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       Dark Light (The Dark Light Series), p.1

           S. L. Jennings
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Dark Light (The Dark Light Series)


  Dark Light

  Book One of The Dark Light Series

  S.L. Jennings

  Copyright © 2012 Syreeta Jennings

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

  Book cover and photography by Daniela Taylor

  For friends that always pick you up when you fall

  And catapult you when you want to fly.

  And for my Forever.

  xoxo

  CONTENTS

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty One

  Chapter Twenty Two

  Chapter Twenty Three

  Chapter Twenty Four

  Chapter Twenty Five

  Chapter Twenty Six

  Chapter Twenty Seven

  Chapter Twenty Eight

  Chapter Twenty Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty One

  Prologue

  March 23rd

  Oh, what a difference a year makes.

  A year ago, I was the embodiment of a reckless nineteen year old girl, hell-bent on drinking my way through community college until I couldn’t function and not giving a damn how it made me look. A year ago, I was madly in love with my best friend, Jared, but couldn’t find the courage to tell him. A year ago, the only family I knew of was Chris and Donna, my adopted parents since the day I was born. A year ago, I was content with mediocrity and my love life was non-existent- exactly what I thought it should be.

  A year ago, I was human. At least I thought I was.

  It’s easy to take something as conventional as your humanity for granted when it isn’t threatened. And being that I had no idea what life would be like without mine, I lived it up like there was no tomorrow. Now I have an eternity of tomorrows, and the last twenty years seem more like a fairy tale than my less than remarkable adolescent life. Because my life- the life that was predetermined for me, the life that so many have died for- is anything but ordinary.

  The upside to my newly evolved existence?

  Dorian.

  Normally, hauntingly gorgeous and intimidating strangers would have me running for the hills. But there is something so inexplicably magnetic and all-around erotic about Dorian that I can’t stay away. I want him; I crave him. And as hard as I try to fight it, I need him. But the million dollar question is Why? Why would any somewhat sane, shrewd young woman deem it necessary to completely throw herself at a man she’s only known for a week? And why would she show up to his freakin’ hotel room at damn near 1 in the morning, unannounced and tipsy, just to see if he is alone and not banging the hot raven-haired beauty that followed him around tonight like a lost puppy?

  Even as I step off the elevator and make my way down the hall to his suite, my stomach snarled with apprehension, the questions go unanswered, yet I don’t turn away. I have to know.

  What he is…enthralls me. Captivates me. Utterly disarms and beguiles me. And if I hadn’t felt his soft, warm lips on mine, had never tasted the delectable sweetness of his tongue or his tingling, moan-inducing caress, I probably wouldn’t be here, ready to strip away my clothes and inhibitions. I would have wised up and gone back home with Morgan. I probably would have even drunk dialed Jared and professed my undying love for him.

  But it’s too late; I have felt all those things. I know what it feels like to be under Dorian’s spell. Because that is exactly what I am. And right now, I am about 2 seconds from learning the truth about him, eagerly hoping to unveil the mystery behind the man.

  Chapter One

  March 15th

  Twenty is purgatory.

  Not quite old enough to legally drink but too old to get away with being young and stupid without serious repercussions. I’ve never been the birthday celebrating type, usually opting to commemorate the day with Señor Tequila and a few of his heady friends. But this particular birthday, marking my 20 inconsequential years on this earth, in short, blows. Just another reminder of how I have no clue what I want to do when I grow up and will probably waste away as an overqualified, bitchy sales clerk at the mall. Which isn’t a far stretch from what I am now.

  Twenty years old. Twenty-freakin’-years old. Time to get my shit together.

  “Here we go,” I mutter as I pull myself out of bed and trudge into the bathroom to shower. I really, really would rather stay in bed and sleep through this day. There’s nothing to celebrate. Pity party for one, please!

  The only thing I have to look forward to is a night out with my best friend, Morgan, which never fails to disappoint. Morgan is my polar opposite in every way- tall, thin, and desirable to every member of the male species, straight and gay alike. She used to be a dancer and has the body and poise to prove it. With her baby smooth mocha skin, exotic Haitian features, and designer clothes, Morgan is the epitome of an ‘It Girl.’ Style is her religion; she lives and breathes all things fierce and fabulous.

  Before our night of drinks and dancing, no doubt sponsored by some poor, clueless sap enraptured by Morgan’s charms, I have to attend my annual birthday dinner with my parents. They, too, are my opposites but that’s because they’re my adopted parents and are about as patient and good natured as it gets. It’s pretty evident that Chris and Donna are not my birth parents. The most obvious factor is that they’re Caucasian and I’m…. Unknown. How’s that for an identity crisis? I never knew my birth parents and there is virtually zero information on them anywhere. Chris and Donna have tried to fill in the blanks but since I’ve been with them pretty much since birth, they are my real parents. And you can’t miss what you’ve never had.

