The Dark Ones
The Dark Ones
by Rachel Van Dyken
Copyright © 2015 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
THE DARK ONES
Copyright © 2015 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
ISBN 10: 1942246501
Cover Art by P.S. Cover Design
To my AMAZING fan group Rachel's New Rocking Readers!
I LOVE having you guys do group beta reads of my books.
Thanks for helping me out with this one
and being a part of the creative process; you are amazing!
I WAS NEVER ONE TO BE accused of being patient. Then again, I'd never understood the need for patience. To me, patience meant that I was either in the process of getting lectured or about to get lectured. I chewed the edge of my thumbnail and waited in the darkness.
"Ugly." My mother shook her head in my direction. "Remember that… you will always be ugly to them."
The very word dripped with hatred. You'd think after centuries of working together, we'd have found a happy medium. My mother had her own reasons for hating them, and up until this point, I'd had exactly none.
I'd spent my entire existence balancing my normal school life with my folklore studies, something I'd always hated but it had been necessary, just in case my number was called.
My entire family had a bad reputation for going against the rules, against the calling that had been given them, so I'd never been really concerned about being called in.
I'd been eating soggy cereal, staring into the Corn Chex, when my mother's scream erupted through the house, followed by her passing out and my dad needing to call the paramedics.
Her heart had stopped. Literally. Stopped.
All because of a phone call.
Naturally, my parents had lied and said she'd been having chest pain, but I knew the truth.
It was fear.
Fear had stopped her heart, almost resulting in her death.
And fear was about to stop mine.
"Stop," Mother hissed at my side. "Do you want them to think you're a barbarian?"
To them? I already was, so I didn't really see the point in pretending to be anything else. To those individuals, I would always be the dirt beneath their feet, the little plaything they had to put up with.
I knew their history.
Probably better than most of them.
I'd been studying them for most of my life, pouring over books and research with constant dread that, one day, my number would be called, and my life would be played out for me in absolute horror.
Humans were like little insects that they allowed to survive only because it was necessary for their own survival. We die. They die. Therefore, we live.
The darkness lifted for a few brief minutes as the door creaked open.
"Genesis?" a seductive male voice spoke into the darkness. "They will see you now."
My mom, with her long dark hair and bright green eyes, gave me one more look and shook her head. "Remember, you are nothing, you are ugly, you are humble, you are stupid, you aren't brave, you are nothing. You. Are. Nothing."
I nodded and repeated the mantra in my head.
The same one she'd pounded into my skull since my birth. She'd had her reasons, not that it made hearing those words any easier. Several times during my upbringing, I'd locked myself in my room and just stared at myself in the mirror. I'd focused on each feature and wondered what was so horrible about my eyes, my lips, my face — even my cheeks — that I had to repeat those ugly words until I was blue in the face.
The one time I'd asked her, she'd snorted and said something about our bloodlines being wicked and selfish, and how the females in our family were not known for our humility.
Basically, my own mother believed that if my number was called…
I would be killed.
My sarcastic nature didn't help things, and if my number was called, I figured it would get my tongue cut out.
And even though it was 2015, and I thought we'd come a long way with equality and human rights…
I was still nothing. In their eyes I was both nothing and everything, all wrapped up into one.
But unable to grasp my own uniqueness because of my imperfect creation.
"Nothing," I chanted under my breath. "I am nothing."
My black, over-the-knee boots clicked against the concrete as I made my way toward the light, the only light in the room, peeking out from the grand doorway.
I'd chosen to wear black leggings with a wraparound cream sweater, hoping that if I covered enough of myself, it would look humble, but not so humble that I didn't at least try to look nice for my meeting.
I'd never been the most secure girl in the world. Then again, how could I have confidence when every day of my life my mom had repeated that same mantra in my head? "You are nothing."
I sensed a sudden presence at my back. A hand, I realized. The contact made me gasp. A slight warm tingle ran through and somehow down my neck.
"Sorry," a man said to my right. I couldn't see him yet, but his voice sounded like a soothing melody, causing me to almost sway on my feet. "I forget how fragile humans can be."
I nodded. "It's okay."
"This way." The pressure from his hand wasn't necessarily painful, but it wasn't pleasant either, almost like an electric current was passing from his body into mine. I'd heard that it was nearly impossible to turn off certain powers — it would be like me trying to tell my heart to stop beating.
Once I was through the door, I looked around.
It was magnificent.
The floor was a dark black marble; the walls had sconces that I'm sure at one point had held torches — before electricity.
