Was he a man. . . Or a miracle? Alexandria Houton would sacrifice anything--even her life--to protect her orphaned little brother. But when both encountered unspeakable evil in the swirling San Francisco mists, Alex could only cry to heaven for their deliverance. . .

And out of the darkness swooped Aidan Savage, a golden being more powerful, more mysterious, than any other creature of the night. The ageless Carpathian male snatched them from a hideous fate. But was Aidan a miracle. . . or a monster? Alex's salvation. . . or her sin? If she surrendered to Aidan's savage, unearthly seduction--gave him the color, the light, the family he craved-would Alex truly save her brother? Or sacrifice more than her life?

Christine's Notes

Christine Feehan
The idea for Dark Gold--the story of Alexandria, a hardworking young woman single-handedly raising her orphaned brother--came to me when I was watching my daughter send her seven year old son off to school one day. When their blond curls came together in a hug, the entire story of Alexandria and Josh seemed to unfold before my eyes. Like Alexandria, my daughter works hard, goes to school, and rarely socialized so she can spend quality time with her child. She has given up so much in her life, but she treasures him above all else.

Alexandria loves her young brother as fiercely and as protectively as any mother would-and in Dark Gold she must protect Josh from unspeakable dangers, at great peril to herself. Every crucial decision she makes is based on love and willing self-sacrifice. So I've given Alexandria a hero of enormous strength and power-Aidan Savage-a man who can finally make her heart--and her family--whole.

— Christine Feehan

Christine regularly writes about her books (and all kinds of subjects) in the following places:


Dark Gold

More Order Options

Dark Series ,
Book 3

Latest Release:
Latest Release Date: April 1, 2000
Original Release Date: April 1, 2000
Number of Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Love Spell
Language: English
ISBN: 0062019481

Dark Gold (Dark Series, #3)

More Order Options

El Oro Oscuro

El Oro Oscuro


Der Furst der Nacht

Der Fürst der Nacht


Mroczny blask

Mroczny blask





Dark Gold French

Desirs Dore


Dark Gold Italian

L'oro nero


Excerpt: Chapter 1

"Joshua, this is a very important business meeting," Alexandria Houton cautioned her younger brother as she parked her beat up Volkswagen in the large lot. Deliberately she picked a space as far from the restaurant as she was able to find. For a moment she rested her small hand on the curly head beside her, looked down into bright eyes. A rush of love instantly warmed her, pushed out the frustrated, harassed feelings. Her soft mouth curved, revealed small, even white teeth, a melting, intriguing dimple. "You're so grown up, Josh, I don't know why I'm repeating myself. This is my only chance at a dream position like this. You know we need this job, don't you?"

"Sure, Alex. Don't worry, I'll stay around back and play with my truck." He grinned at her, his beloved sister who had been his only parent since their mother and father had died in a car accident before his second birthday.

"I'm sorry the baby-sitter flaked on us. She was, umm, sick."

"Drunk, Alex," he corrected solemnly as he gathered up his backpack and toy.

"Where in the world did you hear such a thing?" she demanded, horrified that a six-year-old would have to know what drunk was. She slid from the car and carefully brushed off her one good suit. The outfit had cost a month's income, but Alexandria regarded it as a necessary investment. She looked far younger than her twenty-three years and desperately needed the added confidence of a sophisticated and expensive suit. "That's not a nice thing to say, Joshua."

He hugged his favorite toy, a worn Tonka dump truck. "I heard you in the hallway telling her to go home, she wasn't fit to watch over me because she was drunk." He looked sheepish. Alexandria had specifically told him to go to his room and instead he had listened at the door. He knew it was an invaluable way to learn information Alexandria considered proper only for adults.

Alexandria found herself grinning at his mischievous up-turned face. "Big Ears. It's okay, little buddy, we do better on our own, don't we?" She said it with far more confidence than she felt. They lived in a rat-trap. The boarding house was a flophouse for prostitutes, alcoholics and drug users. Alexandria was terrified for Joshua's future. Everything depended on this meeting.

