Excerpt: Dreaming in Shadow
How Kai met Lucifer
Last week I mentioned getting sticky-stuck writing a scene between Kai and Lucifer. I also mentioned how much I loved watching them discover each other. This week I decided to share that love with you.
What follows is how Kai met Lucifer while waiting to die from sun exposure (he’s a vampire) in the middle of a muddy Scottish road circa 1300s. Content warning: mentions of child sexual abuse.
The vibration of the time stone in his pocket signaled the end of the longest hour of his life.
As the sky lightened, muscles twitched with the desire to escape. His eyes watered and stung. The usually soft leather and cloth of his clothes turned scratchy and uncomfortable. Even breathing hurt, his nostrils scraped raw by the air flowing with each breath. He overrode his body’s need to seek shelter, determined to follow Aram into the next world where they would be together again.
“Well, this is unexpected.” The voice was uncanny, the timbre rich and lustrous.
Compelled to know the source, he looked up … and froze, recognition sending a shock wave throughout his body.
Mere feet away stood the most powerful archangel in existence: Lucifer the Morningstar.
Lucifer looked down at him, lips curled in amusement. Everything from his tunic and breeches to his cloak and knee-high laced boots, was pure white. Silver filigree embroidered his cuffs, collar, and the edges of his cloak. Despite the churned wet earth upon which he stood, not a splash nor a speck of mud marred his person. Long silver-white hair framed his sharp-featured face—but his eyes! Kai shivered as those sharp, silver eyes gazed at him, sure they could flay him where he sat.
Seconds before, he would have said that Aram was perfect. A description he now knew to be distressingly naive. Lucifer disrupted the notion that anything was perfect—except himself. Staring at such perfection hurt, but the act of turning away was impossible. Tears flowed from his eyes along with the need to apologize for how he must look. But anything he would say remained bottled up within his mouth, embarrassed as he was by the sound of his own voice.
“Such beauty, even covered in mud. Clan Air, I presume.”
“Y—Yes, My Lord.” Kai wiped his eyes, inadvertently smearing more mud on his face. He scrambled onto his knees and bowed, touching his forehead to the wet earth.
“Your ancestors tried covering themselves with mud to walk in the sun. It didn’t work.”
The remark caught him by surprise, and he looked up. “My Lord? I thought that was a myth, merely a cautionary tale.”
Lucifer’s face blossomed into a brilliant, mesmerizing smile. “It is now.” He gestured at the brightening sky. “Given the danger, why are you still out in the open?”
Too busy basking in the glow of Lucifer’s smile, it took time to process the question. When Kai realized he was expected to respond, his mouth went dry. Consumed with sadness, he lowered his head back to the ground. “Begging My Lord’s pardon. I wish not to burden My Lord with such trivial matters.”
“Trivial? I doubt it. You bear no dire wounds, no disfigurement. Yet it is obvious you choose to seek the sun. I will know why.”
He swallowed his disappointment and tried again. “Please … My Lord’s concern, while appreciated, is not necessary. I wish not to detain My Lord from more important matters.”
“Yes well, what you wish for is rarely what’s granted.” When Lucifer spoke, his voice was devoid of that gorgeous, melodious quality.
Kai raised his head in shock and watched dumbfounded as the archangel approached. The scent of jasmine with an undertone of air-after-a-storm settled over him, soothing a sudden burst of panic.
“I can recognize despair. That you imagine I’m unmoved by such is your true folly,” Lucifer said, sitting down near enough to touch. He was still perfect, still mud-free, but that extra something—a glamour probably—was gone. “Drop the formality and tell me why you plan to greet the sun.”
Kai maneuvered around into a seated position but was at a loss. In dropping the facade, Lucifer’s demeanor went from distant and formidable to open and kind. Silver eyes that were flint-hard a moment ago had softened, and now only held inquisitive compassion.
Since all Other-kin could recognize the archangels on sight, there were many stories circulating about Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. They regularly ministered to humans and were seen frequently throughout the ages. But Lucifer was a mystery. There hadn’t been a confirmed sighting in millennia. With each passing century, stories of him grew more outlandish and thus, more unreliable.
What was more outlandish than said archangel sitting with him at dawn, in the middle of a muddy road?
“Why are you here?” he asked, temporarily bypassing the need to pour his heart into his quietly receptive visitor.
