The Dark Prince(The Dark Light Series #2)

By: S.L. Jennings

Chapter One

Numb.

I have never wanted to be an unfeeling sack of flesh and bone more than in this moment. Because I feel everything. Pain. Betrayal. Grief. Sorrow. Every fucking thing I hate about feeling. Everything I’ve tried so hard to avoid.

I look down at the photograph crumpled in my rigid grip. It suddenly feels like glowing red hot coal in my hand. It burns me, sears the skin of my palm. In my hand I hold everything that I love. My parents, both adopted and biological. And him.

Dorian.

I know what this is. I know this is my truth. My past. My present. My future. It is what I knew all along and, like a freaking idiot, ignored because my beautiful illusion was so much better than my tragic reality.

For once, I had embraced happiness. Bliss. In spite of finding out what I was, finding out that I was a half Light, half Dark inbreed, I was happy. Even with a damn supernatural assassin out for my blood, I was content. Because of him. He made me whole. A new and improved Gabs. A girl that wanted to be good enough. For him.

Fuck. Him.

On autopilot, I stuff the photo into my purse. Then I am mindlessly dressing myself. Right arm in sleeve. Left arm in sleeve. Sweatshirt over my head. Legs sliding in jeans. Feet stepping into shoes. I’m almost there. I’m almost numb.

“Gabi?” my mom asks as I breeze by the living room robotically. I stop in my tracks and gaze at her, my face stoic and unreadable. “Dear, where are you going? Are you ok?”

I look at my adopted parents, the wholesome couple that took me in and cared for me as their own when I was nothing remotely like their own. I am not even human. But they gave me a human life. Despite the pure evil festering within me, bubbling just at the surface, they chose to believe I could be like them. They wanted to believe I could be good.

Fuck. Good.

I fish the photograph out of my purse and thrust it towards them without another glance or word. What would I even say?

Found this picture of you guys and my birth parents. And by the way, I am screwing that guy in it. Plus he hasn’t aged a day. In twenty-freakin’-years. No big deal.

“Where did you get this?” Chris asks, though it sounds like more of a demand in his low timbre.

“I don’t know,” I hear myself say. “I think it was in Natalia’s book. I just found it.”

“Oh my God, it’s us,” Donna replies in her breathy soprano. “Us and your parents, Natalia and Alexander…”

“And? And him?” I ask jutting out my finger at his maddeningly beautiful face. Dark hair, impossibly blue eyes, and that sexy smirk that makes me forget my own name. Him.

“Him? That’s, uh,” Donna stutters before swallowing. “He was your father’s friend. His partner.”

I meet her pale blue eyes and nod, needing no further explanation. “Dorian.”

Chris and Donna’s brows furrow simultaneously, first in confusion then in terrifying understanding.

“He’s here,” Donna squeaks, barely above a whisper. “Oh God, no. No. No!”

“Dammit!” Chris shouts. “How the hell did this happen? How do you know him?”

Donna crumbles into chest-heaving sobs. “Oh please, no! Please, Gabriella! Don’t tell me…don’t tell me it’s him! Don’t tell me he’s the one!”

She knew. For months she read it in my aura. She knew I was involved with someone and something had changed in me. She knew I had fallen in love. She just never imagined it could have been with the epitome of all that is corrupt and immoral in their world.

With him.

I couldn’t say anything. There was honestly nothing left to say. Admitting I was in love with Dorian would only throw salt in the wound. Theirs and mine.

“I have to go,” I mutter. I start to turn towards the door then hesitate. The photo. I need the photo. “Can I have that back?”

“Where are you going?” Chris asks. Again, it sounds like a demand. An accusation.

“I have to go,” I repeat. “To see…him. I have to know.” I snatch the photo from his grip and stuff it back into my purse.

“You have to know? Know what? What the hell is there to know?” Chris shouts.

My face heats with anger, tiny beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I reflexively swipe my sleeve across it. “Why he’s here. Why he came. Why he… I just need to know.”

“Absolutely not! You will not leave this house, do you hear me? Dorian is off limits!”