Thomas Ivan, the genius behind the top-selling video and computer games, primarily vampire and demon games, was looking for a new graphic designer. Ivan had risen to the top with his wild imagination and top story lines. He had graced the cover of nearly every magazine that counted. Alexandria knew she was talented, she just needed a chance. If only he wouldn't dismiss her on her looks. He had been intrigued enough with her samples to request a face to face meeting. It had been shocking that he had even considered her when she was competing with so many other talented designers.

Alexandria dragged the slim briefcase from the car and took Joshua's hand. "It might take a long time. You have your snacks in your backpack, don't you?"

He nodded, silky curls bobbing across his forehead. Alexandria tightened her grip on his hand. Joshua was everything to her, her only family, her reason for fighting so hard to get to a better neighborhood, a better standard of living. Joshua was a bright, sensitive, compassionate child. Alexandria believed he deserved everything good life had to offer and she was determined to get it for him.

She led him around the two-story building to the back acreage covered in trees and thick brush. A path led to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. "Don't go out of the trees, Joshua, the edge of the cliffs are dangerous. They can crumble right under your feet, or you could slip and fall."

"I know, you already told me." There was a hint of exasperation in his voice. "I know the rules, Alex."

"Henry is here tonight, taking care of the grounds. He'll be looking out for you." Henry was an elderly homeless man who often slept in the small grove of trees behind the restaurant. Alexandria brought him meals and blankets whenever she was able. In return, Henry kept an eye on them whenever he was in their neighborhood.

Alexandria waved to the tall, thin, stooped figure hobbling toward them. "Hi, Henry. It's nice of you to do this for me."

"You were lucky you ran into me at the market, I was going to sleep under the bridge tonight." Henry looked around carefully with his faded blue eyes. "There's been strange things happening around here."

"Gangs?" Alexandria asked it anxiously. She didn't want Joshua exposed to the pressure of that kind of life.

Henry shook his head. "Nothing like that. Cops wouldn't allow that in these parts, that's why I sleep here. Fact is, they wouldn't let me stay if they knew about me."

"So what do you think is strange around here?"

Joshua tugged at her skirt. "You're going to be late for your meeting, Alex. I'll be fine," he insisted, reading her distress. Henry should have known better than to say anything to get Alexandria worried. He settled himself under a canopy of trees, cross-legged beside the faint path leading to the cliffs and sent Henry a quick frown and a shake of his head.

Henry sat down beside him with creaking kneecaps and a faint, self-derisive smile. "Go along, Alex," he waved a gnarled hand. "We'll just play with this fine truck, won't we, boy?"

Alexandria bit her lip, suddenly indecisive. It was wrong to leave Joshua with this old man to look out for him. Henry would do his best, but his body was worn out fighting arthritis for so many years.

"Alex!" Joshua glared at her, his manhood clearly affronted.

He was far too old for his age, exposed to such a sordid life. Unfortunately Joshua was right, this meeting was important, it was for his future. "Thanks, Henry, I really owe you for this. I need this job." Alexandria bent to kiss Joshua. "I love you, little buddy, be safe."

"I love you, Alex," he echoed," be safe."

The familiar words comforted her as she made her way through the cypress trees around the back of the kitchen to the steps leading to the balcony hanging over the cliffs. The restaurant was famous for its view over-looking the crashing waves and the beautiful ocean view below. Wind rushed through her hair, tugged at her skirt. Salt and sea sprayed up from the foaming waves carried on the wild breeze. Alexandria paused at the intricately carved door, took a deep breath, her chin up and moved inside with a confidence that belied her churning stomach.

Soft music, crystal chandeliers, a jungle of beautiful green plants gave the illusion of stepping into another world. The room was divided into little nooks and crannies, flickering fireplaces giving each individual recess a warm, intimate feel. The rooms all opened one to the next, yet somehow kept the feeling of closeness.

Alexandria flashed the Maitre D` a heart-stopping smile. "I'm meeting Mr. Ivan. Has he arrived yet?" Her voice was melodious, a silvery blend of notes that made men think of satin sheets and candlelight.