A silver-white eyebrow shot up and he was treated to another brilliant smile. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.” The smile turned mischievous. “There was a powerful magical disturbance here. I came expecting to scold some wayward Isiri. Instead, my beauty, I found you.”
A flash of anger flared before he shut it down and cut his eyes away. “Please, don’t call me that.”
“Oh, so there is fire in this young warrior. And I thought you were all tears and despair. Why?”
“I hate it,” he replied, again clamping down on the need to elaborate.
“You really should seek shelter.”
Kai would have questioned Lucifer’s smug expression except, at that moment, a fierce ravaging itch spread from head to toe. The sun had risen. In moments it would bleed through the trees, and he would be exposed.
With his eyes screwed shut, he willed himself to stay put, waiting for the burning to start.
… When nothing happened, a quick look around showed no movement in the light or shadows. He whirled to the nearby archangel. “Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should.”
“You know, that’s not the first time someone has told me that,” Lucifer replied, grinning.
Overwhelmed and frustrated that even this simple thing had been moved so far out of reach, his frail composure collapsed. The scream startled birds from nearby trees.
“I always get what I want.”
Lucifer’s calm declaration only made him scream louder, cry harder. Beyond words, the storm of emotion rampaged through him, unabated. He wailed, fists balled, and chest beating.
Lucifer sat calmly, watching, waiting.
Gradually, inevitably, he was spent. Defeated and weary, Kai wiped his face with filthy sleeves. “If I tell you … will you let me be?”
A cave appeared in the nearby hillside.
“Answer to my satisfaction, and you will be free to do as you wish,” Lucifer said, gesturing toward the shelter.
Kai’s body propelled him toward it with surprising speed. He immediately cried out in relief as the pain and itching stopped. The cave itself was barely more than a dark hollow. Rock overhung the entrance and the floor angled down, making the tiny space adequate to protect him from the sun. He moved to the far wall and sank down, emotionally and physically exhausted. In moments, his limbs grew heavy, and his eyes shuttered closed.
He awoke at dusk.
The previous day’s events came rushing back and a dejected sigh was all Kai could manage in response. As he stretched his limbs, he noticed that his body felt different. The mud was gone, his clothes were dry. Not only that, but his shirt no longer had fraying edges—the garment looked new. The same was true of his boots and breeches.
“You don’t want to die looking like a beggar, do you?” Lucifer’s disembodied voice filled the cave.
Before he could answer, a low whimpering came from a bundle at his feet.
“Why?” was all he could manage. He hadn’t expected any of this.
“Good hosts cater to their guests.”
He would have laughed if the situation wasn’t so absurd.
“I’m not …” a guest, he started to say, but decided against it, too disheartened to argue. “Please, just send him back to wherever he came from.”
“He’s a rogue, a murderer.” The disembodied voice spoke directly into his left ear. “He deserves his fate, if that’s what’s bothering you.”
Kai shrugged. “Then send him to the chopping block.”
The archangel appeared suddenly, a hint of a frown marring his perfect brow. “I never met a vampire that refused blood they didn’t have to work to get.”
“At your service,” Kai replied, inclining his head slightly.
“Our bargain was that you tell me your story, not that I kill you in a fit of pique,” Lucifer said, a slight smile lighting his face.
Kai smirked and shrugged again. “Worth a try.”
The bundle disappeared.
“What’s your name? Lest I call you Beautiful and offend again.”
Lucifer’s playful tone and expression—obvious flirtation—was having the desired effect. I always get what I want, his earlier statement taunted. It was no doubt true. Kai told him his name, and Lucifer rolled it around in his mouth a few times.
“I like it. Your Master chose well.”
He ducked his head as loss crested in response to the praise of Aram.
“Kai, of Clan Air. You refuse blood, freely given. Now, I’m no stranger to the ways of your kind, nor to that of the Clans. Tell me why I shouldn’t take offense.”
Even though it was a serious question, he felt no threat. Lucifer seemed genuinely curious.
“I refused that blood, although freely given, because I don’t need it.” Feelings of pride filled him, and he sat up straighter.
“How strange,” Lucifer said, but Kai could no longer read his expression.