Chris steps towards me with the intent of grasping me by the shoulders. Yet for some reason he recoils, stumbling several steps back, shielding his wife with his broad body. I hadn’t even noticed the lights. Every light in the entire house is blinking rapidly, casting ghastly shadows across their horrified faces. It’s happening again.

And then I feel it. My hands are hot; scorching. And though it feels as if I have thrust them into a raging fire, it does not burn me. I look down at my palms, enraptured in a dull red haze, glowing hot with fury. They are trembling uncontrollably. My whole body is. I can’t stop it; I can’t even understand it. Anger and grief have completely overpowered me.

This isn’t numbness. This is wrath.

Tiny icicles assault my retinas, pricking my eyelids until they sting. My eyes feel too cold, frozen even, yet my vision is not obscured. I can see…everything. As if I have been blind for twenty years. The arteries beating in their rigid necks, the tight flex of their jaws, the fear inscribed in their faces. I see it all. I see them. Human. Frail. Infantile. I had always considered myself as one of them, but as I gaze upon them now, they appear alien to me. I can’t comprehend this sudden revelation but I know it is real. It is the realest thing I have ever felt.

“Gabriella,” Donna whispers hoarsely. “Please.”

She’s pleading. Begging. Why? Her petrified tone startles me and my emboldened resolve falters. The tremors cease, the red glow from my hands extinguished. Even my eyesight has dimmed and the alarming chill has dissipated. I tumble back down to Earth. Back to my humanity.

“There’s something you need to know. Please let us explain before you go,” she pleads from behind Chris.

I nod stiffly, afraid to do or say more to provoke their fear. I can’t be certain what would happen if I did. She steps around my dad cautiously and stands to face me. Chris’s eyes dance wildly between us, his fists pressed into tight balls of hard steel.

“Dorian was your father’s partner. The one who tried to keep Alex and Natalia’s secret. He wanted to keep them safe; to keep you safe. But once word traveled back to the Dark, he was taken. His punishment was harsh but he was spared.”

I fold my arms in front of my chest, not completely sure where Donna is going with this. I already knew that from Natalia’s journal. “Ok. He was punished; I get that. But he suffered a loss too. He lost his best friend. Why do I need to stay away from him?”

“Dorian is…special. And that is the only reason why he was not executed along with your father. He made a deal to save his own life. He was petrified- frozen in time, his magic stripped from him. His sentence was 20 years.” Donna takes a step towards me, her expression a mix of fright and concern. “The deal Dorian made was that he had to kill you. Once he was released from petrification, he had to hunt you down and slaughter you. And if he fails, he will be put to death.”

I struggle to process Donna’s words, my already shattered heart desperately urging my brain to reject it. But even in angst my mind can’t hold onto the illusion. I know what she is saying is true. Dorian was sent here to kill me. Everything we’ve shared, every ounce of passion we’ve exchanged has been a lie. And somewhere amidst all my hang-ups and denial, I knew it all along. What else could he possibly want from me?

I turn towards the front door when I feel a large hand grasp my forearm. “Where are you going?” Chris asks.

My glazed eyes fall to his grip and he instantly pulls it back. “I have to see him. I have to hear him say it.”

“What? Why? Did you not just hear your mother? He will kill you, Gabriella! He does not want you! He does not care about you! You are nothing but prey to him!”

Chris’s words sink the knife deeper into my hemorrhaging chest. I laboriously swallow down the bile rising in my throat. “I need to hear him say it,” I repeat with a shaky voice. “He’s not going to get away with being a coward. If he wants me dead, he has to tell me himself.”

“No, Gabriella! Don’t do it! He will kill you!” Donna shrieks. But I don’t meet her horrified eyes. I don’t respond to their pleas to stay in the safety of our home, away from the darkness that craves my demise. I am already out the door, guided by my own darkness festering deep inside me.

I don’t notice that I am at the Broadmoor until I am already there. I don’t even know how I managed to make it here in one piece. But as I gaze upon the double doors of Dorian’s suite, I can literally feel my heart beating out of my chest. I know I’ve been standing here staring at it but I’ve completely lost all sense of time.