Two large doors stood in my way. I could feel the power on the other side; the room practically sang with it.
"Do not speak," the man on my right said. Finally, I glanced up and closed my mouth immediately.
What would a perfectly healthy twenty-five-year-old say to someone who had no eyes? Only dark spots where eyes once were?
Not to mention, his mouth wasn't moving, yet he was speaking.
I knew what he was.
"Fear isn't welcome here." He spoke again, this time rubbing my back as if to comfort me. But his mouth still didn't move. Regardless of the knowledge in my head about this type of creature, I was still having trouble breathing.
This was really happening.
My number had been called.
I was at the ceremony.
My life was going to change forever.
To run away would mean death.
To take a few more steps — well, it meant the same thing. Especially if I didn't please them.
I tugged at my sweater, my palms sweating.
"You look lovely, just remember. No fear. You are nothing. You are everything. You are simply… you." He nodded again and the two oak doors opened.
A gasp escaped between my lips before I could stop it.
"They have that effect on everything," he whispered.
And then the lights brightened.
All the schooling in the world
And suddenly, I wanted very much to fall to my knees and cry.
"GO ON," THE MAN URGED.
I took another step forward.
And suddenly he was gone. The doors shut behind me. I was completely and utterly alone.
Was I allowed to look directly at them? Was I supposed to speak? I had no idea what the protocol was, only that if I broke it, I wouldn't even feel pain before they sliced me up and tossed my parts back to where I'd come from.
I held my head high and waited, all the while repeating the same mantra in my head. ”I'm nothing, I'm nothing. I'm everything."
"Genesis." A smooth voice called my name. It was so beautiful on his lips I wanted to cry again, and I'd never thought myself an overly emotional person, one of the only things my mom had applauded me for.
Slowly, I turned to the left. A man dressed in dark jeans and a white T-shirt stood from a silver throne. His hair was impossibly light, almost white, his eyes a glowing blue.
He was smiling.
It looked painful on him.
Only because it was so beautiful.
"Fear isn't welcome here." He repeated the same thing the first man had said.
"Apologies… sir." Or was it my lord? I couldn't remember and hoped it wouldn't be the last thing I uttered. How bad would that suck? Not that I'd be alive to actually care.
"Ah…" A blindingly white smile flashed in my direction as heat from his body flew at me in waves, nearly sending me to my knees. From my fingers all the way down to my toes, I wanted to touch him. I wanted to taste him. It was more than just being near him — I wanted everything about him to consume me until I wasn't even me anymore.
Don't you though? His voice sounded in my mind.
I blinked, trying to stay strong as the pieces fell together. He was a male siren, someone so sensual, so strong in his sexuality that he couldn't help but give off pheromones by merely breathing. Our books hadn't mentioned male sirens, but I couldn't imagine him being anything but that. He was too perfect, too strong, too warm. My body hummed with awareness.
"Beautiful, isn't she?" he said, the waves getting hotter and hotter, making me want to whimper aloud. I wanted to touch him, any part of him, even his feet. How stupid was that? I would literally sell my soul if I could touch his big toe.
He threw his head back and laughed. "This should be fun."
"Alex, stop it," a woman said to his right. "She's shaking."
"So am I." He winked.
Something flew by his head, barely missing his chin.
"Damn it, Stephanie, let me have my fun."
"You have fun," the woman rolled her eyes, "every day. Now sit down before you give her a heart attack."
Alex sat, the waves slowly dissipated, and I was able to focus on the woman next to him. They could have been twins, except she wasn't just beautiful, but absolutely flawless — her eyes were the same bright blue, and she was wearing one of the dresses I'd seen at Nordstrom the week before… the price tag had been too high, and I'd been convinced that even if I'd put it on, it would look dumpy on me.
Because my mother's voice chimed in my head, "You are nothing."
I clenched my fists tighter and managed a head nod in her direction.
When my eyes fell to the third person in the room, I took a step back.
"Fear is not welcome here," the man barked, his eyes black and cold.
"Right," I whispered. "I'm — I'm sorry."
His lips twitched. Where the others were bright and pretty, he had shaggy brown hair that hung past his shoulders and black eyes that seemed to see right through me; his smile was attractive but predatory, and I was pretty sure that if he wanted to break me in half just to prove he could, he'd only need to use two fingers.
"You're different from the others."
I wasn't sure if different was good or bad; it was on the tip of my tongue to ask, but I thought better of it when he leaned forward, causing my heartbeat to sky rocket.