  I turn the faucet on and wait for the hot water to kick in before flicking on the shower. Once the steam begins to billow out from behind the shower curtain, I ease myself in and let the water wash away my weariness. I could stay in here for hours but I’ve got class this morning and can’t afford to be late again. Just a couple more months and I’ll have my useless Associates degree. Then what? A 10% raise from minimum wage? I shake the question out of my head to avoid further frustration at my indecisiveness and finish showering.

  After selecting a pair of jeans, a fitted t-shirt and some athletic shoes, I opt to keep my long, wavy hair down in observance of my special day. I usually flat iron it to tame the volume and loose curls but the clock is telling me it’s not happening today. I apply some mascara, a little loose powder & lipgloss. I’m not really high-maintenance but I am a girl after all.

  “Good morning, Gabi!” my mom squeals from the kitchen as she pours some pancake batter onto the griddle. She’s beaming, her blue eyes sparkling with pride and affection. Her blonde hair is cut into a chin length bob, courtesy of Morgan, and she’s wearing yoga pants and an athletic top. Donna teaches yoga and Pilates at a local gym so to say she is in shape is an understatement. She’s got a killer physique but doesn’t plague us with gym-rat propaganda or deprive us of our favorite foods, Thank God. I just regret that I’m usually too dreadfully hungover on the week
ends to attend any of her classes.

  “Geez, thanks, Mom,” I feign embarrassment as I grab the fresh fruit smoothie that Donna makes for me daily. It’s her one healthy contribution to my diet that I’ll accept because I actually like them. She can keep those funky teas and wheat grass crap though. Ick.

  “So the big 2-0, eh, Kiddo? Any special plans?” my dad asks from behind this morning’s Colorado Springs Gazette.

  Chris's sandy brown hair is meticulously styled and he’s sharply dressed in his usual suit and tie. Being a Senior Engineering Project Manager at Lockheed Martin, he definitely looks the part: handsome, well-groomed and to outsiders, intimidatingly commanding. But to me, he’s the big softie that used to make blanket forts with me as a kid and cry at every one of my grade school play performances, even if I was just a tree.

  “Other than slumming it with you two?” I smile. “Not really. Probably go out later with Morgan.”

  “Sounds like fun, what time should I be ready?” he chuckles, winking a brown eye at me.

  Not many people get to see this side of Chris. Being retired Air Force and a former boxer in his youth, people are usually quite intimidated by him. The same has been said about me, which has secretly made me wonder if he and I could really share the same bloodline.

  “Looks like another brutal attack, honey,” Chris says impassively. Donna gives him a sideways glance and then shakes her head solemnly. “You girls better be careful tonight. And take your Mace,” he peers at me from over the paper.

  That was more for Donna’s reassurance. Chris has trained me in hand to hand combat since I was old enough walk and he knows I can handle myself against any assailant. I’ve proven myself enough times in fights growing up, whether it was the typical mean girl or some ass-grabbing douchebag.

  “Sure, dad,” I say digging into my birthday pancakes and bacon.

  Classes are the same tedious, humdrum ramblings of useless information. Many of the students are buzzing about the latest ‘Icepick Murder’ and there are even rumors of the campus closing until further notice. A third young girl was found dead from what seems to be thin stab wounds around the neck and chest. It’s as if the psycho was purposely aiming for the jugular. A shiver runs down my spine and I glance around me as I read quietly in the atrium between classes.

  “Happy Birthday, Beautiful,” a deep, velvety voice murmurs.

  I look up to find my good friend, Jared, beaming down at me. We’ve been close since high school and I’ve always been drawn to his laid back demeanor and sincerity. Being over 6 feet tall, with sparkling emerald eyes and a hard, muscular body, Jared is clearly more than a catch. His humble, good natured attitude makes him that much more attractive. He could have gone off to any college of his choosing to play soccer but when his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago, he opted to stay local. He is just an all-around good guy and one of the few people I genuinely love.

  Jared sits then pulls a little box out of his backpack and hands it to me tentatively. I’m tempted to stow it and open it at another time when I’m more equipped to handle my vulnerability but I don’t want to offend him. I open the box and inside lays a little silver picture frame, enclosing a photo of Jared and me in the 9th grade. I was new and quickly made enemies among the popular girls who felt threatened by me and Jared willingly took me under his wing. The picture was taken outside of my house, when Jared picked me up (chauffeured by his older brother, James) for the Fall Formal. I wore a dark plum dress, my long, dark curls cascading down my back. My Dulce de Leche complexion looked clear and radiant though I was visibly anxious standing next to a dapper young Jared in my department store frock. Even then, Jared was handsome: chestnut hair, bright smile and glittering green eyes.

  “Oh Jared… I love it,” I choke, my voice trembling. Do not cry... You better not freakin’ cry!

  He really is one of my oldest, dearest friends. And while I may have admired his good looks in secret, our friendship is exceedingly more important than any romantic possibilities. I quell the foreign thoughts and clear my throat in an over-exaggerated manner.

  “Glad you like it. So, um, any plans for tonight?” The static in the air from the tender moment swirls and sticks to us like humidity and I’m thankful for the changed subject.

  “Dinner with the folks, drinks downtown… You game?”

  “Hell yeah!” he exclaims and we fall back into being normal.