"Right this way," the man couldn't help his approving look. Mr. Ivan was a regular customer, often bringing his dates. This young woman was a decided improvement. She was on the short side, slender with full curves and fantastic legs. Her large sapphire colored eyes were heavily fringed with dark lashes, her mouth lush and sexy. Her hair, an interesting mix of silver and gold, was twisted into a severe chignon. Most women couldn't have gotten away with it, but it only served to emphasize her classic bone structure and high cheekbones. Perhaps, in his opinion, she was far too young and innocent for a rake like Thomas Ivan, but technically, it was none of his business.
Heads turned as they wound their way through the restaurant, bold eyes following their progress. She didn't seem to be aware of the havoc she was creating and the waiter felt as if he were escorting royalty. There was something special about this woman, she was a lady and it showed in her carriage.
Thomas Ivan swallowed the shot of whiskey far too fast as Alexandria approached the table. His face turned bright red and he was forced to cough several times to find his voice. The Maitre D` managed not to change expression or call attention to his reaction in any way. Thomas was uncertain whether the warm glow was from the whiskey or her smile. He rose to his feet, shook her extended hand and allowed himself to gloat at his good fortune. Alexandria Houton needed him. He was a good fifteen years her senior, had money and influence. He was well established in his field. He could make or break her career. He was in a very favorable position and meant to exploit every pleasurable possibility.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ivan," she said softly. Her voice was a siren's whisper, playing over his skin like the touch of fingers.

Thomas held her hand a moment longer than necessary then abruptly let it go. It annoyed him that the Maitre D` held her chair to seat her. There was a sweet innocence in her eyes that made her natural sexiness all the more provocative. He wanted her immediately, set his mind to having her.

Alexandria kept her hands clasped firmly together in her lap so there was no chance of betraying her nervousness. She couldn't believe she was actually sitting in the same room with such a brilliant man as Thomas Ivan. Even more, it was the chance of a lifetime to be considered for his next project. She searched for something polite and fairly intelligent to say. "This is a beautiful restaurant, do you come here often?"

Thomas felt his heart leap. She was interested in him as a man! Why else would she make the inquiry? His fatal charm always stood him in good stead. She might look cool and untouched, even faintly haughty, but she was fishing for information about his personal relationships! He lifted one eyebrow, gave her his carefully cultivated smile, the one that always took their breath away. "It's my favorite restaurant." He wanted her to have to dig for more information, really work to please him.

Alexandria didn't like the suddenly smug look creeping into the depths of his eyes. She smiled anyway. "I brought sketches with me. Samples of ideas, drawings of the story line you suggested for your next game. I see so clearly in my mind what you're describing." Under cover of the table, Alexandria twisted her fingers together but her face remained outwardly composed. "I know you've been using Don Michaels for NightHawks. He's very good, but I don't think he captures exactly what you envision. I see so much more detail, so much more power."

Thomas was startled. She was absolutely right. Michaels was a big name with a big ego, but he never fully understood Thomas' vision. The truth was, the two men detested one another. Thomas Ivan had no intention of working with Michaels again. They had definitely come to the parting of the ways, they just hadn't announced it officially yet. However, he was irritated with Alexandria. She looked so cool and untouched. Women usually threw themselves at him. She wanted to talk business.

Alexandria could see the annoyance gathering on his face. He looked spoiled and petulant. She dug her nails into her palm. What was wrong with her? She needed this job, she certainly couldn't start right out making him angry. What harm was there in a light flirtation? Ivan was wealthy, handsome, an eligible bachelor. This was the kind of man she should be attracted to. She sighed inwardly. She never seemed honestly attracted to anyone. For awhile she thought it was the men she was exposed to in their neighborhood. After a time she put it down to her responsibility to Joshua. Now she secretly thought it might be that she was truly frigid. But she could fake it.

"I don't think we should spoil our dinner with business, now do you?" He flashed a charming smile. His fast rise in the world of computer and video games had made him a fortune almost overnight. He wanted deference and respect everywhere he went.