He was a beast or werewolf. I'd studied his kind, even though it had terrified me to go over those chapters in class. They were unpredictable, angry, scary hunters that thought emotions were for the weak.
It was believed they lacked the ability to empathize with others, making them one of the most dangerous creatures to humans.
He was proving the text hadn't lied. No smile. No light behind his eyes, just emptiness.
"You really are a pretty one, aren't you?" another voice chimed in, this one deep, smooth, soothing… like a stream where the water trickled over the rocks.
Giving my head a shake, I turned to the man next to the werewolf and barely managed to hold in a gasp.
He was gorgeous.
Light green eyes glowed in my direction, beamed and twinkled with each blink, almost like I was staring at stars. His skin was smooth and light. Dark brown hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, and he had a leather bomber jacket on.
He was the epitome of every girl's fantasy come to life.
I quickly averted my eyes, aware I was blatantly staring at him.
"What?" His warm chuckle made my body tingle. "Are you afraid to look at me, human?"
"No." I found my voice, "Not at all." Slowly I lifted my gaze to his and waited.
His smile was blinding. "Good, that's good, as we'll be spending many hours together in the near future." His smile suddenly dropped as if the idea saddened him, or maybe just made him want to kill me and get it over with.
Yeah, that was what I was afraid of.
Maybe I was better off with the werewolf.
Or the siren.
"Enough." A booming voice sounded throughout the room, shaking me out of my stare-down with the man. Only vampires had green eyes, so I imagined that was what he was, though he looked nothing like I imagined a vampire would look.
I glanced around for the location of the voice but saw nothing.
The smile froze on the vampire's face. He shared a look with the others and leaned back in his chair, while the other three seemed to stiffen in theirs, as if they were afraid. What could they possibly have to fear? They were immortal.
I looked around the room again. The lights flickered.
That couldn't be a good sign.
Up until now, I'd had no idea what immortals I'd be meeting with, and I wracked my brain trying to think of who else would be there — who else I should be afraid of… when suddenly the room went black.
It was only three seconds.
But it was enough for my brain and survival instincts to kick in.
I had to force my feet to stay planted.
I had to force the scream to stay in my throat.
And when I felt a hand reach out and touch my shoulder, the pain I felt at that touch was so life-altering that I fell to my knees, my body giving out.
"That's better," the voice said. "Don't you know you are to kneel in front of those you serve?"
"S-sorry," I said through clenched teeth. "It won't happen again."
"No," he said, "it won't. Because if it does, you'll be dead. Understand?"
The ice from his touch wouldn't let up; it continued to flow through my body like he was trying to freeze every vein I had.
The lights flickered again, and then he was standing in front of me.
All seven feet of him.
It hurt to stare.
But not as much as it would have if I hadn't — I, at least, had paid attention to that part of my studies. To look away was like experiencing the greatest pain imaginable because, as a human, I was drawn to his beauty, drawn to his essence in a way that had been programmed since the beginning of time.
He was a Dark One.
Half angel. Half human.
And he was the leader of the immortals. His punishment, along with the others of hi
They were called Dark Ones because both light and dark fought for them, making it impossible for lights to stay on or the dark to stay dark for too long a time span.
They commanded the dark.
But were forced to live in the light.
They were equal parts good and bad, which made them the most dangerous as they had no moral compass.
"Interesting…" His head tilted in a cat-like stance. "…that you know so much about me. Pray tell, are you going to give us a history lesson? You may stand."
Crap. I stood on shaky feet.
They could also read thoughts if they wanted to.
Though most weren't powerful enough to do so.
Those two words devastated me. If he was that powerful, he wasn't just any Dark One. He was—
"Cassius." He finished my thought, his lips tilting up in a seductive smile. White teeth flashed, and then he turned on his heel, slowly walking up the stairs to where everyone else was seated. "But to you…" He turned slightly, his eyes flashing white before going back to a normal blue. "…I am Master."
CASSIUS. THE NAME BURNED ON MY lips though I hadn't spoken it out loud — was too afraid to. I knew the power behind his name, behind who he was.
He was like a god to the immortals.
And to me?
Well, he was more than that. He could kill me with a simple snap of his fingers. He could make me see my worst nightmares by simply willing it to happen. But worst of all? He could own me. It was said that Dark Ones treated humans as pets, playthings — an amusement. But because Dark Ones had such heightened emotions, when they abandoned a human out of boredom or something else trivial, it killed the human.
Instantly shattering their hearts in their chests.
Once the Dark Ones were finished with you — you didn't survive it. No one could survive the emotional break that came when someone like Cassius left.
It was emptiness.