“The Clans considered My Master strange. There were some exceptions, but we mostly kept our distance. He revered life, taught me to respect it, to not be wasteful, and to not be a slave to my baser desires.” Kai closed his eyes, preparing himself. When he was ready to continue, he opened them and gazed at Lucifer, willing him to understand. “My Master, my teacher … my father…” This last wasn’t spoken so much as it was a feeling riding his breath. He cleared his throat. “Was the greatest, most honorable warrior I’ve ever known. He’s dead now. I followed him in life, and now I will follow him in death.”
Nonplussed, Kai’s mouth fell slack, speechless. He’d been honest. What more did Lucifer want?
“If you were injured, I would understand,” Lucifer replied gently. “I’d even help you. But you’re seasoned, strong.” He waved, dismissively. “Other-kin, humans,”—the last said with palpable distaste—“are always dying or killing each other. It’s the nature of things.” He pinned him with those silver eyes. “Your Master did you a disservice. Obviously, you’re not prepared for life without him.”
Kai was up and in the archangel’s face in seconds. “You will not disparage my Master—”
“Easy, easy,” Lucifer interrupted, calm infusing his words and mien. “You have the stones to threaten me, but not to live without your Master. If your Master taught you to revere life, why are you in such a rush to end yours? You’re far from newly made, why not just—”
“I don’t want to!” he screamed, interrupting the annoying deluge of words.
“Go on.” Lucifer’s eyes shone in the darkness, beacons promising sanctuary.
Kai drew back and dropped his eyes, suddenly aware of two things. The first was that Lucifer would not kill him, no matter what he did. The challenge he’d mindlessly issued was enough justification, but Lucifer ignored it. The second was that he wanted to confess, to explain, and to unburden himself.
“You said it yourself; we were strange.” He shuffled back to his recently vacated spot and flopped down. “My master was Clan Leader by rights and law, but he hated politics, hated being ruthless and cutthroat for no reason.” He looked up at the archangel who was gazing at him intently. “With nothing but faith that there could be more to life, he refused that power, and chose to roam instead. I know what awaits me with the Clan. There’s nothing for me there.” He looked away and traced patterns on the floor with his finger. “There’s nothing for me in the world either.”
“How sure you are.”
A grinding, groaning sound reverberated through the small space as part of a wall extended. Lucifer arranged himself so that he was lounging upon it. Once settled, he made an imperious gesture. “Tell me more. Tell me … everything.”
“I was born in Constantinople. In a brothel. I don’t know why, but I was allowed to live past birth. I—”
“Your mother was one of the prostitutes.”
“I assumed so, and had my suspicions as to which one, but no confirmation. I suppose—”
“She petitioned to save your life.”
“This tale will take days if you keep interrupting.”
“I have the time, as do you.”
Kai took a deep breath and mustered his patience. “If you held your questions and comments until I’ve finished, I could answer them in one go and be on my way.”
“Is my company so loathsome?”
“No.” The question caught him by surprise and the truth was out of his mouth before he could conjure an affirmative. “But I’ve made up my mind and would like to get on with it.”
“Fine, fine.” Lucifer waved a perfectly sculptured hand. “Continue. I will not interrupt.”
Kai doubted it but said nothing. Scooping up a handful of rocks, he set about arranging them.
“I was a slave. My earliest memories were of work. It was my job to fetch water, keep the fires lit, and so on. When I grew older, I served a dual purpose. The drudgery I’d come to expect during the day combined with more unsavory endeavors at night.”
The shock and horror of his first experience came back in a rush. He was scrubbing the floor when Angelo grabbed him by the neck and threw him in a room with orders for him to have a bath. He was barely dry before he was shoved into another room where a patron waited. He grimaced and crushed a stone to dust.
“I was made to dress as the other girls and to paint my face.” His lips tickled with the ghost of Eugenia’s delicate fingers dabbing color on them from her rouge pot. “Around what I thought of as my real work, I was taught to dance and how to chat with customers. I was no good at any of it.”
“Come, let me show you.” Eugenia said, swaying to the music and holding her skirts just so.
He tried but was uncoordinated and tripped over the soft fabric.
“It’s OK Little Rabbit, you’ll learn,” she said, sweeping him into hug. “Like this, try again.”
She’d only called him that when they were alone. Warmth knotted his chest, and he momentarily closed his eyes.
A shower of pebbles brought him back to the present. Glancing over, he saw Lucifer fit to burst, his fingers drumming an agitated pattern on his knee. Biting back a smile, Kai gestured for him to speak.