The door suddenly swings open, startling me out of my anguished daze. And I am face to face with him. Dorian. Still dressed in his suit and tie, he is so amazingly gorgeous it physically hurts to look at him. His black hair is styled in its usual disheveled perfection. His jaw is shaved and smooth. Even his eyes seem bluer and brighter. I bite down the gasp at his splendor and fight the urge to melt into his arms.

“Gabriella? Are you ok?” he asks after a moment of my gawking. His eyes rest on my face, no doubt housing a mixture of pain and confusion. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

I take a deep breath, my head swirling with questions. I don’t even know where to start. How do I even formulate all this into words?

“I…know. Who you are, what you are. I know,” a hoarse voice croaks. I can hardly recognize it as my own.

Dorian’s expression darkens instantly, his mouth turning up into a menacing snarl. Even his eyes have turned cold and icy, and I swear I can feel my blood freeze over. He takes a step back, holding the door open wider.

“Come in.”

Come in? I’ve just told Dorian that I know he is an evil, sadistic mythical creature and he wants me to come in? Hell no!

Dorian sighs, letting his eyes close for just a moment before looking to me. They are full of emotion- sorrow, regret, anger. Why?

“It’s ok, Gabriella. I won’t hurt you. I want you to come in.”

And as crazy and stupid as it sounds, I believe him. I have to. The man before me is my heart and soul. Every part of me screams for him, yearns for him. And even if he has lied to me, I can’t deny what I feel for him. I just can’t turn it off. And I seriously hate myself for that.

I square my shoulders and will my shaky legs to carry me forward into the suite. Even as I pass him, even as our bodies meet with the slightest brush of the shoulders, I am on fire for him. Even as fear flows through me in staggering ripples, all I want to do is bury myself in his arms and let him ease my trepidation. Trepidation I feel for him.

How stupid can you get, Gabs?

The reality of Dorian’s real reason for being here nudges me and I am reminded of Chris’s terse words. Dorian doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t want me. He is completely incapable of ever loving me. I need to let those truths fuel what’s left of my courage.

I spin around, my survival instincts kicking in. No matter what I feel for him, he can’t be trusted. All pathetic signs of adoration are erased from my face, replaced with disdain and anger.

“You can relax. I won’t attack you from behind,” Dorian mutters, clicking the door closed. He walks past me and heads to the bar to pour himself a drink, downing it in one hefty gulp. He refills then pours one for me as well.

“You won’t?” I ask flatly, taking the crystal glass from his outstretched hand. I take a sip, my throat not even registering the burn.

“No,” he responds before running his hand through his silken locks. “That’s not how I…operate.”

“But you will. You will hurt me. That is what you were sent here for, correct?” I take another sip, hoping it brings me one step closer to absolute detachment. It hurts too much to feel.

“Yes.” Dorian downs his own poison before looking back at me devoid of all emotion.

“Why?” my quivering voice cracks. “So all this was a lie? I’m just an assignment? A target? You really are some murderous piece of shit? What the fuck, Dorian! Why?!”

I wait for an answer yet Dorian simply continues to stare at me blankly. Doesn’t he want to explain himself? Doesn’t he have anything to say? He just continues to stand there, unreadable and unfeeling. His silence infuriates me and I can’t contain my agitation. Even my fear can’t override my temper.

“Ummm, hello? I’d appreciate an answer, asshole,” I spew angrily. Still, Dorian remains silently impassive, causing wrath to take over. “So it’s true. You really are a cold-hearted prick who preys on defenseless young women. What kind of man are you? That’s sick, Dorian. You are one sick, sadistic fuck.”

Somehow my harsh words pierce through his stoic guise and Dorian’s mouth twists into a vicious snarl, bearing his gleaming white teeth. His eyes narrow menacingly and have lightened into the palest of blues, too frightening to be beautiful. And his face- a face so unbelievably gorgeous that I lose all sense of coherent thought- shifts into a place of pure evil.