Alexandria blinked away the image of a barracuda and allowed a soft, flirty smile of assent to curve her mouth. It was going to be a long evening. She shook her head when he would have poured her a glass of wine and succeeded in thinking up the usual small talk that seemed to make the men she occasionally dated happy. Ivan spent an inordinate amount of time winking at her and leaning toward her to touch the back of her hand. The food was excellent, the shrimp salad superb.

She managed to escape once to check on Joshua. Night was streaking the sky shades of gray, slowly blotting out the sinking sun. Joshua and Henry were playing blackjack with a battered, earmarked deck of cards. Henry grinned sheepishly up at her, thankfully took the food she had managed to smuggle out to them and waved her off.

"We're doing right fine, Alex, go get that job you want so much," he instructed.

"What are you teaching Josh?" she demanded with a severe frown. She knew they expected her reaction to be one of outrage and shock and she happily indulged them. She was rewarded when the two culprits stifled a laugh. Their eyes were dancing mischievously and it was all Alexandria could do not to hug Joshua close.

"Henry says I can support you if I learn this game, cuz I always win him," Joshua told her proudly. "He says you won't never have to pretty up to a no good hound dog again."

"He said that, did he?" she inquired biting at her lower lip to keep amusement from surfacing. "I think we need to work on your English, Henry, especially if you insist on tutoring Josh."

"You just never mind my English, missy, I been speaking it for long before you were alive," Henry bristled.

Alexandria raised an elegant eyebrow at him. "I'll just bet you have. If you get cold, there's a blanket in the trunk." She handed the car keys to Joshua. "Take good care of these, if you lose them, we'll be sleeping out here tonight with Henry."

"Cool," Joshua replied, his blue eyes dancing.

"Very cool, cold in fact," Alexandria warned. "Be careful. I'll be as fast as I can, but this man is not very co-operative. I think he thinks he's going to score big tonight." She made a face.

Henry shook a gnarled fist. "I still got a little left in me, girlie, he gives you trouble, send him my way."

"Thanks, Henry, that makes me feel better. You two boys behave while I'm working." Alexandria turned away and began to make her way back towards the restaurant.

The wind was picking up, blowing the sea towards land, spitting foam through the air. Mist was seeping in, shrouding the trees in melancholy white tails. Alexandria shivered, ran her palms up and down her arms to provide warmth. It wasn't really that cold, more the atmosphere of fog and mystery.

She shook her head firmly to clear out notions of evil lurking behind every tree. For some reason she was especially on edge. She put it down to the enormity of this interview. She had to get this job.

She made her way back through the restaurant, winding through the potted plants and the jungle of hanging green vines. Oblivious to the turning heads she seated herself at Ivan's table. He jumped to his feet, trying not to look eager. He was well aware he was the envy of the unattached males in the room. She just had some special magic that made him think of hot sexy nights and untamed passion.

He touched her hand, ran his finger over the back of it to feel her skin. It was as soft as it looked. "You're cold." He said it abruptly, his voice a little hoarse. It annoyed him that she made him feel like a blundering schoolboy. He couldn't connect with her no matter how hard he tried. She remained aloof, slightly haughty. An untouched siren watching him squirm.

"I stepped outside for a moment to make certain I had all my sketches with me and the night was so beautiful, I couldn't resist looking at the ocean. It seems to be acting up a bit." Her eyes held a thousand secrets, her lashes long and inviting, locking up every emotion behind them.

Ivan swallowed hard and looked away. He had to bring himself under control. She was weaving some sort of spell he might not get out of. He wanted sex, not a forever situation, didn't he?

Alexandria tried hard to listen to his conversation. It was difficult to concentrate on Ivan's antidotes, to follow the making of his brilliant career, his social obligations and the weariness of having women pursuing him constantly for his money. She was uneasy, so much so that her hands were beginning to tremble. For a moment she felt a shiver of terror, as if icy fingers had wrapped around her slender throat. The illusion was so real she actually raised a hand to her neck to check.

"Surely you'll have one small glass of wine. It's an excellent vintage," Thomas insisted, lifting the bottle and drawing her attention back to him.