“No, no. I promised I wouldn’t interrupt,” he said, drawing himself up and crossing his arms. “Continue.”
“You know you want to. Just ask whatever it is you want to ask.”
“And have you think I don’t keep my promises? Never!”
The smile that escaped was genuine, as was his growing ease in the archangel’s presence. Lucifer was nothing like he’d expected. “I promise I won’t think any less of you.”
“Well, if you insist.” He uncrossed his arms. “How old were you?”
“I’m not sure.” Kai frowned, shaking his head. “Angelo, the proprietor, told the customers what they wanted to hear. For one, I was seven. For another, nine. For some, I was untouched. For others I was highly skilled in the loving arts.”
His responding laugh was harsh, bitter. “Hardly. I bit and scratched. As a result, I was starved and beaten. To stop the beatings and to get food, I gave in, but I was less than enthusiastic. Angelo threatened to ‘unman’ me to make me behave.”
“Did the threat work?”
He shrugged. “What was the difference? I was already being used like every girl there. But I was afraid of Angelo. I did my best to never let it happen.”
Much later he’d realized it was an empty threat. He had to survive the operation, and Angelo would have to pay either way. Angelo was not a gambling man.
“Continue,” Lucifer urged softly, once again shaking him loose from memory.
“One woman, Eugenia, took me under her wing.”
Kai searched Lucifer’s face. If anyone knew—but did he want to know? He shifted position on the hard floor, scattering his small cairn. The question evaporated unasked.
He threw a rock toward the mouth of the cave. “We all had to line up for inspection whenever a wealthy new customer arrived. After looking us over, they would point out their preference.” It never took long; they knew what they wanted. A certain, age, coloring, build … or him.
“What was usually just a formality, turned into something else. Aram wanted to talk to us. Starting on one end, he spent time chatting to each of us in turn. I was at the opposite end, dreading his approach.
“You see, I’d been deemed too stupid for conversation. It was never a problem—none of the men who bought me wanted to talk anyway.”
He swallowed hard. Hatred of that life resurfaced along with the memories. It may have been over two hundred years past, but it was just as strong as it ever was.
“Too soon it was my turn. He had the blackest eyes I’d ever seen. The most beautiful face.” By then it’d made him sick to his stomach when customers called him beautiful. Nothing good ever came next. Now, standing before him was a man with a face of an angel; it stood to reason that he’d be the worst of all.
“When he asked for my name, I stammered my usual reply: whatever you wish it to be, kind Sir. But Aram didn’t accept that. He wanted my true name.” Remembered panic gripped his chest. “Angelo had only ever allowed anyone to call me ‘boy’. I could have picked any of the names a customer had called me, but my mind went blank. I started to cry.”
“Because Angelo would beat you for the mistake?” Lucifer was leaning forward now, engrossed.
“Yes-no …” Agitated by the memory, he’d begun rocking back and forth. “You don’t understand. Aram was beautiful. He knew what it was like. If he chose me …” His words caught in his throat.
If he chose me, he would hurt me. In hindsight it was irrational, but back then it made sense. He just knew this man would cause him more pain than he’d ever known. A wave of grief crested, and he let out a shaky breath. It had become true, but in a manner he’d never dreamed possible.
“To everyone’s surprise but mine, Aram declared that he wanted me. I became even more hysterical. Angelo initially refused. Given my state, he was sure I’d fight, and that Aram would demand his money back. When Aram couldn’t be dissuaded, Angelo not only raised the fee, but exacted a promise of no refunds.” He could almost smile. Angelo was comfortably predictable.
“Why would Aram go through all that trouble?”
Kai felt as if Lucifer was half asking him and half asking himself. He scooped up another handful of stones and shook them in his hand.
“Aram had a way of knowing things,” he said, deciding to answer anyway. “I never understood it, as it wasn’t part of our gifts. But later he said he was drawn to that brothel, and then to me.”
Lucifer nodded, satisfied. “You must have sated his desire. After all—” His gesture indicated Kai’s current state.
“Oh no.” Kai shook his head and Lucifer’s eyes went wide. “To my great relief and astonishment, he didn’t touch me. But to my continued distress,”—he chuckled, remembering his confusion—“he asked questions. I was stupid, remember? So, all I could do was profess ignorance about everything and anything. Eventually, he just talked, and told me tales about his travels.” He paused, remembering how his fear had gradually turned to awe. “He came back night after night, and the pattern repeated except; he would bring me different kinds of food. Angelo would interrogate me after each visit. ‘He still didn’t touch you? Then why is he so interested? Are you lying to me, boy?’ I was just as confused as he was.”
