no good to go back to Onyx, because it was way too familiar, for both Sam and for me. There was the chance that Aram or Khalida might still be there, that they could offer some sort of assistance, but then there was also the chance that I was leading an unknown enemy right to their doorstep.
I couldn’t do that to them.
I wasn’t even going to risk heading in the same direction as the apartment I’ve been calling home. After walking me there, there was no way Sam wouldn’t have gathered that I lived nearby, and there weren’t enough buildings around for deducing which one I lived in to be very hard.
That was out.
And the last thing I wanted was to lead someone dangerous to BB’s, which would put hunters on the scent of half my pack.
I’d messed up.
I’d messed up really, really bad, and I had no clue what to do or how to fix it.
Hell, I didn’t even know how Sam could have figured out what I was, when I could swear I’d been careful.
One question I didn’t have was how in the world Desmond found me, or how he’d known I was in trouble.
He probably hadn’t been very far behind me at any point over the course of the night.
I’d felt him nearby, just a prickle of awareness at the peripherals of my senses. Earlier in the night it had annoyed me, something I wondered if he picked up on because his presence shrank away.
And yet, when I needed him, he was right there at my side.
I breathed in deep and then blew out a breath, trying to calm my heart. It was still racing from me running without knowing if I was being chased, still feeling as if it were on the verge of beating right out of my chest from the rush of adrenaline that still plagued me.
What the hell am I going to do?
What the hell is Desmond going to do?
We’d all been taught to fight, and that training was so deeply imbedded, so vital, that I would never forget it. Desmond though, was an overachiever – he did extra training for fun, molding himself into the hard-bodied warrior I’d had such trouble keeping my hands off of just a few short years ago.
And now he’d been the one to come to my rescue.
Even in the midst of fear and confusion and adrenaline that were all swamping me at this moment, embarrassed heat rose to my face.
I hadn’t known this depth of mortification was possible, but here I was – realizing just how damned silly I’d been.
This wasn’t rebellious.
It was foolish.
And I’d put myself and my entire community in danger because of it.
Only to be saved by the very person I’d unfairly scorned.
The suddenness of Desmond’s voice in the enclosed space of the alley only served to make the adrenaline pumping in my veins surge even harder. I put one hand to my chest, using the other to accept his offer of the coat and scarf I’d left behind.
I quickly bundled myself into both, and once my teeth had stopped chattering enough that I could see straight, took a real look at Desmond.
God, he was devastating.
He was in his same all black as usual, only now the luxe fabric carried the occasional streak of what I knew to be blood.
Desmond’s intense black gaze settled on me, eyes narrowed as if he were just waiting on me to disappoint him further.
I wouldn’t though.
Not after this.
“You killed him, right?”
“But he’s not alone.”
“No.” Desmond raked a bloody hand through his beard. “Which is why we need to go to BB’s. I have someone else to kill.”
My eyes went wide. “Is there a hunter there?! Is my mother in danger?”
“Your mother may be in danger, but not from a hunter, no.”
I frowned. “What? You can’t be saying–?
“It’s exactly what I’m saying, Lyrah. You wanna know how Sam knew what you were? It wasn’t because of anything you did to give yourself away. He was tipped off. By another vampire.”
Immediately, my mind started racing, trying to figure out who among my people would possibly do something like this.
I wanted to think no one.
But my subconscious must’ve been paying more attention, forging connections my active mind couldn’t see. Because as much as I loathed the idea of betrayal by one of my own, there was one face abundantly clear in my thoughts.
“Bastian,” I said quietly, but still out loud.
Desmond gave me a curt nod, then reached for my hand. “We have to go.”
I offered no complaints and no resistance as Desmond led me from the alley and straight to his bike. Instead of wearing the helmet himself, he gave it to me – another act of protection and sacrifice that made my rebellion feel completely stupid.
I tried not to focus on that though, letting my thoughts drift to other things instead – like the firmness of his back and shoulders as I pressed against him on the motorcycle, keeping my arms wrapped tight around his waist. Effortlessly, he navigated the streets of Blackwood, the steady hum of the bike and the warmth from his body lulling me into a sense of… peace.
The very normalcy I’d been running to find.
Desmond pulled the motorcycle to a stop nearly a block away from BB’s, parking in a nearby garage.
“Bastian’s issue with you – what is it?” Desmond asked, his gaze intense as he turned to face me. “The same as when we were kids – mad that you’re the golden child, and he’s not?”
I nodded. “Essentially. Exacerbated by my rejection of our customs.”