He is no longer my Dorian. The man I love is gone.

“You stupid, little girl,” he seethes. Even his voice has lost its velvety tone, becoming more of a guttural growl. I flinch in response, too consumed by fear to run or scream. What good would it do anyway?

Dorian’s head snaps forward faster than my eyes can see. “You think I wanted this? Any of this? You think I wanted to come to this little, miserable town just to hunt some silly girl? Babysit you like a toddler? You are so fucking clueless, it infuriates me! Don’t you understand? Don’t you get it? I. Have. To!”

Dorian’s tirade slices through me like a blade, leaving me open and bleeding. I bring the crystal glass to my lips in an attempt to mask my trembling bottom lip. I can barely taste the scorching liquid as it makes its way down. Then without thinking, without even considering what this could mean for my own preservation, I bring my arm back and push it forward with all my might, slinging the glass directly towards Dorian’s head.

Without flinching or batting one of long lashes, Dorian’s eyes flicker up to its approach, halting the glass in mid-air just as it is centimeters from his face. He holds out a palm and it easily falls into his grasp.

“Don’t do that again. I am a patient and understanding man, Gabriella, but I won’t tolerate your tantrums,” he says with an amused smirk, abandoning his darkness. And just like that, the Dark monster trying to crawl its way to the surface is caged. He is back to being my Dorian.

“Or what?” I scoff, stupidly trying to provoke him. “You already want to kill me. What else could you possibly do?”

Dorian shakes his head. “I don’t want to kill you. At least the rational part of me doesn’t.”

“And the irrational part?” I hold my breath awaiting his answer.

Dorian’s eyes find mine, flashing white hot before settling into crystal blue. They are full of confusion and loathing. Reluctantly, he nods. “That part of me- the pure, incomprehensible evil- wants to slaughter you right here and now and be done with it. I want to drain every ounce of life from your body, strip you bare of the essence deep inside you. Then discard your pitiful carcass like garbage.”

He swallows then cringes, as if his mouth tastes of bile. “I’m Dark, Gabriella. It’s my nature to feel those things, to want you dead. I can never change that. The very thing that draws me to you is the very thing I hate.”

“You don’t mean that,” I find myself whispering.

“Yes, I do. And you have to accept that. I’ll never be anything other than Dark. No matter how much I wish I could be.”

“So what, then? What does this mean?” His indecisiveness is maddening. And here I thought I wore that crown.

“It means that you have a choice. Align with us; ascend into the Dark. Or I will kill you. And I’ll like it.”

Of all uncontrollable reactions to have at his ominous confession, I laugh. A crazed, delusional laughter that bends me over at my waist, howling as tears stream down my face. I can’t explain it; I can’t even stop it. And judging from the scowl that creeps onto Dorian’s face, he is not pleased with my outburst.

“That’s insane, Dorian!” I breathe between guffaws. “All of this is insane! Shit, maybe even I am insane. Because here I am, in your hotel room listening to you describe killing me like it’s a fucking sport, and I am seriously trying to make sense of it. Like I can’t even accept that you really are a heartless, disgusting animal. Unbelievable!” I howl.

“Calm down, Gabriella,” he warns.

“Why? Why calm down? I’m dead anyway. Hell, why not make it even easier for you?” I screech, throwing up my hands. My laughter begins to shift into rage. “Do it, Dorian. Get this shit over with. All those times you had me sprawled out, naked, while you played with my mind- my heart, for Christ’s sake- you could have just done it. Why wait? Why continue the charade?”

Dorian sets down the glass in his hand and takes a small step toward me, his expression tortured. “That’s not what it was.”

“No? Well, what the hell was it?!” I scream. “You know what, never mind. Just do it, Dorian. I’ll never side with you Dark fuckers. Ever. So don’t waste your time. Besides, you have already killed me a thousand times over with your lies so let’s just get this shit over with. Unless you can’t; unless you are too pathetic to actually do what you came here for.”

“Watch it, Gabriella,” he seethes between gritted teeth.