Kai stood and stretched, the remembered taste and delight of that relative freedom lubricating his body. He began to pace in the small space. “One night he took me out and we saw a play—in hindsight it was dreadful, but I was entranced. I was seeing the city for the first time, and everything was bright, colorful, and new.”
“You had never left the brothel?” Naked interest colored Lucifer’s demeanor.
A tickle of satisfaction crept up Kai’s belly in response. “Beyond local errands when I was younger, no. Besides, I had no reason to leave and nowhere to go.” Sometimes he would gaze out the windows wondering where everyone went, and why they had reason to be there. It had never occurred to him that he could be one of those people.
“Aram purchased me outright not long after and paid quite a bit too. Angelo dragged the negotiations out with the tale that he wasn’t just losing an asset, but a beloved member of the family. Each time Aram left, Angelo was beside himself—giddy at the notion that he was being paid a fortune to get rid of a nuisance.”
“How much did he end up paying?” Lucifer had given up on lounging. He now sat with his chin propped on an arm, his feet planted on the floor.
“I don’t know.” Kai shook his head. “He’d never tell me.”
What I paid was a pittance for One that is priceless.
Tears welled and grief threatened to pull him to his knees. He took a deep breath and shoved it all back. “In the brothel,” he said, changing the subject, “I had grown comfortable with our arrangement, but after the purchase, my terror returned. Then it wasn’t my place to ask, but I knew I’d cost a lot—too much.
“So, I endeavored to be an obedient and trouble-free servant—even as it troubled me that servants didn’t cost as much as I did. I knew he’d eventually want fair recompense, that I would have to pay in kind.”
“But why? He hadn’t touched you before.”
Kai responded with a rueful smile and leaned up against the wall. “Patrons were all the same. It was inevitable. My body was what they wanted. I knew my purpose.”
It took almost a year before he finally began to relax his guard.
“How old were you then?”
“Ten. Angelo was consistently evasive about my age during the bargaining period. I now believe Aram used The Seduction to pry the truth from him.”
“Which begs the question …” Lucifer seemed agitated. “Why bargain at all? He could have walked off with you at any time!”
Kai almost burst into laughter at how affronted he was. As if it mattered. “Aram was honorable to his core,” he replied softly.
Lucifer took it in, seeming to consider its merits.
Kai left him to it and moved to the mouth of the cave. The night pulled at him. The predators were out, and he longed to be among them.
“Let’s walk, shall we?” Lucifer passed him, stepping onto the hillside.
Kai joined him and they walked back to the road. Although it hadn’t rained that day, the air was still heavy with the comforting scent of wet earth, the nearby road still wet and muddy. But once Lucifer put one foot upon it, the dirt smoothed out and solidified, becoming much easier to walk upon. A small smile crept over Kai’s face at the display of power.
He was now at the part of his life that he loved, and so infused the telling with more enthusiasm. “It was Aram that encouraged me to dress as a man. Insisting upon teaching me, he ignored my confessions of stupidity.
“I slowly learned to read and write. He educated me in languages, philosophy, numbers, and history.” His heart lightened at the memories. “We’d spend hours debating ethics and philosophy.”
“Discovered you weren’t stupid, did you?” Lucifer teased.
He chuckled. “Yes! That was the most enlightening thing of all. Well, that and learning to fight. Aram was Ronin trained.”
Lucifer clapped his hands and laughed, a hearty, musical sound. He stopped walking to regard him. “No wonder. You’re not just a product of some crazy vampire with odd ideas. It all makes sense now.” His gaze grew intense and shifted slightly, as if seeing him for the first time. “Remarkable.” Never breaking eye contact, he stepped in until he was towering over Kai, their faces inches apart. “Aram wasn’t strange, he was worthy.” His voice dropped to a low rumble. “The odds of contacting Ronin are low. The odds of surviving that contact even lower. The odds of surviving the training lower still. I am impressed.”
The bottom dropped out of Kai’s stomach, but he stood his ground. Lucifer’s inviting heat and perfume caressed him, but not in the way he truly wanted. He sucked in a greedy breath regardless.