  Dinner is at an upscale steakhouse in downtown Colorado Springs and Chris spares no expense. It’s dimly lit, plush and I get a whiff of mouthwatering meats, leather and big spenders as we are greeted by the prim and polished hostess. I immediately regret simply upgrading my shirt and replacing my white tennis shoes with plain black heels. From what I can see, most of the women are donned in cocktail dresses in rich, lush fabrics with the killer heels to match. Morgan would not be pleased with me if she could see me now.

  “This is a special occasion, how about some wine, Kiddo?” Chris asks once we are seated. He isn’t overly strict and knows that I enjoy the occasional drink (or 2 or 3 or 8), but he’s never offered alcohol outside the privacy of our home.

  “Sure, dad,” I reply, shyly, as if I’m 12 again, sneaking a taste of cheap, water-downed beer.

  Chris orders a delicious, full-bodied bottle of red that I’m sure is substantially pricier than the $5 grocery store libations that I’m used to. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart and feels like silk in my mouth. I let my eyes close and feel the smooth liquid slide down my throat. When they reopen, I notice that I am being watched by a set of sad grey eyes. When I return her gaze, the young beautiful woman at a nearby table returns her attention to her mundane house salad. Her date, a much older and rounder gentleman, digs into his Porterhouse in ecstasy, his mock napkin bib catching droplets of grease and steak sauce. I instantly feel sorry for her; she’s so slender, her pale skin clings to her protruding bones like glass wrapped in silk. It’s evident that her waifish figure is no accident as she looks at her partner’s saturated fat-laden plate in longing. Like Jared says, ‘Homegirl needs a sandwich.’ I smile at our little inside joke, thankful that though I wouldn’t consider myself skinny, I’m fit, strong, and comfortable in my own skin. Nope, I’m not a salad-eating chick.

  “So Gabriella, any more thoughts about your plans after graduation?” Donna inquires, breaking me from my reverie. She is simply asking me; not nagging like most parents would when questioning their child about the future. Chris and Donna have never done that. They’ve always taught me to live for today because tomorrow is not promised. Now looking back at my underwhelming list of achievements, I’m wondering if they were too laid back.

  “Not sure yet, still considering the military. I just don’t think I can do another 2 years of college without having some sort of real passion for something. Plus I’d love to travel and see the world,” I reply as our waiter places luscious entrees of steak and lobster before us.

  “Just let me know and I’ll go see the recruiter with you, Gabi,” Chris chimes in before digging in with enthusiasm.

  Colorado Springs is a true military town. Housing Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson, just about every person in town has some connection to the military. For that reason, the city is bustling with the arrival of new people and businesses.

  “Honey, your dad and I have a little something we’d like to give you to help you celebrate your big day,” Donna says towards the end of our sumptuous meal, her gentle eyes gleaming with pride.

  She hands me a yellow envelope and an elaborately decorated gift bag. I open the card and 3 crisp 100 dollar bills spill out onto the white tablecloth. I look up in surprise; surely dinner is more than enough. Chris and Donna smile warmly, yet there’s a hint of something else. Sadness maybe? They urge me to open my gift and I store the card in my bag to read later to avoid a public outburst of tears. Inside the adorned bag lies a beautiful Coach bag and matching wallet. I squeal with glee and jump out of my
seat to hug them. Just as I pull away from their loving embrace, I hear the familiar mantra of the Happy Birthday song. Oh no! I cringe but my parents are so happy I can’t bear to groan in annoyance. I graciously accept my decadent piece of chocolate cake and blow out the candle, genuinely thankful for the overwhelming amount of love that surrounds me.

  Once back at home, I scurry to my room to prepare for my night out. Dinner has lasted longer than expected with the copious amounts of food and wine and I know Morgan will be here soon. Right on cue, the doorbell rings. Donna answers the door and I hear the click clack of Morgan’s Louboutins approach my bedroom.

  “Happy Birthday, Bitch!” she squeals holding up a bottle of Moet from her designer bag.

  Only Morgan could look this stunning coming straight from her part time job at a high end salon. She’s wearing a tight one shoulder coral mini dress and dangerously high heels. Her hair of the month, a long sleek jet black ponytail, sweeps her backside with each exaggerated movement. She’s also brought a rolling carry-on that houses an array of beauty arsenal, all ensuring that I’ll get the Morgan Pierre makeover magic treatment. She takes one look at the sleek black pants and flouncy black top I’ve laid out and cringes with disgust.

  “Oh hell no, Gabs. This will not do you justice after I’m done with you. Here.” She fishes out something from her carry-on bag and tosses it to me. It’s a sexy black lace dress from one of Morgan’s favorite stores, meaning it is way out of my modest price range. “It’s yours,” she smiles, showing off her magnificent, gleaming white teeth.

  I get a glimpse of the attached price tag, realizing that it’s about three times more than I’ve ever paid for a dress. “Morgan, I can’t accept this! It’s too much!”

  “You can and you will. And you will rock the hell out of it! Now let’s get you ready so we can go turn some heads,” she says sitting me down and getting to work.

 
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