"No thank you, I don't drink often." It was the third time she told him and she resisted asking him if he had a problem with his hearing. She was not about to cloud her mind with alcohol when this interview meant the rest of her life. And she never drank when she was driving, and never around Joshua. It was bad enough that he saw needles and pipes and empty bottles in the hall and on the sidewalk outside their rooming house.

Alexandria flashed a smile to take the sting out of her abrupt refusal. As the waiter cleaned away the plates, she very decisively lifted her briefcase onto the table.

Ivan sighed audibly. Usually women were fawning over him at this stage. Alexandria seemed immune to his charm, totally out of his reach. She intrigued him. He had already decided he had to have her. He would have her and on his terms. He knew this job was important to her. He could use that, he would if he had to. Her beauty would complement his own good looks. And there would be the sex, hot, steamy sex. He could tell, there was fire in her, locked behind her easy smile and cool sapphire eyes.

The moment Thomas saw her sketches, he forgot satisfying his ego and lust. She had captured the images in his mind better than his own words had done. Excitement caught at him and he literally took the drawings right from her hands. He didn't stop to think he would lose his negotiating tactics with his enthusiasm, or that he had planned to use her need to get her into bed. She was exactly what he needed for his newest game. It was to be the hottest concept, one that was frightening and difficult and would blow away the competition. She was exactly what he needed with her fresh ideas.

"They're just quick sketches," Alexandria said softly, leaning closer to him, her large eyes coming alive with excitement. "But you get the idea without the animation." She forgot she didn't like him very much as she watched the way he looked at her work.

"You have such a gift for detail. See how this drops way and you actually get the feeling of flight?" Ivan was impressed that she had caught such a stomach churning emotion with her illustrations. What could she do on a computer?

Ivan did feel it as if it was really happening right there at the table. And the vampire caught in the middle of a brutal transformation was so real it was frightening. It was as if she had taken a photograph. Her drawings, capturing the story line so perfectly, the images in his mind so completely, created a bond between them that had not been there before. He knew when they were brought to motion, the hideous creatures would really come to life.

Alexandria was suddenly aware of the brush of his fingers against hers, aware of the strength in his arms, the width of his shoulders. For a moment her heart jumped hopefully. Was she actually responding to someone physically? It was amazing what something in common could create. She watched with pride as he traced the wing tip of an owl, the razor sharp beak and the clawed talons.

A cold draft of air streamed through the restaurant, bringing with it the taint of evil. It crawled over her skin like worms through a body. Revulsion welled up and Alexandria sat back in her chair, pale and trembling. She looked around carefully. No one else seemed to notice the thickening air, the stench of evil. Laughter and the low murmur of conversation surrounded her, should have reassured her, but the trembling only increased. She could feel sweat beading on her forehead, running down the valley between her breasts. Her heart was thumping overloud.

Thomas Ivan was far too busy going through the sketchpad to notice her uneasiness. He continued to mutter his approval, his head down, his eyes feasting on the richness of her drawings.

Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Alexandria knew it, she always knew. She had known the very moment her parents had died. She always knew when a murder took place within a close vicinity. She knew who was dealing drugs, when someone lied, she just knew things. And right now, while everyone else in the restaurant enjoyed themselves, ate and drank and talked, she knew she was in the presence of something so malevolent she had never conceived of such a being.

Her blue eyes made a slow, careful circuit of the spacious room. Patrons were talking softly to one another. Three women seated at the table closest to her were laughing outrageously, toasting one another. Alexandria's mouth went dry, her heart pounding. She was unable to move or speak, frozen with terror. On the wall behind Thomas Ivan, a dark shadow crept forward, began to take shape. The shadow was stooped at first, but slowly began to straighten until it loomed over the room, taking up most of the far wall. The shadow moved, an ugly apparition more loathsome than any creature depicted in a Thomas Ivan game. Long arms stretched out like branches of a gnarled tree, seemed to reach out, claws for hands extended toward her, toward the three women talking with such animation. Alexandria sat perfectly still, heard the horrible whispering in her head like the brush of a moth's wings. An insidious command, buzzing insistently, the order powerful.