“Oh, how you tempt me, Kai,” he murmured, eyes briefly flaring. “First with your beauty, then with your story, now …” With each statement he’d lowered his head until they were a hair’s width apart.
Flushed with need, all Kai had to do was close his eyes and move the tiniest bit …
Cool air caressed his face. His eyes snapped open.
Lucifer stood a few feet away, his expression playful. He spread his arms wide. “Show me.”
Kai’s mouth split in an answering grin. Without hesitation, he charged.
It only occurred to him after Lucifer easily dodged his first strike, that the worst thing the archangel could do—besides kill or maim—was to humiliate him so profoundly that it would feel like either.
As they jumped and kicked, feinted, and struck, it became clear that all Lucifer wanted to do was test. Kai relaxed and delighted in showing off all he knew. He never once touched the archangel, but then he never expected to. He landed on his back a few times, but also managed to dodge and counter enough that he was satisfied with his performance. The “fight” ended as abruptly as it began.
“You’re good,” Lucifer remarked. “I can make you better.” His eyes sparkled with promise … and something else.
Still panting from the exertion, Kai didn’t reply, too busy dealing with the hot fires of want that raced through him. Lucifer had pushed him to his limits and birthed desires that he couldn’t shake loose. The first—the urge to beg to be taught everything—he managed to contain. The second was too ridiculous to think about (although he hadn’t imagined the archangel’s obvious interest). That desire settled low, leaving him feeling vulnerable and clumsy.
It was ridiculous, wasn’t it?
One thing, however, was perfectly clear. Dying was no longer something he looked forward to.
They resumed walking.
“When did he make you?” The archangel’s soft query shook him out of his musing.
“At twenty-seven. Aram wanted to wait until I was thirty.” He chuckled. “But I’d started begging before I’d reached my twenties. He finally gave in—I was insufferable.”
“You begged? You weren’t enthralled.”
“No, Aram didn’t believe in it.”
Lucifer looked away. When he spoke again, his voice was distant, thoughtful. “Of course, he didn’t.” Those enchanting eyes found him again. “Ronin views and teaching coupled with vampire instinct. Unlike you, born to it, he had much to unlearn, to reconcile. He must have been very old.”
Kai nodded. “He’d never tell me how old. My guess was at least two thousand years, but I have a sense that he was far older.”
“I would agree.”
They walked in silence as Lucifer digested the information.
They arrived at the outskirts of Edinburgh, but Kai had no desire to return there. If he planned on living, he would need to retrieve his and his family’s belongings from the rooms they’d rented. If.
When they reached a fork in the road, he took a branch that led away from the city.
“Tell me, did you go back and hand Angelo his innards once you were made?”
Kai’s smile was so wide it hurt. “No. He died within a year of my purchase. Bizarre accident.”
Lucifer chuckled. “An accident. Aram’s doing, perhaps?”
“Perhaps. At the time I was just glad he was gone. When I got older, it seemed too much of a coincidence.
“Aram denied it when I asked. Righteousness is honorable, but vengeance isn’t. I think he was ashamed.”
“A unique soul. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t meet.” Lucifer changed the subject before the lump in Kai’s throat could set up more permanent residence. “He died in that magical disturbance. Tell me about it.”
“It was a large whirlpool of air—it sucked him in. ... You mentioned Isiri.” Vengeance might not have been honorable, but he was willing to live with it. “I’ll slaughter every one of those pointy-hatted bastards if—”
“Calm yourself, Kai.” Lucifer touched him lightly on the shoulder. The weight and warmth of those strong fingers stirred the desire he was trying to ignore. “When I arrived, I noted the level of power used was beyond them.” He shrugged, a graceful dancer’s movement. “I could spend more time investigating, but I no longer care.” The gaze that settled upon him was frank, appraising.
Kai tried not to smile—and failed. The thing he had been afraid of when Lucifer first dropped his imperial veneer had happened. Bit by bit, the animus he’d held toward the intruding, nosy archangel evolved. The seductive scent of jasmine and lightning, those perfectly molded features, that calm, attentive interest—all conspired to ensnare him. Now, he was well and truly stuck.
Their walk lasted throughout the night. Each traded stories about their lives and travels. Yesterday’s events felt like months, not hours past. Once he thought the sun would never rise; now the sunrise would come much too soon.
“Kai, you have been a most welcome companion,” Lucifer said, turning toward him. Dawn was almost upon them. “You have answered my questions satisfactorily. Our bargain is complete.”
