Embrace the Darkness by L.M. Justus
(Darkness Trilogy #3)
Publication date: October 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
A cure for vampirism is within Reed Hennessy’s grasp. According to legend, all he has to do is destroy the original vampire. If Reed is successful, every vampire on Earth will become human again, and he and his girlfriend, Sarah, can have the normal life they want.
If only it were that easy.
First, they have to find the original vampire, whose location is a centuries-old secret. Second, most vampires don’t want to give up their superior strength, speed, and longevity, so they’ll do anything to stop Reed.
With the help of their friend and mentor, Nathaniel, Sarah’s sister, and a trio of former vampire hunters, Reed and Sarah set off on their most dangerous journey yet. Reed faces a choice when he realizes the price he must pay for the cure: he can persevere with his quest or learn to embrace the darkness.
We rounded the corner and faced another choice: continue straight ahead, or take a set of stairs leading deeper below. Either way, the blackness threatened to swallow us, and I hoped the flashlights would be dependable. Even my night vision needed at least a small amount of light to work.
“If I were an ancient book, where would I hide?” Alexandre said.
Sophie nibbled her bottom lip, which made me think of Sarah.
“How about we don’t go any farther down unless we have to?” she said.
“I agree,” Justin added. “Why not explore the rest of this level first?”
“Good. Decision made,” Trudy said, heading off with the rest of us close behind.
We passed several small rooms, but they were all empty. Eventually, we came across two wooden doors on opposite sides of the hallway. The wood looked old enough to disintegrate if we sneezed.
I pushed one lightly and it creaked open. Trudy directed her flashlight inside and my gaze landed on shelf after shelf full of books. The room was huge. I couldn’t see where the space ended.
“Bingo,” Alexandre said from across the hall. He’d opened the other door and discovered another giant roomful of books.
“Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” I said. “Why don’t you two start looking in that room and we’ll search over here?”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Justin said, and he and Alexandre ducked into the other room.
I stepped up to the closest shelf and plucked out a book at random. A thick layer of dust covered it, so I took a breath and blew on it, sending a cloud into the air. The plain brown cover was cracked and peeling, and when I opened the book, it fell apart, clumps of damp pages scattering over the floor.
Trudy leaned over and picked up one of the clumps, peeling off a single page. “There’s nothing legible here,” she said, flipping it over to inspect each side. “It looks like moisture has smeared the writing completely beyond recognition.”
Sophie let out a sigh. “Sarah’s going to be so disappointed. To think we actually found the castle ruins and loads of books only to find them in such poor condition they’re totally useless.”
“I think we found it!” either Justin or Alexandre shouted from the other room.
“Huh?” I said, and took off.
I raced across the hall, entered the room, and sped down the long aisle between the bookshelves. When I reached the end of the row, I veered right toward a brightly lit alcove.
My jaw dropped as I skidded to a stop beside Justin and Alexandre. “What the hell?”
A large cube, about ten feet across each dimension, with glass or clear plastic walls stood before us. In the center of the cube, a book lay open on a pedestal. An eerie blue light lit the interior of the box, and a clear door with a keypad appeared to be the only way inside.
Sophie and Trudy came up behind me. “That setup’s not four hundred years old,” Sophie said.
“No, it sure isn’t,” Alexandre said.
“Obviously, someone put this here recently,” I said. “So not only do they know exactly where this book is, but they’re taking really good care of it.”
“Which means this place is probably being monitored,” Trudy added. “If they don’t know we’re here already, they will after we break into this case and steal the book.”
Justin cleared his throat and gestured to a spot off to the side. “We also missed that door over there. Looks like we took the scenic route into these ruins.”
Sure enough, a set of stairs led up to a normal, modern door. I wondered if anyone else felt stupid about bashing in through the back tunnel when we could have used a door.
“So what are we waiting for?” Sophie asked, pushing me toward the box. “Let’s hurry up and get out of here.”
“All right already,” I muttered. Stepping forward, I rapped on the glass. The dull thudding sound made me think the glass was pretty thick. I moved around to the door with the keypad and grasped the cool metal handle.
A sharp yank using my vampire strength and the door broke right off its hinges. An unbearable shrieking noise stabbed into my ears, and I dropped to the ground, trying to block it out with my hands.
Trudy shouted something at me, but I couldn’t hear her over the shrill sound piercing my eardrums. Alexandre stepped past us, into the cube, and grabbed the book. He slipped it inside a white cloth sleeve and then placed it into the duffle bag.
Everyone scampered over to the door leading outside, and I stumbled after them, my hands clamped tightly over my ears. Apparently, I was the only one affected by the alarm.
Justin reached the door first, but was unable to open it. I slid past him and kicked it. Sunlight flooded over us and I emerged outside, temporarily blinded.
I blinked and saw empty fields all around me. Empty except for one person, that is. It was our old friend Santa from the night before.
A searing pain bloomed in my left shoulder and I fell back into the stairwell. I crashed into Justin and we both fell into a heap. Blood streamed from a deep wound in my shoulder and my fangs extended.
“That bastard shot me,” I yelled. At least the bullet seemed to have gone straight through so I’d be able to heal quickly.
Trudy crouched next to me. “You have to neutralize him, Reed.” Her serious gaze bore into me, but I couldn’t help staring at her jugular, pulsing along the side of her neck. I needed an emergency feed. Right. Now.
“Reed!” Trudy slapped me and I growled back. “Feed from that guy, not me. Get up!” She pulled on my good arm and Alexandre helped to get me on my feet. Then they shoved me toward the door.
Another bullet embedded itself in the doorframe and I fought to stay focused.
I dashed outside, spotted our assailant, and sprinted to him, my movements faster than he could track. I snatched the rifle from his hands and tossed it away. He was alone, so with no other threats to worry about, I gave in to my thirst.
When I finished quenching the fire in my veins, I dropped him on the ground. “It’s safe to come out now,” I managed to shout before crumpling next to him, death overtaking me and snuffing out the light.
Lisa Justus’ path to becoming an author took a circuitous route through the University of Waterloo where she earned a Bachelor of Mathematics, followed by jobs in quality assurance and technical writing at a high-tech company. With a keen interest in creative fiction, she wrote her first fantasy novel as part of NaNoWriMo as well as an early chapter book for her kids when they were younger. Welcome to the Darkness and Darkness Reigns are the first two books of the Darkness Trilogy, a YA paranormal fantasy.
These days Lisa is busy writing her next novel, reading, finishing her basement, doing volunteer work, and trying to stay in shape by running somewhat regularly. She, her husband, and their three children live in Ottawa, Ontario.
Grand Prize of $20US Amazon gift certificate + free ebook copies of Darkness Trilogy books 1-3
5 Runner-up prizes of free ebook copies of Darkness Trilogy books 1-3