I am taunting the beast inside him, but my slain pride has taken the reins. He has hurt me, and in turn, I want to hurt him. It’s the only way I know how to deal with this pain. It’s what I’ve always done when my heart has gone into defense mode.

“You are a coward. My father trusted you. He thought of you as a brother. And this is how you repay him? By fucking his daughter, you sicko?” I stare him down, disgust etched in my face. “I pity you, Dorian. You are a pathetic waste of power. All you had to do was kill a defenseless girl, and you can’t even get that right!”

As if I have flipped some imaginary switch, all humanity drains from Dorian’s frame, his body transforming into something dreadfully wraithlike. The bones in his body crack and contortion, wisps of grey vapors writhing around him. His face, pale and ashen, resembles something out of a horror movie- deep set, icy eyes, menacing snarl, razor sharp teeth. Even the air around him trembles in response. His skeletal form lurches towards me, stopping inches from my terrified face. I’m too petrified to even fix my lips to scream.

“Is this what you want?!” Dorian seethes. “You want to see me like this? You want me to hurt you? You want me to end you right now?”

I take in the daunting apparition before me, swirls of blackish smoke enveloping him like a toxic cloak. He is beyond my worst nightmares, encompassing all things evil and cruel that exists in this world and beyond. But even I know that this is a different brand of darkness. This is no ordinary nightmare. He truly is the epitome of Dark.

“No, Dorian,” I choke out in a whisper. “This is what you want. What you need. You killed me the moment I found out the truth. So just do it.”

I feel my eyes pool with fresh tears, unable to blink them away. And why would I? This is the end. There’s no use in trying to stifle my agony. It’s true; I am dead inside. Without Dorian, without the beautiful illusion of love and true happiness, I am but an empty shell. Even the mirage of my life that pacified me for twenty years cannot pull me back from the ledge. I can’t go back to that. Meeting Dorian- loving Dorian- has altered my entire being. Life without him is death.

At the sight of my crack of emotion, Dorian releases a bit of the anger that feeds the beast within him, though his darkness is still prevalent. He reaches a pale, spiny hand toward me, plumes of charcoal writhing around it. The sharp pads of his fingertips slide down my cheek, leaving a trail of frigid cold prickles. I bite back the urge to cringe at the chilling sensation.

“I don’t want that,” he mutters hoarsely. “But you’ve left me no choice. I’m sorry, little girl.” With a sigh, he stows his darkness entirely, his body settling back into its original magnificent form. The olive tone of his skin returns and the ominous grey smoke dissipates, the ice blue of his eyes the only sign of a supernatural threat.

I hear his words but the peril still doesn’t register. There is no room left in me to feel anything else but immense pain. I can literally feel my heart splinter into several jagged pieces, the ache radiating in my chest and spreading throughout my body like a cancer. I don’t even notice the tears streaming down my hot cheeks until Dorian brushes them away. I resist the urge to burrow my face in his hand.

“So this is it? You’re going to do it?” I whisper with a weak, wavering voice. My brash and bold nature has completely abandoned me. I was defeated from the start.

“Yes.” The look on his face is pure agony and regret. Why? This is what he’s wanted all along, toying with my heart just to get close to me. Yet this is not the face of a cold-hearted paranormal killer. This is the face of a man tormented by his own demons.

I let my eyes close, before allowing myself one last glimpse of his beautiful face. Dorian. My very own angel of death. “Ok. I’m ready.”

I feel his fingers brush a trail from my cheek down to my collarbone, resting there to trace small circles with his thumb against my throat. His warm lips touch my forehead and I ease into the touch. A final kiss goodbye. I allow myself to savor it.

Dorian quietly mutters a few strangled words against my flushed skin in his secret, unnamed language. A language I’m not supposed to know, yet this time I understand every word. Words that I have craved to hear from his lips. Words that grip my shattered heart, trying to piece the jagged shards back together.

My eyes flutter open just as Dorian takes a step back, looking down at me in anguish. I let my hazels plunge into his glossy pools of azure as I offer those same words to him in my last dying breath.

“I love you, too.”

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