Kai tried to smile. “I have enjoyed your company as well.”
“Of course you have; that only stands to reason.”
“Are you always so arrogant?”
“It’s not arrogance if it’s true,” Lucifer replied, his eyes sparkling with good humor. He then raised his hand and shielded his eyes in ancient vampire custom. “Kai, made by Aram, made by Nayem from Uter,” he said, tracing Kai’s lineage. “May the night embrace you. May your feet set upon the unerring path and lead you to feasts unending. May your fists strike swift and true. May glory find you and stain your lips with the blood of your enemies.”
Kai ducked his head and turned away, unable to reply. The traditional blessing, spoken in the ancient tongue, had left him flushed, and his heart full.
“Yes?” He whipped back around, not caring what Lucifer was about to say, but relieved that they wouldn’t be parting just yet.
The archangel was smiling, and his eyes shone with mischief. “The sun will always rise; it will always be here for you.”
Kai snatched the olive branch. “Go on.”
“A year is nothing in your lifetime or mine.” Lucifer leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Let me show you the secrets of this world.”
Kai ducked his head, trying to hide his idiot grin. “I think a year will be sufficient.”
He would always love Aram, but the siren song of the radiant creature before him beckoned. All Lucifer asked for was a year. The sun would still be there if he still wanted it.
They spent that year chasing nights. Every day was night somewhere; it was exhausting and exhilarating.
He saw thousands of great beasts roaming a plain as far as the eye could see. A landscape dotted with colorfully painted, cone-shaped dwellings. Festivals with humans in brightly colored clothes dancing the night away. A vast wasteland of ice and snow …
Lucifer always took time out of their wanderings to train him. Harsh and strict, he pushed him to his limits and sometimes beyond.
Kai loved every minute.
Too soon, the year was over.
They were on a beach. The night was warm, and the sand molded to his body as he lay looking up at the pre-dawn sky. It would be light soon.
“I’ve had my year. Thank you, Kai, for the pleasure of your company.”
Just as before, he was unwilling to go. “The sun will always be there,” he said, tentatively hoping that Lucifer had not lost interest, would not tell him to go.
“Oh. Well, in that case, another year then?”
The smile Kai could hear in Lucifer’s voice matched the one splitting his face into a painful but joyous rigor. “Yes, I think that’ll be sufficient,” he answered, still grinning up at the sky.
“I’d rather not spend another year in the dark, however. Don’t you miss the day?”
“Why miss something I can’t have?” His skin began the familiar hurt, signaling the rising sun.
Lucifer made a rude noise and turned to him. “Haven’t you been paying attention? Don’t be coy. Do you miss daylight or not?”
Kai rolled toward him. “I haven’t thought about it. The sun holds pain and death. When I think about my life in the sun, there isn’t much to miss. All the most wonderful things have happened at night.” He paused, making sure. “The answer is no, I don’t.”
“I say we change that. Come play with me in the sun.” Lucifer held out his hand.
Curious, Kai clasped the archangel’s warm, smooth hand. Instantly, the inside of his wrist began to burn. He jerked his hand back, but Lucifer’s grip was solid.
“I will never hurt you,” he murmured.
“But what are you doing?” Relaxed by the assurance, he stopped pulling.
Lucifer gestured toward their clasped hands with his chin. “See for yourself.”
Rotating their hands so his wrist was facing up, he watched as a design appeared on his skin. The center was all harsh lines and angles. Concentric circles enclosed these. Complex, indecipherable symbols appeared within both the lines and circles.
Once complete, the increased sensitivity of his skin that signaled the coming sunrise, stopped. He could still sense its rising and smell the dawn, but that was it. “What did you do?”
Lucifer gestured to the horizon in reply. Kai turned his face toward the sunrise, and squinted—had the sun always hurt to look at? But he wasn’t burning, he wasn’t dying.
He gazed back at Lucifer with watering eyes. In seconds, they collapsed together, laughing. When they calmed enough, Lucifer leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“A year is long enough for mourning, don’t you think?”
“Yes, long enough,” Kai said before leaning in and initiating a kiss of his own.
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt. I started the Coming Darkness series with Kai, Lucifer and Roberta. I had no idea where the story would go, or that it would capture me the way it has. Captured and enraptured, I remain.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading Running with Words! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.