Come to me. Be with me. Let me feast on you. Come to me.

The words beat at her until shards of glass seemed to pierce her skull. The claws on the far wall opened, extended, beckoned to her. Beckoned.

A chair scraping off to her right broke the spell. Alexandria blinked and the shadow was gone, simply faded away on the echo of maniacal laughter. She was able to turn her head toward the sound of the chairs, saw the three women rising as one unit, toss money on the table and walk in sudden eerie silence toward the entrance.

Alexandria wanted to scream at the women to come back. She had no idea why, but she actually opened her mouth to do so. Her throat closed and she fought for air.

"Alexandria!" Thomas rose swiftly to help her. She was ashen, tiny beads of perspiration dampening her forehead. "What is it?"

Blindly she tried to shove the drawings into the briefcase, but her hands were shaking and the sketches spilled across the table and onto the floor. "I'm sorry, Mr. Ivan, I've got to leave." She stood up so abruptly she nearly sent him sprawling backward. Her mind felt sluggish and thick as if some oily substance contaminated with evil still clung to her. Her stomach rolled at such close proximity to total depravity.

"You're ill, Alexandria, let me take you home." Ivan stood also, trying to gather in the precious sketches and hold onto her arm to prevent her from leaving.

Alexandria jerked her arm from Ivan's touch, her only thought to get to Joshua. Whatever the evil thing was, whatever creature was stalking the night, those women, Henry and Joshua were in grave danger. It was outside. Out back. She could feel its presence like a dark stain on her soul.

She turned and ran, uncaring of the curious stares or Ivan's bewilderment. She tripped on the stairs, caught the hem of her skirt and heard the rip. Pain and terror sliced through her. Her chest felt as if it exploded, her heart torn and bleeding. It was so real she clutched her chest and stared down at her hands, expecting to see blood running freely. Someone else's blood, someone was hurt or worse.

Alexandria bit her lower lip hard enough to break the skin. That pain was real and it was only hers. It enabled her to focus, to keep running. Whatever creature was stalking the grounds had made a kill. She could smell the blood now, was experiencing the lingering vibrations, an aftermath of violence. She prayed it wasn't Joshua. Sobbing, she flung herself on the narrow path winding around the large building. She couldn't lose Joshua. Why had she left him alone with only an elderly man to watch out for him?

She became aware of the fog then. Dense. Thick, like soup. It hung in the trees like an eerie white wall. She couldn't see a foot in front of her. It even felt thick like she was wading through quicksand. When she tried to pull air into her lungs, she found it nearly impossible. Alexandria wanted to scream for Joshua, but some deep intuition kept her silent. Whoever the madman was, he enjoyed the pain and terror of others. That was his rush, his one high. She could not indulge his macabre tastes.

Feeling her way carefully through the trees she literally stumbled over a body. "Oh, God," she whispered aloud, praying it wasn't her brother. Leaning close she realized the corpse was far too big. Cold and motionless he lay in a pathetic heap, tossed aside like so much garbage. "Henry." Grief welled up as she touched his shoulder to turn him.

Horror rose as she caught a glimpse of his mangled chest. His heart was literally torn out, lay exposed and still. Alexandria scrambled away, knelt and was violently sick over and over. There were ragged wounds on Henry's neck, wounds like an animal might make.

Taunting laughter filled her mind. Alexandria wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand. The sick madman was not getting Joshua. Determined, she moved instinctively forward toward the cliffs. Waves crashing loudly against jagged rocks below and the wind rushing through the trees made it impossible to hear anything.

Without sight or hearing, Alexandria moved steadily forward, every instinct drawing her toward the demented killer. She had the impression he knew she was coming, that he was waiting. She was also certain he falsely believed he was controlling her, that he was an all powerful being deliberately commanding her to come to him.

Despite the strong wind the fog remained heavy, yet now, through the thickness, she caught glimpses of a horror story unfolding. Three women, vaguely familiar from the restaurant, were inching their way toward the cliffs. The women had been at the table to her right, they left just before she had. Alexandria could tell they were in some kind of hypnotic trance. They were staring rapturously up at the man silhouetted on the cliff's edge.