“Right. Of course.”
Bastian was my Aunt Bahira’s son – my cousin. She was a First but had found herself in the unfortunate circumstance of simply not having a fellow First within the right age range, who wasn’t from a different bloodline, to pair with. Because of that, she’d had to choose a “lesser” vampire as her mate, something I’d never gotten the impression she was particularly bothered by.
Bastian, however, was.
He resented me for being a “full-blood” First, despite the fact it was something I had no control over. He was always critiquing me, or tattling on me, or antagonizing me – whatever he could do to prove I wasn’t good enough.
That he was better, more worthy of the unwanted – at least for me – reverence and responsibilities that came with being a First.
He was really mad when I rejected it all.
“Whatever happens in here, afterwards, you and I need to have a real conversation,” Desmond spoke up, grabbing me under the chin and tipping my head back for me to meet his gaze. “I saved your ass because whether or not you want to accept it – you belong to me, Lyrah and one way or another, I will have what’s mine.”
Before I had a chance to be offended by that he was off, forcing me to do a little jog to catch up. And when I did, his face was so serious – his expression so murderous – that I didn’t bother bringing up my pointless objection to his words.
It was really just my rebellious nature – the same nature that had us in this predicament in the first place. With the pace Desmond was keeping up, it took us no time before we were walking through the door at BB’s. Usually, someone like Desmond would be met with a greeting from everyone he passed, but they must have seen the very same thing I did – pure rage.
Instead of speaking to him, the crowd simply parted as he stalked his way across the bar to where Bastian was socializing with his friends. They were gathered around one of the pool tables, where it was apparently his turn.
Somehow, he didn’t sense Desmond until he was right up on him.
Maybe because he was too busy flirting and showing off, but it wasn’t until Desmond snatched the pool stick from his hands that he looked up.
“Des!” he yelped in surprise, taking a step back. “Hey, man… what’s up?”
Instead of offering an immediate answer, Desmond snapped the pool stick in half, wielding the splintered end as a rudimentary stake. He snatched Bastian by the neck, slamming him into a wood-paneled column nearby before positioning the stake at his heart.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t impale you and end your miserable life right now,” Desmond growled into Bastian’s face, effortlessly keeping him pinned to the wall.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Bahira’s voice rang out, distracting all of us, including Desmond.
It was just enough for Bastian to get free of him.
He didn’t stay that way for long though, Desmond was right on him, snatching him by the back of his tee shirt to fling him to the ground. To Bastian’s credit, he sprung up, fangs bared and fists at the ready, trading blows back and forth.
Until Desmond got bored.
It was then that he retrieved the other broken half of the pool stick, shoving it into Bastian and snapping it off. He didn’t put it through his heart though, because he was toying with him – he put it through his ribs, inflicting maximum pain.
“What is going on?!” Bahira asked again, attempting to get between them – a move I intercepted before she ended up getting hurt.
“He tried to kill me,” I explained to her. “He sicced a hunter on me, which put all of us in danger – what if he’d followed me here?”
“So I’m supposed to stand by and watch him murder my child?!”
“He tried to murder me,” I shot back, even though I understood her predicament. But still…
“He started this,” my mother spoked up, coming from behind me. Even Bahira shrank at her presence, knowing that her older sister was at the top of this hierarchy.
No one wanted to take it beyond that, wanted to get our ancestors involved with what was an objectively trivial matter in the grand scheme of things. Of course for us though – the people in this room – it was major.
Our rules were clear though.
You never turned on one of your own, not like this. Even with my rejection of our customs, I’d put a stake through my own heart before I did something like purposely giving information to a hunter.
That was a whole other level.
“He’s not even come of age yet, Bahati,” my aunt pleaded, grabbing my mother’s hand. “Exile him, or… I don’t know, anything. But please, don’t take away my only chance for my line to live on.”
My mother inhaled a deep breath, staring at her sister.
The only authority my mother held over Desmond was whatever he respected her enough to grant – as such… he stopped. He had Bastian pinned to the ground now, a groveling mess as he waited to be dealt the final blow – the last bit of that pool stick through his heart.
“Speak your mind, queen.”
I didn’t miss the quivering at the corners of my mother’s mouth over Desmond’s use of that honorific for her. The whole bar went quiet, waiting to hear what she would decree.
“Do not kill him now,” she said. “He’ll be exiled. Chained, until he comes of age. He will be allowed to give his mother a descendant, and then… you can enact whatever punishment you see as fitting. Is that agreeable to you, Desmond?”
