Dark Becoming (An Ema Marx Novel Book 3)By: J.D. Brown
To my niece, Knox,
Your mother didn’t know at the time— I’ve actually been keeping it a secret until this very moment– but I was beginning to research pregnancy for the sole purpose of this book when your grandmother called and gave me the wonderful news that you were on your way to this world. Thanks for the hands-on experience— you have impeccable timing, kiddo. Watching you grow into a young lady will always be our family’s greatest treasure.
The bullet missed my eye by two inches. It flew past my temple, grazed a few strands of hair, and struck Jesu’s Adam’s apple.
Time slowed. I turned to face him and my heart stopped at the sight of blood trickling down his neck. His arms fell away from my waist and he staggered back one, two steps. He lifted a hand to the wound, his emerald gaze widened in shock. He took a third step back—and toppled over the edge of the loft. My breath hitched as I flung my hands into the air to grab him, but I was too late.
Jesu hit the dirt floor of the barn with a heavy thump and I screamed. I dove onto my stomach and scrambled to the ledge. Digging my fingernails into the wooden floorboards, I glanced at the scene below, heart pounding.
Jesu had landed on his back, his arms and legs splayed, his long hair tossed across his face. His eyes were open underneath, but they didn’t move—didn’t blink. He lay so still. Too still. My blood ran cold. Terror erupted from my lungs.
My cry drew a chorus of pops and snaps. Frantic, I glanced around the empty space, not understanding the strange sounds until, from the shadowy corners of the moldy barn, emerged a group of nude Alpan vampires. Several more dropped from the ceiling, shifting from arachnid to humanoid form in mid-air. King Nikolas’ soldiers. They responded to my shouts of distress, inching closer to Jesu with looks of concern.
I need to get to Jesu. My hands trembled as I pushed to my knees and crawled toward the ladder. My nerves shook too much to phase or fly. Where did that shot come from?
My fingers almost reached the first rung when a hand gripped my shoulder and yanked me through the air. I landed on my spine, hitting the rickety loft floor. A cloud of dust rose from the impact, blurring my vision. The silhouette of a man appeared through the haze. He straddled my stomach and used his weight to pin me in place. Pale ring-clad fingers gripped my neck and squeezed. Two blades sliced the skin under his choking grip and a searing pain cut through my flesh. A wet stickiness oozed over my neck and soaked the collar of my shirt. Gasping under the pain, I jabbed my fingers between his and tried with all my might to pry off his hands. Feeling the odd shape of his rings, each one fused to the next, I realized he wore some sort of brass knuckles weapon with a knife fixed to the underside. The man wasn’t just trying to choke me to death… he meant to sever my head. The dust settled and my gaze flew over his black leather attire. His chin-length mass of thick black hair fell over his face, obscuring his identity, but that didn’t matter. I’d recognize him anywhere. His methods were entirely too familiar.
“Jalmari,” I grunted. “You bastard.”
A breeze blew in from the missing portion of the upper barn wall and lifted his hair, confirming what I already knew. His dark green irises shone in the moonlight and he grinned, flashing each one of his razor sharp fangs.
Every ounce of fear from a moment ago transformed into red-hot fury. I lifted my knees and pushed my feet against the floor, rolling us both onto our sides. I willed myself to de-solidify, but Jalmari’s grip kept me firmly in the third dimension. He levitated, still holding me by the neck. The blades cut deep, lodging under my flesh as my toes left the floor and my weight became a disadvantage. Not having any other choice, I used my ability to levitate with him, countering gravity to lessen the death grip around my windpipe. Together, we rose through the collapsed side of the roof, out into the night. I glanced down just in time to see the Alpan soldiers clambering up the ladder. They were very small and blurry in the periphery of my vision.
Jalmari snickered. “They cannot help you, rat.”
I rolled my eyes at the derogatory taunt, but didn’t respond. For one thing, his weapon still carved into my throat and I worried speech would accelerate further damage. Secondly, he was wrong. The Alpans could shape-shift, which meant they could turn into birds and peck Jalmari’s stupid eyes out. I wasn’t going to wait for their help, though. I could be headless by then. My throat swelled as the blades neared my trachea. The edges of my vision darkened to a hazy gray and my lungs burned in protest. I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen before he killed me.