He was tall and slender but gave the impression of great strength and power. His face was beautiful, like an Adonis, his hair shoulder length and wavy. When he smiled his teeth were very white.

Like a predator's. The moment the thought entered her head the illusion was gone and Alexandria saw the bright blood on his hands. It stained his teeth and chin. The welcoming smile was a grimace exposing vicious fangs. His attention was on the women, his eyes, black pitted holes, glowed a feral red in the darkness.

They were smiling, simpering, reaching out to him. As the women moved closer he raised his hand and pointed to the ground. Obediently the three dropped to their knees, crawled sensuously forward, writhing and moaning, tearing at their clothing. The fog covered the obscene display for a moment and when it was clear again she could see one of the women had reached the man and was winding herself around his knees. She ripped away her blouse, deliberately exposing her breasts, touching herself suggestively, rubbing herself against the man's body, begging and pleading for him to take her, use her. A second woman reached the cliff's edge and clung to his waist, staring up provocatively.

Alexandria wanted to turn away from the horror of what was to come, but she caught sight of Joshua walking slowly toward the man. He didn't seem to notice the women. He looked neither right nor left, just walked forward as if in a dream state.

A trance. A hypnotic trance. Alexandria's heart slammed against her chest. Somehow this killer had hypnotized the women and Joshua. They answered his bidding like mindless sheep. Her brain was trying to analyze how he had accomplished such a feat even as she hurried to intercept Joshua before he could reach the monster. Fortunately, Joshua was moving very slowly, almost as though he was being pulled reluctantly forward.

Although the swirling thick veil of fog hid her, she felt the impact of those hostile, unearthly eyes as the man swung his head around toward her. He seemed to undulate his neck like a reptile. She could clearly see the red shine as he examined her, even through the thickness of the fog.

Moth wings beat at her skull, the shards of glass pierced her over and over. The soft, seductive voice murmured insistently in her head. Alexandria focused her attention on reaching Joshua. She kept her chin up and ignored the pain throbbing in her head. She would not give him the satisfaction of knowing he was hurting her.

Her hand caught at Joshua's shirt just as his speed began to accelerate. His feet continued forward, but she planted herself and held him still. Wrapping her arms around the child, she faced the monster, not more than fifteen feet from her.

He was on the very edge of the cliff, the women fawning on him, purring and begging for his attention. He appeared not to notice them, his entire being concentrating on her. He smiled at her, a baring of fangs.

Alexandria shuddered at the sight of so much blood. Henry's blood. This madman had killed him.

"Come to me," he held out his hand to her.

She could feel his voice right through her body, pulling at her to do his bidding. She blinked rapidly to keep the dark stains on his hands, coating the long, dagger-like fingernails in focus. She stared at the talons and the voice lost its beauty and took on a harsh, quarrelsome ugliness.

"I don't think so. Leave us alone. I'm taking Joshua with me, you can't have him." She spoke with a determination she didn't realize she had. But she felt it, her spine stiffening, her blue eyes blazing defiance.

Absently one of his obscene hands caressed the woman rubbing at his waist with her cheek. "Join me, look at these women. They want me, they adore me."

"Keep fooling yourself." She tried a careful backward step. Joshua resisted her effort. She tightened her arms to prevent his forward movement. When she dragged him a step backward, he began to thrash around forcing her to stop.

The monster on the cliff raised an eyebrow. "You do not believe me?" He turned his attention to the woman at his waist. "Come here, my dear. I wish you to die for me." He waved his hand behind him.

To Alexandria's horror, the woman licked his outstretched hand, simpering and fawning she crawled passed him. "No!" Alexandria cried out, but the woman was already falling into the emptiness of space, down to the greedy water and jagged rocks below. Furious Alexandria glared at the man. "You really are scum, aren't you? What was that supposed to prove?"