His eyebrow shot up, face pulled into a fierce scowl. Desmond raised the stake high, then slammed it through Bastian with enough force that I’d swear the ground shook beneath us.
But not through his heart.
“Fine,” he growled, pulling himself into a standing position. He didn’t even offer a backward glance as Bahira rushed over to Bastian – his attention was focused solely on me. I’d barely blinked before he was in front of me, grabbing my wrist to pull me close.
“It’s time for us to have that talk.”
I’d never been to Desmond’s house before.
Well, not this one.
I’d spent ample time at the little studio he had before he came of age, drinking and lounging and making love, but this was different.
This was a home.
An impeccably decorated three-bedroom home, in a quiet neighborhood where our presence wouldn’t arouse suspicion.
A home for a family.
He’d put me on the back of his bike to drive me here, and then pulled me to a large, elegantly decorated bedroom, without any words. Once I was seated, on the bench in front of the bed, he walked off.
Moments later, I heard the shower.
I had no idea what was coming.
And really, I tried not to overthink it too much, opting instead to sit with the discomfort of the unknown, letting it serve as penance for my own bad decisions.
Only, when Desmond finally stepped out of the bathroom, skin glistening and covered in water droplets… it didn’t feel like a punishment at all.
It took my breath away.
One towel around his waist, another in his hand, drying his hair and beard, he stalked toward me. I flinched backward as he stooped in front of me, no longer covered in the blood of his enemies but no less vicious than before.
“Are you done?” he asked, locking eyes with me.
I swallowed, hard. “Done?”
“Done with these goddamned games,” he growled. “I’ve waited patiently for you Lyrah, thinking you would come to your senses once you came of age. Instead of doing that, you dug your stubborn-ass heels even further in. I gave you another year to work through your little rebellion, and now – you will make a real decision. You will surrender yourself to me, or you will surrender your claim to me, and I will consummate with another.”
Immediately, my eyebrows shot up. “Another?”
Mischief lighted his eyes, and a smirk slid over his face. “Yes. Another. You weren’t expecting that, were you?”
“Of course I wasn’t, because it’s not possible,” I snapped. “It’s me, or it’s nobody!”
Desmond shook his head. “Ah – you’re mistaken though, my love. You see, I investigated – consulted our elders. And apparently, your rejection of your pairing allows me to consummate with another First, if there’s one who wasn’t paired within our generation. Very similar to how your aunt ended up with Bastian’s father.”
“But there isn’t one.”
“There is though,” Desmond countered. “And she is thrilled at the prospect. Honored to continue her line with First blood. Probably make an excellent wife, and mother.”
“And I wouldn’t?!”
He scoffed. “You’ve shown no interest in either role, Lyrah. So as I said – you can step up and prove yourself as the royalty you are, or if you can’t handle it… formally step aside.”
“I never said a damn thing about not being able to handle it,” I snapped, nostrils flared. “I simply refuse to be told what to do.”
“Right. Whatever you have to tell yourself,” he said dismissively, straightening up. He turned his back to me, whipping off the towel as he padded to the drawers on the other side of the room.
“It’s not whatever I have to tell myself, it’s the truth!”
Desmond turned to face me, fully nude, semi hard, completely aware of just how much he was getting under my skin. “Okay, Lyrah. We’ll talk to the elders tomorrow about how to move forward.”
“I’m not talking to the elders about shit tomorrow, and I’m not relinquishing anything,” I snapped, stalking up to where he stood, black boxers hanging casually from his fingers. I moved close enough that our lips were nearly touching, close enough that his hardness pressed into my stomach… turning me on. “You really think I can’t handle my role? Can’t handle you?”
“Are you really about to step into it just because I insinuated you couldn’t?”
I shrugged. “The only thing I hate more than being told what to do, is being told what I can’t do. I am your chosen mate,” I told him, reaching down to take him in my hand, and squeeze. “Nobody can fill my shoes.”
“Prove it,” he demanded, dropping the boxers to grab handfuls of my hair, using that hold to drag my lips to his. He devoured my mouth in passionate dips of his tongue and little nibbles and deep kisses as I stroked him in the scant space left between us. “Take off your clothes and get on the bed.”
I shook my head. “You get on the bed.”
He raised an eyebrow at me, his eyes glittering with lust as he grabbed the hem of my shirt to yank over my head. “You’re so damned obstinate,” he growled, yanking me by the waistband of my slacks.
I smirked at him. “Tell the truth… you wouldn’t want me if I wasn’t.”