"My point," he said evenly. "I do not understand why you would be so upset. After all, what are these women?" He pulled the second woman up by her hair, kissed her full on the mouth and bending her nearly backwards sank teeth into her neck.

The vivid sketches she had drawn depicting Thomas Ivan's horror novels sprang to life before her eyes. He feasted on the blood spilling down the woman's throat, then tossed her aside, over the cliff, as if she was nothing but an empty shell he found on the beach. Deliberately he ran his thick, obscene tongue over his blood-smeared lips in a grotesque display.

Alexandria found herself murmuring a prayer, a chant over and over beneath her breath. Whatever this creature was, he was a dangerous killer and insane beyond imagination. She took a firmer grip on Joshua and lifted him from his feet.

He kicked at her and fought, made little growling noises and snapped his teeth at her. Alexandria managed to clear two more feet backward before she was forced to put him down. He remained still as long as she wasn't moving away from his objective.

The monster raised his head again, licked his fingers and smiled hideously. "Do you see? They will do anything for me. They adore me. Don't you, pet?" He lifted the last woman to her feet. Instantly she wrapped herself around him, rubbing suggestively, touching and caressing him. "You want only to please me, do you not?"

The woman began to kiss him, his neck, his chest, moving lower and lower, her hands fumbling at the opening to his trousers. His hand fondled her neck. "See, this is power, real power. You are the one I have been seeking to join with me."

"She doesn't adore you. You've made her a puppet. She has no mind of her own. Is that what you call power?" Alexandria put as much contempt in her voice as she was capable.

A low, deadly hiss escaped the monster's mouth, but he continued to smile at her. "Perhaps you are right. This one is useless, is she not?" Still smiling, still staring straight into Alexandria's eyes, the man caught the woman's head between his palms and wrenched.

The crack was audible and seemed to vibrate right through Alexandria's body. She was shaking so much her teeth were chattering. The monster casually dangled the woman's broken body over the cliff's edge. She hung there like a rag doll, her neck at a peculiar angle, a once beautiful woman, now an empty, lifeless shell. The monster discarded her by merely opening his hand, allowing her to fall into the water waiting so greedily.

"So, it comes down to the two of us," he said softly.

Alexandria shook her head. "Not me, I'm not going to come to you willingly and I see you for what you really are, not what you made those poor women see."

"You will come to me willingly. You are the one. I have searched the world for one such as you. You must come to me of your own free will." His tone was soft, his words neutral, but there was a whip of warning, a hiss of command.

Alexandria tried a step backward, but Joshua erupted into a growling frenzy, kicking and biting. She stopped again and took a firmer grip so that there was no chance that he would escape. "You're sick, you need help, a doctor or something. I can't do anything for you." She was searching desperately for a way out of this, praying someone would come. The restaurant was patrolled regularly by a security company. Henry had told her he knew their schedule. Why hadn't she paid more attention?

"You do not know what I am, do you?"

He was using terror tactics and Alexandria had to concede to herself it was working. Her mind felt almost numb. She had spent far too much time reading and working on sketches for Thomas Ivan's horror novels. This monster was the epitome of the cold-blooded vampire feeding on an other's blood, ripping and tearing at flesh without emotion. She took a deep breath to calm herself and bring herself back to the world of reality. It was the fog and wind, the dark, starless night and the eerie crash of the waves below that made her think what could not possibly be. This was a sociopath, not some fictional character in a book. She could defeat him if she just held on to her wits and not allow the horror of the night to fuel her imagination.

"I know what you think you are," she said evenly, "but the truth is, you're simply a murderer with a vivid imagination."

He laughed softly, wickedly, the sound scraping like nails on a chalkboard. She actually felt icy fingers along her skin.

"You are a child hiding from the truth." He raised his hand and beckoned to Joshua, his glowing eyes on the boy's face.

Joshua struggled madly, fought and kicked, biting at Alexandria's arms in an effort to get free.

"Leave him alone!" Furious, she concentrated on subduing her brother. He was strong enough in his trance-induced state to wiggle free. Instantly he ran to the monster on the cliff, hugged his knees and gazed adoringly up at the man.

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